The aiREPORT [2013Q2]

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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Second Quarter, Week #13: June 23 — June 29, 2013

6-27-2013Senate confirms Anthony Foxx to lead Transportation
The Senate voted 100-0 for the non-controversial Obama apointee. He is 42, the mayor of Charlotte, NC, and has a background with major federally subsidized infrastructure projects, both in streetcars and in the airport at Charlotte.
6-27-2013Schiff Pressuring FAA to Stop Helicopter Buzz
Congressman Adam Schiff is a leading advocate for relief from helicopter noise in the LA Basin. He is sponsoring legislation to compel FAA to abandon decades of ‘voluntary’ programs and apply some regulated problem-solving. This article includes comments by David Suomi, the Acting Regional Administrator at FAA’s Western Pacific Region. aiR Post
6-27-2013Congress Advances DOT/FAA Funding Bill
Both houses of Congress are working on FAA’s budget appropriation for the new fiscal year, starting October 1st. This article summarizes funding amounts. The Contract Tower program is being protected by Congress (seeking no repeats on the debacle earlier this year); AIP grants at this point may become set at $3.35Billion.
6-26-2013GAO report: Philadelphia could lose role as airline hub
GAO issued a 31-page report on June 19th, responding to a congressional request for an analysis of how the proposed American-USAirways merger might reduce competition and otherwise impact commercial passenger aviation. The GAO Report quantifies the impact and also outlines the key role of the Department of Justice (DoJ) to make the final decision to allow – or possibly disallow – the merger.

Second Quarter, Week #12: June 16 — June 22, 2013

summary:

The most common news stories focused on the expectation that FAA will soon remove most restrictions on the use of electronics on most commercial flights.

6-21-2013FAA INVESTIGATING JETS’ CLOSE CALL OVER NYC
A Boeing 747 on approach to Runway 4L at JFK after a long haul from Tokyo Narita goes around. An American B737 had just executed a go-around to Runway 4R. ATC issues a left turn to heading 250 to the B747. A conflict develops between that flight (DAL172) and a LaGuardia departure (TCF5981, Shuttle America, E170 to JAX). The near-midair happened on 6/13/13 at 1840 UTC (approx. 4:40PM local time). This article presents FAA statements and some analysis by Jason Rabinowitz at NYCaviation.com.
6-21-2013FAA May Clear Personal Gadgets for Takeoff, Landing
A study released in March, and a panel convened by FAA, indicate it is likely FAA will soon drop the restrictions which started in the 1960’s. Speculation is that three categories will evolve, related to aircraft equipment and rare situations such as landing into dense fog. The low weather situation might result in the Captain asking all passengers to turn off electronic devices. A no-restriction flight might include an in-flight announcement such as: “This aircraft tolerates emissions from electrical devices for all phases of flight.”
6-19-2013No medical required
Ben Sclair at GA News points out how FAA imposes extreme medical requirement upon GA pilots,. Any of us are allowed to operate larger motorized and marine vehicles with much large fuel capacities, yet no medical certification is required.
6-19-2013AOPA objects to city “playing games” with California runway project
The airport in Tracy, CA is 4,002′ but local authorities want to shorten it just a few feet, to 3,997′. The reason: FAA regulations require larger safety zones off the ends of the runway, which costs the airport money. In defense of the airport, Tracy’s residential development has exploded in the last decade, to provide affordable housing for Bay Area workers. Also, there are plenty of other airports in the area with longer runways, even control towers (e.g., Livermore and Stockton).
6-18-2013Everett aircraft company settles FAA penalties
A minimal article indicating a company in Everett agreed to pay $275K to FAA related to maintenance issues on 40 Southwest B737’s. Appears to be related to the fuselage crack problem; it would be interesting to learn more about how this settlement came to be, what the company allegedly did wrong, etc.
6-18-2013FAA fiscal ’14 budget would keep threatened Mississippi towers open
Includes short comments by Huerta. Lists towers in Mississippi impacted by the sequester threat.

Second Quarter, Week #11: June 9 — June 15, 2013

summary:

Another quiet week. The biggest aviation news story was EAA agreeing to pay FAA for ATC services that historically FAA has never charged for. EAA news stories indicate that ATO CEO Grizzle essentially told EAA leaders, agree to pay or we will cancel providing controllers. This, at an air event that draws 10,000 aircraft for the week of the event.

6-13-2013No Good Options in FAA ATC Demands
EAA agreed to pay FAA $450K to cover costs associated with FAA providing air traffic control support. The money cover overtime, per diem, and all costs EXCEPT regular pay, which the controllers would get anyway, if they were at their regular FAA towers. This blog has some very informative comments, including many critical of FAA, and some asserting they will not attend because they feel EAA caved.

