Saturday, August 29, 2015

Appeals Court: Cottonwood had no negligence in 2010 airshow balloon crash

PHOENIX -- It will have been five years in October since the City of Cottonwood held Airfest 2010, a local airshow, staffed by volunteers in which aircraft operations were invited to participate.

The show was a huge success, but the lawsuit that resulted from a mid-air crash has scuttled the future of the show and has kept the city and others in court ever since.

Tuesday, the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld the trial court decision in Yavapai County, clearing the city of negligence in the mid-air crash of a powered paraglider and a hot air balloon.

The paraglider was operated by Kenneth Ritchie of Cornville and a hot air balloon, piloted by a dentist Pell Wadleigh of Page.

Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh estimates attorney costs and damages from the lawsuits must have run into the 7-digits for all parties. 

He said the city is owed about $30,000 in costs by Ritchie, who was found responsible for motoring into the airspace of the balloon. 

The small craft became entangled in the guywires of the balloon and tore into its fabric. Both craft tumbled into fence and then a parking lot, neighboring the Cottonwood airstrip. 

No one died, but Richie and John Biddulph, a passenger in the balloon were both injured.

Horton said the case was settled with balloon passengers John Biddulph, Susan Evans and Wadleigh in 2013 and January 2014. So, the remaining litigation was between Ritchie and the city defendants.

Judge Joe Butner of the Yavapai County Superior Court ordered the case dismissed Feb. 19 after honoring a cross-motion for summary judgment between the Kenneth Ritchie and the city defendants. 

Ritchie had appealed a summary judgment in Yavapai Superior Court that in April 2014 found in favor of the City, as well as other entities and individuals. 

Ritchie claimed that the lower court was wrong in deciding the City did not "owe a duty of care" to him after he was airborne and had the mid-air collision. Duty of care is a key principal in proving negligence.

The Appeals court agreed with the lower court that the city was responsible to maintain the airport, provide ingress and egress and warn of obstructions to take offs and landings. But the high court said, "A landowner's obligation to invitees (to the airshow) is not limitless. Once the invitee safely leaves the premises, the landowner-invitee relationship terminates, as does the landowner's duty to the invitee."

Cottonwood City Attorney, Steve Horton says, "The appeals court decision is tight and well-reasoned. Richie could attempt to take the case further, but I don't think it will change the outcome. You would need to point out an error in the courts reasoning, and I don't see it. They could file a petition for review with the Supreme Court, but I would be shocked if the court took up the case."

Cottonwood Manager Doug Bartosh agrees, "The Airshow was really popular, it would be nice to see the show return. Our Airport Commission relies on a lot of volunteers and when they became part of this lawsuit, they took a step back and said 'is it really worth it?'"

"Unfortunately, that is the downside of what was once a very nice event. An incident like this can ruin it."

Story and photo:

NTSB Identification: WPR11LA017
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, October 16, 2010 in Cottonwood, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/26/2011
Aircraft: LINDSTRAND BALLOONS 90A, registration: N807PW
Injuries: 3 Serious, 1 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot of a hot air balloon reported that he was on a local area flight during an airport appreciation day at the departure airport. During the flight, he saw a powered paraglider maneuver close to the envelope of his hot air balloon. The paraglider subsequently collided with the envelope of the hot air balloon. The pilot of the unregistered paraglider reported that he was focused on taking photographs of another hot air balloon at the time and was not aware that he had maneuvered so close to the accident hot air balloon. The paraglider pilot attempted an evasive maneuver to avoid the hot air balloon; however, the paraglider flew into the side of the envelope, penetrating it. As the balloon and paraglider descended, they remained attached until ground impact.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The paraglider pilot's failure to see and avoid the hot air balloon, which resulted in a midair collision.

Rex Keyes: Airlines at fault for recent canceled flights at Monterey Regional Airport (KMRY)

By Rex Keyes, Guest commentary

In a recent article in The Herald, it appears that the Monterey Regional Airport was responsible for the cancellation of some 50 flights because one of the approaches was out of commission.

What actually happened is that one of the airlines canceled their flights to Monterey before their flights even left the ground. What wasn’t mentioned is that there are several other approaches to Monterey airport that could have been attempted instead of canceling. Sometimes the weather is reported too low for those approaches prior to departure, but there are circumstances in which an airplane can still make it in.

First, it is a 30-minute flight from San Francisco. The weather could clear up enough in that time for them to successfully arrive. Second, when an airplane makes an approach, at what is called the decision height or minimum decent altitude, even though the ceiling is reported too low for landing, if the pilots can see the runway they can go ahead and land.

Finally, if the pilots cannot make it in on one approach to a runway, they can attempt another approach to another runway in which they may easily make it in. Monterey has several approaches, which increases the chances of a pilot making a landing.

There are certain reasons why an airline would cancel a flight to Monterey. One is that a flight may be running late out of San Francisco or Los Angeles and by canceling they can get back on time for the remaining flights that the airplane is scheduled to fly. Another reason may be that the airline is trying to save money and does not want to take a chance on that airplane going all the way to Monterey, burning all that fuel, and having to return and disembark and take care of the passengers. Finally, an airline may have no competition in which the passengers can be booked on to their destination, by which the company would lose money.

If the weather was really socked in, with very low visibility, that could be a reason for delaying a flight at the departure airport and then maybe canceling, but that was not the case here when the localizer was down. Again, Monterey has several other approaches that were not even tried because an airline canceled the flights and did not give the pilots an option of trying those approaches.

I will say that one airline did not cancel, and that was Horizon Air, painted in the Alaska logo, and designated as Alaska planes. That is probably because that airline is based out of the Pacific Northwest where some of the worst weather in the U.S. exists and flying different approaches in bad weather is the norm.

Rex Keyes, a retired airline pilot, lives in Corral de Tierra.

Original article can be found here: 

Monterey Regional Airport begins return to normal operation

Monterey>> Monterey Regional Airport was returning to normal operations Monday night after an issue with the Federal Aviation Administration canceled 50 flights over five days.

The problem began Wednesday when the Instrument Landing System at Monterey’s airport was shut down by the FAA for federally-required runway construction.

