Monday, March 04, 2013

Pilot Approaching JFK Spots Possible Unmanned Aircraft: FAA

The FAA says it's investigating a report of a small, possibly unmanned aircraft near Kennedy Airport.

A pilot of an international airline was on the final approach to Runway 31 at about 1:15 p.m. when he spotted the unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft hovering at about 1,500 feet, according to the FAA.

The pilot reported seeing the aircraft about four to five miles southeast of the airport.

The pilot continued on his path and landed safely.

The FAA is investigating.


Southwest Oregon Regional (KOTH), North Bend, Oregon: Jets to fly out of airport this summer

NORTH BEND, Ore. -- For North Bend passengers who aren't fans of propeller planes and who feel the need for a bit more speed, their wants are coming true. 

Regional jet service is expected to begin at the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport this June.

Skywest Airlines, who operate as United Express has agreed to begin flying the CRJ-200 out of North Bend during this year's summer travel season.

Getting regional jet service to the airport was a goal the airport set for itself earlier this year.

Officials with the airport believe the jet will secure commercial air service to the airport in the future.

Theresa Cook, the airport director, says they are looking forward to the progress having jets fly in and out will bring to the airport. "It's exciting to get the jet back again because the more often that the jet is operating in North Bend, the more viable that jet is going to be in the future for us, because the Embraers will be fading away over the next few years," she said. "So, we want the airline industry to know that we can handle jets in our city."

In the past couple of years, Skywest has strictly flown the Embraer 120, a propeller plane that can seat 39 passengers.

In just a couple of months, a 50 seat regional jet will take over a summer travel leg through the month of November.

Passengers told KCBY News that they are excited about the change.

Story and Video:

Pratt & Whitney uncovers fraudulent engine-testing scheme: WSJ

March 4, 2013, 12:04 a.m. ET

The Wall Street Journal

Pratt Reveals Faulty Testing

United Technologies Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney unit disclosed it has broken up an alleged fraudulent-testing scheme by a sister United Technologies unit, affecting tens of thousands of engine parts used on popular business jets and turboprop aircraft flown by airlines around the world.

Pratt & Whitney officials said their investigation, which hasn't been reported publicly before, uncovered an elaborate, yearslong effort to doctor metallurgical test results, so as to make certain engine forgings appear to meet extra-stringent standards when they actually fell short. The scheme was allegedly devised and carried out by managers at United Technologies' Carmel Forge Ltd. unit in Israel.

From the mid-1990s to the summer of 2011, when a tip to Pratt from an employee of the Israeli company kicked off the probe, readings from certain tests checking the strength of forgings were systematically altered or manipulated for more than 40,000 disks, according to Jay DeFrank, Pratt & Whitney's chief spokesman. The metal parts in question were used in various engines made by Pratt & Whitney's Canadian operations.

Pratt & Whitney's description amounts to one of the aerospace industry's longest and most-pervasive examples of improper testing in recent years.

Though the parts don't pose any safety hazard, officials of Pratt and United Technologies acknowledged that the extent and duration of the testing irregularities shocked them and prompted a broader reassessment of the engine maker's quality-control systems and oversight of parts suppliers.

The FAA considered the issue serious enough to launch a formal administrative proceeding after being informed by Pratt of its probe. The FAA later concluded that initial allegations of widespread violations of agency rules "were reviewed and confirmed" by Pratt's lawyers. The problems also sparked questions inside Pratt about other possible testing shortcuts at Carmel Forge, and that review is still under way.

Mr. DeFrank said he wasn't aware of another instance in which Pratt & Whitney quality-control experts "have seen falsification of this magnitude." Ongoing investigations could raise the total number of questionable parts.

Carmel Forge, located outside Haifa, Israel, counts as its largest customer Pratt & Whitney Canada, a major engine maker for private planes, business jets and turboprops. The Canadian-made engines power various business jets made by Textron Inc.'s Cessna Aircraft Co., General Dynamics Corp.'s  Gulfstream Aerospace and Dassault Aviation SA, as well as Bombardier Inc.'s Q400 turboprops and smaller aircraft brands including Piper Aircraft Inc. More recently, Pratt & Whitney Canada signed contracts to provide engines for next-generation regional jets.

Mr. DeFrank declined to discuss details about which aircraft models over the years ended up with disks that came from Carmel Forge. "It would be inappropriate to provide a list of customers because we want to ensure all have been notified before they read their names in the media," he said.

In an earlier interview, Kevin O'Connor, United Technologies' vice president of global compliance and the person who led the investigation, said his team worked hard to get to the bottom of the testing irregularities and eventually concluded, in conjunction with aviation regulators, that the parts don't pose a safety hazard.

"From the moment we were informed of the misconduct," Mr. O'Connor said, company officials sought to "determine what happened, inform customers and the requisite government officials and ensure it cannot happen again at Carmel Forge, or elsewhere."

Mr. O'Connor said "new procedures, policies and oversight structures" have been put in place, while Pratt & Whitney compliance teams continue to delve into the Israeli facility's history. "We're still dealing with some of the residual issues," he said.

According to Pratt & Whitney, there haven't been any failures or premature wear involving the disks, and they don't pose "any safety of flight issues or concerns."

The Federal Aviation Administration, which initiated its own formal investigation in September 2011, was kept updated about Pratt & Whitney's findings and follow-on moves.

The FAA sent its own audit team to Israel last May. In a June 2012 letter to United Technologies and Pratt & Whitney, a senior FAA safety inspector said the case involved a violation of agency rules because "the tensile strength testing" of material used to manufacture "major rotating components [of engines] had been compromised." The letter, however, said the FAA was closing the case after determining the company's "corrective actions are considered acceptable."

A spokeswoman said the FAA also hasn't proposed any fines or other penalties, "and the parts are performing as expected."

Still, the issue has been particularly disturbing for Pratt & Whitney officials because since 1994, Carmel Forge has been part of United Technologies, the parent of both companies. United Technologies has shaken up the Israeli operation and replaced top managers. Recently, a Pratt & Whitney team asked current Carmel Forge employees to sign a statement indicating that they weren't aware of any other improprieties.

Eli Yaffe, the former chief executive at Carmel Forge who left last year, didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

Carmel Forge's website says it was founded in 1961 and produces titanium, steel and nickel-alloy parts for aircraft engines. Other customers include aircraft-engine makers General Electric Co. and Honeywell International Inc., along with numerous European industry players.

United Technologies investigators said they focused on adherence to a particular testing standard demanded by Pratt & Whitney Canada, because it was more stringent than those required by the rest of the companies that purchased forgings.

Journalists working for an Israeli current-affairs show called "Uvda," which on Monday is scheduled to air a segment about the plant on Keshet Broadcasting, began looking into Carmel Forge's troubles in recent months.

Pratt & Whitney's management began scrutinizing Carmel Forge in the summer of 2011, prompted by an anonymous complaint from a plant employee alleging widespread irregularities. Within weeks, United Technologies assembled an investigative team and launched an extensive probe, including interviewing employees at the site, reviewing documents and analyzing computer data.

Investigators opted to retest more than four dozen remnants of representative forgings retained by Carmel Forge, including 10 that were sent for outside testing. In addition to the FAA, Pratt & Whitney said, it also informed Pentagon officials and Canadian air-safety regulators.

The upshot of these efforts, according to Mr. O'Connor, was that all the parts produced over the years met basic engineering specifications ensuring their safety, though many weren't properly subjected to Pratt & Whitney's tougher internal testing requirements. "We're not happy about it," according to Mr. O'Connor. "We feel we were misled."

Nearly 50,000 Pratt & Whitney Canada engines are currently installed on roughly 28,000 aircraft—including helicopters—in 200 countries, with total operating time close to 600 million hours in the air. The United Technologies unit is best known for its long history of partnering with European and Canadian turboprop manufacturers and providing engines for midsize business jets.


Boeing Expects 'Fast' 787 Moves After FAA Approvals

The chief of Boeing Co.'s commercial unit says the return of its flagship 787 Dreamliner to service hinges on Federal Aviation Administration approval of the plane maker's proposal to modify the jet's errant lithium-ion batteries.

Ray Conner, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said Monday that once FAA approvals are received, "this will move really fast" as the company plans to quickly advance to flight testing and certification of its package of changes. Modification of the 50 delivered Dreamliners and dozens of built but undelivered 787s would follow, and the designs would then be incorporated into Boeing's production lines.

"We feel very good about this fix," Mr. Conner said. "We've covered the waterfront, so to speak about all the [potential causes] that" could have made the 787's batteries burn, says Mr. Conner, who didn't provide a specific time ine for the regulator's approval. He added, "we wouldn't take it forward if we didn't feel good about [the changes]."

Mr. Conner was speaking at an aerospace and defense conference in New York and has been on a multicity tour to speak to investors, airline customers and regulators to explain the company's proposal to modify the 787's batteries. The FAA and other regulators around the world ordered the 787 grounded on Jan. 16 after twin failures on Dreamliners operated by two Japanese airlines earlier that month.

Boeing faces the task of explaining to regulators that its changes address all possible threats to the battery, without knowing definitively what caused the incidents in January. The proposed changes were formally submitted to the FAA on Feb. 22 and to regulators and safety investigators in Japan last week, Mr. Conner said.

"We are addressing everything that could go wrong in the proper manner," he said.

Mr. Conner didn't provide specifics regarding the planned modifications. He said Boeing has compiled 200,000 hours of analysis and testing on what might have gone wrong and how to prevent it from happening again.

According to government and industry officials, Boeing will modify the battery to include additional spacing between its eight lithium-ion cells; placing the battery inside a new containment box in case of a fire; new monitoring of the battery's cells; and the ability to vent smoke or fumes outside the aircraft.

Mr. Conner emphasized that the company's plan to double production of the Dreamliner to 10 jets a month by year-end is unchanged, but said that there is a chance "that could change if something were to go sideways with the FAA" approval of Boeing's battery plan.

