Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Martha's Vineyard Airport (KMVY) Commission meeting discusses grant, Federal Aviation Administration inspection, and potential solar farm

The Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission met last Thursday with good news on its agenda that included a grant totaling $8.3 million and a mostly positive inspection by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FAA construction grant, announced on July 13 by the office of Representative Bill Keating, “will fund the construction of approximately a 20,000-square-foot Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) building. “Construction of a new Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Building and the important safety upgrades that go along with that will allow first responders at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport to have the infrastructure that they need to be prepared for any emergency situation,” Congressman Keating said in a press release.

Airport commissioner Robert Rosenbaum and Airport Commission chairman Myron Garfinkle had worked to secure the grant over the past 11 months.

“It’s hard for me to say without smiling, ” Mr. Garfinkle said when he announced the grant to the commissioners.

The FAA has conducted several inspections, and the most recent, a land-use inspection on July 6 and 7, was another topic of discussion at the Thursday meeting. Mr. Garfinkle called the inspection an educational opportunity, and said that overall, the airport received an excellent review. However, the FAA took issue with two items related to lease arrangements.

The airport has two leases with zero revenue to the airport, which is not permitted by FAA regulations. In a phone conversation with The Times, airport manager Ann Crook said leases for the Dukes County Sheriff’s Department, which operates the communications center on airport property, and a bicycle motocross (BMX) track have expired. Ms. Crook said their paperwork has lapsed, and that the airport is “working to bring them into compliance.”

The second issue was the airport’s fair market values. According to Ms. Crook, these are appraised values of a piece of property based on the highest and best use of that property. The values have slipped at the airport, and the FAA said they must maintain them. Ms. Crook told The Times that all leases must be in compliance, which means changing the lease language to ensure they charge the fair market value for their property.

Also Thursday, airport commissioners discussed the airport’s “master plan,” which refers to the maintenance of runways, maximizing parking spaces, and the potential construction of a solar farm. Ms. Crook told The Times that the solar farm is an idea they’re still considering. She said that they’re looking at a property at the airport that isn’t needed for aeronautical development.

“We’re considering building a solar farm there as a way to provide for electrical use of the airport, or to partially offset the use of electricity in a way that’s sustainable,” Ms. Crook said.

Mr. Garfinkle said the Airport Commission plans to hold an upcoming public meeting about the airport’s potential solar farm.


Hundreds of Southwest flights delayed after ground stop

SEATTLE -- Hundreds of Southwest flights were delayed Wednesday after the airline was hit with technical issues.

The trouble started when a "system outage" led to a nationwide ground stop for all Southwest flights that lasted for just over an hour.

The company said in a statement that an early-afternoon outage impacted "multiple technology systems." After the ground stop was lifted, flights were left flights backlogged.

"We expect to continue our move toward a normal operation, but believe it will take time," Southwest said in a statement. The airline declined to say what caused the system outage.

The airline's airport kiosks and web site were not available for check-in or booking.

Some passengers reported that Southwest was in the process of issuing hand-written paper tickets to get fliers back in the air.

Sea-Tac International Airport officials reported a backup at the Southwest check-in counter and reminded passengers to please be patient.

Dozens of fliers took to Twitter to complain about the delays. Some said they were aboard flights held on the runway.

"I love @SouthwestAir but I don't love wasting my PTO on the Tarmac," one user wrote.

About 450 Southwest flights were delayed Wednesday as of about 2 p.m., according to FlightStats, though it's not clear how many of those delays were due to the technical glitch. At that same time, 261 domestic United Airlines flights and 278 American Airlines flights were delayed.

Customers also reported problems accessing the airline's website and mobile app, which prevented them from booking flights or checking in for an upcoming trip.

Downdetector counted more than 3,000 social media posts complaining about the issues beginning around 11:30 a.m. PT.

Southwest Airlines is the No. 4 U.S. airline by passenger traffic.


Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional (KGUC) runway work will close airport during spring of 2017

The schedule for runway repairs at the Gunnison airport next spring is nearly set. Airport manager Rick Lamport gave the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) an update on the situation at the July 8 meeting.

Based on design criteria, the schedule is tentative and might need some fine-tuning but will be close to what has been expected. Materials for the project will begin to be prepped and stored at the airport starting this fall.

Some taxiway work and asphalt testing will be conducted starting April 1. The project kicks into high gear April 10, the day after the ski area closes, when both the main airport runway and a small grass runway on the western side of the airport will be shut down.

Paving work will move to the east side of the airport starting May 16 and that will allow the grass runway to reopen to small aircrafts. The main runway work is scheduled to be complete June 10 with the airport opening on that Saturday.

But as with any project of this magnitude, Lamport said there were 12 contingency days built into the project in case some unexpected problems arise.

The asphalt will take a month, until July 21, to completely cure. On July 22, grooving work will commence and Lamport said that could impact residents living near the airport. Workers “will groove the runway at night,” he said. “So from July 22 until August 1 work will take place from 10:30 at night until 5 a.m. There will be some noise out there at night for those two weeks.”

Lamport said the work is needed since the runway is currently cracked. It is a $10 million project funded mainly by the federal government. Lamport said the design/engineering company setting the schedule, Jviation, just completed a similar project at the Hayden airport and it came in on time with even more work than will be done at Gunnison. Jviation will manage the actual project but will not do the actual construction.

“Moisture and weather is always a little challenge, but I am confident in this company, and think it will get done in this timeframe,” said Lamport.

Bids are currently being solicited for the work.


Aeronca 7BCM/CONV, N1639E: Incident July 20, 2016 at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport (KVVS), Connellsville, Dunbar Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania

An accident involving an unmanned, antique plane sent its owner to the hospital Wednesday morning when it began circling on the Tarmac at the Joseph A. Hardy/Connellsville Airport.

Authorities said John Warren, 72, of Monongahela was outside of his plane when the propeller knocked him to the ground twice before crashing into the hangar.

The man was flown to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, according to state police.

The 1946 Aeronca Champion has no electric starter, according to airport Manager Bud Neckeraurer. Instead, the plane is started by turning the propeller by hand. When Warren did this, the plane began making uncontrolled circles outside the hangar.

Neckeraurer said Warren attempted to get in the plane, but was unable and began chasing it.

"I went out to chase it too, but I didn't know what to do but yell at John to stay away," he said.

He said the propeller hit Warren and knocked him to the ground -- hard. Neckeraurer said he was surprised to see him get up and start chasing the plane again. It knocked him to the ground a second time, and Warren struggled to get to his feet. Neckeraurer and other witnesses rushed to help him.

"To me, it seemed about like all day," Neckeraurer said, describing the incident. "But it was probably less than a minute."

Neckeraurer said that while he has not seen this type of accident before at the Connellsville airport, he said they are not uncommon.

"From now on, we will tie the tail down," he said. "We'll do things differently now."

He said Warren was only making a quick stop at the airport for fuel with plans to spend the afternoon meandering around the skies.

"He said to me, 'It's a great day to fly," he said.

Neckeraurer said it appeared that Warren suffered head injuries and seemed to be going into shock before regaining coherence. He said Warren seemed to be most concerned about his antique aircraft.

"It's like a piece of jewelry," Neckeraurer said. "It's absolutely beautiful."

He said Warren is a member of the Rostraver Township chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association. Neckeraurer said the pilot has multiple airplanes, and operates his aircraft safely.

He said he is confident Warren will find a way to repair his plane when he recovers.

"John will fix it," he said. "It might take years, but that's what these experimental aircraft guys do."

The damage to the hangar will require replacing a door, he said. A panel on a truck was damaged by the plane's tail.

Neckeraurer thanked the emergency personnel, saying the response was superb.

State police, Fayette EMS, Dunbar fire department and Fayette County Emergency Management Agency responded to the scene.


CONNELLSVILLE, Pa. —A pilot was injured when his antique plane began spinning out of control Wednesday morning at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport.

A pilot is injured while working on his antique plane at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport and is flown to a Pittsburgh hospital.

The man was preparing to take off in the plane when he got out to hand turn the propeller, but did not put the throttle in idle. 

"The engine started at a much higher RPM than it should have, with enough power to override the brakes," said Gary Sobek, who was preparing to fly out on his own plane.

Video: Runaway plane: pilot injured at Connellsville airport

The plane, said to be a 1946 Aeronca Champ, began to move when the propeller started spinning, moving the plane from one end of the airport's apron to the other.

"We didn't know what to do," said Bud Neckerbauer, the airport's manager. "You have an airplane running around out there wild. We were chasing it, then it was chasing us."

The pilot, identified as John Warren, 72, of Monongahela, was struck by the tail section of the plane when he tried to stop it and was knocked into the air and fell, striking his head on the ground.

The plane then smashed into a truck parked nearby and crashed through a hangar door before stopping.

Warren was taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Story and video:

A pilot trying to stop a runaway classic aircraft was hurt when he was struck by the plane Wednesday morning at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport.

Airport manager John Neckerauer identified the pilot as John Warren of Monongahela, an officer with the Experimental Aircraft Association of Pittsburgh.

Neckerauer said Warren was planning to take up his Aeronca Champ, a 1946 fixed-wing, single engine two-seater.

“It's an old aircraft without a starter. You hand-prop it (pull the propeller by hand),” Neckerauer explained.

When Warren spun the propeller, the plane took off and struck an airport hangar, he said.

“He was trying to catch it. The tail section of the aircraft flipped him onto the asphalt. He hit his head hard,” Neckerauer said.

Warren was transported from the scene by ambulance and then flown to a Pittsburgh hospital, Neckerauer said.

The accident was reported about 10 a.m.

No further information on Warren's condition was immediately available. 


Brandt Sonex, N393SX: Accident occurred July 19, 2016 in Lodi, Columbia County, Wisconsin

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Milwaukee FSDO-13

NTSB Identification: CEN16LA273
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, July 18, 2016 in Lodi, WI
Aircraft: BRANDT SONEX, registration: N393SX
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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

On July 18, 2016, about 1915 central daylight time, a Brandt Sonex experimental amateur-built airplane, N393SX, impacted a ditch when it exited runway 9 (1,875 feet by 105 feet, turf) at the Lodi Lakeland Airport (9WN5), near Lodi, Wisconsin, during a forced landing following a partial loss of engine power. The sport pilot was uninjured. The airplane fuselage was substantially damaged during the impact with the ditch. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated without a flight plan. The local flight originated from 9WN5 at the time unknown.

According to preliminary information, the pilot reported a partial engine power loss, which occurred northwest of 9WN5. He said that he had to cut his base short to runway 9 due to buildings that he wanted to avoid in case of total power loss. The wind favored runway 27. However, he did not think he would make it to that runway. The airplane's nose and left main landing gear collapsed after touchdown, the airplane skidded to the north side of the runway, and exited the runway into a ditch where it sustained the substantial damage.

At 1953, the recorded weather at the Dane County Regional Airport-Truax Field, near Madison, Wisconsin, was: Wind calm; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition few clouds at 5,500 feet; temperature 27 degrees C; dew point 17 degrees C; altimeter 30.15 inches of mercury.


Costruzioni Aeronautiche Tecnam P2008, N615BS: Incident occurred July 19, 2016 in Warrenton, Fauquier County, Virginia

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Washington FSDO-27

Date: 19-JUL-16
Time: 15:14:00Z
Regis#: N615BS
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Virginia


Piper PA22, N3609A: Incident occurred July 19, 2016 in Bismarck, Burleigh County, North Dakota

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Fargo FSDO-21

Date: 19-JUL-16
Time: 23:09:00Z
Regis#: N3609A
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA22
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: North Dakota


Meyers 200B, N229RS: Accident occurred July 19, 2016 near Huron Regional Airport (KHON), Beadle County, South Dakota

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Rapid City FSDO-27

NTSB Identification: CEN16LA275
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, July 19, 2016 in Huron, SD
Aircraft: MEYERS 200, registration: N229RS
Injuries: 2 Minor.

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 19, 2015, about 1900 central daylight time, a Meyers 200B airplane, N229RS, conducted a forced landing near Huron, South Dakota. The airline transport rated pilot and passenger received minor injuries and the airplane was substantially damaged during the accident. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time.

The pilot reported to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector that the flight originated from Nevada. During the flight, he noted a little oil on the windscreen, so he stopped in Casper, Wyoming, for maintenance personnel to look at the airplane. After an en route stop at the Huron Regional Airport, (KHON), Huron, South Dakota, he continued his flight. However, shortly after departure, the airplane's engine lost power, he added that the engine did not stop, but went to idle power.

The pilot conducted a force landing in a field; the airplane came to rest upright, with the landing gear retracted. Substantial damage was noted to the airplane's fuselage.

The airplane was retained for further examination.

HURON—A Hawaii woman suffered minor injuries Tuesday in the emergency landing of a small plane near Huron.

Bruce Mayes, of Hawaii, was forced to conduct an emergency landing after experiencing engine troubles shortly after takeoff, according to Beadle County Sheriff Doug Solem.

Solem said Mayes was unharmed, but his wife, whose name authorities declined to release, sustained a cut to the head in the landing.

Solem said Mayes and his wife had touched down in Huron to refuel during a trip from Hawaii to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, when Mayes experienced engine trouble.

According to Beadle County Sheriff's Deputy Chad Olerud, Mayes was able to land safely despite skidding an estimated 200 yards in the pasture east of 27th Street Northeast and Sherman Avenue.

Olerud said the female passenger was then transported to a Huron hospital. He also said the Federal Aviation Administration will be investigating the crash.

The Beadle County Sheriff's Office was assisted by Huron police, fire and ambulance, as well as Beadle County Emergency Management.


Two people received minor injuries Tuesday night as the small plane they were flying was forced to land in a pasture northeast of Huron.  First Assistant Fire Chief Howard Alter says crews were dispatched around seven P-M.

Alter says the two on board had just taken off from Huron Regional Airport.

The plane crashed about three-quarters to a mile of the intersection of 27th Street Northeast and Sherman Avenue and was hidden by the terrain.

The crash site is approximately two miles northeast of the Huron Regional Airport.  Responding to the scene were units from the Huron Police Department, Beadle County Sheriff, Huron Ambulance and South Dakota Highway Patrol.


Cessna 172M, Bremfour Aviation Group Inc., N13608: Incident occurred July 19, 2016 in Knoxville, Knox County, Tennessee

BREMFOUR AVIATION GROUP INC: http://registry.faa.govN13608

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Nashville FSDO-19

Date: 20-JUL-16
Time: 00:45:00Z
Regis#: N13608
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 172
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Tennessee


Chance Vought F4U-5 Corsair, Fighters & Legends LLC, N179PT: Accident occurred July 19, 2016 at East Troy Municipal Airport (57C), Walworth County, Wisconsin


FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Milwaukee FSDO-13

NTSB Identification: CEN16LA274
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, July 19, 2016 in East Troy, WI
Aircraft: CHANCE VOUGHT F4U 5, registration: N179PT
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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

On July 19, 2016, about 1050 central daylight time, a Vought F4U-5 Corsair airplane, N179PT, was substantially damage while landing at the East Troy Municipal Airport (57C), East Troy, Wisconsin. The pilot was not injured. The airplane was registered to Fighters & Legends LLC and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight which operated without a flight plan. The local flight departed 57C about 1030.

