Monday, January 2, 2017

Raytheon Hawker 800XP, Zoom Aviation LLC, N910JD: Accident occurred January 02, 2017 at Scottsdale Airport (KSDL), Maricopa County, Arizona

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

Zoom Aviation LLC:

FAA Flight Standards District Office: SCOTTSDALE

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:  

NTSB Identification: WPR17LA049

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, January 02, 2017 in Scottsdale, AZ
Aircraft: RAYTHEON AIRCRAFT COMPANY HAWKER 800XP, registration: N910JD
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

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

On January 2, 2017, about 1643 mountain standard time, a Hawker 800XP, N910JD sustained substantial damage when the nose landing gear collapsed during a landing roll at Scottsdale Airport (SDL), Scottsdale, Arizona. The two pilots, both airline transport pilots, were not injuried. The airplane was registered to Zoom Aviation, LLC, and operated by Pinnacle Air Charter, LLC, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument rules flight plan. The flight originated from Tucson International Airport, Tucson, Arizona at 1532.

The pilot reported that, during the approach to SDL, the nose landing gear (NLG) light was red, which indicated that the NLG was not down and locked. In order to assess the situation, the pilot exited the traffic pattern, and referred to the emergency checklist. After using the hand pump to lower the landing gear manually, the red light still indicated that the NGL was up. The pilot asked the tower for a landing gear check and the tower replied that it appeared the NLG was down and straight. The pilot executed a normal landing, and as the airplane started to slow down, about 35-40 knots, the nose gear collapsed. The airplane came to rest about 50 yards down the runway from the location where the NLG collapsed.

A small passenger jet attempting to touch down at Scottsdale Airport had a "hard landing" Monday afternoon after its landing gear failed, according to airport officials.

The incident shut down the airport's lone runway for more than two hours, with aircraft being diverted to Deer Valley, Phoenix Sky Harbor International and other nearby airports.

Sarah Ferrara, aviation planning and outreach coordinator for Scottsdale Airport, said two crew members had been on board the Hawker-brand jet.

No one on board was injured, according to Scottsdale Fire officials.

At about 6:15 p.m., the jet was resting on the runway tilted forward onto the nose, and six people were inspecting the aircraft.

Ferrara indicated the plane belonged to Scottsdale-based Pinnacle Aviation, which provides private charter services.

Read more here:

SCOTTSDALE, AZ (KPHO/KTVK) - Scottsdale Airport is closed after a plane's landing gear collapsed Monday afternoon.

According to airport officials, a Hawker jet reported issues with the landing gear, which collapsed upon landing.

It's unknown how many people were on board, but a Scottsdale Fire Department spokesman said there were no reported injuries.

Story and video: 

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - Officials at Scottsdale Airport say a private jet experienced problems with landing gear on the runway Tuesday afternoon.

An airport spokesperson said the Hawker Jet's gear collapsed upon landing at the airport near Scottsdale Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard.

No injuries were reported, a Scottsdale Fire spokesperson said and characterized the incident as a hard landing. An airport spokesperson said only two crew members were on board.

The airport is closed until further notice.

Story and video:

Direct flights to Toronto coming to San Antonio International Airport

SAN ANTONIO -- San Antonio travelers will soon have a new international destination for non-stop flights. It's outside Mexico and way north.

For the first time, travelers will be able to fly direct from San Antonio to Canada's largest city.

Starting May 1, the San Antonio International Airport will send flights straight to Toronto every day via Air Canada.

"Mexico has always been very popular coming and going, but now to say that we have another country as well, which is Canada, it makes sense because we're a straight shot to Canada," said Evelynn Bailey, Senior Public Information Officer of the San Antonio International Airport.

A quick check on shows flights out on May 1 that return four days later cost under $400.

The non-stop flight lasts roughly three hours.

"So book your flights now because you can get on in Texas and get off in Canada," Bailey said.

Air Canada will be the 11th carrier providing air service from San Antonio. There are now 38 non-stop destinations served by SAT in three countries: Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

This comes shortly after San Antonio airport officials announced direct flights to Kansas City.

Just in time for your May flight, construction should be wrapping up in the airport's new parking garage and rental car facility, known as a CONRAC (Consolidated Rental Car and Public Parking Facility).

"For those folks that need the short-term parking, that hourly parking, you're going to have that back," Bailey said.

The 1.8 million square foot garage will be seven stories tall. The first two levels will be for parking, and the rest will house up to 14 rental car brands.

Instead of a walkway around the building, a sky bridge will connect the garage to Terminal B and serve as the entry and exit point for rental car customers to the terminals.

"People that are renting cars can return the cars in the same place, get on a bridge, walk across the street and you're back," Bailey said.

Bailey said the construction is ahead of schedule and the parking section of the garage is set to be complete as early as April. The Rental Car Customer Center is projected to open March 2018.

The San Antonio International Airport's website provides real-time parking availability while construction continues. Visit for updated information on parking and construction updates.

Story and video:

West Virginia pilot crosses Boeing 737 off his 'bucket list'

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Gary Rodis has flown turbo-prop planes and helicopters in dozens of places around the world for 25 years for the federal government, but never flew a big jet like a Boeing 737.

