The aiREPORT: [2013Q3, week-11]

aiREPORT is a weekly collection of notes and links to news items relevant to aviation impacts and FAA reform. It is provided as a research tool…

Third Quarter, Week #11: September 8 — September 14, 2013

summary:

Top AvNews Story: FAA reports that controller errors in 2012 more than doubled over the number of similar errors in 2011 … Flying Magazine posted a good article (and reader comments) about the fact that, despite many pleadings and other efforts by both FAA and NTSB, the accident history for Summer 2013 turned out very poorly … and, the same old background noise related to FAA funding of local airport projects and the claimed enormous economic benefits thereof; appears to be that time of year, again (end of FY) …

QUICKlooks:

  • 9/9/13: Aviation NGO leaders are commending the Governor of Kansas for proclaiming September is ‘Aviation Appreciation Month’. (Note: He is doing so as part of an organized campaign to generate proclamations and build positive news releases; that campaign comes from those same NGO’s … sort of a PR vortex). [link]
  • … Europe’s air traffic controller unions are urging their members to take strike action against fresh Single European Sky legislation. The ATCEUC is calling on it’s 14,000 members to join a pan-European action day on 10/10/13. They want to call attention to their concern that the European Commission is attempting “…to deregulate every profession that ensures the passenger safety.” This is very reminiscent of the relationship between FAA and NATCA, during the dark years 2005-2009 (when  FAA imposed a split payscale and dress code). [link]
  • 9/10/13: GA blogger Bob Collins posted that his many efforts to renew his medical exam have failed, as FAA just delivered their decision. Sadly, his flying days are over. Bob goes on to discuss that he came down with Meniere’s Disease, how it impacted his flying, and his effort to gain a fresh new look, including his need to eventually sell the RV-7 he built and loves to fly. [link]
  • … Senator Tom Harkin in Iowa announced that $3.2M in FAA/AIP funds have been awarded for two projects at two airports, in Davenport and Ankeny. Iowa is famous for pork production (pun intended). IowaPork.org says that in 2008 there were 8,300 hog operations in the state, accounting for nearly a third of U.S. pork production. [link]
  • … an article details the advantages a Connecticut realtor is finding by using drones to produce aerial images. He believes he can fly up to 400′ above the ground,. FAA has expressed concerns in two areas: altitude of flight (which seemingly is fine at 400′, unless he is close to an airport), and the possibility that the drone imagery is a commercial activity. (note: it is not clear why FAA should want/need to control low altitude drone use on the basis of whether or not it is a commercial activity). [link]
  • 9/13/13: yet another article (this one at GovExec) about the sequester budget stalemate, filled with quotes by FAA officials, NGO leaders, and Rinaldi at NATCA. [link]
  • … Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington issued a news release talking up the groundbreaking of a new Center of Excellence to be based at WSU Tri-Cities. A quote: “This landmark investment will help the jet biofuels industry take flight … From farms to airports, green jet fuel means jobs for Americans. This investment impacts every sector of the American economy. It secures and grows our aviation competitiveness by controlling the costs of jet fuel, protects our environment by reducing carbon emissions, and keeps our nation safer by reducing our dependence on foreign oil….” [link]

Airports in the News:

  • Destin, FL (Destin – Ft. Walton Beach Airport [KDTS]): FAA has grounded Timberview Helicopters from conducting air tours, due to multiple safety violations. The company can re-apply if/when they correct their violations. [link]
  • Norwood, MA (Norwood Memorial Airport [KOWD]): the airport manager sent a letter to his two senators and one congressman, urging a plan be expedited to restore certainty to FAA funding and prevent any further sequester threats … and to keep the contract tower at Norwood open past 9/30/13, which is the end of the current Fiscal Year. Norwood’s tower is open 9-hours per day, and the airport is said to average 273 operations/day. However, there are many airports around the country that have 200- to 500+ daily operations and function just fine without a control tower. [link]
  • New York City (LaGuardia Airport [KLGA]): Janet McEneaney, president of Queens Quiet Skies, said the group is now working on establishing itself as an advocacy group for all of Queens, not just the northeast sector. Seeking help from the Governor, in the problems she and others are having with FAA, she added, “The airlines and the Port Authority do not vote — we do.” [link]
  • Gulfport, MS (Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport [KGPT]): The Airport Authority Chairman announced a $4.7M FAA/AIP grant for various projects, including drainage, fencing, taxiway widening, and terminal improvements. He thanked both the FAA and the Mississippi Congressional delegation. [link]
  • Farmingdale, NY (Republic Airport [KFRG]): FBO Atlantic Aviation filed a complaint that upstart FBO Talon Air is getting preferential treatment from state officials. Talon owner Adam Katz is a real estate developer and reportedly a generous political donor. FBO’s provide fuel and other services at airports. Needless to say, monopoly FBO’s have an easier road to profits, so it is not uncommon for FBO’s to try to manipulate FAA and/or other officials (and the rules) to protect their turf. [link]
  • Le Roy, NY (Le Roy Airport [5G0]): an FAA grant was announced by U.S. Representative Chris Collins, a successful business entrepreneur who also served as the Erie County Executive (an elected office) from 2008-2012. The fatal Colgan crash at Buffalo happened in early 2009, during his term. The announced FAA grant provides $137K for removal of trees at Le Roy Airport. This airport has a single 3,800′ runway, is home to 19 aircraft (17 single-props and two twin-props), averages only 20 takeoffs per day (mostly for local pattern traffic), and is 14-miles west of the Rochester Airport. […Q: why is FAA funding being used for this tree removal, and why so much money? Can’t little airports like this exist without FAA handouts?…] [link]
  • Greencastle, IN (Putnam County Airport [4I7]): FAA is granting $3.55M, mostly for the removal of a hump in the single runway. This airport averages 19 takeoffs per day, and is home to 28 aircraft (19 single-props, three twin-props, two jets and five helicopters). It is less than 30-miles from two large controlled airports, at Indianapolis and Terre Haute. [link]

Links to Articles:

9-12-2013FAA reports increase in air-traffic mistakes
A USA Today article by Bart Jansen, providing statistics showing the number of errors by controllers in 2011 more than doubled in 2012. There were 4,934 events where aircraft got too close to each other. ATO COO David Grizzle says no problem: he believes ATSAP and newly introduced technologies are the reason for the increase.
9-12-2013Remember Huerta’s Summer Safety Plea? How Did We Do?
Stephen Pope blogs that Mr. Huerta’s plea and many other efforts (including by NTSB) produced no apparent improvements. Two quotes: “…it appears that, in general, we failed Huerta’s test – miserably … our poor safety record is one of the undeniable factors hamstringing the entire GA community – more so than the high price of avgas, government TFRs, outdated certification standards or a host of other negative factors – although these certainly don’t help either. But if we don’t solve our safety problem first, there’s not much hope for the future of GA – at least not the vibrant, thriving GA so many of us yearn for.” Kudos to Flying Magazine for posting the facts. Let’s hope FAA and pilots everywhere will fix this problem, so we can truly have a thriving GA sector that enriches our lives, with far fewer accidents and far fewer impacts as well.
9-12-2013FAA’s GPS Satellite Plan for Friendlier Skies
A video interview of Pam Drew of Exelis, a contractor with an award of $1.8B to participate in the $40B NextGen project. Essentially, this interview is a sales pitch that seeks to explain NextGen and justify the cost. She notes that the radar systems refresh the image every 12-seconds, but the new NextGen will update roughly every second, allowing for ATC to pack in more airplanes per mile, which should reduce delays, too. In the middle of the interview, the reporter makes reference to FAA’s old radar technologies, dating back to WWII. This implies the present radars are clunky, which is a very erroneous misrepresentation. They are vastly updated and supplemented with extensive systems for managing flight and weather information, detecting hazards, etc. And every one of these improvements was grandstanded before Congress and the Public, to gain support to spend billions every year … a decades-old pattern.
9-12-2013FAA grants Lockheed contract extension
Three days after announcing a $221M contract extension to Lockheed Martin for GA Flight Services, FAA made a very similar announcement: the Lockheed Martin contract to support Oceanic ATOP has been extended. The extension is worth as much as $500M for eight years.
9-11- 2013FAA uses faulty single-variable model to make air traffic control tower repair decisions
This is a brief analysis of a recent GAO Report, which found FAA was not being diligent when deciding which ATC facilities needed repairs. A quote: “In 2012, a consultant for the ATO developed the statistical model based on inspection results of 134 inspected facilities. The model ‘uses one variable–age of the facility–to estimate the facility’s condition,’ the GAO report says. In one instance, eight air traffic control towers, each 17 years old, were identified as having the same condition, including the Los Angeles International Airport tower.”
9-11-2013FAA, Industry Continue Push to Eliminate Sequester
A short article touching on recent speeches and statements by Huerta, Blakey, Heinrich (Rockwell Collins), and NATCA, all united in pursuit of FAA protection from possible future sequester cuts.
9-9-2013FAA extends Lockheed GA flight planning role
FAA awarded $221M, extending for two more years the contract to provide services formerly provided by the Flight Service Station personnel. Lockheed Martin has held the contract since 2005, when the FSS function was first contracted out, and the FAA personnel either retired, went to work for Lockheed Martin, or found jobs elsewhere at FAA.
9-9-2013Hawaii Awarded $23 Million From FAA and FTA for Airport Projects
A Hawaii Senator announced seven grants, mostly from FAA, including numerous airport projects and a statewide airport system study.
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