Sunday, September 2, 2018

Galesburg Municipal Airport (KGBG), Illinois: Pilots arriving daily for National Stearman Fly-In

John Elliott of Arlington, Virginia, gets his Stearman ready for takeoff Saturday afternoon at the Galesburg Municipal Airport (KGBG).


GALESBURG — As the 47th annual National Stearman Fly-In prepares to begin on Labor Day, pilots from all over the country continue to fly into Galesburg. By mid-afternoon Saturday, over 20 had arrived at Galesburg Municipal Airport. While many have attended the celebration year after year, one of the first to arrive for this year’s event is in Galesburg for the first time.

For John Elliott, 48, of Arlington, Virginia, his journey to the Stearman Fly-In began with his grandfathers. Both his paternal and maternal grandfathers were pilots in World War II, one in the Navy and one in the Army. Both trained in Stearman planes.

“They used to tell stories of their training,” remembered Elliott.

“My mom’s dad had a picture of a Stearman on the wall. He used to talk about if he ever bought an airplane, a Stearman was the finest airplane he’d ever been on. So I’d listen to that as a kid and I thought it was spectacular, so that kind of set the bug.”

When he was 16, Elliott went for a biplane ride at an air show and became hooked. He knew he wanted to become a pilot. That dream didn’t come true immediately. College, life and career came first, and Elliott works as an accountant. In 2008, he earned his pilot’s license.

It was at the Flying Circus Airshow in northern Virginia, where most of the pilots are ex-military or commercial pilots, that the accountant learned of Galesburg’s annual show from David Brown.

“I told him that I was getting my pilot’s license and I want to learn to fly antique airplanes,” Elliott said. “So I bought a 10-hour block of time with him and his Stearman, and he trained me how to fly the tail-wheel airplanes; then I went looking for a biplane.”

He started by acquiring a 1931 Fleet biplane, right after training on modern Cessnas. Three years ago, he found his current Stearman. Advertised by a doctor in Maine, the bright yellow plane has its own unique history.

The American-built PT-27 is one of 300 that were loaned to the Royal Air Force for training as a small part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s massive lean-lease program. The planes went to Canada in 1942 and faced challenges due to the cold weather. The planes were eventually returned to the United States. Only an estimated “four or five” of that batch of 300 remain. Elliott’s is now repainted in the colors it was during its time in Canada.

As a result of his ownership of the plane, Elliott had the unique experience of meeting the son of the RAF pilot who trained in the plane, thanks to the recording of the plane’s serial number in a log book.

He’s been impressed so far with Galesburg and the event.

“The airport is fantastic. The facility is great and the grass runway is nice and smooth. I didn’t know how big the event was and how the town is so involved,” Elliott said. “The idea of seeing over 50 Stearmans and maybe even over 100 is just spectacular... The small Midwestern town has such a homey feel to it. Coming from somewhere like D.C., which can seem very impersonal comparatively, it’s been charming and wonderful.”

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

Chautauqua County, New York: Borrello Trying To Secure Essential Air Service Pact

County Executive George Borrello is continuing to work behind the scenes to secure an Essential Air Service provider to the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown. 

In January, the federal Transportation Department terminated its Essential Air Service agreement with Southern Airways Express after passenger counts fell to an average of four per day, far fewer than the Essential Air Service requirement of 10 passengers per day. The county airport also had trouble meeting the program’s requirement that subsidies be less than $200 per passenger, with subsidy-per-passenger numbers of $630 that ranked among the highest in the nation before the contract was terminated.

Borrello recently sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, and Kevin Schlemmer, federal Transportation Department Essential Air Service Division chief, responding to questions that had been raised by federal officials about a proposal submitted in May to secure an Essential Air Service contract for Boutique Air of San Francisco to provide air service at the county airport.

In the letter, Borrello argues that frequency and timing of Boutique Air flights, Boutique Air’s history of scheduled flight completion and the county’s passenger counts through 2014 are reasons the Transportation Department should approve Boutique Air’s contract.

