Friday, January 27, 2017

Pilots Union At Horizon Air Complains About $10,000 Bonus For New Hires

A dispute between regional airline Horizon Air and its pilots union is headed to court. It stems from how the sister carrier of Alaska Airlines grapples with an industrywide shortage of pilots.

The Teamsters union represents Horizon Air pilots. It went to federal court in Seattle on Friday to ask a judge to rescind $10,000 signing bonuses that Horizon Air has started offering new hires.

So why does the union want to cancel hefty bonuses?

"As a union, we represent all pilots,” said Captain Jeff Cox, who leads the Horizon pilots group. “If you give a chunk of money to a very small, select group, then you are depriving the other pilots of compensation and equal treatment."

The Teamsters union asserted in its legal complaint that the bonuses for new hires cannot be introduced unilaterally. The court filing went on to claim that Horizon management was "circumventing" the collective bargaining agreement in "an effort to fundamentally undermine the Union."

Cox said the union proposed what he called a "comprehensive" solution with higher pay and retention incentives for all pilots, but management turned that down.

"After months of negotiations with the pilot union, Horizon Air will continue to work toward a solution that’s attractive to new pilots, while respecting the contributions of existing pilots and the competitive regional airline marketplace," an Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air spokesman wrote in an emailed response.

Cox said the pilots are prepared to call a strike down the road if they perceive that the airline's management continues to "violate" the union contract. Pilots ratified a new contract in January 2016, which can be amended by mutual agreement.

"We do not anticipate any disruption in service," said the statement emailed by Seattle-based Horizon.

The increasingly stiff competition to recruit new pilots is a consequence of a commercial pilot shortage that affects the regional airline sector most strongly. Numerous forces are colliding to create the problem, including growth within the airline industry, low starting pay for pilots, tough work schedules and an anticipated wave of retirements from the major airlines. The majors then backfill by plucking pilots from regional carriers. The Federal Aviation Administration requires commercial airline pilots to retire at age 65.

Then add to that, a big increase in the training requirements needed to get an air transport pilot license. That came from the FAA in 2013 in the wake of a commuter airline crash in upstate New York.

A lot of commercial airline pilots used to come over from the Air Force too, but Horizon Air Director of Pilot Development and Recruiting LaMar Haugaard said the military does not train as many pilots as it used to.

"Marry that up with fewer and fewer people getting into the industry -- mainly due to becoming cost-prohibitive on the training side -- you have a shortage that will come from that,” Haugaard said in an interview with public radio in October. “And we are certainly seeing that now."

Both Horizon Air and its pilots union mention crew shortages as one factor in a spate of flight cancellations in December and early January.

Horizon Air also raised the hackles of its pilots union by including recruiting incentives in partnerships it has signed with flight schools to expand the training pipeline. Last October the airline inked a pilot development agreement with Central Washington University's aviation department and in December it offered similar terms to aspiring pilots at Hillsboro Aero Academy in suburban Portland.

Eligible aviation students on track to earn their commercial pilot certificates can receive a $7,500 stipend and a conditional job offer from Horizon Air in exchange for a commitment to fly for the regional airline for at least two years.

Horizon Air currently employs about 675 pilots.

Read more here:

Bill Hemme to be recognized as master pilot

Tuesday, local pilot and businessman Bill Hemme will be recognized by the FAA for his expertise in aviation. Hemme has maintained his status as a pilot for 50 years and is generally known to be expertly knowledgeable on the subject of aviation. In 2015, Hemme (pictured with his trophy) received first place in a spot landing competition at Spencer Municipal Airport. 

Local pilot and businessman Bill Hemme will be awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award by Federal Aviation Administration Team Program Manager Chris Manthe. The award is given to pilots who have shown professionalism, skill and aviation expertise for at least 50 years. The presentation will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Spencer Municipal Airport, during the FAA Safety Seminar.

Hemme will be presented with a plaque, certificate and lapel pin, in recognition of his piloting. In addition, Hemme's name will appear on the Roll of Honor, which is listed on the FAA website at

Hemme, who founded Spencer Avionics, which is located at the Spencer Municipal Airport, serves on the airport board and works alongside fellow aviators as well as representatives of Leading Edge Aviation.

"Bill is an interesting guy. He has built the businesses of Spencer Avionics into quite a business over the years and, now that he's retired, it's still growing. So, he has a lot to take credit for," Gayle Brandt, with Leading Edge Aviation, said.

The Spencer Municipal Airport hosted its first spot landing competition in 2015. Several pilots entered the competition. However, Bill Hemme (back row, second from the right) took first prize. Hemme will be recognized as a master pilot by the FAA on Tuesday. 

Hemme explained that after he graduated from Iowa State University in 1963 with a degree in electrical engineering, he began work at a company called Collins Radio in Cedar Rapids. During this time, his work contributed to the Apollo Space Program. Approximately two years after starting work, Hemme received his private pilot's license in 1965. After the Apollo program wound down, Hemme said he transferred to the commercial avionics division of the company.

