Sunday, January 27, 2019

Piper PA-32RT-300T, owned by Stew Industries LLC and operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight, N39650: Accident occurred January 27, 2019 near Austin Executive Airport (KEDC), Texas

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

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Austin, TX
Accident Number: CEN19LA076
Date & Time: 01/27/2019, 1514 CST
Registration: N39650
Aircraft: Piper PA32RT
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On January 27, 2019, at 1514 central daylight time, a Piper PA-32RT-300T airplane, N39650, suffered a loss of engine power resulting an off-field landing and collision with a parked vehicle near Austin, Texas. The pilot received minor injuries and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was owned by Stew Industries, LLC. and was being operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and the flight was not operated on a flight plan. The flight originated from the Austin Executive Airport (EDC), Austin, Texas, with an intended destination of Taylor Municipal Airport (T74), Taylor, Texas.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N39650
Model/Series: PA32RT 300T
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: edc
Observation Time: 1515 CST
Distance from Accident Site:
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / -1°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Unknown
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm / ,
Lowest Ceiling: Unknown
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.94 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point:

Wreckage and Impact Information

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

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) — A pilot of a small plane was forced to do a crash landing in Pflugerville shortly after taking off from Austin Executive Airport Sunday afternoon.

Austin-Travis County EMS first tweeted about the crash that happened around the area of 5500 Pleasanton Parkway just before 3:30 p.m. The area is just east of State Highway 130.

One person was on board and had minor injuries. 

A spokesperson with the Texas Department of Public Safety said the pilot took off from Austin Executive Airport, but the reason for the abrupt landing is unknown.

It landed in a residential area and hit a parked car, a spokesperson with the Federal Aviation Administration said. 

The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the situation.

Story and video ➤

Department of Natural Resources to fly elk surveys in northwest Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will begin conducting aerial elk surveys starting the first week of February, weather permitting, in the Kittson County and Grygla elk ranges in northwest Minnesota. The flights are conducted annually during winter.

"We will begin surveys once we receive several inches of new snow to help improve our ability to see elk," said Doug Franke, area wildlife manager for the DNR in Thief River Falls. "Our goal would be to conduct the surveys during the first two weeks of February."

DNR pilots will use airplanes that fly low-level surveys during daylight hours at an altitude of approximately 200 to 300 feet.

The DNR this year might forgo surveying the so-called "border herd" near Caribou Township in northeast Kittson County unless Manitoba decides to fly at the same time, Franke said. Unless both jurisdictions fly, the results aren't reliable because the herd routinely travels between Minnesota and Manitoba.

Last year, for example, the DNR tallied only seven elk on the U.S. side of the border while Canadian officials flying the same day counted 126 elk. In 2017, the DNR counted only one border herd elk on the Minnesota side of the border.

"It's just too unreliable" if the Canadians don't fly, Franke said. "The elk in Minnesota have been at such a low number during the day the last couple of years. They've been hanging out in Canada just across the border."

The DNR again is asking for help from anyone with recent elk sightings in their area. Report sightings to the following local DNR offices:

• Karlstad area wildlife office, (218) 436-2427.

• Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area, (218) 222-3747.

• Thief River Falls area wildlife office, (218) 681-0946.

Last year's survey tallied 97 elk in Minnesota elk range, up from 79 in 2017 and 83 in 2016. That's not a particularly meaningful number because northwest Minnesota has three distinct elk herds: The Grygla herd, the Kittson Central herd near Lancaster, Minn., and the border herd.

Questions about survey flights should be directed to the northwest regional wildlife office in Bemidji at (218) 308-2680 or Thief River Falls area wildlife office at (218) 681-0946.

Original article ➤

Delaware State University receives funding for new planes

The state is helping Delaware State University purchase new airplanes.

DSU is receiving $3.4 million from Delaware’s Higher Education Economic Development Fund—a competitive grant program also available to the University of Delaware and Delaware Tech.

DSU is using the money to upgrade its flight school. It will replace its 11 Piper Warrior airplanes from the 1970s with 10 Vulcanair V1 single-engine aircrafts and one twin-engine Piper Seminole.

Retired Army Lt. Colonel and DSU Aviation Program Director Michael Hales says this is a game-changer for students looking to move from the school’s  program to jobs as professional pilots.

“It’s a training aircraft that has a fully electronic cockpit avionics and so we refer to that as a glass cockpit. The kind of instrumentation that is in the aircraft is typical of what you see in an airliner, just not as expensive,” said Hales.

Hales says DSU is getting a deal on the aircraft and the first planes will be at the University in April.

Hales adds the university has also approved the program to expand its fleet to 20 planes by 2028

“And that is a capacity game-changer for us because then it allows the aviation program to steadily grow to meet the demands that this pilot shortage that is going on has produced,” said Hales

He notes the university could now have an opportunity to become the first ever service center in the United States for Vulcanair,which is based in Italy.

Story and audio ➤

Ice causes closure of Presque Isle International Airport (KPQI)

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine - Ice is to blame for the closure of the Presque Isle International Airport. Kathy McCarty spoke with the airport manager to find out what's being done to resolve the problem.

It wasn't Sunday's snow storm that created havoc at the airport, but rather the rain that made for icing conditions on Thursday.

"About 6 p.m. last night we had to close the airport. We did attempt to remove the ice by applying deicing chemical about 9 p.m. last night, and with all of the heavy rain, it simply just washed the chemical away without having any effect at all."

That required the airport to remain closed until 4 a.m. By that time, the rain had stopped and all of the water had turned to ice. This allowed officials to upgrade the rating for runway conditions, allowing some aircraft to land and take off. Scott Wardwell is manager of the airport. He says the Federal Aviation Administration regulates flights, based on runway conditions.

"That's enough for the Fed-Ex and UPS aircraft to operate but is not safe enough for passenger traffic."

Wardwell says last year the airport was closed several times due to conditions, something they've worked hard to address.

"We've mitigated that some with the runway chemical but certainly with heavy showers it minimizes the amount of chemical - the effect that that has. We actually applied over a thousand gallons to the runway."

Efforts continued Friday to remove the ice to enable aircraft to land safely.

"We've applied more chemical. We've scraped it, we've broomed it. It - with the sun especially, it seems to be loosening up. But as of 1 o'clock this afternoon, we're still - we're still fighting."

Wardwell says under FAA guidelines, they're not allowed to have more than 25 percent ice on the runway. They're getting close to that. He's anticipating cleanup will be far enough along to allow the arrival of tonight's scheduled flight, but safety is the top priority.

Story and video ➤

Trading a tractor for an airplane

At 63, Tom Hassenfritz of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa traded a tractor for an airplane.

The flight instructor asked Tom what he would do if he was going in for a landing and there was a horse in the middle of the runway. Tom thought for a moment and replied, “Well, I guess I'd do a go-around. The instructor said, “You'd better do it, because there is a horse on the runway.”

That was 40 years ago. Tom Hassenfritz of Mt. Pleasant was taking his in-flight test for a pilot's license at Hannibal, Mo. Tom received his pilot's license and bought a Cessna 182. But as his family grew, he became immersed in his farm implement business. When he found out what his life insurance was going to cost with a pilot's license, he decided it might be time to sell the airplane. Which he did.

Fast forward to this year. Tom is a wheeler-dealer in the farm implement business and has been known to trade motorcycles and snowmobiles for tractors. A customer of Tom's owned a 1976 Cessna 172M. Because of health issues, the customer couldn't fly anymore. Tom thought, “Hmm, maybe I could fly again.” Pilot's licenses never expire. Presto-changeo, Tom traded a tractor for an airplane. It even came with a spare engine.

The airplane was in Burlington and Tom lives in Mt. Pleasant. Tom was under the impression that all he would have to do would be to put some gas in the airplane and fly it to Mt. Pleasant. Wrong. The airplane hadn't been flown in two years and needed to have an annual inspection. It was finally impressed upon Tom that this was an airplane, not a tractor.

The inspections were done and Tom passed his pilot's physical. He looked up his old flight instructor and brushed up on his flying skills. There was no horse on the runway this time.

On his first solo flight, Tom sat at the end of the runway and asked himself, “Do I really want to do this?” A saying kept going through his head, “Takeoffs are optional, landings are mandatory.” He held his breath and went for it.

The only problem was there was fresh snow on the ground, and everything looked different—he lost his perspective. His inclination was to panic, like when you have a scuba mask on and can't breathe. But he kept his composure and made it back to the airport safely. “Wing to the wind, rudder to the runway,” he told himself.

From that point on, his skill set returned. “Heck, flying is like riding a bike,” Tom thought. “You never forget.”

Tom would like to do one of three things: if the right person comes along, he will sell the airplane. Or, if the right person comes along he will form a club to share expenses. If no one comes along, he will keep the airplane.

It's the exhilaration of flying, up there above everything, looking down, the feeling of freedom, working with that edge, maybe, that he and most pilots love. Tom never rides in a big commercial aircraft without being in awe that it can even fly.

He invested in a GoPro, installed it on the dash of the Cessna, and studies his takeoffs and landings. According to his logbook, he's been up 20 times. Tom has plans to visit his brother in Minneapolis, his daughter in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and maybe even his sisters in Florida. Gulp.

During slow times at work, Tom calls the recorded airport message just to hear the voice. “Mt. Pleasant Municipal Airport Automated Weather Observation: One-niner-two-two, zulu, weather: wind calm, visibility one, drizzle, ceiling 600, overcast, temperature: one Celsius, dew point zero, altimeter two-niner-niner-two.”

“Shoot,” Toms says to no one, “It's too crappy to fly.

Original article can be found here ➤

Officials conducting low-altitude flights above Atlanta, Georgia

ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - If you see low-flying helicopters over downtown Atlanta in the days before the Super Bowl, officials say you don't need to worry. It's a planned part of security.

