Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Skydive ruling could benefit town

CHATHAM -- Although the lawsuit against the town is moving forward, town officials say they are in a good position to defend their argument on allowing skydiving at the municipal airport.

In a statement issued after an executive session on the matter last week, Town Counsel Patrick Costello stated that the judge’s ruling not to dismiss the lawsuit of Citizens of a Safe Chatham Airport “substantively” benefited the town because Barnstable Superior Court Judge Robert Rufo agreed the nuisance claim brought by defendants must be pursued under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act. Although it is possible to prove a nuisance against the state and municipalities, one needs to show the property owner “creates, permits, or maintains a condition or activity on [its] property that causes a substantial and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of the property of another.”

The statement also said the town will not issue a lease to a skydive operator – two are waiting in the wings – until the judge has ruled.

Several years ago a group of residents said that not only was the skydiving operation at the airport on George Ryder Road noisy it was also dangerous. Although state and federal inspectors deemed the operation safe, Town Manager Jill Goldsmith – acting at the behest of selectmen – didn’t renew the lease with Skydive Cape Cod.

Town officials did argue that there shouldn’t be a skydiving operation at the airport because, among other reasons, the area was too busy in the summer. The Federal Aviation Administration officials didn’t see it that way and mandated the town allow skydiving because the airport had been partially funded by federal grants and thereby couldn’t discriminate against any aeronautical activities.

Town officials weren’t convinced and mulled fighting the FAA until they hired an independent safety consultant and counsel who said it would be fruitless to fight the FAA and skydiving is safe, respectively.

At that point the town went forward with writing an RFP, with additional safeguards, and two companies applied. While the airport commission was deciding who to award the contract to neighbors of the airport banded together to form Citizens for a Safe Chatham Airport.

Original article can be found here: http://eastham.wickedlocal.com

Liberty Aerospace Inc XL2, N590XL: Gouges found on the right wing attach tang; this rendered the aircraft un-airworthy; a Designated Engineering Representative (DER) is needed to facilitate repairs to include wing/tang, replacement
















LIBERTY AEROSPACE INCORPORATED
LIBERTY XL-2
N590XL
http://registry.faa.gov/N590XL

AIRCRAFT:   2007 Liberty Aerospace Inc XL2; N590XL S/N: 0074

ENGINE: Continental 10F-240-B; S/N: 400150

Propeller Type: MT – Propeller MTV-175R 127-2CA, S/N: 08035

APPROXIMATE TOTAL HOURS (estimated Times from logbooks or other information):

ENGINE:       TT: 310 (at last annual)

Propeller:       TT:   310 (at last annual)

AIRFRAME:  TT: 310  (at last annual)      

OTHER EQUIPMENT: Garmin GMA 340 Audio Panel, Garmin GNS-430 GPS/Nav/Comm, Garmin SL-40 Comm, Garmin GTX-327 Transponder.

DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT:  Gouges found on the right wing attach tang. This rendered the aircraft un-airworthy. A Designated Engineering Representative (DER) is needed to facilitate repairs to include wing/tang, replacement.

DESCRIPTION OF DAMAGES:    See above description.            

LOCATION OF AIRCRAFT:   Air Transport, Phoenix, AZ.

Read more here:  http://www.avclaims.com/N590XL.htm

Cessna 421B Golden Eagle, N3372Q: Incident occurred April 26, 2016 at Foley Municipal Airport (5R4), Baldwin County, Alabama

http://registry.faa.gov/N3372Q

Date: 26-APR-16
Time: 20:00:00Z
Regis#: N3372Q
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 421
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: Minor
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
City: FOLEY
State: Alabama

AFTER LANDING THE AIRCRAFT RAN OFF THE END OF THE RUNWAY. FOLEY, AL




BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) — A dramatic scene unfolded Tuesday afternoon in a neighborhood in the Foley area when a small, twin engine plane crashed.

The pilot reportedly made it out of the plane and is lucky to be alive. It appears the pilot clipped some oak trees after take-off in his Cessna 421.

It crashed near a mobile home park at Sunset Circle and Hickory Street. Crews responded quickly and worked to extinguish the flames. At least two fire engine crews and two ambulance crews arrived to help. The crash happened just before 2:30 p.m.

This area is just south of the Foley Municipal Airport. There are also a lot of homes, businesses and oak trees in this area.

Original article can be found here:   http://wiat.com






FOLEY, AL (WALA) - A twin engine Cessna aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from the Foley airport earlier today.

The crash took place near Sunset Circle and Hickory Street, which is just south of the airport.

According to witnesses, some people in the neighborhood where the plane crashed, pulled the pilot to safety. 

The pilot told rescuers that the engine started sputtering like it has having problems getting fuel.

Officials say the pilot refused medical treatment. 

Both the Foley police and fire departments responded to the scene. 

Story, video and photo gallery: http://www.fox10tv.com











A dramatic scene unfolded Tuesday afternoon in a neighborhood in the Foley when a small, twin engine plane crashed.

WKRG News 5 has learned the pilot made it out of the plane and lucky to be alive.

It appears the pilot clipped some oak trees after take-off in his Cessna 421.

It crashed near a mobile home park at Sunset Circle and Hickory Street. Crews responded quickly and worked to extinguish the flames. At least two fire engine crews and two ambulance crews arrived to help. The crash happened just before 2:30 p.m.

This area is just south of the Foley Municipal Airport. There are also a lot of homes, businesses and oak trees in this area.

Original article can be found here: http://wkrg.com

Northwestern Michigan College Aviation Shares Importance of Safe Weather Flying



Severe weather prompted a pilot headed to Mount Pleasant to make an emergency landing downstate.

Rain and strong winds Monday night caused dangerous traveling conditions.

Police say a small airplane was headed from Kansas to Mount Pleasant, but the pilot had to make an emergency landed at the South Haven Area Regional Airport because of the thunderstorms.

When he landed, he skidded off the runway.

The plane was found with damage to the front end.

Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Instructors at Northwestern Michigan College say teaching their aviation students about weather is a strong focus in the classroom.

They always made sure the conditions are safe for flying and students are comfortable.

“We're really teaching students how to be prepared. How to make decisions and how to have a plan B so if weather changes in route then they'll have to go someplace else, or turn around, or come up with a new plan,” says Alex Bloye, Director of Aviation.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the emergency landing.

Story and video:  http://www.9and10news.com

Trenton-Mercer Airport (KTTN) Passes Federal Aviation Administration Inspection with Flying Colors

An inspection this week by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified that the Trenton-Mercer Airport (TTN) is in full compliance with federal government standards governing airports. According to Mercer County, the finding of “full compliance” is rare and achieved by only a handful of airports in the nation.

The FAA’s extensive inspection is completed annually at commercial service airports and reviews a wide variety of different areas with which an airport is required to comply from a federal regulatory standpoint. These areas include but are not limited to: the Airport Certification Manual; the Airport Emergency Plan; records; personnel training; airfield pavement; markings; lighting and signage; snow and ice control; Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) readiness; fueling operations; and wildlife hazard management.

“We are committed to maintaining the highest standards when it comes to safety and all other areas of our airport operation, and the results of this federal inspection are a testament to that,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes. “I commend the airport’s management and staff on a job well done.”

Aaron T. Watson, County Deputy Administrator and Director of Transportation and Infrastructure, the department which operates the airport, agreed. “I am very pleased with our efforts at TTN,” he said. “We always try to be good neighbors and good stewards of our facility and its users.”

On April 25 and 26, the FAA conducted the 2016 Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 139 Certification Inspection at Trenton-Mercer Airport. The inspection certified that TTN is considered to be in full compliance with the requirements set forth by the federal government in FAR Part 139.

Trenton-Mercer Airport located in Ewing Township, has been providing a convenient, safe mode of transit to the Mercer County region for more than 85 years. As one of only three commercial airports in New Jersey, TTN averages approximately 80,000 takeoffs and landings each year and is a powerful economic engine, contributing thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.

Original article can be found here:  http://mercerme.com

Council member floats Smith Reynolds Airport (KINT) compromise

Winston-Salem City Council Member Robert Clark offered a compromise proposal on Monday for giving Smith Reynolds Airport some relief from city taxes and stormwater fees.

Speaking to the Airport Commission of Forsyth County, Clark suggested that some of the airport — the runways, taxiways and other areas — be removed from the city boundaries as a way of basically cutting in half the amount of money the airport has to pay to the city in stormwater fees.

Clark proposed an area where small planes are parked for de-annexation as well, which would give tax relief to owners of the small planes: They would have to pay only county tax on the planes, not both city and county taxes.
The city would keep the buildings on the airport property.

Forsyth County and the airport commission say the stormwater fees and double taxation put Smith Reynolds at a competitive disadvantage. The stormwater fees use money that could otherwise go for airport improvements, and plane owners can park their planes elsewhere and save on taxes.

One of those places is Piedmont Triad International Airport in Guilford County, which is not in the Greensboro city limits.

Two other council members, D.D. Adams and Jeff MacIntosh, came to the airport board meeting along with city administrators, although Clark said he hadn’t had a chance to share his ideas with them yet.

So Clark basically offered his idea as a starting point for discussion, saying he hoped that the city and county could come up with a “win-win.”

Forsyth County Commissioner Ted Kaplan, who sits on the airport board, called Clark’s idea “a good effort,” but suggested that more work needs to be done because de-annexation of the areas proposed by Clark would still leave hangars and the expensive corporate planes and jets inside them inside the city limits.

“This is getting us close to getting some agreement, and the folks in Raleigh want us to reach an agreement,” Kaplan said.

The folks in Raleigh are the county’s legislative delegation, which has heard requests for de-annexation in the past but hasn’t acted on the issue.

Monday afternoon, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 to ask the delegation to introduce a statewide bill that would exempt government entities from city stormwater fees.

In March, the airport board voted to explore de-annexation.

The airport pays the city about $120,000 per year in stormwater fees. The money goes to reduce the effects of stormwater runoff, and is calculated on an acreage basis.

Under Clark’s proposal, that fee could be about cut in half.

Less clear is how much tax savings plane owners would have under Clark’s plan. Kaplan said that the high-dollar planes that pay the most taxes are in hangars, not the tie-down area for small planes that Clark is proposing to include in de-annexation.

Airplanes parked at Smith Reynolds now contribute about $250,000 annually to the city through the property tax.

After the meeting, Winston-Salem City Manager Lee Garrity expressed concern about setting a precedent to have part of the city de-annexed.

MacIntosh said that because any benefit to the city under Clark’s plan would be indirect — in the form of more business brought in by having more planes based here, for instance — it could be hard to sell the idea to people in the city.

Airport Commission member Scott Wiley said that the challenge is to make it attractive for companies to base aircraft here, rather than drop off someone and fly to another location.

Still, Clark’s idea seemed to get a generally positive reaction from the airport board, and will get more discussion on both the city and county governing boards.

Original article can be found here: http://www.journalnow.com

Audio: The night Prince’s plane made an emergency landing



By Bob Collins
April 26, 2016, 4:00 PM 


The conversations between the pilot of Prince’s private jet and air traffic controllers don’t reveal much about why the jet had to make an emergency landing in Moline, Ill., just a few days before Prince died.

MPR News’ Mark Zdechlik obtained the tapes from the FAA air traffic control radar facility in Aurora, Ill., and they confirm only that the pilots declared an emergency because of an unresponsive passenger, believed now to be Prince.

But they do show the difficulty of getting a jet on the ground safely in a hurry, and the skill of pilots and controllers to accomplish the task.

The jet was traveling at 42,000 feet over Peoria at exactly 1 a.m., last Friday morning when the pilot declared an emergency. That’s a higher altitude than a commercial airliner typically flies at. It needed to lose a lot of altitude in a hurry. There was also the question of where to land.

According to FlightAware.com, this is the route the pilot of Prince’s airplane took near Moline. The light blue dashed line indicates the instrument approach to the field. The green line indicates the actual route as the pilot attempted to lose altitude quickly.  


 

Moline was 65 miles away. It would take some work to get the plane down quickly. At first the pilot descended at the rate of about 2,000 feet per minute, steeper than a typical passenger plane, but 12 minutes later, steepened the descent rate to almost a mile a minute. Moline’s airport was coming up in a hurry, but the jet was still too high for a stabilized approach.

A corporate pilot acquaintance, when I asked how steeply he’d feel comfortable descending his jet, suggested 5,000 feet per minute — the rate at which Prince’s plane was approaching Moline — was about as steep as he’d suggest.

The original plan was to land the plane to the east, into the wind. But it appears the plane had still not lost enough altitude to do so. It passed Moline, lost more altitude, then turned back to the airport, opposite the direction of the intended runway, then turned back toward the runway to land, a standard “pattern” for airports with no control towers. The Moline tower closes at 10 p.m.
 

To have attempted any other method would’ve constituted what’s known as an “unstabilized approach.”

“Unstabilized approaches are bad,” a corporate pilot who did not want to be identified said.

With no control tower, the pilot constantly reported his position on a separate frequency reserved for aircraft at the airport, in case any other planes were in the area. But there was no other traffic to worry about. The pilot landed in the opposite direction from the original plan. Other than the emergency itself, this is the only real indication of the pilot’s intent to get the plane down as quickly as possible. He landed with a tailwind.

It was 1:18 a.m. Eighteen minutes after the emergency was declared, the pilot had his plane on the ground, and was looking for help.

Original article can be found here: http://blogs.mprnews.org

New air traffic control system online at Atlantic City International Airport (KACY), Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey

Eric Barone (left), air traffic controller, training a new air traffic controller, John Stoke (right), in the control tower at Atlantic City International Airport William J. Hughes Tech Center as they guide planes to take off and land. April 21, 2016. 


Andrew Elias, union representative at the Atlantic City International Airport William J. Hughes Tech Center, in an air traffic control room for planes that are passing over the area. April 21, 2016.



EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The eyes in the sky at Atlantic City International Airport have a new perspective on aircraft flying around the region thanks to a new air traffic control system.

The new equipment offers the approximately 30 air traffic controllers at the airport the ability to look at more layers of weather data and have easier accessibility to other radar systems in the area if the airport’s goes down, said Andrew Elias, air traffic controller and National Air Traffic Controller Association representative at the airport.

In late March, the airport’s Common Automation Radar Terminal System, which was developed in the 1960s, was replaced with the new Standard Terminal Automation System as part of a more than $900 million nationwide project by the Federal Aviation Administration and Raytheon.


Santino Rockelein, air traffic controller, in the control tower at Atlantic City International Airport William J. Hughes Tech Center as he guides planes to take off and land. April 21, 2016.


The new layers of weather data will allow controllers to have additional information when trying to land planes, leading to increased safety.

“The new technology is absolutely amazing, we have information available to us that was not available in the old system,” Elias said. “There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to using this new equipment, but it’s a nice change. A lot of what we do has not changed, but the tools that this system has allows us to see more things.”

If the radar went out under the old system, air traffic controllers had to go through a laundry list of steps to switch to another radar. With the new system, it can be done with the touch of a button, Elias said.
“If you are looking at a score of airplanes and the radar goes out, it is not a good time,” Elias said, adding that every second counts in those types of situations.



Edward Gaguski, Department of Transportation of the Atlantic City International Airport William J. Hughes Tech Center, in front of the old air traffic control system called CARTS as they have switched over to the next generation of the air traffic control system called STAR. April 21, 2016. 



Raytheon will supply new computers, displays and software for up to 199 military and 172 FAA approach control and tower radar facilities across the country. The FAA is in the process of upgrading air traffic control systems at airports nationwide to bring them in line with current technology. The new system was researched and tested at the William J. Hughes Technical Center over the past couple of years.

The new system, which uses a variety colors on flat panel screens, allows controllers to see all of the airplanes in the area at all times, compared with the old system, which featured a yellow-colored screen and used a rotating radar to track planes.

“We went from having 1950s technology in the radar system to an all digital system,” said Bill West, air traffic control manager at the airport, which has two runways. “The old system was very reliable, but this is more in line with today’s technology. Anytime you upgrade technology you upgrade safety. This gives air traffic controllers more levels of information than the old system.”

The new system, built by Raytheon, was delivered to the tower in July and the controllers trained on it until March, West said.


Christine DeFrank, an air traffic controller at the Atlantic City International Airport William J. Hughes Tech Center, in an air traffic control room for planes that are passing over the area. April 21, 2016.


“Implementation of STARS brings the National Airspace System into a single terminal-area operational system, which provides increased efficiencies in terms of resources, training and maintenance,” said Michael Espinola, managing director at Raytheon Air Traffic Systems, in a prepared statement late last year. “Creating an effective, advanced and streamlined system, all while maintaining outstanding safety standards, is a key goal of the FAA's Next Gen initiative.”

The testing of the new equipment started in 2012, said Ed Gaguski, director of Terminal Automation Modernization and Replacement and the STARS Operational Test at the William J. Hughes Technical Center.

“We bring in air traffic controllers and others who work in the field for two to three weeks to run tests on the program’s systems,” Gaguski said. “If we do find a problem, we run that problem here and find a fix for it.”

Story,  video and photo gallery: http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com

Grob G103 TWIN ASTIR, Tucson Soaring Club Inc., N40880; accident occurred April 24, 2016 in Marana, Arizona -Kathryn's Report

TUCSON SOARING CLUB INC: http://registry.faa.gov/N40880

NTSB Identification: GAA16CA205
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, April 24, 2016 in Marana, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/14/2016
Aircraft: BURKHART GROB FLUGZEUGBAU G103 TWIN ASTIR, registration: N40880
Injuries: 1 Minor, 1 Uninjured.

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

According to the pilot, while maneuvering the glider about 2,900 feet above ground level, the pilot determined that the wind conditions were not conducive to sustain flight and turned toward the runway in order to establish an approach. He recalled that while maneuvering toward the runway, he encountered downdrafts and began to lose altitude rapidly. He reported that he issued a mayday call about ¾ of a statute mile from the runway, established a nose up attitude to decrease the airspeed, and the glider impacted the trees. The glider sustained substantial damage to the right wing and fuselage. 

The pilot reported that there were no mechanical failures or anomalies with the glider prior to or during the flight that would have prevented normal flight operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The glider's loss of lift as a result of unfavorable wind conditions for glider operations, consequently resulting in a collision with trees.

Cessna 172RG Cutlass, Linea Central Inc., N172RG: Incident occurred April 25, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas









AIRCRAFT: 1979 Cessna 172RG SN# 172RG0083 N172RG 

ENGINE:       Lycoming O-360-F1A6  SN# L-35693-36A           

PROPELLER: McCauley B2D34C220-C 

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

ENGINE:  6,367.4 TT        1,775.9 SMOH           

PROPELLER:  Destroyed             

AIRFRAME:   13,123.1 TTSN                     

OTHER EQUIPMENT: KMA24, GNS430, KX175B, KT76C      

DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT:  On 4/25/2016 aircraft had an unsafe gear light with gear appearing down and locked.  Aircraft landed and while taxing nose gear collapsed.   

DESCRIPTION OF DAMAGES:  Propeller curled with blades loose in hub, sudden engine stoppage, nose gear doors and brackets damaged, exhaust stack damaged.                      

LOCATION OF AIRCRAFT:  Flying T Repair Station  972-924-2066          

REMARKS:  Aircraft dismantled for transport.   Adjuster has logs.

Read more here:   http://www.avclaims.com/N172RG.htm     

LINEA CENTRAL INC: http://registry.faa.gov/N172RG

Date: 25-APR-16
Time: 20:43:00Z
Regis#: N172RG
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 172RG
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
City: FORT WORTH
State: Texas

AIRCRAFT NOSE GEAR COLLAPSED AFTER LANDING. FORT WORTH, TX

Hot Springs Municipal Airport (KHSR) a valuable asset: It may be out of sight, but it’s not out of everyone’s mind

Ed Jensen has served as Hot Springs Municipal Airport manager for the last four years. He’d like to see more hangars built and the city airport developed to produce more income from the facility.



HOT SPRINGS – Ed Jensen of Hot Springs laughs when he realizes he has come full circle when it comes to his love of airplanes.

Jensen says he developed an interest in airplanes by mowing grass on an airfield as a kid back in Michigan. His dad had a summer job at the airfield and he was paid $1.50 per hour for the gargantuan chore of keeping the airfield’s grass clipped.

How did Ed spend his money? He said $1 went to pay for flying lessons, 50 cents Jensen took home in cash.

Today, he’s doing basically the same thing at the Hot Springs Municipal Airport, the city-run airport located off Hwy. 79, between Oral and Hot Springs. Jensen is the airport’s Manager, by job title.

“I’ve always liked flying,” he said, recalling how he helped a cousin rebuild a damaged plane, and how it didn’t cost much back then to get flying lessons.

Jensen has been manager of the Hot Springs Municipal Airport for the last four years.

He finally earned his pilot’s license in 2011, when Steve Hill, Justin Printz and Tracy Bastian all got their pilots licenses within about six months of each other and had their shirttails cut off, an old pilot tradition. Those shirttails still adorn the walls of the reception area of the Hot Springs airport.

Hot Springs’ first airport was built in 1950, Jensen said, at another location, but when planes couldn’t take off on the short runway (due to the nearby hills) the airport was moved to its present location after the city bought 500 acres of land on which to site the facility.

The first airplane to take off from the original airport, Jensen said was a Western Airlines flight, in April of 1952. California-based Western, begun in 1925, during the 1950s and 60s served the western states, including Alaska and Hawaii, with more than 40 airports – but Hot Springs was simply a stop along the route, not a major flight center. Later, Frontier Airlines included Hot Springs as a stop. But today the airport is strictly a private operation, run by the city.

The largest planes taking off from Hot Springs, Jensen said, were Douglas DC-3s, a fixed wing propeller -driven airplane that seated more than 20 people. The DC-3 revolutionized air travel in their hey-day, the 1940s. A testament to the durability of the plane is that even today some 400 DC-3-style planes are still flying. The planes are used for aerial spraying, freight transport, passenger service, military transport, missionary flying, skydiver shuttling and sightseeing.

Today, the largest planes that land at Hot Springs airport are actually jets – Leer jets, like business tycoons have, Jensen said.

The airport sports two runways: a 100-foot wide, 4,500-foot long paved runway; and a 250-foot wide, 3,950 foot long grass runway.

Jensen said he uses a Vibra-pak asphalt roller every spring after the ground collects a little moisture to roll the grass runway twice annually, to make it smoother for the pilots who land there. He joked about how he showed one pilot the runway with his “Cadillac” – a hand-me-down black Dodge pickup the airport uses from the city, and how smooth the ride was in the pickup over the grass runway. “The faster you go,” the pilot said smiling, “the smoother it gets.”

“Out of sight, out of mind,” is sometimes how Jensen feels, working his 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily shift at the airfield, because most Hot Springs residents don’t realize what a valuable yet largely unseen asset to the community the airfield is.

Who uses the airport?

According to Jensen there are 8,000 flights in and out of Hot Springs annually.

Private pilots make up one large group of users, Jensen said. While about a dozen local pilots – including Jensen -- house their airplanes in rental hangars ($150 per month per space for a heated hangar, $100 per month for unheated) on the airfield, more pilots from the region including Hermosa and Rapid City call the airport home base.

Jensen points out that in 2009, there were 19 Hot Springs-based aircraft using the airfield. Currently, 38 planes call Hot Springs home.

Other pilots are flying in and out. These are people who own planes and want to visit Hot Springs make up a large contingent of airport users, Jensen said. Some are vacationers who want to tour the city or spend time in the Black Hills. Some fly in to play on Hot Springs’ golf course, visit Evans Plunge or hunt in the area. Jensen even knew of one flight to pick up rescued dogs. The airport has a courtesy car for pilots who stay in town, he said, and the fueling station, run by HSR Fuels, is always available. (The per gallon cost was $4.25 per gallon, which was down some from recent prices, he said.)

•A commercial airplane exhaust system, Oral-based Vetterman Exhaust, has a shop at the airfield, which brings in business.

•State planes often fly in and out of the airport. Jensen said Governor Dennis Daugaard and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels use the airport frequently, as do some state representatives and other officials coming to take care of business in Hot Springs.

•The regional SEAT (single engine air tanker) firefighting plane is based in Hot Springs in the summer, with a two-man crew that is always on call throughout the season. The SEAT plane can carry a mix of 600 gallons of water and fire retardant to hit fires. The SEAT plane can be dispatched and a hit a small fire before it grows larger, or hit a fire and return for another load of retardant and water within less time than it takes for a fire-fighting vehicle to reach a remote scene, Jensen said.

•The National Guard firefighting helicopter uses the field two to three times a week in the summer for practicing take offs and landings with a fire-extinguishing unit.

•There’s also a two-person crew from the South Dakota Wildlands Fire Protection Aviation Support group. They use radio –equipped camper to dispatch units like the SEAT plane to fires.

•Life Flight planes use the airport to ferry patients between regional hospitals and larger hospitals with more advanced care facilities.

•Two Rapid City groups – a glider club and a skydiving club – have hangars at the airport. Jensen said the unlimited air space in Hot Springs attracts them: Rapid City’s commercial airport means private planes towing gliders or hauling skydivers up into the air must compete with constant commercial flights for runway space, a hassle. Also, with Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City and a recently expanded military flight zone that extends into Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota, means air space is even more limited. At Hot Springs, the sky is literally the limit.

Jensen, reflecting the wishes of many pilots he deals with, would love to see more hangars built at the airport. Currently, there are 11 hangars, he said, all rented out, either the whole hangar or for plane space within a hangar. The city owns and rents out three of these hangars.

The waiting list for hangar space is very long, Jensen said.

More hangars could up the commercial value of the airport, help it bring in more money. Building a single 10 – 12 plane nested T-style hangar would cost about $300,000, but federal and state monies cover all but 6 percent ($18,000) of this, the city’s share, he said. There’s also plenty of room to develop more hangars.

Yet even getting city approval – again, at 6 percent of the cost – for a large, $1,500 fan to cut heating costs in the heated hangar was a chore, Jensen said, which is why he sometimes feels out of sight, out of mind.

Meanwhile, a 2015 city-commissioned airport study anticipated increases in both use and aircraft at the airport. Forecasts call for aircraft numbers at the airport to rise from 29 (2015) to 44 by 2035. Aircraft use was expected to increase half a percent annually, jumping from 6,800 uses in 2015 to nearly 7,700 uses in 2035. But Jensen’s figures show that mark has already been exceeded.

So while the airport doesn’t currently bring in gobs of money, Jensen said, it does fulfill a community need and represents a very valuable asset, by bringing people into Hot Springs, savings property and perhaps lives during fires, offering recreation to those who want to enjoy flying or sky-diving.

Jensen also noted that some first impressions of Hot Springs are formed at the airport, and he works hard to maintain its appearance. He’s looking for volunteers to help do some scraping and re-painting at the main building in the near future.

Original article can be found here: http://rapidcityjournal.com

Pierre picks ADI - again - for subsidized air service

In front of a packed room and after 90 minutes of comments and discussion, Pierre’s City Commission voted 5-0 to recommend Aerodynamics Inc. (ADI) to federal aviation regulators as worthy to receive $4.5 million a year in subsidies to provide air service to the state capital.

It’s a sort of reprise of the same decision made about 18 months ago in the same City Hall.

But this is a new, improved ADI and a more dire situation as passenger numbers have kept plummeting, civic leaders said.

The vote appeared to be as much a rejection of Great Lakes Airline, the Cheyenne-based company that has been flying routes to Pierre for decades, than any ringing endorsement of ADI, an Atlanta-based charter airline that has never provided scheduled passenger service before.

The special meeting brought about 30 spectators, more than the City Commission's meeting room could hold as a couple people stood in the hallway.

Commissioner Jeanne Goodman said she was supporting ADI because of Great Lakes’ deficiencies: “When we look at the statistics, half of Great Lakes’ flights are delayed and a quarter are not even flying,” she said, citing statements by the airline task force members. “I have to ask myself, would I hire a professional that had that same kind of record? It seems like we have to look elsewhere.”

Commissioner Jim Mehlhaff blamed federal regulators and Congress.

“This whole thing to me is upsetting. Not so long ago this community was served by two airlines, unsubsidized, and my assumption is they were profitable. At one point, the business model for regional (air service) was ruined by FAA rules changing pilot training requirements. And that makes it nearly impossible for small airlines to find the pilots, to find the seats and to operate at a profit,” he said.

Mehlhaff then turned to Congress’ recent legislation on the Federal Aviation Administration: “For all the press releases about the FAA reauthorization bill and all the great things in it, they have done nothing to address the root of the the problem.”

The five-member Commission, which includes Mayor Laurie Gill, took the advice of the 12-member air service task force led by Gill.

Bernie Christenson, former head of the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation, former city commissioner and longtime owner of an air service in Pierre, summarized the task force’s view at the meeting.

 Great Lakes is in a steep glide down, losing business in several states, he said. “In 2014, 44 cities had Great Lakes. Now that number is 15 and by the end of 2016 it will be 11.”

 Great Lakes is using older turboprop planes and young pilots aren’t trained will for it and don’t want to fly those planes, Christenson said.

So while all regional airlines are having a tough time finding pilots, Great Lakes is having a tougher time, he said.

So Great Lakes on-time performance has slipped to 50 percent and a full 25 percent of its flights are cancelled, Christenson said.

There are too many trends against Great Lakes to make it a good choice, Christenson said.

A handful of the 11 Great Lakes employees who work on the ground crew at the Pierre Regional Airport were part of a crowd of nearly 30 who filled the room.

One of them, Lisa Blake, said Great Lakes deserves to get the city’s recommendation because it has a long history providing air service here and is  a victim of recent changes in the industry.

“We forget Great Lakes has been here a long time and did very very well till the last couple years,” said Blake who said she’s worked for Great Lakes in Pierre for 12 years. “I’m also a business owner and truly I don’t see ADI as a very good risk.”

Jim Protexter, COO of the Pierre Economic Development Corp., is on the dozen-member air service task force who interviewed executives from ADI and Great Lakes last week.
He was also on the task force when it interviewed the same companies in late 2014 and decided, then, too, on ADI. And that, he remembers "having that blow up in our face,” Protexter said of of the financial and legal woes of ADI’s then-owner/CEO come to light.

But ADI’s new leadership and ownership seem capable and open about its operation and willing to work with the city, he said.

By contrast, Great Lakes’ CEO Chuck Howell used  a phrase several times last week during the interview, Protexter said: “’We have been here whether good, bad or indifferent.’ And that really struck me as a way of looking at how they perceive their level of service. Three items – good, bad or indifferent – and of the three, two are bad. That struck me as not really getting it. We are not going to grow with Great Lakes.”

Jim Hight, a task force member who has a hunting business, flying clients in and who also flies frequently on personal trips, said Great Lakes’ customer service out of Denver “is nothing short of crap.”

Charles Ross who runs Scattergun Lodge said he moved his business to Pierre a few years ago to take advantage of the commercial air service. But the past two years have been bad, he said.

 "I've down $200,000 in 2016 in reservations because my guests will not fly on Great Lakes Aviation," Ross said.

Mayor Laurie Gill joined with other Commissioners and task force members, including Hight, in saying the Pierre-based Great Lakes employees are not the problem and that they provide great service in a difficult situation as boardings have fallen by two thirds in little over two years.

 The air service task force last week asked Mickey Bowman,  ADI’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, about Great Lakes’ Pierre employees and Bowman promised ADI would interview them for new jobs, Gill said.
Great Lakes has had a lot of time and opportunity to improve things and didn’t do it, Gill said.

The city will send the U.S. Department of Transportation its recommendation of ADI for the EAS program on Wednesday, Gill said.

Typically, DOT accepts a community’s choice of an airline under the EAS program.

But the significant difference between the two airlines’ bid proposals – ADI says it needs $4.5 million in EAS subisidies a year to make the 12-roundtrips per week plan work, versus Great Lakes’ proposal of $2.4 million for 12 round-trips per week to Denver – is something the DOT looks at.

Great Lakes executives made clear they were inclined to pull out of the Pierre market if it does not get the EAS money. The company could drop service to Pierre at any point.

ADI’s Bowman said the airline could begin flights between Pierre and Denver by late July or August.

But ADI’s bid for Pierre service depends on Watertown also choosing ADI as its recommendation to DOT for the EAS program.

Watertown’s City Council will make its decision at a noon meeting on Wednesday, Mayor Steve Thorson told the Capital Journal.

He’s not a member of the Council or Watertown’s airport board which will advise the Council.

 Thorson said it’s his considered view that the Council will not choose Great Lakes and that would leave ADI the obvious choice, if Pierre first decided to recommend ADI to the DOT.

Watertown’s Council also is still considering Boutique Air as a third possibility.

At Monday’s meeting in Pierre, Christenson gave an experienced view in reporting the task force’s work to the Commission.

“When I was a (City) Commissioner in the early ‘80s, one of the subjects were frequently discussed was Essential Air Service,” he said of the federal airline subsidy program for small, isolated communities. “If you or the public thinks this subject is going to get solved with the next airline we pick, it’s not going to happen. I will always be a problem in Pierre,South Dakota.”

Original article can be found here: http://www.capjournal.com

After helicopter fetches Governor Robert Bentley’s wallet, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency won’t answer policy questions on helicopter use: What we know about the Bentley campaign's $200,000 private plane habit



MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) – Shortly after we learned an Alabama Law Enforcement Agency helicopter flew to retrieve Governor Robert Bentley’s wallet in Tuscaloosa and fly it down to him near Gulf Shores, ALEA released a statement.


They cite code that says ALEA is charged with protecting the governor and that they have the authority to use “any personnel or equipment of the department for the protection or security, or both, of any protectee designated in this chapter, at any personal, political, official, campaign-related, or recreational event.”


But we still had plenty of questions.


One obvious one is cost. We talked to Nick Emmons, a flight instructor and commercial helicopter pilot.


He says helicopter costs depend on what you include. There’s fuel, but there’s also pilot time and regular, expensive maintenance.


“If you called me and said, ‘I’m in Gulf Shores and I left my wallet, I want to hire you to bring it to me,'” Emmons tells us, “I could not do it for less that $550 to $600 an hour.”


He estimates the whole journey for Bentley’s wallet would take around four hours by chopper. That puts his total between $2,200 and $2,400. He says state rates on fuel could make the trip cheaper for them. He also acknowledges the state may not have to pay for the helicopters, which often come from the military.  That also makes the flight cheaper.


To be frank, even the high-end estimate is not a huge number for a state agency like ALEA though.


Here’s what we’re most interested in. When a pilot wants to take off, he puts a ton of thought into it.


Emmons lists off, “You have a pre-flight check list. On that pre-flight checklist, according to how complicated the aircraft is, it could be as simple as twenty items. It could be seventy items.”


But what checklist does ALEA use before launching a helicopter to pick up a wallet? Their statement says:


“[T]he decision to utilize department equipment to facilitate the request was made through ALEA`s chain of command, using standard agency protocol.”


We’ve asked three different times “Does ALEA have written policy on the use of its helicopters, for instance when they may be used or what for?”


Still no answer.


We’ve also asked the governor’s office multiple times the governor did anything to impact the use of state helicopters going forward.


Still no answer.


Original article can be found here:  http://whnt.com 


Governor Robert Bentley greets Ulrich Weber, head of Airbus Final Assembly Line USA, during ceremonies for the very first delivery of an Airbus A321 to JetBlue at Mobile's Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility on Monday April 25, 2016.


Gov. Robert Bentley's prolific use of state planes has been the subject of intense scrutiny in the months since rumors first emerged that he had an affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a former top adviser.

But the murkier topic of how exactly Bentley used private planes has been largely absent from media coverage.

One major reason for the lack of reporting about the governor's private plane habit is the fact that there are no public records detailing when Bentley hired such aircraft. Unlike with state airplanes and helicopters, there is no legally mandated public paper trail for the private flights Bentley took.

Over the course of the final three months of the 2014 gubernatorial election and the week following Election Day of that year, Bentley used campaign funds to foot the bill for a number of private flights.

The extent of Bentley's reliance on private planes is likely impossible to determine via publicly available sources.

But AL.com was able to compile some information that gives a partial picture of the governor's private plane use, an area of inquiry that is by its very nature not public.

Between Sept. 17, 2014, and Nov. 13, 2014, Bentley's campaign made four payments totaling $213,052.50 to Powder Springs, Georgia-based Aviation Development Group (ADG), according to campaign finance filings.

Little information about ADG is publicly available. But Georgia state records identify longtime pilot and businessman Thomas Harrison Huff as ADG's registered agent, founder and manager.

Reached by telephone earlier this month, Huff declined to answer questions about what services he provided to the Bentley campaign in exchange for the payments, whether he ever flew the governor or any other topic.

"That's one of those things where I'm not allowed to give that information for security reasons," Huff said, adding only that he does not own any planes.

Bentley spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis told AL.com via email Monday that she is unable to answer any questions about Bentley's private flight history. Ardis did not respond to an email asking who might be better qualified to answer such questions.

"I did not work for the Bentley Campaign and because I am a state employee, I cannot answer your questions because I do not know the answer to your questions," she wrote.

Bentley's accountant, Michael Echols, whose office number is listed as the point of contact on the governor's 2014 annual campaign finance report, did not return a phone message seeking comment Monday.

Yet there are some online hints about ADG's operations that provide a glimpse inside the company.

The website www.adg.aero is the homepage for "Blue Sky Charter," a Georgia company registered by the same law firm as the one that registered Aviation Development Group.  Georgia business registration records show that the two companies also share a single "principal office address," a Powder Springs residence listed in deed records as being owned by Huff.

The header on www.adg.aero's homepage says "Blue Sky Charter – An Aviation Development Group company," and the website's footer reads "© 2016 Aviation Development Group, LLC."

Blue Sky's website advertises a range of chartered flight options, and its "Services" section includes a brief quote attributed to "Thomas Huff, President" at the top: "We anticipate our customers' every need."

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, there are no airplanes registered to either ADG or Blue Sky. But Blue Sky Charter's website displays three different planes that can be rented for between $2,850 and $4,750 an hour.

One of the planes shown on the site and identified by tail number in a related URL is currently registered to a company in Atlanta, while the other was most recently registered to a North Carolina outfit, though its certification appears to have expired, FAA records show. An employee of the website FlightAware, which tracks private flights and sells the information online, looked up the flight history between March 15, 2013 and April 20, 2015 for one of the flights advertised on the Blue Sky website for AL.com and found nothing.

"There's a possibility that it could've been blocked from the FAA; they could have blocked it from the FAA." the employee said via phone, suggesting that someone may have requested to have the airplane's flight patterns be withheld from the authorities, which is not necessarily unusual. "Presidential candidates do that, but anyone can do so."

The Bentley campaign also made payments to two other aviation-related firms, according to campaign finance records.

On Nov. 13, 2014, the Bentley campaign paid Tuscaloosa-based Bunn Brothers Aviation $2,880.

That same day, the campaign paid Planeworks, LLC $1,426. The Birmingham-based company manages aircraft for clients including Bunn Brothers and the Jim 'N Nick's BBQ Restaurant chain, according to a Bessemer Airport employee with knowledge of the two Alabama-based aviation companies' operations.

Planeworks owner Oscar Kent, who also flies for Bunn Brothers, told AL.com via phone earlier this month that he flew Bentley only "once to the best of [his] recollection."

"It seemed like it was just him and another guy," Kent said. "He just contacted me to fly ... I think I only flew him one time."

Controversy over Bentley's frequent use of state planes has played a role in the fallout of the allegations that the governor had an affair with Mason. A key potential question for investigators is whether Bentley used taxpayer-funded state aircraft for personal use – perhaps to keep his wife and alleged mistress apart, as some have alleged.

Earlier this month, Bentley admitted that a state helicopter was used in 2014 to transport a wallet he accidentally left in Tuscaloosa to his home in Gulf Shores.

Original article can be found here:   http://www.al.com