Thursday, July 30, 2015

Aviation fuel tax cut drawing fire from critics


Florida aviation industry leaders are hailing the elimination of the state's tax on aviation fuel purchased by professional flight schools, part of the $400 million tax cut package passed by the Republican-led Legislature last month.

The cheaper gas, however, is drawing fire from critics, who call the arrangement unfair to struggling middle class Floridians.

The aviation fuel tax cut means that students attending the state's four FAA-accredited professional flight schools no longer have to pay a nearly seven cent-per-gallon levy on gas they purchase from the schools while accruing flight time in school-owned aircraft.

"You always have to have that thought in the back of your mind, you know, am I going to have enough money to continue, and luckily, our school does a great job and we're fortunate enough to have it, but it'd be really nice if we could extend flight to other kids that are less fortunate," said Ryan Fennell, a student pilot at the Melbourne-based Florida Institute of Technology, who this month flew a school plane to EAA AirVenture, the world's largest airshow, in Oshkosh, WI.

In order to pass the tax cut package, the cash-stapped Legislature was forced to make a consequential trade-off, cutting the state's share of public school funding. That, in turn, has led counties to increase property taxes in what the package's opponents call a "shell game" orchestrated by Tallahassee's GOP leaders.

"Shouldn't we use that opportunity to help the quality of life for Floridians? Shouldn't we plan more effectively? We didn't," Rep. Mark Pafford (D-West Palm Beach), the House minority leader, said during a June debate over the state budget.

Administrators at the flight schools beg to differ. They're predicting the aviation fuel tax cut will bring increased enrollment, leading to more flight training and a positive impact on the state's economy.

"Aviation and aeronautics is growing so fast in Florida right now that the potential to stay in Florida is there, as well, and I'm sure that's what the Legislature was looking at," said James Roddey of Daytona Beach-based Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which had a formidable recruiting presence at Oshkosh.


Incident occurred July 30, 2015 at Southern California Logistics Airport (KVCV), Victorville, California

San Bernardino County Fire Department's specialized "crash trucks" stood by and inspected a plane that made an emergency landing at SCLA Thursday afternoon. The plane was cleared to fly. 
(Photo courtesy San Bernardino County Fire Department)

VICTORVILLE — A plane was cleared after making a landing at Southern California Logistics Airport Thursday afternoon as San Bernardino County Fire Department firefighters and specialized fire trucks stood by, authorities said. 

According to County Fire officials, three of the department's "crash trucks" stood by when the plane landed around 3:30 p.m. with "an unknown problem." 

The plane was reportedly leaking an unknown substance, but landed safely and was checked by the trucks to make sure there was no fire, hazardous leaks or fuel leaks. 

"The aircraft was cleared with no findings," County Fire firefighter Jeremy Kern said. 

The plane took off shortly after the clearance. 


Federal Aviation Administration Steps Up Scrutiny of Allegiant • The budget carrier’s latest flight problem involved closed airspace and fuel supply

The Wall Street Journal
Updated July 30, 2015 6:41 p.m. ET

An unusual emergency landing by an Allegiant Travel Co. flight low on fuel is drawing new scrutiny to the budget carrier after a string of other in-flight disruptions.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it is gathering information about the incident, which occurred last week, when two of the airline’s executives were flying an Allegiant jet carrying 150 people from Las Vegas to Fargo, N.D. The agency already had increased its oversight of the Las Vegas-based carrier because of a recent series of diversions and emergency landings, an FAA spokesman said.

The July 23 flight left Las Vegas despite a public notice from the FAA that the airspace around Fargo would be closed for practice by the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels aerobatic jets. When the Allegiant jet arrived in Fargo, controllers told the pilots they would have to wait 20 minutes to land.

“Listen, we’re at [low] fuel in about probably three to four minutes,” the pilot responded, according to air-traffic-control recordings. “I’ve got to come in and land.” The jet landed without incident after controllers ordered the Blue Angels away from the airport.

Allegiant said late Wednesday that the flight was piloted by Greg Baden, its vice president of operations, and Michael Wuerger, director of flight safety, both of whom were flying to gather cockpit time to maintain their pilot certifications.

Allegiant said it is not uncommon for management to be pilots, which helps them keep a “connection to our day-to-day frontline operations.”

Allegiant said its dispatchers released the flight to Fargo because the FAA notice made it seem like the airport would remain open for passenger airlines. The airline said other planes that landed at Fargo during the closure apparently made the same mistake. The carrier said the aircraft landed with 42 minutes of fuel remaining. The FAA requires airliners to have 45 minutes more fuel than what its scheduled route should require.

