Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gary/Chicago International Airport (KGYY), Gary, Indiana: Possible tower closing has Allegiant looking at options

Allegiant airline will undertake a seasonal suspension of flights from Gary/Chicago International Airport to Orlando/Sanford International Airport from April 15 to June 5.

The hiatus will be similar to the six week suspension of Gary flights that took place from Sept. 6 to Oct. 18. The airline at that time imposed flight suspensions at about half its airports because of low seasonal demand.

Reservations still can be made at the airline's website for flights before and after the spring suspension.

Allegiant airline will make decisions on a "case-by-case basis" on whether to keep flying to airports such as Gary/Chicago International, where control towers may close because of federal sequestration budget cuts.

"There are many factors at play, and we will make operations decisions on a case-by-case basis that are in the best interest of safety, above all else," Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said in an email to The Times.

Allegiant currently operates at a small number of airports without control towers. At the same time, it has found it has had to cease operations in the past at some that lack towers, Wheeler said.

Gary Interim Director Steve Landry told the Airport Authority on Monday if the federal budget cuts kick in Friday, the control tower will close while the airport will remain open. He said he could not predict if closing the tower would keep any planes away.

Gary is currently the only airport in Northwest Indiana with its own control tower, which closes from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day.

Planes continue to land at the Gary airport even when the tower is closed, using procedures in place for landing without it and maintaining contact with air traffic control centers in the Chicago region as they approach, said Gary Jet Center owner Wil Davis.

"Life does not stop when there is no one in the tower," Davis said. "Would we miss it? Definitely."

The Federal Aviation Administration has released a list of more than 200 control towers it is considering closing if the sequester kicks in, which includes Gary and five other Indiana airports. The agency has not said it will definitely close them.

Allegiant flies from Gary to Orlando/Sanford International Airport on Sundays and Thursdays, with departure both days at 10:05 a.m.

Allegiant CEO Maury Gallagher told the business publication Vegas Inc last year that Allegiant pulled out of Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport in Colorado because of growing safety concerns related to the fact the airport did not have a tower.

Although Allegiant serves some small airports without control towers, Gallagher pointed out the skies around Fort Collins-Loveland airport were filled with enough general aviation planes that it was a safety concern for the airline.


Diamond Aircraft: Sales slump makes investors scarce, CEO says

By Norman DeBono, The London Free Press

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 8:40:16 EST PM

Diamond Aircraft needs $77 million to fund its D-Jet program and is trying to raise the money as aircraft sales slump, the company’s chief executive said Wednesday.

Until Diamond can raise the cash, the maker of small piston-powered planes at London International Airport will scale back operations and its ambitious new D-Jet program will be idled, Peter Maurer said.

“It’s very difficult to certify any aircraft and bring it to market, but that is something we are capable of. It’s frustrating.

“We started this (D-Jet program) when the economy was strong and sales were up, but since 2008 it has been difficult. Our timing is not good.”

On Monday, Diamond laid off 160 workers — Maurer corrected earlier reports of 200 cuts — while more than 50 remain on the job at the company’s plant on Crumlin Sideroad, he said.

Maurer also said the announced sale of Diamond to Medrar Financial Group out of Dubai in 2011 was not finalized even though an agreement in principle was reached, leaving Diamond without a major financial backer other than its shareholders and the Dries family in Austria who own Diamond.

Though Diamond sold 150 aircraft last year, only about 70 were from the London plant, with the balance sold from its Austrian head office and a plant in China, Maurer said.

As for sales this year, “to be honest the order board is weak. Overall sales are down,” leading to the layoff.

But the slump is global, with only 880 piston-powered planes sold last year compared with 2,700 in 2006.

“The market is about a third of what it was five years ago, and we have held our market share,” Maurer said.

Diamond needs new backers as the Dries family has invested $150 million in the D-Jet project alone, and more in Diamond Aircraft in total, and other sources of money are needed, he said.

“I’m told they are not in a position to send money over here. By now they were hoping to find new investors.”

As for whether Diamond can raise the cash needed, “it won’t be easy, but I am not giving up, so there is hope,” Maurer said.

His greatest concern is losing skilled workers who are tough to find in the aerospace sector, especially those who can work in composite materials used in Diamond aircraft.

“We will be trying to build up that intellectual capital again. We brought a lot of them here, that was good for our community.”

Maurer remains upbeat, saying the company has 200 orders for the D-Jet, a personal single engine jet that seats five and would cost about $1.5 million.

“There is long-term potential, but there’s no question sales from the piston planes cannot support it.”

Maurer sent a letter Wednesday to Diamond owners and operators, saying the plant is still operating and that though its D-Jet is suspended, it will still produce three styles of piston aircraft, supply parts for all models, and offer customer support, maintenance and sales.

“These developments will not impact our ability to meet our ongoing commitments,” stated the letter.

“We have retained the personnel required to continue our operations.”

As for whether the maker of two- and four-seat propeller aircraft that have been sold as trainers for the U.S. Air Force will survive, it’s too early to say, Maurer said.

“There has been lot of speculation about that for 10 years. We went through it in 2000 and then in 2011.”


The financial woes of London’s aircraft manufacturer were raised in the Ontario legislature Wednesday as NDP Leader Andrea Horwath grilled the Liberal government over funding to Diamond Aircraft.

Diamond received $10 million from the Ontario government in 2009, and long-term job guarantees should have come with the cash, Horwath said.

“We have seen time and again companies get investment, and we see them leave town.”

In 2009 Diamond also received $19.6 million from Ottawa.

Diamond met and exceeded all the job requirements that money came with, bringing workers here, including engineers from Europe, said Peter Maurer, Diamond chief executive.

“The government got more than their money’s worth.”

But to lay off workers four years later is not good enough, Horwath said.

In 2011, Diamond needed $90 million to keep its D-Jet program alive. The company asked the federal and provincial governments for $35 million each. Ottawa said no, and the Ontario government would not go it alone.

Diamond did raise $20 million from shareholders, but needs $77 million to keep the D-Jet program alive, Maurer said.


No insurance for most Hongkongers killed in Egypt hot-air balloon disaster: Compensation will be limited to a humanitarian payment to fly their bodies back to Hong Kong

Six balloon crash victims had bought travel insurance from China Merchants Insurance that did not cover them for compensation, except for a "humanitarian" payment of the expenses to bring their bodies home.

Company general manager Simon Chan Kwan said aerial activity was excluded from the insurance coverage and that it was so stated in the policy document.

"The policy does not cover balloon activity but we will assist and pay to transport the bodies back home on humanitarian grounds," he said.

Through travel agent Kuoni, three of the nine victims bought insurance from Generali, which covered ballooning. The rest bought it from China Merchants, through an agent known as Union Faith.

According to the website of Union Faith, travellers are asked to pay attention to activities not covered by the policy.

These included air travel other than as passengers on a properly licensed, power-driven aircraft. While this excluded hot-air balloons, parachuting was included.

A spokesman for Union Faith declined to comment.

"We just act as an agent for China Merchants," he said.

It was not known whether the agent had explained the terms of the policy clearly to the victims.

A 10-day insurance package offered by the company costs HK$107 to HK$226, depending on the level of compensation. It can be bought online. The lack of insurance coverage for the six led some to wonder if balloon operator Sky Cruise had any insurance coverage for passengers.

Kuoni said yesterday it was still trying to gather information on this.

The agency earlier said the insurance package offered by Generali included a maximum payout of HK$500,000 for accidental death.

It also covered expenses for transporting bodies home, as well as discretionary compensation of up to HK$50,000.

Industry experts said insurance companies had increasingly started to include dangerous activities in their travel insurance but that families would have to examine their specific policy to determine the scope of the coverage and the level of compensation.

Insurance sector lawmaker Chan Kin-por said it was common for travel insurance companies to add a clause excluding aerial activities. If that was the case, the families of the six victims might be left without compensation, he said.

"Aerial activities such as parachuting, bungee jumping, and water sports like scuba-diving are commonly excluded, unless stated otherwise."

Buchanan Field Airport (KCCR), Concord, California: Reports of a plane crash turns out to be a false alarm

Concord Police are searching for a downed plane after several reports came in about a plane crash near Buchanan Field in Concord at about 3:30pm.

As of 3:37pm, no plane has been found.

A Concord Police Officer saw a plane that was having engine trouble, but they believe it landed safely at Buchanan Field. 

A witness says she saw a plane “sputted & tilt”, and then saw smoke. 

Another witness thought they also saw an aircraft go down.

The airport tower says they have no planes missing, and cannot see any smoke or debris from their location.

UPDATE, 3:49pm:   Nothing has been found. Authorities believe the plane ended up landing safely.  The smoke the witness saw is apparently coming from an asphalt plant in the area of the airport.

Future of some Myrtle Beach flights up in the air as automatic budget cuts loom

Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013
By Dawn Bryant

MYRTLE BEACH -- The future is up in the air for some flights from Myrtle Beach as airlines wait to see how the Federal Aviation Administration responds to the U.S. budget cuts that are likely to kick in Friday.

Two airlines that serve Myrtle Beach, Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air, are working through how the potential closing of control towers in cities they fly to from Myrtle Beach might effect that service, though Spirit says its flights will continue regardless.

Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach, which caters to private and corporate aircraft, also is on a list of potential airports where its control towers might be closed if Congress doesn’t stem the $85 billion in automatic cuts.

But the closing of control towers doesn’t mean the airports automatically shut down or the flights are canceled. Other nearby control towers could pick up that work.

“I don’t think [passengers] should panic,” said Kirk Lovell, spokesman for Horry County Airports, which runs Myrtle Beach International Airport and Grand Strand Airport.

Spirit says its flights from Myrtle Beach International to Latrobe, Pa., and Niagara Falls, N.Y., will continue even if the FAA closes those control towers, which is one of the options to cut $600 million the FAA outlined late last week. Allegiant is still evaluating how the cuts might affect its flights from Myrtle Beach to Youngstown, Ohio, and Huntington, W.Va.

“If the towers are closed down, we will evaluate our flights on a case by case basis,” Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said. “Any change in our operations and we will contact our customers immediately. We don’t want to make any quick judgments. Certainly we are going to evaluate all of our options.”

But none of the cuts are definite. The FAA outlined several options for trimming its budget, including furloughing employees, eliminating midnight shifts at 60 towers and closing 100 control towers across the country -- warning that flights in major cities such as New York could experience 90-minute delays in peak times if the cuts take place. The proposed cuts by the FAA are among those from U.S. departments that have been rolled out as the Friday deadline for Congress to act on the automatic budget cuts nears.

“All of these changes will be finalized as to scope and details through collaborative discussions with our users and our unions,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Michael Huerta, FAA Administrator, said in a letter to aviation groups last week.

For now, the airlines are just waiting to see what the FAA ends up having to do.

“While we wait to see the full impact, if any, of government spending cuts which may close certain air traffic control towers, Spirit is planning to operate a normal schedule at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe,” Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson said in an email. “As always, the safety of our customers and crews is our top priority. Spirit is already authorized by the FAA to operate at [Latrobe] and [Niagara Falls, N.Y.] when the control tower is closed. As such, the airline follows FAA-approved procedures to ensure safe operations without a control tower.”

Any potential changes to flights likely wouldn’t be immediate. The FAA would have to give the airports 30 days notice before a control tower closes, Lovell said. The letter from LaHood and Huerta said that facility shut downs and furloughs would begin in April.

Even if the FAA shuts down the control tower at Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach, it would be business as usual for pilots, Lovell said after meeting with local FAA officials Wednesday. Pilots could still fly in and out, but would be given a new control tower to contact, Lovell said.

“It’s really a non-issue,” he said. “Nothing changes for anybody out there. The airport stays open and operates like it always does.”

Read more here:

Are These Model Airplanes? Most U.S. Flights Are on Smaller Jets; Tight Squeezes and 'the Right Amount of Misery'

February 27, 2013, 7:22 p.m. ET 

The Wall Street Journal

People are feeling the frustration of living in RJ Nation.

The small regional jets once loved because they replaced rickety, noisy, slow turboprops have multiplied into the majority of domestic airline flights in the U.S., and are now seen as some of the least desirable airplanes. Travelers accustomed to riding in a full-size jet instead find themselves on planes with tighter seating, lower ceilings and fewer amenities for flights as long as four hours.

Regional-jet service has grown over the last 10 years to be the backbone of much of domestic air travel, even if it is impossible to stand up straight in the bathroom. Passenger traffic on "RJs"—small jets with 30 to 90 seats—has more than tripled since 2000, according to Department of Transportation data. Passenger traffic on mainline jets, planes from major carriers with 100 seats or more, is up just 10%, with international flying accounting for a good chunk of that increase. RJs are logging longer flights, too. The average flight distance has grown 50% over the last decade, according to the Regional Airline Association.

Airlines like the small jets so much because they can efficiently match demand with seat capacity and avoid flying empty seats. Small jets allow nonstop flights in small markets and fill schedules with lots of flights on busier routes. Historically, business travelers have gravitated to the carrier with the most options for convenient scheduling. In addition, it's cheaper for airlines to outsource small-jet service to regional airlines with lower-paid pilots, flight attendants, ground workers and managers.

At United Airlines, regional jets with 50 seats or fewer don't offer the same perks as other United trips—no first-class seats or hot meals, no "Economy Plus" extra-legroom rows in coach. But they sometimes fly routes of nearly four hours from as far west as Oklahoma to Newark, N.J., offering "a nonstop option to those people to go to New York without connecting in some Midwest hub," said Brian Znotins, a United vice president who oversees the airline's route planning. "We just design our network to what passengers want to fly.''

And it isn't just small towns relying on the small jets. Regional airlines fly 64% of the takeoffs and landings at Chicago's O'Hare International, 74% at Seattle-Tacoma and 52% at New York's LaGuardia Airport. They also suffer from being so ubiquitous at big airports: Regional airlines have some of the worst on-time and baggage-handling records among airlines and highest rates of canceled flights. When bad weather forces airlines to thin flight schedules, regional airlines get whacked first because carriers would rather used limited landing slots for larger airplanes with more people.

Least favored by travelers are the smallest varieties of regional jet. Still, the 50-seat jet, which is less fuel-efficient per-seat than bigger regional jets, remains the backbone of regional airline service and 43% of the entire regional airline fleet, according to RAA.

 Bob Cortelyou, senior vice president of network planning at Delta Air Lines says that since the turboprop-replacement honeymoon in the 1990s, travelers have grown to want more. Bigger regional jets like 70- and 90-seaters have first-class cabins and extra legroom rows, but not the 50-seaters.

Over the next few years Delta will stop using hundreds of 50-seat jets. Delta has also limited 50-seat flights to trips no longer than 700 miles, or under two hours.

In place of the 50-seat jets, Delta will use larger planes: 100-seat jets that it is leasing from Southwest Airlines and additional new 90-seat Bombardier CRJ900 jets with more spacious cabins and first-class seating. The airline has already returned mainline flights to some communities such as Augusta, Ga., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Roanoke, Va., after serving those communities with only regional carrier flights for 15 years. In some cases, Delta is reducing the number of flights per day but increasing the size of the plane, bucking conventional airline wisdom that held business travelers preferred schedules with very frequent flights.

"Frequent fliers would rather get on a mainline aircraft than a 50-seat plane," said Delta's Mr. Cortelyou.

American Airlines and United Airlines both have recently negotiated new contracts with pilots that allow use of greater numbers of 70-seat and 90-seat jets flown by regional-airline partners, likely trading out 50-seat jets.

Still, regional airlines say without small jets, many communities wouldn't have air service or would have fewer options. Some say they've moved to standardize service with their mainline partners, who hire them to fly routes and bring connecting passengers into hubs. Their flights also have some benefits: no middle seats, for example, and faster boarding and deplaning with fewer passengers.

More than half of the top 15 airports in the U.S. are majority regional-airline flights. "That says to me that's the perfect airplane to serve those markets,'' RAA President Roger Cohen said.

The safety record of regional airlines has improved: Between 2008 and 2012, there was only one fatal crash involving a regional airline in the U.S., while over the previous five years there were eight fatal regional accidents.

The one recent crash, which killed 50 people near Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009, triggered a congressional mandate to increase minimum training and experience of airline pilots. Over the last 10 years, major U.S. passenger airlines have had just one fatal accident, a Southwest Boeing 737 that ran off a runway in Chicago in 2005 during a snowstorm, killing a 6-year-old boy in an automobile.

To really see the impact of regional airlines these days, just fly the longest flight in miles on a regional jet in the U.S. That's a 1,501-mile United flight between Austin, Texas and San Francisco, which takes about four hours going west into the wind. United hires SkyWest Airlines flying a Bombardier CRJ700 with 66 seats and a 6-foot-tall cabin that's a few inches taller than Bombardier's original 50-seat CRJ.

On a recent trip, passengers scooted sideways down a 16-inch aisle, some slumped over so their shoulders didn't hit the small overhead bins and their heads didn't scrape the ceiling. A 6-foot-tall man couldn't possibly stand up straight in the one lavatory in the back.

Leila Bulling Towne, an executive management coach, was happy to be on a nonstop flight home from a business meeting in Austin and liked the RJ practice of checking and retrieving carry-on bags at the jet-bridge, since regular roll-aboard bags don't fit in purse-sized overhead bins.

But overall, "this plane is not really made for four-hour flights. We're crossing many regions, so it's not really a regional jet," she said. "I'm 5-foot-2 and it feels cramped.''

Austin musician David Utterback goes to San Francisco a couple of times a year and started flying United exclusively because of the nonstop RJ flights. "I used to have to go through Denver or Dallas,'' Mr. Utterback said. "I just like to get on and get off.''

Russell Huffman, a tech company sales vice president on the flight, joked that airlines have "done a good job figuring out the right amount of misery people will put up with."

Mr. Huffman paid to upgrade to first class on United's CRJ700 on his flight to Austin. He said he wouldn't pay for first on an RJ again. "I got a snack box and free booze. There was no Wi-Fi, no amenities at all," he said. "I think beyond two hours is getting to be too long for those planes."


Davenport Municipal Airport (KDVN), Iowa

CBS4 - WHBF Quad Cities, IL-IA News Weather Sports 

Some headaches for QC travelers Tuesday. Numerous flights out of the Quad Cities Airport were canceled today and hundreds more in Chicago. 

So who makes the decision on cancellations?

The Davenport Airport Manager says it's up to airlines and private pilots to make the call. But there are extreme cases where airports just can't handle the weather.

It's not just the amount of snow they assess for potential flights, but also visibility and runway conditions.

"For this airport, we take it on a case by case basis," says Tom Vesalga, airport manager. "We'll look at it about an hour - hour and a half prior to the arrival or departure and clear what we have to clear."

The Davenport Airport Manager says on a day like today, they'll shut down the airport after the last flight early this evening. After that, they'll let the snow take its course and reassess the airport tomorrow morning.

Victoria Regional (KVCT), Texas: Airport management urges community to speak out against funding cuts

Originally published February 26, 2013 at 5 p.m., updated February 26, 2013 at 8:45 p.m.

Revenue drops, traffic decreases, safety issues and more potential federal spending cuts could mean trouble for the Victoria Regional Airport, management said. But community input might help.

Airport Manager Jason Milewski talked Tuesday at the Victoria Economic Development Corp.'s Victoria Partnership meeting, discussing a possible $600 million Federal Aviation Administration spending cut that could go into effect Friday.

If passed, the cuts could take away funding for air traffic control centers at 25 Texas airports, including Victoria's.

Milewski said he's experienced a flood of communication between affected airports in the days since Friday's announcement but hoped to see communication go a step further. He encouraged concerned residents to contact their federal elected officials.

Victoria County Judge Don Pozzi agreed.

"They need to know," he said to the group. "They already know. But they need to hear it from you."

Although a closure would not affect the airport's current Essential Air Service program with Sun Air International, Milewski said it could make it more difficult to obtain new service in the future.

Other issues also join the mix.

The move would likely decrease the airport's traffic and revenue by more than 60 percent, he said, while large companies that must fly often, such as Caterpillar, would also suffer.

Because the military uses the airport for practice, he added, it would have to adjust its schedule and find other locations, increasing the Department of Defense's budget.

Closing the tower also raises safety concerns, Milewski said, noting benefit/cost studies show it costs less to man a tower than to handle a plane crash.

He encouraged the Federal Aviation Administration to re-evaluate budget cuts.

"This is really a White House versus Congress issue," he said. "A political game of chicken."

Bob Haueter, district director for Rep. Blake Farenthold's office, said it was the administration trying to put pressure on largely Republican areas but said the strategy didn't make sense. A person working to save money at home, for instance, wouldn't start by cutting off food for the kids and gas for the car.

"There's a sensible way to do it and a wrong way," he said. "This is the wrong way."

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Sequester cuts could impact Coast Guard


SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A recent U.S. Coast Guard search cost several hundred thousand dollars and had hundreds of would-be rescuers searching for hours. That kind of money might not be easy to come by if the sequester spending cuts take effect this Friday. ABC7 News took a look at what will get cut if Congress can't make a deal. 

We've heard about furloughs for TSA agents at the airport and for Border Patrol agents, but the Coast Guard is also under the Department of Homeland Security and facing similar cuts.

ABC7 News got an exclusive look at the Coast Guard's recent search effort off the Monterey peninsula. The Coast Guard's C130 flew out of McClellan Air Force Base. The flight to Monterey took only a few minutes, but then there was a long night of flying a search pattern over the ocean 60 miles off shore. The pattern was dictated by an on board computer.

"This computer is called SAROPS and they're able to take into all of the conditions that are going on. Is it night? Is it daytime? What's the sea state? What's the visibility? What is are the ceilings at?" said Coast Guard pilot Lt. Chris Courtney.

Courtney files Coast Guard helicopters, but says the C130 is equipped with the same kind of gear.

"And so the aircraft will basically fly for us that search pattern for us and free up both pilots and the crew in the back to actively look outside for the mariner or the vessel or whoever is in distress," said Courtney.

At night the crews wears night vision goggles, but that cuts down on their field of vision and it's a big ocean.

"When you throw in white caps and eight to 15 foot swells, it just makes it super challenging," said Courtney.

And now the Coast Guard is facing another challenge -- the sequester cuts that are due to begin this Friday. Unless Congress acts, the cuts could cut more than $400 million from the Coast Guard's annual budget.

This week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that would cut Coast Guard patrols by 25 percent. I asked Courtney if he has heard about pending reductions.

"I think for the most part residents in the bay have nothing to worry about. We will continue to prosecute search and rescue as it comes in here. I can't tell you how it's going to change the overall picture for the Coast Guard, but our mission here is to provide search and rescue capabilities for the residents of San Francisco Bay Area and Central California and that should not be affected at all," said Courtney.

Courtney says last year the Coast Guard station in San Francisco conducted 287 search and rescues cases. The station saved the lives of seven people and participated in the rescue of 17 other people.

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Federal Aviation Administration chief: Spending cuts could close runways

Associated Press
Posted: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013

WASHINGTON -   The government has no choice but to furlough air traffic controllers in the event of automatic spending cuts, raising the specter of widespread flight delays and runway closures, the Federal Aviation Administration chief told skeptical Republicans Wednesday.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that one of two control towers at Chicago's O'Hare international Airport might have to be closed because there will not be enough controllers to meet minimum staffing levels. If that happens, Huerta said, the airport's north runway would be shut down, which would have a ripple effect around the country.

The spending cuts are scheduled to go into effect on Friday, but furloughs of air traffic controllers won't kick in until April because the FAA is required by law to give its employees advance notice. That will delay most of the impact of the spending cuts on air travel for at least a month.

The FAA is looking for ways to minimize the impact of the controller furloughs on travelers, he said. But Heurta added that the agency has little flexibility because it's required to apply the spending cuts evenly to each part of its budget, including the portions that pay for air traffic controllers, safety inspectors, and the technicians who maintain navigation beacons and other critical navigation equipment.

GOP lawmakers told Huerta the FAA ought to be able to find a way to accommodate cuts of about $600 million out of an annual budget of about $16 billion between now and the end of September. In response to a question from Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., Huerta acknowledged that the budget cuts would return the agency to its 2008 spending levels.

"We're not going back that far, the sky isn't falling," Graves said. "We're not going to have any meteors hit because of sequestration."

But Huerta said about 85 percent of the agency's 47,000 people work "in the field," including 15,000 air traffic controllers. They're going to take the brunt of the cuts, he said, because the agency has little flexibility to cut contracts with the exception of contracts for the operation of control towers at small airports.

That didn't satisfy some lawmakers.

"This is the time to sharpen your pencil," Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the committee, told Huerta. "We believe you have the flexibility within those lines of business to move money."

Huerta has already notified the agency's employees that they should be prepared to be furloughed one or two days per bi-weekly pay period between April and September. The FAA is also planning to eliminate midnight shifts for air traffic controllers at 60 airport towers, close over 100 control towers at smaller airports and reduce preventative maintenance of equipment.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has predicted that flights to cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because fewer controllers will be on duty.

A report released Wednesday by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association estimated that furloughs will leave too few controllers to handle planes at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport, forcing the closure of one of its three runways.

Instead of 126 landings per hour, there would be only 96 landings, the report said. Hartsfield handles more passengers than any other airport in the world. Houston's Intercontinental and Chicago's O'Hare airports may also have to close runways, it said.

"What Congress and everybody needs to understand is that the world's busiest airport runs like a Swiss watch," said Victor Santore, the union's Southern regional vice president. "If you slow down the arrival rate, the national airspace system will most certainly suffer. It takes hours to recover at Hartsfield."

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Pilot received the all-clear just weeks before disaster

The 28-year-old pilot of the Sky Cruise hot-air balloon that exploded over Luxor had reportedly had his licence renewed only weeks earlier.

The head of the Civil Aviation Administration in Egypt, Mohammed Sherif, said at the scene of the crash that Moman Mourad's qualifications were checked in January and he had no violations.

"Each time we renew the license, we check up the balloon and we test the pilot," Sherif said.

Mohamed Youssef, a friend of Mourad, told the South China Morning Post yesterday that the Sky Cruise pilot had never been involved in a fatal accident before.

Mourad had been a balloon pilot for about six years, Youssef said, after graduating from a competing ballooning company called Sindbad Balloons in 2006.

Youssef, a balloon pilot since 2004, spoke to Mourad's mother when he visited the injured pilot in Luxor International Hospital on Tuesday before he was airlifted to Cairo. "I saw her in the hospital," Youssef said. "She was crying and I told her it will be OK."

Mourad's father died about five months ago, Youssef said.

One of Mourad's two younger sisters accompanied Mourad to a Cairo hospital where he is currently in intensive care.

Youssef said Sky Cruise was one of Luxor's oldest ballooning companies, established in 1989, and that it used to be affiliated with Britain's Virgin brand under the name Balloons over Egypt.

In the mid-1990s, Hod-hod Soliman Hot Air Balloon Rides opened, while Magic Horizon started in 2000. Five more companies were launched between 2006 and 2008, making competition tough.

"Now the tour companies don't look for quality or service; all of them look for the price, the cheaper price," Youssef said.

"This is how it works in Luxor for the past five or six years."

Tuesday's tragedy is believed to be the worst ballooning accident on record. The deadliest incident before this was in 1989, when 13 people died in Australia when their hot-air balloon collided with another balloon near the town of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

Nor is this the first time a ballooning accident in Luxor has disrupted the industry and raised safety concerns. In 2009, 16 tourists were injured when their balloon struck a cellphone transmission tower.

All flights were suspended for months while safety standards were tightened. Pilots were given more training and a landing spot was designated for balloons.

Flying — for fun, freedom: Obtaining private pilot's license can lead to lifelong hobby or career - American Wings Aviation at Bishop International Airport (KFNT), Flint, Michigan


Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 8:50 am 
by Tim Jagielo

Flint Twp. — The tail of the Cessna 150 bobs slightly under the power of the roaring propeller.

Anthony Atkinson, 26, of Waterford, formerly of Linden, sits with flight instructor Brian Kinney, preparing to take Atkinson’s last flight before his test on Tuesday. He’s only a few steps from obtaining his private pilot’s license.

The private pilot’s license is the first step to eventually obtaining a commercial license for some, or a gateway to a unique hobby.

A private pilot’s license holder cannot fly passengers for a fare, and they are limited to smaller single engine planes. They cannot fly through a cloud without their instrument endorsement, which allows them to fly without being able to see through the clouds.

American Wings Aviation owner and Brian’s father, Tim Kinney said for some, the license is practical, for others it’s for fun. “It’s a sense of motion, it’s little bit of a sense of freedom,” said Tim. “You’re flying down above U.S. 23, and you’re looking at all these poor guys trying to get to Toledo and they’re experiencing road rage.” Tim said when you fly, it’s just a smooth straight line.

“Once you get in the air, everything kind of slows down a little bit, so you get a wide range of speeds that you sense,” said Brian. “You’re kind of up there in the weather. If there’s any turbulence, you have to deal with the turbulence.”

For Atkinson and his flight, it’s clear for February, perfect for the trip to New Lothrop and Owosso. The trip will include short takeoff and landings, steep turns, simulated emergencies, slow flight, and flying by instrument using vision distorting glasses for part of the trip.

“This is just extra proof for him,” said Brian Atkinson already has 57 flight hours. Forty is the minimum and the Monday flight was just to hammer on his upcoming test one more time. It’s been a long trip for him — life and school have stretched what could be a few month process to six years. But he casually checks the plane before Brian arrives, and before leaving the classroom, he answers several scenario questions exactly.

This is the freedom of obtaining a license — some finish the course in as a little as a few months, other take longer.

To enter the private pilot’s license program, the applicant must take a medical exam through a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved physician. The applicant’s eyes must be correctable to around 20/20 vision, and they must be able to physically handle flight. Anyone with diabetes or taking blood thinners will have their records checked at the FAA Medical Center.

To take a solo flight, the student must be 16, and 17 to receive their license. A person over 18 can earn a commercial pilot’s license.

A minimum of 38 hours are required depending on the program, and it will cost at least $7,500, depending on the plane that is rented. The smaller Cessna costs $75 an hour to rent, and the larger plane costs $125. The instructor always costs $51 an hour.

Tim said most students pay as they go, and his school works with online colleges like Utah Valley University to give students credit toward a degree.

Flight school is comprised of a web-based component where students learn the basics, and they will immediately take that knowledge to the cockpit for a flight. Tim prefers that students work through the program steadily to retain their knowledge. Throughout the program, paperwork and documentation is kept up.

Assuming the student is old enough, has passed a written and oral exam, has reached the minimum hours, and has demonstrated they can successfully, consistently land the plane, they can take their final Check Flight.

This is comprised of two parts. The first includes the instructor flying along with the student. They take several maneuvers, which include many that Atkinson did on Monday. Then they land, drop off the instructor, and take their fist solo flight.

Atkinson has jumped through all these hoops because flying is a hobby he can keep up into his later years. His favorite thing is “the ability to travel and look at places with a different perspective.”

As expected, Atkinson passed his Check Ride, despite some choppy winds at higher altitudes. Now, he’ll use his license as a hobby, or way to get away from daily life. “It’s definitely something you should have on the bucket list, it’s seeing life from a different perspective, especially in a smaller aircraft,” said Atkinson.

Story and Photos:

Cessna U206G Stationair, C-FNEQ: Fatal accident occurred August 17, 2018 in Little Doctor Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada

NTSB Identification: ANC18WA077
14 CFR Unknown
Accident occurred Friday, August 17, 2018 in Fort Simpson, Canada
Aircraft: Cessna U206, registration:
Injuries: 3 Fatal, 2 Minor.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On August 17, 2018, about 0035 Coordinated Universal Time, an amphibious float-equipped Cessna U206G airplane, C-FNEQ, nosed over while landing at Little Doctor Lake near Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, Canada. Of the five souls onboard, the pilot and one passenger sustained minor injuries, and three passengers sustained fatal injuries.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada is investigating the accident. As the State of Manufacture of the airplane and engine, the NTSB has designated a U.S. accredited representative to assist the TSB in its investigation. 

All inquiries concerning this accident should be directed to the TSB of Canada:

Transportation Safety Board of Canada
200 Promenade du Portage
Place du Centre, 4th Floor
Hull, Quebec K1A 1K8

The deaths in a plane crash near Fort Simpson, N.W.T., in August 2018 may have been due to the cargo door being blocked, says a safety advisory from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

The float plane, a Cessna 206, operated by Simpson Air, went down when it was coming in for a landing on Little Doctor Lake on Aug. 16, 2018.

According to the TSB, the pilot lost control during the touchdown and the right float dug into the lake, causing the right wing to hit the surface of the water. The aircraft suddenly nosed over and landed upside down on the lake.

"The pilot and one passenger escaped the submerged fuselage and climb up onto the floats," the TSB advisory reads. "The three remaining occupants were unable to exit the aircraft and drowned; they were found inside the cabin with their seatbelts undone."

Everyone had been wearing seat belts and no one received injuries that would have immobilized them, the advisory says.

Doors difficult to open

The pilot dove under water to try to help the remaining passengers but was unable to open the doors from the outside because they were locked from the inside, the advisory says.

The TSB says it's unknown whether the other passengers tried to exit the plane but it is known that the Cessna 206 series aircraft with double cargo doors can be difficult to open when the flaps are extended.

"In that configuration, the forward half of the door can only be opened approximately 8 cm before coming into contact with the flap," the advisory reads.

A placard above the door lists the procedure to open the door when the flaps are down. The TSB said the post-accident examination found the instructions were in place in this aircraft and all doors and latches were functioning normally.

But even with those instructions in place, opening those doors becomes significantly harder in an emergency, explained Jock Williams, a retired Air Force fighter pilot and retired safety officer with the TSB.

"It's real easy to open if you're sitting there and there's nothing going in. If you're not upside down in the water, you can open it no problem," Williams said.

"Sadly that's not when you need to be able to open it," he said. "You need to be able to open it when you're upside down in the water. A lot of people have failed to do that." 

Problem first identified in 1991

Since 1989, there have been five accidents where the flaps blocked the door, resulting in eight fatalities, the advisory says.

This problem with the cargo doors was first identified in 1991 when Cessna released a service bulletin calling for changes to the cargo door that would make it easier to open.

In 1997, Transport Canada issued an alert that strongly recommended owners incorporate Cessna's recommendations, though it was not mandatory under the Canadian Aviation Regulations.

The aircraft involved in this accident did not have the recommended changes.

"As shown in this occurrence, without functional exits, the time required to exit the aircraft may increase, which in turn increases the risk of death in time-critical situations, such as when the aircraft is submerged or there is a post-impact fire," the advisory says.

The problem could easily be solved with doors that could break away from an aircraft by pulling on a lever, removing the pins connecting the door to the plane — something that's common in planes used for skydiving, Williams said. 

"I'm getting tired about reading about people drowning [in float planes] because this should be easily fixable," he said.

"There should be an easily identifiable, easily operated single handle. That's all you need." 

Geoffrey Dean, 33, from Castor, Alta., and Jean and Stewart Edelman, both 72, from Saskatoon were killed in the crash. Two people survived the crash, the pilot and one passenger.

The TSB said the investigation into this accident is ongoing.

A spokesperson from Transport Canada, meanwhile, declined an interview request from CBC News, but said the department would issue a response to the TSB's advisory letter within 90 days. 

Grumman G-21A Turbo Goose, N221AG: Accident occurred February 27, 2011 in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

General Civil Aviation Authority Publishes the Investigation Final Report of McKinnon G-21G Fatal Accident, Al Ain International Airport - UAE,  27 February 2011  

Landon Studer, 28, the owner of Triple S Aviation, was piloting the plane at the time of the crash. The company's international project manager, Joshua Hucklebridge, also 28, was also on board, along with two seaplane enthusiasts from the western US - Tyler Orsow, 25, and Chuck Kimes, 61, who is believed to have been the co-pilot.

Chuck Kimes
Landon Studer

 Joshua Hucklebridge

Tyler Orsow is shown here (right)

General Civil Aviation Authority Publishes the Investigation Final Report of McKinnon G-21G Fatal Accident, Al Ain International Airport - UAE,  27 February 2011  

ABU DHABI // A seaplane crash that killed four Americans in Al Ain nearly three years ago was likely caused by pilot error, a final report into the accident said. 

The final air accident investigation report, released by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) on Thursday, said the plane’s pilot attempted a steep left turn that resulted in a stall and a likely loss of control.

The antique seaplane, called a Grumman Goose, crashed on the taxiway at Al Ain International Airport less than two minutes after being cleared for take-off on February 27, 2011. All four American airmen onboard were killed instantly.

The men were en-route to Riyadh for the first leg of a week-long trip that would have made stops in Morocco and South America before ending in Texas. Grumman G-21A Turbo Goose, N221AG: Accident occurred February 27, 2011 in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates 

The cause of the crash is listed in the report as the pilot’s “lapse in judgement and failure to exercise due diligence when he decided to enter into a steep left turn at inadequate height and speed”.

Contributing factors were the pilot’s “self-induced time pressure to rapidly complete the post-maintenance flight” and his lack of recent experience in the aircraft type.

The GCAA report also makes safety recommendations to both US and UAE aviation authorities.

Recommendations include improving regulations governing foreign aircraft operations in the UAE and developing a requirement that airports establish procedures to report aircraft parked for a pre-specified period.

The GCAA has also been asked to enhance the foreign aircraft safety assessment system to ensure any aircraft parked in a UAE airport for a pre-specified period submit “certain documents” to assure that the aircraft is airworthy before a clearance of departure is issued.

The report also recommends that the US Federal Aviation Administration enhance general aviation aircraft worthiness certification and oversight, in addition to airman licensing practices, in line with federal aviation regulations.

Final Report:

Interim Report: Photographs

NTSB Identification: DCA11WA032 

Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, February 27, 2011 in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates
Aircraft: GRUMMAN G21, registration: N221AG
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On February 27, 2011, a Grumman 21, registration N221AG, crashed shortly after takeoff from Al Ain Airport (OMEL), Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. All four passengers and crewmembers onboard were fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. The flight was destined for OERK, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The investigation is being conducted by the United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority. The NTSB has appointed an Accredited Representative to assist the investigation under the provisions of ICAO Annex 13 as the Country of Manufacture and Design of the airplane.

All requests for information should be directed to:

United Arab Emirates
General Civil Aviation Authority
Air Safety & Flight Security Department
Aircrafts Accidents Investigation Section
+971 4 2111722

Interim Accident Report:

NTSB Identification: DCA11WA032 
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, February 27, 2011 in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates
Aircraft: GRUMMAN G21, registration: N221AG
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On February 27, 2011, a Grumman 21, registration N221AG, crashed shortly after takeoff from Al Ain Airport (OMEL), Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. All four passengers and crewmembers onboard were fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. The flight was destined for OERK, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The investigation is being conducted by the United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority. The NTSB has appointed an Accredited Representative to assist the investigation under the provisions of ICAO Annex 13 as the Country of Manufacture and Design of the airplane.

All requests for information should be directed to:

United Arab Emirates
General Civil Aviation Authority
Air Safety & Flight Security Department
Aircrafts Accidents Investigation Section
+971 4 2111722

Interim Accident Report:

ABU DHABI // A draft of the final accident investigation report on the seaplane crash that killed four Americans in Al Ain two years ago will be ready in weeks.

However, it will not be available to the public for at least two months, said a spokesman for the General Civil Aviation Authority, the investigating body. First it will be sent to the American National Transportation Safety Board for a 60-day consultation period.

An interim report released last year said the crash was probably not related to engine failure.

The antique McKinnon G21G turboprop, also called a Grumman Goose, crashed on to the taxiway at Al Ain International Airport shortly after take-off on February 27 last year, killing all four people on board.

It was en route to Riyadh on the first leg of a week-long trip that would have made stops in Morocco and South America before ending up in Texas.

The plane was owned by Triple S Aviation, an aircraft sales and aviation business development company with a defence and foreign military sales division.

The final report is likely to focus on routine maintenance performed on the aircraft on the day of the flight.

The plane had been stored in a hangar at the airport for six months, and an extra fuel tank had recently been added.

One of the men aboard had posted on Facebook that they were refused access to the plane two days before the crash.

The interim report also noted that the crew told air-traffic controllers that they intended to perform a test flight because they had not flown the aircraft "for a while". The flight was pushed back an hour while they waited for fuel.

Landon Studer, 28, the owner of Triple S, was piloting the plane at the time of the crash. The company's international project manager, Joshua Hucklebridge, also 28, was also on board, along with two seaplane enthusiasts from the western US - Tyler Orsow, 25, and Chuck Kimes, 61, who is believed to have been the co-pilot.

"All of us are still waiting for the report," said Elaine White, Mr Hucklebridge's mother. "Somehow, knowing what happened might help take the place of the bewilderment we all feel."

Terry Campbell, Mr Orsow's mother and a close friend of Mr Kimes, is visiting the UAE to mark the second anniversary of the crash.

"They are always in our heart and on our mind," Ms Campbell said last year. "We are thankful for all the wonderful memories that help get us through the day. We are also thankful for the impact Tyler and Chuck's life had on others and the memories and stories they share."

Mrs White also intends eventually to visit the UAE and the crash site. "I know if I were there, I would want to stand in the place where the crash happened," she said. "I would want to see where the aircraft was hangared. I would want to speak to the first responders and to whoever was in the tower that day. That's a lot to hope for, but it is what I would wish."

US and UAE authorities worked together on the investigation. The plane was not required to have a data flight recorder.

Fort Frances Municipal Airport, Ontario, Canada: Manager frustrated by dump-hungry birds

Birds visiting nearby dumps flock onto airport runway, creating a hazard

CBC News
Posted: Feb 27, 2013 3:48 PM ET
Last Updated: Feb 27, 2013 4:19 PM ET

Fort Frances airport officials are worried that more birds will get in the way of aircraft, posing a safety risk, if the neighboring Couchiching First Nation builds a new landfill site.

Airport manager Tom Batiuk said dealing with nuisance birds is a problem.

“On a really damp day, I've seen upwards of between 300-500 seagulls on the runway,” he said.

But the chief of Couchiching First Nation said his community has its own problem — its dump is full and it desperately needs a new one.

“It's been a long-term project … I anticipate that it'll continue to be, regardless of the current health issues that we have with our current dump,” said Chuck McPherson.

“We have rats and, like we said, we want to expand in that area, and decommission the current one.”

Another dump = more birds?

But Batiuk says the proposed new dump is too close. McPherson argues the proposed site is no closer to the airport than the existing Fort Frances town dump.

Because the current landfills in Fort Frances and Couchiching are attracting gulls, Batiuk is worried that yet another landfill site will bring even more birds.

“We already have a bird problem here,” he said.

“With that said, by putting a landfill that much closer to the airport, it would just give the birds that much more of an opportunity to come here.”

But McPherson said the expansion is desperately needed for residents “and any expansion we have for residential usage has to go in that particular direction ... we're trying to … put a new landfill site away from the residential areas.”

McPherson noted the First Nation still needs approval for the dump site from the federal government — something he’s not expecting anytime soon.

Currently, birds are scared away from the runway by firing cartridges out of a shotgun that contain M-80 firecrackers, Batiuk explained. The loud discharge makes the birds think they're being shot at, and they fly away.

But even with these measures in place, bird strikes still happen, Batiuk added.

"In the summertime — for seagull season here, I like to call it — we're out there scaring the birds off the runway for approaching and departing aircraft on ... a fairly frequent basis.”


Boeing, 787 Battery Supplier at Odds Over Fixes

Updated February 27, 2013, 4:20 p.m. ET

The Wall Street Journal

Boeing Co. and the Japanese company that makes lithium-ion batteries for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner are at odds over what should be included in the final package of fixes intended to get the jets back in the air, according to government and industry officials familiar with the details.

GS Yuasa Corp. has told the Federal Aviation Administration that while it supports operational and design changes that Boeing has proposed to try to end a six-week-old grounding of the 787s, it believes the proposed package is inadequate to mitigate all potential 787 battery hazards, the officials said.

The divergent views could complicate the FAA's high-stake deliberations over the proposed fixes and whether and when to let the 787 resume commercial flights, the officials said. Boeing on Friday officially presented the FAA and the Department of Transportation with its package of suggested fixes, which it hopes can get its planes back into the air carrying passengers in a matter of weeks.

Investigators have determined that on two 787s operated by Japanese airlines last month, short circuits inside a battery touched off uncontrollable thermal reactions among cells, producing temperatures high enough to melt the metal containers surrounding them. But it isn't clear what caused the short circuits. Top officials at the FAA and the Department of Transportation, which must sign off on any fixes, are discussing, among other issues, whether to approve the package of fixes before the cause of the battery problems is determined.

Yuasa has cooperated with U.S. and Japanese investigators from the start, and it continues to work closely with Boeing to devise battery fixes. But last week in Washington, the day before Boeing's meeting with federal regulators, a high-level Yuasa delegation briefed senior FAA officials about the battery maker's concerns, according to officials familiar with the details.

Yuasa's primary argument, according to the officials, was that its own laboratory tests strongly suggest that an external power surge—or another problem originating outside the battery—kicked off the sequence of events on the 787s that experienced burning batteries. Yuasa told the FAA that temperatures and current fluctuations recorded on those planes weren't consistent with short-circuits originating inside its batteries.

As a result, Yuasa is urging the FAA to require installation of a sophisticated voltage regulator intended to prevent current from flowing into 787 batteries at the first sign of a problem. Boeing's package of proposed battery enhancements doesn't add such a feature to existing safeguards, people familiar with it say. Boeing is arguing that its overall package—which includes sturdier and better separated cells and a new fireproof container around the batteries—is adequate to prevent any internal or external malfunctions from causing fire or smoke.

Investigators have determined that neither battery on the two Japanese planes was overcharged, but they have also said that they continue to probe potential causes that are both internal and external to the batteries.

Yuasa officials in Japan couldn't be reached for comment. Kenneth Quinn, a partner with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in Washington who is U.S. counsel for Yuasa, said the company is "very pleased" with the progress on proposed fixes.

A Boeing spokesman said "our proposal includes multiple layers of protection covering the known potential probable causes of the events" that led to the grounding. Boeing also reiterated that the 787's original battery system includes "quadruple-redundant protections against overcharging" intended to "disconnect the battery before overcharge occurs regardless of the source of the charge."

Some FAA officials view Yuasa's argument as largely a face-saving maneuver intended to deflect criticism of the design and manufacture of its batteries. FAA officials have told Boeing and Yuasa to work out the issue among themselves, according to two people familiar with the latest developments.

Still, industry officials said FAA experts are also assessing Yuasa's data and discussing the issue with Boeing officials. They said it's too early to tell whether last week's Yuasa briefing will significantly affect the agency's ultimate decision on potential fixes or the timing of test flights.

—Jon Ostrower and Yoshio Takahashi contributed to this article.


Boeing awards $296 million in incentive pay to 51,800 employees in Washington

Originally published February 27, 2013 at 1:28 PM | Page modified February 27, 2013 at 1:58 PM

SEATTLE —  Boeing is awarding $296 million in incentive pay to 51,800 employees in Washington.

Company-wide Boeing is paying more than $624 million to 107,000 employees in the incentive plan based on 2012 financial results.

Boeing said the awards to be paid beginning Thursday equate to a bonus of about 6 percent or about 15 days of additional pay.

The company said Wednesday the 2012 awards are among the best ever for the plan that began in 2001.

The incentive pay does not go to executives or members of the Machinists Union who have other plans.


Information from: KOMO-TV,