Friday, May 8, 2015

Contest: Winning child can fly

DAYTON — The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has announced its second annual essay contest in conjunction with the Vectren Dayton Air Show.

The deadline to enter is 5 p.m., June 1.

Children 8-17, who are no taller than 6-foot, 3-inches, and who weigh no more than 250 pounds, and who have never flown in anything smaller than a commercial plane, are eligible to enter to win a flight in a two-seat, single-engine, 300L plane piloted by Sean Tucker.

Tucker is an internationally famous aerobatic pilot and honorary chairman of EAA’s Young Eagles program. The flight will take place, weather permitting, during the morning of June 18 at the Dayton International Airport site of the air show.

Contest participants must be between the ages of 8 and 17 by June 18. To enter, each must write an essay of no less than 100 word and no more than 300 words about one of two topics: “What I Imagine My First Airplane Ride Will Be Like” or “What This Flight Will Mean to Me.”

The winner, along with a parent or legal guardian, must be available and at the airfield by 9:30 a.m. Weather permitting, the event will end by about 10:30 a.m. The winner must consent to media interviews to promote the air show.

Essays must be typed in Ariel or Times New Roman 12-point font, double-spaced, with a 1-inch margin on all sides and indented paragraphs.

They can be submitted online at by choosing “Young Eagles Flight.” They can be mailed to arrive by 5 p.m., June 1, to Vectren Dayton Air Show, My First Airplane Ride Essays, 3800 Wright Drive, Vandalia, OH 45377.

Original article can be found here:

Monday, May 4, 2015

Timmonsville, South Carolina: Sonny Huggins exemplified life as a pilot

A cropduster sits at Huggins Memorial Airpark on May 2 in Timmonsville. Like his father, Sonny Huggins cropdusted for years before transitioning to working as a pilot for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

TIMMONSVILLE, S.C. – When you live at an airport – whether it’s by choice, some feeling of obligation or a little bit of both – flying works its way deeply into your life. Death, too.

M. B. “Sonny” Huggins III passed away Feb. 14 in a Myrtle Beach hospital. Family members were close by, including his wife of 30 years, Bettie.

“My son looked at me and he said, when he [Sonny] drew his last breath: ‘Momma, it’s 2:10,’ ” Bettie said.

The significance of the time was immediately evident to the loved ones. It was a fitting nod to Sonny’s favorite airplane, the Cessna 210.

Sonny was a pilot through and through. He made his first solo flight when he was 11. His 17,546 flight hours add up to more than two years in the air. He and Bettie got married while in flight. 

“He was something,” Bettie said. “He was my best friend.”

The grass-stripped Huggins Memorial Airpark – described by author, journalist and pilot Bill Walker as “long on flying history and short on formality” – handles a combination of recreational pilots and crop-dusters.

Planes sit under corrugated metal hangars, or are secured to concrete pads outdoors. Vines creep into the cockpit of a propeller-less Cessna, parked in a stand of trees.

The airport was founded in 1931 or 1937 (there is some debate) by Sonny’s father, “Dusty,” who earned his nickname during the early days of cropdusting, first in Louisiana, then South Carolina, North Dakota and Minnesota.

“He was usually covered in dust,” Sonny wrote in a biography of his father. “Where his goggles covered his eyes would be the only place not covered in the white dust.”

Dusty would fly in Santa Claus for Timmonsville’s Christmas Parade, a tradition that Sonny kept up after his father passed away.

Also like his father, Sonny worked for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division as a pilot. For 28 years, he spotted liquor stills, fleeing suspects, missing persons and marijuana plants from the air.

“I just want to fly until I can’t do it anymore,” Sonny told Walker in 2005.

In a few weeks, Bettie hopes to give Sonny one final opportunity to fly, during a celebration of life service where his ashes will be spread from his favorite airplane.

Original article can be found here:

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Morris Municipal Airport (C09) construction on runway extension to start May 18

Bill Button, an employee with Morris Municipal Airport, fuels a turboprop airplane from Minnesota after it landed Wednesday. The airport will extend the northern portion of its runway by 500 feet with more than $1 million being poured into the project. Construction will begin May 18.

MORRIS – An out-of-state company’s board of directors recently thanked Morris Municipal Airport for its convenient location and accessibility.

After departing Shreveport, Louisiana, at 8 a.m. with the company’s full board and landing in Morris for a tour of a local plant, the corporate jet landed back in Shreveport by 3:10 p.m. the same day, Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick said.

It’s just one example of the smooth point-to-point travel offered by Morris Airport to nationwide businesses with locations in or near Grundy County.

“Transportation is huge for stimulating the economy,” Airport Manager Jeff Vogen said. “Executives can store aircraft here and hop in a rental car to their location, whether it be a nearby plant or a 55-minute drive to an office in Chicago.”

More than 50 corporate accounts are registered to land on the 5,000-foot runway and store aircraft, Vogen said, and there’s a waiting list that officials anticipate will only grow as airport development continues.

With the expected growth in mind, the city has a five-year forecast for airport improvements as part of its Transportation Improvement Plan. The most immediate part of the plan begins May 18 with the extension of the runway to 5,500 feet.

The city obtained numerous parcels of land in recent years to make expansion possible. Whitman Road was extended west of Ashley Road with a bridge and roadway to give residents on that road new access, since the airport work no longer allows direct access to Route 47.

The plan is done in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Illinois Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics.

It’s just one more aspect that makes the Morris Airport attractive. It will add, for instance, to the existing perk of avoiding the airspace of Chicago O’Hare International and Chicago Midway International airports.

The Louisiana board of directors told Morris officials they would never fly into O’Hare again.

“You have to wait until they say it’s OK to land,” Kopczick said. “Even at Lewis [University] Airport, pilots wait for the go-ahead to land or take off. But our airport has no governing authority. We’re open for business.”

North-South  runway extension

The work scheduled to begin May 18 is a $1.3 million project to extend the runway to 5,500 feet, along with an extended taxiway and upgraded runway lighting. The 500-foot extension will be at the north end of the runway, which runs North-South.

Morris City Engineer Guy Christensen said it’s become a straightforward project after the land was acquired and streets were altered.

Vogen said because of the current set up, weather can be more of a factor and deter a jet from landing in Morris.

“A 5,000-foot runway allows corporate jets to land here in nice weather,” Vogen said. “Fifty-five hundred feet allows for all-weather use. The aircraft may not know the difference, but the insurance companies do.”

The airport will use the Wide Area Augmentation System developed by the FAA and a localizer performance with vertical guidance procedure. The GPS-guided landing procedure will make the airport one of more than 1,700 U.S. airports using the set-up, according to

Aircraft will be guided to a safe landing by the upgraded instrumentation during fog, rain, snow and low clouds. The new instrument landing system gives aircraft a precision approach from as low as 250 feet, Vogen said. Lighting arrays provide lateral and vertical guidance when approaching a runway.

“It just makes it a lot safer, especially in the winter,” Vogen said.

Hangar additions

The hopes for airport improvements expand beyond the runway. Two local business owners and plane owners are in talks with the city to build private hangars for their planes, Vogen said.

“We’re in the process of negotiating the ground lease,” Vogen said. “The airport will lease the ground to jet owners a certain amount of years.”

Kopczick said an example of a hangar lease would be a 20-year agreement with a 10-year option. The city collects rent on the space, and if the deal expires without a new one being made, the land is city property again.

“Hangar additions will open up the airport for more aircraft without the city spending for it,” Vogen said. “It will free up our large corporate hangar, giving us more space to rent.”

The comfort provided to the plane owners benefits the city. With less space occupied in the airport’s general aviation hangar, planes from out of town will have space too.

With a waiting list on T-hangars for smaller planes, the airport may add 12 T-hangars.

“We’re fortunate all of our hangars are full,” Vogen said. “It’s a good problem to have.”

Future: Crosswinds runway construction and widening of North-South

Aircraft on the existing runway line up directly North-South, but there are days when west winds are so strong it will alter takeoffs and landings of small planes.

For those days, a diagonal crosswinds runway gives small planes a safe alternative. Having a second runway that runs East-West that intersects with the existing one is a future hope for Morris Airport.

Much like the acquisitions for extension of the existing runway, the city would go through a lengthy process of acquiring land for the hoped-for crosswinds runway. The land acquisition is estimated at $5.2 million, Kopczick said.

It’s unknown how long acquisition would take.

Before that can happen, an environmental assessment of the potential construction area at a cost of $160,000, split 50-50 between the state and Morris, will be completed.

“In a perfect world,” Christensen said. “Morris would break ground on a 3,500-foot crosswinds runway in five years.”

To accommodate more frequent use from large corporate jets, the city hopes to have the soon-to-be extended North-South runway widened from 75 to 100 feet, estimated at $3.7 million, and strengthened with an overlay of more asphalt, estimated at $2.8 million.

“We’re talking about Gulfstream IIIs and IVs, [Dassault] Falcon 900s, [Bombardier] Global Express business jets,” Vogen said. “They can land daily instead of monthly.”

If approved by all parties, cost would be split 90 percent federal, 5 percent state and 5 percent Morris.

The city hasn’t calculated a cost for crosswinds runway construction, but if the proposed project proceeds it would come with a bonus: If constructed before the widening and strengthening of the North-South runway, the second runway would allow the airport to stay open for local air traffic.

If not, the airport would close for a year while the widening occurs.

“It would be a large hardship if it closed,” said Cindy Limbach, owner of Blue Sky Aero and member of the International Aerobatic Club Chapter. “So many planes are based there and it’d be difficult to find another airport with space nearby.”

The city considered widening first, but decided it’d be best to keep the airport open.

“A lot of it also depends on future leadership,” Kopczick said. “If someone else is mayor, there might not be the same push for airport improvements.”

If the city encounters too many obstacles in the environmental assessment and land purchase, Kopczick said, it may agree on widening and strengthening first.

“But the hope is to build a second runway first,” he said.

Original article can be found here:

Rich Toth inspects Wednesday a Piper Cherokee airplane at Morris Municipal Airport before flying with his friend, Greg Thorson.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Gotham Air: Wall to Wall Street commute in 14 minutes

Floyd Maxson, assistant chief pilot, prepares to take off for Gotham Air’s new helicopter shuttle service for commuters at Linden Airport. 

Interior of one of the helicopters at Gotham Air’s new helicopter shuttle service for commuters.

WALL, NEW JERSEY – Imagine skipping the tolls, tunnels and bridges when heading into New York City. In fact, imagine skipping the drive all together, and arriving in less than 20 minutes.

No, teleportation hasn't been invented, but there is a new company that pledges to cut the daily commute into the city in a major way, although it won't be cheap.

Gotham Air is a helicopter charter service that promises to shuttle commuters from Monmouth Executive Airport in Wall to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, about three blocks away from Wall Street in approximately 14 minutes, said Gotham Air owner and CEO Tim Hayes.

The service is set to begin Memorial Day and run until Labor Day.

Ruthie Stoakes, manager of the Monmouth Jet Center at the Monmouth Executive Airport, said the terminal can be used by any privately owned company, and sometimes similar operations have utilized the terminal.

"Adding us to their schedule – we'd love that," she said. "The more the merrier. We're more than willing to work for them," she said.

Time for family

Hayes is no stranger to a commute.

A former Maplewood resident who commuted into the city for work every day, Hayes eventually moved his family from New Jersey to Manhattan to cut that time.

"It was a relatively short commute but I missed dinner every night and I didn't like that," Hayes said. "We're not trying to make people feel like a movie star. We're trying to get people home for Little League, for dinner."

That's not to say the helicopters aren't luxurious, or the tickets cheap.

Gotham Air is encouraging people to buy monthly packages by letting those customers sign up first.

Hayes said he and business partner John Kjekstab, a former helicopter flight instructor, realize that there is a niche demographic the company will appeal to.

For June, the cost of a monthly package is $7,799 for daily round trips from Wall and $6,379 for daily round trips from Morristown Airport.

The cost of the package will depend on how many days are in a month, a company spokesperson said.

Hayes said the ticket cost isn't exorbitant when the cost of tolls, tunnels, gas, and parking daily are factored into the equation.

"It's not for everybody, but someone who drives a BMW 5 or 7 series ... this is not that big of a step up," he said. "It's a premium product for someone who works in Manhattan and is done at 6 (p.m.) and is not home until 8 (p.m.)"

To start, Hayes said the company will fly one commuter trip per morning.

"But as we share our story, we're prepared to do multiple trips a day," Hayes said. "We'll make sure we'll ramp up the service."

Without a package, passengers will be able to purchase a ticket for $179 one way. Passengers who would typically drive almost 90 minutes – without traffic – into the city, could be there in a fraction of that time by way of one of Gotham Air's fleet of seven Bell 407GX helicopters.

The commute

"We're the only brand in the Northeast (to fly this model)," said Hayes, who also added the model makes use of military-grade quiet technology that physically reduces the sound of the helicopter flying.

"It's noticeably quieter when you fly overhead," he said. "We want to be a positive (for) customers and the community. We don't want people to see us as noisy rich people coming in helicopters."

The helicopters seat six passengers and go from the ground to airborne and traveling 150 mph in about 90 seconds.

Is the ferry commute worth the cost?

Hayes formerly worked for ABC's "Good Morning America" and as a concert promoter. Through those careers he became familiar with moving people around quickly via helicopters.

The bills for short rides however, were thousands of dollars.

"The aircraft is expensive but tickets doesn't have to be that much," Hayes said. "(In) the sightseeing business they're able to take people on 16-minute Manhattan tours for $150. Why is it a 16-minute flight costs $150, but $2,200 if you're going on a six-minute (flight) to the airport?"

Hayes reasoned that if a helicopter is chartered for the day, and the pilot spends most of the time on the ground, the cost of the pilot, aircraft and fuel is different than if the service ran all day long.

By flying multiple flights throughout the day, the cost becomes spread out amongst more people, and becomes more manageable.


Trips from Monmouth Executive Airport

One way: $179

Round trip monthly: $7,799

Travel time: Approximately 14 minutes

Currently the Wall commuter service is scheduled to begin on Memorial Day and is committed to being run through Labor Day. With enough interest, the service can continue year-round

Trips from Morristown Airport

One way: $145

Round trip monthly: $6,379

Travel time: Approximately 12 minutes

The company will also offer round-trip charters from Manhattan to the Hamptons, Martha's Vineyard and Atlantic City, as well as shuttle services from Manhattan to area airports.

Original article can be found here:

A helicopter is brought out of the hangar for Gotham Air’s new helicopter shuttle service for commuters at Linden Airport.