Monday, November 28, 2016

Marion County Sheriff’s Office’s Aviation Unit valuable in high-profile cases

MARION COUNTY – When state officials needed to quickly get an aerial view of a two-train crash and derailment on Nov. 16 in a rural area of northeast Marion County, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office’s Aviation Unit provided valuable assistance to assess plans for cleaning up the wreckage, including a 7,500-gallon diesel fuel spill, and to help the overall investigation.

Ten days earlier, one of the unit's three helicopters was high above the county with staff members directing deputies on the ground to a stolen vehicle a suspect was driving recklessly at a high rate of speed on a busy road with teenagers in the car. A deputy successfully ended the pursuit when he performed a precision immobilization technique, or PIT maneuver, on the car. The driver jumped out and ran, then tried to steal several semi tractor trailer rigs at a truck stop. With the helicopter following him, the man was soon arrested.

Sheriff Emery Gainey described the aviation units as “critically” successful to law enforcement operations, especially in a county as large as Marion, which covers more than 1,600 square miles and is bigger than the state of Rhode Island.

The population of the county includes more than 343,000 people, many of whom live in rural areas, small towns and sprawling retirement communities. The Sheriff's Office is the largest of the county's law enforcement agencies, and its aviation units -- with many recent examples -- are key to covering all corners.

The aviation unit commander, Lt. Don Standridge, said the unit has four pilots and a maintenance technician.

The unit has multiple missions to help serve the public, such as searching for people, vehicles or property; providing surveillance; and assisting other agencies, such as in the case of the recent pursuit, which began inside the city limits of Ocala and involved the Ocala Police Department before the vehicle careened through a long section of the county on the highly-traveled County Road 326.

And late last month, the unit helped locate an 18-year-old man with autism who had left his residence on a four-wheeler, which alarmed his family when he did not return. The helicopter pilot spotted the man and alerted deputies on the ground; he was safely returned to his home.

The unit's fleet of two OH-58 helicopters and a TH-67 helicopter are stored in a hanger at the Ocala International Airport. The OH-58s are equipped with FLIR 8500 infrared cameras, an aerocomputer map and a Trakkabeam Searchlight. The TH-67 does not have camera equipment.

Standridge said the helicopters are on loan from the federal government and when they are no longer being utilized or maintained, they must be returned to the government or be destroyed. The agency plans to keep them around, however, he added.

The OH-58s were built with technology used more than 30 years ago. The Sheriff's Office started using them in 1992; they had more than 16,395 hours of flight time between the two. Next year, Standridge said, the U.S. Army will no longer be using the OH-58s and though spare parts will be harder to come by, the MCSO helicopters are in “fantastic shape and we have adequate parts supplies to continue utilizing them well into the future.”

Standridge said the TH-67, the civilian version of the OH-58, was built in 2001 and there is no issue with parts. He said the TH-67 has more than 8,880 flight hours.

“Our plan is to acquire one more TH-67 in the future and, as the OH-58s become no longer usable, transfer the infrared cameras and mapping systems to the TH-67s,” he said.

He said all of the specialized pieces of mission equipment – such as cameras, radios, spotlights and monitors – were purchased with grant funding through the Department of Homeland Security.

“We are very cost effective,” he said.

Standridge also said that with the recent passage of a penny-cent sales tax in the county, the Sheriff's Office, which is a county agency, will be able to budget funds to buy new camera systems with higher definition, better zooming capabilities and infrared systems.

The man responsible for keeping the helicopters flying is Malcolm Pagels, the aviation unit’s chief technician. He has been with the Sheriff’s Office for more than 15 years.

Pagels said inspections are determined by how often the helicopters fly. Typically, he said, the helicopters fly anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours a day, and more as needed. He said the helicopters are routinely inspected and serviced after flying 25 hours, with more attention as warranted.

“The bigger the service, the more inspections and the more detailed the inspections are,” Pagels said.

Pagels is FAA certified to inspect and repair helicopters and also can also work on airplanes. He said his mission is “to keep them flying in a safe and timely manner.”

Sometimes, danger to the unit comes from civilians on the ground. In July, while the MCSO team was flying to an area near the Marion County/Lake County line searching for a suspect in a kidnapping, the helicopter was hit several times by a green laser over a span of about 10 minutes.

The crew remained focused on locating the suspect. As soon as the search ended, however, the laser light appeared again and the pilot was able to pinpoint the origin and directed Lake County deputies to the address. One man was arrested on six counts of pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot. His bond was set at $30,000.

Such an action is a federal offense. Violators can be imprisoned for up to five years and be fined $5,000.

Standridge called the action very dangerous because it distracts the crew while they are flying and “can also cause permanent eye damage and temporary blindness.”

With vehicle chases (such as the recent one), Gainey said, the aviation unit is an asset to the department because the pilot can communicate directly with ground deputies who can follow from a distance that will not cause unnecessary vehicle crashes or death to civilians and law enforcement officials.

Keefer Jordan Nicolo Shubert, 23, was charged with two counts of robbery-carjacking with a weapon because of the crime at the truck stop, two counts of child abuse because of the teens in the car, driving while license is suspended, felony fleeing and eluding law enforcement at a high rate of speed, and attempted occupied burglary of a conveyance. His bonds exceed $120,000. He remained in the jail as of Monday.

The train crash happened at 4:15 a.m. on Nov. 16. CSX officials reported 32 of the 210 train cars derailed and spilled 1,346 tons of coal, 1,150 tons of phosphate, 7,400 gallons of locomotive diesel fuel, 77 gallons of sulfuric acid from locomotive batteries and 10 gallons of locomotive lubrication oil.

According to a MCSO report issued last week, CSX engineer Chris Theriault, 48, of Waycross, Georgia, told deputies he had fallen asleep shortly before the crash.

The value of the aviation unit in that situation, Gainey said, was that the derailment had the potential of creating an environmental hazard, and, with the train tracks damaged, it was crucial for state officials, such as from the Florida Department of Transportation, to quickly view the impact from above and determine the best way to respond.


Airborne SQ-12, registered to Airborne Extreme LLC and operated by the pilot, N37PX: Accident occurred November 25, 2016 in Palmer, Alaska

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration; Anchorage, Alaska
EFII Protek Performance

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Palmer, AK
Accident Number: ANC17LA008
Date & Time: 11/25/2016, 1330 AKS
Registration: N37PX
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 3 None
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On November 25, 2016, about 1330 Alaska standard time, a tailwheel-equipped Airborne Extreme LLC SQ12 airplane, N37PX, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing, following a loss of engine power near Palmer, Alaska. The airplane was registered to Airborne Extreme LLC and operated by the pilot as a visual flight rules flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 when the accident occurred. The certificated private pilot and two passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed Jackfish Landing Airport (7AK4), Wasilla, Alaska at about 1250.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on November 25, the pilot reported that the he had departed for an afternoon flight with two family members up the Knik Glacier. About 40 minutes after departure, while in level cruise flight the engine lost all power. He made a forced landing to a remote gravel bar. During the forced landing, the airplane sustained substantial damage to the left lift strut and fuselage.

In the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1) submitted by the pilot, he indicated that following the forced landing he noticed that the 5-ampere fuel injector circuit breaker had popped.

The airplane was equipped with a 4 cylinder, Titan 409 angle valve series engine, and an EFII electronic fuel injection and ignition system.

On December 12, 2016 the engine, while still mounted on the accident airplane's airframe was operated under the direction of the NTSB IIC, along with the rest of the investigative team. The engine was not run at full power due to impact damage to the airframe and propeller sustained during the accident, but it was operated at various idle power settings while cycling through both engine control units (ECU) and fuel pumps. No anomalies were observed. Further investigation revealed that the fuel injectors had been separated from the ignition power circuit and installed on their own dedicated circuit which was protect with one 5-ampere circuit breaker. In addition, one 10-ampere circuit breaker supplied power to each individual ignition coil pack.

A review of the EFII installation manual indicates that one 10-ampere circuit breaker is required for the ignition power circuit on 4 cylinder engines. The single 10-ampere circuit breaker supplies 12-volt power to the two ignition coil packs and all four electronic fuel injectors. In addition, all wiring harnesses shipped by EFII have power wires bundled with a heat shrink label on them with the appropriate breaker requirement.

According to EFII, the most electrical current required by each individual fuel injector is about 1.25-ampere, with the potential for a 75% duty cycle.

In an email provided to the NTSB IIC, Aerotronics, Inc. stated that prior to working on the accident airplane, they installed an EFII electronic fuel injection and ignition system on another airplane. That airplane owner had requested that the fuel injectors be separated from the ignition harness. The owner had contacted EFII and requested guidance on what size breaker would be appropriate for a dedicated fuel injector circuit. EFII responded in an email "If there is going to be a separate breaker for the injector power, I would make it 5A." (A copy of this email, along with comments from EFII regarding the provided guidance is available in the public docket for this accident.) Aerotronics also stated that they followed that guidance provided by EFII on both the previous installation and on the accident airplane installation.

The closest weather reporting facility was Palmer Municipal Airport, Palmer, Alaska, about 30 miles northwest of the accident site. At 1353, an Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) from Palmer Airport was reporting, in part: wind from 120 degrees at 3 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, few clouds at 7,000 feet, scattered clouds at 12,000 feet; temperature, 10 degrees F; dew point 9 degrees F; altimeter, 29.21 inHG.


Following this accident, EFII began evaluating injector power setups with integral 7.5 ampere fusible links on each injector feed, in addition, to the 10-ampere required circuit breaker. This design would not only protect the ignition circuit, but would provide additional protection for each individual fuel injector. Additionally, this design would reduce the possibility of an electrical short on one fuel injector resulting in an open circuit, and a loss of power to all fuel injectors, and a subsequent total loss of engine power.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 37, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification:  Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 11/26/2012
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 1275 hours (Total, all aircraft), 1275 hours (Total, this make and model), 1271 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 139 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 42 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 2 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N37PX
Model/Series: SQ-12 NO SERIES
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2016
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate Experimental
Serial Number: SQ12-002
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 3
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 02/13/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2000 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 162 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 162.3 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Titan
ELT: C126 installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: IOX-409-K7JBN
Rated Power: 220 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PAAQ
Distance from Accident Site: 30 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 2253 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 155°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 7000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 20000 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 3 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 120°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 29.21 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: -12°C / -13°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Wasilla, AK (7AK4)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Wasilla, AK (7AK4)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1250 AKS
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 None
Latitude, Longitude:  61.191944, -148.686944 (est)

NTSB Identification: ANC17LA008
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, November 26, 2016 in Palmer, AK
Aircraft: AIRBORNE EXTREME LLC SQ-12, registration: N37PX
Injuries: 3 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 November 25, 2016, about 1330 Alaska standard time, an Airborne Extreme LLC SQ12 airplane, N37PX, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing, following a loss of engine power near Palmer, Alaska. The airplane was registered to Airborne Extreme LLC, and operated by the pilot, as a visual flight rules (VFR) flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 when the accident occurred. The certificated private pilot and two passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed Jackfish Landing Airport, Wasilla, Alaska, at about 1250.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on November 25, the pilot reported that the he had departed for an afternoon flight with two family members up the Knik Glacier. About 40 minutes after departure, while in level cruise flight the engine lost all power. He made a forced landing to a remote gravel bar. During the forced landing the airplane sustained substantial damage to the left lift strut and fuselage. 

The airplane was equipped with a Titan 409 angle valve series engine, and a EFII electronic fuel injection and ignition system. 

The closest weather reporting facility was Palmer Municipal Airport, Palmer, about 30 miles northwest of the accident site. At 1353, an Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) from Palmer Airport was reporting, in part: wind from 120 degrees at 3 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, few clouds at 7,000 feet, scattered clouds at 12,000 feet; temperature 10 degrees F; dew point 9 degrees F; altimeter 29.21 inHg.

An examination of the engine is pending.

Christen Eagle II, N7825L: Incident occurred November 25, 2016 in Chino, San Bernardino County, California

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Riverside FSDO-21


Date: 25-NOV-16
Time: 17:39:00Z
Regis#: N7825L
Aircraft Make: CHRISTEN
Aircraft Model: EAGLE II
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: TAKEOFF (TOF)
State: California

Bellanca 17-30 Super Viking, N6559V: Incident occurred November 26, 2016 at Houston Executive Airport (KTME), Texas

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Houston FSDO-09


Date: 26-NOV-16
Time: 03:10:00Z
Regis#: N6559V
Aircraft Make: BELLANCA
Aircraft Model: 1730
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Texas

Cessna 182J, N3502F: Incident occurred November 26, 2016 in Victoria, Texas

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA San Antonio FSDO-17


Date: 26-NOV-16
Time: 18:10:00Z
Regis#: N3502F
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 182
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Texas

Cessna 172RG, N9974B: Incident occurred November 26, 2016 in Blacksburg, Montgomery County, Virginia

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Richmond FSDO-21


Date: 26-NOV-16
Time: 18:50:00Z
Regis#: N9974B
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 172RG
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Virginia

Mooney M20K, N3558H: Incident occurred November 26, 2016 in Stafford, Virginia

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Washington FSDO-27


Date: 26-NOV-16
Time: 21:33:00Z
Regis#: N3558H
Aircraft Make: MOONEY
Aircraft Model: M20K
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Virginia

Jackson Hole Airport already past 2015 passenger count

October business at Jackson Hole Airport was slow as usual, but the count of people getting on airplanes was still enough to push the facility past its 2015 year-end count.

The 18,711 enplanements at the airport during October pushed the count through the end of October to 318,086, past the 316,674 enplanements during all of 2015.

The October count also was a healthy increase over the 15,864 passengers who boarded during October 2015.

October is usually the third-slowest month for people flying out of Jackson Hole Airport. April and November are the least busy.

United Airlines accounted for the most passengers flying out, with 9,331 boarding a total of 80 flights. Delta and Skywest, the Delta Connection, flew 88 flights out and carried 7,444 people.

During the month, there was a total of 176 flights and 19,735 available seats, 94.81 percent of which were filled.


Chatham mum on skydiving appeal

CHATHAM -- An appeals court judge recently ruled against the town of Chatham in its effort to overturn a Barnstable Superior Court judge’s ruling that said a skydiving suit could go forward. The town’s next steps are still unclear.

After the Nov. 4 decision by the appeal’s court, the selectmen met in executive session. To avoid a lengthy and expensive trial, they had hoped the lawsuit, filed by Citizens for a Safe Chatham Airport, would be dismissed and the board still has the opportunity to appeal the most recent decision. They can also battle the matter out in court. The citizens group is suing the town to make sure it doesn’t allow skydiving, however, the Federal Aviation Administration has told town officials it must allow the activity to live up to its grant obligations as the municipal airport on George Ryder Road has received significant federal funding over the years.

Although the future plans of the board have not been announced, selectmen chairman Jeffrey Dykens did say in an e-mail that they will “proceed in a direction that the board of selectmen believes is in the best interests of all the citizens of Chatham.”

This was the third time the town has tried to have the case dismissed, as its counsel, Patrick Costello, has argued that the suit infringes on the selectmen’s ability to make decisions on how the town is run. The attorney for the citizens group has argued that skydiving is a public nuisance.

The matter arose more than three years ago when selectmen, sympathetic to the concerns of residents about safety and noise, asked that the skydiving contract not been renewed. After Town Manager Jill Goldsmith refused to sign a new lease for Skydive Cape Cod, which had been operating out of the airport, the company's owner filed a complaint with the FAA.

Since state and federal inspections had revealed no safety problems, the FAA said the town’s airport couldn’t discriminate against skydiving. The selectmen tried to craft a request for proposals that addressed some citizens concerns, but shortly after two companies responded the RFP the citizens’ lawsuit was filed.

Those who support the citizens group believe the town can work with experts to convince the FAA that skydiving at the airport is unsafe.


US Air Force facing severe pilot, aircraft shortage: Commander

The US Air Force says a severe shortage of fighter pilots and aircraft has made the force nearly unable to satisfy combat requirements abroad.

The USAF is currently authorized to hire 3,500 fighter pilots but it is 752 pilots short, Voice of America (VOA) reported Monday, citing Major General Scott Vander Hamm, who is tasked with fixing the pilot crisis.

The force has also shrunk in size over the past years, having only 55 squadrons in 2016, compared to 134 in 1986.

“We have too few squadrons to meet the combatant commanders’ needs,” Vander Hamm said.

The acute shortage has reduced the USAF’s ability to accomplish missions at home and abroad by at least 20 percent over the past decade, the report noted.

The US has been carrying out airstrikes in a significant number of countries over the past years, including Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, Vander Hamm said the shortage has started taking its toll and the force might need to “take some degradations in the frontline squadrons” come next year.

“What that would mean to us is that we would have to accept not being able to get forces to theater in the same time we could, which to a warfighter, that means it could cost lives in a conflict,” he explained.

Given the technological advances of fighter jets over the years, it would take years to train pilots who can deal with combat situations.

Although the number of pilots trained by the USAF in 2016 increased by about 135 compared to two years ago, the number of pilots who left the force was much bigger.

According to Vander Hamm, this year only 40 percent of American pilots accepted the bonus payment that the air force gives them after 10 years as an incentive to stay.

The report noted that the shortage has led to longer and more frequent deployments overseas, destroying the morale of the pilots.

“We were on 45-day rotations. Then they made it 90-day rotations. Then they made it 120-day rotations. Now it’s six-month rotations with one-year rotations sprinkled on top of it for key positions,” said an F-22 pilot, who asked to remain anonymous.

The Air Force has asked Congress to increase the bonus from $25,000 per year to $48,000 per year as an attempt to keep the remaining pilots.


Incident occurred November 27, 2016 at Dillingham Airfield (PHDH), Mokuleia, Hawaii

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter made an emergency landing at Dillingham Airfield Sunday morning.

The response to a call for a medical evacuation on board a container ship at 8:30 p.m. Friday was slightly delayed after the helicopter encountered some issues mid-flight.

The crew was getting ready to pick up a 31-year-old crewman with severe abdominal pains from the Portuguese “Kachidoki Bridge” when the issue came up.

The MH-65 Dolphin helicopter left Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point at 10 a.m. Sunday and was headed to the ship about 35 miles off the north coast of Oahu. After successfully lowering the Coast Guard rescue swimmer onto the container ship, the helicopter suffered a tail gearbox malfunction.

A second helicopter was then launched from Barbers Point to assist the ship while the first chopper turned around and headed back to land.

After the emergency landing at Dillingham Field, the necessary repairs were made.

Carolyn Sandison was about to take flight herself when she notice the chopper landing. “It was a little bit unusual to see the Coast Guard helicopter land out here during the daytime. … At the same time, there was an ambulance, a fire truck, and several police cars. I thought maybe a skydiver had gotten hurt or something.”

The second helicopter completed the medical evacuation and the patient was taken to Queen’s Medical Center.

Skydive Hawaii said they had to delay their jumps for 20-30 minutes because of the emergency landing.

Story and video:

Tanzania: Ban Single-Pilot Planes, Frequent Alcohol Testing for Pilots Necessary

Zanzibar — Some members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives are asking the government to restrict single-pilot planes to protect public safety.

Several backbenchers led by Mr. Jaku Hashim Ayoub (CCM-Paje), said people flying in single-pilot planes are always at risk because in an emergency situation of being sick, chances of avoiding accidents are small.

"Spare a thought, you are in a plane with single plane, then he falls sick, probably stomach or headache, what is likely to happen? We ask the government to ensure that all planes have two pilots," backbenchers said.

They also appealed to the government to ensure frequent alcohol testing for pilots because some of them spend most of their time in night clubs drinking. "We meet some of them drinking at night yet the following day he is on duty.

This is unacceptable," Mr. Nassor Salim Ali (CCM-Kikwajuni), said while emphasizing that human being is more important than being afraid of costs to hire two pilots in every plane.

Responding to the concerns, deputy minister of Infrastructure, Communication and Transport, Mr. Mohamed Ahmad Mussa, said single-pilot planes are allowed by International Law. "We follow the International laws of aviation which allows single pilot planes weighing 5500kg.

It is safe and God is always with people travelling," Mr. Salum said, adding, "but airline operators are free to recruit two pilots instead of one in small plane. As regards to pilots who drink alcohol, the deputy Minister replied, "We cannot interfere in private life.

The aviation regulations are very clear; a pilot is prohibited to fly a plane within eight hours after drinking alcohol." He said responsible pilots who drink, observe the regulations that he/she not allowed operating a plane shortly after drinking and any person who doubts about pilot's alcohol status should report to respective authority and the pilot will be tested.


JetBlue’s 1st Commercial Flight to Cuba to Depart John F. Kennedy International Airport as Island Nation Mourns Fidel Castro

JetBlue’s first commercial flight to Havana will take off from John F. Kennedy Airport on Monday morning — a milestone that comes as the island nation mourns Fidel Castro, who died just last week. 

The regularly scheduled flight takes off at 8:58 a.m. and will land in the Cuban capital of Havana.

Along with JetBlue, American Airlines is also running a short, one-hour commercial flight from Miami to Havana on Monday. Delta Air Lines has scheduled regular flights to Cuba, including from New York City, starting on Dec. 1. 

The Queens-based airline announced Monday that it was canceling a concert planned for 7 a.m. at JFK. The event, which was to include a musical band and dancing, was scrapped because of Castro’s sudden death on Friday, JetBlue security personnel confirmed. 

Back in Havana, tens of thousands of people are expected to pay their respects to Castro at the Plaza de la RevoluciĆ³n on Monday before his ashes are taken across the country. The event in the plaza is part of an eight-day period of mourning for the polarizing, yet revolutionary former Cuban leader.

There’s no dancing, drinking or partying in Havana, as no kind of celebration is allowed during the mourning period.

A number of airlines, including Frontier, Southwest, Spirit and United will also start flights in the coming weeks.

Back in July, JetBlue officially began direct flights to Cuba out of JFK when a charter flight flew to Havana's Jose Marti International Airport.

Story and video:

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Incident occurred November 27, 2016 at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport (KMSP), Minnesota

Two people were injured Sunday morning when an airport catering truck went headfirst over a barricade at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The LSG Sky Chefs truck fell into a tunnel that leads to the airfield and Terminal 1 about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, according to airport spokesman Patrick Hogan.

No one knows why the truck upended, Hogan said. It took more than five hours to move the truck into a horizontal position again. Outside help had to be brought in to assist. Air traffic was not delayed due to the crash, Hogan said.

The driver and passenger walked out of the van but were taken to the hospital with injuries that weren’t life-threatening.

There have been tunnel accidents before, Hogan said, but “this is the first one we’ve had to my knowledge where the vehicle has actually gone over the barrier and into the tunnel roadway below.”


A Future In Flight: Abby Martin, 17, completes her longest flight

With help from local pilots, high school senior Abby Martin is working towards her pilot's license. 

With the arrival of a teenager’s 16th birthday comes the freedom of a driver’s license. But as other teenagers work toward their own set of wheels, 17-year-old Abby Martin, daughter of Lew and Susan Martin of Wilson, has set out on the path to a different sort of license.

At the beginning of this year, she began her training to become a pilot, and a week ago Sunday, she successfully completed her longest flight to date — from Lynchburg, Virginia, to Wilson and back again.

In December of 2014 family friend Frank Kidd offered to take Abby for a ride in his two-seater plane. Though the technical explanations Kidd provided her “all went over my head,” it was in the air that day that Abby realized she wanted flying to become a part of her life.

For a year she accompanied Kidd on his flights, and the sight of her family’s home and other familiar landmarks from above strengthened her enthusiasm. In January of this year, Abby took her passion one step further by beginning flight training. With well over half the required hours under her belt, Abby plans to earn her pilot’s license in January.

Abby completed the 110-mile flight from Lynchburg to Wilson and back in a Cessna Skyhawk 172, the model in which she has completed all of her training so far. Although accompanied by instructor Jeff Lefferts, she was in complete control of the plane and successfully navigated high winds, which she said were the most difficult aspect of Sunday’s flight. As a result of this wind, the return trip took almost twice as long.

“It’s never something I thought I would do,” Abby said of her flight training. She has always loved to travel, and the decision to earn her pilot’s license carries on the adventure.

“Being able to fly 3,000 feet above the Earth… it puts life into perspective for me.”

Attending a boarding school in Lynchburg, Abby explains that most of her time on solid ground is spent in one place. It is easy to lose sight of the rest of the world, and flying reminds her of the endless possibilities in store. Her favorite view from the air, she said, is her school, Virginia Episcopal. “It doesn’t look the same as how it feels when I’m there.”

Abby said her parents have been very supportive of her flight training and goals in the field.

Of her first flight with Kidd, she said, “I don’t think they were expecting it to turn into me taking flight lessons and making a career out of it,” but they have been by her side throughout her journey.

Other pilots Martin has flown with include Jamie Smith, Donnie Boyette and Ken Sterling, who provided Martin with the varied experience of helicopter flying.

Lefferts is the instructor who has been with Martin since the beginning of her training in January.

Though Martin knew from the start she wanted to see that aerial view again, it took some familiarity with the technical process before she realized that she wanted flying to become her career.

A senior in high school, Martin has applied to colleges that offer a flight major, including Western Michigan University and the Florida Institute of Technology.

With her pilot’s license in sight, Martin is well on her way to achieving her dreams.


Jet ready: Runway resurfacing wraps up Ashe County Airport upgrades

Jefferson, North Carolina -   Corporate America is now free to move about the High Country.

Before the Ashe County Airport’s highly anticipated runway extension project was completed, industry leaders looking to bring their corporate footprint to the High Country were reluctant about such a move due to the short runway.

Large corporate jets were either too big or their insurers weren’t comfortable with the aircraft making touchdown on the surface due to lower load bearing ratings.

But times have changed. While Ashe County might not join the same ranks as Charlotte International or Tri-Cities airports, the little unassuming airport is now ready to accept the larger jet propulsion aircraft. You don’t have to read Forbes magazine either to know that larger private jets are the vehicles of choice for CEOs and other executives tasked with scouting out new homes for their factories or industrial complexes.

Airport manager Eric Payne briefed commissioners Monday morning on the latest happenings at the county’s newest rejuvenated hub.

Following the extension project, crews finished the resurfacing of the runway late last week. Newly installed lights will complement and illuminate the elongated surface.

The old pavement, which was milled off in the early stages of the project, will be rejuvenated and used in the U.S. 221 widening project.

“Once they removed the old pavement, they started putting down a new surface,” said Payne. “It’s a more coarse type of asphalt. The old portion of the runway received four and a half new inches.”

Two taxi lanes and the accompanying apron also received a fresh coast of asphalt.

“We were going for a 45,000-pound load bearing (runway) with two wheels, but ended up with a 55,000 load bearing,” said Payne. “Those are pretty good sized airplanes coming in.”

New lighting should be completed in the spring.

Welcoming new travelers to the High Country’s airport of choice is a newly updated beacon tower, which can be seen almost anywhere in the Jeffersons on a clear night. The rotating light acts like a lighthouse for incoming planes.

“The commissioners already voted for a five-year maintenance deal with the state,” said Payne. “We just received $20,000 that didn’t cost anything to replace the rotating beacon. The tower was just painted last Saturday and Sunday.”


Bare Fare: Spirit Airlines now flying daily from Niagara Falls International Airport

The airline that boasts of having invented no frills "bare fares" has started flying daily to Orlando, Florida, out of the Niagara Falls International Airport.

Spirit Airlines recently began offering a daily flight from the airport, with fares that average around $50 one way. The service is offered on some of the newest planes in the industry, according to the airline.

"Among the major airlines, we have the youngest and fittest fleet out there," said Paul Berry, a spokesman for Spirit Airlines. "We're bringing in a new plane a month," he added, noting that in the last three years, the airlines has added more than 30 airplanes. 

Spirit, a former air freight company opened in 1990, Berry said, changed its business model in 2006 when they adopted the "bare fare" passenger model which was having some success in Europe. The concept allows passengers to pay only for the services they require.

"We want to give people the power to choose what they pay for in their inflight experience," Berry said. "We basically give them a very low price that covers the seat and a personal item." Everything else, from carry-on luggage to checked bags, to inflight food and drink service is extra. 

"Our average price is just over 50 dollars for one way," he said. "On average, according to the Dept. of Transportation, Spirit's fares are 40 percent less than other airlines and even after you pay for bags and seat assignments on Spirit, we're still 30 percent less," Berry said. 

The daily schedule will bring "new money" into the airport, according to William Vanecek, director of aviation at the airport, who said that while the airport is always open everyday, previously there have not been flights every day.

The daily flights will draw more passenger traffic, which will bring in more money from parking and concessions, Vanecek added.

Currently, there are two airlines flying out of the airport, Spirit and Allegiant, and both typically offer flights to Florida.  

When asked about the number of passengers the airport could comfortably service, Vanecek said "We've only touched the very tip of the iceberg. We could easily do upwards of half a million passengers if we had the flights ... We always are on the lookout for more airlines."

Last year, 130,000 passengers used the airport, and Vanecek said he expects to get in the neighborhood of 200,000 this year. 

Both the Niagara Falls airport and the Buffalo International Airport are operated by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and overseen by Vanecek, who says that when the Falls airport attracts new carriers that don't fly out of Buffalo, it's good for the region and added that the Niagara Falls International Airport is "doing well for an airport of its size and its location."

Vanecek added that nearly 80 percent of Falls airport passengers come from Ontario. "The beauty of that is you now have people bringing in money from not only outside of the state but from outside of the country, and spending it here."


Boeing Faces World Trade Organization Sanctions: Trade body expected to disallow a Washington state tax break connected to the 777X jetliner

The Wall Street Journal
Nov. 27, 2016 1:51 p.m. ET

The World Trade Organization as early as Monday is expected to rule that Boeing Co. has been granted illegal state subsidies for its newest long-range jetliner, according to people familiar with the finding.

The judgment involves tax incentives Boeing will receive from Washington state to build its new 777X widebody plane, the latest round in a long-running dispute between the U.S. and the European Union over support for Boeing and Airbus Group SE.

Aircraft cases take years to resolve before the trade organization but are closely watched as evidence of the effectiveness of international rules. Donald Trump’s election victory and focus on trade are turning a new spotlight on such cases, and sanctions from earlier WTO judgments involving the two jet makers may start to be imposed next year.

The EU almost two years ago voiced concern at the WTO about the support package for the 777X, a revamped version of Boeing’s existing 777 long-range plane. The updated model has attracted more than 300 orders from carriers including Emirates Airline and Deutsche Lufthansa AG.

The EU said Boeing had lined up more than $8 billion in prohibited subsidies for the 777X program and that those subsidies need to be immediately rescinded. U.S. officials have called the $8 billion figure inflated. The WTO isn’t expected to put a value on the tax break it is expected to strike down

The WTO is expected to deny most of the EU claims, but agree that a key income-tax break offered by Washington state represented a prohibited subsidy that would have to be withdrawn, the people said.

Airbus and Boeing for years have accused the other of winning business through illegal government subsidies. Each company contends the other received several billion dollars in financial backing that contravenes international trade rules.

The Geneva, Switzerland-based trade adjudicator in September determined the EU had failed adequately to eliminate subsidies to Airbus that the WTO earlier had deemed illegal.

At stake are potentially billions of dollars in tariffs the U.S. and EU could impose on each other unless the WTO’s subsidy concerns are addressed. Those tariffs could be placed on goods and services unrelated to aircraft or aircraft parts. The winning side isn’t obliged to impose tariffs.

The subsidy dispute dates back more than a decade. The two sides settled a previous disagreement in 1992, but the U.S. walked away from that deal in 2004, arguing Airbus had an unfair advantage.

The U.S. then brought a case to the WTO, alleging EU member states illegally subsidized the Toulouse, France-based aircraft maker. The EU quickly launched a similar case against the U.S., arguing that the U.S. illegally subsidized Boeing, the world’s No. 1 plane maker by number of aircraft built.

The EU challenged the 777X tax break separately because the program wasn’t launched until the earlier cases were well under way.

The entire subsidy case has been slow to move in part because of its complexity, trade lawyers said. Resolving the issue could take years. U.S. officials expect their ability to impose penalties on Europe as part of the September ruling won’t be achieved until late next year.

The WTO also still needs to rule on whether the U.S. has taken steps to reverse some handouts the trade body previously judged to be in contravention of international trade rules.

The U.S. in September 2012 said it had addressed WTO concerns, though the EU has challenged that assessment. A WTO judgment on that matter is expected next year.

Original article can be found here:

Table Westchester County Airport privatization, seek bids: Editorial

'The more meetings we have, the more questions we come up with. More answers we don't have.'

Westchester County Executive Robert Astorio held a press conference to announce a proposal to develop Westchester County Airport with a new management company on Nov. 3, 2016. 

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino's proposal to lease the county's airport to a private company for 40 years might be a really good deal. Maybe Oaktree Capital Management could produce a more efficient airport that would make passengers and airlines happy, satisfy the airport's neighbors and put some extra cash in the county's coffers. Maybe an updated Westchester County Airport could be an example of the kind of public-private partnership that critics of traditional government often push.

Maybe. But we don't yet know.

It is therefore unreasonable for the Westchester County Board of Legislators to have to decide whether to support the proposed lease by Dec. 27. This is when the board must approve a county budget for 2017. Astorino's budget proposal already includes $15 million from the airport lease deal, which would have to be cut out if the deal is put on hold.

Legislators are looking at a tricky political situation, cunningly crafted by Astorino. But they must put aside the lease deal for now. It should be re-examined in 2017 — after Astorino seeks other bids and lawmakers have the time to fully research the long-term implications of airport privatization.

Astorino unveiled the lease deal earlier this month, giving legislators only a few weeks to familiarize themselves with it, do their due diligence and approve it as part of the county budget. He presented it as a take-it-or-leave-it gambit, telling legislators they would have to fill a $15 million hole in his budget plan if they did not approve the lease. The implication was that the proposed lease was beyond question, a neatly wrapped package that was seamlessly vetted by his office and the best possible economic deal — despite the lack of a bidding process.

But airport privatization is still a fairly new and complex matter, with few examples to study. Questions abound.

Congress approved an airport privatization program in 1996, expanding it in 2012 to allow up to 10 airports to participate. The primary goal was to allow municipalities to reap new revenues from airports for their general budgets, since airport money generally must go back into airport operations. But the program has hardly taken off. Only two airports have privatized, and one has already returned to public control.

A 2015 study by The Wicks Group, an aviation law group retained by the county on airport matters, found that most observers believed privatization to be "a failure" because of the program's restrictions. This is not to say that Oaktree can't make it work in Westchester. But a longer review process, including a request for proposals, is needed before a conclusion should be reached.

The company that has managed the airport for Westchester County since the 1970s, AvPorts, wants a shot at a privatization deal, or another form of management, but has so far been left out of the process.

The Board of Legislators is in the middle of a furious slate of meetings about the lease plan, and has already questioned officials from Oaktree and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, a financial adviser to the county on the deal. Board Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, D-Somers — who leads a majority coalition of seven Republicans, one Conservative and two Democrats — told the Editorial Board: "The more meetings we have, the more questions we come up with. More answers we don't have."

He noted that a pillar of airport operations and the protection of surrounding communities is a voluntary curfew that restricts flights between midnight and 6:30 a.m. But how can a voluntary curfew be included in a contract? Kaplowitz said that lawyers are not yet sure.

On Monday, Kaplowitz asked a lot of tough questions of Emmett McCann, a manager with Oaktree. It was telling that McCann, while defending the deal, conceded that skepticism was reasonable. "If I was sitting in your shoes, I would be asking the same questions," McCann said. "I really would."

If such questions are worth asking, how can the deal move forward before the end of the year? And keep in mind that even if legislators were to approve the lease, the FAA would also have to sign off and would be unlikely to do so in time for the budget.

The county should also consider the advice of the federal Government Accountability Office, which released a 2014 report on the lack of interest in airport privatization. Future plans, the report said, should be focused on "ensuring public-sector due diligence, involving all stakeholders and creating a transparent privatization process." Astorino's approach did none of these things.

If the board tables the lease deal, county budget negotiations will quickly become tense. Astorino has said that he will not produce an alternative proposal. He is committed to not allowing any county tax increases on his watch and does not want to deal with the annual blowback to possible cuts to county staff or nonprofits. But if he sticks to a spending plan that requires a hasty airport deal, he is essentially forcing legislators to create their own budget.

Although not exactly a budget "one shot," the deal would benefit Astorino's tenure most. After $15 million for 2017, the deal would pay the county $5 million annually over the next five years and then an average of $2 million annually for the remainder of the 40-year lease.

Westchester County Airport is an important regional asset. Any plan to alter operations, however minor, draws great interest from passengers and the airport's neighbors. A proposed 40-year privatization plan should not be rushed in the interest of producing a politically expedient county budget.

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