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May 29, 2015

Posts in "Aviation"

March 26, 2015

Alps Crash Appears To Have Been Deliberate

Rescue workers continue their search operation into a third day near the site of the Germanwings plane crash in La Seyne les Alpes, France. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Rescue workers continue their search operation into a third day near the site of the Germanwings plane crash in La Seyne les Alpes, France. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

When aviation safety experts speaks of “the insider threat,” they mean not only aircraft maintenance workers who smuggle weapons or drugs aboard planes, or place a bomb on a plane, but pilots or co-pilots who deliberately crash their aircraft.

On Thursday the prosecutor in Marseille announced that the co-pilot of the Germanwings Airbus A320 that went down in the French Alps Tuesday appears to have deliberately crashed the plane.

All 150 on board were killed.

The co-pilot was a German named Andreas Lubitz, 28, who was flying the plane after the captain left the cockpit. Evidence from the cockpit voice recorder indicates that he refused to open the cockpit door and then put the plane into its final descent.

This type of incident has happened before.

On Oct. 31, 1999, EgyptAir Flight 990, a Boeing 767 which had departed from New York bound for Cairo, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean about 60 miles south of Nantucket, Mass., killing all 217 people on board.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the relief first officer, Gameel al-Batouti, took deliberate actions that crashed the plane. As the plane headed toward its impact with the ocean he repeatedly and quietly said, “I rely on God.”

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was al-Batouti’s “flight control inputs. The reason for the relief first officer’s actions was not determined.”

Journalist and pilot William Langewiesche wrote an excellent account of the investigation of that crash, focusing on the split between the Egyptian and U.S. investigators.

March 23, 2015

Vote-A-Rama And Aviation Hearings On Week’s Agenda

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker will testify at a House hearing Tuesday on air traffic control reform (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker will testify at a House hearing Tuesday on air traffic control reform (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

This week’s Senate action will feature the vote-a-rama, a series of dozens of votes on various policy proposals offered as amendments to the fiscal year 2016 budget resolution.

At least one transportation infrastructure amendment will be offered by Senate Democrats. But other transportation-related amendments may pop up as well, since the vote-a-rama is a kind of long-form improvised political theater.

Meanwhile on Tuesday the House Transportation Aviation Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine options reforming the FAA’s air traffic control system, including possible creation of a private entity to run the system.

Witnesses include American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and Reason Foundation transportation policy director Robert Poole.

Also on Tuesday the Aviation Operations, Safety and Security Subcommittee of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will have a hearing on unmanned aerial vehicles featuring Amazon’s vice president for global public policy Paul Misener and Michigan farmer Jeff VanderWerff who will be representing the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Last week the FAA gave an experimental airworthiness certificate to an Amazon Logistics, Inc. drone design that the company will use for research and development and crew training as it works its way toward drone delivery of packages.

On Wednesday the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security will look at how the Transportation Security Administration’s TSA PreCheck system is working.

Witnesses include the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, John Roth. The subcommittee chairman is first-term Rep. John Katko, a Republican holding what had been a Democratic seat in upstate New York and one of the Democrats’ top targets for 2016.

March 18, 2015

Boeing Union-Management Struggle Enters New Phase

The 787 Dreamliner on the assembly line at the Boeing factory in Everett, Wash. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The 787 Dreamliner on the assembly line at the Boeing factory in Everett, Wash. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The struggle between labor and capital at America’s premier commercial aircraft manufacturer has entered a new chapter.

This week the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), which represents many production line employees at Boeing plants in the state of Washington, said it has filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold an election for more than 2,400 production workers at Boeing’s non-union plant in North Charleston, S.C.

It’s now up to the NLRB to schedule an election.

Reacting to the NLRB filing, Beverly Wyse, Boeing South Carolina’s vice president and general manager, said it was the non-union workers at the South Carolina plant who made it a success.

This is also the week that Boeing delivered its first Dreamliner of the 787-9 series assembled in South Carolina to United Airlines.

“The IAM aggressively opposed” the South Carolina plant, Wyse said, “as publicly demonstrated by their filing of a claim with the National Labor Relations Board, to try to keep our site from even opening. Now, simply by filing this petition, the same union that tried to take our jobs and our work, has already begun to divide our team at a time when we’re just beginning to gel and catch a solid rhythm in production.”

Fervently anti-union in this battle is South Carolina’s Republican governor,Nikki Haley, who said in her State of the State speech in January, “Every time you hear a Seattle union boss carry on about how he has the best interests of the Boeing workers in Charleston at heart, remember this: if it was up to that same union boss, there would be no Boeing workers in Charleston.”

