Foreign Students Receive Pilot Training at U.S. General Aviation Airports: American Public Foots the Bill

by Miki Barnes, LCSW
President of Oregon Aviation Watch
April 17, 2017

A 2012 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) publication defined general aviation as "the operation of civilian aircraft for purposes other than commercial passenger or freight transport, including personal, business and instructional flying."[1] This report stated that more than $7 billion in FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds were dispersed to general aviation airports between 2001 and 2009.[2] More than twice that amount has been doled out since that time.[3]

The FAA identifies their primary funding source for general aviation airports as follows:

"The Aviation Trust Fund provides the primary source of funding for FAA and receives revenues principally from a variety of excise taxes paid by users of the national airspace system. The excise taxes are imposed on domestic passenger tickets, domestic flight segments, and international passenger arrivals and departures, and on purchases of air travel miles for frequent flyer and similar programs. In addition, taxes are imposed on air cargo waybills and aviation fuel purchases. The largest source of excise tax revenues are related to transportation of passengers."[4]

Monies from the Aviation Trust Fund are funneled to several different FAA accounts including the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which provides grants for airport construction and infrastructure projects. Per the FAA, "In FY 2018, AIP also received an additional billion dollars in discretionary funding for airport grants from the General Fund of the U.S. Treasury."[5]

FAA Passenger Facility Charge

A substantial portion of the AIP funds are accrued by requiring commercial airline passengers to pay a Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) each time they fly - up to $4.50 per flight. The fee can be applied on a maximum of two segments of a flight, for a total of $9.00 each way or $18 for a round trip.[6] However, legislation currently under consideration aims to raise that amount to $8.50 per flight segment. Forbes contributor Ike Brannon lends perspective:

"Airport revenue is at an all-time high, airline traffic has never been greater, and the nation's airports have tens of billions of dollars of fully-funded projects under construction or on tap. Despite these boom times for the nation's airports, various politicians have decided that it is an imperative that we double the passenger facility charge."[7]

What is curious about this arrangement is that the users of general aviation airports do not pay passenger facility charges even though, as pointed out by the FAA, "three out of every four takeoffs and landings at U.S. airports are conducted by general aviation aircraft, and most of these flights occur at general aviation airports."[8] Nonetheless, general aviation airports are the recipients of billions annually from the Aviation Trust Fund as well as U.S. tax dollars dispersed through the FAA AIP.

Oregon airports provide an example of the lavish funds routinely awarded to general aviation airports. In 2017, 46 of Oregon's GA airports received a combined total of more than $6.5 million through FAA non-primary entitlement funds.[9] An additional $49 million in AIP grants was dispersed to various Oregon airports, including some that received pay-outs from the non-primary entitlement category.[10] Yet the users of these airports contribute little to the funding of these airports. In fact, general aviation airports are subsidized by commercial airline passengers and taxpayer dollars while the benefits accrue to those affluent enough to own airports and airport businesses as well as those who own, lease, or travel by private jet, fixed wing aircraft, or helicopter. The flight training industry is also a major beneficiary.

U.S. Airline Passengers Underwriting Cost of Training Chinese Pilots

The FAA asserts that many general aviation airports "provide flight training which helps keep a steady supply of pilots available for our airlines and military,"[11] but in fact a large percentage of the student pilots training in the U.S. are recruited from overseas and return to their home countries after obtaining their certification. The Port of Portland's (Port) general aviation airports illustrate the degree to which these airports have become a magnet for Chinese pilots, largely due to orchestrated efforts on the part of Hillsboro Aviation, Hillsboro Aero Academy, and Portland Community College (PCC) to actively recruit student pilots from that country. Hillsboro Aviation is owned and managed by Max Lyons. According to a 2013 website quote, a number of foreign organizations and airlines contributed to making his company "a leader in the industry." The Chinese state-owned airlines and businesses listed below were among those identified in the posting:

  • Shanghai Airlines chose Hillsboro Aviation to train its pilots.
  • China Eastern Airlines chose Hillsboro Aviation to train its pilots.
  • Air China chose Hillsboro Aviation to train its pilots.
  • PTES (Cessna's single-engine piston airplane and Robinson helicopter dealer in China) chose Hillsboro Aviation as its U.S. aviation partner.
  • The CAAC (Chinese government) approved Hillsboro Aviation to conduct both airplane and helicopter training.[12]

China's Militarized Airspace

According to an article in the South China Morning Post, 80% of the airspace over mainland China is controlled by the military.[13] A similar finding is echoed by the BBC:

"Aviation experts agree that one of the main problems in China is the fact the country's airspace is largely controlled by the military, leaving little room for civilian aircraft even as the domestic airline industry booms. According to the state-run China Daily newspaper, less than 30% of China's airspace can be used by commercial airlines, compared to about 80% of the airspace in the United States.

Not only does this create a daily bottleneck for passenger planes, it can occasionally result in mass flight cancellations when the military wants to conduct drills, such as in the summer of 2014 when 12 airports, including the two in Shanghai, were ordered to reduce traffic by 25% for a three-week period for military training."[14]

Forbes reporter Ralph Jennings has also weighed in on this issue:

"China's secretive air force controls the skies, academic researchers Zhang Yu and Zhao Yifei told a conference two years ago. Military planes might suddenly need a civilian flight path. Airlines never let this on to their passengers, because the military operates largely in secret."[15]

The conference alluded to in the above quote was held at the University of Florida. It was sponsored by the FAA and an organization identified as NEXTOR (The National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research). The presenters were from the University of South Florida and the Civil Aviation University of China.[16]

The FAA, Port of Portland and Portland Community College have a history of spending public money on Oregon general aviation airports that are heavily involved in training Chinese pilots. By doing this they are in effect helping to preserve China's militarized airspace and its authoritarian regime while dumping the negative impacts of this activity onto local residents.

Hillsboro Aero Academy Owned by Out of State Investors

Hillsboro Airport tenants Hillsboro Aviation and Hillsboro Aero Academy foster strong ties with China, Asia and other foreign government and business interests. In 2014 Hillsboro Aviation sold the flight training portion of its business to Hillsboro Aero Academy. Max Lyons remained as manager and a minority owner of the Academy, while retaining his ownership of Hillsboro Aviation. Hillsboro Aero Academy, which lays claim to being one of the largest flight training schools in the U.S., states that it has trained thousands of pilots from over 75 countries.[17] Like Hillsboro Aviation, it too boasts of being approved by the Chinese government to provide flight training.[18]

As a result of the flight school sale, the majority owners of Hillsboro Aero Academy are now two out of state investment firms - Graycliff Partners and Renovus.

Graycliff Partners is headquartered in New York and Brazil. Per their website, "The Graycliff team has worked together for almost two decades originally as part of HSBC Capital."[19] Graycliff spun off from HSBC then stepped in to buy Hillsboro Aviation flight school within a year or two after the U.S. Government leveraged criminal charges against HSBC. A Homeland Security and Government Affairs U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report entitled U.S. Vulnerabilities to Money Laundering, Drugs, and Terrorist Financing: HSBC Case History chaired by Senator Carl Levin sheds light on HSBC's shady dealings.[20]

According to a BBC report, HSBC was eventually fined nearly $2 billion dollars for its lax money laundering oversight related to drug trafficking in Mexico and for circumventing rules designed to prevent dealings with sanctioned countries including Iran, North Korea and Burma. Business transactions with a Saudi Arabian bank linked to the 9/11 attacks were also cited as a significant concern. In addition, evidence emerged that,

"Between 2005 and 2008, HBUS [United States] cleared $290m worth of US dollar travellers' cheques which were being presented at a Japanese bank...

After prompting from US regulators, HBUS found out that the travellers' cheques were being bought in Russia - a country at high-risk of money laundering."[21]

Pennsylvania based Renovus Capital is also a majority owner of Hillsboro Aero Academy. The website portfolio for this firm[22] reveals that in addition to Hillsboro Aero Academy, it owns Phoenix East Aviation (PEA), an international flight training school located in Daytona Beach, Florida. PEA's website indicates that over 65% of their students are from outside the U.S.[23]

Hillsboro Aero Academy to Train Chinese Pilots at Oregon's Redmond Airport

In late 2017, Hillsboro Aero Academy announced plans to move their Prineville flight training program to Redmond. According to the academy president, Jon Hay, who along with Max Lyons, is a minority owner in the company:

"...the move may eventually bring as many as 150 flight students, most of them Chinese, to Redmond. The move will allow the flight school, which also has campuses in Hillsboro and Troutdale, to expand into larger quarters and to make available to its students experience with tower operations at Redmond Airport."[24]

Located in central Oregon, the Redmond Airport has received millions in FAA and ConnectOregon handouts. The academy plans to lease land for its flight training pursuits from Leading Edge Aviation Inc., a private business located at both the Redmond and Bend Municipal Airports. Like Hillsboro Aero Academy, Leading Edge has benefited from the millions in FAA and ConnectOregon dollars lavished on the Redmond and Bend airports. Leading Edge is also in the business of training foreign pilots.[25]

In addition, Hillsboro Aero Academy trains pilots at the Port owned Troutdale Airport. A 2013 Portland Tribune article described the airport as a "cockpit for international pilots" and emphasized the focus on Chinese pilot training in particular. The article explained that the increase in flight training activity was requested by Portland Community College in the interest of expanding their Aviation Sciences program.[26]

ATP Flight School Based at HIO

Another Hillsboro Airport tenant, the Florida based ATP Flight School, illustrates the degree to which publicly funded flight training for international students has proliferated across the U.S. ATP describes itself as "the largest flight school in America with over 320 aircraft and 42 training centers."[27] ATP flight school locations are currently spread throughout 19 states: 3 in Arizona, 6 in California, 7 in Texas, 6 in Florida, 3 in Georgia, 2 in Kentucky, 2 in New Jersey, 2 in Washington, 2 in North Carolina, and 1 each in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.

Port of Portland Professes Ignorance about HIO Aviation Activity

Sadly, the Port of Portland is remarkably uninformed about what is going on at the Hillsboro Airport. So much so that a reasonable individual could legitimately suspect that this agency lacks the business acumen, professional competency, integrity, moral fiber and transparency to responsibly manage this airport.

In response to an Oregon Aviation Watch information request, the Port claimed that it does not track the operations or flight hours logged by the various tenants located at the Hillsboro Airport, nor does it seem to know how many aircraft each airport business bases at the airport. Per the Port, the FAA has classified this type of information as "Sensitive Security Information." In addition, the Port does not know how many or how often student pilots are training at HIO nor does it know the types of aircraft they are training in, such as jets, fixed wing or helicopter. The Port stated that it does not collect information on the number of pilots from out of state or overseas or the number of pilots affiliated with the PCC Aviation Sciences program.[28]

Foreign Aviation Training Schools Negatively Impacting U.S Citizens across the Nation

While denying local communities a democratic voice in airport decisions, the Port and FAA have engaged in the orchestrated exploitation of the public on behalf of foreign interests. Not only are airports throughout Oregon profiting from the international flight training industry, other states are doing so as well. In addition to the international pilot training occurring at the airports mentioned above, a few more examples follow, but these are just the tip of the iceberg:

  • Scandinavian Aviation Academy located at Gillespie Field in San Diego[29]and El Cajon, California[30]
  • The privately owned Taiwanese EVA Flight Training Academy located at Mather Field in Sacramento[31]
  • The Griffith-Merrillville Airport in Indiana which trains pilots for China [32]
  • Trans Pac Aviation Academy in Phoenix, AZ specializes in training Asian pilots[33]

Similar scenarios are playing out across the country. In Oregon numerous airports besides HIO, Troutdale, Prineville, Redmond and Bend Municipal are profiting from the flight training industry. These include but are by no means limited to Scappoose, Stark's Twin Oaks, Aurora, McMinnville, and a host of others. All are on the receiving end of FAA funding disbursements.

Glaring Questions

There are a number of unanswered questions that arise in response to this very serious situation:

  • Why is the U.S. Department of Transportation, via the FAA, State of Oregon and Port of Portland, foisting the consequences of China's decision to militarize its airspace onto local residents?
  • Why are the costs as well as the noise, pollution, safety and security burden inherent in this activity being dumped on local residents?
  • Why are the FAA, Port of Portland, the State of Oregon, Washington County and City of Hillsboro prostrating themselves at the feet of China's authoritarian regime? China is a country with an ongoing history of committing genocide against Tibet, of suppressing democracy in its own country, and of jailing dissidents while their leader, President Xi Jinping feels entitled to rule for life. All the American government agencies listed above demonstrate a shameful willingness to compromise the health and well-being of local residents, of destroying livability, and of complacently pumping toxins into the air in a revolting display of allegiance to this foreign, brutal totalitarian regime
  • How many of the Chinese pilots trained in Oregon return to their country to serve in the military? Given the militarization of China's airspace, it is reasonable to assume, and perhaps negligent not to, that Oregon's general aviation airports, subsidized with public money, largely serves as a training ground for China's military pilots.
  • Why are private companies and out-of-state investment firms allowed to profit from the degradation of our communities by inflicting the noise, pollution, financial costs, safety, and national security risks posed by the flight training industry onto area residents and local communities?

Conclusion

Over the past couple years there has been a barrage of near daily reports questioning who is actually running the federal government. Legitimate suspicions about the totalitarian influence of countries such as Russia abound.

The actions of the FAA, Port of Portland and other aviation businesses and investors trigger similar questions. Just exactly who do they work for and why are they so guarded, secretive and evasive about their activities? A growing body of evidence suggests that they are freely investing public resources, including commercial passenger fees and taxpayer dollars, into promoting the interests of repressive governments, such as China, as well as other foreign aviation businesses. In the process they are marginalizing and dismissing the impact on local communities. A thorough and comprehensive investigation of this issue is in order.

It is noteworthy that while users of general aviation airports, including private jet owners, hobbyists and flight training students, are flying high, those of us who are footing the bill each time we book a commercial flight are being stuffed into overcrowded aircraft and denied basic amenities. The situation has become so extreme that those who have the sheer audacity to bring their legs on a flight are now charged additional fees for the provision of adequate space. What's next? Are we soon to be charged extra for head, arm, shoulder, and torso space? Flying by commercial airline has deteriorated so dramatically in the U.S. that it is becoming comparable to reading the chilling dismemberment section of an insurance policy rather than a sojourn through the friendly skies.

The Port's lack of knowledge and accountability about what is going on at the Hillsboro Airport is alarming. Residents of this community have a right to know who is prowling their skies, who is circling their homes, who is disrupting their sound-scape and who is pumping lead, CO2, particulate matter and host of other toxins into the environment.

In a similar vein, the FAA's willingness to compromise the health, well-being, and democratic rights of local communities is unacceptable. U.S. taxpayers and commercial airline passengers have a right to know how their hard-earned dollars are being spent, and the degree to which they are being forced to subsidize businesses that profit from training foreign and out of state pilots while eroding the quality of life of those impacted.

Sources

[1] General Aviation Airports: A National Asset. U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration. (May 2012). Page 27. Last accessed on-line on 4/16/18 at https://www.faa.gov/airports/planning_capacity/ga_study/

[2] Ibid. Pages 15, 17, 19, 21.

[3] 2017 Grants Awarded. AIP Grant Histories. FAA website. Last accessed on 4/16/18 at https://www.faa.gov/airports/aip/grant_histories/#history.

[4] Airport and Airway Trust Fund. FAA. Last accessed on-line on 4/9/18 at https://www.faa.gov/about/budget/aatf/.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) Program: Airports. FAA. Last accessed on-line on 4/15/18 at https://www.faa.gov/airports/pfc/.

[7] Brannon, Ike. Of User Fees and Taxes: The Passenger Facility Charge is a User Fee and It Shouldn't Become a Tax. (1/26/18).Last accessed on-line on 4/16/18 https://www.forbes.com/sites/ikebrannon/2018/01/26/of-user-fees-and-taxes-the-passenger-facility-charge-is-a-user-fee-and-it-shouldnt-become-a-tax/#4122d73e35c4.