The grounding of the 787 has occupied much of Mr. Conner's attention in recent weeks and has "slowed things down a bit" on the company's plan to launch new 787 and 777 models.

Senior Air India pilot suspended for misbehaving with air hostess

PTI : New Delhi, Mon Mar 04 2013, 21:19 hrs

A senior Air India pilot has been suspended for allegedly flying an unauthorized person in the cockpit and misbehaving with an air hostess, who later filed a complaint against him.

Captain Amar Sabharwal has been suspended for carrying an unauthorized person in the cockpit on a Delhi-Kolkata flight on March 2, in violation of security norms, an Air India spokesperson said.

According to sources, the incident happened on Air India's flight (AI-020) on Saturday last when a customs officer entered the plane with a boarding pass of a jump seat.

But, he was later allowed to traveled in the cockpit by the Commander, to which a cabin crew objected.

This led to an heated argument between the Commander and the cabin crew.

The pilot allegedly made some "indecent comment" on the air hostess, they said, adding after returning to Delhi the air-hostess filed a complaint with the police against the pilot.

Taking a serious note of the incident, Air India management first derostered the pilot and he was taken off duty and an inquiry was ordered into the matter.

A jump seat can be located in the cockpit or passenger cabin of an aircraft. In the cockpit, it is provided for individuals who are not operating the plane which may include trainee pilots, off-duty crew members, DGCA officials or airline staff.


CitationAir Forces Pilots to Work a Month for Free

Published: Monday, Mar. 4, 2013 - 8:58 am 

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2013 -- /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- CitationAir, the Greenwich, Conn.-based provider of luxury business jet and charter aircraft services, radically altered the work schedules of the company's nearly 230 pilots who are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Airline Division, Local 1108. CitationAir is wholly owned by Cessna Aircraft Company, which in turn is wholly owned by Textron Inc., a major U.S. defense contractor. The Teamsters and CitationAir management have been in negotiations over a first contract for the pilots since Nov. 2011.

Prior to the change on March 1, CitationAir scheduled pilots to be available for duty seven consecutive workdays during each two-week period. Management's new schedule pattern now requires pilots to be available for duty eight consecutive workdays during each two-week period for an increase of 26 more workdays per year. 

During each workday, a pilot can be required to remain on duty for 14 hours straight, with only 10 hours off the job before again reporting to fly. Management recently rejected efforts by the Teamsters to implement protections preventing the company from scheduling a pilot for nine or more consecutive workdays without his or her concurrence.

"The typical U.S. worker has a five-day workweek that keeps him or her on the job 20 days a month, not counting holidays. Assuming eight-hour shifts, that worker puts in about 160 hours a month," said Capt. Mat Slinghoff, Local 1108 President. "In contrast, CitationAir could conceivably require a pilot to be at work 252 hours, or more, during a single month.  Furthermore, pilots do not get holidays off—they work in a 365/24/7 business."

"CitationAir is requiring pilots to work 26 additional days per year, effectively for free," said Capt. David Bourne, Teamsters Airline Division Director. "Management will be keeping pilots on the road away from their homes and families nearly one full month each year against their will for no additional compensation. This type of abusive scheduling practice can only contribute to pilot fatigue, which has been proven to negatively impact aviation safety."

"In an effort to cut costs, our pilots and their schedules were targeted.  CitationAir's move will severely impact the quality of life of our pilots and their families," said Teamsters General President James Hoffa. "The International Brotherhood of Teamsters stands with these dedicated professional pilots and those that depend on them for safe air travel."

Local 1108 is part of the Teamsters Airline Division and represents more than 700 pilots employed by CitationAir and Cleveland, Ohio-based Flight Options LLC, which is also a provider of luxury business jet and charter aircraft services.  The Teamsters Airline Division represents about 80,000 workers in all segments of commercial aviation.  The International Brotherhood of Teamsters was founded in 1903 and represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

SOURCE Teamsters Local Union 1108

Air-Traffic Error Probes Cut as U.S. Close Calls Rise

U.S. aviation regulators don’t have enough investigators to examine close calls in the skies, which have risen more than 50 percent since 2009, according to a report by the Transportation Department’s Inspector General.

Even as air-traffic errors that bring planes too close together have jumped, and as new technology is expected to uncover more such incidents, the Federal Aviation Administration has reduced the number of employees reviewing these safety cases, the report found.

“With the implementation of FAA’s new procedures, the number of personnel investigating losses of separation has been substantially reduced,” the agency said in the report.

The report is the latest to examine the surge in errors that let planes get too close, also known as a “loss of separation.” Errors rose 53 percent in fiscal 2010 compared with 2009, to 1,887 from 1,234. There were 1,895 controller errors in 2011.

The FAA has maintained that most of the rise is due to improved reporting and not an actual increase in the risks of mid-air or runway collisions. The agency in recent years has started allowing controllers to self-report errors without fear of punishment, a program airlines have used for decades to identify safety issues.

The report by Assistant Inspector General Jeffrey Guzzetti found that at least some of the increase is due to an actual rise in errors.

Previously, at least one person in each of the 300 air- traffic control facilities in the U.S. was assigned to review error reports. In January 2012, the FAA consolidated the investigations into three offices across the country with 16 people to do the reviews, according to the report. 

Inspector general report confirms rise in air traffic control errors

Federal investigators confirmed Monday that errors by the nation’s air traffic controllers have increased sharply, challenging the Federal Aviation Administration’s contention that most of the jump was due to better data collection. 

The inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation, in an audit released Monday, said that “the increase in reported errors was linked, in part, to a rise in actual errors rather than increased reporting.” 

The report renews concerns about aviation mistakes at a time when the FAA has warned that sequestration may require controller furloughs and closing control towers at smaller airports.

An official familiar with the report said it raises questions about the manner in which the FAA collects reports and classifies the mistakes made by the controllers responsible for safe air travel.

“The report is kind of an indictment of how they categorize and deal with these errors,” said the official, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak publicly.

The inspector general was asked to review the FAA’s error-reporting process by Congress after testimony last April raised questions about the agency’s accuracy. That hearing followed reports in The Washington Post that raised questions about the accounting, and after the National Transportation Safety Board began formal investigation of incidents in which planes came dangerously close to each other while in flight.
The majority of errors do not put passengers at great risk. But there were enough serious incidents that year that the NTSB stepped in to investigate. The incidents included a Boeing 737 nearly hitting a helicopter while taking off from Houston; a Boeing 777 skimming under a small plane on takeoff from San Francisco; a Boeing 737 nearly colliding with a Cessna in Burbank, Calif.; an Airbus 319 passing 100 feet above the path of a Boeing 747 taking off in Anchorage; and an Embraer 135 taking off from Chicago using evasive action to avoid an inbound twin-engine prop plane.

Asheville Regional (KAVL), North Carolina: Airport deal -- Unintended consequences

Leadership issues in Asheville could be example of what awaits in Charlotte  

ASHEVILLE Legislation designed to streamline operation of Asheville Regional Airport is, so far, having the opposite effect.

As a result of the N.C. General Assembly’s approval of a bill last summer to make the airport an independent agency, five different local governments are being asked to adopt special zoning for property around the airport to satisfy federal regulators.

State government, or perhaps even the city, could find itself on the hook to pay $2.2 million or more to bring about a land transfer mandated by the law.

And a second battle could be brewing between city government and the airport over who sits on the airport’s governing board.

Last August, the board refused to accept Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy as a member at a contentious meeting in which the terms of the legislation were at issue. Now, Bellamy says city council should remove and replace its appointee to the airport board, Chairman David Hillier, before his term expires.

Dealing with the issues is keeping bureaucrats and politicians in Asheville, Raleigh, Atlanta and Washington busy and has frayed relations between the city government and the airport. There have been two vacancies on the airport’s governing board for months, although one was filled recently.

Airport Director Lew Bleiweis worries that the issues could even affect the airport’s ability to get federal funds for a major runway repair project, although Bellamy calls that concern a “red herring.”

The Asheville situation could also be a cautionary tale for officials in Charlotte. State Sen. Bob Rucho and Rep. Bill Brawley, both Matthews Republicans, are pushing bills in the General Assembly this year to make a similar transfer of Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The Senate bill, moving the airport from city control to a Charlotte Airport Authority, has already passed two committees. The bill is also sponsored by Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, a central figure in changing the ownership of Asheville Regional Airport.

Since the 1930s, Charlotte Douglas has been a unit of Charlotte city government. About 90 percent of the language in the Rucho-Brawley bills appears to have been lifted from last year’s Asheville law.

Why the fuss?

In Asheville, two factors have caused most of the problems.

Members of an all-Democrat City Council are still unhappy about the transfer of an asset, without monetary compensation, that city taxpayers paid to establish in 1958.

And the Federal Aviation Administration has raised concerns about the state legislation, saying some of its provisions might violate the terms of FAA grants the airport has received for years.

The airport technically became an independent agency last year. But the FAA still recognizes city government and Buncombe County as the airport’s “sponsors,” with responsibility to oversee use of FAA funds.

Giving the airport the ability to be its own sponsor, thus ending the need for city council or the Buncombe Board of Commissioners to approve many airport actions, was a primary goal of the legislation to make the airport independent.

But to do that, the FAA wants assurance that the transfer will not reduce the airport’s ability to acquire adjacent property or weaken zoning controls. And the FAA wants compensation for property the 2012 legislation says should be given to state government.

“The airport owner is required to take appropriate action to protect the airspace around the airport and, to the extent reasonable, restrict the use of land adjacent to or in the immediate vicinity of the airport ,” FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

The legislation limited local government’s ability to condemn property in an industrial park near the airport and transferred zoning authority over airport property from the city of Asheville to Buncombe County.

Bleiweis, the airport director, said he does not expect the condemnation issue to be a problem once the airport explains the situation to the FAA.

He also said he does not think it will be difficult to get local governments with jurisdiction over land near the airport – Asheville, Buncombe County, Henderson County, Fletcher and Mills River – to adopt zoning that would satisfy the FAA.

“They all seem very willing to participate in making sure they protect the asset of the airport,” he said.

Land transfer issues

It may be more difficult to deal with the state legislation’s order that Asheville transfer 50 acres it owns at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center to state government without payment. That acreage was originally intended for airport use.

A November letter from an FAA regional official in Atlanta to Bleiweis says the property can’t be transferred unless an amount equivalent to the fair market value of the land is reinvested in the airport.

The FAA imposes the requirement for property purchased using federal money, as the 50 acres apparently were. Market value of the property isn’t known.

The Buncombe County Tax Department values similar land nearby at $43,559 an acre. That figure would yield a value of $2.2 million for the 50 acres, but tax values are often on the low side compared to market rates and per-acre values for some tracts in the area are higher.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Henderson County Republican who co-sponsored the airport transfer bill, said the provision was intended to take care of uncompleted steps following a 1985 transaction that gave the state control of the Agricultural Center property.

He and the city, however, disagree on the meaning of the transaction, which was structured as a lease. The city got $500,000 as part of the deal and used the money to buy buses for its transit system.

McGrady understands the FAA’s position to mean Asheville would have to pay the property’s value to the airport unless the FAA grants a waiver.

But in normal property transfers, the party receiving property gives money to the party losing it. In this case, that would mean the state Department of Agriculture would pay the city.

Clark’s letter does not say who would pay whom, only that FAA approval would “be contingent upon the net proceeds, based on fair market value, being reinvested in the Asheville Regional Airport.”

Multiple agendas

Before last year, the airport had been governed by a board with three members appointed by the city, three by Buncombe County and one chosen by the other appointees.

The 2012 legislation changed that to give Asheville, Buncombe County and Henderson County two appointees each. That group picks the seventh member.

Bellamy said a recent city council meeting that council should start looking for a replacement for airport board chairman Hillier.

“I have repeatedly witnessed him not supporting the city’s efforts and I think it’s important to have our appointees support us,” she said.

Hillier, whose term expires in 2014, said his job is to look out for the interests of the airport, not the city’s.

To do otherwise, Hillier said, would be “a drop-dead conflict of interest.”

Moffitt and McGrady said conflicts and bureaucratic snags surrounding the changes stem in large part from Asheville making politicizing issues about the airport.

“If you approach things in a political way instead of a practical way, then it makes things complicated, and that’s what city council has done,” Moffitt said.

The airport’s benefit to the city continues no matter who governs it, he said, and the services it provides are the return on city residents’ investment in it years ago.

But Bellamy said city council had “a great working relationship” with the airport before the legislation changing its status came along.

“It was not a good idea to begin with,” she said, citing the FAA’s concerns.

Bellamy said some of the impact of the change in the airport’s status is symbolic and some is practical.

It is only reasonable that the city would object to the loss of a major asset that its residents paid for after Buncombe County government balked, she said.

“It sets a precedent that when local governments make investments in infrastructure the state can come and take it away,” she said.

Story and Reaction/Comments: 

The Charlotte Airport Authority bill 

•  Creates a 13-member board to oversee the airport, with one member each appointed by the mayor of Charlotte, the Charlotte City Council, the governor, Senate president pro tem, House speaker, and the county commissioners of Mecklenburg, Gaston, Union, Lincoln, Iredell and Cabarrus counties. The board members would elect their remaining two members. Members could serve up to two consecutive four-year terms.

•  Gives the authority power to enter into contracts, issue bonds, hire and fire personnel, and hire and set the compensation for the airport director. It would also have limited power of eminent domain to seize property, if it was required to take the property to satisfy federal regulations.

•  Requires the city to hand over all title and claim to the airport property and assets within 90 days. The airport’s total assets were valued at nearly $2 billion in fiscal 2012. The authority would take ownership.

•  Requires the authority to hold monthly meetings, subject to the same open-meetings laws as other public bodies. The authority must submit an annual report and budget to the surrounding counties.

•  Pays the board for travel expenses and meals for meetings; entitles members to free airport parking while on official business.

Ely Portillo

Pilots guild claims SriLankan threatening air safety

The Airline Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka (ALPGSL) claims it has learned of an attempt by the senior management of SriLankan Airlines to lower the required standards after the selection of successful candidates in the current cadet pilot intake.

The ALPGSL Executive Committee, in a statement, said that such minimum standards which have been maintained for over 30 years, has provided safe travel for the general public and has established SriLankan Airline pilots to be of the highest caliber and standards worldwide.

“In the past, these minimum standards in recruitment process have always been maintained and met for the assessment of new cadet pilots in order for the safety and high standards of the Airline to be consistent,” it said.

Lowering of such standards is not in the best interest of the Country or the Airline and it is in this respect, the ALPGSL is seeking clarification from the SriLankan Airlines Senior Management about such a contradictory directive in one of the most highly regulated industries.