In 1971, Hemme took a job in Armstrong, at a company called Weightronix before starting Spencer Avionics in 1977 and eventually retired in 1999.

"I ran the business for 22 years and then sold it to one of my 12-year employees and he continues to run the business," Hemme said, noting that he still works for the employee part time.

Hemme went on to indicate that Spencer Avionics is one of only four such businesses in the state of Iowa that operate out of an airport.

"Usually they're in large airports like Des Moines, Sioux City, the Quad Cities or Omaha, (Nebraska). As far as the state of Iowa, there's only four," Hemme said.

Throughout his years, Hemme has continually maintained his pilot's license.

"Keeping his pilot's license for 50 years says a lot. Beyond that, he makes sure he keeps himself current," Brandt said.

Hemme explained that, in order to be eligible for the award, a pilot must have maintained his or her license for 50 years with no lapses, violations or accidents.

"Your pilots license doesn't really expire. You retain it, unless you have a violation and the FAA pulls it on you," Hemme said.

He went on to explain that a specialized doctor, called an airman's medical examiner, must conduct medical tests to be sure pilots are able to continue operating aircraft. He explained that the frequency of the examinations depends on the age of the pilot.

"At my age, at 75, it's every year," Hemme said.

Regarding Tuesday's presentation, Hemme seemed ready to accept his award with humility.

"It's kind of a nice award," he said. "To tell the truth, not a whole lot of pilots make it to the 50-year threshold."

He clarified that some pilots loose interest and others are no longer medically able to pilot a craft.

Hemme, on the other hand, has been able to continue to develop his skill as a pilot. In fact, Hemme won the 2015 Spot Landing Contest at the Spencer Municipal Airport.

"That was the first year we'd done that contest. He was the oldest guy there with the highest performing aircraft and he was the guy that had the most precision," Brandt recalled.

Brandt went on to describe Hemme as a contentious pilot, who carries effective equipment in his plane and knows how to use it to its full potential.

"He's very deserving of the award," Brandt concluded.


State cuts funding to Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (KPHF) after reports it paid off failed airline's $4.5 million loan

The state has cut off funding to Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport while it conducts an audit of the airport after commissioners used $4.5 million to pay off a failed airline’s bank loan, Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said.

The Daily Press first reported the Peninsula Airport Commission’s early 2015 loan payment on Thursday. The commission agreed in June 2014 to be on the hook for a $5 million TowneBank loan to the now-defunct airline People Express, or PeoplExpress.

Layne said the newspaper’s story led him to check if the airport used state funds dedicated for capital improvements to pay off the loan.

It did – about $3.5 million, according to a report the airport submitted to the state in October 2016, noting it was for “air service development,” essentially attracting new airlines or routes.

Layne called that a significant amount of money and “significant breach” of state policy. He said the state typically gives the airport up to $2 million annually dedicated specifically for capital improvement projects.

The airport’s executive director, though, said Friday that using the funds to pay off the loan was within the airport’s right, pointing to language in a three-page Airport Program Manual from Virginia’s Department of Aviation.

In it, the manual states that if entitlement funds are used for projects “outside of normal expenditures,” including air service development, the state will deduct that amount from any future requests for state discretionary funds.

Airport Executive Director Ken Spirito said he was confident that once the state finished its audit looking at the last three years of the airport’s financials, it would find, “we’ve done everything according to their policies.”

Spirito said the remaining $1 million the airport used to pay off the loan came from a U.S. Department of Transportation grant and the Regional Air Service Enhancement Committee.

The airport commission discussed the loan in closed session at its June 9, 2014, meeting and, in open session, voted to approve a resolution authorizing the commission’s chair “to do and commit any act ” to provide for the “adequate, economical, and efficient provisions of air service and general business” at the airport.

Nowhere in the minutes does it note the commission agreed to guarantee a $5 million loan to PeoplExpress.

No vote or discussion was held when the loan was paid off in February 2015.

PeoplExpress, which flew to New York, Boston and a few other locations from the airport for a short time starting in mid-2014, stopped flying and was evicted by early 2015.

An airport spokeswoman said 418,889 passengers used Newport News/Williamsburg in 2015. That same year, about 3 million people traveled through Norfolk International Airport and 3.5 million used Richmond International Airport.

Spirito said airport operations won’t be affected by the state’s decision to stop funding while it investigates. As for state entitlement funds that might be in limbo, the airport had expected to receive about $600,000 by late spring, around the same time Spirito said he expects the audit to be resolved in the airport’s favor.

“We will be found we were using these funds properly,” he said.

