Sunday, January 31, 2016

Torrance commission may block Lexus car lot near Zamperini Field Airport (KTOA), Los Angeles County, California

When a small plane took off from Torrance Municipal Airport on a Sunday morning in 1997, crashing into a three-story office building across the street and killing all four aboard, firefighters noted that only the day of the week prevented casualties on the ground.

About the same time, the local aviation community was fighting — successfully, it eventually turned out — siting a new Range Rover automobile dealership north of the former Ishibashi produce stand on Crenshaw Boulevard.

Doing so would encroach on a Federal Aviation Administration Runway Protection Zone, intended to ensure incompatible development doesn’t compromise public safety, Jim Gates, then president of the Torrance Airport Association, told the Daily Breeze at the time.

Almost two decades later, the TAA is fighting a virtually identical proposal: the expansion of a Lexus dealership that would put an auto sales lot partially within the same Runway Protection Zone that’s intended to protect people on the ground and provide a margin of safety for pilots in an emergency.

“According to the map presented at the public hearing on June 4, 1997, it is the very same property on which the Lexus dealer now wants to place the (sales) parking lot,” said Gates, who is now vice president of the TAA.

“It’s deja vu all over again,” he said. “Everybody has forgotten what happened 20 years ago.”

On Wednesday, the county’s Airport Land Use Commission will decide whether to uphold a staff recommendation to overturn the city’s approval of the dealership expansion because it is inconsistent with policies regulating development around airports that are “intended to minimize public exposure to excessive noise and safety hazards.”

“The proposed project would convert open/vacant industrial land, which is generally considered compatible with airports, to retail land, a use found incompatible with airports due to safety concerns and high noise levels,” states a commission staff report.

“The project introduces auto dealership employees and customers into a portion of the RPZ that is currently vacant, open and fenced off to prevent any access by people for nonairport purposes.”

Lexus currently uses the site at 24777 Crenshaw Blvd. for its parts and service department.

But dealership executives told city officials they have outgrown the present sales site on Pacific Coast Highway and would like to consolidate operations on Crenshaw.

Auto sales are the city’s top source of sales tax revenues.

In turn, sales tax revenue is the largest contributor to the city’s operating budget, bringing in more than 26 percent of all sales tax revenues the city collects and growing 2 percent in fiscal year 2014-15, municipal officials said last May.

That month, the Torrance Planning Commission approved the expansion of a 35-foot-high building and a sales lot. The sales lot is partially within the RPZ; county officials want it relocated.

Contrary to the county’s position, city officials said the expansion would be compatible with existing uses and steps would be taken to ensure “the proposed development is not detrimental to public health and safety.”

But the TAA appealed the ruling and brought the issue to the attention of regulatory agencies that took a closer look at the project.

Regulatory concerns include:

• A possible violation of the county’s land use policies that “prohibit projects that would affect safe air navigation.”

• That the project’s “proponent will need to obtain additional FAA review and approval for details of the project that have not yet been included in the FAA notification.”

• The planting of five trees that can reach 50 feet in height require an FAA determination that “safe air navigation” would be unaffected.

Terry Barrie, chief of the Office of Aviation Planning under the state Department of Transportation, wrote a letter to the city saying that the city had “not accurately represented the FAA’s obstruction analysis program.”

Contrary to the assertion of city officials, Barrie added, the FAA has “not issued any kind of preliminary clearance for the project.”

“Approval of this project presents a potential hazard to people and property on the ground and exposes the city to greater liability from aircraft accidents,” he wrote.

City staff acknowledged receiving, but did not respond to, a request for comment Friday from the Daily Breeze.

The TAA noted that at least three aircraft crashes have occurred within the RPZs around Zamperini Field at Torrance airport.

And the group cited a U.S. Air Force study that found 75 percent of all aviation accidents within 10 miles of an airport occur in an RPZ, which is why the FAA advises that the zones should be “clear of all facilities supporting incompatible activities.”

“Other government agencies should not need to force the city of Torrance to protect its citizens — the city has a responsibility to maintain a safe airport and a safe community,” the TAA said in a statement on its website. “If approved, this plan would put Lexus employees and the public in a dangerous area.”