Preliminary information obtained by the Federal Aviation Administration indicated that during the landing roll, the airplane began drifting to the right. The pilot corrected with left brake, but was unable to command any braking with the left pedal and was unable to stop the drift. The airplane exited the right side of the runway and collided with a windsock. The airplane's right wing was substantially damaged.

The airplane had recently completed an annual inspection when components of its brake system were replaced. The accident flight was the first flight since the annual inspection.


NTSB Identification: CHI99FA266C
The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Accident occurred Thursday, July 29, 1999 in OSHKOSH, WI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/22/2000
Aircraft: Chance Vought F4U-5, registration: N179PT
Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor, 1 Uninjured.

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

The three airplanes were part of a formation demonstration flight of eight World War II Navy fighters, divided into four sections of two airplanes each, that had been cleared to takeoff from runway 18 at Wittman Regional Airport, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, during the annual Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) convention, 'AirVenture 99'. Air traffic control clearance for the departing aircraft had been relinquished from the FAA tower to a local 'air boss'. The air boss had cleared all of the airplanes to takeoff as a flight. Witnesses saw the lead airplane, a Bearcat, N14HP, and his wingman, taxi down runway 18 approximately 1,400 feet, turn toward the southwest and stop. Approximately 4 seconds later, the lead airplane in the second section, a Corsair, N712RD, collided into N14HP severing the Corsair's left wing, and the Bearcat's right wing. The Corsair continued down the runway, rolling over on it's left side, came apart, and burst into flames. The remains of the Corsair came to rest in a field east of the runway, approximately 2,000 feet down. The Bearcat was turned approximately 180 degrees and came to rest on the runway's east edge. A second Corsair, the wingman of N712RD, veered off of the west side of runway 18, sustaining substantial damage to it's left wing. Examination of all three airplanes revealed no anomalies.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot of the other airplane not following the instructions briefed by the formation leader, and the pilot's maneuvering his airplane to avoid the airplane in front of him.

Challenger II: Incident occurred July 16, 2016 in Kentwood, California

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Sacramento FSDO-25

Date: 16-JUL-16
Time: 17:30:00Z
Event Type: Incident
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Minor
State: California



LETTER: Think carefully about value of Kalispell City Airport (S27)

This is just a short letter to the Kalispell city manager and the entire City Council concerning the fate of the city airport.

As a boy, living on the Kootenai River, there would be occasionally an old Taylorcraft fly in and land on a dirt strip about two miles north of our ranch — talk about “ground speed.” I would head there on my bike.

Eureka had a runway, one local plane — an Aeronca “Champ” — and one hangar.

During the mid 1940s, I was in high school and fortunate to take an occasional club and had a lot of interest in planes. Along came the Korean War. I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and four years later never got even a ride in a military plane (air training command).

By 1954, Eureka had the most airplanes per capita short of Alaska. I eventually was able to buy a used Navion, and started flying into your city airport, and as long as I had my plane, frequently stopped in for annuals, fuel and shopping.

Lincoln County made some great choices, like accepting help and funding from the FAA, and we now have a better field than Kalispell.

At age 85, I don’t have a dog in the race, so to speak, but I know that your city has a lot of potential airline pilots who will need a local small field to train in.

I feel the City Council should be promoting aviation, not suppressing it. It means more to more people than some may believe.

Thank you for your careful consideration.

—Dale A. Hudson, Eureka

Original article can be found here:

Judge dismisses lawsuit over Marshfield Municipal Airport (KGHG) changes

A superior court judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed in fall 2014 by a Marshfield man seeking to block use of an expanded stretch of runway at the town's municipal airport.

Judge Robert Cosgrove ruled that resident John Whippen was years too late in appealing a 2011 special permit that allowed the airport to expand the runway into an area zoned for suburban housing.

