Friday, January 23, 2015

EDITORIAL: Number of flights spiraling downward • Hilton Head Airport (KHXD), Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

For the fourth straight year, the number of arrivals and departures at the Hilton Head Island Airport has declined.

General aviation flights were down 7 percent in 2014 from 2013, according to newly released reports. They dropped almost 19 percent from 2011 general aviation flights, the first year after Delta Air Lines suspended services and left US Airways, which merged late last year with American Airlines, as the airport's sole commercial carrier.

Meanwhile, Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, buoyed by the addition of JetBlue, has announced a 17 percent increase in passengers in 2014 compared to 2013.

Hilton Head Island Airport and Beaufort County leaders say they aren't worried about the drop. They seem confident that implementing a list of improvements, including a controversial extension of the runway, will reverse the trend. Other projects include upgrades to taxiways and flights paths.

It seems that airport and county officials are putting all of their eggs in one basket with no guarantee that the trend will be reversed. 


---No commercial airline has said it will begin flights to and from the Hilton Head airport if the runway is extended even though there's existing terminal space to accommodate the addition of one or two more.

*US Airways has not indicated that it will increase its flights.

---There's no known movement by owners of private planes to up their usage of the airport.

Meanwhile, fewer flights and passengers are using medium- and small-hub airports as a result of higher fuel prices, industry consolidation and a new focus on profitability over market share.

And debate continues on what tomorrow's planes will be. Higher fuel costs have prompted some airlines to eliminate regional jets, the kind that could be used on Hilton Head's lengthened runway. But some on the airports board have argued that turboprops are making a comeback thanks to new fuel-efficient designs.

With so much up in the air, it's impossible to say what will turn the airport around.

But we aren't expecting that a longer runway will be the fix.


Foster says Aurora Federal Aviation Administration facility stronger than ever

The Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control facility in Aurora has come back strong since a deliberately set fire shut it down last September.

That was the word Friday from U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, after he toured the facility, known as Aurora Center, at Indian Trail and Highland Avenue.

“It’s now squeaky clean,” Foster, who last toured the facility just days after the Sept. 26 fire, said. “You wouldn’t have guessed it was the same place. There was not even a smell.”

Foster said the facility actually came out better for the fire, which was allegedly set deliberately by a troubled contract worker. At the time, it was a near disaster, forcing airlines to cancel hundreds of flights out of Chicago.

Air traffic controllers working in Aurora were forced to go to other control centers where they could work on Chicago’s air space situation.

Foster said Friday that in talking to the controllers, whom he called “great guys,” it appears the emergency gave them a chance to understand the system better, and even to meet controllers in other cities they often talk to on the radio, but never meet.

“It ended up being really good for morale, having to deal with the emergency,” Foster said.

Also, the FAA took the opportunity to not only replace the damaged system, but to upgrade it. While the Aurora building was being repaired, the FAA was testing the upgraded equipment at another facility. So, when the Aurora building was ready for the new equipment, it could be moved in, already tested.

“The fact they pulled it off was amazing,” he said.

By 2017, the FAA plans to have the NextGen system installed, an advanced digital communication grid that will make the entire FAA system less dependent on smaller, regional or local grids. Some planes already have the advanced system installed. Foster said it will be expensive to install the new equipment.

“That’s one of the things I’m trying to get reversed,” Foster said. “The controllers were trying to urge me to get Congress to spend the money for the new system.”

Foster said the government should be praised for doing a good job of recovery at Aurora Center.

“This was a real story of success,” he said.

Original article can be found at:

Federal Aviation Administration: Phoenix Sky Harbor (KPHX) flight paths cannot be reverted

New flight departure paths out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport that are drawing noise complaints from Valley residents cannot be reverted back to the original routes, the Federal Aviation Administration said this week.

But the administration is looking at possible adjustments to the new paths, according to the letter sent Thursday by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher.

Many residents, along with the Phoenix City Council, have demanded that the FAA go back to the original flight paths, but Huerta's responded Thursday and said the request wasn't that simple. Arrival and departure procedures are interdependent, the letter said, and alterations would start a "domino effect."

"Making changes is not as simple as turning one procedure off and turning another one on, and designing and developing possible adjustments will not be a simple or quick process," he said.

Any adjustments are also subject to safety analyses and environmental reviews, the letter stated.

Phoenix City Council members Laura Pastor and Michael Nowakowski issued a joint statement Friday afternoon stating the city should now consider filing a lawsuit and a historic preservation complaint.

"The decision not to return to the original flight paths demonstrates a blatant disregard for our communities' quality of life, residents' pride in home ownership and our revitalization efforts to the downtown area," the statement said.

The response came a day after Mayor Greg Stanton and U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., met with Huerta and other FAA officials in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to push for changes concerning the new routes.

Gallego said the meeting was held to tell the FAA that the current flight paths aren't acceptable and to move the administration to change, even if the paths aren't reverted.

"There has to be some mitigation," he said.

Phoenix city representatives will be part of a Performance Based Navigation Working Group that will meet next month to look at the flight paths, Huerta's letter said.

The FAA changed its flight paths for planes leaving from the airport in September as part of the nationwide plan for airway safety and efficiency. Studies conducted by the administration determined there would be no significant impact on neighborhoods.

