Friday, April 14, 2017

Van Nuys Airport (KVNY) real estate executive to serve on Los Angeles County Airport Commission

VAN NUYS >> A real estate executive at Van Nuys Airport and longtime leader of its business association has been appointed to serve on the Los Angeles County Airport Commission.

Curt Castagna, president and CEO of the Aeroplex/Aerolease Group, was appointed to the commission on Tuesday after his nomination by Supervisor Janice Hahn.

“I would like to express my appreciation to Supervisor Hahn for allowing me the opportunity to make a positive contribution to the airports serving the diverse aviation needs of the County of Los Angeles,” said Castagna, in a statement. “I look forward to collaborating with industry, business and community leaders to ensure the county airports are operated safely, securely and efficiently.”

The 10-member commission oversees operations at Whiteman Airport in Pacoima as well as county-owned airports across the region, including Brackett Field Airport in La Verne, Compton/Woodley Airport in Compton, San Gabriel Valley Airport in El Monte and General William J. Fox Airfield in Lancaster, home to more than 1,500 general aviation aircraft.

Castagna, of Los Alamitos, replaces Commissioner Angelo R. Cardono in the 4th county supervisorial district.

With more than 35 years of aviation industry experience, Castagna oversees aviation and business aircraft centers with more than 100 Aerolease tenants at Van Nuys and Long Beach airports.

The president of Van Nuys and Long Beach airport tenant associations also serves on the board of directors for the National Air Transportation Association. He is an active member of the American Association of Airport Executives.

A licensed pilot and aircraft owner, Castagna has taught aviation administration courses for 25 years as an adjunct professor at California State University, Los Angeles, and Cypress Community College.

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

Incident occurred April 14, 2017 at Palm Beach International Airport (KPBI), West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida

WEST PALM BEACH -- 

A small plane with an engine out and 10 people on board landed safely at Palm Beach International Airport on Friday afternoon, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said.

The aircraft was a Hawker type. 

No injuries were reported.

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

Van's RV-12, Lane Community College, N234VA: Incident occurred April 14, 2017 near Mahlon Sweet Field Airport (KEUG), Eugene, Lane County, Oregon

Lane Community College: http://registry.faa.gov/N234VA

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Spokane, Washington

Aircraft force landed on a highway.  

Date: 14-APR-17
Time: 21:13:00Z
Regis#: N234VA
Aircraft Make: VANS
Aircraft Model: RV12
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: NONE
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
City: EUGENE
State: OREGON


Flight Instructor Brandon Wynn looks at the Van's RV-12 experimental aircraft in the parking lot of Fiddler's Green Golf Center north of Eugene, Ore., after making an emergency landing, Friday, April 14, 2017. 







Looking down from 2,800 feet, flight student Jacob Brands had a job unlike any other Friday afternoon when the plane he was learning to fly lost oil pressure. 

Brands, 22, was told to look out for cars, as his flight instructor Brandon Wynn, 26, of the Lane Aviation Academy, prepared to make an emergency landing on busy Highway 99 N near the Eugene Airport.

The Van's RV-12 experimental aircraft had almost made it back to the landing strip it had just taken off from, steered back because of the sudden loss in oil pressure, Wynn explained. But the engine died over the highway at 2:20 p.m., and Wynn did the only thing he could.

He brought the plane down outside the Fiddler’s Green Golf Center, 1 mile northeast of the airport.

“We took off, and everything was looking just fine,” Wynn said. But then, “I looked over and the oil pressure had spun to zero. I was hoping to make the runway but didn’t quite do it, but we flew it all the way onto highway 99 and we were able to make a safe landing.”

Brands, who had been piloting the plane before the oil pressure dropped, called out to Wynn the cars he could see below the plane. The plane only had one close call, Wynn said, but luckily the car was going faster than the plane and able to get out of the way.

“One car was right below us but luckily this plane doesn’t go very fast,” Wynn said. “So luckily, they outran us and I am sure they got a nice surprise in their rearview as we touched down behind them.”

Wynn has been flying planes since 2009 and has a degree from the University of North Dakota, according to program director Steve Boulton. Wynn said he has been an instructor at the Lane Aviation Academy for one year next month.

Friday’s flight was only Brands’ third.

“It was crazy. It was scary,” Brands said. “But I trusted him and he kept his calm. He knew what he was doing.”

After it was on the ground, the plane was steered into the golf center’s parking lot, as Wynn waited for academy officials to arrive.

Boulton said he was thankful that Wynn and Brands were OK.

He said students and instructors both practice emergency landings repeatedly for this very reason.

“It’s built into all the training. We do a lot of simulations,” Boulton said. “They practice getting into the right position, how to land in the wind, the appropriate spots. Instructors like him know how to judge where it’s going without power.”

While Boulton has experienced engine failures before, this was Wynn’s first, although he estimates having practiced between 50 and 100 engine failure simulations.

“You go through a lot of training, they tell you to find the best spot that you can. I never had an engine failure like that before so I played it safe and tried to make the runway,” Wynn said. “A highway is just a really long landing strip. ... You fall back on your training and do what the instructors used to tell me and it worked out this time. We got lucky.”

The landing was initially reported as a crash over the dispatch scanner. But Lane Fire Authority Chief Terry Ney, who arrived at the scene around 2:30 p.m. Friday, was the first to report what had happened.

“It was an emergency landing in an inappropriate place,” Ney said.

No injuries were reported, although a car drove into a nearby ditch as the driver appeared to have been “rubbernecking,” or looking at what had occurred, Wynn said. 

Story and video:  http://registerguard.com

Class Act: Joe Suarez



Joe Suarez of Springfield, left, completed three solo take offs and landings in the Southern Illinois LSA Academy's Jabiru J230 at Mt. Vernon Outland Airport on April 12. He is joined by Certified Flight Instructor Travis Walczynski.

Original article can be found here:  http://www.register-news.com

Piper J5A, N38239: Incident occurred April 14, 2017 in Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania

http://registry.faa.gov/N38239

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Allentown, Pennsylvania 

Aircraft force landed on a road. 

Date: 14-APR-17
Time: 17:15:00Z
Regis#: N38239
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: J5A
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: NONE
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
City: HAZLETON
State: PENNSYLVANIA


Some tense moments Friday in one part of Luzerne County when a small plane force landed in Hazle Township.

The pilot was having some sort of problem and landed his plane in a field off of commerce drive -- near the Humbolt Industrial Park.
   
No one was injured.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been called in to investigate.

Story and video:  http://www.pahomepage.com

No injuries were reported after a plane’s force landing in a busy Hazle Twp. industrial park this afternoon.

The plane lost oil pressure in the area of 8 Bee’s Campground in Humboldt East and circled above before the pilot landed it in an undeveloped parcel of cleared land called lot 106, Hazle Twp. Fire Chief Scott Kostician said.

Kostician and state police at Hazleton were dispatched to the area in Humboldt East to assess the situation involving the single-engine plane around 1:30 p.m.

No injuries were reported and Kostician notified the Federal Aviation Administration as is protocol.

The pilot was able to get the plane started again and flew off around 2 p.m., according to a witness who is also a security guard in the area.

That man, who declined to provide his name, feared something was wrong when he saw the pilot circling above. He nervously watched as the pilot flew past high-tension electrical lines before landing safely on the lot.

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

Burien, King County, Washington: Federal Aviation Administration responds to City of Burien’s Petition, will stop airplane overflights

On Thursday, April 13, 2017, the City of Burien received word from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stating they would be ceasing the North Flow flight patterns over Burien.

As we’ve previously reported, the North Flow flight corridor, also known as the “New Route,” has caused significant noise impacts to Burien parks, schools, residential neighborhoods and other noise-sensitive areas.

In the letter, the FAA states they have amended the letter of agreement they hold with Seattle Airport Traffic Control Tower by removing language that allowed propeller-driven aircraft to make automatic turns using the North Flow route. They also state they will returning to previous procedures guiding flight corridor routes.

“We are pleased the FAA recognized our concerns about the impact of low-flying propeller-driven aircraft on our quality of life,” Quiet Skies Coalition spokesperson Larry Cripe said. “The Coalition will continue to work with the FAA to make sure the voices of Burien residents are heard.”



On February 14, 2017, the City of Burien petitioned the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to review final decisions by the FAA related to North Flow flight departures from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The petition asked the Court to review FAA’s denial of requests to modify or cease flights using the North Flow. The petition also asks to review the FAA’s decision to not reopen consultation or conduct the required environmental review of alternative routes that would cause less harm to the City and its residents. The City will continue working with the Quiet Skies Coalition to ensure resident concerns about flight patterns are included in the process.

“We are looking forward to working with the FAA to ensure they use the appropriate process for public engagement and environmental review of future flight patterns,” Interim Burien City Manager Tony Piasecki added. “We will remain vigilant, and continue to protect the interests of Burien residents.”

Read more here:   http://seatacblog.com

Piper aircraft break up in midair, a dozen lawsuits assert

Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II, N81291
 Fatal accident occurred January 02, 2015 in Kuttawa, Kentucky



The sky was overcast and the temperature was in the 40s on that dreary November day when Mary Ann Renick, her daughter Desiree, 8, and friend Barbara Lane took off from Boston for a 3½-hour flight home to Clarksburg, W.Va.

Renick, a single mother, had never flown before. She and her daughter had traveled to Boston to discuss surgery for Desiree to correct her cleft palate. They were on a so-called angel flight, in which private pilots fly needy patients to distant medical appointments for free.

For a time, the trip was uneventful, but 90 minutes into the flight, three violent bumps shattered the reverie, Renick later recalled. Suddenly, the plane was coming apart at 10,000 feet and wind was roaring through the passenger compartment. Renick reached desperately for Desiree while fighting against her seat belt, which had wound around her neck and begun to strangle her.

“I kept struggling and struggling,” Renick said. “I knew I was going to die.”

But Renick and pilot Rolf Mielzarek survived when part of the plane’s passenger compartment, left wing, and engine landed in a tree, leaving Renick suspended high above the ground.

Her daughter and friend weren’t so lucky; both died from injuries sustained in the crash. Wreckage was strewn over an area two miles long and a half-mile wide. Afterward, the National Transportation Safety Board found that the plane's front nose assembly broke apart midflight, causing the crash in Lehman Township in the Poconos on Nov. 6, 1996. 

But it wasn't the only Piper to break up midflight over the years.

The plane that Renick and her daughter flew in is one of hundreds of Piper Aircraft planes that have disintegrated midflight due to a design flaw the company has refused to acknowledge and correct, assert a team of Philadelphia plaintiffs’ lawyers who have filed more than a dozen lawsuits against the company.


Piper’s Stabilator 
The pilot uses the stabilator to control the plane as it is ascending and descending. Plaintiffs’ lawyers claim that the stabilators on Piper aircraft can become unstable and cause the plane to break up under certain flight conditions.


The lawyers say that a movable tail wing called a stabilator, which tilts up and down to aid the pilot in climbing or descending, is the cause of the crashes, and that Piper has sought to conceal the design defect by settling lawsuits with a stipulation that parties not discuss settlement details. Like other claims against Piper, Renick's case was settled.

Because the Piper stabilator is weakly reinforced, it is uniquely vulnerable to a self-reinforcing vibration called divergent flutter that can pulse through the entire aircraft and within seconds cause it to break apart. The lawyers contend that each crash exhibits the telltale signs of 45-degree folds in the horizontal stabilator, which occur as the stabilator first vibrates and then bends under stress.

The bending destroys the plane's aerodynamics, causing it to plummet from the sky. 

“We have had a number of experts look at this, and all of them say the structure is too light and allows it to bend and change its airfoil,” said Arthur Wolk, whose Center City-based firm has won more than $1 billion in jury verdicts and settlements in aviation lawsuits. “It is my view that,  given the history of these airplanes, the stabilator needs to go. If you have an engineering flaw, it will always rear its ugly head until you fix it.”

Piper maintains that there is no merit to Wolk’s allegations and that its aircraft are safe. The National Transportation Safety Board has filed reports on more than 200 midair breakups of Piper Cherokee, Saratoga, and Seneca aircraft since the 1970s, and in the vast majority of cases found that pilot error was the cause.

One common scenario, according to the NTSB: The pilot flew into or near bad weather, causing the aircraft to break apart. 

But Piper points out that the NTSB never once has found that a design defect was the cause of a crash of these planes.

"All Piper aircraft are certified by the FAA," said Piper spokeswoman Jacqueline Carlon. "We are unaware of any lawsuit against Piper in which this supposed 'divergent flutter problem' has been identified by the NTSB as the cause of the accident. If the NTSB or the FAA thought there was such a problem, they would surely communicate it to the public."

The NTSB findings are viewed with skepticism by Wolk, himself an expert pilot certified to fly certain types of military jets, who contends that the NTSB is too in the thrall of aircraft manufacturers to objectively examine the causes of aircraft mishaps.

“As long as the National Transportation Safety Board continues to have the aircraft manufacturer as a party to the investigation, pilot error will always be the primary probable cause,” says Wolk, who flies his own Eclipse 500 twin-engine jet once a month to California, where he has a second home.

Wolk is known as a tough litigator who doesn’t shy away from difficult cases. He represented families of victims of the USAir Flight 427 crash in Pittsburgh on Sept. 8, 1994, that claimed 132 lives. Wolk lobbied hard for the NTSB to find that a flaw in the plane's rudder system caused the crash, while Boeing, manufacturer of the Boeing 737 that went down, argued pilot error was responsible. The NTSB eventually blamed the rudder. Wolk has been litigating the Piper cases since the 1990s.

“He is a guy who has to be taken absolutely seriously because he will do and spend whatever is necessary to prepare the case fully,” said Ralph Wellington, a partner at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, who as a corporate defense lawyer has tried multiple cases against Wolk. “He does not do anything by the seat of his pants.”

Lawyers such as Wolk for years have been the bane of the general aviation industry, which after hitting a high in 1978 of about 18,000 aircraft manufactured declined to producing just under 1,000 planes in 1994.

Piper, which for years manufactured planes in Lock Haven, Pa., but closed all its facilities in Pennsylvania by the early 1980s, also was caught up in the decline, going in and out of bankruptcy.

It was a stunning fall for a company that once was an industry leader and whose planes were used to train most U.S. military pilots in World War II. It is now owned by the government of Brunei, a tiny oil- and gas-rich nation on the north coast of the island of Borneo, and headquartered in Vero Beach, Fla.

In 2016, it had sales of just over $150 million.

Industry leaders blame the decline in part on civil litigation and lobbied Congress successfully to pass the 1994 General Aviation Revitalization Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, which barred lawsuits against manufacturers for design defects on aircraft older than 18 years.

One of the bill's drafters, Victor Schwartz, then general counsel to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, said liability-insurance premiums in the late 1970s and 1980s came close to destroying the industry. As manufacturers produced fewer and fewer planes, the soaring insurance costs were spread across a declining number of unit sales, and foreign manufacturers not faced with the same lawsuit exposure swooped in to scoop up market share.

“It was putting the companies out of business,” Schwartz said.

Wolk says many of the accidents he’s litigated occurred in good flying conditions, and he contends that the possibility of pilot error was remote. Such was the case in the 2013 crash of a Piper Seneca near Johnstown, N.Y., following a midair breakup. The pilot, who also was flying passengers on an angel flight, had taken pains to avoid inclement weather during the flight, said the lawsuit against Piper and other defendants.

The breakup of another Piper Seneca near Castro Verde, Portugal, in 2009 also occurred during good weather, another lawsuit says. An instructor and two student pilots were flying in clear weather at night when their aircraft disintegrated.

Portuguese aviation authorities later concluded that a phenomenon known as runaway trim caused the pilot, who had not been trained to deal with the problem, to lose control. But an expert working for the plaintiffs said in an affidavit that the aircraft likely crashed because its stabilator had failed.

“The accident is simply a repeat of many in-flight breakup events that have occurred scores of times in the same manner [i.e. loss of pitch control, loss of stabilator, bending or shedding of wings, and destruction of the fuselage of a stabilator-equipped Piper airplane],” Douglas O’Herlihy, a former NTSB air crash investigator and Coast Guard pilot with more than 17,000 hours of flying experience, said in an affidavit for the plaintiffs.

In-flight breakups, though rare, are typically catastrophic and only a few, such as Renick and Mielzarek, have survived. Another survivor was test pilot Sherman Hall, who gives a harrowing account of the breakup of his stabilator-equipped Seneca on Dec. 27, 1976, which he survived because he was equipped with a parachute.

Hall says that during the test flight to probe for flutter tolerances, he took the plane to 25,000 feet, high above the Cascade Mountain range in Washington state, pulsing the controls periodically to gauge the aircraft performance. The aircraft was in trim, meaning that its pitch and bank were well under control by the pilot, and all was functioning normally.

Suddenly, he said, “it was like an explosion.”

The nose of the plane pitched downward, both wings sheared off, part of the tail section and rear door were gone, and the windshields had blown out. As the plane plummeted toward earth, gravity pinned Hall to the ceiling of the cabin, or what was left of it, and the violent shaking tore off his helmet. Cold air, minus-40 degrees Fahrenheit, blew into the cockpit.

Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the violent shaking stopped. Hall unbuckled his seat belt, slipped through the cockpit door, and began falling at about 20,000 feet as he pulled the cord on his parachute.

“I opened my chute immediately, which could have been fatal,” he wrote. “As my chute opened, an engine with a section of wing came by from above. I can still see that engine clearly in my mind. The prop was feathered and the engine was running.”

As Hall floated high above the Cascades’ snowcapped peaks, he felt “awed by the destructive disintegration of that aircraft and my survival. There were small, light pieces of aluminum, fabric, and insulation floating down all around me. In any direction, I looked, it was like confetti.”

Hall was soon on the ground. With his parachute rolled up under his arm, he stuck out his thumb and hitchhiked home.

Few have been so lucky.

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

Aviation experts address intensifying worldwide pilot shortage (with video)



HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -  The airline industry is in the middle of its biggest hiring spree of pilots of all time while pilot training is down considerably.  What this may result in is a severe shortage of qualified pilots. 47 out of 50 states offer public collegiate flight training to their students, but Hawaii does not. Political tug-of-war between Hilo and Oahu as location for program is the roadblock at UH.

The shortage is already more severe on the mainland. Shrinking of regional airlines and loss of service to smaller communities is happening. Shrinking pilot pool ultimately means higher ticket prices.

Story and video: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com

Cessna 310R, N98904: Incident occurred April 13, 2017 at Anoka County-Blaine Airport (KANE), Minneapolis, Minnesota

Pro Aire Cargo & Consulting Inc: http://registry.faa.gov/N98904

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Minneapolis, Minnesota

N98904 Cessna 310 Wisconsin Air Flight WIS700, aircraft landed gear up.  

Date: 13-APR-17
Time: 09:35:00Z
Regis#: N98904
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: C310
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: UNKNOWN
Activity: OTHER
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
Aircraft Operator: WISCONSIN AIR
Flight Number: WIS700
City: ANOKA

Class Act: Payson Norton



Sixteen-year-old Payson Norton said he was not nervous when he flew his Piper Comanche PA24 aircraft solo for the first time last week.

"It was a really cool feeling, the feeling of freedom," Norton said. "The only thing that was going through my mind was he (instructor Jim Ballard) wasn't in the left seat and I needed to get it up and get it down without breaking it."

It wasn't just Norton's age (the minimum for a student pilot to fly solo) that astonished Ballard.

The Piper was equipped with 260 horsepower, which Ballard said is unusual for a first-time student pilot, as the planes are more complicated to operate.

"The aircraft that he soloed in is what's considered to be a complex airplane and high performance, which is very unusual for any student pilot to solo in," said Ballard, who has been an instructor for the last 30 years.

Ballard, a Federal Aviation Administration-certified instructor of JB Flight Services in Carlsbad, said students typically start out flying an aircraft between 125 to 180 horsepower.

Ballard said the aircraft is also equipped with retractable landing gear, which increases the speed of the plane, and a constant speed propeller.

Norton, who has been training with Ballard for the last two years, said he was not intimidated by the amount of horsepower in the aircraft owned by his parents.

"Jim always taught me that no matter what airplane you're in, they're all the same, no matter if they're bigger, smaller, more horsepower, less horsepower. You just fly your airplane," Norton said.

Ballard said Norton is the third student he's trained who has flown solo at age of 16. The teenager lifted off from and landed back at Carlsbad's Cavern City Air Terminal.




Two other students who flew solo at that age became pilots for national airlines, Ballard said.

"It's always an accomplishment to solo any pilot because you've basically trained them up from nothing, not knowing anything about aviation or an airplane and turn them loose to where they can fly by themselves," Ballard said. "When you get in an airplane, all of this stuff is brand new. So to take all of that and learn it and then be able to take off and do it on your own is a huge responsibility."

According to the FAA, students are required to obtain their student pilot and medical certificates before they can fly solo. Norton received both certificates earlier this year.

Student pilots are also required to take a written test and become familiar with FAA rules and the flight characteristics and operational limits of the aircraft in order to fly solo.

Ballard said in addition to controlling a plane, pilots have to study weather conditions, aerodynamics and airport locations when operating a plane. He said weather conditions are most challenging because they may change.

Norton said studying the fundamentals of flying is more challenging than flying itself.

"It takes a little bit to grasp it," he said. "It's a challenge sometimes."

Norton said the next step is to become endorsed to fly cross-country. He plans to obtain his private pilot license, which he will be eligible for once he is 17, and pursue a career in aviation.

"As long as I get to fly," he said. "It's a lot of fun but be ready to work."

And soon he will not be the only family member flying an aircraft. His brother, Lane Norton, 27, is currently being trained by Ballard. Payson Norton said his brother is also planning to use to same aircraft to fly solo.

Their 9-year-old sister, Allie, also hopes to fly in the future.

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

Class Act: Abel Garcia



HOUSTON - Abel Garcia didn't grow up as a frequent flyer, but thanks to a recent school program he's flying high.

Garcia is one of many students participating in the flight program at Sterling Aviation High School.

"I've been as high as almost 3,000 feet," Garcia said. "It's pretty beautiful watching the world. When I'm in the sky, I see the people like little ants, they're small."

Garcia trains on real airplanes and in the flight simulator on campus.

"When I'm in the simulator, it tests everything. My takeoffs, my cruising and my landings.  The more I do it, the better I get," Garcia said.

Garcia wants to be a commercial airline pilot when he gets older.

Looks like skies are not just the limit for this kid.

Story and video:  http://cw39.com

Cessna 182M Skylane, Aggie Aero Enterprises LLC, N71165: Incident occurred April 13, 2017 in Lake Victor, Burnet County, Texas

Aggie Aero Enterprises LLC:   http://registry.faa.gov/N71165

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Antonio, Texas  

Aircraft force landed in a field. 

Date: 13-APR-17
Time: 20:20:00Z
Regis#: N71165
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: C182
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
City: LAKE VICTOR
State: TEXAS

Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport (KDET) future may not involve flying




Detroit — For the first time in recent history, city officials want to consider the potential of closing Detroit’s troubled municipal airport and converting the land for other uses.

Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration will begin seeking experts Thursday for a study it hopes will change the trajectory of the financially troubled Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport, which hasn’t had regular service from a commercial airline in more than 15 years. And the review isn’t leaving anything off the table.

The city hopes to select consultants by June to analyze financial and infrastructure needs as well as aviation and non-aviation uses for the east side airport that’s been in disrepair and subsidized for years by the city’s general fund.

“You can’t continue with the status quo,” Jed Howbert, executive director of Duggan’s jobs and economy team, told The Detroit News. “We’re going to let the facts lead us where they lead us. Whether it should be aviation — general or commercial — or something else, we need to understand what the options are.”

The last master plan for property commonly known as City Airport was conducted in the early 1990s, but Howbert said this may be the first time Detroit has broadened its scope beyond aviation. The administration, he said, is initiating the study to determine the best use for the airport, with a chief focus on job creation and economic impact.

The airport’s acreage and infrastructure are rare and also have been attractive to companies in automotive and manufacturing sectors, said Justin Robinson, vice president of business attraction for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

“That infrastructure is very expensive to put in place and find elsewhere,” said Robinson, who did not take a position on whether the airport should cease aviation activities. “We’re going to be very interested to see what the city study finds. Whatever it is, we will look to support and drive that vision as well.”

The administration made its case for the detailed airport review during general fund budget hearings last month for the 2017-18 fiscal year, another in which Detroit will help prop it up financially.

The airport is expected to have an operating loss of $1.3 million in the 2017 fiscal year and $885,000 in 2018. It also had operating losses the previous two fiscal years, all paid out of the city’s general fund.

Experts will evaluate the finances and operations of the airport, options for expanded aviation, including commercial service, and the necessary capital upgrades, runway enhancements or repositioning that may be needed to achieve it.

At the same time, the study, which officials expect will be conducted by a team with aviation, real estate and economic development expertise, will examine repurposing the airport for non-aviation uses.

Non-aviation avenues could include industrial development or a mobility park for autonomous air and ground testing, the request for proposals notes.

Howbert said it’s unclear what it would take to rejuvenate the airport. The process, he said, will help the city vet both aviation and nonaviation options, focusing on potential partners, job creation and economic impact. The administration anticipates a final report by the end of the year, he said.

No matter the outcome, any changes proposed for the city-owned and operated airport near Gratiot and Conner would require approval of Detroit’s City Council.

Some have made clear they won’t support shutting down the airport.

“A city the size of Detroit having an international airport within its city boundaries is a rare asset,” said District 3 Councilman Scott Benson, who represents the east side.

Benson said there have been “decades of deferred maintenance” with the airport’s runways and other structures on the property but “that doesn’t mean you just throw it away.”

Benson said the city should keep the airport active and work to attract modern, commercial air companies. The study, he said, will help sort out what destinations and customers could be targeted.

“It would put a smile on my face to see a commercial operator in there next year,” he said.

Council President Pro Tem George Cushingberry Jr. added he favors an expansion of the airport’s main runway and educational programming, including the reopening of the Benjamin O. Davis Aerospace Technical High School on airport grounds.

The school, which offers students a certificated FAA curriculum and flight training, was closed by Detroit Public Schools in 2013 as a cost-saving measure and relocated to another district building.

Expanding the runway would provide the airport with the option of landing larger 737s there.

“Don’t shut it down,” he said. “There’s too much potential.”

Meanwhile, Council President Brenda Jones has questioned the need for the new study, saying past reviews have gotten Detroit nowhere.

“To me, that is wasting taxpayer dollars,” Jones, who also has pushed for commercial service to resume there, argued during the March budget meeting. “It’s also wasting time.”

The administration said $200,000 has been set aside to conduct the request for proposals.

Going south

Southwest Airlines began flying in and out of City Airport in 1988, with 13 departures per day from three gates. However, in 1993, when a runway expansion did not materialize, Southwest stopped service, according to city records. The last commercial airline to fly out of City Airport, Pro Air, went bankrupt and left in 2000.

Today, the airport primarily services private jets, general and corporate aviation. City Airport had a total of about 65,000 takeoffs and landings in 2016, according to the Air Traffic Activity Data System.

The city said the total number of landings confirmed by the airport’s control tower is approximately 30 per day.

The 264-acre site has two asphalt runways: a 5,090-foot-long main runway and a crosswind runway of 4,025 feet. To accommodate 737s, the longest runway would need to be 6,400 feet, officials said.

Basil Cherian, a senior policy adviser for the city’s job and economy team, said officials estimate it would cost $150 million to expand the main runway, which would allow 737s to be landed there. A resurfacing of the asphalt runway will be needed and cost about $5 million, he said.

Complicating matters for runway expansion, several cemeteries bookend Detroit’s airport.

Benson noted figures on the projected costs haven’t been verified in years and the study is expected to serve as the deep dive.

There are about 66 full-time public and private employees working at the airport. But for 260-plus acres, said Howbert, it’s not enough.

“That just seems like an asset that’s not doing what it should be for the city,” he said.

The latest plans for the airport come after Duggan administration officials said two years ago they hoped to complete a decades-long effort to acquire homes in a desolate neighborhood just west of the airport that are too close to its runway.

The residential buyout — dubbed the “French Road mini-take” — was approved in 1994 with the intent of creating a federally mandated safety buffer at least 750 feet from the airport’s main runway. The city has about $2.2 million in grant funding available to acquire the remaining properties, but isn’t proceeding with it, officials said.



Cleveland comparison

Adam Williams, manager of airport policy for the Maryland-based Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association, said some smaller cities have reconsidered the value of their airports in recent years, but few the size of Detroit. Most have remained open, he said.

“Detroit has a huge opportunity here having an airport (near) downtown,” said Williams, of the general aviation organization that represents about 350,000 pilots and aircraft owners around the world. “You have to really think about what’s being lost if you either restrict the airport or turn it into something else.”

In Connecticut, officials studied alternative uses for the Hartford-Brainard Airport, concluding in December that it should stay open and see more investment, Williams noted.

More than a decade ago, Williams added, the direction of Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport was debated, but efforts have since been made to invest.

In the last three years, Burke has seen more than $24 million invested in a runway extension, terminal facade and roadway improvements, roof repairs, a ramp overlay and other renovation and replacement work, according to the airport.

Burke has about 630 commercial carrier charter service operations annually. The majority conducted by Ultimate Air Charters flight between Cleveland and Cincinnati, others are mainly sports teams, the airport said.

Passenger volume at Burke in 2016 was 179,927, up from 155,583 passengers in 2014 and 160,381 in 2015, according to figures provided by the airport.

Detroit Airport Director Jason Watt has not returned calls from The Detroit News but has said grant funds for capital upgrades are expected over the next three to five years. The money, if received, will be used for runway rehabilitation, cleaning up conditions at the airport and keeping it safe and efficient.

The city’s current five-year capital improvement plan has shifted from property acquisition to rehabilitating the primary runway. A second phase of the rehabilitation effort is slated to begin this year, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Michael Frezell, a spokesman for MDOT, did not weigh in on plans to evaluate the airport’s future but said state aeronautics officials want the site to be maintained as an airport.

“Our goal is to work with the city, county, or any interested stakeholders in maintaining this airport as we want to continue to see a vibrant air network in Michigan,” he said in an email.

City Airport has accepted federal grant funds for airport purposes and is federally obligated, which would require the FAA to evaluate and approve any request to close. The city has not made such a request, the FAA confirmed.

If moves toward that were made, the city would have to conduct a comprehensive analysis and provide justification for its request for release and closure.

The Friends of Detroit City Airport Community Development Corp. isn’t as open to the non-aviation possibilities.

Beverly Kindle-Walker, a representative of the nonprofit dedicated to promoting City Airport and aviation activities for young people, said she’s wary of the study and hopes it won’t be biased toward closure.

“I am for a fair analysis or study that’s not leaning toward an industrial park,” Kindle-Walker said. “We need City Airport.”

Howbert countered the city has no preconceived notions about the airport’s future.

“We just want to figure out the best way to create opportunity,” he said. “We’ll let those goals guide us.”

About Detroit’s airport

City Airport outsources certain operational functions to Avflight Corporation, a fixed-base operator that leases most of the first-floor Main Terminal Building. Avflight provides fueling, hangaring, tie-downs, arrival guidance and day-to-day maintenance as part of its lease that expires June 30, 2019, according to the city.

The airport has a 53,000-square-foot passenger terminal with space available for restaurants, retail concessions, passenger lounges, ticketing desks and baggage claims.

The site also includes a regional fire training academy, 24-hour Air Traffic Control Tower, Federal Aviation Administration Technical Operations as well as a city-owned aviation fuel farm.

The airport’s executive terminal has 14 hangars. Of those, 10 bays are filled at a rental cost of $2,800 per month. About 70 percent of the airport’s 129 small aircraft hangers are in use and there are about 145 air crafts based on site.

The airport generates revenues from its tenants, private events, rentals and landing fees. Portions of the air field are rented out for autonomous vehicle testing and office space inside the airport terminal.

The site is near the Interstate 94 Industrial Park and kitty-corner from the planned $95 million Flex-N-Gate manufacturing plant, an automotive supply facility expected to create up to 650 new jobs.

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

A fighter jet lost an engine over the Bering Sea: A voice from afar guided the pilot to safety (with video)

Air traffic control specialist Jessica Earp in the Anchorage Center on Thursday, April 13th.


When a fighter jet lost an engine over the Bering Sea last summer, the quick thinking of an Anchorage air traffic controller hundreds of miles away helped bring two U.S. Marine pilots home safe, and earned the controller a national award last month.

On July 25, 2016, Jessica Earp was monitoring 20 to 30 aircraft in two sectors of sky over the Bering Sea between Alaska and Asia when one of those pilots lost an engine and declared an emergency.

About one aircraft a month reports losing an engine in flight to Earp's control facility — a Federal Aviation Administration building off Boniface Parkway known to pilots as "Anchorage Center" — but most of them are three- or four-engine cargo jets.

This one, however, was a Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet, making its way from Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks to a training exercise in Asia. The pilot, Capt. Jesse Simmermon, turned his aircraft back toward Alaska, with another F/A-18 accompanying him. Both were running low on fuel.

A tanker aircraft traveling with the jets was refueling another Hornet in the flight group and couldn't break away, according to an account of the situation from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Earp said the tanker tried circling back to reach the two F/A-18s. But by that time, the jets were too far away, the NATCA account said.


U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jesse Simmermon, seen here with his family, was one of two pilots safely guided to St. Paul by Anchorage-based air traffic controller Jessica Earp on July 25, 2016.


"When (Simmermon) started asking, 'Where is the tanker, how much farther is it?' I started to hear the catch in his voice," Earp said, recalling the incident in Anchorage Thursday.

Soon the engine failure forced the Hornet pilots, with the Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 based in Iwakuni, Japan, to a lower altitude.

"We cannot maintain (36,000 feet)," Simmermon said over the radio, according to a recording released by the FAA. "We are in a full descent."

Earp said the Hornets were planning to land at King Salmon – still 550 miles away. But she had a different idea.
Anchorage air traffic controller guides two F/A-18's to safety at St. Paul

"There's an airport about 80 miles to the southeast, St. Paul," Earp radioed Simmermon, according to an edited transcript. "I can get runway distance, if you need, and conditions."

"Affirm," Simmermon promptly replied. "We need all that."

Within seconds of Simmermon's request, Earp quickly and calmly relayed the information he'd requested, along with a vector from their current location to the island's airport. Despite dismal weather at other airports across the region, the skies over St. Paul were so clear that the Marines had no problem spotting it.

"It's a needle in a haystack," Earp said Thursday. "It was the only viable airport in the Bering Sea he could have landed at."

"I will never forget the cool, calm and collected voice which politely suggested that we consider making a landing at St. Paul," Simmermon later wrote in an email thanking Earp. "Myself and my wingman were able to visually acquire the small island from over 40 miles away, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief knowing I had delayed my impromptu meeting with the Bering Sea."

Earp remembered her concern rising as the jets descended near the end of the two-hour incident.

"That was a pretty intense few minutes, seeing the guy go off radar, then waiting to hear if he was on the ground," Earp said.




Soon afterward, Earp said, confirmation of their safe arrival came from an FAA weather camera on the island. Less than an hour after the Hornets were on the ground, Simmermon wrote that the weather had taken a turn for the worse.

Earp's handling of the situation earned her the Archie League Medal of Safety Award, named after the first air traffic controller and reserved for members of the profession whose work saves lives. She received the Alaskan Region award at NATCA's convention in Las Vegas last month.

Earp, an eight-year veteran at the Anchorage Center, said that she's dealt with roughly one in-flight emergency each year – none of which compared to Simmermon's.

"Your reaction is just to give the pilot everything that he's requesting and that he has whatever he needs," Earp said. "It's a normal possibility, but when push comes to shove you buckle down and you do what needs to be done."

Asked about her next step, Earp said she's planning to stay right where she is.

"I think the stress comes," Earp said. "It's a part of the job, but just working traffic, there's nothing like it."

Story, video and photos:  https://www.adn.com