Tuesday, December 26, 2017

After expensive training, scores of Nigerian pilots face uncertain future

Dearth of manpower is said to be the biggest problem in the country’s aviation industry. Ironically, many unemployed pilots still roam the streets, MAUREEN IHUA-MADUENYI writes

From childhood, Ijay Usifo had wanted to be a pilot. He nurtured the dream and after his graduation from the Federal University of Technology, Minna, where he studied mechanical engineering, he worked briefly and proceeded to a flight school in Florida, United States.

After 15 months, Usifo graduated as a young pilot and obtained the Private Pilot License and returned to Nigeria in early 2016 to get more training and experience.

He says he spent about $80,000 (N30.5m) within the one and half years and hoped to earn a decent living working for any reputable airline in the country. But, almost two years after, with no opportunity of at least a job interview, he says he is becoming frustrated and losing faith in the system he hopes to help grow.

Usifo explains, “I have always wanted to fly but it has been frustrating; you invest so much in yourself but the system doesn’t support you. It should be that when you train, you should come back and find something to do, no matter how little.

“It is capital-intensive to train as a pilot; it costs me a total of $80,000 to train in Florida; the tuition fee was between $70,000 and $72,000, then add the cost of living for about 16 months. It is not as if I haven’t tried, but airlines always have different excuses why these jobs are either not available or should not be given out.”

Like Usifo, Ibrahim Yusuf enrolled in the aviation school in February 2014, graduated a year and a half later and has remained unemployed since.

“I got my Private Pilot License from the Phoenix East Aviation School, Florida and my Instrument and Commercial License from the Air Transport Program. I wanted to practice in Nigeria so I came back in December 2015, converted my US license to a Nigerian license to make the process easier but nobody has replied my resume because nobody has put in a word for me,” he says.

After several attempts to get jobs, Usifo and Yusuf have both moved on to other things; while the former currently works with his family business, the latter has gone ahead to take up an offer from an online retailer.

“Most unemployed Nigerian pilots end up relocating away from the country or getting into other ventures,” Yusuf says.

When young pilots are employed, they are type-rated, meaning that they get a regulatory agency’s certification to fly a certain aircraft type that requires additional training from their employer, but Hafeez Usman, says he went a step further to get a type-rating on Boeing 737 Classic from the US for $11,000.

Almost four years after, Usman says he is still waiting, hopeful that someday he will get to live his dream of flying people to their destinations.

“I wanted to have an edge over others because the airlines kept telling us that we needed to be type-rated to have an advantage, but after shuttling between Lagos, where most of the airlines are based, and Abuja where my family resides, I have resigned to fate. I just got tired,” he says.

The young pilots allege that to get a job in some domestic airlines, they are asked to pay between $7,000 and $15,000 for further training despite having the minimum requirement of 250 flight hours as experience.

Not a bribe, it’s official

In certain quarters in the civil service, it is ‘normal’ for some officials to ask for some form of bribe in order to get applicants employed, but in the case of these young pilots, they allege that airlines make it official for them to buy their own employment.

A source in one of the airlines says it depends on the airline and the agreement they have with the pilot.

“If the airline is not capable of training the pilot, they ask him to pay and negotiate his salary based on what he has paid,” he adds.

Yusuf states, “We are asked to pay $7,000 for employment; some airline officials demand $10,000 just for them to give us a job; apart from the money you are expected to pay, you must also know someone who will refer you. You pay for them to employ you and it is official. Not all the airlines do this, but most of them are involved; and after paying, you have to wait for about six months before you can resume.

“All these airlines are looking for pilots but that doesn’t mean they are going to employ you because they have other important people. When will our resumes ever get to them when they have other important people on their lists who have paid? It is not about merit; it is about who you know. So, if your parents are average Nigerians and they managed to raise money to send you to a flying school, you may remain unemployed for a long time.

“But when you pay and you know someone, even if there are no vacancies, they will always create one for you. So, your 250 hours may not count much at the end of the day.”

A recently employed young pilot, Olusola Bello, says he paid about N7m ($19,500) before he could get a job with one of the commercial airlines.

According to him, it is official as you either pay in cash to the chief executive officer or into the airline’s bank account.

But, even that does not guarantee automatic employment, as those who manage to pay have to wait for their turn to begin to fly.

“It is frustrating but a lot of young pilots do it so often that it is now seen as normal. I will not advise anyone to do what I have done but you know how it is when one is without a job; depression may set in, so why not spend the money if you can afford it?” he says.

An industry source states that it is an open secret that airlines ask for money to employ pilots, and blames it on lack of regulation to stop the pilots from leaving for greener pastures after their employers spend thousands of dollars to train them.

He adds that over 80 percent of investors who are into aircraft charter services in the country prefer to employ expatriates as this helps them save some money on the long run.

“There is no law to keep them down; nobody is going to spend $50,000 training a pilot who he cannot guarantee will stay; you can as well get a ready-made one. They just walk away and your money goes down the drain and the airline is forced to start again,” the source says.

The Manager, Public Relations, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Sam Adurogboye, says that as in other professions, there are no regulations to restrict pilots from moving from one airline to another.

“There are rules guiding every practice. In labour law, people can always change their jobs. It is a challenge all over the world. Pilots are constantly looking for where they give them the highest pay, accommodation and other allowances,” he says.

He adds that there have been cases of airlines that bonded, which means they reach an agreement with a certain pilot to work for some number of years before leaving and it carries penalty of some fees.

Adurogboye explains, “But some airlines come up, pay the bond fee and take those pilots away. So, who do you blame? That is poaching; but as regulators, what we do is to call them together and talk to them.

“There was a time airlines were poaching our engineers who we train regularly too. It is not a thing that can be regulated, and it is certainly not within the purview of the NCAA. We don’t set up airlines and so cannot employ pilots for them.”

It takes a lot to become a pilot

Many young people nurse the idea of becoming pilots and, according to the NCAA, the minimum age requirement is 16 and a Student Pilot License issued by the regulating agency.

To make this happen, there are five civil aviation training schools in the country. These are the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria; International Helicopter Flying School, Enugu; Landover Aviation Training School, Lagos; Aeroconsult Training School, Lagos; and the International Aviation College, Ilorin.

The NCAT and the IAC produce about 20 pilots each year, while the other schools train people in certain levels of airline management and also take cabin crew courses.

However, the process of training to become a pilot is one of the most expensive anyone can get in any part of the world.

According to findings, in the US and other countries, it costs between $60,000 and $80,000; while in Nigeria, the cost starts from N7.5m for the NCAT and N15m for the IAC.

According to the Rector, NCAT, Capt. Abdulsalami Mohammed, the school’s fee is subsidised by the government to make it accessible to Nigerians, but at the IAC, Ilorin, the total cost is between N15m and N17m, including feeding and accommodation for a period of 15 to 18 months.

Giving an insight into what it takes to become a commercial pilot, the Rector, IAC, Capt. Nurudeen Abdulkareen, says civil flying requires different stages that a potential pilot must pass through.

He adds, “For a young man going into the school to fly, from zero hours he goes through series of classroom trainings, passes the exams before the requisite practical training, then he gets the private pilot license, which is a single engine flying that requires him to have a 50-hour flying experience, but he cannot fly for compensation.

“If you must fly for compensation or profit, then you move on to commercial pilot license, which is twin-engine flying, and you are required to have about 150 hours; most people go for 200 hours, this allows you to fly for a commercial airline.

“Then you move on to instrument rating; there is also a rating called multi-engine, which requires you to put in 25 hours of training. After these trainings, you become a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine rating and that ends the basic flying. Depending on who you want to fly for, you are then type-rated, maybe after you have been employed, or you rate yourself and add that to your CV.”

He says the same process is also required for flying helicopters.

Dearth of skilled manpower versus unemployment

Globally, the aviation sector is known for employing a large number of people. According to figures from the Air Transport Action Group, over 9.9 million people work directly in the aviation industry.

In Nigeria however, despite the number of unemployed pilots, engineers and others, stakeholders say that for over a decade, airlines and the general domestic aviation industry have suffered from dearth of critical personnel needed for an efficient sector.

The import of this, according to them, is that the industry has remained on its toes rather than flying.

Figures obtained from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority show that as of the first week of December 2017, there were 2,347 registered pilots in the country made up of 1,738 Nigerians and 609 expatriates working for eight passenger airlines, six cargo carriers, five helicopter companies and other charter carriers.

In a recent interview with The PUNCH, the Chief Executive Officer, Aero Contractors Limited, Capt. Ado Sanusi, said pilots were in short supply but in high demand.

However, the Rector, NCAT, Mohammed, recently stated that over 300 Nigerian pilots were unemployed.

Investigations revealed that most commercial airlines employed mostly Nigerians. Air Peace and Med-View Airlines, for instance, employ about 99 percent indigenous pilots, while Dana Air pilots are about 85 percent Nigerians, yet, the rate of unemployment keeps growing.

The blame game

Stakeholders posit that several factors account for why airline operators put their trust in expatriate pilots ahead of indigenous ones, leading to unemployment. These, they say include unavailability of experienced captains to man their cockpits, which they blame on the collapse of Nigeria Airways, which led to the dearth of critical manpower required in the domestic industry.

According to them, this is because the defunct national carrier invested heavily in personnel training, boasting of the best in the industry while it operated.

“The residual Nigerian manpower being recycled domestically today are products of Nigeria Airways,” an aviation consultant and Chief Executive Officer, Belujane Consult, Chris Aligbe, says.

While airline operators in the industry feel that it is up to the government to train personnel in the industry or create a conducive environment for the operators to invest in human capital development, some stakeholders feel they (airline operators) should employ pilots and train them to meet their needs.

“Passing the blame around will not solve the problem. A perception can say it is up to the airlines to train; that is a fair argument but that does not solve the problem. They have just identified the problem but do the airlines have the capacity to train the manpower required? No,” Sanusi states.

According to the Chairman and Managing Director, Air Peace, Allen Onyema, who is particular about who sits in the cockpit of his aircraft, it costs a fortune to train pilots who also earn a lot of money as salaries.

An operator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says the government should be blamed for whatever problems bedevilling the aviation industry.

“How can airlines employ pilots when they are going down daily? The government gives six or seven landing rights to foreign carriers instead of empowering domestic airlines to distribute for them, thereby creating more jobs for our youths. It is unfortunate, but these pilots are just part of the 65 percent unemployed Nigerians,” the operator notes.

The Aero Contractors CEO, Sanusi, explains that all airlines train pilots and other staff every year but there should be a concerted effort by the government to ensure that manpower development is encouraged.

“There is a shortage definitely, and not only in Nigeria but globally; and I think that the Federal Government should make efforts to ensure that this gap is addressed. As a country, we should come together and understand that this is a problem and it should be addressed as a country-wide problem and then we should tackle it as a challenge and make sure that training is done not based on airlines but done nationwide,” he adds.

Aligbe, who was also the public relations manager of the defunct Nigeria Airways, says most pilots trained now are not due for commercial operations.

He adds that they need more training and the airlines have no time to employ them because they don’t want to lose money and will rather employ those who are already flying.

Aligbe states, “The airlines are not positioned to employ and train them for at least six months before they can fly; that is what national carriers do; they create the opportunity for them to be trained and pass them on. Nigeria Airways was doing that; almost all the airlines of the past had pilots trained by Nigeria Airways, whether it was Okada Air, Chachangi or many others.

“This time, there is no airline willing to do that. That is what national airlines do in other countries. Aviation is unlike any other profession like banking, where fresh graduates begin to contribute as soon as they graduate. Without a carrier that can take care of these responsibilities, we cannot get out of the situation.”

The way forward

Adurogboye says one of the ways to decrease the population of unemployed pilots is for the government to set up a system whereby before a foreign airline comes into the country, it will be mandated by law to employ a certain percentage of indigenous pilots.

“If this regulation is put in place, we will enforce the law; but we should also bear in mind that we can’t create a law that is not applicable elsewhere,” he says.

On his part, Abdulkareen notes that the best way out will be to bring the pilots, airlines and the insurance companies together at a forum, where each stakeholder will say what they want.

“Regulation is also a major issue. But, let the airlines tell us the kind of pilots they want, they can then approach the banks to finance the training of their pilots and then guarantee payment once the pilots start to work. Government really needs to come in to build capacity and help the airlines with overhead costs or they will keep employing foreigners,” he adds.

The Chairman, Airline Operators of Nigeria, Capt. Nogie Meggisson, says the entire system needs to be corrected and put right not just for the pilots but for the industry to take its rightful place in economic development.

An industry source, however, confides in our correspondent that the airline operators are working to end the problem.

“We have a lot we are discussing on that issue and very soon, we will take a decision on it; it is a big problem because you can’t take a fresh pilot from school and give him a job; but we are working on a way forward and very soon it will be a thing of the past,” the source says.

The President, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, Galadima Abednego, says NAAPE is also working on a proposal to get the Federal Government to set up a trust fund to help tackle some of the problems being faced by pilots and engineers.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://punchng.com

American Eagle operated by Envoy Air, Embraer ERJ-135: Incident occurred December 25, 2017 at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (KDFW), Texas

ABILENE, TX - Passengers on an American Airlines flight heading to Abilene on Monday experienced what some say is a scary situation on Christmas.

An Abilene resident on the flight coming from DFW tells us a flight attendant said they were doing an emergency landing.

The passenger says the plane diverted back to DFW 15 minutes after it was in the air.

American airlines released this statement to Fox 15.

It says “American Eagle flight 3594, operated by Envoy Air, from DFW to ABI, returned to DFW after an indicator in the cockpit reported a possible mechanical issue.

The flight landed safely, and went to the gate.

Passengers were placed on a different aircraft, and the flight re-departed.”

Story and video ➤ http://www.fox15abilene.com

Transportation Security Administration catches record number of guns at Baltimore–Washington International Airport (KBWI) in 2017

LINTHICUM, Md. (WMAR) - A Baltimore man was arrested after TSA stopped him with a loaded handgun at BWI Airport, this sets a record for most guns caught at the airport in one year. 

On Tuesday, the 25th person was caught trying to bring gun past the security checkpoint. Last year, TSA officers say they stopped 24 guns, a 50 percent increase over guns confiscated in 2015.

"This is unfortunately, a national trend where we're seeing more and more firearms caught at checkpoints each year. We expect to hit around 4,000 firearms nationwide before the end of the year and again, that will be up significantly than the previous year," said Lisa Farbstein, spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration.

Passengers are able to travel with firearms but they need to do pack them correctly.

"The proper way is to pack it in a hard-sided case, make sure it’s unloaded, and make sure the case is locked," said Farbstein.

You'll need to take that case to the check-in counter, let the attendant know you're traveling with a firearm and they'll take it from there.

Even if you accidentally try to bring a firearm through security, you could be looking at a very costly mistake.

"Typically, a first offense is $3,900. That can go a little higher and that depends on the circumstances -- was the person cooperative or are they disruptive to the checkpoint? Was the firearm loaded? Was it not loaded? Was there a bullet in the chamber? Was there not a bullet in the chamber? So, if you bring a weapon to a checkpoint, TSA can actually cite you up to $13,000," Farbstein said.

The Baltimore man had a 9mm handgun in his carry-on bag and it was detected at the x-ray monitor. The man was arrested on weapons charges. 

Ammunition is also not allowed in your carry-on bag. You must keep it in the original packaging, not loose or in a ziploc bag and store it in your checked luggage.
"So if you have five bullets, and I had five bullets, and somebody else had five bullets, and we all came to a checkpoint then we'd have a lot of black powder, which is an explosive, so we want to make sure that does not happen," said Farbstein.

Farbstein said of the guns seized, around 80 percent were loaded.

And while TSA is not sure why this trend keeps increasing, they are connecting it to an increased number of travelers. TSA screens around 2 million people everyday at checkpoints nationwide.

Story, video and photo ➤ https://www.abc2news.com

Appleton International Airport (KATW) leans on outside workers during frigid temperatures

GREENVILLE, Wisc. (WBAY-TV) The chilling temperatures can make it tough for people working outside.

But Appleton International Airport leans on them to keep operations on schedule.

"Just gotta go through it and be prepared," said Thomas Roeder Bolwerk of Allegiant Air.

He was prepared to work on airport grounds in sub-zero temperatures

"You just got to bundle up, at least two sweatshirts on and a sweater and heat warmers underneath my glove," said Roeder Bolwerk.

Officials say really cold temperatures can actually be better for flights in winter because it rarely snows.

But the grounds crew and machines must be able to start and operate.

"Deicing trucks, baggage loaders, push-back tugs, so if anyone of those pieces isn't working that's going to cause a problem," said Patrick Tracey, Appleton International Airport Marketing Manager.

Five commercials airplanes stay overnight at the airport even through the frigid temperatures. But, Appleton Airport pumps warm air through them.

"We don't want the systems on the airplanes to freeze," said Tracey.

Planes still able to take these flyers from our deep freeze to palm trees and the beach.

"Oh yeah, a block and a half from it, we'll be sitting in the sun and sand," said Kevin Buchman of Hortonville.

Story and photo ➤ http://www.wbay.com

Caviar face cream, peacock feather jewelry and a $10,000 handbag: Officials show some of the items detained by Fish and Wildlife inspectors at Alaska's air cargo hub

Chris Andrews is the supervisor of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Import/Export Office, based at the north terminal of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. 

From a quiet office in Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport's older north terminal, a small team of a law enforcement inspectors serves a worldwide mission. By inspecting packages at one of the globe's busiest air cargo hubs, the federal crew hopes to ease pressure on the planet's most vulnerable animal and plant species.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service is tasked with protecting the world's wildlife resources. And if there's a species listed as endangered, we're supposed to try to help maintain those populations so they don't go extinct," said Chris Andrews, who supervises a team that includes three other inspectors and a Labrador retriever.

"And one of those things that is detrimental to those species is commercial trade."

In other words, the staff of U.S. Fish and Wildlife's Import/Export Office aims to stop illegal animal products, and often live animals, from reaching their destinations, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Wildlife inspectors, part of Fish and Wildlife's Office of Law Enforcement, began working in Anchorage in 1988, Andrews said. It's now one of 18 airports that house such units. Wildlife inspectors also operate on U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada. Nationwide, there are 95 wildlife inspectors, 16 supervisors and seven canine teams. They work closely with U.S Customs and Border Protection and other federal agencies.

Here, it's a big task. The Anchorage airport receives the second most landed cargo by weight in the U.S. after Memphis, Tennessee. It's among the top five in the world in cargo throughput, according to Alaska's Department of Transportation. Wildlife inspectors operate in the planes and conveyor belts of FedEx, UPS and several other cargo operations that make stops in Alaska. They clear legal wildlife imports and exports, making sure each is accompanied by proper licenses and permits.

And often, they discover contraband.

Last week, a conference table inside their second-floor office in the north terminal displayed several of the exotic items that inspectors deemed illegal and detained in 2017.

From jewelry made with a piece of protected coral to handbags made with a mosaic of python and lizard skins to custom-crafted pool cues gleaming with elephant ivory accents, wildlife inspectors have authority to apply the brakes to the transaction.

"Anytime we see a pool cue coming out of the Philippines, we're pulling it over," Andrews said.

Fish and Wildlife is the U.S. agency with authority to enforce animal and plant conservation laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the 117-year-old Lacey Act, the first U.S. federal law to protect wildlife, which passed in 1900.

But it doesn't necessarily need to involve an endangered animal for inspectors to take action. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, which provides the framework for much of what U.S inspectors enforce, allows for some commercial trade of otherwise protected species. But often sellers simply don't want to go to the trouble of obtaining a permit.

While the mission isn't new, Andrews said his crew has gotten more effective at making stops. Anchorage-based wildlife inspectors launched 342 investigations in a year's time, ending in September. That was a 65 percent increase over the previous year. They discovered undeclared wildlife and wildlife products 392 times.

One reason for the uptick in discoveries? A buoyant, 3-year-old black Lab named Doc. He joined the team in May 2016. The dog, rescued from an animal shelter, is trained to detect 10 odors, including elephant ivory, rhino horns, pythons, sea turtles and seahorses.

"He can inspect 50 boxes in the time it takes us to do one," Andrews said.

Wildlife inspector Chad Hornbaker is also the handler for Doc, a black Lab trained to detect 10 odors. Hornbaker holds a rhino horn used for training purposes.

On a typical workday, Doc and his handler, wildlife inspector Chad Hornbaker, weave through the stacks of packages that are unloaded from cargo planes. Sometimes they're stationed along conveyor belts in sorting facilities, where Doc has just a moment with each box as it passes. When he alerts to an odor by sitting or scratching, the item is removed from the stream for further review.

Simultaneously, human inspectors open a selection of boxes coming into and out of the U.S. to inspect contents. The team also monitors passenger luggage at the airport's main terminal.

When the team finds contraband, inspectors send a certified letter to notify both the sender and receiver. That's the first step in a civil forfeiture proceeding, which also allows for anyone with a financial interest to appeal the decision, and even request a court date.

But most of the time, the items are simply abandoned.

"More often than not, we never hear a word from them," Andrews said.

That's not always the end of it. If inspectors can prove the importers or exporters were aware that they were involved in illegal trade, they'll issue fines. Minor violations typically result in a $300 fine, Andrews said.

But the financial interest can be much steeper than that. That was the case this year when a Washington state secondhand retailer shipped a Louis Vuitton alligator handbag to a customer in Hong Kong who had paid $9,995 for the item. Under CITES, the sale required a permit, a system that would have validated that the alligator harvest and purse manufacturing was allowed by law.

"For less than $300, they could've done it properly," Hornbaker said.

Instead, the seller declared the item was merely "used apparel" during shipping. After further review, Hornbaker discovered that the store, which was not licensed for such a sale, had been warned before.

"We issued them a violation notice because this was their second time," said Hornbaker.

If the seller doesn't appeal, they can expect to receive a notice of forfeiture. If the bag ultimately becomes property of Fish and Wildlife, it will eventually be sent to the National Wildlife Property Repository, a Fish and Wildlife warehouse in Commerce City, Colorado.

"This will be one more of thousands of handbags that they have there," Hornbaker said.

When live animals are discovered, the process can get a little more complicated.

Inspectors won't share details of live animal investigations initiated in 2017 because they're all open cases. But Andrews said live animals were discovered 10 times this year. Those incidents totaled more than 500 animals. He said typical situations might involve live turtles and lizards and, occasionally, poison dart frogs.

In 2014, 211 tiny live turtles were discovered packed into two snow boots. The Anchorage Museum helped care for the animals during the investigation. The exporter, a Canadian citizen, ended up paying $9,000 in restitution to the museum and was later charged with other smuggling crimes.

Last year, he was sentenced to 57 months in prison after pleading guilty to six counts of smuggling, according to a Justice Department statement.

While the reach of Fish and Wildlife enforcement is strong in this country, Andrews said it can be tough to stanch the efforts of repeat offenders overseas. Andrews hopes the future will involve more coordinated enforcement efforts with international partners.

"There's one guy out of Japan that ships elephant ivory, and we've got him 18 times, but we can't write him a ticket," Andrews said.

On a global scale, the illegal wildlife trade is worth billions. Asked what difference a small team in Anchorage can make in slowing it, Andrews points to a quote he wrote on a dry-erase board in his office. The line, from Theodore Roosevelt, reads, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

"If we all do that, collectively, at all the different wildlife ports, I think we can really make a difference," he said.

Story and photo gallery ➤ https://www.adn.com

Possible meteor reported as fireball in New England skies

BOSTON -- From the South Shore of Massachusetts to as far away as Montreal, people who were outside around 6 p.m. reported seeing what they described as a meteor or fireball flash across the sky.

Read more here ➤ http://www.fox25boston.com

Hidden Lake Airport (FA40), New Port Richey, Pasco County, Florida: Early Morning Fire Destroys Home Inside Private Airport Community

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. -- Everyone was able to safely make it out of their home overnight when their Christmas tree caught fire. 

Firefighters responded around 2:15 a.m. Monday, Dec. 25, to the home on Cessna Drive in the Hidden Lake Estates neighborhood. 

Photos taken by the department show the fire, which started on the first floor of the home, spread to the second floor. Two departments responded to help put out the fire, according to authorities.

The cause of the fire is considered accidental.

Story, video and photo ➤ http://www.wtsp.com

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. -- A two-story residence in New Port Richey was severely damaged by fire early Monday.

According to the Pasco County Fire Rescue chief, the fire broke out just before 2:00 a.m. at 8927 Cessna Drive. By the time first responders arrived on scene, approximately eight minutes after the call came in, flames were emitting from the second floor of the home.

Two adult residents were inside the home when the blaze broke out but fortunately they escaped without injury. The couple declined assistance from the Red Cross and will be staying with relatives.

“The cause of this fire is one of those things we have talked about in recent weeks, it started inside the Christmas tree,” explained Shawn Whited, a Division Chief with PFR. “Not sure exactly how the fire started, but it started with tree just inside the front door.”

Whited added the flames quickly spread to the second story of the home.

The exact cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Story, video and photos ➤ https://www.abcactionnews.com

NEW PORT RICHEY (PASCO) – Fire destroyed a home inside the Hidden Lakes Subdivision, early Christmas morning, resulting in a two-alarm response from Fire Rescue.

Firefighters responded to 8927 Cessna Drive around 2:00 a.m. this morning, to find the residence fully engulfed in flames.

There are no reports of injuries and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Most Hidden Lakes residents house small planes on their property and taxi a short distance away to a private runway.

There are no reports of damage to any aircraft at this time.

Story and photos ➤ https://www.rnrfonline.com

Incident occurred December 26, 2017 at Westchester County Airport (KHPN), White Plains, New York

A private jet landed safely at Westchester County airport after one of its engines failed Tuesday afternoon. 

Those on board were prepared for a crash landing but the pilot was able to land the plane without incident, Kieran O'Leary, a spokesman for Westchester County police, said. 

After the pilot reported the jet's left engine failed, police, fire and emergency services descended upon the airport around 2 p.m. in preparation for a possible crash.

Sixteen people were on board the plane, which was inbound from the Bahamas.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.lohud.com

Lender says there were other ways to pay back Justice’s helicopter loan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There’s no good reason a company owned by Gov. Jim Justice and his family couldn’t make good on the $4 million still remaining on a helicopter loan, a lender claims in a new federal lawsuit filing.

James C. Companies, Justice Aviation — and the governor personally — were sued in the Southern District of New York in September over default on a loan for the companies’ private helicopter.

Lawyers for the governor’s companies responded last month that Justice Aviation was trying to resolve the matter by selling a helicopter — but that offers kept fizzling before lender Citizens Asset Finance would give its approval.

“Nothing prevents the defendants from liquidating other assets,” lawyers for Citizens Asset Finance wrote in a reply filed Dec. 22. “Indeed, one of the defendants is a billionaire.”

Citizens Asset Finance is asking for a judge in the the Southern District of New York to dismiss a counterclaim filed by Justice’s companies.

Governor Justice is named in the lawsuit as an individual because he signed a personal guarantee on the loan.

“Wherefore, Plaintiff Citizens Asset Finance Inc. prays for judgment in its favor and against defendant James C. Justice II in the amount of not less than $4,290,297.33, in addition to all costs, charges, and expenses, including attorneys’ fees accrued (and accruing) through and after the dates set forth above, all other amounts due under the loan documents and such other and further relief as this court shall deem just and appropriate,” according to the original lawsuit.

Justice Aviation took out a loan on Dec. 30, 2009, for an AgustaWestland S.p.A. model A109S helicopter and two Pratt and Whitney Canada model PW207C helicopter engines.

Before the loan matured, Justice aviation and Jim Justice, as the guarantor, defaulted, the lender claims.

Citizens Asset Finance wants to foreclose against Justice and his companies and take back possession of the aircraft.

Lawyers for Justice’s companies, in a motion filed in November, said Justice Aviation had been trying to resolve the matter by selling the helicopter.

The company wrote that it had an offer for $2.2 million in July, but by the time approval was granted by Citizens Asset Finance the interested buyer had moved on.

Citizens Asset Finance, last week, called the Justice counterclaim “threadbare.”

The company says it had no duty to immediately respond to a purchase offer on the helicopter.

“While the Borrower would inevitably need the Lender’s approval to release its lien on the collateral in order to effectuate a sale, seeking the Lender’s consent was the Borrower’s choice,” wrote the lawyers for Citizens Asset Finance.

The lawyers for Justice Aviation contended that this past July 6, Justice Aviation received a written, signed offer to purchase the aircraft for $2.2 million but still needed Citizens Asset to agree.

The lawyers for Justice wrote that the deal was communicated to Citizens Asset that day and then again on July 11. By July 12, Citizens Asset communicated its assent.

“Unfortunately, by July 12, the offeror had decided to pursue another aircraft and had rescinded the offer,” wrote the lawyers for Justice.

Citizens Asset says there’s more to that story.

“Moreover, despite the Borrower’s shrewd decision not to attach the e-mails that purportedly support its counterclaim, the allegations themselves are internally inconsistent. The lender did not fail to respond ‘within 6 days.’

Citizens Asset Finance says it provided an initial response via email the day after it was notified of the potential sale.

“Instead of immediately following up with the lender to push for a response to the sale offer, the Borrower waited another four days before replying, and yet another day before first advising the Lender of any urgency to the request — which flatly belies the Counterclaim.”

Original article can be found here ➤ http://wvmetronews.com

Department of Transportation approves 50-seat passenger jets for Kearney Regional Airport (KEAR)

KEARNEY — Fifty-seat jetliners will provide commuter flights to Denver beginning in fall 2018, Kearney City Manager Mike Morgan announced today (Tuesday).

The federal Department of Transportation selected Skywest Airlines as the Essential Air Service provider for the city of Kearney. The two-year contract awarded to SkyWest will begin in fall 2018 when reconstruction of Kearney Regional Airport’s main runway is complete. The Federal Aviation Administration is paying 90 percent of the cost for the $12 million runway project, which will open the door for jet service at the Kearney airport.

According to a city of Kearney press release, SkyWest will fly 12 nonstop round-trip flights per week to Denver from Kearney.

SkyWest is part of the United Airlines network, which will be marketed as United Express. The carrier will feature bookings, connections and baggage transfers that will access United Airlines’ global network.

Flight schedules and prices will be announced in the summer.

“This is exciting news that was the result of a lot of hard work by staff, City Council, various citizen committees, the Chamber of Commerce and others,” Mayor Stan Clouse said. “United Express operated by SkyWest will provide an outstanding air service choice for not only recreational travelers but business travelers as well.”

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.theindependent.com

2018 Bikini Calendar: Vietjet Air says photo shoot was to ‘showcase the airline’s high-quality service’, but the scantily clad women pictured in it are mostly not Vietnamese and don’t work on any of the company’s 49 aircraft – they are models

What matters most to you when choosing an airline? It’s probably low fares, free bags, or convenient flight times. Or perhaps it’s an expectation that your flight will have bikini-clad attendants.

Not for the first time, Vietnamese discount carrier VietJet Air is using sex to sell seats, unveiling a promotional calendar for 2018 featuring women in bikinis.

The airline, which flies from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City and serves 23 domestic and 10 international destinations, is calling its VietJet Bikini Calendar a “hot item for all aviation fans and travellers”. It also appeared to suggest that this wasn’t only about sex.

“The hot and sexy models have always been the favourite of many VietJet passengers,” said a media representative for the airline. “Not only displaying their gorgeous looks, the models posed in different cabin crew and staff roles to showcase the airline’s high-quality service and friendly staff.”

So is this stunt really about promoting good customer service? The calendar includes images of scantily clad women posing as pilots, air traffic controllers, technicians, maintenance staff and flight attendants. All of this is in aid of “presenting a very interesting perspective to the airline’s excellent services and modern fleet”, according to the media release.

Of course, the women in the calendar don’t work on any of the airline’s 49 aircraft. In fact, most of them are not even Vietnamese. On board this risqué branding exercise are 20-year-old American model Celine Farach, the Thai runner-up of Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2017 Kwanlada Rungrojampa, and Vietnamese runner-up in Asia’s Next Top Model 2017 Nguyen Minh Tu.

VietJet Air has form in such “bikini branding”, and has often been referred to as “the bikini airline” since August 2012, when the airline was fined 20 million dong by Vietnam’s civil aviation body for allowing five models to perform a sexy Hawaiian-themed dance on a flight to Nha Trang.

Its tactics to boost sales appear to have worked, however. Launched in December 2011, VietJet Air now runs 300 flights a day on a fleet of Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft, operating 40 per cent of all domestic flights in Vietnam.

It also flies to Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, China, Japan and Myanmar. VietJet Air’s CEO and president is Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, southeast Asia’s only female billionaire, who is estimated to be worth US$1.8 billion.

However, if using sex to sell seats has proved controversial in conservative Vietnam, it has threatened to derail the airline’s expansion into predominantly Muslim countries. When it was announced in August that VietJet Air was in talks to run a flight between Vietnam and Jakarta, Indonesia’s ambassador to Vietnam had to confirm publicly that VietJet flight attendants would not be dressed in bikinis.

Last week AirAsia and Firefly experienced similar issues in Malaysia, where the tight uniforms of female crew came under fire from senator Abdullah Mat Yasim for being “too revealing”, The Straits Times reports. The senator expressed concerns that such sexy uniforms could give tourists the wrong impression of Malaysia.

When Tokyo-based Skymark Airlines released a new mini skirt uniform in 2014, the Japan Federation of Cabin Attendants complained, saying it objectified employees, and could encourage sexual harassment.

Every savvy traveller knows that you should respect local customs and adhere to the local dress code, so you would expect all airlines to as well – not to mention realising that objectifying women goes against international business standards.

And before you ask: no, the flight attendants on VietJet Air don’t really wear bikinis.

Story, video and photos ➤ http://www.scmp.com

Incident occurred December 26, 2017 at Greater Binghamton Airport (KBGM), East Maine, Broome County, New York

TOWN OF MAINE (WBNG) -- A private jet returned to the Greater Binghamton Airport Tuesday less than 30 minutes after taking off, according to Commissioner of Aviation David Hickling.

Hickling told 12 News that a jet that was chartered by a private company took off from the airport around 3:45 p.m. Tuesday.

He said the jet returned to the airport at approximately 4:10 p.m. because of a mechanical issue and that it was considered an emergency landing.

Officials have not said where the plane was headed, but said that it returned to the airport safely.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.wbng.com

Pratt delivers geared turbofan engine for Bombardier jet

East Hartford jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney and Korean Air Lines Co. have delivered the airline's first Bombardier jet powered by Pratt's geared turbofan (GTF) engine.

The delivery of the so-called Bombardier CS300 aircraft was made Friday, the companies said. A ceremony was held in Mirabel, Canada, where final assembly took place.

Soo-Keun Lee, chief technology officer at Korean Air, praised the GTF engine for its marked improvement in efficiency, emissions and noise levels, saying the new jet would "enhance our operations and passenger experience."

"This is a very important milestone for the C Series program because it is our breakthrough into the fast-growing Asian market, and we are honored to have Korean Air Lines as our brand ambassador in the region," said Fred Cromer, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.

Over the next 20 years, Asian operators will take delivery of 2,870 small single-aisle aircraft, he said.

Since entering into service in early 2016, the GTF engine has demonstrated its promised ability to reduce fuel burn by 16 percent; to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 50 percent to the regulatory standard; and to lower the noise footprint by 75 percent, Pratt said.

Pratt is a subsidiary of Farmington-based United Technologies Corp.

Original article  ➤ http://www.hartfordbusiness.com

LET L-23 Super Blaník, N389BA, Seminole Flying and Soaring: Accident occurred December 23, 2017 at Seminole Lake Gliderport (6FL0), Groveland, Lake County, Florida

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

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms


Location: Clermont, FL
Accident Number: GAA18CA093
Date & Time:
12/23/2017, 1100 EST
Registration: N389BA
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional 

The student pilot reported that, during the first solo landing, the glider was "not straight" for the flare and she attempted to correct with right rudder. Subsequently, she over corrected, the glider veered right, and struck a hangar.

The glider sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and both wings.

The student pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the glider that would have precluded normal operation.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Student
Age: 23, Female
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: None
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 10 hours (Total, all aircraft), 7 hours (Total, this make and model), 10 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 10 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: LET
Registration: N389BA
Aircraft Category: Glider
Year of Manufacture: 2001
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 018803
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 11/01/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1124 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 0
Airframe Total Time: 4094 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer:
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series:
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power:
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: KISM, 82 ft msl
Observation Time: 1556 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 22 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 108°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 1800 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: 25°C / 19°C
Lowest Ceiling: 
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots, 220°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.24 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Groveland, FL (6FL0)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Groveland, FL (6FL0)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1040 EST
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Grass/turf
Airport Elevation:  120 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 18
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3000 ft / 200 ft
VFR Approach/Landing:  Full Stop; Traffic Pattern 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude: 28.405833, -81.837778 (est)

Beech B35 Bonanza, N5079C: Incident occurred December 24, 2017 at Destin Executive Airport (KDTS), Okaloosa County, Florida

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; unknown

Aircraft landed on runway 32 when nose gear collapsed on roll out.


Date: 24-DEC-17
Time: 21:34:00Z
Regis#: N5079C
Aircraft Make: BEECH
Aircraft Model: 35
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: UNKNOWN
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
Operation: 91