Sunday, December 6, 2015

Nepal quake tough test for ‘world’s most dangerous airport’

In this photograph taken on July 30, 2015, Nepali helicopter pilot Nischal KC poses beside a helicopter in Kathmandu. 

LUKLA: Flying into Nepal’s Lukla airport — the gateway to Mount Everest — demands courage and precision, thanks to its tiny, treacherous runway perched on a steep cliff.

For half a century, pilots have needed to navigate snow-capped peaks and endure erratic weather to land on a runway just 500 metres long, which has been carved into a mountain ridge and sits by a perilous three-kilometre (two-mile) drop.

A litany of deadly crashes, including one in October 2008 which killed all 18 on board except the pilot, has earned Lukla the nickname of the “world’s most dangerous airport”.

But when a massive earthquake hit Nepal eight months ago, triggering Everest’s deadliest avalanche and leaving hundreds of climbers and trekkers stranded, the tiny airfield faced its toughest test yet.

Helicopter pilot Nischal KC told AFP that even on an average day constant “weather changes and the steep terrain sometimes make landing impossible”.

“It’s high-stakes work and there’s very little room for error,” he added.

Also known as Tenzing-Hillary Airport after the first men to summit Everest, it has no radar system because of the high cost of installation, forcing officials to rely on an outdated voice communications system to track movements in the air.

“The pilots tell us when they are approaching, we give them updates on wind and traffic, then as the aircraft enters Lukla valley, we warn choppers to steer clear for the landing,” said air traffic controller Dinesh Koirala.

– Mass panic –

Things became even tougher in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake, which killed nearly 8,900 people across the impoverished Himalayan nation.

Rescue pilots seeking to reach Everest base camp, where an avalanche set off by the 7.8-magnitude quake killed 18 people, were held back for a day because of hostile weather.

When they were finally able to fly, rippling aftershocks brought the threat of further damage.

“Aftershocks kept coming that day but I was more stressed out by the weather. I knew that unless it cleared up, we could not send any choppers to rescue people injured by the avalanche,” air traffic controller Koirala told AFP.

Pilot KC, who has been flying in the Everest region for 14 years, recalls starting the day with a prayer.

“My first priority was to get the injured out of base camp but people higher up the mountain were panicking because of all the aftershocks,” the Manang Air pilot said.

He made dozens of trips that day to rescue terrified climbers desperate to get off the mountain, and to base camp to rescue the injured.

The frequency of aftershocks and the precarious terrain made landing even more difficult than usual, prompting the pilots to hover overhead and haul climbers up with ropes instead.

As rescuers carried dozens of quake victims into Lukla on sleeping bags doubling as stretchers, the tiny airport began to swell with hundreds of tourists haggling with airline officials for a ticket out.

Back in the control tower, Koirala and his colleagues embarked on the busiest week of their lives, closely monitoring the movement of planes and helicopters to ensure no accidents occurred mid-air.

“The whole week was a blur of flights — the fact that there were so many more aircraft than usual in the air made the job very stressful,” Koirala said.

– Edmund Hillary –

Prior to the airport’s construction in 1964, porters would spend days walking from Kathmandu to Lukla, carrying hundreds of kilos of expedition gear on their backs.

Mountaineering legend Edmund Hillary originally planned to build the airfield on flat ground — but local farmers refused to part with their fertile land.

Undeterred, he purchased a steep slope for $635 and recruited scores of Sherpa villagers to cut down scrub with knives.

The climber then plied villagers with local liquor and asked them to perform a foot-stomping traditional dance to flatten the land.

“A very festive mood prevailed and the earth received a most resounding thumping. Two days of this rather reduced the Sherpas’ enthusiasm for the dance but produced a firm and smooth surface for our airfield,” Hillary wrote in his 1998 memoir, “View from the Summit”.

As the number of climbers taking on the world’s highest mountain has boomed in recent decades, so traffic at Lukla airport — which can be accessed by helicopter or small aircraft — has increased.

Spring and autumn tourist seasons are the busiest, but closures are common since clear skies are essential for safe landing on the abbreviated clifftop runway.

Despite the challenges, some say its reputation for danger is undeserved.

“It’s unfair to call Lukla the most dangerous airport when there’s not much we can do about the terrain or the weather,” said Koirala.

“I have no doubt many lives were saved because this airport remained open after the quake.”


Boeing to Roll Out 737 Max Jetliner With Little Fanfare • Lack of party atmosphere highlights need to underpromise and over-deliver

The Wall Street Journal 
Updated Dec. 6, 2015 9:13 p.m. ET

Boeing will roll out the first of its 737 Max jetliners this week with none of the fanfare that accompanied previous launches such as the 787 Dreamliner, even though the company’s success is just as intricately tied to the fortunes of the new plane.

The Dreamliner launch in 2007 attracted 15,000 guests, video feeds to 40 countries, a live band and Tom Brokaw as master of ceremonies. The Max will be welcomed by employees and a handful of the customers that have helped it pull almost 3,000 advance orders ahead of its first delivery in 2017.