The recent ruling could mean an end to legal issues tied to Marshfield Municipal Airport and an expansion that raised several concerns among its property neighbors.

“This case is over, unless they appeal,” Marshfield Town Counsel Robert Galvin said.

Sean Beagan, an attorney representing Whippen, said this week no final decision had been made yet regarding an appeal.

Whippen filed the lawsuit after the board denied his request to enforce his interpretation of zoning law and block the Marshfield Airport Commission from encroaching on a residentially zoned area. He named five members of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals—Chairman Joseph Kelleher, Heidi Conway, Mark Ford, Francis Hubbard and Lynne Fidler—as defendants.

He asked the court to reverse or annul the board’s decision and order that the part of the runway extending into the residential zone can’t be used because it violates the town zoning bylaws, according to previous Mariner reports.

Whippen also sought a declaratory judgment that the board violated his rights as a citizen and taxpayer by allowing airport activities in an area in which they’re not permitted. The town had filed a motion to dismiss that count. Following a motion hearing in January 2015, the court sent out a notice allowing the town's motion to dismiss in February of that year, according to previous Mariner reports.

He had argued the runway expansion was never properly permitted because the board’s 2011 decision on the project allowed work in an area zoned "B-2" when it should have read "R-2," indicating suburban residential zoning. The board insisted that the "B" was a clerical error.

In his decision, Cosgrove ruled that the error was not significant enough to invalidate the permit and, more importantly, that Whippen's appeal of the 2011 permit was years too late. Under state law, anyone wishing to appeal a special permit has 20 days to do so in most cases or 90 days if the issuing board has made a procedural or notification error.

“He basically was attempting to attack the 2011 special permit by requesting zoning enforcement in 2014. The court ruled that there was a scrivener's error in the notice of the decision,” Galvin said, adding, “The airport built what was shown on the plans, specifically. The plans all showed the work being done in the R-2 zone, not the B-2 zone.”

He said July 14 he believes the wording of the decision may discourage Whippen from appealing it.

"I think it would be unlikely they would succeed, in light of what the court ruled," Galvin said.

Whippen's lawsuit did not affect work on the runway expansion project, which was completed in July 2014. The new runway measures 3,900 feet by 100 feet and replaces the original 3,000-by-75 foot stretch. Airport officials say the expansion has made the runway safer for pilots.

The project had long been opposed by a group of neighbors, calling themselves Marshfield Citizens Against Airport Pollution, who said they feared it would increase the noise and fumes from jets that they already contend with. They say the runway work has also damaged marshes around the airport.


Pittsfield Municipal Airport (KPSF) concerns addressed in study group meeting: Study group hears report on history of leases, establishment of airfield's 1980 business park

PITTSFIELD — A study group examining operations at the Pittsfield Municipal Airport has apparently put to rest concerns about lot leases and income from a business park carved out of airport property during the mid-1980s.

However, the group still is dealing with several key decisions as it prepares a list of recommendations on the airport for Mayor Linda M. Tyer — who appointed the nine-member ad hoc committee earlier this year at the request of the City Council — to consider.

Among those are whether to request "a forensic audit" of the operation from the Federal Aviation Administration; whether to lease the entire airport management to current fixed-base operator Lyon Aviation or another private firm, and whether an enterprise fund, similar to those that fund the water and sewer systems, should be established for the airport.

Barry Clairmont, treasurer of the Pittsfield Economic Development Corp., which operates the Westwood Business Park on 30 acres of former airport property, and PERC President Jay Andersen gave a detailed presentation on the history of the park from its creation in the 1980s that ultimately seemed to satisfy members of the study group.

Councilors Christopher Connell, Melissa Mazzeo and Donna Todd Rivers, who originally called for the study, had cited apparent gaps in paper record or questions concerning how the park was created and how the leases — some for 40 years at a dollar per year — were decided upon.

