Monday, August 14, 2017

Creditor trying to force Dynamic airline into liquidation

A top unsecured creditor of bankrupt Dynamic International Airways LLC is attempting to force the High Point charter airline into liquidating its assets.

Dynamic, which specializes in low-cost international service to the public, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection July 19. It is not clear how many employees Dynamic has.

The bare-bones filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of N.C. came about seven weeks after Dynamic lost a legal fight in U.S. District Court for the Middle District.

Since declaring bankruptcy, the airline has continued normal operations through funding from a credit facility.

PMC Aviation LLC of Greensboro is owed $1.19 million, representing an arbitration judgment reached in April that Dynamic disputes. Dynamic says its filing was prompted by recent arbitration judgments against the company that it is challenging under the International Commercial Arbitration Act.

PMC claims in its motion for liquidation that Dynamic “is suffering from millions of dollars of continuing losses. ... The debtor has been grossly mismanaged.”

Dynamic lists between 200 and 999 creditors, assets between $10 million and $50 million, and liabilities between $50 million and $100 million. The company projects funds will be available for distribution to unsecured creditors.

“The losses are stripping the estate of any meaningful assets to be distributed to the non-insider unsecured creditors,” PMC claims. “There is no reasonable likelihood of rehabilitation.”

PMC claims Dynamic officials have “materially misrepresented its financial position” to the U.S. Transportation Department, which it said has put Dynamic’s certificates for charter services “in jeopardy.”

PMC also claims Dynamic’s Chapter 11 filing is aimed at benefiting its financier, Kenneth Woolley, at the expense of unsecured creditors.

PMC’s motion is being opposed by unsecured creditor Worldwide Flight Services Inc. of Jamaica, N.Y., which is owed $123,773.

Worldwide, a supplier of airport ground-handling services, said in its motion, filed Thursday, that it has reached a services agreement with Dynamic that has been maintained through Wednesday.

Worldwide said its opposition centers on concerns that if Dynamic is forced into liquidation, it will not be able or willing to meet its operational agreement with Worldwide. It is requesting payment and other protections from the bankruptcy court.

Paul Kraus, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement that bankruptcy protection “will enable us to continue to serve our customers, keep our team employed and work with our vendors while we navigate through the challenges presented.”

Tony Plath, a finance professor at UNC Charlotte, said Dynamic likely opted for bankruptcy protection “to delay the creditor’s ability to collect on the judgment and the manner in which collection is achieved.”

How successfully the strategy may be, Plath said, “depends on how receptive the bankruptcy judge is to their argument, and how willing the creditor is to agree to Dynamic’s proposal to change the remittance of payment against the judgment.”

Dynamic’s largest unsecured creditor is Air India Inc. at $10.5 million from another arbitration award that Dynamic disputes. B.K.P. Enterprises & Expim International of Greensboro, was awarded a combined $3.49 million arbitration judgment in December that Dynamic also disputes.

Dynamic service

Dynamic International Airways' fleet features six Boeing 767s serving routes that include New York and Ontario, Calif. International service is to Guyana; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Saipan in Northern Mariana Islands; and Changchun and Nanchang, China.

The aircraft can carry 235 passengers using 21 lie-flat business-class seats and 214 economy-class seats.

Original article can be found here ➤

County Signs Grant Agreement For Johnson County Airport (KBYG) Wildlife Fence

Johnson County's Commissioners voted to allow Chairman Bill Niovotny to sign a grant agreement that will help fund the construction of a fence at the county airport designed to keep wildlife from wandering onto runways and colliding with or creating a hazard for aircraft.

The grant amount was just under $366,000 and came from the US Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration.

The commissioners discussed the grant and the agreement before voting to accept it.

The county accepted a separate Federal grant earlier this year for just over $173,000 for the fence project.

The funding for the project will be 90% Federal dollars and 10% local county match, according to earlier discussions on the project.

Also announced was that Hout Fencing of Worland had the winning bid of roughly $247,000 and was awarded the perimeter fencing project at a recent Airport Board meeting.

Original article can be found here ➤

How to Invest in Amazon Prime Air Disruption in the Booming Air Cargo Market: Atlas Air and Air Transport Services Group both lease aircraft to Amazon Prime Air -- their revenues and share price are growing as a result

As the air cargo industry booms, the impact of new entrant Inc. Prime Air remains a bit of a mystery - obvious in some ways and hidden in others.

Of course, a 40-aircraft cargo airline operated by the world's fourth most valuable public company will influence the overnight cargo market, even if FedEx Corporation  executives proclaimed in March that they are not worried.

"The evolution of e-commerce is transforming the global supply chain and creating significant new opportunities for Atlas," said Bill Flynn, CEO of Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, on the company's second quarter earnings call on Aug. 2. Atlas Air is one of two companies Amazon has selected to operate its fleet of Boeing 767-300 freighters.

"E-commerce is growing rapidly from low penetration levels," Flynn said. "It accounts for only about 6% to 7% of global retail sales, and much of that is streaming media. This create significant opportunities to expand globally."

Amazon said in January that it will build an air cargo hub at Cincinnati Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, KY, about 100 miles from Louisville, Ky., where United Parcel Service Inc. operates a hub. In terms of freight tonnage, the world's three largest airlines are FDX Express, Emirates Sky Cargo and UPS Airlines.

