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.