Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Here's An Absolutely Riveting Account Of The Last 5 Minutes Of Doomed Air France Flight 447

Two years ago, an Air France Airbus 330 crashed in the Atlantic while en route from Brazil to Paris.

The reason for the crash was initially a mystery. Eventually, after piecing together the few tidbits of information they had, investigators concluded that the cause was a combination of mechanical failure, weather, and pilot error.

Now, however, after the recovery of the plane's "black boxes" from the bottom of the ocean this spring, the cause has become clear:

Pilot error.

One of the plane's pilots, a 32-year old junior officer named Pierre-Cedric Bonin, badly misinterpreted what was happening during a brief failure of the plane's airspeed indicators and did exactly the wrong thing.

With the plane under control and flying normally, Bonin pulled back on the stick and began ascending when there was no apparent reason for him to ascend. This eventually put the plane into an aerodynamic "stall" that the pilots never realized that they were in--despite the plane's stall warning going off 75 times in the next few minutes as the plane plunged toward the ocean.

(An "aerodynamic stall" is not an engine stall. The plane's engines were functioning perfectly, as were the rest of the instruments and systems. An aerodynamic stall occurs when the plane's "angle of attack" relative to the air passing over the wings becomes too severe and the plane's wings suddenly lose lift. For more than two minutes, Air France Flight 447 plunged toward the ocean with its engines at full power and the plane's nose pointing up at about a 40-degree angle. The engines helped to slow the fall, but they could not keep the plane in the air.)

The pilots' confusion appears to have been aided by a couple of quirks in the Airbus design.

First, the two control sticks in the cockpit operate independently rather than in tandem, so it was not obvious to one pilot what the other pilot was doing. (On Boeings and most small planes, the control sticks move together, so if I'm pulling back on mine, yours will pull back also).

Second, when it temporarily lost its airspeed indicators, the plane switched to a different "mode" of operation in which, ironically, the pilots had much more control over the plane's control surfaces than they normally do. Normally, the Airbus's computers prevent the pilots from doing mystifying things like putting the plane into a stall. Under the "alternate" mode, however, the pilots have more manual control. Thus, the pilots may simply never have thought it possible that they could put the plane into a stall and thus merely concluded that the stall warning was faulty.

At almost any time during the plane's descent, had the Air France pilots realized what was happening, they could have pushed the stick forward and recovered from the stall. Alas, they did not begin to figure out what was happening until they were about 2,000 feet above the water, and by then it was too late.

Unfortunately, the obvious conclusion about what happened is that it could happen again. Not in exactly the same way, perhaps--pilots will now be on alert for this mistake during similar situations--but in another challenging situation under slightly different circumstances.

Popular Mechanics has published the full transcript of the pilots' conversation and confusion during the last few minutes of the flight. They have also interspersed the comments with details about what was happening at the time.

The account is riveting. And, obviously, terrifying.

Flying through ash clouds. (With Video)

The Airborn Volcanic Object Imaging Detector may help airlines avoid ash clouds

So far the device has only been tested on smaller aircraft

Imagine that the next time a volcano erupts in Iceland, the airlines are able to treat it as though it was no more than a simple weather hazard, like fog.

Scientists working on an ash cloud detection system believe that airlines will soon be able to do just that.

Volcanic ash and jet engines simply don't mix. The superheated particles turn to glass inside the engine and stop it dead.

So, those who manage the airspace above us go to great lengths to keep aircraft well away from the ash clouds that form during an eruption.


We saw the results of that in May last year following the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano. The drifting ash led to the closure of much of Europe's airspace over the course of the week.

According to International Air Transport Association more than ten million passengers were affected when more than a hundred thousand flights were cancelled, over the course of about a week.

It cost the airlines $1.7bn(£1.06bn).

Its hardly surprising then that they've been scrambling to find a way to minimise any disruption from the next eruption (and there will be a next eruption).
Air corridors

Easyjet has been funding research by Dr Fred Prata from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU).

He's developed a device called AVOID (Airborn Volcanic Object Imaging Detector) which uses an infra-red camera to see how dense particular areas of ash are.

With an AVOID device fitted onto a plane, Dr Prata believes a pilot could see ash clouds between 100 and 300 kilometres ahead and at altitudes up to 50,000 feet.

The AVOID device can measure the density of the ash cloud too, finding air corridors between different layers of ash.

"This device can be used in a tactical sense to let the pilot see the hazard and fly safely around it," says Dr Prata.

Ash clumps

He adds that data from a network of planes equipped with AVOID could be combined with meteorological data from the SEVIRI satellite to create a map of where an ash cloud is going and what parts of it would be safe to fly through.

Easyjet's head of engineering, Ian Davis is working closely with Dr Prata.

He said existing models of ash dispersal assume that its evenly distributed throughout the atmosphere but their research shows that it actually "travels in clumps".

AVOID would let a pilots "see those clumps and avoid those clumps," said Mr Davis.

If this technology had been available last year "most of…the airspace that we saw closed during the last two eruptions would never have been closed".

Volcanic testing

A propeller plane So far the device has only been tested on smaller aircraft

Dr Prata and his team have put an AVOID unit under the wing of a microlight aircraft which they have been flying over Europe's most active volcano, Mt Etna in Sicily.

They've taken the aircraft up to 12,000 feet and are now in talks with Airbus to fit a specially built unit onto the wingtip of an A340 jet for high altitude tests early next year.

Easyjet expects to fit a unit onto one of its own passenger planes next summer and will make it available to all other airlines too.

And its not before time, as the authorities in Iceland warn of intense seismic activity at another volcano - Katla, which may suggest that another eruption is on the way.

Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport: Survey will address business, leisure air travel

The Brainerd Lakes Chamber on Thursday announced the launching of a survey on Brainerd lakes area air travel. The intent of the survey to illustrate to regional air carriers the community use — by both business and leisure travelers — of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.

Proponents of the survey said it may potentially lead to increased air service options and better quality service.
Steve Mau, chair of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber Board, described air travel as an essential cog for area businesses.