“Furthermore it is our understanding that the Chief Pilots in charge of training and more significantly also maintaining standards have tendered their resignation over the last few days. In view of these serious developments, the ALPGSL membership have been reluctantly compelled to take relevant action and have been given the mandate necessary for further action if needed in order to protect the standards of the Airline,” the ALPGSL Executive Committee statement said.

Due to the seriousness and repercussions of such actions by the Management, the ALPGSL has appealed to the Government to look into these irregularities and are confident that required action and accountability will be initiated and taken. 

2 face sentencing in plot to ship aircraft to Iran

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — An Iranian national and an American citizen who worked as an airline pilot are scheduled to be sentenced in a plot to ship helicopters and aircraft parts to Iran's state-run civilian airline in violation of the U.S. trade embargo.

U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley is scheduled to hand down the sentences for Hamid Asefi, a 68-year-old Iranian citizen, and 53-year-old Behzad "Tony" Karimian, a U.S. citizen living in Louisville who holds a valid Iranian passport.

The pair pleaded guilty in December to violating and conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. That law allows the president to impose economic sanctions against another country.

Prosecutors say none of the parts or aircraft was intended for the military.

Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Man's aviation hobby goes to new heights

Dick Duncan stands next to a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub on Wednesday in his basement in Mechanicsburg. 
Joe Hermitt,

Dick Duncan restores two 1946 Piper J-3 Cubs in his basement on Wednesday in Mechanicsburg. 
Joe Hermitt,

MECHANICSBURG — Dick Duncan was the kind of child who wanted to know how everything worked. 

 He developed a love for taking things apart and creating new inventions as he grew up around tractors and other machinery on his family’s potato farm in northern Maine.

He fondly recalls one project from his teenage years in which he turned airplane parts into a propeller-driven snow mobile.

Duncan, 73, stills finds pleasure in building new things and for more than a year, he has been constructing two Piper J-3 Cubs — small airplanes scheduled to fly this summer for the first time.

“The J-3s were the planes of the '40s and '50s. I’m kind of living in the past by bringing these planes back to life,” Duncan said with a laugh. “I have restored many planes, but I have never had the opportunity to really build one from scratch.”

Duncan studied crop management at the University of Maine. Married with three daughters, he worked for the federal government overseeing soil conservation and lived in Puerto Rico, Hawaii and other parts of the United States before settling in the area.

When he retired in 1995, Duncan, a certified pilot, rekindled his passion for airplanes by acquiring certificates through the Federal Aviation Administration that allowed him to work on and inspect airplanes.

He turned those certifications into a business. He is the owner and president of Wings ‘N Things, a company based at Capital City Airport in New Cumberland that provides service and repair work for airplanes. Duncan’s company has worked on planes that have transported state governors and attorneys general.

In October 2011, he started building the J-3 Cubs in the basement of his home off Dry Powder Road. Both planes are about 24 feet long with 30-foot wingspans and will run with approximately 90-horsepower engines.

While they’re close to completion now, both planes started as piles of parts. Duncan acquired many of them online and did the meticulous work of piecing everything together, painting and coating the wings, and making sure everything was just right.

In a recent visit with a PennLive reporter, he pointed to a set of engineering designs on the wall of his basement and said building the planes was just like assembling a large model airplane.

He later acknowledged that with one plane he was stumped on how to install a part of the wing. He had to seek out engineers and others familiar with the J-3 to figure out what went wrong before it was fixed.

Duncan said the planes and their parts cost about $35,000 each. A single part is often expensive — one crankshaft cost $2,500.

The plan is to fly them at an event in Lock Haven. The J-3s, which were observation planes in the World War II era, used to be produced at a factory there.

Asked if there will be any trepidation in flying a plane he built for the first time, Duncan said that feeling will quickly dissipate.

“You have a big lump in your throat when you first lift off the ground,” he said. “But it’s such an exhilarating feeling to know that you took a pile of pieces and parts and made it into something that flies. It’s very satisfying.”

 Duncan is not alone in constructing planes. In 2011, Dan Reeves concluded his nine-year building odyssey of a two-seater Van’s RV-7A airplane, when he pulled it through a hole in a wall at his Lower Allen Township house and into the light of day.

Story and Photos:

Airport boss fired amid expenses inquiry

Jeremy Jackson
The boss of Cayman’s airports authority has been fired amid a continuing investigation into expenses.

Jeremy Jackson, chief executive officer of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, was sacked 
on Thursday.

In a brief statement the airports authority board said: “The decision to terminate the chief executive officer was based solely on facts and was not political or 
otherwise influenced.”

The board gave no official reason for the decision and no details of its internal audit, saying it was 
still in progress. 

The initial findings of the audit were revealed to board members in December, following which Mr. Jackson was placed on leave with full pay and financial controller Shelley Ware was fired. An independent firm is now 
reviewing the findings.

The audit, carried out by one of the airports authority board’s own directors who is an accountant, was ordered because of “ongoing concerns” relating to the expenses of the authority, chairman Richard Arch said in a separate statement earlier last week.

Some allegations of financial misconduct, apparently based on the findings of an interim report, were leaked and posted on the Internet.

But Mr. Arch would not discuss details of the internal audit’s findings. 

“The full audit is pending completion,” he said. “Subject to the board receiving the audit, a decision will be made as to next steps.”

The board also offered no further comment when asked if any of the findings of the audit had been referred to police for investigation.

The authority’s audited financial statements for 2009 recorded a $91,000 loss of revenue due to theft. The financial statements for 2011, released last month, were given a “qualified opinion” by the auditor general, which means there are areas of concern.

In his notes on the statements, the auditor said the disclosure of the business interests of management and board members, and their dealings with the airport, were not complete. 

Disclosure is required to assess whether the financial position and performance of the entity has been affected by the business relationships of management or board directors.


Mercer County (KBLF), Bluefield, West Virginia: Airport Authority to iron out property ownership

BLUEFIELD — In spite of the economic challenges facing the nation these days, the long-awaited King Coal Highway remains on the books, although the Mercer County Airport Authority isn’t too sure that a parcel of property it sold to the Department of Transportation was actually the authority’s to sell.

“I believe that the DOT condemned a piece of property it thought the airport authority owned, but it does not,” Brian Huffman of Chapman Technical Group told the authority during its monthly meeting last month. “The pressing point here is that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is wanting to release the property from it’s books if it’s out of your property, but I don’t think it ever was part of your property.”

Randall Ernest, Mercer County Airport manager, said the DOT negotiated the property acquisition when John Gilly was serving as airport manager. Ernest expressed his opposition to the authority contracting an attorney to straighten the situation out. “It should be up to the DOT to go back and straighten this out,” he said.

Huffman showed maps of the property in question that clearly indicated that the authority did not own the property in question. Ernest said that he deposited the $15,000 the authority received from the DOH into a savings account, because he was uncertain about the ownership when he first learned of the deal.

“We can’t keep money that doesn’t belong to us,” Charlie Cole, a member of the authority said.

Huffman showed that the parcel was between to pieces of property with occupied residences on it. “It’s going to be found out,” Huffman said. “The FAA is pushing the authority to release this property.”

Huffman said that he has already started drafting a letter to the DOT to inform them of the situation. Cole made a motion to authorize Chapman Technical Group to prepare the letter. The motion carried without opposition.

“This has been going on for a year and a half,” Huffman said. 

- See more at:

Teterboro (KTEB), New Jersey: Wildlife biologist helps keep airport safer for birds, pilots

A flock of a few dozen horned larks, small birds with distinctive yellow brows, darted out of a wooded area and crossed high above the path. Clapper, a sort of wildlife sheriff at Teterboro, pushed the brake pedal, stepped out with what looked like a pistol and shot two rounds into the air. The first delivered a thunderous bang like an M-80 firecracker, the second a high-pitched wheeze. 

The message: Stay away.

Clapper is on the seldom-seen front lines of an effort to keep two kinds of fliers — one man-made, the other naturally feathered — from colliding over the region’s busy airports. At Teterboro, the challenge is unique and the stakes are high. One of the nation’s busiest general aviation airports also sits on the fringes of the Meadowlands, a popular way station for migrating birds. And the airport itself includes hundreds of acres of protected and strictly regulated wetlands.

Wildlife control at airports has taken on more urgency since US Airways Flight 1549 hit a flock of Canada geese after taking off from La Guardia Airport just over four years ago, forcing an unlikely landing in the Hudson River that averted a potential tragedy. Since then, the Port Authority has put an armed biologist at each of its airports to conduct daily wildlife patrols and surveys.

It’s a job that involves trapping animals, scaring them off with firecrackers, following tracks through mud and snow, identifying species from feathers or feces, setting up hidden trail cameras, and using that shotgun from time to time, as Clapper explained on a recent tour with the airport’s team of wildlife specialists. And it may have earned him a reputation.

“Sometimes they fly off when they see my truck coming, and I ask myself, ‘Do they know?’ ” Clapper said, half-joking.

Animal control efforts at the region’s airports have stirred the passions of animal rights activists. A protest was held outside Teterboro last summer. Airport officials say the vast majority of their efforts are non-lethal. But Clapper, who crisscrosses Teterboro’s runways on his daily wildlife patrols, resorted to more extreme measures hundreds of times in 2012. Using mostly his shotgun, he killed starlings, gulls, doves, raccoons, a white-tailed deer and a red-tailed hawk, Port Authority data show.

Some species are granted more leniency than others. There’s “zero tolerance” for geese, gulls and deer that get through holes in the perimeter fencing, said Laura Francoeur, the Port Authority’s chief wildlife biologist. What does “zero tolerance” mean?

“They shoot them,” answered Pam Philips, Teterboro’s operations and security manager.

European starlings, called “feathered bullets” because their bodies are dense and they fly in thick flocks, aren’t easily persuaded to stay away through non-lethal methods, either.