Amazon Prime Air is still ramping up; hub operations began April 30. The fleet currently includes 16 Boeing 767-300s, according to website It will expand to 40 767s by 2018.

Some of the impact can be seen at airports such as Charlotte Douglas International Airport, one of a dozen destinations served by Prime Air. Year-to-date through May, the amount of express/overnight air freight at Charlotte Douglas, had gained 12% to 21,849 tons.

The increase reflects the impact of three daily flights by ABX Airlines, formerly Airborne Express: the flights serve Cincinnati and Allentown, Pa, both among the Prime Air dozen. At Cincinnati, in June, cargo volume rose 35% to 92,030 tons: at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, cargo volume through June was up 134%.

For investors, the Prime Air play so far has involved the two companies that lease cargo airplanes and crews to Prime Air. The companies, Air Transport Services Group  (which operates ABX Airlines) and, Atlas will each lease 20 Boeing 767-300Fs to Prime Air.

On Friday, shares in Air Transport Services Group closed at $22.70, up 42% year-to-date while shares in Atlas Air closed at $60.65 up 16%.

Original article can be found here ➤

Big Red Business: Wheels up on Air Nebraska?

Steve Rosen |

Today, HuskerOnline launches a new feature on the business side of Nebraska athletics. Call the multi-billion-dollar enterprise Nebraska Inc.  Responsible for business of sports coverage is Steve Rosen, an Omaha native who spent more than 38 years as a business reporter and editor at The Kansas City Star. Comments and story ideas are welcomed.

Will Nebraska ever purchase their own private plane for athletics? HuskerOnline delves into that topic in our first installment of Big Red Business.

When Nebraska head football coach Mike Riley needs to visit a recruit at a destination far from a major airport, he can either hope a charter plane is available or fly commercial, hop into a rental car and enjoy the scenery for the final leg of the trip.

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Penn State’s James Franklin, and Purdue’s new football coach Jeff Brohm have another option: University owned or leased private jets, which allows them to leave quickly and touch down near their destinations.

No lost baggage, no long security lines, no long delays. A recruiting advantage? Perhaps.

Indeed, private planes -- while still few in number -- are becoming increasingly more common at major universities, especially in the power conferences such as the Big Ten, the SEC, and the Big 12.

At least 20 schools own, lease or share ownership of private planes for school business, mostly for football and basketball recruiting, according to an Associated Press survey last February. Among the schools cited by the Associated Press were Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

Owning an airplane is just another tool in swelling athletic department recruiting budgets. In many cases, taxpayers don’t foot the bill, as athletic revenue and private donations pay for flights.

Schools can spend as little as $9 million for a new Embraer Phenom 300 or $40 million for a new Gulfstream G450, or take the pre-owned route with a $14 million gently used G450. Don’t forget to factor in pilots, fuel, hangar space, maintenance, and insurance -- along with lots of compliance paperwork.

Even at schools where money seemingly is no object and plane ownership represents a fraction of the overall budget, this is an expensive proposition especially at a time when university budgets are facing sharp cuts at many schools nationwide.

To measure where Big Ten schools stand on the airplane issue, HuskerOnline surveyed athletic departments at every conference school., starting with Nebraska. For good measure, Nebraska’s longtime rival Oklahoma was also questioned.

Based on responses from the 14 conference schools, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue were the only ones with university-owned aircraft that are at the disposal of coaches. The Sooners are in the air race as well.

Will Air Nebraska be getting off the ground soon?

That question has taken on more relevance this year, now that Nebraska is reaping the larger financial benefits of being a Big Ten member. Then there’s the recently disclosed new $2.64 billion, six-year conference television partnership with Fox, ESPN and CBS.

Yet, despite the stronger financial footing, don’t count on Nebraska rolling out its own fleet of Cessna’s, Gulfstreams, or Bombardier’s, said Pat Logsdon, executive associate athletic director.

“Private aircraft is cost prohibitive to purchase,” Logsdon said.

Instead, the athletic department relies on chartering planes, when feasible. And when not, coaches fly commercially, or drive.

While generous donors at many schools nationwide make their private jets available for athletic department business in exchange for royalties and other perks, that’s not the case at Nebraska. All private charters “occur through charter companies,” Logsdon said, as opposed to relying on donors.

“We keep an eye on our peers, but this system works for us right now,” said John Jentz, the athletic department’s chief financial officer. “Thanks to the generosity of our fans, our recruiting budget gives us flexibility.”

The Nebraska way 

Travel, not surprisingly, is actually among the athletic department’s largest expenses annually, along with personnel and capital projects that pop up every so often, said Jentz. There’s a steady flow of team travel, business travel, and recruiting travel, and because of its location of being far from major metro areas, time in the air adds up.

While the books have not been completely closed for fiscal year 2017, total athletic department travel expenses amounted to $10.57 million. That represents about 9.1 percent of total athletics expenses, Jentz said. The department does not track charter expenses separately.

