Thursday, November 16, 2017

Reno Air Races: We are not actively seeking a move to Las Vegas

The Reno Air Racing Association moved to ease concerns about its marquee event on Thursday, saying that it is not actively seeking to move the National Championship Air Races away from the Biggest Little City.

The concern arose from a statement sent to the Reno Gazette Journal by the organization on Wednesday that it was exploring other potential sites besides Reno for the event, including Las Vegas.

The statement indicated that it was looking at options due to concerns about potential development around Reno-Stead airport, which is where the Reno National Championship Air Races are held each year.

“We don’t want to leave at all,” said Tony Logoteta, chief operating officer of the Reno Air Racing Association, in a phone interview on Thursday afternoon. “The last thing we’re trying to do (with the statement) is to create additional concerns.”

The Reno Air Racing Association says it released the Wednesday statement after getting calls from concerned fans, sponsors and partners about a KRNV News 4 report from earlier this month that indicated it was exploring alternate sites for the Reno Air Races, including Las Vegas.

“We would be remiss as an organization if we didn’t explore long-term contingency plans for the potential impact the development of the Reno-Stead Airport could ultimately have on our event if their development plans come to fruition,” the Reno Air Racing Association said in the original statement sent to the RGJ. “One of those contingencies, unfortunately, has to be looking at alternative locations.”

The statement, however, ended up causing friction with the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, which says it felt blindsided by the release. The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, which oversees Reno-Stead Airport and the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, issues the airport license for the event and has been a longtime partner of the Reno Air Races.

The development cited by the Reno Air Races involve a 20-year master plan that the airport authority has been working on for many years. Priorities listed in the plan include improving infrastructure for ground transportation and parking, modernizing terminals and baggage handling, and airfield enhancements for runways and taxiways.

The greater Reno-Sparks area has been experiencing robust growth in the last few years with the arrival of high-profile companies such as Tesla, Apple and Switch. The growth has helped the region recover from the worst recession in its history but has also led to housing affordability issues with home values reaching record prices this year and Reno placing among the top areas in the nation for rising rents.

The growth is also putting pressure on the area’s infrastructure, which is one issue that the airport is attempting to address with its master plan. Improved infrastructure and development is especially important for Reno-Stead Airport, which still gets subsidized by Reno-Tahoe International Airport,  said Brian Kulpin, vice president of marketing and public affairs for the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority. The Federal Aviation Administration prefers airports to be self-sufficient, Kulpin said.

In response to concerns by the Reno Air Racing Association about potential projects near the race site, the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority told the Reno Gazette-Journal on Thursday morning that there are no immediate plans for development at Reno-Stead Airport. Although the authority has an agreement with developer Michael Dermody of Dermody Properties, any development that could impact the Reno Air Races has to come before the airport board for approval and will take at least two years to go through.

“There are no bulldozers, no surveyors, no ribbon cutting, no groundbreaking and no development plan that has been brought to the airport authority regarding Reno-Stead Airport,” Kulpin said. “We also have 5,000 acres at Reno-Stead so there’s a lot of room out there (to incorporate development as well as the air races).”

The Reno Air Racing Association has known about the airport’s master plan for seven years so the airport authority is surprised that the group is raising an issue about it now, Kulpin said. RARA worked with the RTAA on its 2010 master plan for Reno-Stead Airport, including the incorporation of its race courses with any future development in the area, according to Kulpin.

The Reno Air Racing Association confirmed that the airport has shared its plans with the organization which includes development that could run in conjunction with the annual aviation event. Although major development is not imminent, it still presents a concern, the association said.

“Depending on how quickly those plans come to fruition, they could potentially impact the ability of RARA to stage the National Championship Air Races in the future due to development that could encroach on our race courses,” the Reno Air Racing Association said.

Moving the event would represent a blow to a community that has hosted the races for 54 years, especially if it moves to rival city Las Vegas. Numbers from the Reno Air Racing Association estimate that last year’s event generated $91 million in economic impact for the region.

Next year’s race is scheduled to take place from Sept. 12 to 16 at Reno-Stead Airport. The airport authority, however, has yet to hear from the Reno Air Racing Association after it extended an offer to RARA for a two-year license last January, Kulpin said. The license covers the 2018 event and adds an extra year to give event organizers a one-year buffer. Usually, both organizations are deep into license negotiations by this point in time, according to Kulpin.

