Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Supreme Court rules against plane company of anti-Pebble mine activist Gillam

Cheap flights offered in 2010 to two political candidates through Alaska money manager and anti-Pebble mine activist Bob Gillam violated state election law, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in upholding a fine against Gillam’s RBG Bush Planes.

The decision by three justices keeps intact the $25,500 fine and resolves a lengthy court battle involving the role of Bush Planes, a holding company for private planes owned by a Gillam trust, in the fall 2010 Lake and Peninsula Borough election. At issue was whether the company made illegal corporate contributions to candidates by only charging gas money for the flights and whether the $25,500 fine was excessive. The company also contended that the Alaska Public Offices Commission was out to get it.

Gillam, a multimillionaire opponent of the proposed Pebble mine, had hired former state Sen. George Jacko to be his “eyes and ears in Bristol Bay,” a characterization that justices noted. The proposed massive gold and copper mine straddles the headwaters of salmon-producing streams that feed into Bristol Bay, home to the world’s biggest runs of sockeye salmon.

Jacko was traveling throughout the borough for Gillam on his planes. McKinley Capital Management, Gillam’s money management firm, paid the pilots’ salaries, and Gillam, a pilot, owned the Anchorage hangar where the aircraft were stored, according to testimony at earlier APOC hearing before an administrative law judge.

Jacko asked whether two Lake and Peninsula borough candidates, Nana Kalmakoff and Michelle Ravenmoon, could fly with him for their campaigns. Gillam checked with a lawyer and said they could, but fuel costs would have to be recorded, the order said.

After two multi-day trips in September 2010, in which the candidates traveled overlapping but not identical itineraries, Ravenmoon paid $351.55 for fuel and Kalmakoff paid $1,184.60.

APOC, Superior Court Judge Catherine Easter and now the Supreme Court all found that was too little. They also concluded that Gillam’s Bush Planes officials should have known better. Gillam himself was the subject of an earlier APOC complaint as part of a group secretly funneling money into a clean water ballot measure. They paid a $100,000 fine. Bush Planes embroiled “two unsophisticated candidates in its wrongdoing,” APOC found.

Gillam’s company argued that billing the candidates for pro-rated fuel was appropriate because it’s not a charter service and couldn’t charge market rates under federal aviation law. Federal aviation law generally bans private pilots using personal aircraft from charging passengers anything other than a pro-rated share of costs, unlike charters and commercial airlines.

“But Bush Planes’ basic premise — that there is tension between state and federal law — is incorrect,” the new order says. The justices said that their reading of federal law for general aviation uncovered an exception: A private aircraft operator carrying candidates can receive a payment for services if one is required under local, state or federal election law.

Estimates of the actual value of the flights varied, but ultimately APOC settled on a low-end, per-seat figure and determined that Ravenmoon was undercharged by $788 and Kalmakoff by $500.

That amounts to an illegal contribution of $1,288, but even at that, a fine of $25,500 is justified, the Supreme Court found.

The state prohibition on corporate contributions was part of a 1996 campaign finance reform bill designed to prevent special interests from gaining undue influence on elected officials, the justices noted. A bar on corporate contributions and an increase in penalties were intended to help restore public trust. A candidate trying to travel a vast Bush district gets an unfair advantage with cheap flights.

“Moreover, the fine both punishes Bush Planes and serves as a deterrent to other corporations that might consider flouting the prohibition on direct contribution,” the order said.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in its 2010 Citizens United decision, allowed campaign contributions from businesses, but only if paid to independent political committees. The contributions by Gillam’s company, directly to candidates, remains illegal.

As to whether APOC director Paul Dauphinais, then-deputy Jerry Anderson and then-commission chairwoman Elizabeth Hickerson were biased, as Bush Planes contended, those arguments came too late and were without substance,  the Supreme Court said.

Even if the company had been allowed to present its case of bias in an earlier court proceeding, the main issue was still “the proper determination of ‘commercially reasonable rate’ ” for aircraft services, the order said.

Both Kalmakoff and Ravenmoon paid the difference to Bush Planes and underwent APOC training on campaign disclosures. They also were re-elected to the borough assembly and still serve.

The total amount levied against Gillam’s Bush Planes was $55,268, counting investigative costs and attorney fees.

Justices Craig Stowers wrote the ruling, with Daniel Winfree and Joel Bolger consenting. Chief Justice Dana Fabe and Justice Peter Maassen didn’t participate. Justices typically do not specify why they step aside, or recuse themselves.


Amazon might operate air-freight service from Wilmington, Ohio

Could Amazon be working on yet another giant project for Ohio?

Media reports have emerged that the Internet giant is taking steps to operate its own freight service to compete with the likes of FedEx and UPS, with tests taking place out of the massive air park in Wilmington.

Amazon has begun flights out of the Wilmington Air Park through a contractor based in the city, Air Transport Services Group, according to, which covers technology news.

Wilmington would make sense for Amazon considering the city has the infrastructure in place that used to serve DHL, in terms of workers and buildings, said Mike Knemeyer, professor of logistics at Ohio State.

“You've got people who worked in that industry before,” he said.

If Amazon does plan to begin its operate its own freight business, it would be a significant shift for the e-commerce giant.

But the key players are saying very little about possible plans for more expansion in Wilmington.

Paul Cunningham, spokesman for Air Transport Services Group, said the company is in “a test period” with a new customer that involves four flights per day out of Wilmington.

“We can’t comment on our operations or customers,” Cunningham said, citing a non-disclosure agreement with the customer.

His company has a fleet of Boeing 767s, and 2,000 employees worldwide, including about 800 in Wilmington, he said.

