Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fly-In & Airshow organizers mull changes to event: Watsonville Municipal Airport (KWVI), California

WATSONVILLE — Faced with stagnant attendance in recent years, the Watsonville Fly-In and Airshow Board of Directors are considering a different event this year that focuses on the benefits of the airport with a variety of activities while eliminating aerial acrobatics.

The board is looking at a one-and-a-half day festival-type event with free admission, said Hank Wempe, board president.

For the complete article see the 02-12-2015 issue.

Isolated Little Diomede approaches 3 weeks without food, mail deliveries

The only aircraft regularly flying to one of Alaska’s most remote communities has been down for maintenance for nearly three weeks -- leaving residents of the Bering Strait community of Little Diomede with empty mailboxes, bare grocery store shelves, and no way on or off the island.

Andrea Okpealuk works at the Diomede school, and on Tuesday afternoon she was escorting children to lunch. The kids were eating alongside classmates, but also other members of the community, parents and aunts and grandfathers. No mail or cargo deliveries since Jan. 22 has left store shelves empty, and with no checks coming in the mail, wallets are thin and essentials hard to come by. So the school has opened its doors, serving nearly 300 lunches and dinners to Diomede residents since Saturday.

“In our store, it’s pretty bare. We do have a bunch of food here at the school, which will last for a while,” Okpealuk said. Hunters have been on the ice daily, she said, but strong winds, rough water, and poor ice conditions have made catching game difficult.

“In our home,” she said, “I think the hardest part is having milk for the babies.”

Even with the school sharing its food, Okpealuk said, for mothers with young babies, no new stock on the shelves means there are few alternatives.

“It is hard when there’s no milk,” she said. “When you’ve switched your baby to regular canned milk to whole milk, to nonfat milk, to two percent milk, and then to nonfat milk again, and then now to powdered milk, it upsets the baby’s stomach.” She sighed. “A couple of us are going through that now.”

The needs go beyond just getting the right food on the shelves. Late Friday night and into Saturday morning, an Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter had to be dispatched to medevac a pregnant 18-year-old from Diomede to Nome’s Norton Sound Regional Hospital. While on the ground the Blackhawk crew and four medical providers were alerted to a 2-month-old with an airway issue. That infant was identified as a “critical patient” and also taken to Nome by medevac.

Diomede’s remote location means there are not many options when it comes to passenger and freight service to the island. Its unique geography -- a town set along the shore of an island that’s little more than a mountain jutting sharply from the Bering Sea -- means there’s no runway, save for one that can occasionally be carved into the sea ice.

Just one company, Oregon-based aircraft operator Erickson Aviation, provides helicopter service to Diomede. That service is paid for with a $337,520 subsidy of federal and state dollars under the Essential Air Service Program set up in 1978. Under the program, the federal Department of Transportation pays $188,760 for the helicopter service, with the rest of the money coming through Bering Strait regional nonprofit Kawerak Inc.

Erickson’s program director Chris Schuldt said the company only keeps a single helicopter -- a twin-engine BO-105 Bolkow -- for service to Diomede. That helicopter has been down for routine maintenance in Anchorage since its last flight to Diomede in January.

“We’ve had some maintenance on the aircraft, but the goal is to return it to service in the next one to two days,” Schuldt said Tuesday. “Pending weather, (the helicopter) will return to Nome and begin operations as soon as that’s complete, (and) make sure our aircraft are in the top condition before we begin flying passengers and cargo again.”

Shuldt said Erickson’s customers, including DOT, are aware of the company’s maintenance status and plans to return to service this week. Erickson also contracts with the U.S. Postal Service for weekly mail service to Diomede.

According to Kawerak’s Pearl Mikulski, who worked on the EAS contract for the nonprofit in the past, the contract requires Erickson to make a certain number of trips each year, but otherwise allows the company to set its own schedule when it comes to flights, as well as stoppages for weather and repairs.

Kawerak can do little, Mikulski said, beyond cautioning Erickson to use the funds in such a way as to ensure flights last all year. That’s an especially difficult proposition during winters with poor ice conditions, Mikulski added, as the contract assumes an ice runway for part of the year. Last winter, the ice around Diomede wasn’t thick enough to support a runway.

Andrea Okpealuk said that for her and the other residents of Diomede, every day without a helicopter means people are closer to not having what they need.

“Some of us do have meds that were supposed to come a couple weeks ago,” she said. “I’ve had meds that I ordered a couple weeks ago, and I just ran out.”

She sighed again. “Hopefully, in the next few days, we’ll get chopper service here.”

This isn’t the first time Diomede has been without air service. Late applications for the Essential Air Service grant caused service to lapse for more than two weeks in July.

This article originally appeared on KNOM Radio Mission, a Nome-based radio station sharing stories from around Western Alaska. It is republished here with permission.​

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Southwest Airlines ready to partner with Belize

Southwest Airlines, based in Dallas, Texas, USA, plans to enter the Belize market later this year with a non-stop daily flight from Houston, Texas, to Belize’s Philip Goldson International Airport.

While that first flight is still some months away, preparation has already begun to make Southwest a serious contender among the international carriers visiting Belize.

According to Brad Hawkins, Senior Advisor for Communication for the airline, Southwest has maintained its reputation as the largest low-cost carrier in the United States by doing things differently from its competitors.

It has tried to ensure that passengers have the best experience from start to finish, from booking at the airline’s website, to boarding the plane, to arrival at the destination.

The company, which is known for its low fares and attention to customer service, is preparing on the ground to make Belize as important a destination as its many others, as the largest carrier in the United States.

Hawkins told us this afternoon in San Pedro Town that Belize represents a “wonderful opportunity” to extend its value of air travel, in terms of both experience and travel generally, to passengers from the U.S. to Belize and vice versa, numbering as much as 115 million, and building a market in the U.S. for visitors here.

Hawkins says Southwest’s philosophy makes sure that passengers do not give up much of their experience by not charging for luggage or change of plans.

Southwest is yet to announce its fare for the flight. It joins established carriers American, United and Delta in servicing Belize.

The airline also plans to establish a regional hub for the Caribbean in Houston at the same time as the inaugural flight to Belize.


Pilot Settles Excessive Force Suit Against Officer for $130,000

Christian Nolan, The Connecticut Law Tribune
February 11, 2015   

According to the lawsuit, New Haven Police Officer Josh Kyle grabbed the plaintiff, threw him down a flight of stairs, punched him, kicked him, and shot an electronic Taser dart into his body.

Timur Andiric v. Josh Kyle: An airline pilot who claims he was injured when a New Haven police officer used excessive force on him at a bar has settled his lawsuit against the officer for $130,000.

Timur Andiric, 39, of Berlin, was out celebrating a birthday with a group of friends at a piano bar and restaurant known as Terminal 110 in New Haven, according to Andiric's lawyer, John Williams, of New Haven. "He wound up getting the snot beat out of him," said Williams. "It was an outrageous case of police brutality."

Andiric reportedly went outside to check on his wife who wasn't feeling well and was holding a beer when he did so. A bouncer told him he couldn't take the beer outside so Andiric went back inside. Later, Andiric went back outside, again holding a beer and again to check on his wife. The bouncer took the beer, reportedly upsetting Andiric. Their are conflicting versions of what happened after that.

According to Andiric's lawsuit, shortly after midnight on Feb. 26, 2012, New Haven Police Officer Josh Kyle grabbed Andiric, threw him down a flight of stairs, punched him, kicked him, and shot an electronic Taser dart into his body. "There was no justification or excuse for the aforesaid brutality," Williams wrote in court documents.

Williams said Andiric hit the asphalt floor face first. He said Andiric suffered a broken nose, was temporarily knocked unconscious, had cuts and bruises to his face and suffered from emotional distress. Williams said his client needed surgery to repair a deviated septum. He also said Andiric received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder after the incident. 

Further, Andiric missed some time as a commercial airline pilot as a result of his injuries and had a lost wage claims as part of his damages in the lawsuit, according to Williams.

The police officer's story is substantially different. Kyle was hired as an extra duty police officer at the restaurant that night. Kyle claims Andiric approached him in a threatening manner after his beer bottle had been taken from him.

The officer said as he attempted to subdue Andiric, Andiric resisted and fell down the stairs. Even after the fall, Andiric continued to resist, according to the officer, prompting Kyle to use his department-issued Taser. Kyle ultimately charged Andiric with interfering with a police officer and disorderly conduct.

Williams claims Kyle "wrote and filed a false police report intended to cover up his own wrongdoing and violation of the plaintiff's rights."

"The bar had a video recorder focused on the exterior rear right outside the door where it happened," said Williams. "It contradicted the police report, which I suppose would have made the case undefendable."

Kyle was represented by Stephen Del Sole, of Del Sole & Del Sole in Wallingford. Del Sole did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Williams said the city of New Haven did not want its own corporation counsel to represent the police officer because it was likely that the city was pursuing an internal investigation. A city spokesman would say only that officials settled the lawsuit "to avoid the prospect of a more lengthy litigation process."

Because the officer was on-duty during the incident, the city of New Haven's insurer will pay the settlement amount of $130,000.

Williams said the settlement size was significant one for a police excessive force case, but he believes it was appropriate given the video evidence that he claims contradicted the police report. Williams added that the plaintiff "was an extremely appealing person" and would have made a good trial witness. "Put all that together and the settlement is right where one would expect it to be," Williams said.

Original article can be found at: