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.
terminal operations at the Texas airport, will become only the third director at Tampa International
since 1964. The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board on Wednesday selected Lopano over former Detroit airport director Lester Robinson to succeed Louis Miller.
Air Mail: Waxman and Harman to FAA. – Santa Monica Dispatch, September 29, 2010
Dear Administrator Babbitt: We are writing to urge the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to produce a thorough Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) examining flight traffic at Santa Monica Airport (SMO). As you know, SMO is a uniquely situated airport directly abutting densely populated neighborhoods. Both sides of the airport’s single runway face homes as close as 250 feet. The dramatic rise in traffic at the airport in recent years, particularly among large business jets, has elevated community concerns about safety, noise and pollution.
Airport using surplus funds for bills and ramp. – Jerry Lynott, The Times Leader, October 1, 2010
As losses mount for the year, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport is tapping into its surplus of more than $1 million to pay bills and contribute its share for the construction of a new ramp for general aviation operations. The airport, owned and operated by Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, reported a net operating loss of $201,702 through August. Contributing to the loss were first-time pension payments the airport made to the counties; $117,378 to Luzerne and $65,732 to Lackawanna. But an increase in rent for private fliers and higher landing fees for commercial airlines is expected to reduce the loss in the coming months. It should be reduced even further when the fees temporarily waived to attract American Eagle Airlines to the airport start to be collected, said Barry Centini, airport director. The addition of the carrier has boosted passenger numbers by 6,919 since it began service to Chicago in June. For August, the number of people boarding airplanes increased by 7.9 percent from the same period a year ago.
Report: Palo Alto could operate airport at a profit. – Jesse Dungan, Daily News, October 1, 2010
Palo Alto could potentially operate the general aviation airport within its borders at a profit if it takes over the facility for Santa Clara County, according to a city-commissioned report released this week. In December 2008, the Palo Alto City Council hired R.A. Wiedemann & Associates to examine the potential benefits to the city if it ends the county’s 50-year lease on the Palo Alto Airport early and assumes operations. The lease is set to expire in 2017, but the county has indicated a desire to terminate the lease earlier. City officials are concerned that the county has no financial incentive to improve the airport because its lease is ending soon, and a shift in management could boost the quality of the facility. City staff is still reviewing the report, and the council’s finance committee is set to discuss the document and a possible city takeover of the airport on Oct. 19. “This report is designed to look at taking it over and seeing what could happen up to 2017 and after,” said Palo Alto Deputy Director of Administrative Services Joseph Saccio.
The report looks at four options for shifting airport management and boils its recommendations down to two that it concludes are both feasible and profitable.
How will Southwest-AirTran deal affect airports? – Roger Yu, USA TOday, October 2, 2010
Southwest Airlines’ proposed $1.4 billion acquisition of rival AirTran Airways has some airports thinking early about the deal’s future impact on their operations. Milwaukee, where AirTran’s traffic has grown about 80% in the last two years, wants to ensure that its prominence in AirTran’s expansion strategy isn’t dimmed once the two carriers complete their merger. While some analysts have speculated that Southwest may curb the rate of growth in the market, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wrote a letter to Southwest CEO Gary Kelly last week, urging him to consider the airport a regional center for its operations. “This region appreciates the competitive airfares that all the airlines, including Southwest, have brought to this market,” he wrote.
Danville airport rehab project negotiations continue. – Denice Thibodeau, Go Dan River.com, October 4, 2010
The Virginia Department of Aviation may fly in to the rescue for Danville Regional Airport’s ailing runways. A meeting of city, state and Federal Aviation Administration officials — requested by Rep. Tom Perriello and held in his office on Sept. 9 — over issues with repairs at Danville Regional Airport resulted in some possible alternative funding to allow the airport to maintain some of its wider and longer runways and taxiways. The FAA maintained its stance that it would not fund runway and taxiway improvements that exceed its standards for an airport of Danville’s size — essentially saying Danville does not need runways and taxiways at their current length and width, and that the runways do not need to have the pavement strength the primary runway currently has. But the Virginia Department of Aviation may step in and fund some upgrades if Danville can prove economic development prospects may be impacted if the airport reduces its current standards.
Wichita City Council further delays new airport terminal. – Brent Wistrom, Wichita Eagle, October 5, 2010
Worried about economic uncertainties, layoffs in the aviation industry and state legislation, Wichita City Council members today said they want to delay their decision on whether to build a new terminal at Mid-Continent Airport until at least January. In the meantime, city officials and economists at Wichita State University will monitor sales tax returns and other factors to try to provide the council with a solid forecast of the local economy. Then, probably in January, the council will decide whether to put the $160 million project out for bids. “I think we need to proceed cautiously because we don’t know what the economy’s going to look like for at least the next 6 months,” Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell said.
Dogfight rises over Aurora airport plan, Wilsonville’s tactics questioned, while city is concerned over increased traffic. – Patrick Johnson, WIlsonville Spokesman, October 5, 2010
The chairman of the Oregon State Aviation Board is questioning the tactics of the city of Wilsonville during the master planning process for the Aurora State Airport. Spreading rumors, misinformation and “stirring the pot” are just some of the allegations Mark Gardiner is making about how officials working for the city of Wilsonville have conducted themselves. “The small staff of the (Oregon Department of Aviation) and the members of the (aviation) board are unable to keep up with the flurry of misinformation that the city of Wilsonville is putting into the public,” Gardiner said during an interview last week.
New Plans for FAA Danville Regional Airport. – Sarah Bloom, WSET-TV, October 5, 2010
Plans to update Danville Regional Airport may be shifting in the city’s favor. The Federal Aviation Administration wants to standardize the runway, but many worried that process could hurt the city’s economic growth. Now, Congressman Tom Perriello has stepped in to try to help the city and the FAA reach a solution that will satisfy both. The congressman met with the groups in early September. Certainly, local officials say there is still work to do to protect the airport, but these initial compromises in the plans have airport officials and economic development leaders here locally relieved. The original plans called for closing most of this primary runway. “They wanted during construction to limit the available runway pavement length to less than 2700 feet and exclusively rely, rely exclusively on our shorter cross-wind runway,” said Danville Transportation Director, Marc Adelman.
New TIA director will receive $250,000 in annual salary. – Steve Huettel, St. Petersburg Times, October 8, 2010
Tampa International Airport officially has a new boss. Airport board members on Thursday hired Joseph W. Lopano, the top marketing executive at Dallas-Fort Worth International, to replace former executive director Louis Miller. Lopano was picked as the top candidate last week. All that was left to do was work out the details of his contract. Lopano, 55, will make a $250,000 annual salary. That’s nearly $13,000 less than he earns as executive vice president for marketing and terminal management at DFW, but only slightly below the $253,950 Miller made after nearly 14 years at TIA. He will start work Jan. 1.
Lighting the way to safety. – David Abel, The Boston Globe, October 8, 2010
Logan International Airport, with its harrowing history of near misses between aircraft on busy runways, has become the nation’s first airport to introduce an elaborate new system of lights and radar designed to prevent such collisions and close calls. The new system, which cost $3.6 million, is expected to be installed at 23 airports nationwide in the next few years, federal aviation and transportation officials said yesterday. “The goal we are working toward is zero runway incursions,’’ said Randy Babbitt, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, a former pilot who landed a government plane at Logan yesterday to give the new system his approval. FAA officials demonstrated how the new Runway Status Lights system uses a series of incandescent red lights embedded in the pavement to warn pilots when it’s unsafe to enter, cross, or proceed down a runway. The new system uses data from ground-based radar, transponders aboard airplanes, and other sensors to issue direct warnings to pilots about potential incursions or collisions.
Review: S. Ind. airport has state’s top crash rate. – Associated Press, October 9, 2010
A southern Indiana airport has had the highest rate of aviation crashes in the state for the last 20 years, but experts say they don’t believe that means the facility is more dangerous than others. The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne analyzed Federal Aviation Administration data since 1990 and found that Monroe County Airport in Bloomington has had 11 aircraft accidents, for a rate of 2.3 crashes per 100,000 flights. Muncie’s airport placed second with a rate of 1.6 crashes, and Fort Wayne was third with a rate of 1.2. The Purdue University airport had a rate of 0.33 crashes per 100,000 flights. Richard Fanjoy, associate department head of Purdue University’s aviation technology program, said Monroe County’s rate may be skewed by its low volume.
Montrose Expanding Terminal Building by 11K Square Feet. – Beverly Corbell, The Watch Newspapers, October 9, 2010
If you’ve ever had to wait for a flight at the Montrose airport on a weekend during ski season, you know how a sardine feels. But that’s all in the process of changing, thanks to current construction that will enlarge the passenger terminal by 11,000 square feet. Lloyd Arnold, director of aviation at the airport, said overcrowding on busy days has not only inconvenienced passengers, but at times slowed air traffic. ‘We don’t have enough holding area for people who have been processed by TSA,” he said, adding that additional passengers can’t be admitted to the secure area until those already there have boarded, which can cause flight delays. “If you planned to fly to Denver at 10 a.m. but the plane doesn’t depart until 10:30, you’re holding up flights at other airports,” he said. “This will alleviate the current congestion.” The current terminal has 28,700 square feet. So the addition will bring it almost 40,000 square feet.