Original article can be found here: 

NTSB Identification: LAX97FA328
The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Accident occurred Sunday, September 21, 1997 in TORRANCE, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/18/2000
Aircraft: Beech C23, registration: N543JL
Injuries: 4 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.

Witnesses reported that after takeoff, the airplane never climbed beyond 150 to 200 feet above ground level. One witness reported the airplane's rotation and initial climb were normal until it achieved 100 feet, then it began to pitch nose up until the witness could clearly see the tops of the wings. The airplane then rolled to the right and descended vertically. The airplane collided with a three-story commercial office building about 2,000 feet from the departure end of the runway and was partially consumed by a postimpact fire. An audiocassette re-recording from the airport noise-monitoring site was examined to document any engine or propeller sounds that could be heard during the takeoff. A video recording that was recovered from the accident aircraft was also examined to document the takeoff distance and airborne pitch attitude/flight path of the airplane. The video recording began just as the aircraft was taking the runway for departure and appeared to continue uninterrupted until the airplane crashed. The audio track of the video was examined to document any engine or propeller sounds heard during the takeoff. Engine rpm was derived from both the audio track of the video recording and the noise-monitoring recording. The engine speeds derived from the video recording were between 2,250 and 2,430 rpm. Engine speeds derived from the noise monitoring station started at 2,750 and decreased to 2,510 rpm. Directly above the monitoring station there was no alteration in the measured frequency due to the Doppler shift. No dramatic changes were observed in the frequencies associated with the aircraft's engine. Examination of the engine did not disclose evidence of mechanical malfunction.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The failure of the pilot to attain and maintain adequate airspeed during the initial takeoff climb, which resulted in a stall/spin and subsequent collision with a building.

Central Coast airports prepare for Super Bowl 50 air traffic: Watsonville Airport, Monterey Regional Airport expect rise in private jets

WATSONVILLE, Calif. —As Super Bowl 50 draws closer, the number of private jet reservations on the Central Coast is expected to rise.

Two private jets were seen flying in and out of the Watsonville Airport Sunday, an unusual sight for the small airport.

"A lot of people do come in here because we are in between Santa Cruz and Monterey and we are a little cheaper with a lot of things, so it's a nice spot where people can just fly in and not have to deal with a lot of the bigger traffic, big jets and stuff like that," Watsonville airport spokesperson Elgin Cawaling said.

But with Super Bowl 50 one week away, airport officials said they're getting ready for more VIP guests flying in.

To prep for the crowds, the airport brought in a new jet fuel truck for private jet customers.

The NFL is predicting another 2,000 to 2,500 private planes will enter Central Coast airspace, and those aircraft will need places to land.

Monterey Regional Airport is also ready. It has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration's reservation system that forces private jets to reserve spots for landing and taking off.

"We're really excited, looking forward to it and we're ready. We've been meeting on a weekly basis and just preparing for this busy time, but it's a good time of year for it," Monterey Regional Airport spokesperson Jennifer Hickerson said.

For local pilots, airports recommend reserving flight times early through the FAA if you plan to fly during Super Bowl weekend.

"So we are just working to notify local pilots that if they plan on flying during that time, they would need to make arrangements with the FAA to make sure they have a spot available for them to take off and land," Hickerson said.


Reports: Drunk man puts passenger in chokehold on Jacksonville-bound flight

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A man was restrained and later removed from a plane after he got into a disagreement on a flight to Jacksonville Sunday.

Video from a passenger shows authorities escorting a man with his wrists restrained from flight 715.

A passenger tells Action News Jax the man was drunk and unruly, and put a fellow passenger in a chokehold.

The passenger said the man was subdued by five people and restrained with zip ties.

JetBlue confirmed authorities removed a man from a plane after a disagreement and provided a statement:

"On January 31, a customer disagreement occurred on JetBlue flight 715 while en route from DCA to JAX. Authorities met the aircraft after it landed safely in Jacksonville. Additional questions should be addressed to law enforcement officials."

Story and video:

Tourist helicopter flights in New York City to be reduced

The city is slashing in half the number of tourist helicopter flights that will be allowed to take off next year, following complaints from Manhattan residents.

