PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE,  MONDAY, JULY 23, 2012) — Responding to directives of the International Civil Aviation Organization‘s Runway Safety Area (RSA) regulations, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommended that commercial airports have 1,000 feel of level ground adjoining the end of all runways.

The FAA, however, realized the enormous difficulties that would arise in applying international rules to USA airports. These included controversial eminent domain land grabs and the need to fill in wetlands, woodlands, pastures, fields, and other environmentally sensitive area. As an alternative to adding the 1,000-feet of runway, The FAA recommended alternatives to the RSA directive. These included modifying the distance regulations, limiting payload and range of aircraft, or installing an Engineering Materials Arresting System (EMAS) with an RSA length of at least 600 feet.

The FAA left it up to communities, working with federal authorities, to determine what was best for them. In short, Pittsfield did not have to engage in the runway extension.

Pittsfield Did Not Avail Itself of Alternate Remedies That Would Have Been Far Less Invasive on Pristine Wetland

The city of Pittsfield, however, did not consider the alternatives the FAA offered. Once again, the city knew better. It rushed headlong and prematurely to implement its unilateral decision to complying with the FAA’s 1,000-foot ordinance. The Powers That Be, knowing better than the unwashed masses who pay the taxes that keep the shell game going, decided unilaterally that the Pittsfield airport would “require” the extensions, wildlife and wetlands be damned, to say nothing of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski.

Pittsfield contracted with airport designer Stantec. The contract specified two 1,000-foot overrun areas at the Pittsfield Municipal Airport, one each at the end of runway 08/26. The city also wanted another 890-foot runway. Because of the location of Barker Road west of the runways, all 2,890 feet would have to lay east of the airport.

This forced the extensions to be built into the pristine wetlands that adjoin the side of the airport. 

Protesters against this stupid decision were ignored.

Only in Pittsfield.

The runway — touted heavily by the GOB; its lackeys on a compliant, unquestioning city council; and its house organ, the Boring Broadsheet — would be built. The usual suspects carrying water for the GOB warned of the dire consequences that would follow if Pittsfield did not extend the runways. KB Toys would close. GE would pull out of town. We wouldn’t be able to lure new business to Pittsfield.

The city went ahead with the extensions. KB Toys closed. GE pulled out. We still haven’t lured new business to Pittsfield.

The Killing of Precious Wetlands; The Taking of Precious Farmland

Meanwhile, the lovely Wild Acres wetlands and other beautiful land including farmland has been destroyed. Home have been seized through eminent domain. Residents of South Mountain Road have been put through the wringer with the noise, traffic, and dirt.

The original plan called for the closing of South Mountain Road. This caused an uproar by the public, especially commuters. The revised plan called for South Mountain Road to be relocated, killing more precious wetlands — precisely the type of acreage that makes The Berkshires The Berkshires.

The new plan kept the 1,000-foot extensions and reduced to runway third extension from 890 to 790 feet. A taxiway that would have given departing planes free access to the threshold of Runway 26 was eliminated. Curiously, on May 7, 2009, LaVerne Reid, manager, FAA Airports Division, not only approved the elimination of the parallel taxiway but explicitly sanctioned the full 2,000 feet of earth-filled RSAs plus the 790-foot extension.

Robert Allardyce, a veteran of 46 years of professional aviation with 23,105:38 hours in the air, including 4,254:50 hours of flying 747s, says the project is practically inviting runway disaster.

“Unfortunately, the risk of a runway incursion is not limited to departing aircraft,” says Allardyce. A pilot approaching a landing strip may not notice the runway is occupied, for whatever reason, especially weather such as fog or heavy clouds, which happens frequently in the Berkshires. Also, flights can develop any number of problems such as engine failure, low fuel, onboard fire, or other emergencies. That plane will have to land in a hurry. An airplane landing on top of another has happened before, and it will happen again. Nevertheless, the powers that be in Pittsfield seem to take the situation lightly.”

Allardyce says the configuration of the runway plan violates the FAA’s top priority, which is to reduce the risk of runway incursions. He quotes FAA design policy: “Avoid layouts that will result in aircraft taxiing or backtracking on runways. Anytime an aircraft uses a runway for purposes other than landing or takeoff, the chances of a runway incursion increase.”

Allardyce says Pittsfield will have such a situation on its hands when the airport project is finished, which is expected to be in about five months, according to airport manager Mark Germanowski. Poor design and greater use invite an accident, Allardyce warns.

Allardyce then addressed the state Department of Environmental Affairs approval (Oct. 9, 2009). Laurie Burt, DEA commissioner, signed off on the project, claiming “the project constitutes an overriding public interest.” Nonsense, Allardyce says: “The elimination of the parallel taxiway creates a virtual death trap, one that echoes the Tenerife calamity.”

Could Tenerife Happen in Pittsfield? Airport Design Makes It More Likely Than Ever

Some of you may remember the Tenerife disaster. THE PLANET certainly does. We were working the telegraph desk for the Syracuse Post-Standard when the AP-UPI wire machine began ringing their bells on March 27, 1977.

A KLM Boeing 747, Flight 4805, was in position, ready to take off on Tenerife, on of the Canary Islands owned by Spain. Pan Am Flight 1736 had been cleared to taxi on the active runway. Runway visibility, while within legal limits, was limited. Neither the KLM pilot or the Pan Am pilot could see the other’s aircraft. Hearing a radio message from the tower, the KLM pilot mistakenly believed he had been cleared for takeoff. Despite warnings from his flight engineer, the pilot released his brakes and applied takeoff thrust. A few meters down the runway, the Pan Am 747 suddenly appeared out of the fog. It was too late to stop. The two fully fueled airliners collided and exploded in a huge ball of fire. The death toll reached 587.

Back to the Pittsfield airport.

Without the parallel taxiway, which was eliminated, an airplane departing Pittsfield will be required to leave the tarmac, taxi to the original entry point at the former threshold of runway 26, turn right (eastward), and taxi 1,790 feet on the active runway to the new threshold.

During periods of marginal visibility, of which the Berkshires has its share, consider the following scenario:

Assumption: Runway visibility is 1,500 feet. That’s better than the legal minimum of 1/4 mile (1,320 feet).

Assumption: While the departing pilot is completing his or her last-minute checklist, another airplane heads for the runway. As did the first pilot, the second pilot had plenty of visibility to locate the active runway and turn onto it. However, upon turning onto the runway, the two planes are separated by 1,790 feet. With visibility at 1,500 feet, neither pilot can see the other.

The situation is complicated by the lack of a control tower. As the DEP openly noted, “[Unlike Tenerife,] Pittsfield airport has no air traffic control tower. Pilots operate at the field by observation and communication with other planes on a common radio frequency.  Pilots will have no reason to always know about other flights, that is, until a departing plane suddenly appears out of the fog — shades of the runway incursion at Tenerife.

Unnecessary Pittsfield Airport Design Invites Disaster

Could the situation, this “virtual death trap” that will invite disaster, have been prevented. Yes, says Allardyce: “Pittsfield could have adopted the alternatives to the 1,000-foot runway extensions allowed by the FAA. However, the alternative are at this point moot. We are about to create a virtual incubator for runway incursions, and our local pilots seem to be unified in celebrating a victory. Go figure.”

There is, however, at least one aspect of how we got here that needs to be understood. The insight rests in an explanation offered at a public meeting by Stantec’s Randall Christensen. Christensen told the audience that filling in the wetlands would provide a “once and for all time fix [for the RSA requirement] that would require no maintenance.” In other words, our airport authority would not be obliged to pass otherwise routine maintenance costs of non-standard EMAS along to the users. The goal, then, was for long-term, low-cost operations. Therefore, the RSAs appear to be more a matter of economic benefits to the airport users than considering what would benefit the overall public.

To gain enough land for the runway extensions, Pittsfield took 15 properties by eminent domain. the 15 properties have been permanently removed from the tax rolls. The loss of property taxes has been spread out among Pittsfield remaining property owners. Taxpayers will be paying, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, for the low-cost operation given those who use the airport — the corporate interests, the rock stars and rappers, and the other Veddy Rich and Famous.

“Along with the idea of a safe airport,” says Allardyce, “the notion of an ‘overriding public interest’ seems to have been stood on its head.




The Greylock Federal Credit Union ad was too much for THE STOOLEY to resist. The ad reads: “70,000 stories everyday.” It then reads at the bottom: “”Tell us your Greylock story! Go to and tell us how the Credit Union has made your life easier or better.”

THE STOOLEY sent us his story:

—– 00 —–

Dear Greylock:

The credit union has made my life a breeze, ever since summer of 2010, when your board had to fire (or were they allowed to resign?) your busted president, Angelo Stracuzzi, and Ang’s best buddy, Cliff Nilan, who served as company treasurer and board member. 

You may recall when the news broke of Angelo’s arrest on four charges from events stemming from Biddeford, Maine, July 2005, when he was held on two charges each of prostitution of a minor and assault. These assaults, police said, involved two boys, ages 13 and 15. Anyway, when Angelo didn’t have to report to probation, as anyone else would have, because of his buddy Cliffy, it made it easy to decide to pull my money out of the Credit Union.

I could not be associated with an moth-eaten outfit like that. If we take the Greylock board at its word, it had no knowledge of Angelo’s behavior. Why do I want to keep my money with an institution whose board is so out of touch? The other possibility is that the board knew, which I believe it did. 

So thank you for employing these two “men.” It made my banking choices easy. I’m now proudly doing banking at the Pittsfield Co-Op and Berkshire Bank.



—– 00 —–

We thank THE STOOLEY for expressing his colorful views. THE PLANET remains open to your views. Send them along. We’d love to have your two cents.



N. Tracy Crowe, new deputy superintendent of the Pittsfield Public Schools, one thing bugs THE PLANET about you. The “N. Tracy” business. We’re sorry, but ever since didacting “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in college, we have been suspicious of people who use a first initial, a middle name, and a last name. The affectation is a warning sign. It sometimes indicates, with a proportion exceeding what you would get by mere chance, a pompous, self-important, person who lacks confidence. We don’t know if that applied to you, N. Tracy, but if it does, we can say you are the last person the woeful schools need at this stage in history.

The second red flag we have is with your contract: Specific terms have not been made public. We don’t know how much you’re getting or what fringe benefits the school committee and Jake had to cough up. We suspect no one was in there pitching for the taxpayer, except perhaps committee member Dan Elias, who was the only one who voted against your contract, saying “We have to look out for taxpayers, and this contract does not look our for taxpayers. [This pact] will have a domino effect, and the ramification of this contract will be costly in the long term.”

In the FY13 budget, N. Tracy’s position was pegged for $107,000. THE PLANET hears she squeezed taxpayers for $120,000, plus a benefits package that has been mysteriously hidden.

The third thing we don’t like, N. Tracy, is your resume, where you say you were assistant principal in the Marblehead Public Schools from “Sep 2012-present.” The abbreviation for September is “Sept.,” not “Sep”. We read you were a curriculum and tech specialist involved in standardized testing and a scorer for MCAS. This tells us you may be a public education hack, feeding well and long off the trough.

We don’t know this, of course, but this being the Pittsfield Public Schools — whose principals live in dread fear of true reform — you have to win us over. Someone like you, N. Tracy, doesn’t get hired unless you have agreed to “play ball.”

Tell us we’re wrong.






  1. Browning
    July 22, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    Thank you DV for this important piece. I am a pilot and I’ve been saying this about the design since it’s been approved. Lack of a separate taxi way is inviting disaster. Good point: didn’t have to be done. FAA had other remedies. Now 15 properties off tax rolls, wetland gone forever, taxes higher for everyone so the wealthy can land their private jets. What a sad state.

    • danvalenti
      July 23, 2012 at 9:05 am #

      We agree on the importance of this piece. The point is not the expense. The point is, the project was unnecessary and now that it is done, it has created unsafe runway conditions.

  2. jlo
    July 22, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    Hey Dan – “Jlo” here, (Jonathan Lothrop) I wanted to comment on your piece on the airport. You make many statements about the EMAS system not being considered. In fact, it was considered twice as an alternative to the Runway Safety Areas (RSA). I can assure you that as both a private citizen and as a City Councilor, I wanted EMAS to be installed. In fact, I insisted that it be considered, I even got the Mayor, Jim Ruberto at the time, to ask for a second review. To keep it short, it was actually the FAA that rejected it. Their rationale was that EMAS cost more to build than the standard RSA’s, and required expensive maintenance that would far exceed the City’s ability to afford the upkeep. A few larger airports have it, but these airports have enough commercial operations to support the expense. To be clear, the on-going EMAS maintenance would have been at the Pittsfield taxpayers expense exclusively.

    I have no love for the disruption the project has caused the residents in the area, I am one of them. I am sure you recall my opposition to the original Airport plan, and our proposal for a compromise, something which I ran on in 2003 when I was first elected to the Council. I was part of a small group to organize to reduce the Airport project impacts, as they were originally proposed. Eventually, we were able to publically offer a compromise proposal, at the City Council Chambers and which was broadcast on PCTV in the Fall of 2003. After much negotiation, the compromise was asgreed to by all parties and was announced in October 2004.

    Significantly, the Compromise plan REDUCED the amount of wetland impacts, kept South Mt. Road OPEN (after construction of the alternative route, SAVED over 60 Acres of farmland (reduced from 100 to 40 Acres of land acquired) and REDUCED the size and scale of the project in terms of the dimensions of the project, the runway length and the safety areas.

    I think it is important for your readers to recall that the original plan would have resulted in over 230,000 dump trucks bringing in material for fill, which would have been travelling over the local roads and onto the site. While there has been material moved from one side of the project to the other over a small portion of Barker Road, the overall impacts of truck traffic on public roads were reduced by well over 90%.

    The parallel taxiway was dropped from the plan, due to reasons of cost. Simply put, extending the Taxiway would have necessitated more fill and more cost. Certainly having this taxiway would make it safer than not having it, however comparing it to the worst air disaster in history seems to be a bit much. There is a turn around circle being built at the end of the runway which would allow for a plan to “hold” should an incoming plan be on approach to land. Lastly on this subject, all construction plans have been approved by the State and Federal authorities for safety, including the FAA.

    The project did get one unlucky break, as the blasting has gone on longer than expected due to a higher density of solid rock instead of the “Glacial Till” which the geo-technical reports suggested which would be found. This is only the very short list of adjustments to the original plan.

    I would invite your readers to attend an informational meeting this Thursday at 7PM at the Crosby School. As the project nears its completion, it seemed like a good time to bring people in the area together to further communicate the status of the project. I asked Airport Manager Mark Germanowski for this meeting at the end of June, and we were able to schedule it for this coming Thursday. Letters were sent out to approximately 100 nearby homes. I received my letter on Friday, although I noted you posted the meeting at the time of the letters being mailed. I believe there was also a press release that went out to the media. Lastly, for those who may have missed it, we are a few weeks away from the end of the current blasting operation. The project is currently on schedule to be substantially completed by December 1st, which would include the re-opening of South Mt. Road by this date.
    Jonathan Lothrop

    • danvalenti
      July 23, 2012 at 9:05 am #

      THE PLANET appreciates these comments and clarifications from our Right Honorable Good Friend J-Lo.

      • Dave
        July 23, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

        You have a problem with N. Tracy but not someone who calls himself Jlo by choice God help us all

        • Not buying it
          July 23, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

          Seems there is also a guy running for President who uses his middle name. Red flag?

        • Dawn
          July 23, 2012 at 5:05 pm #


        • Tim
          July 23, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

          I have a feeling its tongue in cheek, since thats what DV calls him

          • danvalenti
            July 24, 2012 at 6:19 am #

            ’tis as you say, Tim!

  3. tito
    July 23, 2012 at 3:35 am #

    Any projects in Palookaville are doomed for controversy. Remember the wrap around fence at Pontoosic Lake years ago, it had to be taken down because it blocked the view to the Lake, you can’ t make it up.

    • Scott
      July 23, 2012 at 5:31 am #

      That was the dumbest thing ever (to block the view it shows how out of touch with the people govt was and is even more so now.) let me tell you a story from my point of view. (I love the view driving past the lake.) one day I was painting on roller coaster hill a co worker went for coffee I’m sure he enjoyed the view there and on the way back from d&d he died in front of me that morning from a massive heart attack while 20 feet up on a ladder painting. Aside from my face those views were some of the last beautiful images he had the pleasure to see.

  4. Scott
    July 23, 2012 at 5:32 am #

    I did not know they took peoples houses. Govt and the rich disgust me. They have the power to really change things but won’t. Maybe we should eat the rich.

    • danvalenti
      July 23, 2012 at 9:06 am #

      The city tried hard to keep that out of the news.

  5. Spectator
    July 23, 2012 at 5:57 am #

    Too bad the Stooly is still supporting the Nilan family by banking at Berk Bank.

  6. K-Man
    July 23, 2012 at 6:41 am #

    Excellent article on the poorly designed, unnecessary airport project. Another taxpayer ripoff, thank you city government!

  7. Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
    July 23, 2012 at 7:01 am #

    Answer to the riddle: You were sitting in the stairwell as a young Planet and needed to change your reportcard from a 70 to a 100 so Ma and Pa Planet wouldn’t send you to the moon!

    • danvalenti
      July 23, 2012 at 9:08 am #

      That’s pretty much it, HILLY. I sat in the stairwell with Luciano Guargarno, each of us lamenting our third grade report cards and the 70 in “deportment.” Luciano got the idea, I had the ink eraser, we botched the job, and got in TWICE as much trouble from MA & PA PLANET. HILLY, you take the prize.

  8. Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
    July 23, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    geez that twice in the last 7 days with the DOyle and RUberto caption photo…Should I watch the the prize winning check in the mail?

  9. Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
    July 23, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    geez that’s twice in the last 7 days I’ve won, with the DOyle and RUberto caption photo…Should I watch for the the prize winning check in the mail?

  10. Gene
    July 23, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    The runway project wasn’t needed, as this article proves. Thanks planet for vindication.

    • danvalenti
      July 23, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

      Sure, GENE, but why “vindication?” I’m curious.

  11. taxmano
    July 23, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    Is N. Tracy Crowe a more arrogant moniker than Howard “Jake” Eberwein III ? Oh, and he also puts “Dr.” before his name AND the degree after it “Ed.D” in case we miss the point, as in “Dr. Howard “Jake” Eberwein, III, Ed.D. (Convention is just to put the degree after the name.)

    • danvalenti
      July 23, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

      If you’re asking, I would give the arrogant title to “Dr. Howard Dr. Fine Dr. Howard, III, Ed.D.”

  12. Former Pittsfield Resident
    July 23, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    Wow, good article Dan, very informative.

    The whole project does seem like an incredible waste of money. The airport expansion seems totally unnecessary and to fill in those “pristine wetlands” is a crying shame.

    All this just so a few rich people can land in Pittsfield? I don’t get it.

    I don’t see how all the City Council would go for it also. Perhaps all of them should be voted out.

    Who is going to pay for the maintenance of the runway when it start crumbling?

    Are there cost overruns? (always is with such a big project).

    Is it too late for the people to rise up and stop all this nonsense?

    Shouldn’t the people who will use the Airport, pay for it? Why should it cost the residents of Pittsfield even one cent if they are not benefiting from it?

    Its enough to make you wanna move out of the area.

    • danvalenti
      July 23, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

      Many thanks. Yes, it is too late. The protests were ignored. The properties were seized. The wetlands were filled in. We The People won’t benefit. Only the wealthy and superrich, who can now land their nastier jets when they visit Canyon Ranch.

      • joetaxpayer
        July 24, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

        Dan nothing wrong with the wealthy and the superrich.Think they would be a help to the local economy.

    • PTAC
      July 24, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

      More than just “a few rich people” are benefiting from the expansion. The majority of the traffic at PSF is local general aviation and enthusiasts. The end result will be a safer airport for all parties.

      Also, charging a user fee as opposed to residents paying via taxes, simply drives business elsewhere. The last thing the airport needs is a deterrent scaring away possible users.

  13. Beacon Hill Mob
    July 23, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Dear Dan,

    You forgot to mention Mary Jane and Joe , KAMINSKI. a.k.a. Nache and John.

    Pittsfield has robbed the family of their land AT LEAST THREE times.

    Nache and John are rolling in their graves AT THIS LATEST THEFT.

    For which their heirs the Watrobas (Bertha and Eddie are friends) got less than a song and dance for some of the last farmland left in PITTSfield.

    • Scott
      July 23, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

      No farms no food…

  14. ambrose
    July 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    this crow chick should be taken to task – calling yousewlf n. tracey – i’d love to meet some of the chicks valenti wooed at ‘cuse so many years ago [REDACTED PER WEBMASTER]

  15. Larry
    July 23, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    Appears to be an awful lot of Pignatelli signs springing up around the area.

    Just who’s going to win this Registry of Deeds race? It appears to be a real dogfight in the making!

  16. Browning
    July 23, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    N. Nancy Crowe = J Alfred Prufrock = overpriced pretentious educator. Job was budgeted at $107K. She demanded and got $120 plus benefits they won’t disclose. Thanks, DV, for keeping us informed.

  17. Tim
    July 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    Sep vs sept… Seriously? Ill buy it if you can dig up some real reasons to dislike her, especially considering the number of typos or other errors on this website rivals the BB.

  18. tito
    July 23, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    Jody has the best sign, the Pignatelli and Harris signs are dim and at night, you can see hers as plain as day.

    • Larry
      July 24, 2012 at 6:15 am #

      I’m not so sure the best sign will win the race at the end of the day…. I would have to say Harris has the edge due to her experience.

  19. Gene
    July 24, 2012 at 6:17 am #

    Harris wins because of her legal and register experience. Phillips and Pignatelli are two strong candidates, each with a faction, but they will cancel out each other. Great to have a race with three qualified people.

  20. Larry
    July 24, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    If anyone cancels the other out. I would have to imagine it would be the two women leaving Pignatelli the victor.