The aiREPORT [2013Q1]

The aiREPORT provides a random collection of links and concise summaries of news articles relevant to the impact of aviation, as compiled each week. It is presented as a research tool and historical record, aimed at identifying trends, while also revealing strategies repeated by FAA and others.

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First Quarter, Week #13: March 24 — March 30

summary:

More advocacy for funding even very slow towers, generated by the sequester threat.

3-27-2013Contract Tower Closure Guidance
FAA issued a 4-page PDF with guidance for contract towers, on how to safely transition to the imposed ‘closure’ status.
3-27-2013FAA Contract Towers with Dates Funding Ceases
FAA Press Release with no statement; just a link to a 3/22/13 PDF listing all contract towers and the dates funding will cease for each.
3-27-2013FAA snubs appeal for tower funding
The airport’s 3/10/13 appeal letter to FAA seeking continued tower funding was denied. At a 3/21/13 emergency meeting called by the airport authority, airport manager Baird offered four strategies, ranging from do-nothing to a lawsuit against FAA. [KSUN]
3-26-2013Southwest Airlines: We’re Not Really About Cheap Flights Anymore
In the changing face of U.S. airlines, Southwest has a new ad that has caused some to conclude the airline has lost its attraction. Fares are way up, humor and creative promotion are gone. Has Southwest become just another legacy airline?
3-25-2013FAA plan to close towers a ‘flawed policy assault on pilots’
Craig Fuller spoke at DuPage Airport (Chicago area) and expressed his belief that the White House is driving FAA’s plans to close small towers. Comments by readers disagree. Fuller is the CEO and President at AOPA, but announced his retirement plans earlier this year; his replacement has yet to be announced.

First Quarter, Week #12: March 17 — March 23

summary:

Sequester-related maneuvering on FAA funding, priorities.

3-22-2013FAA Makes Tower Closing Decision
FAA announces 149 contract towers to close on 4/7/13. They also announced FAA-staffed towers will NOT be closed, and sixteen cost-shared towers (the slowest of the contract towers, generally) will remain open but face closure at the end of September. Includes three PDF links.
3-21-2013Congress Passes Funding Bill, FAA Budget Cuts Remain
Notes that the proposal was endorsed by NATCA. Also implies a grave danger in closing these quiet towers: “Once there is an accident, and somebody dies and a plane crashes, the question will always be ‘what if there had been an air traffic control tower there? What if we had left the program in place?'”
3-21-2013Sen. Moran continues fight to save FAA control towers
The amendment had bipartisan support (14 dems and 12 republicans) and approval from both congressional houses. The $50M had been identified by Huerta in a recent hearing testimony.
3-21-2013Boeing Faulted by NTSB for Comments on 787 Battery Fix
When Boeing officials spoke in Tokyo on 3/15/13, claiming there was no fire, they were effectively violating the terms of the agreement they have with NTSB, as a party to the investigation. Article includes comments by the NTSB General Counsel, David Tochen.
3-20-2013CWA waiting on FAA’s decision to close control tower
Article about threats of tower closures in Wisconsin.
3-20-2013Airport Tower Closings Grow Nearer After U.S. Senate Vote
The proposal to force FAA to redirect $50M of internal funds to keep towers open is not considered by the Senate when they pass a continuing resolution. Members from both major parties agreed witht he proposal initiated by Senator Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican.
3-20-2013FAA closes inquiry into ATL Concessions,
FAA is abandoning their concerns about irregularities identified a year ago, in what ATL says is the largest vendor contract in the history of North American airports.
3-20-2013Obama Said to Consider Mayor Foxx of Charlotte, for DOT Post
President Obama is said to be considering the mayor of Charlotte as a possible DoT Secretary. Anthony Foxx is 41-yrs-old and a proponent of light rail. The article says that Deborah Hersman and a few others inside DoT are also being considered. Both a White House spokeswoman and Mr. Foxx’s press secretary declined to comment.
3-19-2013Harrison Ford brings star power to aviation caucus meeting
170 member GA caucus, at a function said to be hosted by AOPA and NATA.
3-19-2013Boeing lobbies Congress to avoid 787 hearings
Leeham links to an AP article by Joan Lowy, in which it is noted Boeing paid $73M in lobbying the past five years, which may help to explain how very quiet Congress has been about the 787 battery fires. It appears nobody wants to convene a congressional hearing, due to Boeing clout. Some commenters note the lack of engineers in Congress; others insist transparency is needed, anc Congress is the best way to that.
3-18-2013Senators seek to block FAA plan to cut control towers
Proposal to force FAA to spend $50M from other budget areas, to keep the towers open.
3-18-2013Cuts could ground Civil Air Patrol planes
John McCain is calling for dramatic reductions in CAP funding, saying it is out of date and unnecessary. Funds could be directed toward regular Air Force flight hours, which have been reduced, with budget tightening.
3-18-2013Letter to AOPA members from Chairman of the Board
Bill Trimble reflects on they type of replacement they need for the departing Craig Fuller; how costs have skyrocketed (notes fuel prices); how post-911 agencies have proliferated; how he wants his young boys to enjoy the aviation lifestyle.

First Quarter, Week #11: March 10 — March 16

summary:

Big news item was Sequester (again). Boeing 787 remains grounded, but FAA has approved a plan for flight testing new design elements.

3-15-2013FAA delays decision on airport tower closings
Daytona Beach article, detailed look at EVB and OMN, busy contract towers with ERAU flight school traffic.
3-15-2013HIO: Open House set for Proposed New Runway
A Port of Portland News Release announced that they are seeking to finalize approval for a plan to add a parallel runway at the Hillsboro Airport. A Supplemental Draft EA is now available for viewing and comments. The Open House will be from 5:30P to 7:30PM on April 17th. Written comments for or against the proposal must be postmarked or delivered by the close of business on April 19th.
3-13-2013ATL: FAA legal review continues after quick council vote
FAA does not accept that four of the vendors awarded to sell at the terminal at Atlanta Airport were disadvantaged business enterprises. A year later, FAA still has not completed its review.
3-12-2013FAA Approves Boeing 787 Certification Plan
FAA has approved Boeing’s plan for test-flights to prove adequacy of the new Li-ion battery design. The Boeing 787 was grounded on 1/16/13.

First Quarter, Week #10: March 3 — March 9

summary:

Sequester date came and went. Other reports show shifts in the airline industry, with fewer commercial operations, more consolidation.

3-7-2013Plans to close Tower could be halted by union negotiations, appeals
Article about MKG tower, which is extremely slow, averaging three takeoffs per hour, far slower than thousands of airports without a tower. This article includes lots of distortion and misinformation. The comments are maybe even worse. Interesting read to study ‘spin’.
3-7-2013Legal battle over tax break for Elliott Aviation, more to follow?
Local schools are facing serious financial problems, and this tax break signed by the Governor is not helping. Last year, Elliiott paid $220K in property taxes, and $150K of that went to schools.
3-7-2013Southwest Airlines Reports February Traffic
Southwest released figures for Feb 2013; rpm’s are down 2.3%, while revenue passengers are down 4.4%. Load factor improved from 75.2 to 75.8, and they are making more money per passenger (up roughly 2% in revenue per assigned seat mile). They scaled back number of flights substantially: 8% less in 2013.
3-5-2013Middle East becoming global crossroads of aviation
Shifts in global airline economics have created a 77% growth in the number of international air travelers choosing to connect flights at major new Middle East airports, such as Dubai.
3-5-2013American + U.S. Airways: A match made in heaven?
An opinion piece in Forbes magazine, by JetBlue CEO Joel Peterson.
3-5-2013Pearson Field airspace issue resolved
A temporary news crisis was created by FAA and aviation interests; now, it has been averted, making FAA and elected officials look heroic. Incumbency shares rally on Wall Street.

First Quarter, Week #9: February 24 — March 2, 2013

3-2-2013Insight: Will Dreamliner drama affect industry self-inspection?
Concerns about FAA’s decision in 2005 to allow aircraft manufacturers to effectively provide their own oversight, while FAA stays at a distance. “This is an occupation with a built-in conflict of interest,” said Gordon Mandell, a retired FAA certification engineer. With Boeing doing about 95 percent of its own inspections, adds Mary Schiavo, former Department of Transportation inspector general, “it’s kind of do-it-yourself.” The situation was not unique to Boeing, she said. “There are places around the world that saw an FAA inspector once, maybe five years ago, and that’s it.”
3-2-2013GAMA: Turbine Aircraft Deliveries Slipped in 2012
“…Continuing financial indecision made 2012 another depressed year for turbine aircraft deliveries, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), which released its year-end delivery totals last month….”
3-1-2013No Deterrence, No Transparency?
When FOIA withholding deterrents fail, we end up with a broken FOIA process, and no government transparency. MSPBWatch has posted a recent DoJ FOIA response, showing that DoJ (and OSC) have not been complying with a law amended in 2007. Essentially, they are NOT deterring federal officials from the excessive withholding of records responsive to FOIA requests. Of course, the whole point of FOIA (as first debated by Congress nearly fifty years ago!) is to ensure all citizens can have a clear understanding of how their government works. There can be no real transparency, though, when entrenched federal officials feel no consequences for the arbitrary and capricious withholding of public records and information. Shall we call this an ‘information sequester’?
3-1-2013Harlem shake reaches new heights; FAA not amused
Sequestration begins today, but the big FAA-related news story is ‘Harlem Shake’. Yup. A viral video from a 2/15/13 Frontier flight to San Diego, in which a college Ultimate Frisbee team (including a dancing banana) gets permission from the flight attendants to gyrate in front of a video camera. Thirty seconds proving yet again, there has got to be a better way to fly.
2-27-2013American Airlines drops below 60,000 employees for the first time since 1987
American Airlines had 59,574 full-time equivalent employees on the payroll in December, the first time in a quarter century that its FTE totals have fallen below 60,000. American absorbed TWA in April 2001; the peak employment for the two airlines combined was 114,400 in July of 2001.
2-26-2013An OpEd about GA Aircraft Tax Depreciation
GANews publisher Ben Sclair provides some feedback on President Obama’s proposal to make purchase tax depreciation less attractive to aircraft owners. He includes a typical business example, and crunches a few numbers The four comments were generally strongly opposed to this generous and unfair handout to aviation.
2-26-2013Fiscal problems lead to conflict, confusion and uncertainty
GANews’s long-time DC correspondent Charles Spence explains the sequester, and the gamesmanship to expect with the budget.

First Quarter, Week #8: February 17 — February 23

2-22-2013FAA Statement
FAA and DoT officials meeting with The Boeing Company today to discuss the status of ongoing work to address 787 battery issues. The FAA is reviewing a Boeing proposal and will analyze it closely.

First Quarter, Week #7: February 10 — February 16

2-14-2013FAA Announces Request for Proposals For Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research and Test Sites
FAA is seeking to establish six testing and research sites throughout the country.

First Quarter, Week #6: February 3 — February 9

2-7-2013Statement from Secretary LaHood and FAA Administrator Huerta
A list of requirements for the test flights by Boeing, to fix the Li-ion battery problem.
2-7-2013Statement from Secretary LaHood and Administrator Huerta
A second press release for this day, this one focused on coordination between FAA and NTSB. It announced that FAA invited the NTSB to observe this FAA-led process; also, that FAA is lending technical experts to support the NTSB’s investigation into the probable cause of the battery incidents.

First Quarter, Week #5: January 27 — February 2

2-1-2013Most at hearing oppose seaplanes on Waldo Lake
Approximately 80 citizens attended last nights OSAB meeting, with roughly three-quarters in favor of the seaplane ban at Waldo. Aron Faegre and Bill Wainwright spoke for the Columbia Seaplane Association.

First Quarter, Week #4: January 20 — January 26


First Quarter, Week #3: January 13 — January 19


First Quarter, Week #2: January 6 — January 12

1-7-2013FAA Proposes $275,000 Civil Penalty Against Pinnacle Airlines Inc.
Mechanics failed to comply with requirements on a Bombardier CRJ that flew eleven flights in late October 2012. An engine had been replaced, but a required part was left out.
1-7-2013FAA Seeks $633,000 in Civil Penalties Against Trans States Airlines
The airline flew two Embraer 145 regional jets for roughly 3,500 passenger flights, after failing to make required safety repairs. One repair was the improper location of an antenna cable without protective sheathing; the other repair was the splicing of electrical wires too close to a fuel tank (i.e., a spark and explosion hazard).

First Quarter, Week #1: December 30 — January 5


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