The agreement, announced by the Economic Development Corporation on Sunday, will eliminate 30,000 flights a year. It includes all trips on Sundays, as well as over Governors Island. It will go into effect by Jan. 2017.

Some City Council members had proposed banning the helicopter trips altogether.

Downtown Manhattan residents had been complaining for years that the helicopters were too noisy, and ruining their quality of life.

For the remaining flights, the helicopter companies will remain at their East River base at Pier 6 in lower Manhattan.

“The nonstop din of helicopters has been a major quality of life issue for New Yorkers living near heavily trafficked routes,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement.

The EDC will continue to monitor the companies’ activity, and can make future changes to their flights.

The Helicopter Tourism and Jobs Council, which advocates for the industry backed the agreement.

“This agreement will allow tour operators to continue providing good jobs for New Yorkers and more than $50 million in annual economic impact to the City,” said deputy director Sam Goldstein in a statement.

Original article can be found here:

County wants $400k from land sale: Madison Municipal Airport (52A), Morgan County, Georgia

After discussing the county’s latest audit, the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) is inquiring about a $400,000 land sale with the City of Madison. About two years ago, the county agreed to sell a 14-acre parcel of land on Bass Road for the airport expansion project in the amount of $400,000. “It has been almost two years that they have promised us this,” said Commissioner Ellen Warren. “I really think we need to look into this.” The county had expected to have the money by now, noting the county was about $145,000 in the red for fund balance use in the fiscal year 2015, believing the city would have paid for the land already. “Revenue was below expectation,” said Michael Lamar, county manager. “But if we had gotten a $400,000 pay out from the land sale, like we were assuming, that wouldn’t have happened…We could make up the difference with the reserves from our fund balance and we did, but at the same time, there is a certain expectation of revenue…We understand that any land sale involving federal dollars will be difficult but now it’s transcending multiple fiscal years.” Chairman Donald Harris sent a letter to the City of Madison, requesting an update on the situation.

“On behalf of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners, I am respectfully requesting an update on the much earlier agreed upon Bass Road land transaction. I certainly realize and understand any land sale involving federal monies is a convoluted undertaking but the fact that it’s fast approaching two years in finalizing this matter seems somewhat excessive by any reasonable measure,” wrote Harris. But according to the city, it’s up to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to award the city with the money to pay for the land sale. The airport expansion is being funded through a federal grant with the FAA, which takes time, said City Manager David Nunn. “This is not a debt,” said Nunn. “When the money becomes available, we will set a closing date on the land, and issue the money to the county right away.” “This is how it goes with federal money,” said Nunn. “It takes some time coming down to us and it just hasn’t happened yet. I wish it had happened already. But it’s definitely imminent and it’s closer than it has been.”


This company detects aircraft cracking and its shares are up 287 percent this year

Delta Air Lines is using Structural Monitoring System's sensors to detect fatigue on some of its aircraft.

It is every airline's worst nightmare: an undetected crack developing on an aircraft that leads to an extreme event in flight, such as the explosive decompression of Aloha Airlines flight 243 that swept a flight attendant outside the Boeing 737 to her death in 1988.

US carrier Delta Air Lines, which has an average fleet age of 17 years - more than double that of Qantas - has become the first airline to use technology developed by locally-listed Structural Management Systems (SMS) in Perth to monitor aircraft structural fatigue with an array of sensors.

SMS shares have risen by 40 percent to $1.47 since it received approval in late December from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing for its technology after a test program with some of Delta's 737s.

Overall, SMS shares have risen by 287 percent over the last 12 months, compared with a 10.1 percent fall in the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index over the same period.

The FAA and Boeing approvals mean SMS has the only commercially-approved technology for on-aircraft monitoring of cracking and structural fatigue in the world. The sensors are placed on the aircraft and help provide early warning of any developing cracks.

SMS managing director Toby Chandler said the technology worked on aluminium and composite airframes and therefore could be employed on commercial aircraft from all manufacturers, including Boeing, Airbus, Embraer and Bombardier, as well as on helicopters.

