Thursday, March 29, 2018

Bahamian Attorney: 'I Want To Say Aircraft Registry Is Finally Happening'

The Government has been urged to fund a Bahamian international aircraft registry in the upcoming 2018-2019 Budget, an attorney saying: "I want to finally say this is happening."

Llewellyn Boyer-Cartwright, a Bahamian aviation law specialist, told Tribune Business his international contacts were suggesting the "window of opportunity" remains open for the Bahamas to attract significant business to a facility that could be established within nine-12 months.

Describing an aircraft registry as 'low hanging fruit' for the Bahamian aviation sector, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner said such a rapid set-up was "doable" provided this nation dedicated the necessary funding, training, legislative and regulatory reforms.

In particular, Mr. Boyer-Cartwright warned that the Bahamas "will not be taken seriously" unless it removes the 10 percent Stamp duty on imported planes - something he said has never actually been levied but remains on the books, causing significant market uncertainty.

And he added that efforts to establish an aircraft registry would receive a further credibility boost if the Bahamas became a signatory to the Cape Town Treaty (Aircraft Convention), which gives financiers and leasing companies confidence that their liens and charges over planes - and plane parts - will be recognised and secure whatever jurisdiction the craft is in.

Mr. Boyer-Cartwright, who at times has seemingly led a 'one-man crusade' to establish such a registry, said these essential reforms would build on the platform provided by the Civil Aviation Act 2016 and its accompanying regulations.

"It's not onerous, it's not tedious and will not cost us as much as we think," told Tribune Business of an aircraft registry's creation. "The main thing initially would be the appropriate number of administrative staff, which could be five people, the proper software and marketing and branding.

"The registry is doable. We could probably get it up and running anywhere from nine to 12 months, once we have everything in place. It's very doable, compact and contained, if you will."

Mr. Boyer-Cartwright said signing the Cape Town Convention and eliminating the 10 percent duty on imported planes/maintenance parts were essential for the Bahamas to demonstrate it intended to be a serious competitor to rival international financial centres (IFCs) in the aircraft registry business.

"If the Bahamas becomes a Cape Town member state it really does say something; that they're to be taken seriously," he explained. "The feedback I received on Stamp Duty recently was that no one will take us seriously if we have that on the books. You're going to have to offer some incentive."

Mr. Boyer-Cartwright revealed that Bahamas-based companies and residents typically have to pay more when leasing aircraft from US companies because this nation is not a Cape Town Convention signatory, and the owner wants extra compensation for the extra risk.

Apart from increasing cost, and reducing affordability for Bahamas-based interests, the Callenders & Co attorney said the reluctance of banks to finance purchases of "mobile assets" such as aircraft meant buying options were limited.

As a result, Bahamian parties frequently ended up leasing planes long-term, while being reluctant to entertain lease-to-purchase deals for fear of being hit with the 10 per cent Stamp Duty when the aircraft was brought to the Bahamas.

Mr. Boyer-Cartwright, meanwhile, said the Bahamas might also have to 'bite the bullet' initially by acquiring foreign expertise to help train Bahamians in the management and administration of an international aircraft registry.

"It's a given that the legislation is already in place. I know one of the concerns would be the staffing and the resources, and I'm hoping this is part of the next Budget, I really do. I will go out on a limb, Neil, and say that like other jurisdictions we might very well need outside help initially and have to outsource it [administration and related training].

"That's not a bad thing. You get the right people in to train the Bahamians. Whether you do it in-house or outsource it, both have advantages and disadvantages, but at the same time I don't think we should be afraid to ask for outside help."

Mr. Boyer-Cartwright, seemingly single-handed, has been pushing the creation of a Bahamian international aircraft registry for at least five years, viewing it as a significant 'value added' product that would enable this nation to offer a 'one-stop shop' when it came to services targeted at high net worth clients.

"It's reached a point for me personally, in terms of my involvement, where I can no longer do this alone," he told Tribune Business. "I don't want to talk any more; I want to be able to say this is happening. This is it. I've given it a good run, and still have some energy left in me."

Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, confirmed to Tribune Business he had told Mr Boyer-Cartwright to go out and develop the strategy for an international aircraft registry, then come back and discuss it with him when he was ready.

"The window of opportunity I feel is still there," the aviation law specialist confirmed. "People are still interested in doing business in the Bahamas. We can take advantage by taking the most positive aspects of other jurisdictions and making ours even better.

"I'm truly hoping we are going to see legislation in the near future, and that includes the ratification of the Cape Town Convention."

Mr. Boyer-Cartwright suggested the Bahamas use its high-end resident base to build a registry with private corporate aircraft first, before targeting the "transitory" cargo market featuring planes "between sale and lease" where the owners did not want to bring them back home.

He said these niches would act as 'building blocks' so the Bahamas could "find its feet" before going after the private cargo transportation market and fleet business, "where the serious money is".

Other potential opportunities were identified as Brexit, the UK's exit from the European Union (EU), and the impact this could have on IFC dependencies such as Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, the latter of which now has 1,000 planes on its 10-year-old registry and is adding more at the rate of six per month.

Mr. Boyer-Cartwright added that an aircraft registry would also create increased spin-off business for the likes of Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD), in terms of parking, landing and maintenance fees, not to mention fuel supply.

"It's not going to happen overnight, but we have to start somewhere," he told Tribune Business. "It's 2018. Now we have to look at being dynamic and more innovative."

Original article can be found here ➤

Department of Transportation Workers’ Age Bias Claims Revived Over Ex-Attorney Misstep

Law360 (March 28, 2018, 6:40 PM EDT) -- A D.C. federal judge on Tuesday reinstated claims from hundreds of flight service controllers who were dismissed from a long-running age discrimination suit against the U.S. Department of Transportation, saying new evidence suggests their former lawyers misled them about their rights and obligations in the litigation.

U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman granted a motion from more than 600 flight service controllers to reconsider a pair of court orders from May 2008 and February 2009 that dismissed them from the suit for failing to respond to court discovery orders, reinstating their claims based on new evidence showing that their former attorneys didn’t properly represent them.

“Instead of holding the dismissed plaintiffs accountable for Gebhardt & Associates’ misleading communications and the firm’s failure to fulfill its ethical and professional obligations to them, justice requires that this court reconsider their dismissals,” Judge Friedman said.

According to the ruling, the plaintiffs had letters and correspondence from their former attorneys at Gebhardt & Associates LLP, a Washington, D.C.-based employment law firm, in early 2007 demanding that each individual plaintiff pay $10,000 each if they wanted the firm to keep representing them in the age discrimination litigation, which first kicked off in 2005 and was organized by the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists. The union had stopped paying the firm because it was no longer receiving dues from affected members who were laid off by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the ruling.

But the Gebhardt & Associates’ February 2007 letter to clients was misleading because it suggested that the plaintiffs might have to go it alone as pro se plaintiffs, and risk recovering very little from the FAA as a result, if they didn’t pay the $10,000. It didn’t make it clear that Gebhardt & Associates already represented each of the individual plaintiffs and, as a result, the firm had ongoing obligations toward its clients.

The law firm then refused to offer further legal assistance to the several hundred plaintiffs that didn’t pay the $10,000 each, including denying them help with responding to the court’s subsequent discovery requests, according to court documents. Gebhardt & Associates led the court to believe that the firm couldn’t get in touch with the individual plaintiffs who weren’t responding to the court’s discovery and show cause orders. The court also denied the firm’s attempt to withdraw as their counsel. But ultimately, because of their unresponsiveness, the court booted the plaintiffs from the litigation.

But Judge Friedman said Tuesday that the court now has the full picture and those plaintiffs should be let back into the case.

“Now having seen the complete contents of these letters, the court more fully understands the context giving rise to the dismissed plaintiffs’ misunderstandings — for example, that they were not already represented by counsel, that the class action was no longer proceeding, or that they would have no realistic chance of success if they could not pay $10,000 (and possibly more) to Gebhardt & Associates,” the ruling said.“With a more complete view of the attendant circumstances, the conduct of the dismissed plaintiffs now is more understandable. In light of this new evidence, justice requires reconsideration.”

The flight service controllers were all over the age of 40 and accused the DOT of age discrimination after they were laid off when the Federal Aviation Administration outsourced thousands of flight service jobs to defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys and representatives for the DOT could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.

The air traffic controllers are represented by Joseph M. Sellers, Shaylyn Cochran, Brian Corman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Gary M. Gilbert, Linda A. Kincaid, Stephanie M. Herrera and Michal Shinnar of Gilbert Employment Law.

The federal defendants are represented by Chad A. Readler, Joshua E. Gardner and Lisa Zeidner Marcus of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The case Kathleen Breen et al v. Elaine L. Chao et al, case number 1:05-cv-00654, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Original article can be found here ➤

Former fire chiefs: Gerald R. Ford International Airport (KGRR) slow to react to PFAS foam

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Former airport fire chiefs are questioning why the Gerald R. Ford International Airport didn't act sooner to investigate the PFAS-tainted firefighting foam they say they used there.

Ford Airport CEO James Gill said he became aware of the potential for PFAS contamination a year ago as news of polluted Air Force bases started to spread.

"So we've been looking into it over the last year. We're really trying to recreate that history we don't have," Gill said.

Among the questions, he said: How much they used, where they used it, and which way the water flows.

Three former Ford airport fire chiefs, all tracked down by Target 8, said they haven't heard from airport officials. They were in charge of buying and using the foam.

The airport had yet to contact the state's Department of Environmental Quality, which oversees such investigations.

Longtime airport board member Ted Vonk said he knew nothing about the PFAS potential.

"It's brand new to me," Vonk told Target 8. "It hasn't come up to the board members yet, so it is new to me. But as of the other problems around the airport, we get a handle on it and we're going to take care of it."


The former airport fire chiefs told Target 8 they used AFFF firefighting foam at the Ford for decades, starting in the late 1970s, mostly for training — all required by the FAA. They say thousands of gallons drained untreated into the ground. The training ended in about 2000, but PFAS, a likely carcinogen, can stick around for a long time in the environment and in the human body.

"When the airport has the knowledge that know it's a hazard, it wasn't at the time, now it's a hazard and now you need to be proactive," said Glen Lathers, airport fire chief from 1979 to 1989.

It's the same PFAS-tainted foam, the former chiefs said, that contaminated Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda and other bases around the country.

"They need to identify the plume, if there is one, and they need to immediately need to advise the people downstream to stop drinking the water," Lathers said.

"If it was my well, and I was downstream from it, I would be very, very concerned," said Bryan Kimble, fire chief from 2004 to 2010. "I would want somebody to be responsible for it."


Then there's the mysterious foam discovered by Target 8 on Wednesday on a stream near the airport. The stream leads to the Thornapple River.

The bright, white foam piled up at the end of a culvert that carries the stream under Oak Tree Drive SE.  Bubbles clung to a log above the water.

Target 8 reported it to the DEQ. The DEQ said it plans to investigate whether it's the same kind of PFAS foam found on a lake and stream near Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

"Certainly we'd be anxious to hear what the state has to say as well," said Gill, the airport CEO.


Some airport neighbors said they had no idea about the potential for PFAS. They called for well testing.

"The only way to find out if that's true or not is to actually test them," said Raul Alvarez, who lives on Forest Valley Drive SE. "To me, it just makes sense. It's just logical that that's the step you take."

Alvarez's family is among more than 400 in the neighborhood wedged between the airport and the Thornapple River.

"It's a family-friendly community, lots of kids," he said. "There's no sidewalks and no one has ever wanted them because it's just friendly and people just enjoy it, so it would affect a lot of families and it would affect kids, and that's probably one of the worst things we can do."

Most are on well water.

"It's unfortunate given what we've seen not only in Flint but closer to home here in Rockford," he said. "I'd hate for that to happen to any other residents in the community."

Scott Rissi, president of the Thornapple River Association, remembers seeing the black smoke from the practice fires at the airport years ago. He lives on the east side of the river, across from the airport.

"If I lived in that area (on the west bank of the Thornapple), I would have my well checked," Rissi said. "I know that the water runs in that direction, the groundwater's running in that direction, and if there's problems there, expose them, bring light to them."

The DEQ told Target 8 that it planned to work with the airport.

"We do not yet have any information regarding the use of PFAS containing firefighting foam at the Gerald R. Ford airport, but we are available to provide technical support to assist the airport to investigate any potential ground water contamination in the area," DEQ spokesman Scott Dean said in a written statement.

Cascade Township Supervisor Rob Beahan said it was the first he's heard of the possibility of PFAS contamination at the airport.

"We have reached out to the airport and to county and state officials to begin to gather information," he said in a statement released to Target 8 on Wednesday.

Original article can be found here ➤

Salt Lake City International Airport (KSLC) fire training facility will close in June

SALT LAKE CITY -- A training facility used by thousands of firefighters to prepare for an aviation disaster will close at the end of June.

The Salt Lake City International Airport confirmed on Thursday it intended to close its Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Training Center, located just west of the terminals. The facility has been open since 1997, providing a realistic experience for firefighters from across the country—and other places.

"Guys from Antarctica, that's probably the furthest away we've seen," said Ron Buckmiller, an aircraft rescue firefighter with the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

The ARFF training center has a replica aircraft where firefighters can train for anything from a small cigarette fire in a lavatory to a full-on disaster.

"It's trying to create a realistic scenario to help these firefighters get better," said Buckmiller.

When the aircraft is lit up for training, it startles passengers and locals alike, who call 911 and local news stations to report a plane crash.

"We do get occasional calls or emails asking if there's a plane on fire," said airport spokeswoman Nancy Volmer. "We always assure our passengers, 'No, it's not. It's training.'"

The facility's closure in June is because of budget reasons, Volmer said. It would cost millions to upgrade and keep up.

"It would be about $2 million and that would only get us through three to five years, and then we'd have to make another substantial investment in the facility," said Volmer. "As much as we hated to do it, we had to close the facility."

Salt Lake City International Airport said it is not connected to a multi-billion dollar project underway to build a new terminal and concourses, slated to open in 2020. No firefighters will lose their jobs, but Salt Lake City firefighters will have to now travel out-of-state for their annual training.

Volmer said it was possible a few years from now that the Salt Lake City International Airport could budget for a new Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting facility.

Original article can be found here ➤

Beechcraft 99, N31TN: Accident occurred March 29, 2018 at King Salmon Airport (PAKN), Alaska

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Anchorage, Alaska

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:


The pilot reported that, after exiting instrument meteorological conditions during a circling approach, he was "a little above" the normal glidepath; as the airplane crossed the approach end of the runway, the airplane began to sink rapidly and drift to the left. He added power to initiate a go-around, but the airplane continued to sink and landed with the left main landing gear off the left side of the runway. As the airplane became airborne again, he attempted to retract the landing gear, "but the handle was locked in place." He noticed that the left and right main landing gear extension lights were illuminated, but the nose landing gear light was not. The pilot noticed a positive rate of climb and decided to fly to an alternate airport.

The pilot reported that, while en route to the alternate airport, a passenger reported that they smelled smoke, so he turned off electrical equipment. A pilot-rated passenger assisted with circuit breaker troubleshooting before turning on the battery again for communications. He instructed the pilot-rated passenger to visually examine the landing gear; the passenger reported that the left main landing gear was extended without damage and the right main landing gear was "bent back," with damage to the right flap with fuel leaking from the wing.

After contacting the alternate airport's tower, the pilot reported that he declared an emergency and provided a safety brief to the passengers. He added that, at the alternate airport, he performed an instrument landing system approach, and over the approach end of the runway, he reduced power, feathered the propellers, and moved both fuel levers to fuel cutoff. During landing, the right main landing gear collapsed, the right wing settled onto the runway, and the airplane began to pull to the right. The pilot added left rudder to maintain the runway centerline and the airplane came to rest on the runway.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right wing.

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

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's failure to maintain an adequate approach path and runway centerline during the initial landing, which resulted in a hard landing to the left of the runway and damage to the landing gear and wing.


Descent/approach/glide path - Not attained/maintained (Cause)
Heading/course - Not attained/maintained (Cause)
Main landing gear - Damaged/degraded

Personnel issues
Aircraft control - Pilot (Cause)

Factual Information

History of Flight

Hard landing (Defining event)

Landing-landing roll
Runway excursion
Landing gear collapse

Location: King Salmon, AK
Accident Number: GAA18CA187
Date & Time: 03/29/2018, 1320 AKD
Registration: N31TN
Aircraft: BEECH 99
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Hard landing
Injuries: 8 None
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter - Non-scheduled

The pilot reported that, after exiting instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) during a circling approach, he was "a little above" normal glidepath and as the airplane crossed the approach end of the runway, the airplane began to sink rapidly and drift to the left. He added power to initiate a go around, but the airplane continued to sink, and landed with the left main landing gear off the left side of the runway. As the airplane became airborne again, he attempted to retract the landing gear, "but the handle was locked in place". He noticed that the left and right main landing gear extension lights were illuminated, but the nose landing gear light was not. The pilot noticed a positive rate of climb and decided to fly to an alternate airport.

The pilot reported that, while en route to the alternate airport, a passenger reported that they smelled smoke, so he turned off electrical equipment. He utilized a pilot-rated passenger to assist with circuit breaker troubleshooting before turning on the battery again for communications. He instructed the pilot-rated passenger to visually examine the landing gear, who reported that the left main landing gear was extended without damage and the right main landing gear was "bent back", with damage to the right flap with fuel leaking from the wing.

After contacting the alternate airport's tower, the pilot reported that he declared an emergency and provided a safety brief to the passengers. He added that, at the alternate airport, he performed an instrument landing system (ILS) approach and over the approach end of the runway, he reduced power, feathered the propellers, and moved both fuel levers to fuel cutoff. During landing, the right main landing gear collapsed, the right wing settled onto the runway, and the airplane began to pull to the right. The pilot added left rudder to maintain the runway centerline and the airplane came to rest on the runway.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right wing.

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

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 31, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land; Single-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 05/24/2017
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 12/29/2017
Flight Time: (Estimated) 4056 hours (Total, all aircraft), 103 hours (Total, this make and model), 3918 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 230 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 69 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 8 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: BEECH
Registration: N31TN
Model/Series: 99 UNDESIGNATED
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1969
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: U49
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 10
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 03/21/2018, Continuous Airworthiness
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 10400 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 2 Turbo Prop
Airframe Total Time: 39673.3 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: P&W
ELT: C126 installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: PT6A-20
Registered Owner: LAKE CLARK AIR INC
Rated Power: 550 hp
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand Air Taxi (135)
Operator Does Business As:
Operator Designator Code: HXXC 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PAII, 92 ft msl
Observation Time: 2130 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 38 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 218°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Temperature/Dew Point: 0°C / -1°C
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 200 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots, 270°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.52 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV): 
Precipitation and Obscuration: Moderate - Mist
Departure Point: DILLINGHAM, AK (DLG)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Destination: PILOT POINT, AK (PNP)
Type of Clearance: IFR
Departure Time: 1200 AKD
Type of Airspace: Class D

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 73 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Snow; Wet
Runway Used: 12
IFR Approach: ILS
Runway Length/Width: 8901 ft / 150 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Full Stop 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 7 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 8 None
Latitude, Longitude: 58.679722, -156.656111 (est)

Eight people on board a scheduled commuter flight are safe after an emergency landing in King Salmon Thursday afternoon, forced by a ground strike during an attempted landing at its original destination.

Lake Clark Air employees said the plane had been en route from Dillingham to Pilot Point at the time of the incident.

According to National Transportation Safety Board investigator Mike Hodges the Beechcraft 99 had been attempting to make a routine landing in Pilot Point at the time. One pilot and seven passengers were on board.

“During the instrument approach, the plane impacted terrain,” Hodges said. “After the airplane impacted terrain the pilot made a go-around and initiated landing at (the) King Salmon airport.”

Alaska State Troopers said in an online dispatch that they were told the plane was inbound to King Salmon just before 1 p.m. Thursday.

After touching down on the main runway, none of the occupants were injured but “damage to the Beechcraft was sustained on the right wing and the landing gear.”

“The main runway is currently closed for aircraft removal,” troopers wrote.

Another Lake Clark Air plane is en route to take the passengers to their original destinations, according to airline staff.

Original article can be found here ➤

Taxiway decoupling causes controversy in reconstruction project at Walla Walla Regional Airport (KALW)

Mike Fredrickson
WALLA WALLA, Washington — Phases One and Two of the Taxiway Alpha Reconstruction project at the Walla Walla Regional Airport were completed last year, and they are now moving on to the next two phases. Walla Walla Commissioner Mike Fredrickson says there’s a bit of controversy due to the decoupling of some of the taxiways that are part of Phases Three and Four.

“We’re figuring out the geometry,” says Fredrickson. Due to the decoupling, Fredrickson says, “one of our runways won’t have any access back so we are trying to ask the FAA if we can have a runway …open for the flight school.”

Walla Walla University uses the runway for their flight school, and while it isn’t in great shape, it is good for touch-and-go practice for aviation students. Fredrickson says their preliminary engineer estimation on that runway is about $1.7 million to get out to it and rehab it for WWU’s general aviation pilots.

Fredrickson says they are in communication with the Federal Aviation Association, but without the taxiways to the runway, they don’t know if the FAA will allow them to keep it open.

In total, it is a $14 to $15 million dollar project, about 91 percent funded by the FAA. The infrastructure they are reconstructing dates back to World War 2 and it’s only been overlaid since then, making this the first total reconstruction since the 1940’s and 50’s.

Original article ➤

Changes coming to prepare for commercial airlines at Mobile Downtown Airport (KBFM)

MOBILE, AL (AP) -  FOX10 News was the only TV crew at a Mobile Airport Authority Board meeting Thursday where it was announced that work will start to prepare for at least one commercial airliner to fly out of the airport at Brookley Field.

But some people who live in the area have questions about what types of problems that could cause.

Last month, ViaAir announced it would offer non-stop flights from Mobile to Orlando starting this spring.  

Thursday, the Mobile Airport Authority announced more details. 

Executive Director Chris Curry said, "ViaAir sent us a letter of intent which specified that they intend to start at Mobile Regional Airport on May 14, but, thereafter, as soon as Brookley is up and operational with a suitable terminal,  they would expect to start at Brookley. "                                         

Curry said that triggers a study to evaluate terminal options.  

He said, "So we are trying to look at the option of renovating current facilities, bringing in some type of modular unit and also the TSA requirements that go along with that type of facility."   

Curry said that study should take about six months.  

But two people who live near the Brookley Aeroplex attended Thursday morning's meeting wanting questions answered.

When asked if she was concerned about the number of planes flying over, Cleova Rodriguez said, "The noise, the noise, and I'm just wondering how much of that."  

But Curry said residents will have plenty of opportunities to voice any concerns during future hearings.

He said, "The process should go about 18 months and include at least four meetings of public involvement."   

I also spoke to Darrell Dixon who lives in a neighborhood within sight of Brookley.    

He said there's been "noise over here all the time, so it's not going to bother me. I'm just dealing with whatever comes."  

The Mobile Airport Authority is already about halfway into a feasibility study on conducting passenger service out of Brookley so the announcement by ViaAir might help decide the question.  

Original article can be found here ➤

Airline executive wants to stick passengers in the cargo hold

Would you spend a flight in the cargo hold with your luggage?

Alan Joyce, chief executive officer of Australian airline Qantas Airways, has some ideas on how to use the space that’s better known as the chilly spot where pets sometimes perish and battery fires sometimes start.

Speaking in a meeting with the Australia-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce in London on Tuesday, Joyce raised the idea of someday using the cargo hold for a new class of cabin, where some passengers could sleep in large pods and exercise.

The suggestion is part of Joyce’s plan for “Project Sunrise,” his goal to create a non-stop flight between Australia (from Sydney or Melbourne) and the UK and another direct flight to New York City within the next four years. Such a flight would take more than 20 hours, and could require a redesign of planes.

“In doing so, we need to re-imagine the whole travel experience,” Joyce said in his speech. “Is there a new class that’s needed on the aircraft? What are the out-there ideas that could apply to this and really change air travel for the future? And nothing, nothing is off the table.”

Other airline executives have made outlandish promises about in-flight amenities in the past: Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson previously promised onboard casinos that never came to fruition. Lufthansa reportedly is working to develop in-flight yoga classes and other fitness experiences. Brian Sumers, airline reporter for travel analysis site Skift, said using the cargo hold for sleeping may be more attainable.

“It wouldn’t be easy, and it might not be commercially viable, but it’s good to hear an airline executive talking about bringing train-style compartments to airplanes,” he said.

Meanwhile, airlines may do better to focus on improving the basic flight experience before adding more bells and whistles, said consumer advocate Christopher Elliott. Qantas puts economy-class passengers in seats that are 17.5 inches wide and have a pitch — the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it — of 31 inches. That’s relatively standard for a major airline, but uncomfortable for a long-haul flight of 20 hours.

“It’s more profitable but it’s also highly unethical,” Elliott said of the seat pitch. “Instead of thinking about exercise rooms and luxury berths for its elite passengers, maybe Qantas should find ways of giving all of its customers a humane amount of legroom.”

Original article can be found here ➤

Regulators find issues with Tennessee Valley Authority aircraft purchase

The Tennessee Valley Authority's Inspector General Office has found TVA's reasons for buying a pair of $17.7 million corporate aircraft did not justify the high value purchase.

The utility may have also violated federal code, according to the federal regular's audit, in improper justifications for use of the federal agency's aircraft. 

TVA's contract approval for the new jet and turboprop aircraft stated the corporation needed "aircraft with newer technology that enhances safety, increases reliability and performance while reducing maintenance expense." 

Report: TVA did not provide documentation

The corporation also said it needed the jets to land on short runways in parts of its service area that do not have commercial air service.  But the OIG report says TVA did not provide documentation of any cost, safety, reliability or time efficiency comparisons prior to the purchases.

The inspector general also said its purchase of an $11.2 million corporate jet was not cost effective when compared to the price of the $6.4 million turboprop aircraft.

TVA management said additional costs associated with purchasing and operating the jet were "acceptable to improve the margin of safety for pilots and passengers," and that the jet cost just 7 percent more than the turboprop to operate.

"We appreciate the inspector general taking a look at this and helping us improve our performance," said Mike Skaggs, TVA's executive vice president for operations. "We believe we made a good purchase but we don't believe the written justification on that purchase was as good as it needed to be." 

But the Inspector General's Office found it cost TVA 18 percent more because the corporation was flying short distances. 

Skaggs said the company did not agree with the OIG's 18 percent calculation, but that even if it did, the 18 percent increase in cost was negligible given the jet's better safety record.

"The jet has a five-fold safety increment over the turboprop, according to data from the National Transportation Safety Board," Skaggs said. 

CEO's personal travel noted

The Inspector General's Office noted the corporation may have violated federal code for failing to provide written pre-authorizations for business flights and for providing proper justifications for 13 days of travel that appeared to be for "the personal preference and convenience of TVA's CEO" Bill Johnson. 

FAA records show the utility aircraft flew to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, 18 times from August 2015 to December 2017. 

The flights included stops in Raleigh, where Johnson's house is and where his wife lives.

TVA told the Inspector General's Office that all but one of the flights to Raleigh-Durham had a business purpose, the other was for a medical issue Johnson's wife had. The corporation said the TVA board chair approved the trip, but the inspector general said the chair did not have the authority to make that approval. 

The Inspector General's Office said the other trips appeared to be to pick Johnson up from his house in Raleigh, or drop him there, and his wife accompanied him on three such occasions. 

The office said Johnson's wife flew on the plane a total of 18 times between the audit period of July 1, 2015, and February 28, 2017.

"We've looked at those trips to Raleigh-Durham, some were made on an emergency, some were him completing biz travel and they dropped him off," said Skaggs.

He added he did not believe the utility was in noncompliance of federal codes, but that they have has "learned" from the inspector general's report that it needed to be more detailed on its flight justification procedure, which includes providing the business reason for travel and "imputing income."

"Imputed income" refers to the added value of flights used for personal reasons to an employee's salary, without actually giving them the money the flights cost. That way, Johnson and others who used the aircraft for personal reasons pay taxes on the value of the flight. 

TVA was not only not doing that, but had no policies in place for reporting personal use of the aircraft, according to the inspector general.

TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said the company lacked a "clear connection" between its aviation services group and payroll department. He said TVA is retroactively imputing income where necessary so that employees like Johnson pay taxes on personal flights.

Skaggs said neither Johnson nor others who have taken personal flights are required to reimburse the corporation -- and by extension, ratepayers -- for the cost..

On the jet, that can amount to about $1,500 per hour, Skaggs said in February. 

But, Skaggs said, the jet allows TVA to have face-to-face conversation with employees and stakeholders that may help TVA keep its rates down and save money in its operations and maintenance budget.

According to TVA, about 30 percent of customers' rates fund that budget.

"We are proud of work we've done over last 5 years with savings we've made to operations and maintenance," Skaggs said. 'We've improved almost every key performance metric for TVA, and that's important. When you think about the airplanes, they are a significant cost, but they are part of an integrated approach."

Original article can be found here ➤

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - Tennessee Valley Authority regulators found that TVA's reasons for the sole source purchase of two new fixed-wing aircraft for almost $18 million were neither supported nor cost-effective and the TVA may have violated federal code with their use of the aircraft.

A release by the TVA Office of Inspector General, an independent body that oversees applicable laws and regulation and ensures TVA's own policies are consistently followed, said the TVA failed to do so when they purchased the two jets this year.

TVA claimed they needed to purchase the two jets for increased use, greater capacity and the ability to land on runways as short as 4,000 feet, among other reasons. The report by the OIG says TVA was not able to provide documentation of any cost, safety, reliability or time efficiency comparisons prior to the purchases. 

The report states part of the reasoning for buying the two jets from a sole source was not justified as they found other jet models would have met the specifications TVA outlined. They also found the purchase of one jet and a turboprop, an aircraft whose engines power propellers, would've been cheaper and more cost-effective.

The report also says it's unclear how TVA determined they needed two aircraft instead of one and why they purchased two jets instead of a turboprop and a jet. It says the purchase has not been cost-effective and time savings for the two jets compared to a turboprop has been negligible. 

Additionally, TVA did not comply with various federal regulations and TVA policies and procedures regarding use of the aircraft and may not have complied with Title 31, United States Code, Section 1344(a)(1), Passenger Carrier Use.

The OIG says failure to follow federal regulations prevents TVA from accurately determine the need for owning aircraft and ensuring travel costs are managed effectively. The OIG made ten recommendations to TVA management to improve controls around purchases of future aircraft, use of fixed-wing aircraft and compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. 

In a statement to WATE 6 On Your Side on Thursday, TVA representatives said the TVA disagrees with the OIG's conclusions in some areas, but agrees the findings support the need to improve documentation and recordkeeping.

“Safely fulfilling our mission across an 80-thousand square mile service area, as well as inspecting TVA facilities and engaging stakeholders outside that area, while maintaining fiscal responsibility requires us to appropriately document the business justifications of our resources, including aircraft,” said TVA Executive Vice President of Operations  Mike Skaggs. “Safety and cost were the key factors used to make the correct decisions on obtaining the aircraft, and we appreciate the OIG’s recommendations that will allow us to better document those decisions.”

The TVA said audited aircraft were purchased to allow safe and timely travel to smaller airports in the Tennessee Valley that are not served by commercial airlines.

"Key safety performance characteristics were a deciding factor when selecting a jet aircraft over a turboprop - operating cost differences were only seven percent per mile," said TVA is their statement. "A focused purchase process resulted in $2.8 million in savings below fair market value for two aircraft."

TVA said they are purchasing a new software system to address the flight scheduling and recordkeeping shortfall. 

Original article can be found here ➤

TVA's purchase of an $11.2 million Citation jet nearly four years ago has not been cost effective and the sole source purchase method for buying the jet and a $6.5 King Air prop plane may have violated federal rules, according to an internal TVA audit released today.

The TVA Inspector General said TVA did not justify buying the aircraft without a normal bidding process for a government agency and the upgrade from a prop plane to a corporate jet may not have been necessary.

"TVA's stated justifications for sole sourcing the purchase of the aircraft were not supported and did not include any analyses of historical usage to determine TVA's fixed-wing aircraft needs," the TVA Inspector General said in a 34-page review of the aircraft purchases released today. "The purchase of a jet instead of a second turboprop has not been cost effective."

The audit reviewed the 2015 purchases, which have been questioned by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and others. Since then, TVA added a second jet and an executive helicopter, which the IG report did not consider.

Mike Skaggs, executive vice president of TVA, said today that the audit did indicate that TVA could do a better job documenting its use and need for the aircraft. But Skaggs disagreed with the findings of Inspector General and insisted that the new aircraft have improved safety, efficiency and performance of TVA "and are a key part of our overall cost containing strategy" which has cut nearly $800 million a year in the utility's operating costs.

Skaggs said the new jets are at least five times safer than the airplanes they replaced and allow TVA to improve communication and response to both customer and utility issues across TVA's 7-state region. 

"We probably have a third less aircraft that the other utilities of our size and we did not identify any instances in which these aircraft have been used inappropriately," Skaggs said.

 The TVA audit found that TVA's overall aircraft fleet "is generally comparable to the number of fixed wing aircraft maintained by eight of its peers."

But after reviewing the use of the TVA jets — the first ever owned by the 85-year-old federal utility — TVA auditors concluded that the extra cost of buying and operating the jets compared with a prop airplane was not justified.

"The purchase of a jet instead of a second turboprop has not been cost effective because, in addition to the higher purchase price for the jet, the turboprop has a lower operating cost and the time savings for use of the jet compared to the turboprop are negligible based on TVA's usage," the IG report concludes.

The inspector general said operating the jet is 18 percent more expensive than the turboprop planes, even excluding the higher purchase price for the jet. But Skaggs said jet operating costs are only 7 percent higher than the planes they replaced.

TVA officials said the federal utility, for its size, actually has fewer jets than most of its investor-owned utility peers and the jet aircraft are both safer and quicker to allow TVA executives to more easily travel around the Tennessee Valley and to Washington D.C. 

TVA President Bill Johnson said last month that the jets have allowed him and other TVA executives to more frequently visit TVA plants and employees and meet leaders of the municipalities and power co-ops that buy TVA power.

"We have improved results with much better customer relations and major projects being done now on time and on budget," Johnson said. "The only way that happens is if you go visit and see. I am a strong believer in management presence and oversight."

But the audit suggested that the sole source purchase method for the aircraft "did not comply with various federal regulations and TVA policies and procedures regarding use of the aircraft.

"Failure to follow the federal laws and regulations prevents TVA from being able to accurately determine the need for owning aircraft, prevents TVA from ensuring travel costs are managed effectively, and may cause reputational risks for TVA with regard to misuse (or perceived misuse) of the aircraft," the TVA IG report said.

But in response to the audit, Jacinda Woodward and William Croin, the TVA executives responsible for the aircraft purchase, said the aircraft purchases were made as negotiated sales that saved $2.8 million off the market value of the purchases

When TVA replaced one of its turboprop planes last year with another jet, Skaggs said the utility did not use the same sole source method, "although we do not believe that that was inappropriate when we did in 2015."

Original article can be found here ➤

State Congressional delegation celebrates Yeager Airport (KCRW) groundbreaking

CHARLESTON — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., were among the dignitaries taking part in a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday on a $23 million project to repair Yeager Airport’s safety overrun area, which collapsed and tumbled down a mountainside in 2015.

Yeager Airport Director Terry Sayre said it had been three years and two weeks since the collapse of the runway extension onto Keystone Drive, taking much of Yeager’s engineered materials arresting system (EMAS) with it.

The system, designed to stop runaway aircraft, successfully brought to a halt an airliner that overshot an airport runway in January 2010.

“We know it works, because 34 lives were saved,” Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said.

But the system has been out of action since the 2015 landslide. Getting money to repair the damaged mountainside and replace the engineered materials arresting system required congressional intervention, officials said.

Jenkins said it was the “behind-the-scenes” work that went into securing funding for the repair project that many people don’t know about. He said federal law prohibited using funding from both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Federal Aviation Administration for construction work, effectively blocking repairs at Yeager.

So members of West Virginia’s delegation joined to get the law changed. Yeager Airport subsequently got a $13.5 million FAA grant to help pay for the engineered materials arresting system repairs.

The project also has a $3 million state match. Mike Hall, chief of staff to Gov. Jim Justice, said the governor recognizes the importance of the airport to the entire state.

Work was scheduled to begin Thursday following the groundbreaking ceremony. New engineered materials arresting system material is expected to arrive by the end of the year.

But, that almost didn’t happen. Manchin said the company that manufactures the material stopped production, which would have delayed construction long enough that Yeager might have lost commercial air service.

Manchin said lobbying by the West Virginia delegation convinced the manufacturer to make more materials for the project.

Sayre said airport officials learned the Jan. 10 incident at Yeager saved the most number of lives of any engineered materials arresting system incident anywhere in the world.

Jenkins, Capito and Manchin said they fly in and out of Yeager Airport frequently, and know how important the airport is to the state.

Capito said out-of-state visitors to Yeager often comment on how nice staff and the people of West Virginia are. Jenkins said the airport is a frequent departure and re-entry point for veterans and their families.

Manchin, a licensed pilot, said his best experience flying at Yeager Airport was in a P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft. The worst, he said, was when he blew a tire in an airplane he was piloting while taxiing.

“They jerked me off that runway so fast it would make your head swim,” he said. “And didn’t miss a single flight.”

Sayre said airport officials hope to extend Yeager’s runway to 7,000 or 8,000 feet to increase air service at the facility.

Orders Construction Co., of St. Albans, was the winning bidder on the project.

Original article can be found here ➤