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.

Article and video:

Upstate New York towns embroiled in fight over tall wind turbines

Clean energy and environmental interests usually go hand in hand. But in western New York, they are battling over plans to build dozens of wind turbines that could be among the nation's tallest, rising 600 feet above the scenic shores of Lake Ontario.

Apex's proposal to plant 70 propeller turbines amid the farms and towns east of Niagara Falls is still in its early stages, but it has already generated thousands of pages of comments, studies and legal documents considered by state regulators.

Wildlife groups are concerned the turbines could disrupt a major flyway for migrating birds. Local lawmakers worry about flight operations being compromised at a nearby military base. Residents fret about potential health threats from noise, which are still being studied, and say views could be dominated by structures taller than any skyscraper in upstate New York.

"There's nothing this size on land," opponent Pam Atwater said of the turbine towers proposed by Apex Clean Energy. "We're not even really talking about aesthetics or anything like that. But of course it's going to have an impact. The terrain here is flat. You can see for miles."

It's a debate playing out as rapidly improving technology for towers and turbines allow the wind industry to move on to increasingly taller structures.

Federal Aviation Administration records show that the vast majority of the hundreds of proposed turbines the agency is reviewing for air safety would stand at or just below 500 feet. But two other projects in New York — one in central New York, one in the northeast corner — have submitted plans for a combined 70 turbines from 640 to 656 feet tall, and there are several projects with towers topping 600 feet in the works in Texas and Kansas. The tallest towers in the world now top 700 feet and operate offshore in Europe.

Charlottesville, Virginia-based Apex, a major national wind farm developer, said it hasn't settled precisely on the turbine size for the project named Lighthouse Wind, but noted that taller machines offer greater yield.

"Currently in New York the tallest wind turbine is just under 500 feet," Apex development manager Taylor Quarles told The Associated Press. "But certainly the trend in the industry is to go higher as the consistency and wind speed, essentially the quality of the wind, does tend to increase with elevation."

Seventy turbines is the high end of its proposal, he said, and it may require only 50 or 60 of the larger machines to achieve the project's goal of generating 201 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 50,000 average New York homes.

"There is this phase where what used to be the offshore type of size is now migrating onshore for more wind resources," said Yates Town Supervisor James Simon, a wind farm opponent. He said that makes people in his community and the neighboring town of Somerset, essentially, "guinea pigs."

Atwater notes that "they're designed for offshore use, so there is no place you can go and no one who can tell you what the impact's going to be."

Retired truck driver Howard Pierce, whose home in Yates is across a street from one boundary of the project, said he isn't worried about environmental issues as much as the payments landowners will get for leasing to Apex.

"The No. 1 industry in our town is farming, and the wind farm would give these farmers a steady income every year," Pierce said. "This would not depend on the commodity prices."

The project is one of the first tests of a new state regulatory regime, known as "Article 10" for the 2011 law that took the power to approve major energy projects out of the hands of a mix of local and state authorities and gave it to a single state authority, the Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment. There is not yet a timetable for when the panel will make a decision.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has set a goal of meeting half the state's energy needs from renewable sources by 2030. One of the challenges to that goal has been a lull in wind projects since 2013. Installed capacity grew in leaps from 2000 to 2012 and then stalled, with almost no new capacity added in recent years, according to federal Department of Energy statistics.

That has opponents worried the process will be biased toward approving the project.

Republican Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who opposed Article 10 and Lighthouse Wind, is giving the process a chance.

"I'm going to trust that they're going to take, not with a grain of salt, not in one ear and out the other, but seriously take the locals' concerns into consideration," he said.


Auburn Municipal Airport Board invites residents to apply

The Auburn Municipal Airport Board invites residents to consider applying for its panel.

Board members work to advise the mayor and City Council regarding the operation of the airport, including master planning, facilities improvements, leasing, rental fees and other aviation concerns.

The board is required to meet at least once a quarter but may hold additional meetings as needed that will be published in advance. Board meetings begin at 7:30 a.m. at the airport office’s conference room, 506 23rd St. NE, Auburn.

