Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Never mind about that helipad, GE tells Boston

 General Electric Co. has told city and state officials that it no longer needs a new publicly accessible helipad, taking the pressure off of them to find a suitable location for the controversial project.

When the Baker and Walsh administrations worked together just over a year ago on crafting an incentive package to convince GE to relocate its headquarters to Boston, a state-funded helicopter landing facility was a prominent part of the plan.

But GE executives say they have found that it’s easier to fly in and out of Logan Airport’s private aviation facility — it’s a short drive away from GE’s Fort Point headquarters through the Ted Williams tunnel — than they initially expected.

The helipad project has also become a bit of a public relations liability, particularly in South Boston, just as GE is trying to prove itself to be a good neighbor. 

Source:  https://www.bostonglobe.com

Fayetteville Regional Airport (KFAY) renovations needed, director says

Upgrades to the Fayetteville Regional Airport aren't expected to substantially increase the amount of people who use the facility or the number of flights.

Bids for the first phase of a multiyear, $30-million project were about $5 million higher than the expected cost, causing city officials to reconsider its design to cut costs. Another round of bids is scheduled for April.

The renovations will upgrade the 48-year-old airport and "improve customer experience," Airport Director Brad Whited said.

"I don't expect it to add customers because we have the three major airlines," he said. "I don't expect the upgrades to have that kind of effect."

The renovations are expected to update the airport's look, provide more space, improve functionality and give the facility an increase of natural light. They will include a new Concourse A, a new screening area and a new restaurant for passengers waiting at the gates.

Whited said an example of a needed upgrade is the airport's escalators, which were installed when the facility was built in 1969.

"It's hard to get parts for them," he said.

The up and down escalators are on different sides of the airport, which confuses travelers who haven't used the facility before, Whited said.

Airline service is largely dependent on population, Whited said. The airport would like to have direct flights to New York and Chicago, but the number of passengers on the planes are not likely to support the airlines providing them, he said.

The airport has 14 arrivals and 14 departures each day. The airlines fly to hubs in Atlanta, Charlotte and Washington, D.C. that offer connections to national and international destinations.

"From there, you can go about anywhere you want," Whited said.

About 18,000 to 20,000 passengers flew out of the Fayetteville airport each month during the last part of 2016.

Federal officials announced in September that the airport had been awarded a $10 million grant to expand the terminal building. The project, which is expected to include a major upgrade to the facility, is scheduled to be finished by 2019.

The grant was expected to pay for 90 percent of the initial phase of the project. Airport revenues, including rental fees and a $4 charge per passenger, are supposed to cover the remaining cost.

The grant is from the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program, which pays for improvements at airports to enhance safety, capacity and security or mitigate environmental and noise concerns.

The airport had a major addition in the mid-1980s. About $7 million in renovation work was done from 1999 to 2006.

Airport officials hope to get another grant for the second phase of the project, which will include renovations to the airport's offices and a security checkpoint.

Source:  http://www.fayobserver.com

Cirrus SR22, N176CF: Iowa State could lose thousands on sale of president's plane



An airplane that nearly cost Iowa State University President Steven Leath his job has more bad news: a lower-than-expected sale price.

Contradicting his claim two months ago that the sale should turn a profit, the university now expects to lose tens of thousands of dollars unloading the Cirrus SR-22 it purchased for Leath's travel 2 ½ years ago. Leath has faced months of scrutiny over revelations that he damaged the plane in a hard landing and used it for dozens of questionable flights, but the Board of Regents in December decided to retain him after he pledged to sell the plane and take other corrective actions.

A notice seeking a broker to handle the sale says Iowa State will likely list the 2011 Cirrus between $429,000 and $480,000, and is willing to negotiate to have it sold within 90 days. That would be less than what a university statement called the "exceptional price" of $498,000 it paid in 2014 — even before the broker is paid a likely five-figure fee.

Such depreciation wouldn't be unusual. But Leath told reporters in December that he expected to make money or break even on the planned sale, which was announced the same day an audit found he used it for a mix of official and personal business. He said the plane, purchased with donations, was a great bargain because the Wisconsin couple who previously owned it were Iowa State fans who wanted the school to have it.

The 17-page Request for Proposal, posted online Feb. 3, says the chosen broker will confirm the market appraisal and advertise the plane nationally. Brokers have until Wednesday to submit offers, which ISU will evaluate based on cost and other factors. Brokers typically earn around 5 percent of the price, which would be $22,500 on a $450,000 sale. Iowa State wants to pay a fixed fee.

University spokespersons haven't responded to questions about the sale.

After acquiring the plane, Leath used it for flight lessons to earn an instrument rating that allowed him to fly himself. His instructor was former lawmaker Jim Kurtenbach, who was appointed around the same time an ISU vice president and didn't charge for lessons.

A Board of Regents audit found Leath was the pilot or passenger on 72 of 76 known trips the Cirrus took. Leath claimed the business justification for 52 of them was for pilot proficiency, training and certification.

He reimbursed ISU $14,575 for those trips after the audit, saying he now sees why his flight training may be viewed as a personal benefit. He had previously reimbursed $4,600 for four trips to his North Carolina home that were partly personal.

Leath stopped flying the plane after The Associated Press reported in September that he damaged it in a hard landing in July 2015 that hadn't been made public. The university spent $14,000 replacing the left wing flap and the right wing tip.

The damage, which wasn't reported as required by policy to the Office of Risk Management, isn't mentioned in the notice but could ultimately affect the price. Leath has since reimbursed the university for the full damage cost.

Story and comments:  http://www.desmoinesregister.com

Bill would prohibit drones flown over private property

HELENA - People who spoke in opposition to a bill that would limit where drones can fly said they were worried the legislation, if not amendment, would prohibit the production of films and the use of aircraft by companies like railroads who use the technology to inspect their track.

AT&T uses drones to inspect its wireless towers, company lobbyist Mark Baker told the Senate Judiciary Committee, which heard the bill Tuesday.

“It’s a much safer approach than sending personnel up on the tower for initial review," he said.

Senate Bill 170 is being carried by Rep. Steve Hinebauch, R-Wibaux. As written, it creates a civil penalty for anyone who flies a drone over private property below 500 feet. Most drones cannot fly above that altitude, either because of how they are built or Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

In Eastern Montana, Hinebauch said he’s seen drones used to harass property owners.

“It’s people coming down and snooping on industry to a certain extent,” he said. “There were pipeline people that had some anti-pipeline people flying down with drones … trying to be an obstacle as far as building pipeline.”

Proposed amendments would allow drones to fly for commercial purposes and land surveying and exempt law enforcement and insurance companies. They would also increase the fine, which is set at a minimum of $500, to $2,500 for those who fly over a critical infrastructure facility.

“If you don’t have a right to be on the surface, you shouldn’t be on the air above that property,” said Chuck Denowh, representing United Property Owners of Montana, who spoke in support of the bill.

Most who opposed the bill said the may support if the amendments are adopted.

Steve White, of Bozeman, has flown drones for over 20 years. He said the FAA already has good rules on the commercial use of drones and that requiring people who use drones recreationally to register their vehicles would do more to protect rights than what the bill proposes.

“If somebody is a peeping tom and somebody is using a drone for that, the first thing he needs to do is have it registered."

Others expressed concerns about if a drone was blown onto private property or other accidental trespass.

Sen. Jen Gross, D-Billings, asked Hinebauch if he’d be open to an amendment that permitted drones flown by news organizations or film crews. Hinebauch said he couldn’t say without seeing a draft but emphasized his goal to protect property rights.

“A news organization does not have the right to just enter your backyard or your home to film a news segment. They have to ask permission. They should have to ask permission to fly a drone above your property as well.”

The committee took no action Tuesday.

Source:  http://missoulian.com

Officials ban drones and other aircraft from Oroville Dam airspace


The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a temporary ban on flights around the Oroville Dam to allow emergency aircraft to operate safely.

“We implemented temporary flight restrictions that prohibit aircraft operations from the ground up to 4,500 feet altitude within a trapezoidal area around the dam,” said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA in Los Angeles.

The flight restriction includes recreational drones, according to the California Department of Water Resources. The restriction is scheduled to end May 17.

The ban comes as crews continue to conduct aerial surveys of the erosion on the emergency spillway.

Source:  http://www.latimes.com

Feds: Officer tried to help cocaine-carrying drug mules at John F. Kennedy Airport (KJFK)

NEW YORK — A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer tried to help two drug couriers sneak about 100 pounds of cocaine past screeners at Kennedy Airport, federal authorities said in court papers.

A criminal complaint, newly unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, charges Fernando Marte with drug-smuggling conspiracy. Marte was in custody on Tuesday following his arrest last week.

Marte was on duty and in uniform when the couriers — a man and a woman traveling on a JetBlue flight from the Dominican Republic — arrived at JFK with two carry-on suitcases, according to court papers.

Security video shows Marte greeting the pair, escorting them past a primary inspection point and into the baggage claim area to get a cart for their bags, the papers say. Once they reached a secondary inspection point, Marte spoke to other customs officers there, investigators said.

After the conversation, the woman "was not stopped, searched or otherwise interviewed" before going outside with the bags, the papers say. But before her companion could leave, other customs officers stopped him and the woman. Both were arrested after the officers discovered bricks of cocaine wrapped in duct tape in the luggage.

The complaint says an informant told investigators Marte had also helped sneak another drug mule through airport inspection points last year. The officer has worked for U.S. Customs and Border Protection for about five years.

Robert Perez, director of the agency's New York operations, said in a statement: "We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and will aggressively investigate allegations of criminal or administrative misconduct by any of our personal, on or off duty."

There was no immediate response to a request for comment from Marte's lawyer.

Source:   http://www.wral.com

GI Aviation going after private jet customers: Abu Dhabi-based company looks to tap into the regional commuter market




UAE’s latest private aviation charter operator to enter the market aims to tap into the GCC commuter market.

GI Aviation has a definite target market, pricing itself somewhere between business class on a commercial carrier and the cost of chartering a mid-size jet aircraft.

Based in Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Airport, the charter firm has launched with two Pilatus PC-12NG.

The distinctive Swiss-made aircraft, with a single-engine turboprop engine, has a flying range of four and a half hours that is capable of serving the regional market, according to GI Aviation general manager, Marios Belidis.

“Each aircraft has a capacity of six to eight passengers. The ideal configuration is between four to six passengers,” Belidis told Arabian Business.




“The maximum range of these is up to four and a half hours of flying and we're looking into operating in the GCC and surrounding region.”

He said the PC12, with its low maintenance cost, enables GI Aviation to competitively price a charter flight 30 percent lower than a mid-sized private jet, but with the same luxury.

“We're placing ourselves price wise between a business class seat and a [private] jet,” said Belidis, “so people who wouldn't be able to afford to get a jet will be more able to afford the PC12.

“If you were to fly, let's say, six or eight executives tomorrow to Doha for an hour flight, you're probably looking at flying business or first class seats. You might not be able to pay a jet, but you will be able to pay a PC12.

“Why go on business when you can charter an aircraft, and save yourself time? If you travel business class you have to report to the airport two hours before and then you bear through the delays at your arrival point. We're offering privacy, affordable rates and luxury.”

In terms of exact costs, Belidis said it depends on routes, ground handling charges, additional airport charges, landing fees.

The target market will be in the GCC region, focusing on the shorter flights, as the slightly longer routes become less price competitive.

“We believe we'll see a lot of flights to Doha, Bahrain, Kuwait, up to Tehran, and go as far as Karachi,” Belidis said.

“We will fly to Saudi yes, to Riyadh and other places for sure, but what happens with the PC12 is that it's good for two hours flying, but beyond that you become less competitive because your speed is restricted and it becomes much slower than a jet. Up to two hours, you don't see much difference.”




Being the first PC12 to operate in the region, Belidis said the process in securing its Air Operator’s Certificate from the GCAA was a two-year process that was finally concluded last December.

"We're introducing a new type of aircraft to the region. PC12s haven't been operating here in the region commercially, and that was the challenge for GCAA and ourselves,” Belidis explained.

He said enquires for the service started from the moment they acquired the licence.

The PC12 cabin can also be converted for medical configuration within an hour, which has three seats and space for a medical stretcher.

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

Piper PA-28-181, M & F Enterprises LLC, N9845K: Incident occurred February 09, 2017 in Sedona, Arizona

M & F Enterprises LLC: http://registry.faa.gov/N9845K 

FAA Flight Standards District Office: Scottsdale

Aircraft on final, propeller struck an unidentified object.

Date: 09-FEB-17
Time: 98:45:00Z
Regis#: N9845K
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA28
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: UNKNOWN
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: APPROACH (APR)
City: SEDONA
State: ARIZONA

Beechcraft 76 Duchess, Ari-Ben Aviator, Inc., N6003Y: Incident occurred February 13, 2017 at St Lucie County International Airport (KFPR), Fort Pierce, St. Lucie County, Florida

Ari-Ben Aviator, Inc: http://registry.faa.gov/N6003Y 

FAA Flight Standards District Office: Orlando

Aircraft landed gear up.

Date: 14-FEB-17
Time: 02:45:00Z
Regis#: N6003Y
Aircraft Make: BEECH
Aircraft Model: BE76
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: UNKNOWN
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
City: FORT PIERCE
State: FLORIDA

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — A plane skidded as it landed Monday night at Treasure Coast International Airport and Business Park after a landing gear malfunction, according to statements in a St. Lucie County Sheriff’s report released Tuesday.

The 26-year-old pilot told a deputy that as she was landing, the landing gear retracted into the Beechcraft 76 Duchess belly, and the aircraft skidded for about 100 yards before stopping.

The incident was reported about 10 p.m. at the airport in the 3000 block of Curtis King Boulevard.

The 21-year-old passenger/instructor told investigators “the landing gear gave out,” the report said. She said the plane sustained significant damage.

There were no injuries, according to Brenda Stokes, St. Lucie County Fire District spokeswoman.

The airport manager notified the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board, the report said.


Source:  http://www.tcpalm.com

Spirit Airlines, Airbus A319: Incident occurred February 13, 2017 at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (KFLL), Broward County, Florida

Spirit Airlines flight NKS153, Airbus A319, registration not reported. On departure, struck a bird, returned and landed without incident with unknown damage.  No injures.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: South Florida

Date: 13-FEB-17
Time: 17:00:00Z
Regis#: NKS153
Aircraft Make: AIRBUS
Aircraft Model: A319
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: UNKNOWN
Activity: COMMERCIAL
Flight Phase: TAKEOFF (TOF)
Aircraft Operator: SPIRIT AIRLINES
Flight Number: NKS153
City: FORT LAUDERDALE
State: FLORIDA

Taylorcraft BC12-D, Low and Slow LLC, N96310: Incident occurred February 13, 2017 at The Eastern Iowa Airport (KCID), Cedar Rapids, Linn County, Iowa

Low and Slow LLC: http://registry.faa.gov/N96310 

Aircraft on landing, bounced and nosed over.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: Des Moines 

Date: 13-FEB-17
Time: 21:05:00Z
Regis#: N96310
Aircraft Make: TAYLORCRAFT
Aircraft Model: BC12
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: UNKNOWN
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
City: CEDAR RAPIDS
State: IOWA

Cessna 150K, Jay Air LLC, N6109G: Incident occurred February 13, 2017 in Olive Branch, DeSoto County, Mississippi

Jay Air LLC: http://registry.faa.gov/N6109G 

FAA Flight Standards District Office:  Jackson

Aircraft while inflight, propeller sustained a birdstrike.  Spinner separated from aircraft.  Landed without incident.  


Date: 13-FEB-17
Time: 23:00:00Z
Regis#: N6109G
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: C150
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: UNKNOWN
Activity: INSTRUCTION
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
City: OLIVE BRANCH
State: MISSISSIPPI

Piper PA28, UND Aerospace Foundation, N745ND: Incident occurred February 13, 2017 in Grand Forks, North Dakota

UND Aerospace Foundation: http://registry.faa.gov/N745ND 

FAA Flight Standards District Office: Fargo 

Aircraft on exiting runway, went into field.


Date: 14-FEB-17
Time: 02:06:00Z
Regis#: N745ND
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA28
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Activity: INSTRUCTION
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
City: GRAND FORKS
State: North Dakota

Hawker 800XP, N119BG: Incident occurred February 13, 2017 in Galveston, Texas

RER Investments LLC: http://registry.faa.gov/N119BG

Aircraft sustained minor birdstrike damage at Galveston airport. Landed without incident in Houston, Texas

FAA Flight Standards District Office: Houston

Date: 13-FEB-17
Time: 16:25:00Z
Regis#: N119BG
Aircraft Make: RAYTHEON
Aircraft Model: HAWKER 800XP
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
City: GALVESTON
State: TEXAS

Stewart International Airport (KSWF) incentive program likely to continue

NEW YORK – Port Authority commissioners are expected to renew an incentive program that has been used to maintain existing and attract new passenger service to Stewart International Airport when they meet Thursday.

The program, in use in some form since 2010, gives a two-year package of discounts and credits to airlines that provide scheduled nonstop service to any new domestic or international destination not already served from Stewart.

It expires March 31 and would be extended through March 31, 2020.

The incentives are designed to make Stewart more attractive to airlines than such competitors as Albany, Hartford and Westchester and to offset their costs in scheduling and marketing new services.

Most recently, the Port Authority has cited the program as contributing to Allegiant Air's decision to return to Stewart and offer flights to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Fla.

"They're significant incentives, and if they get an airline to come to Stewart or expand service at Stewart, they're a good thing,'' said Lou Heimbach, chairman of the Stewart Airport Commission.

These airport rents, fees and charges represent the Port Authority's leading source of revenue and are expected to raise $2.6 billion toward this year's $7.4 billion budget.

Stewart, where passenger volume has been declining, is forecast to collect $8.5 million.

Heimbach said the action only raises more questions about why the Port Authority appears to be abandoning its ancillary project to expand the terminal at Stewart to process more passengers overall, and domestic and international passengers simultaneously.

"They obviously go together,'' said Heimbach, who has been lobbying commissioners to restore the $20 million for the project to their 2017-2026 capital plan.

When the Port Authority introduced the incentive program in 2010, it allocated $2 million to design a 25,000-square-foot expansion of the terminal to accommodate a federal inspection station for U.S. Customs.

Then, in 2012, it renewed the program for five years, extended it to international airlines and approved $20 million for the expansion.

The design is still incomplete, and now, the $20 million has been removed from the capital plan that commissioners will vote on Thursday.

"What happened to their vision?" said Maureen Halahan, president and CEO of the Orange County Partnership.

"They promised to invest $500 million in Stewart when they took it over (in 2007) and, sure, they've spent some, but there's still a lot of money left on the table."

Halahan, who criticized commissioners on this point when they held a public hearing on the capital plan last week in Jersey City, N.J., called the expansion of the terminal central to Norwegian Air's pending start of low-cost flights to Europe from Stewart – the airport's first scheduled international service.

"Look at all the major companies that are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Orange County now,'' said Halahan. "And they can't come up with $20 million, a $20 million that was a promise?"

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, who also spoke at the hearing, said he was equally baffled that the Port Authority would back away from this commitment just when Norwegian Air was in the wings.

"Why now?" said Neuhaus. "Without explanation?"

Read more here:  http://www.recordonline.com

Cocaine Found Hidden In Six Pairs Of Shoes At John F. Kennedy Airport (KJFK)










NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A passenger arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport wasn’t exactly toeing the line.

Amaziah Hohenkirk, of Guyana, arrived at JFK on Feb. 9, according to Customs and Border Protection officials.

Hohenkirk had brought with him four pairs of sneakers and two pairs of shoes, CBP officials said.

The shoes had about four pounds of cocaine hidden in them worth about $67,000, authorities said.

“This latest seizure demonstrates the vigilance of our CBP officers, and their excellence in detecting those who would try to smuggle these illegal substances,” said Robert Perez of the CBP.

Hohenkirk faces federal smuggling charges.

Source:  http://newyork.cbslocal.com

Longmont's Vance Brand Municipal Airport (KLMO) noise complaints plummet in 2016



Last year, complaints filed with the city about noise from airplanes flying to and from Longmont's Vance Brand Municipal Airport dropped sharply from 2015 totals, according to airport Manager David Slayter.

Slayter said in a written report to the City Council that the 2016 complaint database showed a 712-complaint decrease from a year earlier. The airport recorded 969 complaints filed with the city's Link2Longmont online concerns logging system in 2015, compared to a total of 257 complaints last year.

The total number of people filing those airport-noise complaints also fell, dropping from 90 people in 2015 to 33 people in 2016, Slayter reported.

Slayter and the Airport Advisory Board, which are to present their annual report at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, said all but 15 of last year's noise complaints were directed at planes flown by Mile-Hi Skydiving, one of the airport's tenants.

"Touch-and-go operations generate the majority of non-skydiving complaints, and as in past years the majority of the complaints are received on weekends from May through September, which are the busiest months at the airport," Slayter and the Airport Advisory Board said.

"Generally, flying the pattern at ½ to ¾ of a mile on each side of the runway has been adhered to during less active time periods.

"However, the times where the pattern becomes congested, flying a wider pattern is necessary," the report said. "This is also the case for the larger aircraft that operate in the traffic pattern."

Slayter said in an interview Monday that one possible reason for the drop in complaint numbers is that "there's been a lot of education to the public about what we have control over, and what we don't have control over," when it comes to applicable Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

As for landings, takeoffs, circling and flyovers not related to skydiving, the airport asks pilots using Vance Brand "to be as neighborly as possible, as long as that doesn't significantly interfere with safety," Slayter said.

In their written report to the council, the airport manager and Airport Advisory Board said Slayter has been conducting an "airport outreach program" to discuss residents' concerns about airport operations and that more recently, there have been presentations to local civic organizations.

"The philosophy behind this program is to have the airport be a partner in the community where both negative and positive impacts can be discussed, and whenever possible, mitigated and-or enhanced," the report said.

While it's not mentioned in Slayter's and the Airport Advisory Board's written report, the Colorado Court of Appeals on Dec. 22 sided with Mile-Hi Skydiving after hearing an appeal of a Boulder District Court's May 21, 2015, ruling against Citizens for Quiet Skies and other plaintiffs who had filed a noise lawsuit against the skydiving company.

Slayter, who said 2016 was a "great" year for the facility, also will review activities and accomplishments with the City Council at Tuesday's meeting.

The written report noted that last June, between 3,500 and 4,500 people attended an Airport Expo 2016 hosted by the advisory board and helped by many volunteers — an event the report said drew many comments "that this was one of the best Expos the airport has seen."

The report said 305 aircraft were based at Vance Brand last year and there were 71,491 landings and takeoffs at the airport.

If you go

What: Longmont City Council to hear the Airport Advisory Board and airport manager's annual report about activities and accomplishments at Vance Brand Municipal Airport.

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: City Council chambers, Civic Center, 350 Kimbark St.

More information: The full meeting agenda, along with attachments, is available at bit.ly/2kDUxxQ

Source:  http://www.timescall.com

Judge nearly grounds Bensenville homeowners lawsuit vs Chicago over O'Hare air traffic

A Cook County judge has nearly grounded a lawsuit brought by Bensenville homeowners against the city of Chicago, saying the homeowners have more work to do to prove they can sue the city for directing a steady stream of aircraft over their homes every day from a new runway at O'Hare.

Dozens of Bensenville homeowners say air traffic from O'Hare International Airport’s busy new runway has destroyed their quality of life. They filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court in February 2016, alleging heavy air traffic from a new runway at O’Hare - flying 500 feet or less above their homes - constituted an illegal taking of their property under the U.S. and Illinois constitutions. 

That complaint had followed earlier litigation the residents brought against the city, which a Cook County judge dismissed, but which had not included the homeowners’ so-called “inverse condemnation” and illegal takings claims. The city took the case to federal court, saying the homeowners’ claims under the U.S. Constitution made the federal court a better venue. The city then moved to dismiss the case again. 

But before a federal judge could rule on that dismissal request, the homeowners persuaded the judge to send the case back to Cook County court. In October, the city’s attorneys again asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing the homeowners filed too late, as Illinois law gave them only until 2014 — a year after the new runway first opened — to bring their legal action against the city. 

Judge Thomas R. Mulroy issued his order on that request Jan. 31 in Chicago. He noted that while regular flights less than 500 feet above privately owned land do constitute government claiming a navigation easement, there is a lack of legal precedent establishing when that easement of flight crosses over into an actionable claim. 

The homeowners say that while the runway opened in October 2013, they relied on the city’s public statements about plans to abate the noise. 

“It was not until the summer of 2015 that plaintiffs realized their situation was permanent,” Mulroy wrote, citing a portion of their complaint in which the homeowners allege “the city intentionally engaged in a calculated pattern of conduct designed to appease and mislead the residents into delaying in asserting their rights by way of this litigation and otherwise.” 

Yet because the homeowners didn’t allege specific dates of when air traffic increased – whether it was when larger aircraft used the runway or when they noticed planes flying at lower altitudes - Mulroy agreed to grant the city’s motion to dismiss the homeowners’ complaint without prejudice. 

Alternatively, the homeowners alleged unjust enrichment because the city derives an economic benefit from the use of their properties. 

The city, however, moved for dismissal, arguing protection under the Tort Immunity Act because there was no contract between the city and homeowners for a court to remedy. The homeowners asked for relief in the form of “quasi-contract,” which Mulroy defined as “an action for damages against the city” that “does not fall under the Tort Immunity Act’s contract exception.” Mulroy said the homeowners are barred from asserting that claim, and dismissed the count with prejudice. 

Mulroy granted the homeowners until Friday, Feb. 24, to file an amended complaint for their pursuit of compensation for loss of property value. A status hearing is set for March 1. 

Chicago City Hall is represented in the action by attorneys with the firms of Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell LLP, of Denver, Colo., and lawyers with the city’s Department of Law. 

The Bensenville homeowners are represented by attorneys Michael I. Leonard, John P. Killacky and Ethan E. White, of the firm of LeonardMeyer LLP, of Chicago.

Original article can be found here: http://cookcountyrecord.com