Saturday, October 7, 2017

3 in custody after assault-style rifle found in vehicle leaving Chicago O'Hare International Airport (KORD)

Three people were taken into custody Saturday after a driver was pulled over as he left O’Hare International Airport and an assault-style rifle and handgun were found inside his vehicle.

A pressure cooker was also found during the traffic stop, which happened shortly after 8 a.m. as the vehicle exited O’Hare Airport, according to Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Neither the guns nor the pressure cooker were believed to have been intended for any acts of violence in the city, which will see enhanced security measures during the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, police said.

The vehicle was stopped after the driver was seen speeding by officers as it left O’Hare Airport, police said. A handgun was initially found inside, but a more thorough search also revealed an AR-15 rifle and the pressure cooker in the vehicle’s trunk.

Three people were taken into custody and the CPD Organized Crime Bureau and Joint Terrorism Task Force were called to conduct an investigation, police said.

Police said they don’t believe the pressure cooker was intended to be weaponized after finding food and grease remnants inside.

The driver of the vehicle, a 32-year-old man from Wisconsin, was being cooperative with officers and federal agents, police said. He said he was in Chicago to drop off a friend at the airport.

Police said they have concluded the man posed no threat to events in the city, but were working with prosecutors and seeking aggravated weapons charges in connection with the incident.

All three people remained in custody Saturday night, Guglielmi said.

Police added that while there was not believed to be a threat to events in the city connected to this case, runners and spectators at the Chicago Marathon should expect to see a “very visible presence” of police officers along the marathon’s route. The department has also increased the number of undercover officers working the marathon and will be coordinating with FBI agents, Homeland Security officials and Illinois State Police.

Patrols in and around Wrigley Field and Soldier Field will also be increased for National League Division Series games and Monday’s Chicago Bears game against the Minnesota Vikings, police said.

Original article can be found here ➤

Pittsburgh International Airport (KPIT) $1.1B redo: Unknowns & serious questions

Myriad economic unknowns raise serious questions about the efficacy of spending $1.1 billion to reconfigure Pittsburgh International Airport, say Frank Gamrat, a senior research associate at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, and Jake Haulk, its president.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority last month announced an ambitious plan to ostensibly right-size the complex for current market realities. Built nearly 30 years ago to US Airways' hub specifications at a cost in excess of $1 billion, the facility has been rendered obsolete by those realities, officials argue. They plan to build a new landside terminal connected to the existing airside terminal, which would be repurposed or demolished. The existing terminals' tram, people-mover, escalators and elevators, all said to be near the end of their useful lives, would be eliminated. A new parking garage would be built along with ancillary infrastructure.

Authority officials say the $1.1 billion project — using no local taxes, they insist — will save about $23 million annually. While one aviation consultant questioned the rationale of such an equation, Gamrat and Haulk say there are a number of other potential hurdles.

For various reasons, political and economic, some proposed funding sources, such as gambling proceeds and shale-gas royalties, might not be sufficient or stable. There also will be needed maintenance on the existing airside terminal, plus other costs. “Will revenues from operations and fees keep pace?” Gamrat and Haulk ask. “Where are the costs and revenue forecasts?”

Tapping the passenger facility charge (PFC) does not appear to fit Federal Aviation Administration criteria for doing so. Reducing Pittsburgh International's capacity from 30 million to 18 million passengers a year “is not enhancing capacity” and does not do much “to enhance national transportation security, reduce noise or furnish opportunity for enhanced competition,” all part and parcel of using PFC funds.

Passenger numbers, relatively flat over the past eight years, are now about 10 million short of the reconfigured airport's projections. It would take an expanding population and economy to reach the 18-million-passenger goal. But Greater Pittsburgh's population continues to slip and employment gains and per-capita income (adjusted for inflation) have been anemic. That's hardly a recipe for driving up air-travel demand, Gamrat and Haulk say, adding that public subsidies for some low-cost carriers haven't done much to bolster passenger counts.

“Surely ... the failure of the massive spending ... for the current terminal configuration to produce a self-funding facility would lead planners to be cautious about claims for huge new projects,” they say.

Reasonable 20-year projections for operations revenue and spending, along with non-operating revenue and debt-service loads, “should be an absolute must” for proceeding with the reconfiguration plan, Gamrat and Haulk say. And given the state's precarious finances, airport officials should not count on any state bailout should funding for a reconfigured Pittsburgh International fall short, they add. 

Original article can be found here ➤

Atlanta Warbird Weekend cancels Sunday events at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (KPDK)

The Atlanta Warbird Weekend exhibition has canceled its Sunday events, ending a day early because of an approaching tropical storm.

Organizers of the event at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Chamblee said in an emailed announcement that ending early seemed best for "our guests, honored veterans, staff, and the vintage aircraft in attendance." 

Light sprinkles of rain and overcast skies Saturday morning gave way to sunshine by the middle part of the day, allowing flights by a B-17 Flying Fortress and replica of the red-tail Mustangs flown by the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a unit of African-American pilots who fought in World War II. The program, which began Friday and ended Saturday, including talks and appearances by surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen.

In addition to the aircraft flyovers, the event included a movie about the Tuskegee Airmen, marking their 75th anniversary, and a variety of World War II era planes and exhibits. The weekend is organized as an educational event by the Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, based in Peachtree City.

Original article can be found here ➤

Drug Enforcement Administration tracks cash couriers at Tucson International Airport (KTUS), seizes $550k in 3 years

For many passengers at the Tucson airport, waiting at the baggage claim is the last stop before heading home.

But the baggage claim area also is where federal agents watch for passengers they suspect are working as money couriers for drug traffickers. In the past three years, those efforts netted $555,000 in seized cash at the Tucson International Airport, according to Pima County Superior Court records.

In nearly all the 30 seizures at the Tucson airport since October 2014, Drug Enforcement Administration agents approached passengers as they walked through the baggage claim area, questioned them about their travel plans, and took cash from their suitcases, backpacks, purses, eyeglass cases and pockets.

DEA agents did not arrest anyone when they seized their money, according to court records. Instead, the agents handed the passengers a receipt and sent them on their way. All but one seizure was done without a warrant. No drugs were found, other than small amounts of marijuana in two cases.

In many cases, agents wrote in affidavits that they approached passengers after DEA offices in other cities told them about passengers making last-minute, one-way ticket purchases and not checking bags. Those traits fit the profile of money couriers developed since agents first started seizing cash from passengers at the Detroit airport in 1975.

The Tucson passengers suspected of being couriers included an 18-year-old man from New York carrying $19,000; a 30-year-old mother of two small children from Iowa with $12,000; a 42-year-old woman who worked in fast food in Tucson with $7,000; and a 33-year-old Texas man who worked at a retail clothing store carrying $8,000.

The Arizona Daily Star is not using the names of people whose money was seized if they were not charged with a crime.

In one incident in April 2016, a DEA agent seized $15,000 from a 37-year-old Hermosillo, Sonora, resident, one of four passengers from Mexico involved in the 30 seizures at the Tucson airport.

An agent wrote in an affidavit that the man was suspicious because he bought a one-way ticket the same day from Boston to Tucson and did not check any luggage.

The man also did not pack what the agent thought was enough clothes for the trip and the man said the backpack he was carrying didn’t belong to him, nor did the bank slips showing $18,000 in deposits the previous month.

The man told agents he went to Boston to buy a Jeep Cherokee, where he said they were cheaper than in Hermosillo or Tucson, but did not end up buying one.

That seizure was one of 17 made by DEA agents at the airport in 2016, which was more than double the seven seizures in 2015. So far in 2017, three cases were filed in Pima County Superior Court. However, the lag between seizing money and filing court documents can be six months or more as prosecutors go through the asset forfeiture process.

In August 2016, a 44-year-old North Carolina man bought a last-minute ticket to Tucson and did not check any bags. A background check showed he had been arrested several times for trafficking marijuana and cocaine.

A DEA agent made eye contact with the man, who appeared nervous as he walked through the baggage claim area. When the agent started questioning him, the man said he was visiting friends and family in Tucson.

He denied the agent’s request to search his bag, but after a police dog alerted to the odor of narcotics the agent called a superior court judge to obtain a search warrant. The agent then found small pieces of marijuana and $16,000 in the bag.

In July 2016, a 35-year-old Mesa woman bought a one-way ticket from Detroit to Tucson the same day as the flight and did not check any bags. A DEA agent questioned her about her travel near the baggage claim.

She said she spent the weekend with her boyfriend in Detroit and planned to take a shuttle to Phoenix. She let the agent search her purse, where he found about $4,500. The agent found more cash inside a plastic bag that also contained dryer sheets, which he wrote are used to thwart police dogs.

The agent seized $7,300 from her, which she said came from her savings. She was considering using to buy a place to live in Detroit with her boyfriend.

How it works

The seizures, which ranged from $3,000 to $95,000, were made under Arizona’s anti-money laundering laws by DEA agents flanked by other members of the Counter Narcotics Alliance, a multi-agency task force that includes local police and other federal agencies like the Border Patrol, court records show.

The DEA declined a request for an interview. Erica Curry, a spokeswoman for the DEA office in Phoenix, provided emailed responses to questions.

Just as drugs from Mexico often “land in Arizona” before being distributed throughout the United States, Curry wrote, drug sale proceeds return to Arizona before being smuggled into Mexico.

After drugs are smuggled across the border into the United States, they are stored in stash houses for a short time, a DEA agent wrote in court documents. As a result, East Coast buyers often buy last-minute plane tickets to send couriers to make the purchase.

When buyers and sellers have an established relationship, couriers often are entrusted with $20,000 or more each trip, the agent wrote. Couriers who work on their own or with a small group of traffickers tend to travel with less than $20,000.

At the Tucson airport, 25 of the 30 seizures involved less than $20,000, court records show.

The seized money is split between the Counter Narcotics Alliance, which received about $380,000, and the Pima County Attorney’s Office, which received $70,000, court records show. About $50,000 was returned and another $50,000 was still going through the forfeiture process.

Scope unclear

The overall scope of the DEA’s operation at the Tucson airport is unclear, due to a discrepancy between local court records and DEA records.

The forfeiture unit at the county attorney’s office provided case numbers to the Star that showed $555,000 seized through 30 incidents at the Tucson airport since October 2014.

But the DEA’s Freedom of Information Act office reported $2.1 million seized in 20 incidents since 2007, which comes to 10 fewer seizures than local court records show since 2014.

The discrepancy could not be cleared up by the DEA’s FOIA office, the agency’s Phoenix office, or a search of federal court records.

Nationwide, DEA agents seized $163 million in about 4,100 seizures at transportation facilities during 2009-2013, according to a 2015 report from the Department of Justice’s inspector general.

In August 2016, USA Today cited justice department records putting the total at $209 million from 5,200 seizures at 15 airports in the previous decade.

The 80,000 seizures of all kinds made by DEA agents across the country came to more than $4 billion during fiscal years 2007-2016, according to a March report from the inspector general. Nearly 90 percent of the seizures involved less than $100,000 and totaled $1.24 billion.

More scrutiny

Seizures of cash and property by law enforcement face increasing scrutiny in Arizona and dozens of other states.

A former Pima County Sheriff’s Department official was sentenced to probation after an FBI investigation of the department’s use of seized assets. In June, Sheriff Mark Napier requested the Arizona Attorney General’s Office investigate the department for any further misuse of those funds.

The FBI investigated the use of seized funds by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year, which was followed by a federal grand jury investigation in May.

And the Legislature recently raised the bar for justifying seizures. However, Curry and Kevin Krejci, the supervisor of the forfeiture unit at the Pima County Attorney’s Office, said the new law’s effect on seizures at the Tucson airport is uncertain and likely won’t become clear until a seizure is challenged in court.

The 2015 justice department report said 21 percent of the seizures from 2009 to 2013 were challenged and in 41 percent of those challenges all or a portion of the cash was returned, for a total of $8.3 million.

To safeguard against violations of civil rights, Curry said special agents undergo extensive training, including legal training, before they are authorized to work interdiction operations.

Pima County Superior Court records show three challenges to cash seizures at the Tucson airport since late 2014, including two cases in which all or some of the money was returned.

Pima County prosecutors returned $42,000, along with $10,000 in attorney’s fees, to Colorado resident Majdi Khaleq after he challenged the seizure in court, as the Star reported in March 2016. He was arrested months later in DEA raids of a multi-state spice-trafficking ring.

In late 2014, Pima County prosecutors agreed to return half the $12,515 seized from a man and a woman after they challenged the seizure. Court records do not show why the money was returned.

And in a case from early 2015, a Pima County Superior Court judge rejected the request for forfeiture, saying prosecutors had not connected a man’s money to racketeering or drug crimes and no evidence was provided to show such crimes even occurred.

“The County Attorney’s suggestion that an open investigation constitutes probable cause for forfeiture is not well taken,” according to a ruling by Judge Charles V. Harrington.

The forfeiture request was granted after prosecutors included information about a previous cash seizure involving the man at the Phoenix airport and a DEA agent testified.

Seizures at airports also brought more scrutiny to the DEA.

Those seizures were the focus of the 2015 inspector general report, which was compiled after DEA agents subjected a woman to what she called “aggressive and humiliating questioning” while she waited for her flight at an undisclosed airport. No cash was found or seized from the woman, who happened to be a Department of Defense lawyer traveling on government business.

The DEA told inspector general investigators they had no record of the encounter because they do not track encounters where no drugs or money were seized. Agents said they were “unable to document every contact they had because there were too many in a day.”

The report said the seizures raise civil rights concerns due to findings from a 2003 report that found the risk of racial profiling is greater with these encounters than with “contacts based on previously acquired information.”

The inspector general report found the DEA does not collect sufficient data to assess whether the encounters are conducted “impartially or effectively,” and the DEA’s management does not ensure training and operational requirements are clearly established. In response, the DEA said it would convene a working group to discuss ideas for tracking those encounters.

Original article can be found here ➤

Aviation Careers Pitched by Industry

An aviation maintenance program at a community college in Springfield that got a big corporate donation to grow its operations hopes to draw attention to the need for young mechanics.

Lincoln Land Community College Aviation Program Director Dave Pietrcak said they’re ready to show off an expanded facility thanks to last year’s $850,000 donation from Springfield-based Levi, Ray & Shoup. An open house is planned for Oct. 25 in Springfield. 

“We have three new classrooms and a complete computer lab with 25 new computers set up,” Pietrcak said. “We have the latest audio and visual equipment all installed.”

Before the expanded facility was completed, Pietrcak said classes were held in mobile trailers.

In a statement last year following his donation to LLCC, Levi, Ray & Shoup President and CEO Dick Levi said, “Careers in aviation and related fields can be very exciting, enjoyable and rewarding. It is my hope that this project will provide quality career opportunities that will benefit our community for years to come.”

Pietrcak said their graduates go on to work all over the state, from St. Louis to Chicago and everywhere in between, but there’s an alarming shortage of fresh blood in aviation mechanics. 

“This has been going this way for a few years now,” Pietrcak said. “Very few people are picking up this trade. There’s a lot more that are getting up in age and retiring.”

Pietrcak said the average age of an aviation mechanic is over 50 years old. 

An aviation mechanic out of Champaign is scared of the looming shortage. 

Flightstar Service Manager John Arnett said he’s concerned there won’t be enough young people getting into aviation mechanics to fill vacancies from some looming retirements. 

“I’m worried,” Arnett, who’s been at Flightstar for 19 years, said. “I’m a little worried because we’re going to find ourselves in a dilemma.” 

Aviation mechanic qualifications are very rigorous, Arnett said, because you can’t just pull a plane over on the side of the road if there’s mechanical problem. 

Pietrcak said LLCC’s program takes 18 months. Others may take up to 2 years. In total there are 1,900 hours of actual study, shop and classroom activities. At the end, Pietrcak said there are oral, written and practical exams. 

Arnett notes that could be one reason younger people go to other mechanic fields.

Either way, Arnett said aviation is important to Illinois businesses. 

“A lot of people don’t think so,” Arnett said. “They think that it’s a high expense, they’re flying around in these fancy jets. Well, it’s making the business grow and that’s really important.” 

Depending on location Arnett said aviation mechanics can make up to $40 an hour.

Original article can be found here ➤

Congress has opportunity to reform our low-tech air traffic control system

Transportation Policy at the Reason Foundation

Every time you fly, your flight is guided by air traffic controllers, based at several hundred facilities across the country.

Their job is to keep planes separated from each other, and speed them on their way, using technology and procedures.

Unfortunately, although our air traffic control (ATC) system is the world’s busiest, it is no longer the world’s most-advanced — or the most efficient. While it remains safe, it is the cause of flight delays and increasing congestion that will get far worse in coming decades without fundamental reform.

At the Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports, 41 percent of all delay-minutes last year were due to ATC constraints.

The underlying cause of these problems is that ATC — a high-tech, 24/7 service business—is trapped inside a large federal bureaucracy, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Its funding comes from an increasingly strained federal budget. It is subject to all kinds of political second-guessing. And has a bureaucratic process for developing new technology that rivals that of the Defense Department for generating cost overruns, late delivery, and overly complex end-products.

These problems were not unique to the United States. Historically, nearly all countries operated ATC as a part of their transportation agency. But in 1987, the reformist Labor government of New Zealand moved its ATC system out of the transport ministry, converting it into a public utility company.

Airways New Zealand charges airlines fees for its services, and issues revenue bonds to pay for major projects. The new approach worked well, and in the next 15 years over a dozen other countries did likewise. For many years, aviation experts in the U.S. have advocated a similar reform here, to no avail. Meanwhile, over 60 countries have de-politicized their ATC systems by moving them out of government, reinventing them as self-supporting service providers.

Now, a bill to move our ATC system out of the FAA and convert it into a nonprofit ATC corporation is poised for a House vote this month. It has the support of unions representing air traffic controllers, pilots, and flight attendants, as well as all the major airlines, the Business Roundtable, and a long list of former senior officials of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FAA.

The U.S. ATC corporation would closely resemble Nav Canada, the world’s second largest ATC provider, which was converted to a self-supporting nonprofit corporation in 1996. Like Nav Canada, ours would have a governing board of 13 members, appointed by all the aviation stakeholders — including controllers, pilots, airlines, airports, and private plane operators. It would be entirely supported by ATC charges, meaning that existing aviation taxes would be cut by $11 billion per year. And it would be regulated for safety by the FAA, just as airlines, airports, aircraft producers, and others are regulated.

Nav Canada is at least a decade ahead of the FAA in implementing advanced technology such as GPS surveillance of where planes are (more accurate than radar) and digital communications between pilots and controllers. And because it is a customer-focused business, it develops much of the new technology in-house, at far lower cost than systems developed via FAA’s vast bureaucratic system. Because it delivers more bang for the buck, Nav Canada’s ATC fee levels today are 40% lower than they were when it began operations. During those same two decades, FAA’s budget has doubled.

If this reform actually makes it through Congress, passengers will benefit in several ways. First, most of the $11 billion in current aviation taxes, paid by passengers, will be repealed. Second, technology similar to Nav Canada’s will mean far more “direct” routes, saving passengers time (and reducing fuel use and emissions). Third, the new technology will reduce delays due to ground holds and other ATC constraints, making flights more reliable.

This sounds very good, but the reform might not make it through Congress. A small but very vocal opposition, paid for largely by the business jet trade group NBAA, claims the reform would mean giving control of the system to the “big airlines” and would threaten continued ATC services at small airports. In fact, “big airlines” would nominate only one out of 13 board members, and the bill has numerous provisions to protect small airports and their towers. And as a concession to private pilots, the bill would exempt, by law, all private planes from having to pay ATC fees, including business jets.

It would be tragic if opposition from well-heeled business jet users prevented hundreds of millions of air travelers from getting faster and more reliable flights. But that’s what is at stake in this major reform effort.

Robert Poole is director of Florida-based Transportation Policy at the Reason Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy think tank.

Original article can be found here ➤

Ed Ruskus: Skydiving planes are ruining homeowner's weekends

I live south of Longmont in Boulder County. I've lived there since Jan. 1, 1993.

The noise from the planes that the jumpers use on the weekends is out of control. This past Sunday was the last straw, they buzz my home every 20 minutes as they leave Vance Brand Airport then circle around my home again to gain altitude. They started at 7:30 a.m. and ended when the weather got bad. On a nice day they will go until sunset.

This cannot continue. They've ruined my Saturdays and Sundays at home. They have a right to be in business but not to take away the sanctity of my home. I do not live near the airport. What if I went to the owner's home and flew a drone over it every 20 minutes? I'm sure the cops would be called for harassment. Why isn't this considered harassment?

This past Sunday they were running two planes at once. It's just unbelievable. How can they be allowed to do this? I've called and talked to the people who answer, who I will say are very nice, but nothing ever changes.

If my dog barked excessively, or my music was too loud or I rode my motorcycle up and down the street every 20 minutes, I'm sure the sheriff would be at my home. I don't know what to do, I'm getting desperate.

The Longmont City Council doesn't seem to care, the airport manager apparently doesn't, and the owners of the Mile High Skydiving apparently don't.

I have lived in my home for almost 30 years. These guys showed up around 2007, I think. We as a community need help.

Ed Ruskus

Original article can be found here ➤

Kestrel Aeroworks, once seen as boon for Brunswick Landing, is evicted for failing to pay rent

An aircraft company that aimed to bring hundreds of manufacturing jobs to Maine nearly a decade ago has been evicted from its Brunswick Landing workshop after missing rent payments for more than a year.

Kestrel Aeroworks’ lease was terminated Thursday, said Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the quasi-governmental agency that operates the former Navy air base.

The company had not paid rent on its 64,000-square-foot workspace in Hangar 6 for a couple of years, Levesque said. He would not disclose how much back rent the agency is owed because it intends to go to court to recover the money. Kestrel paid $15,000 a month under its 20-year lease, meaning two years of back rent would total $360,000.

The company employed about a dozen people at the site, but wasn’t able to put together the financing it needed to keep going, even though the development authority gave it time to do so, Levesque said.

“They were a tenant and it didn’t work out with us,” Levesque said. “It is like anything else, if you are not current on your rent you have to move on.”

Alan Klapmeier, CEO of Kestrel, which merged with a New Mexico-based jet company in 2015, did not respond to multiple interview requests.

Kestrel was anything but a normal tenant in 2010 when it announced plans to locate in Brunswick. Its parent company, Kestrel Aircraft Co., said it expected to hire at least 300 workers and as many as 600 to build high-tech composite turboprop airplanes in Maine. The company was slated to become one of the first major employers at the former Navy base and bring jobs to the state during the Great Recession.

But a dispute over a financing package, including millions of dollars worth of investment tax credits, dimmed the prospects of Kestrel becoming a major employer. Build-out at the plant stalled as Kestrel and some state officials tried to get more investment incentives than the $20 million that nonprofit corporation CEI agreed to steer toward the company.

In 2012, Kestrel decided to locate its airplane manufacturing division in Wisconsin after that state offered a better financial package, but it kept a smaller engineering and design group at Brunswick Landing. In the years after, the company was dogged by reports of late rent payments and failure to pay its employees’ health care and other benefits.

The outcome of the original investment deal is unclear. Levesque referred all questions about investment to Kestrel.

“It didn’t have anything to do with the state or us,” he said. “We were just the landlord.”

A CEI spokeswoman said Friday that no one at the company was available to answer questions about the Kestrel deal.

Kestrel also faced headwinds in Wisconsin. A 2016 report from Wisconsin Public Radio said the company had yet to build an airplane manufacturing plant in the state.

Stan Gerzofsky, who represented the Brunswick area in the Maine House and Senate from 2000 to 2017, said he supported Kestrel’s move to Brunswick and kept in contact with its owners. Recently, he felt the company was having problems, Gerzofsky said.

“I have known for a while that they have been having a hard time,” Gerzofsky said of his visits to Kestrel’s operation in Hangar 6. “There really hasn’t been any activity over there as far as I can tell.”

Gerzofsky was involved in the creation of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which converted Navy facilities to commercial civilian use after the base was closed in 2011.

“I’m pretty sad to see them go, they were the first real anchor we had out there, but you can’t have 100 percent of the projects be successful,” Gerzofsky said.

While the company appeared to be a big win for Brunswick Landing in 2010, other employers have since brought hundreds of jobs to the former base and it has surpassed redevelopment expectations. More than 100 businesses now employ over 1,300 people, including several aircraft-related companies like Tempus Jets, an aircraft servicing company, and Atol Aviation, a Finnish seaplane company.

The redevelopment authority has invested to attract more aircraft and aerospace companies to 500,000 square feet of hangar space and more than 100 acres of runways and aircraft parking at Brunswick Landing.

A new tenant is already lined up to take the space Kestrel is leaving, Levesque said.

“Businesses come and go, that’s just part of the cycle,” he said. “Not every business is going to make it.”

Original article and comments ➤

Ogden, Utah: Despite reports about safety issues, officials confident in Allegiant Air

OGDEN — Despite some high-profile media reports detailing safety issues on Allegiant Air flights, Ogden officials say they’re confident in the carrier delivering commercial service out of the city’s airport.

On Thursday, the Nevada-based budget airline began new, nonstop service to Los Angeles from the Ogden-Hinckley Airport — the latest activity in a push to expand commercial service and increase revenue at an airport that is subsidized between $500,000 to $750,000 a year.

The airline began providing commercial service between Ogden and Mesa, Arizona, in 2012 and currently offers those flights two days per week. The city announced the new Los Angeles service, a deal that included about $550,000 in city incentives, in June. 

The new flights to L.A. also run twice weekly, and there are plans to add destinations like Oakland and Florida.

Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell and airport manager Jon Greiner said the service to Arizona has been a resounding success in terms of ticket sales, with flights averaging over 90 percent capacity during the five-year operation.

While things have thus far gone smoothly in Ogden, in-flight safety issues on other Allegiant flights have been reported by multiple news agencies.

The Associated Press recently reported on a Sept. 25 incident in which smoke filled the cabin of an Allegiant flight from Las Vegas after it landed at the Fresno International Airport in California. The AP said coughing passengers were forced to cover their faces with shirts and firefighters boarded the plane.

There were 150 passengers and six crew members on the flight, and no one was injured. Allegiant said the smoke was caused by a mechanical problem, and Federal Aviation Administration officials called the episode an emergency, according to the AP.

Prior to that incident, the AP, The Washington Post, The Tampa Bay Times, USA Today and several travel industry publications published stories in the fall of 2016 cataloging a high number of mechanical breakdowns on Allegiant flights.

In an investigative piece published by The Times on Nov. 2, 2016, the paper reported that in 2015 “Allegiant jets were forced to make unexpected landings at least 77 times for serious mechanical failures.”

A Washington Post story from Sept. 1, 2016, compared Allegiant’s fleet of planes with similar vintage planes flown by Delta Air Lines. Between January 2015 and March 2016, Allegiant had about nine times as many serious incidents as Delta — even though Delta was flying about three times the number of planes Allegiant was.

The Times’ reporting on the airline has been extensive and continuous. In May of this year, the paper reported that three Allegiant MD-83s had mid-air engine-related breakdowns in March, all three causing emergency landings.

Last year, the FAA conducted a three-month review of Allegiant. After it finished, the agency found the airline was addressing problems uncovered in the review and that none of Allegiant’s problems were serious enough to justify any sanctions, according to the AP. 

Caldwell and Greiner both said they aren’t aware of any serious safety incidents happening on flights to or from Ogden in the five years Allegiant has flown out of the city airport.

“We’ve had delays, just like you see at any other airport on any other airline,” Greiner said. “But there’s never been any serious safety issues.”

The airport manager said the FAA has “four or five different teams” that regularly conduct safety inspections at the airport. Caldwell said the FAA’s oversight in Ogden is wide-ranging and demanding, and the city trusts the federal agency to insure flight safety.

“Safety is the number one priority of everyone involved,” Caldwell said. “If we didn’t think it was safe, we’d back out immediately.”

Read more here ➤

Application for pilot’s job with US firm ends in cheating case

GURUGRAM: A resident of Bajghera has lodged a police complaint that he was allegedly duped of Rs 1.63 lakh by a private company based in the US, on the promise of a job as a pilot.  First Information Report has been registered.

The complainant, Vijay Kumar Upadhyay, said he had applied to an American company, Austin Health Care, for the post of a private pilot. Responding to his application, the company allegedly said it could not give him a job with an airline, but promised him the "best job".

Upadhyay also told police that at the request of company officials, he initially transferred Rs 75,000 to them. Following this, he was asked to open a current account and start a firm called Om Prakash Bio-Science.

According to police, Upadhyay allegedly paid a total of Rs 1.63 lakh in three installments to the company. Upadhyay said that once he had made the payments, he was blocked on the phones from which he was getting calls from officials of the company. Communication by the company, via Facebook accounts in the names of Rozy Bright and Ney Amran Mkaxer (Weylynn) were also suspended, he added.

Upadhyay has named two company officials — one who used to call him and the other, who held the account to which he was transferring money — to police. He has also contacted and registered a complaint with State Bank of Mysore, which blocked the account to which he had been transferring money. The account was traced to Tamil Nadu.

ASI Sandeep Kumar, investigating officer in the case, said they summoned Upadhyay to access his call records. "We have started preliminary investigation," he said.

Police have registered an First Information Report under Section 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the IPC. 

Original article  ➤

Opposition to Tulelake Municipal Airport (O81) fence wrong

The proposed fence around Tule Lake Airport is not a complicated issue. Political forces from around the globe are mobilized by the San Francisco- based Tule Lake Committee to shut down our airport. It is easy for the TLC to get 37,000 urban people to sign a petition. Rural Americans are outnumbered.

The TLC has shown total disregard for the wants and needs of local citizens and is indicative of the current political movement to destroy Rural America!

A TLC email states, “Having an airport, even a small and primitive airport operating in the middle of this concentration campsite is inappropriate and demeans the memory of more than 24,000 people incarcerated at Tule Lake. The fence will eliminate opportunities for Japanese Americans and others to visit, reflect and morn.” Not true! There is already an old fence around the airport.

Macy’s Flying Service is a major employer in Modoc County and has been since 1956. They are good citizens providing an important service to our agricultural community. The TLC is motivated by some sense of entitlement for wrongs done by none of us who live here now.

President George W. Bush established by presidential proclamation on Dec. 5, 2008 the WWII Valor of the Pacific National Monument assigning 35 acres of the former Tule Lake Camp as a national monument. I support that totally.

The General Plan at the time was to work toward a powerful visitor center. It has been nine years and the only action taken by the TLC has been filing lawsuits designed to close our airport.

Satsuki Ina who was born inside Tule Lake said, “Besides being utterly unnecessary in such a desolate place, such a fence would desecrate the physical and spiritual aspects of Tule Lake.” I have lived 43 years in this “primitive and desolate place” and support Modoc County Airport Plan.

David Porter Misso

Original article  ➤

Cobb County, Georgia: Judge OKs bond refinancing of Tyler Perry’s jet

A Cobb County judge on Thursday signed off on a deal granting Atlanta-based filmmaker Tyler Perry’s company $35.3 million in bonds to refinance a private jet housed at Cobb County International Airport.

In addition to the bonds, Tyler Perry Studios will receive a graduated 10-year tax abatement worth nearly $2 million for keeping the private, 70-passenger Linage jet at McCollum Field.

Perry’s attorneys said three of the filmmaker’s planes, which include a 14-seat Gulfstream G-5 and an 8-seater Embraer Phenom 100, are housed at the county-owned hangar.

The deal was set up earlier this year by Perry’s attorneys and the Development Authority of Cobb County, which dubbed it “Project Meatloaf” to keep Perry’s identity a secret until a July meeting where members voted unanimously to approve the bond resolution.

The bond-for-title transaction was validated Thursday by Senior Cobb Superior Court Judge Grant Brantley.

“The bonds are now eligible to go to closing which means the transaction can be finalized, the bonds can be sold and the money necessary to fund the project can be put in place,” said Nelson Geter, the Development Authority’s executive director.

Cobb County’s school district is projected to collect about $730,000 in tax revenue from the plane over the next decade while the county is expected to reel in about $400,000, according to a fiscal impact analysis conducted by Georgia Tech.

Geter called it a good deal for the county, saying Perry could have housed his jets at any of metro Atlanta’s regional airports.

But not everyone is as enthusiastic about the development authority's tax incentives to lure Perry's aircraft to Cobb.

Larry Savage, who has three times run unsuccessfully for county chair as a Republican, said he thinks the development authority is overstepping its bounds.

"Anytime you relieve one party of their tax paying responsibilities, that has the effect of transferring the cost of government to the people who do pay their taxes," Savage said. "Everybody who pays property taxes to support government is carrying an extra burden for every tax abatement that's provided."

Savage said there are only so many places to put an airplane this size anyway.

"They already had two planes there anyway so obviously there's something they like about it."

McCollum is the only regional airport in the area with its own customs station, allowing Perry to travel internationally directly from his hangar.

Last weekend, Perry loaned the 70-passenger plane to a humanitarian relief group bound for Puerto Rico to assist Hurricane Maria victims, according to Florida Today and confirmed by the MDJ. The jet was loaded up with bottled water and supplies and flown from Florida to the storm-ravaged island where volunteers distributed food and water to those in need.

Geter said the plane will be used locally to transport Perry’s cast and crewmembers during filming projects. Perry’s move to McCollum is expected to create 10 new airport jobs with an average salary of about $160,000, according to the Georgia Tech study.

The other two planes in his fleet, Geter said, will also be added to the county tax rolls, increasing overall revenue.

“Without abatements, those two planes are adding about $165,000 per year in ad valorem taxes,” Geter said. “With the combination of the new tax revenue and the new jobs, it’s absolutely worth it.”

The tax abatement gradually brings the jet onto the tax rolls over 10 years. In the event the plane is relocated from the county before the 10-year abatement period is up, the Development Authority would be able to recoup 50 percent of the taxes abated, or after the first five years, 50 percent of the abatement for the prior 3 years.

Original article can be found here ➤

Mobile Regional Airport (KMOB), Pensacola International Airport (KPNS) to close early Saturday

GULF COAST, AL (WALA) -   Officials with the Mobile Regional Airport and Pensacola International Airport have confirmed that both airports will be closing early Saturday, Oct. 7 due to Tropical Storm Nate.

Brian Belcher, spokesman for the Mobile Regional Airport said they will shut down operations at 4 p.m. on Saturday and will re-open at noon Sunday, Oct. 8 for both the Mobile Regional Airport as well as Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley Field. 

"From what we're being told, flights should be able to arrive and take off with no problems Saturday," Belcher said. "We will continue to monitor the weather. If the storm shifts or things change; the opening time on Sunday could change."

The Pensacola Airport will close and cease all operation at 8 p.m. Saturday Oct. 7 and will remain closed throughout Sunday, Oct. 8 due to Tropical Storm Nate.

According to Florida officials, weather permitting, normal operations are expected to resume beginning Monday, Oct. 9. Passengers with impacted schedules travelling to or from PNS should contact their airline for specific flight information and rebooking or cancellation details.

Pensacola officials say individuals attempting to access the parking garage Saturday, Oct. 7 must present a valid airline ticket with same-day scheduled departure. Access to the parking garage will close at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7 and will not reopen until Monday, Oct. 9.

Pensacola International Airport is not a designated hurricane shelter and not able to accommodate the public during a hurricane or severe weather event. 

Story and video ➤

Tim Musgrave: Pilot receives prestigious award from Federal Aviation Administration after 52 years in the sky

SAN ANTONIO - A San Antonio man received a prestigious award from the Federal Aviation Administration for his clean flying record.

Tim Musgrave is the president and CEO of Pressure Systems International, a company that provides tire inflation products, and often flies himself to meet with clients in other states.

"We're the world's leader in automatic tire inflation for the trucking industry. We run on JB Hunt, Warner, Schneider, FedEx, UPS, all the majors. 90 percent of the private and public fleets run our product. We're manufactured here in San Antonio," Musgrave noted.

During the last several decades, he's flown 15,000 hours and has never had a single incident or violation. Musgrave said that, initially, when he got the call from the FAA, he was unsure what the call was for and was hesitant to call the agency back.

"I said, ‘Mr. Stanford, this is Tim Musgrave…’ About that long of a pause and then he goes, ‘Is this Thomas Musgrave III?’ Well, even my wife doesn't remember that that's my full name. So, I'm thinking, ‘This is horrible.’ I said, ‘Well, could I be Junior? Till we know what's going on,’" Musgrave recalled.

After the FAA notified him that it was for an award, Mugrave said that he was surprised.

"It was an honor to get it because it wasn't something that I wanted to get in my life. I've never heard it," Musgrave explained.

Musgrave knew early on that he was going to become a pilot. He grew up in a military family and both of his parents were pilots. Musgrave's father, Tomas C. Musgrave Jr., was a U.S. Air Force Major General.

"My father was the youngest general in the Air Force at the time. He flew every bomber. It was active in World War II. He flew every bomber used in the Cold War up to, but not including, the B1," Musgrave said.

Musgrave carries a company coin in his pocket that says "Dare to Soar" and he also has another coin like it that's visible inside his work jet.

"The idea there is to get up where the eagles soar, where the visibility's unlimited, look clearly at where you wanna go, what is it that you want to do in life and get away from the text messages, the e-mails, the memorandums. But get up and see what you wanna do. Flying enables you to do that," Musgrave said. "Everyone asks me, ‘Man, you're 75 and you're still flying a jet by yourself?’ I have a physical every year. And if I can't pass the minimums, the FAA, they will tell me when it's time to move on from this airplane. I hope it's a long time from now."

Story and video:

Friday, October 6, 2017

Horizon Air pilots make their frustrations public

Fed-up Horizon Air pilots say Alaska Air Group created the conditions leading to a pilot shortage that resulted in hundreds of flight cancellations.

Medford travelers have seen flights to Seattle cancelled and the Los Angeles route scrapped in recent months.

Horizon Air pilots, who fly Q-400 turboprops serving small and medium markets, took their frustrations public, sending an open letter to Alaska Air Group’s Chairman and CEO Brad Tilden and the company’s board. The letter is scheduled to run in a full-page advertisement in Saturday’s Seattle Times.

In a nutshell, the union said many pilots are retiring throughout the industry, while too few are joining the ranks, and Alaska wasn’t taking necessary steps to reverse the trend.

“We are deeply concerned about the future of our airline and the crucial service it provides to communities throughout the Pacific Northwest,” the letter signed by the Horizon Air Pilots Executive Council. “The high cost and lengthy training required to become a pilot have worsened the economics of our profession, making the career all but impossible for many aspiring aviators.”

Despite improved compensation, most aspiring pilots incur large student debts upward of $150,000. It also takes years as a low-wage flight instructor before qualifying for annual pay of $40,000 per year working for airlines such as Horizon, the pilots said. From there, it takes Horizon pilots 18 years to reach the maximum pay grade of $125,000.

Alaska created its own headwind as far back as 2012, said Greg Unterseher, director of representation for Teamsters Local 1224.

“The entire industry was moving one direction to accept pilots, while Alaska Air Group was going another direction,” Unterseher said. “Alaska always believed it would be able to attract pilots.”

Alaska converted all of its Horizon routes to Q-400s several years ago to reduce costs. But competitive factors came into play, and Alaska asked the union for a new contract. But the pilots didn’t flock to Horizon, as management had hoped.

“It was a classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face,” Unterseher said.

Horizon management asked pilots to accept pay cuts and other concessions last year to compete with another airline for outsourced routes flying from Alaska Airlines. In return for concessions, Horizon and Alaska Air Group guaranteed the pilots Horizon would become the exclusive operator for more than 30 new regional jets.

“With the ink on the contract barely dry, Horizon became unable to adequately staff and operate the airline — precisely as we had warned,” the pilots wrote. “In effect, Horizon’s attempt to cut costs had backfired; the airline had lower pilot costs, yes, but lower costs also meant that the airline could not recruit and retain scarce pilots.”

Recently, Horizon announced service reductions, deferred aircraft deliveries, and that SkyWest would fly new aircraft on contract for Alaska Airlines, something the pilots said was a flagrant violation of their 2016 agreement.

Horizon pilots said short-term fixes won’t help, and Alaska needs to present a long-term plan. They said it was important to retain senior pilots and develop training for the next generation. The pilots also said Alaska needs to break from corporate orthodoxy that says the market will solve the problem.

“The market is not solving this problem,” they wrote.

Unterseher said community leaders in the Rogue Valley need to ask Alaska about its plan.

“Alaska’s inability to recognize market conditions was shown by Delta’s invasion of Seattle, and then having to make a defensive move and spend well above the market price for Virgin America,” he said.

Original article can be found here ➤

Transportation Security Administration Issues Alert For Man Found Of Suspicious Activity, Posed As Pilot

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — TSA has issued a “Be On the Lookout For” Suspicious Activity after a man was found trying to gain access to restricted areas and aircraft at multiple airports, including in the Maryland and DC area.

They say Ahmed Olasunkahmi Salau, who also has gone by Ahmed Saluh, Ahmed Salan, and Martinez Davon Wells.

The TSA says earlier this month, Salau tried to gain access onto airport property to board a charter flight at College Park Airport.  He also reportedly made attempts to gain access at airports in Maryland and Virginia in September.

TSA says on September 22, Salau approached a flight instructor at Tipton Ft Meade Airport and claimed he was a Delta pilot and reportedly made flight time inquiries. The instructor recognized him from an alert released in July.

Salau was also reportedly found at Leesburg ProJet Aviation on September 29 asking about a NetJets aircraft. On September 29 and 30, Salau was reportedly at Frederick Municipal Aircraft and attempted to gain access to airport property by pretending to be a pilot.

TSA Office of Security Operations Compliance Division says Salau made several requests to board private planes at Dulles and Reagan in July.

The TSA says Salau was first reported last October, when he traveled aboard a commercial plane under a false name and date of birthdate. He also reportedly had a fake photo ID and was detected during a connection at Bush Airport in Houston.

Salau was witnessed at loitering airports in Missouri and Illinois from February to April 2017. In May 2019, TSA says Salau posed as a captain and then as a passenger and failed to produce proper ID and flight information.

The TSA says that Salau has a working knowledge of Federal Business Operations and should be prevented from entering restricted areas.

Story and video ➤

Federal Aviation Administration operates safest air-traffic control system worldwide: Letters

Nation’s air-traffic control best in the world

I read with both interest and disappointment the Sentinel’s opinion on the privatization of the air-traffic control system in the United States (“Modernize air traffic control,” Sept. 30). As a general aviation pilot and active participant in the business of aviation in this country for 48 years, I think the Sentinel’s position is ill-informed and misses much of the reality of the situation.

The editorial painted an incomplete picture, leaving the reader to think the  Federal Aviation Administration is working in the age of typewriters and transistor radios. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration operates the safest and most-reliable air-traffic control system in the world with a near-perfect safety record. There’s a specific  Federal Aviation Administration mandate that affects all of aviation as of Jan. 1, 2020, upgrading all air-traffic control from a ground-based radar system to a satellite-based tracking system, called ADS-B.

Many operators have already complied and most of the rest of the fleet will be grounded in 2020 if specific requirements are not met.

The system is not perfect, and I am not usually an advocate of more government control, but the  Federal Aviation Administration is doing a remarkable job. Furthermore, asking the airlines to have responsibility of control of U.S. airspace is like asking Colonel Sanders to babysit your pet chicken.

Bradford Fuller 

Original article can be found here ➤

VERIFY: Do prisons have control over their own airspace?

IONIA COUNTY, MICH. - Multiple emergency responders were called to the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility near Ionia Wednesday night after several drones were spotted in the air inside the perimeter of the facility. 

None of the drones were captured and the pilots were not found.

It's been a continuing problem for the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Corrections as they try to keep a secure environment without having total control over the airspace over the facilities.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the power to control airspace in the United States. The agency currently does not have no-fly zones over prisons across Michigan. That means those who have obtained certification to fly drones commercially can legally fly their drones over prisons.

Leaders at the Michigan State Police and Michigan Department of Corrections say they will attempt to charge those who fly drones over the prisons with a type of trespassing charge. There are still questions whether that criminal charge would stick considering there are few, if any, precedents in court regarding drone usage. 

"We're researching every defense that there is out there to combat drones and we have put some counter measures in place in prisons," Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Christian Clute said. "Unfortunately, though, there is not one antidote at this point."

He's referring to the inability of the Department of Corrections to control the airspace.  

The Michigan State Police acknowledges drones have sneaked contraband into their facilities.  In one case it was undetected for nearly two months. 

Inmates at Richard A. Handlon Correctional facility near Ionia received two packages dropped by a drone in late May. Other packages have been intercepted that contained tobacco, phones and marijuana.

Leaders at the Department of Corrections remind people there are severe penalties for people who would use a drone to smuggle items into the facility

In addition, Clute said people who fly drones, particularly hobbyists, have to understand flying a drone over the prison sends the facility into an emergency that can create safety issues for workers inside. The concern is the drones can upset prisoners who expect normalcy inside the prison, not to mention many other potential threats. 

In the worst case scenario, there are concerns somebody could use a drone to drop a weapon into the facility.

"They (drones) pose significant complications because they move so quickly, they're so small and they can carry a small payload," Ionia Co. Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Butler said.  "The ultimate concern is them dropping in a weapon of some sort."

That's why Michigan's government put together a task force to look at issues resulting from drone usage.  The Unmanned Aircraft Task Force has close to two dozen members and has met multiple times and is preparing to make recommendations and bring solutions to Gov. Rick Snyder's office and to lawmakers by December 

One result of the task force could be the recommendation of no-fly zones but that, we are told, could be met with resistance from the FAA refusing to let states regulate airspace. State leaders are trying to figure out what kind of control state lawmakers can exert.

One bit of good news is that some of the largest drone makers, including DJI, stop drone pilots from flying directly over prisons using the company's software. Pilots are forced to use the computer program to fly the drone and the program won't allow a drone to fly into certain areas including over prisons. 

Story and video  ►