“Our captain exercised good fuel-management judgment,” Steve Harfst, Allegiant’s chief operating officer, said in an interview. “We have some work to do internally on flight planning and flight dispatching.”

Allegiant has been embroiled for years in contentious contract negotiations with its pilots union, whose planned strike in April was halted by a federal judge.

In recent months, the pilots union has publicly alleged the airline is cutting corners at the expense of safety. Pilots say “they are forced to fly aircraft that barely passes acceptable safety standards,” the union said in one report.

Mr. Harfst attributed the union’s allegations to bargaining tactics, and said they “are completely unfounded.”

From September to March, Allegiant had at least 65 incidents, including aborted takeoffs and diversions, because of maintenance-related issues on aircraft, according to the union. From June 8 to July 6, Allegiant had at least an additional 28 such incidents, the union said. Neither the airline nor the FAA makes such data public, so it is difficult to compare the rate of incidents at Allegiant to its peers.

In one case in June, the FAA said passengers climbed onto a jet’s wings via the emergency exits after it landed in Boise, Idaho, because a fuel leak was sending fumes into the cabin.

Mr. Harfst didn’t dispute the union’s tally of recent incidents but added that this year’s number of disruptions is similar to past years.

“If we can’t run a safe airline, we shouldn’t be in the business,” he said. Allegiant has a relatively high number of diversions because it doesn’t have mechanics in most of its cities and often has to send flights back to its hubs when maintenance issues arise, he said. “That presents a unique challenge when it comes to customer service, but if anything, it’s an example of our focus on safety,” he said.

Allegiant is the ninth-largest U.S. airline, accounting for 1.5% of the 76 million domestic airline seats scheduled in July. The discount carrier’s strategy centers on using inexpensive, used jets to ferry vacationers between smaller cities and tourist hot spots, like Las Vegas and Orlando.

Allegiant has one of the industry’s highest profit margins, and on Wednesday it reported second-quarter profit increased 62% to $54.3 million from a year prior.

Air-safety experts said Thursday’s emergency in Fargo was extraordinary because dispatchers sent a plane into closed airspace and an aircraft ran short on fuel, something that should happen only in extreme circumstances.

“There are a lot of questions about this one,” said air-safety consultant John Cox, a former airline pilot. “With the number of incidents this year, increased scrutiny is understandable.”

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Air-Attacking Wildfires: Costs And Concerns

Columbia, CA – The meters certainly run each time Columbia Air-Attack Base aircraft take to the skies, and this week units are in full response mode to an elevated drought-parched wildfire season, further intensified by triple-digit heat.

Ironically, just ahead of yesterday’s Big Creek Fire break out near Groveland, the Mother Lode’s first major wildfire this season, Clarke Broadcasting checked in with Columbia Air Attack Base Battalion Chief Frank Podesta about how the season is going so far. At the time, he indicated an air tanker was actively assisting the Willow Fire, southeast of Bass Lake, in Madera County, and personnel had earlier provided back up on the Lowell Fire, west of Alta, in Nevada and Placer counties.

“It’s a fire season that we had expected with the dryness and severity of the drought,” Chief Podesta remarks, a bit grimly. He adds, “Fortunately, we are getting on top of them as quickly as possible.”

Crunching Columbia Air-Attack Numbers

With so many of the base aircraft out and about, we asked how much it might cost to run those units. The chief was happy to provide some numbers to crunch. First of all, fire retardant, according to Podesta, runs $2.94/gallon for the first 100,000 gallons; $2.13 after that. As the base drops somewhere between 400,000 and 600,000 gallons per year on average, the cost for that line item runs somewhere between $933,000 and $1.4 million. By the way, he estimates, as of yesterday, the unit is “real close” to hitting that 100,000-gallon benchmark.

Built into the hourly rate for each aircraft type are their related firefighting costs, Podesta explains. Each of the two tankers, 82 and 83, cost $2,649/hour to operate and spend 180 to 200 hours in service per year. Subsequently, the average cost to operate both normally runs between $953,640 and $1,165,560 per year. At $743/hour, the Air Attack control or “spotter” plane, in use 250 to 300 hours per year, costs between $185,750 and $222,900. The unit helicopter, at $1,582/hour, which chalks up between 150 to 200 service hours per year, totals between $237,300 and $316,400.

So, annual firefighting costs, considering the above operational aircraft and fire retardant numbers, roughly ranges between $2.3 and $3.1 million per year.

