Saturday, December 24, 2016

Incident occurred December 23, 2016 in Vancouver, Washington

No one was hurt when a small helicopter crash-landed at Green Mountain Golf Course Friday afternoon.

Emergency personnel responded to a report of a small rotorcraft in distress around 2 p.m., in the Northeast Ingle Road and Northeast Goodwin Road area north of Camas.

According to emergency radio traffic, a small helicopter with two on board auto-rotated and came down somewhere in the area.

Radio traffic indicated firefighters found the helicopter on Hole 2 of the course, near a restroom.

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Charter air firm owner accused of dealing cocaine smuggled in planes

Federal law enforcement agents have accused the owner of a Broward County charter airplane service of conspiring to sell large amounts of cocaine that an informant said the pilot routinely smuggled into South Florida.

The informant told U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents that Jose Patin sold him multiple kilos of cocaine and heroin and that Patin smuggled the drugs into the country “through a variety of methods, including hidden in planes operated by Patin’s charter air business at Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport in Broward County, Florida,” according to the DEA’s probable cause complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Dec. 7.

A grand jury last Monday indicted Patin, 66, on one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to sell five kilograms of cocaine and two counts of possessing with intent to sell more than 500 grams of cocaine. Patin is registered as the manager of Elite Air Transport LLC, which lists its address in Florida Department of State records as 1020 NW 62nd St., on the airport’s property.

Arrested along with Patin is Wilkin de Jesus Matos Feliz, 32, who also goes by the name Chu Chu. He was indicted on the same charges. Both men face life in prison if convicted. Patin and Feliz pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.

According to the DEA affidavit, the informant, under the direction of federal agents, arranged to meet with Patin at the Islander Cafe on Brickell Avenue in Miami on Nov. 15. While there, Patin agreed to give several kilograms of cocaine to the informant on consignment, according to the affidavit.

During the meeting, DEA agents recorded Patin speaking with the informant about the narcotics business, and Patin advised the informant to “take it slow,” to be careful selling the drugs. Patin, according to the affidavit, also told the informant he would be using code words when discussing business. For example, “boat” meant Patin wanted to meet at the Rusty Pelican on Key Biscayne. “Marina” meant Patin wanted to meet at his apartment on Brickell Key Drive, agents wrote in the complaint.

Agents say Patin then asked the informant if he knew anyone who was in the market for 20 kilograms of cocaine, and the informant answered yes. Patin said he had two kilograms for the informant, but not nearby. He gave the informant a prepaid phone on which to communicate about their new business arrangement, agents said.

Feliz then arrived at the Islander and Patin gave him key and told him to “go get the box,” according to the complaint. Feliz got into a Toyota Tundra pickup and drove to Patin’s apartment building. He went inside the building and drove to a parking garage near the Islander a few minutes later, agents said. Feliz gave Patin a box, and Patin opened the lid to show the informant two kilos of cocaine.

On Dec. 1, the informant and Patin spoke on a phone call recorded by the DEA. Patin and Feliz were in the Dominican Republic. Patin said he would be returning to the states the week of Dec. 5 and would collect the proceeds from the cocaine he consigned to the informant. Patin, according to the DEA complaint, also said he was putting together another load of cocaine to bring back to South Florida. The informant asked Patin for another kilo during the phone call.

On Dec. 6, the informant met with Patin and Feliz at the Islander. The DEA gave the informant a suitcase of “flash money.” During the meeting, which agents recorded, Patin asked the informant why it took so long to collect the money for the sale of the original two kilos. The informant answered it was due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Patin also asked where the money was, and the informant told him it was in the trunk of his car.

The men also agreed to another four-kilogram cocaine deal before the informant gave Patin the keys to his car. Patin and Feliz left the Islander and were about to enter the informant’s car parked in a nearby garage when DEA agents arrested the pair.

Agents then executed a search warrant on Patin’s apartment and a Toyota Highlander SUV parked in his designated parking spot. Inside the SUV, the agents found two boxes, each containing two kilograms of cocaine, according to the DEA complaint.


Aircraft wreckage reveals a tragic tale

SAN SIMON — It is a tale of two tragedies about four men who lost their lives in incidents separate yet related, some 65 years ago.

Last month, a hunter reported to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office finding debris that appeared to be old aircraft wreckage north of San Simon, said CCSO spokeswoman Carol Capas.

The Sheriff’s Office turned the call over to its Search and Rescue personnel, including Jim Fusco, of Willcox. They located the wreckage Nov. 22.

“The hunter took us to it,” Fusco said, adding that the wreckage looked to have been there at least 50 years.

It was the perfect assignment for Fusco, an aviation archaeologist who has been written about in Smithsonian magazine for his ability to find World War II-era plane wreckages deep in mountain wildernesses.

“The mystery is that no one knew anything about it — not even the local ranchers,” Fusco said. “Usually, crash sites are picked over and scrapped out.”

Fusco contacted friend and fellow aviation archaeologist Craig Fuller, of Phoenix, who went to work researching the crash. 

According to articles Fuller found in the July 16, 1951, edition of the Arizona Daily Star, pilot Dale Sexton and Carl Sexton had set out on a private plane flight from Tucson to Kansas before crashing about 15 miles northeast of San Simon in the Peloncillo Mountains.

In its July 20, 1951, edition, the Range News gives a more specific location for the crash, describing it as “at the 5,000-foot altitude near the McPeeters' uninhabited ranch home.”

Both men were killed instantly.

The Range News account said the men who recovered the bodies “were guided to the place in a canyon below Hat Peak by Jesse Williams, who until recently was owner of the range in that area.”

Of the Sexton brothers, Fusco said “they were probably Tucson businessmen. They were 32 and 25 years of age, both married with young children that they left behind. Given their ages, they might have fought in World War II.”

“They don’t know exactly what caused the crash,” he said.

According to the Daily Star, while the crash occurred on June 30, 1951, the site was not found until July 15 after a five-day search that spanned a four-state area.

Sexton had taken off without filing a flight plan, which might have given searchers his probable route and fuel stop plan.

Civil Air Patrol pilot Bill Boyd, of Tucson, along with his observer, George Hover, spotted the downed plane.

Boyd called Capt. Harold Frazer, of March Field, Calif., the air rescue officer directing the search from Tucson, who dispatched an Air Force “flying boat” to San Simon.

The CAP’s BT-13 Army Trainer “took off shortly after the flying boat from San Simon on the return flight from Tucson,” the Daily Star said at the time.

“It, too, crashed, killing everyone on board,” Fusco said.

Fuller told Fusco that the trainer crashed in Bowie only a couple of hours after the wreckage of the Sexton brothers’ plane was found.

Both Roscoe E. Wilson, of Phoenix, and Ernest W. Schmidt, of Glendale, believed to be the pilot, lost their lives in the crash about one-half mile east of Bowie.

According to the Daily Star, Bowie residents heard both ships en route to Tucson pass over them about 20 minutes after takeoff at San Simon.

“An hour later, the trainer was again heard circling the city,” the article said. “Witnesses said the ship, apparently off-course because of threatening weather, went into a steep bank, stalled and spun into the ground.”

Both Roscoe and Schmidt, who had helped remove the bodies of the Sexton brothers, were killed instantly.

In his Nov. 22 e-mail, Fusco extended “a big thank you” to Fuller on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office for his work.

“Your information confirms that the plane crash site that we looked at today is the one in the articles,” he said. “I doubt that we could have figured this one out without you.”


Hearing set on William H. Morse State Airport upgrade project

BENNINGTON — The state expects to seek bids early next year on a major runway reconstruction project at the William H. Morse State Airport and plans a public input session Jan. 12 in Bennington for business owners, pilots and other residents to offer comments.

Mary Kay Genthner, senior airport engineer with the project design firm, Passero Associates of Rochester, N.Y., said Friday that the Vermont Agency of Transportation-sponsored meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Bennington Fire Facility on River Street. Design drawings will be available for inspection.

The meeting will offer the final opportunity for residents to comment on aspects of the plan. Work includes the first complete reconstruction of the runway since the mid-1980s, along with grading work and an extension of the grass overrun area at the west end of the runway from 200 to 300 feet.

Bids are now expected to go out in February or March, she said, and the work is estimated to cost about $5 million.

Funding is expected to come from the federal government (90 percent) and the state (10 percent).