He climbed into a 737 simulator a month ago, and he received certification to fly the big plane.

The program he enrolled in at the accelerated training course in Atwater, Calif., required spending 40 hours studying at home before taking on the simulator in California.

“I wasn’t overwhelmed at the array of buttons, knobs, screens and controls in that cockpit, but I was challenged at first," he said. "This was an accelerated 10-day training schedule."

Rodis, 60, of Charles Town, completed the program Dec. 10 and received his Federal Aviation Administration certification as a 737 pilot.

“I know now I can land a 737, but it was never about that," he said. "It’s about my bucket list. Something I had to accomplish, something I felt I really had to try. It’s never been about looking for a job flying big jets.”

Rodis said the training program cost about $11,000.

“I encouraged Gary to take the course,” said his wife, Sonjia. “I knew if he didn’t try, he would always regret it.”

He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1974 out of high school. He served until 1984, leaving as a staff sergeant.

He never flew planes for the Air Force, but he took private flying lessons during those years.

“I’ve wanted to fly planes all my life,” he said.

His formal education, paid for, in part, by the Air Force’s Tuition Assistance Program, included a bachelor's degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., and an MBA from Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

For three years after his discharge, Rodis worked as an air-traffic controller.

In 1987, he was hired as a pilot to fly single- and twin-engine turbo-prop planes and helicopters for the U.S. Justice Department’s Air Wing Section after three months of training at the U.S. Marine Base at Quantico, Va.

For the next 25 years, Rodis flew Justice Department planes and helicopters around the world, flying criminal investigation, support, medical, cargo, passenger and evacuation missions for most federal agencies in and out of combat zones, as well as missions in allied countries.

He flew missions in North and South America, Africa, and in Middle and Far East countries.

The planes he flew weren't armed, he said.

Gary and Sonjia moved to their home on Eastland Drive outside Charles Town 14 years ago.


Mesa Airlines, Embraer ERJ 170-200LR, N87302: Incident occurred August 18, 2018 at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (KIAH), Houston, Texas and Incident occurred January 01, 2017 at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (KCLT), North Carolina

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Houston, Texas 

Flight Number 6119:  Struck a bird on final.  

United Airlines Inc

Date: 18-AUG-18
Time: 16:20:00Z
Regis#: N87302
Aircraft Make: EMBRAER
Aircraft Model: ERJ 170 200 LR
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Flight Phase: APPROACH (APR)
Operation: 121
Aircraft Operator: MESA AIRLINES
Flight Number: 6119
State: TEXAS

January 01, 2017:   CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A baggage handler spent a flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, to northern Virginia locked inside the plane’s cargo hold Sunday afternoon.

At some point during United Express Flight 6060, authorities learned a man was locked in the baggage compartment, so Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Fire and Rescue crews met the plane when it arrived at Dulles International Airport at 4:16 p.m.

The man appeared to be OK and refused medical treatment.

The man wore a Charlotte baggage handler’s uniform and had identification from baggage handling vendor G2 Secure Staff, but he said he left his airport ID in his locker at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, prompting a security concern. Police wanted to make sure the man really was a baggage handler and not a stowaway.

“We're going to work it as a security incident until we can get some confirmation that he is who is even though he's in trade dress for a ramp worker in Charlotte,” someone said on emergency dispatch. “The flight crew doesn't remember seeing him or anything like that.”

United Airlines confirmed the incident in a statement Monday.

“Once at the gate, an employee of the airline's ground handling vendor was found unharmed in the aircraft's cargo hold,” the statement said. “We are looking into what happened.”

News4 emailed G2 Secure Staff for comment and is waiting for a reply.

It’s unclear how the baggage handler became locked in the baggage compartment or how his presence there was discovered.

Original article can be found here:

Weather causes a few delays at Rapid City Regional Airport

RAPID CITY, S.D. ( KOTA TV) Rapid City Regional Airport was busy Monday afternoon despite foggy skies and blowing snow.

The airport was filled with hundreds of passengers returning home after the holidays.

"I guess it's not really too bad I just kind of go with the flow. Hopefully everything will work out, I have quite a few connecting flights so that would be nice if the delays would not happen," said traveler Savanna Sperle.

All morning departures flew out on time, and all flights were able to get to their destinations. Many afternoon flights to and from Denver, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City were delayed for a few hours due to the weather.

Many travelers heading south say the weather conditions made them a little nervous to fly, but they're ready to get to their destinations.

'It's kind of frustrating because I have two small children, but what can we do? It's the snow and we can't do anything about the weather but still it's fun," said traveler Lisa Mahoney.

The airport advises travelers to check their airline regarding the status of their flight.


Sunwing Airlines on drunk pilot arrested in Calgary: all foreign pilots trained, approved

Two days after a pilot was found unconscious in a cockpit before takeoff and tested at more than three times the legal alcohol limit just hours later, Sunwing Airlines is answering questions on how foreign pilots are hired.

Miroslav Gronych, a Slovakian national in Canada on a work visa, was escorted from the aircraft after gate crew and the co-pilot noticed odd behavior and alerted police. He was charged with having care and control of an aircraft while impaired and having care and control of an aircraft while having a blood alcohol level over .08 (or exceeding 80 mgs of alcohol per 100mL of blood).

Sunwing Airlines said it currently employs about 350 Canadian pilots and contracts up to 60 foreign pilots in a Monday statement sent to Global News. Spokesperson Jacqueline Grossman called it “an important factor in the business’s growth and profitability and enabled Sunwing to offer unbeatable value on affordable vacations.”

“All pilots operating in Canada must be qualified to do so,” Grossman wrote.

“All of the foreign pilots are licensed by EASA and receive a foreign licence validation from Transport Canada. In addition all foreign pilots receive training and are approved by Sunwing’s flight operations training department before being approved to fly Sunwing aircraft.”

She wrote all pilots must also have a minimum number of commercial flight hours on a B737 aircraft before operating such a plane.

“Canadian pilots and aircraft are contracted to European carriers in the summer season and Sunwing reciprocates by taking in European pilots and planes in the winter,” she said, citing the “highly seasonal nature of the Canadian vacation industry.”

Watch below: The Calgary Police Service has charged a pilot that was found to be impaired prior to an aircraft departure. According to investigators, the captain of the plane was passed out in the cockpit. Reid Fiest reports.

Sunwing employs over 2,000 Canadians and serves over two million customers annually, she said.

Grossman did not include an answer when asked if Sunwing tests for alcohol impairment and if so, how often.

Transport Canada declined to comment on what guidelines pilots would receive related to impairment as part of its foreign licence validation.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) did not immediately answer a Global News request.

Alcohol impairment at three times legal limit

Dr. Gregg Bendrick, an aerospace medicine specialist in California, said it’s not unheard of for pilots to be found intoxicated prior to takeoff in the United States, adding “that’s one of the reasons why regulatory authorities have programs in place, to identify these problems.”

Bendrick also works as a senior aviation medical examiner with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and said there is a clear drug and alcohol testing program for commercial airline pilots in the U.S., which includes a random testing component. He said anyone identified as impaired would then be evaluated to see if they suffer from alcoholism.

“I’m not defending alcohol-impaired pilots, but I will say pilots—like any other humans—are subject to chemical and substance abuse disorders,” he said.

“I don’t think it should be surprising that we have mechanisms in place to test pilots and identify them and get them the help they need and remove them from cockpits.”

Bendrick said alcohol has very well-defined performance effects related to how people perceive incoming information and execute appropriate responses.

“With alcohol, those effects are fairly consistent with the blood alcohol content and don’t tend to vary much from individuals,” he said. “How individuals are able to cover that up and still seem to function can vary with their experience in drinking.”

Bendrick, who is also an instructor in the University of Southern California’s aviation safety and security program, said the reading of “three times the legal limit” reported by Calgary police would mean a reading of about 2.4 mgs of alcohol per 100mL of blood, raising the possibility of an addiction.

“Somebody in a workplace setting where they have a really high level—especially if over 200 (the 2.00 reading)—this is somebody that really one has to think: this is not the first time that they’ve been at a work environment where they’ve been intoxicated,” he said. “This is an experienced drinker who would have that much alcohol on board and still be able to report for work.

“It’s arguable whether he’s ‘able to’ if he’s passed out, but he showed up apparently ready to fly an airplane with a very high amount of alcohol on board. Those features suggest to me [he] might have an alcohol dependency problem. That’s a much more deep-rooted problem to address, particularly in a professional pilot.”

Calgary police said Gronych was released on bail and is set to appear in court Jan. 5.

Story and video:

United Airlines, Boeing 787-9, N27959: 'They diverted the plane because I complained to some fat f***': More footage emerges of man who went a sexist rant that forced a United Airlines flight to land in New Zealand

A man whose alleged 'bigoted' outburst and erratic behavior caused a plane to be diverted and delayed for 24 hours won't be charged.

His behavior aboard United Airlines flight UA870 from Sydney to San Francisco caused the flight to be diverted to Auckland, New Zealand, making those aboard more than a day late to their destination and potentially costing the airline $150,000.

New Zealand Police said it wasn't expected the 42-year-old would be charged, however, he was detained to be sent back to his point of origin, the NZ Herald reported. 

Video from aboard the plane on Sunday shows the man on a phone, saying: 'Tell my dad to get his law firm ready because United Airlines just diverted the f***ing plane because I complained to some fat f**k who got in my f***ing face'.

He then gestures rudely at the person recording him and claims it's not his fault the flight was diverted.

Passenger Peter Barrett said the man was so aggravated he seemed near to physical violence, scaring passengers, the NZ Herald reported.

'At one point he went to the bathroom for 20 minutes which raised more than a few eyebrows. 

'The behavior seemed more like a pharmacological excess or deficit than simple alcohol.'

Mr. Barrett praised the cabin crew for their actions during the ordeal while another man said some passengers had been briefed in restraining techniques in case the man got 'physical'. 

The plane left Sydney just after 1pm on Sunday and turned back to Auckland after they were denied permission to land in Fiji or American Samoa.

Another passenger described the man, a Caucasian, as a 'bigoted passenger [that] screamed... misogynistic [and] disturbing words' to everyone.