On Water-Scooping, Drones  

Regarding potential accounting for water use, the chief says while the helicopter generally scoops from nearby reservoirs like New Melones, or local bodies like Cherry Lake, as it did last week for the Rosasco incident, it sometimes generates costs when borrowing from private lands. As he explains, “Some people, if we’re not on their property [fighting a fire] and we’re on a neighboring property…and they want 3,000 gallons we dropped…back, we’ll bring a water tender…and try to fill their pond back up.”

The chief affirms that he considers private drone owners who fly them over wildfires a huge concern, and points to the recent incident in San Bernandino, where five drones buzzing in the airspace above a raging wildland blaze caused a temporary curtailment of air tankers and helicopters. “We’ve had them close by, up in Amador-El Dorado Unit,” he shares, adding. “we had a fire, last year — same thing…a single drone.”

Maintaining A ‘Safe’ Airspace

In each of these cases, Podesta states, suspending activities is a necessary, precautionary measure. “If we have an accident with one of them, it’s a good chance of [the drone] taking one of our aircraft out of the sky, and possibly killing somebody…and so we take it very seriously. We’re always looking for them or a potential of [a danger] like that.”

Along with knowing what not to do with drones when wildfires are concerned, the chief says the public should be aware that typically on a second day of a large fire, a temp flight restriction, or TFR, is usually put into place.

“It is to keep private helicopters and manned or unmanned aircraft over an incident out of our incident — unless they talk to either myself, or someone in the air or on the ground,” he states. “We ask [air traffic control] out of Columbia to clear the air and put up the restriction through FAA — and they put warnings out to the pilots that are in the area.” Generally though, he says, clearances through the airspace are given to law enforcement or air ambulance.

Original article can be found here:

Piper PA28-151, N32401: Fatal accident occurred near Truth or Consequences Municipal Airport (KTCS), New Mexico

Date: 29-JUL-15 
Time:  15:30:00Z
Regis#:  N32401
Aircraft Make:  PIPER
Aircraft Model:  PA28
Event Type:  Accident
Highest Injury:  Fatal
Damage:  Substantial
Flight Phase:  UNKNOWN (UNK)
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Albuquerque FSDO-01
State:  New Mexico



Any witnesses should email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email .

LAYTON — A Layton man wanted for missing a court date has been found dead in a small plane crash in New Mexico.

Jason Robert Glenn, 37, was found Wednesday around 10:30 a.m. in the crashed Piper PA28-151 aircraft near the municipal airport in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Fish and game officers spotted the crash as they conducted aerial surveillance looking for wildlife, according to the state's department of public safety.

Glenn and the plane's owner — David Reasor, 48, from La Luz, New Mexico — were pronounced dead at the scene.

New Mexico State Police Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo said it appears the plane went down about a mile west of the airport, and investigators believe the crash occurred sometime last week. The plane was seen parked at the airport last Thursday.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the plane crash.

The plane was not reported overdue and the two men had not been reported missing, which is unusual in this case, Armijo said. Foul play is not suspected.

Crafts flying out of rural airports in small communities, like Truth or Consequences, are not required to file a flight plan, Armijo noted.

A search of Utah court records indicates that Glenn pleaded guilty in March to aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, but failed to appear in court for a sentencing hearing in April and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Glenn was accused of throwing a knife at his girlfriend during an argument, striking her in the shoulder.

Court documents also show Glenn had been arrested in New Mexico.

Glenn was charged in March with drug possession and domestic-violence related assault, both class B misdemeanors, in a separate incident. Court records indicate a warrant was issued in that case on June 1 when he failed to appear at a hearing.

Glenn has also been convicted in Utah of misdemeanor charges, including disorderly conduct, possession of less than 16 ounces of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, criminal mischief and threatening to use a weapon during a fight.


Bellanca 17-30A Super Viking, N93582: Accident occurred July 30, 2015 near Tallahassee International Airport (KTLH), Florida


NTSB Identification: GAA15CA209
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, July 30, 2015 in Tallahassee, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/30/2015
Aircraft: BELLANCA 17 30A, registration: N93582
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported that while on a cross county flight, "it appears that I ran out of fuel and was forced to land on a road nearby and adjacent to the approach end of an active runway." During the landing roll, the left wing impacted a bush, and the airplane departed the road to the left into a ditch. The left wing sustained substantial damage.

The pilot reported there were no pre-impact mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

The pilot's improper fuel planning, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and a forced landing on a road where the left wing impacted vegetation and sustained substantial damage.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Orlando FSDO-15

UPDATE (9:00 a.m.) - According to the FAA Registry the plane is registered to Rush Inc. based out of Ruidoso, New Mexico.

The 17-30A fixed wing single engine aircraft was manufactured in 1973 by Bellanca.

UPDATE (8:30 a.m.) -- We are learning more about the overnight emergency plane landing in Tallahassee.

Officials tell us the small plane ran out of fuel and needed to make an emergency landing.

According to authorities, the plane's wing clipped trees as it was coming down.

The pilot was not injured. No one else was in the plane with him at the time.

The plane is still on the side of Capital Circle Southwest. Traffic is moving through the area, but slowly.

UPDATE (7:20 a.m.) -- The City of Tallahassee says Capital Circle near the Tallahassee International Airport has reopened to traffic.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) --  A plane had to make an emergency landing overnight.

According to the Consolidated Dispatch Agency, the plane landed on Capital Circle Southwest in Tallahassee.

Authorities are on the scene and have shut down Capital Circle from Lake Bradford to Orange Ave. Use Springhill Road to access the airport from the east.

We've been told the FAA is investigating.

No word yet on why the plane was grounded or the emergency surrounding the landing.

Capital Circle Southwest was blocked after a pilot made an emergency landing near the Tallahassee airport Thursday morning.

With his small plane out of gas, the pilot, who was flying from Texas to Key West, attempted to land at the long-closed Highway 27 airport around 2:10 a.m.

He then changed course and tried to make it the 10 miles to the Tallahassee International Airport, according to Leon County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Scott Sullivan.

He ended up bringing the plane down for a hard landing on the busy thoroughfare.

Sullivan said the pilot was stopping to refuel and the pilot of the single-engine Bellanca 17 was not injured when he brought the plane down on Capital Circle.

The left wing hit a bank of trees causing  the plane to spin and come to rest on the eastern shoulder of the road.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, the plane is registered to a Rush Inc., a ski company in Ruidoso, New Mexico.

LCSO detectives are waiting on the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board to take over the investigation.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Capital Circle SW is now reopened after a small plane made an emergency landing early this morning.

According to the City of Tallahassee, a Bellanca 17 aircraft ran out of fuel and landed on Capital Circle SW adjacent to the Tallahassee International Airport around 2:10 a.m.

Officials say the pilot was not injured.

According to, the aircraft departed Tyler Pounds Regional Airport in Tyler, Texas around 9:13 p.m. CDT Wednesday.

The NTSB and FAA are on the way to investigate the scene.

Capital Circle SW between Orange Avenue and Compass Pointe was closed until about 7:15 a.m.

Operations remain normal at Tallahassee International Airport, according to the City of Tallahassee.

Elite air team fuels, cools jets in Cody, Wyoming

Eight jets stopped for fuel and their pilots had a briefing at the Yellowstone Regional Airport on Tuesday morning.

Heading west to Seattle from an air show in Milwaukee, Wis., the Breitling Jet Team is on a 20-stop tour of the U.S. and Canada. 

“Their stop was to refuel on their way to Seattle and to have a final briefing to prep for a photo op,” said Joel Simmons, director of Operations for Choice Aviation at the Cody airport. “They are the world’s largest private civilian flight team and use these air shows as recruiting tools.”

Seven jets will fly in patterns to make the team formations, and the eighth plane will be used for capturing both videos and still photos, he said. The eighth jet also serves as spare aircraft during the air shows, he added.

As part of the French-based private aviators’ tour, the aerobatic jet team also flew over Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks Tuesday afternoon. As long as aircraft are 2,000 feet above the ground, anyone can fly over a national park, Simmons noted.

Sponsored by Swiss watchmaker Breitling, the jet team flies within 10 feet of each other while going faster than 400 mph, the jet team’s website says.

Because the Breitling jet team is known worldwide, giving more than 50 performances, he said, they can hand-select their cities.”

The Breitling team puts on about a dozen air shows each year in the U.S., mostly back East, Simmons said. The Seattle stop will be Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 1-2, at the Boeing Seafair Airshow.

The idea for having private  air shows with jets is a trend that’s catching on, Simmons also said. 

And while a private jet demonstration team is expensive to book, he foresees the day when such an air show will be staged at the annual Air Fair, which will be in Cody this weekend.

“The Air Fair will grow as the years come, and we could potentially see having a military-sanctioned team like the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds here,” Simmons said referring to the U.S. Navy and Air Force aerobatic jet teams respectively. The military teams would be less costly, he said.

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