Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Taos Regional Airport (KSKX) permit gets county approval

TAOS — The expansion of the Taos Regional Airport is cleared for takeoff.

Acting Taos County Planning Director Edward VigĂ­l approved the town’s permit application Tuesday for the $24 million project, which will include the construction of a second runway at the facility northwest of town.

The controversial project has been the source of heated debate in the community in recent months, but the battle over whether the expansion is needed or wanted goes back decades.

Supporters of the expansion say the second runway will improve safety at the airport and encourage investment and economic development in Taos. Nearly all of the cost of the project is being covered by the state and federal governments. The airport is owned and operated by the town of Taos.

Detractors have made various arguments against the expansion, including worries that it will increase pollution, affect property values in the surrounding area, lead to an increased military presence in Taos, and worsen the economic gap between the wealthy and poor.

Vigil’s approval means the town can technically break ground on the project now. Town Manager Rick Bellis could not be immediately reached Tuesday on when construction would begin.


Poor safety, financial health ail Indian aviation industry

Sanat Kaul, Dec 25, 2014

(The writer is Chairman of International Foundation of Aviation, Aerospace and Development)

While private industries in all sectors of the economy rise and fall based on the principle of survival of the fittest, should we attach the same laissez faire policy towards the airline industry? A lot of economists would go along with this proposition.

However, there is a need of caution in the case of airlines. While soap or cigarette companies may fall and go, airline industry has two issues to consider. The first is the safety and security of passengers and the second, oligopolistic character of the industry.

Safety and security should be prime determinants of a good airline followed by passenger handling and food. Passengers, however, look to the second determinant more and are not fully aware of the security and safety aspects.

India had changed over to a centralized government-run system of airport security after the hijack of an Indian Airlines plane in 1999 from Kathmandu, which has been satisfactory as no major security breach has happened since then. When 9/11 took place in New York in 2001, all the eight flights hijacked were domestic. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had cautioned the US government about poor security at its domestic airports – which was then being managed by the airlines themselves – where they employed the cheapest security personnel. Since then, they too have switched over to government security.

Safety of flight in aviation is, however, another issue which concerns airlines and air navigation providers. The Charki Dadri crash over Delhi on April 12, 1996 occurred due to poor understanding of the English language between Air Traffic Controller and foreign airline pilot. This led to ICAO stepping in to make English language compulsory for pilots and controllers worldwide.

Another level of safety is in the maintenance of aircraft by airlines themselves. While airlines are themselves interested in maintenance to ensure good safety record, when they are in financial straits, safety becomes the first causality because it is not as visible as passenger comfort.

Presently, India is facing the threat of poor safety of air travellers. The ICAO has in its safety audit report given a poor rating to India. This has been compounded by US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgrading India to category II in January 2014, thereby bringing it on par with some African countries. One of the main reasons for this is the poor oversight by the regulator – Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The next step may well be for European Union to bar an Indian airline from entering EU if they do not qualify their minimum safety requirements in the assessment.

Cumulative losses

In spite of high growth in air traffic in India, Indian airline industry is going through a bad patch, with cumulative losses for the last seven years amounting to about $10.6 billion. The latest decline of SpiceJet, now in dire need of capital infusion of about Rs 2,000 crore, is yet another reminder of deterioration in the financial health of the sector. Although Kingfisher Airlines, Air Deccan, MDLR Airlines and Paramount Airways have fallen by the wayside, new airlines are also emerging.  Is there, therefore, a need to worry?

Safety of flights becomes an issue when airlines are allowed to function on a poor balance sheet. In the US, the FAA renews the annual Air Operator’s License of airlines only after it is satisfied that its finances can support the level of flight safety required. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the oil companies are also to blame when they allow defaulting airlines to use their facilities and run up huge debts.

The other aspect that needs examination is the oligopolistic behavior of our airlines in general. Since airlines are a high cost and high risk venture, the entry level requirements limits the entry of new airlines. While there may exist excess capacity in the sector, the extreme price fluctuations in tickets from throwaway prices during lean season to very high ticket prices at peak time, makes airlines pricing look either predatory at one end or excessive at the other.

Although the government is blamed for the woes of the airline industry due to high taxes and charges and very high price of domestic aviation turbine fuel (ATF), amounting to about 45 per cent of operation costs as the cause for airline losses, it is nevertheless common to all airlines. The DGCA is empowered to look into excessive and predatory pricing, and it should. So should the Competition Commission.

In this connection, two issues need emphasis. All airlines have introduced dynamic ticket pricing software which even the best mathematical minds do not understand. 

The result of the pudding is in eating. They are all running into losses (even Indigo, the best performing airline, is on reduced profit margins). Then what good is this software which brings loss to airlines and very high prices to customers at peak time? Is there a need to restrict prices within a band so that neither excessive nor predatory prices are possible?

A healthy airline industry is therefore a must for safety. In addition, a strong DGCA which can inspect and regulate the airlines and airports is also necessary. The present DGCA is neither independent nor has sufficient financial powers. An independent Civil Aviation Authority is perhaps the right answer.


Racial discrimination suit against Federal Aviation Administration can proceed, judge rules

WOODBRIDGE — A federal judge has ruled that an independent contractor suing the Federal Aviation Administration alleging racial discrimination has presented enough initial evidence to clear the first hurdle of his suit.

Harish Suri, who is Indian, accused the agency of hiring less experienced white contractors on a permanent basis, while repeatedly refusing to bring him on as a permanent employee.

Under federal law, the burden now shifts to the agency to explain why its actions weren’t discriminatory.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Irenas dismissed Suri’s claims of religious discrimination, retaliation and conspiracy to deprive him of rights and privileges, but held he had made a prima facie case against U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, as the head of the agency, for racial and national origin discrimination.

According to the suit, Suri was employed as an environmental engineer by third-party contractors, doing work for the FAA at the agency’s Egg Harbor location.

Suri claimed in the suit that the racial discrimination dates back nearly two decades, beginning with a summer internship with the FAA in 1995.

Co-workers “used derogatory and humiliating comments,” such as “you people,” “Where do these people come from,” “How do they work in their country,” and “That [expletive] Indian doesn’t know how to do his job.”

Suri, who has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and master’s degrees in engineering science and environmental engineering, said he has been passed over for white workers with lesser degrees. In one instance, the FAA hired a summer intern who he’d trained, according to the suit.

He alleges he was retaliated against after lodging a complaint. His job was reclassified from key personnel to non-key, and ultimately he was terminated.

The judge noted that Suri received positive feedback in the months after he filed his complaint. He also found that Suri didn’t prove causation, and dismissed the retaliation claim.

The FAA had argued Suri wasn’t eligible to file a lawsuit under Title XII, because he was not employed by the agency. But the judge held that for all intents and purposes — Suri worked in an FAA facility with FAA supplies, FAA supervisors approved his vacation time and doled out his work assignments — he was an FAA employee.

The FAA also argued that Suri alleged “isolated workplace comments” and not “severe and pervasive conduct.”

- Original article can be found at:

Deploy CAT-3 complaint plane, crew during fog: Directorate General of Civil Aviation to airlines

NEW DELHI: The civil aviation regulator has ordered all the airlines to deploy CAT-III complaint plane and crew trained to fly under low visibility conditions while operating in and out of IGI airport here in the morning to ensure smooth flow of air traffic during fog which led to cancellation of five flights and delay of 70 others today. 

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation ( DGCA), which held a meeting today to review the measures taken at the airport here to deal with the fog, also ordered the airlines to reschedule flights with non-CAT-III compliant aircraft in case the visibility conditions are not favorable, officials said. 

The airlines have also been told to inform the passengers much in advance about any change in operations to avoid any inconvenience to them, they said. 

The fog forecast issued by Indian Met Department in the evening every day is analysed, they said, adding this year there were nine diversions during the low visibility procedure (LVP) enforcement period at the IGI Airport as against 16 in the same period last year. 

All the diversions during December 1 to December 23 occurred when the visibility conditions at IGI airport were below (CAT-IIIB parametres) 75 metres, they said. 

Also, there was 66 percent increase in the number of aircraft movements including both arrivals and departure this year over the same period last year during the LVP implementation, they said, attributing it to deployment more number of CAT-III complaint aircraft and CAT-III trained pilots as well as better coordination between the various stakeholders for the higher number of aircraft movement. 

Meanwhile, five flights were cancelled, including four departures, and 70 delayed due to the low visbility at the IGI airport here today. 

The low visbility procedure was implemented at 0029 hrs this morning and lasted till 1744 hrs today, an airport spokesperson said. 

However, no incoming flight was diverted during this period, he said. 

Story and Comments:

Doctor Peter Steinmetz thrown off flight at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (KPHX), Arizona

PHOENIX - A Valley doctor who showed up at Sky Harbor with a semi-automatic rifle and was accused of pointing it at travelers is back in the news for another situation at the airport.

Doctor Peter Steinmetz says he was thrown off a Delta Airlines flight presumably because of a conversation he had with another passenger in line at the boarding gate.

Steinmetz says the TSA was doing a random bag check at the gates on Monday and another man had been pulled out of line. Steinmetz says that passenger then cut in front of him and his wife and son and was clearly agitated.

"It became kind of a difficult situation, I had to ask him to calm down, that he was becoming threatening," Steinmetz said.

He claims he went on to try and diffuse the situation by commiserating over what he believes is a pointless security system.

“I said something like ‘do you know how likely you are to be killed in a terrorist attack? Because the answer is one in 20-million in a lifetime.’"

Steinmetz says he and his family went on to board the plane without further incident, but as soon as they sat down a flight attendant, followed by an unidentifiable officer told him he had to get off the plane to speak with some men at the gate. With no clear reason from either about who was waiting to speak with him or why Steinmetz says he politely refused until the pilot directed him to leave.

“At the point I get up and leave and there’s no TSA at the gate.”

Steinmetz says the pilot refused to let him back on the flight without explanation and he was forced to rebook.

Steinmetz says he didn't plan to talk about terrorism but he's not sorry either and sees nothing wrong with using words like terrorist or bomb in an airport as long as it’s in the context of a conversation and not a threat.

"I would use that word almost deliberately, I don't think the federal government has the right to be telling us that we can't say certain words or utterances. The first amendment is crystal clear on this."

The TSA has no comment and calls it an airline issue. ABC15 hasn't heard back from Delta Airlines.

Since the gun incident at Sky Harbor Steinmetz has been put on a watch list so he has go through extra security screenings at the TSA check point.

His attorney, Mark Victor, says there was no due process in that decision so they are now looking into filing a lawsuit over it.

Story, Comments and Video:

Harvey Gold: Unintended consequences

Harvey Gold
It seems to me…I have to admit that I am a firm believer in always trying to avoid the “unintended consequences” when considering solutions to problems.

So, when I read that the Oakewold housing development was back on the table, the possibility of unfortunate unintended consequences immediately came to mind. When the developers filed to build the proposed 650 units of housing as well as commercial space near the Stafford Regional Airport, I wrote that this was a bad idea and that the Board of Supervisors “…should say no to this development that would develop 232 acres into a planned traditional neighborhood development bringing 650 new residences next to the Stafford Airport.”

I based this on accident statistics and personal experience of housing developments built next to businesses whose functions can eventually become problems for those in the new homes. These problems can include safety, threats to future airport expansion and development, and eventually potential homeowner complaints, if not law suits, about noise, lights and the safety of their health and property. I have seen this happen many times involving homes being built adjacent to farming operations, factories, landfills, airports and chemical and manufacturing plants.

The issues that new homeowners raise are valid in their minds, but what they often don’t want to accept is that they moved there knowing the facility they now object to was there for a long time doing what they still do -- and the new homeowners knew it when they bought their homes and moved there. But after they moved, the farm odors, pesticide sprays, odors from chemical or manufacturing smokestacks, methane from landfills or the sounds of airplanes taking off and landing suddenly becomes a nuisance or a threat even though it was always there.

The “unintended consequences” of living next to one of these facilities perhaps didn’t occur to them or they honestly thought it would not be a problem. But sometimes the routine odors, noise or chemicals become a real threat to health and safety, and the new residents are affected, sometimes seriously and sometimes fatally.

We do recall with great sadness the private plane crash next to the Stafford Regional Airport on Feb. 22, 2006, that took the lives of builder Rick Potter and other prominent local businessmen during a misty, foggy morning. I knew Rick and he was serious about his flying, about his business, his family and his life. He never intended to crash. It was an unintended event that left scars on the land and on many people.

In that same year there were at least 25 private plane crashes in Virginia. All were unintended.

Could it happen today? Fast forward to Dec. 8, 2014, and Gaithersburg, Maryland, where six people were killed – three in a plane that crashed into a Gaithersburg house and three on the ground -- setting several homes on fire. The crash occurred less than a mile from the Montgomery County Airpark. The twin engine, 10 passenger plane crashed into a single family home where a mother and two very young children were spending a quiet Monday morning. All three died and the home was destroyed by the crash and resulting fire. Several other homes had fire or property damage. Three passengers were also killed. There was no storm on that quiet Monday morning. The plane just seemed to fall out of the sky. The cause is still unexplained.

This heartbreaking event cannot be blamed on the airport, it was there before the homes were built. But building homes that close to an airport does increase the risk for all who live or work close to it. Landings and takeoffs are perhaps the most risky times of flying, but when homes are built near an airport the risk continues all day, every day as routine landings and takeoffs take place all day, every day. And then the unexpected happens. A plane just falls out of the sky, another unintended consequence that is the result of decisions made by folks who never intended for anything bad to happen.

In view of the statistics and history’s lessons, I find it hard to comprehend how those folks who want to build the homes and have been turned down by the Board of Supervisors can now contemplate suing the county for the right to build the homes adjacent to Stafford’s airport. Perhaps the unintended consequences of their action will be they will lose.


NTSB Identification: NYC06FA072

The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 22, 2006 in Stafford, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/26/2007
Aircraft: Lancair Company LC41-550FG, registration: N400WX
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

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.

The pilot attempted a night Global Positioning System (GPS) instrument approach to an airport, but executed a missed approach. He subsequently requested, and flew an ILS approach to another airport. Radar and transponder returns confirmed the airplane flew the localizer course down to about 200 feet above ground level (agl). Weather, about the time of the accident, included calm winds, 1 1/4 statute miles visibility, light drizzle, and an overcast ceiling 500 feet agl. There were no witnesses to the accident; however, when a passenger's wife arrived at the airport minutes later, she noted "spots" of fog and a fog layer above her. She later noted that a police cruiser with flashing lights was lost in the fog when it drove out on the tarmac. The airplane's wreckage was located in a wooded area, about 300 yards left of the runway, 3/4 of the way down its 5,000-foot length. Tree cuts were consistent with the airplane having been in a 30-degree left turn. The missed approach procedure was to climb to 600 feet above mean sea level (400 feet agl), then make a climbing left turn to 2,000 feet, direct to a VORTAC and hold. There was no evidence of mechanical malfunction.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to execute the published missed approach. Factors included the night lighting conditions, low ceilings and fog. 

NTSB Identification: DCA15MA029
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, December 08, 2014 in Gaithersburg, MD
Aircraft: EMBRAER EMB-500, registration: N100EQ
Injuries: 6 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 traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 8, 2014, about 1041 Eastern Standard Time (EST), an Embraer EMB-500 Phenom 100, N100EQ, impacted terrain and houses about 0.75 miles short of runway 14 while on approach to Montgomery County Airpark (GAI), Gaithersburg, Maryland. The airline transport rated pilot and two passengers were fatally injured as well as three persons on the ground. The airplane was destroyed during the impact and ensuing fire. Marginal visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and the flight was operating on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. The airplane was registered to and operated by Sage Aviation LLC., of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. The flight originated from Horace Williams Airport (IGX), Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with GAI as its intended destination.

American Airlines Announces Additional Pay Raises: Airline Concludes Contract Talks With Pilots Union, Leaves Offer on the Table for a Time

The Wall Street Journal
Updated Dec. 23, 2014 6:02 p.m. ET

American Airlines Group Inc., trying to build employee trust and heartened by strong financial results in the first year after its merger, said Tuesday that it will raise pay scales by 4% for any unions that reach joint postmerger labor contracts and lift nonunion pay by the same.

“Taking this step just one year into our integration speaks volumes about just how well American is performing,” Doug Parker , the airline’s chief executive officer, said in a staff memo. “We had been intending to make this announcement in late January, when we announce our 2014 results. But since we already know this year’s results will be very strong, we decided instead to get the news out now.”

The company also offered the 4% raise to its pilot union—representing 10,000 American pilots and 5,000 US Airways aviators—which still hasn’t been able to reach a deal with the company on a new contract. Following its latest offer, American said pilot contract talks are now shut down, and the company has pledged to put the issue to arbitration.

The pilot union said Tuesday its directors will meet next week to determine the union’s response to American’s revised proposal.

As a result of the December 2013 merger of American and US Airways, pilots at both airlines agreed to a deal in which they would negotiate terms of a combined labor deal. If a mutual agreement can’t be reached, an arbitration panel will determine the terms.

In November, American offered its pilot union, the Allied Pilots Association, an 18% raise this month, plus 3% a year for four years. The idea was to bring the group to Delta Air Lines Inc. pilot wages plus 3%. But American pilots, mindful that Delta pilots are in line to receive 15% of their annual earnings this year in profit-sharing, wanted 10% over Delta, rather than 3%.

The pilot union last week countered with three options: adding 7.5% in pay over four years; accepting American’s proposal but having annual pay remain 3% above Delta’s; and a wage scale with a profit-sharing plan.

Scott Kirby, American’s president, said the company’s November offer remains open, along with the 4% extra raise, if the Allied Pilots Association union agrees to it before arbitration proceedings begin in late February. Mr. Kirby said last week’s union counterproposal “was more expensive than even this enhanced offer.”

Both Messrs. Parker and Kirby are dead-set against profit-sharing, contending that it is better to reward employees with industry-leading wage rates rather than lower wages supplemented by compensation that varies with airline profitability.

If American chooses to start the arbitration process, the pilots would be forced to go along. The parameters of an arbitrated settlement already are known—and are less generous: a 3% pay increase on Jan. 1, followed by an estimated 13% increase in January 2016, followed by 3.5% increases in January of 2017 and 2018.

Separately on Tuesday, pilots at Envoy Air, one of American’s wholly owned regional carriers, ratified a 10-year labor accord that freezes their pay scales while allowing them to eventually move up and fly larger planes at superior pay rates for American. About 91% of the 2,400 Envoy pilots voted, and three-quarters approved the deal. Earlier this year, the aviators rejected a contract, spurring American management to begin moving more of its short-haul flights to other regional providers.

American’s 24,000 flight attendants last week won back from the company $81 million in pay increases lost when they narrowly rejected a proposed contract in November. That vote led to arbitration, with the foregone conclusion that the group would get just $112 million in annual improvements instead of $193 million. But the Association of Professional Flight Attendants union persuaded Mr. Parker to reconsider and last week the company raised pay rates by about 6.5%, effective Jan. 1. As a result of Tuesday’s additional increase, flight attendants pay will climb another 4%, bringing them well over the wages of attendants at Delta and United Continental Holdings Inc.

Mr. Parker said for union groups that haven’t yet reached merged contracts, “they will now see larger increases when those joint ratified contracts are achieved.” That includes mechanics, ramp workers and others.

American, based in Fort Worth, Texas, and now the world’s largest airline by traffic, is in line to earn about $4.2 billion this year. The company, largely run by former US Airways executives, is highly motivated to buy labor peace, given its newfound profitability and the fact that US Airways consummated a previous merger in 2005 that was complicated by labor problems. Those executives also recognize that the three largest unions at the old American were early and enthusiastic backers of US Airways’ controversial takeover of American when the latter emerged from bankruptcy-court protection a year ago. Management is working to build a common culture and avoid earlier labor woes, which is tricky because many American employees have been at odds with their former leaders for years.


Rockland remembers 40-year-old plane crash: Boeing 727-251, Northwest Orient Airlines, N274US

Bill Murphy, a local aviation enthusiast, shows off a piece of metal that he recovered from the Dec. 1, 1974, plane crash site in Harriman State Park.
 (Photo: Akiko Matsuda/The Journal News)

On a cold, rainy December night 40 years ago, tones rang out in the Hillcrest Fire Department's Mount Ivy station.

Gordon Wren Jr., then captain of the department, listened to the alarming radio message from 44 Control, the call center responsible for dispatching fire departments.

"They said that they were contacted by control people in the Kennedy Airport," said Wren, now director of Rockland County Fire and Emergency Services. "The airport control lost radar contact with a commercial jetliner somewhere in Mount Ivy-Stony Point area."

The Dec. 1, 1974, crash of Northwest Orient Airline Boeing 727 in Harriman State Park in Rockland killed three crew members. No passengers were on board, as the aircraft was heading from New York to Buffalo to pick up the Baltimore Colts football team. The incident left a lasting impression on some local residents because of its "what ifs." If the plane was fully loaded, or if the crash occurred several seconds sooner, it could have been a major disaster, they say. In the wake of the 40th anniversary, a plan to remember the accident is in the works.

The flight, designated as NW6231, departed John F. Kennedy International Airport at 7:14 p.m. without apparent issue. But only 10 minutes later, at 7:24 p.m., a crew member transmitted a mayday message.

"We're out of control, descending through 20,000 feet," a crew member was heard on the radio addressing the New York air route traffic control center, according to the accident report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

In the next minute, the airplane continued a spiraling descent through the sky until it crashed into the woods in Harriman State Park. The accident site was later identified as 3.68 miles west of Thiells, or about a 30-second flight by a commercial airplane.

Volunteer firefighters with the Hillcrest, Thiells and Stony Point fire departments were told to standby while police searched for the crash site.

Wren said at some point during the night, a Palisades Interstate Park policeman located the wreckage in the park. Firefighters, including Wren, responded to the scene.

"I recall that it didn't come in like clipping the tops of the tree. This one just went straight into the ground, crashed like in full speed. ... It made a big hole in the ground," Wren said, referring to the NW6231. "It could've been a fully-loaded plane. If the crash was three or four miles sooner, the plane would have gone right into a populated area."

The accident investigation concluded that the crew members lost control of the aircraft because they failed to recognize the plane's stall condition. They solely relied on an erroneous airspeed reading from speed indicators, called pitot heads, even though they were blocked by ice and malfunctioning. The ice condition would have been prevented if the crew members activated the pitot head heaters, the report read.

Fearing another incident, Wren coordinated an extensive plane crash drill for firefighters in 1975 and in the 1990s, he said.

"It was such a close call. ... If it had gone down a few seconds sooner, it might've been right in the middle of condominiums in Mount Ivy, populated areas in New City, or West Haverstraw. A lot of people would've died," Wren said. "To this day, I still study a mental checklist of how to respond to a major plane crash."

Bill Murphy, a local aviation enthusiast, said he got interested in the incident years after it happened. He visited the site, just off the Long Path hiking trail near Breakneck Pond.

"I started looking around, and I started finding stuff," Murphy of Congers said, while showing off a metal piece that he found there. "It was a human tragedy. But fortunately, the crash happened before they picked up the whole football team."

Wren, who is also a trustee for the Historical Society of Rockland County, said he was hoping to install a memorial plaque at the crash site, in cooperation with the Historical Society of Palisades Interstate Park Region and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.

Walter Luther, chairman of the Palisades Interstate Park historical society, said his trustees supported the idea.

"Mostly we focus on older histories," Luther said. "But this is history, too, so we're anxious to get involved and help out."

Luther, 71, said he clearly remembered the crash.

"Everyone was interested. It was a real tragedy," Luther said. "We were grateful that the Baltimore Colts were not on the plane."

The 1974 crash in Harriman State Park left a lasting impression in Rockland residents. In the wake of 40th anniversary, a plan to install a memorial plaque is in the pipeline. 


NTSB Identification: NYC75AN070 
Flight Purpose:  Ferry
Aircraft: BOEING 727, registration: N274US

Alex Czerwinski: Corporate pilot impacted by church when his life hits bottom

Columbia corporate pilot Alex Czerwinski stands next to a Pilatus PC-12 airplane at Columbia Regional Airport. Czerwinski often flies members of Veterans United and MU Athletics as a pilot for Ozark Management. 

COLUMBIA – Alex Czerwinski found his calling during a family vacation to the Bahamas when he was 17.

When his family got off the plane at the small airport, the pilot was standing outside the terminal smoking a cigarette. Czerwinski decided to approach him and express his interest in flying.

That conversation convinced Czerwinski that he, too, wanted to be a pilot. 

In the past three and a half years, Czerwinski has flown nearly everywhere in the United States, from New York City to Los Angeles, and even to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. In October, he began working for Wes Stricker and Ozark Management where he flies private flights for local businesses. 

He has also recently been certified to fly his dream plane — the Gulfstream G4, a luxury high-speed, high-altitude jet that most pilots don't fly until late in their careers.

At 26, Czerwinski seems to be well ahead of the career curve. 

"I'm pretty lucky to be where I'm at as early as I've gotten there," he said. "There's not a lot of younger guys flying these kind of planes. I am very blessed to be in the situation I'm in."

Blessed is a word that Czerwinski uses often , though his path hasn't always been this smooth. When he was 17, he thought becoming a pilot would make him financially successful right out of college. This wasn't quite the case. 

Czerwinski's father lost his job during the 2008 recession. Czerwinski quickly began racking up student loan debt to help pay for college and flight school. Then, his first job out of school didn't pay what he expected. 

"I kind of set myself up to be in a financial down point," Czerwinski said. "From that, it put me into a pretty rough spot for a while." 

Czerwinksi earned an associate's degree in aviation science from Northwestern Michigan College while simultaneously attending flight school. He began to search for jobs just as the economy went into a tailspin in 2008. 

For a year and a half, he gave flight lessons in Jefferson City before landing a job as a corporate pilot with Independent Stave Co., which makes oak barrels for craft distilleries around the world.  

Still, he was struggling to earn enough money to live on while also paying off his steep student loans. A few months later, however, things got worse. He sued his landlord for stealing his security deposit.

The landlord managed to counter-sue and win, costing Czerwinski even more money. Around this time, his car broke down; he and his girlfriend separated; and the student loans remained. Life seemed to be falling apart from every direction.  

His good friend and fellow pilot, John Abbott – whom he met while working as a flight instructor in Jefferson City – suggested Czerwinski live with him until he could get back on his feet.

After dozens of conversations about life, money and relationships, Abbott invited Czerwinski to go to a service at The Crossing, a community church in south Columbia, with him. Abbott claimed it was the best decision he had ever made.

Czerwinski went and found exactly what he was looking for. 

"All of a sudden, he had a reason to live, versus asking 'Why am I alive? Why am I here? Why am I stressed out and miserable all the time?' " Abbott said. "Watching him grow up has just been — wow." 

Since then, Czerwinski has climbed out of debt, moved into his own place and volunteers his free time helping others confronting similar situations through various ministries. He says he has learned to rid his heart of selfish pride and to give all the credit to the God he now believes in. 

"There were times where I wasn't able to afford a lot, things like my rent and food. I really hit rock bottom and gave up," Czerwinski said. "But now, in hindsight, I am so grateful because it opened my eyes to so many different things. I finally put my faith where it needed to be." 

Czerwinski now regularly attends services and is involved in a variety of Bible studies and outreach ministries. 

"If he says he's going to show up, he's going to be there. If we have a meeting scheduled, he's there. You can count on him," said Greg Early, a member of a leadership team at The Crossing that runs the men's group, Men of Impact.

"He's got a real heart for people. I see him as a young man beginning to learn what it means to be a disciple." 

Attending the Men of Impact group at The Crossing has helped Czerwinski at the time of his life he needed it most, he said.

"I never knew God before the last year or so of my life. I feel like he's called me at exactly the right time," he said. "Looking back on it now, his hand was in my life for a long time. Realizing that and seeing that now is amazing." 

Czerwinksi says his work ethic has perhaps benefited the most. He no longer works hard to impress his boss or to feel the luxuries of success. 

"When it comes down to it, I make sure that I glorify God by working hard to honor him," he said. "Through that, I've done some of the best work that I've ever done." 

His new work ethic applies to everything he does, from flying around the country down to making it a habit to keep his house clean to the best of his ability. This new work ethic hasn't gone unnoticed, either. 

"He's my co-pilot now, and we have a lot of religious conversations together," Abbott said. "He has really turned things around from where he was."

Czerwinski now makes it a priority to identify times in his life when he is feeling down or worried like he once did. He has set goals and can now recognize when he is not pursuing them the way he should be. Looking back at the past few years of his life in which he struggled the most, Czerwinski says he wouldn't change a thing.

"In hindsight, I am absolutely grateful for student loans. I know if I didn't have that sort of struggle, I probably would have never started going to church. They were used in a way to draw me closer to him," he said. "I would do it all over again."

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Russian Cargo Aircraft Lands At Bermuda Airport

An Aviacon Zitotrans airplane landed at the LF Wade International Airport tonight [December 23] and appeared to be taking on fuel while it was parked at the main terminal.

Aviacon Zitotrans is a charter cargo company with a main base in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

The Wikipedia website states that, “JSC “Aviacon Zitotrans” is an airline based in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

It was established and started operations in June 1995 and operates charter cargo flights worldwide including Canada where it operates on behalf of the Canadian Military.

“Throughout the years, Aviacon’s fleet moved thousands of tons of relief goods, vehicles and trucks, containers, helicopters, and roll-on/roll-off machinery, outsize and heavyweight pieces, from and via more than 700 airfields in 144 countries of the world.”

The company’s website says, “Aviacon was granted the Nuclear License issued by Rosatom [the Russian Federation national nuclear corporation]. After the quality audit conducted by the state regulator Aviacon was approved as compliant with the requirements of regulatory and since authorized to handle nuclear materials and radioactive substances.”

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Federal Aviation Administration penalties vary for pilots who don’t report drunken driving arrests

Pilots caught breaking federal rules by failing to report off-duty drunken driving arrests and convictions have largely received warnings, fines and short suspensions for the motor vehicle offenses, according to documents obtained by the Herald.

Airline transport pilots — the license held by the vast majority of those in the cockpits of commercial airline jets — were cited in 137 cases for failing to report driver’s license suspensions and convictions stemming from drunken driving stops from Jan. 1, 2009, to July 22, 2014, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Pilots are required to report any drunken driving arrests and convictions to the FAA, according to federal rules.

But only 21 of those 137 cases resulted in the FAA revoking a pilot’s license to fly. In 48 cases, pilots received warnings.

Pilots received fines ranging from $100 to $1,750 in 28 cases, while the FAA handed down suspensions in 39 cases in which pilots failed to report a DUI. The majority of those suspensions sidelined the pilots for 60 days or less. In one case no action was taken against the pilot, records show.

But there’s no way of telling if the cited pilots were working for airlines at the time of the drunken driving busts or whether they are still flying commercial planes, because FAA officials redacted the names and airline employers in the database obtained by the Herald through a public records request.

FAA officials said pilots must pass periodic medical examinations, and pilots’ names are routinely matched against data in the National Driver Registry. Pilots with more than one DUI offense must undergo a substance abuse evaluation, according to the agency.