Thursday, December 14, 2017

Robins Air Force Base gets cannons to shoo birds

Marvin Griffin, airport wildlife biologist at Robins Air Force Base, shows one of the new sound cannons the base is using the scare birds away from the runway.

Birds are not welcome around the runway at Robins.

They can cause damage to aircraft and in some cases can even bring a plane down.

The base has long used a range of methods to keep birds away from planes taking off and landing, but now it has a new weapon in its arsenal. Starting last week the base began using a battery of 24 sound cannons set up around the vast runway area to shoo away birds.

The solar-powered cannons, which rotate to any direction, fire off a loud and startling boom that scares the birds but does not harm them. Some of the cannons are also equipped with speakers that mimic the sound of predatory birds known to the area, as well the sound of birds in distress. That's another method of scaring birds away.

Early indications are that the cannons are effective. The devices are used as needed, with certain personnel using handheld devices to trigger the cannons when they spot birds. An automated system wouldn't be effective because the birds would get used to the timing and wouldn't be afraid of it.

Shortly after the cannons went into operation, someone spotted a flock of vultures - one of the biggest threats to aircraft in this area - making themselves at home in a tree near the runway. Nearby cannons were fired and the flock departed. A large flock of black birds was also seen flying toward the runway. A cannon was fired and entire flock shifted course away from the runway, said Tech Sgt. Matt Miller, who works in the Installation Flight Safety Office.

Bird strikes happen regularly, but usually do not cause a serious problem. However, birds can cause damage to aircraft, including cracking wind screens, and may even cause a plane to crash. That can happen especially if one or more large birds get sucked into the engine.

One of the best known instances of that came in the Miracle on the Hudson plane crash in 2009 in New York. A commercial plane on takeoff struck a flock of Canada geese, lost all engine power, then glided to a landing in the Hudson River. Everyone survived, but there have also been fatal crashes caused by birds.

"Birds and aircraft don’t mix," said Marvin Griffin, the base's new airport wildlife biologist, as he showed how one of the cannons worked on Wednesday. "Birds do a lot of damage when impacted by an aircraft moving at a high rate of speed."

Also, an impact almost never turns out well for the bird.

Bird strikes happen most often on takeoff and landing, which is why it's considered important to keep them away from the runway. Griffin works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and his position is a new one at the base. He is specifically trained in the control of wildlife around airports.

Planes don't even have to be flying to be damaged by birds. Large planes such as the C-5 generate tremendous engine suction when revving up and can draw in birds without the plane moving.

"It's like a giant vacuum cleaner," Griffin said.

The base runs a comprehensive effort to keep all wildlife off the runway. Although birds are considered the biggest threat, a deer or wild hog on the runway is also bad. A fence surrounds the area and a road that runs through it near the forest on the east side of the base has a cattle guard, but animals can still get over it.

Among other methods to keep wildlife away, the grass is cut to a certain height. Cut too low it can attract certain birds or wildlife, and cut too high it can attract others.

"You can't prevent birds and wildlife," said Lt. Col. John Lipps, acting flight safety officer with Air Force Reserve Command, "so one of the keys is you just try to make it the least attractive place in the surrounding area."

Story and video ➤

Piper PA-32-300, N4326X, Air Jones LLC: Accident occurred December 14, 2017 at MidCoast Regional Airport at Wright Army Airfield (KLHW), Fort Stewart, Hinesville, Liberty County, Georgia Georgia

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

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Atlanta, Georgia

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Air Jones LLC:

Location: Hinesville, GA
Accident Number: WPR18LA051
Date & Time: 12/14/2017, 0854 EST
Registration: N4326X
Aircraft: PIPER PA 32-300
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On December 14, 2017 about 0854 eastern standard time, a Piper PA32-300, N4326X, was substantially damaged during an emergency landing at Wright Army Airfield (Fort Stewart)/Midcoast Regional Airport (LHW), Fort Stewart (Hinesville), Georgia. The airplane was registered to Air Jones LLC and operated by the private pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. The pilot received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Metter Municipal Airport, Metter, Georgia at 0830.

In a statement provided to the Federal Aviation Administration Inspector, the pilot said he was on final approach to LHW when he felt a shutter, followed by a loud bang. Immediately after, the windshield was covered in oil and the engine experienced a complete loss of power. The pilot reported to the air traffic controller that he was unable to land on the runway, and that he is "going down". About 2 miles short of the runway, the airplane impacted a tree line. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: PIPER
Registration: N4326X
Model/Series: PA 32-300 301
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation: KLHW, 45 ft msl
Observation Time: 0856 EST
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 8°C / 3°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 9 knots, 250°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.96 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: METTER, GA (MHP)
Destination: Hinesville, GA (LHW) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 31.888333, -81.561667 (est)

A small private aircraft made a hard landing at MidCoast Regional Airport at Wright Army Airfield in Fort Stewart, according to Fort Stewart Public Affairs Officer, Kevin Larson. 

The landing took place around 8:45 am Thursday morning. The air strip is manned by civilian and military authorities.

Larson reported that the pilot, yet to be identified, was able to exit the plane safely. 

He said the plane is a Piper PA-32-300 aircraft.

 Larson said the plane was damaged but the extent of damage and cause of the hard landing are currently under investigation.

The pilot was transported to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah. 

Original article can be found here ➤

SkyWest Airlines competing for Riverton Regional Airport (KRIW) contract

RIVERTON, Wyo. (AP) — SkyWest Airlines has submitted a proposal looking to compete against Denver Air Connection for the Riverton Regional Airport's air service contract in the 2018 fiscal year.

Air Service Task Force Chair Missy White says because of funding constraints, the city will only be able move forward with one airline.

The Ranger reports that Denver Air began operating in Riverton in July 2016 and has begun to see an increase in its boarding numbers.

In November, 517 people flew with Denver Air in Riverton, beating the 488-passenger record that the airline had set in October.

As of Tuesday, the airline has flown 4,085 passengers out of Riverton in 2017, falling short of the 10,000-passenger requirement for the airport to receive a $1 million federal grant.

Original article can be found here ➤

Robinson R44 Raven II, N441ML, registered to Paratus Air: Accident occurred December 13, 2017 at Newark–Heath Airport (KVTA), Licking County, Ohio

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Columbus, Ohio 

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Paratus Air Inc: 

Location:  Newark, OH
Accident Number: GAA18CA089
Date & Time: 12/13/2017, 1610 EST
Registration: N441ML
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Dynamic rollover
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Positioning 

The helicopter pilot reported that he was relocating the helicopter from the fueling station to an overnight parking area. He initially attempted to move the helicopter on wheels, but that was unsuccessful. He started the helicopter, performed the startup checklist, and applied a "normal amount of collective" when the helicopter rolled to the right and impacted the ground.

The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and the tailboom.

A review of recorded data from the automated weather observation station located on the airport reported that, about 16 minutes before the accident, the wind was from 160° at 5 knots.

In a follow up conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board investigator in charge, the pilot reported that the helicopter began rolling to the right immediately after lifting off and he added power to increase his altitude, as well as applied left cyclic to counteract the right rolling movement. He estimated that the accident sequence took only seconds.

Federal Aviation Administration's Helicopter Flying Handbook, FAA-H-8083-21A, contains a section titled "Normal Takeoffs and Landings" which states:

Dynamic rollover is possible even during normal takeoffs and landings on relatively level ground, if one wheel or skid is on the ground and thrust (lift) is approximately equal to the weight of the helicopter. If the takeoff or landing is not performed properly, a roll rate could develop around the wheel or skid that is on the ground. When taking off or landing, perform the maneuver smoothly and carefully adjust the cyclic so that no pitch or roll movement rates build up, especially the roll rate. If the bank angle starts to increase to an angle of approximately 5–8°, and full corrective cyclic does not reduce the angle, the collective should be reduced to diminish the unstable rolling condition. Excessive bank angles can also be caused by landing gear caught in a tie down strap, or a tie down strap still attached to one side of the helicopter. Lateral loading imbalance (usually outside published limits) is another contributing factor. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 62, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land; Single-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane; Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 01/27/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 02/16/2016
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 1296 hours (Total, all aircraft), 31 hours (Total, this make and model), 1171 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 30 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 24 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 7 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N441ML
Model/Series: R44 II
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 2004
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 10465
Landing Gear Type: Skid;
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 10/30/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2500 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 199.2 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: IO-540-AE1A5
Registered Owner: PARATUS AIR INC
Rated Power: 245 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: KVTA, 884 ft msl
Observation Time: 2254 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 95°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Temperature/Dew Point: -2°C / -12°C
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 6000 ft agl
Visibility: 10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 5 knots, 160°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting:29.49 inches Hg 
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: WISE, VA (LNP)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Newark, OH (VTA)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1420 EST
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: N/A
Airport Elevation: 883 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 40.023056, -82.463889 (est)

The Ohio State Highway patrol in Licking County is responding to a helicopter crash.

Troopers say the call came in at 4:13 p.m. on the report of a helicopter that crashed at the Heath-Newark-Licking County Airport in Heath. 

The pilot, 62-year-old Mark P. Cheplowitz of Aurora, Ohio, was the only occupant inside and not injured, officials said. He said he's on a cross-country trip from Florida

The helicopter experienced an unknown problem during takeoff and crashed on its right side, Cheplowitz told investigators. 

Cheplowitz which, had already landed, refueled and was going to park elsewhere at the airport.

The crash remains under investigation.

Original article can be found here ➤

A pilot was not hurt when his helicopter crashed Wednesday shortly after take-off at the Newark/Heath Airport in Heath, Licking County.

Authorities were called at 4 p.m. when the helicopter crashed on its right side.

Mark P. Cheplowitz, 62, of Aurora, in northeast Ohio, experienced an unknown problem with his 2004 Robinson R44 helicopter, the State Highway Patrol said.

Cheplowitz told authorities he was on a cross-country trip with the four-seat, light helicopter that had started in Florida.

The crash remains under investigation.

Original article can be found here ➤

Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport (KMRB) gets $30K grant for strategic business study

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport has been awarded a $30,000 grant to help the airfield in Berkeley County, W.Va., prepare a strategic business vision.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture rural business development grant, which will be matched with airport funds, was formally announced Thursday by the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council on behalf of the airport's governing board.

“With this grant, long the dream of former Chairman Rick Wachtel, we will be able to fund a strategic business study,” airport authority Chairman Jim Klein said in a news release. “We believe this study will play an integral role and set the course for action both now and in the future.”

The business plan will include recommended strategies for optimizing the advantages of the airport location, property configuration and regional attractiveness.

The airport property south of Martinsburg includes 1,005 acres off Exit 8 of Interstate 81. The airport, which has an 8,815-foot runway, currently has four commercial buildings for sale and/or rent, ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 square feet.

The runway serves the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard, which is based at Shepherd Field, and several small businesses, but there are no contracts with air carriers or air-taxi operators.

The request for funding was supported by U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

“This funding will help the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport Authority, along with Region 9 Planning and Development Council, position Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport to capture new opportunities that will benefit the entire state,” she said in the release.

The goal of the grant is to formulate a study to guide decisions for the next five years, Klein said.

Airport Manager Neil Doran said the document "will be no mere plan to place on a shelf and forget about — this will be a living document charting out a specific path of guiding steps leading to revenue growth for the airport and job creation for our local community."

“The airport continues to be one of the most important assets in our region," Bill Clark, the planning and development council's executive director, said in the release.

The airport authority earlier this week awarded a $3,700 video-production-services contract to Martinsburg-based Hornby Publishing to help market and promote the airport.

Story and photo ➤

Incident occurred December 14, 2017 at Groton-New London Airport (KGON), New London County, Connecticut

Groton – A pilot who issued a distress call due to stuck flaps on his airplane made a successful landing at the Groton New London Airport late Thursday afternoon.

The emergency call was issued shortly after 5 p.m. and led to a response from the Poquonnock Bridge Fire Department, who were joined by personnel and equipment from the airport fire department, Center Groton Fire Department, the Pfizer Fire Department, Groton Ambulance and state police.

Poquonnock Bridge Chief Joe Winski said it was a standard response to the airport when there is the possibility of a plane crash. He said the pilot of a turboprop single engine aircraft reported having trouble with his flaps, which help lower the speed of a plane as it comes in for a landing.

The plane landed without issue, he said.

Original article can be found here ➤

Cessna T210L Turbo Centurion, N727TJ, Tropikordia Inc: Fatal accident occurred December 14, 2017 off West End, Bahamas

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, December 14, 2017 in West End, Bahamas
Aircraft: CESSNA T210, registration: N727TJ
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Uninjured.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

The government of Bahamas has notified the NTSB of an accident involving a CESSNA T210L airplane that occurred on December 14, 2017. The NTSB has appointed a U.S. Accredited Representative to assist the government of Bahamas's investigation under the provisions of ICAO Annex 13.

All investigative information will be released by the government of Bahamas.

Mark Tanner

The Royal Bahamas Police Force has indicated they have suspended the search for 57 year old American cellist, Mark Tanner – who has not been located since the Cessna plane he was flying was forced to make an emergency landing into the water, 18 miles northwest of Freeport, Bahamas, on Thursday December 14th.

A graduate of Yale University where he studied with Aldo Parisot, Mark had previously served as Principal Cellist with the San Diego Symphony, Nashville Symphony, New Haven Symphony and the New West Symphony.

“Suspending a case is never an easy decision nor is it a decision that is hastily made …” a spokesperson for the rescue effort coordination has said.

“We remain ready to reinstitute a search if new information becomes available.”

Local coast guards have indicated they covered more than 308 square miles in their 3 day ocean rescue effort.

Neither the cellist nor the wreckage of the plane have been located.

Mark’s wife, Janna Lower, who serves on the violin teaching faculty at the University of Florida School of Music, was also in the plane at the time of the incident but was rescued by a Good Samaritan seaplane. 

In addition to his musical activities, he served as an executive of a medical device company, as chairman of an angel investment fund and as an active entrepreneur. 

Original article ➤

The Coast Guard has suspended the search for a pilot from Gainesville.

57 year old, Mark Tanner, and his wife, 60 year old Janna Lower, were flying from Gainesville on December 14th.

During their flight, the Coast Guard received a notification from the plane, reporting mechanical problems.

The two stated they were going to make an emergency landing northwest of Freeport, Bahamas.

Lower was rescued by a good Samaritan seaplane and taken by helicopter to receive medical attention.

Tanner was declared missing. Around 6pm on December 15th, the Coast Guard suspended their search.

Story and video ➤

A lone female survivor was rescued at sea and rushed to the trauma section of the Rand Memorial Hospital on Thursday (December 14, 2017) afternoon, following a plane crash a few miles off West End. 

Shortly after being alerted of the crash, Royal Bahamas Police Force, Bahamas Customs and United States Coast Guard officers as well as West End Clinic Medical Professionals and local fishermen gathered at the Old Bahama Bay Marina and began coordinating search and rescue plans to locate and aid victims.

Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Superintendent of Police Noel Curry, Officer-In-Charge of the West End Division, who traveled with the team to the scene updated media personnel upon return to Old Bahama Bay Marina.

According to RBPF Supt. Curry, “Approximately 11:42 a.m. Police Control Room, Freeport, GBI received information of an aircraft going down just off West End; immediately I led a team of officers and support staff to the location.

“We were grateful for the support received from persons throughout the West End community as well as the United States Coast Guard that assisted us. Once out to the location, we located a sea craft, which was not the vessel in question and spotted a lone female survivor of the crash aboard that sea craft.

“The survivor was assisted by the U.S. Coast Guard to the Freeport International Airport where she received further medical assistance.

“We conducted a grid search of the (suspected) crash area along with the U.S.Coast Guard; however, at this time we have yet to locate an exact area by which we can assign it as the official crash site.”

Presently, investigations are ongoing into the plane crash; however, this daily learned that the crash occurred nearly eight miles off the coast of West End and, RBPF Supt. Curry noted that initial reports indicate there were only two persons on-board the aircraft at the time of the unfortunate crash.

Police officials have deduced that the plane had departed the United States of America en route to one of the islands of The Bahamas. While there is no debris field which would assist in determining the size, make and model of the aircraft, sources close to this daily noted it was a small single engine plane. The lone survivor is believed to be Caucasian and appeared to be incoherent and traumatized by the ordeal.

A search continues to locate both the aircraft and the male occupant, who was also aboard the plane at the time of the crash, shared RBPF Supt. Curry, who stated updates would be provided to the public once investigations conclude.

Saddened by the news of the plane crash, Member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama and Bimini Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe prayed for the families of both occupants of the downed aircraft.

Original article ➤

NASSAU, Bahamas — The United States Coast Guard is searching for a 57-year-old man after hoisting his wife to safety when the single-engine plane he was piloting crash landed 18 miles northwest of Freeport, Bahamas.

The two, whose names were not released, are believed to be American.

The Coast Guard said the Cessna 210 airplane, which was travelling from Gainesville, Florida, to North Eleuthera, The Bahamas, had mechanical issues and an emergency landing was made northwest of Freeport.

A search and rescue team, which included police, US Coast Guard and the Bahamas Customs Department Marine Section, responded to the crash.

A seaplane rescued the 60-year-old woman from the water. Shortly after, a Coast Guard helicopter crew arrived on the scene, hoisted her from the seaplane and transferred her to emergency medical services, who then transported her to the Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport.

The woman was later airlifted to the United States for further medical treatment.

Original article ➤

One person was rescued and a search is underway for a man missing at sea following a plane crash in waters off West End, Grand Bahama on Thursday morning.

The female survivor, who was pulled to safety in a basket harness by a US Coast Guard helicopter, was flown into Freeport, transported to the Rand Memorial Hospital and then flown to the United States for further treatment. A senior police official said the survivor was “incoherent” and unable to speak with authorities.

The aircraft, which is believed to be a private plane, with two persons aboard went down around 11.42am some eight miles off West End, police reported.

Police were alerted by Air Traffic Control that a blue and white single engine aircraft coming from the United States had crash landed off West End. Police officers along with the US Coast Guard and the Marine Section of the Department of Customs responded to the scene of the reported crash.

Supt Noel Curry, officer in charge of West End Division, said officials have searched the area but were unable to locate the aircraft or spot any debris from the wreckage in the water.

The aircraft left the United States, but Bahamian authorities do not know the plane's intended destination.

“We located a seacraft which is not the aircraft in question and saw a lone female survivor aboard that seacraft,” Supt Curry told reporters.

“She was assisted by the US Coast Guard to Grand Bahama International Airport to seek further medical attention,” he said.

“We searched the area, along with the USCG. However we have not located the area we can assign as a crash site, so we are still conducting investigations.”

He said they believe the crash might have occurred some eight miles off West End. A video of the actual helicopter rescue was circulated on social media.

“We believe there were two persons on board - a female and a male. They were en route from the United States to a destination in the Bahamas which we have yet to confirm," Supt Curry added.

“At this time we cannot say where the location of the crash is because there is no debris field. Only what we have in terms of take-off of a small aircraft,” Supt Curry said, who did not know the actual depth of the water where the plane went down.

“When we found her, she appeared incoherent after the traumatic event. We did not get a chance to have a dialogue with her … but we will follow up with her.”

Supt Curry thanked the residents in the area who assisted them in getting them by boat to the rescue site.

Story and photo:

Allegiant mechanics petition to join union

PLATTSBURGH — Allegiant Airlines mechanics and related technicians want to unionize.

The petition to do so, filed Wednesday with the National Mediation Board for representation by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, is supported by an overwhelming majority of the eligible workers, more than meeting the 50 percent interest threshold established by the board, according to a press release from the Teamsters.

It is expected to trigger an election to determine the workers' collective bargaining representative, it said. Under the Railway Labor Act, the election will be by secret ballot.

Krysta Levy, an Allegiant spokeswoman, said the company could not comment on the petition until after it receives the official count of signatures from the National Mediation Board. 

Allegiant Airlines employs about 350 mechanics and related technicians nationwide, primarily in Las Vegas and in Sanford, Fla.

None are employed at Plattsburgh International Airport, where Allegiant uses contractors to perform the work.


The Teamsters already represent pilots and flight dispatchers employed by Allegiant Airlines.

"We're expecting the National Mediation Board to set a date for the election sometime in the next two months," said Capt. David Bourne, director of the Teamsters Airline Division, in the release.

"The mechanics at Allegiant Airlines recognize the power that Teamster representation brings to their coworkers as well as mechanics at companies like United Airlines and UPS Air Cargo, and they want in on the action."

The news comes almost a month after Allegiant reached a tentative agreement with the Transport Workers Union, representing Allegiant flight attendants, on the first collective bargaining agreement between the parties.

The tentative agreement is subject to ratification by the Allegiant flight attendants, and results of the vote are expected before the end of this month.


Allegiant currently employs 1,150 flight attendants.

"We're very pleased to have come to an agreement with the TWU and our flight attendants, a great achievement for everyone who dedicated many hours at the negotiating table," said Maury Gallagher, Allegiant chairman and chief executive officer, in a separate news release.

"This agreement will begin an exciting new chapter of growth for our inflight team and for the company as a whole.”

The process of negotiating a first collective bargaining agreement for Allegiant flight attendants began in 2011. The Transport Workers Union was most recently certified as the group's exclusive representative last February.

An initial tentative agreement reached between the parties failed to ratify in September 2016, and negotiations continued under the supervision of the National Mediation Board to reach the current tentative agreement.

"We have an amazing community of flight attendants who work hard every day, as safety professionals and at the heart of service for every passenger who flies with us," said Tracy Tulle, Allegiant vice president of inflight services, in the release.

"We appreciate their patience throughout the negotiation process, as we worked towards a fair agreement to support their efforts well into the future."

Original article  ➤

State might back full replacement of Pittsfield Municipal Airport (KPSF) terminal

PITTSFIELD — The terminal at Pittsfield Municipal Airport might be replaced in several years with a new and larger building able to accommodate growing aviation interest in the city.

The aeronautics division of the state Department of Transportation has not officially committed to the project. But Gloria Bouillon, the airport's manager, said she was told this fall that the department's early reviews support constructing a new terminal, with almost all of the $4 million to $5 million cost covered by the state.

If so, the project would follow a major runway repair scheduled for next summer, most of which will be paid for with a $6.6 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

"This airport will look like a completely new airport in three or four years," said Bouillon, who took her post last February.

Jacquelyn Goddard, a spokeswoman for the DOT, said the department is evaluating infrastructure needs at the airport. But she confirmed that plans for a Pittsfield project have been changing, rising from a renovation of the existing terminal, with a small addition, to something more.

In 2014, working off a master plan to help Massachusetts airports improve their administration buildings, the DOT saw the need for limited work in Pittsfield.

But since then, Goddard told The Eagle, the city's airport got a closer look. She said the property's needs, and those of the surrounding area as well, were reconsidered.

"Colleagues decided that perhaps further exploration should occur," Goddard said.

In addition to issues with the current terminal, most of which is occupied by Lyon Aviation, it has been determined that the airport needs more parking for aircraft and that one taxiway should be relocated.

No decision about backing a new terminal has been made, Goddard said, and no money was included in this fiscal year's budget for design work.

"MassDOT at this time is involved in discussions and an evaluation of factors that will come into play," Goddard said of the Pittsfield project. "But until MassDOT completes an analysis, we cannot know if a new terminal will be built. We will be taking steps and having many conversations as we approach the time when design work would begin."

Still, signs point to a new look for the city-owned 832 Tamarack Road facility.

"In the near future, after public engagement and conversations with stakeholders, MassDOT expects to move forward with improvements for Pittsfield Airport," Goddard said.

An eight-year, $22.5 million runway expansion project was completed in 2013. That lengthened the 5,000-foot main runway by 790 feet and added safety areas that brought the airport into compliance with FAA standards.

Seeing need

Michael Mah, a software engineer who uses the Pittsfield airport, said a new terminal is needed and will help the airport be a magnet for business activity in the Berkshires.

"It's been languishing for a decade or two," Mah said of the airport. "This is an opportunity for economic development through aviation."

The DOT's aeronautics division works to improve infrastructure not only to benefit airport customers, but to aid the regions in which they operate. DOT policy holds that airports serve as anchors for economic development.

The DOT's Statewide Airport Administration Building Program has finished three projects, in Beverly, Fitchburg and Mansfield. Another group of airports, including the one in North Adams, have had new terminal designs prepared — and projects in North Adams and Plymouth are expected to be constructed soon.

Pittsfield's airport has been on the state's list for work in the 2019 fiscal year, which starts July 1. That is when design work on a possible new Pittsfield terminal would begin, according to the DOT.

Bouillon said she has received encouragement from the state, with a DOT official telling her, "We're going to look at getting you a brand new terminal."

"It's very exciting, yes," Bouillon said. "They want to keep us in line for that funding. To be able to participate in this is very, very rare nationally."

She said the earlier plan for a rehab was dropped when the DOT recognized the limits of the current terminal.

"It's just not efficient for what our current needs are," Bouillon said.

Other efforts

Meantime, Bouillon is busy managing plans for next year's runway work, as well as a solar energy installation on the property. She will also be working next year with members of the Pittsfield Municipal Airport Commission on a new master plan for the airport.

As The Eagle has reported, activity at the airport has been surging. Bouillon said business has grown 40 percent in the past three years, half of that in the past 12 months.

As of this week, there were nearly 30 aircraft on a waiting list for hangar space.

If the airport was able to accommodate all that market interest, Bouillon said, the new accounts would generate $70,000 in yearly revenue.

If the terminal replacement project moves forward, the state would pay 95 percent of the cost, Bouillon said, with a 5 percent local share.

It isn't yet known where a new terminal would be built, but one option is to the west of the existing building.

Next year, J.H. Maxymillian of Pittsfield will oversee the runway repaving project. Work is expected to begin in April and will force the airport to close or restrict landings for parts of the spring and summer.

The FAA grant covers 90 percent of the work. The rest of the cost will be split by the city and DOT, with each kicking in $300,000.

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To help add flights, Pittsburgh International Airport (KPIT) gave OneJet one of its board members

Ten of the 35 new routes announced at Pittsburgh International Airport since January 2015 are from OneJet, a small startup airline that has quickly expanded under a unique relationship with the Allegheny County Airport Authority and one of its board members.

"I also want to recognize Bob Lewis, who's on the board here at the airport," OneJet CEO Matt Maguire said during a news conference Wednesday to announce new routes to Memphis, Kansas City, Mo., and Palm Beach, Fla. "Bob has been a huge proponent behind the scenes to make all this happen, and if there's one guy who's calling me every single day asking me how we're doing, how we make it better, it's Bob Lewis. So, Bob, thank you and I do want to recognize Bob publicly."

It wasn't mentioned during the news conference, but in addition to being on the public authority's board, Lewis is also a member of the board of directors for OneJet, which is a private company.

The authority's contract with OneJet, which Maguire and airport CEO Christina Cassotis signed in June 2016, says, "The authority is granted one non-voting seat on the board of directors of OneJet. OneJet will undertake all necessary steps to effectuate the appointment effective immediately."

"That's a situation I've never seen before," said Bill Lauer, chief investment officer at Allegheny Capital, a Downtown-based private financial services provider. "It sounds to me like a joint venture. The county's airport authority has apparently chosen to go into business with the airline." 

The authority's ability to appoint a member of OneJet's board, coupled with $1.5 million in loans from the county's redevelopment arm the airline received, has created a uniquely close relationship between the airport and the carrier, said Lauer, who has studied the airline industry for more than 20 years.

"Most authorities in that situation would pick some lawyer (who's not on the airport board)," Lauer said.

Bijan Vasigh, economics professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, said he has never heard of that situation either, but does not see a problem with it.

The situation could give Lewis the opportunity to advocate for more OneJet service to Pittsburgh, Vasigh said. It's also good to have a board member from outside the industry who can provide a different perspective.

"People from different industries can really be helpful if they choose the right individuals," Vasigh said.

Lewis is the founder of Uptown-based Orbital Engineering.

Lewis declined an interview request, but in a text message, he said, "The OneJet story is a great point-to-point solution to build a network to underserved cities and ex-hubs. It is an economic plus for Pittsburgh and other served cities."

As of Nov. 13, OneJet's board of directors was made up of three members: Maguire, Lewis and Timothy Hoeksema, former CEO of Wisconsin-based Midwest Airlines, according to a OneJet spokeswoman.

OneJet's contract with Milwaukee County, obtained by the Trib, does not include a provision that allows that county to appoint a member to OneJet's board.

The Milwaukee airport does not have a board of directors, an airport spokeswoman said.

Hoeksema led a group that invested in OneJet, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report.

When asked Wednesday if Lewis has invested in OneJet, he declined to answer the question.

Maguire also declined to answer.

Cassotis, the Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO, referred all questions about OneJet's board and investors to the airline.

Lewis did not list his membership on OneJet's board or any investments in OneJet on his financial disclosure form for years 2014, 2015 or 2016, according to documents provided by the airport authority through an open records request.

Public officials and employees are required to file financial disclosure forms annually. The forms the airport authority uses from the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission request the person's occupation, real estate interests, creditors, sources of income, gifts received and office, directorship or employment in a business and any financial interest in a for-profit business.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald appoints the members of the airport authority's nine-person board.

When the authority granted a Right-to-Know Law request from the Trib seeking a copy of the OneJet contract in May 2017, the authority did not include a page regarding the terms of the OneJet board appointment.

Not including a page of the contract without giving a reason does not comply with Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know law, said Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania News Media Association.

"If you say, 'I want the agreement that was signed with this entity,' that means all of them and all pages," Melewsky said. "If they're going to hold something back, they need to explain why."

Lewis did not cast a vote to award the $1 million airport incentive or to award the $1.5 million in county loans (the first of their kind) or $500,000 in state loans OneJet received in exchange for basing its airline here and agreeing to add service to 10 cities, a commitment the airline met with the additional routes announced this week.

The airport board in April 2016 voted unanimously to allow Cassotis to execute incentive agreements with airlines without a board vote. 

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Sun Country, the hometown airline with low-fare escapes to warm places, is sold to investment giant: The headquarters will stay in Minnesota but the airline's growth will likely happen elsewhere

Sun Country Airlines — the little vacation carrier formed by some Minnesota pilots and flight attendants 35 years ago and later owned by two of the state's wealthiest families — is now owned by one of the nation's most prominent investment firms.

Apollo Global Management, the New York-based firm led by investor Leon Black, on Thursday bought Sun Country from Mitch and Marty Davis, the Twin Cities billionaires who have owned it since 2011. Terms were not disclosed.

Sun Country will stay based in Eagan and continue to be led by Jude Bricker, a former Allegiant Air executive who the Davis brothers hired as Sun Country's chief executive in July.

But its future lies in doing in other cities what it does at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport: providing low-cost flights to vacation spots and other places that don't support the frequency of service that bigger airlines prefer.

Mike Boyd, a Denver-based aviation consultant, said the deal is a validation by a prominent investment firm of the direction that Sun Country and other low-cost carriers have been moving for several years. Instead of trying to duplicate the sprawling networks of carriers like Delta, American and Southwest, Sun Country and airlines like Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant are creating demand for air travel where it didn't previously exist.

"These airlines offer very low fares to get people to travel when they wouldn't have otherwise," Boyd said. "Instead of spending those discretionary dollars on something for the house, it's 'Hey, we'll go to Tucson this weekend.' "

In the process, Sun Country and similar carriers formed a different layer to the airline industry. "What Leon Black and Apollo saw in this is a huge opportunity for them, a great platform to build on and get into this parallel airline universe," Boyd said.

A smaller investment firm purchased Frontier in 2013. Spirit and Allegiant are publicly held.

Apollo, a publicly traded firm that has owned or been a major investor in dozens of companies, has a substantial track record in travel and leisure, but the Sun Country deal marks its first purchase of an airline. It has held stakes in travel companies like Diamond Resorts, Great Wolf Lodge, Caesars Entertainment and Norwegian Cruise Line. In July, Apollo raised $24.6 billion for a buyout fund, the largest amount ever gathered by an investment firm.

"Sun Country presents compelling opportunities for innovation, efficiency and growth," Antoine Munfakh, an Apollo partner, said in a statement. "Underpinned by a solid foundation of assets and people, including an outstanding team of executives and talented flight crews, we believe Sun Country has a very bright future."

Marty Davis, the airline's chairman, said Apollo has the money and people who can devote the time and energy needed to make Sun Country grow. "Airlines are an all-in thing," he said. "I think it's an opportunity to really become a big player in U.S. air travel."

The Davis brothers also own Cambria, Davis Family Dairies and Cambria Mortgage and Title. They bought Sun Country out of the bankruptcy reorganization it was thrust into when its previous owner, billionaire Tom Petters of Minnetonka, liquidated his assets after being charged in the biggest business fraud in Minnesota history. He was later convicted.

Sun Country was formed in 1983 by former Twin Cities-based pilots and flight attendants of Braniff International Airways, which closed in 1982. For many years, it focused on charter service and flights for group tours created by travel agencies. In 1999, then owned by a Milwaukee travel agency firm, Sun Country transformed into an airline providing scheduled flights from MSP and Milwaukee. But after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks created a travel recession, Sun Country tumbled into bankruptcy for the first time and closed.

A new firm led by former executives and some local investors revived the Sun Country brand in 2003 and aligned the revived airline with Hobbit Travel and Nevada casino owner Don Laughlin. Petters put together a group of investors to buy the company in 2006.

The Davis brothers stabilized the airline and built up its route structure after picking up Sun Country after its second bankruptcy following the collapse of Petters' ownership. Today, Sun Country leases 26 Boeing 737s and flies to about three dozen destinations from MSP. Its routes vary seasonally, with more flights to warm-weather locales in Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean this time of year.

Davis said the airline is profitable. Still, its performance has been near the bottom of an industry that has been thriving for the last few years.

Sun Country earned $5 million on $136 million in revenue during the third quarter, a turnaround from a loss of $6 million on revenue of $117 million in the same period a year ago, according to an Airline Weekly analysis of data released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

It became clear that changes were afoot earlier this year when the Davis brothers hired Bricker. Shortly after arriving, Bricker praised Sun Country's employees, service and brand reputation but he said, "The results aren't there."

He immediately took steps to lower costs and generate more revenue. The airline imposed some new fees, including one for putting a carry-on bag in an overhead bin. And it started to increase the number of seats in its planes.

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