The aiREPORT: [2013Q3, week-12]

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 #12: September 15 — September 21, 2013

summary:

Top AvNews Story: a major PR greenwash, in FAA’s announced plan to spend $40M to develop fuel cells and hydrogen technologies. Given the large energy requirements of aviation vs. the relatively low energy potential of hydrogen, these fuel cells appear to be entirely impractical for aviation.

QUICKlooks:

  • 9/16/13: The Department of Energy (DOE) is opening a National Fuel Cell Technology Evaluation Center to further development of fuel cells and hydrogen technologies. [article]
  • … NY Senator Charles Schumer called on the FAA to choose an alliance known as NUAIR as one of the six drone test sites. NUAIR is said to include forty organizations in New York and Massachusetts. [article]
  • 9/20/13: Allegiant Air Travel reportedly grounded half of its MD80 fleet on Friday, after discovering they had failed to do annual inspections of their emergency evacuation chutes. [article]
  • 9/21/13: An emergency helicopter transporting a patient had a forced landing near Canton, MS, injuring the pilot’s back and sending the two medical crew members and the patient on to the hospital. The helicopter was operated by MedStat, which has bases in Winona and near Columbus. [article]

Airports in the News:

  • New Orleans, LA (Lakefront Airport [KNEW]): a ribbon-cutting ceremony will happen on 9/28, for the dedication of the restored art deco Terminal Building. It was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina flooding in 2005. The 1933 structure was vastly ‘modernized’ in 1964, and many of the early architectural details were removed. They are being restored in the reconstruction. [article]
  • Birmingham, AL (Shuttlesworth Airport [KBHM]): FAA is awarding $8.8Ma part of the $201M airport terminal expansion aprojects. The local Congressperson quickly praised the awards. $6M will go toward security upgrades, while $2.8M are ‘VALE’ funds, to go toward low emission ground vehicles. The busiest airport in Alabama, KBHM has an FAA tower open 24/7 and averages one takeoff every ten minutes. [article]
  • Wiley Ford, WV (Greater Cumberland Regional Airport [KCBE]): FAA has awarded a grant worth $2.3M, to be used to acquire six parcels of land, remove obstructions, and relocate some taxiway threshold areas. The airport has a $59M development plan, with a goal to complete it by 2017. FAA funds are expected, at the current 90% subsidy rate. This airport in western Maryland averages twenty takeoffs per day, mostly for local pattern traffic. It is the home base for 55 aircraft (42 single-prop, five twin-prop, two jets, one helicopter, and five gliders). If the full airport plan is developed, the FAA will have invested nearly one million dollars per private plane at the airport, and most of this money will be from airline passenger taxes. [article]
  • Boston, MA [KBOS]: A flood of noise complaints in Milton has prompted FAA to spend an extra six months studying the impact of a flight path change out of Logan Airport.The NextGen change, implemented in June, sends more departing flights from Runway 33L over Milton and neighboring towns. The routes are concentrated more precisely, this magnifying noise impact for those who live under the routes. Thus, in the first month, complaints increased six-fold. [article]
  • Chatham, MA (Chatham Municipal Airport, [KCQX]): an FAA Deputy Regional Administrator speaks at a town meeting where roughly a hundred residents expressed opposition to the noise impact of local parachute operations. An ongoing conflict at this location, right at the elbow of Cape Cod. [article]

Links to Articles:

9-18-2013FAA rule change will make things more noisy
A blog by and for residents of Queens. They are impacted by noise from both LaGuardia and JFK Airports…. “You can’t hear yourself think because every time it stops, it starts again,” one resident said. The Federal Aviation Administration is planning to change its rules so it can change flight plans without any environmental review. The rule change will lead to more noise pollution for Queens and Nassau County, Rep. Steve Israel said. “This is a bad rule for our quality of life, it’s a bad rule for our environment, it’s a bad rule for people who live in the vicinity of New York’s airports,” Israel said. The congressman also relabeled the FAA “The Federal Arrogant Administration.”
9-18-2013Risk of Flight Delays Returns as FAA Weighs Controller Furloughs
Alan Levin at Businessweek writes about what various aviation officials are saying, in anticipation of the new Fiscal Year. Levin notes: “Seventy-one percent of the FAA’s operations budget — a $9 billion pot that pays for air-traffic control, safety inspections and aircraft certification — goes to salaries, according to CRS. Air-traffic controllers are among the highest paid government employees, earning an average of $108,000 per year, according to 2010 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Huerta has told Congress it will be difficult to reach spending goals without furloughs. The FAA employs about 45,000.” Actually, FAA salaries may average much higher than that. Controllers at the slowest ATC facilities top out around $100K, but controllers at the biggest facilities and the busier towers top out well over $120K/year. In fact, hundreds of controllers max out on the federal payscale at ~$180K. And, and even higher percentage of managers are maxing out their federal pay.
9-16-2013Tax cut spurs job growth in Indiana
Officials from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and top Indiana Senate and House leaders gathered inside the expansive hangar of Eagle Creek Aviation Services here Friday to mark the nearly-instant success of a tax reduction for general aviation businesses. The bill passed earlier this year and eliminated a gas tax that can save aircraft owners about 40 cents per gallon, as well as a 7% tax on aircraft parts and labor. The taxes were stifling Indiana’s aviation businesses, as aircraft owners bypassed the state to avoid hefty fuel and repair taxes, according to GA officials. [Note: Pennsylvania passed similar legislation, too; what happens when all states give all aviators tax breaks?]
9-15-2013FAA cuts red tape for UAS at Yosemite Fires
GANews posts an article that has FAA working hand-in-hand with the military, NPS and California authorities to approve use of a drone to help in the fires. Not discussed is why NPS and Interior are not simply allowed to tell FAA they have an emergency, have shut down the airspace, and will fly drones if they need to.

The aiReport …a link to the full report…