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‘Chopper Tom’ Hawley returning Monday to Channel 3 newscasts

‘Chopper Tom” Hawley is to be back on (and in) the air Monday morning, as details of his now-infamous flight from Denver to Las Vegas are coming to light.

Hawley has not been in front of the camera on any KSNV-TV, Channel 3, newscast since this past Monday morning, as station officials reviewed an incident involving the popular traffic reporter Sunday night.

Hawley was questioned by Metro police after he was involved in an altercation aboard Frontier Airlines Flight 765 from Denver to Las Vegas.

The episode unfolded over central Utah, according to police. As my colleague Rachel Crosby learned in tracking the incident, a passenger speaking on the condition of anonymity said the altercation centered on an open seat in the emergency exit row. Hawley had been assigned a seat in Row 28, but instead took the unoccupied emergency-exit seat. When a flight attendant, who was female, told him that seat would cost extra, “He said they delayed him enough and he was gonna sit there if he wanted. It wasn’t going to cost the airline any extra money.”

Hawley reportedly returned to his seat, but in midflight he walked back to the same exit-row seat and sat down once more. While arguing with the flight attendant, he “took out his cell phone, shined the camera at her face and said, ‘You’re on camera now, do you wish to speak to the press?” The witness said the attendant then lifted her hand against the light of the phone, and Hawley “knocked her hand away and charged her” to the aisle from the window seat he was occupying in that row.

The other flight attendants reportedly began blowing their security whistles. Hawley returned to his seat, looking “disheveled” according to the passenger, and put earbuds in for the rest of the flight. Frontier spokesman Richard Oliver said the flight crew of Flight 765 from Denver to Las Vegas requested Metro to respond.

Hawley was taken from the plane at its gate at McCarran International Airport, questioned and released. He furnished a statement, but was not detained or arrested. A Metro spokesman said the information collected was forwarded to the FBI. An FBI spokesman subsequently said he has no knowledge of his agency moving forward on the information.

Hawley appeared on the air Monday morning, but was not on-set during any newscast this week and will not return until the morning of Sept. 26.

KSNV News Director Mark Neerman said that other than the Monday morning newscast, the airings Hawley missed fell in line with his scheduled vacation that started Tuesday. Hawley, a 21-year veteran of the station, referred all questions to Neerman, who said the station planned no formal action or statement regarding Hawley. As Neerman said, “I think this is done.”

IN THE BLACK

In its fourth installment, the annual Life is Beautiful festival is inching toward the black.

“We’re close to a profit, and that we are close is pretty remarkable,” Life is Beautiful CEO Justin Weniger said during a phone conversation Wednesday. “We need a little bit more support to get into the black, but as (the media) has reported, the festival has had losses over the first three years. Now we’re getting to where we want to be financially.”

Weniger and Ryan Doherty of Wendoh Media (which owns the weekly publication Vegas Seven) took on a 50 percent partnership in Life is Beautiful prior to the 2015 event. Weniger says he expects to sell upward of 35,000 tickets over the festival’s three days, bringing total attendance to 105,000, with 70 percent of those coming from outside Southern Nevada.

“With Life is Beautiful, the star of the show is really the (downtown) footprint,” said Weniger, who has resisted speculation the event one day would move out of downtown and onto the Las Vegas Festival Grounds at the intersection of the Strip and East Sahara Avenue. “Really, when you put it all together, Life is Beautiful is greater than the sum of its parts.”

I asked if Weniger and his team were committed to bringing the festival back next year. “We’re already planning for 2017,” he said. “We’re negotiating with headliners now.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in the A section, and Fridays in Neon. He also hosts “Kats! On The Radio” Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on KUNV 91.5-FM and appears Wednesdays at 11 a.m. with Dayna Roselli on KTNV Channel 13. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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