Saturday, December 12, 2015

Mojave Air & Space Port and Federal Aviation Administration working to avoid collision course

Mojave - At the most recent meeting of The Mojave Air and Space Port board, the main topic of discussion came back to a situation that just sprang up back in September in the waning days of Stu Witt’s presence and one that he, new CEO Karina Drees, and the board find themselves having to address rather quickly.  

The situation involves the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval to an energy developer in Mojave that allowed the installation of new transmission lines some 50 to 60 feet taller than the regular ones. 

They are very close to the airport creating a flight path hazard to one of the most iconic and historically significant airports in the world, and one that sees a great deal of flight activity on a regular basis. 

 With tenants such as Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company, Scaled Composites, and many local aviators like Dick Rutan, Al and Cathy Hansen and hundreds more that fly in and out of MASP with regularity. The FAA did not notify the airport when it gave approval for the higher poles, and at no time did the board have an opportunity for input or even advance knowledge of the approval given by the agency. They just did it with seemingly no regard to the airport whatsoever. CEO at the time Witt sought clarification on the matter and dove in with current CEO Drees only to essentially be shut down on the pole matter by the FAA and yet in acting to maintain the safety of flights at the airport they encountered ‘PART 77’. 

PART 77, is the FAA’s regulation concerning the ‘Safe, Efficient Use, and Preservation of Navigable Airspace’. It partly consists of a formula created by the agency for ruling on what does or doesn’t constitute a flight hazard and it rules on such matters based on the regulation. In seeking clarification on the pole matter and MASP airspace in general with the agency, Witt and Drees ran into two different interpretations by two different representatives of the agency. Based on old compiled data going back many years and revised data as culled by the second agency representative who saw MASP a being correct on the encroachment issue as opposed to the first regulators interpretation of the data they had. The poles are already in place, but a larger issue now lingers on the horizon. 

 Based on the pool of data produced by the two MASP’s actual land area as written in the pile of original plans going back some forty years at least, which when scrutinized by both the agency and Witt himself might produce a very real dilemma. That would affect MASP size, scope, and very likely flight operations as well. The agency came back stating that according to their calculations based on original plans, they claim that construction can come a full mile closer to the airport, which would make operations rather tight to say the least. Not to mention literally drowning the desert town of Mojave in the notorious wind turbines of questionable value and obvious scenic sabotage that the actual residents of Kern County are forced to see on a daily basis and most of which serve the energy ‘addiction’ of Los Angeles County exclusively. The board did file a formal objection to the agency that requires a timely response, and yet at the time of the meeting the board had no word back from the agency. 

 During the meeting, approval was given for the hiring of a specialty consultant, Dr. Fernando Guerra of Los Angeles. He will act as an intermediary between the agency and the airport to not only resolve the matters at hand, but as former CEO Witt stated the goal hoped for is to “Update PART 77” as well as stopping encroachment.” Describing the entire episode and continuing effects as an “Emerging unknown,” and one that the former CEO openly stated he plans to be a part of addressing before his pending departure from the airport.  

With hope that the historical significance and current high power tenants of the airport as well as the tremendously important spaceflight research that goes on there are not obstructed or hindered further in the quest to fully drown the residents of Kern County.  

The balance between the steady business the county seeks for continual growth and being bought out ‘carpetbagger style’ is a delicate one that MASP now finds itself drawn into.  


Business at Hawthorne Municipal Airport (KHHR) finally takes flight

Business is booming at Hawthorne’s small municipal airport, where for the first time in recent history the future looks bright.

A group of passionate aviation fans, private developers and city officials have been breathing life into the 80-acre site for years, investing heavily in new hangars, a modernized runway and upgraded facilities.

Their work is paying off.

Traffic is way up, and the first new commercial hangars in 50 years just opened late last week to house a new fleet of luxury charter aircraft. The two steel hangars, with a combined 40,000 square feet, also will be used to host events. They cost roughly $5 million to build.

“We’ve put a significant amount of capital to improve the airport,” said Levi Stockton, president of Advanced Air charter service and Jet Center Los Angeles, the airport’s service provider.

“We’ve built 100,000 square feet of new hangar space in the last 10 years. That brought more planes, and our charter flight company really started to take off.”

The new hangars are a substantial investment but the timing for the gamble seems perfect. All signs point to a lucrative future for the once-blighted 80-acre airfield.

Ongoing construction at Los Angeles International Airport promises to divert overflow traffic to the Hawthorne airfield for at least the next year. Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration approved longer hours — until 10 p.m. — at Hawthorne’s air-traffic control tower to accommodate planes diverted from LAX.

Meanwhile, airports in Torrance and Santa Monica have snubbed new business because it comes with increased noise and pollution concerns for the surrounding dense communities. Santa Monica officials hope to close their airport soon, and CalAir flight school left Torrance last year for Hawthorne after it was hit with restrictive noise regulations.

Traffic at the airport in Santa Monica is substantially down this year, while Torrance’s air traffic has remained at about 125,000 flights for each of the past four years. But, in Hawthorne, traffic is up from about 57,000 flights in 2010 to 90,000 in 2014. It’s on track to match last year’s numbers in 2015 as well.

A series of fortuitous events improved business at Hawthorne airport since it was left to decay through the 1990s and nearly shut down in 2001. Though the recession created a major hindrance for development, and political battles over access to the crowded Los Angeles skies temporarily held back the airport’s growth, things began turning around after it got a massive makeover in 2007.