The mention of a potential move to Las Vegas was especially a sore spot for the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, which says it was caught by surprise by RARA’s comments to the press.

“The airport authority has had a 54-year partnership with RARA and we are shocked and dismayed that never once have they approached (the RTAA) to talk to us — not a phone call, not a text, not an e-mail,” Kulpin said. “Instead, we learned about their concerns through the media.”

The timing of RARA’s talk about moving to Las Vegas was also described by the airport authority as a curious coincidence. Kulpin pointed out that Reno Air Racing Association vice chairman Mary Beth Sewald was recently named president and CEO of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce. The Glenn Group, which is the media firm that represents RARA, also has an office in Las Vegas and does not stand to lose from a potential move to Las Vegas, Kulpin said.

Meanwhile, the Reno Air Races has been facing challenges since the horrific crash that occurred during its 2011 event, according to Kulpin. The crash caused severe injuries to some attendees and was followed by a drop in attendance and loss of sponsors. Event organizers have spent the following years recovering from the 2011 crash.

“We as an airport were out there saving lives alongside them (after the crash) so we thought we had a stronger partnership than what we’re seeing today,” Kulpin said. “If they need to go to Las Vegas because they’re looking for more money, then be honest about that.

“Don’t make us the scapegoat.”

Valerie Glenn, principal of The Glenn Group, said her company’s satellite office in Las Vegas is a non-factor in the Reno Air Racing Association’s decision to explore other potential sites. The Glenn Group remains headquartered in Reno and continues to be a strong advocate for the region, Glenn said.

“The fact that we have an office in Las Vegas is a moot point,” Glenn said. “The National Championship Air Races has been a huge part of this community for 54 years … and as a Northern Nevadan, I’d hate to see it ever have to leave the area.”

Reno Air Racing Association COO Logoteta, meanwhile, says it was never the organization’s intent to make it sound like it was actively seeking to move the event. Logoteta says the organization is relieved to hear about the safeguards regarding any proposed development at the site and described the airport authority as a valued partner that it looks forward to continue working with.

Logoteta declined to say whether communication between both groups has been bad, but says both organizations definitely need to get together and work through the current issue.

“I can’t really speak to the past but we’re looking forward to sitting down and working with them in the future,” Logoteta said.

Despite its frustration with how things unfolded with RARA, Kulpin says the airport is always willing to talk with its partners as well.

“We don’t want to do anything to make the air races go away,” Kulpin said. “We will talk to anybody who comes to our door.”

Original article can be found here ➤

Trustees no longer see reason to wait to close historic Horace Williams Airport (KIGX)

UNC-Chapel Hill trustees say they want to close the Horace Williams Airport regardless of whether the university someday goes through with plans to build its Carolina North satellite campus on the property.

The airport is responsible for “significant annual financial” losses for UNC-CH, requires more than $1 million in runway repairs and isn’t serving any university operation these days, they said in a resolution they approved Thursday.

They acknowledged that their vote was advisory, as the authority to actually follow through on the idea rests elsewhere. The N.C. General Assembly has blocked prior closure attempts, despite former Chancellor James Moeser’s 2002 determination that shutting down the airstrip was “in the best interests of both the university and the community.”

But the next formal step for UNC-CH is to ask the Federal Aviation Administration to approve the closure, trustees Chairman Haywood Cochrane said.

As for political backing from the General Assembly, and the UNC system Board of Governors, “I think we’ve got the right amount of support” for the move, he said.

“I think we’ve in good shape there,” Cochrane said. “There could always be a surprise, but they’ve been very willing to listen to the reasons why we think it’s appropriate to close it.”

He added that the airport hasn’t been part of the university’s “core mission” since 2011, when the fleet of airplanes that belongs to the Area Health Education Centers moved from Horace Williams to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

The latest push to close Horace Williams surfaced in September, thanks to administrators in UNC-CH finance office. They contend the field is costing the university $7,000 a month to operate.

The airport’s long been a flashpoint in town-gown relations, with neighborhood activists and town leaders alike arguing that its presence is too much of a safety risk.

Prevailing winds generally dictate that airplanes take off to the west, toward Carrboro and the pastures near the Calvander crossroads.

But occasionally, they flip and compel takeoffs to the east. There, the flight path takes planes over Phillips Middle School and Estes Hill Elementary School. There’s little to no vacant land nearby a pilot could use for an emergency landing in the event of a mechanical failure or other emergency at low altitude.

University officials say they worry about “increasing liability” because of the proximity of the schools and the town’s residential development.

Trustees in 2005 joined Moeser in recommending the field’s closure, but at that time they said the move should only occur when UNC-CH was ready to start development of Carolina North. To date, no such development has occurred, thanks in part to the 2008 recession and more broadly because the university hasn’t had the money to go through with the project.

Despite the university’s position and the town opposition, the field’s always had a good bit of political support, most recently from the likes of former state Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson.

Advocates of retaining it note it’s far from uncommon for small airstrips to operate in the shadow of major airports like RDU, offering a base to private pilots who’d otherwise have to compete with the airlines for parking and air space.

Apodaca’s also questioned the university’s economic argument, noting that UNC’s own moves to cut down on the number of planes based there reduced the field’s customer base. Moeser terminated a long-standing basing arrangement between the airport and a local flying club, and the move of AHEC reduced the number of operations further.

Horace Williams Airport dates from the 1930s, and has some national history behind it because it served as a U.S. Navy pre-flight school during World War II. Former President George H.W. Bush trained at the school before serving as a torpedo-bomber pilot in the Pacific, and former President Gerald Ford was a ground-based physical fitness instructor there.

Though he wasn’t a pilot, Ford also has the distinction of having crashed in an airplane there, at least once and maybe twice.

He was on a plane that was destroyed in a bad-weather heavy landing late in the war, after he returned to the U.S. after serving as an aircraft-carrier navigation officer in the Pacific. And he’s said to have wrecked a Piper Cub he and a couple of friends acquired during their stay in Chapel Hill in hopes of learning to fly on their own.

Cochrane said the presidential ties and the airport’s history have come up when he’s been lobbied him to retain it.

But “I’ve said we’re not keeping it because of the past,” he said.

Original article can be found here ➤

Former United Airlines pilot pleads guilty to running prostitution ring

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - Former United Airlines pilot Bruce Wayne Wallis appeared before Harris County Judge Jim Wallace to plead guilty to running a prostitution ring.

The judge gave Wallis five years' probation. He could have faced up to 20 years in prison if found guilty at trial.

"Even though what you did is certainly despicable, you didn't endanger, as far as I know, anyone's lives. You didn't force anyone to do anything that they didn't want to do," Wallace said.

As part of the agreement, Wallis agreed not to ask that his commercial pilot’s license be reinstated while he is on probation. 

He also must complete 150 hours of community service and pay a $2,000 fine.

The judge allowed him to keep his flight school open. If he successfully completes the probation, he will avoid a criminal conviction.

"I think that he recognized that while there was a crime committed, that Mr. Wallis should have an opportunity to make a living and contribute, so we're happy with the result, absolutely happy with it," defense attorney Dan Cogdell said.

Wallis was arrested in 2016 in one of the 17 raids across Houston in connection to a prostitution ring. Prosecutors said the ring involved 20 female prostitutes at more than six brothels.

"We're hopeful that he will learn his lesson and that he'll move on from there. It's been a long road to get us to this point. There's been a lot of work and difficulties and there's been a lot of harm that's taken place. I'm glad we're getting to an ending point," prosecutor Lester Blizzard said. 

Story and video ➤

Huntingburg Airport (KHNB) offers prep course for commercial drone operation

For aspiring drone entrepreneurs, the Huntingburg Airport accelerated ground school classes in December will provide the preparation needed to pass the Federal Aviation Administration’s required test for commercial drone operation.

The airport has offered the ground school in the past but recently, Airport Manager Travis McQueen determined the class which prepares students to take the FAA exam to become a pilot will also prepare them for the Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems test. The test is a requirement to operate a drone commercially.

The airport is working with Aviation Seminars, a test prep company, to offer the two-day course Saturday, December 2 and Sunday, December 3, at the airport. Afterwards, students will be prepared to take the required tests from the FAA to obtain a pilots license as well as the drone operator test.

According to McQueen, the 60-question test is comprised of questions taken from a pool of more than 900 potential questions. The minimum passing score on the exam is 70 percent.

“It will be hard if you do not understand the material,” McQueen said.

If interested, registration can be completed online at

Original article ➤

Methuen, Essex County, Massachusetts: FedEx 1291 aircraft crew reports laser incident

METHUEN — Authorities are investigating after the crew of a cargo plane reported seeing a blue laser shining into the aircraft while flying over Methuen Wednesday night.

The crew of FedEx 1291 reported the laser was illuminating the Boeing 757 aircraft at 9:42 p.m. Wednesday, investigators said. No injuries were reported, according to an Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

The plane was en route to Memphis International Airport from Portland International Jetport in Maine.

The FAA notified Methuen police and Massachusetts State Police, and will investigate, the agency said.

Methuen police said they were contacted by Boston Air Traffic Control about a plane that had reported a laser strike. Other area towns were contacted as well, as it was not clear where the laser originated from, police said.

Cruisers were put on alert, but Methuen police said that nothing came of it Wednesday night.

The FAA said lasers can temporarily blind a pilot, interfere with a flight crew's operations and jeopardize the safety of passengers, particularly during take-off and landing.

Instances of lasers being pointed at aircraft, whether purposefully or accidentally, have been on the rise for years. Statistics compiled by the FAA show there were 3,894 laser incidents affecting aircraft in 2014 alone, the most recent data that is available.

The FAA announced in 2011 that it would begin imposing civil penalties against people who point a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft, up to a maximum of $11,000 per violation, according to an FAA press release. It has been a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft since 2012.

The FAA has also issued guidelines for state and local police to help identify and report unauthorized laser strikes against aircraft.

Original article can be found here ➤

Incident occurred November 16, 2017 at Eugene Airport (KEUG), Lane County, Oregon

EUGENE, Ore. - The Eugene Airport evacuated a concourse and pushed a plane away from the building after air traffic controllers announced an emergency on board the plane Thursday, Eugene Airport officials said.

Delta Flight 5805 was scheduled to depart for Seattle. The evacuation happened after a report of a possible fire in the back of the plane.

"There's wasn't any live fire, just smoke," Casey Boatman with the Eugene Airport said.

Compass Airlines operates the plane, providing regional service for Delta.

"Aircraft technicians encountered a smoky odor while performing maintenance work on a Compass Airlines aircraft parked at a gate at the Eugene, Oregon airport," Compass said in a statement. "Out of an abundance of caution, local authorities were called to the aircraft. There were no customers on board the aircraft at the time. Those customers scheduled to fly on Delta Connection flight 5805 have been re-accommodated on an alternate flight."

The evacuation order has since been lifted. The airport is returning to normal activity.

The airport suggested travelers check with their airlines for current flight information.

No passengers were on board at the time of the emergency.

The aircraft was parked at Gate A2 at the time.

Firefighters and law enforcement were called to the airport at 1:10 p.m., according to dispatch logs.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the A Concourse was evacuated and the aircraft was pushed away from the building," the Eugene Airport said in a statement.

Original article can be found here ➤

Piper PA-28R-200 Arrow II, N5381F: Accident occurred November 16, 2017 at Orlando Melbourne International Airport (KMLB), Brevard County, Florida

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Orlando, Florida

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:


According to the pilot, during an approach in the rain, there were wind gusts, and he retracted the flaps to zero. He noted that, "I decided to land a little faster than the preferred 75-80 mph."

The pilot reported that the airplane "did not settle into a normal rollout." He recalled that a few seconds into the landing roll, the airplane veered to the left and exited the left side of the runway. The airplane continued across the safety area and collided with a drainage culvert.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the engine mounts.

Photographs provided by the Federal Aviation Administration aviation safety inspector showed three parallel rubber skid markings that began about 1,500 ft from the approach end of the runway. The markings began in the center of the runway and exhibited a sharp left turn that continued along a path through the safety area and stopped at the drainage culvert.

The pilot reported that the left main landing gear assembly and tire failed during the landing roll. However, an examination of the landing gear assembly, wheel, and tire revealed that there were no mechanical anomalies or failures before the runway excursion.

The METAR at the accident airport reported that, about the time of the accident, the rain was light, and the wind was from 010° at 12 knots.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's loss of directional control during the landing roll on the wet runway. 


Directional control - Attain/maintain not possible (Cause)

Personnel issues
Aircraft control - Pilot (Cause)

Environmental issues
Wet surface - Effect on operation

Factual Information

History of Flight

Approach-VFR pattern final
Other weather encounter

Loss of control on ground (Defining event)

Runway excursion

Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)
Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Orlando, Florida

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

National Transportation Safety Board = Aviation Accident Factual Report 

Location: Melbourne, FL
Accident Number: GAA18CA053
Date & Time: 11/16/2017, 1510 EST
Registration: N5381F
Aircraft: PIPER PA 28R
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control on ground
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

According to the pilot, during an approach in the rain, there were wind gusts and he retracted the flaps to zero. He noted that, "I decided to land a little faster than the preferred 75-80 mph."

The pilot reported that the airplane, "did not settle into a normal rollout." He recalled that a few seconds into the landing roll, the airplane veered to the left and exited the left side of the runway. The airplane continued across the safety area and collided with a drainage culvert.

Photographs provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Aviation Safety Inspector assigned to the accident, revealed three parallel rubber skid markings that began about1,500ft from the approach end of runway 9R. The markings began in the center of the runway and exhibited a sharp left turn that continued along a path through the safety area and stopped at the drainage culvert.

The pilot reported that the left main landing gear assembly and tire failed during the landing roll.

However, an examination of the landing gear assembly, and the wheel and tire, by the FAA Maintenance Inspector, identified that there were no anomalies or failures prior to the runway excursion.

The METAR at the accident airport reported that about the time of the accident, the rain was light, and the wind was from 010° at 12kts.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the engine mounts.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 63, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 12/08/2016
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 08/06/2017
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 551 hours (Total, all aircraft), 436 hours (Total, this make and model), 18 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 13 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 7 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: PIPER
Registration: N5381F
Model/Series: PA 28R 200
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1976
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 28R-7635462
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 11/02/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1960 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:  3981 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT:  C126 installed, activated, aided in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: IO-360
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 180 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KMLB, 27 ft msl
Observation Time: 1953 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 148°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 2100 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: 21°C / 17°C
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 3900 ft agl
Visibility:  4 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 12 knots, 10°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 29.99 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: Light - Rain
Departure Point: FLAGLER BEACH, FL (KFIN)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Melbourne, FL (MLB)
Type of Clearance: VFR
Departure Time: 1400 EDT
Type of Airspace: Class D 

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 33 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Wet
Runway Used: 09R
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 10181 ft / 150 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Full Stop; Precautionary Landing 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude:  28.102778, -80.645278 (est)

A plane that landed safely at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport went off the runway Thursday afternoon, an airport spokeswoman said. 

The pilot of the Piper PA-28R-200 Arrow II was hospitalized as a precaution, airport spokeswoman Lori Booker said. 

The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate how the mishap happened. 

The plane landed about 3 p.m. 

The plane is owned by Stephen J. Winter of Mansfield, Massachusetts, according to the  Federal Aviation Administration.

The pilot's name was not released Thursday. 

The runway was briefly closed as airport officials inspected it for damages. 

Original article can be found here ➤

MELBOURNE --  A small plane made a hard landing at the Orlando-Melbourne International Airport on Thursday afternoon.

Airport officials said the Piper PA-28R-200 Arrow II was badly damaged after the hard landing, skidding off the runway just after 3 p.m.

It's unclear what caused it to go down. 

The pilot was the only person aboard and was OK. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The plane remained on the side of the runway a couple of hours later, moved so airport operations could resume. 

Airport officials said the decision was made to leave the plane where it is until the Federal Aviation Administration could get there in the morning to investigate. 

AIRCRAFT:    1976 Piper PA-28R-200 N5381F, s/n: 28R-7635462

Last Annual Inspection on 11/02/2016 at Tach/TTAF 3,967.78

The current tach time is 4012.50.

ENGINE: Lycoming IO-360-CIC, s/n: L-16148-51A

Last Annual Inspection on 11/02/2016 at Tach 3,967.78, TSMOH 263.49

Engine overhaul on 03/23/09 by Mattituck

PROP: Hartzell HC-C2YR-1BFP/F7497, s/n: CH43695B

Last Annual Inspection on 11/02/2016 at Tach 3,967.78

Factory new prop reset 07/28/2010.  PTSN approximately 200

King Audio Panel KMA20-TSO
Narco DME 890
Garmin SL30 Nav/Comm
TKM 170-C Nav/Comm
BFG Storm Scope (unknown model)

DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT:  Aircraft departed the runway during landing and came to rest in a ditch.

DESCRIPTION OF DAMAGES:   See attached photos. Damage includes but may not be limited to the following:    

Left wing bent in half
Left landing gear torn sideways
Right wing significantly wrinkled
Fuselage buckled above leading edge of the right wing
Firewall forward is twisted and badly damaged, including the nose landing gear, bent engine mount, crushed air induction tube and buckled firewall.
Prop damaged and spinner bent downward
Engine experienced a prop strike


Read more here:

Winnebago County Board dumps long-disputed Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH) plan for cheaper remodel

OSHKOSH – A controversial plan to replace an aging Oshkosh airport building crumbled in a budget meeting last week when the Winnebago County Board passed a no-frills alternative to demolish much of the building. 

For more than four years, the county board has been debating what to do with Wittman Regional Airport's dilapidated terminal building, which houses airport offices and a car rental service, but has stood largely empty since commercial flight service fled Oshkosh years ago. 

By a 26-2 vote, the county board voted Nov. 7 to budget $1.1 million toward tearing down much of the terminal and repairing its leaky roof. Three members abstained and five were absent. The vote likely discards a $5.5 million plan to replace the old terminal with a new one, a proposal that the county board has been debating for years. 

It's an issue that dredged up conflict on the county board and led to the resignation of board member Kenn Olson and Airport Director Peter Moll. Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris said details of the plan need to be addressed, but the board was clear in rejecting the initial plan to build a new terminal. 

"I think maybe it’s a starting point," Harris said of the new terminal plan. "This is not something I want to fight the board on." 

Wittman's terminal has deteriorated in the years since commercial flights stopped running from Oshkosh. It is plagued by a roof that leaks and rising heating and cooling costs. 

During budget hearings last week, the county board set aside $1.1 million in the 2018 budget to tear down and fix up part of the terminal. The move drew praise as a prudent alternative to the costlier plan to build a new terminal, while supporters of the new building cautioned it 

"Let’s show what fiscal responsibility really means," Supervisor Bill Wingren said. "Let’s support building a terminal for $1.1 million instead of $5.5 million."
Dispute leads to resignations

While some supervisors praised last week's decision, the bitter fight forced two officials out of county government in the process. 

In early October, Kenn Olson, an aviation committee member, stepped down, blaming infighting and a long-running vendetta against the airport director as factors that contributed to his resignation.

Olson said suspicion of Moll led board members to stonewall the pricier terminal plan, then caused the facilities committee to meddle in the planning process. 

"They claim that (Moll) lies, that he cheated the county out of money," Olson said ahead of Moll's resignation. "They were just holding things up. This has never been done for any other county building project. It tells you they are not going to be happy until the airport manager is gone." 

Moll announced his resignation in an email to the county board just before he was due to field questions from board members about the airport's 2018 budget. He will remain in his post until February, and will help search for his successor. 

Moll did not immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday, and declined to elaborate on his decision to resign in an email to a USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin reporter Nov. 7.

"Some members of the board have been very critical of Peter (Moll)," Harris said. "I think that probably had an impact of board’s support for the airport." 
Path to terminal plan

The county's initial solution for Wittman's terminal was to tear it down and build a new, smaller one suited to corporate travelers and private planes. It would have cost about $1 million to demolish the existing building and some $4.5 million to build a new one, which would leave land open for development nearby. 

But the plan hit a series of roadblocks at meetings last winter. Some criticized the plan for failing to detail how much the county would charge the terminal's tenants during a meeting in December. 

Then, at a meeting in February, emails surfaced that showed Moll had failed to seek state aid for the new terminal.  

That revelation caused the county board to put the project on hold indefinitely. Supervisor Guy Hegg moved to require that the board revisit the plan only after a new airport director had been named. But the county's attorney blocked that measure; the board doesn't have the power to hire and fire officials. 

In the months after, the county's Facilities Committee, led by Supervisor Bill Roh, began working on an alternative plan. It's a move that Bob Warnke, chairman of the county's Aviation Committee, said felt like an overreach. 

"To me it was a very unethical way of doing things," Warnke said. "I wish they could have gone ahead with the whole plan and got it over with."  

The new plan consolidates airport staff into the west end of the airport terminal with tenant Basler Flight Service and tears down the east end. Supporters expect demolition to cost about $900,000, and repairing a leaky roof to cost some $200,000. 

Though the county's vote last week allocates money for the plan, there are unresolved details. The county board must decide how the project affects parking, who will demolish the building and other particulars. There's no outlined plan, either, for what to do with Hertz, which would be displaced by the plan. 

Roh said it's up to the county's aviation committee and airport staff to figure that out. 

"That’s micro-managing," Roh said. "We don’t care what they do with parking spaces. That’s up to them. Those are minor details."

Story and comments ➤

Boeing 737-800, N8626B, Southwest Airlines: Incident occurred November 15, 2017 at Tampa International Airport (KTPA), Florida

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Tampa, Florida

Flight SWA411:  Aircraft on departure sustained damage to horizontal stabilizer due to birdstrike. No injuries. Landed without incident.  

Southwest Airlines Company:

Date: 15-NOV-17
Time: 14:26:00Z
Regis#: SWA411
Aircraft Make: BOEING
Aircraft Model: B737
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Flight Phase: TAKEOFF (TOF)
Aircraft Operator: SOUTHWEST
Flight Number: SWA411

Cessna 172RG Cutlass, N6102R, South Florida Aviation Group LLC: Accident occurred November 15, 2017 at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport (KOPF), Miami-Dade County, Florida

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Orlando, Florida

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

South Florida Aviation Group LLC:

Location: Opa Locka, FL
Accident Number: ANC18LA009
Date & Time: 11/15/2017, 2007 EST
Registration: N6102R
Aircraft: CESSNA 172RG
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional

On November 15, 2017, about 2007 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172RG retractable landing gear airplane, N6102R, sustained substantial damage during landing at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport (KOPF), Miami, Florida. The airplane was registered to South Florida Aviation Group, LLC and operated by the pilot as a visual flight rules flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 when the accident occurred. The certificated commercial pilot and safety pilot were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, no flight plan had been filed.

The pilot reported that the purpose of the flight was to practice instrument approaches for an upcoming certified flight instructor instrument (CFII) check ride. Just prior to intercepting the glideslope for the ILS 9L approach into KOPF she moved the landing gear selector to the down position, verified that the gear down and locked light was illuminated, set the flaps to 20 degrees, and completed the before landing checklist. About 500 feet above ground level (AGL), the GPS blinked, and radio communications were lost. The safety pilot set the transponder to squawk 7600, and switched to the number two radio, but was unable to reestablish radio communications with air traffic control (ATC). About 150 feet AGL, the lights on the instrument panel blinked. The pilot then selected flaps to 30 degrees and configured the airplane for landing, while the safety pilot, once again, attempted to reestablish communications with the ATC tower. The pilot sated that she then moved the landing light switch to the on position, and immediately lost all electrical power. After receiving a green light gun signal from the tower, she continued the approach and visually verified that the main landing gear was extended. Upon touchdown the right main landing gear collapsed, and the airplane departed the runway sustaining substantial damage to the right horizontal stabilizer. The pilot stated that no electrical or landing gear warning lights were illuminated for the duration of the flight.

The closest weather reporting facility was Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport (KOPF), Miami, Florida. At 1953, an METAR from KOPF was reporting, in part: wind from 020 °at 5 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, clear; temperature, 75 °F; dew point 70° F; altimeter, 29.93 inches of mercury.

A detailed wreckage examination is pending. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N6102R
Model/Series: 172RG NO SERIES
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: KOPF
Observation Time: 0053 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C / 21°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 5 knots, 20°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.93 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Opa Locka, FL (OPF)
Destination: Opa Locka, FL (OPF)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion:  None
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 25.907500, -80.278333 (est)

Vans RV-6A, N164BC: Incident occurred November 15, 2017 at Simsbury Airport (4B9), Hartford County, Connecticut

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Windsor Locks

Aircraft on taxi, struck a runway light.

Date: 15-NOV-17
Time: 19:03:00Z
Regis#: N164BC
Aircraft Make: VANS
Aircraft Model: RV6
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: TAXI (TXI)