The Wilmington Air Park is a large, cargo-based operation that is close to Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus. It has two long runways capable of handling the biggest airplanes.

It also has about 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space available around the park, said Brad Kitchen, president of Alterra Real Estate Advisors in Columbus. “That’s a lot of infrastructure that I’m sure they can make use of,” he said.

Wilmington was devastated in 2009 when DHL U.S. Express closed its air-freight distribution hub, throwing nearly 8,000 people out of work and escalating the county’s unemployment rate to 14.4 percent. State officials have been working since to attract businesses to Wilmington, which is the county seat of Clinton County, even as the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.2 percent.

Speculation about the air park comes amid a flurry of activity by Amazon in Ohio.

In just the past few months, Amazon has announced plans three data centers in central Ohio, two massive distribution centers in central Ohio and a wind farm in northwest Ohio. The investments total more than $1 billion and will employ more than 2,000 workers.

“This is just the beginning,” Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, said back in May when Amazon’s plans for the data centers were officially announced.

In addition to central Ohio, Amazon has distribution operations in Indianapolis and Louisville, Ky., both of which would be about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Wilmington.

There also have been reports that Amazon wants to have more direct control over its shipping after the debacle two years ago when not all orders were delivered in time for Christmas.

As has been the case with Amazon Web Services, which is developing the data centers in central Ohio and provides cloud computing, storage, analytics and other services for corporate customers, Amazon could roll out a competitive transportation and logistics service over time in similar fashion, said Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Baird Equity Research, in a research note this week.

“Amazon may be the only company with the fulfillment/distribution sophistication and scale to compete effectively with incumbent service providers (UPS, FedEx),” he wrote.

“Similar to the gradual rollout of (Amazon Web Services) we would expect Amazon to introduce competitive transportation and logistics services on an incremental basis, with a long-term focus."

The global fulfillment market represents a $400 billion to $450 billion market opportunity, he said.

It would make sense for Amazon to want more control over its air shipments, Ohio State’s Knemeyer said.

“They really view their competition as the Wal Marts and Targets of the world where you can walk in and get something today,” he said. “They need to make sure they have adequate capacity and control to get the product to the customer at the right time.”

If this involves operating their own air shipments, it would be the latest example of Amazon doing things in a different way and on a larger scale than other e-commerce businesses. “You can’t look at them through those traditional lenses,” Knemeyer said.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did the Clinton County Port Authority, which operates the air park.


Illinois Supreme Court to hear Elliott Aviation tax case

SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Supreme Court said Wednesday it will hear arguments in a case that will determine whether Elliott Aviation receives a property tax exemption for its Quad-Cities operations.

In July, the Illinois 3rd District Appellate Court rejected the property tax exemption granted to Elliott by the state legislature, ruling it unconstitutional and in violation of the Constitution's special legislation clause.

Elliott, 6601 74th Ave., Milan, asked in August that the Supreme Court take the case.

Bethany Krajelis, spokeswoman for the Supreme Court, said Wednesday the court announced it will hear arguments in the Elliott case, but no date has been set for arguments.

The Elliott case is among six the court picked to hear from about 200 petitions for leave to appeal, Ms. Krajelis said.

Greg Sahr, president of Elliott, said Wednesday, "We're pleased the Supreme Court accepted our appeal. We hope the court, like the Rock Island County Circuit Court, will find the legislation constitutional."

The Illinois General Assembly approved the legislation, sponsored by Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, and then Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, that amended the Illinois Property Tax Code and granted an exemption specifically to any Fixed Base Operator that leases land from the Quad City International Airport.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law in February 2013.

The Moline School District said it would lose $150,000 annually and filed a lawsuit against taxing authorities, alleging the law was unconstitutional special legislation. Elliott intervened in the case and won in Rock Island County Circuit Court, but the school district appealed.

On July 15, the 3rd District Appellate Court in Ottawa, in reversing the lower court's ruling, said the act violated the Illinois Constitution. They said nothing qualifies Elliott Aviation as "uniquely situated" and, as written, the special legislation "arbitrarily discriminates in favor of a select group."

Elliott states the appellate court overlooked several critical distinctions between the company and other businesses in Illinois, including the integral role it plays in the operation of the airport.

Dan Churchill, the attorney representing the school district, said he would not comment on pending litigation.

Robert Waterman Jr., Elliott's attorney, could not be reached for comment.

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Frontier to take winter pause in Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls, SD (KELO-AM) Frontier Airlines will temporarily suspend flights at Sioux Falls Regional Airport from January to April. Airport Manager Dan Letellier says Frontier is slow in Sioux Falls in the winter and will use the aircraft elsewhere.

Letellier says travelers will have plenty of options, including United with daily flights to Denver.

Frontier apparently will come back stronger in April, actually boosting the number of flights per week in Sioux Falls. 


Man sentenced to 3 years in prison for organizing aircraft parts Ponzi scheme

Doral resident Anthony Saumell, president and CEO of Gear Management Corp., was sentenced to 38 months in prison followed by three years for supervised release for organizing a fraudulent investment scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida announced Tuesday.

Saumell pleaded guilty to seven counts of wire fraud in August.

According to the indictment, Saumell organized a fraud scheme from about October 2011 through about March 2013 with the intention to defraud and enrich himself. Saumell solicited investments in GMC using false and fraudulent representations, according to the indictment.

Deceived investors put approximately $3.9 million into GMC, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Saumell sold investors on the success and experience of GMC in the aircraft parts buying and selling industry. He guaranteed investors that investments in the company would yield returns between 3 percent and 10 percent within 30 days, according to the indictment.

The problem was Saumell “used virtually no investor money in the purchase of aircraft parts, but rather used investor money for his own personal benefit and to further the fraud scheme,” according to the indictment.

Saumell would send investors sporadic payments to give his investors a false sense of security and to conceal the fraudulent nature of the scheme, according to the indictment. But by about October 2012, Saumell stopped making payments to investors entirely.

He had used the monies for things like jewelry, dining, alimony and art galleries, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. GMC was insolvent by October 2013. Overall, investors suffered approximately $1 million in losses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.


Hazardous Airliner Landings Are Rare, Data Show, but Pilot Reporting Lags • More than 200 approaches over past 15 years prompted collision warnings, Honeywell report says

The Wall Street Journal
Nov. 25, 2015 1:55 p.m. ET

More than 200 landing approaches made by commercial airliners over the past 15 years prompted cockpit emergency collision warnings—the last possible alert before a crash—yet most of the incidents weren’t reported by pilots, according to global data collected by Honeywell International Inc.

The hazardous approaches made up a minute portion of the more than 20 million analyzed flights and none resulted in a crash, even though some pilots pulled up at the last instant. But the numbers indicate that premature descents and associated navigation errors, which were the most common cause of crashes in previous decades, haven’t been eliminated, even as overall accident rates reach record lows.

In recent years, onboard safety systems developed by Honeywell and now made by several others have helped to largely eliminate commercial accidents stemming from such cockpit slip-ups in Western jets, experts inside and outside Honeywell say. The data, which Honeywell says it hadn’t previously disclosed partly to avoid antagonizing pilot unions, don’t break out specific airlines or even regions where the hazardous incidents occurred.

Out of nearly 24.4 million flights between 2000 and 2015 that Honeywell analyzed, the company found 224 so-called premature descent events: when planes were heading for runways, but pilots received computer-generated verbal warnings to “pull up, pull up.” Crews either adjusted their trajectories, or abandoned the approaches.

The incidents “were mostly unreported by pilots or [air-traffic] controllers,” according to a summary document provided by the company.

Pilot groups have “worked tirelessly with other industry bodies, over many years, to address the challenges posed” by such incidents, said Martin Chalk, president of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations. He added that “under reporting of significant events” remains a problem, which is “not helped by either punitive or apathetic responses” from carriers or regulators.

Nearly all of the dangerous approaches were flown without the benefit of sophisticated ground-based navigation aids, like those installed at major airports throughout the U.S., Europe and other regions with mature aviation industries.

Many more such dangerous approaches are believed to occur than are formally reported and investigated by government regulators or safety agencies, veteran Honeywell safety expert Don Bateman said.

Mr. Bateman, who in the 1990s led development of the advanced safety devices—called enhanced ground-proximity warning systems—said in an interview that “pilots tend to very quickly recover” when they get such a dramatic warning on approach. “They get the heck out of there, in a hurry.”

Robert Francis, a former vice chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, said the data “absolutely represents a tribute to the system” of safety technologies provided by various suppliers. “It shows things are working” as intended, he said, “and flight crews are trained to react almost instantaneously.”

A decade ago, “controlled flight into terrain” accidents—when pilots lose track of their location or surroundings—accounted for 25% of fatal commercial crashes. In 2014, they accounted for roughly 2% of all accidents and about 13% of fatalities world-wide, according to statistics assembled by the aviation arm of the United Nations. The lifesaving technology is installed on more than 55,000 commercial and military aircraft.

Honeywell gathers incident data whenever ground-collision warning devices are returned for service, upgrade or repair.

“Most pilots don’t realize the data is there” to be harvested, Mr. Bateman said. Honeywell says it has gone to great lengths to reassure pilot unions that their goal isn’t to identify or punish crews that made mistakes.

Over the years, Honeywell has used the information to revise databases by correcting errors involving terrain features, as well as adjusting the height and position of other natural and man-made obstacles shown in navigation systems. More recently, the data have been used to document safety trends and to show that timely warnings—combined with enhanced awareness and simulator training for pilots—can prevent deadly crashes.

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Feds initiate aircraft noise studies

The chart reveals a marked increase in airplane noise complaints filed by Bay Area residents since implementation of NextGen.

In response to public outcry over aircraft noise above Los Altos and other Bay Area cities, the Federal Aviation Administration last week issued a plan to consider changes to flight traffic.

The FAA in October began analyzing potential modifications to its aircraft paths, including offshore routes, higher-altitude travel and reduced nighttime operations.

“I welcome this important first step the FAA has developed,” said U.S. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, who worked alongside Reps. Sam Farr and Jackie Speier to engage the FAA.

Eshoo said FAA leadership would follow up with community meetings through the representatives’ offices to explain the plan to address noise problems.

“From the beginning, I have told the FAA that they created this mess, so it is up to them to fix it,” Farr said.

However, the FAA’s initiative doesn’t include any promised amendments or a definitive timeline.

“It’s full of to-be-determined – no commitments,” said Los Altos resident Don Gardner, an engineer who has led local efforts to compile data proving that Los Altos is among the cities impacted by aircraft noise.

During a weeklong study period in October, Gardner tallied an average of 198 airplanes per day flying over his residence. Many of the flights reached or exceeded a sound level of 50 decibels – loud enough to wake a person.

In August, an estimated 1,200 Bay Area residents filed with San Francisco International Airport approximately 62,391 complaints – 86 times more than in the same month in 2013.

“My worry is that if we (in Los Altos) don’t match these levels, we won’t get the attention (other cities) get,” Gardner said.

Overhead traffic

Noise complaints have increased significantly since spring, when the FAA mandated new flight paths as part of NextGen, an air traffic control system designed to accommodate increased demand. The tighter flight paths save airlines fuel but require that planes fly at lower altitudes over urban areas like Los Altos, which previously experienced little airplane noise.

Sky Posse Palo Alto, neighboring advocates for quieter skies, started an online petition requesting that local officials work with airports and the FAA to address the noise problem. As of Nov. 19, the petition drew signatures from 240 Los Altos residents, citing loss of sleep, added stress and concerns about declining property values.

“The noise from low-flying aircraft is destroying our community,” said Los Altos signee Suzanne Bayley. “Many times of the day it is impossible to sit outside in our own backyards without hearing loud aircraft noise. Many nights we are awakened by the same noise and cannot get a good night’s sleep. I urge you to do whatever you can to reduce the aircraft noise over our neighborhood.”

In October, the Los Altos City Council unanimously adopted a resolution requesting that the FAA mitigate aircraft noise and, in the future, engage impacted communities and accurately measure noise patterns before making flight path changes.

Gardner advocates that the council continue “putting on the pressure.”

“The cities need to get together,” he said. “There is an old saying from a former president to some advocates: ‘I hear you, I agree with you, now you need to make me do it.’ That may be where we stand right now with the FAA response.”

To file a noise complaint with SFO, visit

For more information on Sky Posse Palo Alto’s petition, visit

To read the FAA’s noise initiative, visit this article online at


Incident occurred November 24, 2015 in Palisade, Nebraska

A single-engine airplane flipped onto its top in southwest Nebraska’s Hayes county as the pilot was attempting a landing on a private runway. 

The mishap occurred Tuesday about 5:15 p.m. southeast of the small community of Hamlet. 

Sheriff Thomas Dow explains how it happened…

“He was just landing the plane and slid off the side of the runway…with the wet grass, there’s mud under it and the front wheel broke off…it caught and flipped the plane over.”

Sheriff Dow says the pilot walked away from the craft, but did seek medical attention as a precaution and then was released. Sheriff Dow says the plane was likely totaled. 

Sheriff Dow says he will provide a report to the Federal Aviation Administration including pictures of the damaged aircraft.

 The male pilot was not identified. 

The crash occurred on the pilot’s property.


Date: 25-NOV-15
Time: 02:00:00Z
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: Unknown
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Lincoln FSDO-65
State: Nebraska


Incident occurred November 25, 2015 in Lawrence County, Alabama

No one was injured when a small plane made an emergency landing this afternoon in a pasture just south of Doublehead Resort in Lawrence County.

Officials from Colbert and Lawrence counties rushed to the scene after a call came in of a possible plane crash. Calls started coming into 911 just before 1 p.m.

"The call came in from Lawrence County that a small plane was flying low near Doublehead and may have crashed," Colbert County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Melton said. "No one knew if it crashed or not, until some emergency personnel got there."

Melton said apparently the plane had gotten water in its fuel.

The landing was just south of a small bridge off Foster Mill Road that runs by Doublehead Resort.

"Apparently, it may have had a hard landing, because some local pilots that live in that area said they heard it when it landed," Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Mitchell said. "I'm just glad no one was hurt, and everything is OK."

Metro Nashville Police Department use helicopters to patrol holiday shopping

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On Thursday night as holiday shoppers start to pour into area malls and stores, the aviation unit for Metro Nashville Police Department will be watching.

The aviation unit will have helicopters doing self-initiated patrols and also supporting officers on the ground. This is the second year the unit has done a Black Friday operation.

The helicopters are able to fly about 500 feet off the ground to have an up close presence or fly higher.

“We can see a whole lot from our vantage point,” Sgt. Kurt Knapp said. “If anything looks out of the ordinary we can notify the ground officers and let them know what is going on.”

He continued, “You can definitely get a clothing description on someone and things like that.”

Pilots this year will also be using new Gyro-Stabilized Binoculars, which will help them to see people and objects on the ground better.

They can also use FLIR technology, which reads heat signatures to track people at night and they have night vision goggles they can wear.

This Black Friday there are also concerns about terrorist attacks.

President Barak Obama said there are not credible threats at this time, but MNPD is going to be watching closely.

At the Tennessee Titans game, the Aviation Unit was deployed after the attacks in Paris.

“The last Titans game we had a SWAT member with us because of the elevated threat level to our country,” Sgt. Knapp said. “It gave us an extra set of eyes in a tactical sense.”

The helicopters also allow for a quick response time to assist officers on the ground.

“We don’t have to wait in traffic or take turns,” Sgt. Knapp said. “We can go from Bellevue to Joelton in less than 10 minutes.”

In addition to the Aviation Unit Flex, special duty officers from each precinct will be used to patrol on foot at shopping centers.

Malls have also hired more off duty officers to be present inside.

“It is not just what the police department is doing,” Hermitage Precinct Commander Preston Brandimore said. “It is what local businesses are doing by stepping up.”

He continued, “It is citizens stepping up and if they see something say something.”

Police are also reminding everyone to park smart by not leaving valuables in plain sight and locking their doors.

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Airline wants pilots exempt from ruling

Great Lakes Airlines, which services North Platte’s Lee Bird Field, has petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration for an exemption that would allow the airline to fly more 19-seat aircraft. A pilot shortage due to stricter regulations has impacted the airline, the airport and passengers. 

It’s been just over two years since Congress increased the qualifications for first officer flight experience in reaction to a deadly plane crash in 2009.

The change caused a chain reaction seen in delays and pilot shortages at Great Lakes Airlines, which services North Platte’s Lee Bird Field. Essentially, it made it so that many of GLA’s first officers — co-pilots — could only fly in nine-seat craft instead of GLA’s 19-seat Beechcraft planes or 30-seat Embrauer Brasilias.

“We want to bring that up to 19 [seats],” said Scott Lewis, GLA’s director of safety.

Lewis and Joe Linnebur, director of operations, filed a petition to the Federal Aviation Administration to allow GLA an exemption to operate their 19-seat Beechcraft planes with first officers that would otherwise be restricted to nine-seat aircraft. Many of their pilots qualified to fly larger craft are leaving for careers with larger companies, but that’s always been the case at GLA, Lewis said.

For pilots, moving up through careers means extensive time in the air, as well as specialized training, simulator training and check rides. Prior to 2013, when the new qualifications were enacted, pilots could gain flight hours as first officers at airlines such as GLA.

“We are reknowned throughout the industry for training young pilots,” Lewis said.

On average, Lewis said pilots at GLA stay with the company for only four years before advancing to larger craft and airlines.

After starting the petition in October, Lewis said they’ve received many positive responses from residents and businesses in smaller communities served by GLA. As of Nov. 24, 83 comments had been received on, a site that allows the public to comment on federal rules and regulations.

Lewis said GLA is “kind of unique” in serving rural communities. There used to be more small airlines, but not many are left across the United States.

Mike Sharkey, airport manager at Lee Bird Field, said it’s disturbing to see how pilot shortages at GLA have impacted the airport. Lee Bird Field has seen over a 50 percent drop in passengers, he said, despite an eight percent increase in general aviation from charter and private flights.

“This is the second year that the pilot shortage has kept us from reaching 10,000 [enplanement],” Sharkey said.

The 10,000 enplanement allows Lee Bird Field to be considered a primary airport, and guarantees around $1 million annually for maintenance and infrastructure. Without that designation, Sharkey said they are no longer guaranteed any funding and have to compete with other non-primary airports for federal grants.

Sharkey said they have accrued about five years of finances for operations, but the airport will be seriously affected in 2017. Allowing GLA to fly 19-seat craft would bring up enplanement again, he said. With the pilot shortage, Sharkey said around 30 percent of GLA’s flights out of North Platte have to be pre-canceled, which makes planning travel difficult.

“We’re encouraging people who have been negatively affected by the pilot shortage to write comments,” Sharkey said.

The North Platte Area Chamber of Commerce and Development sent a link to post comments in their weekly newsletter, but it can also be reached online at The docket number is FAA-2015-4903-0001, also known as Great Lakes Aviation, Ltd. — Exemption/Rulemaking.

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Pilot lands plane in front of Puerto Rico McDonald's to get coffee

A Puerto Rican pilot decided to land his small plane in a grassy area next to a McDonald's in northern town of Hatillo to buy himself and his passenger a coffee, island authorities confirmed Wednesday.

The Puerto Rican Police said that personnel with the Puerto Rico Joint Forces of Rapid Action, or FURA, were dispatched to the site on Tuesday afternoon thinking that an accident had occurred after receiving a call alerting them to the presence of the small plane on a farm next to the fast-food restaurant.

"We thought it was an accident, but they said they're used to doing it. They land in the grassy area," said one of the FURA agents. "They said that they left the (Arecibo) airport and landed there to get coffee."

The plane's owner and pilot, Rodolfo Rivera, and his passenger, Jose Torres, were not arrested and - after getting their cups of coffee and speaking with the FURA agents - continued their trip with no further delay.

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Pilot ejects marijuana in flight from Charlotte-area airport, affidavit says

Affidavit on Saad Subhi Basha 

A pilot is accused of ejecting “dozens of pounds of marijuana” from a plane in 2013 after taking off from a Charlotte-area airport, according to a complaint filed in federal court this week.

Saad Subhi Basha is accused of flying multiple times between California and North Carolina, “knowing in advance that he was transporting marijuana.” He’s accused of being part of a conspiracy to distribute the drug and proceeds from drug trafficking in Mecklenburg and Union counties, according to the federal complaint filed by a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security Investigations.

Basha faces charges of drug trafficking and money laundering, according to the complaint. A third charge, structuring, stems from allegations that Basha made multiple cash withdrawals of less than $10,000 from his personal and business accounts to “avoid law enforcement detection.”

The federal complaint focuses on alleged activities in February and March 2013.

The complaint states that on March 17, 2013, government officials encountered Basha at an airport in the Charlotte region. He then took off in a plane, where an Federal Aviation Administration official observed him ejecting drugs fro
m the aircraft, the complaint states. The document doesn’t identify the airport where Basha was seen.

Days earlier, Basha reportedly received four deposits of $9,900 into his personal and checking accounts, which federal authorities described as “advance payments for his services of transporting marijuana.”

The federal complaint said several witnesses have talked with law enforcement officials about Basha’s alleged involvement with drug trafficking. In all, investigators said “the amount of marijuana known” to Basha was between 100 and 400 kilograms. That translates roughly to between 220 and 880 pounds.


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Boutique Air presents its case to Tupelo Regional Airport (KTUP), Lee County, Mississippi

Boutique Air has 10 Swiss-built Pilatus PC-12 aircraft, at least one of which will be dedicated to Tupelo should the company win the bid to provide air service.

TUPELO – San Francisco-based Boutique Air said it has the capability and reliability to provide air service in Tupelo, having been successful everywhere it’s been so far.

Boutique began service between Greenville and Dallas two weeks ago, and company CEO Shawn Simpson said business “is going well.”

Able to check ticket purchases on his smart phone, Simpson noted a half-dozen flights had been booked between the two cities by 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

“They like what we have to offer,” he said.

In Tupelo, Boutique is offering five weekday round-trip flights. Three would fly to Atlanta and two would fly to Nashville. Another option is having all five daily flights go between Tupelo and Atlanta.

While he said it’s up to the community to decide which schedule it wants, Simpson said he prefers the split route, which gives passengers more options. It’s also less expensive to fly into Nashville versus Atlanta.

Boutique is asking for a yearly subsidy of $3.47 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program to provide the service.

The company, which provides EAS service in nine communities, uses single-engine, Swiss-built Pilatus PC-12 planes. The company currently has 10 planes, but Simpson said Boutique is buying more.

The planes seat eight passengers, and with the pressurized cabin, they can fly up to 30,000 feet.

Mathew Butcher, Boutique’s director of operations, said the Pilatus has twice the horsepower of the Cessna Grand Caravans some airlines are using for service.

Boutique is the third of four airlines that submitted bids to provide service.

Sun Air and Corporate Flight Management have presented their cases to airport board members and city officials. It’s unclear if the fourth airline, St. Louis-based Air Choice One, will be meeting them before the Nov. 30 deadline the Transportation Department has set for recommendations from the city.

Simpson bragged on the reliability of its service in the cities it currently served, and also noted the load factor – the percentage of seats filled – is around 66 percent.

“I expect that number to be higher, based on the size of Tupelo and the history of service here,” he said. “The other cities we’re serving are smaller, and there’s a lot of potential here.”

But the airline knows it has to build its case to the public. Simpson said Boutique will roll out introductory rates perhaps as low as $39 to Nashville and $49 to Atlanta.

Cliff Nash, the executive director of the Tupelo Regional Airport, said he appreciates the fact that Boutique has done well so far. But he said he’s interested in what it will do in Tupelo, not what it has done.

“It’s an airline that’s expanding its markets, and I realize its track record elsewhere is stellar,” he said. “There’s always the concern and interest when you’re coming to a new market, we’ve been here, we’ve had the promises, we’ve heard all the rhetoric. We’re trying to do the due diligence that we don’t fall into the same traps, the same issues we’ve had previously. … We’re trying to find the right aircraft going to the right market with the right frequency to the right destinations. There are so many variables to consider in what will work best for the community.”

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Shrine Board Asks Aviation Regulator to Conduct Safety Audit of Chopper Operations; AĆ©rospatiale AS 350B3 Ecureuil, VT-JKB, Himalyan Heli Services

JAMMU:  Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has asked Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to conduct a detailed safety audit of the helicopter operations between Katra-Sanjichhat sector in Jammu and Kashmir, where a recent chopper crash killed six pilgrims and a woman pilot.

The chopper services, which were suspended as a precautionary measure after the crash in Katra on Monday, resumed its operations today with trial flights.

Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) has asked DGCA to conduct a safety audit in detail in the particular belt in Reasi district, from where nearly one crore people visit the shrine every year.

"The CEO of the Shrine Board, on the instructions of J&K Governor N N Vohra who is also the Chairman of the Board, approached the DGCA to separately conduct a detailed safety audit of the Heli operations between Katra-Sanjichhat-Katra sector," a senior official of Board said.

A team of DGCA visited the crash spot yesterday and initiated a detailed investigation in the accident.

The 2010-make chopper of private airliner Himalayan Heli service, which was carrying six pilgrims from Sanjichat helipad in Trikuta hills, crashed at the new bus stand area in Katra.

A separate team of DGCA officials reached Katra today and started conducting audits on various air safety norms such as airworthiness of the helicopters, operation and maintenance procedure being followed by the operators, the official said.

The Shrine Board officers also attended the last rites of all the passengers in Jammu and Delhi.

The Board also attended to the family members of the deceased pilot and made arrangements for the transportation of her body to Delhi.

Meanwhile, the yatra to the Holy Shrine is proceeding normally and a fair amount of pilgrims were seen trekking the shrine on foot, ponies and palanquins.

Deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh yesterday said, "As per initial information, a bird got caught in the tail rotor as a result of which it stopped functioning. Finding the area below populated, the woman pilot chose a safe landing at the new bus stand to avoid casualties on the ground.

"As the plane was descending, its rotors got entwined in electrical wires and caught fire," he had said.  

A separate magisterial probe was ordered by the Jammu and Kashmir government into the incident yesterday.

- Source:

EVA Airways buying up to 24 North Charleston-made Dreamliners as Boeing marks milestone

Taiwanese carrier EVA Airways has finalized a deal to buy up to two dozen North Charleston-made 787-10s, the largest single commercial airplane purchase in the island nation’s aviation industry and one of the biggest orders for the Boeing Dreamliner program.

Meanwhile, Boeing Co. reached a milestone with its 350th Dreamliner delivery this week. It’s not clear which of the 787-9 deliveries — one for British Airways, the other for All Nippon Airways — will count as No. 350. The mark comes a little more than four years after Boeing started delivering the Dreamliners, which it makes in North Charleston and Everett, Wash.

Boeing has delivered 10 787s this month — with another four planned for November — and 122 year to date, according to a database maintained by New York investment banker and Dreamliner enthusiast Uresh Sheth.

The newly finalized EVA Airways order, which also will include two 777-300ER planes, is valued at more than $8 billion at list prices, although airlines frequently negotiate lower prices.

“We believe the future of the airline industry will be built on fuel efficiency and cabin comfort,” Austin Cheng, the carrier’s president, said in a statement Tuesday. “The new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner’s high fuel efficiency and long-range flying capabilities meets these requirements and our operational needs. These planes will support our growth well into the future.”

The 787-10 is the largest version of the Dreamliner. It will be built exclusively at Boeing’s campus in North Charleston. Production will start next year with the first 787-10 scheduled for delivery in 2018.

“For many years, EVA Air has been pushing the boundaries of aviation,” Ray Conner, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement. “With today’s order, Boeing is proud to continue playing an integral role in revolutionizing Taiwan’s aviation history as EVA becomes one of the first customers around the world to operate the 787-10.”

EVA Airways continues to modernize its long-haul fleet to replace aging aircraft and plans to grow to more than 100 planes by 2020. The 787-10s will allow the airline to expand into new markets. They will be deployed on medium-range and long-haul flights and will be operated in tandem with the 777-300ERs to form the backbone of EVA Airways’ fleet.

EVA Airways currently operates more than 40 Boeing airplanes and with today’s order, the airline’s backlog will increase to 37 airplanes, which includes 14 777-300ERs, five 777 Freighters and 18 787-10s.


Lawmakers seek crackdown on lasers being aimed at aircraft

HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -  Lawmakers are demanding a crackdown on lasers being aimed at aircraft.

A growing threat to pilots nationwide is causing a huge danger to passengers, and even people on the ground, in Connecticut.

Laser strikes are essentially taking a small laser and pointing it at a plane, and last year they were reported nearly 3,900 times nationally.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal plans to demand a combined agency effort to curb the crime.

He said that there are 5,300 reports this year alone of individuals aiming lasers and planes.

"When aimed at aircraft, simple laser pointers can blind pilots temporarily, damage their eyes, and pose severe safety risks to all who fly," Blumenthal said. "Despite Congressional action making it a federal crime to aim lasers at aircraft, dangerous cases have skyrocketed."

Blumenthal seeks to call for enforcement action by the Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Food and Drug administration and other agencies.

"I am calling on the DOJ, FDA, DHS and FAA to take coordinated, aggressive action to protect the safety of our skies," he said. "I will also seek new prohibitions and penalties if necessary."

Blumenthal said that when aimed at an aircraft, lasers can temporarily blind pilots and damage their eyes as well as pose a severe threat to travelers who fly.

Congressional action in 2012 made it a federal offense; however, Blumenthal said incidents continue to skyrocket.

Before the 5,300 reports from this year, there were only 300 in 2005.

Blumenthal's news conference is set for 11 a.m. at Brainard Airport in Hartford.


Airlines resent paying tab to return passengers rejected by Canada

OTTAWA – Major Canadian airlines say they’re unfairly shouldering the costs of removing from Canada people who arrive with a passport or other valid document only to be turned away by federal officials.

There are “numerous scenarios” in which air carriers must pay the tab for returning such inadmissible arrivals to their home country, Air Canada says in a submission to a federal review panel studying transportation policy.

These cases may involve people who arrive with proper documentation but are barred by Canadian authorities because they have a criminal record – something the airline would have no way of knowing – or their refugee claim is denied.

“In extreme cases, should the passenger become ill and be hospitalized before they leave Canada, carriers are even expected to pick up the medical bills,” Air Canada says in its submission to the review of the Canada Transportation Act.

The legislative review is looking at the state of the national transportation system, including the aviation sector’s competitiveness, service to Canadians and ability to attract visitors. A panel led by former cabinet minister David Emerson is expected to deliver a report soon.

In some cases, because of the frequently drawn-out nature of the refugee claims process, passengers may have lived in Canada for many years, and any return ticket they might have once had is no longer valid, Air Canada says.

“These passengers are often violently opposed to leaving Canada and there are significant security costs involved in these deportations, all of which are borne by the airline. In some cases, Air Canada has had to lease private jets to repatriate particularly unco-operative cases.”

Any relationship that once existed between the passenger and the airline – in many cases decades ago with a predecessor company – is long lost, says Air Canada.

“The passenger is either unwilling or unable to pay. It is simply unfair to make airlines responsible for these costs, when the passenger had the required documents to travel to Canada and the passenger themselves tried to circumvent Canada’s immigration programs.”

When a Canadian airline transports someone abroad who is ruled inadmissible in the destination country, the airline must return the passenger to Canada or to a place where the person is admissible, such as their home country.

In cases where the person is immediately turned away, heads back to Canada and is denied entry, the Canada Border Services Agency issues a penalty of $3,200 to the air carrier. “The airline then also becomes responsible for all costs associated with returning the passenger to the country of his or her nationality,” Air Canada says.

The penalty can be appealed, but the process amounts to an administrative burden for airlines, the carrier says.

In cases where passengers are turned away from Canada despite having valid travel documentation, the Canadian government should bear the cost of returning the passenger – subject to possible reimbursement from the traveler, Air Canada recommends to the panel.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline had nothing to add to its submission.

The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Air Canada and three other large Canadian carriers, said in a statement that in such cases “the airline should not be asked to pay for the removal of the passenger.”

The council added that implementation of this principle should be easier in future given pending modernization of the way passenger information will be transmitted, since it will involve the government giving an airline a green-light decision to board a traveller prior to departure.

Canada Border Services Agency spokeswoman Esme Bailey declined to make anyone available for an interview.


Indian airport shines as solar-power role model

50,000 solar panels generate all the electricity for Cochin International Airport. 

COCHIN, India -- Cochin International Airport in the south of India currently does what no other airport in the world can do: get 100% of its electricity from solar power.

