Monday, February 15, 2016

Great Bend has one last shot at regional air service

Great Bend has only one more chance at retaining regional air service at Great Bend Municipal Airport, and that is a hail Mary, Airport Manager Martin Miller said. 

Miller updated the City Council Monday night on the effort to resume such flights after the most recent provider, Portland, Ore.-based Seaport Airlines, pulled out in January. The flights to the airport fell under the federal Essential Air Service program.

Now, Great Bend must convince the United States Department of Transportation that it is eligible for EAS, Miller said.

According to the DOT, the Airline Deregulation Act, passed in 1978, gave airlines almost total freedom to determine which markets to serve domestically and what fares to charge for that service. The EAS program was put into place to guarantee that small communities that were served by certificated air carriers.

This is done by subsidizing round trips to a major hub airport. However, Miller said a 2012 change limited the amount of subsidies the feds would pay for air service to EAS communities to $1,000 per month in a calendar year, a limit being strictly enforced.

At last report, Great Bend was receiving over $1,500.

However, Miller said Seaport had been struggling with its Great Bend operations for some time. The airline, which has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, had improperly billed and calculated flights through Great Bend.

So, for three months of the past year, Great Bend was really receiving under $1,000. Miller said the average is still above the limit, but they might be able to show USDOT a record of mismanagement and gain pity.

“This is our last shot,” he said. 

The other numbers are not in Great Bend’s favor. The total number of passengers in and out, and landings has been down significantly in recent years, Miller said.

The council authorized Mayor Mike Allison to submit a letter petitioning the USDOT for a waiver from the limit to keep Great Bend in the EAS program.

Now, they are in a holding pattern, Miller said. Should the agency reject the plea, Great Bend will lose the service and will likely never get it back. 

Effective Jan. 17, Seaport discontinued service to Kansas and Missouri. A surprise announcement to the city from the company said the move was due to the current pilot shortage and the resulting restructuring its route network.

In March 2014, the United States Department of Transportation selected Seaport to provide commercial air service to the Great Bend Municipal Airport. The Essential Air Service contract was for a two-year period and under the deal, Seaport would provide 18 round-trip flights per week. 

The 2014 order came shortly after the previous EAS provider Great Lakes Aviation announced it was terminating its contract one month early, leaving in question if commercial air service in Great Bend would be available.
In January, the airline also discontinued scheduled air service in California and Mexico.

At the Feb. 1 council meeting, Mayor Mike Allison named Great Bend Municipal Airport Manager Martin Miller, Airport Advisory Committee President Brock McPherson, City Councilman Joel Jackson and AAC member and businessman Chris Spray to the ad hoc Air Service Review Committee. Their goal was to review proposals for a new EAS provider.


Man runs onto runway at John Wayne Airport (KSNA), found hiding in helicopter

A 35-year-old man was arrested Monday after running from police and hiding in a helicopter at John Wayne Airport.

Newport Beach police were called around 3:40 p.m. about a man needing medical attention in the 19700 block of Campus Drive, which is just outside of the airport, said sheriff’s Lt. John Roche.

When officers arrived, the man, James Carroll, got up and jumped over a fence and onto the runway, Roche said.

Officers chased after him. Carroll was found minutes later in an unlocked private helicopter.

He was arrested on suspicion of trespassing on airport property. No flights were disrupted during the search.

Carroll did not tell authorities why he ran in the first place, Roche said.


Didn’t register your drone? Prepare to pay

The Federal Aviation Administration wants to remind you that your new Christmas gift could get you in trouble.

All drones weighing over half a pound must be registered and insured by Friday February 19th, and if you fail to do so, you could face steep penalties and possible jail time.

They come in all sizes.. yours may have been a Christmas gift that you fly in the backyard.

“We are having to keep a minimum in stock because people keep coming in and not buying just one but buying two or three,” said Tyler Beckman, a Best Buy employee.

While others use drones for racing.

“I thought… how cool would it be to sit in the pilot seat of one of these drones and to be able to fly around and if I hit a tree, I’m ok, said Chris Coulson.

Chris Coulson builds drones and co-founded Fuse York.

The group meets every couple weeks to discuss drone technology and programming.

“It’s like building a computer back in the early 90’s when you really didn’t have many resources to go to,” said Coulson.

Coulson says the FAA’s new regulations should be taken seriously.

“This weighs about 300 grams so this has to be registered,” said Coulson.

The FAA now requires all drones to be insured and those weighing more than half a pound to be registered online.

Also, you can’t fly a drone over 400 feet or within 3 nautical miles of an airport and the operator must always have a line of sight.

“It’s those people that don’t really fly responsibly that’s ruining it for the rest of us,” said Coulson.

If you disobey, you could face civil and criminal penalties.

A maximum of $250,000 and three years behind bars.

“Probably more of what you’re going to see is invasions of privacy and harassment and stalking. I mean, people do that all the time and their emotions take the better of them and they do stupid things they’re not supposed to do. That’s what you’re going to start to see,” said Attorney Steven Stambaugh.

Stambaugh believes the real reason behind these new regulations is to combat terrorism.

“That’s why the laws are so specific about large sporting events, stadiums, public assemblies… airports of course,” said Stambaugh.

But, what may pose a difficult task is enforcing these regulations.

The FAA delegated jurisdiction to local law enforcement.

“If we came upon someone that was using a drone in an inappropriate manner and we found that it was unregistered and uninsured then we would certainly report our findings,” said Lieutenant David Lash with the Northern York County Regional Police Department.

Lt. Lash says the NYCRPD has not had any reports of people using drones in ways in which they should not.

But, they anticipate problems in the future with the growing popularity.

“Use it in a responsible manner in a safe area, certainly we don’t want people driving drones over route 30 or I-83,” said Lt. Lash.

Chris Coulson agrees with Lt. Lash… and has some advice for folks new to the drone world.

“Whether it’s a pocket drone like this or it’s a racing drone or it’s an industrial commercial drone – that the safety and consideration for other people’s property and their airspace – that they’re taken into consideration when you fly,” said Coulson.

For details on how to register and insure your drone:


Rats found in private airline, flight cancelled

LAHORE (Dunya News) – A flight of a private airliner has been cancelled on Monday due to presence of rats on the plane, reported Dunya News.

According to the Civil Aviation sources, the private airline was going to Karachi from Lahore when rats were found on board. The officials of the private airline cancelled the flight citing arrangement of an alternative flight for the passengers.

The Civil Aviation sources say that more than four rats were found on the plane after which the cleaning and spray of the plane had started. Meanwhile, the passengers could not be sent to Karachi through an alternate flight.


Saab 340B N341AG, Silver Airways LLC: Incident occurred August 12, 2017 -and- incident occurred February 15, 2016 at Orlando International Airport (KMCO), Orange County, Florida

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Orlando, Florida

Silver Airways LLC:

Silver Airways performing flight SIL70, aircraft while inbound encountered turbulence. Five (5) persons on board sustained minor injuries.

Date: 12-AUG-17
Time: 19:00:00Z
Regis#: SIL70
Aircraft Make: SAAB
Aircraft Model: SF34
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: MINOR
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: NONE
Activity: OTHER
Flight Phase: APPROACH (APR)
Aircraft Operator: SILVER AIRWAYS
Flight Number: SIL70

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Orlando, Florida


Date: 15-FEB-16
Time:  01:08:00Z
Regis#:  N341AG
Aircraft Make:  SAAB
Aircraft Model:  340
Event Type:  Incident
Damage:  Minor
Activity:  Other
Flight Phase:  STANDING (STD)
Aircraft Operator:  SILVER AIRWAYS
Flight Number:  SIL70
State: Florida

A small fire in an airplane engine canceled a flight bound to Tallahassee from Orlando International Airport on Monday night, officials said.

Silver Airways Flight 70, a Saab 340 aircraft, was parked near gate 36 when someone noticed a possible fire coming from one of its engines around 8 p.m., said Carolyn Fennell, airport spokeswoman.

It was quickly extinguished, she said.

A spokeswoman said the crew "received indication of a possible mechanical issue" and evacuated the plane.

Nine passengers and three crew members were evacuated, Fennell said.

No one was injured.

The flight was supposed to take off at 8:25 p.m., but has since been canceled.

No other flights or operations were impacted, Fennell said.

Silver Airways operates in the Mid-Atlantic, Florida and the Bahamas.

The airline will put passengers in a hotel and get them flights in the morning.


ORLANDO, Fla. —   A plane’s engine caught fire Monday night at the Orlando International Airport, the airport said.

Silver Airlines Flight 70 was parked a gate when someone saw flames coming from the engine shortly after 8 p.m., said Carolyn Fennell, an airport spokeswoman.

The plane hadn’t taken off yet, but the flight was bound for Tallahassee, Fennell said.

Nine passengers and three crew members were evacuated from the plane as firefighters extinguished the fire, Fennell said.

"The crew received indication of a possible mechanical issue and following safety and operational procedures, the crew safely disembarked customers," an airlines spokeswoman said. "We are currently working to provide customers with hotel accommodations for the night and reaccommodate them on flights in the morning."

No one was injured in the incident.


Tupelo Regional Airport (KTUP) gets ready for a party

TUPELO, Miss (WTVA) -- There was a lot of talk at the Tupelo Airport Authority's last meeting about a party.

A party involving Corporate Flight Management, the Smyrna Tennessee-based company to start flying planes out of Tupelo and the Tupelo Regional Airport.

The question is who's paying for the party?

"We're going to be paying for the party. The airport. And it stands a good chance of being reimbursed through government funds," said Tupelo Airport Authority Board member Jim Newman.

Newman says right now the Tupelo Airport Director Cliff Nash says there's about $4500 that they can tap into to help pay for the event.

 But some board members still had some questions.

"The question from some of the Board members was is the airlines going to participate in the cost of this welcoming party. We do have some available funds," said Nash.

Those funds he says are leftovers from air service grants.

Nash says he needs permission from the agencies that issued to grants before the money can be spent.

But he says Corporate Flight Management will play a part .

"The airline, they may not play a part in the beverages or snacks but just bringing the airplane here, the cost of fuel , the crew in itself is helping to fund the party," he continued.

Board members say they are asking CFM to help pay for the party.

"While we assume that they're flying an airplane down here and bringing the staff and other stuff to come to the party, and that is an expense on their part which we thoroughly understand, we wanted to go ahead and approve it so that we don’t come up to the last minute and try to hurry around and not do a very good job of the welcoming," said Newman.

Newman says the Federal Aviation Administration rules have slowed up the arrival of CFM.

"So it’s progressing. The reservationists are all down in Florida being trained. Pilots have been hired. There's an awful lot that goes into getting an airline started," Newman continued.

Newman went on to say that given the Tupelo Airport's experience with its last two carriers, it’s better to put the airline start-up off for a week or two in order to make sure everything goes well.

- Story and video:

Residents upset with Georgetown Municipal Airport (KGTU) upgrades

GEORGETOWN, Texas – Some residents are unhappy with the planned upgrades at Georgetown Municipal Airport, saying they don’t want to add to the 200 takeoffs and landings each day.

For two years, members of Airport Concerned Citizens have sent letters to city council members and state representatives asking for answers. They've attended transportation board and city council meetings.

“You can see that there are numerous neighborhoods that almost totally surround the airport,” said ACC member John Milford, referring to a map he showed KVUE’s Christy Millweard.

Airplane noise is one of the things people are worried about. They say between the noise and air pollution, they want to make sure the airport doesn’t expand.

TxDOT gave the city $8.3 million in grant money for upgrades with the city matching 10 percent of that. City spokesman Keith Hutchinson said the grant is for safety and maintenance work. ACC has around 100 members, and sees the improvements as a possible way to prepare for more plane traffic and bigger airplanes.

“If even a slightly bigger plane than this goes over, than the students in the school here, and the surrounding area, have to stop their classes because of this,” said Judy Brown with ACC as a plane flew over.

The group said pilots circle around the surrounding neighborhoods, adding to the noise. They want pilots to follow the "Fly Friendly Program" set up by the city, which designates noise sensitive areas within a two-mile radius of the airport. Go here to see the program details.

Airport manager Russ Volk said that program was put in place prior to the air traffic control tower, which was built in 2007. Now he says the controllers help designate when, where, and how the planes can land in order to keep everyone safe.

The tower was installed due to the increase in traffic after the airport because a reliever airport for Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

City leaders said they do not have plans to expand the airport, but expect business at the airport to increase with a growing population. A city spokesman tells KVUE there are no plans to extend runways, or add commercial or cargo plane traffic.

“I’m not saying we’re opposed to the airport expanding, I’m just saying we don’t need an expansion where it is currently,” said Milford.

Milford said they suggested a feasibility study and possibly moving the airport, but city leaders said they performed a study in 2002. That study said it would cost too much to move.

The upgrades from the TxDOT grant include things like new lighting and pavement to the taxiways, adding a new taxiway and moving the fuel tanks above ground to comply with environmental standards to preventing leakage into the soil and water supply.

ACC questions the fuel tank changes, saying the size will also increase, so they think it's to accommodate an increase in planes. Hutchinson said they are increasing the tank size, but to get a better price on fuel as they buy in bulk.

“I think the best case scenario is for it to stay as a small airport,” said Jerry Brown, who has lived in the area for 11 years.

The airport has been in the same location since 1945. Go here for frequently asked questions about the airport.

Story and video:

New training requirements cited in looming pilot shortage

Officials at small to medium-sized airports such as Springfield’s are worried about what they see as a looming pilot shortage for the regional carriers that serve those airports.

Although there are other factors, they say the main culprit is a six-fold increase in the number of training hours required to obtain an Airline Transport Pilot certificate.

“This is hurting small to medium-size airports,” said Mark Hanna, executive director of Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. “This is hampering Springfield. We’ve had flights delayed a number of hours because the crew is not back from another hub.”

“It’s an economic development issue that affects everyone,” he said.

