Monday, December 26, 2016

For third straight year, passenger count declines at Branson Airport

For the third straight year, the number of passengers flying out of Branson Airport declined in 2016.

As of the end of October, 5,149 people had boarded a plane at the airport in 2016 — a drop of 63.5 percent compared to the same 10-month stretch in 2015. Depending on the month, more than a quarter to almost half of airplane seats left the facility unoccupied.

The privately owned and operated Branson Airport has been challenged by the consolidation of the airline industry, which has resulted in reduced competition among airlines and decisions by the largest carriers to focus on more profitable routes.

The 2016 decline in enplanements, an industry term for boarding passengers, builds upon those Branson has experienced in recent years.

The airport opened in 2009 and peaked in 2013 at 113,584 enplanements for the year. In 2014, however, Branson's two mainline carriers — Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines — pulled out of the market. The airport ended the year with just shy of 60,000 enplanements.

The mainline carriers have been replaced by public charter flights, offered in the hope that they will demonstrate a demand for air service from Branson. In 2015, enplanements dropped to 15,732, a year-over-year decline of 73.6 percent.

July was the busiest month at Branson Airport in 2016, with 1,332 enplanements, compared to 3,303 in 2015. February, March and April were the slowest — no passengers boarded a plane during those months.

Branson Airport's commercial service ran through late November this year, but figures pertaining to the month were not available as of press time. Even stellar November figures would leave the airport well short of its 2015 performance in terms of passenger count.

The airport does not itself release the statistics, but they are included in publicly posted reports issued to bondholders. The reports indicate that Branson Airport LLC had a net loss of about $11 million through the first three quarters of 2016.

Branson had nonstop service to four cities in 2016.

Buzz Airways operated flights under the Branson AirExpress name to New Orleans and Austin four times a week between late May and mid-August. Elite Airways, meanwhile, offered flights to Denver and Houston starting in mid-July.

When the Elite Airways service was announced, it was billed as daily service, and Branson Airport Executive Director Jeff Bourk told the News-Leader that, while the schedule was only set through late November, he hoped the flights would continue year-round.

The flights, however, ceased for the year in late November. Bourk said this month they had been offered on a daily basis for a period, and three or five times a week during other parts of the schedule. Bourk said it was challenging to get the data to justify continuing service through the winter given that the service had only been offered for four months.

Bourk said the airport is currently working on its 2017 offerings, with the goal of expanding service.

Earlier this month, the Taney County Partnership — a private-public group that focuses on economic development — said in a news release that a recent economic impact study conducted by Arizona State University found that Branson Airport had a total economic impact of $454.8 million between 2010 and 2015, and that the fiscal impacts from tax collections totaled $14.5 million.

The study itself, which was commissioned by the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau, was not released. The partnership said in the release that the study found the airport supported 688 jobs annually on average, in terms of both jobs at the airport and jobs in the community supported by visitors who arrived by air. The release said the airport's economic impacts peaked in 2013 — the same year the airport saw the greatest number of passengers — and then declined in 2014 and 2015.

“The key to restoring economic impact from the airport on the local economy is to grow air service,” Bourk said in the release.

The partnership said in the release that the Taney County Partnership and the Air Service Development Committee have worked to spur both public sector and private sector investment in a fund designed to return Branson Airport service to key markets. The fund includes $1 million from the public sector, specifically from Taney County, the city of Hollister and the Taney County Enhancement District. The level of private-sector investment was not disclosed, but was said to be "significant."

Springfield-Branson National Airport on track for all-time highs

While Branson Airport saw declines in 2016, its neighbor an hour to the north is expecting a record year.

Through the end of November, Springfield-Branson National Airport had 438,007 enplanements, up about 3.9 percent compared to the same period in 2015. On average, flights this year have been 79.7 percent full, according to numbers provided by an airport spokesman.

When talking with the public, the airport generally focuses on total passengers, which includes enplanements and deplanements. Spokesman Kent Boyd said he expects to finish 2016 with total passengers up about 4 percent over the 2015 record of 913,395.

Springfield-Branson is served by four airlines: Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. Those carriers provide nonstop flights to Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Denver, Charlotte, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Orlando and Punta Gorda/Ft. Myers.


Federal Aviation Administration pleased with Potsdam Municipal Airport runway improvements

POTSDAM -- The Federal Aviation Administration is pleased with the runway improvements and new lighting at Potsdam Municipal Airport/Damon Field, according to village Administrator Greg Thompson.

The $1.4 million program completed earlier this year included widening and refinishing the runway to more easily accommodate larger aircraft, maintenance of runway lighting, and installation of a visual landing guidance system.

The contract for the work on the village-owned airport was awarded to local building company J.E. Sheehan Contracting, which widened the runway from 60 feet to 75 feet under the exacting specifications of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Thompson told village board members this week word had come from Federal Aviation Administration that they were pleased with the work.

The Federal Aviation Administration is paying 90 percent of the cost, and the state and the village are splitting the remaining 10 percent.

Still outstanding is delivery of equipment needed for snow removal during the winter months worth $212,570, which is expected next week, he said.


Delays reported at Southwest Florida International Airport


Several flights into and out of Southwest Florida International Airport on Monday have been delayed due to weather and air traffic control issues across the country.

It was earlier reported that an air traffic control issue was causing problems, but the FAA has since told NBC2 that any delays affecting flights at RSW are caused by weather or traffic volume.

New statement from the FAA about delays:

The traffic flow management system issue isn't causing delays.

Weather and heavy volume of flights are causing delays at some locations. If a Ft. Myers flight is delayed it's probably due to weather or volume at the destination or origination airport.

Earlier statement from the FAA about delays:

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is working to correct a problem with the air traffic control management system that allows the FAA Command Center to manage traffic flow more efficiently across the country. The FAA does not use this system to track or communicate with individual flights. We are not experiencing problems with the radar, navigation or communications systems we use to handle specific flights. Monitor for real-time information on airport status. Check with the air carriers for information on specific flights.

The flight boards at RSW show several arrivals and departures are delayed, some longer than three hours. The FAA said they do not track flight delays in real-time and it would be Tuesday before they would have the number of flights affected.

You can check flights at

Travelers coming from Charlotte were delayed for a couple of hours and said they had no real sense of when they'd actually be on their flight.

They said the airline would update every 15 to 30 minutes and let them know they were still delayed.

"They started delaying by 30 minutes and 15 minutes and 30 minutes, and I think overall it was a little over two hours delayed," said Ava Paranjape, visiting from Memphis.

"The plane is sitting there on the runway, and they just said we're not ready to go. It's kind of frustrating to not really know what the problem is," said Dominic Tricase of Fort Myers.

Story and video:

Express S90, N176PA: Fatal accident occurred December 26, 2016 near Sierra Sky Park Airport (E79), Fresno, California

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

William A. Huene:


William Arthur Huene 

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FRESNO, CALIFORNIA 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report -  National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: WPR17FA041
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, December 26, 2016 in Fresno, CA
Aircraft: PETRUS DAVID WAYNE S90, registration: N176PA
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

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 either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 26, 2016, about 1318 Pacific standard time, an experimental amateur-built Express S-90, N176PA, was destroyed when it departed controlled flight and impacted terrain shortly after takeoff from runway 30 at Sierra Sky Park Airport (E79, Fresno, California. The private pilot/owner and his passenger received fatal injuries. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.

E79 is a residential airpark; the pilot had a residence on E79, and based his airplane there. According to the pilot's wife, the passenger was a family friend, and the flight was to be a local pleasure flight.

Several witnesses saw or heard portions of the flight and/or accident sequence, but their accounts were not completely consistent. All agreed that the airplane was in the initial climbout portion of its takeoff when it made a rapid or sudden right turn. Accounts of the airplane's specific motions after that initial right turn varied, but all witnesses reported that the airplane descended rapidly towards the ground soon very shortly thereafter. Most reported a nose-down attitude during the descent, and one witness qualified the descent as "falling." Two witnesses, who were not pilots, and who were co-located about 1,200 feet northwest of the departure end of the runway, reported that the airplane was "low" when it was first observed, and that it then made the sudden right turn. Several other witnesses, some of whom were pilots, reported that the airplane climbed abnormally steeply after liftoff, and then began the sudden right turn that was followed shortly thereafter by a rapid descent and impact. Some witnesses reported that the engine sounded normal, while others reported a decrease in power (noise) and/or "popping" sounds. Immediately after the accident, several witnesses telephoned 911 and then attempted to access the accident site to render assistance. There was no fire.

The airplane impacted in marshy ground at the shoreline of a lake that adjoined the San Joaquin River. The wreckage came to rest about 70 feet from the initial impact point, and the direction of travel between those two points was 265 degrees True. The accident location was 900 feet, on a bearing of 28 degrees True, from the threshold of runway 12. The accident site elevation was 239 feet above mean sea level, which was about 80 feet below the elevation of E79.

The composite airplane came to rest in three major pieces, which remained partially attached to one another; there were the wings, the engine and cockpit, and the aft fuselage. The two wings remained attached to one another, and came to rest approximately perpendicular to the ground, leading edge down. The engine and attached propeller were fully immersed in the water and underlying mud/silt, with the significantly deformed and fractured cockpit remnants mostly above the waterline. The aft fuselage came to rest inverted.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. According to the pilot's logbook, he began flight training in 1996, and received his pilot certificate in 1997. He accrued about 150 hours total in several airplanes, including Cessna 150 and 172, and Piper PA-38 and 28R models. In 2002 he accrued about 24 hours in a Velocity, and then ceased flying until 2011. In August 2016, when he had a total flight experience of about 187 hours, the pilot purchased N176PA, and logged his first flight in the accident airplane make and model, which was the accident airplane. Excluding the accident flight, he logged a total of 31.1 hours in that airplane. The pilot's total flight experience at the time of the accident was about 218 hours.

The fixed gear, high performance airplane was designed and marketed by Composite Aircraft Technology. N176PA was built by a third party in 2004, and had several different owners before it was purchased by the accident pilot. The airplane was equipped with a Lycoming IO-540 series engine and a Hartzell 3-blade propeller. According to the maintenance records, the most recent condition inspection was completed in May 2016.

The 1315 automated weather observation at Fresno Chandler Executive Airport (FCH), located 8 miles south of E79, included visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 10 degrees C, dew point 3 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.28 inches of mercury. Meteorological conditions at Fresno-Yosemite Air Terminal (FAT), located 8 miles southeast of E79, were similar, with winds from 310 degrees at 5 knots.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Bill Huene and David Deel were flying home from an overnight trip to Southern California in September of 2002 when Deel said a part of the plane's engine fell off. 

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Bill Huene and David Deel were flying home from an overnight trip to Southern California in September of 2002 when Deel said a part of the plane's engine fell off.

The two crash-landed in a field just south of Fresno before the experimental plane caught fire.

Deel said, "I didn't really know what was going on except for the sounds and the shuttering because the engine's behind us."

Deel said his pilot friend was shaken after the accident and they never flew together after that day, but Huene's love for flying eventually returned.

"It took him awhile to get over that and then he did go out and get his license re-certified and he's been doing it since then."

Deel is still reeling from the news of Monday's plane crash. He and Huene have been friends since they were 14, and even though they went to different high schools they saw each other every week at church youth group.

Huene was the best man in Deel's wedding; not a week went by where they did not talk or text either other. Just two weeks ago the two met for lunch at Chandler Airport.

"They had just reopened their restaurant out there and he wanted to go out there and check it out. It was by the airport and we both liked to watch the planes go in and out."

Deel said the two men talked about their kids, he has two boys and a girl and Huene has two girls, and they talked about their plans for Christmas.

The family has not released any information yet about funeral arrangements. Autopsies on both Huene and Chase Splan, his passenger in the plane, are scheduled to be complete Wednesday.

Story and video:

The wreckage of the plane involved in Monday's fatal accident that killed two people in Northwest Fresno, was removed from the San Joaquin river Wednesday. Meanwhile, we take a look back at a tragedy the same pilot avoided 14 years ago.  William Huene spoke with Eyewitness News just moments after he and a passenger walked away from a plane as it exploded in 2002.

His first brush with disaster played out in the skies just above Fresno 14 years ago.  William "Bill" Huene was forced to make an emergency landing in a field just east of Highway 99.  He and a passenger made it out unharmed, just before the plane burst into flames.

In a 2002 interview, Huene said, "You know it all happened so quickly. As far as I'm aware, the engine did quit.  It had no air pressure."

Huene's interview was captured by our cameras in 2002 as the pilot's plane burned up behind him.  His wife and then baby daughter were by his side, thankful a tragedy had been avoided.  So was his passenger.

David Deel says in a 2002 interview, ""All of a sudden the plane started to flutter and it shook really hard."

More than a decade later, Huene's passenger and close friend David Deel, relived the moments in an interview Tuesday.

"The engine of the plane was the issue, not the plane itself. It was kind of a scary thing," says Deel.

In an interview at the scene moments after the plane went down Deel said, "We're okay. Just a little shaken up.  No bruises, no broken bones."

Deel says it took years before Huene would fly again.  But, eventually the pilot's passion brought him back into the skies.  On Monday, the 47 year old husband and father of two,  took his last flight when his plane crashed into the San Joaquin River, killing him and his passenger 32 year old Chase Splan, also a husband and father of two.

"It's kind of hard.  I haven't really got my head around the while thing yet.  It's going be hard. He always wanted to help you out any way he could."

Huene's wife also praised her husband for his piloting skills following the 2002 incident.

"Give him nothing short of full credit for the success of this landing."

And even after his passing, those skills and the type of person Huene was, are being remembered.

Eyewitness News has learned that both of Huene's planes involved in the separate incidents were home-built air crafts.  According to a neighbor, Huene had just purchased the plane he was flying Monday in august this year.  We're told it was the first plane the pilot owned since his last one was destroyed in that fire back in 2002.

Story and video:

An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in Fresno on Tuesday morning to begin the investigation of the crash of a light airplane in which two men died Monday afternoon after taking off from Sierra Sky Park in northwest Fresno.

The investigator’s arrival coincided with the identification of the pilot of the Express S-90 plane as William Huene, 47, of Fresno, by the Fresno County coroner. Huene died along with family friend Chase Splan, 32, also of Fresno, after the Express S-90 experimental aircraft took off from Sierra Sky Park about 1:30 p.m. and plunged into the San Joaquin River moments later.

Fresno County sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said autopsies on the victims are scheduled for Wednesday morning. Pete Knudson, a spokesman for the NTSB, said a preliminary report on the crash would likely be completed in two weeks.

Huene was a resident of Sierra Sky Park, located along the San Joaquin River near Herndon and Brawley avenues, a subdivision created after World War II as a pioneering community of fly-in homes. He was involved in another plane crash in 2002 when he was forced to land in a cornfield southwest of Fresno when the engine on his plane lost power while on his way back to the sky park. The plane caught fire, but Huene and his passenger escaped unharmed. The passenger, David Deel, praised Huene’s skills after that incident.

Kathy Gregory, who lives at a home on the San Joaquin River Bluffs directly behind where Huene’s plane went down Monday, said she was a friend of Huene. She said she couldn’t believe the crash occurred.

“We heard the airplane take off,” she said. “Then silence. That’s not good – silence.”

“I liked Bill,” she said of Huene. Gregory said she recalled discussing the 2002 crash with Huene and remembered that he said he would not fly again after it occurred.

Gregory said she and her husband, like most who live in the sky park, were also pilots, although she did not fly anymore.

A man who also lives at the sky park was walking his dog near the crash site Tuesday. Not surprisingly, he also knew Huene as a neighbor and friend. He declined to identify himself to The Bee, but described the plane Huene was flying as a “top-notch” aircraft.