He said the airport took a risk in guaranteeing the loan, thinking it would help the airport recover after losing AirTran: “We did it because this community wants low-cost air service,” he said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”

Elite Airways had recently announced it would launch non-stop service between the Newport News/Williamsburg airport and New Jersey and Long Island starting in March. Elite spokeswoman Rebecca Ayers said the airline’s officials had just learned about the situation Friday and were talking with airport leaders.

“The airline is not yet in a position to comment on what impact, if any, this will have on the planned service,” she said in an email.


Beech F33A Bonanza, N711JA: Incident occurred January 27, 2017 at Clearwater Airpark (KCLW), Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida

FAA Flight Standards District Office: TAMPA FSDO SO-35


Date: 27-JAN-17
Time: 14:45:00Z
Regis#: N711JA
Aircraft Make: BEECH
Aircraft Model: BE33
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
Operation: 91

A pilot escaped injury Friday morning when his landing gear collapsed at Clearwater Airpark.

According to Clearwater rescue officials, the landing gear on the Beech F33A Bonanza plane collapsed upon landing at 10:45 a.m. at the airpark, at 1000 N Hercules Ave.

The pilot, who was the only person on board, was not injured, officials said.


CLEARWATER, FL — A Friday morning emergency landing at Clearwater Airpark turned out about as well as can be expected under the circumstances, according to firefighters.

Clearwater Fire & Rescue crews were called to the airport around 10:45 a.m. Jan. 27 "after the landing gear on a small plane collapsed upon landing," an email from the agency said. The pilot was the only one on board the Beech F33A Bonanza when the malfunction occurred, the agency noted.

"There were no injuries to the pilot," the email said. No fuel leakage occurred either.

Clearwater Airpark is a city-owned public facility located at 1000 N. Hercules Ave.

Further details about the emergency landing, including the pilot's name, are not yet available.


Beechcraft B200T Super King Air, Ridge Air Inc., N60RA: Accident occurred January 27, 2017 at Palm Beach International Airport (KPBI), West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Miramar, Florida

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report / National Transportation Safety Board:

Ridge Air Inc:

NTSB Identification: ERA17LA096 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, January 27, 2017 in West Palm Beach, FL
Aircraft: BEECH 200, registration: N60RA
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

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

On January 27, 2017, at 1750 eastern standard time, a Beech 200T, N60RA, was substantially damaged during landing at Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), West Palm Beach, Florida. The airline transport pilot and a commercial-rated copilot were not injured. The airplane was registered to a private corporation and operated by Eastern Air Express under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a positioning flight. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed. The flight originated at Treasure Cay, Bahamas (MYAT) at 1652.

The pilots reported that the preflight and en route portions of the flight were uneventful. The flight was established on the localizer for the approach to runway 28R, which was dry. Flaps were set to the approach position and the landing gear were extended and showed "3 green." After touchdown, they heard noises, and the airplane started to sink. After the airplane came to a stop on the right side of the runway, the pilots noticed that the gear handle was up. The pilot stated, "How did the gear handle get up?" He then placed the handle to the down position. The pilots secured the airplane and were met by first responders.

An inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration responded to the accident site and examined the airplane. Structural damage to the fuselage was confirmed. Both propeller assemblies were damaged due to contact with the runway.

The airplane was retained for further examination.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A Beechcraft B200T Super King Air landed veered off runway at Palm Beach International Friday evening. 

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue is on scene investigating. 

No commercial airplane runways are impacted. 

There are no reports of injuries. 

Story and video: 

A small plane has skidded off the runway at Palm Beach International Airport.

The Beechcraft B200T Super King Air went off the runway and is now surrounded by emergency vehicles.

The pilot was forced to land without landing gear.

There are no reports of any injures.

Story and video:

Keystone Drive cleared of debris from March 2015 Yeager Airport (KCRW) safety overrun collapse

Workers use heavy equipment to clear landslide debris from Keystone Drive in this file photo from late 2016.

Blocked to through traffic for 22 months after it was buried under some of the 540,000 cubic yards of earth and rock that sheared free from a 270-foot-high engineered fill structure supporting Yeager Airport’s safety overrun area, Keystone Drive is now cleared and awaiting action by the state Division of Highways to reopen.

Terry Sayre, executive director of the Charleston airport, told members of its governing board on Wednesday that the DOH has surveyed the recently cleared roadway, a unit of the state highway system, and has installed new drainage culverts under its surface as well as beneath a nearby parking lot that served Keystone Apostolic Church, demolished by the March 9, 2015 landslide.

Yeager Airport has spent about $4.1 million to clear debris from the slide, and about $500,000 more will be spent to remove the haul road on airport property used to dispose of most of the material involved in the collapse. About 9,000 cubic yards of material will be removed to take up the haul road, which connected the base of the landslide with a disposal site on airport property.

“With two or three days of freezing temperatures or no rain, those 9,000 cubic yards should be gone,” Sayre said. Funding to pay for repairing and reopening the roadway is in hand, he said, since “the DOH has a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) grant to gravel and pave Keystone Drive,” he said.

In other business, the airport board voted to spend $10,000 to sponsor and promote the final event in the 2017 Spartan Race Series to the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County on Aug. 26-27. About 25,000 people are expected to take part in the nationally televised event, which includes races, obstacle courses and other timed athletic challenges.

Yeager Airport is partnering with the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, the state Division of Tourism and National Travel to sponsor and promote the event. Buses will be provided to take contestants to and from the Charleston airport to the Boy Scouts’ 10,000-acre high adventure camp and National Jamboree site.

Board members voted to increase Sayre’s salary from $131,000 a year to $150,000 annually, which matches the sum former Yeager director Rick Atkinson was paid when he resigned in 2015.

After assuming his role as director a short time after the safety overrun collapse, “Terry has more than risen to the occasion,” said Ed Hill, chairman of Yeager’s governing board. “This vote is a strong vote of confidence for [Sayre].”

- Source:

Keene residents attempt to stop cutting more than 2,000 trees at Dillant-Hopkins Airport (KEEN)

KEENE — A group of Edgewood neighborhood residents filed a lawsuit against the city Thursday in an attempt to stop a Dillant-Hopkins Airport tree-cutting project.

“Essentially it’s our position that the original restrictions which prevent cutting trees in the 12-acre parcel runs for the benefit of every property owner in the Edgewood neighborhood,” said Manchester attorney Roy W. Tilsley Jr., who is representing the group of 10 residents.

A request for an injunction to halt the city’s plans to cut more than 2,000 trees was filed in Cheshire Superior Court.

The tree cutting is part of a safety plan that is aimed at improving the sight lines for pilots landing at the airport.

Some residents of the neighborhood, which abuts the airport, have long expressed concerns that the removal of the trees would lead to a significant increase in noise.

The injunction asks that an approximately 12.3-acre woodland parcel abutting the airport be left alone.

The parcel was deeded to the city from the Edgewood Civic Association in 1969 with a restriction prohibiting tree-cutting on the parcel.

Tilsley said Thursday that while the Edgewood Civic Association lifted that restriction, the residents of the neighborhood never did, so the restriction should remain in place.

“A controversy also exists regarding the validity of the Amendment, which was signed and recorded in 1983, given that the Association was administratively dissolved in 1977,” the request for an injunction said. “In seeking to cut trees on the Buffer Parcel, the City will violate the Deed’s restriction that such land be maintained in a natural and wooded state substantially in the same condition in which it was as of 1969.

“The Plaintiffs are entitled to Declaratory Judgement that the City’s proposed tree cutting on the Buffer Parcel would violate the restrictions contained within the Deed.”

According to the court document, the airport’s manager Jack Wozmak has said tree cutting is to begin on Tuesday. 

- Source:

New manager takes over Floyd W. Jones Airport (KLBO)

Sandra Shore, the new manager for the Floyd W. Jones Airport, stands in front of the airport sign.

Fifty years after the Floyd W. Jones Airport was christened, it is starting the next phase of its existence under a new manager this month.

Camdenton native Sandra Shore began work as Lebanon’s airport manager in early January, and she said that she plans to focus on airport projects and community outreach.

“There’s definitely a lot of room for improvements — pursuing different grants to get some construction on the airfield side and really kind of developing a good relationship with the community through different events, different opportunities,” Shore said.

After graduating from Camdenton High School, Shore attended a community college in Alton, Ill., then transferred to Southern Illinois University to finish her undergraduate degree in aviation management.

Like many people in the aviation field, Shore originally wanted to be a pilot. 


Piper PA-32R-300, B&B Investment, N6885F: Accident occurred January 26, 2017 in Fort Mohave, Arizona

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration - Flight Standards District Office; Las Vegas, Nevada

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Docket And Docket Items - National Transportation Safety Board:

B&B Investment:

NTSB Identification: GAA17CA126
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, January 26, 2017 in Fort Mohave, AZ
Aircraft: PIPER PA32R, registration: N6885F
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported that during the initial climb he retracted the landing gear normally and then "a few minutes later the radios went blank." The pilot further reported that he believed he had a radio problem, so he decided to return to the airport. During the return, the pilot reported that he moved the landing gear selector to the down position, but the three gear down indicator lights did not illuminate. Subsequently, the pilot reported that he circled a few miles east of the airport to troubleshoot the issue.

During the circling, the pilot reported that he "cycled the master switch and the radio master a couple times with no results." The pilot further reported that the airplane was equipped with an "automatic gear extension system," so he verified that the override switch was not engaged, fully extended the flaps, and slowed the airplane to 85 knots. Subsequently, the pilot believed the landing gear was down, so he returned to the airport for landing. During touchdown, the left main landing gear and nose gear collapsed (or were not extended) and the airplane veered off the runway into dirt, which resulted in substantial damage to the left wing. During a postaccident interview, the pilot reported that he believed he had "a total electrical failure."

According to a witness who owns a house on the airport property, he observed the airplane depart and about 5 minutes later saw that the airplane had returned for landing. The witness reported that the airplane's landing gear were retracted until the point at which the pilot began the landing flare over the runway. The witness further reported, when the airplane was about 5 feet above the runway, each landing gear began to extend, but the airplane touched down before the nose gear and left main landing gear could extend fully. 

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI) who arrived at the accident site about two to three hours after the event, when he "switched the master switch on," he observed electrical equipment turn on and heard the landing gear extension motor running. During a subsequent postaccident examination, the FAA ASI reported that he found no abnormalities with the electrical system. He also extended the landing gear to the down and locked position with the electric/ hydraulic system and observed three green indicator lights illuminated. 

According to the Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) for the accident airplane, a "pressure sensing device" in the landing gear system will lower the gear "regardless of the gear selection position," pending that the override switch is not engaged. The POH further stated in part: "The gear is designed to extend at airspeeds below approximately 103 KIAS [Knots Indicated Airspeed] with power off even if the selector is in the up position. The extension speeds will vary from approximately 81 KTS [Knots] to approximately 103 KIAS depending on power settings and altitude."

Piper PA-28-235, Eternal Flight & Co., N9239W: Incident occurred January 26, 2017 in San Bernardino, California


FAA Flight Standards District Office: RAL FSDO


Date: 27-JAN-17
Time: 00:56:00Z
Regis#: N9239W
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: 28
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: UNKNOWN
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
Operation: 91

Delta Air Lines, McDonnell Douglas MD-88, N901DE: Incident occurred January 26, 2017 at Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (KJAN), Jackson, Mississippi


FAA Flight Standards District Office: JAN FSDO


Date: 26-JAN-17
Time: 21:30:00Z
Regis#: N901DE
Aircraft Model: 88
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: UNKNOWN
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Flight Phase: APPROACH (APR)
Operation: 121
Aircraft Operator: DELTA
Flight Number: DAL1411

Mesa Airlines, Canadair CL-600-2C10 Regional Jet CRJ-701ER, N515MJ: Incident occurred January 26, 2017 at Nashville International Airport (KBNA), Davidson County, Tennessee

On behalf of United Express


FAA Flight Standards District Office: BNA FSDO


Date: 26-JAN-17
Time: 00:07:00Z
Regis#: N515MJ
Aircraft Make: BOMBARDIER
Aircraft Model: 700
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Flight Phase: APPROACH (APR)
Operation: 121
Flight Number: ASH6176

Cessna 182N, N38EE: Incident occurred January 26, 2017 at Midland International Airport (KMAF), Midland County, Texas

FAA Flight Standards District Office: LBB FSDO


Date: 26-JAN-17
Time: 23:40:00Z
Regis#: N38EE
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 182
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: UNKNOWN
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
Operation: 91
State: TEXAS

Buffalo Niagara International Airport (KBUF) getting $65 million upgrade

If you’ve ever been swamped in the crush of incoming passengers and outbound travelers in the main lobby of Buffalo Niagara International Airport, that is about to change.

And if your trip home was ever delayed by an antiquated baggage system with its stops, starts and breakdowns, that too soon will be improved.

Much of how we view the Buffalo airport today will be transformed by 2019 through a $65 million renovation and reconfiguration that gets underway this fall.

When completed, passengers leaving planes will walk through new exits in both east and west concourses.

Air travelers also will discover state-of-the art baggage carousels on the lower level, eliminating the familiar flat conveyor belts, catapulting Buffalo into the ranks of the nation’s bigger and more modern airports.

Guided by forecasts of increasing traffic fueled by local and Canadian air travelers, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is embarking on a two-year airport construction period as the next step of a more than $400 million master plan that spans another 15 years.

“Why now?” asked William R. Vanecek, director of aviation for the NFTA. “Because if we don’t prepare for the future now, we won’t get the increased service we can realize.”

The next phase of the airport features:

• New walkways curving around the main terminal’s east and west ends that provide direct access to escalators to ground floor baggage claims.

• Four baggage carousels to replace three existing flat plate baggage belts, doubling capacity.

• Expanded storage area for “lost” or delayed baggage awaiting claim by owners, eliminating the “sea of baggage” often clogging the lower level.

• New curb space at both ends of the terminal, considered a premium at BNIA.

• Relocating familiar concessions like the upper floor’s Lake Erie Grill.

• A new internal traffic pattern eliminating the necessity of security escorts for visitors to airport offices.

• A centralized play area for children, along with a tech center providing work space and cellphone charging.

• A new and protected bus waiting area on the lower level.

Regulatory approvals still lie ahead, but no real hurdles are expected, said Kimberley A. Minkel, executive director of the NFTA.

Most of the project will be funded by passenger facility charges tacked onto each ticket bought at the airport along with NFTA dollars and a possible state contribution, she added.

Canadian customers

Buffalo airport numbers have fluctuated with the ebb and flow of Canadian customers, attracted by proximity, lack of congestion, attractive fares, ease of parking and other features. At the peak of cross-border travel in 2012, 5.2 million passengers used the airport.

Even with a devalued Canadian dollar, just under 5 million passengers traveled through BNIA last year. While earlier surveys calculated nearly half of the airport customers originated in Southern Ontario, Vanecek says newer and more sophisticated methods now peg Canadian use at around 30 to 35 percent – still a significant portion of the customer base.

The Canadian dollar is experiencing a slight uptick in recent weeks, Vanecek noted, and that means cross-border airport use will start creeping up too.

“That’s a good signal, and good for us to do this work now while we’re not bursting at the seams,” Vanecek said.

Even in down times, he added, BNIA must prepare for when the Canadian dollar’s value will send a steadier stream of travelers into Buffalo.

The work also prepares for the possibility of nonstop flights by foreign airlines to BNIA, especially as some carriers express interest in mid-size Northeast airports to escape congestion in New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

“They have shown interest, and it’s a very strong possibility over the next year and a half,” Vanecek said. “All of this is helpful to our case. And they wouldn’t be talking to us if they weren’t interested.”

Minkel added that the project’s price tag grew by $17 million because of the increasing possibility of international flights and the need for the new walkway at the international arrivals area on the west concourse.

New exit walkways

The new exit walkways for deplaning passengers may be the most noticeable improvement coming.

Travelers will now be rerouted away from the central terminal area into new passages leading to baggage claim escalators, with an expected relief from the congestion in front of the second-floor elevators.

“Right now, there’s limited space there for the people waiting to pick up friends and family,” Minkel said. “It’s just too cozy now, especially when you’ve got little kids waiting to pick up gramma or grampa. This will also separate the arriving and departing passengers.”

The new walkway structure for the west end will better accommodate international arrivals who must now walk outside to reach the baggage area after clearing Customs, Minkel said.

“It’s not a good situation,” she said. “It works, but we can certainly make the passenger experience better, and that’s the goal of this project.”

Passengers exiting JetBlue and other planes on the airport’s east concourse will directly reach the main terminal and downstairs baggage claim along a foliage-lined path.

“It will be very seamless for our customers,” she said.

New baggage claim

The new baggage system will offer advantages for air travelers. Airlines investigating new service won’t even begin negotiations unless airport operators can guarantee bags for waiting customers within 20 minutes of touchdown, Vanecek said.

And the airport must plan for the not-so-distant day when airlines will graduate from small commuter planes to bigger craft with at least 90 seats.

Bigger planes “mean a bigger rush and more stress on the baggage system,” he said.

Plans now call for four carousels to replace the current three flat plates, with each carousel continuing about 1.5 times more capacity than a flat belt. The flat belts serve their purpose, Vanecek said, but bags slide off and the openings can present a security risk, prompting the Transportation Security Administration’s periodic checks that stop the belt.

“The one thing we kept hearing is ‘improve the baggage claim,’ ” Minkel said. “This addresses that.”

Longer plans

The new project represents the latest phase of a 20-year airport master plan originally pegged at $406 million but now expected to be higher.

Over the last five years, the NFTA has increased parking capacity toward a 10,500 vehicle goal, added new gates and installed new doors, rest rooms and seating.

Future projects include new taxiways, a centrally relocated fire and rescue station, and even a long-discussed overpass from the Kensington Expressway providing direct access to the airport.

NFTA planners eventually forecast an airport facility capable of handling 8 million users a year.

Story and photo gallery:

75% of Japan’s airports lack overrun buffers: transport ministry

Runways at three-quarters of the airports in Japan, including its busiest gateways, Narita and Haneda, do not meet safety standards for preventing severe overrun accidents, the transport ministry says.

The “runway end safety area” should extend at least 90 meters from the end of a runway strip, but 73 of the 97 airports nationwide fail to meet this requirement, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry said Friday.

Last week, an All Nippon Airways plane skidded off the runway after landing at New Chitose Airport near Sapporo. No one was injured and the plane avoided serious damage after plowing into snow in the safety area, indicating it was sufficient to mitigate the slip.

The ministry has set up a review team and is expected to draw up a plan by March to promote installation of the required safety areas. If no space beyond runways can be secured, the ministry may consider shortening runways or introducing a system to forcibly decelerate planes.

The standards were established in 2013, but 75 runways at the 73 airports were found not in compliance in 2016.

These include the shorter of the two runways at Narita, where expansion has long faced opposition from land owners, and one of the four at Haneda, which is stretched close to Tokyo Bay, leaving no space for safety areas.