But residents in affected areas — especially near Grand Avenue — immediately began complaining about increased noise.

Nearly 200 people attended two public outreach meetings the city held this week to document resident concerns on the new routes, according to Aviation Department Spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez. Residents were heated at times during a Thursday meeting at Metro Tech High School, shouting complaints during a overview presentation.

Facilitators at the meeting collected ideas for where noise monitors should be placed during the city's temporary noise monitoring program. Monitors will be placed throughout the affected area to monitor noise during periods of one to two hours or three to four days, said Rob Adams, who represented the aviation planning firm Landrum and Brown at the meeting.

Comments collected at the meetings will be compiled into a report for the FAA, Rodriguez said. The last meeting will be held today at 10 a.m. at the Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave.

Original article can be found at:

New chatter about Oceanside airport plan

OCEANSIDE — A draft master plan that charts the future of the Oceanside airport should leave the western tip of the airstrip open, should include grassy areas that will help soften noise and should shorten the timetable for improvements to the site, a pilots group said this week.

The plan should also include amenities that are tourist-friendly and complement the multiple recreational opportunities — from the Mission to the Harbor — available in the thriving coastal town, the pilots said.

The comments were made Thursday during a meeting between city and airport officials and the Oceanside Airport Association, a group of pilots who use the small municipal airport that in 2013 was renamed Bob Maxwell Memorial Airfield.

A second meeting, to get the public’s feedback on the plan, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Civic Center Library, 350 N. Coast Highway.

The airport has been a contentious subject in the city for decades, as development has mushroomed along the State Route 76 corridor, where the airstrip sits north of the highway and west of Foussat Road.

With a runway of 2,712 feet, the airport accommodates mostly single-engine planes and is home to about 70 aircraft. Each year it handles about 11,000 takeoffs and landings — a number projected to double in the next two decades.

The meeting Thursday was led by Doug Eddow, the city’s property manager, and Jeff Lilly, representing Airport Property Ventures of Glendale — which manages Oceanside’s airport under a 50-year lease.

Pilots told the pair they were concerned the draft Airport Master Plan drags out improvements over 25 years and may underestimate future use of the airfield.

Eddow said the plan isn’t for detailed future development, but must be in place so that the city or airport manager can get Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants to make improvements.

For instance, the location and number of future hangars may be disputed, he said, but that doesn’t matter right now because the FAA doesn’t give money to build hangars — it cares about runways and taxiways and safety measures such as fencing.

Lilly said APV is ready to put in new fencing and to rehabilitate 23 hangars with new roofs and siding by June. He said the work would enhance the public’s view from Airport Road.

He also mentioned a possible grill or restaurant in the future terminal building.

Oceanside Utilities Commissioner Jimmy Knott noted right away that a restaurant or proposed museum hadn’t been spelled out in the plan.

Eddow said they were automatically included in references to a new “terminal” to replace the current administration building.

The pilots group showed little enthusiasm for Lilly’s description of plans for a portable platform to contain a temporary building for Tsunami Skydivers currently operating at the airport.

And Association President Gordon Nesbitt wondered what happened to the hope buildings at the airport would carry out a common architectural theme.

“This airport needs to be green,” Nesbitt added, saying lots of grassy areas are needed not only to beautify the place but to attenuate noise. Grass along the runways would absorb much more noise than concrete does, the pilots said.

There’s no water for grass, Lilly replied.

Knott said the airport may be able to tap into a proposed recycled-water line to the city’s El Corazon property and Goat Hill golf course.

Of the proposal to close off 300-500 feet of runway on the western end, pilots said it is not necessary for landings, but is needed to give ample room for easterly takeoffs.

Nesbitt also emphasized the importance of boosting the tourism business, citing airports in Big Bear and Catalina Island that provide a “signature experience” to visitors.

At Thursday’s meeting, members of the pilots group stood around a table while Eddow wrote notes of their proposed changes on the recommended master-plan map. The document will be sent on to consultants and a Technical Advisory Committee.

Eventually, the City Council will approve the Airport Master Plan. City Councilman Jerry Kern attended most of Thursday’s meeting.

Story and Photo:

A small plane takes off at Oceanside Municipal Airport in Oceanside's San Luis Rey Valley area in this view looking east. In the distance is traffic on nearby State Highway 76. — Charlie Neuman

Wings hopes Bibles first step of ministry

Whenever Gerald Huggins sees video or photographs of poor, barefoot children, especially in Central America, he gets emotional.

“I identify with them because I was one of those kids,” Huggins said. “It touches my heart.”

A seasoned pilot and president of GH Enterprises, an aircraft maintenance company at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, Huggins, 64, was born in Costa Rica, raised in Guatemala and Panama, emigrated to the United States at 15 and became a citizen in 1971.

“I remember being hungry. I remember being sick with parasites inside me,” he said. “I feel their pain.”

Now he wants to help some of those children and their families by “being the hands and feet of Jesus,” said Huggins, part of a nonprofit Christian ministry called the Wings of the Spirit mission.

For the first two weeks of February, Huggins and Daniel Waghorne, a documentary filmmaker from New Orleans, will fly the White Dove, a two-seater Piper Super Cub, from Baton Rouge to Central America and back.

The small plane, which displays the mission’s logo in Spanish on one side of the fuselage and English on the other, can’t carry enough food to ease the physical hunger they may encounter, but it can airlift spiritual nourishment.

As they hopscotch across Mexico and then down into Guatemala and Honduras, they’ll land near small villages and distribute a total of 900 free Gospels of John printed in Spanish.

“We’ll stop wherever the Holy Spirit leads us,” Huggins said. A symbol of the Holy Spirit dove adorns the plane’s tail.

Huggins described the Super Cub as a “semi-bush type of airplane, we can land and take off in fields if we have to.” They’ll fly at about 2,000 to 3,000 feet in altitude, low enough to see roads and villages.

Although the “two-stick” plane is low-tech compared to the corporate aircraft he maintains, Huggins said they’ll have a GPS system and a satellite phone.

They’ll travel about 400 miles a day at speeds up to 100 miles an hour, Huggins said. They’ll sleep wherever they can find lodging or, if necessary, sleep in a small tent or under a wing.

They’ll head first to McAllen, Texas, then westward across Mexico to Mazatlan, then follow the coast south until they get to Tepic, Mexico, where in the 1990s Huggins said he assisted another mission group, Remote Area Medical.

“I flew their doctors and nurses and supplies,” he said.

They’ll fly down to Guatemala then eastward to a Gulf coast town, Porto Barrios, where Huggins said he lived while his stepfather worked for a banana company. He also plans to cross into Honduras to visit “a whole group of people who have been ignored forever — the Mosquito Indians.”

They’ll return to Baton Rouge by flying back up the Gulf coast, totaling about 4,000 miles.

Waghorne, who has spent most of the last few years filming mission trips with other groups in India, Kenya and Guatemala, will ride in the cramped back seat and can also fly the plane via another control stick.

“It’s gonna be really fun with all our gear, my camera gear and the boxes of Bibles,” he said with a laugh. “Missions work is essentially where my heart has been the last few years, helping people with the talents that I have in videography.”

He’s done a lot of work in the film industry, music videos and short films, he said, “but it’s just not satisfying and doesn’t feel like I’m helping people.”

The first of a larger mission

Ryan Williams, president of the group and a local insurance agent, said he hopes this flight is only the first leg of a much larger mission that was divinely inspired from the beginning.

Williams and Huggins attend Journey Church, where they became fast friends. Wings of the Spirit is a separate organization from Journey Church, Williams said.

They met Waghorne in Guatemala last year on a church mission trip and Waghorne was there filming another group.

They are hoping this trip’s success and Waghorne’s documentary will promote their greater mission of using this and another airplane to respond to disasters.

For example, Williams said, when late-summer rainstorms flooded the Front Range of Colorado two years ago, it took Baton Rouge volunteers two days to drive there when an airplane could have airlifted them to Estes Park in a matter of hours.

This mission is expected to cost $9,000 and they have only raised half that amount, Williams said. Their church and several other churches are helping, but, Williams said, “this is much bigger than one church.”

“Don’t think about these 900 Bibles as just Bibles, but as 900 souls,” Williams says in a video on their website. “Where these Bibles are going they may never have seen a missionary.”

“They may have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Williams says. “These little paperback books could not only change their life but generations of people in the villages where Gerald and Daniel are going to go.”

Story and Photo Gallery:

Photo by MARK H. HUNTER 
Wings of the Spirit Missions pilot Gerald Huggins, left, points out instruments to his co-pilot and videographer Daniel Waghorne as they prepare to fly in February the Piper Super Cub from Baton Rouge to Central America to distribute Bibles to remote villages.

Former Leesburg aviation adviser goes to prison for lies about bad propeller on eBay • Clive Felix Ure, 58, of Zephyrhills also must pay more than $67,000 in restitution

A one-time Leesburg aviation figure who lied about the airworthiness of a propeller sold on eBay to an Oregon buyer was sentenced to one year in federal prison, officials announced today.

Clive Felix Ure, 58, of Zephyrhills also must pay more than $67,000 under the sentence imposed by Ocala-based Senior U.S. District Judge Wm. Terrell Hodges on Thursday.

Ure, a New Zealand native who had an airplane repair and maintenance business in Leesburg, pleaded guilty on July 10.

He must divest himself of any interest in the business under a plea agreement.

He served on the advisory board for Leesburg International Airport in 2012 — the year he sold the Cessna 337 McCauley rear propeller and had it shipped from Leesburg to a buyer in Bend, Oregon.

Ure had Federal Aviation Administration licenses as an aircraft mechanic and a private pilot.

In September 2012, he agreed to sell a propeller listed on eBay to the owner of a private plane in Oregon and falsely said the propeller had been overhauled and that it had not been used since the overhaul.

"In fact, an FAA-certified propeller repair station had told Ure that the propeller was not airworthy and could not be overhauled for use on an airplane," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a report.

Ure sent the buyer a log book with a false entry showing the overhaul.

"He also stamped a false serial number on the propeller because the true serial number had been obliterated by the propeller repair station, at the direction of the FAA,'' the report said.

Under a plea agreement, Ure agreed to pay restitution to another private plane owner and to a flight-training school that hired Ure to overhaul aircraft engines.