Second Quarter, Week #10: June 2 — June 8, 2013

summary:

Quiet……..

6-5-2013AOPA fights to keep Pennsylvania’s Braden Airpark open
Pennsylvania’s Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority (LNAA) executive director has formally recommended closing Forks Township’s Braden Airpark after saying it cannot afford to pay a multi-million dollar court judgment and is seeking the sale of assets to raise funds. Article includes history of the airport. The grass strip is a base for 59 aircraft, and an EAA chapter. The state says the airport contributes $8M to the local economy, though the FBO recently departed, and even when they were operating, it is hard to believe the positive economic impact was that high.
6-4-2013FedEx Parks Jets Sooner to Cut Costs as Economy Slows
With the contraction of air cargo business, FedEx is retiring 86 older, less fuel-efficient aircraft, mostly MD-10’s. The world’s largest air cargo hauler will retire their last B727-200 on 7/1/13. Replacements are mostly quieter B767 and B777 models. They are also offering buyouts to reduce employee numbers.
6-3-2013Dim Outlook For Smallest Single-Aisles
An analysis of trends in new aircraft purchases by airlines shows  what may be a rapid shift away from smaller narrow-body (single aisle) models toward the larger narrow-body models. The main competition has been between Boeing’s 737 family and Airbus’ A320 family; new competition includes Bombardier’s CSeries family.
6-2-2013TRACON air traffic control modernization faces prospect of more schedule, cost overruns
Summarizes a 5/29/13 DoT-IG Audit Report, covering delays and cost-overruns in FAA’s efforts to consolidate TRACONs. Includes a timeline, a Table with the ten large TRACONs, and a 4/23/13 FAA response letter, signed by Clay Foushee.
6-2-2013Spotlight on GA brings positives along with negatives
The lead correspondent in DC for GANews offers an assessment of the current state of General Aviation. He notes that the substantial decline in commercial aviation creates a need for GA to take up the slack. His post includes discussion of the sequester threat, new legislation to accelerate GA aircraft certification (making the process ‘performance-based’), and a shot at Obama for his fee proposals.
6-2-2013Running on all cylinders and picking up speed at Boeing
Posting outlines the many problems Boeing has encountered in the last seven years, then lays out areas where the picture should soon improve. Leehamnet is a leading source for solid intelligence on Boeing and matters related to Boeing. Excerpt: Readers know we’ve been pretty hard on Boeing throughout many of these issues, and we’re inherently skeptical. So when we now conclude that Boeing at long, long last is back on track and picking up speed, we’re not simply sniffing kerosene.

Second Quarter, Week #9: May 26 — June 1, 2013

summary:

FAA releases LA Basin helicopter noise study recommending no actions; also asks EAA to pay costs at AirVenture 2013 (which FAA has covered for decades).

6-1-2013Colgan warned by FAA about safety prior to 3407 crash
Fifty people died when Colgan 3407 crashed near Buffalo on 2/10/09. The investigation revealed lack of training, incredibly low pay, and profound fatigue problems in the regional commuter airline business. Colgan has since disappeared. Now, the person who had hired on to rebuild Colgan’s safety culture in the summer before the crash, is sharing what he saw at the airline. Many others are not talking, of course. This article offers some good insight into what works and what fails with the regional commuter airlines. And, it offers some insight into how FAA was superficial in its monitoring of Colgan. [For the record, 2008 was a very dysfunctional year at FAA.]
5-31-2013FAA says regulation not the answer to L.A. helicopter noise problems
One year ago, numerous elected officials from sent FAA a letter seeking management of helicopter noise problems in the LA Basin. FAA released a 56-page report which essentially concluded they felt doing nothing was the best course of action.
5-31-2013The Spending Cuts that Never Were
Excerpts from (and a link to a video of) a recent speech by congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. He makes some very good points, including: the Federal budget increased by 107% since 1996 for air traffic controllers within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) even though domestic passenger flights decreased by 27% since 2000. Even after the automatic budget “sequester,” air traffic controllers are handling only 73% of the traffic while running on a budget more than twice as large.
5-30-2013Bankruptcy judge approves $24.9 million settlement between American Airlines, FAA
Article refers to the 5/9/13 settlement, in front of Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane, wherein FAA abandoned their claim for $156 Million in fines against American, and accepted only $24.9 Million, with American admitting no fault. This article also discusses ongoing negotiations with the flight attendant unions; includes text from new contract proposal. In a nutshell, bankruptcy enables the airline to manipulate other parties (FAA, unions, etc.) into lopsided settlement terms. Perhaps this explains why so many airline bankruptcies in the past decade?
5-30-2013Aviation Leaders Gather in Cape Town
700 aviation leaders from around the world will meet in South Africa at the Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit, June 2nd through 4th. A copy of the opening speech by Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO, is viewable online. It includes a brief analysis, showing passenger aviation growing in most parts of the world, though nearly flat in North America. A focal point of this year’s program is carbon, and IATA is trying to set a goal of freezing aviation carbon pollution at 2020 levels, then reducing it to half of 2005 levels by the year 2050.
5-30-2013The Worst Flight in America
DoT keeps data which shows that United Flight 4532 from CVG to EWR is the most chronically delayed flight in the system. This article investigates the flight, explains some of the causes, and presents the bitter impact on passengers. “It’s horrible. I’ve flown it every Friday for the last three months and it’s late 90% of the time.” says one weekly passenger, who started his painful commute in February. United, he said, keeps sending him a survey after most flights. “They always ask for my feedback and I can’t keep coming up with worse words.” Excerpt: Fares on the Newark-Cincinnati route can be high, with no low-fare carrier competition. United, with a hub in Newark, and Delta, with a hub in Cincinnati, have a duopoly on the route and usually charge about the same price. This commuter typically pays $800 to $1,100 round-trip for his Monday flight out and Friday flight home.
5-26-2013EAA asked to cover some costs for AirVenture controllers
FAA has told EAA they will need to pay the overtime, per diem, and some other costs for FAA to send dozens of controllers to the annual big event in late July. EAA is fuming, and some are saying they should just cut FAA out of the event (i.e., use contract controllers). Be sure to read the comments. One comment writer notes that EAA makes $30Million off this event, and the EAA head gets a salary in excess of half a million.

Second Quarter, Week #8: May 19 — May 25, 2013

summary:

Boeing is deep into an image campaign for their 787; ads are plastered everywhere, showing the jet in-flight with a blue-to-pink sky background. The image is far more inviting than those scorched battery pictures. Will we all forget those, and will we also overlook that the root cause of the fires was never resolved?
5-25-2013Air marshal whistle-blower fired in 2006 claims big win in court
Federal Air Marshal Robert McLean was fired in 2006, in retaliation for his whisteblowing actions. He has waged a 7-year legal battle and found success at a federal court (USCAFC), with his case being accepted as covered under the Whisteblower Protection Act, and new hearings to be set. Excerpt: His attorneys contend that had the court ruled against MacLean, … such a precedent could have emboldened government agencies to impose broad secrecy regulations on their employees without authority from Congress, essentially stripping whistle-blowers of protections. “This case destroys the often-repeated notion that national security is threatened by many of these disclosures,” said Tom Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project and MacLean’s co-counsel. The scary part: it is very common for whistleblowers to have to persist for 5-10 years of legal hell before they finally see justice. That is how broken our system is.
5-23-2013EU deal on airline emissions tax could take until 2016
Peter Liese, the European Union delegate who proposed legislation for the delay, said aviation emissions have doubled since 1990 and must be curbed.
5-23-2013Tight budgets leave little for airport construction worldwide
This article does two things: it summarizes the IATA meeting in Leipzig, and it notes the current proposal to increase PFC’s. Excerpt #1… “The International Transport Forum of 54 countries endorsed airport and road construction Thursday as “the backbone of national economies,” even as the United States struggles to improve and expand its airports.” Regarding PFC’s, the article notes that 386 airports collect them, 344 of those at the maximum $4.50/ticket. The $8/ticket proposal is opposed by A4A: “The president’s budget represents an unprecedented tax grab on the backs of airlines and their customers, who already pay more than their fair share of taxes,” said Nicholas Calio, CEO of Airlines for America.
5-22-2013Aviation officials see global emissions deal possible by 2020
An apparent early effort by the Aviation industry to ‘set’ the idea that aviation climate change action can oly happen after long delays. In this case, the size of ICAO (190 member nations) is offered as an excuse for no ICAO deal until 2020 or so. The role of business aviation is discussed: “…(it) has been seen by many politicians as a playground for the super-rich. But its advocates say the industry, in the doldrums since the financial crisis of 2008/9 after a decade-long boom, plays a major role in world trade and that over 80 percent of its operations involve moving businesspeople rather than elite individuals….” Those advocates are the jet-builders and oil companies (and others in the Av-Gov Complex) who gain financially when business flying is maximized. I.e., they want to sustain the status quo, which seeks to maximize consumption, thus promotes the idea it is ‘good’ when one or two business leaders burn thousands of gallons zipping from point A to point B instead of doing their business via phone and video. Money wins; climate (and our future) loses.
5-22-2013Foxx tells Senate infrastructure modernization will be DOT priority
Excerpt: Foxx said there “is real agreement” in Congress “that infrastructure is good for this country” and important to “make us globally competitive.” However, he added, “We do have challenges to figuring out a long-term path for funding our infrastructure.” Foxx several times stated his approval of FAA’s NextGen ATC project, calling it “an exciting opportunity” and a “key innovation” that enjoys “broad support.” Acknowledging NextGen’s funding challenges, Foxx said he intends to “engage the stakeholders” that will benefit from moving to a satellite-based ATC system, namely airlines. “NextGen gives us an opportunity to save our air carriers millions of dollars in fuel,” he said. “If we’re able to obtain those levels of saving, that goes to the bottom line of the carriers.”
5-21-2013United Partner SkyWest to Buy $4 Billion of Embraer Jets
Following the pattern of other major airlines, United’s ‘regional partner’, based in St. George, Utah, is buying forty more 76-seaters to replace 50-seaters. All are flown by the lower payscale regional airlines. This is the same arrangement that led to the Buffalo air crash (in that case, Continental was relying on low-payscale services provided by Colgan, using the Continental name).
5-21-2013Another Reason Why Our Nation Needs Business Aviation
Overview of a recently released MIT study, that quantifies the substantial contraction of U.S. commercial air service from 2007 to 2012. The study includes tables depicting change data specific to hundreds of airports. Mr. Olcott’s analysis includes a plug for the use of business aviation (Mr. Olcott is a president of NBAA).

Second Quarter, Week #7: May 12 — May 18, 2013

summary:

Another quiet week, with just a dull roar of ongoing FAA issues.

5-16-2013Airlines expect more passengers, no more FAA furloughs
A rise of 1% over 2012 is anticipated. Two excerpts: Airlines for America reckoned $50 million in losses, based on FAA figures that 7,200 flights carrying 600,000 passengers were delayed due to staffing shortages.“We don’t expect a repeat of this,” Elwell says. “The sequestration savings that the government was looking to get from the furloughs was 1% of total sequestration savings, yet it got 100% of the nation’s attention for six days.”
5-16-2013Removing the barriers to innovation
Legislation sponsored by Mike Pompeo (R-KS) calls for directing FAA to streamline GA certification processes, toward a goal of doubling safety while also halving the cost of certification. The article notes a committee of 180 people has met during the past 18 months to develop the recommendations. They define it as creating a set of “performance-based design requirements” to replace older requirements based on technologies that have been superseded; i.e., although FAA has a huge staff and budget, FAA has failed (on their own accord) to keep their regulations/requirements in line with new technologies.
5-16-2013Airline executive appointed as FAA deputy administrator
Former airline executive Michael G. Whitaker, who most recently served as a consultant to a company that operates India’s largest domestic airline, has been tapped by President Barack Obama to fill the deputy administrator’s post at the FAA. … Whitaker earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Louisville, and a law degree from Georgetown University.
5-13-2013Apparently we do need this tower
A post  by Ben Sclair drew numerous interesting perspectives, again discussing the need for an overall management of the standards used to have (or not have) air traffic control towers at U.S. airports. “Increased financial flexibility is all well and good, I suppose, but hard decisions, based on thorough analysis and critical thought still have to be made. With roughly 500 towers around the country, I’d hazard a guess that, even after “a comprehensive and thoughtful evaluation of their impact on system users,” at least one tower should be closed.”
5-13-2013Who says Congress and the President can’t move quickly?
A commentary about how quickly Congress can act, when they want to. The author is Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business (AWB). He details his experience, as a congressional aide in 1973, watching fast legislation to force the broadcast of NFL games. He notes that the congress of 1973 was similar to today’s, for its dysfunction, and ends with this partisan but nonetheless valid concern: “Our struggling economy, crushing debt and the mounting costs of Obamacare are vastly more important than an NFL television blackout. It’s time for politicians in Washington, D. C., to stop their bickering and finger pointing and act quickly before it’s too late.” All of us, regardless of political leanings, need a Congress that is working to fix problems, not seeking to freeze them in perpetuity.
5-13-2013FACTBOX-EU quest to curb airline emissions
The EU suspended their ETS last fall and are depending on ICAO to resolve the problem, so that Aviation can responsibly address their growing CO2 pollution problem. ICAO has made little progress but aims to produce some result by the time of their general assembly in Montreal, at the end of September.
5-13-2013Sentencing postponed for Scott Bloch, former head of the Office of Special Counsel
The U.S. Special Counsel during most of the Bush Administration abruptly resigned in late 2007, and was accused of destroying records and discarding whistleblower complaints. Both sides filed papers last week with the court, proposing a settlement with a light penalty and generally sanitizing Bloch’s history of misconduct. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins chastised attorneys on both sides for presenting an “incomplete,” narrow account of Bloch’s actions. Wilkins said he was uncomfortable proceeding “as if nothing else happened.” He set a new hearing to happen on 6/24/13. [NOTE: MSPBWatch has been covering this quite well]
5-12-2013Reno-Stead Airport invests in new GA building
$6 Million is being spent to build a 12,000 square foot facility at this airport northwest of Reno. The building will house airport offices, a pilot lounge, emergency response, and possibly a restaurant. At the same time, GA is being encouraged to leave the major airport in the area (KRNO, Reno) and base their aircraft at Stead (KRTS). The comments to this article show pilot concerns about both wasteful spending and dislocation from larger, commercially dominated airports (NOTE: RNO airport operations were 160K in 1990, and 80K in 2012, yet they are still trying to dislocate GA to base away from RNO). Additionally, the article refers to current Nevada legislation SB385, which proposes tax relief to aviation businesses.

Second Quarter, Week #6: May 5 — May 11, 2013

summary:

A quiet week, with FAA cleaning up the sequester fears started earlier in the year.

5-10-2013Feds launch project to convert oilsands emissions to biofuels
The Canadian government announced plans to team up with tarsands companies, contributing half of the cost to build a $19 Million facility, designed to use algae to convert CO2 into biofuels. “This discovery has tremendous potential to benefit our environment and our economy, and further establish Canada as a leader in managing CO2 emissions,” said Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology). “What the results of this project could mean for the future of the oilsands and Canadian businesses makes this a significant day for Canada.” The three-year project will be built at Canadian Natural’s Primrose South oilsands site near Bonnyville, Alta.” The press release implies this is a promising way to address the fact that the production of oil from Alberta tar sands creates a huge amount of CO2. Perhaps what really matters is the appearance that some magical solution exists in technology; sort of like if I tried to sucker you into my latest invention, which will allow you to use toilet water to fuel your car … and with NO EMISSIONS, TOO!!
5-9-2013Washington State to roll out 777X retention plan; here’s what needs to be done
A blog about subsidy from  states seeking to gain advantages over other states, in securing jobs. Washington watched Boeing open a new B787 production line in South Carolina, and wants to maintain the production lines in the Seattle area. Leehamnet suggests Washington needs to become a ‘right-to-work’ state, like Texas, Alabama and South Carolina; says Washington needs to abandon the 1.9% tax for aircraft parts shipped into Everett; says Washington needs to look at reforming their Workman’s Compensation and other programs.
5-9-2013Deliveries, billings up for GA in first quarter
First quarter shipments of GA aircraft worldwide climbed from 418 in 2012 to 458 this year. The aviation lobby remains extremely busy, too. Here’s a quote by GAMA President/CEO Pete Bunce: “…we seek to strengthen the GA sector. Just this week, for example, GAMA board members wrapped up more than 110 meetings in Washington, DC with senators and representatives on both sides of the aisle to discuss certification, user fees, small aircraft revitalization, aviation security, and tax policy. We look forward to continuing to work with regulators, leaders in Congress and officials in governments around the globe to speed the recovery and revitalization of general aviation.”
5-8-2013Kansas Congressman introduces legislation to revitalize GA
Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, has introduced the Light Aircraft Revitalization Act (LARA), which would cut regulations on the general aviation industry. He said in a prepared release that he hopes the bill will “improve safety, decrease costs, and free private-sector innovation.” The bill is cosponsored by Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., Sam Graves, R-Mo., Todd Rokita, R-Ind., and Rick Nolan, D-Minn. The bill addresses a number of challenges facing the general aviation industry caused by outdated regulation, including the steady decline in new pilots, flight activity, and the sales of new small general aviation airplanes. For example, the average general aviation airplane is 40 years old.
5-8-2013How to Avoid Another FAA Fiasco
Notes that the vast majority of FAA’s revenues come from a 7.5% airline ticket tax and a $3.90 passenger tax per flight segment. This post from Brookings Institute advocates ATC privatization. EXCERPT: “The Federal Aviation Administration has been unable to figure out the real costs of air traffic control services and thus has underpriced it since its founding in 1958 as the Federal Aviation Agency.”
5-8-2013Southwest ‘de-hubs’ Atlanta, adds more AirTran cities
Southwest finished its acquisition of AirTran in 2011, and is slowly completely the process of blending the two airlines. The major hub for AirTran was Atlanta. It is now being re-scheduled with Southwest flights, aiming to complete the process by the end of next year.
5-8-201372 Airports Get Controller Reprieve; Controllers Will Be on the Job After Midnight
Midway Airport has received a reprieve from possible overnight closings of its air traffic control tower, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski said Tuesday. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to announce Wednesday that 72 airports, including Midway, that were on an FAA list to potentially furlough all controllers working the midnight shift, as part of the sequestration budget cuts, will instead remain open for at least the rest of the current fiscal year, Lipinski said. “The overnight closures are now off the table,” said Lipinski, D-Ill. “This is great news for Midway Airport, Southwest Airlines and anyone planning on flying out of Midway. Midway should never have been put on the list in the first place, and we still will need to fight for Midway in the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1.”
5-7-2013United to restart Dreamliner flights May 20
UAL announced plan to resume use of the 787, for hub-to-hub service between Houston and Chicago, starting May 20th. International flights from Denver to Tokyo will begin June 10th.
5-7-2013New American Airlines Leaders Named Soon
“…American Airlines and US Airways will soon announce the senior executives of their combined company. CEOs of the airlines said Monday that an announcement could come in late May or early June. The companies in February announced they’ll merge and create the world’s biggest airline. The deal could close before the end of September pending regulatory approval….”
5-7-2013KGJT: $8M aviation deal is a go
The airport authority at Grand Junction, CO signs an agreement to build a paint facility for the airport FBO, West Star. One airport authority member refuses to vote since the $8M deal was rushed through with less than 72-hours notice. The rationale for the deal is that the new facility will receive $110K+ each month from West Star for seven years, to pay off the construction costs, and it is hoped that up to 150 jobs will be generated.
5-6-2013Tax Proposals Open a Debate on Airline Industry’s Troubles
The President’s 2014 budget proposes to increase taxes on airline passengers. Opposition believes that air taxes are already too high. The trade group Airlines for America notes that the airlines have reduced flights by 15% since 2001; airlines have trimmed their costs and they expect FAA to do the same.

Second Quarter, Week #5: April 28 — May 4, 2013

summary:

The sequester furloughs end, after one week. President Obama announces Foxx as his choice to lead DoT.

5-2-2013FAA Furlough Fix Imperils Airport-Improvement Project Funding
The $253 Million comes from the discretionary portion of the AIP, which is presently $3.35 Billion/year.An example presented in this article is that KBTR (Baton Rouge) worries they may not get $1.6M to repave a ramp area for parking aircraft. The article also notes how airports are dependent on regular AIP funds for maintenance and construction.
5-1-2013Barack Obama says U.S. has no airports ranked in the top 25 worldwide
He is citing a British website that runs an international airport popularity poll, as a credible source for justifying infrastructural investment. Sort of like making Congressional decisions through ‘American Idol’ (well, actually, some would argue that would improve things!).
4-30-2013Why the President is Wrong about Skytrax
A blog article at BoardingArea.com.
4-30-2013VIDEO: Flightglobal expert analyses Bagram 747 crash sequence
A vehicle driving near the departure end of the Bagram runway captured this video, which shows the 747 stalling, crashing, and exploding into a ball of fire. David Learmount notes that when cargo operators depart at airports where ground fire is possible, they do a maximum rate of climb with the nose pitched up more than normal. The risks include either a shifted load (if a hold-down breaks, it will make the aircraft tail-heavy), or the loss of an engine. In either case, the crew has to immediately level the climb, to build airspeed so they can maintain control. A load may shift so far toward the tail that the aircraft becomes uncontrollable. NTSB has dispatched a team which hopefully will produce a publicly viewable analysis of the FDR and CVR.
4-30-2013FAA fix leads to grief for Hal Rogers
The Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, from Kentucky, interviewd Michael Huerta. Excerpt from this news article…: “Not a word, not a breath,” said the one-time prosecutor, now chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. It was a new “imperialism … disgusting.” He was not just “shocked” by the abruptness of the FAA’s actions but the “shocking lack of management” that followed. As for the advance notice given to the airlines, Rogers melted that down like butter on a hot skillet. … Huerta vainly kept repeating that Rogers’s old House-mate, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, had been warning of furloughs since at least mid-February. Huerta himself shared operational details with the airlines April 16, five days before the furloughs began. …”
4-30-2013FAA Fix Delayed Due To Bill Typo
One letter was missing from the bill Congress passed, to allow FAA to redirect $253 Million from airport grants and other funds, “…to the appropriations account providing for the operations of the FAA….” The bill could not be signed until one ‘s’ was added, to read ‘accounts’, not ‘account’. […talk about ham-handed precision…!]
4-29-2013Flights of Fancy: Congress’ fast fix for ending the FAA furlough will make sequestration worse.
The writer scores this as yet another example of ‘kicking the can down the road.’ And, just as bad, evidence that Congress is willing to bail out the airlines while ignoring many, far more important problems….
4-29-2013I’m Sequestration — Fly Me
More analysis of the paralyzed Congress and the self-serving vote to end the ATC furlough by allowing FAA to re-direct funds.
4-29-2013Virgin Galactic’s spaceship makes 1st powered flight, goes supersonic in test over California
Flight testing continues of SpaceShipTwo, at the Mojave Desert. Sir Richard Branson hopes to be providing rocket flights to six passengers per flight, to extended weightlessness while returning from an altitude of 62 miles. The article says 500 people have made deposits for the $200,000 per seat flights. This is not your grandpa’s carnival ride, nor does it reflect well on Sir Richard Branson’s understanding of climate change. (…though, other news reports suggests he sees climate change as a big opportunity to make money)
4-29-2013LaHood the Trooper
Notes LaHood told President Obama that his four years serving as DoT Secretary were the best job  he ever had. Also notes that his departure was delayed until Foxx recently decided to not run for a third term as mayor of Charlotte.
4-28-2013Official: Anthony Foxx tapped to head Transportation
Anthony Foxx is a lawyer and became mayor of Charlotte, NC in 2009. His other work experience includes city council and federal employment. The announcement comes three months after Ray LaHood (former IL congressman) declared he would retire to spend time with family.

Second Quarter, Week #4: April 21 — April 27, 2013

summary:

Congress gives FAA special handling, ending the sequester furloughs

4-26-2013Senate Passes FAA Furlough Delay Bill
The rushed legislation allows FAA to transfer up to $253 Million from airport projects to pay for air traffic controller salaries.
4-26-2013Airport Delays: Who to Blame
An opinion piece by Rich Lowry, editor at National Review. Partisan against the Obama administration, but raising some very valid points. Some excerpts…
— …as far as the FAA is concerned, the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center, with more than 8,000 takeoffs and landings a day, is the just the same as Waterloo Regional Airport in Iowa, with fewer than 80.
— …In separate letters to Delta, both Paul Clement and Seth Waxman, former solicitors general in the George W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, respectively, conclude that although limited, “the FAA retains a degree of flexibility” (in the words of the Clement letter).
— …That the administration didn’t exploit that flexibility to the hilt — or failing that, seek more from Congress — is a travesty.
— …The airline industry has been screaming bloody murder about the effect of willy-nilly air-traffic-controller furloughs for months and sued to try to get a better plan out of the FAA. The head of the Air Line Pilots Association, Lee Moak, believes that “they’re using the air system as a political football.”
— …If there were justice in the world, Michael Huerta would be fired and his boss, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, impeached.
4-21-2013FAA Budget Cuts: Go for the Paper Clips
Aviation blogger Paul Bertorelli: “…based on our surveys and e-mail, I’m confident that the sentiment among pilots and owners is overwhelmingly that some of these towers should be closed and many shouldn’t have been opened in the first place. Just as assuredly, some shouldn’t be closed, either. But to determine which is which requires responsible governance and management and meaningful representation from our advocacy groups. Both are sadly lacking….”

Second Quarter, Week #3: April 14 — April 20, 2013

summary:

Two bombs exploded at Boston Marathon finish line; law enforcement quickly identified two apparent bombers; by the end of the week, one was dead, the other captured. On Tuesday, American asks FAA to ground all their flights to help them resolve a problem they are having with their reservation system.

4-16-2013American Airlines resolves computer glitch that grounded all flights nationwide (update)
The disruption begins around noon, and lasts for nearly five hours. It is attributed to a failure in the connection to the Sabre reservation system.
4-15-2013Obama administration renews aviation biofuel program
Public sentiment appears to be dismissing the idea of growing corn to fuel trucks or corn or anything but the food supply. Yet, this news story has both the Secretary of Transportation (Ray LaHood) and the Secretary of Agriculture (Tom Vilsack) teaming up for another federal push on biofuels. Hmmm; LaHood is from Illinois, Vilsack used to be Iowa’s Governor; two kernels off the same cob. Is it hype or is there really something to the idea of biofuels for aviation? Perhaps we will have a clearer picture of this in a few years.
4-15-2013Alaska Grants a Tax Break to Oil Companies
The Alaska state legislature has granted oil companies a new tax break worth roughly $750 Million per year. Within this article, oil execs spin that declining oil production forces them to slow flow-rates in the pipeline, increasing the likelihood of water contamination and thus failure. (I.e., we built this pipeline, now we have to feed it.) They justify the large tax break by bemoaning their difficulty in competing with oil production in the lower 48 states.
4-14-2013A strong community is our best defense
AOPA President Craig Fuller opines at GANews, about general aviation. An excerpt: “…You don’t have to look very far to see the threats to general aviation today. Sequestration cuts, tower closures, user fees, and tax changes are just a few of the recent, and ongoing, assaults on GA. Our freedom to fly is under attack, and we must fight back with every weapon in our arsenal….”

Second Quarter, Week #2: April 7 — April 13, 2013

summary:

NTSB held a 2-day hearing on the Li-ion battery fires. Sequestration still looms.

4-13-2013Gary, other airports get stay from closures
Another local article briefly outlining the sequester delay, and its potential impact on this airport in Indiana. Notes the intended 4/7/13 start date, the new 6/15/13 date. Also refers to a recent lawsuit filed against FAA, at the courts in Washington, DC.
4-12-2013NTSB focuses on 787 battery
Summary of content at NTSB’s 2-day hearing on the battery issue, completed today.
4-12-2013Cantwell Urges FAA to Keep Air Towers Open
Senator Cantwll (D-WA) and other senators sent a letter to LaHood and Huerta, expressing their concerns about the the threat to close 149 towers on June 15th. One line in the letter read: “We ask that you identify lower priority spending elsewhere in the FAA’s budget for reduction.”
4-12-2013Friedman Airport Officials to Meet With FAA
The primary airport serving Sun Valley, Idaho, wants millions to relocate their taxiway 400′ from the runway, instead of the present 320′. The airport manager claims that too many delays happen when the taxiway cannot be used while larger Horizon flights are on the runway. The airport has a tower and averages four takeoffs per hour. [KSUN]
4-8-2013FAA and PANYNJ Reach Agreement on Airport Safety Violations
ARFF (emergency response) managers at the airports owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had failed to comply with requirements to document ARFF training. The implication is that airport firefighters were operating without required training. FAA investigated, and has now signed a settlement to bring PANYNJ into compliance. The settlement includes payment of a $3.5Million fine. [KEWR, KJFK, KLGA, KTEB]

Second Quarter, Week #1: March 31 — April 6, 2013

summary:

Boeing finished flight tests for their new Li-ion battery design. Facing numerous lawsuits, FAA extended the tower closure date by more than two months.

4-5-2013GA-NEWS-‘No user fees’ movement builds on Capitol Hill
A letter to President was signed by 223 members of Congress. “…the letter, spearheaded by House aviation subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), and GA Caucus co-chairs Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and John Barrow (D-Ga.), states that Congress has rejected repeated attempts by this and previous administrations to impose user fees. It also points out that GA is vital to the U.S. economy, providing millions of jobs, and requests that Obama abandon the idea….”
4-5-2013‘Pacific Flyer’ magazine is closing
A GA newspaper based in Oceanside, CA, ‘Pacific Flyer’ has closed down after 32-years. The subscription list is being transferred to GANews, near Tacoma, WA. Editor/Publisher was Wayman Dunlap. [A link to the last issue]
4-5-2013Boeing finishes 787 testing, focus shifts to regulators
“With a successful flight on Friday, Boeing moved closer to proving that a revamped safety system can prevent batteries on its new 787 Dreamliner from catching fire or overheating, and getting the plane back into service.”
4-5-2013FAA Extends Tower Closure Date
“…The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it will delay the closures of all 149 federal contract air traffic control towers until June 15. Last month, the FAA announced it would eliminate funding for these towers as part of the agency’s required $637 million budget cuts under sequestration….”
4-4-2013Do we need this control tower?
Ben Sclair starts an online discussion pointing at the need for FAA and Congress to recognize: there are many towers at many airports, which are clearly not needed. And, there are too many political pressures brought to bear, which prevent FAA from doing its job, actually ‘managing’ the air traffic control system.
4-1-2013Lawsuits to Block FAA Contract Tower Closures Multiply
So far, at least fourteen jurisdictions have filed lawsuits. Spencer Dickerson, president of the American Association of Airport Executives and the U.S. Contract Tower Association, made this comment: “We’re profoundly disappointed because this is clearly an administration and White House-driven decision to make control towers the poster child of sequestration, to make it very visible and very painful to the American people.” He added that “aviation should not be a political pawn.”

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