[8] General Aviation Airports: A National Asset. U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration. (May 2012). Page 1. Last accessed on 4/16/18 at https://www.faa.gov/airports/planning_capacity/ga_study/media/2012AssetReport.pdf.

[9] AIP Entitlement Apportionment Data: Fiscal Year 2017 AIP Entitlements. FAA (Parts A and B). Last accessed on 4/9/18 at https://www.faa.gov/airports/aip/grantapportion_data/media/FY-2017-NonPrimary-Entitlement.pdf.

[10] Airport Improvement Program Grant Histories. FAA. Last accessed on-line on 4/11/18 at https://www.faa.gov/airports/aip/grant_histories/media/FY2017-AIP-grants.pdf.

[11] General Aviation Airports: A National Asset. U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration. (May 2012). Page i. Last accessed on 4/9/18 at https://www.faa.gov/airports/planning_capacity/ga_study/media/2012AssetReport.pdf.

[12] Hillsboro Aviation Website. Posted 11/30/14. Last accessed on-line on 12/3/14 at http://www.hillsboroaviation.com/en/page/about_us.

[13] He Huifeng. China Looks to Make Skies Friendlier for Civilian Flights. South China Morning Post. (5/26/17). Last accessed on 4/16/18 at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2095661/china-plans-open-more-skies-civil-flights-ease.

[14] Bergman, Justin. This is Why China's Airports are a Nightmare. BBC. (4/29/16). Last accessed on 4/4/18 at http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20160420-this-is-why-chinas-airports-are-a-nightmare.

[15] Jennings, Ralph. China's Airports Can't Solve the Serious Problem of Flight Delays -- Here's Why. Forbes. (6/6/17). Last accessed on 4/4/18 at https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2017/06/06/hogging-of-space-explains-why-so-many-flights-still-take-off-late-in-china/#5a69bdc12610.

[16] Zhang, Yu and Zhao, Yifei. Aviation Growth in China: Challenges and Ongoing Efforts. FAA-NEXTOR. (Feb.11-13, 2015). Last accessed on 4/4/18 at http://www.nextor.org/Conferences/201502_NEXTOR_Workshop/Zhang%20&%20Zhao-Asilomar-2015.pdf.

[17] International Student Information. Hillsboro Aero Academy website. Last accessed on 4/2/18 at https://flyhaa.com/student-resources/international-students/.

[18] About. Hillsboro Aero Academy website. Last accessed on 4/2/18 at https://flyhaa.com/about/.

[19] Graycliff Partners. Last accessed on-line on 4/15/18 at http://www.graycliffpartners.com/.

[20] U.S. Vulnerabilities to Money Laundering, Drugs, and Terrorist Financing: HSBC Case History. Last accessed on-line on 4/15/18 at https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/PSI%20REPORT-HSBC%20CASE%20HISTORY%20(9.6).pdf.

[21] HSBC money laundering report: Key Findings. BBC News. (12/11/12). Last accessed on-line on 4/15/18 at http://www.bbc.com/news/business-18880269.

[22] Renovus Capital. Website last accessed on-line on 4/15/18 at http://renovuscapital.com/.

[23] Fly World-Class Training Aircraft. Phoenix East Aviation website last accessed on 4/15/18 at http://lp.pea.com/pilot-training-school-phoenix-east-avi.

[24] Ditzler, Joseph. Flight School Bringing 150 Students to Redmond Airport. The Bulleting. (10/20/17). Last accessed on-line on 4/11/18 at http://www.bendbulletin.com/business/5686267-151/flight-school-bringing-150-students-to-redmond-airport.

[25] International Students. Leading Edge Flight Academy. Last accessed on-line 0n 4/16/18 at https://flyleadingedge.com/flight-school/helicopter-training/international-students/.

[26] Hachmann, Carl. Troutdale Flight School is International Cockpit for Pilots. Portland Tribune. (6/4/13). Last accessed on 4/16/18 at http://portlandtribune.com/go/44-features/153866-troutdale-flight-school-is-international-cockpit-for-pilots.

[27] ATP Flight School website. Last accessed on-line on 4/16/18 at https://atpflightschool.com/international/.

[28] Email sent to Miki Barnes from the Port of Portland Public Records Department on 11/17/17.

[29] Professional Flight Training for More Than 50 Years. Scandinavian Aviation Academy. Last accessed on 4/9/18 at https://www.bfsaa.se/en/about-us.

[30] Company Overview of Scandinavian Aviation Academy. Bloomberg. Last accessed on 4/9/18 at https://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapid=33961008.

[31]EVA Flight Training Academy. Last accessed on 4/9/18 at http://www.evafta.com/.

[32] McCollum, Carmen. Chinese Students at Griffith Aviation School. LaPorte County News. Last accessed on 4/9/18 at http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/laporte/chinese-students-soar-at-griffith-aviation-school/article_7565dc1d-911b-5606-abbe-9cbe1302867b.html.

[33] Alcock, Charles. U.S. Academy Helps China Fill Its Huge Pilot Training Gap. AIN Online. (4/17/14). Last accessed on 4/9/18. https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/air-transport/2014-04-17/us-academy-helps-china-fill-its-huge-pilot-training-gap.

Port Exhibits Laxity and Secrecy about the Hillsboro Airport

December 7, 2017

The Hillsboro Airport is a general aviation facility that caters primarily to private flight training schools which recruit many of their students from outside the state and from overseas, especially China and Taiwan. Infrastructure projects such as runway, taxiway, and apron construction as well as lighting, airport signage and drainage, are subsidized via the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP). A large portion of AIP funding comes from fees affixed to the ticket prices charged to commercial airline passengers. The FAA then allocates a substantial portion of this money to general aviation airports that cater to training students from China, Taiwan and other foreign countries. See Overview: What is AIP? for additional information.

It should come as no surprise that President Xi of China can barely control his exuberance over his success in consolidating power. See China's military is flashing clues about the country's complex politics. After all when it comes to flight training, he has the Port of Portland, Oregon's state government, Portland Community College and the FAA eagerly catering to his whims. It used to be that in order to express enmity towards a country, you had to invade or issue threats. But this is no longer the case, as evidenced by the U.S. in general and Oregon in particular, wherein the respective government entities have become so consumed by power and greed they are now more than willing to circumvent democracy, degrade the environment, and compromise the livability of their constituents to further the interests of foreign governments and authoritarian regimes. Federal and state policies applying to the Hillsboro Airport are a case in point.

Hillsboro Aero Academy, based at HIO, is one of the largest flight schools in the Pacific Northwest. The school offers assurances to those who graduate from their program that they will likely find jobs working for Delta, Air China and Eva (a Taiwanese airline). The academy also states that it has trained pilots for over 75 countries. See the Hillsboro Aero Academy website. It is important to note that the $17 million dollar runway recently constructed at HIO was built primarily to accommodate this flight school.

Despite the presence of the massive pilot training mill at HIO, the Port of Portland, the proprietor of the airport, appears to be remarkably ignorant about what is going on at this facility. On the other hand it is entirely possible that the Port may be obscuring the facts about the types of businesses it is promoting.

Port Claims that it Does Not Track Operations at HIO

In response to an Oregon Aviation Watch public records request seeking information on the number of aircraft each business at HIO bases at the airport, the Port disclosed that "a reliable history of based aircraft is not available" and also acknowledged that it does not collect information on how many aircraft each business at HIO bases at the airport. The Port further stated that the FAA keeps records of this nature but their databases are considered "Sensitive Security Information." In other words both the Port and the FAA, though more than willing to funnel public money into furthering the corporate profits of the private businesses located at HIO, are choosing to shield them from accountability and transparency. This is particularly troubling in light of the significant number of operations at HIO which are devoted to training Chinese and other foreign nationals. It also begs the question of why the FAA, the Port and State of Oregon are foisting the cost as well as the negative environmental and public health impacts of the flight training industry onto U.S. commercial airline passengers and state residents.

In any case, the Port also acknowledged that it does not collect information on the number of flight hours and operations flown by each business on an annual basis "nor does the Master Plan forecast aircraft operations for each business."

The Port also claimed that it did not collect information on the number of training operations at HIO nor the types of aircraft student pilots are flying - fixed wing, helicopter, or jet. Nor does the Port collect information on how many student pilots are from Portland Community College (PCC), out of state or overseas.

The Port's failure to require their tenants to provide basic reporting and forecasting data on past, current and future activities brings into question the Port's credibility and competency to serve as proprietor of HIO. In addition, it leaves the community vulnerable to the negative impacts of irresponsible stewardship of public funds, ongoing exploitation, pernicious pollution, and noise intrusions on behalf of HIO, PCC and flight training schools whose commitment to advancing the interests of foreign governments and business interests appears to exceed their commitment to transparency, accountability, the environment, livability and the very constituents who are funding this travesty.

Lack of Security Requirements at HIO

In addition, the laxity of federally required security measures at HIO is of serious concern. Unlike commercial airline passengers, student pilots and passengers at HIO are not required to undergo rountine TSA security checks before boarding an aircraft. Per the Port, "As for local physical security enhancements at HIO, the Port does not discuss individual security practices related to any of our airports...The Port does not implement procedures for checking luggage, carry-ons, cargo and other items."

Port Keeps Detailed Aviation Statistics at PDX but Refuses to Do the Same at HIO

The Port's failure to maintain, track or provide data on HIO activity stands in stark contrast to its approach taken at Portland International Airport (PDX). A review of the Port aviation statistical record helps to illustrate this point and clearly shows that the Port does have the capacity to track the number of operations and the passenger count per carrier, as well as cargo tonnage. By contrast, at HIO there appears to be an intentional effort to obscure and conceal this information - an approach which leaves one to wonder what exactly the Port of Portland and the State of Oregon are trying to hide.

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court Denies Hillsboro Airport Third Runway Appeal

The Court negligently ignores the Petitioners' primary argument in ruling in favor of the FAA and Port of Portland

October 11, 2017

Oregon Aviation Watch is disappointed to announce that on 8/3/17, the U.S Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a denial of our petition for review of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Port of Portland (Port) decision to construct, without an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a third runway at the Hillsboro Airport (HIO).

HIO is primarily a flight training facility that recruits many of its prospective pilots from outside the country. During the nearly 90 years HIO has been in existence, it has grown from a grassy airstrip into the largest and most polluting general aviation airport in the State of Oregon. In fact, HIO has earned the dubious distinction of being the number one facility source of lead emissions, a ton or more per year, in the state of Oregon and 21st in the nation among nearly 20,000 U.S. airports.

According to Port and FAA predictions, lead emissions during the landing and take-off phase of flight will increase from 0.8 tons per year in 2016 to 0.9 tons per year by 2021.[1] Pre-flight run-ups, which have been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a major source of lead emissions at individual airports, were not included in the Port/FAA forecast, thus the actual amount of lead released at HIO is substantially higher than projections indicate. In addition, Port/FAA estimates did not include cruise phase emissions.

In any case, the court's decision was very much in keeping with the pro-corporate, damn the environment attitude the Port, FAA, aviation sector, local governments and Trump administration have routinely displayed towards the environmental degradation caused by airports and other industrial sources of pollution.

Background

In 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court issued a remand in response to Petitioners who challenged the addition of a third runway at HIO. At the time the Court stated that the Port and FAA failed to consider the potential for induced demand from adding a new runway.[2] The Port's response to the Court decision was troubling and deflective. Instead of directly asking the various tenants at the airport, including the predominant user of the airport, the Hillsboro Aero Academy international flight training school, to provide information about their current activities and projected growth over the next 20 years, the Port engaged in a random sampling of pilots and businesses then proceeded to hinge future forecasts on this flawed data.

The Hillsboro Airport Supplemental Environmental Assessment (HIO SEA) on this topic included an anonymous pilot survey. Though several of the respondents stated that they received pilot training at Hillsboro Aviation, now Hillsboro Aero Academy, the actual numbers of all pilots receiving training at this flight school were not included. This is a significant oversight since the majority of operations at HIO are training flights largely on behalf of Hillsboro Aero Academy/Hillsboro Aviation - a business that lays claim to training pilots from over 75 countries.[3] Oregon Aviation Watch and the other Petitioners questioned the accuracy of the survey in both their Opening and Reply briefs and through extensive testimony submitted during the formal hearing proceedings. The Court, however, opted to ignore the detailed information included in the record.

Per the court decision authored by Judge Richard R. Clifton:

"In their reply brief, Petitioners contend that, even if Hillsboro Aviation was included in the survey, the survey did not capture all of the likely growth related to pilot training. Petitioners did not raise this argument in their opening brief, and it is therefore waived."[4]

The judge is clearly mistaken. As noted by Oregon Aviation Watch Vice President Jim Lubischer:

"In fact, this specific argument was raised in Oregon Aviation Watch's Opening brief. Even the federal respondents recognized this in their reply brief. A cynic might think that the easiest way for the judges to rule in favor of the Port and FAA was to ignore Oregon Aviation Watch's primary argument by ruling that the argument had never been raised. In many court cases there are grey areas but this was not the case here."

Petitioners Re-Hearing Request Denied, No Explanation Provided

In response to the Ninth Circuit Court's misapprehension of material facts, Oregon Aviation Watch sought a rehearing, pointing out to the judges that this issue was included in the opening brief. The Court was reminded that when Oregon Aviation Watch submitted hearing testimony asking for the number of operations logged by all businesses located at HIO, the FAA and Port stated that the agencies "do not believe that the information requested by commenters [Petitioners] about flight training details or data about specific companies is necessary to prepare forecasts for the Supplemental Environmental Assessment."[5]

The opening brief also clearly stated that "the Survey did not capture the number of operations from the primary user of the Hillsboro Airport, Hillsboro Aviation." As noted by Sean Malone, the attorney for the Petitioners, this concern was argued in the opening brief and was raised yet again in the reply brief.[6] Nonetheless, without even the mere courtesy of an explanation, the Court chose to ignore these material facts and refused to honor the Petitioner's well articulated request.

Petitioner's Opening Brief Statements on Flight Training

Concerns related to the flight school and the deficiency of the survey to accurately forecast potential induced demand were raised on pages 24 through 28 of the Petitioner's Opening Brief under the section entitled Failure to account for the single largest operator at HIO. An excerpt from this argument reads as follows:

"As noted above, the FAA relied on the pilot survey to formulate the 'remand forecast,..but the survey omitted the single largest general aviation operator at HIO, Hillsboro Aviation...The omission is significant because Max Lyons, President of Hillsboro Aviation, submitted a letter in support of the application to fund the Project, stating that the third runway will allow the airport and its tenants to continue expanding as the impact of the current recession subsides."[7]

This section of the brief also includes excerpts from a Vertical Magazine interview with Max Lyons. According to the article which was included in the record,

"Since Lyons took leadership of Hillsboro Aviation in 1992, the company has had a continual emphasis on building partnerships in China in order to grow and support the country's aviation industry. As the open skies policy takes effect in China over the coming months and years, Hillsboro Aviation is well positioned to nurture the country's general aviation industry through the training of Asian pilots and representing aviation products in Asia."[8]

The article also stated, "Hillsboro Aviation has trained thousands of airplane and helicopter pilots from Asia..." and went on to include the following quote from Lyons, "As general aviation continues to grow and expand in China, we want to have a role in its growth and support this industry with the experience and resources we have developed over our 30-year history with Asia."[9]

Hillsboro Aviation Flight Training Concerns Submitted at Formal Hearing

Detailed concerns regarding the inadequacy of the pilot survey were submitted into the record. during the formal hearing. The Petioners' analysis was prepared by Oregon Aviation Watch vice president, Jim Lubischer.[10] Per Dr. Lubischer,

"The survey is deficient for not searching for and identifying primary users of HIO runways...The identification of primary users of the HIO runways is critical, as any 'estimated induced demand' is likely to hinge on those particular users. Not ensuring that the primary users are included in the survey is a critical mistake and any conclusions based on the Survey are not valid."[11]

Petitioners' Reply Brief Statements on Flight Training

The Petitioner's Reply Brief on pages 13-15 also includes a section entitled Failure to account for the single largest operator at HIO. As pointed out by, Sean Malone, the attorney for the Petitioners, "This information is of the utmost importance because flight training accounts for the vast majority of operations at the airport."[12]

Obviously the Petitioners emphasized concerns about the survey throughout the entire proceedings. It was not that the issues were not raised, but rather that the Court chose to blatantly ignore this very pivotal issue.

Court Grants Port and FAA Latitude to Increase HIO Lead Emissions to 25 Tons Per Year

Another chilling aspect of the decision was the Court's unwillingness to fully address the fact that even without a third runway, during the landing and take-off phase of flight, HIO is releasing close to a ton of lead into the air each year. Additional lead is released during engine run-ups. Despite the inclusion of this information in the record, the Court ignored the extensive data on this topic and chose to base its decision solely on the additional lead emissions predicted by the Port and FAA to result from adding a third runway. Per the decision,

"The SEA demonstrated that the new runway would have little effect on lead in the area around HIO. The Remand Forecast estimated that the new runway would result in the annual additional 0.03 ton of lead in 2016 (from 0.83 ton under the Constrained Forecast to 0.86 ton under the Remand Forecast) and the annual emission an additional 0.02 ton of lead in 2021 (from 0.90 ton under the Constrained Forecast to 0.92 ton under the Remand Forecast). These predictions represent an increase in lead emissions of less than four percent."[13]

Please note that neither the Port of Portland nor the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality or the EPA have ever actually measured lead emissions on the airport property or downwind of the facility where lead emissions are likely to be highest.

And it gets even worse. In arriving at their decision, the Court choose to discount the warnings issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that there is no safe level of lead in a child's blood as well as evidence that lead is a neurotoxin and probable carcinogen that can be harmful at very low exposure levels. The Court then went on to side with the Port and FAA's argument that until lead emissions from a federal action reach 25 tons annually, EPA regulations do not require an evaluation of the regional impact. At this point a reasonable reader might wonder what the difference is between EPA environmental policy as cited by the attorneys hired by the FAA and Governor appointed Board of Port of Portland Commissioners versus a government promoted institutionalized death camp mentality.

Health Impacts of Lead

The Petitioners' opening brief contained extensive documentation on the negative health impacts of lead exposure. Lead is a potent neurotoxin that can damage the blood, kidneys, and central nervous system. It can retard fetal development and cause reproductive problems. Even very low levels of lead can cause deficits in intelligence, reaction time, visual motor integration, fine motor skills, and executive functioning.[14]

Oregon Aviation Watch testimony in the record included the following,

"Lead is a potent neurotoxin. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry lists 275 toxic substances on the 'Substance Priority List.' Arsenic is number one on the list. Lead is number two. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that 'no level of lead in a child's blood can be specified as safe.' Furthermore, the CDC has stated that, '...because no level of lead in a child's blood can be specified as safe, primary prevention must serve as the foundation of the effort [to prevent childhood lead poisoning]. Efforts to eliminate lead exposures through primary prevention have the greatest potential for success.' Primary prevention means not putting lead into our environment. Rather than increase the lead in our children's environment we should be reducing the lead emitted from non-essential aircraft. Morally, any increase in lead cannot be considered de minimis."[15]

Sadly, the Port of Portland, the FAA, the State of Oregon, local government officials and now the Court have chosen to minimize and ignore the serious environmental and public health threat posed by Hillsboro Airport and have instead given this facility free reign to continue poisoning this community with the noise and pollution generated by private flight training companies.

Conclusion

In justifying their refusal to require an Environmental Impact Statement by citing EPA regulations, more specifically the archaic 25 tons de minimis statement, it's worth remembering that it was once legal to put lead in paint and automotive fuel - a practice that was discontinued due to the significant environmental and health risks posed by this toxic substance. It was once legal to own slaves but this practice was also discontinued because it was brutal and inhumane. It was once legal to ban women from voting but this practice was discontinued because it was discriminatory and misogynistic. It was once legal to ban black people from frequenting white only diners and restrooms but thankfully this practice, too, was discontinued because it was blatantly racist and dehumanizing.

In a similar vein, this country is sorely in need of laws that protect fetuses, infants, toddlers, kindergarteners, school children, pregnant women, the elderly, disabled individuals and ultimately the entire population from being assaulted daily by lead pollution, especially the lead released by the aviation sector which is responsible for over 50% of airborne lead emissions in this country. Moreover legislation, or at the very least a significant change in the way the courts interpret existing laws, is needed to protect residents from the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government that perpetuate, rather than seek to solve, this very serious problem. Sadly the laws of this country are all too often bereft of any semblance of either morality or ethics.

Many U.S. federal, state and local laws have historically been established by a greedy, self-serving dominant class whose primary intent is to accumulate corporate and industry profits by gouging and exploiting public sources of money at every turn. As a result, it should come as no surprise that the EPA, FAA, State of Oregon and Port policies that pollute the air, degrade the environment and compromise the health of current and future generations are promoted and upheld by the judicial system. What a travesty!

Sources

[1] Hillsboro Airport Parallel Runway 12L/30R Final Supplemental Environmental Assessment. Prepared for the Federal Aviation Administration by the Port of Portland. Volume 1. Pg. 29-30. (February 2014).

[2] Barnes et al vs. US Dept. of Transportation, FAA, and Port of Portland. US Ninth Circuit Court Opinion #10-70718. (Filed 10/25/11). Pgs. 16285 to 16286 and 16297. Available on-line at http://www.oregonaviationwatch.org/docs/NinthCircuitCourtOpinion-10-70718.pdf.

[3] Hillsboro Aero Academy website. Last accessed on 10/4/17 at http://flyhaa.com/.

[4] Barnes et al v. the FAA and Port of Portland. No. 14-71180. U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion. (8/3/17) Pg. 10, Footnote. Available on-line at http://www.oregonaviationwatch.org/docs/NinthCircuitCourtOpinion-14-71180.pdf.

[5] Hillsboro Airport Parallel Runway 12L/30R Final Supplemental Environmental Assessment. Prepared for the Federal Aviation Administration by the Port of Portland. Volume 2 of 2 Appendices G and I. Pg. G. 9-45. (February 2014).

[6] Barnes et al v. the FAA and Port of Portland No. 14-71180. Petitioners' Petition for a Re-hearing (8/25/17) Available on-line at http://www.oregonaviationwatch.org/docs/NinthCircuitCourtOpinion-10-70718.pdf.

[7] Barnes et al v. the FAA and Port of Portland No. 14-71180. Petitioners' Opening Brief. (8/11/14) Pg. 24. Available on-line at http://www.oregonaviationwatch.org/docs/HIO_2014-24-1-Opening_Brief.pdf.

[8] Hillsboro Aviation Prepared to Support General Aviation Growth in China. Vertical Mag. (3/5/11). Last accessed on-line on 10/4/17 at https://www.verticalmag.com/features/hillsboro-aviation-prepared-to-support-general-aviation-growth-in-china-html/.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Lubischer, J. Analysis of the General Aviation Survey Report Summary. OAW Hearing Testimony. Submission. Available on-line at http://www.oregonaviationwatch.org/docs/Analysis_of_DSEA_SURVEY.pdf.

[11] Ibid. Pg. 7.

[12] Barnes et al v. the FAA and Port of Portland No. 14-71180. Petitioners' Reply Brief. (12/02/14) Pg. 15 Available on-line at http://www.oregonaviationwatch.org/docs/HIO_2014-41-1-Reply_Brief.pdf.

[13] Barnes et al v. the FAA and Port of Portland. No. 14-71180. U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion. (8/3/17) Pg. 11. Available on-line at http://www.oregonaviationwatch.org/docs/NinthCircuitCourtOpinion-14-71180.pdf.

[14] Barnes et al v. the FAA and Port of Portland No. 14-71180. Petitioners' Opening Brief. (8/11/14) Pg. 10-12. Available on-line at http://www.oregonaviationwatch.org/docs/HIO_2014-24-1-Opening_Brief.pdf.

[15] Lubischer, J. Analysis of the General Aviation Survey Report Summary. Pg. 1. Available on-line at http://www.oregonaviationwatch.org/docs/Analysis_of_DSEA_SURVEY.pdf.

10/12/17 Hillsboro Airport Master Planning Committee Meeting

The date and location for the next Hillsboro Airport Master Planning Advisory Committee are as follows.

Date: October 12, 2017, Thursday
Time: 6:00 pm to 8:15 pm
Public Comment: 7:10 pm
Location: Hillsboro Civic Center, City Council Meeting Room
Address: 150 East Main St., Hillsboro, Oregon

The agenda, which includes a presentation on noise and air quality, did not schedule an opportunity for public comment. The agenda for the meeting is available at Hillsboro Airport Master Plan Update: Noise and Air Quality Information Session.

HIO - Primarily a Publicly Funded Pilot Training Mill on Behalf of Foreign Interests and Private Corporations

October 10, 2017

In 2017 the Port of Portland convened a committee to explore future growth and expansion at the Hillsboro Airport (HIO). Most members of the advisory group were either hand-picked by the Port of Portland or Washington County Commission Chair Andy Duyck. Commissioner Duyck is on record as supporting unlimited growth at this facility regardless of the negative noise, environmental and health impacts routinely born by the constituents he was elected to represent.

Hillsboro Aero Academy (HAA), formerly Hillsboro Aviation, is an international flight training school that primarily serves foreign interests. It has partnered with Portland Community College (PCC) which is an arm of the pilot training mill facilitated by the Port of Portland. According to HAA's website,

"Our flight school has 37 years of experience training professional pilots from over 75 countries. You'll join one of our thousands of graduates with careers working for helicopter operators like PHI and Columbia Helicopters or for international airlines like Delta, Air China, and EVA Air."

Air China is one of the state owned airlines run by the People's Republic of China. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Port of Portland, and Portland Community College have colluded in serving as a training mill to thousands of student pilots from China as well as Taiwan and other parts of Asia not to mention numerous other countries across the globe. The significant impact of the ongoing noise and pollution on the entire community as a result of this activity has never been addressed.

Eva Air is a Taiwanese airline privately owned by the Evergreen Group. For additional details see the Evergreen Group website. Of note, this company is currently in the process of constructing a flight training academy, but rather than building it in Taiwan, it is located at the Mather Airport in Sacramento, California (see EVA Flight Training Academy).

Please note that the commercial jet training now offered through HAA was established without any public discourse, feedback or participation whatsoever. Democratic process and open discussion were completely circumvented in the interest of promoting corporate agendas and foreign interests over the greater good.

It remains unclear as to why U.S. public transportation and educational dollars are being spent to subsidize air traffic controllers, air traffic control towers, runways and other airport infrastructure as well as classroom space on behalf of these for-profit companies discussed above.

PCC accesses property tax and state money for the purpose of providing public educational opportunities for Oregon residents. Yet instead it is directing funding earmarked for education into the polluting, noisy and disruptive pilot training mill via its Aviation Sciences pilot training program.

This situation discussed above leads one to question who the FAA, State of Oregon, Port of Portland and PCC actually work for. Given the decision of the foregoing agencies to dismiss and block community input while using limited public resources to enter into and promote business agreements on behalf of foreign governments and major U.S. corporations, the public funding lavished on them via commercial passenger fees, property taxes, Gain Share, enterprise zone developments, Connect Oregon and other funding sources should be returned to the communities from which it originated. The shadowy dealings of these government agencies and educational institutions represents a grievous betrayal of the public trust.

Who is Circling Our Homes?

Full Public Disclosure Requested

September 14, 2017

Oregon Aviation Watch submitted the following to the Hillsboro Airport(HIO) Master Planning Advisory Committee on 9/12/17. This committee is currently considering future growth and expansion options at HIO. Though the businesses and individuals located at this airport have benefited from lavish government subsidies from multiple government sources including the FAA, ConnectOregon, Gain Share, the Oregon Department of Transportation, Portland Community College and the Port of Portland, the public is routinely kept in the dark about what is occurring at this facility. Nonetheless they have historically withheld crucial information about their past activities, current operations and future plans.

This request was submitted in an effort to gather comprehensive data so that informed decisions can be made. It is the firm conviction of Oregon Aviation Watch that those who benefit from government money should be forthcoming and transparent in their responses.

Hillsboro Aero Academy (HAA), one of the largest airplane and helicopter flight training schools on the West coast, is located at the Port of Portland (Port) owned and operated Hillsboro Airport. HAA also offers pilot instruction at the Troutdale and Prineville Airports. The school was a division of Hillsboro Aviation until 2014 when the President and CEO, Max Lyons, sold it to out of state investors - Renovus Capital based in Pennsylvania and Graycliff Partners, "an independent investment firm with offices in New York and Brazil." Lyons, however, stayed on as a minority owner and manager.[1]

According to their website, over the 37 years that Hillsboro Aero Academy (HAA) / Hillsboro Aviation (HA) has been in business, it has trained pilots from over 75 countries.[2] The school is reputed to provide training annually to approximately 700 students from around the world.[3] Per Max Lyons, the owner of Hillsboro Aviation and part owner and manager of Hillsboro Aero Academy, "Hillsboro Aviation has trained thousands of airplane and helicopter pilots from Asia." He further stated that, "As general aviation continues to grow and expand in China, we want to have a role in its growth and support this industry with the experience and resources we have developed over our 30 year history with Asia."[4]

Given the likelihood that many Chinese pilots will serve in the Chinese military or law enforcement upon their return to their homeland, the provision of this pilot instruction essentially supports China's authoritarian approach to governance; its ongoing and brutal genocide against Tibet, its repression of democracy and its history of jailing dissidents including Nobel Laureate, Liu Xiaobo. China's close alliance with North Korea is also worth noting.

A 2013 posting from the Hillsboro Aviation website included a number of foreign organizations and airlines that have made them "a leader in the industry." Most are associated with China, but Japan, Taiwan and Norway also made the list.[5]

  • The Airline Pilot Association of Taiwan chose Hillsboro Aviation as its premier location to train.
  • The Japan Aviation Academy chose Hillsboro Aviation as their exclusive pilot training school.
  • Shanghai Airlines chose Hillsboro Aviation to train its pilots.
  • China Eastern Airlines chose Hillsboro Aviation to train its pilots.
  • Air China chose Hillsboro Aviation to train its pilots.
  • PTES (Cessna's single-engine piston airplane and Robinson helicopter dealer in China) chose Hillsboro Aviation as its U.S. aviation partner.
  • Luftfartsskolen School of Aviation in Norway chose Hillsboro Aviation to train its pilots.
  • The CAAC (Chinese government) approved Hillsboro Aviation to conduct both airplane and helicopter training.

Portland Community College - Major Source of Aviation Noise and Pollution

Portland Community College (PCC) has strong ties to the aviation industry and the provision of flight training on behalf of Chinese pilots. Indeed, this taxpayer funded educational institution encouraged Hillsboro Aero Academy to expand its pilot training program at the Troutdale Airport.[6] Students enrolled in PCC's Aviation Science program contract with Hillsboro Aero Academy for the in-flight portion of their certification. As a direct consequence, PCC student pilots have played a major role in degrading livability by generating frequent daytime and nighttime noise disruptions, polluting the air, and causing safety and security risks over area homes and neighborhoods.

Aviation Profiteers Exploit Community and Compromise Security

The Port of Portland (Port), PCC, and FAA are government agencies that receive public money. Although Hillsboro Aero Academy and other private flight training businesses benefit from millions of FAA Port and ConnectOregon dollars invested in maintaining and staffing air traffic control towers and infrastructure expansions, a shroud of secrecy veils the activities that occur at these airports. In fact, the current system is so skewed towards promoting industry profits that it allows student pilots to walk onto the tarmac and board a plane at the Port's general aviation airports without any security check whatsoever. In addition, the luggage and other belongings carried on to general aviation domestic aircraft are not subjected to security screenings.

By contrast, passengers flying out of commercial airports are required to undergo TSA security checks that can involve x-ray machines, pat downs and other invasive procedures. Luggage and personal belongings are also scrutinized.

Clearly general aviation airports can pose significant security threats. A salient example occurred at HIO this past summer. According to media reports, on 7/3/17 a man wearing a gray hoodie jumped the fence at HIO and allegedly tried to steal a helicopter. In the absence of security at this facility, armed Hillsboro Aero Academy employees held the man at gunpoint, however when the Hillsboro Police arrived, the presumed hijacker managed to flee and was subsequently shot and killed by the police.[7]

As a result of his death it is difficult to gather information regarding his intent and motive. Newspaper accounts identified the intruder as Holden Gorka who worked as a truck driver.[8] Very little information has been released since this incident. It is unclear why Gorka opted to climb the perimeter fence since it is relatively easy to walk directly onto the HIO airfield with no security clearance whatsoever. Regardless of the sketchy specifics regarding this case, it underscores the risks posed as a result of the minimal security at U.S. general aviation airports.

Many Washington County residents impacted by the oft-times relentless noise generated by aviation activity at the Hillsboro Airport can personally attest to being plagued by repetitively circling aircraft both close in to HIO as well as farther out, over rural and woodland properties more than 12 to 20 miles from the airport. Residents in dense residential neighborhoods within a two mile radius of the airport are frequently at risk of FAA Safety Standard violators. In addition, many of these pilots fly to other nearby airports throughout Oregon and Washington including, but not limited to, Scappoose Airpark, Stark's Twin Oaks, Skyport, McMinnville, Newburg, Aurora, Pearson, and other airports in the region. Despite numerous complaints as well as information requests aimed at better understanding the situation, the Port, PCC and the Hillsboro Aero Academy / Hillsboro Aviation have steadfastly refused to release detailed explanations about who is training at these facilities.

In addition, given the lack of consideration and protections for people on the ground, general aviation pilots have the potential to keep U.S. residents under surveillance at all times - a serious concern in light of escalating global tensions throughout the world. At the very least, the minimal security at HIO gives a potential terrorist easy access to aircraft that could be used to damage corporate facilities such as Intel which store significant quantities of toxic pollutants on-site. Schools, power grids, water resources, homes and neighborhoods are also at risk.

China Strongly Allied with the Port of Portland, PCC, Russia and North Korea

Why is Oregon more committed to training pilots on behalf of China's authoritarian regime than it is to protecting its own taxpaying constituents from the environmental, livability and security threats posed by China? The evidence suggests that an insidious all-consuming greed guides aviation policy in this state to an inordinate degree.

China is the largest ally and trade partner of North Korea, a country that is threatening to point nuclear missiles at Guam, Hawaii, and the West Coast of the U.S. There are also indications that these missiles may eventually have the capability of reaching as far inland as Chicago. The devastation and loss of life that could occur both in Asia and the U.S. in the event of a conflagration of this magnitude is unimaginable.

The heightened tensions between North Korea and the United States sheds additional light on the strong alliance that exists between China and the Kim Jong Un regime. According to U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, China is reluctant to pressure North Korea to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Merkley explained that Chinese officials "fear a reunified Korean state could be friend to American interests and foe to Chinese." In addition China is concerned that a collapse of North Korea could trigger "a flood of Korean refugees into China."[9]

China is also building military facilities including missile shelters in the South China Seas, an action that has raised U.S. concerns that China may intend to restrict free movement and trade in this region.[10]

Full Public Disclosure Requested

In the interest of full disclosure and the promotion of public trust, the following information should be made readily available. This is an opportunity for Governor Brown to demonstrate her support for government transparency, especially since she is responsible for appointing the members of the Port of Portland Board of Commissioners and the Oregon State Aviation Board.

Questions regarding HIO Tenants and Businesses

  • The Port has stated that there are at least 25 businesses located at the Hillsboro Airport (HIO). Please identify these businesses.
  • How many based aircraft does each business have at HIO? How many operations and flight hours does each business log on an annual and monthly basis?
  • How many additional operations does each business expect to log over the next 5-10-20 years?
  • Of these 25 businesses, which ones provide flight training at HIO?
  • How many and how frequently are student pilots training in larger aircraft, such as corporate or commercial jets?
  • How many and how frequently are student pilots training in helicopters and fixed wing aircraft?
  • Please identify how many of the operations at HIO are training operations. If this information is currently unavailable, OAW recommends the establishment of landing fees on all operations to track the exact numbers.

Questions Specific to Hillsboro Aero Academy (HAA)

  • Hillsboro Aero Academy / Hillsboro Aviation (HA) has stated that it has trained student pilots from over 75 countries. Please provide a detailed list of these countries and information about how many students from each country train at HIO on a monthly and annual basis. How many hours does each pilot log? Please provide this information for each of the 37 years Hillsboro Aero Academy / Hillsboro Aviation has been in business.
  • Exactly how many pilots has HAA / HA trained from China? How many Chinese pilots are currently training at HAA / HA?
  • Have HAA / HA employees met with government leaders from China? If so in what capacity? Were they authorized to do so by the Governor, Port of Portland, U.S. government or any other local, state or federal official or agency? Are public records available regarding any meetings that transpired? If so how can they be accessed by members of the public?
  • Has HAA / HA trained pilots from North Korea, Russia, or Syria? If so when and how many? Please provide this information on a monthly and annual basis.
  • Is HAA / HA currently training pilots from any of these countries?
  • Have HAA /HA employees met with government leaders from North Korea, Russia, and / or Syria? If so in what capacity? Were they authorized to do so by the Governor, Port of Portland, U.S. government or any other local, state or federal official? Are public records available regarding any meetings that transpired? If so how can they be accessed by Oregon Aviation Watch and other members of the public?
  • In light of the knowledge that a number of the pilots involved in the 9/11 tragedy were from Saudi Arabia, please provide detailed information about the number of pilots HAA / HA has trained from this country on a monthly and annual basis since 1980?
  • Does HAA / HA currently or has it ever provided training on behalf of the military for any foreign country? If so provide the names of the specific countries served including a breakdown of the number of pilots trained, the number of operations and the hours logged.
  • Does HAA / HA currently or has it ever provided training on behalf of law enforcement or the police force for any foreign country? If so provide the names of the specific countries served including a breakdown of the number of pilots trained, the number of operations and the hours logged.
  • Does HAA / HA currently or has it ever provided training on behalf of law enforcement or the police force for any jurisdiction in Oregon? If so please state how many pilots were served and how many operations and flight hours were logged in the provision of this activity.
  • Does HAA / HA currently or has it ever provided training on behalf of law enforcement or the police force for any other U.S. state outside of Oregon? If so please identify which states and / or local jurisdictions were served, a breakdown on the number of pilots trained and how many operations and flight hours were logged in the provision of this activity.
  • Does HAA / HA contract with other companies or private instructors for flight training? If so, please name these businesses and / or individuals.

Questions Specific to PCC

  • How many PCC students are training at the Hillsboro Airport? How many are from within the U.S? How many are from outside the country? How many are from Oregon? How many are from out of state? How many are from within the local community? Please provide annual and monthly data starting from the year when PCC first began offering flight training.
  • If from outside the U.S., please specify which countries they originate from.
  • Do any foreign state owned, privately run airlines or businesses subsidize the education of these students? If so please provide the names of these airlines or businesses.
  • How many PCC students are helicopter students? How many are fixed wing? Please provide annual and monthly data starting from the year when PCC first began offering flight training.
  • Are any PCC student pilots training in larger aircraft such as corporate or commercial jets or commuter and air taxi aircraft? If so are they training out of HIO? Please provide annual and monthly data starting from the year when PCC first began offering flight training.
  • How much flight time is each pilot required to accrue for certification purposes?
  • How many hours of nighttime training is each student required to accrue for certification?
  • How many inclement weather hours is each student required to accrue for certification?
  • Do all PCC student pilots contract with Hillsboro Aero Academy for flight training?
  • Please identify any businesses or individuals besides Hillsboro Aero Academy involved in providing flight training at HIO or other nearby airports.

Questions Specific to Horizon Air

A December 2016 Hillsboro Tribune article reported on a collaborative effort between Hillsboro Aero Academy and Horizon Air to offer commercial flight training out of the Hillsboro Airport.[11] Members of the public who will bear the brunt of the noise, pollution, safety and security risks were not consulted. Nor was this topic discussed at the Hillsboro Airport Roundtable Exchange before it disbanded last year.

  • Please specify the number of student pilots currently served by Horizon Air at HIO.
  • How many flight hours is each student required to log for commercial certification?
  • Please identify the country of origin of the pilots Horizon Air is currently serving and those this company intends to serve in the future.
  • Please identify the number of pilots training from outside the state and identify their individual states and jurisdictions of origin.
  • Please identify the number of pilots training from any and all jurisdictions in Oregon.
  • Please identify the specific flight paths utilized by Horizon Air.
  • How many HIO operations has Horizon Air logged to date? Please identify the months and years they were logged.
  • Has Horizon Air trained pilots from North Korea, Russia, or Syria? If so when and how many? Please provide this information on an annual and monthly basis.
  • Is Horizon Air currently training pilots from any of these countries?
  • Is Horizon Air partnering with other Oregon airports in providing commercial training? If so, please identify the airports involved.
  • Is Horizon Air partnering with Oregon businesses in providing commercial training? If so, please identify the businesses involved.
  • Is Horizon Air partnering with Oregon educational institutions in providing commercial training? If so, please identify the educational institutions involved.

Questions Specific to the Scappoose Airpark

There appears to be a network of airports throughout region which are engaged in flight training activities. Information from these facilities could help shed light on this issue. Since Vince Granato, the Chief Operating Officer for the Port of Portland, was appointed by the Governor to serve on the board of the State Department of Aviation he is in a key role to coordinate information flow between the two agencies.

  • How many pilots have trained at the Scappoose Airpark, which is closely associated with State Senator Betsy Johnson, who owns a business at this facility?
  • To what extent has Senator Johnson personally and financially benefited from the flight training industry?
  • To what extent has Senator Johnson personally and financially benefited from Oregon legislation specifically designed to promote flight training and other aviation activity in Oregon?
  • How many pilots have trained at the Scappoose Airpark? Please provide numbers on a monthly and annual basis starting when flight training first commenced at this facility.
  • Please identify the specific companies that provide the training.
  • How many student pilots training at this facility are currently or have in the past been associated with Hillsboro Aero Academy / Hillsboro Aviation?
  • How many are from outside the country? Please identify the specific countries served and include a breakdown of the number of pilots served from each country on a monthly and annual basis. How many are from outside the state? Please identify the specific states served.
  • To what extent, if any, is Senator Johnson likely to personally benefit from the $7.5 million in state money approved by the legislature for the establishment of an innovation center in the vicinity of her private business at the Scappoose Airpark?[12]

Questions Specific to the State Department of Aviation and Other Airports in the Region

The State Department of Aviation oversees a number of airports. In addition there are a number of privately owned public use airports in the region including, but not limited to, Stark Twin Oaks and Skyport.

  • Please provide information on the businesses served at each facility?
  • How many of these businesses are involved in flight training?
  • How many pilots have trained at each of Oregon's state owned airports? How many pilots have trained at Oregon airports that are not owned by the state? Please provide a breakdown by airport. Please provide numbers on a monthly and annual basis starting when flight training first commenced at each facility.
  • Please identify the specific companies that provide the training at each airport.
  • How many student pilots at each airport are from outside the country? Please identify the specific countries served and include a breakdown of the number of pilots served from each country on a monthly and annual basis.
  • How many student pilots at each airport are from outside the state? Please identify the specific states served and include a breakdown of the number of pilots served from each country on a monthly and annual basis.
  • If the pilots trained are from Oregon, please identify the jurisdictions from which they originate and specify the number of pilots served on a monthly and annual basis. Please provide this information on a per airport basis.

Concluding Remarks

Unfortunately Hillsboro Aviation, Hillsboro Aero Academy and others involved in the flight training industry throughout the region have achieved their success by exploiting and degrading the quality of life, environment, livability, safety and security of area residents.

The decision by the Port of Portland, Portland Community College, the aviation industry, and local and state officials who, either actively or passively, promote flight training at the expense of national security, the environment and livability poses a serious threat to the greater good as does the failure of these agencies to act in a responsible and transparent manner. The public has a right to know who is circling their homes and properties at all hours of the day and night.

Sources

[1] Hammill, Luke. Hillsboro Aviation Sells Flight Training School, But Day-to-Day Operations Not Likely to Change. (12/2/14). Last accessed on-line on 8/20/17 at http://www.oregonlive.com/hillsboro/index.ssf/2014/12/hillsboro_aviation_sells_fligh.html.

[2] International Student Information. Hillsboro Aero Academy website. Last accessed online on 8/23/17 at http://www.flyhaa.com/student-resources/international-students/.

[3] Siemers, Erik. After Pact with Horizon, Hillsboro School Aims to be Training Ground for Commercial Pilots. Portland Business Journal. (12/14/16). Last accessed on 9/11/17 at https://www.bizjournals.com/portland/news/2016/12/12/after-pact-with-horizon-hillsboro-school-aims-to.html.

[4] Hillsboro Aviation Prepared to Support General Aviation Growth in China. Vertical Magazine. (3/5/11) Last accessed on-line on 9/14/17 at https://www.verticalmag.com/features/hillsboro-aviation-prepared-to-support-general-aviation-growth-in-china-html/.

[5] About Us. Hillsboro Aviation Website. Last Accessed in April of 2013.

[6] Hachman, Carl. Troutdale Flight School is International Cockpit for Pilots. Portland Tribune. (6/4/13). Last accessed on-line on 8/20/17 at http://portlandtribune.com/go/44-features/153866-troutdale-flight-school-is-international-cockpit-for-pilots.

[7] Bailey, Everton. Police Kill Gunman Who Tried to Hijack Helicopter at Hillsboro Airport. Oregonian / Oregon Live. (7/3/17). Last accessed on-line on 9/12/17 at http://www.oregonlive.com/hillsboro/index.ssf/2017/07/police_investigating_reported.html.

[8] Bailey, Everton. Police Identify Attempted Helicopter Hijacker Killed by Officer. Oregonian / Oregon Live. (7/5/17). Last accessed on-line on 9/12/17 at http://www.oregonlive.com/hillsboro/index.ssf/2017/07/police_identify_attempted_heli.html.

[9] Friedman, Gordon. Heading to Korea, Sen. Merkley Cites 'Extraordinary Risk of Potential War.' Oregonian / OregonLive (8/18/17}. Last accessed on-line on 8/20/17 at http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/08/heading_to_korea_sen_merkley_c.html.

[10] CNBC Reuters. China Builds New Military Facilities on South China Sea Islands: Think Tank. (6/30/17). Last accessed on-line at https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/30/china-builds-military-facilities-south-china-sea-islands.html.

[11] Pamplin Media Group. Hillsboro Aero, Horizon Air Strike Deal for New Pilots. (12/12/16). Last accessed on-line on 9/11/17 at http://pamplinmedia.com/ht/117-hillsboro-tribune-news/336133-216106-hillsboro-flight-school-partners-with-seattle-airline-to-train-next-generation-of-pilots.

[12] Vaughn, Courtney. State Releases $7.5 Million for Innovation Center. Columbia County Spotlight: Pamplin Media Group. (5/25/16). Last accessed on 9/11/17 at http://www.pamplinmedia.com/scs/83-news/308739-186801-state-releases-75-million-for-innovation-center.

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