Thursday, September 15, 2016

Santa Monica Airport closure should be last resort


Historic Santa Monica Airport once again finds itself in the middle of a nasty fight that never seems to end.

In an unsurprising, unanimous vote last month, the Santa Monica City Council passed a resolution calling for the closure of the general aviation airport by 2018.

But there is one major problem with that vote. Standing in the way of any closure is the powerful Federal Aviation Administration, which has ruled that the airport must remain open at least until 2023.

For years, many residents have complained about the airport’s noise, pollution and safety problems. That hasn’t always been the case.

At one time, the airport was the home of the Douglas Aircraft company. During World War II, thousands of C-47 and C-54 military cargo planes were built at Santa Monica by Douglas ,which employed thousands of workers and invigorated the city’s economy.

But after the war, the first anti-airport signs surfaced, and Douglas, frustrated by its inability to extend runways at Santa Monica, moved to Long Beach Airport.

Since then, there has been an endless series of moves to close or restrict operations at the airport. Stringent noice ordinances and curfews were passed. However, as size of private jets increased, so did the anger of anti-airport residents.

In 2014, Santa Monica voters approved Measure LC, which gives voters a chance to have a say on how airport land would be developed in case the airport closes. Many would like to see a park there.

The FAA is basing its decision to keep the airport open at least until 2023 on a $240,000 federal grant received by the city in 2003. Provisions of that grant require the airport to stay open 20 years after it was granted, the FAA says.

The city argues the 2003 grant was simply an amendment to the original, larger federal grant the city received in 1994 and didn’t change the expiration date of 2014.

It’s unfortunate that this contentious battle continues. Santa Monica Airport is critical to serving regional transportation needs.

And, if the airport closes, where would the private jets and other aircraft go? NIMBYism is at work here.

There is no easy answer to this frustrating issue, but other options to reduce problems should be explored. Closure should be only the last resort.


Federal Aviation Administration awards $6.5M to 17 New Mexico airports

CARLSBAD — Cavern City Air Terminal in Carlsbad is one of 17 airports in New Mexico awarded funding for runway construction and maintenance.

More than $6.5 million is being provided by the Federal Aviation Administration to the airports for repairs.

“In communities across New Mexico, local airports play a critical role in the economy. From bringing visitors who want to experience the beauty of the Land of Enchantment to moving New Mexico’s unique products from our chile and pecans around the globe, airports are an essential part of our state’s infrastructure,” said U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luj├ín in a news release.

According to the release, Cavern City Air Terminal will receive $155,000 to fill cracks and provide a seal coat for 5,334 feet in one of the airport's runways.

Sherri Chandler, terminal manager, said she is not certain when the runway project will begin. She said the federal government is the main source of funding for airport runway maintenance.

"(They) always grant money to maintain runways. It's how most airports survive," Chandler said. "When a maintenance item comes up, it's put into effect."

Cavern City Air Terminal is a public airport with four runways. The City of Carlsbad website said the terminal provides services for private pilots and charters and offers flights to cities including Albuquerque and Dallas, Texas through its essential air service provider, Boutique Air.

“New Mexico’s airports play a key role in attracting business and tourism to New Mexico and driving our economy,” U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said in the release.

Airports awarded funding

Albuquerque International Sunport: $100,000

Cavern City Air Terminal: $155,000

Clayton Municipal Airpark Airport: $270,000

Conchas Lake Airport: 118,756

Deming Municipal Airport: $570,000

Fort Sumner Municipal: $270,104

Four Corners Regional Airport: $1,142,714

Lea County/Jal Airport: $117,990

Lea County Regional Airport: $800,000

Lordsburg Municipal Airport: $59,327

Reserve Airport: $474,975

Santa Fe Municipal Airport: 1,267,917

Santa Rosa Route 66 Airport: $118,755

Sierra Blanca Regional Airport: $116,550

Socorro Municipal Airport: $134,600

Truth or Consequences Municipal Airport: $204,728

Tucumcari Municipal Airport: $475,000


Investigating misconduct by Transportation Security Administration employees at Metro Airport

DETROIT (WXYZ) - The congressional report is blunt: "Misconduct at the TSA threatens the security of the flying public."

Released just weeks ago, the memo shows members of the House Homeland Security Committee blasted the Transportation Security Administration - the agency responsible for the security of airline passengers, their belongings and the aircraft.

Much has been reported on security lapses during screenings, but there is now a new focus on misconduct and even criminal behavior among those doing the screening.

Congressional investigators found misconduct is occurring "at all levels" of the TSA and that "bloated bureaucracy" within the agency has slowed accountability.

