Claude Nolan
Geer Services, Inc.
Geer Services, Inc.
Charles Parish
Geer Services, Inc.
Geer Services, Inc.
San Marco Properties
Aug 142013

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) — A large cargo plane crashed outside the Birmingham, Ala. airport on Wednesday morning.

Flames were reported at the scene where a UPS jet crashed near the Birmingham Airport.

The Birmingham Fire Department confirmed the crash, but was unable to speculate on the number of injuries or deaths.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 302013

Photo by New York Times Co./Getty Images(WILMINGTON, Del.) — A team of historical sleuths believe they have found a clue to what happened to famed aviator Amelia Earhart, claiming sonar may have picked up an image of her wrecked plane off an underwater cliff in the Pacific.

The sonar image is the right shape, size and in the right place in relationship to where some researchers believe the wreckage of Earhart’s doomed flight went down in 1937.

The image, taken during an expedition on July 15, 2012 by a company contracted by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), depicts a narrow object, similar to the shape of an airplane wing, nearly 22 feet long lodged in the side of a steep underwater cliff off the coast of Nikularoro Island. The island, in what is today the Republic of Kiribati, is believed by some to be the site of Earhart’s crash.

“When you are looking for man-made objects in a natural environment, it is important to look for things that are different, and this is different. It is an anomaly unlike anything else in that underwater environment,” says Richard Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR.

Gillespie and his team uploaded the images taken from the July 2012 expedition onto their online forum in March 2013 for the public to see. “It was somebody online who noticed the object and directed our attention to it,” says Gillespie.

“The object makes for the best target to check out with an underwater vehicle,” he said.

TIGHAR cannot confirm that this is a piece of Earhart’s wreckage, but the sonar image fits with what  Gillespie believes happened to Earhart.

“She landed the plane safely on a reef off Nikularoro Island,” says Gillespie. “The wreckage washed into the ocean with the high tide and broke up in the surf. There is archaeological evidence on that island that we believe indicates that Earhart was marooned there until her death several days later.”

Gillespie is hopeful that a future expedition to investigate the finding will be fruitful, but some are unconvinced.

Lou Foudray is the caretaker and historian of the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchinson, Kans., and is familiar with Gillespie’s work.

“This has been going on for years, it probably doesn’t mean anything. I’ve been to the Marshall Islands, I live in the museum, and I’ve heard testimony from Amelia Earhart’s family members, researchers, and historians and these things rarely become anything,” Foudray says.

Foudray believes Earhart survived the crash and lived the rest of her life secretly.

“There are testimonials from her friends that Earhart said before she took off for her final flight that when she came back she wanted to live a life away from the public eye. Of course, we will never know,” Foudray says.

Earhart was the first female to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and famously disappeared in the early morning of July 3, 1937 en route to Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 182013

ABC News(NEWARK, N.J.) — A U.S. Airways official confirmed that a turboprop plane carrying 31 passengers and three crew members was forced to make a belly landing in Newark, N.J., early Saturday morning due to a problem with the jet’s landing gear.

The jet, operated by Piedmont Airlines, left Philadelphia before 11 p.m. on Friday.

According to U.S. Airways Spokesman Davian Anderson, tower operators attempted to help the pilot troubleshoot after the plane’s landing gear remained retracted. After multiple attempts, they decided to execute a belly landing.

When the pilot attempted to land the plane without the use of landing gear, sparks flew, but he managed to keep the plane steady and on the runway.

All 34 people on board were taken off the plane and bused to the terminal.

U.S. Airways believes the issue was an isolated mechanical problem. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Oct 062012

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Craig Funke’s job is to fly a small plane to the edge of violent thunderstorms and back.

The former commercial pilot is not some adrenaline junkie courting danger. He is a cloud seeder in Pleasanton, Texas, chasing menacing storms to artificially prime the clouds to deliver extra rain over drought-stricken farmland.

“As a pilot through school you’re taught to avoid thunderstorms, give them a 20 to 30-mile berth,” Funke said. “You have to respect them, because they are dangerous, but with the proper training, you can negotiate them safely and do this job.”

Funke’s job entails firing chemicals into clouds in an ambitious attempt to modify the weather. He is, quite literally, a rain maker.

Texas is suffering from the largest drought in a half century, causing rising food prices and record wildfires. The drought is also suspected to be the cause for the recent surge in cases of West Nile virus.

Funke said cloud seeding can’t break droughts, but farmers are getting desperate for solutions because they have endured four months of drought. Local water districts that manage the aquifers pay $0.04 an acre to keep Funke and his team up and running on a shoe-string budget.

Tommy Shearrer, the president of the Texas Weather Modification Association, which operates five cloud seeding programs around the state, was quick to explain that cloud seeding only enhances conditions in the atmosphere to produce more rain, but does not create weather.

“We don’t manufacture clouds, and that’s what gets me into trouble with a lot of folks who go, ‘well, it was going to rain anyway, how do you know it was going to have any effect?’” he said. “If you look at the cloud as a factory, we’re inducing a lot of raw materials into the factory so that the factory becomes more efficient and consequently more productive.”

Shearrer’s team of pilots and meteorologists are constantly scanning the skies for the right clouds to seed, but in the middle of a heavy drought, opportunities are few and far between. Sometimes several bone dry days will go by before a promising thunderstorm appears.

When a thunderstorm approaches, a meteorologist guides the cloud-seeding pilot. “Nightline” flew with Funke in a separate chase plane to watch the cloud-seeding pilot hunt for what they called the “inflow.”

The inflow is essentially the lifeline of the storm, where a cloud sucks in moisture in order to produce rain. Once the pilot gets into the optimum position in the cloud, he waits for the green light from headquarters on the ground to start seeding. After an OK over the radio, the pilot releases flares containing silver iodide and calcium chloride particles, which collide with water particles and help produce more moisture.

Then within about 20 minutes, rain starts to fall. Long-term studies have shown that the chemicals released into the cloud have no harmful environmental impacts when they fall to the ground as rain.

“When you go out and you seed for a few hours or all day long and really know you did some good, it’s a good feeling,” Funke said.

The radar data collected after a day of seeding adds to a growing body of evidence that the process works. The data shows seeding can double the amount of moisture in a cloud and the Texas programs boast a 12 percent increase in annual rainfall because of seeding.

But despite the data, some of the biggest critics of cloud seedings are the farmers who stand to benefit from it the most. Bill Slomchinski and his family have been farming in Texas for five generations. He and his son Brett said they have to rely on costly irrigation to water their 300 acres of crops. It cuts deeply into their profits, but the Slomchinskis said they are skeptical that anything short of divine intervention can actually produce more rain.

“I don’t know how it works, I don’t know what they’re doing to make it rain,” Slomchinski said. “[But] when you have been in a drought in ’96 and you have had one wet year, is it working?”

Even though cloud seeding can’t end droughts, Funke said every extra drop of water it produces helps feed the underground aquifers used to irrigate crops. So while he can’t promise the Slomchinskis more rainy days, Funke is convinced cloud seeding is helping them in the long run.

“It’s just like a saving account,” he said. “Cloud seeding is a long-term water management tool. You have to do it every year, the wet years, the dry years.”

Tommy Shearrer brushed off critics who say he is playing God by messing with the weather, but while his ideas may be bold, he said he knows not to fight Mother Nature.

“We work with Mother Nature, we try to help Mother Nature,” he said. “In any battle, Mother Nature is always going to win.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sep 062012 — “It was like Seal Team Six. The SWAT Team from Philly, they were pretty awesome,” said Kurt Weber, a passenger on the Dallas-bound US Air flight that returned to Philadelphia Thursday because of a bomb hoax.

Weber, who was sitting in seat 4-D, got a front-row seat in the quick, surgical end to the bomb scare.

“We got on to the plane, it was a flight like every other flight I have taken, completely uneventful. And frankly, I took a nap. Before we taxied off the runway, I was asleep,” Weber told ABC News.

“At some point, the pilot came over the intercom and told us he was having trouble with instruments and needed to return to Philly to evaluate the instruments,” Weber said.

“At that point I was awake and I stayed awake,” Weber said, “And as we landed there were a whole lot of emergency vehicles and police vehicles racing out and the girl next to me, said, ‘I’m sure glad we are not going where those guys are going.’ And then we wind up taxiing over to them.”

“No one close to me had any inclination there was a threat,” Weber, 54, said. Weber is a consultant for the Archery Trade Association and was on his way to a trade show when the drama occurred.

“These guys entered from the rear of the plane. Next thing I know it almost sounded like a stampede. Here are four Philadelphia SWAT guys, all in black with laser sights on their weapons, weapons drawn and focused on this guy.

“I can only imagine what SEAL Team Six was like. I wasn’t in the military, but these guys were methodical and in seconds they had him in cuffs and on the ground,” Weber said.

The targeted passenger, Christopher Shell, was taken into custody.

“Then the bomb techs got on the plane and the SWAT team took positions throughout the plane and authorities explained clearly to the passengers what had happened that led to the raid.”

Weber said, “The pilot was calm, the flight attendants were calm and helpful.”

“If you were to take a bad experience and try to paint it in as good a light as you could, these guys did it. And I have to give the passengers some credit. There was not a passenger on the plane who did not provide a full measure of cooperation. No one complained. No one got in the way,” he said.

“I want to give these (SWAT) guys kudos. They really did a hell of a job,” Weber said. “It turned out to be a hoax, but nobody knows that.”

Shell was later cleared of any involvement in the threat and he had no explosives, authorities said. An ex-girlfriend of Shell and a man who is her current boyfriend are now in custody, police said.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio