Friday, February 01, 2013

Federal Aviation Administration safety violations at New York's airports

NEW YORK (WABC) -- There are more safety problems for New York's three major airports. 

They've had problems on their runways for years. You'd think those safety issues would have been resolved. 

They haven't.

So the most dangerous part of your flight at LaGuardia, JFK, or Newark may be on the runway. 

When FAA inspectors performed their last annual safety audits at the three major airports, they found them to be out of compliance.

The Port Authority says the violations were minor and have been fixed. 

But pilots who rely on runway lights and signs for safe movement might see things differently.
They are among the nation's busiest airports. That's why runway maintenance is critical to their safe operations. 

But FAA Inspection reports Eyewitness News has obtained show JFK, Newark and LaGuardia Airports have among the highest number of safety deficiencies. 

LaGuardia had 15 violations, followed by JFK with 19. Inspectors found 23 safety problems at Newark. 

Among the violations were taxiway markings that are "barely visible at night" or are ''improperly located" and runway lights that "were OTS", out-of-service.

"Under anyone of those circumstances, I would stop my aircraft and ask for guidelines from ground control," said J.P. Tristani, a former airline pilot.

A commercial airline pilot for 35 years says the poor runway maintenance could create dangerous confusion for a pilot.

"Because of the signage, improper striping, improper lighting, all of those things are a distraction to a pilot," Tristani said.

At JFK, inspectors found numerous problems with training records for "aircraft rescue and firefighting" operations. 

At LaGuardia, problems with ''wildlife management'' brought a violation for allowing "conditions creating a hazard attractant", meaning birds which in 2009, caused Flight 1549 out of LaGuardia to make an emergency crash landing in the Hudson.

"LaGuardia is not an airport you want to hear about wildlife," Tristani said.

Three years ago, an Eyewitness News investigation uncovered nearly identical runway maintenance problems at the three airports. 

Undercover video from that report shows a major JFK taxiway with lights out of service for more than a quarter mile. The latest inspections show little has changed.

"This has become repetitive. The FAA needs to be firm. You're looking at an airport shutdown if you don't correct these problems," Tristani said.

The Port Authority insists the safety deficiencies are "minor" and have all been corrected. 

But the same annual FAA inspection at Chicago's O'Hare Airport found zero deficiencies.

Central Nebraska Regional (KGRI), Grand Island, Nebraska: Airport proposes Florida flights


It's a popular destination spot that may soon be a lot easier to get to. The Central Nebraska Regional Airport in Grand Island is hoping to add direct flights to Florida.

They're asking airlines to submit a proposal for flying to the Sunshine State.

The airport is looking for airlines that will offer twice a week flights by December 1st.

Airport Director Mike Olson says the airport has been gaining momentum recently, and they'd like to keep building on that.

They currently offer flights to Las Vegas, Phoenix and Dallas.

Airlines have until March 6th to submit a proposal.

Story and Video:

Memphis area air service task force hires consultant

A Washington consultant that helped Pittsburgh, Portland and others woo airlines has been selected to craft a community-supported push for better service in Memphis.

The Mid-South Air Service Task Force, formed by area mayors and business executives last fall, chose aviation economics consultant Campbell-Hill Aviation Group LLC for an $85,000 study.

The firm was one of two that responded to a request for proposals in January. Campbell-Hill won out over InterVistas, a consultancy that crafted the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority's current $1 million incentive program.

Campbell-Hill co-founder Brian Campbell advised Memphis Mayor A C Wharton on aviation issues last summer at the suggestion of FedEx founder Frederick W. Smith.

Campbell briefed Wharton and regional mayors in July about the dire situation facing Memphis air travelers after years of declining service at Memphis International Airport. The airport has suffered a 51 percent reduction in capacity and a 60 percent reduction in daily flights since a peak of 285 daily departures in 2000.

At the task force's introduction, Campbell stood before assembled news media outside City Hall and recited the difficulties of a small market like Memphis supporting a hub and the conventional industry wisdom, unpopular among many Memphians, that low fares and well-connected hub service rarely go hand in hand.

Wharton convened the mayors at a time when public anger was boiling over about Memphis hub operator Delta Air Line's repeated cuts of flights serving the city, while the city remained one of the highest-fare airports in the country.

The mayors have since coalesced into a task force and been joined by leading business people. The request for proposals is part of their effort to organize and put forward a comprehensive, regionwide strategy for gaining and supporting more flights and lower fares.

The consultant will recommend feasible courses of action that the Memphis region can take "to close the gap between existing air service and the demands of local public and private sector customers at fares that more closely align to national averages."

Campbell-Hill will engage the business community through regional chambers of commerce and survey businesses about unmet air service needs and the businesses' willingness to help provide incentives to airlines bringing in new service. It will support the task force in setting realistic expectations for air service in the current environment and offering a variety of strategies that can be pursued.

The firm has done similar business surveys for U.S. airports including Austin, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Baltimore-Washington International and Kansas City. Other current clients are Portland, Reno, Oakland, San Diego, Milwaukee, and recent clients include Atlanta, Richmond and Spokane.

The firm says it helped secure key service at Pittsburgh, San Diego, Austin, Portland and Milwaukee.

A public-private partnership came together in Pittsburgh to subsidize a Pittsburgh-Paris nonstop, which has was reduced to seasonal after the subsidies ended. Campbell-Hill also worked with a regional group to win new international services in Portland, including a nonstop to Japan.

Campbell-Hill was chosen by the task force's executive steering committee.

It consists of Wharton, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and mayors Chip Johnson of Hernando, Larry Bryant of Forrest City and Chuck Cariker of Tunica, along with private sector's Gary Shorb, Methodist; Paul Karre, International Paper; Clint Hermes, St. Jude; Robert Gordon, Baptist; and Chris Richards, FedEx.

Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis and Shelby County president Reid Dulberger, Greater Memphis Chamber president John Moore and airport president Larry Cox also serve on the task force. EDGE provided seed money for the feasibility study and serves as the group's fiscal agent.

InterVistas created an air service incentive program that has yet to bear fruit for the airport authority. Under Federal Aviation Administration rules, airport-funded incentives have to be carefully targeted so that they are open to all carriers.


10 terrible airline pilots we hope to never fly with

With all the job pressures and uncertainty in the airline industry, it’s a wonder more pilots don’t run afoul of the law the way Klobjorn Jarle Kristiansen did last week. The 48-year-old American Eagle pilot showed up to work drunk, was suspended and faces both prosecution and the loss of his job. While a commercial plane has never crashed due to drunk flying, there are plenty of instances where pilots have misbehaved throughout history – some of them almost hilariously. Here, a look back at some very memorable misfeasance.

Read more here:

Allegiant Air passengers upset after being left on McGhee Tyson tarmac for 3 hours

ALCOA (WATE) - Passengers on an Allegiant Air flight to Lexington, Ky. want answers after their plane was diverted Thursday night to Knoxville. The passengers were kept on the plane on the tarmac for three hours with conflicting answers.

Passengers say they were headed from Orlando to Lexington when the plane was diverted to McGhee Tyson Airport.

"They turned around and re-routed us to Knoxville," said Doug Yazell. "We landed, sat on the tarmac for three hours, and about every 25-30 minutes they were waiting for a weather report, fuel, we would be taking off shortly, that sort of thing."

The unhappy passengers say they were left on the plane from 9 p.m. to midnight without any food and were given little water.

"No one was telling us anything," Nira Combs-Fiala said. "The kept telling us we're going to refuel and we're going to leave, we're going to refuel and we're going to leave. But it never happened."

The passengers were finally allowed to get off the plane and go into the airport, but were unable to get their bags or any information on the situation for another hour.

Eventually passengers were put up in a hotel and told to book new flights Friday morning. The passengers were given hotel vouchers, but had to find their own way there.

Some passengers said crew members told them on the plane the plane was diverted due to a mechanical issue, but then officials with Allegiant Air told them it was due to the weather.

Allegiant Air manager told 6 News the problem was a weather issue.

No one from Allegiant's headquarters has returned a call for comment.


Alaska Airlines flight lands safely after pilot loses consciousness

A flight from Los Angeles to Seattle was diverted to Portland late Thursday after one of the pilots lost consciousness.

Alaska Airlines said Flight 473's first officer flew the Boeing 737-700 to Portland International Airport after the captain became ill over Oregon.

The plane landed safely at 9:05 p.m. local time (12:05 a.m. ET Friday) and paramedics took the pilot to the hospital, airline spokesman Paul McElroy said.

The Seattle Times reported that a doctor on board was able to tend to the captain at the front of the plane.

There were 116 passengers and five crew members on the flight, which had been due to arrive in Seattle at 9:30 p.m. local time (12.30 a.m. ET).

The captain has been flying with Alaska Airlines for 28 years, while the first officer has been with the airline 11 years, McElroy said.

NBC station KING5 said it was not known what caused the pilot to pass out.

About 20 passengers were re-accommodated on other flights to Seattle, while the rest took a flight scheduled to land in Seattle at 1:15 a.m. local time Friday (4:15 a.m. ET).

Hit & Run at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Building

Winds send noisy jets over Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

Noisy jet airplanes have been flying over Jamaica Plain in recent weeks due to re-routing caused by strong winds at Logan Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

David Boyajian, a resident of Sheridan Street in Hyde Square, is among the JPers complaining about the roaring passenger jets in recent weeks. The Gazette has noticed the planes booming low overhead as well.

“It’s gotten progressively annoying,” he said in an email to the Gazette, adding he has heard the planes for months as early as 5 a.m.

“It’s the wind and weather,” said FAA spokesperson Jim Peters, confirming an increase in planes over JP. “When [the plane traffic] will abate depends on the weather.”

The planes are usually taking off from Logan’s Runway 27, which is used for safety reasons when there are strong westerly winds. Prior to Runway 27’s opening about six years ago, it was the subject of a massive political battle by JP and other Boston neighborhoods because of the noisy planes that would be routed over residential areas.

JP residents Anastasia and Will Lyman headed the local airplane-noise protests at that time. Anastasia Lyman told the Gazette last week that the recent overflights are definitely from Runway 27. She said that Massport flight-tracking information shows that about 70 percent of the Runway 27 flights are going over a “noise abatement corridor” of green space with few residents, including Franklin Park and Forest Hills Cemetery in JP.

Will Lyman remains the JP representative on the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee. He was out of town and unavailable for comment.


Flight detours after woman ‘flips out’


SAN DIEGO – A flight to San Diego made an emergency detour Thursday to Denver after a passenger “flipped out,” according to a fellow passenger. 

Passengers took pictures and video of the woman getting escorted off the detoured flight.

The woman became increasing angry after another passenger moved into an open seat that had extra leg room, said Melissa Carrion, who was sitting in a nearby aisle seat.  The woman allegedly paid an extra $65 to get the upgraded seat and was upset that the other passenger was sitting there with no penalty.

“She flipped out and started yelling at him and the passenger that took the seat,” Carrion said. “She was pissed because he had not originally paid to sit there.”

The JetBlue flight 185 from JFK International Airport in New York City was expected to land in San Diego at 8:10 p.m.  The aircraft was detoured to Denver International Airport where it landed at 7:15 p.m.

“The flight attendants tried their best, but she was out of control and was escorted off the plane,” Carrion said.

Local law enforcement officers escorted the woman off of the plane in Denver.

Passengers and the crew reboarded the plane and were expected to land in San Diego at 10:40 p.m.

Story and Video:

Independence Municipal Airport (KIIB), Iowa: Extended runway brings more jets

Mechanic Abigail Heidenreich affixes the fairing on the airplane during a annual check at the Independence Airport Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, in Independence, Iowa. 
(MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor)

Erik Mondt troubleshoots a oil pressure light at the Independence Airport Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, in Independence, Iowa. 
(MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor)

INDEPENDENCE, Iowa --- Recent improvements have been paying off for the Independence Municipal Airport.

“We just redid everything at the airport. Essentially everything is new here,” said Jonathan Walter of Walter Aviation, which took over as the fixed base operator for the airport in July. Before the switch, Walter had worked for the former FBO.

Beginning in 2006, the airport, which goes by the FAA call letters KIIB, embarked on an expansion project.

It extended its runway from 4,000 feet to 5,500 feet and added a new full-length parallel taxiway.

“Once you’re over the 5,000-foot threshold, you can get more jet traffic,” Walter said. “A lot of the private jets that fly around typically, if it’s less that 5,000 feet, you start restricting who can come in and out of your airport.”

He said the added length has meant an increase in jets.

The airport also upgraded its instrument approaches, which help planes to land in bad weather.

The old system used an A.M. radio signal to broadcast the runway’s location, and planes’ instruments would show an arrow pointing the way through the clouds.

Walter said the outdated A.M. approach wasn’t very accurate and has been replaced with a new GPS-based system.

