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Archives 01-27-2010

News

New operator plans to take airport to new heights
Sheriff warns to check census worker’s ID
State submits proposal for “Race to the Top”
Unemployment still rising in Tennessee

New operator plans to take airport to new heights


Eric Walker, with Region Air, took over operations of Livingston Airport on January 1.

By Amy Davis

A new airport operator has landed in Livingston.

Eric Walker and his company Region Air are now in the pilot’s seat at Livingston Airport, taking over after an almost 13-year run with previous fixed base operator Greg Booher of Plane Crazy USA.

“We are excited to be at the Livingston Airport,” said Walker, who additionally heads operations at Upper Cumberland Regional Airport in Sparta. “It’s a great facility, a great airport, and we’re just looking to grow.”

A 5-year contract with Walker and Region Air, an aviation facility and flight support provider, was approved by the Livingston mayor and Board of Aldermen, effective Friday, Jan. 1.

Mayor Curtis Hayes said, “I believe the Town of Livingston and Overton County have hit a home run with Region Air and FBO Eric Walker. Mr. Walker’s knowledge of aviation is second to none, and I look forward to working with him as we continue to attract new businesses and industry.

“The Livingston Airport is a great economic tool for our community, and we’re very fortunate to have a high caliber person such as Eric Walker.”
Hayes added, “We’d also like to thank Greg Booher and Plane Crazy USA
for dedicating so many years to our airport and our community. I wish Mr. Booher the best in his new endeavors.”

Livingston Airport houses more than 10 privately owned aircraft. The facility includes a conference room, office, and kitchen; outside lies a 5,142-foot stretch of runway.

In addition to providing daily maintenance, Walker and his crew will be working to build revenue at the airport, primarily by way of its fuel cell.

“Serving the airport as a fuel station is our primary source of business,” Walker said. “The airport will also be getting a grant to install a self-service fueling system, which will attract more customers and allow us to keep the airport operating.”

Other plans include a flight school, aircraft maintenance, and eventually extending the runway.

Walker, a native of Cookeville, said he is excited about the tasks at hand.

“This business is a lot of fun,” he said. “You don’t get into aviation unless you love it. It can have its days, just like anything else – long hours and long weekends – but at the end of the day, you know you have just spent your time around aviation and the airport. I absolutely love it!”

Walker was barely out of toddlerhood when, oddly enough, a freak accident helped cement that strong love for aviation.

“When I was 4 or 5, I was ran over by an airplane,” said Walker, whose father, Bill Walker, a recreational pilot, spent many a day at the Sparta airport with kids in tow. “My brother and I were walking next to a plane my dad was piloting, at a taxi, and my brother stepped on my shoelaces, and under I went. I broke a few bones, but that’s when I guess I fell in love with flying. If you didn’t hate it after that you had to love it!”

And on it went through the years for Walker, a self-proclaimed “airport kid”.

“I just hung out at the airport a lot,” he said. “That’s how it all began.”

He’s also enjoyed his share of major aviation events across the country, air shows, and has even tinkered with old war bird aircrafts.

After graduating from Cookeville High School, Walker earned his pilot’s license and then went on to University of Tennessee, earning a degree in legal studies. But aviation, rather than the legal profession, was the career path with more appeal for Walker.

“The opportunity came up to buy out a location of Averitt Aviation,” Walker said. “So that’s when I decided to jump in. Region Air was the outcome.”

Since then, he has been at the helm of operations at Upper Cumberland Regional Airport in Sparta. Now Walker brings his expertise to Livingston.

Speaking of the importance of local airports, such as the Livingston Airport, he said, “It’s a vital organ to a city. And it’s one that goes overlooked, a really important one that goes overlooked. An airport can open up a small town to so much more. A lot of business people use general aviation transportation so they can operate in several locations.”

Walker explained the two sides of aviation: commercial and general.

“Commercial aviation includes your international airports – your Southwest, your Delta. That’s how people normally think of the aviation world. Getting a ticket and flying somewhere,” he said.

“The other side of flying is general aviation, which includes all your private aircrafts and jets.”

It also includes flight schools at local airports.

“That’s where everything begins,” Walker said. “A professional pilot may be trained at a school like Middle Tennessee State University, but he doesn’t have a lot of flying experience. So he builds hours at a local airport.

“So general aviation is really important for the commercial side of aviation. It’s the birthplace. You can’t do without it. There are general aviation airports across the country that outnumber your large airports like Nashville or Knoxville tenfold. I think we have over 95 airports in Tennessee.”
He pointed out that general aviation for medical purposes is on the rise.

“Medical has become one of the largest things for general aviation,” Walker said. “And it goes understated because most of the time it happens at night.

If someone is injured, or an organ donor comes along, medical jets fly in from all over the country to the closest airport capable of handling them.”

With plans to eventually extend the Livingston Airport runway, Walker hopes to attract and better serve customers in these varying general aviation capacities, be it business, medical, military or anything else.

“What we’re trying to do is make the Livingston Airport more capable of handling a larger base of aircrafts,” Walker said. “There are so many different types of general aviation you would never think of day to day.”

As for the flight school side of aviation, Walker said Livingston Airport is open for business.

“If somebody wants to learn to fly, we’ll rent them a plane and connect
them with one of our flight instructors,” he said. “They can get their pilot’s license out of this airport.”

Livingston Airport is open Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For more information call (931) 823-3671.

Walker added, “This airport is going to grow. It’s going somewhere. In several years we’re going to look back and be very proud of what we’ve done here as a community and as a business.”

 


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Sheriff warns to check census worker’s ID
Census workers will be in the Overton County area to deliver census questionnaires, beginning the week of February 22.

Census workers will have official identification cards with them to identify themselves.

Sheriff W.B. Melton warns, “If they cannot show the proper identification, please do not allow the individuals into your home.”

He asked that if anyone becomes suspicious of an individual or has questions to contact him or his staff at Overton County Sheriff’s Department at 823-5635.



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State submits proposal for “Race to the Top”
The State of Tennessee has submitted its proposal in the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top competition, seeking a total of $501.8 million in federal resources to spur education innovation across the Volunteer State.

Tennessee’s final request exceeded recent estimates by about $17 million, mainly due to additional resources being sought for turnaround schools.

Tennessee’s complete Race to the Top proposal, totaling 1,111 pages with supporting documents, can be found on the state Department of Education website at www.tn.gov/education.

Governor Phil Bredesen said, “We’re proud to put forward Tennessee’s very best proposal for meaningful reform in public education. Our application should be especially competitive following last week’s efforts by the General Assembly, the Tennessee Education Association, and countless others who helped support and pass the Tennessee First to the Top Act of 2010.”

Gov. Bredesen signed the newly minted law.

He added, “With years of solid reform work under our belts, we’re optimistic that the U.S. Department of Education will view Tennessee in the same way we see ourselves: As a state that is ready to lead the nation with fresh ideas and a new approach to public education.”

Under federal guidelines, half of any Race to the Top funds received by
Tennessee, which, as requested, would total $250.9 million, would be distributed directly to local school districts under the federal government’s existing Title I formula. The other half would be used to seed a “State Innovation Fund” underwriting a series of new investments over a 4-year period. Major categories include the following:

•Turnaround schools: Approximately $108.8 million to help turn around struggling schools, including roughly a dozen consistently failing schools that may join the new state-run “Achievement School District” as well as roughly 180 increasingly troubled schools that may be designated as “Renewal” or “Focus” schools.

•Great teachers and leaders: Approximately $62.2 million for a range of professional-development and “human capital” initiatives, including the creation of a new educator leadership program, expansion of Tennessee’s existing SITES-M program to improve math instruction in elementary schools, and training for teachers on higher academic standards.

•Technology and data: $54.5 million to improve public school teachers’ use of and access to Tennessee’s longitudinal data system used for tracking “student growth”, or a child’s improvement in the classroom over time.

•STEM programs: $22.5 million to invest in programs and schools focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math – the STEM disciplines.

•Oversight and implementation: $2.9 million to help the Department of Education implement Tennessee’s plan and to establish a “First to the Top Oversight Team” charged with ensuring that funds are deployed according to plan and properly utilized.

Timothy Webb, commissioner of the state Department of Education, said, “Tennessee’s proposed investments under Race to the Top are aligned not only with the needs of our state but also with the core reform priorities outlined by the President and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. We’re hopeful that Tennessee’s will come out on top.”

Created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Race to the Top provides $4.35 billion in competitive grants designed to encourage and reward states that are implementing ambitious plans in the following four core education reform areas:

•Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;

•Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;

•Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most;

•Turning around the lowest-achieving schools.

Winning states in the first round are expected to be announced in April, to be followed by a second round of competition later in the year.

Tennessee’s entire Congressional delegation has expressed support for Tennessee Department of Education’s application for the Race to the Top Assessment Program.

In a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the delegation members
wrote, “We are writing in strong support of the Tennessee Department of Education’s application for the Race to the Top Assessment Program. In utilizing these federal funds,

“Tennessee seeks to capitalize on its assets – a rich pool of data, a plan for revamped standards and assessments, increasing collaboration with high-tech firms and facilities, and an expanded charter school system.

“Tennessee’s RTTT proposal builds upon these assets and will accelerate reforms necessary to support educational achievement and excellence.”

Tennessee will now compete with 40 other states and the District of Columbia for a share of more than $4 billion in federal grants in a nation-wide effort to encourage innovative and ambitious education reforms.


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Unemployment still rising in Tennessee
Tennessee’s unemployment rate for December was 10.9%, up 0.7 percentage point from the November rate of 10.2%.

Tennessee Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development James Neeley said, “This month we’ve seen a cumulative effect of statistical information, which resulted in our high rate of unemployment. These figures are consistent with a weak holiday period that outweighed seasonal adjustments to the unemployment rate this time of year.”

The December rate a year ago was 7.6%. The national unemployment rate for December 2009 was 10%, equal to the November rate of 10%
According to the Business Survey, 1,700 job gains occurred in retail trade, 1,200 in health care and social assistance, and 1,000 in professional, scientific and technical services.

Major employment decreases occurred in manufacturing, down by 4,300.

Mining and construction declined by 3,900, and administrative, support, and waste services declined by 2,900 jobs.

Year-over-year increases occurred in health care and social assistance, up by 8,700. Federal government increased 1,500, and local government educational services gained 1,400.

Manufacturing decreased by 27,600 jobs. Trade, transportation, and utilities lost 26,800, and mining and construction declined by 24,700.


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