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William R. Levesque, Times Staff Writer

William R. Levesque

William R. Levesque is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience who began working at the Tampa Bay Times in 1994. He covers business news with a focus on energy issues and Florida utilities.

Phone: (813) 226-3432


Twitter: @Times_Levesque

  1. Bay area lets its hair down at 101st Gasparilla: 'I think it's the Mardi Gras of Florida — Tampa style'

    Human Interest


    The skies smiled and the pirates pranced the way swashbucklers do. Screams tested eardrums. Bedlam tested order.

    Adults who are levelheaded every other day of the year threw plastic beads at one another and their inhibitions to the wind.

    And the authorities stood by and let the city explode. And why not?

    It's Gasparilla, Tampa Bay's annual excuse to let its collective hair down....

    Boaters in the flotilla accompanying pirate Jose Gaspar's ship during the invasion of Tampa are seen at the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. [LOREN ELLIOTT  | Times]
  2. Allegiant Air says its working to improve aircraft 'reliability'


    Allegiant Air leadership told financial analysts late Wednesday that the airline is working to alleviate "operational challenges" that include the need to increase the reliability of part of its fleet.

    In a conference call with analysts after the Las Vegas-based airline released its fourth-quarter financial results, Allegiant's chief operating officer Jude Bricker said the airline's operational issues are an offshoot of its rapid growth....

    Since Allegiant operates older planes that require more maintenance than newer ones, flights are sometimes delayed as mechanics make repairs. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
  3. Investment group calls on Allegiant Air to form safety committee


    An investment group with a stake in Allegiant Air is urging the company to form a board of director's safety committee in the wake of emergency landings and questions about the company's maintenance operations.

    Dieter Waizenegger, executive director of CtW Investment Group, told Allegiant a committee "that focuses exclusively on safety would appear long overdue" given the age of the airline's aircraft fleet and media reports suggesting maintenance problems at the Las Vegas airline....

    An investment group is calling on Allegiant Air, which has had a series of emergency landings over the last several months, to form a safety committee. Here, a plane sits at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, where the discount airline accounts for 95 percent of traffic.  [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  4. Why did Allegiant Air's second-in-command resign? Likely over safety issues, experts say


    More than a week before Allegiant Air's chief operating officer abruptly resigned, John Goglia questioned the airline's response to five emergency landings during the last week of 2015.

    All five were flights departing Florida.

    Goglia, a widely respected aviation accident investigator, said an identical series of incidents would warrant quick discipline against those overseeing maintenance at other airlines. Allegiant had done nothing publicly....

    A single Allegiant Air aircraft made four emergency landings within a little more than a month late last year, part of a series of maintenance problems the airline contended with in 2015. With a newly added flight to New Orleans, Allegiant now flies to 50 cities from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and is considered a big player in surging local tourism. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  5. One Allegiant Air plane had four emergency landings within six weeks


    Allegiant Air Flight 815 had just departed North Carolina on Dec. 3 with 94 passengers bound for St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport when an alarming gray haze began to fill the cockpit and passenger cabin.

    Pilots declared an emergency, telling the tower to notify fire rescue crews "to roll the trucks." The haze dissipated on landing at Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and the problem was traced to a malfunctioning air-conditioning system....

    A single Allegiant Air aircraft made four emergency landings within a little more than a month late last year, part of a series of maintenance problems the airline contended with in 2015. With a newly added flight to New Orleans, Allegiant now flies to 50 cities from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and is considered a big player in surging local tourism. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
  6. Two trucking firms feud over equipment


    It's described as something like a trucking version of a palace coup.

    Officials at a St. Petersburg trucking company accuse a woman they say was their employee of secretly incorporating a rival business while she still worked for them. They say she then took to an undisclosed location four of the firm's trailers used to haul freight before grabbing the keys for the company's remaining six trucks and trailers....

  7. Biodiesel backers see big expansion of niche renewable product in Florida


    TAMPA — Forget the image of a hippie making biodiesel from used cooking oil in his garage to fuel a VW van with Grateful Dead stickers on the bumper. The renewable energy fuel, advocates say, is becoming big business.

    But the biodiesel industry remains something of an enigma to most Americans despite its production of an estimated 2 billion gallons of fuel in 2015, a figure that is expected to jump by 300 million gallons by the end of the year. Biodiesel is typically blended with regular diesel in the same way as another renewable fuel, ethanol....

    Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe at last year’s annual conference in Texas. The conference will be held in Tampa later this month.
  8. Allegiant Air's COO resigns unexpectedly from the Las Vegas airline


    The chief operating officer of Allegiant Air unexpectedly resigned his post at the Las Vegas-based airline effective immediately, Allegiant announced late Friday.

    Steven E. Harfst, 52, a former Navy fighter pilot with nearly three decades of experience in the aviation industry, had worked at Allegiant for a little more than a year and had been the most prominent executive at the airline behind its CEO, Maurice Gallagher Jr....

    Steven Harfst was chief operating officer of Allegiant Air for a little more than a year.
  9. Former Allegiant Air mechanic: This airline is dangerous


    OCALA — Veteran aircraft mechanic Greg Marino worked at Allegiant Air for just two weeks before he quit because of what he said are the airline's dangerous maintenance practices.

    Marino said mechanics at the airline's facility in Sanford often lapsed into bad maintenance habits. He said they failed to follow proper procedure in diagnosing aircraft problems and routinely misused a Federal Aviation Administration program that allowed planes, under some conditions, to fly with inoperative components or systems....

    An Allegiant Air flight takes off in June from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. In the last week of 2015 alone, five Allegiant flights leaving Florida made emergency landings because of mechanical issues.
  10. Allegiant Air had five emergency landings out of Florida during holiday week


    Allegiant Air closed out 2015 with five emergency landings on flights departing Florida in just one week, capping a difficult year from a public relations standpoint for the airline.

    One of the five was a Dec. 26 flight that departed St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport bound for Missouri that declared an emergency for an undisclosed "maintenance issue."

    The other four flights departed Sanford, northeast of Orlando, from Dec. 24 to Dec. 31 and suffered a variety of mechanical issues....

    Allegiant Air had five emergency landings of flights out of Florida from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve, capping a difficult year for the airline.
  11. Poll: Tampa Bay evenly split on expansion of casino gambling


    Tampa Bay residents are almost evenly split on the question of expanding casino gambling in the region, but a large majority favor allowing fantasy sports websites to continue operating, a new Tampa Bay Times/10News WTSP poll shows.

    The results suggest that those who were polled do not view daily fantasy sports websites such as FanDuel and DraftKings as traditional gambling in the manner of casino slot machines and poker tables....

    The Seminole Hard Rock Casino would offer more games under a deal with Gov. Rick Scott.
  12. How a photo of a Florida gator swimming in a parking lot became part of federal lawsuit


    TAMPA — With more than 1.3 million alligators calling Florida home, perhaps it is inevitable that a gator will occasionally compete with commuters for a good parking space.

    Case in point in a federal lawsuit: a photo of a gator confidently swimming in the flooded parking lot of a Tampa business park.

    This is litigation, Florida-style.

    Photos allegedly showing the swimming gator are exhibits in a federal lawsuit filed Dec. 21 against the owner of a business park near Westchase in Tampa by a tenant who said flooding prevented workers from safely getting to work. ...

    A landlord disputed its tenant’s claim that floods made the building inaccessible. In response, this photo with an alleged gator, at right, is evidence in the lawsuit.
  13. Tampa Bay companies that like to hibernate in winter are busy in this warm weather


    Even on his week off, Chad Suder is fielding calls.

    His Tampa landscaping company, Lawn Sculptures, is taking a winter break, but the waning weeks of 2015 brought a hot spell, making for unruly lawns and, for Suder, extra business.

    Instead of December's usual doldrums, the calls for new quotes and extra visits have kept rolling in. His revenue from normal landscaping work has been up nearly 20 percent the last two months, he said. ...

    Joel Dominguez, left, and Henry Torres of Castellano A/C Services work on changing out the air handler in Linda Zimmerman’s home Tuesday in Tampa. Owner Tommy Castellano said his business is up about 50 percent for December.
  14. Tampa firm's $125,000 'meditation chamber' has a controversial past


    TAMPA — The makers of the Light Portal meditation chamber have made some robust claims about the benefit of using a device that plays music and shines colored lights on users who lie inside.

    It rejuvenates business executives, allowing them to perform better in the corporate world. It allows the user to clear away bad memories in much the same way as a psychotherapist. One claim boasts that four sessions in the chamber took a woman's thoughts off of killing her family....

    Douglas Cornell, inventor of the Light Portal device, shows off the sound system used in the chamber at Light Portal Technologies in Tampa. The company claims its technology is “Your Gateway to Higher Consciousness, Success, Happiness and Contentment.” It says the Light Portal is a patented device that uses music, colored lights and crystals for users to align themselves with Earth’s energies.
  15. Tampa firm SynDaver Labs gives employees surprise holiday gift — $1.5 million in stock


    TAMPA — The company Christmas party at SynDaver Labs took an unexpected turn last week when the firm's nearly 100 employees got a surprise stocking stuffer — $1.5 million in company stock.

    The Tampa-headquartered company, which makes "synthetic humans" for trauma and surgical training, made the announcement at the party Friday and said non-management workers would be eligible for the gift of stock, SynDaver said in a news release Tuesday....

    Dr. Christopher Sakezles poses for a portrait with his SynDaver Synthetic Humans, at SynDaver Labs in Tampa earler this year. The company, which has been featured on the TV show Shark Tank, surpirsed its employees with $1.5 million in stock as a holiday gift. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times