Friday, April 1, 2016

Helicopter offers advantages for vaccine bait drop in a contained area in the fight against rabies

Ministry of Natural Resources pilot Andrew Brunet checks over the Eurocopter EC130 he was flying to drop fox-rabies vaccine bait north of Stratford on Friday.

A bright yellow-and-black EC130 helicopter was a valuable tool in helping a Ministry of Natural Resources crew blanket an 8-kilometre-square area with some 20,000 small packages of rabies vaccine bait north of Stratford on Friday.

The effort was in response to a positive test of the Arctic fox strain of rabies late last December in a calf in the Brunner area.

It was the first confirmed fox-strain rabies case in southern Ontario since 2012. No additional cases have been found in the area since then.

Bev Stevenson, an MNR wildlife research technician based in Peterborough, said it's believed a rabid skunk passed on the fox-strain rabies to the calf. A skunk was seen acting strangely near the farm before the calf tested positive.

The nimble EC130 helicopter, flown by MNR pilot Andrew Brunet, was chosen for Friday's drop because of its ability to tightly target an area, Stevenson noted.

Brunet and a crew of three flew their mission over Brunner starting from the Stratford Municipal Airport, where the workhorse MNR twin-engined Otters have become a common sight during larger-scale bait drops over the years.

"It's such a small area and the flight lines are so tight together that it's just much more efficient to use the helicopter this time," Stevenson explained.

She said the baits are not harmful to people or pets. If anyone finds one, they can simply place a plastic bag over a hand--to prevent human scent from transmitting to the package--and drop the bait into a bushlot or wooded area where wildlife are likely to consume it, she said.

The baits measure about four-by-two centimetres, and have a waxy coating that is scented to attract skunks, foxes and raccoons.

The MNR said that the vaccine is absorbed through the lining of the mouth. An animal is immunized about two weeks after absorbing the vaccine.

For more information on the program call the MNR Rabies Hotline at 1-888-574-6656.

The MNR notes that the number of wildlife-related rabies cases in Ontario has dropped by more than 99% since rabies-control programs began.

Original article can be found here:

Police re-appealing for information regarding aircraft disappearance - Off Byron Bay

Police investigating the disappearance of a light plane off Byron Bay last month are re-appealing to the public for any information concerning the incident.

Shortly after 4pm on Monday,  March 21, 2016, a light aircraft left Lismore with only a pilot on board and failed to return.

The plane is believed to have disappeared from radar about 6 nautical miles north east of Cape Byron.

Ballina detectives have commenced an investigation into the incident and are now re-appealing to the public for any information which could assist them concerning the pilot and plane and the circumstances leading up to the disappearance.

Police are urging anyone with information in relation to this incident to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: Information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence. We remind people they should not report crime information via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Original article can be found here:

West Vancouver Nazis film shoot

TV and movie film crews are as common as dirt on the North Shore these days but at least one local production was raising some eyebrows this week – particularly when a swastika-emblazoned plane was spotted flying low around West Vancouver.

Freelance photographer Jorge Parra was out shooting some photos in Whytecliff Park on Monday when he noticed a vintage plane circling. When he got home and zoomed in on his digital images, he noticed the Nazi insignia.

“I thought, really? Where is this coming from?” Parra said. “I thought maybe Donald Trump was coming to visit.”

But, thankfully, the plane was only temporary given a facelift for the TV adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle. The show presents an alternate history, one in which the Nazis won the Second World War and North America is divided into German and Japanese controlled territories. The show is only available on the on-demand streaming service Amazon Prime.

The plane was a 1944 Grumman Goose, a model which, ironically, was used by the Royal Canadian Air Force as a transport plane in the Second World War.

The same show’s film crew drew some attention in Eagle Harbour Tuesday when they blew up a vintage boat off Eagle Island, a scene that will be incorporated into the show’s second season.

West Vancouver Fire and Rescue was on hand for the 50-foot fireball and actors being launched into the air from hydraulic catapults and representatives from the Vancouver Aquarium were also monitoring to make sure there was no threat to aquatic life.

“Everybody seemed to be very happy,” said assistant fire chief Jeff Bush. “There haven’t been any complaints. Usually there’s one or two people who complain. It ran very smoothly.”

There is no indication the show will be filming many more scenes locally, according to the District of West Vancouver.

- Original article can be found here:

'De Plane!' from 'Fantasy Island' to be sold at Branson auction

Lived through the '80s? You likely remember Tattoo, played by actor Hervé Villechaize on ABC's "Fantasy Island."

At the start of each episode, the diminutive character cried "de plane, boss! de plane!" to Mr. Roarke, played by Ricardo Montalban.

Now "de plane" — a refurbished 1967 Grumman Widgeon G-44, the last of its kind to be built — is going on sale at the Branson Auction this month, according to a statement from company owner Jim Cox.

In the news release, Cox said the vintage seaplane appeared on the TV show from 1977 to 1984, and it had multiple owners afterward. In the mid-'80s, it was confiscated by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. "The pilot was using it to smuggle drugs!" Cox said in the statement. Later, the government sold it to a private collector. Of the 150 Grumman Widgeons that survive today, "de plane" has the least amount of time in the air, 900 hours.

The Branson Auction (also known as the Branson Collector Car Auction) takes place April 15-16 at Branson Convention Center, with the plane — now painted cherry-red — going on sale April 16.

The auction is entering its 38th year, attracting more than 5,000 people each spring and fall in Branson. More than 250 "sports, muscle, vintage, classic, custom and antique automobiles" go on sale, according to the news release.

The Grumman Widgeon is the Branson Auction's first collectible airplane to be auctioned.

News of the sale has been covered by a TV station in St. Louis, a newspaper in Tulsa, and New York-based lads' magazine Maxim.

Original article can be found here:

Charlevoix Municipal Airport (KCVX) hopes to reduce aircraft noise by education

CHARLEVOIX — Pilots flying in and leaving Charlevoix will be asked to follow a voluntary noise abatement policy this summer.

Members of the airport advisory committee heard from residents who live near the airport that noise from planes had reached an unbearable level last summer and decided to act with adding signs and trying to educate pilots on the volunteer procedures to limit noise at night and early morning.

“We want the public to know we are acting on this by taking it a step at a time,” said Ken Tough, committee chairman.

The airport night recommendations for jet and turboprop aircraft when arriving will be to use runway 09 and departing will be runway 27.

“We agreed following the model that Harbor Springs uses at its airport was our best approach in Charlevoix,” said committee member Don Seelye.

The airport will be placing signs and brochures in the pilot lounge that list the airport recommendations for noise control.

“The voluntary noise abatement policy is a very educational approach,” said committee member Shirley Gibson. “This way we can work together for a mutual cooperation between the flying public and surrounding property owners.”

The airport does not plan on placing signs near the runways because of Federal Aviation Administration requirements, said airport manager Liz Myer.

“(FAA) recommends interior signage before placing them near the airfield because of them being part of non-essential signage,” Myer said. “Runways are object-free areas and I think we have a captive audience in the pilots lounge.”

Original article can be found here:

BASE jumper found dead in Metcalf, Thomas County, Georgia

26-year-old Tom Patrick Baker, left, and 46-year-old Miles Edwin Daisher were arrested for trespassing in Thomas County, Georgia this morning. The two were accompanying a friend who died in a BASE jumping accident.
(Photo: Thomas County Sheriff's Office)

A BASE jumper died this morning after jumping off a television tower in Metcalf, Georgia.

The Thomas County Sheriff's Office said 37-year-old Brandon Jackson, a retired U.S. Army master sergeant from Hawaii, was found dead in a wooded area, still attached to his parachute.

TCFO Capt. Steven Jones said deputies were called to a scene off Roddenberry Road about 3:30 a.m. by two men who came to support Jackson. The two men, 26-year-old Tom Patrick Baker of North Carolina and 46-year-old Miles Edwin Daisher of Idaho, stayed on the ground throughout the jump, Jones said.

Baker and Daisher told deputies they searched the area for about an hour before calling deputies. The two said when Jackson jumped they heard the sound of his parachute deploy followed by another sound they didn't recognize. They believe he hit an electrical wire on the way down.

Jackson was found dead in a wooded area about 800 to 1,000 yards north-northwest of the active tower. He came down through the trees, Jones said.

Baker and Daisher were arrested and booked into the Thomas County Jail after they were interviewed by deputies. Both are charged with trespassing.

The acronym BASE, according to, stands for the four launching points used by jumpers: Building, antenna, span and earth.

Original article can be found here:

Professional BASE jumper Miles Daisher does a gainer high over the Snake River Canyon during the 8th annual Perrine Bridge Festival in 2013. Daisher and Tom Patrick Baker were charged with criminal trespass Thursday after a man with them, Brandon Jackson, died while BASE jumping from a phone tower in Metcalf.

METCALF — Brandon Jackson, 37, a retired U.S. Army master sergeant formerly of Michigan and currently of Hawaii, is dead after jumping off a phone tower in Metcalf Thursday morning.

At approximately 2:30 a.m., Jackson and two other men went to the tower off Roddenberry Road near Metcalf.

Thomas County Sheriff's Office Capt. Steve Jones said the trio was there for Jackson to BASE jump off the tower. BASE jumping is parachuting from a fixed structure. The tower is reportedly one of the tallest in Georgia.

Jackson climbed to about 1,600 feet, nearly to the top of the 1,800 to 2,000 foot tower, with a parachute and jumped.

The other men, Miles Edwin Daisher, 47, of Twin Falls, Idaho, and Tom Patrick Baker, 29, of North Carolina, stayed on the ground. According to Jones, the men told investigators they heard the chute open and then another noise they couldn’t identify.

Daisher and Baker searched the area for about an hour, looking for Jackson, according to Jones, before they called authorities. Jones said the Sheriff’s Office received the call around 3:30 a.m.

A massive search involving the Thomas County Sheriff’s Office, Thomas County Emergency Management Services and local residents who provided four-wheelers and manpower ensued. The Leon County Florida Sheriff’s Office used a helicopter to try to find a heat signature, but the effort was unsuccessful. The search began at the tower and expanded outward.

Jackson’s body was found by Metcalf residents Randy and Patti Benton late Thursday morning. He was found approximately 800 to 1,000 yards from the tower, according to Jones, about 20 feet inside of the edge of nearby woods.

Randy Benton said the parachute was in the tree and the deceased man was at the bottom of the tree. Benton went for authorities while his wife stayed with the body.

“That’s certainly not something you see everyday,” Benton said.

“The wind was possibly a factor,” said Jones. “According to the National Weather Service, it was gusting at over 40 mph at that time. The chute did deploy. He may have hit a guide wire.

"We won’t know for sure until the investigation is completed,” he said.

Jones thanked all the responding law enforcement and local residents for their help, calling the search a “fabulous team effort.”

Daisher and Baker were arrested and charged with criminal trespass. Other charges may be pending.

According to Allison Smith with the Twin Falls Times-News and in Twin Falls, Idaho, Daisher is from Warner Robins, but he’s lived in Twin Falls for quite some time.

She said Daisher is a nationally recognized BASE jumper who brought national attention to BASE jumping and Twin Falls by setting a world record.

The Perrine Bridge near Twin Falls is one of the few places in the country where it is legal to BASE jump year round without a permit.

“In 2005, Miles jumped from the Perrine Bridge 57 times in less than 24 hours, hiking out of the Snake River Canyon each time, approximately the equivalent distance as hiking Mount Everest,” she said.

He is one of the organizers of the Perrine Bridge Festival each September, which raises money for the local hospital foundation. He also runs a business in Twin Falls where he teaches people to pack parachutes, BASE jump, etc.

Original article can be found here:

Federal Aviation Administration Eases 8-Year-Old Flight Caps at New Jersey's Newark Airport

Regulators eased a cap on flights at Newark Liberty International Airport, allowing carriers to apply for new service for the first time since heavy delays forced the U.S. government to limit operations there in 2008.

The Federal Aviation Administration will consider allowing additional flights at the New Jersey airport as long as they don’t exceed capacity, according to an order posted online Friday.

“This change will improve access to some of the most in-demand airspace in the country,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement.

The FAA stopped short of fully lifting controls at Newark, saying high demand for flights into the New York region could once again trigger a spike in delays if not carefully managed. Flight caps will remain in place at New York’s LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports, the agency said.

‘Scarce’ Capacity

The FAA action, which takes affect Oct. 30, “will mean more efficient use of scarce airfield capacity at Newark,” according to a statement by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees New York-area airports. “This action will help travelers by increasing competition and choices at Newark Liberty by allowing more flights by different airlines, thereby helping to reduce air fares.”

More than 35.6 million passengers flew on commercial flights at Newark in 2014, according to the latest figures available from the Airports Council International. That made it the 16th busiest airport in North America.

“We will continue to work with the FAA, which recognizes this decision may cause further inconvenience to customers flying to and from Newark, along with the Port Authority and others, to minimize delays,” United, the largest carrier at Newark, said by e-mail. Delta didn’t immediately respond to a call seeking comment. American Airlines Group Inc. said it was reviewing the order.

The FAA in 2008 limited the number of flights at Newark to 81 an hour, a level it said was the most its runways could handle. More recent reviews, however, showed that demand fell below that level routinely, even during the busiest periods of the day, the agency said Friday. There also have been “significant improvements” in on-time performance and delays during peak flight times at the airport, according to the FAA.

Impact Unclear

It was unclear how big an impact the FAA order would have on Newark’s operations, said Brian Campbell, a consultant specializing in scheduling at Campbell-Hill Aviation Group in Arlington, Virginia.

“I don’t think there’s a lot to play with before serious delay problems would return,” he said.

Competition for flights at such so-called slot-controlled airports is high and last year triggered a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit seeking to block United Continental Holdings Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. from trying to swap flying rights at Newark and another airport.

The suit said the plan over 24 takeoff and landing slots at Newark would increase United’s already dominant position at the airport, hurting the ability of other carriers to compete and raising prices for passengers. The Justice Department is reviewing Friday’s notice and wasn’t prepared to comment about its potential impact on the lawsuit, said Mark Abueg, a spokesman.

United’s hub at Newark Liberty International is a gateway for overseas flights for the world’s third-biggest carrier. United had 48 percent of passengers at Newark last year, not counting flights made by regional partners, according to data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Original article can be found here:

Evidence filed for Halifax air crash class action bid

Lawyers for passengers of the Air Canada flight that crash landed a year ago in Halifax will be in court in December for a certification hearing.

Friday—a year and two days after the crash—attorney Ray Wagner filed documents containing the initial pieces of evidence with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

The motion will be heard before the Hon. Justice Denise Boudreau between December 12 and 15.

The hearing will determine whether the passengers as a group fit the criteria for a class action rather having to sue individually.

“A Class 2 action will give all the passengers access to the justice system without the formidable costs which would be borne by individual plaintiffs,” said Wagner.

Once a suit is certified, a notice goes to all passengers asking them whether they want to participate. If they don't respond, they are automatically assumed to be part of the suit.

The proposed action is against Air Canada, the Halifax International Airport Authority, NAVCanada, Airbus S.A.S. and Transport Canada.

Wagner said that after conversations with Air Canada, the pilots of AC624 have been taken out of the lawsuit.

“We understand they are still flying and we wanted to be empathetic to the fact they wanted to continue with their careers,” he said.

They will be questioned as part of discovery, but Air Canada has assumed responsibility for them, said Wagner.

Since last April, Wagner said 55 passengers have contacted their office to participate in the action in various degrees.

For several, this including giving permission for their medical records to be obtained and history examined in an effort to prove what they have lost as a result of the landing, he said.

Other passengers have undergone psychological and neurological testing related to PTSD and closed-head injuries.

He said it takes time to wait for a judge to be appointed to determine certification and didn't wait for the investigation by the Transportation Safety Board to conclude.

“That can take years,” he said.

TSB spokesperson Chris Krepski said the board can't predict when their report will be released.

“We have to take the time necessary to do a thorough investigation,” said, adding that investigators started their work immediately following the incident.

Original article can be found here:

Coast Guard to increase helicopter flights as part of training

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, NEW JERSEY – The aircrews of Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City are scheduled to increase helicopter flights beginning Wednesday, April 6 and continuing through May 6 to conduct annual Rotary Wing Air Intercept pilot training, according to a press release.

While aircrews make every effort to diversify active training locations, there will be increased helicopter activity over the inland waterways between Barnegat and Tuckerton, in addition to Ocean City and Stone Harbor. The use of these areas has been negotiated with the Federal Aviation Administration and were selected with an emphasis on minimizing noise impact to the community, while staying clear of commercial and general aviation traffic.

This training is the first step in the qualification process for newly assigned pilots. Following certification, pilots are responsible for national airspace security missions over the nation’s capital and other critical areas throughout the country. One prominent mission is the interception of potentially hostile aircraft entering into restricted airspace.

To qualify for these missions, each pilot must complete a syllabus, including classes, in-flight training, as well as written and oral examinations. Once qualified, pilots are required to complete periodic training flights to maintain proficiency.

Efficiently completing the introductory training requires instructors and crews from Air Station Atlantic City and the National Capital Region Air Defense Facility to fly at least two flights approximately once per day for six weeks.

Air Station Atlantic City will continue to maintain two search-and-rescue response crews, which will be flying various operational and training missions.

Anyone with questions or concerns may contact Lt. Darin Coleman, Air Station Atlantic City public affairs officer, at 609-677-2096. During non-business hours, please contact the operations center at 609-677-2222.

Original article can be found here:

$100,000 bail for pilot on sex counts

The man police say committed a shocking sex attack in Perth 20 years ago is an AirAsia pilot - who a magistrate said yesterday should be granted bail because he was not a flight risk.

Alfred Gerard Eravelly, 49, appeared in Perth Magistrates Court yesterday charged with six rapes, burglary, deprivation of liberty and unlawful wounding.

He has been in custody since February, when he was arrested in Sydney, after arriving in Australian on a flight from Malaysia, and then being extradited to Perth.

He was not flying the plane which brought him to Australia, but has been a pilot for many years after studying aviation in Perth at the time of the alleged offences in 1996.

Mr. Eravelly had flown into Australia for a holiday, and was on a visitor visa when he was arrested.

During a bail application, prosecutors argued that Mr. Eravelly should remain in the jail he has been in for the past six weeks, because of the flight risk that he posed.

But his lawyer Shash Nigam argued that despite his occupation, Mr. Eravelly did not have ready access to a plane - but was able to outlay a significant surety to assure his future court attendance.

Magistrate Peter Malone agreed, and ordered Mr. Eravelly, who was supported by his wife, to lodge a bank cheque of $100,000 with the court.

Mr. Eravelly's passport has also been seized, and he must live in Perth while the case progresses though the courts.

Mr. Eravelly was arrested by Australian Federal Police officers in February this year, acting on information from WA Police.

They say that Mr. Eravelly was living in Scarborough at the time of the 1996 assault and was studying a course in the aviation industry.

Detectives allege Eravelly, 49, broke into a villa in the beach suburb and repeatedly assaulted a 38-year-old woman.

Acting Superintendent Peter Branchi from the State Crime Operations Division said a review had begun into the case late last year - and the charges arose "as a result of the latest advancements in technology".

Mr. Eravelly was identified as a suspect mid last year and police were in the process of pursuing various legal avenues to extradite him from Malaysia when he came to them.

The pilot had not returned to Australia between the time he had been identified and when he was arrested.

Acting Superintendent Branchi also said the experience for the victim had been "incredibly traumatising" at the time.

” I think anyone that has been the victim of sexual assault will tell you, it’s terrifying," he said

Photos of Mr. Eravelly on a now-deleted Facebook showed him working as a pilot for AirAsia. He will appear in court again in June.

Original article can be found here:

Rent hike could close restaurant: Unalaska Airport (PADU), Alaska

An attempt to find money to fix up the municipal airport terminal in Unalaska threatens the existence of a local business, but now city officials expect to fund repairs and allow the Airport Restaurant to stay open.

The restaurant now pays $2.60 per square foot, plus 15 percent of sales, running between $8,000 and $11,000 per month. Then the city sent a letter saying the rent would rise to $25,000 per month.

"It's a drastic increase from what we were paying," said Assistant Manager Lisa Tran. "There's no doubt we'd go under if we had to pay that much rent in a month."

"It will put them out of business. I don't like it," said Mayor Shirley Marquardt. She suggested a head tax of $1 or $2 per airline flight as an alternative funding source.

At Monday's city council special meeting on budgets, Ports Director Peggy McGlaughlin said the city was looking for ways to finance repairs, but believes something will be worked out to save the restaurant.

The terminal operates at a loss, McGlaughlin said, losing about $500,000 per year. Only once did it come close to making money, breaking even in the 1990s when four airlines were in business, Peninsula Airways, Mark Air, Alaska Airlines, and Reeve Aleutian Airways, she said.

City Councilor Frank Kelty suggested privatizing the terminal, by selling it to an airline, but Marquardt said that could lead to a monopoly and reduce competition.

What Tran found especially galling was that they had pay higher rent than Peninsula Airways. While the airline occupies less space in the terminal, it makes way more money selling plane tickets, around $800 per transaction, while the restaurant averages about $15 per sale of food, she said.

"We don't feel it's fair for them to balance their budget on our backs," Tran said. The rent hike was slated to take effect this month, but has been put on hold while talks continue with the city, she said.

"We've had a rough year. Our family's house burned down, and now this. Now our livelihood is at stake," she said. Their home on Chernofsky Drive was destroyed in a propane fire in December.

Short of going out of business, the Tran family considered another alternative - reducing the area rented by about 1,000 square feet. That would eliminate the restaurant's seating area, which is often packed with customers, especially when flights are canceled because of stormy weather, a not infrequent occurrence.

The idea of a huge rent hike in a leaky building didn't sit well either, Tran said, especially with customers grossed out by the condition of a toilet stall in the men's bathroom in the airport terminal, which Marquardt said "looks like a murder scene with all the yellow tape around it." The mayor said she can't go to the airport without hearing about the foul bathroom, and was escorted into the men's room on several occasions to see the mess.

McGlaughin said the city finally removed the toilet, because it continued to be used by people who ignored the out-of-service sign.

The restaurant serves Vietnamese and American food, and is a popular and economical spot for birthday parties, because customers don't need to rent a conference room elsewhere, Tran said. And the restaurant hosts holiday parties with Asian food served to customers at no cost, in addition to donating food to the senior center, and gift certificates for fundraisers for local non-profit organizations, including the Ice Cream Social benefiting the preschool program, and the Soup-Off for Unalaskans Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence.

"We try to be generous and give back as much as we can," Tran said, of the business her family has operated for the past 15 years. "We see ourselves as part of the community." Before her family's ownership, the restaurant was operated by Sonny Nguyen, and earlier by Unisea.

Original article can be found here:

Beech F35 Bonanza, N4212B: Accident occurred March 30, 2016 in Long Island, North Carolina

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Docket And Docket Items  -   National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary  -   National Transportation Safety Board:

FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA Charlotte FSDO-68

NTSB Identification: GAA16CA173
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, March 30, 2016 in Long Island, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/01/2016
Aircraft: BEECH F35, registration: N4212B
Injuries: 1 Minor, 2 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 pilot reported that during the initial climb, he leveled off at about 65 feet above the ground and made a right turn to follow a river. After maneuvering down the river for about one minute, the airplane struck uncharted and unmarked power lines that spanned across the entire length of the river. He reported that the impact from the power lines cracked the windscreen and damaged the vertical stabilizer, but aircraft control was not affected and he was able to continue to the destination airport about 3 nautical miles away. The pilot further reported that he never saw the power lines that the airplane impacted, but he did observe larger charted power lines about one mile ahead. 

The left vertical stabilizer was substantially damaged. 

The pilot did not report any mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's decision to maneuver at low altitude, which resulted in a collision with power lines and substantial damage to the vertical stabilizer.

Smaller Airlines Looking to Expand With Virgin America Acquisition: JetBlue and Alaska Air making bids to acquire their rival

The Wall Street Journal
By Susan Carey and Robert Wall
April 1, 2016 5:28 p.m. ET

Smaller U.S. airlines are finding it harder to grow as fast now that the four largest carriers have amassed control of more than 80% of the domestic market.

So when an airline like Virgin America Inc. —which just concluded the most profitable year in its short history—explores selling itself, rivals are going to jump at the rare chance to gain more routes and more passengers overnight.

Both JetBlue Airways Corp. and Alaska Air Group Inc. are bidding to purchase Virgin America. Other U.S. airlines kicked the tires, people familiar with the matter said, but the contest is down to just the two low-cost carriers.

Final bids were due late this week and the Virgin America board was expected to make a decision over the weekend, according to a person familiar with the matter. A deal is expected to be valued at more than $2 billion, well above Virgin America’s current market capitalization of $1.4 billion.

The acquirer would gain greater presence in important California markets including Los Angeles and San Francisco where Virgin America is based, access to Hawaii, some transcontinental routes and a fleet of 57 narrow-body planes. “Obviously, this is beach-front property,” said another person of the prospect.

It is possible Virgin America, which is 54% owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group Ltd., and New York-based Cyrus Capital Partners LP, could extend the deliberations or ultimately decide not to sell. But talks have been under way for “a few months,” one of the people familiar with the matter said.

Virgin America has won kudos—and a dedicated following in Silicon Valley—for the mood lighting and sophisticated inflight-entertainment systems on its planes, its stylish service and its frequent-flier plan. But the ninth-largest airline by traffic, launched in 2007, only achieved profitability in 2013, after it slowed its breakneck growth and started filling its seats at higher fares. Now it is poised to grow again and has new planes set to arrive in its fleet over the next few years.

The U.S. airline industry is on track in 2016 to exceed record operating profits, according to Deutsche Bank. But on Friday, its analysts raised the possibility that the sector’s earnings have peaked because the economy is in the latter stage of an upcycle that has lasted nearly seven years.

Between 2008 and 2013, eight large carriers merged into four behemoths. During that turmoil and in a period marked by high fuel prices, the big carriers pulled out of smaller markets and kept a tight rein on their capacity, giving small and medium airlines room to thrive, said consultant Jonathan Kletzel, U.S. transportation and airlines leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Today, with fuel prices low for a sustained period, the big airlines can afford to add back routes and compete on price with low-fare rivals.

“For small and medium airlines, their ability to grow organically is harder,” said Mr. Kletzel, who isn’t involved in the Virgin America sale. “It’s faster to grow by acquisition.” He sees much uncertainty about the future of those smaller carriers, not only the low-fare flock but also regional airlines that fly for the majors and the ultradiscounters that prospered by offering rock-bottom fares.

There is some disagreement among industry observers about whether antitrust regulators would approve a Virgin America transaction. The Justice Department has been sharply critical of the large airline mergers the department itself has approved in recent years. Last July, the agency said it was investigating whether the four largest airlines were colluding on their capacity plans to keep airfares high.

Jamie Baker, an analyst with J.P. Morgan, said last week that he thought the “regulatory environment remains hostile toward further U.S. industry consolidation.” But Mr. Kletzel said “anything that is going to improve the ability of the remaining airlines to be competitive should be viewed favorably by the government.”

One thing that could allay regulatory concerns is the fact that the cost structures of JetBlue, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America are quite similar, and much lower than the big carriers, suggesting that ticket prices wouldn’t necessarily rise after a transaction.

Last year, JetBlue’s unit cost—the cost to fly a seat a mile—excluding fuel and profit-sharing was 7.51 cents. Virgin America’s unit cost was 7.47 cents and Alaska’s unit cost in its jet division, excluding its commuter planes, was 7.39 cents.

Moreover, the route overlaps of both JetBlue and Alaska with Virgin America are modest.

A person familiar with the matter said those involved in the talks believe any actions to appease regulators would be limited to concessions on a narrow number of routes at most. Sweeping remedies that could undermine the value of the takeover aren’t expected, one of the people familiar with the matter said.

Some analysts have suggested that JetBlue, the nation’s No. 5 airline by traffic, has an advantage because it operates Airbus A320 aircraft, the same model used by Virgin America.

But JetBlue, which launched service in 2000 and is based in New York, also operates smaller Embraer E190 jetliners and has a dedicated fleet of 13 larger Airbuses that are outfitted with its first-class Mint cabins. So a deal wouldn’t result in it operating just one aircraft type, which can save on training, maintenance and spare-part costs.

No. 6 Alaska Airlines, which is based in Seattle, operates 151 Boeing Co. 737 planes, having migrated to a single aircraft type in the past decade. But the company also owns a commuter affiliate that flies Bombardier turboprops and plans to purchase some small jets soon. A person familiar with the matter said the opportunities afforded by Virgin America’s fleet of 57 planes were large enough to overcome losing the cost benefits of a single-fleet type.

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North American T28, N9103F, Trojan Corp: Fatal accident occurred July 02, 2017 near Moorhead Municipal Airport (KJKJ), Clay County, Minnesota (and) Incident occurred March 29, 2016 in Fargo, Cass County, North Dakota

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Minneapolis, Minnesota

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Trojan Corporation:

NTSB Identification: CEN17LA250
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, July 02, 2017 in Moorhead, MN
Aircraft: NORTH AMERICAN T-28A, registration: N9103F
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

On July 02, 2015, about 1810 central daylight time, a North American T-28A airplane, N9103F, registered to and operated by Trojan Corporation, Grand Forks, North Dakota, struck a light pole and impacted terrain while on landing approach to Moorhead Municipal Airport (JKJ), Moorhead, Minnesota. The private pilot, the sole occupant on board, was fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The flight was being operated as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight, and no flight plan had been filed. Day visual meteorological conditions existed near the accident site about the time of the accident. The flight originated from Hector International Airport (FAR), Fargo, North Dakota, at 1800, and was originally en route to Lyons Field (47Y), Pelican Rapids, Minnesota.

Shortly after departing FAR, the pilot told the tower controller that he wanted to divert to JKJ. No reason was given. Witnesses saw the airplane flying at low altitude and heard the engine running prior to striking a light pole at a truck waystation, located about 2 miles south of runway 12. The right wing was severed at the root. There was no fire.

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

Mark Yaggie

MOORHEAD -- Sons of a Breckenridge area man who died Sunday evening, July 2, in a plane crash near Moorhead remembered their father on Monday, July 3, as a proud backer of his family’s athletic efforts and as a maker of things when he became restless.

“He was always building stuff,” said Trevor Yaggie, 16, remembering his father, Mark, 41, who died when the plane he was piloting crashed in a field just west of the Moorhead airport.

Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said Monday that Yaggie died at the scene.

Austin, 18, the eldest of Yaggie’s three sons and a recent graduate of Fargo’s Shanley High School, said his dad was a frequent visitor at sporting events to show support for his boys, which include son, Dylan, 13.

“He was always there, cheering us on,” Austin Yaggie said.

Yaggie was a farmer in the Breckenridge area and also operated a spray plane business.

His sons say their father’s hobbies included collecting vintage warplanes that he took to air shows as a way of honoring veterans.

They said the plane he was flying when he crashed was a Trojan T-28, a type of plane used to train pilots starting in the 1950s.

Yaggie’s parents, Jeri and David, said that for the past several years their son had been working with them on transitioning the farming operation to ensure it continued into the next generation.

Jeri Yaggie said her son loved to fly old warbirds and “felt very strongly the importance of passing on that era of history to future generations.”

Mark Yaggie’s uncles, Don and Richard, described him as very aggressive when it came to projects he wanted to do and that he was not afraid to try new things.

His friend Sara Blaufuss described Yaggie as very loyal to friends and said the most important things in his life were faith, family, farming and flying.

Yaggie’s plane went down near the Moorhead airport on the south side of Interstate 94, according to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.

The crash was reported at 6:05 p.m. Sunday.

It was unknown if the two-seat private plane was trying to land at the time of the crash.

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration are handling the crash investigation.

Mark Yaggie and his family are well known in the Breckenridge community and the Yaggie name is associated with a number of businesses, including farming and trucking.

In recent years, a family charitable trust was set up by a number of Yaggie family members that, according to an article that appeared in the Wahpeton Daily News in 2016, included Mark Yaggie’s father, David.

Update: The Clay County Sheriff’s Office released the name of the pilot killed in a crash near the Moorhead airport.

Mark Yaggie, 41 years old, lives in Breckenridge, Minnesota.

The FAA says the plane was a North American T-28, which is a vintage military trainer.   

Yaggie was attempting to land at the Moorhead airport when the plane went down.

Mark is a 2017 member of the Fargo Air Museum Board.

CLAY COUNTY, Minn. — The pilot of a small vintage plane is dead after crashing in a field near the Moorhead airport south of I–94.

Authorities were called about the crash just after 6 p.m.

The pilot was the only person in the plane.

When the fire department and Clay County authorities arrived on scene, fuel was leaking from the engine but was quickly stopped.

Authorities are unsure if the single engine plane had just taken off or was in mid–flight.

Officers on scene spoke to some witnesses and are now waiting for the FAA to take over the investigation.

“On arrival of everybody, they found that the plane had went down out on the cornfield, which kind of hindered the process of everybody getting out to the scene of the crash,” said Lt. Mark Empting, who is with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. “Right now, we are currently investigating it to see what happened. The FAA has been notified and they are on their way here as well.”

The investigation is ongoing.

This latest incident follows a fatal crop spraying plane crash last week near Gwinner.

Rescue crews are responding to reports of a plane crash east of Moorhead and just south of I-94 near the weigh station.

MOORHEAD - A small plane crashed by the Interstate 94 weigh station here not long after 6 p.m. Sunday, a Clay County Sheriff’s Department spokesman said.

The plane went down in a field just west of the Moorhead airport on the south side of the interstate, Sgt. Josh Schroeder said.

A call came into the Red River Regional Dispatch Center at 6:05 p.m.

It was unknown if the two-seat private plane was trying to land at the time of the crash.

Schroeder said the single-engine plane appeared to be a vintage warbird-type aircraft.

The plane had one man on board, Schroeder said. He said the condition of the pilot was not being released as of 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Witnesses said they saw a gurney behind an ambulance with a cover over the top, WDAY-TV reported.

First responders from several agencies were at the scene, including the Moorhead Police Department, Clay County Sheriff’s Department, Minnesota State Patrol and F-M Ambulance.

Authorities on the scene said there was fuel leaking from the plane, but it did not catch fire, WDAY reported.

Schroeder said investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration had taken over the crash investigation.

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fargo, North Dakota 

Aircraft on landing, struck the propeller.
Date: 29-MAR-16
Time: 16:45:00Z
Regis#: N9103F
Aircraft Model: T28
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Minor
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: North Dakota

Pathways to Aviation seeks to develop future workforce

Greg Stanley, a Pathways to Aviation board member, signs a student’s flight log after his first flight at a Young Eagles event.

Richard Brong of Civil Air Patrol teaches kids about flight at a Young Eagles First Flight event.

There was a time when taking Washoe County students to the Air Races as a field trip didn’t inspire much of a learning experience, Pathways to Aviation executive director Pete Parker says.

But with a few changes, 3,100 students attended the races last year and took a class, exploring concepts in rocketry, space exploration, drones and aircraft, and they’re becoming more intrigued with the idea of aviation in general.

That’s the major push Pathways to Aviation, the former Reno Air Racing Foundation, is making after releasing its strategic objectives this week, among which is its intention to foster education programs and spark interest among Nevada students to pursue careers in aviation and aerospace industry.

The nonprofit said in a statement Wednesday the average age of employees working for airlines, airport operations, aircraft engine and parts manufacturing is on the rise.

“We hope to attract aviation related industry companies to relocate to Nevada and we want to serve as the voice and source of all aviation in Nevada,” Eric Henry, president of Pathways to Aviation’s board of directors, said in the statement. “The aviation industry is looking for a professional workforce in our state and we intend to chart a course for kids grade six through college and develop a workforce to meet the demands of the aviation industry in Nevada.”

In the statement, Pathways According to the FAA, Nevada has 30 public-use airports that provide more than 70,000 jobs and generate $80 million in payroll with more than 3,000 active general aviation aircraft and 6,000 pilots. Five commercial airports contribute $8 billion in payroll and a total economic impact of more than $27 billion.

Civil aviation contributes to 12.1 percent of the state’s gross domestic product and 14.1 percent of all jobs in the state.

The aviation industry is made up of airline operations, airport operations, component and aircraft engine and parts manufacturing, maintenance and parts suppliers. Pathways hopes to build up its pool of Nevada workers starting with providing access to quality education within its schools.

“The whole purpose of putting curriculum in the school district is to make sure that it’s tied to the right standards,” Parker said Thursday. “This year, I came back to the board and said we killed our goals last year, but we need to take it a step further. … We need to work on workforce development.”

Parker said with a documented shortage of pilots within the next seven to 10 years, a lack of qualified mechanics, it’s important to be proactive now in training up students now and helping to make aviation a more attractive industry in the Silver State.

“Not every kid’s going to go into aviation, but maybe they’ll go into manufacturing and maybe the spark was an introduction into aviation,” Parker said. “Maybe it wasn’t algebra or it wasn’t the book, but it was learning about flight and rocketry and the trigonometry and geometry behind it all so they can say, ‘Wow, I saw that rocket shoot out and I measured it,’ and now they’ve applied it. There’s something way beyond a book and maybe that’s the trigger a student needs, and if we can excite one student to succeed, then we’ve done our job.”

To address the need for more aviators and aeronauts in Nevada, Pathways will host a speakers forum from 6 to 9 p.m. April 13 at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Joe Crowley Student Union in the Milt Glick Ballroom.

The event's keynote speaker will be Capt. Kevin "Nix" Mannix, retired from the U.S. Navy. Mannix is a former director of training in the Navy’s Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center and he was the commanding officer and flight leader of the Blue Angels from 2006 to 2008.

Parker said the intent is to reach out to two primary audiences: anyone already working in the industry or owns aircraft and anyone who’s an enthusiast interested in aviation and wants to learn how to fly. Participants will have an opportunity to meet aviation leaders and witness the unveiling of Pathways’ strategies to improve upon aviation education, industry and workforce development in Nevada and learn about college scholarships.

“We will be sourcing funds and awarding scholarships to students attending four-year, two-year and specialty instruction,” Pete Parker, executive director of Pathways, said in the statement. “We will be pursuing aviation, flight, avionics, technology, airframe and aerospace education in every school in Nevada.”

To RSVP for the Pathways to Aviation Speakers Forum, visit

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