Thursday, March 31, 2022

Airport Authority Arrogance Shocking After Preventable March 2, 2022 Death of Pilot Marianne Fox

I was appalled as I watched the live streaming video of the Airport Authority meeting. 

Cynical, sinister St. Johns County Airport Authority Chair BRUCE MAGUIRE arrogantly blocked a motion to start a safety committee, throwing cold watger on it, demanding it do nothing to uncover past misconduct that could create liability.

Any functioning government organization worth keeping investigates disasters and learns from them. But under one-party Republican misrule, our nonpartisan Airport Authority wants to do nothing to learn the truth or assign "blame."

What errant nonsense. 

What wicked noisome nasty nostrums  

Incurious, imperious BRUCE MAGUIRE lacks empathy wisdom and ethics. He swore an oath, as an Air Force officer, as a  County Commissioner, and as an Airport Authority board member to uphold our Constitution and laws. 

To oafish BRUCE MAGUIRE: honor your oath or resign.  Now.

Airport Authority Executive Director EDWARD WUELLNER said little, allowing MAGUIRE to answer several questions posed to WUELLNER.

WUELLNER's back was turned to every single  public comment speakers.  He was sitting in a fancy chair and could have easily swiveled around to look the speakers in the eye.  Instead, he turned his back, looking silently at the Airport Board members, like a Dull Republican Lord of All He Surveys at our Airport. 

What arrogance. 

Perhaps we should ask Mr. Wuellner to swivel his chair and look at public comment speakers, instead of glowering at the Board members with hurt looks.

Ms. Fox's preventable March 2 death was largely due to the Airport's willful, wanton recklessness in: 

  • not having a fully staffed 24/7 fire station, 
  • not unlocking the gate for emergency responders, 
  • delays in unlocking the door to the fire station's  airboat.

Did Chairman BRUCE MAGUIRE's undemocratic bossiness and unquestioning support of the Airport Authority Executive Director[s mismanagement contribute to pilot Marianne Fox's preventable death on March 2, 2022?

I am outraged  

You should be, too.

The Airport must be held accountable by federal and state fora. 

The Airport needs a new Executive Director.

The Airport also needs a new lawyer.  

Ineffectual, conflicted lawyer DOUGLAS NELSON BURNETT, (St. Johns Law Group), looked like the cat who swallowed the canary, as MAGUIRE spouted nonsense, as if he were CEO of a wicked evil tobacco company,

Our courts and administrative agencies will sort it out 

Voters: vote out bumptious bigoted BRUCE MAGUIRE.

Let justice be done though the heavens fall. 

From St. Augustine Record:

St. Johns County Airport Authority Board could form a safety review committee

Colleen Michele Jones
St. Augustine Record
Workers fuel a biplane at the Northeast Florida Regional Airport, north of St. Augustine, on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

The Airport Authority Board for the Northeast Florida Regional Airport is considering establishing a safety review committee following the March 2 wreck that killed a pilot from Oregon.

It was just one of the recommendations that came out of Monday evening's board meeting, the first since the crash which landed the aircraft upside-down in a marsh off the runway.

Since then, questions have been raised about the time it took first responders to reach Marianne Fox, the 49-year-old aerobatics pilot who ran into engine trouble and tried to make an emergency landing.

The crash is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, but officials from the airport and St. Johns County Fire Rescue say the delay in getting aid to Fox was mostly caused by difficulty in locating and then accessing the plane in the marsh. 

The Northeast Florida Regional Airport has a fire station on its grounds that is not staffed 24 hours a day.

Fox was trapped in the pilot's compartment of the Extra NG before being extricated by crews who arrived by airboat nearly 45 minutes later.

Some of the issues that may have played a part: an alleged delay in opening a gate for first responders; the airport's fire station being unmanned at the time; and the inability of emergency or airport personnel to sight Fox's plane.

Several attendees of Monday's meeting expressed concerns about safety to the Airport Authority Board, a five-member elected panel, during the public comment period.

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Len Tucker, vice president of the St. Augustine Pilots Association, said in recent years there have been other cases of aircraft overshooting the runway and delayed response times.

"I think we can do better. I'm sure ways to cross the marsh; I know of vehicles that can cross the marsh. … And I think it's incumbent on us as the airport to not leave any stones unturned," Tucker said.

Patricia Chris, an information technologist from St. Augustine, said that when there is a technological crisis three questions are usually asked: "What went wrong? How do we fix it? And how do we prevent it from happening again?"

Chris said the airport needed to be not just reactive, but proactive.

"Your county constituents pay for it and rightly expect a reasonable disaster plan because things go wrong," Chris said.

Chris also asked the board to imagine what kind of fallout there might be if an aircraft — commercial or otherwise — crashed into the marsh with "precious tourists" onboard. 

Bruce Kreis, past president of the St. Augustine Pilots Association who has a hangar at the airport, was a witness to the recent crash.

The wreckage of an airplane piloted by Marianne Fox lies upside down in the marsh south of the Northeast Florida Regional Airport on March 2.

"The response to this accident has brought the public attention to the airport's failure in lack of security that appears to have resulted in a tragic death," he told the board, adding, "The responsibilities and priorities of this airport should be first and foremost public safety; it just doesn't appear to me that it is."

In a March 22 interview with The Record, St. Johns County Airport Authority Executive Director Ed Wuellner said the airport follows all Federal Aviation Administration regulations, including safety protocols for the layout of the airport and in preparing for emergencies. Throughout the year, the airport helps fire rescue personnel understand the airport, its layout and operations, he said. Fire rescue officials also regularly train on how to respond to an airplane wreck. 

Airport Authority Board member Reba Ludlow pressed her colleagues on the urgency of establishing a safety review committee to look at such issues as emergency vehicle access to the airport; what response resources the airport and which might it need to add; and coordination of emergency agencies.

Board member Justin Mirgeaux said he was open to a discussion about safety but that it steer clear of assigning blame to any particular party.

Board chairman Bruce Maguire added that if a committee were formed it would have to be careful in how it examined and articulated safety protocols in place at the airport, especially in relation to the March 2 crash.

"If we start to delve into what we consider problems at our airport … is that going to open up the airport for a liability issue on something that's already happened?" Maguire said.

Maguire suggested Ludlow draft and present an overview of the mission of a safety committee, how it would be composed and what its duties would be, perhaps by next month's authority meeting. Members would then vote on the measure.

Record reporter Sheldon Gardner contributed to this report.

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