The number of allegations against employees has increased by nearly 30 percent in the last three years. Congress estimates this represents one in every three TSA employees.

Misconduct allegations are frequent and broad, but more serious is misconduct involving criminal action.

The 7 Investigators, through the Freedom of Information Act, requested data from the TSA on incidents of criminal activity involving agents at Detroit's Metro Airport.

It took more than a year for the agency to provide the data.

Over a two year period, there were 8 documented cases involving TSA personnel that resulted in "criminal action."     

From "sexual misconduct" to "fraud" to the abuse of alcohol, the particulars regarding the infractions - including victim information - were redacted.

Only three of the cases resulted in an immediate firing from the TSA. The overall number of misconduct allegations - non-criminal at Metro - is believed to be much higher.

The TSA says they are doing more to oversee misconduct, including sending new recruits to boot camp to learn things such as ethical behavior.

The TSA also says that the appearance of a rise in misconduct could be due to an increased effort at cracking down. However, that doesn't address why bad behavior seems to exist in such numbers in the first place.     

TSA employs 60,000 people at 430 airports nationwide. They told us in a statement the incidents we cited show they take appropriate action when misconduct is substantiated. Also, they say the criminal cases cited represent less than 1 percent of the TSA workforce at Metro Airport during that time period.

They also say, “The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) takes seriously all allegations of inappropriate behavior by its employees and does not tolerate misconduct. However, when such conduct is alleged, TSA investigates it thoroughly and takes appropriate action when an investigation finds that misconduct has occurred.”

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A Chicago Startup Is Making 'Uber for Airplanes' a Reality

With the massive popularity of ride-sharing, tech companies and startups have tried to "Uberize" just about everything. But the "Uber for planes" business model has had a hard time getting off the ground.

The Federal Aviation Administration effectively shut down Boston-based startup Flytenow for operating an Uber-like sharing economy service that connected travelers with private pilots. Pilots would post their flight plans on the startup's message board, passengers would reach out if they were traveling in the same direction, and the passenger and pilot would split the costs. Flytenow turned those pilots into “common carriers,” the FAA said, thus requiring them to obtain a commercial license.

But a Chicago startup believes it's found a way to bring air travel to the sharing economy by connecting passengers to licensed, professional pilots. And it just launched its on-demand service nationwide.

FlyOtto allows travelers to find, book and pay for regional flights on privately chartered aircraft from their phone or computer. The service, which was born out of Chicago startup OpenAirplane, a company that lets pilots rent planes similar to renting a car, says it gets around any potential local issues as it's governed by Part 135 of the FAA's Federal Air Regulations, which states that only professional commercial pilots and charter certified airplanes can be used. 

Think of FlyOtto not so much as UberX--where you're connected to any available driver--but rather Uber Black, where you're matched with a professional chauffeur.

Here's how it works: Users log on to FlyOtto and enter their pickup and drop off destinations, and they are matched with a pilot and aircraft--usually a piston or turbo prop airplane that seats 3 to 9 people. Users select from the available options, chose their date and time, and pay through the FlyOtto platform. The service works with over 5,000 airports around the country, and is available virtually everywhere in the continental US. FlyOtto takes 7% of the transaction, giving 3% to the credit card companies and the rest to the plane operator.

OpenAirplane founder Rod Rakic said FlyOtto is perfect for the traveler who doesn't want to spend 4 to 6 hours in the car, or all day in airport terminals. FlyOtto isn't necessarily for the traveler who wants to go from major hubs like Chicago to Las Vegas, for example, but is better suited for flyers that are poorly served by the airline hub-and-spoke structure and need to get to small and medium sized towns.

FlyOtto is certainly convenient, but that convenience comes at a price. A one-way flight to from Chicago to Traverse City, Michigan, for example, will run you over $1,500 for a three-person plane. But for those who are accustom to paying for chartered flights, Rakic says FlyOtto is cheaper than the typical process of going through a broker or chartering a jet.

OpenAirplane has been building its network of pilots and airplanes since it launched in 2013, and has over 12,000 pilots signed up to fly and 340 aircraft available for rent. Launching a feature for passengers was a natural evolution for OpenAirplane, Rakic said, but he knew he had to get it right to avoid any issues with the FAA.

"We designed our business to be completely legal form day one," he said. "It's aligned with federal air regulations, state and local laws...(Our pilots are) getting oversight from the FAA on everything from safety operations, maintenance, and operational oversight."

Rakic admits he doesn't love the Uber comparisons, but acknowledges that FlyOtto has been inspired by the ride-sharing giant's business model.

"We finally created a way to make private air travel an impulse purchase, which it never really was before," he said.

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Tree removal near Sea-Tac Airport being required by the Feds, not the Port

The proposed cutting down of “the draconian 2,270 trees” in the flight path corridors at Sea-Tac Airport was highlighted at the SeaTac City Council session Tuesday night (Sept. 13), with the Port of Seattle plan being opposed by the administrator of the South King County Cultural Association.

Councilmembers, however, were told that the Port was only carrying out the mandate of the Federal Aviation Administration. Not to do what the FAA requires could have drastic implications, even to curtailing the number or type of flights, or possibly even losing federal grants to help finance the airport and the area.

Barbara McMichael, the administrator of the cultural association, said “one of the things that has come up increasingly (from her members) is about trees,” and the fact that the “wholesale removal of so many trees from our community is becoming of increasing concern for our members … and the Port of Seattle’s plan to remove anywhere from 1,600 to 2,270 trees.”

She said that not all of the trees can be saved, but perhaps most not would have to go.

Don’t blame Port

The Port of Seattle is not the instigator of the tree removal program, as it is mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration that controls all planes when they are taking off, landing or are in flight.

Plus, Port officials in charge of the program say the removal of trees on private property will not begin until 2018, and after a thorough research of each situation.

All federally charged airports are required each five years to survey landing and takeoff zones by the FAA, and it requires removal of anything over a set height. The official name of the program is the “Flight Safety Corridor Program.”

Unlike some cities in the nation, at Sea-Tac Airport there are no buildings that have to be removed. In one city a tall apartment had to be torn down.

Here, the Port of Seattle plans to replace the removed trees with 4,000 native species trees to replace 2,270 trees taken down. The replaced trees are of a type that will not grow high enough to be problems in the future, Port officials told The SeaTac Blog on Thursday.

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Gavilan takes to the air

That’s Gavilan College trustee Kent Child doing ribbon-cutting honors for the school's aviation program in its new home at San Martin Airport. Pictured from left are David Leonardo of Hollister Jet Center, who is standing in front of Gilroy Chamber of Commerce president Mark Turner, Childs, Gavilan trustees Lois Locci, Tom Breen, Walt Glines and Mark Dover, college president Kathleen Rose and human resources director Eric Ramones.

Within months of being hired this summer, Gavilan Community College president Kathleen Rose, above, got to buy an airplane for her school’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program. It’s a Piper, one of three planes used in the program where instructor Herb Spenner, above, has taught for six years. They are seen Tuesday at the grand opening ceremony for the school's new aviation program facility at San Martin Airport. 

After a six-year wait, one of most successful programs at Gavilan Community College hosted grand opening ceremonies Tuesday for its new home at the San Martin Airport.

The school’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program began in the 1960s at Hollister Airport and is the only aviation career-training program of its kind in the region.

“This is a whole new chapter for Gavilan College,” said Kathleen Rose, the school’s recently hired superintendent and president as she stood near the cluster of renovated classrooms and a new hanger, replete with a Piper airplane for students—one of three planes students learn on.

“One of the first things I got to do as CEO was purchase a plane, not many CEOs get to do that,” she quipped.

Several dozen well-wishers, faculty, local officials, representatives of chambers of commerce and the two candidates in the November Gavilan board of trustees election, Danielle Davenport and Rachel Perez, joined Rose for the ceremony.

Others at the Tuesday afternoon ribbon cutting included representatives of U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Santa Clara County District 1 Supervisor Mike Wasserman.

Rose thanked county and San Martin Airport officials and college staff, among others, for their assistance in making the project happen during a six-year effort that was not without its trying moments.

Instructor Herb Spenner said the program has 30 students but a capacity for 50; graduates of the two-year course have a robust employment market waiting for them, he added.

With the skills acquired in the program, graduates can work for airlines, corporations with private planes, helicopter operations, the space industry, or can go into business for themselves, as one graduate did in Alaska, said Spenner.

He has taught at Gavilan for six years after a career in military aircraft design.

Indeed, United Airlines had a recruiter, Ana Maria Pena, at the event.

“The industry is ready and waiting to hire,” she said, adding that she attended as part of United’s efforts to open a pipeline to employment for Gavilan’s aviation graduates.

The course teaches the basics and more advanced aspects of engine and airframe work and readies students for Federal Aviation Certification—the experts who deem aircraft airworthy or not—according to Spenner.

He is one of three instructors in the program and all are Gavilan graduates, he said.

“This a great example of how Gavilan is meeting the needs of the community,” said Gavilan College trustee Walt Glines of Gilroy.

“This project will enable the college to double the number of students who will be in line for good-paying jobs in the ever-growing aviation field. Many land jobs at Bay Area airports. The grads earn around $57,000 a year to start,” he said.

Spenner said salaries can reach into six figures.

Glines called vocational programs such as the Gavilan’s aviation courses “a mainstay” of community colleges. “Not everyone wants to gain a two or four-year academic degree,” he said.

Trustee Tom Breen of Hollister called the new airport location, a “very simple and I hope effective use of taxpayer money.”

The program moved from its headquarters at the Hollister Airport to the college’s main campus in Gilroy in 2010. For the next six years students divided their time between classes in the campus Multipurpose Building and lab work at San Martin Airport hangars.

With the help of former District 1 supervisor Don Gage, talks began in 2010 with the county, which owns the San Martin Airport, aimed at relocating the whole aviation program to that facility.

In 2015, the Board of Supervisors approved a 20-year lease with two five-year renewal options, according to the college.

Sherrean Carr, dean of Career Technical Education overseeing the aviation program, said in a college press release that the overall process, from first inquiry to groundbreaking for the new construction, was slow but steady. She credited success to the aviation faculty, many departments at the college, numerous people at the county and especially the efforts of Fred Harris, vice president of administrative services, who got everyone to “yes” during the process.

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WWII veteran's luggage with war medals returned after being lost by United Airlines

CAMARILLO, Calif. (KABC) -- A World War II veteran was devastated when his luggage containing all his war uniforms, ribbons and medals was lost by United Airlines when he flew out of the Los Angeles International Airport for a reunion in Virginia.

After Emmett Nolan's family reached out to ABC7 for help using #abc7eyewitness on Monday, United Airlines said they were searching for his luggage.

Nolan's luggage, after being missing for nearly a month, was delivered to his home in Camarillo on Thursday.

"I thought it was gone. I didn't think we'd recover it. Thought someone had found it, bootlegged it and sold it," Nolan explained. "We got the people, they called in (to ABC7) and you people really got on the ball and they chased it down and they found it in Newark, New Jersey."

Nolan was heading to Norfolk, Virginia, for a reunion with his brothers of the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles.

He was 18 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Army back in 1943 and he became a paratrooper with the elite division.

Nolan's first battle was the Normandy Invasion and he also survived the Battle of the Bulge.

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Air Methods Named Morrissette Senior Vice President of Aviation Operations

DENVER, Sept. 15, 2016 -- Air Methods, America’s largest air medical provider and helicopter operator, today announced the promotion of Leo Morrissette to senior vice president of aviation operations.

“Leo brings more than 30 years of aviation experience and strategic direction to the leadership team,” said Mike Allen, Air Methods’ president of air medical services. “This new role is imperative to the future success of our air medical services division. Leo will strengthen our commitment to our team and partners by elevating the quality and focus of our aviation operations.”

Morrissette will oversee the Company’s air medical part 135 certificate operations, including aviation, maintenance, and pilot training, in addition to Air Methods Communications (AirCom) and fleet management. Morrissette joined Air Methods in 2013 as vice president of aviation support services, providing leadership support for aviation in the field.

“It’s been a pleasure having Leo on the part 145 team over the past three years,” add Archie Gray, senior vice president of aviation support services. “He managed the supply chain team, maintenance training and part 145 maintenance department with the utmost professionalism, and we are looking forward to seeing that translate into his new role within the air medical part 135 operations.”

Prior to Air Methods, Morrissette served as vice president of operations at CHC/Heli-One, the world’s largest helicopter services company specializing in helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul, transportation to offshore oil and gas platforms, and rescue services. He was responsible for all maintenance operations in North America. From 2002 through 2011, Morrissette served in leadership roles, including vice president of customer support, at Turbomeca, a French manufacturer of low- and medium-power gas turbine turboshaft engines for helicopters. He started his career as an AP mechanic in 1989, after serving in the United States Army as a helicopter technician.

“It’s always been about working as a team,” added Morrissette. “We have a great team, and I’m looking forward to bringing core responsibilities back to the functions of aviation and maintenance. This will empower our talented workforce to do what they do best and to continue to grow within their roles.”

Morrissette received an Executive Master of Business Administration in international business from the University of Texas at Dallas. 

Air Methods Corporation ( is the global leader in air medical transportation. The Air Medical Services Division is the largest provider of air medical transport services in the United States. The United Rotorcraft Division specializes in the design and manufacture of aeromedical and aerospace technology. The Tourism Division is comprised of Sundance Helicopters, Inc. and Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, which provide helicopter tours and charter flights in the Las Vegas/Grand Canyon region and Hawaii, respectively. Air Methods’ fleet of owned, leased or maintained aircraft features over 450 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

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