Aviation and Airport Development News, October 18, 2010, vol. 2, no. 17

Aviation and Airport Development News
Taber Law Group
October 18, 2010, vol. 2, no. 17

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.


Danville City Council concerned about airport project funding. – Denice Thibodeau, Go Dan River.com, October 10, 2010

While Danville Regional Airport has gotten some concessions from the Federal Aviation Administration, there are still parts of the project that are causing concern, according to a report given to Danville City Council during a Thursday work session. On the plus side, according to Mark Adelman, Danville’s transportation director, the project’s production schedule will be adjusted to allow maximum use of runways throughout the project — while jet traffic will still come to an almost complete halt, Averett University’s aviation school will be able to operate through the project. Adelman said the Airport Commission has agreed to some changes recommended by the FAA — they are willing to narrow the main runway to 100 feet wide and narrow one of the taxiways to 35 feet wide — there are other features of the airport they want to maintain, such as the length of the main runway and the strength of its pavement.

FAA reiterates that funding is not tied to a specific Hilton Head runway length. – Tom Barton, Island Packet, October 11, 2010

The Federal Aviation Administration has not insisted that the runway at Hilton Head Island Airport be extended to 5,400 feet in order to receive federal funding, according to an e-mail from an FAA official. The statement, along with a previous comment from an FAA official, contradicts comments by mayoral candidate Tom Crews, who has said publicly the FAA won’t pay to lengthen the runway unless it is extended to 5,400 feet. The Town of Hilton Head Island and Beaufort County councils voted in July to ask consultants to analyze the impact of extending the airport’s runway to three lengths — 4,600 feet, 5,000 feet and 5,400 feet. Members of town and county councils have said shorter extensions would allow the island to retain commercial service at a lower cost and with less disruption to the north end of the airport. That position doesn’t appear to be at odds with the FAA. “If Hilton Head opts for a length less than 5,400 feet, FAA’s support will not diminish,” said Scott Seritt, manager of the FAA’s Atlanta Airports District Office, in an e-mail recently obtained by The Island Packet that was sent Aug. 24 to Hilton Head resident Leo Brennan.

Pittsfield Airport Finally Breaks Ground After 12 Years. – Nicole Dupont, iBerkshires, October 12, 2010

With golden shovels in hand and relieved faces, Mayor James Ruberto, U.S. Rep.  John W. Olver, D-Amherst, Federal Aviation Administration’s New England Airports Division Manager Laverne Reid and more than 10 others including Middle Register of Deeds Andrea Nucifero, former state senator, and former Mayor Gerald Doyle broke ground today at the Pittsfield Municipal Airport. The ceremony was held at the end of the tarmac, where Phase I of the controversial airport expansion will begin thanks to the approval of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. In addition to 1,000 feet of added runway space, airport improvement plans also include four new aircraft hangars as well as a new (or extensively refurbished) terminal and an additional roadway that connects to the existing entrance to create circular traffic flow. Reid said the improvements promise to bring safety and opportunity to Berkshire County.

West Jordan mayor request info about regional airport. – Jared page, Derest News, October 13, 2010

Mayor Melissa Johnson has asked local and federal airport officials for written information about the South Valley Regional Airport’s importance to the local aviation network. The request stems from the West Jordan City Council’s desire to address safety concerns at the airport. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has suggested moving and even closing the airport to eliminate safety concerns and utilize the roughly 900 acres there to spur economic development. Johnson said she has received conflicting information from the Salt Lake City Department of Airports and the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the need for the airport to be located in West Jordan. As a result, the mayor postponed a planned discussion about the airport during Wednesday’s City Council meeting. City airport officials and representatives from the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office have offered to make a presentation to the West Jordan City Council about the role the South Valley Regional Airport plays in the local system, Johnson said. A date for that presentation has not been set.

Guthrie-Edmond Regional Airport to buy adjacent property. – Van Mitchell, The Edmond Sun, October 13, 2010

The Guthrie-Edmond Regional Airport board learned Tuesday that a tentative agreement has been reached to purchase the Frank Bross property west of the airport. The board wants the property for possible future expansion. Airport manager Lee Ivie told the board that GERA had reached an agreement with Bross to sell the property for the appraised value of $235,000. Funding from the Federal Aviation Administration will be used to purchase the property. Ivie said there are some final details to be worked out in the contract before presenting it to the Guthrie City Council for approval. “It’s a done deal,” Ivie said. “We are ready to buy the property.” In other action, Ivie updated the board on the excavation project on the airport’s delta taxiway. The project includes excavation work on both sides of the delta taxiway, the installation of taxiway lights and signs.

Midway Airport privatization plans grounded for now. – Kathy Bergen and John Byrne, Chicago Tribune, October 14, 2010

Mayor Richard Daley said Wednesday that he will not push forward with a second attempt to privatize Midway Airport during the remainder this term, which ends in May. “We’re not going to move on it,” Daley told the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board during a discussion of his proposed 2011 budget. “It will be up to the (next) mayor to make that decision.” Daley has pursued the idea as a way to bring a revenue windfall into city coffers, as happened with the outsourcing of parking meters and the long-term lease of the Chicago Skyway. But a proposed deal to lease Midway for 99 years for $2.5 billion fell through last year when the investors could not secure financing. And in recent months, Daley has told reporters that leasing the airport doesn’t make sense because the lousy economy would prevent the city from getting a good price. The city, which has a slot for Midway in a federal pilot project to test airport privatization, has received four extensions from the Federal Aviation Administration to line up investors.

