Vol. 2, No. 12, September 13, 2010
The following is a summary review of articles from all over the nation concerning aviation and airport development law news during the past week. These were all first posted, in abbreviated form, on http://twitter.com/smtaber. This Newsletter also appears as a post on our website on our blog, The Aviation and Airport Development News. For more information about the Taber Law Group, please visit our website: http://taberlaw.com.
Commuter service awaits federal approval to start serving Naples airport. – Terry X. Miguel, Naples Daily News, September 6, 2010
Gulf Coast Airways is one step closer to offering commuter air service at Naples Municipal Airport. The U.S. Department of Transportation granted commuter status on Aug. 20 to Gulf Coast Airways, which has operated charter service from the Naples airport. About a week ago, Gulf Coast Airways submitted an application to the Federal Aviation Administration for final approval and is waiting an answer. If approved, Gulf Coast Airways would be the only scheduled commuter airline flying out of Naples. “We are rebuilding the market,” said Joel Johnson, owner and president of Gulf Coast Airways. “The flying market is gradually improving.” Ted Soliday, the airport’s executive director, said in an e-mail the airport is happy for Johnson and others at Gulf Coast Airlines who have been working hard to regain scheduled service. “We continue to support their efforts completely,” Soliday said in an e-mail. Soliday said regaining scheduled service is important to the Airport Authority as it continues to speak with other carriers who have shown interest. He declined to name them. Currently, the Naples airport doesn’t have federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) stations active for screening passengers for these commuter flights.
Airport commissioners delay decision on LAX utility plant contract. – Douglas Morino, Daily Breeze, September 8, 2010
The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners has delayed approving a five-year, $374.9 million contract to construct a new utility plant on airport grounds. The decision to delay awarding the bid to Clark/McCarthy Joint Venture, made during a commission meeting Wednesday, comes a month after a protest over the bidding process was filed by Sylmar-based Tutor-Perini Corp., one of the five firms to compete for the project. Attorneys for the firm have argued that proposals were not properly evaluated and scored by the governing board of Los Angeles International Airport. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office rejected the protest. Airport officials have said the utility plant project is considered a critical component in the ongoing $1.5 billion expansion of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Once completed, the plant will provide utilities, including heating and air conditioning, to the Bradley Terminal and Terminals 3 and 4, administrative offices and the Space Age-style Theme Building. Clark/McCarthy executives have said the company plans to complete the central utility plant by October 2012. The airport commission is expected to vote on the bid at its Sept. 20 meeting.
Oakland airport BART link a step closer. – Denis Cuff, Contra Costa Times, September 8, 2010
A regional transportation commission on Wednesday allocated $20 million in state funds for a planned BART rail extension to Oakland International Airport, moving the $484 million project closer to full funding. The 6-2 vote by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s programming and allocations committee was one of the last funding hurdles before BART could begin construction, perhaps by the end of the year, officials said. The California Transportation Commission now must approve the state funding. BART officials had thought they had the $484 million for the project, but the federal government in February denied $70 million in economic stimulus funds. BART has been scrambling to plug the $70 million hole by tapping into several sources, including borrowing from the federal government. “This removes one more obstacle. We’re getting close,” BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger said after the decision Wednesday. The vote followed another emotional public debate about whether the long-planned and expensive rail link to the airport should be scrapped in favor of an upgraded express bus service. Critics said the 3.2-mile elevated “people mover” tram between the Oakland Coliseum station and the airport is wasteful. An express bus service called “bus rapid transit” could move as many people to the airport as fast and at a fraction of the cost, critics have said.
Reed says decision made on airport chief. – Ernie Suggs and Kelly Yamanouchi, Atlanta Journal Constitution, September 8, 2010
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has chosen a new general manager for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. He just wasn’t ready Wednesday to say who it is. “We’ve got a wonderful group of finalists,” Reed said. “We have made a decision, which we will make public soon.” How soon isn’t clear. Reed said that he and the new general manager are working out “details” for his arrival. The new general manager will be charged with leading the busiest airport in the world, and one that’s only getting bigger. The new GM’s top priority will be to complete the $1.4 billion international terminal, which will significantly change the way the airport operates. Louis Miller of Tampa, John D. Clark III of Indianapolis and Lester Robinson of Detroit — the three finalists identified by Reed’s administration — have all run large, successful airports and came to the table with a cargo load of accolades.
City Council approves $1B bonds for O’Hare. – Reuters, September 8, 2010
The Chicago City Council gave final approval on Wednesday to $1 billion of revenue bonds to continue expanding O’Hare International Airport. But the two major carriers at the airport are not saying if they plan on fighting the debt sale. A spokesman for American Airlines said there was “no comment at this time.” Jean Medina, a United Airlines spokeswoman, said, “We continue to be in discussions with the city about reaching a fiscally responsible plan to improve O’Hare.” At Tuesday’s city council finance committee meeting, aldermen raised concerns about issuing the passenger facility charge and third lien general airport revenue bonds without the approval of airlines at O’Hare as required under a 2005 agreement. Rosemarie Andolino, Chicago’s aviation commissioner, told the committee there is a possibility the airlines may sue over the bonds, but that she believed a resolution will be reached with the airport’s carriers.
New Eyes In The Sky. – John Fitzhugh, Sun Herald, September 8, 2010
Work on the new Federal Aviation Administration control tower at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport reached a milestone with the ‘topping off’ of the tower on Wednesday. A crane lifted the 50-foot-tall metal superstructure of the tower cab to the top of the existing concrete structure to create a 148-foot-tall tower that will oversee the airport. The new control tower will replace the existing 90-foot-tall tower that was built in the 1970s. The new facility will include a 395-square-foot tower cab for air traffic control operations and training. The tower is adjacent to a new 13,000-square-foot approach control base building that will house administrative and training facilities. Construction by Flintco Constructive Solutions of Tulsa, Okla., is expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2011. The FAA will commission the new tower in early 2012 after the interior is completed. The airport is the process of updating the taxiways and will begin expanding runways in about four years.
NM airports get improvement funds. – The Associated Press, September 7, 2010
New Mexico airports will share more than $925,000 in federal grants for safety improvements and master plan studies. The funds are distributed through the Federal Aviation Administration. Ohkay Owingeh Airport will receive $93,197 to update its master plan and design runway safety improvements, Gallup’s airport is receiving $214,535 to design drainage improvements and Route 66 Airport at Santa Rosa is getting $437,500 for an airport master plan study update and for fencing and approach path indicators for two runways. In addition, the state will receive $180,000 for planning for general aviation airports throughout New Mexico to determine the best use of future funding. The funding was announced by Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Udall.
After Daley takes off, pilots hope to land new Meigs. – Jon Hilkevitch, Chicago Tribune, September 9, 2010
With Mayor Richard Daley set to leave his post next year, it’s time to bring back Meigs Field, say private pilots who still bemoan the shutdown of the lakefront airport seven years ago. Pilots from across the country suggest that the changing political climate in the Windy City will not only lead to a new mayor, but possibly a new Meigs. “From what we’re hearing and seeing, the aviation blogs and Twitter are alive with conversations about whether Mayor Daley’s departure may create an opportunity to rebuild Meigs Field,” said Chris Dancy, spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
In a secretive operation that has become known as the midnight raid on Meigs, Daley sent demolition crews to the airport on Northerly Island in the wee hours of March 30, 2003.
MBS International Airport to receive additional federal funds for construction. – LaNia Coleman, The Bay City Times, September 9, 2010
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration today announced that MBS International Airport is among five additional airports selected to receive grant money. The airports will share $9 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that became available because of low bids on airport projects nationwide. “Earlier ARRA projects came in under budget and these savings can now be applied to other projects,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Up to $3.39 million will help MBS expedite the completion of this airport terminal reconstruction project. The grant will be used to construct the roof, window systems and the concrete floor. An initial ARRA grant of $11.6 million funded the construction of passenger loading bridges, an access road and the relocation of navigational aids. A spokesman for MBS could not be reached.
More of Yeager Airport redo set for takeoff. – Gazette-Mail, September 9, 2010
Renovations at Charleston’s Yeager Airport were on display Thursday, and more are on the way. Randy Babbitt, director of the Federal Aviation Administration, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who attended Thursday’s event with other federal and local officials, announced that another $2.5 million in stimulus funds would be used to build a covered walkway between the terminal and the airport’s parking garage. “This program has not only enabled Yeager Airport to make improvements to the terminal, but it has also provided much-needed jobs for our people at a time when they needed them most,” Rockefeller said in a statement.
FAA to Fund 5 New Airport Improvement Projects. – Katie Saulpaugh, Executive Gov, September 10, 2010
The Federal Aviation Administration is planning five new airport improvement projects that will ramp up infrastructure and create new jobs. The $9 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are newly available because of underbidding on other airport projects nationwide. So far, $1.3 billion has been committed to airport improvements. “These additional Recovery Act dollars are giving airports that serve a wide range of communities the chance to make needed improvements that wouldn’t otherwise be possible,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “Safe and modernized airports will benefit these local economies for years to come.” Babbitt made the announcement at Yeager Airport in Charleston, W. Va., which will receive $2.58 million of the additional funds for terminal upgrades and a passenger walkway. Other airports to benefit from newly paved runways, modern terminals and more include MBS International Airport servicing Midland-Bay City-Saginaw, Mich; Killeen Skylark Field in Killeen, Texas; Burlington International Airport in Burlington, V.T.; and Avi Suquilla Airport in Parker, Ariz.
US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) selects IFS Applications MRO Suite. – Cision Wire, September 6, 2010
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected IFS Applications as its supply chain and maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) solution to ensure reliability of equipment used throughout the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS). Lockheed Martin will be the system integrator in support of the FAA program called the Logistics Center Support System (LCSS). The NAS is one of the most complex aviation systems in the world — enabling an average of 50,000 flights per day in the United States and over much of the world’s oceans. The NAS encompasses 14,500 air traffic controllers, 4,500 aviation safety inspectors, and 5,800 technicians. It includes more than 19,000 airports and 600 air traffic control facilities. In all, there are 41,000 NAS operational facilities. In addition, there are over 71,000 pieces of equipment to maintain, ranging from radar systems to communication relay stations. The LCSS solution replaces the FAA’s existing Logistics and Inventory System in use at the Federal Aviation Administration Logistics Center (FAALC), a distribution, warehousing and repair facility housed at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City.
Federal Aviation Administration Announces Additional Recovery Act Airport Grants. – FAA News Release, September 9, 2010
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration today announced that five additional airport projects have been selected for funding, paid for with $9 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that became available because of low bids on airport projects nationwide. “Earlier ARRA projects came in under budget and these savings can now be applied to other projects,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Transportation and infrastructure are the foundation of our economy. These airport projects are putting people to work in good-paying jobs across the country.” FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt made the announcement at an event celebrating the completion of a $4.9 million Recovery Act terminal project at Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Va. Yeager Airport will also receive an additional $2.58 million of the newly available ARRA funds to make additional terminal improvements, including a pedestrian bridge which will help passengers access the airport more safely.
FAA Revokes Phoenix Heliparts Certificate. – FAA News Release, September 9, 2010
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has revoked the air agency certificate of Phoenix Heliparts, Inc., (PHI) of Mesa, Ariz., for allegedly performing improper repairs and deliberately falsifying maintenance records. PHI must surrender its certificate to the FAA, as required under the terms of the emergency revocation. The FAA alleges that PHI mechanics failed to follow its repair station and/or quality control manuals when repairing aircraft, and used incorrect parts. The FAA also alleges that on at least four occasions, the company made intentionally false entries in the aircraft maintenance records. “Safety is not optional for aviation companies. Whether repairing airplanes or helicopters, repair stations are required to follow maintenance rules and procedures,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.
FAA Proposes Sweeping New Rule to Fight Pilot Fatigue. – FAA News Release, September 10, 2010
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt today announced a landmark proposal to fight fatigue among commercial pilots by setting new flight time, duty and rest requirements based on fatigue science. “This proposal is a significant enhancement for aviation safety,” said Secretary LaHood. “Both pilots and passengers will benefit from these proposed rules that will continue to ensure the safety of our nation’s air transportation system.” Last year, Secretary LaHood and Administrator Babbitt identified the issue of pilot fatigue as a top priority during the Airline Safety Call to Action following the crash of Colgan Air 3407 in February 2009. Administrator Babbitt launched an aggressive effort to take advantage of the latest research on fatigue to create a new pilot flight, duty and rest proposal.
Other Articles on the Same Topic:
LaHood Proposes New Rules That Will Keep Sleepy Pilots Off Planes. – Joan Lowy, The Associated Press, September 10, 2010
Work hours would be shortened for pilots who fly at night while some pilots who fly during the day could spend more time in the cockpit under a government proposal to help prevent dangerous fatigue. The Federal Aviation Administration plan, which the agency has spent 15 months drafting, is an attempt to overhaul pilot work rules to reflect current scientific understanding of how fatigue impacts human performance and prevent errors that cause accidents. The rules were last updated over two decades ago and most date back to the 1940s. The proposal released Friday would bar airlines from scheduling pilots to be on duty – a combination of being at work ready to fly or in the cockpit flying – longer than 13 hours in a 24-hour period, three hours less than current regulations. At night, that limit could slide to as few as nine hours. However, airlines would be allowed to schedule pilots who start their work day between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. for as much as 10 hours of actual flying time – two more hours than currently allowed.
New pilot rules could mean higher airfares. – Duarte Geraldno, The 33 News, September 10, 2010
The Federal Aviation Administration’s proposed guidelines for flight crews sends a very clear message: fatigued pilots can cause deadly accidents. More than 50 people died when a commuter plane crashed near Buffalo. An investigation revealed the pilot may have been tired. Many people agree pilots should be given more time to rest in between flights. “If you don’t get rest then you can’t concentrate on what you doing,” Minnie Martinez said at Dallas’ Love field. But how much is enough time? Under the proposal, pilots would get one more hour between work days: that is an increase from 8 to 9 hours. Pilots would also be barred from working more than 13 hours in a 24-hour-period. In theory that’s enough time to sleep. The FAA’s proposal also includes a host of one-the-job requirements based on the time of day, number of scheduled flight segments, flight types and time zone. Some people worry the proposal combined with an increase in air traffic, could make it tough for airlines to avoid mounting delays and the big fees they now have to pay you if you’re forced to wait too long. Could that be another reason for higher airfares? “We see many reasons why the airlines would justify the fare hike, but I am not sure this is one of them,” said Tom Parsons with bestfare.com, “This is just part of doing business. I think they’ll have to bring some pilots back to pick up the slack. If airfares do increase, Dajuanna Cohen believes it would be worth it. “I would pay more for my safety. If they need more time to sleep then I will pay the difference.”
FAA proposes tighter rules to prevent pilot fatigue. – Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News, September 10, 2010
The Federal Aviation Administration, reacting to the pilot-induced crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence 19 months ago, Friday proposed rules aimed at preventing airline pilots from flying while fatigued. “This proposal is a significant enhancement for aviation safety,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who, with FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, repeatedly cited the Clarence crash in announcing the proposal. “Both pilots and passengers will benefit from these proposed rules.” In particular, the proposed rules would: * Ensure that pilots have nine hours of rest prior to duty, up from the current eight hours. * Establish a new way of measuring the rest period that would make sure pilots have the opportunity to sleep for eight hours before a flight. * Guarantee pilots 30 consecutive hours off every week — a 25 percent increase from the current standard. * Set new weekly and monthly limits on flight duty time. * Establish different rest requirements based on the time of flights, the number of flights a pilot is making in a given day, and other factors.
AVIATION & AIRPORT LITIGATION
Federal court dismisses lawsuit over Boeing terrorism suspect flights. – Daily Breeze, September 8, 2010
A sharply divided federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit challenging Boeing Co.’s role flying terrorism suspects to secret prisons around the world as part of the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited national security risks in its 6-5 ruling. The lawsuit was filed by five men suspected of terrorism who were arrested shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks and say they were flown to secret prisons where they were tortured. The men sued Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan in 2007, alleging that the program – called “torture flights” by critics – amounted to illegal “forced disappearances.”
Officials Say Lasers Pose Danger To Pilots. – WTOV Steubenville, September 5, 2010
Local officials are taking notice of an increasing number of cases of people pointing lasers into aircraft cockpits. So far this year, the Federal Aviation Administration has received at least 17 reports of lasers being aimed at aircraft in the Pittsburgh area. That’s as many as in the last five years combined in that area. This increase has air officials in the Ohio Valley on high alert. Jefferson County Airpark Manager Phil Bender said, “It can cause disorientation, or flash blindness. It can impair the pilot’s vision during the critical phase of flight.” That critical time is during take-offs and landings. Distractions can come from lasers or even high powered spotlights. Bender said, “They’re not that difficult to gain access to. There’s little regulation on them. You can see some of the outdoor impromptu laser shows. They can crop of everywhere. Most of those types of incidents are not intentionally trying to harm the aircraft.” From the unintentional to the more sinister motives, Bender said it’s all serious. Bender said, “With an air ambulance, frequently they use night vision goggles. (Lasers) can cause damage to the night vision goggles. It whites them out while they’re trying to land in the proximity of trees or wires. It’s very critical then.”
No joke: Someone targeting Pa. planes, choppers with lasers. – Associated Press, September 6, 2010
Officials in western Pennsylvania say the number of cases of people pointing lasers into aircraft cockpits has risen sharply this year, possibly because of greater access to the devices — and those responsible may not be aware of the danger to pilots or aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration received 17 reports of such incidents in the Pittsburgh in the first eight months of the year — as many as in all of the last five years. That has officials concerned, even though they say no major crashes in the United States have been blamed on lasers. “Nevertheless, when individuals use lasers maliciously or improperly, it’s a threat against aviation safety,” FAA spokesman Jim Peters said. Green lasers were flashed into the cockpits of two Pittsburgh-area medical helicopters last weekend.
Wind farms and the radar problem. – The Los Angeles Times, September 7, 2010
Increasing the amount of electricity we get from renewable sources such as the sun and wind is a national priority and a state mandate. Among the many obstacles to getting that done — opposition to new transmission lines, worries that solar plants will harm endangered species, conflicts over land use — one has until recently remained largely off the public radar screen. But the radar screen is precisely the problem: Wind farms interfere with commercial and military radar systems. In 2009, wind projects that would have produced a combined 9,000 megawatts of power were shelved or stalled after the Department of Defense or the Federal Aviation Administration raised concerns about radar, according to the New York Times. That’s nearly as much as the power generated by wind farms that were actually built last year. The Mojave Desert is a particular trouble spot because of the many military air facilities in the region, and several proposed projects there have been withdrawn after hitting turbulence from the military. Modern wind farms plant rows of spinning turbines on towers up to 400 feet tall, sometimes causing aircraft passing overhead to appear to vanish from radar screens. It’s a serious problem but it’s not insurmountable, as wind developers in Solano County recently showed.
NTSB uses Montana plane crash to revive debate with FAA on children traveling on adults’ laps . – Matt Volz, The Associated Press, September 7, 2010
Federal transportation safety officials are using the deadly crash of an overloaded plane in Montana to revive a long-standing debate about whether small children should be allowed to travel on the laps of adults. The 10-seater plane crashed as it was landing in Butte in March 2009, killing all 14 people aboard, including seven children. Investigators say that several of the children were found far from the plane, suggesting that they weren’t properly restrained. The National Transportation Safety Board is asking aviation regulators to require all passengers to have their own seats and seat belts, including children under the age of 2 who are now allowed to sit on an adult’s lap during takeoff, landing and turbulence. The recommendation last month is similar to others the NTSB has submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration over the past two decades, only to be rebuffed. This time, the NTSB, which does not have rule-making authority, is using the Butte crash as an example.
Federal panel OKs trash site by LaGuardia. – Alan Levin, USA Today, September 8, 2010
A trash facility being built next to New York’s LaGuardia Airport is drawing outrage from pilots who say the garbage will attract birds — and increase the risk of another emergency like the “Miracle on the Hudson.” A federal panel of experts has given its blessing to the trash site, where New York City garbage will be transferred from trucks to barges in sealed containers. The massive amount of trash will be less than half a mile from the airport where a US Airways jet took off last year, struck a flock of geese and glided to a Hudson River water landing. “It’s just simply not a smart place to put it,” said Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the retired “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot. “I’m not opposed to these kinds of facilities, just not within 2,206 feet of one of the nation’s busiest runways.” A USA TODAY review of federal regulations found that, while the trash facility is permissible under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules at LaGuardia, it would not be permitted at most of the nation’s large commercial airports.
Police say copter pilots were blinded by laser pointers. – Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun, September 8, 2010
It was a lazy August night in Essex, and 21-year-old Joshua Brydge decided to have fun with his brother’s laser pointer. Standing on his back porch, he aimed the piercing green beam at a police helicopter circling overhead. Inside the cockpit of Baltimore County’s Air 1, hovering over the houses on Maryln Avenue, pilot Hobart Wolf was temporarily “flash-blinded” by the light and was diverted from helping fellow county officers chasing a suspect. Police say helicopters and other aircraft are increasingly being targeted by laser pointers commonly used in lecture halls. It has been a problem for years across the country, and Maryland authorities say it is now growing throughout the state, particularly in Ocean City, where pointers are sold as cheap souvenirs on the Boardwalk.
PROMISES, PROMISES: FAA fatigue rules finally near. – Joan Lowy, The Associated Press, September 9, 2010
After a regional airliner crashed in western New York a year and a half ago, killing 50 people, the Obama administration promised swift action to prevent similar tragedies. High on the list: new rules governing the number of hours pilots may work, to prevent tired flight crews from making fatal errors. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote in June 2009 that the Federal Aviation Administration was in a hurry and wouldn’t wait for Congress “to add mandatory layers to airline safety,” nor even for crash investigators to complete their work, “because air passengers deserve action. And, they deserve it now.” It’s taken 15 months and a half-dozen missed deadlines, but the FAA is finally about to propose new regulations on how many hours airlines can schedule pilots to be on duty or in the cockpit. A draft was submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review last week, and a proposed rule is likely to be published within days, industry officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to address the issue publicly. A House hearing on the proposal is scheduled for next week.
Other Articles on the Same Topic:
New Pilot-Fatigue Rules to Be Unveiled. – Andy Pasztor, The Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2010
Federal aviation regulators, bucking opposition from major industry groups and some White House regulatory officials, are expected Friday to release long-awaited proposals to combat pilot fatigue. The aim of the broad package, according to people familiar with the issue, is to replace rigid, decades-old work rules with flexible, more scientifically based safety standards spelling out maximum periods commercial pilots can be on duty or sit behind the controls each workday. The Federal Aviation Administration’s plan for sweeping changes in how airlines schedule cockpit crews follows 15 months of wrangling and a string of missed deadlines. If the proposal results in a final rule, it would lock in many things championed by pilot unions, substantially alter many pilots’ workday and have a big economic impact on airlines.
FBI looking into Thai Airways bomb hoax at LAX. – Raquel Maria Dillon, The Associated Press, September 8, 2010
The FBI on Wednesday was trying to determine whether a passenger staged a bomb hoax that prompted a search of a Thai Airways jetliner at Los Angeles International Airport. “The working theory at this point” is that a passenger aboard Flight 794 scrawled the bomb threat on a restroom mirror, but no arrest was made and the investigation continues, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. There was no indication that a crew member was involved, she added. Making a phony threat against an airliner is a federal crime that carries a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, Eimiller said. The plane, carrying 171 passengers and 18 crew members, was heading from Bangkok to Los Angeles when the threat was discovered. Thai Airways President Piyasvasti Amranand told The Associated Press that the message – written in English with bad grammar – warned that a bomb was on the plane.
Obama Plan Would Boost NextGen. – Kristen Majcher, Adrian Schofield, Aviation Week, September 8, 2010
While specific details are sorely lacking in President Obama’s new infrastructure investment proposal, it appears that increased funding of the NextGen program will be a higher priority than in previous stimulus spending efforts. Obama’s six-year plan, announced at a Sept. 6 speech in Milwaukee, includes refurbishment of 150 miles of runways and unspecified investments to advance implementation of the NextGen air traffic control modernization. There would be $50 billion in initial funding, and the plan includes an “infrastructure bank” concept that has been floated previously by Congress and the White House. But it is unclear what the total spending would be over the six years, how much would go to aviation projects, and what funding avenue would be used for that portion. The infrastructure proposal will be closely tied to the long-term surface transportation bill that has stalled in Congress. The Aerospace Industries Association was encouraged by the fact that ATC modernization appears to play a significant role in the administration’s proposal. “We are very pleased to see the recognition that our national airspace system cannot be transformed by focusing on runways alone,” said AIA President Marion Blakey. “NextGen is the future of a safer, cleaner, quieter aviation system and its implementation requires attention to both ground and airborne infrastructure.”
Obama wants $50B to beef up infrastructure ‘as soon as possible’. – Darren Goode, The Hill, September 6, 2010
President Obama on Monday called for an upfront investment of $50 billion to improve roads, railways and runways as part of a larger six-year strategy to update the nation’s aging infrastructure. Obama announced the strategy at the Milwaukee Laborfest in Wisconsin hosted by the AFL-CIO and Milwaukee Area Labor Council and was joined by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The president wants Congress to approve this first-year $50 billion “as soon as possible” and pay for it by scaling back oil and gas industry tax incentives, a senior administration official said. “Over the next six years, we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads — enough to circle the world six times,” Obama said, according to remarks prepared for delivery the White House released ahead of his speech Monday afternoon. “We’re going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways — enough to stretch coast-to-coast.
U.S. Steps Up Its Effort Against a European System of Fees on Airline Emissions. – James Kanter, The New York Times, September 9, 2010
The United States has stepped up pressure to prevent Europe from charging foreign airlines for greenhouse gas emissions when they take off and land there. Yet even as authorities in the United States seek to build support against the European system, some major carriers in the United States have started taking steps to comply with the rules, which take effect in 2012. Participating now will enable airlines to avoid paying most of the cost of permits for their carbon emissions for years to come. The law, which European Union governments approved two years ago, represents the boldest attempt by Europe to push other parts of the world to adopt its standards for controlling greenhouse gases. It has prompted bitter criticism from the airline industry in Europe and abroad, especially from carriers in the United States.
U.S. aviation eyes government financing. – The Associated Press, September 8, 2010
The U.S. aviation and aerospace industries are considering asking Congress for a slice of the $50 billion in infrastructure assistance proposed by President Barack Obama, a top trade group official said on Wednesday. Marion Blakey, president of the Aerospace Industries Association, told the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit that her organization has had discussions with other industry groups about the prospect of financing for new cockpit navigation equipment required for air traffic modernization. “The president has opened the door,” Blakey said, adding that it was up to airlines and other industry interests to work with Congress to see what amount of money would be viable. Obama is proposing the infrastructure financing as part of an election year plan to jump-start the U.S. economy and create jobs. It is unclear whether Congress will follow through with any transportation financing or tax breaks for business that Obama has requested.
United Airlines August traffic and revenue up. – The Associated Press, September 8, 2010
In another sign that airline traffic is picking up, United Airlines said August traffic rose, and a key measure of revenue was up as much as 19 percent. United said its passenger revenue for each seat flown one mile rose 18 percent to 19 percent in August, compared with August 2009. That was enough to make it about even with its level in August 2008, which was just before the recession and financial meltdown caused businesses to cut travel budgets. United’s systemwide traffic rose 2.5 percent to 11.3 billion revenue passenger miles, or one paying passenger flown one mile. Capacity rose 1.7 percent to 13.03 billion available seat miles. International capacity rose 4.2 percent, while North America capacity was down 3.3 percent. With traffic rising faster than capacity, United planes were fuller. Load factor, a measure of occupancy, rose 0.6 percentage points to 86.7 percent.
Southwest Airlines August traffic rose 6.4 percent. – The Associated Press, September 8, 2010
Southwest Airlines’ traffic rose 6.4 percent in August compared with last year, and the company said Wednesday that a key measure of revenue may have risen as much as 16 percent. Passenger revenue for each seat flown one mile rose 15 percent to 16 percent during the month, the airline said. The industry pays close attention to that figure because it shows how much airlines are collecting from passengers across their entire system. Southwest flew 7.12 billion revenue passenger miles, or one paying passenger flown one mile. That’s from 6.69 billion revenue passenger miles a year earlier. Capacity rose 3.7 percent to 8.65 billion available seat miles, from 8.34 billion a year earlier. The amount of traffic seen by Southwest rose faster than its capacity, meaning fuller planes. Load factor — a measure of occupancy — rose 2.1 percentage points to 82.3 percent.
Delta, Virgin Blue Plan Stalls. – Josh Mitchell, The Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2010
The Obama administration on Wednesday gave a thumbs down to plans by Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd. and Delta Air Lines Inc. to coordinate operations on trans-Pacific flights between Australia and the U.S. The U.S. Transportation Department proposed to deny an application for antitrust immunity that would have allowed the alliance between Delta and Virgin Blue affiliates. The agency said it has tentatively concluded that Delta and Virgin Blue Group hadn’t demonstrated that the proposed alliance would produce sufficient benefits to justify an exemption from antitrust laws. “Delta and its partners …
Airline OpenSkies offers money-back guarantee. – The Associated Press, September 8, 2010
OpenSkies, an all-business class airline owned by British Airways, thinks customers will love its luxury service so much it’s offering a money-back guarantee. The “Try OpenSkies, Love Everything or Pay Nothing” is a way to lure customers willing to pay extra with promise of better service. The airline flies between New York or Washington, D.C. to three French cities — Paris, Lyon and Nantes. Sale fares this fall start at $700 one-way for a seat, excluding taxes — generally cheaper than business class seats on major airlines — or about $1,700 one-way for a lie-flat bed. OpenSkies was launched in 2008. It dropped its service to Amsterdam last year as demand for premium air travel plunged. Money-back guarantees are extremely rare in the airline industry, but some airlines have used similar gimmicks to ease passengers booking worries. JetBlue last year offered refunds to passengers who lost their jobs after buying tickets.
Q&A: American’s maintenance chief aims to help airline straighten up, fly right with FAA. – The Associated Press, September 8, 2010
Jim Ream didn’t work for American Airlines Inc. two years ago when it was forced to ground its fleet of McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 jets because of improperly repaired wiring harnesses. But as American’s new senior vice president of maintenance and engineering, it’s Ream’s job to repair its maintenance reputation and its relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA and American have been at odds since the April 2008 groundings. Their fractured relationship was capped last month when the FAA fined the Fort Worth-based carrier a record $24.2 million for failing to comply with required procedures.
2010: The year airline passengers struck back. – David Grossman, USA Today, September 8, 2010
For all those who suffer the anguish and frustration of commercial air travel, your luck may be about to change. Airline passengers have long been held hostage on the tarmac in crowded, hot airplane cabins through countless hours of creeping flight delays bereft of food, water or adequate lavatory facilities. Air travelers routinely endure lost luggage, denied boarding on oversold flights and flight cancellations with no adequate compensation, re-accommodation or even a simple explanation or apology. Now airlines are further inciting flier wrath by piling on an increasing array of fees for checked luggage, seat selection, pillows, blankets, telephone reservations and more. What’s worse, many of these fees often remain hidden until well after an airline ticket is purchased. After years of powerlessness in the face of such treatment, the tide may finally be turning in favor of airline passengers, and many airline practices they’ve objected to may be in their final days. Thanks to a wave of new and pending legislation and Department of Transportation (DOT) rules, 2010 may go down in history as the year airline passengers struck back.
NASA Hosts Green Aviation Summit. – NZ Aviation, September 9, 2010
NASA has a “critical responsibility” to the flying public to develop environmentally responsible solutions to the nation’s most pressing aviation problems, Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. said Wednesday. Addressing the Green Aviation Summit under way through Thursday at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Bolden said air travel is one of the safest modes of transportation and vital to the U.S. economy, but increasing air traffic is taking a toll on the environment and the nation’s aviation infrastructure. “We need to make some changes — both in the design of aircraft and in the way they transit through our skies to not only maintain, but improve safety and efficiency,” Bolden said. “That’s a huge challenge, but we at NASA enthusiastically accept it.” The Green Aviation Summit is highlighting the depth and breadth of NASA’s work to develop aviation technologies that are designed to make air transportation cleaner and quieter for the environment, with fewer delays for travelers. “Our critical responsibility is [to] those who feel anxious because of the long distance they have to travel to reach an airport; the crowding they experience upon arrival at the terminal; the departure, enroute, or arrival weather; or concerns that the technology on the planes may not be up to dealing with problems that may be encountered in the sky,” Bolden told the summit.