To manage those costs for all the school’s teams, the athletic department needs to be creative. For example, the department works with the Lincoln-based Silverhawk Aviation charter company for flight services, and two travel agents from Anthony Travel, a Dallas company that specializes in sports travel management, are embedded in the department to handle airline reservations, hotels, cars and other services.

The bottom line: travel needs to be cost effective.

Several years ago, Logsdon said the university looked into the possibility of buying a small bus to shuttle athletes to events. But after maintenance, drivers, insurance and other issues were factored in, the purchase could not be justified, she said.

There are more than just financial reasons for not purchasing private planes. Last-minute maintenance issues can mean no plane, no trip to Calabasas. And more so than bus travel, insurance liability coverage can be steep.

Jentz said every school in the conference is struggling with team charter travel costs. Toward that end, he said talks are underway among the schools to create a consortium to negotiate lower charter costs, and more practical scheduling of flights. Jentz expects more formal conversations later this year.

“Not all of us are going to get into the plane business,” he said.

Only three Big Ten schools actually own their own private planes - Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue. Minnesota (pictured), logged 66 hours of private airfare usage in 2016.

Conference survey 

Altogether, 10 of the 14 conference schools surveyed by HuskerOnline indicated they do not own or lease private planes and have no plans to do so.

Northwestern, the conference’s only private school, declined to comment for this story.

Of the schools that are not in the plane business, most said they partner with aviation companies when the need arises for a charter. “It’s more cost effective to work with outside companies,” said Jake Ricker, a spokesman for the University of Minnesota athletic department.

Ricker said that in the last fiscal year that ended June 30, the athletic department logged about 66 hours of flying time, which cost about $232,000. So far this year, the department has logged 15 hours, costing about $67,000.

“Our current system meets our needs for private air travel while costing the department less than if we owned or leased a plane,” Ricker said.

Michigan State’s athletic department does not own a plane and there are no plans to add aircraft at this time, said Matthew Larson, a department spokesman. Rather, it charters planes for “select recruiting trips for coaching staffs as well as certain team travel,” he said.

Illinois considered the option of owning aircraft, but passed. “When needed, we have agreements with several donors who allow us use of their plane,” said athletic department spokesman Kent Brown.

Then there are Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue.

Ohio State has a lease and fractional ownership contract with NetJets, and the athletic departments usage is covered under that agreement, said Dan Wallenberg, an athletic department spokesman.

Under the agreement, head coaches of the football, and men’s and women’s basketball teams are allotted a total number of annual flight hours for recruiting and personal usage (which is reported as taxable income), Wallenberg said.

Penn State owns two planes, for business purposes university-wide. “Senior officials from intercollegiate athletics may also use the planes,” said Kris Petersen, an athletic department spokeswoman.

Purdue owns several planes that the athletics program can use for a fee, said spokesman Tom Schott. Planes are used mainly for recruiting for football and men’s and women’s basketball as well as some administrative travel.

“Cost constitutes less than one percent of the entire athletics department budget,” he said.

Finally, outside the conference, Oklahoma sports spokesman Mike Houck said “the vast majority” of the athletic department’s plane use “occurs on university owned and donor aircraft.”

According to university policy, he added, a review process insures that “all private planes be pre-approved before they can be used by university personnel.”

Original article ➤

Delta Memo Signals Plan for New Bombardier Jet in Los Angeles, New York

(Bloomberg) -- Delta Air Lines Inc. is eyeing New York and Los Angeles as the main bases for Bombardier Inc.’s new jetliner next year, offering a glimpse of how carriers can add service economically with the midsize aircraft.

Dallas is also likely to get a lot of C Series flights, Delta said in an internal memo to pilots, a copy of which was reviewed by Bloomberg News. That sets up a test of the carrier’s ability to use the single-aisle aircraft to attract customers in the backyard of American Airlines Group Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. 

Delta is the first major U.S. carrier to buy the C Series, a midrange aircraft that offers roomier interiors than regional jets while typically carrying fewer passengers than a plane from the Boeing Co. 737 or Airbus SE A320 families. The Bombardier aircraft, which the Montreal-based company has spent at least $6 billion to develop, should enable airlines to offer comfy rides to midsize cities without flooding the market with too many seats.

“From the standpoint of operating costs, from the standpoint of ownership costs, it’s an ideal aircraft for these not-quite-mainline markets,” said Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former airline executive. “If it performs as advertised, reliably, it’s going to be a real game-changer.”

Morgan Durrant, a spokesman for Delta, declined to comment on the memo or how the company will use the C Series. The aircraft is scheduled to enter service for the Atlanta-based airline in the second quarter of 2018, according to the Aug. 7 notice to pilots, which described preliminary plans for the planes.

Boeing Complaint

Delta ordered at least 75 of the CS100 models last year in a deal valued at $5.6 billion, before the discounts that are customary for large aircraft purchases. Ordering the C Series was a bit of an anomaly for Delta under former Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson, who had historically preferred more tested airplanes over new models. He handed over the reins as CEO to Ed Bastian days after the order was announced.

The purchase threw a lifeline to Bombardier after the C Series program came in two and a half years late and more than $2 billion over budget. But the transaction also prompted Boeing to file a trade complaint with the U.S. government, accusing Bombardier of selling Delta the planes at “absurdly low” prices while benefiting from unfair Canadian government subsidies and calling for tariffs. Bombardier has denied the allegations.

Air Baltic Corp., which began flying CS300 planes in December, has seen a 21 percent improvement in fuel economy compared with the Boeing 737-300s that the model is replacing, Chief Executive Officer Martin Gauss has said. Bombardier had promised a 19 percent boost. Passenger feedback has focused on lower noise levels, a brighter interior and bigger spaces for stowing baggage, Gauss added.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s Swiss unit, which last year became the first operator of the CS100, has also praised the jet’s performance.

Regional-Jet Replacement

Delta will place the new CS100 planes on popular routes now served by the airline’s largest 76-seat regional jets, which will free up those planes to replace 50-seat aircraft around Delta’s system, President Glen Hauenstein said last month. He said New York would get the first CS100, without providing additional details. The plane has 108 seats in a standard dual-class configuration, according to Bombardier.

In Dallas, Delta may see a chance to poach some business customers from hometown carriers American and Southwest, potentially taking a bite out of their profit margins, said aviation consultant George Hamlin.

“Southwest is very much a thorn in Delta’s side in its home market in Atlanta,” Hamlin said. “The airline business is about margins, so if you can pry a modest amount of business from your competitor, the margin in that market may become problematic for the incumbent.”

Original article ➤

Pentagon, Sikorsky sued over small-business contracts

Washington – A group representing small businesses is suing the Pentagon and Sikorsky for information about the defense contractor’s hiring of small and minority businesses as subcontractors.

The Sonoma, Calif.-based American Small Business League says the information it has sought from Sikorsky will show the Pentagon has for decades falsified the volume of subcontracts that have been awarded to small businesses.

The league’s lawsuit stems from it’s efforts to obtain information about Sikorsky’s participation in a Defense Department program aimed at increasing subcontracting opportunities for small businesses.

In April of 2014, the American Small Business League filed a freedom of information request for the annual report submitted by Sikorsky and about a dozen large defense contractors that participate in the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program. By law, federal agencies are obligated to award a portion – currently 23 percent – of their contracts to small businesses and those owned by women or other disadvantaged groups.

Sikorsky initially declined to provide the information, but eventually was forced to do so by a federal judge.

Despite being ordered to release an un-redacted copy of the requested documents, Sikorsky only supplied the court with a heavily redacted version and appealed the judge’s order to the California-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A trial date of Dec. 11 has been set for the case.

The redacted document blacked out all names and addresses of the helicopter makers’ subcontractors. Sikorsky projected spending more than $913 million on large subcontractors and $272 million on small businesses and those owned by women, veterans and minorities.

Sikorsky, purchased by Lockheed Martin in late 2015, said it could not divulge details of its subcontractors because that would put it at a competitive disadvantage with other defense companies.

“At Lockheed Martin our suppliers are integral partners in delivering our products and services to our customers,” said Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson. “Sikorsky is an active participant in the Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program and has complied with all small business requirements under the Department of Defense’s guidelines.”

Jackson also said Sikorsky’s Comprehensive Small Business Plan “is competition sensitive” and was recognized as such by the appeals court.

“We will continue to work with the Department of Defense to ensure that our rights under FOIA are protected,” Jackson said.

The business league argues that  Sikorsky’s contracts with the government are “sole source” contracts and Sikorsky has no competitors for their Pentagon business.

Headed by small business advocate Lloyd Chapman, the American Small Business League is skeptical that the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program actually helps small business.

In a recent op-ed, Chapman said the CSPTP “was designed to eliminate all transparency for the Pentagon’s largest prime contractors.”

Chapman said the CSPTP also eliminated all penalties that defense contractors may face for non-compliance with federal small business contracting goals.

Witnesses at December’s trial include Janice Buffler, Department of Defense associate director of subcontracting policy; Andrew Driver, Sikorsky Aircraft senior manager of market analytics; Amy Johnson, Sikorsky director of supply chain; and Martha Crawford, Sikorsky supplier diversity manager.

Original article can be found here ➤

United’s Strategy to Reduce Overbookings: After a series of customer-service fiascoes, the airline is looking to big data for answers

LINDA JOJO | ‘If we can get to people early so they can change their travel plans, that’s one of the biggest things we do.’

The Wall Street Journal
By Steven Norton
Aug. 13, 2017 10:05 p.m. ET

United Continental Holdings Inc. has been in the news a lot this year, and not always for good reasons.

Chicago Department of Aviation officers forcibly removed a passenger from a flight in April, an incident that blew up on social media and raised broader questions about how the airline handles overbooked flights. In February, the airline delayed about 500 flights after suffering a second glitch in its computer systems in just over two weeks.

Nevertheless, United is benefiting from strong demand for air travel and, like other airlines, has thrived by offering a wider range of fare categories and collecting fees for increasingly popular extras like priority boarding and seat upgrades. In July, United, the No. 3 airline in the U.S. by traffic, said net income in this year’s second quarter climbed 39% from a year earlier, on a 6.4% increase in revenue.

Linda Jojo, United’s executive vice president of technology and chief digital officer, says the company is using data analytics to help manage overbooking situations more strategically, while also helping it target families, business travelers and vacationers with specific offers.

Ms. Jojo spoke with The Wall Street Journal about those efforts and others on the digital front, including how United is using mobile devices to improve its interactions with customers. Edited excerpts follow.

The challenge

WSJ: How does technology help United address problems with overbooking?

MS. JOJO: The vast majority of [overbooking situations] are due to some kind of operational disruption that causes us potentially to fly a slightly different plane than the one we had planned. They might shift my flight from a 737-900 to a 737-800, which is fundamentally the same but not the exact seating situation, and that could cause an overbooking situation. That could happen fairly close to the time of departure.

The biggest thing we do from technology is help run the airline better [in those situations]. How do we help with anticipating issues so that if we do see a thunderstorm, we can help with proactively rescheduling and talking to customers about the fact that weather could disrupt their travel? If we can get to people early so they can change their travel plans, that’s one of the biggest things we do.

The situation of overbooking that I think people go to first is when we oversell a flight. The way we do that is looking at information about when people actually book a flight and show up. This is where technology can help make that analysis much more precise.

We know that people flying between two business locations on a Monday morning are probably going to show up. We know people who are flying to a resort location are probably going to show up. But there’s a certain percentage of people who don’t set their alarm right, or hit traffic and don’t make that early-morning flight. We also know the last flight of the day, everybody’s there to get back to their city. So what we’re doing is helping further refine the analytics to understand which flights have a higher probability of no-shows. That’s basically one or two [seats oversold]. If the people who bought those last two seats in that oversell situation are actually there and get on the plane because two other people changed their plans for whatever reason, we’re actually helping those customers.

WSJ: Some airlines have said they are going to stop overbooking. Is this something you plan to do?

MS. JOJO: In April, we announced 10 new initiatives to improve the customer experience, including reducing overbooking, which has helped to dramatically reduce involuntary denied boardings by more than 80% from last year. Overbooking is an example of where today’s new techniques of machine learning and analytics can help us stay away from black-and-white rules and look at past behaviors, such as which flights have the most number of historical no-shows, and current events—is there something unique going on in a city—and situationally determine if a specific flight should allow overbooking or not.

WSJ: What’s a tech project you’re working on now?

MS. JOJO: When someone is booking a seat on our airplane, what are some of the things they’re likely to want to purchase in addition to that seat? We’re trying to look at different situations: Is this a business traveler, a leisure traveler, a family? Based on those different personas, we’re looking to offer different bundles of features.

We’re still working out what’s the best bundle for a family, for example. Is it Wi-Fi on the plane? Probably not, that’s more for a business traveler. Is it checked baggage and how we could bundle that? Is it time in the lounge? Is it prepaid food? It’s all of the things you could look at to try to see what customers would be likely to buy in certain situations.

Seat map on mobile

WSJ: What role do data analytics play?

MS. JOJO: One thing all airlines have is a lot of data. We are looking to get the information and insights into the hands of our employees. Now, passengers might see our flight attendants with mobile devices on the plane. One use is to let customers buy food and beverages in the economy cabin. But the other thing on that device is a seat map with some very-easy-to-look-at views of our passengers. We can see what loyalty status they are, and we can see what their next connection is if they have one. In the seat map there’s a little airplane, and it turns red if they have a tight connection. If we get to a place where we’re landing at a hub and trying to get people to where they have to go, we know who the passengers are that need to get off that plane and get to their gate.

WSJ: What else is happening on the mobile front?

MS. JOJO: If there’s a large thunderstorm going through an airport causing a lot of flights to be changed, you used to see long lines of people at a gate or customer-service area. We were limited by the number of computers that were in that room. We now have mobile devices and mobile printers that have been issued to all of our customer-service reps so they can swarm an area and service our customers, change their flights if they need to, check information if they need to, or print out boarding passes and bag tags. So we’re now not limited by the infrastructure in the airport.

WSJ: What’s the biggest challenge to implementing all this technology?

MS. JOJO: What’s somewhat unique about airlines is we are operating all the time. We have an airplane in the air all the time, and so we don’t have a period of time where we can take systems down and try things. Thinking back to some of the jobs I’ve had in other industries, you often looked to long holiday weekends as a gift to the IT department to make changes. [At United] that’s actually often our busiest time. It’s how you make these changes in a way that doesn’t disrupt the operation.

WSJ: Are you using biometrics?

MS. JOJO: Biometrics and those kinds of things are big, large, innovative ideas that will at some point impact enough of our customers that it will make a difference. But there’s so much infrastructure required by other people to actually make that happen. I like to focus on smaller, incremental things that can impact a broader level of customers.

We’re looking at making our app a little more context-sensitive. If we know you’ve already checked in, is there a way to make our app more user-friendly at that period of time? If we know that you’ve gone through security, are there things that we can do? We’re looking at those kinds of things. Our ideas are around creating a more frictionless travel experience that could include things like improving the boarding process and providing better, more specific information about the status of your flight.

WSJ: What is your team focused on over the next few years?

MS. JOJO: What we’re trying to do is expand our thinking to the customer journey. The customer starts thinking about their flight on United from the time they check in until the time they get to their destination, whether it’s home or the hotel or the office. How we can create a frictionless experience from the beginning to the end of that process is where I’d like to see us go.

Original article can be found here ➤

Aviation Explorer Post 787 to zero in on drones at its August 26th meeting

Participants with the Aviation Explorer Post 787 toured the Greater Pittsburgh International air traffic control tower and radar facility during an outing July 31. 

WINTERSVILLE — Participants with the Aviation Explorer Post 787 were treated to a tour of the Greater Pittsburgh International air traffic control tower and radar facility during an outing July 31.

“This is something that not many people are able to see or accomplish because of the extremely high security measures in place at the facility that serves as the main air traffic control facility for all aircraft flights in and around the Pittsburgh area,” explained area resident Dan Otto, the adviser for the Ohio Valley-based Aviation Explorer Post 787, which is designed for young men and women ages 14 to 20.

Monthly meetings typically are held on the fourth Saturday of the month at the Jefferson County Airport terminal building in Wintersville, beginning at 9 a.m., if not arranged to be held elsewhere. The annual cost is $30 to participate, which helps cover insurance costs, according to Otto.

Otto noted that, according to the Allegheny County Airport Authority, the Pittsburgh International Airport in June provided service to 832,781 passengers, 12,813,096 total cargo and roughly 2.5 million pieces of mail. “Its total operations, which is each time an aircraft moves on the airport, was 13,139 times in the month of June alone. We were very impressed and interested to learn all about the facility,” Otto noted.

The post’s next meeting will be held Aug. 26 in Wellsburg at the Brooke High School soccer fields, beginning at 9 a.m.

“We will be talking about drones and what it takes to operate drone aircraft commercially and providing demonstration flights,” Otto explained.

“Our September meeting is scheduled for Sept. 23 at the Wheeling Ohio County Airport where we tentatively are scheduled to participate in flights in Black Hawk helicopters provided by the West Virginia National Guard,” Otto added. “Please note that these two dates and times may change at any time,” he pointed out. “For the must up-to-date schedule please always check our calendar on our website at,” he suggested.

It also offers information on who can join and its purpose, which is to educate and inspire young adults into a career in the field of aviation “and, man, are we having fun doing so.”

While most people think of pilots when they think aviation, that’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as the many different career paths available in the field of aviation, according to Otto.

Opportunities also include air traffic controllers, airplane mechanics, airport managers, radar and weather facility technicians, flight instructors, medical teams, fire rescue personnel, the military and remote pilots who are professional unmanned aircraft pilots.

For information about the organization visit the website There also is a Facebook page — The e-mail is

Original article ➤

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Demand not as high as expected for commercial drone operators

WICHITA, Kan. (KNSS) - A company in Kansas, formed in 2014 by a group of military veterans with a background in unmanned aircraft, thought their services would be in demand to operate commercial drones. So far, that hasn't happened.

The company, Blue Chip UAS, was the first company in the region to receive a Federal Aviation Administration exemption to legally operate commercial drones.

But three years later, changes in the drone industry led the group to halt its activities and those involved in the company have taken other jobs.

A key investor in Blue Chip UAS, Jim Ballard, said he initially thought the FAA would have stricter rules for commercial drone operations that would require someone with experience in operating unmanned aircraft to help companies provide imaging, three-dimensional mapping and other aerial services to the agriculture, oil and gas, construction and filmmaking industries.

Most of the contracts the company hoped to get didn't materialize, and companies that might have hired the group bought their own drones and trained their employees to fly them.

Original article ➤

New Ozarks Technical Community College aviation program opens at full capacity

Sarah Tindell found the inspiration to become a pilot next door.

She was riveted by stories from a neighbor, a corporate pilot for John Q. Hammons, and starting thinking about a career in the air. After one flying lesson, she was hooked.

"I fell in love," said Tindell, 17. "I knew what I wanted to do."

The Kickapoo High School graduate was among the first 24 students selected for a new, two-year aviation program offered by Ozarks Technical Community College. It will start Aug. 21.

With the initial seats already filled, the program is a partnership between OTC and Premier Flight Center with space and support from the leadership of the Springfield-Branson National Airport.

"This demonstrates the pinnacle of public-private partnerships," said Matt Hudson, dean of technical education at OTC. "We are so lucky to have this in Springfield."

The program, with an estimated cost of $65,000, is designed to prepare graduates to work as commercial pilots. Those jobs include cargo hauling, charter flights, firefighting, rescue operations and aerial photography.

OTC Chancellor Hal Higdon said it is unusual but not unprecedented for a community college to offer an aviation program. He said OTC decided to move forward, after two years of development, because the demand for new pilots is so high.

"We are fulfilling a need in our community," he said. "This one is an example, purely, of industry need because all the Vietnam-era pilots are aging out."

The program has received approval from the Missouri Department of Higher Education, Higher Learning Commission, and the U.S. Department of Education. They are working on approval by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Higdon described Brian Weiler, director of aviation at the Springfield airport, as the force behind the program.

"He did all the work and brought it to us," he said. "We said 'yeah, that's a great model."

Hired six years ago, Weiler arrived in Springfield and immediately identified the need for a local flight training program.

"In the aviation industry, we desperately need pilots," he said.

The 2015 Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook projects that 558,000 new commercial pilots — including 95,000 in North America alone — will be needed during the next 20 years.

"In order for this to have credibility, we needed to have someone involved and OTC was a natural fit," he said.

The airport board agreed two years ago to make the flight training program a priority and renovated an unused part of the old terminal to house the private company that agreed to partner with OTC.

"The airport is thrilled this is coming together," he said. "For me personally, working on this flight school is the most rewarding thing I've been part of."

Cindy Stephens, interim director of the aviation program, said students who complete an associate degree in applied science at OTC can transfer to Drury University to pursue a bachelor's degree.

"If someone wants to be an airline pilot, they need to have a four-year degree," she said.

Corina Everhart-Bond, general manager of Premier Flight Center, said it has offered private flight instruction in Springfield for more than a year.

"We knew we wanted to be a flight school here because there is such a demand," she said.

Students who enroll will take ground school and general education courses at OTC and flight instruction at the old airport terminal. Since the program is offered by the college, students can apply for financial aid.

Premier offers a variety of planes, including a newly painted blue and white one with a tail number that ends with "Zero-Tango-Charlie" or OTC.

Premier's parent company, North Star Aviation, has similar partnerships with colleges in Minnesota and Ohio.

Everhart-Bond said before the OTC program, there was no college-affiliated program within driving distance, meaning students would have to relocate to enroll.

Tindell, 17, said the proximity of the OTC program convinced her to sign up. "Honestly, I don't know if I would have been as interested if this wasn't around. It's an exciting thing to come to Springfield, it's something new."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average Missouri salary for commercial pilots is $66,820 and jobs are plentiful.

"There is going to be such an opening," Tindell said of finding work. "That job opening is what is driving me."

OTC aviation program

Students enrolled in the OTC aviation program will be able to earn the skills needed to pursue a commercial pilot license.

In pursuit of an associate's degree of applied science in aviation, students will take ground school classes taught by OTC instructors at the OTC Springfield Campus and flight training with Premier Flight Center LLC, located at the former Springfield-Branson National Airport terminal, 500 W. Kearney St., Suite 110.

Students are expected to pay $117 per credit hour for ground school classes. Hands-on flight labs will cost an estimated $13,000 per flight course, with all four flight labs totaling nearly $54,000.

The classes include airline operations, aviation weather, air traffic control system and commercial pilot flight lab.

Agreement with Drury

A pact signed Aug. 7 will allow graduates of the OTC aviation program to seamlessly transfer to Drury University to pursue either a bachelor's degree in general studies or organizational communication and development. A bachelor's degree is one of the requirements needed to obtain an airline transport pilot license.

Story and photo gallery ➤

Boston cardiologist saves woman overdosing on flight

BOSTON - A local cardiologist saved a passenger who was passed out after a believed overdose 30,000 feet in the air.

Dr. Anil Punjabi was about to fall asleep on his flight from Boston to Minneapolis Friday, until he heard the Spirit Airlines attendant shouting for a doctor.

Other passengers alerted the crew when a woman a few rows back had been in the bathroom for a long time. When she got back, she was turning grey and slumped over. Dr. Punjabi noticed she didn't have a pulse. He was working with an OBGYN nurse also on the flight to give her mouth to mouth CPR when they discovered a needle hidden in her bra.

"We were down on the ground within 25 minutes, but at that time she was completely unresponsive,” said Punjabi.

For those 25 minutes, the crew, Punjabi, the nurse and an EMT trainee all worked to keep that woman alive.

The situation is putting a spotlight on the gravity of the opioid epidemic in Boston.

And it’s also raising serious concerns for Punjabi about whether action should be taken by airlines across the U.S. to prevent this from happening again. Punjabi and the crew kept the woman alive until the plane was on the ground 25 minutes later, but in other situations, that may not be possible.

"You need to talk to your union, you need to talk to Spirit, you need to talk to the company. I said the one thing you need to get in your med kit is Narcan,” said Punjabi.

Story and video ➤

Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport (KBRO) director: Letters needed full context

Bryant Walker, director of the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport, said letters recently sent out to residential property owners near the airport about appraising their properties should have provided more context.

The letter was sent by Garza & Associates LLC to more than 60 property owners, mostly in the Sunny Skies colonia south of the airport, to inform homeowners of the opportunity to meet with an appraiser when their homes are being inspected for appraisal related to future purchases related to the “Brownsville Airport Expansion Project.”

“The appraisal is to determine the current market value of your property, all or in part, to be purchased by the City of Brownsville,” the letter reads in part, additionally, that Garza & Associates was contracted for appraisal services by a firm called Texas Land Professionals, which would be performing the property acquisitions and making offers to owners, the purchase prices to be paid by the city.

Walker said the letters gave homeowners a big scare and should have emphasized the “future” aspect more. The “airport expansion” refers to a long-planned project to extend the primary runway to the southeast, which would require homes in the colonia to eventually be acquired and demolished because of their proximity to the longer runway’s threshold.

“The way it was worded, it sounded like something was happening next week and you have to move out by the end of the month,” he said. “None of this is happening right away.”

Walker said a new terminal has to be built first, a two-year project, then the secondary runway, which runs north and south, has to be extended to maintain the airport’s capacity once the primary runway is closed for construction. Work on the primary runway probably won’t start for another four or five years, he said.

Walker said rumors that city officials own property in the neighborhood and are pushing the acquisitions to line their own pockets are untrue and that county property records bear this out.

The reason for the runway extension isn’t to be able to accommodate bigger planes, since the airport already can handle planes up to the size of a 747, but rather to enhance the safety of the flying public by increasing the margin of error for landing passenger jets, he said.

Walker said the city has been buying farmland and a few residential properties in the area for years in anticipation of the runway project, but nothing in the colonia. For those purchases, the city contracted with the same company, Texas Land Professionals, which sent property owners the required notices “a long time ago,” he said.

Newly under contract again with the city, the company basically picked up where it had left off, which led to the most recent letters to property owners, Walker said.

“They went back into acquisition phase,” he said. “The next step was to renew all appraisals.”

Airport officials will host a meeting for affected homeowners this week, during which they’ll give a presentation on airport projects, discuss the rationale behind the runway extension, field questions and hand out information, Walker said.

“Hopefully they get an idea of why all this is happening,” he said.

Original article ➤

Friend Coming to East Hampton Airport (KHTO)? Check the Complaint Registry

by Dan Rattiner 

Twenty years ago, on a Friday night and under a full moon, I went out onto the beach, set out a blanket and looked up at the sky to watch some of my wealthy friends in the Hamptons fly into East Hampton for the weekend. It was about 9 p.m. Here they came, first a quiet buzz from the west and a dot and finally a small plane, coming across the sky to lazily circle around and land gently at the airport five miles behind me.

I wrote about it. I knew the planes. Here comes the Bush family, here come the Smiths, the Hardings. I wasn’t exactly sure I was looking at them. There might be others that had the same color plane or same configurations of the engines. But it was something to write about. The summer people of privilege had arrived.

Today, in a different era, there’s a new way to find out who is coming in and out. A friend showed me this. Go to This site tracks not the few dozen wealthy people who came into the airport 30 years ago, but the hundreds and hundreds of well-to-do people who come in every weekend and terrify the residential community around the airport with noisy helicopters that go pocketa pocketa pocketa and circle around until they get the go-ahead to land. On this website, if you hear a chattering helicopter or aircraft up close and personal, you press a button that says COMPLAINT and the site refreshes itself. It shows your location nearby to the airport, and then it shows the aircraft that is closest to you in the sky, identifying it by tail number, number of feet it is off the ground, and, if you have another website set up where you can find the owner of a plane by its tail number, you’ll know who owns it.

A complaint is automatically filed because you have pressed the button. And off that complaint goes to the East Hampton Airport manager or some other official. At the end of the day, they can tell you if the plane or helicopter was flying too low or off-course and, theoretically anyway, somebody could give it a ticket.

It’s sort of like the surveillance they have set up at bridge toll booths where if you don’t pay they’ve got you, or if you don’t pay but have set it up to pay if you appear, they charge your credit card automatically.

Except in this case, nothing comes of it. Eventually, the complaints wind up on the desk at the FAA. They probably don’t care about the noise. I imagine they slip the complaint into the round trash basket or, if it’s on a computer, the picture of the round trash basket on the screen.

The FAA doesn’t care. But it’s fun to do. And you get to feel better.

Original article can be found here ➤

Want to see the solar eclipse from the 35,000 feet? Take this flight from Philadelphia International Airport (KPHL)

This map shows the percentage of Great American Eclipse will be visible across the United States on Aug. 21, 2017. The area in red is the totality zone where the sun's disk will be fully blocked by the moon.

Watching next week's Great American Eclipse from Terra firma is so pedestrian.

If you want an (almost) out of this world glimpse of the solar spectacle, you have to head into the sky.

And lucky for you, there an easy way to do it from Philadelphia.

American Airlines has a flight to Atlanta, Georgia that will be traveling directly through the path of totality — when the moon fully blocks out the sun — right around the same time the eclipse.

The total solar eclipse, when the moon passes in front of the sun covering its disk, will move from the northwest to southeast on Aug. 21 from Oregon to South Carolina.

AA flight 2079 is scheduled to depart Philadelphia International Airport at 12:59 p.m. on Aug. 21. The flight takes it on a southwesterly route through The Carolinas and into the main path of the eclipse. It's scheduled to arrive at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport at 3:07 p.m., a few minutes after the eclipse's peak.

The jet, an Embraer ERJ-190, is a smaller commuter plane with 99 seats. As of Sunday morning, there were still five seats left on the flight: three in economy ($154 one-way) and two in first class ($284 one-way.)

If you're wondering what the eclipse will look like from a plane, check out this story from

There's obviously no guarantee that you'll see a partial or total eclipse on the flight as there are a ton of factors at play like air speed and departure timing.

Those who prefer to stay on the ground in Philadelphia will still get to see about 75 percent of the eclipse. Remember should only look at the eclipse using special glasses or risk eye damage.

If video of the solar eclipse is not enough, sky-high view of the eclipse is available. Five specific flights will be in the area at the time of the eclipse including one from Philadelphia. 

If you can't see the total eclipse this time around, mark your calendars for May 1, 2079. A total solar eclipse will begin in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and travel on a northern arc through New England.

Read more here ➤