Salazar helps airport keep federal funding. – Katherine Warren, Telluride DailyPlanet, October 15, 2010

With the help of U.S. Rep. John Salazar, the Federal Aviation Administration decided last week to waive the Telluride Regional Airport annual 10,000 enplanement requirement and still grant TEX $1 million in funding. The FAA requires rural airports to have at least 10,000 or more revenue generating passengers arriving and departing each year in order to receive entitlement funding for capital improvement projects. In 2009, TEX was closed from April 7 to Nov. 4 during the airport’s runway reconstruction and only had 7,700 enplanements. The project leveled TEX’s runway and smoothed the section where the runway’s famed dip used to be. Airport officials thought they were exempt from the enplanement requirement since they were improving the runway safety, and only realized about a month and a half ago that the funds were in jeopardy. FAA officials notified them that funding in 2011 would be reduced, since the 2009 dollars were already granted. “It shocked the living daylights out of us,” said John Micetic, the chairman of the Telluride Regional Airport Authority, the airport’s governing body. The news came at the same time that TRAA began to consider extending nighttime operating hours to bring in more enplanement numbers to secure future funding. Airport manager Rich Nuttall reached out to Salazar’s office to ask for help, and on Oct. 5, Salazar himself wrote a letter to Randolph Babbitt, the FAA administrator, asking for a waiver.

Visibility to improve at Boise Airport. – Joe Estrella, Idaho Statesman, October 15, 2010

The Federal Aviation Administration revealed Tuesday that it plans to install at Boise Airport its top-of-the-line air traffic control technology that is currently operating at only about 50 U.S. airports, mostly in major cities. ”It’s the latest technology the FAA has,“ said Gordon Stewart, air traffic manager at Boise Airport. The decision means Boise could eventually receive the next generation of satellite-based air traffic control technology that the FAA plans to roll out in the future, Stewart said. The new system is expected to be installed in time for the commissioning of the Boise Airport Tower in June 2013. The FAA made the announcement during a meeting Wednesday with airport officials, Mayor Dave Bieter and members of the Idaho congressional delegation. ”This positions Boise well for handling future growth and maintains the safety needed to balance a growing air traffic grid that includes firefighting, the National Guard, and private, as well as commercial, air traffic,“ said Idaho GOP U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt Breaks Ground on Recovery Act Funded Oakland Control Tower. – FAA News Release, October 15, 2010

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt helped break ground today for a new air traffic control tower at Oakland International Airport funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  The Oakland International Airport ARRA grant, totaling $33.2 million, is the FAA’s largest, single Recovery Act award. “This Recovery Act project will make a difference for the Oakland area economy,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “People will be put to work building an environmentally friendly tower that will better serve the airport and the community.” The Recovery Act grant will pay for construction of the 236-foot-tall tower and a 13,000 square-foot base building, as well as some equipment for the facility. “This brand new, modernized tower will give air traffic controllers a better view of the airfield and help improve airport efficiency,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.  “The Recovery Act is allowing us to make needed investments at airports around the country.” Two air traffic control towers currently serve Oakland International Airport. A 158-foot-tall tower on the southern portion of the airfield was built in 1962 as a part of a terminal expansion project. In 1972, construction of a large hangar blocked some views from the south tower, requiring the Port of Oakland to build a second tower to handle traffic on the north runways.

Funds for Fitchburg airport in limbo. Land use issue remains a complication. – Paula J. Owen, Telegram & Gazette, October 16, 2010

Nearly $15 million in federal grant money for improvements to the city’s airport remains in limbo, money intended to shift the main runway to make it safer. The city is required to sign grant assurances from the state for the airport to receive federal funding from the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA will provide 90 percent of grant funding to the airport for the project, and the other 10 percent must be split equally between the state and city. Airport Commissioners asked the Finance Committee to move forward with approving the assurances for part of the airport runway project. In that first phase, it will receive $150,000 in federal money for mapping and aerial studies. However, councilors Tuesday went into executive session before taking up the issue and then voted in public session to hold the grant assurances in committee. Airport officials say the move was linked to a meeting this week with the city and FAA regarding unauthorized use of land at the airport. Several parcels on airport property have been leased or sold by the city without FAA approval over the last 40 years.

San Marcos finalizes agreement to outsource airport management. – Brad Rollins, San Marcos Mercury, October 16, 2010

The San Marcos City Council has approved an agreement for the management and development of the San Marcos Municipal Airport with Texas Aviation Partners, LLC. While the city will retain ownership of the airport itself, Texas Aviation Partners (TAP) will manage a turn-key operation including maintenance and any minor repairs, administration, development and redevelopment.“The San Marcos Municipal Airport is one of the top assets in the city’s portfolio, since it serves as a regional reliever airport and as a hub in Central Texas for general aviation,” said Mayor Susan Narvaiz. “We look forward to working with Texas Aviation Partners in helping our airport and its businesses realize their potential for regional service, growth and job creation.” The agreement was approved unanimously at the Sept. 21 city council meeting after a unanimous recommendation by the Airport Commission. The five year agreement is renewable for four additional five year extensions. The contract calls for a $285,000 annual payment plus two revenue sharing options in which Texas Aviation Partners would receive 25 percent of additional revenue gained at the airport. The Airport Commission will continue its role as an advisory board to the city council, which will approve ground leases and economic development incentives. TAP will submit annual budgets similar to other city departments and will maintain an office at the airport.