The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration will be conducting the flights over downtown Atlanta and Buckhead January 28th and 29th as well as Super Bowl Sunday.

The flights are designed to measure, "naturally occurring background radiation" so that authorities can "establish baseline levels," officials said.

The helicopters are equipped with radiation-sensing technology and will be flying over the city in areas of 150 feet or higher in a grid pattern.

The flights should happen only during the day and officials estimate they will take around three hours per area. 

Original article can be found here ➤

Zemarcuis Scott: Famous Dex Says He'll Pay Fines, Court Fees and More For Fan Who Tried To Steal A Plane

Last month, a very very dedicated fan who previously tried to steal a plane to go see Famous Dex in concert got sentenced to five years of felony probation. Since the news went viral based on Zemarcuis Scott's crazy stunt, obviously Famous Dex got word of the fan dedication and told TMZ how he plans on doing something about it.

"Nowadays the internet there's so much bullcrap that I thought it was fake," Famous, born Dexter Gore Jr., told the publication. "It was really real. That being said, I'mma fly him out. I'mma put him in the nicest, biggest hotel in LA. I'mma get him, no tickets to the show, but he's gon' stand next to my DJ. So that means he's gon' come in with me. I'mma fly him out to LA and take him shopping."

Read more here ➤

TEXARKANA -- An 18-year-old man arrested July 4th after attempting to steal a commercial jet to fly to a rap concert pleaded guilty Thursday and received a five-year term of felony probation.

Zemarcuis Scott appeared before Circuit Judge Carlton Jones late Thursday afternoon with Managing Public Defender Jason Mitchell and pleaded guilty to attempted theft of property and commercial burglary.

Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Black said Scott received five years of probation on each charge, to run concurrently. Scott must pay a $1,000 fine, court costs and participate in any mental health treatment deemed necessary by the probation department. Black said Scott is not allowed on Texarkana Regional Airport property while he's on probation.

Scott intended to take an American Eagle twin-engine jet from Texarkana Regional Airport in the early hours of Independence Day to see rapper Famous Dex perform in Illinois, according to a probable cause affidavit and psychological evaluation report.

Airport security personnel had noticed Scott jump a fence onto the property about 2:30 a.m. and immediately called police.

When Texarkana police officers arrived, Scott was sitting in the pilot's seat of the small commercial plane.

Scott told investigators that he wasn't concerned about his lack of training as a pilot and believed that operating the aircraft was just a matter of pulling levers and pushing buttons.

He also told investigators that he had been thinking about stealing a plane for about a month and had been watching the twin-engine jet since 10 p.m. July 3rd.

At a hearing in August at which Scott pleaded innocent to attempted commercial burglary and attempted theft of property, Mitchell asked the court to order a mental evaluation for Scott to determine if he was competent to stand trial.

In a report filed December 21st in Miller County, a psychologist with Southwest Arkansas Counseling and Mental Health Center found that Scott is competent.

Original article ➤

Reading Regional Airport (KRDG) raises landing fees: The board also reorganized and got a briefing on its priorities for the year

Bern Township, Pennsylvania - The Reading Regional Airport Authority approved an increase in its landing fees Tuesday, raising them to $1.50 per 1,000 pounds of maximum takeoff weight, up from 83 cents. Raising landing fees came up in October, during a discussion of a looming fiscal crisis driven by the authority's debt.

Terry Sroka, airport manager, also identified priorities for this year, which included: continuing the taxiway "C" extension; the $2.4 million repair of the west and north aprons, currently in the design phase; repair of the terminal apron and parking lot, with a $552,750 state grant funding the latter; and the need to acquire airfield maintenance equipment.

The authority also reorganized, reinstating its leadership team: Michael Setley as chairman; Randall Swan, vice chairman; Edwin Stock, solicitor; and Herbein + Co. Inc., auditor. Meetings will continue to be on the third Tuesday of each month at 9 a.m.

In other business:

The airport hosted a seminar on drones in its terminal on January 24th to educate owners of unmanned aircraft systems on federal regulations regarding their use near an airport. It addressed safety tips and answer common questions.

The session was held because the Federal Aviation Administration requires licenses to fly drones and few owners know enough about the regulations. Although a few pilots have reported seeing drones near the airport, the authority offered the seminar to be proactive before an incident occurs, Sroka said.

The Mid Atlantic Air Museum has asked for 10 acres for overflow parking on airport grounds during its World War II Weekend, scheduled for the weekend of June 7-9. Event parking is shifting to the nearby fairgrounds this year, with 10 acres inside the fence near the old GPU building serving as overflow, Russ Strine, the museum's president, said in a phone interview.

Sroka said he is working with the FAA on runway approach and taxiway clearances with this in mind. The new parking area must be fenced and staffed with security. The museum also will have to increase its liability insurance, Sroka said.

Roxanne McMurtry of Herbein reported that the authority had "a very successful audit," receiving the highest rating given. There were no findings or issues in the audit. There are not many variances in expenses and the airport runs close to its budget, but it is facing a loss of $1.9 million.

Original article can be found here ➤

Business Spotlight: Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing

Although Adams County, North Dakota, seems like cow country, one company connects it to the rest of the world. Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing, or KMM, is an aerospace manufacturing company that produces wire harnesses, circuit cards, and fiber optic assemblies which contribute to a global market.

KMM’s manufacturing plants help contribute parts to both commercial transport airplanes and national defense aircraft. One of KMM’s first contracts was manufacturing the wire harness for the McDonnel Douglas F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft. Since their first contracts, they have since broadened their manufacturing to making components for commercial planes like Boeing 737, which is used for domestic flights and the Boeing 777, which is more suitable for intercontinental flights.

According to spokesperson Kristin Hedger, KMM was founded in 1987 in troubled times.

“It was at a time when Killdeer was struggling, the price of oil was down, and there was a significant drought in the region,” said Hedger, “There were a lot of people losing their farms and ranches and also access to health insurance and benefits was limited.”

During this time, after having returned from working in the aerospace industry, KMM founder Don Hedger wanted to facilitate opportunity for western North Dakotans and opened KMM. 

Since its founding in 1987, KMM has grown to employ over 370 people, with more than 30 working in Hettinger. 

Over 30 years later, KMM has contracts with major aerospace and defense contractors like Boeing, Lockheed Martin Corp, Raytheon, and many more.

According to Hedger, KMM’s company growth is what brought it to Hettinger.

“I think our state is one that empowers small businesses that are growth oriented and passionate about providing opportunities for North Dakotans,” said Hedger, “KMM provides a great opportunity for individuals who are passionate about the aerospace realm. Really the sky is the limit and I don’t mean any pun intended.”

KMM offers on the job training and a local supply chain that serves aerospace companies in the United States and all over the world. According to Hedger, to work at KMM a person only needs commitment to excellence and training will be offered, especially in entry-level positions.

“… It is truly global in that we compete across the world. It really is a global opportunity for North Dakotans who want to excel,” said Hedger.

In a time where many manufacturing jobs compete on a global scale, it’s difficult to keep jobs within the United States. Hedger said it was KMM’s quality product that keeps it competitive in a global market.

“It really begins with our mission statement, ‘customer satisfaction begins with a quality product,’” said Hedger. “Our company recognizes that in aerospace and especially defense, we have to ensure that our products work the first time, every time and that they are delivered on time.”

According to Hedger, it’s North Dakotan’s commitment to family, community, and country that sets KMM apart from other competitors.

“Our Customers really value that we are able to go the extra mile to meet a deadline or unexpected change,” Hedger continued, “North Dakotan’s help our neighbors and I think that we bring that to the table when we help our customers as well.

KMM’s stable presence provides an economic backbone for small towns in rural North Dakota. While many jobs are switching over to the tech sector in places like Silicon Valley, California, manufacturing jobs are still able to thrive in rural America thanks to a strong mid-western work ethic. 

Original article ➤

After grounding all flights, California Pacific Airlines now faces lawsuit

CARLSBAD, California - After grounding all flights to repair their aging fleet of planes amid a so-called pilot shortage, California Pacific Airlines is now facing a lawsuit from a former mechanic.

The lawsuit alleges the mechanic warned his superiors that one of CPA’s jets had issues with lubrication and, in his estimation, “is not safe to fly and is a serious flight risk.”

He brought his concerns forward despite feeling “immense pressure to remain quiet,” according to the lawsuit.

He claims his warning was ignored and the plane remained in operation. Two days later, he says he was fired after having received an angry text from one of his superiors.

10News reached out to CPA’s founder, Ted Vallas, but has not received a response.

Meantime, an employee who did not want to be named told 10News that he has been furloughed indefinitely. He said he was supposed to get paid on January 15th, but has not received his check yet.

In an interview with 10News in early January, Vallas said they were hoping to resume flights in February.

But their booking website remains closed and the employee says they have received no word from managers if, or when, they would ever be coming back to work.

Original article can be found here ➤

Big names in aviation come to support ‘Rutan Field’ name addition at Mojave Air and Space Port (KMHV)

Scaled Composites President Ben Diachun lending support to Rutan Field name addition at MASP Board meeting January 15, 2019.

MOJAVE — Last Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Board of Directors of Mojave Air and Space Port was a virtual who’s who of the modern rocket and aviation world found on campus at the iconic Spaceport in Mojave, all of whom turned out to support an initiative to add “Rutan Field” to the legendary airport/spaceport’s famous name.

The concept is to honor of two of its original and most famous modern residents: American aviation genius Burt Rutan, who founded The Rutan Aircraft Factory in 1974 at MASP, and then Scaled Composites in 1982; and brother Dick Rutan, American legendary pilot, American veteran, and record setting aviator. And the rest is aviation history.

Among Burt’s accomplishments, as listed by Wikipedia, he is “noted for his originality in designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft. He designed the record-breaking Voyager, which in 1986 was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling, and the sub-orbital spaceplane SpaceShipOne, which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004 for becoming the first privately funded spacecraft to enter the realm of space twice within a two-week period. With his VariEze and Long-EZ designs, Rutan is responsible for helping popularize both the canard configuration and the use of moldless composite construction in the homebuilt aircraft industry.

Zack Reeder - Test pilot for Scaled Composites on hand to lend support for Rutan Field name addition at MASP Board meeting January 15, 2019.

“He has designed 46 aircraft throughout his career, been the co-recipient of the Collier Trophy on two separate occasions, received six honorary doctoral degrees, and has won over 100 different awards for aerospace design and development. Rutan has five aircraft on display in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., United States: SpaceShipOne, the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, Voyager, Quickie, and the VariEze.”

In short, the Rutanas are American treasures, and most of Burt’s and Dick’s accomplishments, records set, close calls, failures, and victories, happened at the Mojave Air and Space Port. To recognize this rich history and to acknowledge their contributions to the iconic airport (the world’s first “Spaceport”), two of its biggest supporters, Cory Bird and Cathy Hansen, came up with the idea to add the Rutan name to the airport officially.

Bird is the Scaled Composites Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, who has been with Scaled over 28 years now, and Hansen of Mojave Transportation Museum is the founder and force behind the monthly Plane Crazy Saturdays events (hosted the third Saturday of every month) where special guest aviators and even astronauts stop by to give lectures on all things that fly, while outside Voyager Restaurant planes of all kinds are parked out on the tarmac for guests to look over and take pictures of. Admission is always free.

First Commercial Astronaut (SpaceShipOne) and longtime Rutan Test Pilot Mike Melvill on hand to lend support for 'Rutan Field' name addition at MASP Board meeting January 15, 2019.

They came up with “Rutan Field,” and proposed it to MASP GM/CEO Karina Drees and two members of the Board, asking that they add the name officially.

On hand at Tuesday’s meeting to support the idea was Mike Melvill, the world’s first commercial astronaut, who was named Rutan’s test pilot in 1982 and was one of the test pilots of SpaceShipOne. He also flew around the world with Dick Rutan in 80 nights, flying two Long Exes of Burt’s design. The flight was called “The Spirit of EAA Friendship Tour.”

Also on hand in support was Zack Reeder, who is a test pilot for Scaled Composites since 2015, and been with the company for almost 14 years. The current President of Scaled Composites, Ben Diachun, also lent his support suggesting ways in which MASP could benefit from the use of the now well-established “Rutan Brand.”

The board room was packed with supporters of the idea, and the newly shuffled Board of Directors, just sworn in minutes before this idea came before them, promised to seek a way to accomplish the name addition, bringing it back on agenda for their next meeting, where the concept could then be approved and the name addition move forward. Mojave Air and Space Port — Rutan Field, or Rutan Field — Mojave Air and Space Port. It is now is in the hands of the Board and Administration.

As mentioned above, the Board of Directors of MASP did their annual shuffling of the Board, as with one motion, all existing members merely switched positions, with Andrew Parker becoming the Chairman, formerly held by David Evans, who is now Treasurer. Vice Chairman is now Bill Deaver, with Jim Ballantine becoming Secretary and Director Allred remaining in his current position.

Mentioned during the meeting in relation to the Rutans was last week’s successful first runway test of Stratolaunch, the concept of late founder Paul Allen, with whom Burt partnered developing a new “Air Launch to Orbit” system, and who was the sole sponsor of SpaceShipOne. During the test run, the front wheels of the “World’s largest aircraft” lift vehicle got off the ground. More tests are forthcoming.

Hansen mentioned the upcoming Plane Crazy on Saturday, Jan. 19, where PCS would be celebrating its 10th anniversary hosting the event at MASP! Special guest speaker was Joe Biviano, who was recently awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot award by the FAA. He was to speaking on the effects of age on piloting.

Original article can be found here ➤

Marines and Seabees are camped out on Catalina Island, repairing decaying runway at Catalina Airport (KAVX)

CATALINA ISLAND — For more than two weeks Capt. Nicole Stockham has overseen a company of Marines and more than a dozen Navy Seabees tasked with rebuilding a decaying, 77-year-old runway at Channel Island’s Airport in the Sky.

The Marines and Seabees are living in tents near the airport nestled in the hilly interior high on the island. The only access is a winding narrow road bordered in places by eucalyptus trees that act as barriers to steep drop-offs. There are dramatic views of the town of Avalon, which draws 1 million tourists annually, and the Pacific Ocean.

Each day about 100 Marines — combat engineers, heavy equipment operators and surveyors — start at sunrise, go to a  briefing, grab chow and get to work on the 3,000-foot runway. Their mission: to build a new runway guaranteed to last at least 70 years. The project is expected to be completed by the end of March.

“I’m very happy and proud of the Marines and what they’re doing,” said Stockham.

The Marine and Navy encampment is similar to an operating base typically used during worldwide deployments or on humanitarian aid missions. Tents are filled with cots, there’s a chow hall, there are power generators, maintenance facilities and communication systems.

Since early January, about 100 Marines and 14 sailors (Seabees) have worked on the runway. They have excavated earth, surveyed the site and prepared forms for concrete-pouring.

By Friday, Jan. 25, five large concrete slabs had been poured, with 119 more to go. The effort by the Marines and Seabees is a first in California and critical to Catalina Island and its public airport.

“This allows us to partner with the community and do something extremely helpful,” said Lt. Col. Duncan Buchanan, with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which commands the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and the Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 working on the project. “This will allow them to use the runway for years to come. This is the first time a Marine Corps unit in recent memory has built a runway in California.”

Win-win project

The runway project, a public/private partnership between the Marines Corps, the U.S. Navy and the Catalina Island Conservancy, is a win-win. The $5 million project began with 500 tons of equipment being delivered in mid-December and troops coming over on Jan. 2. The program is part of the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training Program and matches community needs with military training opportunities.

For the conservancy, one of the state’s oldest land trusts, the project saves the island’s runway. Over the years, it has required frequent patching costing the conservancy about $250,000 a year. In September, the California Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division told the conservancy that it needed a long-term repair plan to continue to operate the airport as a public airport.

For the Marine Corps, officials say the partnership provides a unique opportunity to plan, train and deploy Marines to execute a construction mission that tests critical skills. The Marines, expert at working with concrete, are being supported by the Navy Seabees, who typically are tasked with construction work such as facilities, schools, hospitals and on bases. Some Marines involved in the project will go on to construction projects at 29 Palms or overseas.

“This is extremely important,” said  Lt. Col. James Bauch, commanding officer of the MWSS-373. “We work with concrete but what we do tend to do are smaller projects. Some Marines here were in Iraq and Afghanistan and used concrete to fix craters on runways to support operations against ISIS.”

These expeditionary runways typically include leveling dirt and laying interlocking metal planks. The runways and airfields are temporary.

“We looked at this project and our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and realized we need more experience with concrete to support Marine aviation,” Bauch added.

The project is also providing an opportunity for the Marines and Seabees to collaborate using their various specialties.

“These are all citizen soldiers,” Bauch said. “They are all direct representatives of our society and every single part of the country. It’s how they come together, maintain a sense of humor and get the mission done.”

The airport’s history

Catalina’s airport was built in 1941 by William Wrigley. It was carved out of the surrounding landscape by leveling two mountaintops and filling in the remaining canyon to create the main runway. The airport got its name from its location as one of Catalina’s highest points, an elevation of 1,602 feet.

During World War II, the airfield and the island were leased to the U.S. government to serve as a front line in the defense of the nation’s West Coast. The Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner to today’s CIA, used the island as a secret training base for intelligence agents, and the airport’s runway was covered with debris so enemy aircraft would not be able to use it as a base.

After the war, the airport was opened for public access in 1946. The conservancy took ownership and responsibility for the airport’s operations in 1972, and has managed it as a general aviation airport, said Tony Budrovich, Catalina Island Conservancy president and CEO.

More than 7,000 flights come into the airport each year, about 30 percent of those providing mail service and FedEx and UPS deliveries to the island’s 4,000 year-round residents. The island also is a popular tourist spot.

Officials closed the main runway on Monday, Dec. 10. Only a limited number of flights are allowed to land on an alternate runway.
The idea for the project

The joint rebuild project began more than two years ago with an idea from a Navy pilot, who was flying his own aircraft on his day off and landed at the airport.

“He said this runway has a lot of years on it,” Budrovich said. “And asked if we had ever considered a partnership with the Navy.”

The conservancy talked to the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps about the project and for the next 18 months, the conservancy worked with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Navy personnel and the I Marine Expeditionary Force to develop the plan.

“They loved what they’re getting and we loved what we’re getting,” Budrovich said.

In the encampment

Navy Seabee Lt. Michael Brown, a Navy reservist, was overseeing the Marines’ work on Friday.

“When you go overseas, it’s harder to get resources,” he said, explaining the 500 tons of equipment, trucks and supplies that traveled from Miramar by caravan to the Port of Los Angeles and then over to Two Harbors, from where they were trucked up the steep and narrow winding roadway.

“On an island, it’s much more limited and mimics environments that are not here in the U.S,” he said.

Brown, who works as a mechanical engineer for Siemens in Allegany, N.Y., explained that he and other Seabees, familiar with construction, are helping the Marines who are not as familiar with the scale of this project.

Recent rain, along with cold temperatures and fog have made the work more challenging.

“It was cold and the wind was slapping the tent all night,” he said. “There have been times where there’s been a constant fog and it chills you to the bone. I came here thinking I’m going to an island in the Pacific and it will be warm and I brought jeans and T-shirts but every night I put on my fleece. Up here, there’s no wind block.”

He also got a chance to take in a bit of the island, including visits to Avalon where he checked out shops, the museum and the casino. While there he also met locals.

“It’s been amazing how when we’re walking around they come right up to us and thank us and are appreciative of what we’ve been doing,” Brown said.

For Stockham, who has deployed to Afghanistan, the project has been a valuable tool to teach her Marines about future deployments.

“One of the good things about this concrete project of this scale is that all the Marines get their hands in it,” she said. “Having several days in a row and seeing the whole process work rather than doing a tiny skill is a huge takeaway from this.”

This deployment, she said, ranks among the best she’s experienced.

“We have fresh fruit, hot meals and showers,” she said. “My morning commute, I walk out of my tent and go to the next tent. There’s no drive.”

Story and photo gallery ➤

CATALINA, California  (KABC) --  U.S. Marines and Navy Seabees have taken over the Airport in the Sky on Catalina Island, living on the grounds for three-and-a-half months.

They're not training for combat, but instead rebuilding the runway.

"This is a great opportunity for the Marines. We're used to working on expeditionary runways, filling potholes of that nature. We're creating a 3,000-foot-long runway, 60 feet wide, 5 inches deep. When you look at situations around the world like the earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami that wiped out the runway, it's an opportunity for Marines to get better at flexing our humanitarian muscle," said Zachary Bodner, a Marine working on the Catalina runway project.

The project is also a huge win for the airport's aging runway.

The Airport in the Sky is an important part of Catalina's infrastructure, supporting the 4,000 full-time residents, 1 million visitors, and 2 million pounds of freight that pass through. The runway sees 14,000 takeoffs and landings a year.

"We found that they had a unique need. They needed to have practice and experience building a runway which they had not done since the '60s in a complete form and we had a need to rebuild our runway," said Tony Budrovich, the president and CEO of the Catalina Island Conservancy.

Budrovich says all of the island's mail and overnight deliveries pass through the airport. The new runway is expected to last up to 75 years.

"When the Marines got involved, we narrowed this project to a 3.5-month project. When we were talking to outside contractors we were talking a year so we're very proud of this relationship we have working with the Marines and Navy Seabees and the efficiency with which they can do work," said Budrovich.

While the project is underway, the runway is only open to commercial aircraft. Private aircraft will be able to land again on Catalina in April.

Story and video ➤

Flying Dot Org Inc: Aviation school ready to take flight as pilot shortage grows co-founder Melissa Pensiero tours John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport’s main hangar Friday, January 25, 2019, with Nulton Aviation General Manager Mark Monroe (left) and airport manager Thomas Keyes.

Chad and Melissa Pensiero want young people considering career paths to know the sky is the limit.

The Somerset County natives have launched, a nonprofit organization to promote interest in aviation-related careers and support training. 

“My husband and I have a vision,” Melissa Pensiero said. “We want to provide something worthwhile to kids to give them encouragement and get them into the exciting career of flying. It’s fun, it’s exciting and it can take you to a lot of different places.”

Chad Pensiero is a professional pilot for United Parcel Service. Last week, he was in Europe. 

“Our mission is to inform, enlighten and provide financial assistance to anybody who wants to pursue a career in aviation,” Melissa Pensiero said at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport.

A growing shortage of qualified pilots has airlines, air freight providers and industry leaders exploring new approaches to recruitment and training. Aircraft manufacturer Boeing estimates that 790,000 new civil aviation pilots, 754,000 maintenance technicians and 890,000 cabin crew will be needed over the next 20 years.

Many experienced pilots are reaching retirement age at a time when demand for aviation service is exploding. 

In the past, airlines and aviation businesses relied on former military pilots to fill their aircraft crews. But due to the use of drones and the military’s own recruiting challenges, there aren’t as many pilots in the military as there used to be, Melissa Pensiero said. 

“I don’t think kids look at aviation as a career,” she said. “They need the doors opened.” has leased a Johnstown airport hangar for its base of operations. Plans are to open an office there and display aviation information and equipment. 

Although the nonprofit may eventually get its own plane, Pensiero said there are no plans to start a flight school. expects to work closely with Nulton Aviation’s flight school and its partnerships with area colleges. 

Airlines and air cargo companies may step forward to support the local organization’s mission, she added. Lockheed, for instance, has developed an aviation-themed science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum that could bring to area elementary schools. 

At this month’s airport authority meeting, Chairman James Loncella said the mission of promoting aviation fits well with the authority’s push to expand the use of Johnstown’s airport. 

“The airport authority has been amazing,” Melissa Pensiero said. “This airport has such potential. Everybody wants to see it back in its glory.”

Original article can be found here ➤

Changing market, changing pitch at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (KPHF)

A changing market and a new sales pitch are sparking airline interest in Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, executive director Michael Giardino said after an invitation earlier this month to talk to a large, western U.S. regional carrier.

But that market change makes some of the airport’s past efforts to woo air service simply unrealistic, he told the Peninsula Airport Commission this week.

That means the discount carrier that airport officials had so long hoped would lure travelers from Richmond and South Hampton Roads probably isn’t in the cards.

Neither, Giardino said, is a direct connection to New York.

“New York is saturated,” he said. “And point-to-point opportunities for ultra low carriers have been picked off.”

In recent months, for instance, discount airlines have started or announced new services from Norfolk or Richmond to Nashville, Denver, Orlando, Sarasota, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

So these days, Giardino and his staff focus on boosting service from Newport News to hub airports.

Their pitch is simple, and has two basic parts.

First, a new study shows more than 4,000 Peninsula residents a day are driving to other airports to catch flights.

Second, the Peninsula’s strong and growing corporations generate a lot of business travel. Giardino said the airport in Rochester, N.Y., where he used to work, has boosted flights by 10 percent despite a sliding economy. So he said the Peninsula, with a shipyard that’s hiring and an economy powered by long-term government contracts, ought to be able to attract airlines.

That pitch won him a coveted invitation to that western U.S. carrier’s headquarters earlier this month. It’s one of several airline headquarters he’s been invited to in recent months, as airlines take a fresh look at Newport News.

That carrier — Giardino didn’t want to name it — operates more than 400 aircraft, and has built a more than 2,000 flights-a-day business in large part by running connecting services for three of the Big Four airlines.

At the same time, Giardino and his staff are pressing two of the Big Four, American and Delta, which already link Newport News to Atlanta, Charlotte and Philadelphia, to expand services and maybe add other hubs.

He’s been chasing United for connection to its hubs — “I’ll even talk to Southwest Airlines,” though it killed off Newport News’ connections to New York and Boston after it acquired AirTran in 2011, he said.

Giardino is meeting monthly with Elite Airways, which had hoped to operate a Newport News to New York service.

Elite canceled those plans out of concern that business would be hurt by controversy over the former airport administration’s use of public money to pay off debts of a failed start-up company, People Express. Elite proposed flights to Myrtle Beach last year, but never attracted enough interest to begin the service.

“They’re still very interested in us,” Giardino said. “We’re working on city pairings they might want to look at.”

The airport’s other big sales effort is local, tackling the impression that it costs more to fly from Newport News than other airports, marketing director Jessica Wharton said.

“We’re saying: ‘Check us first,’ ” she said, adding that fares out of Newport News are often lower than other nearby airports.

In fact, Giardino said the one time he’s paid more to fly from Newport News was to make that flight this month to pitch that western carrier.

Original article can be found here ➤

Aircraft Investors Should Be More Grounded: The uncomfortably low rents airlines pay for planes should be a red flag for investors

The Wall Street Journal 
By Jon Sindreu
Jan. 25, 2019 6:19 a.m. ET

Aircraft have been highfliers for investors over the past few years. Now, it looks like time for a landing.

With more airline passengers than ever globally, demand for planes has surged. Plane makers Boeing and Airbus have orders for the next seven to 10 years.

However, aircraft are now bought almost as much by leasing companies as airlines. The rise of lessors has been funded by the same flood of money that has lifted illiquid assets like leveraged loans, as money managers have hunted for better investment returns in a decade of ultralow interest rates.

The total return on asset-backed securities that use planes as collateral was 4.3% in 2018, compared with 2.2% for the ABS market as a whole, according to Citigroup. Issuance has hit all-time highs for two years running.

Cash-rich lessors have bid up planes so much that monthly rental payments as a share of the price paid for the popular Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A320-200 liners fell below 0.7% in 2018, according to aviation advisory firm IBA—a new low. Some deals are even happening at lease rates below 0.5%, people in the industry say.

This implies some lessors are losing money in an attempt to gain market share, no matter how cheaply they can borrow.

A red flag for investors is that some of these safe-looking securities have complex, tranched structures with opaque valuations. Cherry-picking optimistic aircraft appraisals has become common practice.

Also, the $55 billion market of unsecured debt used by lessors to buy planes will need to almost double to finance current order books, JPMorgan estimates.

Aircraft can seem a better way to invest in “real” assets than infrastructure or railways, because repossessing a plane and finding a buyer for it is relatively easy. This explains why lessors’ debt has performed well even during recent market wobbles.

Yet a plane becomes obsolete at a faster rate than a bridge. And at a time when airlines want younger fleets to save on fuel, older craft depreciate even faster.

Lessors have likely disguised some of these problems because they’ve been able to sell some of their planes to new entrants. But a global economic slowdown could leave them stuck with unprofitable aircraft on their books.

Even if a downturn isn’t on the horizon, the sector could be in for a reckoning. What was once the domain of a handful of big players like AerCap and GE Capital Aviation Services, levering insider knowledge of planes and airlines, is now a patchwork of 20 or so smaller lessors trading similar aircraft at ever lower margins. This gives airlines all the negotiating power.

At the Airfinance conference in Dublin a year ago, aviation old timer Adam Pilarski played the song “Everything is awesome”. At the same event this week, he had a different message: “It’s not going to be awesome this year, sorry.” While lease markets continue to play the song, investors should look at the horizon.

Original article can be found here ➤