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March 15, 2013

News Briefs March 15, 2013

Three former execs plead guilty in California asbestos case

Three former executives of a now-defunct nonprofit have been convicted of violating federal asbestos laws when the former Castle Air Force Base in Atwater was cleaned up.

The Merced Sun-Star reports Rudy Buendia, Patrick Bowman and Joseph Cuellar each pleaded guilty Monday to one count of breaking a federal law for hazardous air pollutants. Bowman and Cuellar will face 27 months in prison according to a plea agreement, while Buendia will face a two-year term. They are scheduled to be sentenced June 3.

The three men were charged in 2010 and were accused of using at least nine high school vocational students to remove asbestos from an old building between 2005 and 2006. AP

 

Air Force defends contract award to Beechcraft rival

The U.S. Air Force is defending its decision to award a contract for a light air support plane to Sierra Nevada Corp. in the wake of a formal protest by Wichita, Kansas,-based Beechcraft.

Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick said in a statement this week the Air Force restarted the competition for the contract last May with a new evaluation team as well as internal and external advisers. He says the Air Force is confident that its decision is well supported and that the proposals were fairly evaluated.

The contract for 20 planes for use in Afghanistan is worth more than $427 million. It could much as $1 billion, depending on future orders.

Gulick says the Government Accountability Office has up to 100 days to make a decision on Beechcraft’s protest. AP

 

Navy identifies Washington crash victims

The Navy has identified three crew members who died when their plane from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island crashed in Eastern Washington.

Killed were 34-year-old Lt. Cmdr. Alan Patterson from Tullahoma, Tenn.; 26-year-old Lt. Junior Grade Valerie Delaney from Ellicott City, Md., and 24-year-old Lt. Junior Grade William Brown McIlvaine III of El Paso, Texas.

The twin-engine E/A-6B Prowler crashed Monday in a farm field about 50 miles west of Spokane.

The Navy said the plane was engaged in low-level training exercises when the crash occurred. The cause is under investigation. AP

 

Arlington National Cemetery to avoid furloughs

Arlington National Cemetery officials say they will avoid furloughs this year that are being imposed in other parts of government as a result of automatic budget cuts.

The cemetery’s budget has been cut by 5 percent. But the director of the Army National Military Cemeteries said March 13 at a congressional hearing that the cemetery will get by without furloughs by using money that was recovered from previous years’ budgets.

Arlington National Cemetery is run by the Army.

Cemetery officials had estimated that furloughs would have resulted in 160 fewer funerals a month being conducted.

The inability to pass a budget is affecting the cemetery, though. The president’s proposed budget would have provided $103 million to fund expansion projects at Arlington. AP

 

Ex-Navy C-130 being revamped to fight fires

A Canadian tycoon is converting a 30-year-old ex-military plane into a high-tech firefighting aircraft, hoping to win a federal contract before the onset of this year’s wildfire season.

The Navy C-130 owned by Wayne Coulson is undergoing a nose-to-tail renovation at San Bernardino International Airport, Calif., the regional air tanker base for the U.S. Forest Service.

When finished, it will boast a 3,500-gallon tank for fire retardant, night-vision equipment and a GPS system that will make pinpoint drops when guided by a laser device mounted in an accompanying helicopter, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported Wednesday.

Test flights are scheduled for next month, and Coulson hopes to win a Forest Service contract by June.

The Forest Service has a modernization plan for its fleet of air tankers after two deadly accidents in 2002 when the wings snapped off aging air tankers in flight.

The service hopes to replace its fleet of 10 tankers — most more than 50 years old — with newer jets.

Coulson’s four-engine turboprop Hercules was designed as a cargo and troop transport that could handle takeoffs from dirt landing strips. Versions are used by militaries around the world and also for firefighting, disaster relief and resupplying scientists in the Antarctic, according to a U.S. Air Force website.

Coulson, a timber and aviation tycoon, also owns a converted World-War II-era Martin Mars seaplane that has fought fires throughout California. AP

However, the 65-year-old plane no longer wins Forest Service contracts, although it has been used in Canada and Mexico.

Coulson said the Hercules, at 30 years old, is relatively new by air tanker standards and is getting a full renovation.

“We believe we’re bringing a like-new bird into the fleet,” he said.

He declined to discuss the cost of the proposed contract until the Forest Service makes a decision.

 




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Coast Guard photograph

Navy demonstrates unmanned helicopter operations aboard Coast Guard cutter

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