The aiREPORT: [2013Q3, week-13]

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 #13: September 22 — September 28, 2013

summary:

Top AvNews Story: a composite of two diverging realities … FAA faces an imminent and substantial budget shortfall with the new Fiscal Year, yet continues to throw money to contractors and airports, for projects of questionable merit. A father seeing this behavior in his kid would be concerned that the kid needs to break out of this bad habit of ‘buying friends’…

QUICKlooks:

  • 9/26/13: DoT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics released a report showing that the number of passenger airline jobs dropped 2.6% from July 2012 to July 2013. [PDF], [BTS Post]
  • …A 63-yr-old captain on a United flight from Houston to Seattle became incapacitated, and the first officer took over. The flight was diverted to a landing at Boise, and the Captain died shortly after arriving at the local hospital. [article]
  • 9/27/13: Nearly all FAA news stories focused on the panel recommendation that use of electronics on airline flights should be relaxed.
  • 9/28/13: a Minnesota Public Radio article about UAV development/testing at Grand Forks. It reports that the Grand Forks County sheriff’s department is expanding its unmanned aircraft operations to include night flights. [article]

Airports in the News:

  • Wilmington, NC [KILM]: a U.S. Senator announced FAA had awarded $5.4M for runway improvements. The grant follows a $1M grant announced a week earlier, to acquire more land. This 1,800 acre airport has an FAA tower, 118 based aircraft and averages 124 operations/day; operations have declined 39% since 2007. [article]
  • Wickenburg, AZ [E25]: FAA funding has been approved for a $2.4M project, to build a midfield apron area next to the single 6,100′ x 75′ runway. The airport is just 100 acres and sits on scrub land west of town. It is home base to 34 small aircraft, and averages 99 operations/day. [article]

Links to Articles:

9-27-2013DoT’s Plan for FAA Staffing during FY2014 Appropriations Lapse
Due to the Congressional budget impasse, and in preparation for unfunded activities in the new Fiscal Year, DoT’s Acting CFO, Sylvia Garcia, compiled a report that identifies which positions will work, and which will be furloughed. It notes that 15,514 of FAA’s 46,070 employees are subject to furlough, though 2,490 furloughs from within the Office of Aviation Safety would be ‘recalled incrementally over a two week period’. The Office of Audit & Evaluation is subject to furlough, too.
9-24-2013FAA Furloughs, Tower Closures, ATC Privatization Back On The Table
With the new Fiscal Year, FAA faces the challenge of mending a $700M budget gap. EXCERPT: “There are conversations taking place among the stakeholders [about privatizing ATC],” Gerald Dillingham, civil aviation director of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, told Bloomberg. Paul Rinaldi, president of NATCA, said he would be open to such a discussion. “I don’t have the answers, but I do know the current system is broken,” he said. Legislation now under consideration in Washington, however, could extend the current government budget levels through mid-December, delaying any new cuts until next year.
9-24-2013Press Release – FAA Awards $17 Million in Environmental Grants to Airports
DoT Secretary Foxx announced $17M in grants to eight large airports, part of the VALE program. “This program supports President’s Obama’s efforts to combat climate change and reduce aviation’s carbon footprint,” said Secretary Foxx. “These funds will help airports around the country make the necessary investments that will reduce fuel costs and help protect the environment.” The funds will mostly go towards charging systems, alternative fuels vehicles, and more efficient climate control systems. “The FAA encourages airlines and airports to find creative ways to reduce aviation’s impact on the environment,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We applaud these airports for their efforts to make their facilities environmentally friendly members of the community.” The Press Release also notes that VALE grants since 2005 have aided 33 airports with projects worth $161M.
9-22-2013FAA Consent, Money Needed for ‘Virtual Tower’
A system is under development to create unmanned control towers. This article discusses a recent test applied to an airport near a national Boy Scout Jamboree (evidently, scout leaders like to fly in?). The system is estimated to cost $3M, according to developer Quadrex Aviation in Melbourne, FL. Two key requirements to move forward are FAA approval, and FAA money.
9-22-2013Talks on Private Air-Traffic Control Turn Serious in U.S.
EXCERPT: Discussions about removing government management of the U.S. air-traffic control system are the most serious in two decades, prompted by budget cuts and uncertain funding for converting to satellite navigation.

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