The lack of party atmosphere when the first completed Max is unveiled on Tuesday highlights the need for Boeing to under-promise and over-deliver. Investors remain jittery that its huge backlog of commercial jets relies heavily on airlines in brittle emerging markets, and its most recent airplane programs have been plagued by problems.

The all-new 787 was due to fly two months after its glittering rollout but design and production problems saw it arrive three years late and—alongside issues with a revamped version of its 747 jumbo and a military refueling tanker based on the 767 passenger jet— triggered billions of dollars in charges.

Boeing and its shareholders can’t afford for the 737 Max to misfire in similar fashion. After dropping plans to build an all-new plane, which now might not arrive until 2020, it opted to revamp for a third time the workhorse of the global airline fleet, adding new fuel-efficient engines and other upgrades to improve fuel efficiency by a claimed 14% over existing jets.

“They built some cushion into schedule and have outperformed,” said Howard Rubel, aerospace analyst at Jefferies & Co, who estimates the Max program is still at least three months ahead of schedule.

The single-aisle 737 has been in production since 1966 and is the largest contributor to Boeing profits and cash flow, with the company planning to produce more than 700 a year of the new Max by the end of the decade on more automated assembly lines at its Renton plant near Seattle.

It also needs to keep the Max on track to avoid falling further behind Airbus Group SE, which launched its rival A320neo plane 18 months earlier, helping it capture 60% of the market over the past two years. The first plane is set to be delivered to its first customer later this month.

Boeing said it remains on schedule to fly the 737 Max for the first time early next year and deliver to launch customer Southwest Airlines Co. in the third quarter of 2017. The only snafu so far was when Boeing was forced to drop the supplier for part of the thrust reverser, which slows a jet on landing.

Boeing customers said they are satisfied with the progress, after pushing the company when jet fuel prices were nearing $150 a barrel to drop plans for an all-new jet and deliver an improved 737.

“[We] wanted them to take a path to getting that done and getting it flying as quickly as possible,” said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest’s chief operating officer. “I’ve been very appreciative that they’ve kept within the timelines.”

Mr. Van de Ven will join Boeing employees and Commercial Airplanes unit chief Ray Conner for the rollout and see the plane for the first time with the ultraefficient Leap-1B engines made by the CFM International joint venture between General Electric Co. and France’s Snecma SA.

Ryanair Holdings PLC Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said he sees no issues with the airplane coming in on time. Ryanair, Europe’s largest budget airline, is due to receive its first 737 Max at the end of 2018. Mr. O’Leary said Boeing has financially guaranteed an improvement of 16% to 18% in fuel efficiency per passenger over existing aircraft, which also reflects the addition of more seats.

The bulk of the improvements come from the new engines, and Mr. Van De Ven said the next milestone on his watch list is the certification of the engines, which will allow Boeing to start flight tests.

“We decided to keep the rollout event focused on employees,” said a Boeing spokesman, with a bigger event planned around the first flight.

Original article can be found here:

Expanded jet service on approach at Charleston International Airport with new hangars

Private planes sit outside Landmark Aviation’s hangar in North Charleston.

As passenger demand continues to grow at Charleston International Airport for more commercial flights, private jet service is taking off, too.

To meet the need, two firms that serve the private jet market at the airport hope to invest about $11 million in upgrades, including two new hangars.

Planes line the tarmac of Atlantic Aviation in North Charleston. Atlantic Aviation and Landmark Aviation plan to add new hangars for jets near the airport, an indication of growing private jet travel in the Lowcountry.

Atlantic Aviation plans to build a 22,000-square-foot structure to house additional aircraft already looking to use the facility. The Plano, Texas-based firm also will upgrade its fuel farm and fixed-based operation. All together, Atlantic will invest about $9 million in new and refurbished facilities.

In addition, Houston-based Landmark Aviation, which sits beside Atlantic on South Aviation Avenue, hopes to invest $2 million in a new 25,000-square-foot hangar beside its existing aircraft shed of equal size. It also wants to add ramp space for more aircraft parking.

“We are at 125 percent occupancy of our existing hangars,” said Kurt Schmidt, regional manager of operations for Atlantic Aviation.

Atlantic currently operates four hangars across the airfield from the main airport terminal, which is undergoing a nearly $200 million renovation and expansion to handle increased commercial flight demand.

Upgrades to the Atlantic fixed-based operation will include new flooring, furniture, paint, lighting, signs, seating area and wiring for new technology, Schmidt said. Improvements to the fuel farm will include new pumps, structural repairs and outside lighting.

Schmidt hopes work can be completed by the end of 2016.

The expansions for both private jet services are necessary to meet growing demand, said Ben Wells, general manager of Landmark Aviation.

“Look at what’s going on in the Charleston area. Volvo is opening a car-manufacturing plant. Daimler is building one, too,” Wells said. “There is a lot of expansion going on around here. There’s also a lot of convenience in hopping on a plane without changing aircraft. That’s business time.”

