Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Cessna 175C Skylark, N8381T: Accident occurred December 21, 2016 near Holmes County Airport (10G), Millersburg, Ohio

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

 http://registry.faa.gov/N8381T

FAA Flight Standards District Office: CLEVELAND

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report -  National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

NTSB Identification: CEN17LA060
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, December 21, 2016 in Millersburg, OH
Aircraft: CESSNA 175C, registration: N8381T
Injuries: 1 Minor, 1 Uninjured.

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

On December 21, 2016, about 1020 eastern standard time, a Cessna model 175C airplane, N8381T, was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a loss of engine power on approach to runway 27 (4,400 feet by 75 feet, asphalt) at the Holmes County Airport (10G), Millersburg, Ohio. The pilot sustained a minor injury and the passenger was not injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by private individuals under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not operated on a flight plan. The flight originated from the Davis Airport (W50), Laytonsville, Maryland, about 0700.

The pilot reported that the engine lost power while the airplane was on a one-half mile final for runway 27 at 10G. His attempts to restore power were unsuccessful and he executed a forced landing to an open field east of the airport.

The airplane came to rest adjacent to a wire mesh fence. The nose landing gear separated, the left main landing gear collapsed, and the engine mount and firewall were deformed during the landing. The right wing was partially separated from the fuselage at the aft spar attachment. The right wing also exhibited a leading edge dent consistent with impact to a fence post. The left wing was deformed upward near the wing tip consistent with ground contact due to the collapsed landing gear.

MILLERSBURG A 16-year-old Maryland girl suffered minor injuries Wednesday morning after the single-engine aircraft she was flying in had to make an emergency landing.

According to Holmes County Sheriff Timothy Zimmerly, the girl, a student passenger, was flying with a 62-year-old pilot, from Rockville, Md.

The pilot was on a final short approach for landing at the Holmes County Airport on township Road 307 about 11:45 a.m. Wednesday when he reported that the Cessna's engine had failed. The pilot glided the aircraft into a farm field short of the runway and completed a successful landing, despite damage to the landing gear and nose of the aircraft. The pilot intended to land at the airport to refuel after leaving Michigan.

The teenage passenger suffered a minor cut to the mouth and refused treatment at the scene. The pilot was uninjured.

Deputies remained on the scene of the crash until officials from the Federal Aviation Administration's Cleveland office arrived to conduct a preliminary investigation. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine if the incident classifies as an aircraft crash or will remain an emergency-landing incident.

Source:   http://www.timesreporter.com

MILLERSBURG - A single-engine Cessna 175 airplane made an emergency landing in a farm field near the Holmes County Airport just before noon Wednesday, authorities report.

The pilot, Peter M. Mapes, 62, of Rockville, Md., was uninjured, according to the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office. His passenger, a 16-year-old female student, also from Maryland, suffered a minor cut to her mouth, but refused medical treatment, deputies reported. Mapes was en route from Michigan at the time of the landing.

Mapes told deputies his engine failed as he was approaching the airport, located two miles southwest of Millersburg, to stop for fuel. He landed the plane in a farm field just short of the runway, but the aircraft suffered damage to its landing gear and nose, according to a press release from Holmes County Sheriff Timothy Zimmerly’s Office.

Airport authority representatives notified deputies of the incident at 11:46 a.m.

Representatives from the Cleveland office of the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are also investigating and will determine whether the incident will be reclassified as an aircraft crash, Zimmerly reported.

Source:   http://www.coshoctontribune.com

Allegiant Air shift from Burlington could affect Ogdensburg

OGDENSBURG — A decision by low-cost carrier Allegiant Air to end flights to Vermont this spring could allow the company to focus on enticing more Canadian travelers into Plattsburgh and Ogdensburg, according to Gene Richards, director of aviation for the Burlington International Airport.

Allegiant Air, which has serviced the Burlington International Airport since 2014 with direct flights to Florida, will cease service at the facility on March 4.

Burlington is also serviced by American Airlines; United Airlines; Jet Blue; Delta Airline and Canadian carrier Porter Airlines.

Allegiant Air’s decision to end its Burlington route was based in part on the company’s inability to grow its market share from its current 2 percent at the airport, according to Mr. Richards. He said during recent lease negotiations involving Allegiant Air and the other carriers servicing Burlington, it became apparent to Allegiant officials that the increased market share they were hoping for wouldn’t materialize.

“The airline industry, meaning the traditional airline industry, won that negotiation,” Mr. Richards said. “And the reason that they won it is that they had four seats at the table.”

Mr. Richards said the other airlines servicing Burlington were willing to let Allegiant increase its share of the market to 5 percent over time, a number considered insufficient by the company.

“What it came down to was, they wanted more market share in Burlington and the industry wasn’t willing to give it to them,” Mr. Richards said.

While some passengers now taking Allegiant flights in and out of Burlington will be inconvenienced, Mr. Richards said the Plattsburgh and Ogdensburg airports could become more appealing to Canadian travelers.

He said Plattsburgh is already geared toward serving the Montreal market, with the bulk of its passengers originating from the area. He said by comparison, only about 17 percent of Burlington’s airport travelers hail from Montreal.

Mr. Richards said Allegiant Air’s decision to vacate the Burlington market could allow the low-cost carrier to focus more on other airports, including Ogdensburg. He also said Burlington, Plattsburgh and Ogdensburg could all see a spike in usage from north of the border with positive fluctuations in the Canadian dollar.

“What will happen for all three of us, when that Canadian exchange turns around, when you see oil prices go up, you are going to see the exchange rate go to our favor,” Mr. Richards said. “Then all of those folks are going to start trickling down to us and you are going to see all three airports thrive.”

He said Allegiant Air’s decision to commit to Ogdensburg is a positive development for the city and for the surrounding region.

“I was very pleased to hear that you folks had received Allegiant service,” Mr. Richards said. “It is a beginning, it is a new day for you folks. To have that airport be serviced by them, it gives you leverage, it gives you a starting conversation with other airlines.”

Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority Director Wade A. Davis said airport officials in Ogdensburg are still tabulating end of year usage figures. However he said business has been brisk.

“OGS continues to serve the north country market extremely well and you will notice a large number of U.S. and Canadian residents taking advantage of the Allegiant and Cape Air flights on a regular basis,” he said “We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from the U.S. and Canadian community regarding the airport.”

Story and comments:   http://www.watertowndailytimes.com

New Weather Certification, Federal Aviation Administration Designation For Las Cruces-Area Jetport

Santa arrived early at the Doña Ana County International Jetport, where a new Automatic Weather Observation System (AWOS) has been installed and – as of today – commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration

The system allows pilots to access ambient temperature, dew point, wind speed/direction, visibility, liquid precipitation and thunderstorm information.  The system was purchased with legislative capital outlay funds. 

The AWOS transmits the information on VHF frequency 124.175 MHz and can be accessed by telephone at (575) 589-2643.  Internet access will be added when the modem equipment is available. 

Having certified weather observations available will allow charter companies that require certified weather to land at the Jetport. 

Weather conditions may be accessed from anywhere in the world, so pilots can plan to use the Jetport when filing a flight plan either domestically or internationally, thereby making the Jetport a legal alternate in case the weather is below landing minimums at El Paso or Las Cruces.

“We anticipate that this will greatly increase the transient aircraft traffic through the Jetport,” said Jetport Manager William Provance.

Along with commissioning the AWOS system, the FAA has now changed the official name of the airport to Doña Ana County International Jetport with a corresponding identifier change from 5T6 to DNA.             

A change to a three letter identifier from a number identifier indicates the airport has grown and is a significant airport in the region.  These changes culminate more than five years of efforts to achieve the improved status for the facility.

Source: http://krwg.org

Lehigh Valley International Airport looking at short-term, long-term cargo traffic solutions: 110 million pounds of freight came through in 2016



HANOVER TWP., Pa. - If the airport authority hadn’t expanded its cargo plane apron in the 1980s, Lehigh Valley International Airport couldn’t have possibly handled the massive influx of cargo now flowing through the Lehigh County airport.

And the airport can’t grow what has become a new, significant source of revenue until it expands that capacity.

“I think we’re on the edge of a remarkable opportunity,” said Mike Dowd, chairman of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority’s board of directors.

The board on Wednesday received an overview of the airport’s burgeoning cargo flight business that will include a short-term fix next year to the growing problem of a lack of space and logistical hurdles.

Connie Phillip, the authority’s director of commercial services, told the board that space is at a premium in LVIA’s 35,000-square-foot cargo warehouse. Add to that the nearly 30-minute, 2-mile round trip for cargo haulers from the warehouse to the cargo apron and the authority needs to make the process more efficient.

That distance certainly presents “operational challenges” especially during inclement weather, Phillip said, noting it could take 18 to 20 trips to unload and reload a cargo plane.

A new cargo warehouse situated near the apron that can currently accommodate five cargo planes is the goal. The authority has recently added temporary trailers to for staff and administrative needs.

In 2015, FedEx saw about 471 flights carrying about 30 million pounds of freight compared to 433 flights carrying more than 30 million pounds of freight, so far this year. Phillip said LVIA handled about 39 million pounds of cargo by this this time last year. That number has swelled to about 110 million pounds.

The cargo operation, in fact, has become an almost 24-hour-a-day operation with one flight scheduled to leave at midnight. Outbound planes are destined for locations such as Indianapolis, Memphis, Tampa, Charlotte and Ontario, Canada.

Darren Betters, the authority’s business development director, said Amazon is negotiating a lease agreement with PennCap Properties for warehouse space at 2200 Hangar Place. The authority will have nothing to do with the lease for a building that’s off airport property, but it’s much closer to the cargo apron, he said.

The authority is working with PennCap and Amazon to plan access from the warehouse to the nearby cargo apron. Authority Executive Director Charles Everett said officials have already started laying out a route from the warehouse to the apron. He expects that project will be completed within the next six months.

That will buy the authority about 18 to 24 months to plan, design and build a new cargo warehouse and expand the cargo apron, Everett said. How many planes an expanded cargo apron can handle will be part of the planning that will take place in 2017, he said.

Officials said ample land exists around the existing cargo apron to accommodate an expansion.

Cargo traffic has become such an integral part of LVIA’s business plan that a drop in November passenger traffic was counterbalanced by more-than-projected revenue from cargo flights, according to Todd Quann, the authority’s finance and administration director.

LVIA collects revenue from landing fees, fuel sales, facility and equipment rentals and apron fees.

Wednesday’s board meeting marked the final meeting in what officials have called a productive and important year for the previously embattled airport authority.

The authority closed on a $7.8 million land deal with the Rockefeller Group for a new FedEx hub and made the final payment on a multi-million legal settlement that had the authority selling property in the first place. The authority was even reimbursed $57,000 over the disputed final payment.

Officials have been working on a $10 million line of credit to build new hangar facilities geared toward corporate tenants. And the authority has restructured its landing fees to increase revenue and now has a clear plan for Braden Airpark, which had labored under a cloud of uncertainty.

The authority is headed into 2017 with a clean slate, Everett said. The end of the years-long legal battle has moved the authority from a position of putting out fires and just trying to survive to looking at ways to thrive, he said.

Years of deferred maintenance can now be a priority, and officials now have the time to thoughtfully and deliberately plan projects like the expanded cargo warehouse and apron, Everett said.

Source:   http://www.wfmz.com

Cessna 152, American Aviation Academy Inc., N49784: Incident occurred December 20, 2016 in San Diego, California

AMERICAN AVIATION ACADEMY INC:   http://registry.faa.gov/N49784

FAA Flight Standards District Office: San Diego, California  

AIRCRAFT CAUGHT FIRE WHILE STANDING ON THE TARMAC.

Date: 20-DEC-16
Time: 15:25:00Z
Regis#: N49784
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 152
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: STANDING (STD)
City: EL CAJON
State: CALIFORNIA

Pilatus PC-12/47E, Fresno JetProp LLC, N265NX: Incident occurred December 20, 2016 at Fresno Yosemite International Airport (KFAT), Fresno County, California

FRESNO JETPROP LLC:   http://registry.faa.gov/N265NX

FAA Flight Standards District Office: Fresno, California  

PILOT REPORTED DAMAGE TO THE PROPELLER AND AN AIRPORT INSPECTION FOUND DAMAGE TO A RUNWAY LIGHT.

Date: 20-DEC-16
Time: 20:45:00Z
Regis#: N265NX
Aircraft Make: PILATUS
Aircraft Model: PC12
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: UNKNOWN
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: UNKNOWN
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: TAXI (TXI)
City: FRESNO
State: CALIFORNIA

Cessna 210N Centurion, N80RB: Accident occurred December 20, 2016 at Longville Municipal Airport (KXVG), Cass County, Minnesota

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

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

http://registry.faa.gov/N80RB

FAA Flight Standards District Office: Minneapolis, Minnesota 

NTSB Identification: CEN17LA059
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, December 20, 2016 in Longville, MN
Aircraft: CESSNA 210N, registration: N80RB
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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


On December 20, 2016, about 1100 central standard time (CST), a Cessna 210, N80RB, departed the runway during landing on runway 31 at Longville Municipal Airport (XVG), Longville, Minnesota. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the firewall. The private pilot, and sole occupant onboard, was not injured. The airplane was privately registered and operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, and no instrument flight rules flight plan was filed.

New zoning rules allow Willis airport: Camas County addresses zoning violations by private airports

This rough overhead sketch shows the location of Bruce Willis’ private airstrip, Soldier Field Airport, about 10 miles east of Fairfield in Camas County. The runway is being built by Bellevue-based Sluder Construction and work should be completed by mid-October. 


 
The Camas County commissioners approved a new county ordinance Monday that will allow construction work on a private airport owned by actor Bruce Willis to continue.

During deliberation Monday afternoon, Commissioners Barb Cutler, Kenneth Backstrom and Ron Chapman voted to allow private airports as a primary use in AG-80, agriculture-zoned county lands, a move they said would bring nine existing private airstrips on that land into compliance.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Dwight Butlin said in an interview that Soldier Field Airport, a private airport being built by Willis, is on AG-80 zoned land.

Willis caused a stir among Camas Prairie residents in September as locals questioned his intentions in building an 8,500-foot dirt runway—1,000 feet longer than the paved runway at Friedman Memorial Airport—east of Fairfield.

The project was halted altogether Sept. 21 when Ketchum attorney Ben Worst notified Butlin that the airport site is on land zoned for agricultural use and that the airstrip would harm adjacent neighbors, agriculture and wildlife habitat.

Butlin then issued a stop-work notice at the airstrip site Sept. 21, writing that “airports are not listed in the zoning ordinance as approved use in the Agricultural District.”

Under the previous Camas County zoning ordinance, only feedlots, employee housing, stockyards, nurseries and roadside stands can be built on land zoned for agricultural use.

In mid-September, Butlin said in an interview that Camas County “does not regulate private airstrips under the current zoning ordinance.”

On Monday, the commissioners amended language in the new zoning ordinance that would allow commercial airports only on land zoned Industrial.

They also added language requiring individuals to obtain a conditional-use permit if they want to build a private airport in that zone, as well as in the Agriculture Transition and Agriculture-40 zones.

Commissioner Backstrom said the conditional-use permit can only be obtained through a public process and that the change allows the county to assess each project as it is proposed.

The commissioners separately defined private and public airports in the new zoning ordinance.

The new language defines a private airport as “any privately owned area or other facility used for the landing and taking off of aircraft, including all accessory taxiways, aircraft storage and tiedown areas, hangers and other necessary buildings not normally open to the public.”

Camas County resident Jeff Kreyssig said after the meeting that he felt that definition wasn’t specific enough.

“They had the opportunity to define a private airport by its usage, and I think they should have done that because the private-public thing is vague,” he said. “I think the intent of having a conditional-use permit on agricultural land is so that that the private airport services the property owner, and this [language] leaves us open for any kind of venture, as long as it’s not commercial.”

During a public comment hearing Nov. 28, several local residents questioned Willis’ intentions with Soldier Field Airport.

Twin Falls attorney Gary Slette, who represents Willis, said he supported airports being allowed in the Agriculture District, but offered no indication of what Willis plans to do with the site.

Willis’ property manager, Mike Grbic, declined to comment on the matter when reached by phone Tuesday.

Camas County resident and author Judith Freeman questioned Willis’ motives in a letter addressed to the actor, which was published in the Nov. 4 edition of the Idaho Mountain Express.

“A long dirt airstrip is just the beginning,” Freeman wrote. “Willis is going to finally put the airport on the land where he tried to get it located years ago when he wanted to donate the same 2,000 acres to relocate Friedman [Memorial Airport].”

That offer in 2004 was opposed by Camas County residents and by the county business and resort community, who said it’s too far from the Wood River Valley.

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

County judge to hear Little Rock airport's tax exemption case

he state's largest airport and its largest county are at odds over a large tax bill.

Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field is going to Pulaski County Court over the denial of the property tax exemption status of three airport properties by Pulaski County Assessor Janet Troutman Ward.

The denial has left the airport on the hook for $406,445.30 in overdue property taxes for the old Hawker Beechcraft complex for 2014 and 2015, when most or all of it sat unused after the aircraft manufacturer filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and vacated the property. The site had been used to finish business jets after they were manufactured elsewhere.

The airport's requests for property tax exemptions on two other properties also were denied, though the amount of money at issue was a much smaller figure and unavailable on Monday.

County Judge Barry Hyde of Pulaski County will hear the case in county court, which is a venue in which the county's chief executive officer presides.

County court was established by the Arkansas Constitution of 1874 in Article 7, Section 28, which states that matters relating to county taxes, roads, bridges and some other matters must go before the county judge before anyone else for approval.

Airport officials and their attorneys contend the properties at issue should be exempt from real estate property taxes because they have transitioned back to the airport, a public agency, and the property, when in the airport's control, is used for "public purpose and use."

Article 16 of the state Constitution states that "public property used exclusively for public purposes" is exempt from taxation.

"While there is no reason for the denial by the Pulaski County assessor, there is no dispute that the three parcels are 'public property,'" attorneys for the airport said in legal documents. "The question for the Court is whether the parcels are being 'used exclusively for public purposes.'"

The airport contends that the properties are for public use when they revert to the airport, Steve Bingham, one of the airport's attorneys, said in an interview. When there is a tenant leasing the property from the airport, the properties are considered private use and subject to property taxes, which are the responsibility of the tenants, he said.

Bingham said he is unaware of the airport paying property taxes on its properties except in limited circumstances. For example, he said, the airport has purchased property surrounding the airport in which the airport paid the property taxes owed for the property before it was purchased "on a catch-up basis."

Of the three properties at issue, the Hawker Beechcraft facility is the largest. Behind the airport's security fence, it encompasses more than 400,000 square feet of enclosed space that includes specialized hangars, and office, production and storage areas. The property also includes 11.5 acres of paved apron space.

After the aircraft manufacturer vacated the facility, Clinton National actively maintained it not only because it hoped to land new tenants for the facility, but the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration mandated that the property "for security purposes ... be constantly observed, inspected and protected," according to legal documents.

"Until this property could be leased to an appropriate third-party, the airport has been holding the property exclusively for public uses and purposes."

Last year, a part of the property was leased to a general aviation service center, Fly Arkansas LLC. And in August, another portion was leased to Envoy Air Inc., an American Airlines subsidiary that will use its portion as a maintenance facility.

"Each private tenant has or will asses their appropriate portion of the property," the legal documents said.

The airport also contends that the property was subject to a tax exemption because Hawker Beechcraft financed the construction of the complex using tax exempt bonds.

"The airport was never advised that the bond exemption had been removed," the legal documents said.

The other properties, when in airport control, are considered "public use" properties also because of federal mandates, airport attorneys say.

A building the airport owns outside of the security fence was built by Southwest Airlines as a call center before the airline closed it. Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield, the insurance center, eventually took over the building until May 2015. For that year, the airport paid the share of the property tax owed after May while the insurance company paid the share it owed while it leased the building, Bingham said.

The building, however, serves as a public use, according to the legal documents, in that it allows the airport to conform with federal regulations requiring it to "control existing and planned land uses in the vicinity of the airport." Other federal regulations allow the airport to "generate revenue" from the property "if it is put to acceptable compatible use."

The other property was leased to Carrier Inc., which manufactures heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment. It is on the east side of the airport.

The airport twice this year has applied for tax exemptions for the properties. Both times, the airport received an exemption status sheet with a check mark by "denying your request for exemption status."

Joe Thompson, the chief assessment administrator for the county assessor's office, said he couldn't comment on a pending legal matter.

If the airport paid the amount the assessor's office said it owed, the money would go primarily to the county's public schools, the amount varying by school district. Lesser amounts of property taxes also help fund the county jail, police and fire pensions, roads and bridges, libraries and Arkansas Children's Hospital, according to the treasurer's office.

The Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission on Tuesday approved a staff request to use other attorneys, the Little Rock law firm of Taylor & Taylor, after the assessor's office objected to the airport's regular attorneys, Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus, participating in the case.

The office cited the firm's work on an employee handbook for the county.

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

For Woody Creekers, line is still drawn in the sand on Aspen-Pitkin County Airport plans

The last time there was serious talk about expanding and improving the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, infamous gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, Don Henley of Eagles fame, and actor Don Johnson rose up in righteous indignation.

They were members of the Woody Creek Caucus, which organized a virulent fight against the proposal aimed at extending the airport’s runway so 737 jets could land.

The expansion opponents hung their hat on a slogan that can still be found on Thomas Benton posters throughout the Roaring Fork Valley: “There is some s--- we won’t eat.”

The fist-shaking wing of the Woody Creek Caucus has changed dramatically in the past 20-plus years. Some members have moved on. Some have passed away. Others have moved well into their golden years. But one thing has not changed: The caucus, which boasts about 100 members, is still adamantly opposed to any modification to the airport that would allow larger planes to land. They still target 737s.

At issue is a proposed quarter-billion-dollar expansion to the airport that is slated to include a new terminal and a runway modified to handle larger planes — including, perhaps, 737s.

Currently, the airport runway is about 100 feet wide, with a 320-foot buffer between the centerline of the runway and the taxiway. This is considered too narrow for Federal Aviation Administration safety standards, and as such, the county is required to impose a 95-foot wingspan cap.

Part of the proposed airport upgrades would push the runway 80 feet to the west and widen it to 150 feet to meet federal standards. Those dimensions would accommodate planes with up to a 118-foot wingspan, which includes Boeing 737s capable of holding up to 180 passengers.

That prompted 30-year Woody Creek resident Phil Holstein, until recently the moderator for the Woody Creek Caucus, to invoke the “line in the stand” bromide the group used to great effect in 1995 — an effect that saw the airport expansion referendum defeated by almost 20 points.

“We drew a line in the sand back then, and things haven’t changed,” Holstein said.

The present-day manifestation of that unambiguous stance takes the form of the innocuous-sounding 2016 Woody Creek Caucus Master Plan, which was presented to the Pitkin County Planning and Zoning Commission in mid-November.

According to Ellen Sassano, senior long-range planner for the county, the jurisdiction has 11 caucuses, which exist as quasi-legal entities under the county’s home-rule charter.

The caucuses are centered on geographic areas and have, among other things, “ … a recommendatory function for all planning matters affecting the caucus area,” according to wording in the home-rule charter.

Each of the county’s caucuses is in the process of updating their master plans.

Three of those — including the one from Woody Creek — have already been gone before P&Z.

Though the Woody Creek Caucus Master Plan reads in part like a political manifesto, it is, mostly, a dispassionate and sober document. It addresses agriculture, housing and public transportation in the Woody Creek area.

Even the six-page section on the airport acknowledges the vital role the facility plays in the area’s economy — wording that might have Thompson rolling in his grave.

The delicacy lasts all of three paragraphs.

The fourth paragraph reads: “Due to constant pressure from the business community and other special interest groups, there has been a prolonged effort to expand Sardy Field into a state-of-the-art, urban-style airport. The caucus views the justification and predictions of future needs for this massive expansion with skepticism.”

Though the airport lies outside the Woody Creek Caucus’ statutory turf, the fact that the hamlet lies directly under the flight path of a high percentage of the aircraft that utilize Pitkin County airspace inspires members to speak up.

The caucus master plan reads: “The airspace and mountainous surrounds of the narrow valley at the entrance to Aspen is a constant. A larger airport will certainly increase the pressure on this environment and on the people who live in the valley. There will be more noise, more pollution, more safety concerns and more competition in our limited airspace between commercial and [general aviation] aircraft.”

The document goes on to say that as local government continues to grow, it demands “more taxes and more bureaucracy to keep pace with the growth.

“None of the decisions that create growth are based on the character of the town we want. Rather, they are based on the need to keep people who have moved here for economic reasons employed,” the plan says. “Government and commercial infrastructure have to keep growing. The perceived need to keep the tourist base ever growing creates an onerous spiral in which quantity overwhelms quality.”

It is not surprising that the Woody Creek Caucus views, as its master plan states, the entire airport-expansion process with skepticism. What may be surprising is that, given a political environment that seems to be operating under the assumption that the airport expansion is essentially a given, a component of the county government — the planning and zoning commission — voted unanimously to accept the Woody Creek Caucus Master Plan — anti-airport rhetoric and all.

According to Sassano, though the home-rule charter gives caucuses legal standing to provide input to the government, the county is under no obligation to incorporate that input into operational policy.

Sassano points to the charter’s language, which states: “Recommendations made within all of the respective Caucus/Neighborhood master plans will be considered by appointed and elected officials in the context of consistency with overarching county land use policies and programs, and broader community goals, including but not limited to infrastructure and essential community facility needs.”

If elected and/or appointed officials determine that a plan recommendation is inconsistent with broader community goals and does not benefit the community as a whole, such recommendation may be considered, but not adopted, the charter says.

Add to that the fact that the planning and zoning commission itself serves in an advisory capacity to the county commissioners, and it’s fair to say that the wording of the Woody Creek Caucus Master Plan will likely not be carved in granite at the new-and-improved airport terminal, if, indeed, that terminal is built.

That does not dissuade Holstein.

“We plan to be as aggressively involved in the fight as the Woody Creek Caucus was in 1995,” he said. “This is an issue that is important to this valley. It makes me angry that many people are operating under the assumption that this is a done deal.”

The ghost of Dr. Gonzo himself may be stirring.

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

At Allegiant, a board and business model with roots in ValuJet

ValuJet broke into the airline industry in 1993 with a distinctive business model: offer ultra-cheap fares to undercut larger competitors and attract new customers who otherwise couldn't afford to fly.

It did so by acquiring second-hand planes from all over the world. It operated them as cheaply as it could, paying workers far less than others in the industry.

For three years, the strategy paid off big. ValuJet became one of the most profitable airlines in the U.S.

Then, on May 11, 1996, Flight 592 caught fire and crashed into the Florida Everglades, killing all 110 people on board. The ValuJet name was irreparably tarnished.




For the past 15 years, one of ValuJet's founders has been using the same basic business blueprint — relying on used airplanes to fuel rapid growth — to transform Allegiant Air from a tiny charter service into one of the largest carriers in the U.S.

The result is an airline more profitable than any other, but also more likely to break down in midair.

Former federal aviation experts, including those who investigated the 1996 crash, say Allegiant toes the line between mechanical reliability and profitability in some ways that remind them of ValuJet.

To compare the two airlines, the Tampa Bay Times reviewed securities filings and hundreds of pages of federal reports on the deadly crash and interviewed aviation experts, former federal officials and ValuJet and Allegiant employees.

Five key ValuJet figures, including three of the company's four founders, made their way to Allegiant as it emerged out of bankruptcy.

At ValuJet, the company grew so fast that it was not able to hire enough qualified mechanics and inspectors. Under Gallagher's tenure as chief executive officer, Allegiant has expanded to nearly 120 cities, an expansion that even he acknowledged put a strain on its operations.

Like ValuJet did before it, Allegiant built up its fleet with second-hand planes from foreign companies that wound up breaking down more often than those flown by other major carriers.

Before the 1996 crash, ValuJet had a string of mechanical breakdowns, including a 1995 engine explosion on a runway in Atlanta, according to federal investigators and news reports.

Last month, the Times used a first-of-its-kind database to show that Allegiant's planes are four times as likely to break down in midair as those flown by all other major U.S. airlines.

In an email to Allegiant officials on Dec. 5, the Times described this story in detail and asked the company, through a spokeswoman, for comment. The company declined.

On Dec. 16, a lobbyist for Allegiant emailed a letter to Pinellas County public officials in which Gallagher appealed directly to the local leaders.

"I expect the Times will continue to trot out more of the same, misleading storylines as they have in the past," Gallagher wrote. "They will attempt to paint me, as well as our team members, as indifferent, or something worse, with regard to safety."

In an October interview with the Times in Las Vegas, Gallagher acknowledged similarities between the business models of Allegiant and ValuJet.

Both companies expanded quickly. Both competed against larger airlines by offering low airfares. Both targeted customers on vacation, rather than business.

As a model, Gallagher said, both were successful. But he said neither was unsafe. He said that the run-up to the 1996 crash "was a completely different set of facts than anything we've ever had" at Allegiant.

Gallagher and other former ValuJet officials say the blame belongs to a maintenance contractor, not the airline itself.

"It is what it is," he told the Times. "If you guys stopped talking about it, that'd be fine, too. But that's not what you do."

No Allegiant plane has ever crashed.

In his letter to Pinellas officials, Gallagher acknowledged "delays and turn backs" in 2015 but said the company "operates at the highest levels of safety."

Seven aviation experts, including former federal officials, interviewed by the Times said Allegiant exhibits some of the same traits as ValuJet, and the Federal Aviation Administration should take note.

"ValuJet, before the big accident in the Everglades, had a number of aircraft that had to return to the field because of maintenance problems that at that time were the highest in the industry," said John Goglia, the National Transportation Safety Board member who chaired the public hearing into the 1996 crash. "And what we see here today in history, what we see with Allegiant, is that same kind of pattern repeating itself."

Growing fast

The ValuJet crash left the American flying public deeply rattled.

The likely cause was listed as a fire that started in the cargo hold, sparked by oxygen canisters that were improperly packed by ValuJet's contract maintenance workers.

But federal investigators also found that a push for rapid growth put so much pressure on the company's maintenance programs that mistakes were more likely to occur.

"It is apparent now that the extraordinarily rapid growth of this airline created problems that should have been more clearly recognized and dealt with sooner and more aggressively," said then-FAA administrator David Hinson at the opening of congressional hearings on the FAA and ValuJet.

From 1993 to 1996, ValuJet's fleet expanded from two planes to 52. In one 14-month period, the airline went from operating eight flights a day to four cities to running 124 flights to 17 cities.

As the Atlanta-based company expanded, its stock price soared. In the fall of 1995, shares of ValuJet hit $34.75, up from $12.50 at the initial public offering about a year earlier.

"I used to listen to the business channel on the way home every day," said the company's former president, Lewis Jordan, the sole ValuJet founder who did not go on to manage Allegiant. "If our stock price wasn't up significantly, we would be quite disappointed."

But company insiders soon were becoming concerned.

In the 1997 postmortem of the crash, the NTSB found that one senior vice president complained to his supervisor in 1995 about "sloppiness due to rapid growth." Mechanics described "a great deal of pressure" to get planes back in the air.

Newly hired contractors and employees had little experience and earned low pay, according to the NTSB report.

Former executives, including Gallagher, expressed regret over the crash, but also defended the ValuJet business model.

"One mistake we made at ValuJet — that Maury didn't make at Allegiant — is that we grew too fast," said Robert Priddy, the former ValuJet chairman who had been on the Allegiant board until last year.

Allegiant takes off

Six years after the crash, Gallagher brought ValuJet's business model to a new airline.

When he took over in 2001, Allegiant had just four planes. The company added two dozen over the next four years.

"Just about everybody else says, 'We're going to buy expensive aircraft that are relatively reliable because they're new,'" Allegiant's chief operating officer, Jude Bricker, told the Times. "We just kind of built up under a different philosophy, largely because we started off with just a few million dollars."

"That's all we had."

As the fleet expanded, so did the number of passengers. The airline transported 80,000 people in 2002. By 2004, that number had climbed to 539,000, and tripled by 2006 when it hit 1.9 million.

Last year, nearly half of Allegiant's 86 jets broke down at least once, and mechanical problems forced at least 77 unexpected landings across the country. The FAA conducted a review earlier this year and concluded the company had "minor" problems that it planned to address.

In his letter to Pinellas leaders, Gallagher described the examination as an "exhaustive, top-to-bottom review and audit of all of our operating procedures and practices" that "speaks for itself."

In interviews with the Times, Allegiant executives acknowledged the company grew too fast.

"We're going to slow down growth so we can get back on top of reliability," Bricker said. "It's probably worthwhile."

Company officials said they are installing safety procedures to identify minor issues before they become major ones. They also plan to upgrade the fleet by purchasing new planes. In the letter to Pinellas County, Gallagher said the FAA's recent inspection found no evidence "Allegiant is an unsafe airline."

'Midas touch'

Gallagher has been in the aviation industry since he earned an MBA at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1974. He says he has "kerosene in his blood," ran a successful California airline in the 1980s and joined with two others in 1992 to invest $1 million and launch ValuJet.

He was the second of the founding members to sell significant shares after the 1996 crash. As the stock was falling, Gallagher walked away with at least $8 million, according to news reports at the time.

In a few years, Gallagher was poised to take over an airline again.

Unable to keep up with rising fuel costs, Allegiant — then a California-based charter service — filed for bankruptcy in December 2000. Gallagher loaned the fledgling company about $2 million and, as its largest creditor, emerged with near total control of the company in 2001.

From the start, he imbued the place with a ValuJet-like sensibility.

Executives bragged about saving money by building their own office furniture, just like ValuJet's leaders had.

Both airlines offered low prices to entice customers who normally wouldn't fly.

Both operated only a few flights per week between cities, and hired staff mechanics at only a handful of airports where it flies.

Allegiant also bought used planes from foreign carriers like ValuJet did.

Soon the company was on a path toward 55 straight profitable quarters, a streak that still remains unbroken.

"Maury has the Midas touch," said Priddy, the ValuJet cofounder and former chairman. "He knows how to make money."

After he took over Allegiant, the airline began doing business with other companies that he had a stake in — firms that had little or nothing to do with aviation. Investors questioned many of these deals, saying there is no way to tell whether the arrangement is good for the company or just good for Gallagher.

Securities filings show Allegiant paid at least $26 million to companies in which Gallagher is an investor or manager.

The airline paid at least $15 million to lease its headquarters from real estate companies partly controlled by Gallagher, Timothy Flynn and John Redmond.

Flynn served on the Allegiant board from 2006 to 2013; Redmond is a current board member.

It paid $3.2 million to Alpine Labs, a TV production company co-founded by Gallagher, to produce an on-plane game show.

It paid more than $1 million to sponsor a professional truck racing team controlled by Gallagher. His son, Spencer, is one of the team's seven drivers.

These transactions were approved by Allegiant's board members but drew criticism from at least one investor. The head of CtW Investment Group, which invests money from union pensions, sent two letters in the past 20 months asking whether the board was truly independent of Gallagher.

One board member, Redmond, did outside business with Gallagher while two others — Gary Ellmer and Linda Marvin — worked with him at a different airline in the past, wrote CtW executive director Dieter Waizenegger.

CtW is a coalition of unions, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents Allegiant's pilots. The letters came at a time when the pilots and the company were in a labor dispute and amid a string of local news stories about its plane's breakdowns in the summer of 2015. Waizenegger called for change among board members and asked that the board set up its own safety committee to better keep track of problems.

"The company's own pilots have pointed to a corporate culture where profits come before safety," wrote Waizenegger, referring to concerns raised amid an ugly labor dispute. "Considering that a key element of Allegiant's business model is the reliance on older aircraft, which require more extensive maintenance, a board committee that focuses exclusively on safety would appear long overdue," Waizenegger added.

Gallagher dismissed the concerns as "unfounded public allegations," part of a campaign by a grasping pilots union.

The board remains the same, and it has not started its own safety committee.

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