He said the initial FAA and Boeing approvals meant it should be much faster and easier to gain additional approvals for various types of applications on aircraft in the future.

"Going forward the ability to identify new applications which would be done in partnership with operators and [aircraft manufacturers] will be simpler," Mr Chandler said. 

"For Delta and a lot of operators, the long term iteration for our technology will be to have the [manufacturers] delivering new aircraft with structural health monitoring systems installed at the point of sale."

For the customer, the cost of the sensor arrays, which are manufactured in Canada, is typically at most up to $US20,000. That is significantly less than the typical loss of revenue from an airline grounding an aircraft for a mandated inspection under an airworthiness directive related to fatigue.

The SMS technology has been approved by Boeing as an alternate maintenance program to conventional inspections.

Mr. Chandler said SMS has had programs underway with Airbus and Embraer for some time to develop sensors appropriate for use on those aircraft.

SMS is working to develop a business model that centres on licensing the technology rather than just selling the physical equipment.

He said this year would prove key for the company, which listed more than 10 years ago but has not been in a position to broadly commercialise the technology until now.

"We are now going to move into a much more proactive commercial phase," Mr Chandler said. 

The company had $482,000 of cash as of December 31, but it has already warned investors it plans to undertake a capital raising of around $1.5 million later this year to help it hire more employees in North America and Europe.

Based on its current market value of $146 million, that would involve minimal dilution to existing shareholders, including Mr Chandler.

Mr. Chandler sold $3 million of shares in the company in January alongside smaller sales by two other directors, but he still holds a 5 per cent stake and said he has no plans to sell further shares anytime soon.

Read more:

Air India crew member caught stealing in-flight food

The stolen items recovered from an AI crew member. 

It was quite a catch for officials at the Chennai airport who seized milk cartons, coffee boxes, in-flight meals, juice packets, cashew nuts, whiskey bottles and much more from an Air India (AI) cabin crew member whom they had been patiently waiting for following a tip-off.

Despite airline’s new chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani warning of strict action against those caught pilfering, not much seems to have changed in the national carrier. On January 27, AI’s vigilance officials had received a tip-off about a woman cabin crew member arriving from an international flight (AI 274) from Colombo.

When the member’s baggage was screened, vigilance and customs officials could not believe what they saw.

“It appeared that she had brought with her anything and everything she could lay her hands on inside the plane,” said a senior official. “She has been taken off the roster and an inquiry has been ordered,” said an AI spokesperson.

An official said, “She had operated the Chennai-Colombo-Delhi flight with a night halt at Delhi and did Delhi-Colombo-Chennai. She was caught after she landed in Chennai.”

Aviation expert Rajji Rai said, “Anything on board is company property. It’s high time Air India had a zero-tolerance policy on anybody caught stealing.”

The aviation ministry had informed Parliament of several cases a couple of years ago, which included a flight purser being caught by customs at the Delhi airport while trying to take out 372 mini liquor bottles from the aircraft and missing caviar tins costing Rs 20,200 from a special charter flight found in possession of catering officer among others.

Story and photo:

Cessna 172R Skyhawk, 30 West LLC, N35079: Accident occurred January 31, 2016 at Merritt Island Airport (KCOI), Brevard County, Florida

NTSB Identification: GAA16CA114 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, January 31, 2016 in Merritt Island, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/05/2016
Aircraft: CESSNA 172, registration: N35079
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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

The student pilot reported that during landing on his third solo flight, the approach to the runway was high and fast, and that during touchdown, the nose wheel touched first resulting in a porpoise. 

During the porpoise, the airplane drifted to the left and the pilot elected to abort the landing. He advanced the throttle to full power, which increased the yaw to the left. The airplane exited the runway to the left, impacted a ditch, and nosed over. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the left lift strut, empennage, and fuselage.

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

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The student pilot's improper flare which resulted in a porpoise, runway excursion, and nose over.


FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Orlando FSDO-15

NTSB Identification: GAA16CA114 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, January 31, 2016 in Merritt Island, FL
Aircraft: CESSNA 172, registration: N35079
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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

The student pilot reported that during landing on his third solo flight, the approach to the runway was high and fast, and that during touchdown, the nose wheel touched first resulting in a porpoise.