Anjou Ahlborn Kay captured some of the drama on video which she posted on Facebook.

The two short videos she took showed the man arguing with a cabin crew member and then being frogmarched off the plane by New Zealand police officers.

New Zealand police said the man was 'badly behaved' and was arrested on arrival before being referred to immigration.

A United Airlines spokeswoman said the flight was diverted because a passenger failed to follow crew instructions.

All 252 passengers had to be put up in hotels overnight.

An aviation expert, Irene King, said the incident would have cost United Airlines $150,000.

She also said when international flights landed in New Zealand, the country's law could apply, 1 news reported. 

Read more:

A plane on its way from Sydney to United States had to divert after an angry passenger swore at a flight attendant and called her a ‘fat arse’.

Other passengers filmed the encounter as the man was abusive to staff, ranting: ‘I’m not yelling at you – but do you want me to f*cking yell?

When warned that his behavior could lead to the plane being turned around, he responds: ‘Do you know how cool it would be to have the airplane turned around? You’d do that?’

He then continues: ‘I’m getting so impolite aren’t I? Fat arse.’

Video from the cabin shows the argument, as well as the consequences when police arrived during the aircraft’s impromptu stop in New Zealand, so he could be arrested.

Anjou Ahlborn Kay, a passenger, shared the footage on Facebook where she described the man as ‘bigoted’ and ‘disturbing’.

He allegedly became angry when two passengers who knew each other were seated either side of him, and started having a conversation over him.

The two passengers were described as being of Indian or Pakistani descent, and the man was accused of racism as he had a problem sitting with them.

‘If you guys treat people right on these things, you see two last names the same don’t put someone else in the middle of them,’ he tells the flight attendant in the video.

The United Airlines flight had been bound directly for San Francisco on New Year’s Day, but had to make the unscheduled stop in Auckland.

All 252 passengers on board had to be put up in hotels overnight.

A witness told the New Zealand Herald: ‘The rant progressed from cursing Indians to Asians to Muslims to non-whites in general and calling flight crew f****** and fat asses,’ he said.

‘He was subdued after the pilot announced the diversion to Auckland.’

Police said the man, aged 42, was arrested on arrival before being referred to immigration.

National border manager Senta Jehle told the paper that the man was an American national.

‘He was refused entry to New Zealand as he did not meet entry and border requirements,’ he said.

‘He is now in police custody while arrangements are made for him to board a flight back to the United States.’

Story, video and photos:

Tulsa’s Airports Director leaving after meeting numerous challenges

When Jeff Mulder came to Tulsa for an interview nearly 12 years ago, the only thing he knew about Oklahoma was what he had read in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”

“I did not have any idea what to expect” he said.

Shortly after arriving for his interview, Mulder recalled, he called his wife and told her about the trees and hills in Tulsa.

The job worked out, and Mulder became Tulsa’s airports director in May 2005.

But the man overseeing Tulsa International Airport and R.L. Jones Jr. Airport has walked out the door after 11½ years, leaving at the end of last year to become executive director of Southwest Florida International Airport and Page Field in Fort Myers, Florida.

He submitted his resignation to the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust Board in late October, effective Dec. 31.

Mulder said among his accomplishments while serving here was the rebuilding the main runway at Tulsa International Airport.

The challenge was to have minimal impact on flights — particularly airline service — while reconstructing the intersection of the north-south runway, the airport’s longest, with its secondary east-west strip.

It is “good for the next 25 years,” Mulder said, who described the 9,999 feet of concrete as the “most important part of infrastructure in northeast Oklahoma” because of all the jobs at Tulsa International.

One issue Mulder inherited was the fallout from the origins and bankruptcy of Tulsa-based Great Plains Airlines and the lawsuits that resulted between the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust and the Bank of Oklahoma.

“It impacted everything when issuing bonds” for development, Mulder said.

The $15.56 million lawsuit was settled in late 2015. It was initiated in 2013, but had its origins dated back to November 2000.

Completing the noise abatement project around Tulsa International, updating the terminal concourses, expanding the parking garage — all multi-million dollar projects — and transferring the airports from a city department into a stand-alone entity are also at the top of Mulder’s list of accomplishments.

Being a stand-alone entity has “helped a lot, because we can move a lot quicker,” he said. Tulsa is one of several airports to have taken that course because they “can be more responsive, especially to airline needs,” he said.

Instead of being city employees, the airport staff is now directly employed by the airport. As a result, Mulder no longer has to wear the multiple hats he donned while serving over a number of departments related to the city’s infrastructure and transit system from 2009 to ‘13.

All that was done from his airport office, since he was, Mulder said, “not involved in day-to-day” activities.

He also served a year as chairman of the American Association of Airport Executives with some 5,100 members from 3,300 airports and 500 corporate members. His term ended this past June.

Mulder said the past three mayors — Bill LaFortune, Kathy Taylor and Dewey F. Bartlett, Jr. — all have been supportive of the airport, and the community “is very supportive of the airport.”

With 11½ years at the helm, Mulder ranks fourth for longevity among the seven men who have run the airport since 1928 — the three with more: Charlie Short, 27 years; and Pat Combs and Brent Kitchen, 16 years each. In addition, Mike Kier, director of the city’s finance department, worked as interim director for a year beginning in 2004. There was a contested manager for two week in 1932.

Prior to coming to Tulsa, Mulder had been director of the Outagamie County Regional Airport in Appleton, Wisconsin. The Michigan native previously served in various positions, beginning in 1988, at the New Orleans International Airport, Evansville Regional Airport in Indiana and Milwaukee’s International Airport.

Mulder already knows some of the challenges he will face in his new post in Fort Myers. The airport has just a single runway, leaving it at risk of seeing all flights to be diverted to either Miami or Tampa if something happens to shut down its lifeline, he said.

The airport is served by more airlines than Tulsa International and handles more passengers per year, most of them during the three-month period beginning each December.

It also has three security checkpoints, causing bottlenecks.

That is a reversal of Tulsa International, which has one checkpoint and three runways.

As to his successor, Mulder said, “some good qualified people” have applied for the post and he was “impressed with the list (of candidates)” he saw.

Alex Higgins, deputy airports director for marketing and community relations, has been named by the trust to serve as interim airports director until a new director has been selected.

Mulder’s said his successor will receive an annual salary of more than $150,000, and the trust will probably concentrate on a deputy director at an airport similar in size to Tulsa or larger.

Tulsa is “great place to be an airport director,” he said.


Sun Country seeks delay in start of Cuba flights

Sun Country Airlines, which recently won permission to start two routes from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Cuba, wants more time before it starts flying them.

Sun Country last month asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to push back the start date of the routes to December 2017. The Mendota Heights-based airline had been expected to start flying the routes — between MSP and the Cuban cities of Santa Clara and Matanzas — as soon as March.

The airline currently offers service between St. Thomas and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

“Given the continued travel and trade embargo constraints with Cuba, our request to start service at a later date is to ensure our customers will have an easy and enjoyable experience when traveling to Cuba on Sun Country Airlines,” Kelsey Dodson-Smith, Sun Country’s marketing chief, said via email Thursday.

In its filing with the DOT, Sun Country said it hopes to mitigate the barriers from the trade embargo and overcome some operational challenges in the Cuban destinations, which are smaller and less well-known than the capital of Havana.

The airline is particularly strong in leisure travel and, during winter, raises the number of flights to warm-weather destinations from Midwest markets.

Santa Clara is the capital of the Villa Clara province in central Cuba and Matanzas is capital of the Matanzas province on the country’s north coast, close to the resort town of Varadero and about 65 miles from Havana.

Over the decades that Americans were forbidden from visiting Cuba, Varadero became a destination for European, Canadian and South American tourists.

Sun Country was one of six U.S. airlines to be awarded routes by the DOT earlier this year, a step that came after the U.S. government restored diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2014.

Delta Air Lines, the dominant operator at Minneapolis-St. Paul, won permission to fly to Havana from Atlanta, Miami and New York, and started the daily service on Dec. 1.

Delta sought no routes to Cuba from Minnesota. Atlanta is the airline’s headquarters and biggest hub, while Miami has the largest Cuban-American population in the U.S. and New York the second-largest. 


Greenbrier Valley Airport suspends Via Air service

LEWISBURG — Kinder Tuckwiller’s New Year’s plans didn’t include being stranded at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, but when flights between Charlotte and Greenbrier Valley Airport were suddenly and unexpectedly halted Saturday, that was where he spent it.

“There was no forewarning, no notification, nothing from Via Air,” he said Sunday afternoon, sitting at the airport waiting for another flight. “It’s not like [Via Air] have to contact everybody on a 737; their flights have 30 people at the most.”

Stephen Snyder, director of Greenbrier Valley Airport, said the airport leaders decided after an extended meeting – which started Friday night and stretched into Saturday morning – to take emergency action by suspending Via Air operations at 8:25 a.m. Saturday. 

Snyder said Sunday afternoon the suspension decision is temporary and he could not comment beyond a press release. “Greenbrier Valley Airport is committed to every aspect of our passengers’ experience. We will relentlessly continue our work to ensure the people of our region are properly served,” the airport’s two-paragraph press release read. 

Snyder said more information may be released later this week.

Greenbrier County Commissioner and Airport Authority member Michael McClung said Sunday, “I think Stephen’s words are accurate and have to be sufficient for now.”

McClung didn’t know if meetings were scheduled between the airport and Via Air or when the suspension would be lifted.

Tension between the airport authority and Via Air has been widely reported. Both Snyder and Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester described the airline’s recent decision, performance and conduct as “unconscionable.”

Messages with Via Air’s corporate office went unreturned Sunday afternoon. On the company’s website all flight information regarding Greenbrier Valley Airport had been deleted, including the press release announcing the start of air service.

A long-awaited two-year contract for Via Airlines Inc. to provide Essential Air Service for Greenbrier Valley was announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation in September. The contract specifies that the airline would provide 12 nonstop round-trip flights per week between Greenbrier Valley and Charlotte Douglas International Airport starting Oct. 1.

Part of the agreement was that, subject to availability of funds, the federal government would give Via Air an annual subsidy of $4,731,866 to provide the service. Regular fares for Greenbrier Valley flights range from $39 to $59 each way, inclusive of all fees and taxes. An email and call to the Federal Aviation Administration, about the future of the subsidy or if Via Air has already been paid, went unreturned Sunday.

Via Air’s proposal emphasized, “(B)eing on time is part of our core service.” The airline replaced Silver Airways. Prior to Via Air, airport officials were critical of Silver Airways’ lack of on-time arrivals and departures. In a series of letters to federal officials endorsing Via Air, Snyder blasted Silver for what he said was only a 90 percent flight completion rate.

The arrival of Via Air to Greenbrier Valley Airport was met with much pomp. In June, Snyder said, “Greenbrier Valley Airport has received numerous positive public comments on Via Air from customers who have utilized their services. Additionally, the comments regarding their proposal of a Charlotte market have been very well received.”

But stranded in Charlotte, nearly 300 miles from home, Tuckwiller had nothing positive for Via Air. When he departed on Thursday, his original flight was canceled, then combined with another one. The new flight was slated for an 12:48 p.m. takeoff but wasn’t airborne until after 3 p.m. 

Tuckwiller has taken the $40 Lewisburg-to-Charlotte flight five times, of which three had some departure and arrival issues. “If I cannot count on meeting my connecting flight ... what good is their service to me?” he asked. 

The staff scientist for Core Environmental Services flies frequently to visit his girlfriend in Detroit, using the Charlotte airport as a connector. Sunday afternoon, he was finally booked on a flight to an airport near Harrisonburg, Va., where his father will pick him up. 

In recent years, Via Air has inked deals with five small airports in West Virginia, including Raleigh County Memorial Airport. Tom Cochran, the manager of Raleigh County Memorial Airport, said that airport has had no problems with the airline in the last two years.

“Our service is running as usual,” he said. “Right now I am very confident in their service.”

Via Air uses an Embraer EMB 120, a 30-seater turbo prop, at Raleigh County’s airport, while at Greenbrier Valley Airport it flies the larger 50-seat ERJ-145 jet, which could be the reason for the difference in services, said Cochran. 


Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Turnaround: After jet lands, a sprint to prepare for next flight begins - for good reason

LOS ANGELES - American Airlines Flight 998 from Orlando, Fla., landed at Los Angeles International Airport at 8:19 a.m. on a cloudy Tuesday morning, carrying 181 passengers.

The minute the A321 jet reached the gate, teams of workers swarmed the plane with the precision of a marching band. For good reason.

In less than 80 minutes, the ground crew had to unload the passengers and their luggage, as well as cargo and mail, pump in 36,000 pounds of fuel, clean the plane, bring in a new flight crew and load 179 passengers for a return flight to Orlando.

In aviation terms, this is called "the turnaround," and performing it quickly is crucial to the profitability of an airline. The adage "time is money" applies. The longer a plane sits at a gate, the fewer money-making routes it can fly.

"Everyone who touches that plane has to be synced," said James Moses, American Airlines' managing director at LAX.

But if airlines try to shrink the turnaround time too much, there is no room for errors and departure times are missed, drawing the ire of travelers.

A 2010 Federal Aviation Administration study found that delays cost the U.S. economy $32.9 billion a year, with about half of the cost borne by airline passengers because of missed connections and added lodging and food expenses.

Three years ago, Southwest Airlines tried to pack too many flights in the most popular takeoff times, but the tactic backfired and the carrier's on-time performance dropped by 11 percentage points.

Southwest adjusted its turnaround time and has since improved its on-time performance to 85 percent, on par with its competitors.

A quick turnaround is so important - and employee performance so pivotal - that American Airlines has adopted an incentive program: If American Airlines ranks higher than its competitors in three key on-time categories, all 113,000 employees get $150 each.

Weather, air traffic control problems and late arriving flights account for about two-thirds of all flight delays, but factors within an airline's control, such as maintenance problems, baggage loading delays and fueling snags, account for the rest, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The pressure especially builds during the holidays when airlines add up to 40 percent more flights per day than during slower times of the year.

For American Airlines, the busiest carrier at LAX, that means a daily schedule of up to 225 flights during the crush of the holiday season.

The nerve center of the airline's LAX operations is its control center on the fifth floor of Terminal 4. Resembling an air traffic control tower, with massive windows overlooking the gates used by American's planes, it's where the turnaround of Flight 998 could be tracked by the minute, as follows:

8:19 a.m.

Once the flight from Orlando lands, the dozen or so dispatchers in the control center direct the plane to Gate 45 in Terminal 4. The crew members at the control center speak with the pilots and the flight attendants to see if there were any mechanical issues that needed to be fixed before the plane gets back on the runway.

A number of smaller glitches, such as a torn seat or a broken toilet seat, can be set aside for repairs until the plane gets a longer overnight stop. A bigger problem that risks the safety of the plane, often called a "no-go," such as damage to the fuselage, will ground a plane.

But Flight 998 is free of any no-gos.

8:35 a.m.

The plane pulls into Gate 45, 16 minutes ahead of schedule.

8:41 a.m.

Outside the cabin, near the tail of the plane, Robert Williams, a 27-year veteran of American Airlines, directs his crew of two men and two women to unload about 5,000 pounds of luggage, cargo and mail.

The job has become more difficult in the last few years since airlines began to charge checked baggage fees. Travelers are now cramming more belongings into each bag to try to avoid the fees for extra bags. As a result, Williams said luggage that once weighed an average of 25 pounds now weighs 35 pounds.

The toughest job on the crew is the "loader," the worker who climbs into the cargo hold to haul the luggage onto the belt that carries the bags down to a luggage trolley. The cargo hold is only about 4 feet tall, so the loader must either crouch or kneel to lift the luggage onto the conveyer belt.

"Nobody can tell you the best way to load luggage on your knees," said Williams, over the din of jet engines.

A few yards away, the fueling agent heaves a fuel nozzle to the plane's tank and starts pumping about 36,000 pounds of jet fuel. It's a task that will take about 20 minutes.

8:55 a.m.

Inside the cabin, the last passenger exits and a crew of four cabin cleaners begin to vacuum the carpet, pick up the trash from the floors, wipe down the tray tables and clean the three bathrooms.

9:03 a.m.

Now, cleanup crew must make way for Mike O'Connell and his two workers from the catering company, Gate Gourmet, who enter the plane from the back of the cabin. The catering workers roll carts, filled with prepackaged meals, down the narrow aisles, trying to avoid the cabin cleaners.

"We are always trying to work around each other," said Fay Mase, the operations manager for the cleaning crew.

Both crews have less than 20 minutes to complete their tasks, hoping to avoid any glitches that could delay the flight.

But both crews complete their individual tasks on time, without a glitch.

9:18 a.m.

In the front of the cabin, the plane's captain calls a security meeting with his flight crew. The captain and the flight attendants have never worked together before. The captain discusses what procedures the flight attendants should take if a pilot calls for a cup of coffee or wants to leave the cockpit to use the bathroom.

9:26 a.m.

The passengers are ready to board the plane, now designated Flight 2381 to Orlando. So far, the turnaround is on schedule. But Alice Perez, the customer care manager at Gate 45, notices a few problems that could slow the boarding time.

Many of the passengers in line at the gate are making phone calls or listening to music on their cellphones. That could slow the queue when the passengers need to flash the boarding passes downloaded on those same smartphones, she worries.

9:42 a.m.

With 23 minutes until takeoff, the final boarding call goes out. Down below, the cargo hold is closed and a tug, the vehicle that pulls the plane away from the gate, moves into place.

9:55 a.m.

With 10 minutes until takeoff, the crew begins to close the cabin doors. Mario Castillo, the American Airlines agent at Gate 45, checks his computer screen and notices that two passengers have yet to check in.

If 20 or 25 passengers were unaccounted for, Castillo said he would call the control center to see if a connecting flight was delayed. But with only two passengers missing, the crew closes the doors and the plane pulls away from the gate.

9:59 a.m.

Suddenly, a catering worker rolls up to the gate with two food carts. Perez and Castillo give each other an anxious look.

Will they have to stop the plane to haul in the carts, delaying the flight?

Don't worry, the catering worker tells them, the food cart is for the next flight scheduled at that gate.

10:05 a.m.

The jet pulls away from the gate on time.

10:14 a.m.

The plane lifts off to the west, disappearing into a bank of clouds.


Crumbling runway repaired on Air Force auxiliary airfield near Orangeburg

Charleston Air Force Base crewmen now have a safer place to train in Orangeburg County.

Work crews recently repaired the deteriorating, 3,500-foot runway at the North Auxiliary Airfield, a flight training facility often used by Joint Base Charleston airmen.

The crumbling pavement, originally constructed of asphalt, created an increased risk of foreign objects damaging airplanes and equipment.

Workmen repurposed about 21,000 tons of asphalt from the old runway as the foundation below the new concrete.

"Concrete is much stronger and will provide an improved platform for the C-17s to train on," said Rob Crossland, a pavements engineer with the 628th Civil Engineering Squadron.

He said over time the two layers of asphalt separated on the landing zone and deteriorated to the point they posed a risk to aircraft.

"What's crucial about Northfield is we train there every day and night," said Nathaniel Watts, airfield manager with the 437th Operations Support Squadron. "Northfield is strictly for training. We drop cargo and have a landing zone to simulate being down range."

The airfield's runway, much shorter than the one at Charleston International Airport where the squadron's C-17 cargo fleet is based, helps to train pilots to land in austere locations with unfinished or shorter airstrips.

Assault landings require aircraft to touch down on a runway within 500 feet and come to a complete stop on the remaining 3,000 feet. The purpose is to land in a small zone quickly.

"Imagine we are in a war zone somewhere, and there are limited resources available to build a runway," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Caleb Morris, a pilot with the 14th Airlift Squadron. "Say the Army needs troops, equipment or a tank immediately and in a very small space. They can give us a call here at Charleston."

He added, "In the real world we want to have the skills and the confidence to land the aircraft, with any cargo, in a very small, precise space. That is why we practice."

The Air Force can simulate similar training on a full-size runway by marking the abridged distance with chalk, but Morris said it's not the same as using a 3,500-foot runway.

The construction project included 66,000 linear feet of wire, a new runway lighting system and more than 36,000 square yards of asphalt shoulder to the landing zone. The repair project included the 628th Contracting Squadron and the 628th Civil Engineering Squadron.

"This runway is vital to our training, and we're excited to have our assault strip fully operational again," said U.S. Air Force Col. Jimmy Canlas, 437th Airlift Wing commander. "The assets here at North Auxiliary Airfield are an essential part of keeping our air crews ready to provide safe, precise and reliable rapid global mobility in a moment's notice."

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Amelia Earhart Airport (K59), Atchison County, Kansas

Muriel, the sister plane to one flown by Amelia Earhart, now has a sibling at Atchison, Kansas' airport.

Amelia Earhart Airport soon will begin offering flying lessons in its recently purchased Piper Warrior II, reviving a service that’s been absent from the airport for two decades.

Bethany Root, the airport’s fixed base operator, has kept busy recently organizing training sessions, searching for a flight instructor and a plane in which aspiring pilots can take to the sky. With a plane secured, Root expects to begin offering ground training in February.

Learning to fly, Root said, takes confidence, determination and self-motivation, but it is not as intimidating as it might sound.

“You’d be surprised,” she said. “All of a sudden, it clicks, and you’re ready to go.”

The plane to be used for flight training is a clean, single-engine Piper Warrior II. It has four seats, can fly at a speed of 130 mph and has a range of about 500 miles. It is currently available to rent, but the Piper’s primary purpose will be to serve as a training plane for newbie flyers.

It’s a service that hasn't been offered at the airport since the 1990s, according to Root. As FBO for Amelia Earhart Airport, Root’s goal and her job, she said, is to make the airport a destination and hotbed for aviation activity. A big, first step in that direction is embodied by the Piper.

The search for a certified flight instructor is ongoing, but ground training classes are set to commence in February. At ground training, novice and experienced pilots alike will gather at the airport for courses on practical flying topics, including one on flight controls.

The general focus of ground training will be on earning a private pilot’s license. One of the best ways to learn to fly is to hear from experienced pilots, Root said.

Those interested should watch for a schedule of classes to be posted online through the city of Atchison and Atchison Area Chamber of Commerce websites and Facebook pages.

Root said there already is a list of people waiting to get started.

Some might choose to learn to fly for recreation, but Root also stressed the “huge demand” to fill jobs in aviation. Flight schools are packed right now, she said, and highlighted the cost advantage of earning a private pilot’s license in Atchison, totaling around $6,500.


Incident occurred January 01, 2017 in New Braunfels, Texas

An ultralight aircraft crashed into a home in New Braunfels on Sunday, causing a power outage but no injuries to the pilot or the occupants of the home.

New Braunfels Police received a call about 11:30 a.m. Sunday that a small aircraft had crashed into a house in the 1600 block of Wald Road.

Officers arriving at the scene determined that the pilot, a 67-year old Converse man whose name has not been released, was flying a single-seat ultralight aircraft when the plane lost power.

Police say the pilot tried to land in a vacant field behind the home on Wald Road. But the plane flipped over after clipping some power lines, authorities said, causing it to come to rest on the roof of a carport attached to the home.

The pilot and the four adults inside the home were not injured, police said.

The New Braunfels Fire Department quickly contained a small fuel leak from the aircraft. The city’s utility department restored power to the area.

The Texas Department of Public Safety and the Federal Aviation Administration will conduct the investigation.


LETTER: Time to limit agencies to their authorized purposes

For brain surgery, would you prefer surgeons who graduated from medical schools that selected students according to diversity and inclusiveness, or instead, surgeons previously accepted to medical schools according to highest competency and examination scores?

What about air safety?

From 1995 until 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration worked with universities and colleges, verifying highest qualifying applicants would receive priority for accredited degree programs at Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) schools, according to lawyer William Perry Pendley of the Mountain States Legal Foundation.

The Federal Aviation Administration gave preference to veterans and candidates securing references from CTI administrators awarding “well-qualified” placement on the Air Traffic Selection and Training exam (AT-SAT), a “proctored eight-hour computer-based” test, Pendley said in a MSLF news release.

In 2013, Federal Aviation Administration Administer Michael Huerta, bent on a more diverse and inclusive workplace, began social engineering.

Huerta presented an analysis identifying women and minorities as underrepresented in the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Federal Aviation Administration invalidated and discarded scores of at least 2,000 trained, qualified veterans and CTI graduates, Pendley said.

According to Pendley, the Federal Aviation Administration required these candidates to pass a nonvalidated and nonmonitored biographical questionnaire, retake the AT-SAT, then reapply at the end of the line.

Andrew Brigida, holding two Arizona State University aviation bachelor degrees and a 100 percent Federal Aviation Administration ATC aptitude test score is one rejected candidate, Pendley said.

Currently, using biographical questionnaires, the Federal Aviation Administration may hire half of applicants (many struggling with English competency and dropping out) according to race.

During last fall’s Convention of States simulation, state representatives passed an amendment restraining federal regulatory authority.

Such an amendment could limit agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration to their authorized purpose.

Susan Shotthafer,

Port Angeles

Shotthafer is a member of the Port Angeles School Board.