Genthner said the Federal Aviation Administration has moved the plan onto a schedule for airport projects to be funded next year, pending a final review of the bids. Work is expected to begin early in 2018.

John Likakis, an officer with the Bennington Airport Development Corp., a nonprofit group formed locally to promote and manage the airport off Walloomsac Road, said the 3,704-foot runway has served the area well but is overdue for a complete resurfacing. He said another key feature in the project design is the creation of a parallel taxiway stretching about half the distance of the runway. That will allow craft that have landed to taxi toward the office, hangars and other buildings without having to use the main runway surface, which would then be open for other landings.

Likakis said there has been no serious discussion of extending the runway to allow larger craft to land. He said he would like to see the paved area extended to 4,000 feet to allow somewhat larger jet aircraft, but the cost would be difficult to justify and "no one has been beating down the doors" from local businesses seeking a longer runway surface.

In addition, there would be obstacles to such an extension, he said, even if residents did not object, in that Walloomsac Road is close on one end of the runway and there is a low, wet area off the opposite end.

Currently, the airport is used by smaller private craft and turboprops up to the size of a Beechcraft King Air and by some of the smaller corporate jets, such as the Cessna Citation, he said.


Amazon starts flexing muscle in new space: air cargo

A cargo plane emblazoned with "Prime Air" descended from an empty sky at Lehigh Valley International Airport on Tuesday, ninety minutes from the bustle of New York City, loaded with crates of goods during the peak holiday shopping season.

It's one of 40 jets leased by Inc for a new cargo service to meet delivery demand from the retail giant's customers. Exclusive payload data reviewed by Reuters and interviews with airport officials around the country show that Prime Air planes are flying nearly full, but with lightweight loads, taking away valued business from FedEx Corp and United Parcel Service Inc.

Expanding into transportation, from trucks to planes, is one of Amazon's most important endeavors as it strives to lure new customers with fast shipping while keeping costs under control. The world's largest online retailer is sending more packages, more often, and later in the day to serve its estimated 35 million to more than 50 million U.S. members of Amazon Prime, a service that promises two-day shipping for $99 per year.

Bulky boxes with goods once purchased in stores, like toilet paper, are a revenue driver at UPS and FedEx. That's in part because they now are charging customers increasingly by boxes' volume rather than weight. Shipping its own big, light packages is helping Amazon dodge those rising fees.

To date, Amazon has only said it leased the planes to speed up shipping and to backstop cargo partners during the holiday season. FedEx and UPS have delivered items late for Christmas in recent years.

"Our own delivery efforts are needed to supplement that capacity rather than replace it," Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman told Reuters. She declined to comment on eluding cargo airline fees.

Amazon's planes fly to at least 10 airports across the United States, supplying its warehouses nearby. Officials at four airports said Amazon's flights are operating near capacity but landing with lower-than-average weight -- meaning it is placing low-density shipments inside the jets.

Amazon aircraft on a monthly basis handled only between 37 percent and 52 percent of their maximum loads by weight, according to an analysis of cargo, capacity and landing data from the four airports, with supplementary information from tracking website By contrast, FedEx and UPS were at 53 percent and 56 percent capacity, respectively, according to U.S. Transportation Department data for the year ended September 2016, excluding weight carried for free.

"You're dealing with cargo that's big in dimensions, but in pure weight it's light," said an airport ramp manager in California.

Airports in Tampa and Charlotte reported similar payload data for the carriers contracted by Amazon, but they did not specify whether the flights were full by volume or whether they were operated on Amazon's behalf. A seventh airport outside Chicago said the planes were not full, though daily flights only started in October 2016, and Amazon likely is learning the market, transport experts said.

The remaining airports did not comment.

FedEx declined to comment. Steve Gaut, vice president of public relations at UPS, declined to comment on Amazon's airline but said customers commonly handle parts of their logistics in-house.

Reuters could not determine the extent to which, if any, Prime Air had an effect on the bottom lines of FedEx or UPS to date. Reuters could also not determine how much Amazon has spent on aircraft leases so far, key to whether the fleet has cut its costs overall.

The payload figures Reuters reviewed do not include November or December, when contractor ABX Air, a unit of Air Transport Services Group Inc, paused flights for Amazon after a pilot strike.


Flight data shows another way that Amazon is departing from cargo companies' road map in an attempt of its top goal: rapid delivery.

Using and similar websites, Reuters tracked the schedules of Amazon contractors and verified with airports which flights were on behalf of the retailer.

Many of the company's eastbound flights leave the states of Washington and California unusually late at night: its flight from Stockton to Wilmington, Ohio departs close to 2:00 AM Pacific Time (10:00 GMT), for instance. FedEx instead schedules most eastbound service no later than 9:00 PM (5:00 GMT) to ensure arrival at its Memphis, Tennessee hub in time for sorting packages overnight.

The difference is that cargo airlines stop at airport hubs so they can fill up planes easily with boxes from many origins. Amazon does this much less.

But flying without a stopover is faster, helping Amazon cut shipping times from Prime's two-day standard, to a day or even hours. Scheduling later departures has an advantage, too.

"Most people have a tendency to order packages when they're home" from work, said Brian Clancy, managing director of advisory firm Logistics Capital & Strategy LLC. Amazon is "waiting for the orders."

Amazon also saves time by flying to remote locations like Lehigh Valley, which are near cities and its warehouses but have little traffic. Expectations are for Amazon to stretch well beyond Lehigh Valley and the existing airports Prime Air serves.

"We're just seeing the beginning of this," said Marc Wulfraat, president of logistics consultancy MWPVL International Inc. "We could see Toronto. We could see Denver.

"They're going to need a lot more planes," he said.

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Snowy December, staff opening has Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport snow crew working long weeks

JANESVILLE—A snowy December and a staff opening has the plow crew at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport working extra long hours.

“We haven't had a day off for the last three weeks,” said Kevin Smith, Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport maintenance crew director.

Because it's snowed every weekend for the past few weeks, the crew has had to work pretty much non-stop, he said.

Smith said he and every other crew member have been working 80- to 90-hour weeks.

The airport has three runways and four taxiways. The largest runway is 7,301 feet long and 150 feet wide, and the second-longest is 6,700 feet by 150 feet, Smith said.

That's more than five times as wide as a residential street, City Engineer Mike Payne said.

The airport crew must follow Federal Aviation Administration snow removal regulations. Snow piles along runways cannot exceed a reasonable height and must be far enough from the runways that lights lining the runways are visible to incoming aircraft, Smith said.

Snow removal starts with a standard 22-foot plow pushing snow to the sides of the runways, Smith said.

A front-end loader equipped with a snowblower is used to shoot snow away from the runways and taxiways. The blower can shoot snow up to 200 feet, he said.

It's a heavy piece of machinery. The front-end loader weighs about 30,000 pounds, and the blower adds 22,000 pounds.

Where the runways intersect, depending on wind direction, crews can end up blowing snow from one runway onto another, Smith said.

Plowing the whole airport takes around 120 staff hours, Smith said.

Planes can land in up to two inches of snow, but the maintenance crew tries to keep runways clear, he said.

Smith uses a specially equipped truck to measure runway conditions and communicate those conditions to pilots. When he brakes to a stop on the snowy runway, the truck's equipment transmits runway conditions to aircraft overhead.

The past few weeks have been particularly bad, Smith said. December had three consecutive snowfalls, and the four-person maintenance crew is one member short.

The crew monitors the runways around the clock, and the open position is the person who would do night checks, pushing that responsibility onto Smith, he said.

The maintenance crew is responsible for all tarmacs, parking lots and roads on the airport grounds, he said.

“The gentleman in the (air traffic control) tower has to be able to get to the tower,” Smith said.

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Whiteside County Airport board shouldn't be wasting taxpayer money on its own attorney: Government watchdog group takes aim at Whiteside County, Illinois

MORRISON – A regional watchdog group known for targeting smaller government entities throughout the region is nipping at the heels of Whiteside County and its airport board.

Edgar County Watchdogs Inc. – two men with a strong distaste for officials and boards that waste taxpayer money and disobey open meetings laws – is asking Whiteside County to justify why the airport board is paying an outside attorney to do what its state’s attorney is statutorily required to do.

In other words, Whiteside County is breaking the law, Watchdog founder John Kraft says. He cites state law, and a 1975 attorney general’s opinion to back that claim up.

Like most things legal, though, it all comes down to how you interpret the law – and which statutes apply in the end.

Former Whiteside County State’s Attorney Trish Joyce (she began her new job as a 14th Circuit Court judge on Wednesday) disagrees with Kraft’s interpretation, and cites other state statutes to support her position.

David Murray, 80, a former pilot and a retired partner of Ward, Murray, Pace & Johnson, has been the airport board’s attorney half his life. In addition to providing legal advice and representation, he attends airport board meetings, performs bookkeeping tasks, drafts the budget, collects hangar rent and dogs those delinquent in paying it, cuts the checks to pay the bills, and prepares the monthly airport board meeting minutes. He does this with the help of a secretary, whom he pays.

When he’s at his home in The Villages, Florida, he attends meetings via conference call.

For his services, he is paid $175 an hour, which amounts to about $17,000 a year.

It may not be much, but it’s taxpayer money improperly spent – Murray is doing a job the state’s attorney was elected to do: to represent the county and advise its officials and board on all legal matters, Kraft said.

While there are instances in which a county can hire outside legal counsel, the procedure is very specific – and codified in state law – and Whiteside County did not follow that process, he said.

Kraft has been discussing the matter with Murray and Joyce via phone calls and emails since August, in an attempt to rectify what he calls an illegal situation.

“I’m on a mission for the county to acknowledge that the county can’t hire an attorney,” he said.

Kraft main argument is based on a 1975 opinion from then-Attorney General William J. Scott, who was asked to rule whether Tazewell County legally could hire an attorney to advise its zoning board of appeals and county board.

The answer, Scott said, is no. The state Supreme Court has held that, absent any specific legislation, “the state’s attorney is the legal adviser for the county,” and “a county cannot hire a private attorney to advise the county board or any other county officers or boards.”

The exception is if the county needs specialized representation, say, from someone with a particular expertise that the state’s attorney lacks. In that case, an outside attorney can be used, but he or she must be approved by the state’s attorney and be appointed a special state’s attorney by the court. Simply having the state’s attorney’s permission is not sufficient to hire outside counsel.

In a letter responding to a Freedom of Information Act request Kraft sent the county, Murray told him that “no court order appointing a special state’s attorney exists. The airport board has the authority to independently retain counsel to provide assistance. It does so, and has done so since the airport’s formation approximately 65 years ago with the approval of each of the relevant Whiteside County state’s attorneys during that period.”

The response to his FOIA request seeking records showing state’s attorney approval of Murray’s hiring was, no such records exist, the approvals were oral.

In an email exchange with Kraft from Sept. 22 to Sept. 27, Joyce cites section 9 of 620 ILCS 45/6, the County Airport Law of 1943, which says airport boards may “employ or enter into contracts for the employment of any person, firm or corporation, and for professional services, necessary or desirable for the accomplishment of the objects of the Board of Directors or the proper administration, management, protection or control of its property.”

That section, she wrote, “allows the airport board to hire a legal professional. ... That is my understanding of the functions of the attorney the board hired pursuant to this section.”

Additionally, Joyce cited 55 ILCS 5/5-1018, a section of the state code that lays out the dos and don’ts for a county, which says “A county board may employ, appoint or contract for the services of such clerical, stenographic and professional personnel for the members of the county board, the committees of the board and the chairman of the board as the board finds necessary or desirable to the conduct of the business of the county, and may fix the compensation of and pay for the services of such personnel.”

That takes Kraft right back to the attorney general’s opinion. So why hire Murray? You don’t need an attorney to handle clerical duties.

Murray clearly is acting as the airport board attorney, Kraft said. He is referred to in airport board minutes as the board’s attorney, and has represented the airport board in court.

“Any function of an attorney for the airport rest with your office,” he wrote, asking Joyce to settle the matter by seeking the state Attorney General’s opinion on who actually is the “statutory legal representative of the Whiteside County Airport.”

Joyce declined.

“If you are confused about my duties, please review 55 ILCS 5/3-9005. I represent Whiteside County and its interests (including the Whiteside County Airport) ...”

So, where does that leave Kraft? As a private citizen, he cannot seek an attorney general’s opinion on the matter.

That leaves him trying to sneak an opinion in through the back door.

In the responses to his FOIA requests, some information was redacted. Murray, and another attorney who responded on behalf of the county, cited attorney-client privilege for the withholdings.

But, Kraft argues, Murray is not legally the county’s attorney – nor is the other, for that matter, also not having been court-appointed or approved – so neither can invoke the privilege, and cannot withhold the information. Indeed, they should not even be the ones supplying it.

He has asked the attorney general to rule on that issue.

Even of the attorney general agrees, however, there’s not much more Kraft can do. Such opinions are advisory.

A citizen could, however, file a federal false claims suit, to try to force the county to not only to drop the airport board attorney, but also to recover the wages he was paid.

It’s a tactic usually employed by whistleblowers going after people or companies whose actions have defrauded government programs.


If you Google Edgar County Watchdogs, a February 2015 Chicago Tribune article on the men and their mission will pop up.

Go to its website, Illinois Leaks, at or find the nonprofit group on Facebook to get info straight from the doggies' jowls.

Once on the website, search for Whiteside County to read John Kraft's argument against an airport board attorney, and the email correspondence between Kraft and Whiteside County State's Attorney Trish Joyce, who disagrees with his interpretation.


Traxxall Technologies: Montreal-based aircraft maintenance tracking company opens first United States office in Orange Park, Florida, partly because of local talent pool

The Traxxall team led by Jeff Dougherty, second from left, and Dewayne James, right. The Montreal-based company recently opened its first U.S. office in Orange Park because of an increase in aircraft business and the local talent base.

Tracking maintenance on cars can be easy.

An engine light may come on. There could be a note in the automobile’s user guide that suggests a tune-up every 25,000 miles or new tires at 40,000 miles.

Plenty of people often don’t follow schedules, though, letting suggested updates go until it becomes imperative to look at what’s needed and cringe at the costs.

Airplanes, however, are different.

There can be no procrastination — the Federal Aviation Administration requires benchmarks be met or the plane can quickly be grounded.

Traxxall Technologies specializes in keeping tabs on those maintenance schedules, as required by the FAA. The Montreal-based company recently opened its first U.S. office in Orange Park.

The expansion came from a significant growth in clients.

Not the big jetliners that fly out of airports like Jacksonville International Airport — those companies have their own enterprise resource programs.

Instead, think corporate and public safety fleets that share the air.

They’re ones that seek out companies like Traxxall, which provides aircraft maintenance tracking and inventory management systems.

How it works: Owners must track maintenance to ensure different parts of an airplane only travel so far before coming in for review or replacement. Traxxall essentially builds a template for each aircraft and loads customer data.

From there, the company works with owners, notifying them when service will be needed to ensure plenty of time to schedule maintenance.

Traxall isn’t responsible for actually doing the work — that’s on the owner.

“We can’t turn wrenches on aircraft,” said Jeff Dougherty, a maintenance analyst leading the Florida office.

However, Dougherty and most of the office’s five employees have that kind of background.

Before coming to Traxxall, Dougherty served in the U.S. Navy for 21 years with several stints in Jacksonville. He and his family called it home after retirement.

It’s examples like his that partially explain why Traxxall chose Northeast Florida to expand, he said.

There is an abundance of military and air experience that, along with area colleges, provide a ready, skilled workforce.

The other part? There’s been a boom in business, with at least 100 planes recently signing up for the service.

For now, the office is in a nondescript strip mall on Blanding Boulevard, just south of the Orange Park Mall.

Dougherty said the company decided Nov. 4 to expand with a Dec. 1 deadline to be up and running.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” he said, with a laugh.

The whirlwind included finding space, purchasing equipment, hiring employees and getting them situated.

For now, the office is still fairly bare. The white-walled space has a few cubicles and computers with spreadsheet programs constantly in motion. There are taped signs on the door.

Dougherty said in a year, it will be a different scene.

Four empty spots will be filled and the office should have an influx of clients seeing the programs in action along with employees training.

One of the perks of the job is the ability to work remotely. However, there still needed to be a somewhat central walk-in U.S. office. The Jacksonville talent so close by also was a benefit.

And soon, there will be an even bigger visual presence.

“We’re going to have a giant Traxxall sign out there,” he said, happy to do away with the makeshift paper signs.


Incident occurred December 23, 2016 at Appleton International Airport (KATW), Outagamie County, Wisconsin

GREENVILLE -  The Minnesota Vikings Christmas weekend visit to Wisconsin got off to a rocky start Friday night when the team's plane skidded off the taxiway here, leaving players, coaches and staff stranded for more than three hours.

The team was eventually removed from the plane two and three people at a time via equipment from the Fox Crossing and Appleton fire departments. The deplaning began about 8:20 p.m. and was expected to take several hours. As the players and staff members exited the plane, they were escorted to a waiting bus.

"This is very atypical," Abe Weber, director of the Appleton International Airport, said of the airport's inability to quickly get the passengers off the plane. A mobile stairwell to accommodate the team's Airbus A330 was not available, and the plane was stranded some 200 yards away from the terminal.

"We didn't have (mobile) equipment large enough for that plane to deplane passengers," Weber said.

A rear wheel on the plane's landing gear slid off the taxiway amid snowy conditions shortly after 5 p.m., Weber said.

The Vikings flew into Appleton International on their way to the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in downtown Appleton, where they were staying in advance of Saturday's noon game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Weber said the Airbus A330 landed safely and was taxiing to the arrival gate around 5:10 p.m. when the incident happened.

"When the aircraft was taxiing in, one of the rear main landing gears left the pavement," Weber said.

No one was injured.

"I do not know what the cause of the aircraft tire leaving the pavement was," Weber said.

The Minnesota Vikings tweeted from their official account around 7:15 p.m. confirming the team was on the plane.

Weber said the plane was carrying about 150 people. He said there was constant communication between the people on the plane and the airport and rescue personnel.

"The safest place for the players was to stay on the airplane," Weber said of the delay in retrieving the needed equipment. "This is a process. Again, it's very atypical."

Vikings officials or players were not immediately available for comment.

The incident comes as the Vikings, in a freefall over the second half of a once-promising season, prepare for an NFC North Division showdown with the surging Packers.

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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) – The Appleton International Airport says a Delta flight carrying the Minnesota Vikings slid when a rear wheel left the runway on the way to the arrival gate Friday evening.

The team, in town to play the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, had to wait on the plane for several hours before they could begin the process of disembarking.

Vikings player Chad Greenway Tweeted a video with the caption, “How’s your day going?”

It happened at 5:15 p.m. Snow had been falling throughout the evening.

Airport staff Tweeted that flight #8867 landed safely. No injuries were reported.

Two aerial platform fire trucks were needed to get the 150 passengers off the plane. The Fox Crossing Fire Department and New London Fire Department worked together to deplane the players and staff.

“We didn’t have equipment large enough for that aircraft here, so we had to call a platform truck to deplane the passengers,” said Abe Weber of Appleton International Airport

The team could only disembark in small groups, which made it a lengthy process. The entire team was off the plane by 11:30 p.m.

The Vikings play the Packers Saturday at noon. Away teams stay in Appleton.

UPDATE— The ABC station in Minneapolis is reporting that a plane that slid off the taxiway at the Appleton International Airport tonight was carrying the Minnesota Vikings, ahead of their game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday.

KSTP sports reporter Chris Long says on Twitter the team plane went into the grass, and a tire got stuck, stranding the team on the plane.

APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) — The Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office confirms to Action 2 News that a plane slid off the taxiway at Appleton International Airport tonight.

The Sheriff’s Office says the plane was going slowly at the time, and no one was injured.

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Celebrated Afghan Woman Pilot Requests Asylum in United States: Afghan air force Capt. Niloofar Rahmani says she’s too scared to return home

Afghan Air Force Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, shown at a military airfield in the Afghan capital Kabul in April 2015, went to the U.S. in the summer of 2015 for training. 

The Wall Street Journal
December 24, 2016 12:01 a.m. ET

As the first female airplane pilot in Afghanistan, Niloofar Rahmani became a powerful symbol of what women could accomplish in the post-Taliban era. But in the ultraconservative country, the limelight also brought threats, sending her into hiding from insurgents and vengeful relatives.

Now, more than three years after she earned her wings, the 25-year-old Afghan air force pilot hopes to start a new life in the U.S. where she has applied for asylum, saying her life would be in danger if she returns home.

Capt. Rahmani went to the U.S. in the summer of 2015 to train on C-130 transport planes with the U.S. Air Force. The course ended Thursday, and under the terms of her training stint, she was due to go back to Afghanistan on Saturday. She won’t be going.

“I would love to fly for my country—that is what I always wanted to do,” Capt. Rahmani said from Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas, where she completed the flight training. “But I’m scared for my life.”

Capt. Rahmani is the highest-profile member of Afghanistan’s armed forces seeking asylum in the U.S. or neighboring Canada. Three Afghan soldiers were detained after fleeing a training exercise in Massachusetts in 2014 and heading for Canada. One was granted asylum and another immigrated to Canada. The third soldier has been denied asylum and is appealing the decision, his lawyer said.

The head of Afghanistan’s air force, Maj. Gen. Abdul Wahab Wardak, recently warned pilots training in the U.S. against applying for asylum, saying they would be deported to Afghanistan and arrested if they attempted it, Capt. Rahmani said.

Asked Friday to comment about Capt. Rahmani’s decision to seek asylum, Lt. Jalaluddin Ibrahimkhel, a spokesman for the Afghan air force, said pilots must return home after completing their training abroad.

If she is granted asylum in the U.S., Capt. Rahmani says she will continue flying, either with the U.S. Air Force or as a commercial pilot.

“Everything I went through, all my suffering, was because I really wanted to fly. That was my dream,” she said.

Her asylum request comes just weeks before Donald Trump takes office as U.S. president and is expected to tighten restrictions on immigration, particularly on Muslims.

During the election campaign, Mr. Trump called for a total ban on Muslims entering the U.S. On Wednesday, he appeared to suggest that the deadly truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin had justified the controversial proposal.

“You know my plans,” Mr. Trump told reporters who asked if the Berlin attacks would lead him to reassess his proposals to stop Muslim immigration to the U.S. or to create a national registry for Muslims. “All along, I’ve been proven to be right. One hundred percent correct.”

It wasn’t clear whether Mr. Trump was reconfirming his call for a complete ban on Muslim immigration or his subsequent clarification that he would block only those Muslims entering from countries with a history of Islamic extremism.

Last year, Mr. Trump was asked in a CNN interview whether the proposed ban would apply to people like Capt. Rahmani, a Muslim pilot fighting extremists.

“Good, good,” he said of her achievements, declining to say whether it would apply to her.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul didn’t immediately respond to comment on Friday.

Capt. Rahmani came of age in Kabul after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban in 2001, ushering in an era that promised unprecedented opportunities and freedoms for women in a country where few work outside their homes.

The U.S. and its allies spent millions of dollars in a bid to help narrow the gender gap by promoting women’s education and employment, including in the male-dominated military. The decision by Capt. Rahmani to seek asylum is emblematic of the limitations of those efforts, which drew the ire of extremists, including Taliban insurgents.

Despite those obstacles, Capt. Rahmani in 2013 became the first woman to graduate from the pilot-training program run by the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan and became a public figure, even a celebrity, in Afghanistan.

But she soon received threatening phone calls and a written death threat from the same branch of the Pakistani Taliban that notoriously shot and wounded the schoolgirl and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai.

The biggest danger, however, came from distant relatives, who believed her career choice had brought dishonor to the family. They wanted her punished and repeatedly tried to track her down in Afghanistan.

They also viewed Capt. Rahmani’s father and brother as accomplices to her offense and sought to punish them, forcing them to move every few months along with her and other members of her immediate family. Her brother was attacked twice, once in a shooting and then by a car that sped away.

The U.S. State Department last year gave Capt. Rahmani an International Women of Courage Award, acknowledging the dangers she has faced because of her career.

The threats to members of Capt. Rahmani’s immediate family have continued since she moved to the U.S., forcing them to move three times since she left Afghanistan.

Her superiors in the Afghan military have given her no support and instead have encouraged her to quit, according to Capt. Rahmani, her father and Western officials familiar with her case. Pressure from the U.S.-led coalition helped her keep her posting.

Under U.S. immigration law, an applicant for asylum must show a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

Capt. Rahmani’s lawyer, Kimberly Motley, who worked in Afghanistan for years, said her client’s asylum application meets those criteria.

“There are great concerns for her safety if she returns. The threats she has received have been well documented,” she said. “Unfortunately, some of her superiors within the Afghan military have failed in their duty to protect her.”

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