Knudson, the NTSB spokesman, described the Express S-90 as a “home-built” experimental aircraft. But that did not mean that there was anything wrong with the craft or its design, according to the neighbor, who described flying an experimental plane as something like having a high-performance automobile.

“One-third of the people out here have experimental planes,” he said.

Plane and Pilot magazine describes the Express S-90 as an “all composite, low-wing, fixed-gear monoplane that subscribes to the high-tech school of kit-built aircraft.” It says the plane can seat four with a top speed of 240 mph and travel 1,400 miles without refueling.

The neighbor said Monday’s crash was the first double fatal incident to take place at the sky park. He recalled another fatal crash, which he said occurred several decades ago, when a pilot took off in the fog and crashed into the river.

Several other crashes by planes taking off or landing at the airport have been reported in recent years, including a 2012 incident, in which an ultralight aircraft was forced to land in a field just west of the sky park. The pilot was not injured.

In 2002, pilot Alan Tolle survived a flight that began at the sky park and ended at Avenue 10 and Road 32 in Madera County. Although the left wing and engine were sheared off in the crash near a vineyard, Tolle suffered only a cut finger.


FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --  The wreckage was visible in sight of neighbors and friends in the close knit community of airplane enthusiasts. Terry Roberts recalls hearing, then seeing, the plane fly over his home just before it went down.

"All of the sudden I hear a very loud plane coming it, it was going pop, pop, pop, pop."

The pilot, William Huene, and passenger, , are presumed to have died on impact. The wreckage was upside down on the edge of a large pond in a state wildlife refuge just below the Skypark.

"A sad day for the family and friends-- prayers and wishes go out to the family members and the community," said Roberts.

An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board is on the scene.

We spoke with NTSB spokesman Peter Knudsen by phone from Washington.

"What he's going to be focusing on is documenting the accident site and any perishable evidence; this will include recovering the aircraft."

A preliminary report will take about a week, but final findings may take up to a year.

The plane, an Express S 90, is considered experimental, which means it's assembled from a kit. Many of the pilots out here build their own planes and the NTSB said they are not necessarily less safe than factory built planes.

"The statistics on overall accident rates are not terribly different from manufactured aircraft, there are some differences but overall it's a very similar accident rate," said Knudsen.

Pilot William Huene was involved in another crash near Fresno in 2002. He and his passenger escaped injury.

Chase Splan, a young husband and father, lost his father Paul in the crash of an ultralight aircraft near Tracy 9 years ago.

The NTSB plans to remove the wreckage as soon as possible and take it to a secure location where the investigation can continue.

Friends of the pilot told us he had only recently acquired the plane. According to the FAA it was certified just two years ago.


Two people died Monday in the crash of a single-engine airplane that had just taken off from Sierra Sky Park in northwest Fresno.

Wreckage from the plane was visible at the edge of a pond just north of Sierra Sky Park’s runway. Fire and law enforcement agencies had to navigate narrow roads and trails to get to the crash scene near San Joaquin Country Club.

Fresno Fire reported that two people were on board the plane. They confirmed Monday afternoon that both occupants had died. Their identities have not been released.

Krystal Kerkezian said she was in her backyard and saw the plane take off. Then it made a hard right maneuver and plunged directly into the water.

Her husband Mike drove to the end of Milburn Avenue and ran about a mile to the crash site, where he joined three other men trying to rescue the occupants. They could see no one moving in the aircraft.

A chaplain was called to the crash scene. Later, a Fresno County Coroner’s van was parked nearby as firefighters and rescue crews circled the fallen aircraft, which was also leaking fuel into the pond.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating. NTSB investigators were reportedly on their way to the crash scene Monday night.

The plane was an Express S-90 amateur-built experimental aircraft registered to William A. Huene, whose address is in Sierra Sky Park, according to FAA records. Authorities have not said who was piloting the aircraft when it went down.

The crash comes three years to the day after another fatal plane crash in Fresno. On Dec. 26, 2013, a 72-year-old Tehachapi man and his 8-year-old nephew from Fresno died when the plane they were in clipped a 62-foot-tall tree near the runway at Chandler Downtown Airport and crashed. Killed were Timothy Lowell Farmer and his nephew, Finn Thompson.

Sierra Sky Park has had its own share of aircraft mishaps over the years.

In August 2014, a single-engine plane attempting to land at the park’s airstrip plowed through one fence bordering Herndon Avenue, then smashed into a fence on the other side of normally busy Herndon. Miraculously, no one was hurt.

In October 2008, a single-engine plane flew into the side of a furniture truck along Herndon Avenue as the plane was trying to land at Sierra Sky Park. The pilot was unscathed. A month and a half later, a pilot who had just taken off from the airstrip developed engine trouble and put the plane safely down on a nearby golf course. That pilot also was unhurt.

In 2002, Huene – the registered owner of the experimental plane that crashed Monday – was forced to land in a corn field southwest of Fresno when his engine lost power. He and a friend were on their way back to Sierra Sky Park when the mishap occurred. On landing, the plane caught fire, but Huene and his passenger escaped unharmed, with the passenger, David Deel, praising Huene’s pilot skills.

Said Deel at the time: “He got us down, didn’t he?”


New route laid out for Pickens County Airport

Carlos Salinas
LIBERTY – LQK isn't likely to ever steal landing fees from ATL or CLT, but it will get busier in the coming years if its new manager has anything to say about it.

Retired Air Force pilot Carlos Salinas is wrapping up just his second month in charge of the Pickens County Airport (also known by the Federal Aviation Administration designation LQK), but he has some extensive changes in mind for the place.

“(County Administrator) Gerald Wilson told me to come in here, assess what is happening and tell him what I think is the way forward,” said Salinas, a 1992 graduate of Clemson University. “…We really need to grow a community out here and tie more into the Pickens County Commerce Center.”

Salinas’ wish list includes getting the runway milled and repaved, adding more hangar space and offering more maintenance and other support options to corporate and individual airplane owners. And there’s already a waiting list of more than 70 plane owners who want hangar space there as soon as it becomes available.

The runway is cracking in several spots and could use new asphalt, as well as lengthening to better handle the corporate jet traffic, according to Salinas. He said there is probably some help available from the FAA for that work, which would allow him and Wilson to concentrate the money raised locally on other facility needs.

“The FAA is usually amenable to horizontal construction projects, like runaways, but not so much with hangars,” Salinas said.

According to Salinas and county spokeswoman Lauren Gilstrap, the hangars will probably require some sort of long-term repayment schedule in order for the user fees they generate to cover the cost of construction.

None of the improvements have been formally approved by Wilson or the Pickens County Council, but the $9 million or more needed to pay for the work over the next decade is likely to be raised from several local, state and federal sources beyond airport users.

The improvements would pay off for the county, according to Salinas, by complementing the county’s economic development efforts with the hangar space and support services that many corporate prospects look for when considering Pickens County as a place to set up shop.

Salinas came to the new post well-qualified. His Air Force work included setting up airfields in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Oman to support U.S. military efforts in southern Asia, and he has been a local flight instructor for several years.

Nonetheless, the changes generated some local grumbling.

The Pickens County Council eliminated the county’s Aeronautical Commission when it hired Salinas to run the airport full-time. Council members explained that the move would lead to better long-term planning; in addition, they said Salinas reporting directly to them and Wilson made more sense than having the commission run the airport.

Former commission member Ray Tinkler wished Salinas good luck, but questioned why the commission was eliminated. None of its members were paid for their time and, though only volunteers, they managed to help Cooper get facilities updated and improve the airport’s finances.

“We worked on expansion plans all the time, but we never ran the airport,” said Tinkler. “We worked on the master plan, got the new terminal and hangars built, engaged consultants and got feedback from the FAA. It’s disingenuous for council members to say we weren’t needed...”

Cooper was offered a job under Salinas, but declined, according to county records obtained by The Greenville News and Anderson Independent Mail. Cooper did not respond to a request for comment.

Tinkler said no one should expect the airport to become a cash cow for the county.

“That’s not reasonable – there’s no way that airport becomes a profit center,” Tinkler said. “They aren’t going to be able to bank money from it, but there could be positive revenues from the hangars after they’re built and paid for.”


Tennessee Highway Patrol pilot helps Robertson County authorities locate missing man

ROBERTSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Tennessee Highway Patrol pilot helped Robertson County authorities locate a missing 73-year-old man Sunday.

The missing man was last seen going for a walk Sunday at 11:40 a.m.

The Robertson County Sheriff’s Office called in the THP Aviation division for assistance, and pilot Lieutenant Brad Lund flew to the location and began an aerial search of the area.

Lt. Lund located the missing man approximately ½ mile from his residence lying partially in a creek off of Distillery Road.

Authorities and Emergency Medical Services responded to the location given by the pilot and made contact with the man.

He was removed from the water and transported by EMS for medical treatment.

The THP said he is expected to recover from the incident.


Among the 235 incident reports filed this year with Transport Canada, most related to pilots who aborted a landing due to wind shear

Despite lost engines, novice pilots, wandering wildlife, misunderstood instructions and worn or malfunctioning equipment, nobody died and only two people were injured in Nova Scotia airspace during 2016.

Among the 235 incident reports filed this year with Transport Canada, most related to pilots who aborted a landing due to wind shear, which is wind that blows at a dramatically different speed or direction at different altitudes.

The sudden change affects the lift under plane wings, but despite the difficulty, the pilot came around and landed successfully, usually on the second attempt.

Twice, pilots altered their landing after spotting raccoons — and once a skunk — wandering across a Halifax runway.

Then there were the birds, which collided with planes 35 times over the province.

They included crows, snow buntings, one kestrel, a plover and another that might have been an owl.

The rest were not identified.

Airport crews search runways for bird carcasses after the strikes, but most often the birds fall elsewhere.

Particularly during the summer and early fall, cockpit crews heard a spate of emergency beacon signals that turned out to be false.

In most cases, technicians were working on the devices. In one instance, it was left on accidentally.

In January, while practising in Debert, a student pilot ran into trouble.

“When power was added for takeoff, the aircraft contacted an icy patch and slid into a snow bank. The aircraft overturned and was substantially damaged; there were no injuries,” stated the report.

In March, a Terence Bay man reported seeing a plane on fire crash into the ocean, but searchers did not find anything.

The Transport Canada file is still open.

American-registered planes arrived in the province twice during the year without “an active trans-border flight plan” — once in Yarmouth and once in Port Hawkesbury.

There was no word on charges.

Twice, pilots saw something that looked like a weather balloon drifting through their flight path.

Some of the incidents were harrowing.

Unidentified persons attacked pilots with a laser-pointer three times, prompting ongoing police investigations.

Department of National Defence aircraft twice declared an emergency due to a lost engine, as did Porter Airlines once, and the American Air Force another time.

In one of the DND incidents, “the pilot of the . . . Lockheed C-130 Hercules from Greenwood, N.S. to Charlottetown, P.E.I. indicated they had one engine out and declared an emergency,” states the report. “38,000 lbs of fuel at time of declaration and 9 souls on board.”

The pilot returned to Greenwood and landed successfully.

May 2, as a Piper PA-28R-180 was preparing to land in Debert, “the landing gear was inadvertently left in the retracted position and the aircraft landed with the gear up,” stated the incident report.

“The aircraft came to rest on the runway and sustained minor damage to its propeller and belly. There were no injuries to the pilot and passenger and no post-impact fire.”

In August, a DND Cormorant flying from Greenwood, N.S. to Saint John, N.B. “reported hydraulic problems and conducted an emergency landing in a field,” according to the Transport Canada report.

Occasionally, communication broke down between pilots and the control tower, even after the pilot read back the instructions, as in a flight from Halifax to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

The air traffic controller instructed the pilot to turn left, but the pilot turned right, heading into the path of a second plane that had been cleared to land.

“Controller detected turn error immediately and stopped turn at heading 180 until above traffic and then cleared TSC366 on course,” states the report.

“There was no loss of separation.”

In August, a plane landed at the Sydney airport without authorization.

It later turned out that the pilot had the plane’s radio on the wrong frequency.


Suspect in bizarre Orlando International Airport incident: ‘Don’t do crystal meth’

ORLANDO, Fla. (WESH) — A man suspected of taking off his pants before stealing and driving a luggage cart across a tarmac at Orlando International talked with reporters after bonding out of jail on Monday.

Reporter: Do you have anything to say about this incident?

Richard Hogh: Don’t do crystal meth.

Reporter: Was this a drug-related thing?

Hogh: Don’t do crystal meth.

The 27-year-old Hogh, a Canadian citizen, is charged with grand theft and trespassing. Police said he’d been removed from a flight about to depart for Chicago after acting erratically Friday morning.

According to police, Hogh sat in an unassigned first-class seat, then claimed to be a pilot. He was taken off the plane. Then, a cleaning service employee told police Hogh followed her on to a service elevator. She challenged him for not having an ID badge.

When the elevator door opened, the witness said, Hogh got out, took off his pants and walked into an airport area not accessible to the general public.

Police said Hogh hopped in the passenger seat of an airport luggage vehicle and told the driver he had a flight to catch. Fearing for his safety, the driver got out. Police said Hogh drove onto a taxiway toward an airport fire station.

A firefighter made aware of what was happening hopped on, got the vehicle stopped and with other firefighters subdued him.

A spokeswoman for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority said pilots were told to avoid moving their aircraft. But there was no interruption to flight operations.


Texas Turbines affirms plans to leave Regional Mobility Authority, cites failed hangar lease

Dennis Braner, director of business development at Texas Turbines in Denison, points to some of the work being done on a Cessna in the company's hangar at North Texas Regional Airport - Perrin Field.

Officials with Texas Turbines doubled down on plans to leave North Texas Regional Airport - Perrin Field after announcing the move last week. Texas Turbines President Bobby Bishop made the announcement during a meeting of the Grayson County Regional Mobility Authority board of directors on Dec. 15, citing failed negotiations for a lease of the airport's Westside Hangar.

In 2013, Texas Turbines reached an agreement for the construction and lease of the hangar, but was forced to back out before the project's completion.

"I have come here to inform you that we are no longer going to pursue anything on the west side as far as our company goes," Texas Turbines President Bobby Bishop said during the meeting, placing the company's value at $20 million. "We are going to remove $150,000 from Landmark Bank and close the account today and no longer buy about $150,000 of jet fuel from Texoma Jet Center."

He added that he will also cancel his $90,000 annual hangar rental from the jet center. More than 20 high-wage jobs are also at stake.

Origins and move to NTRA

Despite the news of its upcoming departure, employees for Texas Turbines continued to work the following week on converting several Cessna Caravan aircraft.

Business Development Director Dennis Braner said the majority of the company's business comes from converting single-engine Cessna Caravans from their stock engines to more powerful, 900-horsepower Honeywell engines and equipment. By default, the aircraft comes equipped with a 600-horsepower engine, but recent models have increased the power to about 870 horsepower.

Each conversion for the $2.5 million aircraft costs about $700,000. Braner said the company has converted an average of 12 aircraft each year since the company started work in 2008. Texas Turbines is in the process of becoming certified to work on the Cessna Conquest aircraft. In addition to the conversions, Braner said, the company was also able to make money by selling the stock pieces on the secondary market.

Texas Turbines President Bobby Bishop said he started the company in his own private hangar in Celina in 2008. By June of 2012, Bishop said the business had outgrown its current space, and he began looking for a larger facility on a public airport.

Bishop said he initially approached McKinney National Airport, but also spoke with NTRA Director Mike Shahan and Marketing Director Bill Retz, who have both since left the airport. During Bishop's comments before the NTRA board, he expressed his admiration for both Shahan and Retz.

"They both were actually very energetic and so we came up here to meet," Bishop said.

Through the meetings, Bishop said, both Retz and Shahan seemed enthusiastic about the possibility of Texas Turbines moving to NTRA and began discussions on an agreement for a facility that could house the company.

"Bill Retz said, 'What if we just give you a $1 million to build a new hangar,' and I thought that was very motivating," Bishop said.

Through these conversations, Bishop later discovered that Retz was referring to insurance funds that the airport received related to two buildings that were totaled in a storm.

In a phone conversation Wednesday, Retz said he does not recall the specific conversation or offering to give Bishop the funds for the hangar, describing it as a "ridiculous statement."

Bishop said it was later discovered that the funds couldn't simply be given to him, and instead a lease agreement for what would later be named the Westside Hangar would need to be made.

Agreement and fallout

After about six months of negotiations, Bishop said, a 40-year lease agreement was reached and then signed in February 2013. Under the terms of the agreement, Texas Turbines would pay $6,181 per month in rent for the lease of the Westside Hangar for the first 20 years of the agreement, Bishop said.

After the first five years, an additional $1,000 would be paid each month in the form of a land use fee. After the first 20 years, the hangar payments would cease and Texas Turbines would only pay the lane use fees each month, Bishop said. In total, Texas Turbines would pay about $1.2 million for the hangar construction, with $180,000 paid in the form of three $60,000 payments over the course of construction.

By April, however, the situation with Texas Turbines had changed when Honeywell Aerospace, the manufacturer of the company's engine components, announced problems with its production line. Bishop said Honeywell was estimating it would take six months to a year before it was able to ship the components that Texas Turbines needed for its conversions. This compounded with personal issues Bishop said he was facing at the time.

"I spoke to Judge (Drue) Bynum and said because of what was ongoing at the time, I didn't think it was wise to move forward as a company until we have better insight into where Honeywell would be and where the others things that were going on would be," he said.

That month, Grayson County Commissioners and the RMA agreed to let Texas Turbines out of the lease, but kept the $60,000 initial payment as a penalty for the broken contract. At the time, the parties agreed to plan to return to negotiations in six to 12 months after the issues with Honeywell had resolved, Bishop said.

Negotiations break down

After nearly a year, in which Texas Turbines continued to lease a hangar through Lake Texoma Jet Center, the company was ready to return to the negotiations in early 2014 for the now completed hangar. Bishop said these discussions included evaluations based on an appraisal performed in 2013 on the yet-to-be completed Westside Hangar and two other airport buildings.

Other parts of the negotiation centered on the completion of the hangar, which is still in a shell state, and if Texas Turbines would be reimbursed for those expenses. Bishop said the leases discussed ranged from about $7,500 a month to $10,000.

Other factors included the length of the lease, which ranged from 10 years to 40 years. In aviation, the standard terms for a lease are either 40 years or 20 years with an option for an additional 20 years, Bishop said.

Bishop attributed part of these changes to mixed messages he received from the RMA on the length of lease it would like to see for the hangar.
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Retz confirmed that multiple drafts of contract agreements were made during this time, but none were successful when taken to the RMA Board.

"Once again we'd take a deal to the RMA Board and then it would turn out we didn't have a deal after all," he said with a laugh.

In March of 2014, Bishop offered to purchase the building outright for $1.25 million, but this offer was also declined, he said. These negotiations continued until October 2015 when Texas Turbines ceased efforts and planned to return to Celina. Bishop said he could build a hangar of the same specifications as the Westside Hangar for less than $1 million in his hometown.

Just as he was preparing to finalize plans for the new hangar, Bishop learned that there would be new management at NTRA. Bishop said he was convinced by Braner to give negotiations one last attempt before moving on.

"I thought it would be futile and a waste of time, as it turned out to be," he said.

Negotiations start, then stall again

In May, Texas Aviation Partners was awarded a contract for the daily management and marketing of NTRA. As a part of these duties, Texas Aviation Partners is responsible for marketing the airport and promoting it to new tenants and future development.

Bishop said conversations about the Westside Hangar started early in the summer with negotiations shifting between rates to if Texas Turbines would be responsible for and reimbursed for improvements to the site.

"This went on until September and we went into October and we thought we were close," Braner said, adding that the parties were scheduled to discuss agreements at the October RMA meeting. An executive session item during October's meeting referred to economic development negotiations and "deliberations about the exchange, lease or value of real property."

With discussions expected in the next board meeting, officials with Texas Turbines were optimistic that an agreement could be reached quickly.

"We were told continuously by Stephen Alexander that we were in the ballpark and they just needed to do due diligence in assessing the value of the hangar," Texas Turbines General Manager Catherine Brooks said.

Before the October meeting, however, Texas Turbines was told the item would be removed from the agenda as the airport committee had been recreated and would handle negotiations. At the time, Bishop said, it was believed that this would expedite the process.

Bishop said Texas Turbines submitted eight binders of information and airport applications to Texas Aviation as a part of these discussions with the committee. This included evaluations of tax assessments and valuations on the hangar that were used in coming up with the offered lease rate.

However, in the lead up to December's meeting Texas Aviation made an offer of $14,000 per month - nearly double the $7,500 per month that Texas Turbines was seeking.

"When he asked for a counter offer, I told him you are so far off that we aren't in the same ballpark," Braner said.

Brooks said they have been able to prove where they are getting their valuations, but she has yet to receive any similar documents from Texas Aviation.

Alexander said negotiations started almost as soon as Texas Aviation arrived at the airport. However Texas Aviation's attention was pulled away due to the need to assist in recruiting a new airport director. While he was in agreement on the general terms of the lease, Alexander said he and Texas Aviation never made any statements to Texas Turbines regarding price as the value had yet to be determined.

"To give an opinion on if it was an appropriate rate was unfair," he said. "We hadn't even set the rate yet up to that point."

Alexander said Texas Aviation came to the proposed rate after looking at rates offered at 20 other airports. These included nearby airports in Dallas-Fort Worth, but also included other rural airports in similar size to NTRA, he said.

Moving Forward

Bishop said he made the announcement to his 21 employees last week that the business would leave the airport with plans to return to Celina. Bishop said the average pay for each of his employees is about $58,000. While it may be easy for the airport to market the hangar for storage, it wouldn't create the workforce or wages that Texas Turbines does, he said.

In addition to the Westside Hangar, Bishop said there were plans to rent additional hangar space to expand the company further. However, those plans have since been abandoned.

When asked if there was any way to salvage the relationship with the airport, Bishop said it would take a full turnover of the RMA Board to do so due to how poorly the negotiations went.

Bishop said multiple offers were made to allow RMA members to tour and see the Texas Turbines operations, but these offers were never accepted. Bishop went on to highlight Board Chairman Clyde Siebman as a part of the problems with the negotiations, noting his lack of experience with the aviation industry and general demeanor in discussions.

When asked for comment on the negotiations, Siebman said he has not spoken with representatives for Texas Turbines since the last RMA meeting. As the company has announced plans to leave, he said there is little reason to return to these talks.

"Unless they are willing to pay a much higher lease rate than they are willing to, I see no reason to renew those discussions," Siebman said.


New Flights, Lower Fares Highlight Busy 2016 for Memphis International Airport

2016 was a big year for Memphis International Airport. New flights, lower airfares and ongoing adjustments to life after the Delta Air Lines Inc. de-hubbing were the permeating themes of 2016.

In total, seven flights were added and two more were announced that won’t begin until 2017.

One of the announced destinations, a nonstop international flight to Toronto through Air Canada, is one of the biggest accomplishments of the year.

Air Canada’s return to Memphis marks the first daily international service since 2012, when the company last operated here.

One of the biggest issues the airport faced after Delta removed its hub status in 2013 was replacing the high volume of flights and destinations Delta offered, so the return of Air Canada is a huge milestone, because it offers access to more than just the Great White North.

“Memphis has been an important destination for Air Canada,” Patrick Khoury, director of sales, U.S.A. at Air Canada, said. “We simply were not able to make a profit with that route previously, but now we know for certain that we’ve got the right airplane on the right route at the right time to generate a profit.”

The return to Memphis is a part of the airline’s overall strategy to increase flights into the U.S., Khoury said.

“We know it’s going to appeal to both people on business as well as folks going on leisure holiday vacations,” he said.

Air Canada is also adding flights to and from Denver, Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio.

However, the biggest benefit to Memphians is the access that Toronto Pearson International Airport provides to worldwide destinations.

“The airport is quite literary on the cusp of becoming a mega hub, which all by itself is extraordinary,” Khoury said about the Toronto airport. “You pick the city and we’re probably going there.”

Air Canada recently added a flight to Casablanca, Morocco that marks the sixth continent the airline flies to, a feat that Khoury said only a dozen or so airlines worldwide can accomplish.

“We’re growing very quickly right now and perhaps by the year 2020, you may see Air Canada break into the world’s top 10 airlines,” Khoury said. “That growth is going to come from places other than Canada. Memphis is a good example of that and why we are so keen to tell our story to the U.S. marketplace.”

Another announced route is a Southern Airways Express flight to Harrison, Arkansas, which starts in January.

The flight might not cross any international borders, but Scott Brockman, president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, said it’s still an important route because there are business connections between local companies and operations in Harrison. FedEx Corp. has freight operations there.

In addition to new routes, Memphis International also continued to reduce its fares.

“Our airfares have dropped 6 percent in 2016 alone, or the equivalent of $27 average per round-trip ticket,” Brockman said.

Since Delta decided to no longer use Memphis International as a hub, airfares have dropped by more than $150 per ticket.

“You’re not going to get lower airfares when you have a hub,” Brockman said. “There is tradeoff for having 91 nonstop destinations, which is what we had. There is a tradeoff for having 300-plus flights a day – and that is high airfares.”

Along with the new flights, some airlines have upgraded the size of airplanes used on existing routes, helping to add 9.3 percent of seating capacity during 2016, which is the equivalent of 605 seats a day.

For 2017, Brockman expects to see continued growth in passenger numbers, but at a slower rate.

“I don’t know if we can do seven new routes in 2017 – mainly because we’re an origin-and-destination market now,” Brockman said. “We have to earn and defend every route we get.”

Passengers transferring to other flights in Memphis to reach their intended destination accounted for a significant amount of traffic at Memphis International when Delta operated a hub here.

“When we were a hub, only 20 percent of our total passengers were origin and destination, the rest were what would be referred to as transfer passengers,” Brockman said.

In 2016, Memphis International Airport received the Peggy G. Hereford Award, which is given to the airport with the best marketing and communication program in North America by the Airport Operators Council International - North America.

Brockman credited the hiring of public information officer Glen Thomas, who joined three years ago, as the driving force behind receiving the award.

“In three short years we went from not having a program to being an award-winning program,” Brockman said.