Developers rebuilt the airport lobby to include amenities like a theater room and lounge while the city’s public works director, Arnie Shadbehr, secured a $5 million FAA grant to fund the 2007 work, which included a newly asphalted runway, new lighting and other overdue safety upgrades.

In 2008, Elon Musk’s rocket development company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. or SpaceX, moved next door to the airport along Crenshaw Boulevard and 120th Street. Proximity to the growing world-class rocket builder and a Tesla design studio brightened the spotlight on the airport. Musk often flies his Falcon jet there, as does well-known investor T. Boone Pickens.

Airport developers also hope that the National Football League’s plans to locate teams in Los Angeles next year will increase traffic. Carson and Inglewood are eagerly awaiting an announcement whether the NFL will allow a new stadium in Inglewood or Carson.

Four flight schools, each with a different niche, now operate at Hawthorne Municipal Airport. Advanced Air’s charter fleet service has grown from one aircraft in 2009 to six planes today. Surf Air, a growing airline that charters flights between private airports, opened a hub there in 2013.

Mayor Alex Vargas praised the new hangars and growing business at the airport, as the city struggles to rid itself of a debilitating structural budget deficit.

“The Hawthorne airport is central to our economic growth as a city,” Vargas said. “It’s a source of pride.”

Pat Carey, owner of the airport’s Beach Cities Aviation Academy and a local aviation expert who has been a strong supporter of the facility, said he has switched his focus from increasing business to keeping a lid on aircraft noise. Modern technology has made planes quieter, which will help as traffic increases, he said.

“We have so much demand for aircraft parking and fueling. Our traffic count is up 40 percent in the last two years,” Carey said. “The big push now is to keep the noise under control. We track every airplane that sets off resident complaints.”


Pilots' petition blasts Taunton Municipal Airport (KTAN) commission

Taunton Pilots Association President Melinda Paine-Dupont, takes a photograph of her husband Mike Dupont as he guides a Areonca Champ past another plane before taxiing.

TAUNTON — Airplane pilots who fly into and out of Taunton Municipal Airport are among a list of 86 people who signed a “No Confidence” petition regarding the airport commission and its management.

The petition from the Taunton Pilots Association to city councilors is dated July 19. Its six-page correspondence is one of two communications from citizens on the council’s Dec. 15 meeting.

Of the signers, 52 are aircraft owners and 30 own hangars at the city airport on Westcoat Drive in East Taunton.

“We request that immediate action to remedy our losses and return the airport to its lawful purpose be made,” the petition reads.

Melinda Paine-Dupont, a pilot and business owner, submitted the petition on behalf of the TPA.

The item is slated for discussion next Tuesday night.

At a heated Nov. 25 meeting by the Taunton Municipal Airport Commission and airport management with pilots, a standard operating policy and procedures document was approved by the commission with little public input. That’s because the pilots sitting in the audience and speaking against the rush to adopt the document by the commission weren’t heard — heard in the sense of having their concerns taken into consideration. Making the airport a source of business growth for the city by running it safely and efficiently are pilots’ top concerns.

Now all of those concerns are spelled out in black and white on the petition, with few words softened.

“The epic lack of adequate representation of the airport users, non-transparency, lack of customer service, attempts at unprecedented, unjustified restriction of use and access, complete disregard for use of the airport by transient pilots, unequal treatment of users, preferential treatment of some users, inadequate facilities, non-business minded application of security access, non-aviation understanding of UNICOM communication and other aviation support activity, non-conformity of rules, regulations, services, facilities of other airports in the region, capricious attempts to impose non-documented or approved restrictions of use, and resulting exodus of users can not be allowed to continue.

“Our petition identifies that as a body of members and interested parties we are unified in our vote of no confidence and request that immediate action to remedy our losses and return the airport to its lawful purpose be made.”

The Taunton Municipal Airport got its start in 1919 when it was founded by Henry King. To visit the building where the airport commission meets is to step back in aviation history and Taunton’s history. Black and white and color pictures line the walls of the building. Models of planes that flew into or out of the airport hang from the ceiling. At one building’s end, is a yellow behemoth of a public works truck, designed to serve the airport’s field or runway needs.

Two runways exist at the airport; the shorter, turf-and-gravel runway needs attention, another source of irritation for the pilots.

In April, Paine-Dupont stepped up to be the public face of the Taunton Pilots Association. This nonprofit group wants the airport to become what pilots believe it can: a modern facility that can economically compete with other municipal airports in New England.


Island Airlines to file for bankruptcy • Nantucket, Barnstable officials say shutdown will have 'major impact'

HYANNIS — Island Airlines is expected to file for bankruptcy following its closure on Friday, according to a state transportation official. At the same time, local airport officials expect to convene early next week to find alternatives for passengers and freight service.

"Yesterday MassDOT was informed that the airline ceased operations that day and will be filing for bankruptcy," state Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Verseckes said in an email Saturday. "It's our understanding that Barnstable Airport personnel will be working with Island Air staff to provide any assistance that they may need in the coming weeks."

Airport officials in Hyannis and Nantucket said Saturday that they will know more early next week about the impact of the airline's closure, which was announced Friday on the company’s website. The priority, though, is to find alternatives for passenger and freight transportation, the officials said.