During the porpoise, the airplane drifted to the left and the pilot elected to abort the landing. He advanced the throttle to full power, which increased the yaw to the left. The airplane exited the runway to the left, impacted a ditch, and nosed over. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the left lift strut, empennage, and fuselage.

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

Brevard County Fire Rescue crews are at the site of a small aircraft that apparently flipped over near the runway of the Merritt Island Airport.

The pilot, the sole occupant of the aircraft, was not injured and refused further treatment from paramedics at the site, officials reported. 

Investigators say the Cessna 172R Skyhawk overturned while making a landing on Runway 11.

The incident happened about 10:22 a.m. today along the 900 block of Airport Boulevard after the aircraft apparently skid along the grass and overturned.

No fuel leaks were reported and the incident was reported to the Federal Aviation Administration. 

The National Transportation Safety Board will review the pilot's statement along with the plane's instrumentation to determine what caused the incident.

An investigation is ongoing.

Story, video and photo gallery:

AIRCRAFT:   2001 Cessna 172R N35079, s/n:17281061 - Current tach 5840.8

ENGINE:   Lycoming IO-360-L2A ,  S/N: L-27185-51A

PROPELLER:  McCauley s/n: QF001

APPROXIMATE TOTAL HOURS (estimated TT & TSMO from logbooks or other information):

ENGINE(S):  1013.4 TT at last annual inspection on Feb 13, 2015 tach 5568.9, Current tach 5840.8

PROPELLER:  2353.0 SMOH at last annual inspection on Feb 13, 2015, tach 5568.9, Current tach 5840.8

AIRFRAME:  5568.9 TT at last annual inspection dated Feb 13, 2015, tach 5568.9, Current tach 5840.8

OTHER EQUIPMENT:  (2) KING KX155A NAV/COMM, KING KT75C transponder, KING KAP 140 auto pilot

DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT:  On January 31, 2016, N35079 ran off the runway during landing, flipped over, and came to rest in a drainage ditch

DESCRIPTION OF DAMAGES:   The damage includes but may not be limited to:
Both wings are damaged
Flaps and ailerons are damaged
The firewall is warped
The propeller is bent
The engine suffered a prop strike inspection and was immersed in water
The tail is twisted and almost separated.
Horizontal stab and rudder are damaged
The windows are broken

LOCATION OF AIRCRAFT:        Merritt Island, Florida    

REMARKS:  Logs are in the custody of SIAI, Ormond Beach, FL.

Read more here:

Essential Air Service struggles in some towns, soars elsewhere

John Nord, manager of the Devils Lake Regional Airport, shows the latest equipment the airport acquired recently. 

DEVILS LAKE—Commercial airline service is approaching cruising altitude in Devils Lake, but it remains all but grounded in Thief River Falls, where the community continues to struggle with airline reliability.

Commercial airline passengers—counting those both arriving and leaving—totaled 5,104 in Devils Lake in 2015. That's nearly double the number in 2013, and a 76.7 percent increase over 2014.

"We're moving in the right direction," said John Nord, Devils Lake Regional Airport manager. "We had our busiest December ever with more than 600 passengers."

Meanwhile, Thief River Falls Regional Airport continues to fly against a strong economic headwind.

Unofficially, just 2,127 people flew in or out of Thief River Falls in 2015, according to airport records. That's barely half the number the airport recorded in 2013.

Even though ridership was low last year, it pales in comparison to the 734 passengers in 2014, when Thief River Falls was without commercial passenger service from February through September, airport manager Joe Hedrick said.

"Our service has been kind of trending down for a decade or more," Hedrick said. "I've been attributing that to poor service, whether that's due to mechanical issues, routing or staffing."

Small airports, regional airlines

Several small airports in North Dakota and Minnesota, including Devils Lake, Jamestown and Thief River Falls, have struggled with commercial airlines much of the past five years since Delta and Mesaba airlines stopped serving the cities.

The airports are part of the federal Department of Transportation's Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes airlines to provide commercial passenger service to connect smaller airports with medium-size and large hubs.

EAS funding comes from two sources: overflight fees, those charged to all foreign aircraft flying over U.S. soil; and congressional discretionary appropriations, which come from user fees charged to each passenger ticket.

When Delta and Mesaba bowed out, Great Lakes Aviation, a regional airline based in Cheyenne, Wyo., submitted successful bids for the service to the three cities, as well as for Brainerd, Minn., Watertown S.D., Mason City and Fort Dodge, Iowa, and Iron Mountain, Mich.

However, Great Lakes' record has been often unreliable, with frequent schedule delays and canceled flights since the airline first started serving the region in 2012.

Devils Lake's total passenger count dropped dramatically from 5,488 in 2011 to 2,998 in 2012, 2,667 in 2013 and 2,889 in 2014, according to the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.

Jamestown had a similar slide, from 5,689 in 2011 to 3,861 in 2012 and to 2,672 in 2013, before rebounding to 3,788 in 2014.

Cloudy conditions

Thief River Falls had 4,792 passengers in 2011, when the city was served by Mesaba Airlines. That number increased to 5,699 in 2012, when the transition from Mesaba to Great Lakes occurred. However, just 4,175 passengers flew with Great Lakes in 2013.

Great Lakes suspended service to Thief River Falls between February and September 2014, when the annual total plummeted to 734.

Great Lakes has been struggling with a pilot shortage since a federal law took effect in 2013 that requires regional airline first officers—co-pilots—to have 1,500 hours of flying time, rather than 250 hours under previous regulations.

Since then, the airline has stopped providing local air service to about 20 of the 48 cities, including Watertown, that it served before the law went into effect, according to a report in Wyoming media. Watertown Regional Airport remains without commercial service.

Great Lakes resumed service to Thief River Falls in 2014 only after it obtained a new operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration that allowed the company to reduce the number of seats in its aircraft from 19 to 9. That reduction allowed the airline to hire pilots with less than the new minimum flying standard.

When Great Lakes' contracts were set to expire in 2014, all three cities invited other airlines to submit bids.

Western connection

SkyWest Airlines, headquartered in St. George, Utah, won the contract for Devils Lake and Jamestown, while Great Lakes was the lone bidder for Thief River Falls.

It also serves, in partnership with Delta Airlines, the Minnesota EAS airports of Bemidji, Brainerd, Chisholm/Hibbing and International Falls, with connections to Minneapolis.

Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport had been part of the EAS program for several years, as its passenger numbers skyrocketed during the most recent western North Dakota oil boom. The airport's annual passenger total increased from 5,403 in 2006 to 58,843 in 2014, before dropping to 41,846 last year. The EAS contract ended in 2013.

SkyWest, which operates in Devils Lake and Jamestown under a partnership with United Express, provides 50-passenger jet service between Devils Lake and Denver flying seven days a week for a total of 11 round trips. Afternoon flights are nonstop, while others make stops in Jamestown.

Ridership has been increasing steadily since the airline arrived in the city in mid-2014.

"I attribute it to the direct jet service to Denver," Nord said. "Our numbers dropped in half when Delta left."

Delta had provided jet service to Minneapolis-St. Paul with stops in Grand Forks.

New suitors

With Great Lakes' contract set to expire in July, the Thief River Falls Airport Authority solicited other airlines to submit bids late last year.

At least two regional commuter airlines—San Francisco-based Boutique Air and Air Choice No. 1, based in the St. Louis area—have indicated they intended to vie for the service, airport manager Hedrick said.

The deadline for submitting proposals was Friday.

Thief River Falls also commissioned a study to determine the extent of the airport's lost passenger service potential.

The study, conducted by Mead and Hunt, a firm from Coppell, Texas, determined that Thief River Falls was capturing just 3 percent of the potential inbound and outbound air travelers in its prime market area, or true market estimate in 2015.

Rather than Thief River Falls, 38 percent of the airport's potential passengers were flying in or out of Fargo's Hector International Airport, while 30 percent were using Grand Forks International Airport. Another 25 percent were flying out of Minneapolis/St. Paul International, with 4 percent using Bemidji Regional Airport.

"We would like to capture some of that business," Hedrick said. "But we have to have reliable service."

Airport improvements

Nord said Devils Lake's passenger numbers would have been higher in 2015 had it not been for equipment malfunctions that forced cancellation for some flights—twice for a week at a time.

The FAA installed a new Automated Weather Observation Station in November.

"It as an obsolete system," Nord said. "Pilots have to know what the weather conditions are in order to land or fly out of the airport."

The Devils Lake airport also has made significant improvements in recent years.

The federal grants were $8.3 million to extend the main runway by 1,826 feet to 6,400 feet, $743,000 for a new aircraft rescue and firefighting fire truck, $528,367 for a runway safety area construction project and $85,000 to develop a new wildlife hazard assessment and wildlife management plan.

All four grants provided 90 percent federal funding, with the state and city splitting the remaining 10 percent.

Looking for more

The improvements, plus the jet service to Denver, have raised the Devils Lake airport's profile in the region.

Nord said Devils Lake is becoming competitive with other airports in the region—Grand Forks is about 90 miles to the east and Minot is 120 miles to the west.

As of this past week, a round-trip ticket between Devils Lake and Denver was $262 if purchased about three weeks in advance. That's about half the cost of Grand Forks-to-Denver flights.

In addition, Devils Lake offers free airport parking, he said.

"We are catching on with some of the folks who are outside of our market area, from Grand Forks, Rugby and Minot areas," Nord said, adding the Devils Lake-Denver route is particularly popular with UND hockey fans, who normally fill the planes when the Fighting Hawks play in Colorado.

"Things are going well," Devils Lake Mayor Dick Johnson said. "But for some reason, many people from here still drive to Grand Forks. Our biggest challenge is to get our local people to fly out of here. Hopefully, we can convince them to look here first."

Annual airline passengers (boarding and arriving) at airports in federal Essential Air Service program.

North Dakota

Airport 2015 2014 2013

Devils Lake 5,104 2,889 2,667

Jamestown 8,642 3,788 2,672

*Dickinson 41,846 58,843 35,125

Source: North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.

*No longer qualifies for Essential Air Service Program.


Airport 2015 2014 2013

*Thief River Falls 2,127 734 4,175

Bemidji ** 23,439 22,819

Brainerd ** 17,160 15,654

International Falls ** 16,328 15.796

Chisholm/Hibbing ** 11,617 11,669

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation

* Unofficial local airport 2015 data.

** Estimates unavailable.

Story and photo gallery:

INSIGHT-"State-of-the-art" subterfuge: how Iran kept flying under sanctions

* Airlines kept flying but safety record poor

* Some parts were bought at high prices, smuggled in

* Regulators and insurers to replace middlemen

TEHRAN, Jan 31 --   In December 2012, aircraft trader James Kim received a letter from a company based in Cyprus offering to buy four jetliners. It was brief and to the point.

The hitherto unknown firm was "ready, willing and able" to buy four used Airbus A340 jets for which Kim was trying to broker a sale.

"I talked to them and when I got the Letter of Intent with an Iranian name, I informed them that a deal was not possible because of sanctions," Kim, managing director of British-based aircraft trading company AvCon Worldwide, told Reuters.

The company that tried to buy them, registered in a Nicosia apartment with two directors with names that sounded Iranian, vanished from the radar, Kim said in a telephone interview.

The planes, for which there is little demand, remain with their Asian owner but the suspected approach typifies a shadowy trade in airplanes and parts that spanned the globe for decades.

Suspected front firms sought to trade in spare parts and even whole aircraft, according to people involved in the trade and other experts who mostly spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The Iranians would set up companies to try to do deals and then fold them up. They didn't stay around for long," said Kim.

The methods used to evade sanctions mirror those used in other countries that are or have been under international sanctions in recent decades, such as South Africa, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Iraq and North Korea.

After the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions on Jan. 16, Iran's aviation industry is coming out of the shadows.

With an order for 118 Airbus jets witnessed in Paris by President Hassan Rouhani, Iran moved swiftly to exchange a collection of vintage jets held together with smuggled parts for a new fleet capable of taking on rival Gulf carriers.