He also pointed out a statis-tic often trumpeted by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce that 43 people a day are moving to the Lowcountry.

“Some of those are business people, too,” he said. “We’ve seen a 10 percent or more increase in general aviation aircraft in the past year.”

Wells called private jet hangars a “hot commodity” in the Charleston area and said if the new one Landmark wants was already built, he’d have no problem lining up jets to park in it.

“If we could put 200,000 square feet of hangar space out here, we could fill it,” he said of both Landmark and Atlantic.

Landmark’s proposal is still in the planning stages, Wells said. It has not been presented to the Charleston County Aviation Authority, which owns the land.

The Aviation Authority recently signed off on the Atlantic Aviation expansion project.

Atlantic gained permission from the airport oversight agency to expand its build-out area by about an acre for the new hangar and extend its lease by 25 years. The current lease expires in 2023. Landmark’s lease doesn’t expire for another 15 years, Wells said.

Aviation Authority CEO Paul Campbell called Atlantic’s expansion “a great deal” for the agency. “It goes with our whole mission of trying to improve air service,” he said.

Agency attorney Arnold Goodstein said he did not foresee any problems with the Federal Aviation Administration approving Atlantic’s lease extension. The FAA, which provides federal funding for the airport, must sign off on all airport operational changes.

In Berkeley County, officials there don’t have imminent plans for new hangars, but the airport near Moncks Corner is wrapping up a $4 million, 650- foot extension of the runway to make it just over 5,000 feet long, according to county spokesman Michael Mule.

The extension will allow larger corporate jets to take off at the airport, but it can’t be used for landings until electric utility Santee Cooper moves a power line at the end of the runway. Mule said hangars could be added in a long-range plan, but funding has not been lined up.

In Dorchester County, a client is considering adding a hangar at the airport near St. George next year, but airport manager Don Hay said it’s just in the talking stages.

“A lot of times things are talked about and they don’t materialize,” he said. “It will be several years before the Summerville airport would expand.”


Planes line the tarmac of Atlantic Aviation in North Charleston. Atlantic Aviation and Landmark Aviation plan to add new hangars for jets near the airport, an indication of growing private jet travel in the Lowcountry.

Vodochody L39 Albatros, N39AY, Jettran LLC: Fatal accident occurred December 06, 2015 at Apple Valley Airport (KAPV), San Bernardino County, California


NTSB Identification: WPR16FA035 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, December 06, 2015 in Apple Valley, CA
Aircraft: AERO VODOCHODY L 39C, registration: N39AY
Injuries: 2 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 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.

On December 6, 2015, about 1407 Pacific standard time, an Aero Vodochody L-39C, N39AY, was destroyed when it impacted terrain during takeoff from Apple Valley Airport (APV), Apple Valley, California. The airline transport pilot and pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. The airplane was registered to and operated by Jettran LLC as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to a friend of the passenger, the pilot had planned to take the passenger on a familiarization flight, as the passenger was interested in purchasing a similar airplane. Several witnesses reported that the pilot briefed his passenger for 45 minutes before taxiing the airplane to runway 18 for departure. One witness observed a "dark blackish/grey colored exhaust" coming from the exhaust nozzle prior to takeoff. When the airplane was approximately halfway down the runway and about 125 feet above ground level, witnesses heard a "pop, pop, pop", which was immediately followed by bright orange flashes from the exhaust nozzle. Witnesses reported that the airplane maintained its altitude and an approximate 20-degree nose-up attitude until it reached the end of the runway, where it rolled left and impacted the ground.

The airplane impacted an area of flat terrain between two taxiways about 800 feet from the departure end of runway 18. The debris path, which measured 263 feet long by 100 feet wide, was oriented on a 193-degree magnetic heading. The path was composed of airframe fragments and a black substance that resembled oil residue, which spanned the length of the debris field. The initial impact point (IIP) was identified by a v-shaped ground scar near the northern edge of a taxiway. Red position light fragments were observed around the left side of the debris path about 20 feet from the IIP, and several small pieces of plexiglass were scattered beyond the position light.

All major structural components of the airframe were accounted for at the accident site. The main wreckage came to rest on a 080-degree magnetic heading, and was comprised of the fuselage, empennage, and portions of both wings. The fuselage and engine compartment were destroyed by fire, but the engine and empennage remained intact. Visual examination of the engine case and exhaust shaft revealed no evidence of an internal catastrophic engine failure. An inspection of runway 18/36 following the accident revealed no evidence of foreign object debris.

The pilot reported 23,000 total hours of flight experience on his most recent application for an FAA first-class medical certificate, which was issued on September 22, 2015.

The single engine, two seat, high performance airplane was manufactured in 1993 as a military jet trainer. The airplane was equipped with an Ivchenko AI-25TL turbofan engine. A review of the airplane's maintenance records revealed that its most recent condition inspection was completed on November 23, 2015. Airport fueling records indicated that the airplane had been serviced with about 131 gallons of JET-A fuel prior to the accident flight. A fuel sample was taken from the fuel facility, and the fuel was clear and free of contaminants.

The wreckage was recovered to a secure facility for further examination at a later date.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Geza Decsy

Geza Decsy Memorial:

Dear Family & Friends,

On behalf of Jessica and the Decsy family, thank you for the tremendous outpouring of love and support at this painful time. The overwhelming response is a powerful testament to the wonderful way in which Geza touched all of our lives.

Details are still to be determined, but we wanted to establish this page as a place to check for information, and it will be updated as more is known.

At this time, the intention is to hold a Memorial Service for Geza in Los Angeles during the daytime on Saturday, December 19th.

Additionally, we will have a donation link for those who would like to help cover expenses, and support Geza's fiancée, Jess, in her time of need.

Also, we are currently gathering digital material (photos, video clips, short audio remarks, etc.) for a tribute to be played at the memorial. If you have any wonderful memories you'd love to share--and we know you do--please forward them to the following email, and we'll do our best to include as many as possible:

Thank you for your thoughts and support, it's heartening to share our feelings with so many.

Geza Decsy Memorial:

Michael Eugene Mangold (1955 - 2015)

Michael Eugene Mangold
October 10, 1955-December 6, 2015

Mangold, Michael Eugene, RedBull Champion Race Pilot, Skydiver and Airline Captain perished when his L-39 jet crashed at Apple Valley airport on December 6, 2015. 

Mike graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1978, and was the outstanding graduate of the Air Force's "Top Gun" fighter weapons school in 1983.

He left active military duty in 1989 and began his airline career, first with US Air and then American Airlines in 1991.

Mike was the RedBull Air Race world champion in 2004, 2005, and 2007.

He has won Gold, Silver and Bronze at the US National Aerobatic Championships, was a member of the US Unlimited Aerobatic team, a five-time California Unlimited Aerobatic Champion and had over 5,000 skydives. 

He is survived by his beloved wife Julie and loving children Nicholas and Melissa, his mother Luana and his brothers Robert and Frank.

A memorial service for Family and Friends will be held Saturday, December 12, 2015, at two o'clock in the afternoon at Congregation Bamidbar shel Ma'aleh, 15347 Sixth Street, Victorville. 

For further information, please e-mail Julie Mangold at


Mike Mangold

APPLE VALLEY — Rob Harrison’s voice cracked before he quietly broke down. 

A local aerobat who goes by “The Tumbling Bear” while performing stunts at air shows in his 1996 Zlin 50LX airplane, Harrison was describing his friend, Mike Mangold, who — along with one other person — died Sunday afternoon after the L-39 plane he was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff from the Apple Valley Airport.

San Bernardino County sheriff's Deputy Adam Cervantes told the Daily Press on Monday he had not received any information from investigators regarding the identification of those on board the plane; however, numerous news outlets have reported that Mangold was piloting the L-39 on Sunday at the time of the crash.

Harrison, 74, and his wife Susan, who is the Apple Valley Airshow Marketing Coordinator, had just landed her airplane in Paso Robles when they heard the news of the crash and Mangold’s passing.

“We knew Mike a long time,” Rob Harrison told the Daily Press. “Mike is one of the most admired aviators in the entire aviation community. He was a pilot’s pilot. I’m heartbroken. That very much breaks my heart.”

Rob Harrison did not speculate on a cause of the crash, but added that the situation was very hard to understand because the L-39 Mangold was piloting is “a very fine airplane.”

First flown in 1968, the Aero L-39 Albatros is an advanced trainer aircraft developed by the Czech Republic-based company Aero Vodochody, according to Rob Harrison. The L-39 is used for training tactical pilots.

“It’s a very popular airplane,” he said. “Much easier to manage than the other warbirds. It’s pretty spectacular as an airshow airplane.”

The L-39's first military role was with the Czech Republic's air force in 1972 and there are approximately 2,800 still in use, according to Harrison.

California State Assemblyman Jay Obernolte — who also knew the decorated pilot — told the Daily Press he has flown Mangold’s L-39 airplane.

“It was very interesting,” Obernolte said. “You've got all kinds of visibility. It doesn't have as much thrust as a real fighter jet, but that makes it a little forgiving.”

Obernolte said he has been flying for 25 years and first met Mangold four years ago when Obernolte was training to fly the pace plane at the Reno Air Racing Association’s National Championship Air Races.

Mangold was a frequent competitor in the Reno Air Races and was the Red Bull Air Racing world champion in 2005 and 2007.

“He really had risen to the pinnacle of a flying career,” Obernolte said. “He was the top graduate of the Top Gun fighter school. He flew F-4 Phantoms in the Air Force. Mike was a very close friend of mine, an outstanding pilot and (his death is a) great loss for the entire aviation community."

Red Bull Air Race officials said they were deeply saddened by Mangold’s death in a statement on the Red Bull Air Race website.

“The entire Red Bull Air Race community have (sic) lost one of their most vibrant and respected friends,” the statement read. “Mike Mangold was a talented race pilot who won two world championships and will be deeply missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

Despite all his accomplishments, Obernolte said Mangold was "the most humble and self-effacing" person he had ever met.

Daily Press Information Systems Administrator Antonio Puccio — who trained with Mangold in 2014 at the Mateo Academy of Self Defense in Victorville — reiterated Obernolte's sentiments.

"You would never know he was a world champion," Puccio said. "He was very humble and just talked about normal things. When I talked to him about his championships it was nothing to him. He was just comfortable."

Rob Harrison described Mangold as a consummate gentleman and all-around athlete who was broadly certified in many areas, including sky diving, water skiing and body building.

“Mike was a highly accomplished body builder,” Harrison said. “This guy was solid leather. I was a powerlifter in the Inland Empire 30 or 40 years ago and I never came anywhere near what Mike sported. He was close to being a pro body builder. He could break your hand and squash your palm if he wanted to but he never would. He was a gentle giant.”

Harrison remembered Mangold as a man anyone should admire.

“(He would) get kids interested in flying and interested in going into the Air Force,” Harrison said. “Mike was always taking time to talk to the kids and the old guys.”

Mike Mangold was 60 years old.

Story and photos:

 Mike Mangold

An aerobatic pilot for Red Bull was killed Sunday when his jet aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from the Apple Valley Airport, the beverage company announced.

Mike Mangold, 60, was piloting an L-39 trainer around 2 p.m. when the plane crashed in a fireball, killing Mangold and another unidentified person, officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of the accident in San Bernardino County, according to agency spokesman Keith Holloway. On Monday, experts continued to examine wreckage of the aircraft.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of former Red Bull Air Race World Champion Mike Mangold," Red Bull said in a statement. “The entire Red Bull Air Race community have lost one of their most vibrant and respected friends. Mike Mangold was a talented race pilot who won two world championships and will be deeply missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

In air racing, pilots fly at low altitudes and high speeds to perform aerobatic movements on specially designed aerial racetracks.

Mangold began his aviation career in the U.S. Air Force in 1978, where he flew F-4 Phantoms. He was a graduate of the Air Force Academy and Air Force’s “Top Gun” Fighter Weapons School, according to

He later flew Boeing 757 and 767 commercial jets for American Airlines. He competed in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship from 2004-09, and won overall titles in 2005 and 2007 before retiring from the competitive sport.

Afterward he worked as a commentator and a pilot coach.

Story and video:

APPLE VALLEY:( The pilot killed in the Apple Valley plane crash has been identified as 60-year-old Mike Mangold, a world-famous aerobatics champion for Red Bull who was a resident of Victorville.

The crash occurred on Sunday, December 6, 2015 at about 2:20 P.M., according to the Apple Valley Fire Protection District the aircraft is described as an L39 jet. Witnesses say, that the small plane was attempting to take off from the airport located at 21600 Corwin Road.

Mangold was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on October 10th 1955 and is the oldest of three children. He moved to California at 3 years old and then to Pennsylvania for his high school years.

Mangold previously performed shows at the Apple Valley Airshow in his L39 jet that crashed today. He was also a Boeing 757 and 767 commercial pilot for American Airlines.

He is survived by his wife Julie, and his two children Nick and Melissa.

No information on the identity of the second passenger killed in the crash has been released.

The FAA is en route to the crash scene and the Apple Valley airport will remain closed for at least 24 hours.

Story, comments and photos:


North Memorial Air Care renews 10 year lease at Redwood Falls Municipal Airport (KRWF), Redwood County, Minnesota

North Memorial Air Care has based its helicopter ambulance services in the Redwood Falls Airport, and agreed to another 10 year lease with the city to stay in its current hangar.

However, the site needs upgrading, and the city council approved improvements at their Tuesday evening meeting.

The previous agreement with North memorial Health Care calls for their current 70 x 80 foot hangar to be leased for $2,333.33 per month, not including taxes or utilities.

The new improvements will be paid in part by North Memorial Health Care, which will add $666.70 per month, bringing the new total to $3,000 per month, or $36,000 per year.

The planned improvements include remodeling the crew quarters, with a base bid of $41,476 from Redwood Building Center Contracting LLC of Redwood Falls.

Supporting quotes include $12,201 for flooring from Brighter Home Store of Redwood Falls.

The council also approved the transfer of $80,000 to the airport project fund from the Redwood Area Hospital to finance the interior and exterior remodel.

A Minnesota Department of Transportation Aeronautic grant will cover up to 80 percent of the exterior remodel (estimated cost $65,527), with a 20 percent local share of $16,381.


With 2015 nearly history, Boeing 787 projections for coming year heat up

With one month left to go, Boeing Co. already has met its 787 delivery goal for 2015.

The aerospace giant brought 126 Dreamliners to customers through the first 11 months of this year, more than its stated goal of 120 deliveries for the entire year. The total beats the previous delivery record of 114 set in 2014.

November was the second month of this year — joining August — in which Boeing brought 14 Dreamliners to customers, the highest monthly total for 2015. The company is averaging nearly 11.5 deliveries per month.

“As we head down the home stretch of 2015, the Boeing teams in our factories and delivery centers continue to do impressive things,” Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said last week in his online blog.

As 2015 draws to a close, analysts are already looking ahead to see what next year’s Dreamliner numbers might bring.

Uresh Sheth, a New York investment banker who compiles a Dreamliner production database, is predicting Boeing will bring 140 of the wide-body passenger planes to customers in 2016. Major customers will include Japan’s All Nippon Airways, with 13 deliveries, including a dozen 787-9s, and British Airways and Air Canada, expected to receive 11 and 10 787-9s, respectively.

All told, 31 customers worldwide are expected to get new Dreamliners in the coming year. One trend Sheth expects to continue next year is the increase in 787-9 deliveries compared to those for its older and slightly smaller sibling, the 787-8. Both models are made at Boeing’s North Charleston campus and in Everett, Wash. Sheth said the number of 787-9 deliveries should outpace the 787-8 by nearly 3-to-1 in the coming year.

“Another milestone that should take place by the end of 2016 is the start of 787-10 production,” Sheth said on his “All Things 787” website. “The first 787-10 test aircraft should load into position 1-A in North Charleston late in the fourth quarter of 2016.”

North Charleston will be the only place where Boeing makes the “Dash 10,” a stretched version of the 787-9 and the most fuel-efficient of the three-plane Dreamliner family.

Boeing plans to reallocate some of its 787-8 and 787-9 final assembly slots in North Charleston to Everett to make sure produc- tion of customer aircraft doesn’t skip a beat while the 787-10 is being built. The first Dash 10 should roll off North Charleston’s production line in the first quarter of 2018, Sheth said.

Boeing also plans to boost production of its Dreamliners to 12 per month in 2016 from its current 10-per-month level.

Breaking down deliveries between the two production sites, Sheth projects there will be 61 North Charleston-made Dreamliners — 17 787-8s and 44 787-9s — brought to customers in 2016 while Everett-made deliveries will total 79, or 21 787-8s and 58 787-9s.

Original article can be found here:

Incident occurred December 05, 2015 in Martinez, Contra Costa County, California

A California Highway Patrol helicopter narrowly avoided a drone hovering above Contra Costa County on Saturday, letting a stolen vehicle escape and perhaps landing a Martinez resident in a lot of trouble.

No arrests were made after the near miss, but CHP officer James Andrews said in a statement that the police report will be forwarded to federal and local agencies for review and possible prosecution. 

The helicopter crew also made contact with Buchanan Field Airport traffic controllers and the Federal Aviation Administration.

For now, the person operating the drone remains unidentified.

The drone landed on Roux Court in Martinez, where the operator picked it up, according to Andrews.

Martinez police contacted the drone operator there.

The chopper crew encountered the drone while tracking a stolen vehicle above Highway 4.

As the crew tracked the vehicle, which was going east, the pilot saw a red light outside flying near the same altitude of 700 to 800 feet, Andrews said.

Once the crew determined it was a drone, the pilot maneuvered hard right to avoid a collision. 

The CHP craft H-32 helicopter then circled around and followed the drone with its spotlight until it landed.

The stolen vehicle never was captured.

According to Andrews, the Federal Aviation Administration expects about one million drones to be given and received as gifts during the holiday season. 

All drones, no matter their size, are dangerous for a manned aircraft and should not be flown anywhere near them, Andrews said.

Original article can be found here:

Rhode Island Airport Corporation rescinds airport fee: Block Island State Airport (KBID), Washington County, Rhode Island

The message was clear: the controversial facility fee that had been implemented at the Block Island Airport last October has been rescinded.

The $20 fee was temporarily suspended last month, but Kelly Fredericks, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC), announced the fee is no longer in effect. He made the announcement at a meeting on Block Island on Wednesday, Dec. 2. 

James Warcup, the aeronautics inspector for RIAC, also announced that the existing $15 landing fee was being lowered to $5. The Block Island Airport also has a $5 ramp fee, which can be waived if the pilots of planes registered in Rhode Island eat at Bethany’s Diner.

The announcement came in the wake of complaints from pilots — primarily on aviation chat boards — who said that if they had to pay $20 every time they landed on Block Island then they would simply fly someplace else.

“A more competitive fee will get us back in the game,” said Warcup.

The RIAC officials at Wednesday’s meeting made it very clear, however, that a new revenue stream would have to be found, but they also repeatedly said they wanted to work collaboratively with island businesses and organizations to come up with creative solutions to make that happen. 

It was in that same spirit of collaboration that led up to the elimination of the facility fee, according to RIAC representatives. Talks in the past month with Jessica Willi, Executive Director of the Block Island Tourism Council, Kathy Szabo, President of the Block Island Chamber of Commerce, as well as Henry duPont, who represents local aviators, helped shape the final decision.

What was apparent was that finding a new revenue stream was not going to be as simple as getting rid of the facility fee, and that was why the RIAC representatives were looking to the island for new ideas. Fredericks said this kind of collaboration was unprecedented, and said he hoped it would be a model for the other four general aviation airports in the state.

The goal was two-pronged: to increase revenue and aviation traffic at the Block Island Airport. Traffic has significantly dropped in the past decade, from a high of about 11,000 private planes landing on the island to about 8,000 or so in the past 12 months (these landings do not include Cape Air or New England Airlines flights).

One of the first steps that will be taken to increase revenue at the airport will be to do a better job collecting the existing landing fee from the pilots that land here. “We haven’t done as good a job on that as we could have,” said Warcup. Of the roughly 8,000 flights that landed on Block Island in the past 12 months, Warcup said they collected fees from 1,452. 

“That’s less than 18 percent,” he said. “The goal is to collect 80 percent of those.” 

Through marketing campaigns and other efforts, Warcup and Alan Andrade, the Senior Vice President for Operations and Maintenance for RIAC, said the goal was to increase landings at the airport by about 500 each year until they reach the pre-recession number of about 11,000.

“We want the traffic,” said Andrade. “But we need the community to make that happen.”

One idea to attract more traffic to the island was to offer coupons for island businesses that would not only help encourage pilots to patronize Block Island businesses but would be an incentive to come to the island. However, Bethany Coviello, owner of Bethany’s Airport Diner, wasn’t enthusiastic about luring pilots away from the airport and into town.

“You’re talking about sending everybody into town,” Coviello said. She thought the idea was fine during the summer, when there was plenty of business to spread around.

Warcup said another idea would be to promote island attractions, such as the Greenway trails.

Even so, increased traffic and a more attractive landing fee, plus increased fee collection, would still not cover the roughly $320,000 the Block Island Airport is losing every year.

For new revenue streams, the first idea that was brought up was to sell fuel at the airport. A fuel analysis that was presented by Jeremy Nielsen, the Executive Director of AvPorts, which is the company that currently manages the airport, made it clear that while selling fuel was not impossible, transportation and storage issues may raise the per-gallon price to levels that pilots simply would not pay. 

Jessica Willi, from the Tourism Council, was asked if her Board had come up with any ideas, and she passed out a list of some proposals:

- Expand the parking area and enforce long-term parking rates as well as allowing boat storage and possibly car storage

- Ask town to plow/sand main part of driveway when they go past the airport

- Ask The Nature Conservancy to take over maintenance of land next to the Enchanted Forest

- Advertising campaign targeting pilots, possibly trying to fly in to visit the Greenway that is across the street

- In the busy season, keep an employee on to collect fees until dark

- Offer group discounts to flying clubs (10 or more planes pay a reduced fee

Coviello said parking at the airport is “a huge issue. There has to be a place for people to park their car long-term.”

Warcup said that paving the existing footprint of the parking lot could add enough space for another 20 cars without impacting the area of the airfield itself. He said that the airfield has room for a maximum of 110 planes.

Fredericks asked if boat storage at the airport was “a viable idea.”

First Warden Ken Lacoste, who was in attendance, joked, “I have a marina!” But he added that competition is “what makes America great.”

Island resident Kim Gaffett thought the airport would be an ideal location for some self-storage units — as long as they were out of sight.

At the end of the meeting, Fredericks thanked those in attendance, and said he looked forward to continuing the conversation. 

“Can we come back and do this again in a month or two?” he asked. Turning to Nancy Dodge, Fredericks said “we’d love to work with you individually and as a team.”

“We want to have a conversation,” said Dodge.


Warning against airport security over-reaction

Regional airports around New Zealand are warning the government not to over-react to calls for drastic changes to domestic aviation security.

The Transport Ministry is carrying out a review, and the pilots' union want all passengers and luggage screened.

But airport managers in provincial centers say passengers will wear the costs of significant change.

Marlborough Airport chief executive Dean Heiford said improvements were needed, but cost would have to be taken into account.

"Airports are users-pays so someone has to pay and ultimately that's the travelling public - whether that's through surcharges on their tickets, whether airlines pick up the charge or even whether the government puts something towards it."

Mr. Heiford said security awareness was better than it had been.

"At the end of the day we all have to trust each other when we're travelling, whether that's boats, trains or aircraft, but we all have to be a bit more aware and become more careful."

A planned expansion at Whangarei airport would allow room for increased security measures.

Manager Mike Chubb said work was about to start on renovating and enlarging the terminal buildings. He said the addition would provide room for a boarding lounge and any security equipment required to check departing passengers and their luggage.

Nelson Airport was also planning a significant upgrade, that included allowance for screening facilities that existed in the draft design.

However, manager Rob Evans cautioned against any over-reactions.

"I don't think anyone's saying we don't want good security. I think what we're saying is we want to be careful and pragmatic about ... what's achievable and what's sustainable and how we'd roll it out.

"An improved culture is something we'd support but we have to be careful about the level we're trying to achieve for the apparent risk."

He said improvements could be made that were less onerous than screening, or building high fences around airport compounds.

Mr. Evans said a simpler way of improving security would be to make everyone working at the airport wear ID tags.

However, the union representing New Zealand's airline pilots and air traffic controllers said security at the country's regional airports was well below standard.

Pilots Association senior technical officer Dave Reynolds said smaller aircraft operators should not think they were immune to potential threats.

"I would suggest if we were - any country were - to lose a number of small aircraft in a matter of a day, that would make headlines and have a massive impact. We don't want to see any terrorist atrocity in New Zealand but at the moment security for regional operations is just not up to it, quite frankly."

Mr. Reynolds said the pilots association wanted a stronger voice in the review, and that better engagement with the government would give it a better understanding of the potential threat.

Seven years ago Asha Ali Abdille used knives she carried on board to threaten the pilots and passengers on a commercial flight from Blenheim.

Abdille, who was subsequently sentenced to nine years' jail, approached the cockpit, thrust a knife towards the pilot and told him to fly the plane to Australia. She also threatened to crash the plane and kill everyone onboard.

The serious incident triggered a security review but the government decided then against screening of passengers at smaller airports because of cost. The recent heightened global terror threat has prompted another review, which Transport Minister Simon Bridges said was a "health check" of the current system.

He said the review was a consideration of any current or emerging threats or system vulnerabilities, and would inform the ministry's view on whether it needed to refine existing domestic aviation security.

Mr. Bridges said input was sought from many aviation stakeholders, including the pilots' association.

"I met with the New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association in late July, to discuss a range of aviation matters, including its views on domestic aviation security and am happy to meet with them again on this issue."

Mr. Bridges said he understood the ministry intended to invite it to a further meeting early next year to discuss a range of aviation matters of mutual interest, including aviation security.

Dunedin Airport chief executive Richard Roberts said all options were on the table, and it was important that airports had been included in the discussion.

"Dunedin and all others (airports) and airlines are all working with the government to provide information on what they may or may not need to do.

"It could be that they impose different conditions on the way we provide security awareness training. It's really an opportunity to feed information to see if the changed threat level should result in a change of compliance," Mr Roberts said.

Mr. Bridges was expecting final advice from the Transport Ministry in the New Year.


Tampa International Airport (KTPA) to add thousands of outlets for battery-drained travelers

Tampa International Airport, as part of its master plan, is planning to add thousands of new outlets in their gates so travelers can charge and use their devices on A/C instead of draining the batteries. J. T. Langlais plays a video game at a gate where Delta already has installed similar charging posts. At left, is Peter Celatka, who has his phone plugged in.

TAMPA — It’s a common sight at airports. Departing passengers sit awkwardly on the carpet near scarce electrical outlets waiting for their cell phones to charge. Others perch nearby waiting to swoop in the moment a plug leaves a socket.

Not so everywhere. At Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, customers can peddle up their phone’s power using exercycles placed throughout the terminal. John F. Kennedy Airport has tabletop transmission pads that allow cordless charging. Denver International Airport takes a more traditional route, with outlets everywhere.

Passengers waiting to leave from Tampa International Airport gates? They’ve either been using those hard-to-find wall outlets or one of the 237 work stations with outlets scattered throughout the terminal.

Next year, though, local travelers will see a surge of new outlets. As part of its $1 billion master plan, Tampa International is adding hundreds of new charging stations with thousands of electrical outlets and USB ports — at every gate.

“We have a lot of airside functional improvements on tap. One of the biggest ones is increasing the number of power outlets and USB ports available at the airsides and especially at the holding areas,” said airport spokesman Danny Valentine.

The airport will add 4,683 outlets and USB ports, including those at 299 new work stations scheduled to be installed. The remainder will be placed on pylons, or towers, and wedged between seat rows, making them easily accessible to those sitting at gates waiting to board planes.

Each tower will have four ports and four outlets.

“We’re going to start putting them in about mid-2016 at Airside E, then hit all the airsides one at a time,” Valentine said.

“This was really done to address the passengers’ need to charge their phones and computers,” he said. “It’s really frustrating when you go to the airport and you are unable to charge your phone. It’s all about improving the customer experience.”

The restrooms at Tampa International have all gotten a facelift and new concessions are under construction. Pubic art for the airport will soon be commissioned.

The airport also plans to add more seating, children’s play areas with computerized interactive games and green space, said John Tiliacos, vice president of operations and customer service.

But adding all those charging stations? Those may get more attention than any other gate improvement, Tiliacos conceded. “I can tell you these will be extraordinarily popular. We continuously engage customers through our WiFi (surveys) and what we’ve heard is that we are lacking in power outlets. Both business and leisure customers want them.”


Jackson County, Georgia, blotter

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office reported the following incident:

BLACK HELICOPTER: On Nov. 30, a resident of Timber Ridge Road reported seeing a black helicopter flying near his property that was equipped with an extension that looked like a large drill bit.

The deputy was able to determine the helicopter was flying for Georgia Power and was cutting limbs off trees near the power lines.