According to the ministry, there have been 22 overruns since 1974, excluding the one at New Chitose Airport.

The pilot in that incident said the plane slipped off the runway while hurrying to enter the taxiway, sources said.

The pilot was applying full braking force right before the incident, suggesting the wheels locked, the sources said.

The plane needed to taxi about 2 km as the only available taxiway at the time was at the opposite end of the landing point. The overrun may have been caused by the plane’s inability to decelerate enough on the icy ground around it, the sources said.

The plane went beyond the 60-meter overrun area and finally stopped after hitting a pile of snow in the 192-meter safety area.


Columbia County Airport (1B1) CEO rejects lease talks

GHENT — Richmor Aviation, which oversees operations at the Columbia County Airport, has ruled out renegotiating its lease even as the county continues to explore a new hangar at the facility.

Mahlon W. Richards, chief executive officer for Richmor Aviation, Inc., made the comment a day after final numbers for the airport’s financial performance from the county perspective were handed out at a meeting of the airport subcommittee Wednesday.

“I don’t think so,” Richards said Thursday when asked if he was open to rejigging the terms of his lease. “We have been here 50 years. When other people look at it and say it’s a bad deal, they should look at airports in other places.”

The airport profit-and-loss analysis for the years 2013 to 2016 were presented at the meeting by County Controller Ron Caponera and as with the preliminary numbers released late last year show the airport, situated in Ghent almost at the junction of Routes 9H and 66, is break-even at best from the county perspective.

Revenues for 2016 were $82,897 with expenses of $97,271, giving a loss of $14,374 for the year.

There were small profits of $8,965 in 2015, $1,287 in 2014 and $1.386 in 2013, leaving a loss of $2,736 for the entire four-year period.

To be sure, adding sales tax to the equation helps marginally bolster analysis in the  airport’s favor. Sales tax paid to New York state on fuel sold at the airport averaged out over a five-year period to $22,132 a year, according to Richards.

The county gets half of that, or an average of $11,066, which, given the overall numbers are small, significantly boosts the receipts from the airport on a percentage basis.

But for at least one county resident, even adding in the sales tax numbers are not enough.

“The idea of, in effect, handing this infrastructure to Richmor for them to profit while the taxpayers continue to subsidize a loss is not in my opinion the best use of tax dollars,” said David Berman, a Ghent resident, in an email exchange after the meeting.

“While much of the (capital expenditure) comes from other government sources we need to recognize that those dollars are still tax monies and are a subsidy to the operation of Richmor Aviation.

According to New York State Department of Transportation data, the county airport has consumed almost $10.2 million since 1981 in various maintenance, equipment purchase and other costs. The total consists of $8.64 million in Federal Aviation Authority funds, $1.07 million in state funds and $436,639 in county money for a total of $10,151,570.

The FAA grant history report is broken down differently, though many of the projects have similar titles as the state report. The federal report indicates grants have totaled $11.6 million since 1982 comprising $10.23 million in entitlement money and $1.33 million in discretionary grants.

The FAA said entitlement funds are based on the number of passengers that travel through an airport and discretionary funds are based on requests from the airport sponsors for specific projects. Generally, the FAA pays 80 to 90 percent of a project, according to the agency.

“If we don’t get the federal money, someone else will get it,” said Art Cashin, an airport subcommittee member, at the meeting.

The lease

The October 2007 lease the county signed with Richmor for use of the airport facilities was substantially broken down as $25,000 in rent, 50 percent of T-hangar fees with a base rate of $310 per month, 50 percent of tie-down fees with a 2007 base rate of $50 a month, fuel flowage fee of $0.08 per gallon, and 50 percent of landing fees with the base rate in 2007 being $50 per landing of turbine powered transient aircraft.

Variable fees were to rise 3 or 4 percent per year for each year the lease was in effect. Richmor’s Richards said the fuel flowage fee will go up to $0.12 per gallon in October this year as per the existing lease agreement upon renewal. The existing lease term expires at midnight on Sept 30, 2017.

Richmor provided figures showing total rent for 2016 of $67,011, comprising rent, T-hangar, tie-down and landing fees. The fuel flowage fee for 169,000 gallons at $0.08 per gallon was $13,520.

Combined, those two numbers total $80,531, in line with the county’s indicated revenue received of $82,897.

Richards indicated at the meeting that he may at least be amenable to reviewing landing fees, a factor which the county appears to have control over. “Landlord reserves the right to institute new, or revised landing fees,” according to the lease.

In the interim, Richmor, with 27 employees at the local airport whose combined salaries on average have totaled $2.4 million over the last five years, would like a new hangar.

“Another hangar would generate some more business,” Richards said.

Exploring the idea, however, is not any indication of a commitment from the county.

“What we are doing is exploring a new hangar and it will be public,” Airport Subcommittee Chairman Mike Benvenuto said.

Richmor is required to notify the county six months before the end of the current lease term on whether it will exercise its right to renew the lease.


Incident occurred January 26, 2017 at Nashua Airport - Boire Field (KASH), Nashua, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire

NASHUA, NH — An aircraft lost power and made an emergency landing at Nashua Airport Thursday, officials said. The small plane landed safely with the landing gear down at about 2:30 p.m. No one was hurt. Nashua police said the pilot reported losing power minutes before landing.

It was the second successful emergency landing at Nashua Airport in as many weeks. On January 20th the pilot of a Beech 95-B55 Baron plane made a crash landing after the nose gear collapsed. No one was hurt.


Federal Aviation Administration Marijuana In Tower Issue Status: Boise Airport (KBOI), Idaho

We have previously REPORTED about and updated readers regarding the incident where Boise coppers smelled marijuana at the BOI airport tower in the middle of the night of November 19 after aircraft were unable to establish communications.

Here is the latest status report from the Federal Aviation Administration:

“This email is to notify you of the status of your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding a November 19, 2016, incident at the Boise Tower. Your request was received in our office on December 16, 2016, and was clarified and amended on December 22,2016. At this time we are still working to process your request. We are not yet prepared to release records, although we may be in a position to provide an interim response as responsive records become available for release.”

Original article can be found here:

Feds Hide Behind FOIA Procedures    ⋅   December 27, 2016

Despite the best efforts of the GUARDIAN and other media outlets, the Federal Aviation Administration has so far failed to answer two essential questions regarding the November 19 incident at the Boise tower when controllers failed to respond to radio calls and four Boise coppers smelled the aroma of marijuana in the wee hours of that morning.

Our efforts to obtain information or documents has gone all the way to FAA headquarters inn Washington, D.C.

When the GUARDIAN posted the story detailing the police reports of four officers and an airport operations manager, this message was posted in the comments:

“If the Guardian had contacted the FAA before running this story, we would have explained that we drug tested both controllers and both tests were negative. We are continuing to investigate this incident.”   — Ian Gregor, Public Affairs Manager, FAA Pacific Division

KBOI TV2 and the Statesman got the same comment from Gregor. When we asked when the tests were administered, Gregor refused to comment.

Since those initial posts, we have filed requests, filled out forms, amended requests, been denied expedited response and stonewalled. The FAA has sent us a form letter from Elizabeth Ray who is billed as “Vice President of Mission Support Services.” This is currently the first “vice president” we have run across in the United States Government other than Joe Biden.

The FAA–through Gregor–seem to back their controllers and contradict the four coppers and ops guy at the airport who all filed reports of smelling the aroma of marijuana at the ATC tower early November 19. Because of Gregor’s statement, the FAA is in a position of either admitting their drug test policy doesn’t work or challenging the ability of trained police officers to observe the signs of marijuana aroma and influence.

The FAA has so far failed (refused) to tell the flying public if people suspected of illicit drug use (based on Boise Police reports) are still on duty in the Boise Tower with the lives of thousands of travelers under their control. While they officially claimed the employees “passed drug tests,” they have refused to provide the date or results of those tests.

Boise officials have offered to assist in the investigation and the FAA turned them down.

UPDATE 12/29/16

The request for info has been bumped up to the FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C. We got this “clarification” today. “In your requests, you are seeking the time, date, and results of any drug test. Are you seeking the drug test for ATC operators on duty November 19, 2016 or a specific individual(s)?”

Both the Boise officials and FAA have steadfastly refused to name the ATC operators. Their PR guy in Los Angeles seems to know they “passed the tests,” but now they slow the process with the above query. 

Original article can be found here:


BOISE (KBOI) — Police reports obtained from the suspicious incident at the Boise air traffic control tower last month indicate odd behavior from the controllers.

Around 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 19, helicopters called the Boise FAA air traffic control tower requesting to land, however, they got no response.

Boise Police officers went to the tower for a welfare check to make sure everyone was OK.

In all of the reports police wrote the men in the tower were fine health-wise, but were behaving very strangely.

An officer said of one tower employee “he appeared to have just woken up” and having “drowsy facial expressions.”

Another officer’s report said the employee was “smiling and informing us everything was okay.”

A third officer said they were “very groggy and sluggish… dazed and confused.”

On top of seeming inattentive, police officers describe the tower employees as apathetic to the situation.

One report said, “both of them appeared to be unconcerned.”

In fact, one officer’s report said the airport operations specialist, who went in the tower with the officers, told them afterwards that “the tower guy was calling out wrong runways and directions.”

Every officer’s report mentions smelling marijuana at some point while in the tower.

The FAA said both employees passed a drug test but they are continuing to investigate.

KBOI 2News submitted a request under the Freedom of Informations Act for all of their findings once the investigation is complete.

Story and video: