Reporter's notebook published Sept. 8, 2012

Written by Triplicate Staff September 11, 2012 03:42 pm

Local airport low on SF’s totem pole 

With the fog season comes a predictable uptick in cancelled flights at Jack McNamara Field.

“But there’s more systemic problems at work than just the weather,” said Airport Director Jim Bernard. He’s also a longtime weatherman, just retired from Channel 3. 

What on earth could be more systemic than weather, from a weatherman’s perspective?

Maybe United Airlines’ response to it, Bernard posed at Thursday’s meeting of the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority. 

 

Whenever flights are delayed from San Francisco, Crescent City flights seem to be the lowest priority destination to take off, annually resulting in increased cancellations during fog season, Bernard said. 

“We’ve raised the issue with Sky West before and all we’re getting is the corporate line,” he said. “I think we need to come up with a way to address this. We don’t have a lot of cards. It’s subsidized already.”

Take offs and landings were down 19.1 percent this August from last August. 

— Emily Jo Cureton

Off the Alaska Highway

After 4,132 miles on the rugged Alaska Highway, Crescent City resident Harry “Mac” McCluskey and his 1942 military jeep are home safe.

Hundreds of military vehicle enthusiasts took their rides on the road in August to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its completion.

“The jeeps don’t have doors or side curtains so you were right out in the elements,” said McCluskey, who took in plenty of sights of black bear, moose and caribou.

“My jeep purred like a kitten — it has never run that good for me,” he said.

The remote route that included 1,100 miles of gravel road was mostly off the grid, so drivers had to bring plenty of Canadian cash to fill up at the few gas stations sporadically located along the route.

The heavily regimented trip spurred memories of his military days, waking up at 5 a.m. to hit the road by 7. The slowest vehicles, the 5-ton trucks, took the lead to pace the convoy, and his  unit took up the rear, followed only by a mechanic’s truck.

McCluskey’s jeep lost a coil, but with a spare coil in tow, he was able to fix it within 10 minutes without the aid of the mechanic truck.

The worst incident was a busted windshield experienced by a convoy member who rolled his jeep. The two passengers, who were in good health, straightened the windshield frame, and duct-taped plexiglass in place to finish the trek.

— Adam Spencer

Lighthouse working just fine

When the light was turned back on at the St. George Reef Lighthouse in March, the Coast Guard gave the lighthouse operators a six month “test period” to prove that they could maintain it.

That six-month window ended Friday.

In the nick of time, Clarke Moore and Terry McNamara of the St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society took a helicopter out to the lighthouse Friday to inspect it, and the device was working like a charm, Moore said.

“The Coast Guard has been very cooperative and patient with us and has allowed us a generous test period,” Moore said.

Bad weather made it difficult to visit the lighthouse for an initial check at first, and then the  state’s Department of Transportation issued a cease-and-desist order on the tourism helicopter flights to the lighthouse that had funded restoration and maintenance, making it even more difficult to check.

Thankfully, Moore said, Dan Brattain of Cal-Ore Life Flights donated his helicopter and flight time to visit the 15-story structure on Friday.

“Keep your eye on the light,” Moore said, reminding Del Norters that you can often see the re-lit historic structure from county shores, even though it’s nine miles away. “For Del Norte, this is huge! We re-lit this sucker.”

— Adam Spencer

‘Zombies’ fly north

A parasitic insect dubbed a “zombie fly” that was identified in Gasquet in 1934 has recently been found to attack honeybees in Oregon.

Zombie fly larvae were found in a dead Honeybee on the campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis, according to an article this week in the Albany Democrat-Herald.

“Ramesh Sagili, a honeybee specialist with the OSU Extension Service, stumbled upon a belly-up bee on a sidewalk under a street light on campus in Corvallis one morning in late July. He placed it in a vial in his lab, and four days later seven maggots crawled out of the bee’s neck. Almost three weeks after that, one matured into an Apocephalus borealis fly, commonly called a zombie fly because of the disoriented behavior it is suspected of causing the bees to exhibit at night,” the article said.

— Adam Spencer

Brookings and its airport

Brookings just might get into the airport business soon, in which case, the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority might double the number of facilities it manages. 

Curry County and the City of Brookings are considering creating an agreement by which the Oregon city would take over ownership of the county airport to enable the facility to at least break even in a year or so, according to a recent report from the Curry Coastal Pilot. 

Right now the Brookings airport is a $26,000 annual deficit for cash-strapped Curry County, which has flirted with insolvency of late. 

On Thursday the Brookings city manager appealed to the governing body of Del Norte County’s airport to put together a proposal for managing another airport, across state lines.

The airport authority, which includes representatives from Curry County and Brookings, was receptive to the idea and agreed to draw up a proposal, though airport staff members had some concerns right off the bat, namely: would this be biting off more than they can chew with two major infrastructure projects coming up in 2013, and can the city of Brookings afford to pay for additional costs.

The Brookings facility has an average of 22,000 landings and departures each year, with 35 aircraft  based there.

— Emily Jo Cureton