Airport executive director Michael La Pier said the crisis was the fault of the FAA because it turned off the landing system’s localizer — a radio navigational signal aircraft use to locate the runway during poor weather — despite previous agreements.

The FAA was short in its response, but did not necessarily take blame.

“We explained at more than one Runway Safety Area meeting that the work would temporarily place the localizer out of service until we could flight check it,” FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

La Pier maintains it had a waiver from the administration’s technical operations division to keep the localizer operational throughout construction.

The FAA completed testing the system around 3:30 p.m. Monday, allowing the airport to OK flights coming in.

“In short, FAA Flight Standards’ last minute determination that the localizer needed to be flight checked before it could be considered operational is the root of the problem here,” La Pier said. “If they had made that decision earlier, steps could have been taken on their part to provide for the timely scheduling of the required flight check which could have at very least lessened the time the localizer was out of service.”

When asked why the airport did not issue a media release or a public statement about what was going on, La Pier pointed to its Facebook page that had a message posted telling passengers to check flight status.

An Aug. 17 post on the page noted construction and a limited landing system. It said “possible flight cancellations may occur if weather conditions are not favorable.”

Still, the airport’s Twitter and Facebook page had no information about the localizer being down or any updates on what to expect going into the weekend.

La Pier stressed the problem was not the fault of Monterey Regional Airport.

“The needs of the airport and its users were clearly and frequently advocated for by my staff and we were confident FAA understood those needs and had agreed to keep the localizer operational,” he said.

Airport board member Mary Ann Leffel said the problem was even more disheartening because the entire airport staff had just finished working extremely hard to accommodate heavy flight traffic during Classic Car Week.


End of an era flies by

CHERRY POINT — Four search and rescue helicopters known as Pedro took their last formation flight as a unit Friday out of the Marine Corps Air Station.

The Marine Corps will no longer fund the HH-46 unit, and their search and rescue mission will officially end in about a month because of budget restraints.

It’s the beginning of the end for the helicopter unit that’s been called on for decades to help save lives in Carteret County and surrounding areas. One of the four will be turned over to the Navy on Monday. The other three will stay on until Friday, Sept. 25. 

With the propellers of the helicopters filling the air with their mournful drone, the choppers crawled one last time as a group to the runway on Friday while military and civilian crews and the media stood along the fringes of the tarmac watching the historic moment.

According to Mike Barton, director of public affairs for MCAS Cherry Point, the helicopters have a long and distinguished service record. Initially, Pedro units were based at six air stations around the country and began search and rescue missions some time around 1959. 

He said in 1994 the Marine Corp stopped using four of the squadrons, only leaving units at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., and Cherry Point. Mr. Barton said tight budgets and the age of the choppers led to the decision to no longer fund the unit. He said the cost of replacing the choppers with other aircraft, such as the V-22 Ospreys, would be unbelievably high. 

“It would cost about $340 million to replace Pedro and $34 million a year to maintain them,” Mr. Barton said. “When Pedro is gone, the money can be better spent to support the war fighter with the training, equipment and weapons the Marines need.” 

He said the mission of Pedro has mostly been to support the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. 

The unit’s primary function has been to search for downed aircraft, ensure safety or put out fires at the gun ranges. 

However, they have also served an important role in supporting the U.S. Coast Guard and local authorities in search and rescue missions. 

“Since the first of this year, VMR-1 search and rescue helicopters Pedro have conducted 21 missions,” the public affairs director said. “A mission is defined by search and rescue (SAR) flights where they lift a person into the helicopter or put out a fire.”

As the choppers circled the field one last time Friday, Master Gunnery Sgt. Katherine Denham, airfield operations chief, watched. She arrived just three week ago from a Marine Corps headquarters transfer. She said she was sad to see the unit go. 

“It’s a great old bird with capabilities to get in and get out. It’s sad to see it go,” she said. 

She shared her memories of Pedro when she first joined the Marines 23 years ago. 

“It was the first aircraft I was ever acquainted with in the Marine Corps,” she said. “I’d jump in the bird and then jump into the sea. They’d go back and get the star rescuers and come back and rescue me.”

During a recent trip to Carteret Health Care emergency room in Morehead City with her mother, Master Gunnery Sgt. Denham learned the impact Pedro has had on the community.

“My mother asked the nurses about Pedro,” she said. “Everyone is sad to see it go as it is something that is very near and dear to the community. I got that right up front at the emergency room in Morehead City. It’s been a great aircraft, but it’s time.”

Mr. Barton said although the Pedro units will be gone, VMR-1 will remain and continue flying and training. When the remaining three helicopters are retired, the pilots will transition to flying two fixed-wing jets, a Cessna Citation and a C9-Skytrain.

“These aircraft are used all over the world for transport,” Mr. Barton said. 

He said search and rescue capabilities would be going to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Air National Guard and the U.S. Air Force.

Story and photo:

Baby boomers flying high in light aircraft

Lapeer — Six pilot trainees are ready to meet at DuPont-Lapeer Airport for the night’s lesson: aircraft instruments and plane dynamics.

But these trainees tend to have a few more wrinkles than you’d expect.

They are baby boomer pilots, the fastest-growing age group of light-aircraft aviators and Michigan is among the states with the most. The state has more sport-aircraft licenses — including those for powered hang gliders, parachutes and gyrocopters — than all but California, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin, according to the General Aviation Manufacturing Association’s 2015 report.

“The pilot base is getting older and a lot of them are baby boomers and they want to keep flying so they are going to sports aircraft,” said Rick Hayes of Hayes Aero in Lapeer.

Nationally, the average age of sport pilots is almost 60, GAMA reported. Forty-three percent are 60 or older, GAMA said, citing Federal Aviation Administration data.

Sport pilots’ requirements are much more lenient than those for piloting other private aircraft, such as small planes. In Michigan, the latest available figures show there are nearly 200 licensed sport and recreational pilots, according to the Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association. Sport piloting may be attractive to older people, who fear they cannot pass medical certifications for larger, faster aircraft, because they need only have a driver’s license.

“The good news is people who have medical issues — diabetes or what not — do not have to pass medical certification,” said Steve O’Connor, 41, a pilot since 1998 and an instructor at Lapeer Aviation Flight Training.

And there is another issue.

“It’s harder and harder to get young people involved in sport flying because of the cost. ... If it’s between a single-seat airplane and a boat they can take the family out on, they are going to choose the boat,” said Denny Demeter, president of the Michigan Ultralight Association.

Light-sport aircraft are generally lower cost than bigger aircraft; those classified separately as so-called “ultralights” require even less money and training.

An ultralight has one seat. If unpowered, it weighs less than 155 pounds. Fuel capacity cannot exceed five gallons; the ultralight is incapable of more than 63 mph. The Experimental Aircraft Association estimates it takes only an hour or two to learn to pilot an ultralight; the craft does not need to be registered, nor its pilot license.

As the number of recreational baby boomer pilots grows, so do crash concerns. Fatal crashes involving light-sport aircraft in the United States totaled 40 from 2005 through September 2014, according to Federal Aviation Administration data released in July, plus at least 71 more involving experimental light-sport aircraft the FAA does not actively track. There were 420 non-fatal crashes, the FAA reported.

Michigan-specific totals were not released, but most Michigan crashes are in rural, outstate areas, a review of individual National Transportation Safety Board records shows. Among them:

■In Kent County on Aug. 24, 2014, an unregistered “amateur built” ultralight crashed into trees during takeoff at Lowell City Airport. The pilot, Bryan Bowker, 67, of Edgewood, New Mexico, was killed. He traveled to the area to consider buying the plane.

■In Macomb County on Feb. 4, 2012, Charles Zichchi, 78, was killed when the motorglider he was piloting lost engine power after takeoff. The glider crashed on Wolcott Mill Golf Course, within one mile of Ray Community Airport. Zichchi had a private-pilot certificate with single-engine land airplane and glider ratings. His most recent application for an airman medical certificate was denied. Regulations do not require a person with a light-sport rating to hold a medical certificate.

■In Allegan County on Oct. 6, 2011, Gerald “Jerry” Rinkerhuff, 65, died when his amateur-built plane collided with a nearly 15-foot-tall approach light while landing at Tulip City Airport in Holland. Rinkerhuff of Gobles had made adjustments to the pitch and lateral control of the airplane. “It was determined the pilot had used the wrong template,” the National Transportation Safety Board said.

■Temperatures on Aug. 9 were in the low 70s with clear skies when Scott Headley attempted to land his ultralight aircraft near his home. But a tree was in the approach. Headley’s craft clipped the tree and crashed into his neighbor’s backyard in Ottawa County’s Olive Township. Headley, who is still hospitalized in fair condition, ended up having one of his legs partly amputated.

■The worst Michigan crash in recent years was in Oceana County, captured on a witness video. On Aug. 24, 2012, an experimental powered parachute crashed at Silver Lake State Park, where flags indicated gusty downwinds. The Destiny XLT crashed, nose down. Pilot Henry Austin, 66, and his wife, Carol, both of Shelby, were killed.

Story and photos:

NTSB Identification: CEN14LA454
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, August 24, 2014 in Lowell, MI
Aircraft: RANS S17, registration: None
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August 24, 2014, about 1130 eastern daylight time, an unregistered Rans S17 airplane, impacted trees and terrain during a takeoff at the Lowell City Airport (24C), near Lowell, Michigan. The private pilot, the sole occupant on board, was fatally injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The unregistered airplane was operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, and no flight plan had been filed. The local flight was originating from 24C at the time of the accident.

At 1053, the recorded weather at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, near Grand Rapids, Michigan, was: Wind 080 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 5 statute miles, present weather mist: sky condition overcast clouds at 1,100 feet; temperature 22 degrees C; dew point 20 degrees C; altimeter 30.10 inches of mercury. 

NTSB Identification: CEN12LA149
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, February 04, 2012 in Ray, MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/15/2013
Aircraft: Pipistrel Virus 912, registration: N325MZ
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

A witness reported that the motorglider engine did not sound normal during the preflight run-up and takeoff. The engine subsequently lost power when the aircraft was about 200 feet above ground level. The motorglider took off to the west and entered a gradual left turn. It impacted a golf course less than a mile from the airport. The duration of the accident flight was about 2 minutes. A postaccident examination revealed an accumulation of debris on the inlet side of the fuel pump screen; however, the debris did not appear to obstruct the screen significantly. The appearance of the debris was similar to the fiberglass material used in the construction of the airframe. The fuel tanks had been repaired shortly before the accident due to damage related to the use of alcohol-containing fuel (ethanol). The engine fuel line did not contain any fuel and the carburetors contained only a minimal amount of fuel. 

Although the finding of minimal fuel at the engine was consistent with fuel starvation, a definitive reason for a starvation event could not be determined. According to a carburetor icing probability chart, an airplane operating in the ambient conditions at the time of the accident could expect a serious risk of carburetor icing while at cruise and glide power. Engine operations at low power during ground operations are similar to that of operations at glide power, making the carburetor susceptible to icing prior to takeoff; however, a conclusive determination related to the presence of carburetor icing was not possible. A prescription medication commonly used for the management of anxiety disorders and for insomnia was detected at subtherapeutic levels. However, any impairment of the pilot at the time of the accident could not be determined.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
A loss of engine power due to fuel starvation for reasons that could not be determined because the postaccident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

NTSB Identification: CEN12FA010
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, October 06, 2011 in Holland, MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/05/2013
Aircraft: BRINKERHUFF GERALD G Q200, registration: N2935R
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot was landing the airplane when it contacted a 14-foot 8-inch tall approach light stanchion that was located about 460 feet from the approach end of the runway. The airplane crashed and came to rest inverted. Witnesses reported that the airplane appeared to be operating normally as the pilot performed touch-and-go landings before the accident. Another witness reported the airplane was low as it approached the runway on the final approach. The pilot had about 2 hours of flight time in the newly built tandem wing airplane. A postaccident examination of the airplane and engine did not reveal any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. The examination found the throttle in the retarded position and noted that its location required the pilot to reach his left hand across his body to control it while his right hand was on the control stick. According to sun and moon data for the day of the accident, the landing approach would have been in the direction of the setting sun, which likely would have obscured the pilot’s vision as he approached the runway, making it difficult to judge the airplane’s height above the ground and clearance from the approach lights.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot failed to maintain sufficient altitude during the landing approach, which resulted in the airplane contacting an approach light. Contributing to the accident was the setting sun, which most likely obscured the pilot’s vision.

NTSB Identification: CEN12LA578
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, August 24, 2012 in Hart, MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/30/2014
Aircraft: DESTINY XLT, registration: N1674A
Injuries: 2 Fatal.
NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot was flying his powered parachute on a local flight when he encountered a strong and gusty tailwind. A video showed that the powered parachute cart then rocked fore and aft, while the parachute canopy moved fore and aft above the cart until the left side of the parachute canopy deformed and collapsed. The powered parachute then entered a descending left spiral. During the descent the left side of the parachute reinflated, and the powered parachute impacted terrain nose down with a partially inflated canopy. A postaccident examination of the wreckage and the video of the accident revealed no evidence of preimpact anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

The powered parachute ram-air canopy retains its airfoil shape because of the relative wind airflow entering its front openings. Examination of the accident powered parachute revealed that modifications to lower the canopy's angle of attack had been made, to allow for quicker rotation and additional forward speed. However, these modifications decreased the canopy's angle of attack such that it would partially collapse when wind gusts were encountered.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The partial deflation of the powered parachute canopy when the pilot flew the aircraft into an area with gusty wind conditions. Contributing to the accident were the modifications that changed the flying characteristics of the parachute.

Flight from Vegas to Germany diverted over unruly passenger

DENVER (AP) — An international flight from Las Vegas to Frankfurt made an emergency landing at Denver International Airport escorted by two F-16 fighter jets Friday night after what officials called a "disturbance on the plane."

A pilot on the Condor Airlines Boeing 767 reported an in-flight emergency, and the fighter jets were sent as a precaution, said Air Force Capt. Ashleigh A. Peck, a spokeswoman for North American Aerospace Defense.

The plane landed safely, and one person was taken off the plane.

"All passengers are fine," airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said.

The FBI told ABC News that the incident was a "misunderstanding," and nobody was arrested or taken into custody, but no other details were available.

Carsten Stepanowicz (ste-PAN'-o-wits), a spokesman for the airline in Germany, said the pilot requested help because of an unruly passenger on board.

"It was not possible to go on with the flight, so the pilot decided to land in Denver," he said. He said he could not release details on the number of passengers.

The FBI did not return a phone from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The incident occurred shortly after 6 p.m., Montgomery said. The Transportation Security Administration and Denver police met the plane at the gate, and the FBI was notified.

The plane resumed the flight to Germany after refueling.

Original article can be found here:

Transportation Security Administration Agent Charged With Molesting Young Woman at New York City airport

A former federal transportation security agent remained held on $3,000 bail Saturday after being charged with luring a 21-year-old Korean exchange student going to school in Utah into a bathroom at a New York City airport and molesting her.

Maxie Oquendo, 40, was arrested Thursday on unlawful imprisonment, official misconduct and sexual abuse charges, two days after authorities say the Transportation Security Administration agent confronted the woman after she stepped off a flight from Salt Lake City Tuesday, telling her a "secondary security screening" was necessary.

The TSA said it has fired Oquendo.

Oquendo's lawyer did not comment Saturday. At his initial court appearance in state court in Queens on Friday, attorney Seymour James said his client was a loving father of two daughters who has never before been accused of wrongdoing.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a release that the student had left the area of the airport where passengers require screening when he told her: "Hey ma'am, I need to scan your body and your luggage."

Prosecutors said he motioned for her to follow him to a bathroom when the victim told him: "You can't scan me but you can have a woman scan me because I am a girl."

Prosecutors said Oquendo then told her to face the mirror and raise her arms, prompting the student to ask if he checked all passengers. They said he responded yes.

According to the charges, Oquendo then had her lift her shirt and unzip her pants before he touched her over and under her clothing.

Prosecutors said he then told her he was going to check her luggage and then spoke into his cellphone, saying: "She's clear. She doesn't have any weapons or knives."

The TSA does not allow officers to conduct a secondary pat-down outside of a checkpoint area and only permits opposite-gender pat downs if there are no female officers present and a witness is there during a pat down, according to the prosecutor's release.

"The defendant is accused of an egregious abuse of his position as a government screener at LaGuardia Airport to sexually victimize a young woman. Such alleged conduct cannot, under any circumstances, go unpunished," Brown said in the release.

The New York Daily News reported Saturday that the student was visiting New York City as a tourist before returning to school. The newspaper said the woman filed a complaint with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police and later identified a photograph of Oquendo.

Story and comments:

Watertown Municipal Airport (KRYV) attempts to minimize collisions with deer

A sharpshooter and a burned sausage factory are playing key roles in keeping airplanes from slamming into white-tailed deer at a south central Wisconsin airport.

The unlikely critter control combination offers a glimpse into the Watertown Municipal Airport's effort to address aircraft vs. wildlife encounters, an issue that airfields across the state and around the world deal with daily.

In Watertown, a city of about 24,000 about 50 miles northwest of Milwaukee, so many white-tailed deer were showing up at the 360-acre airport that a year ago, after securing the proper permissions, officials asked a sharpshooter to come in and thin the herd. A year later, the sharpshooter has taken 21 deer off the property.

"We've got lots of deer out here," said Jeff Baum, chief executive of Wisconsin Aviation, which runs the Watertown Airport. "We've been fortunate in that we haven't had a deer-airplane accident for some time now. But we have certainly had aircraft that have had to do a go-around because of deer on the runway or in close proximity to the runway.

"We want to be proactive on this," Baum said. "We don't want to wait for an accident to happen. We want to eliminate the problem before anyone gets hurt."

Eliminating the deer problem in places like Watertown is difficult. Nature continues to do a great job replenishing the population. "We had a lot of (deer) twins out on the airport this year," said Krys Brown, facilities manager at the Watertown airport.

The effort to control the herd goes beyond the sharpshooter's work. That's where the burned sausage plant enters the story.

In May, a fire destroyed a large portion of the Johnsonville Sausage plant in Watertown. The fire's cause is believed to have been electrical, said Chief Gregory Michalek of the Watertown Fire Department.

The fire damage was so extensive that the company has chosen to move the plant, one of five the company operates, to a new location in Watertown.

Johnsonville, based in Sheboygan Falls, employs 120 people in Watertown. After the fire, the company decided to keep all its Watertown employees on the payroll to do training and community service work during the transition to the new sausage plant.

Baum and the airport staff asked Johnsonville whether any of its workers could come out to the airport and cut brush and trees that the deer on the property use for habitat and cover.

"They said, 'Sure. That would be great,'" Baum said. "They've been out here and just done a great job. It helps eliminate the habitat at the airport for the deer population."

Johnsonville has paid the workers throughout the process, and its employees have tallied about 500 hours of community service at the airport and at other projects throughout the area since the fire, a company spokeswoman said. The company's new sausage plant in Watertown should be up and running by spring.

While birds make up the overwhelming majority of wildlife struck by planes, white-tailed deer are the most commonly struck non-bird species, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Nearly 1,000 white-tailed deer were hit by planes in the United States from 1990 to 2013, causing an estimated $43.9 million in damage, according to an FAA/U.S. Department of Agriculture database.

"Elevated deer populations in the United States represent an increasingly serious threat to both commercial and general aviation aircraft," the FAA said in an air safety alert issued several years ago that remains in effect.

Baum knows firsthand what an encounter with a deer and a plane is like.

Several years ago, a plane he was piloting had just landed. "Two deer ran in front of us," he said. "We were able to avoid one. We were slowing as fast as we could," but the second deer ran through the left engine of the turboprop aircraft. (A turboprop's engine turns a propeller that produces thrust allowing the plane to move through the air.)

"The deer obviously got the worst of it," Baum said. Still, the repair bill for the airplane exceeded $50,000, he said.

Such encounters are precisely what Scott Kirchoff is trying to prevent. A hunter safety instructor for nearly two decades, Kirchoff is a sharpshooter who volunteers his time to take deer off the Watertown Airport property.

"The first night I sat out there, I counted 14 deer," he said.

So far, he has taken 21 deer with a total of 22 shots. He could have taken twice that number, he said, but he passes on all shots that do not present a perfect set of circumstances to drop an animal in its tracks, he said. That includes being sensitive to people who live and work in vicinity of the airport.

"Safety is the number one priority," he said.

He added that all the deer taken off the property have been used for food. "Nothing has gone to waste," he said.

So why not simply build a fence around the airport? That's not necessarily easy and it is definitely not cheap.

The FAA recommends that a deer fence be 10 to 12 feet high with three strands of barbed wire set outrigger-style on the top of the fence.

Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport is surrounded by a 10-foot high chain link fence with another 2 feet of barbed wire on top. The fence is also buried two feet down to prevent burrowing animals from making their way onto airport property.

The price for the fencing in recent years has ranged between $23.40 to $27.10 per foot, Ryan McAdams, marketing manager for Mitchell International, said in an email. The price varies depending on the complexity of terrain where the fence is being installed as well as other factors, McAdams said.

Milwaukee's Timmerman Airport is surrounded by an 8-foot chain link fence with 2 feet of barbed wire on top and another 2 feet underground.

Madison's Dane County Regional Airport is surrounded by a 10-foot fence, which is taller in a few places, said Brent McHenry, marketing director for the airport.

Deer can typically jump about 8 feet high, but "I've seen literature that they could jump as high as 12 feet," said Brad Koele, a wildlife damage specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

"We have gone to a 12-foot fence," around some areas of the airfield, said Abe Weber, airport director in Appleton and president of the Wisconsin Airport Management Association.

Preventing aircraft from colliding with wildlife is a major concern of airport managers in the state, he said.

"Wildlife is on the top of our minds always," said Kurt Stanich, director of the Waukesha County Airport in Waukesha. "Aircraft are designed to fly and land, not hit things."

In recent years, the Waukesha airport has eliminated areas of trees and brush near the property that deer would use as a refuge when they were chased off the airport property, Stanich said.

The west end of the airport has a 10-foot-high fence. The remainder of the airport has a 7-foot fence. That's usually enough to keep deer off the property, but, "They can jump that 7-foot fence," Stanich said. "It is unreal. Without even a running start, they just jump."

Removing the habitat has also cut down on the birds and coyotes on the airport grounds, Stanich said.

In Watertown, Kirchoff plans to continue working to cull the deer herd to help ensure the safety of those who use the airport.

"This is going to be an ongoing process," he said. "I've got a pretty important job to do."

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Family event at Bolivar Municipal Airport (M17) offers fun, flights, free food, mission work information

BOLIVAR, Mo. -  Flights, fun, food and missions are on tap for the second annual 417 on Mission Saturday, Aug. 29 and Sunday, Aug. 30 at the Bolivar Municipal Airport.

The 417 on Mission weekend will bring together a wide-variety of area agencies for a “one-stop shop” for those interested in mission work to get plugged in. The two-day event will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

“Although missions is the primary focus, 417 on Mission will be a great opportunity for families to visit the airport and enjoy time together.” Organizer Kerrick Tweedy said. “There will be plenty of entertainment for all ages including kids games and bounce houses, a variety of food and much more.”

Each night will end with a worship service. Saturday night will feature Southwest Baptist University’s Locamente and Sunday evening will include First Baptist’s Family Night Live and a community-wide worship service sponsored by the Bolivar Area Ministerial Alliance.

“First Baptist Church’s Esquire and Countryside Assembly will sponsor free meals including hot dogs, chips and drinks each day,” Tweedy said. “A special pancake dinner will be provided by FBC on Saturday night and, on Sunday night, SBU will treat those attending the community-wide worship service with ice cream.”

Other events scheduled include T-Shirt drops, free food, door prizes, pie raffles, airplane ride raffles and skydives. Local aircraft will be on display and there will be airplane rides available.

“We will have door prizes to be given away at the event,” Tweedy said. “However, you must register at our Eventbrite site to be eligible for the drawings.”

For more information or to register, go to

In addition to the opportunity to network with area faith-based organizations, the weekend will showcase the work of several nationally-known mission organizations including Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), New Tribes Mission, Camp Barnabas, JAARS and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

The weekend is sponsored by Service Orientated Aviation Readiness (SOAR) a 501(c)(3)non-profit Mission Aviation Training Center located at the Bolivar Municipal Airport. The group was established with the purpose of training students for future pilot/mechanic opportunities to serve in the mission-field. For more information, call SOAR at 417-777-6800 or go to to register for event.

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Man accused in 'up skirt' incidents at General Electric Aviation, Target

SPRINGDALE —A Cincinnati man is heading to court Friday after police say he admitted to looking up women’s skirts at a Hamilton County store. 

Investigators say Matt Menke, 43, used his cell phone to record video up the skirts of at least two people.

The incident happened on Aug. 5 at the Springdale Target store.

He is accused of kneeling next to a 19-year-old woman, then doing the same with a 14-year-old girl as the girl's mother stood on the other side, not realizing what was going on.

“The whole thing is quick. I don’t know if it’s a second, no more than two seconds – the victim would think nothing of it, think he’s looking at something on the bottom shelf across from him – it’s quick,” Springdale Police Detective Jim Beckman said.

"None of the victims knew it was going on. They were all shocked when we came to talk to them," Beckman said. "They're trying to deal with this and we're going to do our best to help them through it."

Police said employees recognized Menke’s Porsche in the parking lot from a previous incident where he followed women around the store, so this time they followed him while security cameras recorded him on video.

“They began working together as a team, where they had four to six associates walking down the aisles that he was in, trying to deter him,” Beckman said.

"It is surprising and shocking that even with the employees coming in and out of aisles - when he had a chance, he tried to take it," Beckman said.

Menke was confronted by police a short time later.

“After he was confronted about the video that Target showed us, he admitted that he did it, and that he needed to get some help," Beckman said.

Police said they found other videos on Menke's phone taken at GE Aviation in Evendale and notified investigators there.

In court Friday, authorities said Menke has been fired by GE, where he had worked for 14 years.

Bond for Menke was set at $7,000.

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Target employees recognized man from previous incident; police say phone shows incidents at GE Aviation

A Mount Auburn man is facing voyeurism charges after two police departments said he committed multiple acts of voyeurism by attempting to record "up skirt" video during separate incidents at a General Electric Aviation facility and a Target in August.

Matt Menke, 43, was arrested Tuesday by Evendale police after they said he used a cell phone to attempt to record up a co-worker's dress while working at GE Aviation in Evendale on Aug. 4. Arrest records indicate that Menke turned himself in Tuesday on an open warrant for the Aug. 4 charge.

After an incident on Aug. 5, Menke admitted to having a fetish and needing help after he was seen on video surveillance using a cell phone to record video up the skirts of multiple women at the Target at 900 E. Kemper Road, according to court records.

A search warrant for Menke's phone was obtained the day of the incident, but police told him he wouldn't be arrested until after an investigation was completed.

During the Aug. 5 incident, Target staff tracked Menke in the store as he recorded, or "up skirted," women and a 14-year-old girl, police said in an affidavit.

Menke appeared in Hamilton County Municipal Court on Friday morning and his bond was set at $7,000 -- $5,000 for the voyeurism charge against a minor and $1,000 each for voyeurism and attempt charges from the incident at the GE facility on Aug. 4.

Records indicate that Menke posted 10 percent of the $7,000 bond Friday. A grand jury will report on his case on Sept. 8.

Menke was investigated in similar incidents in Target in 2014. He was never charged or arrested for those incidents.

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Own a jet? This Petaluma company will take care of it for you

Flying largely under the radar in a modern office building on the edge of Petaluma’s downtown, Solairus Aviation has become a major player in the world of private aircraft management, with around 80 local employees joining a total of 500 pilots, crew, mechanics and administrative workers across the country, said CEO Dan Drohan.

With its roots in an aerial tour business that Drohan started with a single aircraft when he was 20, Solairus provides flight crew, maintenance and administrative support for 95 private aircraft nationally, as well as a charter flight service. The company is now the third-largest private aircraft management and charter firm in the nation, he said, overseeing planes that range from the 11-passenger turboprop King Air to the 18-passenger, $65 million Gulfstream G650 jet.

Solairus has been steadily increasing its staff and client base since its launch in 2009, but Drohan said that the privately held company is not growing “simply for the sake of growth.” Adding clients incrementally through referrals and word-of-mouth has allowed Solairus to maintain a high level of service for clients, something the CEO said is essential in the world of private aviation.

“I want every account we have to be treated as if they are the only account we have,” he said.

Solarius caters to those who already own a large multi-passenger aircraft — often corporations or wealthy individuals — and handles all aspects of the cumbersome logistics that come with it. The company hires pilots and attendants to suit the customer’s particular needs, along with managing insurance, training, fuel, storage, maintenance and other obligations.

Owners also have the option of offering their aircraft for use in Solairus’ charter flight service, Drohan said.

“We consider it a service we offer,” he said. “Our core business is the management portion.”

The company’s Petaluma headquarters handles the majority of administration and client services. Drohan said it was unusual for an aviation company to be located away from an airport, yet the proximity to restaurants and other amenities has made the downtown Petaluma location work well for clients and staff alike.

“It took us about 24 hours to love it,” he said.

A native of Marin County who moved to Petaluma at 25, Drohan began his career in aviation as a young teenager taking odd jobs at Sonoma’s Schellville airport. He began flying soon after, and he returned to the North Bay to pursue an aviation job after a short time in college.

He used what was left of the college fund to purchase a small twin-engine aircraft and launch Sunset Aviation, a tour business and a distant predecessor to Solairus, in 1992. The company ultimately evolved into a charter business with around 60 employees and 20 aircraft before it was sold and merged in 2007 with Pennsylvania-based JetDirect Aviation.

The combination didn’t last long. JetDirect declared bankruptcy in 2009, and shed most of its assets and employees during restructuring. Drohan got together with a small group of aviation industry veterans and launched Solairus that same year, hiring back most of the former Sunset employees laid off by JetDirect.

Unlike its larger competitors, Executive Jet Management and Jet Aviation, which Drohan said generally try to limit the interaction between crew and clients, Solairus encourages its crews and support staff to foster an active and friendly relationship. It’s a people-focused approach that the CEO said forms the basis of the company culture and defines Solairus in relation its rivals.

“We allow each account to have its own rhythm and vibe,” he said.

The approach has helped the company attract new business and grow in recent years. Solairus expanded its office space at the Theatre District in Petaluma by 20 percent this year, along with opening a new office in Purchase, N.Y. The company has 35 locations around the country, most of which are small offices in private hangers.

Drohan said Solairus is taking its time as it grows, focusing on client service.

“We kind of view ourselves as the feisty ankle-biter based in wine country,” he said. “We can be anywhere in the country, but we choose Petaluma.”

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Federal aviation team expected to arrive in Montana to work towards resolving helicopter fire fighting dispute

HELENA -  A federal aviation safety team is expected in Montana this weekend, with an eye to resolving a policy difference that has prevented five state-owned helicopters from fighting fires on federal land.

State officials say there have been incidents this season in which Montana firefighters were prohibited from fighting fires, a situation state leaders say makes no sense.

Montana fire officials say the choppers in question, five Vietnam-era former Army Hueys, rebuilt and reinforced for firefighting by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, are perfectly safe.

"This is not a safety issue," State Forester Bob Harrington said Wednesday. "We firmly stand behind the safety and the record of our aviation program. This is a question of policy difference."

The issue goes beyond some simple paperwork to complex and extensive protocols for operations and safety for people both in the chopper and on the ground.

"There's a lot of work behind the scenes for us to all agree on each other’s standards and policies and we tend to work those agreement out with a lot of work in the off season. And occasionally there are places where our policies don't line up and we try to work through these differences," Harrington said. "This is an example where we have not been able to work these out."

One issue is the 324-gallon water buckets are larger than those envisioned in the federal protocols.

Thursday, Gov. Steve Bullock and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack suggested there's progress in the 18-month disagreement, saying the USDA and Bullock "have had several productive conversations aimed at finding a path forward that addresses our mutual goals of ensuring safe, effective and timely utilization of helicopters."

"I think we all agree that it's in the Montana residents' best interest to know that if a fire erupts and our aircraft are the closest and most appropriate to respond, it shouldn't matter where that fire occurs,” Harrington said.

The experts coming to Montana will meet "to develop a plan for operating the state's helicopters as part of coordinated state and federal firefighting operations."

The statement noted that several other aircraft have come to Montana in recent weeks to assist with the fires.

"The professionalism of our firefighting team, made up of state, local and federal staff, tribes, and volunteers, is especially appreciated during this exceptionally intense fire season," they said in the joint statement. "The safety of these brave men and women and the residents and communities they protect, is our utmost concern."

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Jamestown Regional Airport (KJMS) has flight school, full time mechanic again

First Class Aviation personnel at Jamestown Regional Airport, from left, are Sam Seafeldt, airport manager and part-time flight instructor; Jayce Nybo, fueling specialist; John and Michelle Cave, owners; John Nyberg, aircraft power-plant mechanic; Dave Borseth, fueling supervisor; and Brad Stangeland, chief flight instructor. The crew is posing with the two training aircraft, Cherokee Warrior PA-28-151 and PA-28 140 models. Al the hangar cat also came out to be in the photo.

A new flight school at Jamestown Regional Airport is aiming to build a solid foundation by partnering with area schools.

Flight schools have come and gone in the past at Jamestown Regional Airport, but more recently it has been outside instructors coming in to handle individual flight instruction, according to First Class Aviation, a company that recently expanded services to include a flight school with aircraft rentals in the former James River Aviation hangar. First Class Aviation also added full aircraft maintenance, which was not available at the airport for about a year.

"I've always been trying to get a flight program going and we'd have to beg, borrow or steal somebody's airplane and had to get instructors to come down and give us lessons," said John Cave, owner of First Class Aviation. "It was hit or miss and finally we just said the only way this can work is to buy a couple of airplanes and get this going."

First Class Aviation has provided airport fueling services for general and commercial aviation for eight years. The expansion brings more essential tools for future growth of the airport and fits in with the Jamestown Regional Airport Authority's strategic plan to better meet community needs, said Jim Boyd, Airport Authority chairman.

"First Class Aviation will not only have the instructors but also the available aircraft for training new pilots," Boyd said.

Sam Seafeldt, airport manager and part-time flight instructor, said general aviation service has struggled at Jamestown airport when it should be flourishing with long, multiple runways and plenty of space. Now with a full-time licensed aviation mechanic and plane rentals he said there are no barriers for the general aviation market.

The flight school is a great addition, he said, and it also benefits advanced students who are seeking instrument-rating certificates.

"This airport has every possible instrument approach to complete that training," Seafeldt said. "Every runway has an instrument approach and varied instrument approaches to do what is required for that training."

Before the flight school could become a reality, Cave said the airport had to hire a full-time general aviation aircraft mechanic who is licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration and authorized to sign off on an FAA annual inspection required for every aircraft.

John Nyberg is that mechanic. He lives near Jamestown but was working out of the Mandan, N.D., airport, where many Jamestown plane owners were flying to other airports to have their inspections done along with major repairs and alterations.

Nyberg, who is also commander of the Jamestown squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, welcomed the chance to work closer to home in Jamestown. He said the flight school is also needed.

"I hope it takes off; it looks promising," Nyberg said. "This is definitely a real-choice airport to be at. There is no reason it can't work, so we're all hopeful."

Brad Stangeland, the lead flight instructor for First Class Aviation, is a licensed teacher in North Dakota and the aviation technology instructor for Bismarck Public Schools. He is helping the First Class Aviation school get started with transportation support from the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.

Because Jamestown Regional Airport has all of the amenities of larger airports without the high traffic volume, Stangeland said it is an ideal setting for beginning flight instruction. It means getting into the air faster with less traffic and less time waiting in line on the runway.

The plane rental is $130 for the Cherokee PA-28 140, and $140 per hour for the Cherokee Warrior PA-28-151, which has a computerized cockpit. The flight instructor fee is $60 per hour.

The particular licensing for this flight school allows for one-on-one, self-paced flight training. The instructor does preflight and postflight briefings and directs personal study for the next lesson rather than having one class with several students.

The student performs 20 flight hours with the instructor and after passing the written exam and solo pre-check will fly 10 solo hours, with another 10 hours to be determined by the instructor as dual or solo time to work on other instruction.

Stangeland said he is excited about the partnership with schools because the Aviation I and Aviation II courses are more complete and encourage younger students to learn more in the classroom. Transferable credits are very important to students, he said, and the courses are a better foundation for career pilots.

Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Roberts Lech said that for the past 18 months the James Valley Career and Technology Center has worked with the Jamestown Regional Airport Authority, the University of Jamestown and other support agencies to develop a summer academy that is focused on aviation opportunities for Jamestown High School students and the community.

"While these opportunities exist in other school districts, those districts have much larger enrollment bases, so we are excited about the possibility of bringing it to JVCTC for Jamestown students," Lech said in an email. "We believe that aviation is a growing-need area and the summer academy concept is a way that this innovative program could be effectively integrated into our course offerings."

There are details to hash out yet, Lech said, but the stakeholders are committed to establishing the program.

Tena Lawrence, vice president of marketing and communications for the University of Jamestown, said there is an aviation class available but no formal agreement is yet in place with the engineering department.

"We have agreed to share the class information with our students but there is currently no connection to the engineering program," Lawrence said.

Flight school today has much better training aids and flight simulators to learn how to deal with situations before the student encounters them in actual flight, Stangeland said. It also helps that students who have their own flight simulator software tend to be knowledgeable on instruments and basic flight skills, he said.

"It takes a lot of fear out of flying," he said.

Today's students tend to be business people who want to own their own planes, agricultural people with their own grass strips or recreational pilots, Stangeland said. The incentive for young people to get into flying is that there is a shortage of pilots and flight instructors.

"I've flown with hundreds of people in my career and there is no such thing as what makes a good pilot, other than how willing they are to learn," he said. "The key is not to go through the motions and to walk away from each lesson knowing that you have learned something."

The selection process for military flight school is increasingly competitive and earning a private pilot license and accumulating as many hours as possible prior to the application is becoming the standard rather than the exception, he said.

"It is still hit and miss to get in but if you want to be competitive that is what you have to do these days," he said.

For more information, call First Class Aviation at 952-1515 or visit

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$1 million new jet center takes flight at Rapid City Regional Airport (KRAP)

Walking into Westjet Air Center’s new executive terminal at the Rapid City Regional Airport is like strolling into the lobby of a comfortable hotel.

A visitor’s eye is immediately drawn to an arrangement of soft easy-chairs under a chandelier. The chairs are centered around a fireplace, topped above the mantle by a large flat-screen television.

The only thing that conflicts with the ambiance of a quiet place of lodging is the whoosh of passenger aircraft taxiing to and from the nearby regional airport main terminal, and the noise of other small aircraft engines idling on a nearby tarmac.

Soothing earth-tone décor prevails throughout the open lobby. Separate seating areas offer privacy for other visitors.

That’s precisely the feeling of hospitality Don and Linda Rydstrom wanted to present to visiting private and charter pilots and passengers when they invested more than $1 million, not just in the new terminal, but in the future of their long-time family business as a whole.

“We were not really going for a high-end hotel, we just wanted it to be more welcoming,” said Linda Rydstrom, co-owner of Westjet, which provides refueling, hangar and maintenance and repair services for private and commercial aircraft as the airport’s fixed-base operator, or FBO.

Don Rydstrom took over Snedigar Flying Service in 1975 and changed the name to Westjet two years later, operating out of a more industrial, tin-clad structure just a few feet to the north of the new terminal.

Built on the site of the airport’s old fire station and airline terminal, both torn down last fall, Westjet’s new executive terminal is a significant departure from other airport facilities, because of the amenities offered to flight crews and passengers.

“It’s really quite unique in the industry that we’re in,” Don Rydstrom said. “This is not necessarily your run-of-the-mill FBO building.”

Along with the visual appeal and living room-like comfort for passengers, the new terminal features a flight-planning center and a pilot’s lounge, with separate quiet rooms for sleeping.

Before, if someone really wanted to sleep in the old building there was a couch in a room shared with vending machines, Linda said. The quiet rooms are furnished with recliners and offer far more privacy.

Opposite of the pilot’s lounge and crew area is a fully equipped snack bar, and also a children's room with toys where youngsters can play.

“We’re seeing a lot more young families traveling by air,” Linda Rydstrom said. “Kids just love being in there.”

Ground was broken for the new building in January. Wet weather delayed completion until late July, but the Rydstroms were able to open in time for a crush of private and charter aircraft traffic for the 75th Sturgis motorcycle rally.

Aircraft from as far away as Switzerland and New Zealand used Westjet’s terminal and refueling facilities during the rally. Passengers and flight crews packed the new building, Linda said.

Westjet also recently increased its fuel storage capacity to 88,000 gallons for both piston-engine and jet aircraft. Future plans also call for adding more hangar space and plans for daughter Miranda, 24, to eventually take over the family business.

Both Don and Linda retired from commercial flying about eight years ago. Linda used to fly with Miranda’s baby carrier strapped into the co-pilot’s seat.

Miranda started as a receptionist at age 16, graduated to refueling aircraft during summer breaks. She now works as a commercial pilot and certified flight instructor in Phoenix, Ariz.

“My fiancé and I want to start a flight school (in Rapid City),” Miranda said. “We both learned to fly in Phoenix and there’s a huge community at all the different airports here and Rapid just seems to lack that.

“We want to see if we can get some of that camaraderie there, especially with people our age, she said. “They can learn to fly for fun and not necessarily go into the business.”

Linda started as a receptionist at Snedigar's and became a commercial pilot. She and Don were married in 2004.

“You just don’t see those family operations. A lot of big corporations have started taking them over, and we’ve certainly been approached by the big corporations,” Linda said. “We’ve been here a long time and we’re really expanding for the future."

The future became even more secure this week when the regional airport board approved an extension of Westjet’s FBO lease from 25 to 35 years under new state regulations allowing for leases of up to 50 years.

Flying really does run in the Rydstrom family and Miranda will keep the tradition going when she and her fiancé open a flight school in the old Westjet building, which will also house space for aircraft maintenance.

“Once you start in aviation, you can’t really get out,” Miranda said.

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