Connell and others have pushed for the airport to become more self-sufficient financially by raising additional revenue to off-set annual city appropriations. He has been highly critical of the business park leases, 85 percent of the revenue from which goes to PERC and 15 percent to the airport.

Clairmont said the paperwork showing needed approvals from the FAA, the Massachusetts Aeronautics Division, the city Community Development Office and the Airport Commission had likely been submitted to the study group earlier but was not arranged in chronological order.

On Monday, he methodically went through how the business park was established. That included the airport providing 25 acres of its more than 600 acres of land, the city paying for and adding another five acres, and an agreement being worked out during the 1980s to have PERC develop and manage the park.

Key points, he said, are that the lease revenue — just over $20,000 annually on seven park lots — is split based on the percentage of money provided to develop the facility by each entity. The airport donated 25 acres of undeveloped land determined to be worth about $90,000, Clairmont said, while the city provided five acres and $431,189 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding for utilities and to create the park. Those figures determined how the lease revenue is split, he said.

Clairmont also said the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provided the city with the CDBG funds, requires that any revenue from such a project go back into a program that is an eligible use for the grants, which does not include an airport operation. A Certified Public Accountant, Clairmont said the agreement is a standard one in such development projects involving government funding. The lease revenue that now goes to PERC is used for small business assistance programs and for economic studies to benefit the city.

Clairmont also presented paperwork that showed approvals were obtained from all the involved parties for the lease agreements and the revenue split. "This is where the FAA is saying, 'we are OK with this,'" he said at one point.

In fact, Andersen said, by creating PERC in the 1980s to manage the park, the city was able to keep the park revenue from going back into HUD coffers for projects elsewhere.

He added that "there would be no development if not for PERC," as the Airport Commission did not want to develop or manage a park, and the city today would not have gained the property tax revenue — about $130,000 annually — from the buildings constructed there.

Connell still expressed frustration over the length of some of the park leases and the low rates, but he dropped those objections after C. Jeffrey Cook said it seemed a waste of time for the group to keep exploring the issue, which did not seem to offer much opportunity to enhance airport revenues.

Cook said the explanation of how the park was created and the lease revenue proportioned seems rational. "I would like us to move on," he said, adding, "I don't think this is going to lead to any 'ah ha' moments."

The PERC officials have said the low-payment, long-term lease agreements were offered as an incentive to the first businesses to locate at the park.

Connell did press, however, for other recommendations to the mayor, including his request for a "forensic audit" by the FAA of past and current operations and to seek information on how to more efficiently manage the facility and enhance revenues.

Airport Commission Chairman Christopher Pedersen said major airport expansion projects, which receive significant federal and state funding, are already audited on multiple levels, and the airport budget is audited each year along with other city department budgets.

He indicated he would favor a "best practices" review of the operation.

And Connell said he wants to ask the mayor to explore setting up an enterprise fund similar to those that fund the water and sewer departments for the airport. He said the funding would be separate from the city budget and could encourage greater efforts to raise more revenue and control costs.

Pedersen said that topic has been discussed many times by the Airport Commission, but potential problems were noted — including that if the airport did begin producing more revenue the money would stay in an enterprise fund and couldn't go back into the city budget, as currently is the case.

In light of a proposal being explored to lease land for a solar array on airport property — which airport Manager Robert Snuck has termed a possible "game changer" in terms of revenue — it might be a bad time to establish an enterprise fund system, Pedersen said.

He added that such an arrangement might also "make it more complicated" than the current management system without significant benefit.

There was no further discussion Monday of whether to recommend seeking bids from private firms such as Lyon Aviation to lease the entire airport and subcontract services such as runway clearing, mowing and other maintenance now done by the city.

Group Chairman Thomas Sakshaug said he will prepare a list of recommendations to be sent to the mayor and plans to ask for a group vote on each item.

After members indicated they would like to submit questions about small airport management to the FAA, Sakshaug asked for questions to be submitted prior to an Aug. 15 meeting.

Original article can be found here: