ECoastLife Updated Opinion
News, Comments, and Updated Opinion on Local Affairs Along Northwest Florida's Emerald Coast


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  Tuesday, April 29, 2003

FAA Announces May 13 Public Info Meeting on Airport EIS

The meeting will cover "Purpose and need for the project and alternatives identified to date."...

Gulf Coast College, May 13, 2003, 5 - 7PM.  Full text of FAA notice.

9:23:45 PM    comment

Bay County Airport Issues Moving Fast -  District V Commissioner Ropa Speaks Out

The Bay County Planning Commission voted 8-1 to submit the amendment to the Comp Plan for the new airport.  Before the issue even reached the County Commission, Commissioner Ropa fired off this letter to St. Joe Company CEO Peter Rummel.

9:12:16 PM    comment

  Friday, April 04, 2003

New York Times Closes Archive

Sadly, the NYT has moved its backdated articles to an abstracted archive - full-text articles cost $2.95.  In the future, I will note this when linking to NYT content.  So much for the newspaper of record...

10:43:48 PM    comment

Fair and Balanced Update: The 7,000 Jobs and Low-Fare Objectives of New UK Airport

I agree with one thing - any new airport should have some incremental value; in this case "the longest runway in Europe".

Go-ahead for new airport on RAF base. Guardian Unlimited Apr 4 2003 9:52PM ET [Moreover - moreover...]

9:23:03 PM    comment

Pittsburgh Hub Endangered - Or Just Hardball Negotiating

I would say "a negotiating put", but if it happened it would be the first hub collapse since American folded Nashville years ago.  Pittsburgh is the heart of US Airways, not a start-up.

US Airways warns Pittsburgh hub could go, county leader says. AP via New Jersey Online Apr 4 2003 9:32PM ET [Moreover - moreover...]

9:16:08 PM    comment

Florida's Great Northwest  (UK Branch)??

Finningley Go-ahead Makes Mockery Of Airport Consultation. Friends of the Earth Apr 4 2003 10:52AM ET [Moreover - moreover...]

5:41:09 PM    comment

  Thursday, April 03, 2003

The Real Ft. Myers Story

The Panama City News Herald  (1) ran a story today on the Southwest Florida International Airport in Ft. Myers.  It is Orwellian to read how distressed Ft. Myers was in 1983, but that is a story easy to verify (or not) if you are interested. I was active in airport development when this airport was built and opened, and the whole story is very interesting.  Here's an excerpt from the official RSW airport web site with highlights in red...  contrast the justification and community support with our local experience.  The big difference in these projects is the impact of airline deregulation in 1978 (there was huge unserved demand in SW Florida back then; today all routes are available to meet demand) and the traffic count: Ft. Myers had traffic in 1983 approximately equal to the forecast for Bay County in 35 years or soIf I am 100% wrong, it will be 17 years and I apologize in advance.

Both communities would have an "aviation future" with or without a new airport - I notice that RSW now claims all the economic benefits "abandoned"  by closing FMY to airline flights (it is still there and bursting with bizjets).  That's a bit disingenuous, but not as troubling as our airport board's claims in funding applications.  Ft. Myers needed an airport, our boosters just want one a decade or two before they can justify it. 

The latest "sales point" is job generation. Since only one version of the future will unfold, we will just have to "win-win". If we get the high-pay jobs, the new airport did it, if we don't - on to the next excuse, but St. Joe has the airport as a freebie to enhance the pinelands - I guess that is a "lose-win"  but somebody wins, just not the people who staked the game.  It is a shame that a realistic airport plan worthy of public support has not been offered.

 (1) You may not find the story - the News Herald has an airtight content-protection policy to prevent online reading unless you subscribe to the website.

6:55:36 PM    comment

  Saturday, March 22, 2003

NPR'S "Living on Earth" Discovers the Imperiled Chattahoochee/Apalachicola Rivers

This broadcast on March 21 covers the water-sharing dilemma and the outright peril of the Apalachicola River watershed.  Interviews with citizens and experts, observations of the decline of the rivers...  from the spring in North Georgia to Apalachee Bay.

We in Bay County don't have Atlanta upstream to blame if our own St. Andrew Bay watershed is abused...

7:15:16 AM    comment

  Friday, March 14, 2003

Macroeconomics According to Cal-Berkeley: Can Japan's Deflation Happen Here?

My daughter studied undergrad economics at Cal, and I have followed her department head's weblog  (it's the "Brad DeLong" link on the left).

There has been a long thread there about deflation in Japan and the likelihood for deflation in the USA.  As an airline retiree, I would argue that deflation is rampant in the travel/hospitality sector.  The airline bankruptcies are textbook low revenue/high cost failures, and the hospitality/travel/conference sector seems close behind.  If the trend reaches critical mass, the automobile/energy sector could go "poof" too.  Let's hope for a safe landing soon (too late for a soft one!).

3:01:35 PM    comment

  Wednesday, March 12, 2003

The End of Privacy? - Maybe Not, but "Personal Recording" may be Useful Along the Shore

At a weblog called Escapable Logic, Britt Blaser is noodling on a world where everybody's activities are tracked on a "Personal Flight Recorder".

I'm not quite ready for that, but it brings up a project I have in mind.

Rather than prolong the grinding debate about the right way to develop our local shorelines, I intend to video the entire shoreline of St. Andrew Bay, burn DVD's of the footage, and donate it to the Library.  In the future, students of the region can compare the circa-2003 images with contemporary views, then decide whether to believe officialdom or their own lying eyes...

10:24:15 AM    comment

  Monday, March 10, 2003

Bombardier Aerospace is Cutting Another 3,000 Jobs...

at its plants in Toronto, Montreal and Belfast in the seemingly endless effort by the industry to rationalize some of the worst market conditions in decades. And although Bombardier's Wichita plant was spared, the announcement came as the U.S. Department of Labor released statistics showing aerospace employment is at its lowest level since 1953, with 689,000 jobs... more from AVWEB.COM 

7:53:28 AM    comment

  Friday, March 07, 2003

Fort Lauderdale Runway Update

Broward County to keep options open on runway. Miami Herald Mar 6 2003 3:34AM ET [Moreover - moreover...]

2:44:14 PM    comment

The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science

The courts have responsibility to validate scientific claims.  Here's a recommended methodology.

12:20:47 PM    comment

  Tuesday, March 04, 2003

How Bad Are Things In the Airline Business?  Consider Some Numbers...

Some Grim Numbers for the Airlines.  By Joe Sharkey. [New York Times: Business]

11:27:45 PM    comment

  Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Another Bubble?

We in NW Florida are having a milder downturn than many placess, because real estate development is the core of our economy.  How long will it last?  Here's food for thought:

Housing Construction Hits 16-Year High. Construction of new homes and apartments rose in January to the highest level in 16 years as low mortgage rates continued to power a housing boom. By The Associated Press. [New York Times: Business]

8:48:55 PM    comment

  Monday, February 17, 2003

NOW with Bill Moyers

The Bill Moyers crew is in the Panhandle this week, doing essentially a video version of the St. Petersburg Times story on St. Joe Co. and the sweeping development plans for NW Florida.

The Bay County airport relocation is a "keystone" in those plans, so I had my opportunity to comment on it for the Moyers crew.  I expressed my usual reservations about the urgency attached to this project by St. Joe and our public officials, and about the lack of patience so far from St. Joe.  I'm sure most of it will be on the cutting room floor, but watch for the show in April.

We never know where our interests will carry us, but if you had said to this old Republican a year ago that I would be helping Moyers with anything, I would have said you were nuts.

7:05:22 PM    comment

  Sunday, February 09, 2003

Record-Setting January Air Traffic:  23 Passengers per Flight, 370 per Day

The News Herald report of record January passenger traffic caught my eye, and it says volumes about the rush to move our airport.  Do the math: 11,500 passengers departing per month equals 370 per day.  With 16 departing flights per day, the average flight carries 23 passengers. 

When the 2002 annual traffic (171,000 enplaned) goes through the calculator, I get 468 per day and 29 per flight...

Is this an operation that needs $250 Million in new facilities??

10:56:42 PM    comment

  Saturday, January 25, 2003

The Way Government Really Works?

Friendly Hosts, Effective Lobbyists. Nancy Victory says it would be "ridiculous" to infer that her views were influenced by a party thrown for her by lobbyists in the telecommunications industry. [New York Times: Opinion]

2:12:40 PM    comment

  Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Saturday/Sunday R-Jet Service to Dallas/Ft. Worth Announced by Delta Connection

The ASA/Skywest press release.

4:51:31 PM    comment

  Monday, November 25, 2002

Delta Connection Adds Seasonal Daily R-Jet Non-Stop to Cincinnati - January-April

Here's the announcement.  Stay tuned for new service to Dallas/Ft. Worth.

And they did it without a new airport...


9:58:03 PM    comment

  Thursday, November 14, 2002

St. Joe Company 10-Q Filing Online

Here's a link to the 3Q2002 report.  Oddly, not a word about Pier Park, airport land, or the Sector Plan...

11:04:41 PM    comment

  Saturday, November 09, 2002

Blistering Analysis of the Democrats' Election '02 Performance

We're Not in Florida Anymore. The most shocking thing about American politics is how "shocked" we are every time the obvious happens. By Frank Rich. [New York Times: Opinion]

4:19:20 PM    comment

  Monday, November 04, 2002

Interesting Article on Some Alternative Ways to Vote in Multi-Candidate Races

Just follow this link.

11:58:26 AM    comment

  Sunday, October 27, 2002

New Airport Design Meets Resistance

At the October 25 meeting of the Airport Board, a two-hour workshop presented the "Basis of Design" for a new Bay County airport.  The consultants never got past describing the proposed airfield layout because the airport users and interested citizens challenged the design.  The proposal showed a separate and remote crosswind runway which was 400 feet shorter and 50 feet narrower than the existing airport, with all General Aviation facilities developed along this strip.  The design was not the plan requested by General Aviation users last year, and the consultants stated that a more adequate design would cost $15 Million more than the current proposal.

Discussion then turned to the justification for the new airport, and Board members Crisp, Dantzler, and Stein stated their support of the project was based on the belief that it would be justified in 20 years but the property to build it would not be available at that time.  A citizen asked when the public would have an opportunity to express an opinion on the project, and he was directed to numerous public hearings and workshops, including the meeting in progress.  Board member Stein stated that there "would not be a referendum".  The Board members expressed some frustration that the project still has detractors after years of development and the assurance that it is funded by non-local taxes.

I stated that the project was still being questioned because the public perception, right or wrong, is that the project benefits the St. Joe Company far more than the public.  St. Joe was not present at the meeting.  My position has always been that the project has some benefits for the public, but we resent the steamroller methods to promote it, and I have been frustrated every time I suggest that it could be done better. 

As an example, I pointed out that the "ultimate airfield" portrayed in the drawings would not work because the third runway was shown connected by two taxiways to a single taxiway leading to the terminal.  In fact, if the third runway is ever built it will require a far more elaborate taxiway system.  This item can be corrected, but it illustrates my point that over $20 Million has been appropriated for the project and the Authority still has not presented a workable concept.  More importantly, no cost/benefit analysis has been done - it is scheduled for 2003, after the current $20 Million has been spent.

The meeting was adjourned without presenting the passenger terminal, parking lot (which did not address new security concerns), approach roads, and other features.  No date was set to continue the workshop.

8:22:28 AM    comment

  Saturday, October 26, 2002

Absolutely Brilliant Analysis of the State of the Music Business
1:46:03 PM    comment

  Wednesday, October 23, 2002

The 19-Seat Turboprop is Dying
(And  Taking the Smallest Airline Airports With It)

Airlines abandon small cities. USA Today Oct 23 2002 5:28AM ET [Moreover - moreover...]

1:51:01 PM    comment

  Monday, October 21, 2002

Short Trips Now Going on Ground

This is the best article I have seen on the subject:
Travelers take to road to avoid airport hassles. Washington Times Oct 21 2002 6:03AM ET [Moreover - moreover...]

1:23:15 PM    comment

  Friday, September 27, 2002

AirTran Announces R-Jet Service

AirTran JetConnect will start November 15 with service to Pensacola, Savannah, other cities to follow.  It is not clear whether the service will be expanded to smaller markets such as Panama City, but it is a hopeful sign...


10:01:57 AM    comment

  Monday, September 09, 2002

Great Reading for the Election Season: "John Adams"

I have just finished David McCullough's wonderful biography of John Adams, and it is a stirring read for every citizen concerned about the state of the nation and the political scene.  As I grow older, I find myself more and more a conservationist/environmentalist (not a "Green" statist!).  Adams, in his ninetieth and last year, after nurturing human liberty and American independence all his life, wrote of a winter scene at his farm:

"A rain had fallen from some warmer region in the skies when the cold here below was intense to an extreme. Every drop was frozen wherever it fell in the trees, and clung to the limbs and sprigs as if it had been fastened by hooks of steel. The earth was never more universally covered with snow, and the rain had frozen upon a crust on the surface which shone with the brightness ofburnished silver. The icicles on every sprig glowed in all the luster of diamonds. Every tree was a chandelier of cut glass. I have seen a Queen of France with eighteen millions of livres of diamonds upon her person and I declare that all the charms of her face and figure added to all the glitter of her jewels did not make an impression on me equal to that presented by every shrub. The whole world was glittering with precious stones."

11:43:12 AM    comment

  Thursday, August 29, 2002

Airport Board "Accepts" $8 Million from Florida DOT for Relocation

At the regular meeting on August 26, The Panama City/Bay County Airport and Industrial District quietly "accepted" the $8 Million appropriated by the legislature from the "Transportation Outreach Program".  The money did not just happen, the District applied for $14.5 Million, was recommended for $10 Million by the controversial TOP Council, and finally got $8 Million from the legislature.   The grant application was submitted prior to September 2001, and has apparently been processed without any revision to account for momentous changes in the airport/air travel industry.

Oddly, this significant grant has received no publicity from the local delegation or the press during this election season.  I requested our local delegation to delete this grant from TOP because the airport relocation should not compete with more urgent priorities in this difficult budget year.  The project has been delayed at least two years by the FAA's decision to do an Environmental Impact Statement, and it is doubtful this grant can be used efficiently. 

There was no press coverage or press release on the grant.  Is it any wonder that Bay County citizens see the accelerated airport project as a "done deal"? 

8:56:53 AM    comment

  Monday, August 05, 2002

Delta Connection Reduces Schedule at Panama City/Bay County Airport

Effective September 1, 2002, Delta Connection has eliminated the 11:56 PM arrival into Panama City and the 7:20 AM departure.  This leaves 462 Delta seats per day in the market, which averages 493 total passengers per day for all airlines.

12:51:34 PM    comment

  Tuesday, July 23, 2002

USDOT Awards $20 Million in Grants to 40 Small Airports for Air Service Pilot Program
Panama City/Bay County not Included

In April 2002, USDOT solicited proposals from small airports for grants to stimulate additional air service by various initiatives.  The link below goes to the order awarding the grants, with discussion of the rationale for the awards.  PFN's proposal was not successful...

8:31:15 AM    comment

The New York Times on the Perilous Condition of Air Travel Industry

Looking at the Realities of a Damaged Industry. What is really happening in the huge segment of the American transportation system, namely business and leisure travel, that depends on airplanes and airports. By Joe Sharkey. [New York Times: Business]

7:55:39 AM    comment

  Saturday, July 06, 2002

Using These Valuations, Panama City/Bay County is Worth $55 Million (US)...

Sky's the limit when it comes to valuing an airport. STUFF Jul 6 2002 4:03PM ET [Moreover - moreover...]

6:46:56 PM    comment

  Friday, July 05, 2002

On the Futility of Argument with Large-Scale Interests

The principles expressed in the following paragaph are intended to apply to dealing with Microsoft and the oncoming "Palladium" project to integrate "computer security" with hardware-imposed limitations which will prevent users from using software incompatible with rules imposed by Microsoft and its collaborators.  (If you want to know more about that, look under "Palladium" in the geek world.)  It is interesting because it describes concisely "how it works" or at least "how it feels" for a participant in public hearings, workshops, and the like.  The setting, agenda, and atmospherics are such that an individual or small-interest comment is either disqualified ("did you explore this thoroughly with the Planning Commission?", marginalized ("all these Big-Interest agencies agree on the merit of this, how did YOU decide it needs further examination?" or "sounds like a conspiracy theory"), answered with a non-responsive repeat of the Big-Interest position ("sure it's good for Big-Interest, but it's also good for the vast majority of us.") or just ignored (this doesn't require an example, but try writing a letter to a Big-Interest, or finally arriving at a public position which has survived the foregoing tactics).   The objective (and usual result) is the same: confuse you and tire you out until you give up.  Read on:

I should write a FAQ about arguing with Microsoft and how not to fall into their trap, as Mitch Wagner does here. Here's the first question that would be in the FAQ. Why is it pointless to argue with Microsoft people? Answer: because they hold you to a higher moral standard than they themselves support. When discussing their transgressions, they argue that they have the right to do that. They overstate your case and rebut that, leaving you stuttering "But I didn't say that." If that doesn't work, they question your objectivity or qualifications, or resort to veiled ad hominems (a quick subject-change). It's very disgusting. I used to fall for it all the time, arguing with them as if they were willing to be convinced, when they want nothing of the sort. They want to confuse you and tire you out until you give up. So I don't argue with them anymore, I just form my opinion, state it, and don't worry if I'm being terribly fair to them, because they clearly don't worry about being fair to anyone else, including me (and you). [Scripting News]

10:47:44 AM    comment

  Sunday, June 23, 2002

Another National Story on the "Great Northwest"  - from the New York Times

Vast Change Looms for Florida Timber Tracts. A Florida company is transforming a previously untouched 40-mile stretch of the state's panhandle region. By Douglas Jehl. [New York Times: Business]

7:37:41 PM    comment

Frequent Flyer? - Get Ready for a Retina Scan...

Airlines Plan Quick System For Identifying Passengers. Washington Post Jun 22 2002 6:43PM ET [Moreover - moreover...]

7:02:26 PM    comment

  Friday, June 21, 2002

Montgomery gets 70-Seat RJ Service

Delta/ASA announces upgraded service and new amenities of CRJ700.  The 70-seat RJ can operate from 5400 foot runway.

7:59:05 AM    comment

ASA Launches RJ Service from Eglin/Okaloosa to Dallas/Ft. Worth

Delta/ASA announces  new service - Ft. Walton Beach now served from two Delta hubs... two daily nonstops.

7:51:37 AM    comment

  Saturday, June 15, 2002

New York Times Discovers Apalachicola

In this article, the Times joins me in concern that Atlanta will ultimately damage the Apalachicola River basin...

An Oyster and a Way of Life, Both at Risk. Water demands from cities north of Florida are sucking up rivers that feed the states oyster beds, threatening their fragile ecosystem. By Rick Bragg. [New York Times: Science]

1:04:22 PM    comment

  Thursday, June 13, 2002

Delta News
Mullin: DL improving, but government could make difference

Delta is making slow but steady improvements, but government policy could make the difference between success and failure, Chairman and CEO Leo Mullin recently told the investment community. Mullin spoke Wednesday at the ninth annual Merrill Lynch Global Transportation Conference in New York. Each year, airline executives are invited to discuss industry trends with analysts, portfolio managers and other airline investors. "Delta is managing the continuing revenue lag by effectively controlling what can be
controlled - costs, capacity and liquidity; leveraging key advantages; and making smart, disciplined investment decisions," said Mullin. While thecompany remains fundamentally strong and competent, the rate of the industry's recovery has slowed. Policies appropriately undertaken post-Sept. 11 are playing a significant role in the continued financial duress, Mullin said. "Their negative impact must be mitigated whilemaintaining their effectiveness - particularly in relation to security." 

DL on track to get back in the black
Returning to profitability won't be easy, but Mullin says the airline is on track. "Delta will continue working to find solutions to current problems through diligent analysis followed by effective action," he said. "In the case of our recent discussions in Washington, for instance, we expect to build on the dialogue we have begun. We now know that governmentpolicy in the airline industry can be an incredibly powerful factor - the difference between success and failure," he said. DL is losing $1.3 billion a year in pretax profit from passenger security taxes ($266 million); insurance ($250 million); postal and cargo restrictions, and security equipment ($175 million); and the "hassle factor" for customers ($600 million.)

1:38:11 PM    comment

Pensacola Reports Record Traffic

 Pensacola Regional Airport Officials announced record
 boardings for the month of May compared to any month throughout the
 history of the airport. Over 128,000 passengers arrived and departed
 Pensacola last month which generated a twenty-eight-percent increase
 compared to May of last year.

Editor's Notes: AirTran moved from Eglin/Okaloosa to Pensacola last year... this report implies that annual enplanements could rise from 600,000 to approx. 750,000.  The press release counts "passengers" which is double the "enplanements" used for forecasting.  Pensacola's runway is 7001 feet.

9:15:32 AM    comment

  Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Full-size Jets at Panama City/Bay County Airport

One of the misconceptions about our airport is that it cannot accomodate full-size passenger jets because of safety or runway-length concerns.  Here's a photo of a Boeing 727-200 charter on the apron - June 10, 2002.

Panama City's runway is 6304 feet.  The 727 brought 117 passengers and baggage from Kansas City and departed on a ferry flight to Acapulco, Mexico - it could have carried approx. 100 passengers and baggage to Acapulco(1300 miles), or a full passenger load approximately 1,000 miles (Dallas, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Miami). 

The reason no full-size jets serve Panama City is that the market (175,000 enplanements per year) is not large enough to support larger aircraft.  Delta served here with 737's from 1991-1995 and withdrew after five years with a 55% load factor.  Vicky Escarra, Delta's marketing executive, recently stated that a mainline aircraft requires 90 more passengers per flight than a regional aircraft to break even.  Using that number, four mainline airplanes with 115 passengers per flight could carry the entire present traffic, but still would not be profitable. 

This market could be stimulated to perhaps 250,000 per year by lower fares, but none of the airlines involved could make money, so they do not start this destructive (for their business) competition.


3:56:06 PM    comment

  Wednesday, May 15, 2002

 Airlines Won't See Profit Until 2005

 The airline industry will not regain profitability until 2005, as major carriers burdened by a "broken" business model struggle to improve their yields, an aviation consultant said at an international airline conference Monday in Key Biscayne, Fla. Foreign carriers, which face less competition and have not granted huge wage increases, are better positioned to stem their losses than domestic carriers, said Donald P. Schenk, chief executive of Airline Capital Associates in New York. "Sept. 11 masked the problem that the industry had been broken for some time," said Schenk, who spoke at the 10th International Airline CEO conference at the Sonesta Beach Resort. Overall, the airline industry is suffering from declining yields, which have fallen
from a peak of 14.9% in February 2001 to 11.8% in December. The absence of the full-fare passenger is the biggest culprit, said Schenk. Raising yields, a measure of airline profitability, is proving difficult. After the Gulf War, airlines improved their revenue by boosting their load factors. That was a less painful way to generate revenue than raising ticket prices, but loads are already high now. 
- Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News 

12:51:20 PM    comment

  Tuesday, April 23, 2002

        Grant Proposal Reveals Fragility of AirTran Service in Tallahassee
TLH Regional Airport Applies for $1.5 Million in Small Community Air Service Program
The Tallahassee proposal says AirTran burned through their entire $1.5 million revenue supplement in 2.5 MONTHS.  So now, TLH wants the USDOT to kick in another $1.5 million because "it is bound to get better" (paraphrased).
What they didn't say is that Delta just put 2 more MD88's daily into Tallahassee, to run off AirTran as they did in Okaloosa.  This is almost 90,000 seats per year added to a market which sells only 475.000 total.  WITHOUT the Delta competition, AirTran was on track to lose $11.5 million this year in TLH. 
My crystal ball says it may be just a matter of time until Tallahassee will have to kiss AirTran goodbye, DOT grant or not.  We'll see...

9:51:15 PM    comment

  Sunday, April 21, 2002

U.S. DOT Solicits Proposals from Airports in new Small Community Air Service Pilot Program
Will Panama City/Bay County Airport Submit a Proposal?
I have looked at several of the proposals on the web, and generally they ask for money to subsidize a low fare carrier with revenue guarantees, money to market/advertise a local airport, or money to recruit service where none exists.  None of the proposals asks for construction money, but that is not ruled out in the program.  The web link is:
Enter 11590 as the Docket Number - fair warning, these are BIG pdf's and take some time to load.  As of April 19, 35 airports had submitted proposals. If/when Panama City/Bay County submits a proposal, I'll post a link here.  Proposals were due last week.  The Request for Proposals asks some very good questions about each airport's reason for seeking a grant.

2:41:52 PM    comment

St. Joe Efforts Featured in St. Petersburg Times
Today's St. Petersburg Times has a front page story on St. Joe's development activities in Northwest Florida.  Although broadly critical, it is not a "hit piece".  Develops some interesting connections that I had not discovered, and I got mentioned for what it's worth.  The reporter contacted me in January, saying he had heard that West Bay and Burnt Mill Creek were "not pristine" and therefore little environmental risk is involved in the new airport.  I told him that if his coverage brought him to Bay County, I would take him to Burnt Mill and he could form his own opinion...

2:20:15 PM    comment

  Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Airport 2002 Appropriation Makes the "Pig Book"

Citizens Against Government Waste published their annual "Pig Book" today - the Panama City/Bay County Airport's $2 Million appropriation met the criterion for not being in the budget.  Inserted by a lobbyist, perhaps?  We'll never know...

6:52:30 PM    comment

700-Page Airport Plan On-Line: Web Site Contains the Detailed Specific Area Plan (DSAP)
Proposed as an Amendment to Bay County Comprehensive Plan

Bechtel Infrastructure has posted the airport DSAP at .  It is divided into 50 or so Adobe .pdf files - for patient downloaders!  Follow the links from "Public Involvement"

As you read it, please ask: "What is the relevence of all this to the need for a new airport in the next five years?"  Remember, the plan is to close the existing airport simultaneously with opening the new one, so we will never know how the region would fare without a new airport. 

In other words, "How much of the growth story really depends on the airport?".  I would say, "Not much - the only activity made possible by a new airport is long-range charters from abroad.  Otherwise, anything the new airport does is possible from the existing airport."

To the credit of the FAA, the agency is reportedly ready to call for a full Environmental Impact Statement rather than the abbreviated Environmental Assessment requested by the airport.  If your interest is the environment, read carefully how the consultant proposes to handle storm water...

4:38:47 PM    comment

Delta to Expand Tallahassee Service

(Ed. Note: Another attempt to "banish" AirTran?)
Delta will offer Tallahassee, Fla., customers more flights to its Atlanta
hub, beginning June 1. With the new schedule, DL and DL Connection will
offer eight flights daily between ATL and TLH. DL will add two MD-88
flights between ATL and TLH for a total of five DL flights daily, while DL
Connection will operate three flights daily. DL and DL Connection also
offer TLH customers nonstop service to the Dallas/Ft. Worth hub. "Delta
has served Tallahassee since 1983, and we are pleased to add this new
service to meet the continued demand there," said Kay McCormick, district
sales manager for Central and North Florida. 

3:57:56 PM    comment

 Airlines Continue to Struggle 

If you were to judge the airline business by how full the airplanes are, you'd think air carriers were thriving, but you'd be misled. The traffic on airlines is slowly recovering as the months go by. But a big cut in capacity after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks means there are fewer seats to sell. As a result, airplanes are flying fuller on almost every U.S. carrier. Analysts expect Southwest Airlines to post a small profit or break even. Everyone else is expected to have significant losses. That's despite load factors in February and March that exceeded the load factors for the same two months last year. Last month, the nation's nine largest carriers filled 76.6% of their seats, up 2.1 points from March 2001 and a climb of 17.4 points from September. But two things are still hurting airlines. First, many airplanes remain parked. Last month, capacity was down 11.8% from a year earlier. At current capacity, airlines would have had to fill more than 84% of their seats in March to achieve the same traffic. Second, the average fare paid is less. Continental Airlines, one of the few carriers to disclose its monthly unit revenue, estimated that March's revenue per available seat mile fell 6% to 8% below March 2001. - Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News

3:53:47 PM    comment

  Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Small Airports Will Not Use Massive Explosive-Detection Machines

U.S. Defends Small-Airport Plan. Washington Post Apr 3 2002

8:57:41 AM    comment

Airlines Groping for New Revenue Model - Business Travel Slump Continues

Corporate Fliers at Near Revolt Over Airline Fare Policies. New York Times Apr 2 2002 

8:15:15 AM    comment

  Tuesday, March 12, 2002

2003 Before Pre-Sept. 11 Traffic Returns...

FAA: Air Travel Slump To Continue. CBS News Mar 12 2002 11:55AM ET

3:36:45 PM    comment

  Thursday, March 07, 2002

Delta Traffic Still Down From 2001

Delta's traffic for February was down overall from last year's levels. System traffic decreased 8.2% on a capacity decrease of 10.6% from February 2001. Delta's system load factor was 66.7%, up 1.7 points year over year. Domestic traffic in February decreased 6.8% on a capacity decrease of 8.5%. Domestic load factor was 66.2%, up 1.2 points from the same period a year ago. International traffic decreased 13.1% on a 17.7% decrease in capacity. International load factor was 68.6%, up 3.6 points from the same period last year. During February, DL operated its schedule at a 98.5% completion rate compared to 96.7% from February 2001. Delta boarded 7,517,704 passengers during the month of February.

12:15:13 PM    comment

Look at These Wage Rates...

United Workers OK Contract

The Associated Press (3/6)
United Airlines workers OK contract. United Airlines mechanics and aircraft cleaners approved a new contract that will give them raises for the first time in eight years, ending a bitter two-year dispute that prompted presidential intervention. The ratification - approved by 59% of the voting membership - averted a strike that could have started as soon as Thursday. Analysts have said a walkout would have grounded UA and forced it into bankruptcy. The company said the approval removes a key obstacle as it pursues a plan to stem its financial hemorrhaging. The airline lost an industry-record $2.1 billion last year.
The 12,800 mechanics and cleaners resoundingly rejected a previous contract offer three weeks ago and authorized a strike. But United sweetened the terms of the five-year pact and negotiators reached a tentative agreement Feb. 18, barely 36 hours before a walkout that could have shuttered the airline. The new contract gave workers their first raise since 1994 - a substantial increase that provides industry-leading pay. Under the new contract, senior mechanics' pay would increase from $25.60 an hour to $35.14, or about $73,000 a year. For top-scale aircraft cleaners, hourly pay would increase 19% to $19.76 an hour, or about $41,000 a year. Those figures were unchanged from the previous offer, crafted by an emergency board established by President Bush. But UA made other key changes in order to win the approval of negotiators from District 141-M of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

12:09:46 PM    comment

  Thursday, February 28, 2002

Delta AirElite Adds Lear 60 to the Fleet

We reported yesterday that "elite" travelers are expanding private jet flying...
 Delta AirElite Business Jets has added another Bombardier Lear 60 business jet to its fleet of charter aircraft. Based in Chicago, the Lear 60 enhances service options for charter customers and expands the geographic diversification of the AirElite fleet. DL AirElite is selectively adding business jets to its fleet to meet growing demand for exclusive charter jet service, expanding the fleet through charter management agreements These agreements provide an attractive option for corporations that want to lower aircraft ownership costs by having their corporate jets certified for DL AirElite's commercial charter operations. The Lear 60 offers transcontinental capabilities at speeds up to 550 mph. Featuring a stand-up cabin, the Lear 60 has ample cabin space with amenities designed for in-flight comfort and productivity. "This addition enhances our ability to offer originating travel from the Chicago region, which has always been a key market for charter service," said Michael Green, president and CEO of DL AirElite Business Jets.

2:04:34 PM    comment

Danny Sparks Watch
Follow the Money: Campaign Contributors as of 12/31/01
As reported in The COUNTY PRESS

Over $500
Danny Sparks, $10,017 (loan)
Carol Atkinson
, construction mgr.;Frank Atkinson, skeet range mgmt.; Bay Point Yacht & Country Club; Bear Creek Sporting Clays; Wesley Burnham, resort owner; Donald Connor, retired; K. Earl Durden, railroad mgmt.; Karen Durden, retired; Michael Durden, railroad mgmt.; L. Charles Hilton, attorney; Lela Hilton, resort owner; Julie Hilton, resort owner; Hilton Enterprises; Hilton Self Insurance Inc.; Hilton Timber Co.; Holiday Golf & Racquet Club; Mary Ann Hornung, retired; Waldo Hornung, retired; Cody Kahn, resort mgr.; Preserve 1 Partnership; Harry Sipple, III, real estate; Andrea Sparks, nurse; Christine Sparks, marketing dir.; David Sparks, U.S. Air Force; Nina Stewart, travel agent; Triangle Construction; Unal Tutak, doctor.

Martha Blackmon-Milligan, attorney, $50; William Bramble, retired, $75; Captain Jack's Primo Bait, $100; G. Bayne Collins, architect, $100; Donald Crane, doctor, $100; Geraldine Crane, retired, $100; Custom Home Place, $100; G. Richard DeVed, retired, $50; Kimberly Dodd, teacher, $400; Richard Dodd, construction mgr., $400; Richard Faulkner, retired, $100; Sandra Fusselman, retired, $200; Gulf Coast Engine Exchange, $100; Dave Hill, contractor, $100; Lucy Hilton, retired, $100; M. Leroy Jackson, retired, $200; Shawn McNeil, engineer, $100; Delores Pasquale, retired, $75; Carol Register, secretary, $100; Sikes Construction, $100; M. Byron Soloman, construction mgr., $100; Ernest Spinner, retired, $250; Constance Thompson, housewife, $100; Water Spigot, $100.

Total monetary contributions to date: $26,777. Total expenditures: $0

11:35:23 AM    comment

  Wednesday, February 27, 2002

A Closer Look at the "VIP Security Treatment" Issue

The airlines are groping for ways to retain the essential business customer, and not just on mandatory trips.   The present hassle at the big airports is causing business travelers to forego any trip which is "optional", cutting heavily into revenue at the worst possible time.  The truly elite passengers are fleeing to private jets, and lower-level "road warriors" resorting  to the telephone, where their time is better spent than standing in line for hours to be allowed on a high-priced air trip.

Despite Federal Rules, Airlines Still Favoring Some Passengers. New York Times Feb 27 2002 0:11AM ET

Frequent fliers, frequent liars?
Joel Mowbray

12:05:57 PM    comment

About Weblogs

Here's a link to a New York Times article on weblogs (which is what you are reading here).  ECoastLife Updated Opinion uses the Userland software Radio UserLand (it has nothing to do with radio...)

Is Weblog Technology Here to Stay or Just Another Fad?. The universe of Weblogs has grown more quickly, with media analysts praising "blogs," as the sites are known, for bringing a new type of expression to the Internet. [The New York Times: Technology]

11:50:22 AM    comment

ASA�s January traffic increases over 2001
Delta Connection carrier ASA flew more than 203 million revenue passenger miles during January 2002, a 24.7 ASApercent increase over the same month last year. ASA�s load factor was 57.5 percent, compared to 54.3 percent in January 2001. Available seat miles increased to 353.6 million from 300.5 million, a 17.7 percent increase. Passenger  enplanements totaled 510,990, a 14.4 percent increase over the previous January.

DCI adds jet service in CVG
Delta Connection will add jet service between Delta�s Cincinnati hub and Memphis, Tenn., on April 1, with one additional nonstop, round-trip flight on Comair. The new service will increase the number of daily Delta and DCI flights between CVG and MEM to six. There are eight Delta and DCI flights a day between MEM and Atlanta, and two daily flights between MEM and Dallas/Fort Worth. DCI will also add daily nonstop jet service between CVG and Toledo, Ohio; South Bend, Ind.; and Albany, N.Y., on April 7, giving each of the three cities one additional nonstop round-trip flight. Atlantic Coast Airlines will operate the service with Fairchild 328 regional jets. The additional service brings to eight the total of CVG-TOL daily round-trip flights, seven serving SBN and four serving ALB.

11:25:50 AM    comment

  Monday, February 25, 2002

RJ Expansion Steps Up Pressure on Scope Clause

Editor's Note:  A "scope clause" is a provision in a pilot's union contract which limits the size of aircraft which can be operated by a carrier over its routes which are already flown by pilots subject to the contract.  For example, US Airways' pilot contract may prohibit USAir or USAir Express from flying 50-seat R-jets, but allow them to fly 40-seaters.  The scope clause would require pilots of the 50-seater to become part of the contract pilot force, which is usually paid much more than the current R-Jet scales.

Pilot scope provisions that jeopardize the growth of regional jet operations may be headed for a change, industry analysts and consultants told Aviation Daily. Douglas Abbey, president of AvStat Associates, said that post-Sept. 11 growth "[has] been quite limited despite the fact the force majeure has been invoked. Now is the time for major carriers to really grow their operations, and unfortunately they're not free to do so." Mesa Air Group CEO Jonathan Ornstein, whose company is a partner to US Airways, said: "I don't think scope will go away as much as it would be in the interest of the consumer, the company and ultimately the employees. Unfortunately, it appears somewhat embedded in mentality, and people are clinging to an old-school approach. There will be some fairly significant changes at US Airways; for example, pilots have realized the scope clause has hurt them more than helped them. When they see loads on larger aircraft diminishing and passengers siphoned off to other hubs...I think they realize maybe they've shot themselves in the foot with the approach they've taken."

1:52:36 PM    comment

  Friday, February 22, 2002

Airline Coverage by ECoastLife - Filling a Void

The local press doesn't follow the airline industry very closely, a bit unusual in a region which has set out to build, on a fast-track 5-year schedule, the only new commercial service airport in the nation .  ECoastLife will comment on airline news, with emphasis on Delta, the Delta Connection, and the "niche" airlines such as AirTran and Southwest which are so coveted by local airport authorities everywhere.  The Delta Connection (a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta) carries approximately 80% of local passengers, so Delta Connection news will be prominent.  If we can discern patterns of service, pricing, and route system planning, we will comment.  We will also report on activities of the Panama City/Bay County Airport and Industrial District Authority, as information is available. (The airport authority does not provide convenient reports on passenger traffic, revenues and expenditures, etc., so coverage will be gleaned from board meetings, press releases, and the like.) Stay tuned...

Full Disclosure:  Your Editor is retired from Delta and follows Delta's activities for personal reasons, but has no official connection or exclusive sources. I have also publicly questioned the urgency of building a new airport in the region, and I am participating in the FAA process to assure that the new airport "does no harm" to St. Andrew Bay. Commentary is the opinion of the Editor, not the airlines, airports or other aviation interests.

10:03:51 AM    comment

  Thursday, February 21, 2002

Danny Sparks Watch: Equal Opportunity Moocher

Here's the original News Herald story...


6:54:22 PM    comment

Beachfront Redevelopment

Here's a provocative email from Phil Sexton to the Bay County Commission, discussing the ongoing dilemma of "redevelopment" (code for "condo-wall development") of aging beachfront properties...

Commissioners Brock, Sparks, and Stewart:

You folks (Brock and Stewart) had the opportunity to close an obvious
loophole in the county's Comp Plan and Land Use Code at the 5 February
meeting. It would have taken only one vote to do what was clearly correct.
Mr. Ropa's motion to interpret Seasonal Resort regulations was reasonable
and proper.

The land use regulations must NOT have loopholes. It was not intended that
there be loopholes. Everyone agrees that it was an oversight. Your blockage,
Mr. Brock and Mr. Stewart, appears to have been an intentional action,
specifically designed to allow Charles Faircloth to profit from the

Subsequent action at the February 19 meeting, at which you voted to abandon
a right-of-way was claimed, even by the advocates, to provide an increase in
the profit on a piece of property. You ignored the Comp Plan and DCA

At that meeting you also lost another opportunity to close loopholes in
regulations. By delaying, yet again, with a call for a 'workshop', you have
almost assured that unlimited density will be established in the beach
Seasonal Resort areas.

I believe that these facts, alone, will be sufficient to assure that the
make-up of the new commission after this year's elections will be very
(emphasis added - ed.)

Phil Sexton

9:35:15 AM    comment

  Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Another Nail in the Airlines' Coffin?

U.S. government orders airlines to close VIP lines. iWon Feb 20 2002 8:13PM ET

10:54:56 PM    comment

Some Airlines Pondering Spinoff of Regionals to Raise Cash?
Delta Denies It

Some big airlines may be ready to spin off their subsidiary regional carriers - full story at:

U.S. airlines may shed regional carriers - analyst. iWon Feb 20 2002 1:28PM ET [Moreover - moreover...]

10:52:38 PM    comment

  Saturday, February 16, 2002

Airports left out of security decisions at DOT, group says:  The U.S. Department of Transportation's ramp-up of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) without including airport representatives in the policy-crafting process is dismaying, Steven Van Beek, sr. v.p.-policy and strategic development for Airports Council International, told Aviation Daily last week. ACI has faced a closed door at TSA, Van Beek said, as it seeks to participate in some of the 60 or 70 "go teams" deciding the future of aviation security.

5:57:59 PM    comment

  Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Just Where Does AirTran Fly? 

Here's the route map of cities served...

10:16:52 AM    comment

  Tuesday, February 12, 2002

From Delta's 4thQtr2001 financial report to shareholders:

Network strategy leverages RJs
The company�s industry-leading RJ program provides the opportunity to supplement frequencies and service to key cities as well as the flexibility to adjust to demand changes. The extension to smaller cities provides more service to more passengers and builds profitableconnecting feed to mainline service. This will enable the mainline to expand into both domestic and international markets.

RJs allow Delta to provide service to customers in smaller markets that may develop later into big jet markets. The pace of passenger revenue recovery will determine the mainline capacity plans for the remainder of the year. Delta will take delivery of 58 RJs in 2002, for a total of 293.

11:47:45 AM    comment

American Airlines, fueled by returning travel demand, is beginning to add service back to its major cities and high-volume hub routes, Aviation Daily reported. Separately, the airline reported that new baggage security measures have had little impact on operations. On the revenue side, CEO Don Carty reiterated comments made earlier that the airline has seen a steady, month-by-month improvement since September. "But let�s be clear," he said. "We�re climbing out of a very, very deep hole." About 20 percent of the carriers� capacity remains grounded, and the seats that are selling are purchased at fares near historic 12-year lows. "We�re still losing lots of money every day, but it�s certainly less than it was before," Carty said. "We have enormous revenue challenges ahead of us and are far from being out of thewoods � but we�re doing all the right things to get ourselves out."
11:39:36 AM    comment

  Monday, February 11, 2002

ASA reports January traffic:
Delta Connection carrier ASA flew 203.4 million revenue passenger miles
during January 2002, a 24.7% increase over the same month last year. ASA's
load factor was 57.5%, compared to 54.3% in January 2001. Available seat
miles increased to 353.6 million from 300.5 million, a 17.7% increase.
Passenger enplanements totaled 510,990, a 14.4% increase over the previous

2:27:52 PM    comment

  Saturday, February 09, 2002

VCR alert: Catch "The Red Holland Show" Monday-Friday at 5 AM-6 AM, Channel 7 - interesting local content on the outdoor scene, plus history/preservation and some of the corniest ads you'll ever see...
6:33:05 PM    comment

  Friday, February 08, 2002

Delta Connection expands jet service from ATL -- Delta Connection will offer customers
 daily jet service between Delta's hub in Atlanta and  Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa.; Charleston, W. Va.; and Brunswick/Golden
 Isles, Ga. Service on DL Connection carrier Comair to AVP will begin May
 16, while service on DL Connection carrier ASA will begin on Sunday. All
 three markets will be served by three daily roundtrip flights using the
 Canadair regional jet. The new service will replace three turboprop
 flights in CRW and all turboprop flights in BQK, and will provide new
 service to ATL for AVP customers.

2:10:26 PM    comment

  Wednesday, February 06, 2002

What does it take to get Southwest Airlines? 

Here's our take on it in a story...

9:27:44 PM    comment

  Monday, February 04, 2002

As noted on January 30, the City of Tallahassee entered a contract last November to subsidize AirTran's start-up in the Tallahassee market. The contract provides $600,000 for direct advertising and marketing, plus $1.5 million in revenue guarantees if certain traffic levels are not met.  The $600,000 is a firm obligation, and both parties say that the revenue guarantees are "expected" to be required.  Delta reacted to this contract very negatively, going so far as to cancel it's $450 annual membership in the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce...  (from press reports in the Tallahassee Democrat)
5:18:47 PM    comment

  Wednesday, January 30, 2002

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on January 30 that AirTran is expanding its system, even as other airlines retrench...  note the requirements AirTran makes of new cities - to guarantee revenues for two years.  We'll try to find out what Tallahassee promised to get AirTran last November.

1:58:33 PM    comment

  Monday, January 28, 2002

The big story of the 21st century on the Emerald Coast is the emergence of The St. Joe Company as the driving force of economic development.  On its face, this promises to be a positive force, but too often there is another face: incessant lobbying and pressure on government to fund huge infrastructure improvements to leverage St. Joe investments.  The current urgent project is relocation of the local airport to the vicinity of Burnt Mill Creek (pictured above).  Your Editor has expended a great deal of time from a happy retirement trying to bring some common sense and orderly planning to this project.  As a result, a great deal of the "opinion" expressed here will deal with the airport and related issues.  Be patient, though, for other issues will also be explored...  the commentary will be dated so you can follow the context over time. 

12:00:28 AM    comment

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