Boards and commissions of the City of Auburn are charged with specialized tasks, which provide invaluable aid to City Council in making sound decisions for the benefit of the City and its residents. The tasks require specific knowledge, experience and qualifications.

The board consists of five members who serve three-year terms and are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council.

How to apply

View the City’s online application packet.

For questions or more information about the board, please contact Kevin Snyder


Editorial: Trial balloon for Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport

Here's a modest proposal about a public commission that holds some $108 million of assets on behalf of the people of the Peninsula — and discusses everything it hopes to do with those assets behind closed doors.

If you want to act like a private business, well, then, be a private business.

Perhaps a private business, freed from the constraints of being accountable to the public and conducting its deliberations in the open, could run Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport better than the public officials and former officials who comprise the Peninsula Airport Commission Board. There's nothing like demands from stockholders for dividends or stock performance to keep you on your toes, after all.

The current board oversees an operation that lost $6.7 million on revenue of $7.8 million in fiscal year 2016. Grants from the state and feds cover the red ink, as they have for years.

The board deliberates over the reasons for all those losses behind closed doors. The plans the board has for the airport and the efforts it makes to bring airlines or, indeed, any business to the environs of our palatial, and generally empty, terminal are set pretty much in secret.

We find out when the commission wants to splash something like the taxpayer-subsidized fiasco of People Express, the would-be airline with no track record that leased an insufficient number of planes from a company with a negative net worth of $30 million. And stopped service within three months, stiffing the airport for tens of thousands of dollars.

But the commission did its due diligence, we were told.

In secret.

Taxpayers and flight-fee payers across the nation are dropping a cool $14 million on a new security checkpoint at the airport to be a central point for people going to either one of the two terminals.

We're sure it's a good deal for an airport served by only two airlines that use a few gates at only one of those two terminals.

There wasn't a lot of talk about that idea for using public money in public, though. Since the cost falls on plenty of people who don't live here, many of whom don't use Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, perhaps they won't notice. Or care.

Perhaps we'd better not let on.

Will we ever get our long-coveted airline service to New York? Who knows?

The only thing we do know is that we haven't got it yet.

Is it just because of those short-sighted airlines? Could it possibly be that the commission doesn't do a good job? How often are airport staff talking to airlines? To which airlines? What's the pitch to airlines? How are they responding? Do we need to rethink approaches, try something new?

Don't know.

Neither do you.

So, here's our idea.

Let's just sell the airport.

We ought to be able to get ourselves a few million dollars that way. That could be money to modernize or replace a few of our aging school buildings. Maybe a park? Perhaps some of the infrastructure projects we need to complete to encourage businesses to locate or expand here.

If we sell, we won't know much about the airport and what it's up to. But then, what do we know now?

And of course we wouldn't have much say in what the airport's board decides. But then, with a secretive public body like the airport commission — and all too many others like it across the state — what say do we really have, when you get down to it?

If we sold it, we could simply sit back and see if one private entity — an airport — manages to convince another — an airline — to come here.

As we board our flights, maybe even that nonstop to New York, we could pause for a moment to acknowledge the taxes that a private airport would pay us.

We could take this a lot further, too. If you read our Freedom of Information Act, it looks as if practically everyone in state and local government wants to operate more like a business.

There are well over 100 excuses for thousands of state, city, county, town, school and college officials to say you don't need to know what they're up to.

If we have, say, a governor, who feels it's just not good business sense to let the public see the memos he and his staff pass to one another about the policies they want to pursue — or the list recording the names of the 206,000 felons he decided deserved a restoration of rights — maybe he belongs in the private sector.

If we have public officials who don't think we, as the people who pay their salaries, should know how well they do their jobs, well, maybe they belong in the private sector, too.

For now, let's say this to the Peninsula Airport Commission and any other public bodies operates in secret, like a private business:


You're for sale.

We'll take the money, and keep the funds we currently shower on you, thank you.

You take your chances in the private world. Good luck.