Meanwhile in Washington state, the legislature is considering a bill that would curtail a tax break for Boeing which Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law in 2013.

The tax break apparently helped persuade Boeing to keep work on the new version of the 777 in Everett, Wash.

Democratic state Rep. June Robinson is proposing to make the tax break conditional. She said, “If Boeing jobs leave the state, the tax break will gradually go away. If the jobs stay in Washington, Boeing keeps the tax break. It’s simple and it’s fair.”

According to the Everett Herald’s Jerry Cornfield, “Robinson’s bill is the handiwork of the unions representing machinists and aerospace engineers. It stems from frustration that the 2013 law didn’t stop layoffs or prevent Boeing from shifting hundreds of jobs to other states without penalty.”

March 17, 2015

U.S. Airlines’ Foreign Rivals Playing A Long Game

An Emirates Airline flight from Dubai lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. (Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

An Emirates Airline flight from Dubai lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. (Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

The Financial Times and other news organizations are reporting that low-cost European airline Ryanair will enter the transatlantic business. The Ryanair board has approved plans to start a transatlantic airline “with some one-way tickets expected to cost as little as £10,” or about $14.75 at current exchange rates.

But it will take up to five years for Ryanair to buy the aircraft and launch the new service.

Meanwhile U.S. carriers continue their efforts to get the Obama administration to put some limits on competitors such as Emirates Airline from the Persian Gulf.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the heads of Emirates and of Etihad Airlines are expected to address their battle with the U.S. carriers in speeches in Washington Tuesday.

“If Qatar and the United Arab Emirates continue giving their carriers billions of dollars in unfair subsidies, they will cannibalize American pilots’ jobs and undermine our nation’s aviation system,” said Tim Canoll, the president of the Air Lines Pilots Association (ALPA).

Three U.S. carriers, American, Delta, and United, and four unions including ALPA, have joined forces to launch the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies to carry on the propaganda battle against the Persian Gulf carriers.

The coalition announced that Jill Zuckman, who served as director of public affairs for the Department of Transportation under former Secretary Ray LaHood, will be its chief spokesman.

“As the CEOs of Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline arrive in Washington this week, they have a lot of explaining to do,” Zuckman said in her opening volley. “They need to explain how it is they have received more than $42 billion in subsidies and other unfair benefits from their governments over the past 10 years.”

March 16, 2015

Here’s The Need, Where’s The Money?

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., will chair a hearing on the TSA budget for FY 2016 Tuesday. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., will chair a hearing on the TSA budget for FY 2016 Tuesday. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Congress is another week closer to the May deadline for re-authorizing highway and mass transit spending.

What that means: if lawmakers don’t pass an authorization bill before May ends, then the Highway Trust Fund would be paying out money to the states at a much slower pace than normal, which would hinder or halt projects during the spring and summer construction season.

This week most of the Obama administration’s transportation officials will be testifying on Capitol Hill at appropriations hearings.

Tuesday the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security hears from Melvin Carraway, acting administrator of the Transportation Security Administration about the Obama administration’s Fiscal Year 2016 TSA budget request and issues such as the effectiveness of the TSA’s Pre-Check program for trusted travelers.

The chairwoman of the panel is Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R- N.H., who is up for re-election in 2016.

Meanwhile the Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta will testify to the House appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.

Also Tuesday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee gets the state and local perspective from North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, and  Wyoming Department of Transportation director John Cox.

On Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx testifies before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation.

Finally on Thursday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation hears from Gregory Nadeau, acting head of the Federal Highway Administration, Therese McMillan, acting head of the Federal Transit Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Mark Rosekind, and Maritime Administration chief Paul Jaenichen.

The administration witnesses are sure to make the case for budget certainty and for a long-term infrastructure funding solution. The latter is looking less and less likely in 2015.

March 11, 2015

Korean Air ‘Nut Rage’ Will Get Re-Airing In Civil Suit

Former Korean Air Lines executive Cho Hyun-Ah, center, is surrounded by reporters in Seoul on Dec. 30, 2014 after a hearing to review an arrest warrant application on charges of violating aviation safety laws. (Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Korean Air Lines executive Cho Hyun-Ah, center, is surrounded by reporters in Seoul on Dec. 30, 2014 after a hearing to review an arrest warrant application on charges of violating aviation safety laws. (Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

“Nut rage” is an evocative phrase, a gift to headline writers – but the phrase also denotes a serious incident at Kennedy Airport in New York last December when Korean Air executive vice president Cho Hyun-ah delayed the departure of a flight after ordering the plane back to the gate and telling a senior crew member to get off.

Cho, the eldest daughter of company chairman Cho Yang-ho is serving a prison sentence in South Korea for her actions in the incident.

She was angered that flight attendant Kim Do-hee and a senior crew member did not know the correct procedure for serving macadamia nuts.

Nut rage will live on in a civil suit filed by Kim in Queens County, New York, where Kennedy Airport is located. The suit alleges that Cho screamed at, shoved, and threatened Kim, and has damaged her career, reputation, and emotional well-being.

March 6, 2015

Subsidies At Issue As U.S. Carriers Face Gulf Rivals

Rep. Peter DeFazio (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Peter DeFazio (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A new report from a coalition of three major U.S. airlines, Delta, United and American, fuels a continued political struggle between those carriers and Persian Gulf carriers that are competing with them on routes from the Gulf through Europe to the United States.

The coalition says, “Qatar, Etihad, and Emirates collectively have received more than $42 billion in subsidies and other unfair benefits from the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.” It also says “every lost international roundtrip route by U.S. carriers because of this subsidized competition equals a net loss of more than 800 U.S. jobs.”

The U.S. airlines have asked the Obama administration to consider renegotiating the terms of the Open Skies accords with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

One congressional ally of the coalition, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranking member Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, D- Ore,. said the report “highlighted outrageous and clearly anti-competitive practices” by the three largest Persian Gulf airlines.

He is sending a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Secretary of State John Kerry, urging to “restore a fair, competitive balance between U.S. air carriers and Gulf state subsidized airlines.”

But Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association said the big three U.S. airlines “have been helped out often enough by the U.S. government over the years that playing the subsidy card strains credulity in the extreme. The bar should be extremely high to roll back these trade agreements that have unquestionably benefited travelers and the U.S. economy.”

 

February 23, 2015

Congress Faces Decision On Export-Import Bank

A Boeing 787-9 at the Farnborough Airshow in England, last July. (Photo: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)

A Boeing 787-9 at the Farnborough Airshow in England, last July. (Photo: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)

A day before more than 600 supporters of the Export-Import Bank arrive in Washington to make the case for the bank, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) urged Congress in a letter to change Ex-Im Bank rules so that it doesn’t aid “state-owned, state-supported, and credit-worthy foreign airlines.”

ALPA called for “targeted and meaningful reforms to the Export-Import Bank’s widebody aircraft lending practices.”

The Export-Import bank provides loans and loan guarantees to foreign purchasers of U.S. goods. In fiscal year 2014, the bank arranged $20.5 billion in financing which it said supported more than 164,000 American jobs.

Congress last year extended the bank’s charter until June, instead of giving it the five-year reauthorization it sought.

Full story

Week Ahead: Tolling, Flight Tracking, Energy Shipping

Sen. James Inhofe, R- Okla., and Rep. Bill Shuster, R- Pa., will both address the AASHTO conference this week. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. James Inhofe, R- Okla., and Rep. Bill Shuster, R- Pa., will both address the AASHTO conference this week. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It will be a busy week in Washington for transportation policy, with hearings, speeches, and panel discussions on everything from better tracking of airline flights to tolling on interstates.

Tuesday

The Mileage Based User Fee Alliance holds its second annual conference in Washington.

The Alliance includes state departments of transportation and contractors in the tolling business. Panelists will discuss such topics as California’s Road Usage Charge Pilot Program.

Full story

February 20, 2015

Week In Review: Derailment, Delay, And Delta’s CEO

Delta CEO Richard Anderson (Photo credit Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Delta CEO Richard Anderson (Photo credit Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

This week was dominated by the derailment of an oil train near Mount Carbon, W.V. The accident, which caused explosions and fires and destroyed one house, illustrated the risks that towns and cities face as Bakken crude from North Dakota makes the journey from the oil well to the tank of your car.

Full story

Unions, Governors Make A Transportation Weekend Of It

Rep. Peter King, R- N.Y. will be conferring with transportation union leaders this weekend (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Peter King, R- N.Y. will be conferring with transportation union leaders this weekend (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Trains and buses may be on a reduced weekend schedule but transportation events run at a brisk pace Saturday and Sunday.

In Atlanta, the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO holds its annual executive committee meeting with 32 member unions in Atlanta. The unions represent workers from airline pilots to light rail operators.

Labor leaders will confer with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx Saturday, and on Sunday Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y. and Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill. will meet with the union leaders.

Full story

February 18, 2015

Sparring With Gulf Rivals, Delta CEO Cites 9/11 Attacks

Richard Anderson, chief executive officer of Delta Air Lines (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Richard Anderson, chief executive officer of Delta Air Lines (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

If you missed Delta CEO Richard Anderson on CNN Monday night, he touched on a provocative topic, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in his rhetorical struggle with Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airlines.

First Anderson told CNN’s Richard Quest that he had “documented evidence that can’t be refuted of tens of billions of dollars in direct government subsidies” that Emirates and the other Persian Gulf airlines had received from their governments.

Then he responded to a question about the Gulf carriers’ argument that U.S. carriers in their own way get government help in the form of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy process that allows them to periodically shed debt and other obligations.

“That is categorically false,” Anderson said. “And it’s a great irony to have the UAE from the Arabian Peninsula talk about that, given the fact that our industry was really shocked by the terrorism of 9/11, which came from terrorists from the Arabian Peninsula that caused us to go through a massive restructuring.”

Full story

February 11, 2015

Airports Group Defends Open Skies Trade Deals

An Emirates Airbus A380 aircraft on a visit to Tehran last year  (Photo: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

An Emirates Airbus A380 aircraft on a visit to Tehran last year (Photo: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

The trade association representing U.S. airports is coming to the defense of Open Skies agreements with foreign countries that are under attack from major U.S. airlines.

Last week three American airlines, Delta, United, and American, asked the Obama administration to modify or perhaps even scrap the Open Skies accords with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates that allow airlines from those countries to compete with the U.S. carriers.

The U.S. carriers argue that airlines such as Emirates are subsidized by their home governments to the tune of $42 billion since 2004.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Kevin Burke, the president of the Airports Council International – North America, said, “Criticisms are being levelled against U.S. Open Skies policy by a few U.S. interests”

But these agreements have been good for U.S. airports and for travelers, Burke argued. Full story

February 6, 2015

Week In Review: Struggling With Rivals and ‘Trolls’

Copies of President Obama's Fiscal Year 2016 budget await distribution in the Senate Budget Committee room Monday (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Copies of President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget await distribution in the Senate Budget Committee room Monday (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Running through our stories this week was the theme of struggle, the competitive fray, the battle between contending forces.

Since we’re in Washington, D.C., of course there’s the inevitable struggle between the executive and legislative branches over political power and the interpretation of law.

Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif., told us that in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), enacted just last year, “We laid out a very reasonable, common-sense goal of increasing what we’re spending every year” on harbor dredging and port maintenance.

But Hahn said President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget “decreases what we’re spending every year and in fact in 2025 is only proposing that 30 percent of all the money we collect would be returned to the ports.”

And we described another legislative vs. executive struggle over a new tank car standard which the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has yet to deliver, creating regulatory uncertainty among railroads, shippers, and car manufacturers.

A sardonic Rep. Peter DeFazio, D- Ore., said at a House hearing Tuesday the rule is “lost somewhere in the bowels of the administration between the agency and the trolls over at the Office of Management and Budget who will further delay the ruling.”

Then there’s the struggle between major U.S. airlines and Persian Gulf competitors such as Emirates over the terms of Open Skies agreements were intended to allow fairly free and open competition.

The U.S. air carriers are asking the Obama administration to consider re-negotiating those deals, alleging that Gulf air carriers are government subsidized.

Another form of struggle is the eternal one of labor versus management. We saw it this week in the West Coast port managers’ standoff with the International Longshore & Warehouse Union over a new contract.

Pacific Maritime Association President Jim McKenna as he warned that ports from Los Angeles to Seattle were at “the brink of collapse” due to union work slowdowns.

February 5, 2015

Airlines Challenge Open Skies Deals With Gulf Nations

A flight attendant poses beside an Emirates Airbus A380. (Photo: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)

A flight attendant poses beside an Emirates Airbus A380. (Photo: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)

Major American airlines have asked the Obama administration to consider renegotiating the terms of the Open Skies accords with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates that allow airlines from those countries to compete with the U.S. carriers.

American Airlines said Thursday that it, along with United and Delta, is talking to “U.S. policymakers to reevaluate existing Open Skies agreements with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates” and to assess the effect of government subsidies provided to the Gulf airlines “in violation of those agreements. We welcome robust competition provided the playing field is level.”

“A reopening of those Open Skies agreements is the first step and the right step to ensure competition is preserved and enhanced and U.S. airline careers continue to prosper.” the American Airlines statement said. Full story

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