FAA attorney/blogger says he was fired for not ‘breaking the law.’ – Barbara Hollinsgworth, The Washington Examiner, September 29, 2010
A 27-year-old attorney in Federal Aviation Administration Chief Counsel David Grizzle’s office says he was fired in retaliation for starting a blog about his refusal “to break the law” in April. David Pardo, a pilot and 2008 Georgetown Law grad, told The Examiner that he was terminated, slapped with a restraining order barring him from entering any agency facilities, and escorted out of FAA headquarters by security guards on Sept 20 – just two weeks after he began his blog, FAA Lawyer Whistleblower, in frustration when his attempts to alert agency officials about serious safety problems and what he called a “smoking gun email” were rebuffed. An FAA spokesman would only say that Pardo “no longer works for the FAA, and we can’t comment on personnel matters.” The Project on Government Oversight speculated that blogging was one of the main reasons the 27-year-old attorney, who was employed at FAA for just 11 months, was terminated.
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration completed an audit to work with Armenia. – News.am, September 29, 2010
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has conducted audits at the institutional level to work with Armenia. This was announced at today’s press conference, by the Chief of Staff General Department of Civil Aviation, the Armenian government Saak Hakobyan. According to him, the audit was difficult, but Armenia has passed it. “Now the audit is conducted at company level. Armavia has already finished the audit for the flight to the United States”- he said. Akopyan said that the U.S. side, according to the contract any registered in the U.S. airline can perform flights to Armenia. At the moment none of them operate in Armenia.Note that in June 2009 between Armenia and the U.S. an “Open Skies” an agreement was signed to expand the relations in civil aviation. At present, the General Administration of Civil Aviation has 45 signed and initialed treaties.
Whistleblower Office Vindicates FAA Whistleblower, But Questions Remain On Hundreds Of Improperly Closed Cases. – Nick Schwellenbach, Project on Government Oversight, September 29, 2010
The federal Office of Special Counsel (OSC) yesterday announced that it substantiated the findings of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) whistleblower Robert Spahr. Spahr, who is an aviation safety inspector, reported to the OSC that the FAA’s flight standards district office in Pittsburgh and the FAA Eastern Division Regional Office violated regulations by failing to take action against three entities regulated by the FAA. CNN’s Allen Chenoff reports that “Erie Aviation, a repair station operator that services commercial airlines; C.J. Systems, which pilots helicopters for hospitals around the country; and Air Charter Service, an operator of private charter flights,” were the three entities FAA failed to take action against. Enforcement actions should have been taken in response to mechanical deficiencies and false entries in aircraft logs, according to the OSC. But questions still remain about OSC’s previous work with whistleblowers, including those at the FAA and Federal Air Marshal Service (the subject of a 2008 POGO report). Under Scott Bloch, the former Special Counsel who pled guilty to lying to Congress, literally hundreds of whistleblowers’ cases were closed without investigation.
Commercial Space Effort Gets Boost From FAA. – Mike Wall, Space.com, October 2, 2010
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has taken some big steps to help push commercial spaceflight forward with two new programs to study and streamline the emerging industry. In the last two months, the FAA has launched an online lessons-learned database dedicated to the private space transportation industry, as well as a new center to serve as its hub for commercial spaceflight issues. The new database, announced Sept. 24, creates a way for people in the nascent field to share useful information quickly and easily, FAA officials said. The idea is to improve the safety of commercial launch and re-entry activities. [6 Companies That Could Launch People Into Space] FAA has a similar database covering commercial air travel, which compiles information about plane crashes and their various causes. The new space database is a provisional effort at the moment, according to FAA officials. The agency wants to gauge public and industry interest before deciding whether to ramp it up, they said.
Pilots: FAA fatigue proposal inadequate. – Megan Neighbor, AZ Business, October 2, 2010
Several pilots’ unions say that a proposal from the Federal Aviation Administration that’s meant to prevent pilot fatigue doesn’t go far enough.Although the FAA’s Sept. 14 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) sets new duty, rest and flight-time requirements for pilots, the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, an umbrella group that represents unions such as the US Airline Pilots Association, aren’t convinced it’s adequate. It boosts time off in some cases, yet increases the time a pilot is behind controls in others. Under current pilot flight-time regulations, airlines are required to provide pilots at least 8 hours of rest time each day – to commute to a hotel, sleep and return to the airport. If enacted as is, the new rule would mandate 9 hours off between shifts, beginning when the pilot arrives at the hotel. However, for flights between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., the time a pilot may be required to fly a plane could extend from eight to 10 hours.
FAA provides grant to develop a spaceport plan at Cecil Field. – Kevin Turner, Florida Times Union, October 4, 2010
The Federal Aviation Administration has given the Jacksonville Aviation Authority a $104,805 grant to develop a master plan for a commercial spaceport at Cecil Field, the JAA announced. The grant pays for a little less than half the estimated $210,000 cost of developing the Spaceport Master Plan, which is to begin this month and be completed by December, the JAA said. The plan is to lay the groundwork for business and development related to the space industry at Cecil Field. JAA has contracted to work with Jacksonville engineering company RS&H, and the master plan is to comply with guidelines established by the FAA and Space Florida. Cecil became the eighth facility in the U.S. to receive a spaceport license earlier this year. The former Navy base has four runways, three of which are 8,000 feet long. The fourth is 12,500 feet long, one of the longest in the state. Cecil also joined the Commercial Spaceflight Federation this year. Commercial spacecraft flying from Cecil would take off from the runway, as conventional aircraft do. Once over the Atlantic, they would fire the rockets that would launch them clear of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Military, FAA vow to work on helicopter noise. – Paul Bello, Inside Nova, October 4, 2010
A recent forum among military officials, local leaders and members of the Federal Aviation Administration yielded positive results for residents upset over the amount of helicopter noise in the area. At its conclusion, all parties agreed to work together and find timely solutions that would improve the quality of life for those in the community. Mary Hynes, a member of the Arlington County Board and chair of an aviation policy committee for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, hosted the meeting and said a large number of residents in Fairlington have approached her about issues with helicopter noise late at night – many times even past midnight. Fairfax County Supervisor Gerry Hyland, of Mount Vernon, had a similar story. During a panel discussion with Hynes and other officials, he noted that, in his district, which includes Fort Belvoir, residents have also complained about helicopter noise occurring after midnight. He said the initial impression most have is that it’s coming from nearby Davison Army Airfield.
OIG Assess FAA Ability To Hire 15,000 New Air Traffic Controllers By 2018. – Bill Goldston, AvStop.com, October 4, 2010
The Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General recently issued their report on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Air Traffic Controller Optimum Training Solution Program (ATCOTS). The ATCOTS program is a critical component of the FAA’s plans to hire and train 15,000 new controllers by 2018. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to hire and train nearly 15,000 new air traffic controllers through fiscal year (FY) 2018 to replace the large pool of air traffic controllers who were hired after the 1981 strike and are now retiring. In February 2008, the FAA began soliciting offers for the ATCOTS contract to replace two separate contracts supporting the controller training program. On September 9, 2008, the FAA awarded the contract to Raytheon.
FAA Proposes Comprehensive New Helicopter Safety Rules. – FAA Press Release, October 7, 2010
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today proposed broad new rules for helicopter operators, including air ambulances, which, if finalized, would require stricter flight rules and procedures, improved communications and training, and additional on-board safety equipment. “This is a significant proposal that will improve the safety of many helicopter flights in the United States,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The FAA’s initiatives have helped the helicopter industry make progress on many safety issues, but it’s time to take steps towards mandating these major safety improvements.” Under the proposed rules, operators would use the latest on-board technology and equipment to avoid terrain and obstacles. The proposal also contains provisions which, if finalized, would require operators to use enhanced procedures for flying in challenging weather, at night, and when landing in remote locations.
FAA Proposes Safety Systems for Certificated Airports. – FAA News Release, October 7, 2010
The FAA has proposed requiring airports certificated under Part 139 to put in place safety management systems (SMS) for all airfield and ramp areas. There are currently 553 airports in the U.S. that hold Part 139 certificates. These certificate holders serve scheduled and unscheduled air carrier aircraft with more than 30 seats. These certificate holders also may serve scheduled air carrier operations with air carrier aircraft with more than nine but less than 31 seats. SMS is a formal approach to managing an organization’s safety through four key components — safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion. This proposal will help airports enhance safety by developing an organization-wide safety policy; implementing methods to mitigate airport hazards; and analyzing and mitigating risks before they change airport procedures or infrastructure. The proposed rule requires that SMS be used for airport movement and non-movement areas which includes runways, taxiways, ramps, aircraft parking aprons, and fuel farms. The FAA believes that SMS will provide an additional layer of safety at airports and help reduce airport incidents and accidents. Airports will have the flexibility to implement a SMS plan that considers their unique operating environment.
AAMS Commends The FAA’s Move On Air Medical Safety. – Shane Nolan, AvStop.com, October 8, 2010
The Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS), the industry trade organization for air-medical and critical-care transport, commended the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its much-anticipated Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on air-medical safety. The NPRM will be published in the Federal Register on October 12th and the 90-day public comment period closes on Jan. 10, 2011. The NPRM follows recommendations issued by the National Transportation Board (NTSB) after its three-day hearing last year. AAMS has cooperated extensively with both the FAA and the NTSB on the proposed regulatory initiatives, and they look forward to providing comments to the FAA on final implementation of these important safety measures.
FAA Announces Major Gains in Runway Safety. – FAA Press Release, October 8, 2010
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt announced today that the number of serious runway incursions at the nation’s airports dropped 50 percent from 2009, the second consecutive year that the number of serious incursions was cut in half. “We continue to make terrific progress in the area of runway safety and the credit should go to the entire aviation community,” LaHood said. “I’m thrilled that we’ve further reduced serious incursions, and I look forward to additional improvements in the years ahead.” “The goal we are working towards is zero runway incursions,” Babbitt said during a press conference at Boston’s Logan Airport where he highlighted runway safety technology. “I’m confident that the right combination of education and technology will help us get there.” The number of serious runway incursions at the nation’s airports dropped from 12 in fiscal year 2009 to six in fiscal year 2010, which ended on Sept. 30. Today’s announcement reflects a steady, significant improvement in runway safety over the last decade. In fiscal year 2000 there were 67 serious runway incursions. Of the six incursions this fiscal year, three involved commercial aircraft.
FAA Issues Lithium Battery Fire-Safety Alert. – Andy Pasztor, The Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2010
Federal aviation regulators, as part of a safety alert stressing fire hazards posed by lithium batteries, urged airlines on Friday to take special precautions when transporting such shipments on cargo aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration’s warning reflects escalating concern about the flammability of bulk shipments of widely used rechargeable batteries in the holds of cargo planes after a recent crash in Dubai. The FAA’s action, while it stops short of ordering packaging, handling or paperwork changes, provides the clearest indication yet that the Department of Transportation is moving to finalize mandatory rules to reduce such air-cargo hazards. The FAA’s alert, intended for all U.S. airlines and charter operators, emphasizes that recent research highlights the threat of such batteries overheating and creating a so-called “thermal runaway.” That’s when batteries not involved in an initial fire may ignite and spread the flames, which the FAA said could end up “creating a risk of a catastrophic event.”
Other Articles on the Same Topic:
Statement by PRBA-The Rechargeable Battery Association on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Alert on Lithium Batteries. – PR Newswire, October 8, 2010
The PRBA is encouraged by two FAA recommendations on lithium batteries that are consistent with PRBA’s long-standing positions, specifically our support for international regulations and increased FAA enforcement. The FAA’s recommended practice to “identify bulk shipments of currently excepted lithium batteries by information on airway bills and other documents provided by shippers” already is required by the international dangerous goods regulations, which PRBA fully supports. In addition, FAA’s recommendation that operators “Pay special attention to ensuring… compliance with existing regulations” is consistent with PRBA’s position that increased FAA enforcement ensuring that shippers fully comply with the regulations will best improve transport safety. — PRBA Executive Director George Kerchner
AVIATION AND AIRPORT LITIGATION
Pilot Pleads Guilty To Flying Illegal Flights And Falsifying Safety Records. – Mike Mitchell, AvStop.com, September 29, 2010
A former pilot, Francis Vieira, 60 of now-defunct Platinum Jet Management, LLC pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to defraud charter customers and brokers using interstate wires and to impede and obstruct the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Vieira admitted he and his co-conspirators flew illegal flights and falsified FAA paperwork relating to the safety and regulatory compliance of its flights, United States Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced. Vieira, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., pleaded guilty to the lead count of the Superseding Indictment against him, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to defraud the United States. Vieira entered his guilty plea in Newark federal court before United States District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh.
Ontario Airport: Cargo developer sues LA in contract dispute. – Kimberly Pierceall, The Press Enterprise, October 7, 2010
The willingness of Los Angeles World Airports to spread air traffic across Southern California has again been called into question, this time by the developer behind a project that promised to bolster air cargo traffic at Ontario International Airport. Aero Ontario RFP, LLC, the developer of a long-ago proposed cargo hub at Ontario Airport, has sued the city of Los Angeles and the Board of Airport Commissioners. The company now joins others, mainly the city of Ontario, that contend Los Angeles officials have ignored the Inland airport in favor of bolstering traffic at LAX. Aero Ontario, affiliated with Annapolis, Md.-based Aeroterm, claims the agency indicated it would divert cargo traffic from its other airport, LAX. Instead, LAWA actively sought out and kept cargo companies at the Los Angeles airport and other LAWA-owned airports but not Ontario, Aero alleges.
AVIATION LEGISLATION AND REGULATION
U.S. has an obligation to act quicker on aviation. – Editorial,USA TOday, October 3, 2010
In her appearance before the 190-nation International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) last week in Montreal, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano finally recognized that aviation security in a global system is only as safe as its weakest link (“U.S. to seek air security buy-in,” News, Tuesday). Tougher global aviation security standards and cooperation are critical to deter the rising threat of plastic explosives. Napolitano learned this the hard way last Christmas when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, having been trained in Yemen, traveled to Nigeria, flew to Amsterdam and transferred to a U.S. airline bound for Detroit where he failed to ignite the plastic explosives in his underwear.
Congress Extends War, Terror Coverage For Airline Industry. – Arthur D. Postal, Property & Casualty Insurance News, October 5, 2010
Congress quietly extended a terrorism risk insurance program for the airline industry for another year last Thursday. The one-year extension was included in a continuing resolution aimed at funding the government until Dec. 3. Authorization for the program would have expired Thursday without the extension. President Obama immediately issued a proclamation authorizing the Department of Transportation to extend the program, which provides insurance or reinsurance to U.S. air carriers against loss or damage arising out of terrorism. The extension runs until Sept. 30, 2011.
US airports complain about FAA reauthorization ‘uncertainty.’ – Aaron Karp, Air Transport World, October 5, 2010
Airports Council International-North America President Greg Principato said some US airports are “missing whole construction seasons” because of the US Congress’s failure to pass a long-term FAA reauthorization bill including the Airport Improvement Program, which provides funding for numerous infrastructure projects at airports across the US. Congress late last month passed the 16th temporary funding extension FAA has received since its authorization officially expired on Sept. 30, 2007, allowing the agency to operate through Dec. 31. Responding to a question from ATW at the ACI-NA Conference and Exhibition in Pittsburgh last week, Principato said the lack of a long-term authorization is hampering projects and is causing a lot of “stop-and-start” construction efforts. Airports “need a steady, stable, reliable flow of revenue” to help finance modernization, he said. “Right now there’s no reliability or stability.” He added that the lack of new legislation also means the passenger facility charge airports are allowed to impose to help finance projects remains capped at $4.50, a level cemented in FAA’s 2000 reauthorization. “If the PFC had been indexed [to inflation], it would be $8.11 now,” he asserted. “It’s worth about half of what it was worth” in 2000.
McCarthy Introduces Plane Noise Legislation. – Carolyn McCarthy, Mineola Patch, October 6, 2010
Last week, I was proud to propose legislation to address a significant concern of my constituents in the Fourth Congressional District of New York. I understand that living in close proximity to an airport has many benefits and also many drawbacks. My fellow Long Islanders and I moved to Long Island to escape the loud noises and congestion common in big cities, and, yet, we still endure the hardships associated with airplane noise. To that end, I proposed the Noise Reduction Act of 2010, which would provide a tax credit for individuals and families that want to soundproof their homes in response to airplane or train horn noise, giving priority to individuals with certain health conditions that make them more susceptible to the noise disturbances.
Dutko Registers to Lobby on Mexican Aviation Safety. – The Blog of Legal Times, October 8, 2010
A small Mexico-based airline has hired lobbying firm Dutko Worldwide, hoping to prove to the United States government that Mexico’s aviation safety deserves a better rating. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration downgraded Mexico’s safety rating in July from what’s known as Category 1 to Category 2, saying the country is not completely meeting international standards. Since then, Mexican airlines have been unable to expand their U.S. services, Dow Jones reported last month. In an attempt to reverse that, Mexico-based Interjet has hired Dutko, according to U.S. Senate records. Pete Halpin, a senior vice president at Dutko and former head of congressional affairs for the U.S. Department of Transportation, is listed on the registration. Halpin did not immediately return a call requesting comment today. The registration is effective Thursday. Dutko was ranked No. 10 by revenue among Washington lobby shops in the most recent Influence 50.
US Senator calls for investigation into federal funds. – Rachel Whitten, Kansas Reporter, October 8, 2010
Three members of Kansas’ U.S. Congressional delegation say they are suspicious that Louisiana may be using federal funds to try to lure Hawker Beechcraft to their state. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts commented Friday that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds that were given to Louisiana to help with economic recovery after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 might be part of the incentive package to attract the airplane manufacturer to transfer the 6,000 jobs that are currently in Wichita and to build a plant down south. Roberts has teamed up with fellow lawmakers U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and U.S. Rep. Todd Tiarht to write a letter to HUD asking for an audit of the economic development funds. “We have suspicions that what Louisiana is doing is leveraging this federal money to lure Hawker-Beech aircraft to Louisiana,” Roberts said. “If that’s the case, that’s federal job pirating and there’s a statute that prevents that.”
Lithium battery risk back in focus after UPS crash. – Patrick Howington, Courier-Journal, October3, 2010
Though the cause of the Sept. 3 crash of a UPS cargo plane in Dubai that killed two crew members has not yet been determined, a pilots’ organization says the accident eventually may prove to underscore the need for stricter rules on shipping lithium batteries. That’s because the head of the aviation authority in the United Arab Emirates has said it appeared the plane carried mainly electronic goods — many of which are powered by lithium batteries. And news reports relying on unidentified sources have said investigators are trying to determine whether lithium batteries were in the cargo compartment where the fire began. The crash killed two crew members, including Capt. Doug Lampe of Prospect, Ky. UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot declined to say whether lithium batteries were among the plane’s cargo, citing the confidentiality of the investigation. U.S. transportation safety officials have also declined to reveal cargo or other details of the investigation, which is being headed by the United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority.
FAA: U.S. runway incidents drop by 50 percent. – BNO News, October 8, 2010
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt announced on Friday that the number of serious runway incursions at the nation’s airports has dropped by 50 percent from 2009, the second consecutive year that the number of serious incursions was cut in half. The number of serious runway incursions at the nation’s airports dropped from 12 in the fiscal year of 2009 to six in the fiscal year of 2010, which ended on September 30. Friday’s announcement reflects a steady, significant improvement in runway safety over the last decade. In fiscal year 2000 there were 67 serious runway incursions. Of the six incursions this fiscal year, three involved commercial aircraft. Several years ago, the FAA launched an intensive effort to improve runway safety which included the expedited installation of new technology at airports, expanded requirements for improved signage and markings at airports and improved pilot training on runway conflict scenarios. Since then, the FAA and pilot groups also have conducted extensive outreach and training for general aviation pilots.
Unmanned Airplanes Coming to a Terminal Near You. – Eric Miller, ABC News, October 2, 2010
Unmanned airplanes have almost become another branch of the military, dropping bombs, spying on terrorist camps and even threatening enemy aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now government and aviation experts are planning to make room for more robot aircraft over domestic skies: working as airborne traffic cops, patrolling the border and maybe even shuttling cargo between cities. It’s not a sci-fi fantasy. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration is now studying how to safely fit these unmanned aircraft into the nation’s busy commercial airspace. “The success in the military has started to bleed over to the civilian environment,” said Wesley Randall, a former Air Force logistics officer and professor at Auburn University’s department of supply chain management. “People are saying this isn’t a niche, gee-whiz technology. These are things you need to think about.”
US aviation regulator set wider berths for 787 jets. – Sakthi Prasad, Reuters, October 5, 2010
U.S. aviation regulator has issued preliminary rules requiring aeroplanes to maintain unusually long distances behind Boeing Co’s (BA.N) 787 Dreamliner jets during landing approaches, the Wall Street Journal said. The preliminary rules on extra spacing could potentially impose operating restrictions on the long delayed carbon-composite aeroplane, according to the Journal. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restrictions are interim and many industry officials expect them to be substantially loosened once flight tests are completed, the newspaper said. The interim standards call for all planes, regardless of size, to stay at least 10 miles behind the latest Boeing models during large portions of descents.
Delta, US Airways to Seek Review of NYC Airport Ruling. – Mary Schlangenstein, Bloomberg, September 29, 2010
US Airways Group Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. will ask federal regulators to re-evaluate a ruling that led the carriers to drop a planned swap of takeoff and landing slots in New York and Washington. The U.S. Transportation Department and Federal Aviation Administration should reconsider their decision on the slots in light of the pending merger of Southwest Airlines Co. and AirTran Holdings Inc. and other recent industry agreements, James Olson, a US Airways spokesman, said in an interview today. Regulators’ demands that Delta and US Airways give rivals more access to New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport under their slot plan prompted the airlines to appeal the case in federal court in July. Delta sought to expand at LaGuardia, and US Airways at Reagan. “We’re certainly going to highlight for the DOT and FAA the changes in the industry landscape and hope they’ll have an open mind about re-evaluating our transaction with Delta,” Olson said.
American Airlines’ LAX-to-Shanghai nonstop flights approved. – Art Marroquin, The Daily Breeze, October 7, 2010
In a quick turnaround, the U.S. Department of Transportation approved American Airlines’ request to launch daily, nonstop flights between Shanghai and Los Angeles International Airport starting April 5, airline officials announced Thursday. American Airlines will be the only U.S. carrier to offer nonstop service between Shanghai and Los Angeles, airline officials said. American’s executives had just applied for the new route last week. Flights will be offered on Boeing 777 jetliners equipped with 16 first-class, 37 business-class and 194 economy-class seats. “These new flights will enrich American’s customer service offering to China and will expand American’s schedule at Los Angeles International Airport, one of its five cornerstone cities,” airline officials said in a written statement. LAX is now set to offer 39 new weekly overseas flights from November to April, according to airport officials.
United Airlines September traffic rises. – Associated Press, October 7, 2010
United Airlines said September traffic rose 7.6 percent, and a key revenue measure rose too. Fares have generally been rising. United said the revenue collected for each available seat flown one mile rose 13.5 percent to 14.5 percent compared with September 2009. Not counting regional flights on partner carriers, the same revenue measure rose 14 percent to 15 percent.United traffic climbed to 9.95 billion revenue passenger miles for the month. Counting only mainline flights (those United operates itself), traffic rose 5.8 percent to 8.56 billion revenue passenger miles. Regional traffic jumped 20.8 percent to almost 1.4 billion revenue passenger miles. A revenue passenger mile is one paying passenger flown one mile.
Southwest traffic rises 5.1 percent in September. – Associated Press, October 7, 2010
Southwest Airlines Co. said Thursday its traffic rose 5.1 percent in September on a similar increase in the number of available seats. The airline said it flew paying passengers 6.06 billion miles last month, compared with 5.77 billion miles a year earlier. Southwest’s capacity, or available seat miles, rose 4.7 percent to 8.08 billion. An available seat mile measures one seat flown one mile. Southwest, which is based in Dallas, also said that passenger revenue per available seat mile — a key measure of airline performance — is estimated to have increased about 11 percent in September from a year ago. That’s a sign that Southwest is continuing to raise fares and make more money per passenger. The airline’s occupancy rate, or load factor, inched 0.3 percent higher to 75 percent. So far this year, Southwest’s traffic has increased 3.1 percent. Capacity has fallen 1.1 percent, while the carrier’s load factor has decreased 3.2 percent.
Air Canada-United Airlines in transborder deal. – Susan Taylor, Reuters, October 7, 2010
Air Canada (ACa.TO) (ACb.TO) said on Thursday it has agreed to a revenue-sharing joint venture with United Airlines (UAL.N) for flights between Canada and the United States. The airlines said the arrangement will help them compete more effectively, while supporting substantial service and pricing benefits for passengers. Air Canada said its transborder network of 59 U.S. cities will be bolstered by the United’s presence in 210 U.S. airports. United’s network of 16 Canadian cities will gain the 59 communities that Air Canada serves. The airlines expect to launch the venture in early 2011.
Why American Airlines Is Stuck at the Gate. – Mary Schlangenstein, Bloomberg Businessweek, October 7, 2010
For much of the past decade, U.S. airlines have scrambled to remake themselves. United Airlines (UAUA), Delta Air Lines (DAL), US Airways Group (LCC), and Northwest Airlines all made trips through bankruptcy court and emerged with trimmer operating and labor costs. Then many carriers went into acquisition mode. Delta snapped up Northwest in 2008, United this month completed its takeover of Continental Airlines, and on Sept. 27 Southwest Airlines (LUV) said it will buy AirTran (AAI). Through it all, AMR’s (AMR) American Airlines looked healthy enough to go it alone. Once the global leader, the Fort Worth-based carrier managed to avoid bankruptcy. Now, as other airlines recover, American is paying the price for sidestepping the near-death experiences of its competitors. It’s bleeding red ink. Its stock price has dropped 20 percent this year, the only decline among the six biggest U.S. carriers. And its pretax margin in the first half was -4.3 percent, the only negative among its peers. “They’re playing the hand they were dealt by avoiding bankruptcy,” says Stifel Nicolaus analyst Hunter Keay. “It’s unfortunately costing them dearly.”