“It’s important that we have both reliability and frequent air service,” Mau said.

The Brainerd airport has invested considerable dollars in remodeling its terminal and extending runways.
“We’ve positioned ourselves for somebody (an air carrier) who’s interested in being a prime candidate for this area,” he said.

The link to the survey is Those who click on the link will find information about the purpose of the survey. It is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Office of Aeronautics in cooperation with Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp., Brainerd Lakes Chamber and the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. The survey will be used in the development of a community profile regarding air service use and needs.

Questions address air travel use — past and projected future, preferences for selecting air travel origination location and reliance on consistent, dependable commercial air service.

Beth Pfingsten, chair of the airport commission, said the panel supports the survey effort and encourages people to complete to help officials plan for air service for the future.

“We want to meet those needs for the community,” Pfingsten said.

Officials are asking people to complete the survey by Dec. 23.

7 Kingfisher & 6 Air India bank accounts frozen

The airlines defaulted on paying service tax, Rs 70 crore and Rs 100 crore respectively, even though they collected it from customers

The so-named emperors of the Indian skies have fallen on more of the cold hard times, as the service tax department has frozen the bank accounts of both Air India and Kingfisher Airlines. While the loss-making national carrier owes the department approximately Rs 100 crore, Vijay Mallya's airline owes approximately Rs 70 crore. This effectively means that while both the companies collected the service tax on the air tickets they sold from their customers, they did not deposit it with the department.

Sushil Solanki, commissioner, service tax, Mumbai confirmed the action and said, "We have initiated action against both the airline companies for non-payment of service tax under section 87 of the Finance Act 1994 (see box) and have frozen 6 bank accounts of Air India and 7 Kingfisher accounts in the last five days. Also specific instructions have been given to the respective banks to ensure that no withdrawal transactions are allowed in any of the two airlines' accounts, until after getting a clearance from the department."

'They had the time'
According to Solanki, the action was taken after giving sufficient time and intimation to both the carriers for making the payment within a stipulated time period, but they failed nonetheless.

Interestingly, Kingfisher's account has been frozen twice in the last month alone. Solanki said that the airlines' bank accounts were first frozen for two days in the first week of November, 2011 and it was only after getting an assurance from Kingfisher officials that they would deposit the due amount in three installments that the service tax department lifted its order.

"As per the agreed terms between Kingfisher and the service tax department, the airline was to deposit a sum of Rs 10 crore before November 30, as part of the first installment, and the balance was to be cleared in two equal installments in the following two months (December and January 2012). But Kingfisher failed to deposit the first installment and hence the department initiated the action by freezing the bank accounts," said Solanki.

Fliers taxed
In response to the query if their action could paralyse the day-to-day functioning of the two airlines, Solanki said, "The airline companies have already charged service tax to the customers on both their domestic and international sectors. As per our records, Kingfisher owes us the sum for the period between April and September and Air India owe us for the period between April and August, this year. Usually, airlines charge Rs 155 per ticket on their domestic sector towards service tax and Rs 773 on international journeys in economy class."

This is not the first time such an action has been taken by the department. "Even earlier, we froze bank accounts of some security and courier companies for non-payment of service tax," said another senior officer from the department.

Rulebook says
Section 87 of Finance Act 1994 states: Where any amount payable by a person to the credit of the Central Government under any of the provisions of this Chapter or of the rules made thereunder is not paid, the Central Excise Officer shall proceed to recover the amount by one or more of the modes as mentioned in the said section.

The other side
Attempts to contact Air India Chief Managing Director Rohit Nandan did not yield any result.
Union Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi told MiD DAY, "I am not aware of this. So far, I haven't got any report. I will ask my secretary to get the details tomorrow (Thursday)."

An email sent to Kingfisher Airlines spokesperson remained unanswered at the time of going to press. When contacted, A K Ravi Nedungadi, president and CFO, UB Group, also a director in Kingfisher Airlines said, "I do not want to comment."

The service tax department is a major revenue generator for the Union Finance Ministry. Last year, it had collected approximate Rs 75,000 crore from all across the country, wherein the major contributor to the central exchequer was from Mumbai service tax commissioner-1 (island city) who had collected last year Rs 19,000 crore. The target for this fiscal for the country is Rs 90,000 crore and for Mumbai-1, it is Rs 25,000 crore for island city and Rs 6000 crore for Commissioner -2 (suburbs).

Rs 100 crore
is what Air India owes the service tax department

Rs 70 crore
is what Kingfisher Airlines owes the department

Rs 75,000 cr
revenue generated from service tax last year all across the country

Rs 19,000 cr
was collected from the Mumbai-1, or the island city, in service tax

Runway closed at Portland International Airport after F-15 fighter jet blows tire during landing

A runway is closed at Portland International Airport after a F-15 fighter jet blew a tire while landing.

Crews are cleaning up tire debris but commercial air traffic hasn't been affected, said Kama Simonds, a spokeswoman for the Port of Portland. No injuries were reported.

The 142nd Fighter Wing of the Oregon National Guard is taking part in F-15 night-flying exercises this week, the Oregon Military Department said. They began Monday and will last until Thursday.

Karad airstrip may get a runway soon

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan may be able to take a regular flight to Karad in the not-so-distant future, with the government all set to convert the present airstrip there into a proper 2B runway to handle midsize aircraft.

At present, the airstrip can only handle small charter aircraft which must operate in the daytime.

Sources said the government official said the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had submitted its technical feasibility report to the Maharashtra Airports Development Company for examination which in turn handed it over to the government for a final nod.

There is little doubt that the cabinet will approve the airport and provide the necessary funds for it, but the move will require the acquisition of adjoining land that may pose a tricky issue.

Early last month, some farmers from Karad had met the CM and objected to the plans for the airstrip’s expansion, saying it would mean the taking over 400 hectares of irrigated farmland.

Grass is greener for pilot in forced landing

Pilot Bob Grimstead made an emergency landing at The Links Kennedy Bay.
Picture: Neil Mulligan

A LIGHT plane was forced to make an emergency landing on the driving range at a Port Kennedy golf club yesterday after its engine cut out during acrobatics.

The Links Kennedy Bay trainee golf professional Michael Cunman said there was no warning of the emergency, with the plane circling overhead before landing without incident on the driving range about 12pm.

“One person was using the driving range at the time and was a bit shocked, as were some people in the car park,” he said.

“There was no noise; I didn’t hear the plane in the shop.”

The plane was a Fournier RF-4D with a 1200cc Volkswagen engine.

Pilot Bob Grimstead (43) said he was doing acrobatics above the sea and Long Point, and during a roll, the engine stalled.

Mr Grimstead said he tried to restart it with no luck and radioed a mayday before choosing the golf course as the only clear area of land nearby on which to land.

Mr Cunman said the pilot was “perfectly fine” when he got out of the plane and there was no damage to the plane or the driving range.

The pilot was the only person on board.

A spokesman for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said they would not investigate the incident.

A Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman said the body would review the incident from a regulatory point of view.

Russia dubbed world's most dangerous country for air travel

With nine air tragedies in 2011 alone, Russia now ranks as one of the most dangerous counties for air passengers in the world.

This is according to a survey taken by Ascend, a London aviation consultancy, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The UK specialists say that in 2011, Russia’s airlines performed worse than those of Congo and Indonesia – developing countries facing regular safety issues. 

Russian airlines claim that Soviet-era equipment is the main reason behind the numerous crashes, and the aviation specialists point out that many companies try to save money by giving old planes longer careers than they should, despite evident safety troubles. There is also a trend to cut corners on safety, as complying with international safety standards costs much more than Russia’s regular air carrier is able to spend.

Eight of Russia's nine crashes in 2011 involved Soviet-era planes. And in November 2011, four Russian carriers were banned from crossing the European Union’s borders. The ban will last until the companies’ service “meets European standards” – including safety standards. 

A new light on the situation was shed by recent investigations into high-profile plane crashes, such as the one of Yak-42 passenger jet carrying an ice hockey team. 

As it turned out, the blood of the plane’s second pilot contained a medication banned during flight operation, Phenobarbital, which slows down the central nervous system. The investigating commission also said the crew erroneously applied the brakes before takeoff – the conclusion being that the pilots did not have sufficient training flying that type of aircraft. 

It is also alleged that a drunken crew member was behind the June crash of the RusAir Tupolev Tu-134 passenger plane that killed 47 of the 52 people on board.

“Seventy per cent of air crashes that took place in 2010 were connected with the so-called human factor – I mean, pilot errors,” Ilya Vasberg, editor-in-chief of Aviasoyuz Magazine, told RT. “In recent years the quality of education in this sphere has dropped. I am not talking about teachers alone, I also mean the quality of training aircrafts. Russia’s air infrastructure is also very poor. Remember the Petrozavodsk crash in June? The airport of Petrozavodsk wasn’t prepared to receive the plane.”

Russia’s aviation chiefs say they acknowledge the problems and are ready to fight them. In the most recent turn of events, the authorities have closed a range of small airline carriers, most likely to assure passenger safety. In addition, most Soviet-built planes will be completely banned from flying. 

As part of the effort to fight alcoholism among pilots, it is planned to equip all planes with breathalyzers, and to adopt new laws punishing drunken pilots and other crew with prison sentences. Any member of staff who breaks the rules could also be blacklisted from future flights.

Air carriers doubt, however, that the issue could be solved by blacklisting “bad” crew members, as there is currently a huge shortage of pilots. Instead of catching wrongdoers, airlines suggest reducing the amount of training pilots have to undergo before being given a license. They also want non-residents to be allowed to work as pilots, and for the country to allocate more money for pilot training.

Aviation experts also point out that equipping every single plane with breathalyzers would be far too expensive, and thus ineffective. Professional testers could cost around $1,500 each.

The authorities may also allow foreign airlines to operate domestic services within the country, the Vedomosti newspaper reports. The Ministry of Transportation is currently preparing to allow Czech Airlines and Air Baltic to provide transport for teams belonging to Russia's national ice hockey league, which could be the first step towards an Open Skies policy.

Eurocopter AS350, N37SH: Accident occurred December 07, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada

NTSB Identification: DCA12MA020
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Wednesday, December 07, 2011 in Las Vegas, NV
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/20/2013
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER FRANCE AS350B2, registration: N37SH
Injuries: 5 Fatal.

NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The Safety Board’s full report is available at The Aircraft Accident Report number is NTSB/AAR-13/01.

On December 7, 2011, about 1630 Pacific standard time, a Sundance Helicopters, Inc., Eurocopter AS350-B2 helicopter, N37SH, operating as a “Twilight tour” sightseeing trip, crashed in mountainous terrain about 14 miles east of Las Vegas, Nevada. The pilot and four passengers were killed, and the helicopter was destroyed by impact forces and postimpact fire. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Sundance as a scheduled air tour flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135. Visual meteorological conditions with good visibility and dusk light prevailed at the time of the accident, and the flight operated under visual flight rules. The helicopter originated from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada, about 1621 with an intended route of flight to the Hoover Dam area and return to the airport. The helicopter was not equipped, and was not required to be equipped, with any on board recording devices.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
Sundance Helicopters’ inadequate maintenance of the helicopter, including (1) the improper reuse of a degraded self-locking nut, (2) the improper or lack of installation of a split pin, and (3) inadequate postmaintenance inspections, which resulted in the in-flight separation of the servo control input rod from the fore/aft servo and rendered the helicopter uncontrollable. Contributing to the improper or lack of installation of the split pin was the mechanic’s fatigue and the lack of clearly delineated maintenance task steps to follow. Contributing to the inadequate postmaintenance inspection was the inspector’s fatigue and the lack of clearly delineated inspection steps to follow.

NTSB Identification: DCA12MA020 
 Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Wednesday, December 07, 2011 in Las Vegas, NV
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER FRANCE AS350B2, registration: N37SH
Injuries: 5 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 7, 2011 at 1630 Pacific Standard Time, a Eurocopter AS350-B2, registration N37SH, operated by Sundance Helicopters as flight Landmark 57, crashed in mountainous terrain approximately 14 miles east of Las Vegas, Nevada. The 14 CFR Part 135 flight was a tourist sightseeing flight, which departed from Las Vegas McCarren International Airport (LAS), Las Vegas, NV, intending to fly to the Hoover Dam area and return to LAS, operating under visual flight rules. The helicopter impacted in a narrow ravine in mountainous terrain between the city of Henderson and Lake Mead. The pilot and four passengers were fatally injured, and the helicopter was substantially damaged by impact forces and post-crash fire. Weather was reported as clear with good visibility and dusk light conditions.

Radar data obtained from the FAA show that the helicopter departed LAS and followed a normal route of flight easterly out of the LAS airport traffic area, then turned to the southeast toward Hoover Dam. Tour routings are standardized for all the area tour operators. The helicopter was level at 3,500 feet mean sea level (MSL) at approximately 120 knots. About one minute prior to the accident, the radar indicated the helicopter climbed to 4,100 feet MSL and turned about 90 degrees to the left. The left turn and climb are not part of the normal route. Radar then indicated the helicopter descended to 3,300 feet MSL and tracked a northeasterly course for about 20 seconds, until entering a left turn then a descent. The last radar target received was about 1/8 miles from the accident site.

Update: The National Park Service says every person who was on board the helicopter that crashed near Lake Mead, four passengers and a pilot, has perished.

A spokesperson with Sundance Helicopters tells FOX5 the helicopter was taking a tour of Hoover Dam and heading back.

A spokesperson from the FAA, Ian Gregor, tells FOX5 the downed helicopter is believed to be an Aerospatiale AS350 and that the crash occurred around 5 p.m. It's still unknown what brought the aircraft down. The FAA and NTSB will investigate.

Police say a number of people reported seeing smoke in an area south of Callville Marina. Pilots reported seeing smoke and what appears to be wreckage in the area. The crash site is in a ravine, making access by emergency crews difficult.
A helicopter crash has killed a pilot and four passengers on a tour of the Las Vegas Strip and Hoover Dam.

National Park Service spokesman Andrew Munoz said Wednesday that the aircraft operated by Sundance Helicopters crashed into the River Mountains surrounding Lake Mead just before 5 p.m.

A security guard from the national recreation area heard the crash and reported seeing smoke about 4 miles west of the lake's edge.

Munoz says everyone on board was killed.

The crash site about 30 miles from the Las Vegas Strip is not accessible by road.

A September 2003 crash of a Sundance Helicopters flight killed its pilot and six passengers in Arizona. Unsafe flying procedures and misjudgment were cited as the probable cause of that crash.


LAS VEGAS (AP) — A sunset helicopter tour of the Las Vegas Strip and the Hoover Dam on Wednesday may have ended in a fiery crash near Lake Mead.

Las Vegas police were investigating a helicopter crash near Callville Bay, about 30 miles from the Las Vegas Strip. Police spokesman Bill Cassell said the aircraft went down just before 5 p.m.

A spokesman for Sundance Helicopters told The Associated Press that a helicopter giving a local tour had gone missing and was likely the aircraft involved in the crash. The company based at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas was trying to confirm how many passengers were booked on the tour.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said several witnesses reported smoke and what appeared to be wreckage in the area where police were investigating.

Gregor said police were having troubling reaching the crash site because it's in a ravine.

The tour helicopter that was missing was an Aerospatiale AS350, which can hold up to six passengers and are often used for air tours. The spokesman for the helicopter company, who declined to give his name, said the tour was not full. He declined to answer further questions.

Sundance Helicopters' website promotes only one local tour that flies over Lake Mead. The 30-minute "Twilight City Tour" spans downtown Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam and the Las Vegas Strip. Packages start at $210 per person.

"Fly in a state of the art luxury air-conditioned 6 passenger jet helicopter," the website says.

Man with gun arrested at Indy airport

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - A Fishers man was arrested early Wednesday morning after police say he tried to carry a firearm through a checkpoint at the Indianapolis International Airport.

According to a police report, Brad Kendall was taken into custody after airport screeners found the weapon and a loaded magazine in a backpack just before 5 a.m.

The man told officers he forgot to remove the weapon from his backpack

Kendall faces a charge of carrying the .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol without a license. He is also charged with possession of a weapon within an airport.

Both charges are misdemeanors.

Ribbon cut at new Toccoa-Stephens airport terminal

TOCCOA, Ga. — Community leaders gathered Tuesday at the Toccoa-Stephens County Airport for a ribbon cutting to open a new terminal.

John Taylor, chairman of the Toccoa-Stephens County Airport Authority, said the day was a long time coming.

“The airport authority has worked diligently over the years to help develop this airport into what it is today and there are a lot of people we need to give appreciation to for all of the work they have done out here,” said Taylor.

Toccoa Vice Mayor David Austin said it was a great day for the city and county.

“I know in the past 12 years I have been on the commission, we have been looking at plans and talking about this thing and it goes back even further than that,” said Austin. “In looking at the plans, I am amazed at how much better this looks than I could have ever imagined. It is just glorious.”

Stephens County Commission Chairman J.B. Hudgins agreed and credited the volunteers for their work at the airport over the years.

“When I started coming to this airport in the mid 1940s, it did not look like this,” said Hudgins. “We had a hangar and a strip. That is about it, so there are big changes happening and it has been due to the volunteers that have led us.”

Georgia Adjutant General Jim Butterworth said the new terminal will help with economic development.

“The main point is build it and they will come,” Butterworth said. “You have built it. You had the vision to put a place where you can greet people who will bring industry to this area.”

Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce Chairman Barry Roberts shared that opinion.

“If you bring people through here, prospective clients, business clients, visitors, they are going to be impressed,” he said. “This is a beautiful place to be.”

Ground was broken in March for the terminal, which has about 6,000 square feet.

At the time of the groundbreaking, officials estimated that the total project cost was expected to be $1.5 million, with the building itself costing about $1.1 million. Some of the funding for the project came from a $500,000 OneGeorgia Grant. The rest of the money came from money from a special purpose sales tax.

Woman brings loaded gun to airport. Arrested after TSA found loaded pistol in purse

AUSTIN (KXAN) - A woman was arrested on Tuesday for bringing a loaded gun to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Sandra Billingsley was trying to go through security at ABIA when the TSA security agent made the discovery.

Inside the purse was a small pistol with six rounds of ammunition.

She is charged with a third-degree felony for bringing a weapon into a place where it is prohibited.

Customs collapse sparks airport emergency

A passenger rushed to help resuscitate an elderly man who collapsed from a cardiac arrest at Melbourne Airport after customs officials made little effort to help him, according to one witness.

The man, in his 60s, was holding a walking stick while waiting in a queue at the Australian border when he fell to the floor, according to fellow passenger, HP account director Michael Paul.

“I was about halfway down the line but we all noticed because there was an almighty thump and the guy just hit (the ground) head first like a plank on the ground,” Mr Paul said.

He said two customs officials stood over the man for about two minutes and sent others to erect a screen around the man's body. One official rang an alarm bell and brought out a small first-aid kit.

But a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection said staff acted immediately.

"Customs and Border Protection officers provided immediate first aid assistance to the gentleman, and within minutes another passenger identified himself as a doctor and assisted in administering CPR, which included the use of a defibrillator machine," the spokesperson said.

"The Airport Coordination Centre was called immediately and CPR continued until the paramedics arrived eight minutes after the gentlemen collapsed."

Mr Paul said that when he offered to give the man CPR he was pushed back and told that he was still breathing. He said it took about half an hour for paramedics to arrive.

“He had a big gash on his cheek where he hit the ground, his eyes were like little pinpricks, he was glazed over, it didn't look like he was breathing,” said Mr Paul.

“He'd obviously had a pretty massive heart attack; he was unconscious.”

Two more Customs officials arrived to keep the queue moving.

Four minutes after the man collapsed, another passenger in the queue pushed past Customs officials and began administering CPR by holding the man's nose and breathing into his mouth. One of the officials helped him by pushing onto the man's chest.

“They had no idea what they were doing and I guess that was the most frightening thing for me, the Customs people had no idea what they were doing. There were no oxygen masks,” Mr Paul said.

An Ambulance Victoria spokesman said paramedics arrived at the scene just after 8am and took the man to Royal Melbourne Hospital, where he is now in a stable condition.

‘‘Customs and Border Protection has officers trained in first aid at the airport, including in the use of a defibrillator, and administer first aid to travellers as necessary. The airport operator coordinates the attendance by the aviation paramedics who provide onsite first response until an ambulance arrives,’’ the spokesperson for the agency said.

Aviation Partners Addresses Airbus Lawsuit

Attribute the following statement to Joe Clark, founder and chief executive officer, Aviation Partners Inc.

SEATTLE, Dec. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Joe Clark, founder and CEO of Aviation Partners, said today that "We are certainly surprised by the lawsuit attempting to invalidate our patent on Blended Winglets after working closely with Airbus over the past five years. We have had many meetings with their engineering group and top executives, both in America and Europe.

"We have built and flown patented Blended Winglets on the Airbus A320 in Toulouse. We have flown them on one of JetBlue's A320s using JetBlue flight crews with excellent results achieved - a 5 percent fuel savings - all of this with the cooperation of Airbus.

"What I can tell you is that we will vigorously protect our patented technology and intellectual property, which is currently saving the world billions of gallons of fuel on Boeing, Dassault, Hawker, and Gulfstream airplanes.

"This is all about efficiency. We want to get our Blended Winglet technology on as many airplanes as possible to save as much fuel as possible. We are just trying to do our part in a changing world."

Aviation Partners, Inc.

Seattle, Washington based Aviation Partners, Inc. (API) is the world leader in advanced Winglet technology. API's patented Performance Enhancing Blended Winglets have been designed and certified for a number of commercial and business aircraft; applications include Boeing, Dassault, Hawker, and Gulfstream airframes. More than 4,800 in-service aircraft have saved and estimated 2.9 billion gallons of fuel. In addition to the 5 - 7 percent improvement in fuel burn, Blended Winglets have reduced global CO2 emissions by more than 31 million tons. Additional airframe programs are in development for existing Blended Winglet technology, and future Winglet designs will lead to greater incremental improvements in performance, fuel savings and emissions reductions.

SOURCE Aviation Partners Inc.

Why Was Alec Baldwin Flying Commercial, Anyway?

About Alec Baldwin getting kicked off of an airline: What was such a huge star doing flying commercial in the first place?

Most celebrities fly neither private nor commercial, but rather sail forth on the power of their own beautiful, bouyant fabulousness.

As for what Alec Baldwin was doing playing Words With Friends on an American flight, here's what I can tell you:

It's more common than you might think. (The flying commercial part, not the Words With Friends part, though other celebrities have been kicked off of planes for refusing to turn off their phones, including Josh Duhamel.)

I spoke with Drei Donnelly, president of the Association of Celebrity Personal Assistants.

She says that who flies how depends on the success of the star.

"I know that the A-list always flies private, particularly for short runs" or domestic flights, she tells this B!tch. (Like who? Think Johnny Depp, Brangelina of course, and Lenny Kravitz types.)

In fact, Donnelly says, "lots of times, those flights are a part of their movie contracts."

Of course there are also stars who fly themselves around, such as John Travolta.

But sometimes, even for a big star, flying commercial just makes more sense.

"Some people don't like" flying private," Donnelly dishes. "My boss actually flies private domestically and commercially overseas."


Think of it this way, she tells me: "It's the difference between a renting a house and renting a room in a hotel. The commercial flight is full service, it's comfortable, you can walk around. "Sometimes you don't want to hassle with hiring your own crew; you just want to stay in a hotel."

As for exactly what happened, I have a good guess:

We know Baldwin was in Los Angeles to receive an award from People For the American Way. If the charity paid his way—and they tend to do that for celebrities traveling at their behest—they probably couldn't afford to accommodate Baldwin on a private jet!

Double-decker jet to fly to Houston

A mammoth double-deck jet scheduled to begin flying in and out of Houston next summer will require more than $30 million in upgrades at Bush Intercontinental Airport and should boost passenger traffic.

German carrier Lufthansa announced Wednesday that it will begin flying the Airbus A380 - the world's largest commercial airplane, with 526 passenger seats - on daily flights to and from Frankfurt beginning Aug. 1. The plane will replace the 747-400 currently used on those flights, increasing capacity by 63 percent per trip.

"It's like you're flying two aircraft with one, in a way," Lufthansa spokeswoman Christina Semmel said.

The airline said the new plane will benefit energy-related business travel by increasing capacity to Frankfurt, where Lufthansa has connections to more than 35 other energy centers.

At Bush, which will be the first Texas airport to host the A380, enthusiastic officials said renovations are already under way to prepare for the jet that is 79 feet tall with a wingspan stretching more than 261 feet, or most of the length of a football field.

Director Mario Diaz said the Houston Airport System will spend $8 million to widen runway and taxiway shoulders so the new plane's outer engines will blow exhaust over asphalt instead of grass; $7.5 million to add loading bridges at the gate to accommodate an upper deck and an extended lower deck; and $15  million to $20 million to improve the interior appearance throughout Terminal D in anticipation of more first-class and international passengers.

Waiver from FAA

Diaz said Bush has received a temporary waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration to handle the largest class of jets, including the A380, and it will spend another $30 million to $40 million to upgrade the remaining runways to secure full FAA clearance.

He said larger passenger loads are expected to add $20 million to $30 million to the local economy each year in the form of new jobs catering to the travelers and increased revenue from parking and on-site concessions.

Lufthansa, which began using the A380 in June 2010 for flights to Tokyo, now has eight of the aircraft in operation, including flights to Miami. Beginning in the spring, the airline will restart A380 service to San Francisco and New York's Kennedy Airport. Houston will be the fourth U.S. city served by the plane through Lufthansa.

Elsewhere, Semmel said, the A380 has attracted more passengers per flight while costing about the same to operate because of improved fuel efficiency.

'Ooh-ah' factor

Allan Tamm, an airline consultant and president of Oregon-based Avicor Aviation, agreed that the plane should boost traffic at Bush, at least initially. Some business travelers could change their itineraries to take advantage of the A380's more spacious cabin, even if that would require an overnight stay in Houston. Plus, even tourists could be lured by the chance to ride a brand-new plane branded the biggest in the world.

"Part of it is an 'ooh-ah' factor," Tamm said. "Plus, it's a very comfortable aircraft."

Lufthansa has configured the A380s with eight first-class and 98 business-class seats on the upper deck and 420 economy-class seats.

But airports hoping to land an A380 have had to make a number of expensive improvements, from hardening runways to increasing staff to handle the influx of suddenly larger groups of passengers.

Anthony Sabino, a law professor at St. John's University School of Law in New York who follows the airline industry, compared the situation to the time decades ago when jumbo jets such as the 747 arrived on the scene.

Tamm said the A380 has had a good safety and reliability record over the course of its short history.

He said that wherever super-wide-bodies are in use, airports must increase the spacing between them and smaller planes both in physical space on the taxiways and in the time between takeoffs, since the larger planes tend to create more turbulence in their wake that could affect smaller planes taking off behind them.

In April, an A380 operated by Air France clipped a commuter jet on a rainy runway at Kennedy Airport. No one was injured.

Diaz said Bush is configured differently than Kennedy and officials here are working out final details of protocols related to the A380.

"You can be sure it will be a safe operation," he said.

Melbourne Airport poised to spread its wings

MELBOURNE Airport is set to expand, with plans to build a $300 million passenger terminal and improve freeway access.

Just days after Sydney Airport announced plans to shuffle airlines between existing terminals by 2019, Melbourne is gearing up to have a new interconnected domestic terminal running by mid-2014.

Melbourne's new Terminal Four building will be built to the south of the existing T3 building used by Virgin Australia.

The development is designed to maintain a key advantage over Sydney Airport by having all terminals connected under one roof, allowing easy movement between airlines for domestic and international flights. The Melbourne redevelopment will include a new multi-level car park, widened roads, new baggage facilities and several extra plane gates.

Melbourne Airport's chief executive, Chris Woodruff, said consultation with airlines, freight and transport companies and the Commonwealth government would start early next year, and was expected to take about nine months.

''We can't say which airline or airlines will be using the new terminal, as those discussions are still to be had with the airlines,'' he said.

The new terminal would focus on the potential growth in the low-cost carrier market. Jetstar and Tiger would seem the likely candidates. This would see Qantas expand into the whole of T1, international airlines in T2, Virgin Australia in T3 and Jetstar and Tiger Airways in T4.

The existing T4, a rudimentary and separate shelter used by Tiger Airways, will simply be bulldozed.

The areas now used for freight services and aircraft parking will have to move further south to make way for the new passenger terminal.

The new terminal's connection to the main building will also allow for the physical expansion and revamp of T3.

''The expansion will take into account the anticipated growth of Virgin Australia as their business grows,'' Mr Woodruff said.

Facilities in T3 will be updated to suit Virgin's new image.

The redevelopment of T3 in turn allows for the internal expansion of T2 to cater for expected growth in international services.

Mr Woodruff said the airport was keen to see another hotel built near the new T4, although it was not specifically part of the scope of the 2014 redevelopment.

The new terminal will be built to handle 10 million passengers a year, almost the same number using Perth Airport, and twice the number passing through the Gold Coast.

''We're spending $1 billion on infrastructure to cater for our growth,'' Mr Woodruff said.

Also by 2014, the new terminal will be supported by extension of APAC Drive, which now ends in a cul-de-sac, for better access to the front of the terminal.

Mercer Drive, now the access road for the business park from the Tullamarine Freeway, will be widened to become the main entrance road to the airport grounds.

Work is progressing on an elevated two-lane overpass exit of the freeway for traffic heading to the city, to ease the bottlenecks and congestion of Centre Road, Terminal Drive and Melrose Drive in the airport precinct.

The $26 million exit ramp, soaring over the long-term car park and all lanes of the freeway, merging before Mickelham Road, is expected to be completed by June.

The airport's master plan, developed in 2008 and revised last year, shows provision for an airport train that enters via Airport Drive and delivers passengers directly to the international terminal, T2.

Mr Woodruff is an enthusiastic proponent of the rail link.

The masterplan also shows the location of two more runways crisscrossing the far side of the air traffic services precinct, to cater for expected increases in aircraft traffic over the next two decades.

'Ransom on the runway' airline files for bankruptcy. (With Video)

Passengers en route from India to the UK claim airline staff forced them to pay $31,000 or their plane would not leave the tarmac in Vienna.

A tiny Austrian airline that allegedly last month forced passengers into a whip-round in order to complete their journey from India to Birmingham filed for bankruptcy yesterday.

Comtel-Air, majority-owned by Indian businessman Bhupinder Kandra, has debts of 1.2 million euros ($A1.5 million) and also faces damages claims for delayed and cancelled flights, the Austrian creditors' protection agency KSV said.

"The fate of the company is currently uncertain. If no investor is found soon, then the firm will ... have to be closed down very soon," KSV said.

More than 180 passengers on a chartered Comtel Air flight from Amritsar in north India were stranded on the tarmac in Vienna last month during a refuelling stop after being told the airline "ran out of cash to fund the last leg of the trip".

Passengers said the airline threatened to remove their luggage from the plane if they did not pay the £20,000 ($31,200).

The passengers, who reportedly paid about £500 ($780) each for their flight, refused to get off the plane in a six-hour stand-off.

The dispute was finally resolved when Austrian police were called and the passengers were escorted to ATMs to draw money.

The airline denied passengers were asked to pay for the fuel, but in a video filmed by a passenger on board they can be heard getting told "if you want to get to Birmingham, you have to pay"

Engineer spent workdays at movies, bars, and Air Force paid for it

Aersopace Corp. pays $2.5 million to settle Justice Department allegations that it defrauded the Air Force for several years by billing for former employee William Grayson Hunter's time when it knew he was rarely at work.

By Stuart Pfeifer and W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times

December 7, 2011

Few aerospace employees had it as good as William Grayson Hunter.

He was paid simultaneously to work full time at two aerospace firms but rarely went to work, instead spending his days at bars, amusement parks and movie theaters, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

One of his employers, Aerospace Corp. in El Segundo, paid $2.5 million last week to settle Justice Department allegations that the company defrauded the Air Force for several years by billing for Hunter's time when it knew he was rarely at work, the U.S. attorney's office said Tuesday.

Hunter would occasionally show up at Aerospace in the morning and work for an hour before heading to his second job at Analytical Services & Materials Inc. — or out to have some fun, Assistant U.S. Atty. Howard Daniels said.

One of his favorite stops was Liquid Zoo, a windowless hole in the wall on Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys, Daniels said.

In some instances, Hunter billed his two employers for more than 24 hours of work in a single day, Daniels said. He allegedly ran the scheme from 2003 until 2008.

Hunter died in August 2010 of natural causes while under criminal investigation, Daniels said. He was 56.

In addition to submitting fraudulent time cards, Hunter falsely claimed to hold a doctorate from Oxford University in England when he had only a high school education, Daniels said.

Aerospace released a statement that said it had been duped by its former employee and had taken steps to make sure that it wouldn't happen again. The company said it discovered the fraud in 2008 when a third company inquired about Hunter's security clearance.

"This person was hired before we had sophisticated methods to verify international degrees," Aerospace spokeswoman Pamela Keeton said in a statement. "He failed to disclose his other employment as required.

"In committing both of these acts, he broke the trust we place in our employees. Nothing in our culture condones this type of behavior."

Keeton also said the position that Hunter held "gave him a lot of autonomy and discretion. Unfortunately, he abused this privilege."

Hunter had a base salary of $137,000 during his final year at Aerospace, where he worked as a software engineer, Daniels said. His salary at Analytical Services & Materials was not available. Daniels declined to say whether that company was also under investigation.

The fraud was discovered by a third employer, Tybrin Corp., which reported it to NASA's inspector general, Daniels said. Tybrin had planned to employ Hunter under a contract with NASA when it uncovered problems in his background.

Hunter had received "mixed reviews" from supervisors, Daniels said.

"Some of his superiors thought his work was very poor," the prosecutor said. "He had very poor writing skills. But there were some people who thought his technical knowledge was up to snuff."

Federal investigators reviewed Hunter's credit card bills, which revealed that he had been spending his time at the Van Nuys bar, enjoying trips to Disneyland and watching new releases at movie theaters such as Laemmle Fallbrook 7 in West Hills, Daniels said.

"I've been doing this a long time and this is the first time I've seen this kind of fraud," Daniels said. "He was pretty unique."

Aerospace was culpable because it knew that Hunter was not working the hours he submitted on his time card, Daniels said. The company profited from its employment of Hunter because it billed the government a higher hourly rate than it paid him, Daniels said.

"They were well aware of his time card fraud," Daniels said. "The reason we're recovering money from them is they didn't do anything about it."

Aerospace, which gets most of its funding from the Pentagon, oversees many of the nation's most classified programs, including the development of multibillion-dollar spy satellites and the rockets that lift them into space.

It has a sprawling 41-acre campus in of low-rise office buildings in El Segundo, where thousands of scientists and Air Force officers toil in secrecy.

The firm also provides consultation and advice to both the government and the defense industry on how to best develop spacecraft. In all, about 90% of its budget comes from military and intelligence contracts. The rest comes from civilian government agencies such as NASA.

Despite proposed cutbacks in Pentagon spending, Aerospace's budget increased to about $900 million in fiscal 2011.

Top Australian Defence Force Academy graduates off to flying start

Four years after beginning her scholarship with the Australian Defence Force Academy, Singapore Air Force air combat officer Rouyin Ye flies home today, carrying a University Medal with her.

During a degree conferring ceremony yesterday, Lieutenant Ye and engineering graduate Ben Faulkner were awarded University Medals for their outstanding academic achievement at ADFA .

University of NSW Chancellor David Gonski presented degrees to 899 undergraduate and postgraduate students, including midshipmen and officer cadets of the Australian Defence Force.

Lieutenant Ye was left no time for pondering life beyond studies, as she flies out today and returns to work as a flight aircraft controller in the Singapore Air Force on Monday.

The experience of undertaking a Bachelor of Arts in Geography has whetted her appetite for further study and she is already considering international relations, with a mind to being promoted into a defence policy role.

Lieutenant Ye's First Class Honours research project investigated the mobility requirements and challenges of military families.

She said she developed a capacity for critical thinking which would enhance her military skills.

Flying Officer Faulkner specialised in electrical engineering and undertook his First Class Honours research on the School of Engineering's telescope where he used software coding to integrate electronic components into a commercial astronomy software package.

A permanent member of the Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Officer Faulkner has been posted to RAAF Base Tindal, near Katherine in the Northern Territory.

Having moved to Canberra from Mullumbimby to study at ADFA, he said he was looking forward to taking his wife and baby to a warmer climate.

While he too could see himself undertaking further study down the track, Flying Officer Faulkner said he was looking forward to getting back to serving in the air force.

He was grateful for the chance to study at ADFA, which pays servicemen and women to undertake their degrees. ''It is a very unique benefit and one we are all grateful for,'' he said.

Guest speakers at yesterday's ceremony included Lieutenant-General (retired) Henry John Coates, former Chief of the General Staff at the Department of Defence and currently a Visiting Fellow at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of UNSW, Canberra. Lieutenant-General Coates was himself awarded a UNSW Honorary Doctorate.

Karen McFadzen, vice-president of Cisco Technical Services, Asia-Pacific, Japan and Greater China, and an ADFA graduate, also addressed students. Ms McFadzen is a graduate of the Australian Defence Force Academy and Royal Military College.

Spy drone may provide little intelligence to Iran

WASHINGTON — The Iranian capture of a high-tech, stealth U.S. drone shines a light on the American spying mission there, but probably doesn't tell Tehran much that it didn't already know, a senior U.S. official said.  The RQ-170 Sentinel was providing surveillance over Iran and didn't just accidentally wander away from the Afghanistan border region, as first suggested. The official said Wednesday that the Iranians will no doubt be able to tell where the aircraft flew. A bigger U.S. concern, the official said, was that the Iranians are likely to share or sell whatever they have recovered of the aircraft to the Chinese, Russians or others. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the mission.

Experts and officials acknowledge that there is no self-destruct mechanism on the Sentinels — which are used both by the military and the CIA for classified surveillance and intelligence gathering missions.  Iranian state radio reported Wednesday that the drone was deep inside Iran's airspace, flying over an eastern town famous for Persian carpets and saffron when it was detected by Iranian forces over the eastern town of Kashmar, about 140 miles from the Afghan border. The radio report said the craft was downed by Iranian armed forces.

It did not speculate as to why the drone flew over that town.  The radio added that Iran will soon broadcast video footage of the downed drone.  U.S. officials said that while they have enough information to confirm that Iran does have the wreckage, they said they are not sure what the Iranians will be able to glean technologically from what they found. It is unlikely that Iran would be able to recover any surveillance data from the aircraft.

Iran first reported the downing on Sunday but did not say when the incident happened. At the time, the official IRNA news agency said Iran's armed forces had shot it down — a claim later rejected by U.S. officials who said the drone crashed over the weekend but that there was no indication it had been shot down.

Still, U.S. officials said that the U.S. employs a range of capabilities to gather information about Iran, particularly its nuclear program. As a result, officials said this type of mission is probably no surprise to Tehran and therefore is not seen by the U.S. as a diplomatic tipping point.  Meanwhile, U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss classified information, have said the drone and other stealth craft like it have spied on Iran for years from a U.S. air base in Afghanistan, and other bases in the region.

According to these officials, the U.S. built up the air base in Shindand, Afghanistan, with an eye to keeping a long-term presence there to launch surveillance missions and even special operations missions into Iran if deemed necessary in the future. Such continued use would be predicated on a security arrangement with the government of Afghanistan, after U.S. troops draw down, the officials said.   At this point, while the U.S. has broad contingency plans to put a small special operations team into Iran if needed in the future, U.S. officials said they believe the president has not sanctioned any such action. Multiple officials said there is little appetite for putting U.S. troops in harm's way inside Iran, such as the Navy SEALs' lightning raid into Pakistan earlier this year to target Osama bin Laden.

The Sentinel drone has been used in Afghanistan for several years. It gained notoriety earlier this year when officials disclosed that one was used to keep watch bin Laden's compound in Pakistan as the raid that killed him was taking place.  On Wednesday, Iran's hardline Kayhan daily newspaper quoted an unnamed military expert as saying Iranian forces did not shoot down the drone. The expert, though, said the Iranian military is capable of bringing it down in such a way that the "body of the plane and its parts remain intact."

Another conservative daily, Mellat, said Iran may transfer intelligence from the drone to regional allies Syria and Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group.  Iran confirmed for the first time in 2005 that the U.S. has been flying surveillance drones over its airspace to spy on its nuclear and military facilities.

In January, Tehran said two pilotless spy planes shot down over its airspace were operated by the U.S., and in July, media said Iranian military officials showed Russian experts several U.S. drones reportedly shot down in recent years.  Faced with international sanctions over its controversial nuclear program, Iran has been trying to build up its own military technology.

It unveiled its first domestically built unmanned bomber in 2010, calling the aircraft an "ambassador of death" to Iran's enemies. Two year earlier, Tehran announced it had built an unmanned aircraft with a range of more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers), far enough to reach Israel.  Both Israel and the United States have not ruled out a military option against Iran's nuclear facilities, which the West suspects aim to make atomic weapons — a charge Iran denies.