Airport real-estate deal is questioned. – Ed Runyon, Youngstown Vindicator, October 17, 2010

Questions are being asked at the federal and local levels about a Western Reserve Port Authority airport real-estate deal entwining a long-unused, privately owned cargo building and the cargo-apron airstrip next to it. The Federal Aviation Administration is concerned the port authority granted a lease for a 24,000-square-foot piece of Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport land under that Ridge Road cargo building for 38 years, with an option for an additional 25 years at a cost of $3,000 per year. The problem, said Tony Molinaro, an FAA spokesman in Chicago, is that the lease “ties the port authority’s hands” for use of the cargo apron airstrip built in 1999 with $11.5 million in federal funding. Separately, questions are being raised about port authority board member Scott Lewis’ role in the sale of the former Davis Air Cargo Center on that land. Lewis acknowledges his company, working for Davis’ heirs to sell the building, received a fee from the sale when Millwood Inc. bought it in 2009 while he was an authority board member. He would not divulge the amount of the fee Edward J. Lewis Inc. real-estate company received from the sale, calling that “proprietary information.” David Freel, Ohio Ethics Commission executive director, said state ethics law prevents a port authority member from participating in discussions related to a contract or service related to his or her position on the board.


New rules address helicopter safety. – Eris Heisig, The Daily Comet, October 11, 2010

Stricter flight rules for helicopters are in the works, including many to increase safety for medical helicopters after a recent spike in fatal accidents. The Federal Aviation Administration proposed the new rules Thursday. Among the new rules are to have all helicopters equipped with terrain-awareness systems to tell operators when they are too close to obstacles. Operators would need to use more equipment and offer more training to fly in dangerous weather and land in remote areas. “This is a significant proposal that will improve the safety of many helicopter flights in the United States,” said Ray LaHood, U.S. transportation secretary. Marc Creswell, operations manager for Air Med services of Acadian Ambulance, said the company — which serves Terrebonne, Lafourche and most of south Louisiana — has had most of these proposed rules intact for some time. “It doesn’t affect us much, we have addressed the majority of these recommendations years ago,” Creswell said. Acadian has a system to assess and deal with the risk of bad weather. “If the risk is too high, we don’t take the flight,” Creswell said.

Long tarmac delays for airlines continue to drop. – Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times, October 12, 2010

Only one commercial flight was delayed more than three hours on an airport tarmac in August, compared with 66 delayed flights nationwide in the same month last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported Tuesday. Long airline delays have dropped dramatically since the Transportation Department in April adopted new fines against airlines that leave passengers stranded in a delayed plane for more than three hours. Airlines that fail to get off the ground or return the passengers to the gates in less than three hours can face fines of up to $27,500 per passenger. After the fines were adopted, airlines predicted that they would be forced to cancel more flights to avoid the fines. But the latest Transportation Department report shows that the nation’s largest airlines canceled only 1% of all scheduled flights in August, matching the 1% cancellation rate for August 2009.

Other Articles on the Same Topic:

Tarmac delay rule deemed success after 4 months. – Samantha Bomkamp, Associated Press, October 12, 2010

The government is declaring its rule barring lengthy airport tarmac delays a success after four months of data show few instances of flights getting stuck for more than three hours. Since the rule went into effect on April 29, there have been only eight planes stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours — down from 529 in 2009. In August, the most recent month for which statistics are available, there was only one flight stuck that long compared with 66 in August of last year. Cancellations were flat. “These numbers show that the tarmac delay rule is protecting passengers from being trapped indefinitely aboard an airplane — with little or no increase in canceled flights,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “With the summer travel season behind us, it appears that the rule is working as planned.” The only flight that was stuck for over three hours in August was United Flight 700 from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Washington Dulles on Aug. 5, the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics said Thursday. It was diverted to Richmond, Va., where it waited on the tarmac for three hours and 20 minutes.


Airlines Pay Up for Misleading Fares. – John Hughes, Your World Best News, October 7, 2010

AirTran Airways paid a U.S. fine for promoting $39 fares that cost $44. Delta Air Lines was penalized for not disclosing fees in fare ads. Continental Airlines gave money for underreporting complaints from disabled passengers. That was in May alone. President Barack Obama’s Transportation Department has almost doubled fines on the aviation industry since taking office from the final two years of George W. Bush’s presidency, federal data show. The administration has faulted airline actions from bumping passengers to flawed plane inspections. The growing fines weigh on carriers working to contain costs after reporting their first collective profit in 2 1/2 years in the second quarter, according to Kenneth Quinn, a former general counsel with the Federal Aviation Administration. “The pendulum has swung pretty hard,” said Quinn, a partner with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in Washington. “On good days this industry has razor-thin profits. Multimillion-dollar fines can negate a good quarter.”

Trial set for Fla. company execs in NJ plane crash. – David Porter, Associated Press, October 11, 2010

Co-founders of a defunct Florida company whose charter jets once carried high-end clients in the U.S. and abroad until a fiery crash in 2005 face a federal trial this week as prosecutors seek to show the company routinely compromised safety in the name of profit. Platinum Jet Management, formerly of Fort Lauderdale, was operating a Bombardier Challenger CL-600 bound from Teterboro, N.J., for Chicago’s Midway Airport on Feb. 2, 2005. The plane aborted its takeoff and left the runway, clipped two cars at an intersection and smashed into a warehouse, causing a fire. No one was killed, but all 11 people on board and nine more on the ground were injured, four of them seriously. Jury selection in the trial of brothers and co-founders Michael and Paul Brassington and maintenance director Brien McKenzie is scheduled to begin Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Newark. Opening statements are expected by Wednesday or Thursday. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded in 2006 that the plane crashed because its crew hadn’t properly calculated its weight distribution and had tried to take off with a center of gravity that was too far forward.

Oregon man sues airline over false bomb threat at SFO. – Joshua Melvin, San Mateo County Times, October 11, 2010

An Oregon man is suing Philippine Airlines because he claims a company employee lied to police and had him falsely arrested at San Francisco International Airport. A worker named Frank Navarro lied when he told police in September 2009 that Mark Field had threatened to blow up a plane, according to the lawsuit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court. The purported threat came after Field and airline workers got into a heated exchange over a flight ticket. Field, who is representing himself in the lawsuit, was arrested at the airport and charged with making a false bomb threat and a criminal threat, both felonies. He later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of disturbing the peace as part of a plea bargain, and San Mateo County prosecutors dropped the felony charges. The complaint says Field had talked to Philippine Airlines in Burlingame on Sept. 15, and they had agreed to let him buy a one-way ticket to the Philippines. But when he showed up at the airport Sept. 29, Navarro refused to let him get on the plane unless he bought a round-trip ticket, according to the lawsuit. They began arguing, and Field eventually pointed to the cell phone he was holding and said, “I’m going to press this and blow up the plane,” according to authorities.

FAA Proposes $664,000 Civil Penalty Against Parachute Center. – FAA News Release, October 12, 2010

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a $664,000 civil penalty against William C. Dause, doing business as The Parachute Center of Acampo, Calif., for allegedly failing to perform required aircraft parts replacements and failing to comply with safety directives. “Putting parachutists at risk by neglecting to follow safety procedures is unacceptable,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood. “We expect aircraft operators to comply with our safety rules and will take enforcement action when they do not.” The FAA alleges that The Parachute Center operated a DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter when critical parts were well past their life limits and without inspecting portions of the wings for corrosion.

FAA Proposes $455,175 Civil Penalty Against Corporate Air. – FAA News Release, October 12, 2010

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a $455,175 civil penalty against Corporate Air of Billings, Mont., for allegedly operating a Beech 1900C airliner when it was not in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations. “Our aviation safety rules are designed to protect the flying public,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We expect airlines to comply with these rules and will take enforcement action when they do not.” The FAA alleges Corporate Air failed to maintain the aircraft under the company’s general maintenance manual, which includes the Pratt & Whitney Canada maintenance manual for the aircraft’s turboprop engines. Specifically, the FAA alleges that Corporate Air operated the aircraft on at least 80 flights in spite of continued evidence of excessive oil consumption by the right engine. The FAA-approved aircraft and engine manuals call for post-flight inspection and repair of an engine experiencing excessive oil consumption. Corporate Air did not correct the oil consumption problem despite repeated inspections in which oil had to be added.

Boeing strikes back in court. – Roxana Hegeman, The Associated Press, October 15, 2010

The Boeing Co. has asked a federal judge to force former workers who alleged in a lawsuit that the company’s planes were unsafe to produce all their communications with journalists, particularly recent contacts with Arabic television station Al-Jazeera. The filing this week in U.S. District Court in Wichita is the latest in a lawsuit filed in 2005 by three former workers who claimed Boeing defrauded the U.S. government. The whistle-blower lawsuit, when it was filed under the False Claims Act, says the planes contain “bogus parts” and should be grounded. Boeing said in its court filing that after the Federal Aviation Administration’s chief technical adviser rejected the lawsuit’s allegations in a deposition, the workers contacted Al-Jazeera about a story aimed at discrediting the U.S. government. Boyd Byers, an attorney for Boeing, did not immediately return a message for comment. The plane maker argued in its court filing that the workers have failed to comply with a 2008 court order requiring them and anyone acting on their behalf to produce all their communications with journalists. It now asks the court to enforce that order and make the workers pay for the costs of this latest filing.


AMFA Fights to Keep American Jobs and Skies Safe. – PR Web, October 12, 2010

The number of licensed aircraft mechanic jobs lost to outsourcing facilities and foreign repair stations where work is done by less qualified, less skilled labor continues to rise. The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) is working with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to save jobs and increase the safety of aircraft for the flying public. “Safe skies and American jobs are not partisan questions,” said Louie Key, AMFA National Director. “We need solutions. The interests of aircraft mechanics and air passengers have been ignored for too long and AMFA isn’t going to stand by and let it keep happening.” Key notes domestic airlines now send more than 70 percent of aircraft maintenance to outside facilities. Foreign repair shops often hire less experienced, poorly trained mechanics who, in some cases, cannot even read the safety and repair manuals written in English. In these facilities, one licensed worker usually supervises 20 or more unlicensed ones. The FAA is prevented from adequately inspecting these offshore stations due to a lack of inspectors, inadequate funding, and inadequate regulations.

Airlines Oppose Law Increasing Pilot Flight Hours. – Joan Lowy, Associated Press, October 14, 2010

A key safety measure recently passed by Congress in response to a deadly regional airline crash last year is facing opposition from industry officials concerned that it could lead to higher salaries for airline pilots. A Federal Aviation Administration advisory panel dominated by airlines, companies that employ pilots to fly corporate planes and university flight schools wants to reduce by two-thirds a requirement that airline co-pilots have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flying experience — the same experience threshold that captains must meet. The key issue is money, according to officials familiar with the panel’s deliberations. Airlines worry that if the FAA raises the threshold for co-pilots — also called first officers — from the current minimum of 250 hours, airlines will be forced to raise pilot salaries and benefits to attract more experienced fliers, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Infrastructure Bill Gone Wild. – Matthew Shaffer, National Review, October 13, 2010

President Obama just called for a $500 billion infrastructure plan. “Investing in infrastructure is something members of both political parties have always supported,” he said. But insufficient funding isn’t the only thing holding up repairs. Before Obama throws more money at infrastructure — and speaks on behalf of both parties — he should look at the war surrounding the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009. The bill, which should be a routine matter, is being delayed (note the year) by a vicious fight between FedEx on one side, and UPS and the Teamsters on the other. The battle — which has come into the public eye thanks to FedEx’s aggressive campaign to “stop the Brown Bailout” — is a perfect example of how congressional regulations, labor unions, and even corporate headquarters can conspire to distort free enterprise.

Air travel reform act under attack. – Tonawanda News, October 16, 2010

Local representatives to Congress are fighting back after learning of a proposal to circumvent aviation safety reforms that were signed into law in the wake of the Flight 3407 crash that killed 50 people in Clarence Center. Congress in July passed the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Extension Act of 2010, which is intended to make air travel safer. The key portion of the act, which was signed by President Barack Obama, is a requirement that both captains and first officers obtain 1,500 hours of hands-on flight experience, instead of the current 250-hour requirement. However, a recent proposal by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee has concluded that 500 hours of actual flight time should be considered adequate for newly hired first officers. It also allows up to 1,000 hours of training courses for new co-pilots to be included in the 1,500 hour requirement. U.S. Reps. Chris Lee, Brian Higgins and Louise Slaughter along with four other members of Congress penned a letter sent Friday to transportation department officials urging them to adhere to the pilot training guidelines set forth in the aviation safety reforms signed into law last July.


Forbidding cellphone calls on airplanes might protect sanity more than safety. – Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2010

Early next year, Singapore Airlines  will begin to install technology in dozens of planes to let passengers surf the Internet and send e-mail from 35,000 feet in the air, the airline announced last week. The circuitry that the air carrier will install in at least 40 long-haul jets by 2013 would also allow passengers to make airborne cellphone calls. But Singapore Airline remains undecided whether to allow cellphone calls. As we get closer to the launch date, we will decide whether voice calling in the cabin will be activated,” said James Boyd, a spokesman for Singapore Airlines. One consideration, he said, is whether passengers want to make calls in flight. Singapore Airlines’ hesitation is not surprising.

FAA investigating Briscoe plane crash. – Heather Darenburg, Gwinett Daily Post, October 11, 2010

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the cause of a plane crash on Saturday near Briscoe Field that killed the 50-year-old pilot, a spokeswoman said. The aircraft, a 1946 Ercoupe, was removed from the scene Sunday and taken to Atlanta Air Salvage in Griffin for further inspection, said Kathleen Bergen, the spokeswoman for the FAA. Once the FAA completes its investigation, the findings will be turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board, Bergen said. The NTSB will determine the probable cause of the crash, a process that could take up to a year to complete. The plane crash happened about 2:10 p.m. Saturday. Bystanders reported the Ercoupe’s pilot, Gainesville resident Timothy Blake, had just taken off when the plane tilted to the left and landed in the intersection of Hosea Road and Industrial Park Drive, just outside the perimeter of the Gwinnett County airport. One witness, an aircraft mechanic, told the Daily Post he heard the plane sputtering as it took off. After landing in the intersection, the plane slid up an grassy embankment and through a chain link fence. Firefighters had to extract Blake from the plane.

NTSB finds lapses in smoke jumper crashes. – Alan Levin, USA Today, October 12, 2010

Federal investigators probing a helicopter crash that killed seven firefighters during a California blaze have uncovered widespread violations and falsified records, the latest in a string of accidents raising questions about the safety of flights operated for government agencies. Carson Helicopters was attempting to evacuate a group of smoke jumpers from a 6,000-foot mountain on Aug. 5, 2008, when its chopper slammed into trees and burst into flames. The crash also killed one company pilot and a flight inspector. Four others were injured in the flight, which was under contract to the U.S. Forest Service. The Carson pilots had made two improper takeoffs in the hours before the crash and the firm used false information about the weight of the large helicopter, according to federal records reviewed by USA TODAY. The result was that the chopper had no margin for error when it lifted off in a mountaintop clearing, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Westwood pilot stunt raises air safety concerns. – Giovanna Fabiano, The Record, October 15, 2010

The aerial toilet papering of a Westwood field by a local pilot was a practice run for an intended display of school spirit this weekend, not a terrorist attack. But the stunt raises a larger question: How safe are the skies in a post-9/11 world? The pilot, 60-year-old Warren Saunders, was charged with a fourth-degree crime and released, but the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether to press charges for reckless operation of an aircraft and dropping objects from a plane, spokesman Jim Peters said. Authorities said they took the incident extremely seriously. “This was a unique situation, to say the least, so we have to side with safety,” said Westwood police Capt. Frank Durante. “You have an airplane near a school, objects are coming out of it and the material was wet, so we had to make sure we were using added precautions,” he said. But some pilots said authorities had gone too far.

Green laser pointed at jet leaving Sea-Tac. – The Associated Press, October 15, 2010

The FAA says someone pointed a green laser light at a Southwest Airlines jet departing Sea-Tac Airport about 6:40 a.m. Friday for Denver. Spokesman Mike Fergus says Flight 515 was about 7.5 miles southeast of the airport at an elevation of 7,500 feet when the light illuminated the cockpit. KOMO-TV reports no one was hurt, and the plane continued to Denver. The FAA contacted Auburn police who checked some parking lots but found no suspects. The FAA says the person responsible could be charged with interfering with the flight crew.


TSA charges 9NEWS $1 million after 4-year wait for information. – Jeffry Wolf and Deborah Sherman, 9News, October 12, 2010

When 9Wants to Know got a tip that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) might be placing some injured screeners in other government jobs and paying them two government salaries, the investigative unit decided to check it out by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking about injuries and new job placements. Four years later, 9NEWS got a reply. The TSA said to provide the information requested, it “will have to perform a manual review of all 59,083 claim records,” which will take approximately “29,541 hours” and cost $1,181,660. The letter did not say if it would take another four years to make the copies. “Clearly, the Freedom of Information Act isn’t really free,” Vice President and News Director Patti Dennis said. “That ought to make everybody mad.” The Department of Labor, which took the four years to respond to the 9NEWS request, says the station can send a check. “I believe that the department has been responsive to your request,” Richard Gant, acting chief of the federal employees compensation unit of the Department of Labor, said. “Should you disagree, you may file an appeal of this decision.”

Aviation Insecurity – Security Theater. – Stephen Stock, 4 HD, October 17, 2010

In the days following the 9-11 attacks leaders in Washington rushed to build a security system to give Americans confidence to fly again. With record number of travelers now flying one could argue that the creation of the Transportation Security Administration –or TSA–was a success. But critics, from those who work at TSA to those who helped create it, say the agency has become a bloated, out of control bureaucracy where problems are ignored or swept under the rug and where security vulnerabilities are as bad or worse than prior to 9-11. “I don’t feel any more safe,” said frequent air traveler and Hollywood resident Mark Kruger. “In fact it’s brought a lot of drama to my life.” Every week Kruger flies from his South Florida home to his computer consultant’s job at two different Fortune 500 companies in Houston.


Navigational system problem grounds six Aspen flights. – Troy Hooper, The Real Aspen, October 11, 2010

A damaged piece of navigational equipment canceled six Aspen flights over the weekend, and officials warned Monday that more disruptions for travelers could occur over the next couple of weeks. Officials expect the Federal Aviation Administration’s “localizer directional aid” system, which provides guidance to pilots when they are on a conventional instrument approach to the airport, will be repaired by Oct. 22. “The existing antenna system has been in need of repair for some time,” FAA system engineer Bob Brown said. “This project has been one of the FAA’s top priorities. The planned facility shutdown is being done during a time that would have the least impact to the airport. Please be assured that we are doing everything possible to get the facility replaced as quickly as we can.” Officials say there are two localizer antennae serving the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport: One is located on the south end of the runway and the other is located on top of Aspen Mountain. The repairs to the one on top of Aspen Mountain “required the antenna system to be shut down so new equipment can be installed,” they said.

Boeing 787s stack up at Paine Field awaiting FAA approval. – Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times, October 13, 2010

The edges of Everett’s Paine Field are turning into an overflow airplane parking lot as 787 Dreamliners roll out of Boeing’s assembly plant. The planes aren’t flying anywhere soon: Instead of engines, they have big yellow concrete blocks hanging from the wing pylons. On Wednesday, 13 production Dreamliners and one flight-test airplane were parked at Paine Field. Four more completed planes are in storage. By mid-February, at least 10 additional Dreamliners could roll out and need a temporary parking space. Boeing must continue to churn out the jets in anticipation of federal certification and the beginning of deliveries in mid-February. Six flight-test airplanes are flying, and one of the production models is expected to fly as an add-on to the flight-test program sometime next month. The other planes will likely sit there until the Federal Aviation Administration certifies the jet early next year.

Gulfstream Celebrates Rollout Of 300th G550. – Bill Goldston, AvStop.com, October 15, 2010

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. recently rolled out the 300th Gulfstream G550 aircraft at its manufacturing facility in Savannah. The large-cabin, ultra-long-range business jet received its certificate of airworthiness from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), thereby completing its initial phase of manufacturing. “This is a proud day for Gulfstream,” said Joe Lombardo, president, Gulfstream. “I want to thank our employees for their hard work and dedication in making this possible. Because of the G550’s performance, range and reliability, it continues to be the leader in the ultra-long-range segment.” The 300th G550 is also nearly the 500th aircraft in the GV family, which includes the GV, G550 and G500. Gulfstream suppliers Fokker and Vought recently celebrated milestones for delivery of the 500th tail and wing, respectively, for the GV series of aircraft. “This is a fantastic achievement,” said Pres Henne, Gulfstream senior vice president, Programs, Engineering and Test. “We have delivered 300 G550s, nearly 200 GVs and we’re still going strong. The production rate of the G550 has never been higher. The original estimate for this whole market segment was 300.”

Boeing to Revise Emergency Cockpit Procedures in Wake of UPS Crash. – Andy Pasztor, The Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2010

Boeing Co., prompted by last month’s crash of a UPS  747 cargo jet with a raging fire in its hold, is revising emergency procedures intended to help pilots of such aircraft deal with smoke in the cockpit. Expected to be issued in November, Boeing’s new emergency checklist aims to ensure that crews take proper steps to keep air circulating in order to prevent dense smoke from building up in the cockpits of certain 747 cargo planes, according to company and industry officials. The recommended procedural changes, these industry officials say, will call for making sure at least one air-conditioning system continues to operate on all-cargo, 747-400 jumbo jets during a fire emergency. Under some circumstances, current checklists require pilots to turn off air-conditioning systems in the event of a fire warning from the cargo hold. Further checklist revisions are under review. Boeing has distributed interim safety guidelines to operators, pending formal changes to checklists and operating manuals.


Allegiant’s September traffic jumps 24 percent. – Associated Press, October 8, 2010

Allegiant Travel Co., which operates an airline marketed to leisure travelers in small cities, said Friday its total traffic in September jumped 24 percent as the airline grew new routes. Allegiant flew passengers 362.7 million miles last month, compared with 292.2 million miles the same month a year earlier. The airlines capacity, or the number of available seats, leaped 22.6 percent to 420.5 million. Its load factor, or occupancy rate, rose 1.1 percent to 86.3 percent. So far this year, Allegiant’s traffic is up 15.9 percent compared with last year on a 15.7 percent increase in the number of available seats.

SkyWest, Inc. Reports Combined September Traffic for SkyWest Airlines and Atlantic Southeast Airlines. – MarketWatch, October 11, 2010

SkyWest, Inc. (“SkyWest”) reported an 11.0 percent increase in departures to 78,500 for September compared to 70,750 for the same period last year. Passenger boardings for September increased 12.2 percent to 3,175,783 compared to 2,829,617 for the same period last year. SkyWest also reported an 11.0 percent increase in revenue passenger miles (RPMs) for September, while available seat miles (ASMs) increased 10.5 percent compared to September 2009. The combined airlines generated 1.57 billion RPMs for the month, while ASMs increased to 1.99 billion. Load factor was 78.9 percent compared to 78.6 percent, up 0.3 percentage points compared to September 2009.

Frontier May Seek Marketing Deal With Major Airline. – Mary Schlangenstein, Bloomberg, October 11, 2010

Frontier Airlines, a unit of Republic Airways Holdings Inc., may seek a marketing agreement with a major carrier as industry collaboration expands, Republic Chief Executive Officer Bryan Bedford said. Bedford declined to offer specifics in a telephone interview today or say whether Frontier already is in talks. Airlines use marketing agreements to extend the reach of their route systems, reaping some of the benefits of a merger without the risks. “We do believe there is a low-cost opportunity where, frankly, we think Frontier could help some of our network partners,” Bedford said. “It’s premature to speculate on who and what that would be.”

United starts move to new operation center. – Associated Press, October 12, 2010

United Airlines has started moving its operations center employees into a new home — the Willis Tower in Chicago, formerly known as the Sears Tower. United, which formally combined with Continental on Oct. 1 to form the world’s largest airline, is moving the first 280 employees into the skyscraper on Monday. This is the first phase of the move of more than 2,500 people who currently work at the company’s operations center in the suburb of Elk Grove Village. United currently plans to occupy 12 floors at Willis Tower, three more floors than the company announced in August 2009. After the move to Willis Tower is complete, United expects to employ more than 13,000 people in Chicago.

Airlines’ control of landing slots affects ticket prices. – Chritopher Elliott, The Seattle Times, October 12, 2010

Whose slots are they, anyway? That’s a fair question, given airlines’ recent efforts to swap slots — government permission to take off and land at a particular time — in Washington and New York. You may not realize it, but slots can affect how much you pay for a flight. And the decisions made about landing permissions are hardly abstract. They will almost certainly have a lasting effect on competition and airfares, experts predict. Catching a plane from a slot-controlled airport can be pricey. Flyers from Washington’s slot-limited Reagan National Airport paid an average fare of $373 for the first quarter of 2010, the latest period for which figures are available. At slot-restricted Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J., the average fare was $423. By comparison, the average domestic airfare was just $328. The reason? Slots — specifically a lack of them — drive airfares higher because competition is capped.

United seeks to launch new Shanghai service. – Julie Johnsson, Chicago Tribune, October 12, 2010

Like rival American Airlines, United Airlines wants to expand its reach into China and has asked federal officials for permission to begin daily flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai starting in May 2011. The new service would expand United’s reach in Asia’s booming air travel market, which has rebounded from the recent global recession faster than the U.S. and Europe. Chicago-based United also seeks to take advantage of additional flights between the U.S. and China that will become available in 2011 under a recent trade agreement that loosened the tightly regulated market for air travel between the two countries. Transportation Department officials took less than a week to approve American Airlines’ request to launch service between the two cities in April 2011, a decision that was announced Oct. 7. United is hoping for a similarly speedy review, said United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson. United currently flies from Los Angeles to Hong Kong and Tokyo and expanding service to China’s financial capital is a natural extension of its network, Johnson said. “Today, no U.S. carrier is in that market.”

$6.4bil investment programme at LAX adds to attractiveness for Gulf carriers. – Andrea Gisdahl, Zawya.com, October 13, 2010

A $6.4 billion program of investment in new facilities, including a new terminal opening in 2012, adds to Los Angeles International Airport’s (LAX) increasing attraction as a destination for international airlines, including the fast-growing Gulf carriers, said Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) officials at a media briefing in Dubai today. The airport is already experiencing significant growth, adding nearly 150 international weekly flights during the last three years, including Emirates’ daily nonstop service from Dubai, which goes to twice-daily from 31 October. International passenger traffic at LAX is up almost 760,000 passengers during the last 12 months. LAWA officials said the airport offered many benefits to Gulf carriers, including access to one of America’s strongest State economies, one of the world’s largest inbound tourism markets and a large Arab-American population.

Airlines improve on-time rates but customer complaints soar. – Roger Yu, USA Today, October 12, 2010

U.S. airlines delivered more flights on time in August than a year ago, but saw customer complaints rise sharply amid greater traffic, federal data released Tuesday shows. Nearly 82% of domestic flights operated by the 18 largest U.S. carriers arrived on time in August, improving from 79.7% in August 2009, the Transportation Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics says. But the number of complaints filed with the Transportation Department rose 35% to 1,200 vs. 891 a year ago. Customers complained the most about flight problems. They filed 350 reports about cancellations, delays and missed connections compared to 254 a year ago. Complaints about boarding and ticketing, baggage handling and other customer service issues also increased. Complaints are rising at a time when airlines are poised to add capacity to match rebounding demand. In August, the airlines operated 569,200 flights, carrying 52.1 million passengers. A year ago, 51.4 million passengers flew on 568,300 flights.

Evergreen International Aviation hires Goldman Sachs. – Erik Siemers, Portland Business Journal, October 15, 2010

Evergreen International Aviation Inc. on Friday said it has hired investment bank Goldman Sachs to refinance outstanding debt and acquire additional aircraft. The privately held McMinnville-based aviation company — which includes a global cargo airline and a full-service helicopter business — said it has also fulfilled a requirement to prepay $77.5 million under two existing credit agreements. In a news release, Evergreen said it hired Goldman Sachs Lending Partners LLC to evaluate potential financing alternatives that will help it refinance outstanding debt under its existing finance agreements. Any proceeds from new financing could also be used for general corporate purposes, which could include purchasing or leasing new aircraft, the company said. Evergreen spokeswoman Kasey Richter declined to comment further. The financial health of the company, particularly the cargo airline, has been in question since earlier this year, when Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer The Boeing Co. declined to renew Evergreen’s five-year deal to fly Boeing’s “Dreamlifter” super freighters — 747s converted to transport large sections of the company’s new 787.


ICAO secures global emissions reduction framework. – Kerry Reals, FlightGlobal, October 8, 2010

ICAO has secured agreement from its member states on a roadmap to globally address the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from the aviation industry. Under the framework, reached during ICAO’s 37th Assembly in Montreal, the 190 member states signed up to a global goal of improving fuel efficiency by 2% a year until 2050. Member states also agreed to collectively strive to achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020, and to put together a global carbon dioxide certification standard for aircraft engines by 2013. States are required by the agreement to submit to ICAO their action plans for achieving the agreed targets. The resolution also calls for the development of a global framework for market-based measures, which includes emissions trading schemes.

Europe May Ease Jet Carbon Fees. – James Kanter, The New York Times, October 11, 2010

The transportation chief of the European Union  said Monday that airlines based in the United States could receive an exemption, at least in part, from European carbon regulations if Washington moved to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home. “We are ready to negotiate and to talk about these issues and not only make declarations,” Siim Kallas, the European commissioner for transportation, said during a news conference. “Adequate measures from other countries can be taken into account.” The European Union agreed two years ago to include in the regulations all airlines taking off from, and landing in, the European Union starting Jan. 1, 2012. The law is the boldest move yet by the bloc to push the rest of the world to comply with its climate policies. It has led to widespread criticism from the airline industry, especially from carriers in the United States.

Air travelers would prefer to do it themselves. – Roger Yu, USA Today, October 11, 2010

Air travelers are more eager than ever for self-service options and are willing to use technology for traditional tasks handled by agents, an industry survey says. The percentage of travelers demanding automatic boarding gates, where travelers scan the boarding pass to open the turnstile, rose to 70% from 57% last year, according to the fifth annual SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Self-Service Survey. More than 70% of travelers check in for flights using airport kiosks. But two-thirds of respondents say they’d also use kiosks for non-routine purposes, including paying baggage fees, buying meals, printing bag tags and claiming delayed baggage. The percentage of travelers who’ve used their mobile phone to check in has also grown to 23% from 14% last year. Travelers use agent counters primarily to check bags. But 70% say they’d tag their own bag if it were allowed. The Transportation Department doesn’t allow it at airports. SITA, an aviation technology consulting firm, conducted the survey at seven large airports, including Atlanta, Beijing, Mumbai and São Paulo Guarulhos in Brazil.

‘If the balloon broke loose, we’d have to notify the FAA and NASA.’ – Greg Stiles, Mail Tribune, October 15, 2010

The longtime practice of cloud seeding over the Medford airport, which came to an abrupt halt last December because of safety concerns, is set for a return engagement this winter. Cloud seeding was pioneered in the Rogue Valley during the 1950s with small planes dropping dry ice pellets to clear fog above the airport. The practice was scrubbed, however, when new Federal Aviation Administration requirements potentially would put pilots at risk. In the months since, airport personnel put their heads together and developed a new approach, replacing pilots and pellet feeders. The new unmanned CASPER balloon system was unveiled Wednesday morning at a demonstration for the media. “We like to tinker,” said Airport Director Bern Case. The Cable Attached System Providing Effective Release was developed for $10,000 with the largest cost being the 18-foot helium-filled balloon. It would hoist a 75-pound dispersal cylinder containing enough ice pellets to be released for 30 minutes, the dispersal device and a battery.

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