At Barnstable Municipal Airport in Hyannis, Island Airlines is one of two year-round passenger carriers in the region. Island Airlines also operates Cape and Islands Air Freight out of the Hyannis airport, said airport Manager Roland “Bud” Breault. The airline company ran regular flights between Hyannis and Nantucket.

“Officially we have not been notified,” Barnstable Airport Commission Chairman Ronald Persuitte said Saturday. “Everything would be speculation on my part. If it is permanent, clearly it’s going to have a major impact at the airport for the flying public. Hopefully we’ll be able to get some assistance from Cape Air. As far as freight is concerned, it is too early to yell doom and gloom. That can be adjusted and picked up by other sources.”

Nantucket Airport Commission Chairman Daniel Drake said the shutdown is a fact.

“There’s absolutely a financial impact,” he added. “We’re not quite prepared to talk about that yet. Our principal objective is to get some level of service back. We’ll be working with Hyannis to get additional passenger capacity and restore freight service.”

Year-round freight service is a concern of Barnstable Town Councilor Eric Steinhilber as well. The passenger loads are lighter in the winter and are therefore less of an immediate worry than freight, Steinhilber, the council liaison to the airport commission, said Saturday.

“The airport and the town will be looking for other carriers to fill that void,” he said. “In some ways, it’s an opportunity for other carriers and other businesses to come in and help take care of the passengers and the freight services.”

The financial impact of the closure is still be to determined, the officials said.

“We’re very concerned about how it’s going to impact us and how it’s going to impact the community,” Persuitte said. “We’ll do everything we can to mitigate things, if it is official.”

Island Airlines had between 80 and 100 employees, according to an airline spokesman in 2013. The company ended its group health insurance for employees in 2013. That same year, the airline was in the midst of replacing its commercial fleet of Cessna 402s with Cessna Grand Caravans. The airline bought a competitor, Nantucket Shuttle, in 2011, and sold off most of Nantucket Shuttle's fleet, which helped fund the transition to the Grand Caravans. It also bought Ocean Wings, a private charter operation, in 2011 and expanded its charter flights throughout the Northeast.


Incident occurred December 11, 2015 at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Enfield, Nova Scotia

Porter Airlines flight 265 made an emergency landing at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport Friday night.

The smaller duel engine plane was already enroute to Halifax from Ottawa, but around 8 p.m. the pilot contacted the airport, declaring a state of emergency.

The controls indicated an issue with the plane’s hydraulics.

Emergency crews waited near the runway as the aircraft touched down around 8:30 p.m.

It landed without any problems. 

All 54 passengers and crew members onboard are safe.


Airplane hangar fire in Newberg, Yamhill County, Oregon

NEWBERG, Ore. -- An airplane hangar in Newberg caught fire Saturday morning and was first reported by a paper delivery person. 

At about 5:30 a.m., the delivery person saw smoke coming from the hangar at 406 Airpark Way, according to Battalion Chief Gert Zoutendijk of the Newberg Fire Department.

About 35 firefighters from the Newberg, Dundee, St. Paul and McMinnville fire departments were able to get the fire under control after about 40 minutes, and prevent the fire from spreading to adjacent hangers, Zoutendijk said.

The two-alarm fire was put out completely by 9:30 a.m.

None of the hangars had any airplanes. The hangars are commonly used for storage, Zoutendijk said.

The Yamhill County Fire Department is investigating the cause of the fire and determining damage estimates.

Story and video:

Quad City Challenger II, C-IJUL: Accident occurred December 12, 2015 near Greenbank Airport, Scugog, Durham, Ontario, Canada

A plane crashed in Scugog township on Saturday afternoon, sending a pilot to Port Perry hospital in serious condition.

The 61-year-old pilot suffered possible leg and head injuries, after witnesses driving by saw the plane crash and rushed to help.

According to reports the pilot had just taken off from a private airport around noon and was circling back to land when the plane suddenly went into a nose dive and crashed in a field near the southern edge of the Greenbank airport near highway 47 East between Port Perry and Uxbridge.

Transport Safety Bureau investigators will be continuing its investigation today, and they hope to speak with the pilot to find out more.

SCUGOG — A 61-year-old man was seriously injured on Saturday afternoon after a small plane crashed in a field just south of the Greenbank airport.

The man, the only occupant of the yellow, two-seater plane, suffered leg and possible head injuries, say Durham police.

He was helped from the plane by witnesses driving by who saw the plane crash just after noon on Dec. 12, said Staff-Sergeant Lox Colquhoun. They saw the plane fall from the sky and hurried to help the man, he added.

“We don’t know what happened. It was going along and it just nose-dived,” said Staff-Sergeant Colquhoun.

According to the witnesses, the plane “was going along and then it just fell from the sky. It didn’t bank, it just went into a nose-dive,” said the staff-sergeant.

The pilot was in and out of consciousness when he was helped from the plane and was transported to Port Perry hospital, said Staff-Sergeant Colquhoun. He was listed in stable condition on Saturday afternoon.

The plane crashed in a field on Scugog Line 9, just at the southern edge of the Greenbank airport, which was visible from the accident scene. The aircraft was badly damaged and the passenger compartment was crushed.

Durham police remained at the scene on Saturday afternoon, waiting for Transportation Safety Board officials who were called to investigate the crash. Firefighters from the Scugog Fire Department were also sent to the crash site.


Our View: Oil prices in freefall as Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport (KDIK) declines

Declines at airport: A slowdown at the Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport has gone hand in hand with the oil slowdown.

Delta Air Lines officially pulled out of the airport on Dec. 1, citing declining boardings, and has left the Dickinson Airport Authority wondering what its next step should be to help increase boardings.

Gone is a twice-daily flight to Minneapolis, leaving only flights to Denver through United Airlines.

While we’re happy United is sticking around, our airport needs another option. We’re not sure what that answer should be, or if a suitable one even exists yet. 

But, Dickinson can’t be complacent with its airport and hope for the best. 

Even if it can’t grow in the near future, it needs to chase growth for if — and likely when — the oil industry cranks up again.


De Havilland DH-82A Tiger Moth II, N9410: Accident occurred December 12, 2015 near Old Orchard Airpark (2NK9), Modena, Ulster County, New York

NTSB Identification: ERA16LA065 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, December 12, 2015 in Modena, NY
Aircraft: DEHAVILLAND TIGER MOTH DH 82A, registration: N9410
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

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

On December 12, 2015, about 1200 eastern standard time, a DeHavilland Tiger Moth DH-82A, N9410, operated by a private individual, was substantially damaged during a forced landing, after it experienced a partial loss of engine power shortly after takeoff from Old Orchard Airpark (2NK9), Modena, New York. The commercial pilot and a passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the local personal flight that was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the pilot reported that the airplane began to experience a gradual loss of engine power during the initial climb, shortly after takeoff. The pilot was not able to maintain altitude and attempted to return to 2NK9; however, the airplane subsequently impacted and came to rest in trees, about 1/4 mile from the airport. The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings, the empennage, and the fuselage. 

The airplane was manufactured in 1940 and equipped with a DeHavilland Gipsy Major 1C, 130-horsepower engine. Examination of the airplane by an FAA inspector was pending recovery from the accident site. 

A weather observation taken at an airport that was located about 11 miles east-southeast of 2NK9, about the time of the accident, included a temperature of 16 degrees Celsius (C), and a dew point of 5 degrees C.
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Albany FSDO-01

TOWN OF PLATTEKILL–Two people suffered minor injuries in a plane crash in the town of Plattekill, according to state police at Elenville.

The crash occurred at noon.

It was not immediately clear what type of aircraft went down or what caused the crash.

The identities of the injured pair were not released. 

State police are at the scene investigating.

- Source:

Cottonwood Municipal Airport (S84) apron to get new asphalt

Barbara Cypher, left, is taking flying lessons in a Piper Cherokee at Cottonwood Municipal Airport from Ed Kalabus, a certified flight instructor and retired airline pilot. With the use the airport gets, Cottonwood and other agencies are investing in repair projects, namely the apron, where many planes park.

The Cottonwood Municipal Airport needs some work.

Last week, the Cottonwood City Council signed off on helping to pay to repair some of the pavement on the airport’s apron, the area where many planes are parked when not in the air.

The project is moving forward after an airport study was carried out by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

“In August 2014 ADOT conducted a study and produced a pavement management report for the airport, and has determined that the airport apron is approaching the end of its useful lifespan,” according to Morgan Scott, Cottonwood Development Services manager.

The project has been in the works since shortly after the report.

ADOT and the Federal Aviation Administration have proposed a $2 million project to reconstruct and rehabilitate portions of the apron.

Cottonwood is on the hook for about $95,000 of that, or around 4.5 percent. ADOT will also be responsible for around the same amount.The FAA contributed the lion’s share to the project through a grant that was accepted by the city last May.

The work is needed in order to keep the airport up to the task of serving the aviation community.

“The airport apron is in poor condition and this project will either reconstruct the entire apron or reconstruct a portion of it and rehabilitate the other portion to like-new condition,” Morgan reported.

The state’s transportation five-year plan announced some proposed spending on the Cottonwood airport, released in 2011.

That plan accounts for $1.16 million to go to things like a runway extension, an overlay to help protect the runway and weather reporting equipment.

The weather equipment, an automated weather observation system, was also helped paid for by an FAA grant and was brought online in 2014.

The new equipment was an important upgrade for the airport; some companies won’t allow their planes to land at airports without it.

The airport has also recently added solar panels to power airport lighting.

A bit further back, the airport made significant electrical upgrades and improved the airport’s road around the perimeter.

In addition to the apron improvement project, the airport hopes to eventually install a GPS approach system and build additional hangars.

Currently, the airport has 10 hangars on site.


Woman arrested at Abu Dhabi Airport for smuggling cocaine

The 26-year old recently entered the UAE on a visit visa and was behaving suspiciously in the transit area.

The Abu Dhabi Police, in coordination with the Anti-Narcotics Federal Directorate-General at the Ministry of Interior, arrested an African transit passenger in possession of 13kg of cocaine that she attempted to smuggle through Abu Dhabi Airport.

The woman stashed the narcotics in secret compartments inside weight plates and clothing buttons.

According to Brigadier Dr Rashid Mohammed Borshid, Head of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the woman was suspected because she was taking the same suspicious flight route. The police were vigilant because they had arrested similar suspects while trying to take flights via the Abu Dhabi International Airport (Transit) on their way from a Latin American country to an Asian country.

Brigadier Borshid explained that the suspect, identified as 26-year old M. B., recently entered the UAE on a visit visa, was behaving suspiciously in the transit area and showed signs of extreme confusion and discomfort, which attracted the attention of the authorities at the Abu Dhabi International Airport.

"The suspect was submitted to a screening test by the competent airport authorities; this led to the discovery of an amount of expensive cocaine stashed inside well-hidden secret compartments in her travel bag," Brigadier Borshid added.


Incident occurred December 11, 2015 at Westchester County Airport (KHPN), White Plains, New York

A plane went off the runway Friday morning at Westchester County Airport, prompting a two-hour suspension of flights, officials said..

Officials said the plane, a Gulfstream jet, ran off the end of the main runway into a grassy area due to poor visibility as it landed just after 8:30 a.m. No one was injured.

Airport flights were suspended so the plane could be towed. 

Flights resumed around 10:45 a.m., officials said. 

Some incoming flights were diverted to other New York area airports; officials did not know exactly how many.


HARRISON - A private plane skidded off the runway at Westchester County Airport on Friday, December 11.

Airport officials say a Gulfstream G-4 was coming in for a landing at 8:30 a.m. when, for unknown reasons, it veered four feet off runway 16 and ended up on the grass.

The pilot and co-pilot were the only ones on the plane. Officials say no one was hurt.

A heavy tow truck pulled the plane back to a hangar.

The runway was shut down for two hours causing dozens of flights to be delayed.

An investigation is underway as to what happened, but officials say fog most likely may have played a role in the landing.

Story and video:

Orange County seeking public input on revised airport rules

Hillsborough, Orange County, North Carolina --  Residents can attend two information sessions this month find out more about proposed changes to Orange County’s rules for where and how airports can be built.

The county will hold the sessions Thursday, Dec. 17, and Monday, Dec. 21, in the West Campus Office building on West Margaret Lane. The proposed changes are online at The Planning Board is scheduled to review the proposal Jan. 6 before it heads to the commissioners on Feb. 18.

No specific plans for an airport are on the table, county planner Michael Harvey said.

The county had planned to review, update and strengthen local rules after UNC attempted several years ago to site a new airport in southwestern Orange County, he said, but the review was delayed while staff worked on other projects.

The newest proposal is for a conditional zoning district that gives the public more input in the process, without having to hire an attorney or experts, and allows the Orange County Board of Commissioners to negotiate other conditions that would reduce the effects on neighbors.

The proposed rules also would clarify the type of private facilities that could be built for local plane enthusiasts and commercial operations, such as crop dusting.

The county already allows airports – including private airstrips on private property – in some rural residential, agricultural and industrial areas with a special-use permit, but the rules are “woefully out of date,” Harvey said. They were written 30 to 40 years ago and lack specifics about runway or fuel storage standards, for example, or how to mitigate negative effects on nearby properties, he said.

“In my opinion, our goal is to ensure that any applicant bringing forward an airport proposal has to show that that facility is adapting to a local landscape vs. requiring the local landscape to adapt to it,” Harvey said.

Laura Streitfeld, a member of Preserve Rural Orange, said she appreciates the reason for the changes but would rather see future airports be prohibited.

“If an applicant wanted to build an airport ... they’re creating very stringent rules and studies that have to take place,” she said. “Someone who’s going to invest that much money, it becomes a situation where the ball is rolling,” and it’s difficult to stop the process.

Preserve Rural Orange, a grassroots citizens group, formed in 2009 to oppose UNC’s planned airport and other projects that residents said threatened a rural way of life. Studies show airports create runoff and pollution, while requiring industrial-type infrastructure and a lot of land to be safe, she said.

While a consultant at the time said UNC’s planned airport could boost economic development, Steve Brantley, the county’s current conomic development director, said that would be a waste of land.

Small airports don’t generate the jobs and tax revenues that industry, offices and retail create, Brantley said, and the county lacks the topography to support a regional hub, similar to FedEx in Greensboro. Corporate travelers are more likely to rely on Raleigh-Durham International Airport, he said.

Chapel Hill’s Horace Williams Airport still serves some business and university air traffic, according to Mike Freeman, UNC’s director of auxiliary services. UNC’s Area Health Education Center operations moved to RDU in 2011, and there are only three to five flights a day now, if any, he said.

Many private pilots, including 250 former Chapel Hill Flying Club members, moved years ago to the Wings of Carolina Flying Club in Sanford, said Mauricio Castro, an Orange County resident who joined in 2009. The Chapel Hill club lost its lease at Horace Williams in 2001.

The Sanford Flying Club has nearly 500 members, many of whom would be interested if a new Orange County airport were built, Castro said.

"Of course, if you were going to ask me, I would want to fly out of our county and spend the money and spend the effort close to home,” he said.



Hoping for the best

By Mike Hendricks

Boutique Air (kind of a funky name for an airline) is due to become the next passenger airliner in McCook, replacing Great Lakes Airline whose contract expires in June, 2016. Great Lakes has been heavily criticized in this column and by many of the flying public because of their recent unreliability. If you're not for sure your flight is going to leave from McCook or even worse, not connect to McCook once you've arrived in Denver, then you're likely not to fly Great Lakes and that's what more and more people have been doing over the past couple of years. It's a real kick in the pants to fly into Denver only to find that your Great Lakes flight to McCook has been canceled. On top of that, another flight isn't scheduled until the next day and there's no guarantee that flight will go either. Because of that, the number of people boarding in McCook has declined dramatically.

One of the criticisms I've heard around town about the proposed new air carrier is that we'll be going from a twin engine to a single engine airplane and, once that happens, it will be hard for the airport to get back to twin engine status again. I don't know if that's a legitimate issue or not because I'm a passenger and not a pilot or airport manager so that's something others will have to deal with. However, I did a little research of my own on Boutique Air and was pleasantly surprised at what I found.

The interior looks more like the inside of a private jet than a single-engine airplane. The seats are all leather, there is a lavatory on the plane, and snacks and beverages will be served on some flights. The plane itself is a Pilatus PC-12, built by Swiss aircraft manufacturer Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. The company, founded in 1939, has built more than 1,200 PC-12 aircraft since it was introduced in 1994. The airline's website says the plane is recognized for its world-class engineering and flawless safety ratings and it continues to be a very popular choice with charter and scheduled air carriers. In addition to the quiet design to the PC-12 out of the factory, the air carrier added custom soundproofing to its aircraft cabin, making it one of the quietest cabins to fly in. This would be a big bonus because the Great Lakes planes were loud.

Now obviously, airplane manufacturers and airlines always put their best foot forward in their advertising and their web sites. If there are problems or concerns, that's not where we're going to hear about them and no company is perfect so I went to the Yelp site on the Internet and found several reviews for Boutique Air with two thirds of them being very positive which is a good sign. The criticisms were expected: the plane is small so there's little room to maneuver, the bathroom is even smaller and would only be used under dire circumstances, and there's more noise than the passengers expected. But the ground crews and air crews we very friendly with the co-pilot doubling as a flight attendant when needed. There was only one bad review and that had to do with problems on the ground and not in the air

The most important thing for McCook air passengers is promptness and reliability. When we book a flight, we want to be assured that outside of things the airline has no control over like the weather, our flights will arrive and depart close to schedule and that there will be as few canceled flights as possible. That alone would make the new carrier superior to the former one but in looking at the pictures presented on the Boutique website, it looks to be a much more pleasant flying experience than previously realized on Great Lakes.

There are still a couple of other things that have to happen before we start seeing Boutique airplanes flying in and out of McCook. They still have to be awarded the Essential Air Service contract from the Department of Transportation and that application has to be submitted before the Dec. 17 deadline. The city is still contractually obligated to Great Lakes Airlines until that contract expires next year and if things go according to plan, the change in air service could occur within 60 to 90 days after being awarded the contract by the Department of Transportation.

Change isn't always good but in this case I think it is. The citizens of McCook and the surrounding areas needed an airline they could believe in and depend on and Boutique Air seems to be the right answer. Its planes are modern, well-appointed and reasonably quiet so if they can also be on time and on schedule, flying in and out of McCook might be a pleasant experience once again.


Federal Aviation Administration Removes Runway Lights: St. Clair Regional Airport (K39), Franklin County, Missouri

The Federal Aviation Administration started its physical process of helping secure closure of the St. Clair Regional Airport on Thursday when a technician removed some of the lighting located at the end of the runway.

The airport’s runway end identifier lights were removed as a step of the closure process.

“The FAA contacted us,” City Administrator Travis Dierker said. “It’s part of the (closure) bill to have those lights removed and decommissioned.”

REILs are installed at airports to provide rapid and positive identification of the approach end of a particular runway. 

The system usually consists of a pair of synchronized flashing lights located laterally on each side of the runway threshold. REILs may be either omnidirectional or unidirectional facing the approach area.

Dierker said the other runway lights at the airport remain intact and functional, and that the facility remains open.

“This is just one step of the closure process,” he said. “This is part of the FAA’s procedure to close the airport.”

President Barack Obama signed a bill last December that ordered the closure of the 80-acre facility located on the north end of the city. However, the bill outlined a process that needs to be followed.

Also included in the process is an environmental assessment, which the city currently is addressing.

The assessment is a process of estimating and evaluating significant short- and long-term effects of a program or project on the quality of its location’s environment.

In October, the board of aldermen passed an ordinance regarding that assessment. 

It will be completed to address potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed improvements and identify protocols for permitting and mitigation that would be required for project components.

“Back when the (airport closure) bill was passed, one of the stipulations was a National Environmental Policy Act environmental assessment had to be done on the property,” Dierker said at the time. “We did a RFQ (request for qualifications), and a scope of work was drafted and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Missouri Department of Transportation.”

The ordinance authorized Mayor Ron Blum to sign an agreement with Crawford, Murphy & Tilly Inc. for the assessment of the airport property. 

It includes verbiage that states the agreement meets all criteria needed for reimbursement to the city from the FAA at the final closeout of the airport.

The total cost of the assessment will not exceed $171,147.37, Dierker said. All funds will be reimbursed to the city by the FAA when closure occurs.

On Dec. 18, 2014, Obama signed Senate Bill 2759. It stated that it is “a bill to release the city of St. Clair from all restrictions, conditions and limitations on the use, encumbrance, conveyance and closure of the St. Clair Regional Airport.”

Additional language in the bill provides details regarding the closure process and the transfer of assets, revenues and equipment as well as the monetary value of the property and the worth of the unamortized federal grants turned over to the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Association.

And, a section also indicated that the land must meet the requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

For years, city officials have been working with the FAA and MoDOT on the closure process.


Sonex Aircraft, N732SX: Fatal accident occurred February 17, 2014 near Wellington Aero Club Airport (FD38), Wellington, Palm Beach County, Florida

WELLINGTON, Fla. - The National Transportation Safety says a fatal plane crash last year in Wellington was caused by pilot error.

The crash occurred Feb. 17, 2014 after the plane took off from the Wellington Aero Club. 

A report issued Friday concluded that the pilot, Leonard W. McGarity Jr., 58, failed to "maintain adequate airspeed following a partial loss of engine power” while the plane climbed.  

This caused the plane to stall and eventually crash into a lake.

The report also said McGarity Jr. did not properly repair a stripped spark plug hole, causing the partial loss of engine power.

More of the NTSB report below:

The airplane had just departed the airport; one witness reported that during the initial climb the engine “sputtered,” and another reported that it “backfired.” The pilot then made a steep turn back toward the airport, but the airplane stalled and spiraled to the ground.

The NTSB said data revealed that initially the engine was operating normally and within design parameters.

However, toward the end of the recorded data, the No. 1 cylinder head and exhaust gas temperatures had begun to decrease while the other cylinder temperature parameters remained fairly constant.

The engine data then recorded a decrease in engine rpm followed by a steep 180-degree turn toward the airport.

A witness who assisted the pilot with the airplane’s oil change two days earlier stated that the pilot had cross-threaded a spark plug in the No. 1 cylinder and attempted a helicoil repair.

During examination after the accident, the No. 1 sparkplug was easily removed by hand. This was likely the cause of the power loss that preceded the pilot’s attempt to return to the airport.

The pilot’s steep, 180-degree turn exceeded the airplane’s critical angle of attack, which resulted in a stall at low altitude and collision with terrain.

A review of the pilot’s toxicology revealed that even though he tested positive for antidepressants, they were not a factor in the accident.

Story and video:

WELLINGTON, FL - Leonard Wilson McGarity Jr. ("Link"), 58, of Wellington, FL was killed unexpectedly on February 17, 2014.

Link was born on October 14, 1955 in Pittsburg, PA, the son of the late Leonard Wilson and Beatrice Henderson McGarity.

Link attended Grimsley High School in Greensboro, graduating in 1973. He attended college at North Carolina State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics in 1977. He was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity. He entered the US Marine Corps in 1978 and was honorably discharged in 1984, having earned the rank of Captain in 1983. He attended the US Navy Flight School in Pensacola, graduating in 1980. He was ship board landing qualified, helicopter air to air refueling qualified, was an instructor pilot, and a flight schedule officer. He was a pilot for the 1st squadron of new 3 engine helicopters in the USMC and was qualified on five different aircraft. Link was a pilot in the NC National Guard from 1987 to 1991, deploying to Ft.

Hood, TX in 1991 in support of Operation Desert Storm. He was promoted to Captain and made company commander in 1989. He was also qualified in various single and multi engine aircraft and was a night freight pilot. In 1996, he entered the U.S. Army Reserve. Link was hired by American Airlines in 1989. Captain McGarity enjoyed a 25 year career with American Airlines flying routes both domestically as well as to the Caribbean, Europe, and Central and South America on the Boeing 727, 757, 767, 777, and 737 aircraft.

Link enjoyed many hobbies. He was an Extra Class Amateur Radio operator (ham radio) with morse code proficiency. He also enjoyed riding motorcycles and flying airplanes. He attended EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI every year with his two beloved daughters and friends. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.

He is survived by his two daughters Heather and Holly of Wellington, FL and his son Thomas of Greensboro. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother Alex. The family is requesting that donations be made to the Marine Corps Scholarship Fund in Link's name.


NTSB Identification: ERA14FA123
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, February 17, 2014 in Wellington, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/09/2015
Aircraft: WILLIAMS CHRISTOPHER T SONEX, registration: N732SX
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

The airplane had just departed the airport; one witness reported that during the initial climb the engine “sputtered,” and another reported that it “backfired.” The pilot then made a steep turn back toward the airport, but the airplane stalled and spiraled to the ground. The airplane was equipped with an electronic flight instrument system that recorded numerous engine and flight parameters. Review of the downloaded data revealed that, initially, the engine was operating normally and within design parameters. However, toward the end of the recorded data, the No. 1 cylinder head and exhaust gas temperatures had begun to decrease while the other cylinder temperature parameters remained fairly constant. The engine data then recorded a decrease in engine rpm followed by a steep 180-degree turn toward the airport. A witness who assisted the pilot with the airplane’s oil change 2 days earlier stated that the pilot had cross-threaded a spark plug in the No. 1 cylinder and attempted a helicoil repair. During examination after the accident, the No. 1 sparkplug was easily removed by hand. This was likely the cause of the power loss that preceded the pilot’s attempt to return to the airport. The pilot’s steep, 180-degree turn exceeded the airplane’s critical angle of attack, which resulted in a stall at low altitude and collision with terrain. A review of the pilot’s toxicology revealed that even though he tested positive for antidepressants, they were not a factor in the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to maintain adequate airspeed following a partial loss of engine power during initial climb, which led to the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack and experiencing an aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's improper repair of a stripped spark plug hole, which led to a partial loss of engine power during initial climb.


On February 17, 2014, about 1250 eastern standard time, an experimental, amateur-built Sonex, N732SX, collided with terrain shortly after departing the Wellington Aero Club (FD38), West Palm Beach, Florida. The airline transport pilot/owner was fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

Witnesses stated that during the initial climb, the engine "back- fired" and made a "sputtering" sound. The pilot entered a steep 180 degree turn back towards the airport. The airplane then stalled and entered a nose-down spiral, descended into a canal.


The pilot, age 58, held an airline transport pilot certificate for airplane multiengine land, airplane single-engine land, rotorcraft-helicopter, instrument helicopter, which was issued February 16, 2008, and a first-class airman medical certificate issued February 6, 2012, with no limitations. On the pilot's most recent application for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certificate, he reported a total of 13,000 flight hours. The pilot's logbook was not recovered; therefore, his total flight experience could not be determined.


The single engine airplane was manufactured in 2007, and was powered by an AeroVee series engine and equipped with a Sensenich model W54JV544G-AC9751, fixed-pitch propeller. The maintenance logbooks were not located; therefore, the maintenance history of the airplane could not be reconciled.


At 1253, the recorded weather at Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), West Palm Beach, Florida, about 10 miles east of the accident site, included variable wind 6 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, few clouds at 4,300 feet above ground level. The temperature was 21 degrees Celsius (C), the dew point was 11 degrees C, and the altimeter setting was 30.19 inches of mercury.


The wreckage was located partially submerged in a pond, about 200 yards from the departure end of runway 15. The airplane came to rest on a 109 degree magnetic heading, and was 3 feet from the pond's edge. The airplane was removed from the pond for examination, and all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site.

The forward portion of the fuselage, firewall and cockpit were deformed and displaced aft. Both wings remained attached to the fuselage and were crushed along the leading edge aft. The vertical stabilizer, elevators and rudder remained attached to the empennage. Control continuity was traced from the cockpit control stick to the elevators and ailerons and from the rudder pedals to the rudder control horn. The examination of the flight control system components revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction.

Examination of the engine revealed that it was separated from the firewall with sections of engine mount still attached and bent. The engine revealed impact damage on multiple areas on the external surface. Further examination revealed that the ignition lead wires were all attached to the respective sparkplugs and separated from the coil packs on the firewall. Examination of the wires revealed no breaks or chaffed sparkplug wires.

Examination of the sparkplugs revealed that the top spark plug on cylinder No. 1 was not seated in the cylinder head and finger tight within the cylinder head threads. The lower sparkplug was found seated to the cylinder and secure. The engine cylinders revealed that the top sparkplug, associated with cylinder No. 4, top sparkplug was seated and finger tight. All other sparkplugs were found seated within the cylinders and secure. All of the spark plugs were removed and the cylinders were checked for blockage. No blockage was noted and the crankshaft was rotated freely by hand. Engine valve train continuity and thumb compression was observed on all cylinders.

The throttle body revealed that it was still attached to the throttle cables, but broken away from the manifold. The throttle body lever actuated when the throttle control was manipulated. The air filter was found crushed and impact damaged. The fuel line was connected to the throttle body and was impact damaged and separated from the electric fuel pump attached to the firewall. Examination of the accessory plate revealed that it was impact damaged. The oil cooler was crushed and the oil flow input and output lines remained attached. The oil lines were broken away from the oil pump and oil was within the lines and the oil sump can.

The propeller remained attached to the propeller hub and the hub remained attached to the crankshaft. The wooden propeller revealed that one propeller blade was splintered, and the other propeller blade displayed span-wise cracks across the forward face.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot on February 18, 2014, by Office of the District Medical Examiner, District 15 State of Florida, West Palm Beach, Florida.

Toxicological testing was performed on the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Science Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Review of the toxicology report revealed, no carbon monoxide was detected in the cavity blood. No ethanol was detected in the vitreous. The following drugs were detected in the blood cavity; 0.091 (ug/ml, ug/g) Citalopram and 0.04 (ug/mL, ug/g) N-Desmethylcitalopram detected in blood cavity. Citalopram and Desmethylcitalopram is an antidepressant drug used to treat depression.


According to a friend of the pilot, he assisted the pilot during an oil change two days prior to the accident. He stated that while conducting the oil change the pilot attempted to change the sparkplugs and cross-threaded the upper sparkplug on the No. 1 cylinder; and made an attempt to helicoil the cylinder thread. The friend further stated that he inspected the sparkplug and noted that the sparkplug along with the helicoil were able to be pulled out of the cylinder head. The pilot continued to work on the engine but the friend did not know if the pilot eventually repaired the cylinder head or if the pilot had flown the airplane after the repair, prior to the accident flight. During the examination of the engine a helicoil was not observed within the cylinder head threads of the No. 1 sparkplug.

The airplane was equipped with a Stratomaster Enigma electronic flight instrument system (EFIS) that is capable of recording primary flight data, GPS positions and engine monitor data. The device supports data recording to a secured digital (SD) card. The SD card was recovered and sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorder Division for data recovery. Review of the data revealed that all engine parameters were normal during the initial climb. Further review revealed that the No. 1 cylinder head and exhaust gas temperature dropped approximately 100 degrees, followed by a loss in rpm and a loss in airspeed. GPS data then showed the airplane making a banking left turn as described by witnesses.