Hanna was an early signer of a letter sent by the American Association of Airport Executives to leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure as it worked on the federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. The committee last week passed the bill to the full House.

The letter asked the committee to address the pilot shortage and specifically the 1,500-hour requirement, when it considered the legislation.

“This new requirement has dramatically increased both the time and cost of becoming a commercial airline pilot,” the letter says. “Unfortunately, the greater financial burden and debt associated with becoming a commercial airline pilot are deterring many young people from pursuing a career in aviation.”

The letter says that some communities have lost all commercial air service due to a lack of pilots. The Intervistas Consulting Group reports that more than 30 communities that had commercial air service in 2013 have lost all service.

According to a 2014 report by the Government Accounting Office, 11 of 12 regional airlines it had contacted had trouble filling pilot openings. Regional airlines account for more than half of all the domestic flight departures in the United States.

'Emotional decision'

The 1,500-hour requirement grew out of the Feb.12, 2009, crash of a Colgan Air flight in Buffalo, New York, that killed 50 people. The National Transportation Safety Board determined the primary cause of the crash was the pilots’ incorrect response to stall warnings.

Relatives of crash victims who lobbied for the increase in hours have said they’ll fight any changes.

“It (the training hours requirement) was an emotional decision by Congress,” Hanna said. “It bypassed the normal regulatory process. It’s almost a slap in the face to the regional airlines, saying that they don’t trust their training curriculum.”

“None of it was based on NTSB findings,” he said.

Hanna said the training requirement was 250 hours “for as long as I can remember.”

 “There isn’t anyone in the industry that would do anything that would compromise safety,” he said. “It was a decades-long process, tried and true.”

He said graduates of college aviation programs could leave school with at least close to 250 hours, then make up the rest with charter or corporate flights.

The military isn’t graduating and delivering the number of pilots to the industry it once did and is offering incentives to retain the pilots it has, Hanna added.

Pilots starting out at a regional airline make between $20,000 and $30,000 a year, sometimes less, and that also is a factor in the shortage. The cost of training can run $50,000 or more.

Pilots for regional airlines also continue to graduate to the ranks of major airlines.

Resources lacking

Patrick Smith, a pilot and blogger on air travel and the airlines industry, says that although the replacement pool of regional air pilots is becoming more shallow, the major airlines aren’t experiencing a shortage.

Two regional carriers fly out of Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport — American Eagle, operated by ExpressJet, and United Express, flown by SkyWest Airlines. Both are owned by the holding company SkyWest Inc.

“We have a very good relationship with SkyWest, and meet with them several times a year,” Hanna said. “The pilot shortage is one of chief concerns of theirs when they look at and evaluate new routes and sustaining current routes.”
SkyWest operates three flights a day to and from Chicago out of Capital Airport.

“They want to fly more, expand the market,” Hanna said. “But they don’t have the human resources. We (regional airports) all have routes on the table that airlines may consider if they had the resources to do it.”
Hanna said the problem can be easily fixed.

“It would take two to four sentences to change the requirement back to 250 hours — or even 500,” he said. “But really … six times is unreasonable. I don’t understand why there’s no motivation to change this.”


Incident occurred February 11, 2016 near Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (KFLG), Coconino County, Arizona

Police are investigating a report of a man shining a laser pointer at a Guardian Medical Transport helicopter near the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport.

According to the Flagstaff Police Department report, the helicopter was flying over the 2000 block of East Frontier Avenue at about 12:45 a.m. Thursday when the pilot noticed what looked like a green laser pointed at the aircraft. An individual in one of the nearby trailers had been contacted about a similar incident in the past. While police were questioning the residents, a man exited the trailer and admitted to shining a flashlight at the helicopter because he wanted to identify it, although he denied using a laser pointer.

Officers soon learned the man was experiencing delusions. The suspect claimed the helicopter flies over his home multiple times a day and often follows him. The suspect had previously been contacted by police for shooting flares at a helicopter.

FPD officers notified the Federal Aviation Administration about the incident. The investigation is ongoing.


PZL-Mielec M-18A Dromader, Rebel Ag, VH-TZJ: Fatal accident occurred October 23, 2013 in Ulladulla, New South Wales

Undetected stress fatigue crack caused wing to break off in water bombing plane crash that killed pilot David Black.

An investigation report into a fatal plane crash on the New South Wales south coast has found the left wing separated from the plane mid-flight due to an undetected fatigue crack.

The M18 Dromader was carrying out water bombing operations for the Rural Fire Service when it crashed near Ulladulla in October 2013.

The crash resulted in the death of experienced pilot David Black, 43, from Trangie in central-west NSW.

The final report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) found the wing separated from the plane due to a fatigue crack in the lower attachment fitting, which originated in small corrosion pits.

The corrosion pits were not successfully removed during maintenance, and the unapproved inspection method may not have been effective in detecting the crack.

"The result of weathering, interaction with the metal and so on could lead to corrosion of the metal and that leads to pitting of the metal, and the way of dealing with that is to strip back the metal and remove the pitting," ATSB chief commissioner Martin Dolan said.

"And that wasn't done fully effectively in this case."

The report also noted the harder and faster an aircraft was flown, the more rapidly the structure would fatigue.

Mr Dolan said despite approval to carry heavier loads, the stresses to the plane could have been more accurately calculated.

"There was a range of tests and approvals that were done to allow it to fly with a heavier load," he said.

"But looking back over the various calculations done about that, we think that the risk of parts of the aircraft being subject to stress and fatigue risk was probably under calculated."

Since the accident, Commissioner Dolan said procedures for inspections and recommendations for carrying additional weight were close to being fully implemented.

"They have actually been implemented or are in the process of being implemented, and we'll just keep an eye on them until the work has been complete," he said.

"But we are satisfied with the action that has been taken or the action that's proposed."

The M18 Dromaders are no longer approved for water bombing operations.


Aviation safety investigation & report:

In-flight breakup involving PZL Mielec M18A Dromader aircraft, VH-TZJ, 37 km west of Ulladulla, NSW on 24 October 2013

Investigation number: AO-2013-187
Investigation status: Completed

What happened

On 24 October 2013, the pilot of a modified PZL Mielec M18A Dromader, registered VH-TZJ, was conducting a firebombing mission about 37 km west of Ulladulla, New South Wales. On approach to the target point, the left wing separated. The aircraft immediately rolled left and descended, impacting terrain. The aircraft was destroyed and the pilot was fatally injured.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that the left wing separated because it had been weakened by a fatigue crack in the left wing lower attachment fitting. The fatigue crack originated at small corrosion pits in the attachment fitting. These pits formed stress concentrations that accelerated the initiation of fatigue cracks.

The ATSB also found that, although required to be removed by the aircraft manufacturer’s instructions, the corrosion pits were not completely removed during previous maintenance. During that maintenance, the wing fittings were inspected using an eddy current inspection method. This inspection method was not approved for that particular inspection and may not have been effective at detecting the crack.

Data from a series of previous flights indicated that the manner in which the aircraft was flown during its life probably accelerated the initiation and growth of the fatigue crack.

Finally, the ATSB also found a number of other factors which, although they did not contribute to the accident, had potential to reduce the safety of operation of PZL M18 and other aircraft. These included the incorrect calculation of the flight time of M18 aircraft and a lack of robust procedures for the approval of non-destructive inspection procedures.

The Airline That Transported Three Popes

(Vatican Radio) Few airlines around the world have had the opportunity to transport even one Pope, but Aeromexico have now had the privilege of transporting three.

The world’s first Latin American Pope is not the first Supreme Pontiff to board a plane belonging to Mexico’s oldest airline.

 In fact, both Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were also flown by the airline in 1979 and 2012, respectively.

Pope Francis will soar the skies in Boeing 737 and 787 Dreamliner aircraft, and will be looked after by a full Aeromexico crew including flight attendants and pilots. 

Although the Dreamliner has been equipped to host a press conference, few special accommodations have been made on-board, keeping in line with the Holy Father’s renowned humility.

A spokesperson for Aeromexico said, “True to his reputation, the Pope has very humble needs for a head of state.”


Astronaut-turned-pilot with a big history and bigger heart • Curt Brown isn't an ordinary Sun Country pilot.... he's so much more

(KMSP) - If the passengers knew who was sitting in the captain's seat on their Sun Country Airlines flight, they might not be in such a hurry to get off the plane.

Curt Brown's idea of relaxing is flying a hundred feet off the ground at speeds approaching 500 miles an hour. Brown is a frequent flyer at the famed air races in Reno, Nevada. Last year, he piloted the Saw Bones air team from Anoka to a very impressive fourth place finish.

Quick history check: John Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the earth back in 1962. He returned to space in 1998 at the age of 77 and the commander of that historic shuttle mission was none other than Brown himself. Clearly, Brown has lots to be proud of. He made a record six trips to space in seven years. In 2013,  he was inducted into the astronauts hall of fame, joining such legends as Glenn and Neil Armstrong. After spending a total of 57 days, 17 hours and seven minutes in space, he has come to believe we're not alone in the universe.

"I'm sure there's life out there, somewhere. We may not understand it or whatever, there's stuff out there, I’m sure,” Brown said.

He frequently visits schools to talk about space, and encourages students to work hard and dream big.

"If I can change one kid, you never know what that kid's doing to do for the future of humanity."

And for those kids who can't relate to this high achiever, he reminds them he was on academic probation his first semester.

Whether he's flying commercial jets, racing at Reno, or restoring old cars in his garage, he sets a lofty, yet unattainable goal for every task.

"I have to do everything perfect,” he says.

You can Google his name and be amazed by all his accomplishments: Air Force Academy. Top Gun pilot. Electrical engineer. But there's one thing you'd miss.

"It probably wouldn't tell you what a kind heart he is,” his wife, Mary Brown, said.

The steely-eyed missile man is a bit of a softie. At Christmas, he took a group of make-a-wish kids on a trip to see Santa. Nobody had a clue there was a celebrity in the cockpit. The crew is under strict orders on all of his flights to keep a tight lip. His buddies on the race team say he's just a down to earth rocket man. He puts on his space suit one leg at the time like anyone else – just one of the guys, having a beer and watching space movies.

How does someone who's flown millions of miles in space end up being a pilot at for a small airline in Minnesota? He was retired for a few years and really missed flying. He sent in his resume to Sun Country but never heard back. So he called to make sure they got it. Initially, they said they don’t hire astronauts, but eventually found a spot for him.

Brown’s latest mission is to get a "challenger center" to open in the Twin Cities to offer kids opportunities to learn more about science, math and space exploration. Head to to learn more.

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Airline puts two women up in sex hotel on Valentine's Day after flight delay

The two strangers were thrust into a scene right out of the popular adult novel series "Fifty Shades of Grey" when they discovered their room was decorated with chains and handcuffs.

A delayed passenger claims she was left embarrassed after an airline arranged for her and another woman to be put up in a "sex hotel" on Valentine's Day.

The two strangers were thrust into a scene right out of Fifty Shades of Grey when they discovered their room was decorated with chains and handcuffs.

The woman, who later identified herself online as "Luobao", said she had planned to fly from south-west China’s Chongqing City to Hangzhou, capital of eastern Zhejiang Province.

However, heavy snowstorms on China’s east coast delayed their 8.40pm take-off on Hainan Airlines flight HU7388, and they were told they would have to wait until 11.10pm to leave.

As the weather conditions continued to worsen, Hainan Airlines staff informed Luobao that her flight would only leave at 3pm the next day.

She was told the airline would put her up in a hotel free of charge – together with another female passenger who was also delayed.

Luobao was shocked when she and the other woman were shown the room in the Chongqing sex hotel, complete with "love chair", chains, and wrist and ankle cuffs.

The embarrassed Luobao later shared photographs of the unconventional room on social media with the caption: "We are two single girls; is this sex room our Valentine’s gift? I cannot accept the ‘thoughtful’ gesture."

She added that she was unsatisfied with the arrangements.

Hainan Airlines has yet to respond to the complaint.

But commenters were sympathetic with the airlines, saying that, with tens of thousands of passengers stranded in airports across the city, many of the hotels must have been fully booked.

Saving lives out of the blue • Aviation Command performs search-and-rescue operations and speedy transports to hospitals

Trooper 3 crew members, from left, Matthew Adams, Kristine Yaroschuk, Timothy Siebold and Bill Jensen. 

A Maryland State Police Aviation Command training exercise includes practice in reaching the ground from an airborne helicopter.

It’s not unusual for Kristine ­Yaroschuk and her daughter Fiona, 8, to look up at the sky, wave and shout, “Hi, Trooper 3!” as their local Maryland State Police helicopter flies by. While on duty, Fiona’s mom is the pilot in command aboard that aircraft.

Last summer, three teens, stranded on rocks in rough water after their boat capsized in Maryland’s Lake Linganore, were rescued by Trooper 3, located in Frederick. As the copter hovered overhead, rotor blades spinning, the crew lowered a strong wire rescue basket to lift the teens, one by one, up to waiting medical care on board. This is just one example of thousands of successful missions these “safety nets in the sky” perform each year.

Providing a lifeline to many, Maryland’s Aviation Command helicopters, based in seven centers across the state, can travel 175 miles per hour to reach almost any location in Maryland within 20 minutes.

Each crew has two pilots and two medics supported by a team of mechanics who keep the helicopters in tiptop shape.

In addition to rescue baskets, each helicopter carries all the equipment an ambulance does. Night-vision goggles help crew members work in the dark, while a camera, mounted under the aircraft’s nose, captures images of scenes below. High-tech equipment allows the crew to communicate with emergency units on the ground to assess the situation and transport patients to the best hospital for their needs.

And, in Maryland, this lifesaving service, paid for by car registration fees, is provided at no cost to the patient. Medic Bill Jansen said, “It’s very satisfying to know you are helping others in difficult times.”

Whether it’s a lost hiker, a victim of a severe fall or traffic accident, or anyone else in a life-threatening situation, the Aviation Command works primarily on emergency medical transport or search-and-rescue missions. 

Crews also help with disaster monitoring, such as during flooding or storm damage, and providing aerial assistance for Homeland Security and law enforcement.

The pilots, medics and supporting mechanics for each of the Aviation Command’s 10 helicopters are highly trained in their specialties. Beyond the math, science, engineering and communication skills needed, all must have strong teamwork skills and be able to think ahead, staying calm as they react quickly to every situation.

When Yaroschuk and her crew begin work each day, they never know what situations they will face, but they are well prepared to meet any challenge. Yaroschuk, who has been with Trooper 3 for eight years, said, “I’m at the place I wanted to be, doing what I want to do.”

Story and photos:

New federal aviation bill would privatize controllers at Bradley International Airport (KBDL), Windsor Locks, Connecticut

Washington – A new Federal Aviation Administration bill making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives has drawn mixed reviews from airports including Bradley International, those who fly smaller planes and one of the nation’s largest airlines – Delta.

The hot-button issue for many is the move to privatize the nation’s air traffic controllers. But Kevin Dillon, the CEO of the Connecticut Airport Authority, says he has other areas of concern.

One is that the bill would not raise a fee on air tickets called the passenger facility charge, that is capped at $4.50. That fee pays for airport improvements, but the nation’s airlines lobbied to keep the fee frozen.

“The buying power of that $4.50 has eroded greatly,” Dillon said.

He’s also concerned the bill does not address pilot shortages that have hurt airports like Bradley.

“We’ve already lost service here,” he said.

An American Airlines flight between Bradley and Pittsburgh had to be scrapped because of the pilot shortage, Dillon said.

Dillon said he was “neutral” on the issue that’s roiling Congress, whether air traffic controllers should be transferred from the federal government payroll to a federally chartered, not-for-profit corporation called the “ATC Corporation.”

But there is one aspect of the plan that concerns him.

The board of directors of the ATC Corporation would consist of a chief executive officer, two directors appointed by the secretary of transportation, four directors representing commercial air carriers, two directors from organizations representing the general aviation community, one director representing the air traffic controllers union, and one director representing the airline pilots union.

There is no airport representation.

“And airports rely very heavily on the air traffic controllers,” Dillon said.

Bradley International has 14 fully trained controllers and three who are in training, the FAA says.

Pipeline of Pilots

Congress must reauthorize the FAA bill by March 31 to keep operations at the nation’s airports running.

For years House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Schuster, R-Pa., wanted the FAA reauthorization bill to privatize the controllers. He had a win last week, when the House Transportation Committee approved Shuster’s bill on a 32 to 26 party-line vote.

But the lack of consensus on so many issues and the number of competing interests means a final bill is unlikely to be approved by Congress by March 31, and a stopgap measure extending current authorization may be needed.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, a member of the House Transportation Committee, is among those who hopes for changes.

She was among the Democrats who voted against the bill in committee, largely because of the air traffic controller privatization provision. “And that’s too bad because there are really some good parts of the bill,” she said.

That includes new regulations on drones and modernization of the nation’s air traffic system, Esty said, as well as an amendment she sponsored that encourages the FAA to work with airlines to recruit women to end the shortage of pilots.

“We need to have a bigger pipeline of pilots,” she said.

But on privatizing air traffic controllers, Esty joined other Democrats who say “the “drastic” move would result in too much control over controllers by the airlines and other corporate interest and a possible erosion of safety standards.

“It’s a fatal flaw in the bill,” she said.

While most of the  nation’s airlines, except Delta, support privatizing the controllers, those who fly private planes are pushing back.

Sean Collins, Eastern Regional Manager of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, said the bill’s new user fees, aimed at helping to fund the ATC Corporation, would fall more heavily on those who fly private planes.

Currently, airlines and owners of private planes pay a fuel tax instead of user fees. Although the tax rate is lower for the airlines, because they use a lot of fuel, they still pay the lion’s share of the tax.

Collins said this would change if user fees replaced the fuel tax.

Tweed-New Haven Airport, Brained Airport in Hartford, Stratford's Igor I. Sikorsky Airport, Danbury Municipal Airport, Waterbury-Oxford Airport and Groton-New London Airport already have privatized air traffic controllers who work as government contractors.

But under the new FAA bill, the companies that hire those controllers would no longer negotiate contracts with the federal government, but with the ATC Corporation.

Connecticut’s smallest airports, like the one in Simsbury, would also see changes.

Currently, private planes flying into and out of those small airports can choose whether to seek the help of a controller at another airport if they want it. But under the bill, they would have to pay a user fee for the privilege.

“I believe that’s a burden, so there’s a potential safety problem,” Collins said.

But, like Esty and Dillon, Collins says there is good in the bill. “There are a lot of great things inside the bill,” he said.

Among those, Collins said, is a provision that would change the cost share of airport improvement grants so small airports would only need to pay 10 percent of the amount of the grant.

Larger airports, like Bradley International, would not have the same benefit. But that means more money would go to Tweed-New Haven, Brainard and the state’s other airports, Collins said.

Original article can be found here:

More airline pilots are retiring — and fewer people want their jobs • Length, cost of training keep would-be pilots away

CINCINNATI -- A shortage of pilots is reaching down from airlines to flight schools, leaving many industry professionals questioning who will step in to fill the cockpits. With an aging population of airline captains — a career with a mandatory retirement age of 65 — and fewer people pursuing aviation careers, replacing retiring pilots is challenging.

Become a WCPO Insider to see how the high cost and length of training is keeping aspiring pilots out of flight school — and learn what airlines will have to do to overcome the projected pilot shortage in years to come.

Read more here:

Cirrus Aircraft revenues up, shipments down

Cirrus plane shipments were down slightly in 2015 as global economic uncertainty affected sales of its single-engine piston planes.

The Duluth-based aircraft manufacturer delivered 301 planes in 2015, a dip from 308 deliveries in 2014. The decline follows two years of gains after Cirrus hit a low of 253 shipments in 2012 in the aftermath of the economic recession that hit the general aviation industry hard.

Cirrus Aircraft had gotten off to a strong start in 2015 with a backlog of orders and an improving economy. But plane shipments — the preferred industry term for unit sales — in the last half of the year were hurt by stock market drops in North America and economic troubles in its overseas markets, according to Ben Kowalski, a Cirrus spokesman.

Cirrus' 2 percent decline in shipments, however, fared better than the 6.5 percent drop in single-engine piston plane shipments worldwide, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association 2015 shipment report released last week.

The industry is being affected by plummeting energy sector revenue, economic uncertainty and currency fluctuations in key general-aviation markets such as Brazil, Europe, Russia and China, GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said in a statement.

But over at Cirrus — which has been investing heavily in its jet program and is expanding its facilities for production of the new personal jet — the mood is upbeat.

"Cirrus had a remarkably strong year, despite those economic challenges," said Kowalski, the company's vice president of marketing.

For the second year in a row, the company delivered more than 300 of its SR-20, SR-22 and SR-22T piston planes with North America remaining its strongest market. Moreover, Cirrus' SR-22 series remains the world leader in its category of small personal aircraft for the 13th consecutive year.

"Overall, we're seeing a pretty solid mix of personal buyers," Kowalski said. "Often they buy for multi-use — for personal and business use."

Total revenues are up, from $217 million in 2014 to $221 million in 2015, according to GAMA data.

The boost in 2015 revenues is the result of higher prices and customers opting for more loaded planes, Kowalski said. The company's top seller is the turbocharged SR-22T, its highest performing plane, which starts at $619,900.

Cirrus' entry aircraft, the SR-20, remains the leading choice for its flight training fleet customers, though the plane now makes up only 10 percent of the company's shipments. Kowalski said they're seeing more and more training programs choosing the higher performing Cirrus SR-22. That includes the Dubai-based Emirates, one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, which has ordered 22 of the SR-22s for its pilot training program. Cost of the SR-22 starts at $519,900 while the SR-20 starts at $369,900.

In 2016, Cirrus will be included in a second category of planes — the business jet — which saw shipments worldwide increase nearly 2 percent in 2015, GAMA numbers show.

"What we're excited about at Cirrus is moving into a new product line," Kowalski said. "A lot of customers are stepping up to our Vision Jet. A lot of fleets are interested in our Vision Jet. We're very excited about bringing it to market this year."

The Cirrus SF-50 Vision jet is expected to receive Federal Aviation Administration certification in the next four months. Customer delivery of the first of 600 orders for the $1.96 million jet should soon follow. As with Cirrus' piston planes, the jet will be equipped with an airframe parachute system.

To create space for the jet's production, a new $12.6 million, 68,000-square-foot center for painting and other finishing work on the jets will be built this year adjacent to Cirrus' headquarters at the Duluth International Airport. A new $15 milion delivery and customer service center is under construction in Knoxville, Tenn., which will free up space in Duluth. And a year ago, space was created when Cirrus moved its machining, subassembly production and some research and development to an off-airport building.

The jet program, which has created hundreds of jobs, doesn't mean Cirrus' piston planes will be any less important, Kowalski said.

"For the past 16 years, we've been certifying and delivering our single-engine piston planes and that will continue," he said. "As we become a two-product line, a lot of our focus is on both of them."

Original article can be found here: