Sunday, January 29, 2017

Cessna 177RG Cardinal RG, Skywarrior Flight Training, N8049G: Incident occurred January 29, 2017 at Pensacola International Airport (KPNS), Escambia County, Florida

SKYWARRIOR FLIGHT TRAINING INC: http://registry.faa.gov/N8049G

FAA Flight Standards District Office: BIRMINGHAM

AIRCRAFT LANDED RUNWAY 26 WITH THE LANDING GEAR RETRACTED, PENSACOLA, FLORIDA 

Date: 29-JAN-17
Time: 22:45:00Z
Regis#: N8049G
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 177RG
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Activity: INSTRUCTION
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
Operation: 91
Aircraft Operator: SKY WARRIOR FLIGHT TRAINING
City: PENSACOLA
State: FLORIDA





PENSACOLA, Fla. (WEAR) — A single engine airplane with two people on board crash landed at the Pensacola International Airport according to officials.

The plane is reportedly a Cessna 177RG Cardinal RG.

Pensacola Fire Chief Allen reports that no one was injured when the plane landed without its gear deployed but there is significant damage to the plane.

Airport operations are not expected to be impacted by the crash.

Story and video: http://weartv.com

Pilot Kane Smith hopes tailored flights could lift fortunes of Flyers Club

Kane Smith at Plum Island Airport (2B2) with an airplane he will offer clients use of in a time-share arrangement.



A Newburyport man determined to expand an air shuttle business to fill what he sees as a niche market hopes to fly customers up to 500 miles and land at airports or on water.

“If you could leave here and land on the East River in New York, it would save a lot of time by avoiding airports and traffic,” said Kane Smith, who is trying to expand his small company at Plum Island Airport (2B2) from one to two planes.

Two years ago Smith launched The Flyers Club LLC for those who want to fly within a few hundred miles, including trips to Martha’s Vineyard, Bar Harbor and New York.

Members don’t have to buy the plane or fly it, but purchasing a time-share membership can save hours and offer amenities, he said.

Smith, 28, is a native of Ohio who got his pilot’s license at age 17, the youngest year the state allows. He has flown for more than a decade, and his background includes piloting numerous models of aircraft.




The young aviator came east in part to take a full-time management position at Smith & Nephew, Inc., a medical-device company in Andover. But he wanted to start a business, and he has committed himself to the Flyers Club to accommodate high-end travelers.

Those buying into his program would want to travel about once a month and would have to pay for the convenience.

A time-share on his leased Kodiak 100 costs about $180,000, and there’s a $2,000-per-month management fee and a small per-mile charge for flights. The time-share of the airplane is seen as equity and can be sold later.

Smith, a Newburyport resident, mused that a round-trip from here to New York would cost about $200 per person, based on eight passengers and two pilots, which is the maximum load.

“Regular airports are at capacity,” said Smith. “I am excited about our service, which will eventually include the capability to land on water” with a float plane.

The Daily News could not reach paying clients or people taking demonstration flights for comment.

Smith flies his leased Kodiak out of Plum Island and Lawrence airfields.

“We could use more business here,” said John Murray, who runs the flight school at the airport on Plum Island. “This is a good, small airfield and people seem to enjoy having our own facility.

“Sometimes families just come and watch the planes take off and land, but I think the local area would be OK with a few more flights.”

Smith said his big move this spring will be to acquire a second aircraft — one that can land on water.

He has several investors who apparently believe in the rebirth of smaller airports serving niche markets.

An aviation veteran who is backing the company is Paul Fayard, who runs Fayard Enterprises, of Raleigh, North Carolina. 

He leased the first Kodiak to Smith, and is considering a deal to make the second craft available.

“There are already a number of small companies doing quite well in this area of aviation,” said Fayard, whose five-decade career has included buying, selling and leasing aircraft. “Large airports are having big problems with delays and security issues. A lot of time is wasted. Enabling people to use local airports at a reasonable price makes for a workable plan.”

Source:  http://www.eagletribune.com

Ercoupe 415-C, N94694: Accident occurred January 28, 2017 in Butterfield, Texas

The NTSB did not travel to the scene of this accident. 

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

 http://registry.faa.gov/N94694 

FAA Flight Standards District Office: ABQ FSDO


NTSB Identification: CEN17LA089
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, January 28, 2017 in Butterfield, TX
Aircraft: ERCOUPE 415-C, registration: N94694
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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

On January 28, 2017, about 1020 mountain standard time, an Ercoupe model 415-C single-engine airplane, N94694, was substantially damaged during a forced landing after a total loss of engine power during cruise flight near Butterfield, Texas. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a positioning flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the cross-country flight. The flight originated from Cavern City Air Terminal (CNM), Carlsbad, New Mexico, about 0856. The intended destination was Deming Municipal Airport (DMN), Deming, New Mexico.

The pilot reported that he was positioning the airplane from Texas to California for the current owner who had recently purchased it. The airplane was topped-off with fuel (24 gallons total) before the accident flight. The pilot reported that the airplane experienced a total loss of engine power about 1 hour 24 minutes after takeoff. His corrective actions were unsuccessful in restoring engine power and a forced landing was made to a nearby dirt road. He reported that during landing roll the airplane's left wing struck a small Yucca tree, which subsequently spun the airplane 180 degrees into a berm. The airplane's left wing and twin vertical stabilizers were substantially damaged during the accident. The pilot reported that, after the accident, the header fuel tank was empty and the two wing fuel tanks contained at least 7 gallons each.


The entire airplane was recovered to a secured location where a detailed examination will be conducted.
======

EL PASO, County — A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety says troopers responded to a scene of a plane crash early Sunday morning. 

Texas DPS said today around 1:30 a.m., they received a report of a small plane that appeared to have crashed eight miles north of US 62/180 on Hueco Tanks Road in El Paso County.

The department said that when troopers got on scene, it was determined that the plane had a minor crash while landing the day before.

Authorities said the owner of the aircraft had already made proper notification to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Texas DPS said no injuries were reported to the department for this incident.


Source:   http://kfoxtv.com

EL PASO COUNTY, Texas - Texas state troopers tell ABC-7 that DPS received a report of a small plane crash around 1:30 Sunday morning. 

The aircraft crashed approximately 8 miles north of US highway 62/180 on Hueco Tanks Road in El Paso County.

When troopers arrived at the scene they were able to determine the plane had crashed while attempting to land on Saturday, January 28th, 2017.

The owner of the aircraft had already made proper notification to the Federal Aviation Administration. 

No injuries were reported.

Source:  http://www.kvia.com

New fueling station at El Paso International Airport (KELP)

A self-serving fueling station for general aviation tenants is now available at El Paso International Airport. 

Built and managed by Atlantic Aviation, the fueling station is located adjacent the T-hangars in the general aviation section of the airport.

The fueling station is open 24/7 and does not require an attendant.

Source: http://www.elpasoinc.com

With more passengers, Columbia Metropolitan Airport (KCAE) plans 2017 facelift, seeks low-cost airline with Florida flights

COLUMBIA, SC  --    After a record five straight years of passenger growth, Columbia Metropolitan Airport hopes to again attract a low-cost airline to the Midlands as it spends $10 million on renovations that will modify the airport's main lobby.

Nearly 560,000 passengers boarded flights in 2016 on three airlines that service the airport – Delta, American Eagle and United Express – a 2.4 percent increase in passengers over 2015.

Now, airport officials say they are using the airport’s rising popularity and strengthened business position as collateral in a new effort to attract a low-cost carrier to the airport, with the goal of providing direct flights to Florida.

“Everybody would like to see a low-cost carrier in our market," said Dan Mann, airport executive director. "We are going to be reaching out to Allegiant (Air), Spear (Airlines) and Frontier (Airlines) in the near future – as we have in the past. But we have a new case to make, I think, with the population growth and the success we’ve had.

“I think we’ve got a good, strong case to make for some Florida service.”

The absence of a low-cost carrier and direct service to Florida is a "hole" in the airport's otherwise strong air service to the East Coast, Mann said.

The existing airport lobby, completed in 1995 to much acclaim, has become a signature feature of the airport. Renovation plans call for the removal of the large directional poles in the lobby that bear banners used to guide passengers. A half dozen large permanent planters in the lobby will also will be replaced with greenery in mobile planter stations.

The main feature in the new airport lobby will be a large circular information desk in the middle of the space, Mann said.

USO personnel will staff the desk answering phones, helping guide soldiers to the airport USO office and providing direction to passengers, he said. Those changes are to be completed by this summer, Mann said.

A good economy and a growing local population are at the root of the new success, Mann said.

“Last year was a phenomenal year for us. It’s never happened in the history of the airport to have five consecutive years of growth.”

The airport’s single-year record growth came in 2005, when Independence Air, the now-defunct carrier, operated at CAE for about 18 months.

However, the airport’s decades-long struggle for growth has produced a mixed history of attracting, but failing to hold, low-cost airline carriers to Columbia, including Air South, which was headquartered in Columbia and served routes mostly in the Southeast from 1994 to 1997 before bailing out. In 2010, Southwest Airlines rejected an incentives package from Columbia to start service at CAE.

Columbia more competitive

Times have changed, Mann contends. Columbia is more competitive with other airports in the region now – which the record appears to reflect.

Larger planes now service the Columbia airport, and the price of flying out of Columbia is down, Mann noted. In 2016, airline seat capacity at the airport grew by 5 percent over 2015.

Since 2012, average airfares at the Columbia airport have fallen 11 percent, airport statistics show. In that same period, the number of passengers boarding planes at CAE has grown by 12 percent.

Significantly, a September 2016 “leakeage” study showed the Columbia airport has recaptured 9 percent of the customers it lost to other airports – most specifically, to Charlotte, Mann said. A similar 2012 leakage study showed Columbia loses less than 3 percent of its area bookings to airports in Charleston or Greenville/Spartanburg, Mann said.

The Columbia airport currently captures 53 percent of the bookings in its primary area, losing 36 percent of the area’s bookings to Charlotte, the 2016 aviation study shows.

In 2012, the Columbia airport captured just 44 percent of the airport’s primary area bookings, losing 49 percent of the bookings to Charlotte, the sixth largest airport in the country.

The three predominant reasons flyers drive to neighboring airports to board planes comes down to the availability of larger aircraft, greater reliabililty and cheaper fares, Mann said, though cheaper fares are key.

“My clients that travel out of Columbia are very happy because the airport is smaller and much easier and faster to get through security,” said Paula Wessinger, owner of Cruise & Travel VIP travel agency in Columbia. “Prices are lower in some cases or not much of a difference to drive to Charlotte.”

Wessinger, who has been in the travel business 20 years and also managed an airport car rental office, cited the recent booking of a flight from Columbia to Los Angeles. The fare for the same flight from Charlotte to Los Angeles was only $26 less. “But the flights (from Columbia) are better and $26 is not enough of a savings to make the drive (to Charlotte),” she noted.

The airport, which does about $20 million a year in operations and capital projects such as parking, rentals, landing fees and other federally-approved revenue, functions under a commission as a special purpose district.

It has gotten its financial house more “in line,” Mann said, charging airlines lower fees to operate. So, “When we ask them for more capacity or better fares, they are more willing to talk to us,” said Mann, who is looking to hire a staffer with experience in dealing with low-cost carriers.

Non-stop flights originate from the Columbia airport to nine destinations including Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Charlotte. Delta scoops up about 43 percent of passengers and American about 40.

Direct flights to Florida

The main driver for getting and keeping customers, however, is low fares, said Mann, who is approaching his seven-year anniversary at the airport’s helm.

Airport officials are “working very hard” to address the Florida issue in 2017, Mann said. Columbia is a college town with a built-in clientele for flights to Florida, he noted. Business and government travel combine with Fort Jackson to also comprise major components of CAE’s customer base.

Wessinger, the travel agent, has even greater hopes for CAE.

“I don't hesitate to use Columbia Metro for domestic flights, but for international it tends to be worth the drive to Charlotte, N.C., or Atlanta, Ga., because in most cases you can get non-stop to Europe,” Wessinger said.​

The Columbia airport’s domestic schedule makes it as vital an entity to the Midlands as any other in the continental USA, Wessinger said, “but it would be an asset if it was international.” Also, more competitive (low-cost) airlines such as Southwest would be a plus, she said.

​”The airport is beautiful, open, bright and very user friendly,” Wessinger said. “Customer service with all the airlines and rental car companies are top notch, with our good ‘ole Southern hospitality.”

Next year, the airport is expected to take on another $10 million renovation project, involving taxiway and additional terminal improvements, Mann said.

Overall, the health of the Columbia airport is great, Mann said. Approximately 1,800 employees work in businesses located at the Columbia airport complex – 65 work directly for the airport – creating about $80 million a year in direct payroll, Mann said.

Customers, not government, pay the cost of operations and the customer base is growing, he said. The cost per airport customer is below $10 and debt is down. Airline contracts are under negotiation, Mann said, and the airlines now are willing to enter five-year contracts with the airport.

“If somebody would have said in 2010 we would be in this good shape, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Source: http://www.thestate.com

TriState Aviation at Central Jersey Regional Airport (47N) continues to put community first

From left: Rotarians Joe Horner, John Shockley, Tulsi Maharjan and Jodi DiPane-Saleem, Welcome Home Vets of New Jersey representatives Gene Elwood, Norus Achmetov and Val DiGiacinto, and TriState President Farzan Saleem.



TriState Aviation, the FBO/Flight School located at Central Jersey Regional Airport, is no stranger to providing services to the community.

They consistently donate flights to various charities in the area to assist with nonprofit fundraising activities and offer field trip services to both child and adult day care centers, schools and local scouting programs.

Gift certificates for scenic flights have been provided to benefit Rotary Clubs, local schools, churches, youth groups and recreational organizations and high school organizations. In addition to providing gift certificates, TriState Aviation also organizes some fundraising activities throughout the year in order to raise money for worthy nonprofit charities.

The Veterans Appreciation Day and Santa Fly-In, both hosted at the airport, are two main fundraisers TriState has hosted along with several Rotary Clubs in the area from District 7510. Branchburg, Dunellen/Green Brook, Hillsborough, Old Bridge/Sayreville, Piscataway and Somerville/Bridgewater Rotary Clubs have participated with one or both of these events to assure they run as smoothly as possible.

“The Rotary Clubs have been really instrumental with the success of our fund raising,” said Jodi DiPane-Saleem, office manager of TriState Aviation and a member of the Hillsborough Rotary Club. “Their support is instrumental to our operation when it comes to raising money for charity.”

All the work TriState does throughout the year leads to a big payoff for an entity in dire need of support.

“When we host the Santa Fly-In, the parents are informed that all proceeds will be donated to a local charity," DiPane-Saleem said. "They question where the money is going and want to know how their donation is being appropriated. When people attend our Veterans Appreciation Day, they know funds are going to support our military, but they don’t know exactly what organization will benefit from that event.

"I want these people that take the time to attend our events and make those contributions to know that the money they gave us has been directed to a good cause. They’re as much a part of this as we are and they deserve the recognition.”

TriState is proud that they’ve been able to generate money for Welcome Home Vets of NJ, which is the nonprofit organization selected to benefit from donations totaling $8,100.

Welcome Home Vets of New Jersey provides immediate and long-term assistance through their organization and their partners to assist soldiers, veterans and their families in need of housing, financial, employment and emotional support. The testimonials of the work they perform is heart-wrenching. They offer services for circumstances that’s out of the realm of support the VA can provide.

“There are a lot of situations that our veterans and returning active military need help or direction with that Welcome Home Vets of New Jersey are able to circumvent to make a soldier’s life better,” DiPane-Saleem said. “Some of their work requires professional support such as legal aid, social work and therapy. In those situations, volunteers within the organization provide their services for free. When financial needs are required, Welcome Home Vets’ workload is limited to the amount of money available in their account. Our donation has given them some leverage to assist more servicemen and women.”

Welcome Home Vets of NJ has dozens of heart-wrenching stories that truly represent the type of work this organization provides for our servicemen.

At age 90, Thomas was bedridden and suffering with end-stage renal failure. He was receiving 24/7 care at the apartment he had occupied from the early 1970s. His wife had passed away in the mid-1990s.

Thomas had exhausted his savings and his monthly income was insufficient to cover his rent, utilities, food and homecare. As a result, the landlord processed and eviction. His singular wish was to live out his remaining time in his “cherished” apartment, filled with his memories. Welcome Home Vets of New Jersey provided financial and legal assistance as well as court representation. Eviction proceedings were halted and the landlord was fully compensated. Thomas peacefully passed away on Feb. 2, 2015 in the home Welcome Home Vets helped him to maintain the last few months of his life.

“I think it’s important to treat our military with dignity and show them the respect they deserve for the service they provided,” DiPane-Saleem said, as she reflected on this organizations commitment to help our military personnel. “Until I hooked up with Welcome Home Vets, I had no idea there were so many servicemen in need of support outside of what the VA provides. When we were considering an organization that my husband and I thought could use additional funding, I never expected to come across Welcome Home Vets of NJ, but a click on the web opened my eyes to an organization that really embodies giving and helping in a community.

“Their work is phenomenal and I’m really proud to be a part of this contribution. More importantly, I would like those that gave at our fundraisers to know where the money they donated was directed. These people are the real givers and heroes. The moms that bring their kids to sit on Santa’s lap, the people that purchased popcorn, those that bought a raffle ticket for an airplane ride or threw money into our donation jar all deserve to know that collectively their contributions make a difference. Welcome Home Vets NJ, is overwhelmed by the contribution they received, but TriState was just the vessel for obtaining the funds. This was a collaborative effort between us, Joe and Teri Horner (the airport owners), DGN John Shockley, his wife Linda, the various Rotary Clubs from District 7510, CRJ Contracting in Somerville and the estate of Robert Stefen — all of whom made financial contributions to support us with our drive to commit funding to Welcome Home Vets.”

Welcome Home Vets NJ was represented by Gene Elwood, Val DiGiacinto and Norus Achmetov for the presentation of the donation they were receiving. When told the total dollar amount of the contributions, the reaction was priceless.

“Our group was speechless and very humbled by the efforts of so many people to support our work with veterans," DiGiacinto said. "The amount of the donation was so much more than we had anticipated. Our promise to all those who supported this event is that 100 percent of the contributions will go to help veterans and their Families in need in New Jersey. 2017 has brought us so many calls for help already from our Veteran community. This donation came just at the right time for us to be able to offer our services to more veterans. We will provide Jodi with feedback as to how some of this amazing donation was used as we move forward this year. Again, we can’t thank all those supporters enough and God bless all those who donated, participated and helped with these events that led to this contribution.”

“We’re really looking forward to 2017 as well. Now that we’ve established ourselves as a community oriented business, we’re hoping to receive more support from the public to keep these contributions growing,” said DiPane-Saleem, who is planning the next venture to be held at the airport. “Keep May 20 marked on your calendar! We’re already planning for a military support event to coincide with New York’s Fleet Week. We just processed applications with the Air Force and Navy for some large military planes to perform fly-bys and a number of aircraft to be placed on our field for an incredible static display of helicopters.

"New Jersey’s Military Transport Association has already committed to bringing in numerous retired military vehicles and the Basilone Foundation has also committed a presence to support our causes. Last, but not least, is the support we receive from the local Rotary Clubs in our area. Their support has been instrumental to our growth and recognition in the community service arena. TriState appreciates their participation and all the effort they’ve put into supporting our events. We look forward to future endeavors with them and hope to support some of their causes as well.”

Source:  http://www.mycentraljersey.com

Pilot involved in crash hired by Pakistan International Airlines to fly bigger aircraft: Beechcraft 1900D, Aircraft Sales & Services Limited (ASSL), AP-BII, accident occurred March 18, 2016 at Karachi-Jinnah International Airport (KHI/OPKC)


KARACHI: A pilot who was involved in the crash of a small aeroplane at Karachi airport last year has been recruited by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to fly bigger aircraft, according to sources.

The airline has acquired the pilot’s services even though the inquiry launched to determine the cause of the crash is still under way.

The sources described the PIA management’s decision to recruit a pilot with an “imperfect” record as a “brave” one, particularly after an ATR aircraft of the airline crashed near Havelian not too long ago. All those aboard that aircraft had died in the crash.

According to the sources, the role of the Safety Investigation Board (SIB), which allowed the pilot to resume flying after undergoing some training, is also questionable. The SIB’s job is to find the cause and fix responsibility for any crash or accident.

The regulator of the aviation sector, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), simply allowed the influential pilot to resume flying after it received a clearance letter from the SIB, said the sources.

In response to Dawn’s queries, PIA’s spokesperson Danyal Gilani confirmed that the pilot had been recruited on contract. However, the spokesperson for the CAA, despite repeated requests, did not respond.



The sources said that Muzammil Hussain Khan (ATPL No 1188), with 21 officials of the Pakistan Petroleum Ltd aboard a small chartered aircraft — a Beechcraft 1900 — took off from the Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, on March 18 last year. When the aircraft was only about 200 feet in the air, it fell to the ground, on the airport premises.

Luckily, there was no fatality. Most of those aboard suffered minor injuries, but some of them, including the pilot, were injured seriously.

The sources said the CAA immediately ordered an inquiry into the crash, which is still being conducted by the SIB. So the reason of the crash has not yet been determined.

The sources said the SIB, however, allowed the crew to resume flying after some training.

SIB president Air Commodore Mohammad Munir Butt wrote a letter to the CAA, which said: “The detailed investigation to find out the root cause of the occurrence [air crash] is still in progress…. Following training is recommended for the captain and first officer in order to release them for routine flight operations….”

Nine days after getting the SIB letter, CAA’s additional director Capt Khalid Mehmood wrote a letter to the ASSL, saying the captain, first officer and crew of the small aircraft could resume flight operations, after attending some training sessions.

With the two letters in his pocket, Mr Khan applied to the PIA which hired him to operate an ATR aircraft and sent him abroad for training.

The sources said that even before the crash landing at the Karachi airport, Mr Khan’s record as a pilot was far from perfect. Citing an example, they said that after one of the tests taken by the pilot, the examiner had proposed 100 hours of monitored flying, besides improvements in other training segments.

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

Trump bump fuels private jet business



The election of Donald Trump to the White House could give the private jet industry a helpful bit of thrust this year.

The so-called 'Trump Bump' has made industry executives more upbeat about the outlook, with 80pc saying the US president will have a positive impact on their aviation businesses, according to a survey by Corporate Jet Investor.

Mid to heavy jets are expected to be the best sellers in 2017, as a stronger global economy and new technology and innovation within the aircraft industry also fuel growth in the sector.

The UK will be a key market for private jet exports. Over the next eight years, 146 heavy private jets are expected to be delivered to UK clients, worth as much as £5.7bn, according to figures from Global Jet Capital, a business aviation finance company. This is more than any other European country by a wide margin. 

Alasdair Whyte, editor of Corporate Jet Investor, said: “Donald Trump is the first President of the United States to own business jets before becoming elected.  He may split opinions, but our research shows the majority of people in the industry think this will have a positive impact on market growth and there have been increased enquiries from aircraft buyers since the election, particularly for pre-owned aircraft.

“There are a lot of exciting developments going on to make business aviation more affordable and more accessible, allowing clients to charter aircraft more easily."

Original article can be found here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Helena Regional Airport (KHLN) traffic taking off: Record travelers seen in 2016



A record number of people traveled to and from the Helena Regional Airport in 2016. 

More than 103,000 people made their way through security and onto flights last year, while a little more than 102,000 departing from the airport. Together, arrivals and departures totaled 205,733, which eclipsed the 2011 record of 204,205, according to data compiled by Jeff Wadekamper, the airport's director.

The 2016 arrivals and departures also surpassed those from the previous year, when 199,376 travelers were tallied. And the number of travelers last year reflects a 22 percent increase over 2007.

Contributing to the 2016 increase is that Delta Air Lines is replacing its 50-seat regional jet aircraft with those capable of ferrying 65 and 76 passengers to meet peak demands, Wadekamper stated in a news release.

The move to larger aircraft expanded Delta Air Lines' seat capacity by 8.4 percent on its Helena service to Salt Lake City that fills, on average, 86 percent of the seats.

Delta Air Lines also provides service between Helena and Minneapolis and has used larger aircraft when demand for seats was greatest, Wadekamper noted.

United Airlines service from Helena to Denver, which began in 2008, also saw a 4.8 percent increase in travelers on those flights that typically had 89 percent of their seats filled.

United Airlines is also planning to switch from the 50-seat jets to those with a 76-seat capacity in a year or two, Wadekamper said.

And Alaska Airlines, which has reduced service between Seattle and Helena to only a single daily flight through most of 2016, saw 2.4 percent more seats filled compared to 2015, according to the airport director’s data. Demand for seats filed 70 percent on average for the year.

Alaska Airlines also has plans to switch from the turboprop aircraft, with a 76-seat capacity, to jets of the same size in a couple of years, he added.
Expansion plans

The record-setting 2016 number of passengers and plans for airlines to serve Helena with larger jets give added reason for the airport to move ahead with expanding the passenger waiting area and food services on the terminal’s second floor.

Each morning, three flights leave from Helena with the Minneapolis-bound Delta Air Lines’ flight departing as early as 5:20 a.m. and its Salt Lake City flight set for 6:20 a.m. The United Airlines’ service to Denver is scheduled to leave at 7:10 a.m.

“First thing in the morning, it’s pretty much a packed house right now,” Wadekamper said.

Not everyone who’s waiting for a flight has a place to sit, but the airport authority is moving ahead with an expansion that will begin this year on paper.

After architects and engineers design the airport terminal’s expansion, construction won’t happen until 2018, according to the timetable offered by Wadekamper.

The roughly $3 million project -- Wadekamper calls that a rough estimate -- is expected to take a year and will be done in phases to keep the airport open during construction.

An additional 1,250 square feet would be added to the terminal’s first floor while an estimated 2,950 square feet would be added to the building’s second floor. A ground-floor boarding area would be retained for current and future use.

The ground-floor boarding, which serves the 76-seat Alaska turboprop aircraft, was designed for 40 passengers.

He sees the expansion as meeting the airport’s needs for five to 10 years and said, “We’ve got to keep it affordable.”

Spending between $6 million to $8 million for this phase of the airport’s master plan and a second phase of it might be too much at this time, Wadekamper said.

“So it’s a careful balance between capacity and demand,” he added.

Funding for the project is anticipated to come primarily from federal funds the airport receives annually through the Airport Improvement Program. While this is expected to cover 90 percent of the project cost, a nationwide fee added on to airline tickets will pay for maybe 8 percent of the project.

The $4.50 passenger facility charge on each airline ticket applies to each of the first three segments of a traveler’s flight, if there are multiple stops before reaching a final destination.

Helena Regional Airport collects about $390,000 annually through this charge, Wadekamper said in October.

The remaining roughly 2 percent of the project’s cost is expected to come from the airport. Federal funds won’t cover improvements such as those for the airport’s restaurant, Wadekamper said.

The airport operates without any local taxes or mill levies, Wadekamper said, explaining that its revenue is divided roughly into thirds and funded by airlines, other aviation-related activities such as corporate air services and general aviation, and leasing parts of its 1,400 acres to several entities, including Boeing Co., Costco and Lee Enterprises.

Also contributing to the upcoming project could be the airlines that might want to upgrade customer services, Wadekamper noted.

Further driving the need for more passenger waiting areas is an anticipated move by Alaska Airlines to switch from turboprop to jet aircraft.

With this change, Alaska Airlines would move its passenger boarding area from the airport terminal’s ground floor, where people walk outside to board flights, to the second floor where the other airlines’ passengers are already crowded as they wait for their flights, Wadekamper has said.

In addition to providing more room on the terminal’s second floor for waiting passengers, the airport will need to install another “jet bridge” -- this is the enclosed walkway that links the terminal to arriving and departing flights -- to accommodate Alaska Airlines and perhaps another flight.

The two jet bridges currently serve the three daily Delta Air Lines and United Airlines flights.

The expansion, while meeting current needs, will be even more critical if the airport is successful in its bid to add new air service.

The airport authority was unsuccessful this year in obtaining funds through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Program to use in enticing Alaska Airlines to restore its second flight to Seattle.

The federal grant and local funds would have helped guarantee the Alaska Airlines wouldn’t lose money if it didn’t sell enough seats on a second Seattle flight serving Helena.

Communities that proposed new routes were favored in the latest round of funding by the Small Community Air Service Development Program, Wadekamper said in August.

Since failing to receive the $500,000 Small Community Air Service Development Program grant, airport officials began looking at how to modify an application to make it more competitive.

Seeking an Alaska Airlines route to Portland, Oregon, which has become the second most popular destination for Helena travelers, with service to Seattle is seen as creating a more competitive grant application, Wadekamper noted previously.

A local fundraising effort is underway to raise $100,000 by March 1 to use in its application for a $500,000 federal air service grant.

The airport authority anticipates hearing in mid-summer if the application is successful, which would allow it to begin discussions with Alaska Airlines for service to Portland, Oregon.

Plans for the grant and moving ahead with an expansion of the terminal building come after a year of infrastructure improvements that include a $989,000 reconstruction of a taxiway that links facilities on the airport’s north side with the runway.

Source:  http://helenair.com