"When he overhauled the engines, Ure used parts that had not been approved by the FAA, some of which were unairworthy," the report said.

Those engines were later closely inspected and overhauled again at a significant expense.

Ure was ordered to pay $49,136 to the private plane owner and $18,635.28 to the flight-training school.

Original article can be found at:

Planes at New York City-area airports go unchecked after Federal Aviation Administration safety changes

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The FAA is now requiring new safety screenings of inspectors before they get to check planes after a string of security breaches, but Eyewitness News has learned that alternate plans have not been put into effect at local airports.

Nearly 100 inspectors who check to make sure planes are safe to fly were essentially grounded because of a growing concern about the employee breaches and a lack of coordination between the FAA and the Port Authority.

To give you some idea how important the FAA inspectors are to safety, we've learned that just last week, a plane was grounded here when an inspector found a serious mechanical problem.

Most airports found way to continue inspections, but not at the three New York-area airports, where planes have not been checked for more than three days for reasons FAA and Port Authority have yet to explain. 

Since the suspension of the security badges earlier this week, inspectors have, for the most part, been sitting in an office on Long Island. Without the use of their badges, they can only access restricted areas if they are escorted by the Port Authority.

But those escorts, for unknown reasons, have not been happening. And that means planes at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark have gone uninspected by the FAA, something that New York's senior senator finds unacceptable.

"It's absurd that an organization like the FAA and Port Authority can't come up with a system so our planes can be inspected," Sen. Charles Schumer said.

The problem started Wednesday when the FAA banned the use of security badges nationwide following several breeches in which insiders at Atlanta's airport smuggled firearms into LaGuardia.

That prompted the blanket ban on badges, which triggered a letter from the president of the Safety Inspector's Union, who wrote to the head of the FAA to say, "Inspections are not being fully conducted at some major airports, including those in New York." 

He urges the FAA to find a way to ensure security so that "it does not impact an entire workforce attempting to carry out their duties." 

Most other airports have figured a way to assist the inspectors, but not here, where for reasons neither the FAA nor the Port Authority could explain to us, most planes have not been checked by government inspectors since. 

"God forbid there's an accident because a plane wasn't inspected safely," Schumer said. "They ought to get right on it and fix this problem."

The Port Authority responded by saying they will escort FAA inspectors onto the ramp as needed, adding that they have not heard of any problems. Both the Port Authority and the FAA have refused to tell us how many inspectors were escorted to do their inspections Friday.

Story and Video:

Airport official says suit has no merit • Mount Airy-Surry County Airport (KMWK), Mount Airy, North Carolina

The chairman of the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Authority has responded to a federal lawsuit filed against that group by a former member who is a local businessman and pilot, saying it lacks merit.

That individual, William Alfred “Billy” Hicks Jr., alleges in the suit that the authority — the governing body for the local airport at Holly Springs — acted improperly in forcing him off the seven-member board and evicting him from his hangar there.

The lawsuit filed earlier this month claims this violated Hicks’ due-process rights and equal protection under the Constitution, given that Mount Airy-Surry County Airport is a government-funded facility dedicated to serving the public without bias.

Hicks, the owner of H & H Auto Sales in Mount Airy and Galax, Va., as well as two airplanes, is contending that his treatment by the authority was a direct result of his support for another local pilot who offered flight instruction at the airport.

The governing board sought to prevent Michael Venable from providing lessons because it was taking significant business away from an in-house pilot school at the facility — leading to an earlier lawsuit filed on behalf of Venable over the blocked access.

Hicks’ suit claims that as a board member he opposed efforts to bar Venable’s flight instruction, which led to the alleged retaliation by other members, all of whom are named as defendants.

Charges “Baseless”

But John Springthorpe III, the authority chairman who initially could not be reached for comment Thursday about the lawsuit, responded Friday, saying “those allegations are baseless.”

Springthorpe added that the issues raised in the suit concerning authority members’ actions are without merit. “And we are going to pursue it vigorously with our response in the court system,” he added of their position.

The authority chairman also responded to the group’s supposed mistreatment of Venable regarding his flight-training operation — the apparent heart of the matter involving Hicks.

“We felt like what the airport board did was done openly and we were enforcing a set of rules that had been in place for many, many years,” Springthorpe said.

“Mike was not singled out, nor was Billy singled out.”

Hicks has said that after he supported Venable being able to offer pilot lessons at the airport, he was advised by Springthorpe and others to resign from the seven-member authority and he did so rather than being kicked off the board. That led to his replacement by Dr. Thomas Jackson last February.

The plaintiff also said airport leaders terminated the lease on his hangar there and removed his name from the waiting list for a second one due to the backing of Venable. The grounds for that termination involved the uncovering of alleged safety violations at his hangar, which Hicks claims also exist among other hangars without similar mitigation.

Springthorpe also took issue with that Friday.

“Sometimes in this capacity you deal with people who feel like the rules shouldn’t be applied to them,” the board chairman said, “and that’s unfortunate.”

And the fact that the airport or its personnel have been the subject of multiple lawsuits in recent years reflects the trend of increased litigation in today’s society, Springthorpe continued.

“What this reveals is that the legal system allows you to sue people for any reason, no matter if it is the truth.”