“With the upgrades, we added a GPS approach to each end of the runway, so no matter which way you come in to land, you have a GPS-guided approach that’s very precise and brings the aircraft down to about 300 feet of the ground,” Walter said.

“That’s very critical for the jet traffic because they are going pretty fast, and the people they are bringing in want to do business today, not tomorrow when the weather is better,” he said.

Other projects have included a new terminal building with public lobby, phone for pilots and a weather information system to plan for flights.

Walter’s company sells aviation fuel and offers other services for pilots and hosts flying lessons for aspiring pilots.

These improvements, which were completed in 2009, bumped KIIB up into the enhanced services airport classification, one step under commercial service ports like Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Dubuque.

The Independence Municipal Airport is the only enhanced stop in Northeast Iowa.

Walter said the status is a bonus for economic development in Buchanan County because businesses often look at airport facilities when they consider setting up in a community.

Daily traffic at the airport can range from one or to operations to up to 60 on a busy day.

He said the flights are split between lessons, local pilots, business visits and medical flights taking patients to other states for treatment.

Story and Photo Gallery:

Greater Binghamton Airport (KBGM), Johnson City, New York: Tier weather has its ups, downs, slippery surfaces


 “We’ll be back into the cold for a while, at least through next week,” said David Morford, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service at Greater Binghamton Airport.

Story, photos, video:

'Gamesmanship' Afoot in Asbestos Case, Judge Says

Court House News

     (CN) - A federal judge said he smelled "gamesmanship" in the distance that a century-old aircraft manufacturer put between itself and an asbestos lawsuit.

     Asbestos-related diseases may have a latency period of 40 to 50 years, making it difficult for the newly diagnosed to pinpoint liability.

     The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred about 12,000 asbestos products liability cases to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 1991.

     In one such case, Shirley Spychalla sued more than two dozen corporations for negligence, strict liability and wrongful death arising out of her the asbestos exposure suffered by her late husband, Leonard Spychalla.

     The defendants include Avco Corp., Boeing Aerospace Operations Inc., Cessna Aircraft Co., General Electric Co., Goodrich Corp., Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., Michelin North America Inc., Shell Chemical Co., Goodyear and Medicare.

     Spychalla informed the court, however, that Cessna had failed to adequately answer or object to her eight-point request for admissions.

     U.S. Magistrate Judge David Strawbridge partially granted the motion on Friday, directing Cessna to answer whether it bought a McCauley Propeller company in 1960, and which company it bought specifically that year if there are multiple possibilities.

     "We note that McCauley Propeller Systems' website clearly provides that 'McCauley was purchased by Cessna Aircraft Co. in 1960 and remains a division of Cessna today,'" Strawbridge wrote. "Cessna's refusal to answer request to admit 1 smells of gamesmanship."

     Though the court found that Spychalla has provided sufficient evidence that her husband was possibly exposed to Cessna's asbestos-containing products, it declined to fault Cessna at this juncture as to the other seven points.

     "Cessna contended that it could not responsibly admit, deny, or assert that, after reasonable inquiry, it had insufficient knowledge to admit or deny requests to admit 2 through 8, until it had searched its records to determine" several issues, Strawbridge wrote.

     But the judge reminded the company that its answers neither require it to uncover all relevant records, nor produce those records.

     "We also remind the parties that any admissions by Cessna 'cannot be used against the party in any other proceeding,' and that, to the extent Cessna does not admit a request, it has a good faith obligation ... to deny it 'specifically' and to 'fairly respond to the substance of the matter,'" Strawbridge wrote. "Further, if Cessna believes it can neither admit nor deny a request, it must 'state in detail why [it] cannot truthfully' do so after 'it has made reasonable inquiry.'"

     Strawbridge was sympathetic but not convinced of the burden a search of this nature will affect Cessna.

     "Cessna has not yet convincingly demonstrated that such a thorough search is necessary, or if so, the extent of the burden," the ruling states. "Cessna's counsel was able to provide specific information regarding how some of the earliest sales records were kept, to the extent that they still existed, but claimed not to have had the time to investigate the status of later records. Thus, we defer ruling on requests to admit 2 through 8 until Cessna provides a detailed declaration describing its burden in having to answer the requests. After receiving this declaration, we will weigh its contents against the benefit of the responses to plaintiff in determining whether to grant or deny the remainder of the motion."

     Cessna must admit the first point and give a declaration on the others by Feb. 1