Former airport employee Doug Kriese may not be too thrilled if a report pending from the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t go his way. Kriese, readers may recall, was the whistleblower who notified the FAA of safety regulation violations he says he witnessed at the airport during his tenure there from October 2009 through Jan. 23, 2011.
The FAA has yet to release its determination, but on Wednesday during the Mammoth Airport Commission’s regular meeting, Airport and Transportation Director Bill Manning briefed commissioners that, according to sources who may be privy to the report, preliminary indications are that the FAA report will not be a “clean report,” but will show that the airport was not out of compliance. He didn’t elaborate further, only adding he had no definitive, inside knowledge of what was in the report.
The investigation included, at the very least, a focus on an alleged breach of FAA safety regulations section 139, which deals with aircraft rescue and firefighting equipment. Kriese alleged that after the airport’s annual burn exercise in early December 2010, the AFFF, or aqueous film-forming foam used for fire suppression, in the airport’s rescue vehicle was completely emptied. When Kriese went to refill the tank, he found that there was only enough left to fill it 20 percent. He claimed that he notified his superior, Manning, who then ordered 100 gallons of the necessary foam.
The delivery time, however, was one week, which meant that the airport would go an entire week without this fire suppressant stocked at adequate levels. Kriese said he suggested to Manning they go to Fire Station #1 in Mammoth and borrow some AFFF. Then, when the new foam arrived, they could replace what they had borrowed.
Release to the public and media of the FAA’s final report is expected soon.
In other air service news, on Tuesday the Mono County Tourism Commission formed a subcommittee to streamline how the County interfaces with its fellow air service partners, namely Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, the Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Lakes Tourism. The subcommittee will also serve as a liaison to Mono’s Board of Supervisors particularly as concerns how much financial support the County is willing to contribute (if anything) to subsidizing more of the “shoulder season” periods of air service. (MMSA has said it will continue its full support of winter service, but is backing off of other times that aren’t yielding as much return.)
The Board is divided on the matter. Supervisor Byng Hunt thinks the County should participate to some degree, but Supervisor Larry Johnston is dead set against any Board-approved funding.
Chair Jimmy Little and Commissioner Danna Stroud suggested the subcommittee could help better define the County’s role, in terms of “deliverables, product and what [financial support] is going to buy.” Little opined that perhaps the other partners weren’t specific enough during their recent Board presentation as to reasons why the County should fund air service, leaving the perception that the funding would be more of a “bailout.”
Mono Economic Development Director Dan Lyster said that reticence on the part of the Board is likely due to the County being not as fiscally flexible as it was last fall when it kicked in $45,000. “If people are flying in and going to Bodie or Lee Vining or Bridgeport, that’s where the value to the County is,” he indicated, choosing to focus his remarks on potential benefits of air service investment
As envisioned by the commission, the subcommittee would include both Little and Stroud, Lyster and Alicia Vennos from County EDD, and ideally MLT Director John Urdi and MMSA Marketing CEO Howard Pickett, as well as Supervisor Hunt and Board Chair Hap Hazard.
“There has been a lot of communication between Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Mammoth Mountain and the Mono County Tourism Commission about the benefits of year-round air service to the county as a whole. The recently established Air Service Sub-committee should help articulate those benefits,” Vennos commented.
Lara Kirkner contributed to this report.