Springthorpe further indicated that the lawsuit activity is an example of the court system being used as “a delaying tactic to evade justice.”

He complained Friday that much of his time as chairman in recent years has been tied up with defending the airport leadership from legal claims that involve two individuals.

Springthorpe thinks the authority has been on the right side concerning lawsuit issues raised, even while acknowledging that the action brought by Venable ended in an undisclosed settlement. “Our insurance company chose to settle,” he explained.

Hicks’ suit seeks unspecified damages to be set by a jury and for his hangar lease privileges to be restored, among other requests to the court. 

Original article can be found at:

“FU YVR” sign on roof under Vancouver International Airport flightpath

One can only wonder how many air travellers may have spotted a rude ‘welcome sign’ outside their window while their plane makes a final descent into Vancouver International Airport.

A Google Maps satellite view shows that a Richmond single-family residential dwelling near the south end of the Oak Street Bridge has a rooftop sign that spells “FU YVR.”

The residence is about one kilometre away from the eastern edge of Sea Island and is under YVR’s low altitude aircraft landing flightpath for the North Runway, which is the airport’s newest runway – constructed only in 1996.

“I’ve seen it quite a few times and it’s been a joke within some local aviation circles,” pilot Ben Pritchett told Vancity Buzz. “At this altitude along the North Runway approach, passengers sitting on the left window-side of the plane should be able to see [the sign] if they’re paying close attention outside of their window.”

There is little doubt that the grievances of those living at the residence revolve largely around low-flying jetliners, which pass over the house as frequent as every few minutes.

In 2014, the Vancouver Airport Authority received 1,695 air traffic noise complaints, but 1,122 or 66 per cent of the complaints were submitted by just three individuals living in Richmond, South Delta and South Surrey.

Story, photos and comments:

SkyMall Files for Bankruptcy • Owner of In-Flight Catalog Crippled by Use of Wi-Fi and Smartphones on Jets

The Wall Street Journal


Updated Jan. 23, 2015 4:50 p.m. ET

The company behind the in-flight catalog SkyMall filed for bankruptcy protection, a victim of evolving rules and technology that now lets airline passengers keep their smartphones and tablets powered up during flight.

After 25 years selling quirky products like a Darth Vader toaster or a paper towel holder with USB ports, SkyMall LLC is seeking a court supervised sale of its assets, according to papers filed Thursday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix.

“We are extremely disappointed in this result and are hopeful that SkyMall and the iconic ‘SkyMall’ brand find a home to continue to operate,” acting Chief Executive Scott Wiley said in a statement Friday.

The company, which started in 1989, fully suspended its retail catalog operation Jan. 16, and also laid off 47 of its 137 employees, according to court papers. SkyMall’s parent company Xhibit Corp. , which acquired the business in 2013, is also seeking Chapter 11 protection.

Mr. Wiley cited a “crowded, rapidly evolving and intensely competitive” retail environment as the reason for the quarterly publication’s recent struggles. “With the increased use of electronic devices on planes, fewer people browsed the SkyMall in-flight catalog,” he said.

The catalog can often be found in the seat pockets on many domestic flights, but airlines had been cutting back. Delta Air Lines ended its contract with SkyMall in November, court papers said, and Southwest Airlines informed the company in December that it would stop carrying the catalog later this year. “We saw a decline in customer use of the publication,” a Delta spokesman said.

The increase in the number of airlines providing Internet access “resulted in additional competition from e-commerce retailers and additional competition for the attention of passengers, all of which further negatively impacted SkyMall’s catalog sales,” Mr. Wiley said.

The SkyMall retailing business had revenue of about $33.7 million in 2013, but only $15.8 million for the nine months ended Sept. 28, 2014.

SkyMall named Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and US Airways as its largest unsecured creditors. In its bankruptcy petition, the company listed assets between $1 million and $10 million and said in court papers that its total liabilities are about $12 million. 

The company doesn’t have a buyer lined up, but Mr. Wiley said SkyMall is hoping to sell its business as a going concern and will attempt to “sustain their scaled-down business operations as a going concern” during the sale process. An auction will be held on or about March 24, Mr. Wiley said, and any sale of SkyMall’s assets will close in April.

Richard Jaffe, a retail analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co., said the problems facing catalog-based businesses are not unlike the challenges brick-and-mortar retailers face now that consumers can access thousands of stores online. “I don’t think [SkyMall] had a compelling identity,” he said. “It’s all over the place; it has no real point or mission.”

SkyMall has changed hands numerous times over past 25 years. Investor Jahm Najafi ’s Phoenix-based private-equity firm purchased SkyMall in 2012 from Spire Capital and the Las Vegas-based Greenspun family. The following year Mr. Najafi merged SkyMall into the online advertising business Xhibit. As of May 2013, the combined company, including its debt, was valued at approximately $200 million, according to regulatory filings. Representatives for Mr. Najafi couldn’t be reached for comment.

If a bankruptcy deal doesn’t happen, some flyers will be sad to see the seller of Bigfoot Garden Yeti statues (which retails for $2,250 for the life size model) and Litter Robots (a robotic self-cleaning cat litter box for $359.99) go the way of other now-defunct retailers. Many of the products, however, can be purchased online from and other vendors.