That impressive feat has moved the Modi administration to augment its renewable energy policy with a call for all airports in India to install solar panels.

And with representatives from airports in other countries also coming to take a look, the Cochin model could inspire airports around the world to tap solar power for their energy needs.

To test the solar-power waters, Cochin International Airport Limited, also known as CIAL, initially installed 4,400 solar panels back in 2013. The decision to take the real plunge came this past February, and between then and August the company installed an additional 46,150 panels over an area of approximately 18 hectares.    

The current total of 50,000-plus solar panels has a combined capacity of 13.1 megawatts and generates a daily average of 52,400 units of electricity. With an average daily consumption of 48,000 units, the system supplies the airport with more than 100% of the electricity it needs.

"We didn't know that we could be the first airport in the world to be fully powered by solar energy," admitted CIAL general manager Jose Thomas. The objective was never to be in the Guinness Book of Records. In fact, Thomas only realized the airport was breaking new ground when he read a news report in July about the Seymour Airport in the Galapagos Islands, which made headlines by becoming the world's first airport to run entirely on renewable energy. Seymour Airport uses a combination of solar and wind power, so "then we knew that we were the first in the world powered only by solar."

CIAL placed an order for a system of 46,150 solar panels with Bosch, whose arm in India installed the system using the German engineering giant's own control and monitoring systems, a set of 265-watt-peak solar panels made by Chinese company ReneSola, and megawatt-class inverters provided by European company ABB.

The airport operator also struck a deal with the Kerala State Electricity Board to "deposit" surplus electricity from its solar power system into the Kerala power grid in exchange for a yearly payout made every September. Being connected to the grid also means there is no danger of power shortages. The two sides agreed to a purchase price of 4.5 rupees (roughly $0.07) per unit of electricity. "It is not really a good price, but it is to our have another source of income instead of just having power as a cost component," Thomas explained.    

Cochin is currently the seventh busiest airport in India. Passenger traffic grew 19% in the year ending March 2015 to 6.4 million people, and a new terminal is scheduled to open in June of 2016 with more growth expected.

In step with this facility expansion, the company intends to install more solar panels, adding the equivalent of 2.4 megawatts of capacity at the start of 2016, and another 8 megawatts in June.

CIAL did not embark on this solar power project in order to become a standard-bearer of the nation's environmental policy. "It was only because in late 2012, KSEB said they would hike the unit price of power from 5 rupees to 7 rupees," explained managing director V.J. Kurian.

In other words, CIAL acted to avoid a huge increase in electricity costs that would choke its profits. India imports much of the coal that serves as the main power generation fuel, and CIAL saw solar power as an alternative future to one of rising expenditure.

The company has spent 700 million rupees ($10.5 million) on solar power infrastructure to date, but that is recoverable in less than six years because it eliminates 120 million rupees a year in electricity costs. Bosch will shoulder the costs of equipment maintenance, weed removal, and certain other expenses for the first five years, with CIAL taking over responsibility afterwards, but the company is only looking at expenses of around 6 million rupees a year.

In short, adopting a solar power system will be beneficial to the bottom line for CIAL.

Sound investment

Airport operators are not exactly known for acumen when it comes to the management of revenues and expenditures, so CIAL stands out for its business sense.    

Though it is not a publicly traded company, CIAL has 18,000 shareholders. The government of the state of Kerala owns 32% of the company and is the largest shareholder. Non-resident Indians living in 35 different countries own 33%, and Indian citizens resident in Kerala and elsewhere in India own 12%.

The reason for this semi-private organization dates back to the formation of the company in 1994.

During the 1980s, increasing numbers of people from Kerala began taking jobs in the Middle East and it became clear that the state needed to have its own international airport. Lacking funds in public coffers, the state government called on wealthy business people in and out of India to invest in the airport project.

Cochin International Airport has proven to be a good investment: with a net profit margin of 35% in the year ending March 2015, CIAL has paid out a cash dividend for 12 straight years and is now the fourth busiest airport in India in terms of international traffic, behind only the international airports in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.

Of course, converting to solar power has more than just financial benefits. "This will avoid carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power plants by 300,000 metric tons, which is equivalent to planting three million trees," Thomas noted.

The national government of India has hitched a ride on the airport's efforts, with the Ministry of Civil Aviation instructing all airports to quickly install the equivalent of at least 1 megawatt of solar panels at their facilities. The airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad will be early adopters of the Cochin model.

In a related development, the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference will be convened at end of November in Paris, and the government of India has declared a goal of achieving "about 40 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030" as part of its intended nationally determined contribution. That compares with the roughly 30% of electricity production now provided by nuclear power and renewable energies, and Cochin International Airport provides a textbook example of what can be achieved with solar power.

The Cochin model has gained the attention not only of the Indian government and other domestic airports, but also of airports abroad. Delegations from Liberia and Malaysia have already made the pilgrimage to Cochin, and Vietnam also has expressed interest.    

Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, plans to transplant the Cochin model and is set to ink a three-party agreement with CIAL and Bosch. CIAL is expected to serve as an adviser for the project.

"We could do this. Establishing solar plants is not a very difficult task," Thomas exclaimed.

Excluding airports in congested urban areas, every airport has large tracts set aside for future expansion, and all can install solar plants, Thomas noted. "I don't know why they are not doing this."

The efficiency of solar power depends on how much daily sunlight a region receives, but Thomas' assertion certainly holds for places closer to the equator, meaning the airports of many developing nations are well placed geographically to adopt the Cochin model.

Jose Thomas, general manager of Cochin International Airport, headed the solar-power project.