Like Cuba's preserved 1950s automobiles, the aircraft they will replace symbolise the ingenuity wrought by sanctions but also the scale of the task needed to reconnect the economy.

"Our strategy until now has just been to survive," Iranair chairman Farhad Parvaresh said.


At Tehran's airport, rows of mothballed aircraft still sit with bright orange covers on their engines, ready to give up their parts for other old planes needing repairs.

Through constant patching, transplants from grounded donor jets and discreet purchases, Iran's fleet stayed aloft although with an alarming safety record.

"It was state-of-the-art 'Under the Table'," Heydar Vatankhah, deputy managing director for engineering and maintenance at Iran's Kish Air, said of the overall effort.

"Every airline has a mastermind on this," he said.

Vatankhah spent 31 years helping to maintain an ancient fleet at state-owned Iranair including the world's oldest passenger 747, built in 1976 before the majority of Iranians were born, according to aviation consultancy CAPA, which organised an aviation summit in Iran in January.

One Iranian airline official, who asked not to be identified, said he had obtained a Western-built engine weeks after it left the factory by passing it through three countries.

While Iran says it can manufacture parts, the preference was for genuine components, but they came at a price.

"It's simple. If this costs $10,000, I had to pay $70,000," the engineering chief of an Iranian airline said, waving a can of soda to illustrate his point.

Others said they paid four or five times over the odds.

As they did so, the middlemen prospered.

"After decades of doing this you see a lot. Everyone takes their cut. It's a dirty business," the engineering chief said.

As confidence grew, a smuggled jet flew directly to Tehran Mehrabad airport, a former senior Iranian official said.

However, Iran's covert resupply operation clashed increasingly with foreign law and intelligence agencies.

The United States has targeted dozens of front companies suspected by diplomats of links to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, widely seen as a beneficiary of the sanctions trade.

"They (the West) listened to our calls and read our emails; of course we knew that," said one airline employee.

"But we are commercial people, not military men," he said, adding the deals had been elusive but not always complicated.

"They know where the wall is, but not where the hole is," he added.


The United States last year imposed sanctions on two firms in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates for helping Iran's Mahan Air purchase second-hand aircraft.

The airline, Iran's largest, was blacklisted in 2011 for allegedly ferrying operatives, arms and funds for the Revolutionary Guards' overseas unit. It remains under sanctions.

Iran says it has been forced to use the black market to preserve safety following fatal accidents and sanctions that prevented it from gaining access to parts and manuals. The West says the sanctions were effective in convincing Tehran to negotiate the recent deal on curbing its nuclear activities.

"It was a great suffering for all of us, so we haven't been able to develop in this field," lawmaker Mahdi Hashemi, head of the parliament's Development Commission, told the CAPA event.

Now, Iran's plans to absorb 500 new aircraft in the next decade look set to turn the well-worn system of improvised repairs and clandestine purchases on its head.

As middlemen dissolve into the post-sanctions landscape, with many of them expected to reinvent themselves as legitimate partners for investors, the airlines must contend with foreign regulators and insurers whose mindset is compliance.

The can-do mentality which kept Iran's rotting fleet flying through sanctions will be less welcome in future.

That means airlines must adapt to a forest of norms required by manufacturers, investors, lenders, lessors and regulators, said Mark Tierney, director of Crabtree Capital, which provides strategic advice and transaction execution services for airlines, aircraft and engine-leasing companies and financial institutions.

The problems of resuming normal operations do not end there.

A revolution in plane design has taken place while Iran was off the market. While mastering every nut and bolt of the Boeing 747, its engineers must get used to new types like the A350.

"The level of training and technology in airlines to be able to bring those aircraft in and operate without problems doesn't happen overnight," Dick Forsberg, strategy chief of leasing company Avolon, told a panel of Iranian officials.

Even with sanctions lifted, airlines may struggle to get some existing aircraft repaired while waiting for the new European jets, to which Iran hopes to add over 100 Boeings.

Many are so riddled with contraband parts that they would be unlikely to pass muster with repair shops, an engineer said.

In response, Airbus has agreed to help Tehran comply with foreign regulators and to provide repairs and training: crucial steps as Iran rebuilds its aviation industry from scratch. 

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