Frequent flyer Ricky Cadden, a digital marketer in the travel industry, said he will miss flipping through SkyMall on his frequent flights. “You sit on a plane, and you expect to see a SkyMall catalog,” he said. “I loved looking for the stuff that you could only find in SkyMall.”

Story and Comments:

Department of Transportation denies application for Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport (KYNG) to Chicago O'Hare International Airport (KORD) flights

VIENNA -   The U.S. Department of Transportation has tentatively denied the application of Aerodynamics Inc. to begin daily air service between the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport based on the airline’s lack of “fitness.”

The government also went another step, proposing that ADI also have its existing certification to provide charter flights revoked — all on the grounds that the company doesn’t have the “managerial competence necessary” nor the “proper compliance disposition and regard for the laws and regulations governing its services.”

The written order DOT released Thursday says ADI will have the opportunity to show cause why the tentative conclusions should not be adopted.

- Story and Comments:

Lease helps MX Aircraft reopen at Wilkes County Airport (KUKF), North Wilkesboro, North Carolina

The Wilkes County commissioners cleared the way for MX Aircraft to reopen at the Wilkes County Airport by approving the assignment and assumption of a lease of county-owned land beneath a hangar the company plans to occupy.

In a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved assigning the ground space lease for 48,750 square feet beneath the hangar to Meyer Wilkes Properties LLC, formed by MX owner Chris Meyer and his father, Corky Meyer of Florida, a retired Grumman Aircraft test pilot and executive.

Under the agreement, Quest for Life Church is transferring its lease of the county-owned land to Meyer Wilkes Properties LLC and Meyer Wilkes Properties LLC is subleasing it to MX. Chris Meyer is listed in the lease contract as manager of Meyer Wilkes Properties LLC.

MX Aircraft manufactured and serviced aerobatic and other high performance aircraft at the Wilkes Airport for about five years. These operations closed down about two years ago.

It was stated in the meeting Tuesday that MX is in the process of buying the hangar on the county-owned land from Quest for Life Church, represented by James Samuel Grimes as pastor of the church, for $325,000. The hangar originally belonged to Golden Needles Knitting.

County Attorney Tony Triplett said a proposed new ground space lease agreement for the 48,750 square feet of county-owned land, requested by Meyer Wilkes Properties LLC, will be on the agenda for action at the commissioners’ Feb. 2 meeting. Under this agreement, he said, Meyer Wilkes Properties LLC will lease the property from county government for 20 years, with three five-year renewals.

Triplett said a new survey of the property is needed before the new lease can be approved.

Commissioner Gary D. Blevins voted against the motion to approve the assignment and assumption of the lease. In an interview, Blevins said he voted against the motion because based on past experience with MX, he wasn’t comfortable with that use of property owned by county government.

Under a May 2009 economic investment agreement, MX Aircraft was supposed to create 10 new jobs at the airport by Dec. 31, 2016, in return for county government receiving grants of $100,000 apiece from Golden LEAF and the N.C. Rural Center for installing water and sewer lines at the airport and grading three “pads” as building sites at the airport. One was originally planned for MX.

Triplett wrote a letter to Golden LEAF in 2013 asking that jobs added by any company at the airport by the deadline be allowed instead of requiring that they all be added by MX. He told Golden LEAF that it appeared MX might not be able to remain in operation due to economic conditions and Chris Meyer’s health problems.

Golden LEAF responded by granting the request in the form of a revised agreement stating that 10 new fulltime private sector jobs with an annual salary of at least $25,000 each had to be created by any company at the airport between Jan. 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2016, as a condition for the $100,000 grant. Commissioners approved the revised agreement.

The new jobs must be retained at least until Dec. 31, 2016. County government also must repay a pro-rata portion of the $100,000 to Golden LEAF, based on the number of new jobs at the airport shy of 10 by Dec. 31, 2016.

He said he’s working with N.C. Department of Commerce officials to get the same arrangement for the other $100,000 grant but hasn’t gotten it approved yet.

Triplett said the economic investment agreement with Meyer has been cancelled and that county government never paid him any money, but the water and sewer lines and building pads funded with the two $100,000 grants have been completed.

He said county officials are optimistic that Aaron Aerospace Inc. and Samaritan’s Purse—and now MX Aircraft—will help the county fulfill the obligation of creating 10 new jobs at the airport by Dec. 31, 2016. County officials said MX originally planned to employ at least 50 people at the Wilkes County Airport

The county-owned hangar that formerly was leased to MX is now leased to Aaron Aerospace, which has already created three new jobs.

Meyer said in an interview that he plans to start manufacturing racing and aerobatic planes again at the Wilkes airport in a few weeks in the hangar the commissioners acted on Tuesday night. He said he plans to add about three jobs.

He said the operation will manufacture planes with composite material parts shipped from Portland, Ore., where they are made in molds owned by Meyer.

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Kutztown Airport (N31), Pennsylvania: Memories

Guest Column: Memories

By Lucille Zettlemoyer, Guest Columnist

POSTED: 01/23/15, 3:13 PM EST 

My growing up memories started on March 4, 1950 at 7 p.m. It is the night I married Carl Zettlemoyer. It was a marriage quite a few people said would not last. Because Lucille was a “City girl” and Carl was a farm boy. But it did last “64” wonderful years.

We married in the spring, and bought our farm in the fall of 1950. I learned to milk cows and help with all the farm chores, keep house, and we raised a family, at this time it was Michael and Sharon. Stephen and Stacey came later.

In 1957, unknown to me, Carl bought our first airplane, a Piper J-3 Cub, and also unknown to me, he was taking flying lessons. He would tell me he had to go to Kutztown for parts or grain, but was taking flying lessons.

In October of 1957, a beautiful fall day, he said, “Get in the car, we are going to Kutztown,” but would not tell me why. He pulled into the Kutztown Airport and parked at one of the hangars. I asked, “What are we doing there?” He opened the hangar door and there was a yellow Piper J-3 Cub. He said, “We are going for a ride. I said, “I don’t think so.”

He then confessed he bought the plane and took flying lessons and had his private pilots license. That was my first, but not my last, ride in the Cub. We also had a 120 Cessna and were in partnership with a 182 Cessna. This started our Flying Farmer memories.

January 2014

It was a beautiful day in January, when grandson David called me, he said, “Grandma, open the hangar doors, we are coming to fly the Piper J-3 off of the farm.”

By the time I had the hangar doors open, it wasn’t long they were there. Our friend Ernie from Fredericksburg, Pa was the pilot.

Carl never liked our airstrip because there was always a cross wind. That day it was so calm, the windsock did not move, not even a little bit. David had his camcorder and took the video of the Piper J-3 leaving the farm for the last time. It was so sad, David and I both cried. I have a picture of the take-off hanging on the wall in my bedroom.

Now, ironically, 57 years later, our grandson David and his son Clay are flying the Piper J-3 Cub. Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 20, David called me and said, “Grandma, be ready, I will pick you up, we are going for a ride in the Piper J-3.” What a thrill!

Friends were asking David for a ride, he said, “After I take my grandma, she will be my first passenger.”

In the spring of 2015, my great grandson Clay (David’s son) will give me another ride in the J-3 Cub. I will also be his first passenger. I am very proud of both of them and I know Carl would be also.

It was one year on Nov. 10 that Carl is no longer with us.

We miss him so much!


Former airport board chairman to face sentencing February 12 • Foothills Regional Airport (KMRN), Morganton, North Carolina

The former chairman of the board of directors of Foothills Regional Airport will be sentenced in February.

Randy Hullette is expected to report to courtroom 1 in the federal courthouse in Asheville at 9 a.m. Feb. 12 for sentencing for embezzlement and witness tampering. He is facing a maximum 30-year sentence for the crimes.

U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger will preside over Hullette’s sentencing, according to federal documents.

Hullette pleaded guilty Aug. 21, 2013, to embezzlement and witness tampering after an FBI investigation into wrongdoing at the airport.

The FBI raided the airport in June 2012, seizing files, records, computers, log books and other information. The warrant included records from the airport involving former airport manager Alex Nelson, former operations manager Brad Adkins and Hullette. The investigation revealed the three defrauded the airport of at least $100,000.

Nelson was sentenced in February 2014 to three years in prison and three years supervised probation. He also was ordered to pay $179,781.51 in restitution. Nelson reported to prison in Beckley, W.Va. June 9, 2014.

After reporting to prison, Nelson filed an appeal to his sentencing to the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, saying he had questions about the process.
Nelson’s appeal was dismissed in December.

He pleaded guilty in September 2012 to conspiracy, embezzlement and money laundering.

Adkins pleaded guilty to conspiracy and embezzlement in September 2012. He was sentenced June 3 to time served, four months of house arrest and three years supervised release; had to pay a $200 assessment; and jointly pay, along with Nelson, $85,305.59 in restitution.

The federal government revoked Adkins’ bond in February after he taped urine to his body to try to pass a drug test. In November, he admitted to taking Xanax, which is commonly used to treat anxiety.

Adkins was jailed in Marion on Feb. 11, 2014 and held until his sentencing on June 3, 2014.

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Scott Air Force Base unveils air transport system for patients of Ebola and other infectious disease

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE • For years, airborne diseases such as bird flu and SARS have threatened a global pandemic. Books have been written and popular movies made on the potential devastation of an outbreak.

But it wasn't until last year when Ebola, a fluid-born disease, trickled out of West Africa into the U.S. and other parts of the world that fears of containing the disease became very real to Americans.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Defense unveiled a locally developed containment system at Scott Air Force Base to help military personnel safely airlift multiple patients with both airborne and fluid-borne diseases to U.S. hospitals.

Gen. Paul Selva, commander of the U.S. Transportation Command Unit, or USTRANSCOM, said the system will increase the military's continued success at reducing fatalities in the field by better enabling infected military and aide workers to get to appropriate hospitals.

USTRANSCOM, based out of Scott Air Force Base, manages global air, land and sea transportation for the Department of Defense.

“On humanitarian missions you now have the capability to bring back large numbers of people if they get sick,”  said Maj. Gen. Scott Hanson, director of operations for the Air Force's Air Mobility Command.

