Thursday, December 07, 2017

Cathleen Van Buskirk: Boulder spinal surgeon indicted on charges of bankruptcy fraud, money laundering

A Boulder spinal surgeon was arrested this week after being indicted by a federal grand jury on allegations she hid more than $200,000 in personal assets in a bankruptcy scheme.

Cathleen Van Buskirk was indicted Dec. 4 on charges of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of bankruptcy assets, fraudulent transfer and concealment, and money laundering, according to court records. She was arrested Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors allege in the indictment that in 2014 and 2015, Van Buskirk "devised and intended to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud her creditors through a bankruptcy proceeding."

They added, according to the indictment, that "it was part of the scheme that the defendant would, prior to filing bankruptcy, transfer certain assets to other persons and do so in a way that would both make it appear that the asset was no longer her property and conceal the existence of the asset from the bankruptcy trustee, bankruptcy court and her creditors."

Van Buskirk filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Aug. 25, 2014.

The assets she failed to report, according to the indictment, included $46,000, as well as 200 U.S. silver dollars, foreign currency, gold coins and one diamond ring. Van Buskirk also transferred around $170,000 to several companies that prosecutors said she controlled even though they were registered to her sister or an employee. The indictment said Van Buskirk fabricated invoices from those companies to hide her true relationship to them.

Van Buskirk — who runs Alpine Spine Center, P.C., at 4745 Arapahoe Ave., in Boulder — is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Denver for a hearing on Friday.

She could not be reached for comment Thursday.

If convicted, the two counts of money laundering could carry up to 20 years in prison, while the other charges could carry up to five years apiece.

Alpine Spine Center's website states that Van Buskirk is also affiliated with Boulder Community Health and Exempla Good Samaritan Hospital, as well as Minimally Invasive Spine Institute in Lafayette.

In a 2011 profile published by The Denver Post, Van Buskirk is described as living in Erie with a home that backed up the airport so she could fly her "gleaming Cirrus Turbo SR-22 single-engine airplane with advanced avionics."

In that story, Van Buskirk also discussed owning a Porsche Boxster, a Range Rover and a Vespa scooter that she kept in the hangar at her house, which she called "Enticement Alley."

Story and photo ➤

Aviator’s modern Erie home listed for $3.45M

The $3.45 million home features a hangar and pilot lounge. 

A home fit for the Wright Brothers hit the market in Erie.

Featuring a private hangar and pilot lounge, the home listed at $3.45 million makes it just as easy to fly away as it is to entertain. Listed on Aug. 27, the two-story modern home comes with direct taxi access to the 4,700-foot runway at the nearby Erie Municipal Airport.

The stats: With 5,831 square feet, the home has three bedrooms and five bathrooms, and rests on 3 acres. Built in 2008, the house resides in the Erie Air Park, a neighborhood of 127 homes with direct access by taxi to the Erie Municipal Airport.

Listing broker: Gwenivere Snyder with Keller Williams DTC.

The seller: Boulder spine surgeon Cathleen Van Buskirk. The aviation enthusiast purchased the land in 2006 for $285,000. According to The Denver Post, Van Buskirk designed the home after becoming a pilot.

The finer things: A custom, narrow pool, eight-person hot tub and fire pit dominate the outdoor space. Modern finishes, heated floors, a gym and electric shades for massive windows round out the interior amenities.

Story and photo ➤

Theodore Robert Wright III ・ Shane William Gordon ・ Raymond Bruce Fosdick ・ Edward Delima

A 32-year-old Kemah man pleaded guilty in federal court this week for conspiring to commit wire fraud and commit arson in a fire at Athens Municipal Airport. 

In September 2014, the Athens Fire Department was alerted to an airplane on fire at the airport. Reports show that Carroll Dyson, owner of Dyson Aviation, noticed the Cessna 500s cockpit on fire when he arrived. Athens Fire Marshal Ronnie Denton and Henderson County Fire Marshal Shane Renberg investigated the case. The plane had been at the airport for about two weeks.

Denton said part of the investigation was to determine why the plane was in Athens.

According to information presented in court, Theodore Robert Wright III led a multi-jurisdictional fraud and arson scheme that spanned from Hawaii to the Gulf of Mexico and involved the destruction of various assets, including vehicles, aircraft and vessels. Wright and his co-conspirators, Shane Gordon, 45, of Houston, Raymond Fosdick, 41, of Houston, and Edward Delima, 41, of Honolulu, acquired assets and obtained insurance coverage in amounts exceeding their purchase prices. Wright and his co-conspirators then devised and carried out schemes to destroy the assets and defraud insurance companies.

The assets destroyed in the scheme included a 1966 Beechcraft Baron, a 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo, a 1971 Cessna 500 and a 1998 Hunter Passage. The Beechcraft Baron made an emergency landing in the Gulf of Mexico, sank in deep water and was not recovered. The Lamborghini Gallardo crashed into a ditch full of water, causing the vehicle to flood. The Cessna 500 was completely destroyed when Fosdick set it on fire at Wright’s direction at the Athens airport. The Hunter Passage sank in a marina in Hawaii.

Fraudulent insurance claims were filed in each of these incidents. Wright and his co-defendants also filed a fraudulent $1 million personal-injury lawsuit in the crash in the Gulf of Mexico. The suit was settled for $100,000.

On May 17, Wright, Gordon, Fosdick and Delima were charged with various offenses related to their conduct in the scheme in the Eastern District of Texas. Wright’s co-conspirators have pleaded guilty. On Sept. 26, Delima pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud. On Oct. 12, Fosdick pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud and conspiring to commit arson. On Oct. 25, Gordon pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal agent.

At sentencing, Delima faces up to 20 years in federal prison. Fosdick faces up to 20 years in federal prison for wire fraud conspiracy and five to 20 years in federal prison on the arson conspiracy count. Gordon faces up to five years in federal prison. Sentencing dates have not been determined.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld and L. Frank Coan, Jr.

Wright entered his plea  pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge K. Nicole Mitchell.

Original article can be found here ➤


District Court, E.D. Texas

Theodore Robert Wright III, left, Shane William Gordon, center, and Raymond Bruce Fosdick.

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) -   An East Texas pilot has pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and arson charges.

According to U.S. Attorney John M. Bales, Theodore Robert Wright III, 32, formerly of Kemah, Texas pleaded guilty before a judge to conspiring to commit wire fraud and conspiring to commit arson. 

Wright was indicted in May 2017 along with three other men on charges of using fire to commit a felony and aiding and abetting, arson of property used in interstate or foreign commerce or used in an activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud.

All are accused of destroying vehicles, an aircraft and vessels to profit off insurance companies. The men are accused of damaging a Lamborghini Gallardo, a yacht in Hawaii, an airplane in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, and a burned out plane in an Athens hangar. 

Wright, 32, a well-known pilot in the aviation world, was arrested June 28 in Las Vegas and is being held in the Gregg County Jail along with Fosdick, 31, who was arrested in South Carolina on July 19.

Wright was forced to surrender his pilot’s license and passport to authorities, records show.

At sentencing, Wright faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the wire fraud conspiracy count and 5 to 20 years in federal prison on the arson conspiracy count.

According to U.S. Attorney Bales, Wright and his co-conspirators, Shane Gordon, 45, of Houston, Texas, Raymond Fosdick, 41, of Houston, Texas, and Edward Delima, 41, of Honolulu, Hawaii, acquired assets and obtained insurance coverage in amounts exceeding their purchase prices. Wright and his co-conspirators then devised and carried out schemes to destroy the assets and defraud insurance companies.

The assets destroyed in the scheme included a 1966 Beechcraft Baron, a 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo, a 1971 Cessna 500, and a 1998 Hunter Passage. The Beechcraft Baron made an emergency landing in the Gulf of Mexico, sank in deep water, and was not recovered. The Lamborghini Gallardo crashed into a ditch full of water, causing the vehicle to flood. The Cessna 500 was completely destroyed when Fosdick set it on fire at Wright’s direction at an airport in Athens, Texas. The Hunter Passage sank in a marina in Hawaii. Fraudulent insurance claims were filed in relation to each of these incidents. Wright and his co-defendants also filed a fraudulent $1 million personal injury lawsuit related to the crash in the Gulf of Mexico. The suit was settled for $100,000.

Wright’s co-conspirators have all pleaded guilty. In Sept. 2017, Delima pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud. In Oct. 12 Fosdick pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud and conspiring to commit arson. In Oct. 2017, Gordon pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal agent.

At sentencing, Delima faces up to 20 years in federal prison. Fosdick faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the wire fraud conspiracy count and 5 to 20 years in federal prison on the arson conspiracy count. Gordon faces up to 5 years in federal prison. Sentencing dates have not been determined.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld and L. Frank Coan, Jr.

Story and photo ➤

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - What do a flooded Lamborghini Gallardo, a sunken yacht in Hawaii, an airplane in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, and a burned out plane in an Athens hangar have in common?

Each is named in a federal indictment as having been destroyed by four men whom investigators say intentionally destroyed vehicles, aircraft and vessels to profit off insurance companies.

Theodore Robert Wright III, Shane William Gordon, Raymond Fosdick, and Edward Delima were indicted May 17 on charges of using fire to commit a felony and aiding and abetting, arson of property used in interstate or foreign commerce or used in an activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud.

A criminal forfeiture notice filed in the case seeks $938,554.80, a Gates Learjet and associated logbooks, flight logs and keys.

Wright, 32, a well-known pilot in the aviation world, was arrested June 28 in Las Vegas and is being held in the Gregg County Jail along with Fosdick, 31, who was arrested in South Carolina on July 19.

Wright was forced to surrender his pilot’s license and passport to authorities, records show.

Delima was arrested in Hawaii on July 24 and was arraigned in Tyler on August 2. Delima entered a not guilty plea to a charge of wire fraud and was released on bond.

Gordon, an attorney with offices in Houston, was arrested July 21, and is being held in the Smith County Jail.

The indictment describes four incidents in which the men are accused of conspiring:

1971 Cessna 500 N18FM

Purchased in March 2014 for $190,000, the aircraft was insured for $440,000, according to the indictment. It was found smoldering inside a hangar at Athens Municipal Airport in September of that year. Text messages between Wright and Fosdick allegedly discussing the arson of the plane were obtained by investigators and listed in the indictment.

“T.R. Wright: Car is at 18150 McKay Blvd, Humble, TX 77338 Sleep inn. Black Altima key in cup holder. Taxi there. Then you can leave it at  Conroe when finished

T.R. Wright: Do not get made in that car or it will sink us. I would really like if you can have some switcheroos

Raymond Fosdick: It’s done”

An insurance check for $440,000 endorsed by Gordon was deposited in an account out of which a wire transfer of $50,000 was made to another account in Wright’s name, according to the indictment.

A phone call made by Wright to the Athens Fire Marshal is listed among evidence for the indictments.

1966 Beechcraft Baron N265Q

Purchased in March 2012 for $46,000, the plane is now resting at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico near Baytown. The indictment claims Wright collected $85,000 from the insurance company after he and passenger Fosdick wound up in the Gulf after an alleged mechanical failure “caused smoke and flames in the cabin.”

The crash received publicity after Wright recorded video of himself and Fosdick floating in the Gulf awaiting rescue, and the video was picked up by news outlets and used in a commercial.

2008 Lambhorghini Gallardo

Purchased in November 2013 with a salvage title for $76,000, Wright is accused of intentionally driving the car “into a ditch full of water, causing the vehicle to flood.” In May 2014, Gordon deposited an insurance check for $169,554.83 payable to Wright and Cassius, LLC.

1998 Hunter Passage

Purchased in October 2014 for $50,150, the vessel was paid for by two wire transfers from an account held in Wright’s name and insured by Delima for $195,000. On February 20, 2016, investigators say “the vessel was extensively damaged due to partially sinking in a marina in Ko Olina, Hawaii.”

Facebook messages between accounts for Wright and Delima were found by investigators and included in the indictment.

“T.R. Wright: I think you and I should be on the phone together for the claim call, I pretend to be you and give them all the info, then you will hear everything so you know what to say later, and we will be on messenger if we need to communicate while we are on the phone with them. Thoughts?

Edward Delima: Sounds good”

The indictment states that this was not the only occasion that Wright, “used, directed and/or assumed the identity of Edward Delima in communications with the insurance company.”

An insurance check in the amount of $180,023.80 was deposited into a bank account held in Wright’s name in July 2015, and four days later investigators allege Wright transferred $180,000 by wire into an account he shared with Gordon.

Count 1, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and Counts 2 through 4, wire fraud, each carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000, according to the indictment.

Count 5, conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C. 844(i) carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; Count 6, related to the alleged arson, is publishable by up to $250,000 in fines and 5 years in prison; and Count 7, use of fire to commit a felony and aiding and abetting, carries a 10-year prison sentence and a fine up to $250,000.

Story,  photos and video ➤

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket -  - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Gulf of Mexico, GM
Accident Number: CEN12LA652
Date & Time: 09/20/2012, 1545 CDT
Registration: N265Q
Aircraft: BEECH 95-C55
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fire/smoke (non-impact)
Injuries: 2 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


While on a cross-country flight, the pilot detected smoke in the cockpit. He attempted to identify the source of the smoke but was not successful. When the pilot saw flames behind the cockpit panel, he descended and ditched the airplane in the water. The pilot and passengers got out of the airplane and the airplane sank. Due to the depth of the water at the accident location, the airplane was not recovered. Without recovery of the airplane’s wreckage, further examination was not possible, and the source of the fire could not be determined.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
An in-flight fire, which resulted in the airplane’s forced landing in water. The source of the fire could not be determined because the airplane wreckage was not recovered.


Aircraft systems - Not specified (Cause)

Not determined
Not determined - Unknown/Not determined (Cause)

Factual Information

On September 20, 2012, about 1545 central daylight time, a Beech 95-C55 airplane, N265Q, ditched into the Gulf of Mexico waters. The commercial pilot and one passenger sustained minor injuries. The airplane sank in deep water and was not recovered. The airplane was registered to and operated by Government Auctions Online LLC, Henderson, Nevada, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The flight originated from the Baytown Airport (KHPY), Baytown, Texas, about 1400, and was destined to the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport (KSRQ), Sarasota, Florida.

According to the pilot's statement provided to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), while the pilot was en route to his destination, when he detected smoke in the cockpit. In an attempt to troubleshoot the smoke, the pilot turned off the master switch. Due to reduced visibility, the pilot vented the smoke by opening the cabin door and pilot’s storm window. The pilot and passenger saw flames through a gap between the cockpit panel and glare shield. The pilot activated the emergency locator beacon as he descended to ditch the airplane in the water. After ditching the airplane, the pilot and passenger exited the airplane, donned personal floatation devices, and were rescued by the United States Coast Guard.

Due to the accident location, the airplane was not recovered for an examination. Despite multiple attempts, the pilot did not complete an NTSB Form 6120. Information was not available to determine if previous maintenance issues were present. A review of the FAA Service Difficulty Reporting database did not reveal any entries for the accident airplane. Without recovery of the airplane's wreckage, an examination was not possible and the source of the fire could not be determined.

History of Flight

Fire/smoke (non-impact) (Defining event)

Emergency descent

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 27, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land; Single-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): 
Restraint Used: 
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 05/17/2012
Occupational Pilot: 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 
Flight Time: (Estimated) 850 hours (Total, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: BEECH
Registration: N265Q
Model/Series: 95-C55
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:  
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: TE-106
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 6
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  Unknown
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 4900 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 2 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 
Engine Manufacturer: CONT MOTOR
ELT: C126 installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: IO-520-CB
Rated Power: 285 hp
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KBVE
Observation Time: 1551 CDT
Distance from Accident Site: 48 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 310°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / 20°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots, 60°
Visibility (RVR): 
Altimeter Setting: 30.01 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV): 
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Baytown, TX (KHPY)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Destination: Sarasota, FL (KSRQ)
Type of Clearance: IFR
Departure Time: 1500 CDT
Type of Airspace:

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: 
Airport Elevation: 
Runway Surface Condition: 
Runway Used: 
IFR Approach: 
Runway Length/Width: 
VFR Approach/Landing: 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Fire: In-Flight
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Minor
Latitude, Longitude:

Neptune Aviation Services sends two aircraft to California


Fire crews from around Montana are in California lending a hand.

Including Neptune Aviation, the company is assisting in this fire fight from the sky.

There may be snow up on the mountains in Montana right now, but this record-setting fire season is not over yet.

The Neptune Aviation Services just sent out two of these BAE 146 aircraft to help fight the fires in California.

Dan Snyder, Chief Operating Officer at Neptune Aviation Services said that this wildfire season is a record-high for not only the number of miles fire planes have logged in the sky, but also the number of operations.

"We started in January of this year and here we are in December flying again. It's been a very long year for us," said Snyder.

Snyder said that Neptune Aviation sent out two aircraft to California earlier this week with a crew of four in each.

He said that the aircraft they sent over, the BAE 146 200 holds 3,000 gallons of fire retardant, travels fast over 400 miles per hour, and can attack both small and large fires.

"What we are currently doing is protecting the small fires that start small. A lot of these fires in California all began at a single point. If you can catch them at that point you can mitigate the damage and that’s what we are doing right now is helping to assist catch those small fires," said Snyder.

Snyder said that their aircraft is on a call when needed basis with California.
He said that they were surprised to get a call so late in the season, but he said that they always have resources ready. 

"We have dedicated personnel who volunteered to do this mission. We have the ability to cycle people out as they need to for vacations and so forth. But we had a bunch of people stand up and say yes i want to help because again it’s a mission we a subscribed to and want to support," said Snyder.

Snyder said that they do not know how long their aircraft will be assisting in California.

It could be anywhere from two more days to two more weeks.

"It's what we do we fight fire. And when there is fire were willing to be there and able to help. Are we ready to end and have a Christmas break, yes, but when there’s a need we're ready to get out there and help," said Snyder.

This prolonged fire season has delayed maintenance, so the Neptune Aviation team is working extra hard to get the aircraft ready for the 2018 fire season.

Story and video ➤

Eastern Slope Regional Airport Authority seeks removal of Lovell member

Steve Bender is the Lovell representative to the Eastern Slope Regional Airport Authority.

FRYEBURG, Maine — Members of the Eastern Slope Regional Airport Authority are seeking to remove activist board member Steve Bender of Lovell, Maine, because of his recent criticisms of the authority's executive board.

But the Lovell Board of Selectmen's chairman said Bender's term doesn't expire until next January and no action will be taken before then.

Bender made headlines in October when a town vote was held on whether to allow Fryeburg officials to sell excess airport land to Poland Spring for a bottling plant. The proposal failed by a wide margin.

Just prior to that vote, Bender accused the authority’s executive committee of conducting secret negotiations on the proposed land sale. He also charged that building a plant there could create an aviation hazard.

The executive committee consists of Chairman Don Thibodeau of Fryeburg, Vice Chairman Carl Thibodeau of Conway, Treasurer Gene Bergoffen of Fryeburg and Secretary Ed Bergeron of North Conway.

The committee is supposed to report to the 24-member authority board, with membership from Maine and New Hampshire towns, chamber of commerce, Oxford County, Maine, and Carroll County.

Bender said not only has the authority not held elections since 2014 but at a full board meeting Oct. 26, the committee had the authority vote on the slate of officers and retroactively approve actions taken since 2014.

Bender also said it’s unclear whether the authority members who voted Oct. 26 were properly credentialed as they lacked appointment paperwork from their towns, county or chamber.

Don Thibodeau said in October that the officers — the executive committee — were elected early this year and in accordance with the bylaws.

Following Bender's statements, the Sun acquired emails that airport authority members Bergeron and Rick Hiland of Albany had sent to Lovell, requesting Bender's ouster.

"I am personally getting real tired of seeing my name, and the good name of the Town of Albany, NH smeared and associated in the news media related to Mr. Bender and his nonsense," wrote Hiland on Nov. 21. "It is time that Mr. Bender is removed and a cease and desist letter be sent to him immediately!"

Bergeron wrote that Bender had been threatening to sue the executive committee and that he complains to The Conway Daily Sun whenever things don't go his way.

"I don’t believe the majority of ESAA directors agree with him based on the results of votes at our October 26th meeting," wrote Bergeron. "I don’t believe he represents the Town of Lovell attitude toward the Airport and ask that you consider replacing him with a director who will be a team participant not a self proclaimed 'whistle blower.'"

Lovell selectmen's chair Stephen Goldsmith said Bender's term is due to expire Jan. 1, 2018.

"At this point in time, we are taking no action, and Mr. Bender will remain as Lovell’s representative" to the authority, said Goldsmith.

Hiland said he believes Bender is motivated by an anti-Nestle bias. Nestle is the corporate parent of Poland Spring.

Hiland said the airport executive committee wasn't involved in any secret negotiations that he was aware of, though there were "informal discussions" with Fryeburg town officials. He said the executive authority doesn't have the power to negotiate because it doesn't own the airport land, the town does. 

"The ESAA Executive Committee were in meetings with the Fryeburg Select Board and the Town Manager regarding information requests pertaining to the airport, FAA contacts and requirements, short and long-range airport planning, where on the property could this business entity be located, and other airport-related issues, Hiland wrote in an email. "This is what the Town of Fryeburg would require of the fact finding discussion with ESAA.

"It is the ESAA Executive Committee’s fiduciary duties to accommodate the Town with this information, fact finding and discussion. It is called communications."

Hiland said that the authority is basically just a volunteer group.

"The Executive Committee members as well as the Town Representatives/Directors like myself are volunteers first and foremost, pay sucks, benefits sucks, bad publicity sucks, most of us have our own businesses to run, so time is not always a luxury when it comes to dotting the i's and crossing the t's," said Hiland.

"Is the Executive Committee and we as Directors guilty of sloppy records, calling meetings, elections, communicating, etc.? Probably yes."

Hiland said the executive committee has been doing a good job overall keeping the airport afloat.

Bender said at Tuesday night's Lovell selectmen's meeting, he was informed that selectmen were told that 12 authority members want him gone.

He was asked how many authority members there are in total.

"My answer was 'who knows, they do not have the required appointment letters,'" said Bender.

Story and photo ➤

Yeager Airport (KCRW) celebrates 15 years of nonstop flights to Houston

American Airlines Agent Betty Tyler celebrates her ride attempt on a mechanical bull set up in the Yeager Airport lobby Thursday for the 15th anniversary of airline service to Houston and the announcement of all jet plane service to Washington D.C.

Yeager Airport on Thursday celebrated 15 years of nonstop flights to Houston by offering mechanical bull rides, raffling off airline tickets to the Texas city, and announcing the move to an all-jet fleet of aircraft serving airport passengers on all 18 daily flights starting in January.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper told those attending the observance that Yeager's Houston service began after county and airport officials met with former Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the year before the flight was launched. The delegation told Rockefeller that a direct link to the Texas city would benefit West Virginia business travelers in the chemical and energy industries, and was likely to provide enough passengers to be profitable.

"The flight was made possible due to a $500,000 U.S. Department of Transportation Small Community Air Service grant awarded through a program established by Senator Rockefeller," Carper said. "The Houston flight was the first new air service to be created through the new grant program."

Officials with the state Port Authority, which had recently been involved in a dispute with Kanawha County and Yeager officials over the development of a regional airport, predicted that the Houston air service would end "the day after the grant ended," Carper said. "But the flight continued with no subsidy and has generated total net airline revenue of more than $102 million on this route since 2002."

The 975-mile flight to Houston from Charleston is the longest of Yeager's 18 daily departures.

Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango announced that starting in January, 37-seat Dash-8 turboprop aircraft now used on some of United's four daily flights from Yeager to Washington's Dulles International Airport will be replaced by 50-seat regional jets.

"That will give us all jets on all of our routes," Salango said, and add 8,000 available seats annually to Dulles.

Story and photo ➤

Lincoln Airport (KLNK) will seek grant to help attract Dallas service

David Hating
The Lincoln Airport plans to seek a government grant to help attract air service to Dallas.

Executive Director David Haring said Thursday that the airport is applying for a Small Community Air Service Development grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The grant application is due Dec. 14, and Haring said he would expect to get a decision within 90 days.

He said he wasn't sure of the exact amount the airport will seek but it would be similar to the $750,000 it sought and received from the FAA in 2013.

That grant helped entice Delta Airlines to start service from Lincoln to Atlanta in September 2014.

In that case, the airport had a commitment from Delta beforehand that if it got the grant, the airline would agree to start new service.

This time around, Haring said there is no such commitment from an airline, but he said the airport has had discussions with various airlines about adding service to Lincoln, and those talks "are continuing to progress in a very favorable fashion."

American Airlines would be the likely candidate to provide Dallas service, as it and Southwest Airlines are the only carriers that use Dallas as a hub.

A consultant the airport hired last year, Forecast Inc., has advised that it should target flights to Dallas.

Many airlines, including American, have been expanding service this year. In March, American added flights to Dallas from Billings, Montana, and from Omaha to Miami. In October, it announced new flights to Philadelphia from Omaha, Des Moines, Iowa, and Madison, Wisconsin.

The Lincoln Airport has been unable to attract other new service since the Atlanta flight began, and after several years of passenger traffic gains, the number of people flying out of Lincoln has dropped, with traffic down 4 percent year-over-year through the end of October.

Haring has blamed a fare war in Omaha because of increased competition there for much of the passenger decline in Lincoln.

If the airport is approved for another grant, it would be used to help offset any losses an airline might incur in the first year after starting up service.

Haring said the Lincoln Airport could potentially be at a disadvantage because it got a grant four years ago, but he said it also helps that the service is still going after three years, which shows the previous grant was money well spent.

Story and photos ➤

Federal Aviation Administration establishes pilot records database in response to Flight 3407 crash

WASHINGTON – A federal pilot records database  – aimed at preventing airlines from making hiring mistakes  – began to take shape Thursday, seven years after Congress called for such an online resource in aviation safety legislation passed in response to the 2009 crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence.

The Federal Aviation Administration released its test version of the pilot records database, which will become the airlines' first one-stop-shop for searching federal records on individual pilots.

The agency hopes to eventually include airline records and state driving records in the database, but the test-run version will immediately allow airlines – at the touch of a button – to check federal records that they previously couldn't get without a pilot's approval.

“This is a common-sense resource that will allow airlines to quickly and easily check the qualifications and background of pilots before they are hired,” said Rep. Chris Collins, a Clarence Republican who was serving as Erie County executive at the time of the Flight 3407 crash.

Collins called the release of the database "a reflection of the significant progress that has been made to make sure all pilots are well-trained and fit to fly so that we can keep preventing senseless tragedies.”

Kevin Kuwik, a leading member of the Families of Continental Flight 3407, agreed that the FAA's move would enhance aviation safety.

"This is a really big step," said Kuwik, who discussed the new database in a conference call with FAA officials Thursday. "This will be the first time that airlines are able to electronically access a good chunk of a pilot's records in the hiring process."

If such a database had been in place a decade ago, it's quite possible that Colgan Air – the now-defunct regional airline that operated Flight 3407 – never would have hired Capt. Marvin Renslow, the pilot whose errors resulted in the plane crashing into a home in Clarence.

Renslow failed three federal "check rides" before Colgan hired him, but only told the airline about one of his failures on his job application.

"Had we known what we know now, he would not have been in that seat," Philip H. Trenary, president and chief executive officer of Pinnacle Airlines, owner of Colgan Air, said at an August 2009 Senate hearing on the crash.

Some 50 people died in that February 2009 crash, which happened in large part because of Renslow's incorrect reaction to a stall warning. National Transportation Safety Board investigators found that Renslow did the opposite of what he should have done to correct the plane's course, thereby losing control of the aircraft.

Establishing such a pilot record database was one of the Flight 3407 families' priorities in the aviation safety law they pushed to passage in 2010, but it's the last major piece of the law to start to take shape.

That's because all the other major pieces of the bill – calling for stronger rules on pilot rest, training and experience – gave the FAA deadlines for implementing new regulations.

The pilot records database didn't come with such a deadline, and despite the test version released Thursday, it's still not complete. The FAA is still in the midst of a rulemaking process that's intended to eventually include airline and state driving records in the database.

"We're probably looking at getting that implemented sometime in 2019 if everything were to go the right way," Kuwik said.

Lawmakers who pushed for passage of the Flight 3047 aviation safety legislation unanimously agreed, though, that the FAA's first step will go a long way toward helping airlines hire the best pilots and avoid hiring those with shoddy records.

“This new system will be a useful tool in the recruitment of qualified pilots and is the latest airline safety measure made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of the families whose lives have been forever changed by the crash of Flight 3407,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat from Buffalo.

Through the pilot records database, commercial airlines will be able to see any records that the FAA has regarding pilot performance. Airlines previously had to request such information from the FAA, and could get it only if the pilot waived a privacy provision and allowed the FAA to release the records.

Now, though, the new database is open to any commercial airline that chooses to use it, allowing for instant access to records that in many cases were not available before.

“The pilot records database will streamline the hiring process and will be an important tool for maintaining accurate records of pilot training and qualifications," said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, who helped push the aviation safety law to passage in 2010. "The Flight 3407 families have long fought to make this database a reality, and I am proud to have worked alongside them to achieve this important step toward making air travel safer for all Americans.”

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, a Democrat from Fairport, also commended the families with making sure the pilot records database became a reality.

"It is because of their advocacy that we passed into law new pilot safety standards and we haven’t seen another fatal regional airline crash since," Slaughter said.

Original article can be found here ➤

Rock Springs-Sweetwater County Airport (KRKS) name change proposed

Deciding whether or not to change the airport’s name to something more regional was a topic of discussion the Sweetwater County Commissioners weren’t ready to make a decision on just yet.

During the commissioners meeting Tuesday morning, Rock Springs-Sweetwater County Airport manager Devon Brubaker addressed the commissioners about changing the airport’s name to Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport.

“As the commission is well aware, we as an airport have been making significant strides to market our airport, not just regionally for commercial air service, but nationally and internationally for general aviation,” Brubaker said.

General aviation provides 90 percent of the airport’s revenue and the airport is focusing heavily on that.

“Also, in an effort to recognize the regional impact of our airport we are discussing and contemplating the idea of a change of name for the airport,” Brubaker said. “One of the suggestions and the one that we’ve been talking about is Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport. And the reason for this name change, like I’ve said, is purely marketing.”

It allows the airport to be inclusive of the surrounding counties, including Lincoln, Carbon, Sublette and Uinta counties. These counties either already contribute to the passenger numbers or have the potential to, he said.

“Currently, we sound very municipal. We sound very small. We do not sound regional. We do not sound like we have as big of an impact as we do,” Brubaker said.

As a pilot looking at the names on a list of paper, the pilot would assume that this is a facility that doesn’t have nice facilities or runways and that’s not the case at all, he said.

Brubaker said they are reaching out to the County Commissioners and the Rock Springs City Council for the Rock Springs-Sweetwater County Airport Joint Powers Board to see what they think about the name change.

Brubaker said they are really trying to reach a regional market and changing the name is a way to market the airport as a regional airport.

“We have a lot of passengers drive right past us to go to Salt Lake (City),...) Brubaker said.

This name change isn’t being taken lightly, Brubaker said he has been working through the idea over the past two years. The reason he’s asking now, is he’s getting ready to attend the world’s largest conference for aircraft schedulers and dispatchers in February.

“It is my goal to go into that with the new airport name so we can introduce the airport and the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) to the world, if you will,” Brubaker said. “I don’t want to go in there and have spent all of this money on marketing and having a group there and everything and have a different name then what we’ll have a month later. It just defeats the purpose.”

Commission Chairman Reid West said both the Sweetwater County Commissioners and the Rock Springs City Council would have to approve a name change.

Commissioner Wally Johnson said he thinks it’s a good idea, but he’s reluctant to take any action on it now.

He wanted time to think about it. West agreed with Johnson on needing time to consider it.

Commissioner Randy Wendling said if changing the name is a step needed to make the airport become more self sufficient, he wouldn’t have a problem with it.

Commissioner Don Van Matre wanted the to make sure everything needed to have the name change was done right the first time and if that means taking longer to do it, then that’s what will need to be done.

With guidance from the board, Brubaker said he would recommend the Airport Board pursue the name change.

Original article can be found here ➤

Internal Affairs: San Jose Police Department cleared for new helicopter after years of hand-wringing

SAN JOSE — SJPD is finally getting to the chopper.

After a multi-year odyssey which included the grounding of the air unit due to budget cuts and a Justice Department audit accusing the city of inappropriately stockpiling federal funds for a chopper buy that hadn’t happened, a shiny new helicopter appears to now be in the works.

For real this time: On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council unanimously approved $5.2 million in funding for the purchase of an H125 helicopter from Texas-based Airbus Helicopters. The new aircraft will replace the current “Air2” unit, an Airbus EC-120B that has been in use for about 16 years, which is nearly twice its recommended lifespan.

Part of that stems from the fact that nearly every year since 2010, the department budgeted funds to buy a new chopper, but saw those plans derailed for a myriad of reasons. That included the suspension of the helicopter unit in 2011 for austerity purposes.

That indecision was part of what drew the wrath of the Justice Department, which released an audit earlier this year chiding SJPD for sloppy bookkeeping with “equitable sharing revenue” the police agency earned from federal asset forfeitures. In essence, the department was found to be sitting on hundreds of thousands of related funds that were meant to be spent expeditiously.

In a report presented Tuesday, those federal funds are expected to account for nearly $3.5 million of the total helicopter cost.

The hefty price tag for the new helicopter breaks down to a $3 million base price, plus about $2.2 million in modifications to make it police-ready, including a spotlight, infrared and low-light cameras, and an array of radios, computers and other tactical gear. That’s not including a $500,000 sales tax bill.

With a more reliable and powerful helicopter in the Airbus H125, the four pilots on the force — who are all sworn officers — will once again be able to take to the skies more often, and for longer stretches. There is also room for four passengers in addition to the two requisite co-pilots for each flight, where only one additional person could fit on the old unit.

“We can transport people in times of emergency,” SJPD special-operations Capt. Loyd Kinsworthy said. “We can extend our flight times. It will go back to flying seven days a week.”

All things considered, the pending purchase — officials expect a 4-to-6 month delivery time — is welcome news to Kinsworthy’s unit, which has been stretching the old helicopter by limiting its air time and shelling out for more frequent and expensive repairs. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol have lent air support to the city to fill in the gaps.

“We’ve gone well beyond the typical lifespan for Air2,” Kinsworthy said. “A helicopter is such a valuable tool. It was definitely needed.”

Original article can be found here ➤

Dalton Municipal Airport (KDNN) to get renovation

DALTON — Construction will begin next year at Dalton Municipal Airport on a $1.26 million project to upgrade the ramp facilities and add a helipad.

At Monday’s Dalton City Council meeting, the council voted 4-0 to approve requesting bids for the first phase of the project, which will cost local taxpayers $67,730 with the federal government picking up most of the project’s cost. The Georgia Department of Transportation will add $65,411 to the project.

“This is something we have needed and been waiting for forever and a day,” said airport manager Justin Morrow. “Our supporting infrastructure has been in need of an upgrade for a while.”

The ramp facilities at an airport are basically used for parking. The airport was originally constructed on an old speedway in the late 1970s. 

The new construction will finish with nearly 30,000 square feet of newly paved areas along with new drainage and soil filtration systems. Included in the designs are eight tie-down spaces for overnight parking of aircraft and a helipad. It will be completed in two phases and should be completed by the beginning of 2019.

Morrow said the airport had about 4,000 flights out of or into Dalton in 2016. 

Original article ➤

Former Ryanair pilot denies incident Michael O’Leary said led to dismissal: Martin Duffy one of two consultants who had idea for email at center of defamation action

A former pilot has denied claims by Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary that the pilot caused five fare-paying passengers to be offloaded from a flight in order to accommodate crew travelling from Dublin to London.

Martin Duffy was a member of the Air Corps until he joined Ryanair in 1997. He worked as a captain and an instructor until his dismissal in 2001.

He was giving evidence in the continuing action by Ryanair alleging it was defamed in a 2013 email sent by the Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG). The case is against three RPG interim council members, Evert Van Zwol, John Goss and Ted Murphy, who deny the claims.

During Mr. O’Leary’s evidence in the case, he said Mr. Duffy was dismissed for gross misconduct over the removal of five fare-paying passengers from a July 2001 flight to accommodate Ryanair crew who were being positioned in London.

Mr. Duffy told the court on Thursday that was “absolutely not” the case. “I never asked to have five fare-paying passengers offloaded, nor would I.”

He said it had been practice that Ryanair crew flying to another airport would sit in any vacant passenger seats and/or in three spare fold-up “jump” seats located in the cockpit and at the rear of the plane.

It turned out, on the July 2001 flight, there was one spare passenger seat and another was being taken up by a crew member of another airline who had taken up a standby seat, he said.

The standby passenger was offloaded and there were now five seats available, two jumps and two normal passenger seats, for Mr. Duffy and his other four Ryanair crew members, he said.

Mr. Duffy said the plane was “basically ready to go when I received an instruction to offload myself and my crew”.

He and his first officer were instructed to go to head office immediately where Mr. Duffy met Mr. O’Leary. There was a subsequent disciplinary meeting at which Mr. O’Leary “basically handed me my P45”, he said.

He later took Employment Appeal Tribunal proceedings which were settled shortly after Mr. Duffy had obtained other employment.

Irish Airline Pilots Association

Mr. Duffy said he had been a member of the Irish Airline Pilots Association while in Ryanair. In his role as chairman of the group of IALPA pilots within Ryanair, the group had had issues and conflict with the company prior to his dismissal.

Mr. Duffy said he never received any evidence to support his dismissal other than his dismissal letter and he considered there was no legitimate basis for his dismissal.

Mr. Duffy subsequently switched careers and became a senior project IT manager but also did some work as a flight instructor.

Some ten years later he was approached by IALPA to do some consulting work in relation to responding to indications from Ryanair pilots about becoming more organized.

He and another consultant visited a number of Ryanair bases in different countries as part of that assessment. The project was extended and forms of communication were set up with Ryanair pilots.

A petition seeking an investigation by the aviation authority into Ryanair’s employment model was organized but withdrawn following a letter from the airline warning of disciplinary action if safety matters were reported other than through the proper channels.

A survey was then carried out which received more than 1,000 replies and which provided “quite worrying results”, he said.

Mr. Duffy said his work was initially funded by IALPA and later by membership of the European Cockpit Association, an umbrella body for pilot unions. The Ryanair Pilot Group was later established.

Mr. Duffy said he and his co-consultant Gerard Kelly, came up with the idea for the 2013 email, the purpose of which was to indicate to pilots what was happening in the market.

Asked about Ryanair’s allegation, when the email was put out, that the RPG knew it was false, he said: “I believe it was entirely true and accurately reflected activity in the marketplace which was relevant to the pilot body and we had no reason to believe otherwise”.

Under cross examination by Martin Hayden SC, for Ryanair, he accepted a reference to a sale of shares by Ryanair management in “late June” (2013) was incorrect. If he had said “by late June”, it would have been more correct.

He denied the objective of the email was to outcast management in the eyes of pilots.

The case continues.

Original article can be found here ➤