FLIGHT FREQUENCY AND TIMING

Dating back to 2004, the county airport averaged 35.8 passengers per day with Cleveland as the destination. Those numbers dipped to 14,401, 9,033 and 8,233 through 2007 with Colgan Air. Colgan was succeeded by Gulfstream and passenger numbers continued to decrease before bottoming out with providers Sun Air and Southern Airways Express. Borrello’s letter states Southern Airways Express was operating four scheduled flights between Jamestown and Pittsburgh from Monday through Friday with the earliest Jamestown departure at 11:05 a.m. and the last departure from Pittsburgh at 3:45 p.m., with no interline or code-share agreements with others carriers. 

That meant longer layovers necessary so baggage could be transferred on to flight destinations.

“It also bears noting that the JHW-PIT flight schedule operated by SAE made it virtually impractical to fly round-trip to Pittsburgh and engage in any business or other outside activity outside the airport in a single day,” Borrello wrote.

Boutique Air plans to offer its first departing flight from Jamestown at 6:30 a.m., a time that allows for 161 domestic departures from Pittsburgh, or 71 percent of the Pittsburgh airport’s departures. Borrello also cites Boutique Air’s code-share agreement with United Airlines, which operates 42 daily departures from Pittsburgh.

FLIGHT COMPLETION RATES

Boutique Air has a 97.7 percent flight completion rate across its route network for the 12 months through January 2018. In 2017, Southern Airways Express completed 1,483 of its 2,717 scheduled flights under its Essential Air Service contract for a completion rate of 54.6 percent.

“SAE ignored the rule of business; you have to show up,” Borrello wrote to the federal Transportation Department. “Weather was not a significant factor; controllable completion rates varied slightly from non-controllable completions. The shoddy flight completion rates were entirely the consequence of calculated business decisions onthe part of SAE to under-resource the JHW-PIT route.”

PASSENGER TRAFFIC HISTORY

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for the federal Transportation Department in considering a new Essential Air Program carrier for the county airport in Jamestown is the airport’s history of usage. While ridership hasn’t approached the high water mark of 35.8 passengers a day the airport since 2004, the airport did average at least 10.1 riders a day through 2014 and the switch from Cleveland as hub to Pittsburgh. Borrello wrote that Sun Air had contracted with Pacific Wings Airlines for reservations and ticketing infrastructure, but when Pacific Wings closed in 2015 the Jamestown airport had no reservations, ticketing or baggage agreements. Ticket counter sales were the only way to get tickets.

Pacific Wings’ closure, coupled with consolidation among major carriers and deconstruction of route hubs by United in Cleveland and then USAir in Pittsburgh meant air service providers in Jamestown lost connections to destinations from both Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

“Lacking code sharing or interline agreements, Sun Air and Southern Airways Express had little to offer Jamestown customers in the way of end-to-end flight assurances,” Borrello wrote. “These factors, coupled with an abysmal flight completion record between Jamestown and Pittsburgh, led to the precipitous decline in patronage from 2015 until termination of the EAS contract in January 2018.”

BORRELLO: WHY IT COULD WORK

Borrello was quick to tell federal officials that a return to pre-2015 ridership levels isn’t guaranteed. But, he wrote, the county could do well with Boutique Air since it has an airline that has an established and fully integrated codeshare agreement with United Airlines, an expanded flight schedule that helps people arrive in Pittsburgh earlier and return to Jamestown later in the day, low ticket prices, a nicer plane and an improving local business climate.

“The local business climate is healthy with notable growth in the tourism sector; demand for commercial air service continues to grow incrementally with opening of the National Comedy Center, expanded programs at Chautauqua Institute and Chautauqua Harbor Hotel/resort,” Borrello wrote.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.post-journal.com

Belarusian pilots stop in Billings, Montana, amid attempt at country's first flight around the world

Gary Blain, of Billings Flying Service, left, talks with Belarus pilots Aleander Tsenter and Andrey Borisevich about their around-the-world flight during a stop in Billings, Montana, Thursday night.



Billings may well find itself a part of Belarusian history after two pilots seeking to be the first from their small nation to fly around the world touched down Thursday night at the private hangars west of the airport. 

Gary Blain of Billings Flying Service, an aircraft contracting and service company in Billings, recently met pilots Alexander Tsenter and Andrey Borisevich while on business in Seattle. After hearing of their journey and their need for impending plane repairs, he invited them to Billings for a tuneup on their Cessna 182 single engine plane. 

The plane landed shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday night before it was pushed by hand into the Billings Flying Service fixed wing aircraft hangar. 

Attempting the worldwide flight and making history for his small central European nation is a matter of "honor," Tsenter said, and an adventure that required extensive planning. 

The fuel budget alone is $15,000, he said. 

Opening a tube and unfurling a map marking their course, Tsenter explained that for a year he, Borisevich and another team member worked to negotiate permission to pass through Russian airspace. 

A landlocked country of about 10 million people, Belarus is bordered to the south by Ukraine, the west by Poland, the north by Lithuania and Latvia, and to the east by Russia. 


Belarus pilots Aleander Tsenter and Andrey Borisevich point out Russian stamps and signatures on a log of their around-the-world flight during a stop in Billings, Montana, Thursday night.


On August 18, Tsenter and Borisevich took off from the Belarusian capital of Minsk and began their journey headed directly toward their eastern neighbor.

Russian air traffic control would often demand their estimated distance from three points ahead. As the pair flew further and further to the east, eventually ranging into remote Siberian country, those locations — small villages and local landmarks — sometimes weren't even on the maps they carried. 

Flying over such remote areas made cellphone service oftentimes impossible to find, complicating their attempt to notify U.S. officials of their impending arrival in Alaska as they crossed the Bering Strait. When they finally reached Nome, Alaska, it may have been the first time a plane with the Belarusian tail numbers EW, or "echo whiskey," had come to the United States, Tsenter said.

The pilots said they've been averaging 800 miles and more than 7 hours per flight. Some days they said they'd land around midnight and grab as much sleep as they could before waking up early in the morning to prepare for the next flight.

In order to make up for the Cessna's fuel capacity, Tsenter said they purchased a special rubber fuel bladder from Australia and installed it inside the back seat area, allowing them to nearly double the amount of fuel they carry. 

Tsenter said they've sent barrels of gasoline to projected landing points ahead of their trip.

The two are longtime friends and said they've gotten along fine so far during the trip, despite the long hours.

Along the left side of the plane's body are the stenciled outlines of the 10 countries where their trip will take them. Each time they make it to a new nation, the outlines are covered with full-color decals of that nation's flag. The United States is the most recent. The last outline is for the Swedish flag. 

"Two main impressions," Tsenter said. "Land and people. Land from above, and people on the ground." 

People they've met along the way have been curious but mostly friendly, he said, leading to "wonderful discussions" but sometimes "thousands of questions." 

Overall though, "they help us as much as possible," he said. 

They've asked people to stamp their map and write messages and well-wishes. The margins of their flight log are beginning to fill in with the handwritten notes.

Tsenter spoke excitedly of the beauty and majesty of the landscapes they've passed over, from Lake Baikal in eastern Russia (the largest freshwater lake in the world), to the mountains throughout Alaska and Idaho. 

"I think it's a unique chance to understand the size of our planet," Tsenter said. He's hoping their flight will inspire other Belarusians, especially younger ones, to participate in air sports and aviation.

The pair have connected their GPS to a website that pings their location and Belarusians have been following their journey online and on TV, Tsenter said.

For updates on Tsenter and Borisevich's journey, check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/letim.by. 

Original article can be found here ➤ https://billingsgazette.com