The Transport Isolation System was put on display Friday inside a hangar at the base for visitors to walk through and ask questions. It was developed by the minority-owned North St. Louis County contractor, Production Products, Inc., at a cost of $7 million — which covers future orders. Designed and tested quickly over four months last summer and fall, the new system can be fully loaded via pallets onto C-17 cargo planes and C-130 airlifters.

Resembling a slightly smaller set of plastic enclosed boxcars, it creates a chain of fully sealed modular treatment rooms measuring about 9 by 7 1/2 feet. Medical staff are able to safely exit and enter the system through a decontamination pod while simultaneously keeping other aircraft personnel, passengers and cargo safe.

Each pod can carry multiple patients and pods can be added on to the system depending on the size of the aircraft.

Crews of technicians, nurses and physicians have already been trained to use the modular system in aeromedical evacuations. A group from the 375th Unit of the Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron gathered at the unveiling said they are fully confident in the system to protect them and others from contamination. They noted that intensive instruction was given on the use of medical suits to prevent transmission.

In addition to two of the three test models already constructed, the Department of Defense plans to order 22 more to be placed for deployment at bases in East and West Coast locations in March.

Barry Corona, president of Production Products, likened the modular system to a fully contained ambulance that can be loaded onto a plane.

He said the 38-year-old company was proud of the turn-around on the system which, under less pressing circumstances, normally would take two years to develop.

The private contracting firm traditionally develops structures to provide military personnel safe refuge from outside chemical and biological attacks. The new system turns the technology inside-out to protect the outside world. Corona said the system is critical to Americans and aide workers infected overseas.

“If you don't get them back to hospitals here, they just don't survive,” he said.

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Mechanics Union Sues American Airlines • Suit Alleges Managers Breached Federal Aviation Administration Rules; FAA Investigates

A major mechanics union at American Airlines Group Inc. has filed a lawsuit alleging that managers pressured members to breach federal rules on aircraft maintenance, including for wing cracks and inspections for suspected lightning strikes—claims that could complicate a crucial year for the world’s largest carrier in its merger integration.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the allegations, according to people familiar with the details. The allegations that prompted the investigation were originally detailed in two federal whistleblower complaints filed in recent months by six American mechanics in Chicago and one in Dallas. Leaders of the Transport Workers Union Local 591 sued American in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Thursday, claiming the company intimidated union representatives from aiding the FAA’s investigation.

American said it continually works with FAA regulators to ensure its aircraft maintenance, safety and regulatory compliance “are second to none.” The carrier said it is in frequent contact with the FAA “and their oversight team has not alerted us to any current critical issues or concerns.” American didn’t immediately respond on Friday to a request for comment regarding the claims of intimidation.

Drone Crashes At Holloman

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- An unmanned MQ-1 Predator was part of a runway excursion at approximately 8 a.m. Friday.  The aircraft is assigned to the 6th Reconnaissance Squadron, which is part of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Flying Training Unit, and was taking part in a regularly scheduled training mission.

No one was injured and no private property was damaged. There is no threat to the Holloman population and the airfield remains open.

A board will be convened to investigate the cause of the accident.

As additional information becomes available, it will be released on the Holloman Web site at Photos and fact sheets on the MQ-1 can also be found at the Holloman Web site.

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Coast Guard chopper hits bird during flight

The pilot made an emergency landing in a Target parking lot in Kemah

KEMAH – It was a scary moment for a Coast Guard helicopter Thursday night.

The helicopter was on its way back to Ellington Field when it struck a bird after it was dispatched to the Gulf of Mexico about a damaged oil platform.

The pilot landed the chopper in a Target parking lot in Kemah, where officials determined the helicopter didn't suffer any substantial damage.

No one on board was injured.

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Arizona Civil Air Patrol helps Air Force protect Super Bowl 49



Not only will Valley roads be busy in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, it's going to be pretty busy up in the skies as well.

A crush of private planes will be headed into town and the military will be keeping a close on those that venture to close to University of Phoenix Stadium on game day.

There will be a TFR, or temporary flight restriction in place for eight and a half hours around University of Phoenix Stadium before and after the game. It will extend out from the stadium 10 miles in all directions.

Today, the Arizona Wing of the Civil Air Patrol teamed up with their Air Force friends for an exercise on how to keep unwanted aircraft away.

You don't often see a Cessna fly tandem with an F-16, but in Tucson today military leaders held a crucial practice run for pilots from the 162nd Fighter Wing based out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

"Our aircraft actually was a target," said Lt. Col Lori Raska from the Civil Air Patrol. "It simulated a plane under stress or duress."

The Civil Air Patrol is often involved in search and rescue or recovery operations. Its main objective is to support the U.S. Air Force.

"The Air Force will be actively involved in securing the airspace and this practice today gave them opportunity for the Super Bowl for security," said Lt. Col. Raska.

Just like when a plane wanders too close to the White House, there will be strict rules about flying near University of Phoenix stadium on game day.

Today's exercise went through how the fighter pilots are supposed to handle a plane that isn't following the rules.

Virtually every Valley airport is affected by the temporary flight restrictions. Civil Air Patrol members will visit each of those airports with flyers for pilots to keep everyone on the same page.

Today's training was part of a military operation known as Operation Noble Eagle. That's a mission established by NORAD after 9/11 to secure the skies over America.

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