Friday, April 09, 2021

We call it home: Loudon Airport, Cohoes, New York

Site of the old Loudon Airport: Driving along Route 9 north of the circle, an industrial park shows how the region has developed over the past several decades. There was a time when a small but very active airport hummed with activity.

To the Editor:

At the end of a dusty dead-end road stands a Quonset-hut type structure that is typical of the hangars of the 1940s and 1950s. The block building attached to the south side of the structure, facing the parking lot, is the office.  The time, late 1950s, early 1960s.

Inside the office, behind the linoleum-covered counter, are two desks — one with a schedule book; the other, a roll-top, is host to several logbooks. The top drawer of the adjacent filing cabinet serves as a cash box and also supports the Unicom radio used for aircraft advisories.

There’s a phone booth for outgoing and incoming calls. A soda machine selling soda for 10 cents a bottle.  An overstuffed couch, perfect for napping or sitting on while engaging in frequent hangar flying.

The two other doors in the office lead to the shop, used for aircraft repair, and of course the hangar itself.

Inside the hangar, large wooden laminated beams form the sides and roof of the structure. They are supported by a two-foot-high concrete foundation on three sides of the hangar.

On the east side of the hangar stands the manually operated hangar doors. The tracks for each door extend beyond the sides of the building. The doors require some serious maneuvering on windy days.

The open hangar doors face the main taxiway, which leads to the 2,200-foot north-south, grass and gravel runway. To the south end of this runway is the grass cover east-west runway of 1,800 feet.

The writing on the old wing sitting on its leading edge on the access road calls it “Loudon Aircraft.” The local residents call it Loudon Airport. The pilots call it home.

The summer finds us flying just for the fun of flying. There is also cross-country flying for those visiting other airports or the like, or gaining required experience for future pilot ratings.

Heavy rain falling on the metal hangar from seasonal thunderstorms is a sound not soon forgotten.

Fall brings a kaleidoscope of colors. Colors so vivid distraction from one’s flying is quite common.

Winters are fierce: high winds, deep snow, and bone-chilling cold. Outfitting one of the Cubs with a set of skis is a unique treat, particularly when making your own runway out of our snow-covered airport.

Spring brings with it another challenge: mud! Somewhat short of half of the north-south runway is all that is usable during the mud season.

Performing a cross-wind, short/soft field take-off was standard procedure. We became quite proficient landing crosswind on the very same runway. The usable width of the runway in spots was only 30 to 40 feet. After each landing, we would shut the airplane down and push it back into position for another take-off.

Sometimes we would work for hours just to get a couple of airplanes into the air.

There is the camaraderie, friendship, and love of flying — a common bond that is hard to explain and even harder to resist.

This small airport produced many pilots, from private up to and including advanced flight instructors.  Many of us pursued aviation careers as corporate and airline pilots as well as master mechanics and fixed base operators, a tribute to our heritage.

Loudon was closed in 1968. Loudon, as with many other similar airports, has made considerable contributions that help make aviation what it is today.  

We owe much to these small airports and to the people who made them happen.

E.A. Chevrette Jr.

Editor’s note: E.A. Chevrette Jr. is the author of the book, “Wings of Fortune: Personal Tales from the ‘Golden Age of General Aviation.’”

Cape Air getting new fleet of commuter planes for Montana

Cape Air, which services seven flights from Billings to rural Eastern Montana, is adding a new model of commuter airplane to replace the airline's aging fleet of Cessnas.

Friday will see the first flight in Montana on the new Tecnam P2012 Travellers on a trip from Wolf Point to Billings.

The new Tecnam P2012 Traveller is a short-haul airplane meant for the type of quick commuter flights Cape Air offers. The Essential Air Service routes are designed to connect rural communities to larger hubs and are heavily subsidized by the federal government. 

Manufacturing of the Cessnas was discontinued in 1985, making it overdue for an upgrade, said Erin Hatzell, managing director of marketing and public relations with Cape Air.

Most airplanes in that category, 9-passenger commuter planes, are more than 35 years old and no longer in production, Hatzell said. This will be the first new model of its category in nearly four decades, she added.

About a 10 years ago, Cape Air began a partnership with Tecnam, an Italian airplane manufacturer, to design the new commuter plane. 

In February 2020, Cape Air flew the first commercial flight with the new aircraft from Hyannis, Massachusetts to Nantucket.

Montana is the second of Cape Air's markets to be refleeted, behind the Midwest region.

Cape Air is headquartered in Hyannis and has purchased 30 of the new planes.

Eventually, the goal is for Cape Air to acquire 100 planes, Hatzell said.

Some of the airline's remaining 88 Cessna 402s will be sold, two were donated to Cape Cod Community College, and others will be repurposed as charter planes. 

Billings currently has three Tecnam planes, with five more on the way to complete Montana's fleet.

The planes arrived about two weeks ago in Billings and pilots have wrapped up ground training to get acquainted with the new aircraft, said Hatzell.

The aircraft is only slightly larger than the Cessna but offers more space and an updated interior for passengers, Hatzell said. The speed of the plane remains largely unchanged.

Cape Air has operated for nearly eight years in Montana, offering multiple daily flights from Billings to Sidney, Glasgow, Glendive, Wolf Point and Havre. The airline offers flights across the U.S. and parts of the Caribbean. 

"It's a pretty big deal that Montana is going to be refleeted," Hatzell said. "It really is going to be a great fit for the type of flying we do here and for our passengers." 

Incident occurred April 08, 2021 at Sheridan County Airport (KSHR), Wyoming

Winds over 60 miles an hour caused a collision between Big Horn Airways plane and a customer plane on the ramp at Sheridan County Airport on Thursday, April 08, 2021.

Penny Radar, who's director of fixed-based operator services for Big Horn, said the incident happened just before 4:30 p.m. in about two minutes time from when the wind shoved the two (2) planes together.  She said so far as she knows, nothing like this has ever happened before.

Penny Rader said no one was around or in the planes at the time, so there were no injures. She said there was definitely damage to the planes, and that's under investigation at this time, so she was unable to discuss that.

She said at the time of the incident, the weather forecast was calling for winds from 18 to 36 miles per hour.  She said the other unusual factor in Thursday's wind was the suddenness of it, with no buildup.  

In addition to the speed of the wind, she said, the wind came from the right direction - the northwest - so it plowed right into the hangars at the airport. She said no other planes were involved in the incident.  

Bell OH-58A, N258LE: Incident occurred April 08, 2021 in Collier County, Florida

Collier County Sheriff's Office

April 08, 2021

No, that’s not a Golden Eagle on the NHS football field! 

At 2:28 p.m. today a Collier County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was forced to make a precautionary emergency landing (P.E.L.) on the Naples High School football field following a possible governor failure that happened shortly after the rotorcraft left Naples Municipal Airport at 2:20 p.m.

Neither of the two occupants of the Bell OH58 were injured and nobody was on the field when the helicopter landed.

A governor is a device that senses rotor and engine revolutions per minute and makes the necessary adjustments in order to keep rotor RPM constant.

When the helicopter began losing power the pilot began looking for a safe location to land. 

Seeing that the field was empty, the pilot initiated the landing. 

We’re grateful for our expert and professional pilots that keep everyone safe!

Collier County Sheriff's Office

Airbus A321-253N, N927VA: Incident occurred April 08, 2021 near Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (KDCA), Washington, District of Columbia

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Washington, District of Columbia

Aircraft struck bird causing damage to nose of aircraft.

Alaska Airlines

Date: 09-APR-21
Time: 03:31:00Z
Regis#: N927VA
Aircraft Make: AIRBUS
Aircraft Model: 321
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Flight Phase: APPROACH (APR)
Operation: 121
Aircraft Operator: ALASKA AIRLINES
Flight Number: ASA2

Piper PA28-160 Cherokee Arrow, N5119W: Incident occurred April 10, 2021 near Ryan Airfield (KRYN), Pima County, Arizona

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Scottsdale, Arizona

Aircraft landed in a field. 

Date: 10-APR-21
Time: 19:08:00Z
Regis#: N5119W
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA28
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: NONE
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: EN ROUTE (ENR)
Operation: 91

New U.S. Airline Avelo Enters Competitive Travel Market

Airline entrepreneurs are betting that the pandemic has created opportunities

Wall Street Journal 
By Alison Sider
April 8, 2021 5:30 am ET

A new airline is launching, bringing more competition to a domestic travel market that was ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic but has been showing signs of revival in recent months.

Avelo Airlines aims to serve smaller airports and routes that it says larger carriers have ignored or left behind. The new airline is scheduled to operate its first flight at the end of the month, flying from Burbank to Santa Rosa, Calif., and will initially serve 12 airports in western states.

Avelo was conceived before the pandemic upended the airline industry. After raising $125 million from investors in January 2020—a few months before air travel came to a near halt in the spring—the airline delayed its plan to launch until travel demand returned.

Andrew Levy, Avelo’s chief executive, said that time has come. Vaccinations have spurred a renewed appetite for vacations. Passenger volumes at U.S. airports are still down 30% to 40% from pre-pandemic levels, but airports are busier than they have been in over a year. While public health officials are discouraging people from taking trips, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that the risks are low for those who have been fully vaccinated.

The pandemic forced thousands of businesses across the country to shut their doors but has also created opportunities to open new ones. Entrepreneurs are looking to pounce, as states lift restrictions on business activity, betting that consumers with money to burn are ready to start spending again.

The same may be true of the airline industry. While major carriers have survived the pandemic and largely avoided mass layoffs through government aid, many have had to scale back. Aircraft costs have come down, and Avelo has been able to hire staff from some of the smaller regional carriers that closed down last year, Mr. Levy said. Hollywood Burbank Airport, Avelo’s base, likely would have been too crowded to establish a beachhead of this size last year, he said.

Mr. Levy, who helped found Allegiant Travel Co. and later became chief financial officer of United Airlines Holdings Inc., began planning his new airline in 2018, when profits in the industry were still soaring. He said the general premise behind Avelo has remained intact—to fill in gaps where other airlines don’t offer nonstop flights and to service secondary airports that are often less congested and more convenient for many travelers.

“That opportunity was there before the pandemic, it’s there today,” Mr. Levy said in an interview. Avelo’s introductory fares will start at $19 each way. Like other ultradiscounters, the airline will charge fees for checked bags, carry-ons, priority boarding and seat selection. But the carrier said it wouldn’t charge change fees.

Avelo is one of two new airlines aiming to start flying within the U.S. this year. Breeze Airways, the latest venture from JetBlue Airways Corp. founder David Neeleman, received approval from the Transportation Department last month. Breeze, Mr. Neeleman’s fifth airline venture, plans to offer low-cost flights between pairs of midsize U.S. cities that currently don’t have nonstop service.

Avelo and Breeze are the first new mainline airlines in the U.S. since 2007, when Virgin America was launched.

A series of megamergers between 2008 and 2013 combined eight big carriers into four. Alaska Air Group Inc. acquired Virgin America in 2016. The wave of consolidation, coupled with a strong economy, helped fuel a decadelong streak of industry profits.

Now competition is heating up. Airlines have announced plans to fly more than 150 new domestic routes this summer, as they woo people looking to visit beaches and national parks or friends and relatives after the isolation of the past year.  Other discount airlines, including two that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars in recent initial public offerings, also have ambitious growth plans.

Mr. Levy said Avelo is planning to tap into niche routes where there is little or no direct competition. Instead of flying to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, an American Airlines Group Inc. hub, Avelo will fly to the smaller Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airport, for example.