Hawks are a different story. The single red-tailed hawk killed at Teterboro last year, one of 10 caught in traps Clapper set up on the airport grounds, was captured three times. An identification band was attached to its leg after its first capture, and each time, it was transported 60 miles away from the airport in a special “pet taxi.” But the raptor kept flying back to Teterboro for some reason.

“It’s three strikes and you’re out,” Philips said while surveying a pond near the approach of Runway 6 that was recently covered with gridded wire to discourage large birds from landing there.

“That’s an industry standard,” interjected Francoeur.

“Yes, but I also think it’s also an example of the extra lengths we go to,” Philips said.

Teterboro, which in recent years has had among the highest rate of bird strikes in the nation, might seem like a bad place to locate an airport. But the Port Authority didn’t build it. It dates back to 1918, when it was a base of operations for a Dutch aircraft designer. The Port Authority acquired it in 1949. Today, it handles 300 flights a day on average, mostly private jets carrying business executives.

“There’s always going to be something, no matter where an airport is,” said Francoeur, who was previously the biologist for John F. Kennedy Airport, also built on wetlands. “In an ideal world we wouldn’t want water on the airport, but it’s there, so you look at things like designs and modification of vegetation.”

Bird-plane collisions are still fairly common. There were 75 reported at Teterboro last year, according to federal aviation data, two of which caused minor damage. But reporting is voluntary.

In July 2000, a Cessna 650 hit a flock of starlings just after takeoff, damaging both engines. The plane made a quick landing. Over 40 carcasses were found on the runway.

Nationally, reported bird strikes are on the upswing. It’s unclear if that’s due to increased awareness since the Hudson River landing.

“Since Flight 1549 everyone thinks they hit a goose,” Francoeur said, noting that reporting bird strikes has never been mandatory.

The increased sensitivity is also evident at Teterboro. Operations workers and maintenance staff carry pamphlets with images of birds and species names. They sweep the runways at least twice a day looking for carcasses. They know where to go if they see animal remains in an engine or feces — also called “scat” — which Clapper can usually identify with a quick glance.

“I’m in the field a lot. I talk to maintenance personnel,” said Clapper, who is employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which the Port Authority hired to handle day-to-day patrols. “They know if they see anything to tell me.”

Everything is documented. Any unidentified bird remains, called “snarge,” are sent to the Feather Identification Lab at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington for a positive identification through DNA analysis. The biologists call it “Bird CSI.” The information is used to determine what species are the most common around the airport and how to keep them away. The agency’s so-called Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Management Plan is updated each year to take into account population shifts.

Wildlife control is highly regulated. The Port Authority has state and federal permits to capture and kill certain species. It is required to send regular detailed reports about its activities to environmental agencies. The state’s endangered and threatened birds cannot be killed. And federally listed threatened and endangered species can’t even be harassed without special permission from federal wildlife officials.

In most of Teterboro’s collisions, the planes hit American kestrels and barn swallows, but a raccoon and painted turtle were also struck, records show.

Newark Liberty International, host to nearly three times as many flights annually, saw fewer than twice as many reported strikes in 2012. Most of Newark’s resulted in no damage to planes. But an American robin caused an estimated $175,000 worth of damage to a United Airlines plane at Newark in October, aviation records show.

During the recent tour, on an overcast day, there was less wildlife activity than normal. A flock of starlings in short grass took flight as Clapper approached. A red-tailed hawk perched on a treetop on the eastern edge of the airport was oblivious to Clapper’s demonstration of how a nearby hawk trap worked.

The pitched roof of the doghouse-shaped container, made of mesh wire, is held open by a stick. In the bottom of the container is a separate compartment. The “bait birds,” starlings or doves, that attract larger birds of prey, are held here, with food and a bowl of water. When a large bird swoops down and lands on a perching rod, the top closes down.

“Normally if I saw a hawk like that I’d set my traps,” Clapper said, motioning to the raptor in the distance. On this day, he didn’t set them because, he said, he didn’t want to expose the bait birds to inclement weather. He said he does not usually “harass” the hawks with pyrotechnics, either. “You have to be careful not to chase them into an airplane’s path,” Philips said.

The harassment and traps have a primary purpose: to save human lives, Philips said. But biologist Jeff Kolodzinski said that they also save birds’ lives.

Back at the Port Authority administration building, the biologists were talking about the unlucky ones. Once, a chunk of a bird was found embedded in a five-inch hole of a plane after it landed in New York City, Kolodzinski said. The plane had taken off from Istanbul. A DNA analysis found the bird was native to Turkey, suggesting the plane flew with the bird lodged inside of it.

Clapper opened a deep freezer in the warehouse of the administration building and pulled out others that had gotten the worst of a collision. This is where recovered birds remain until they are identified and documented.

Feathery remains were inside one plastic freezer bag, labeled “American kestrel, 10-2-12, runway 6-12, south xway c.” Another bag held a nearly intact black-and-white owl the size of a quart of milk.

“A great horned owl probably, likely hit at night,” Clapper said, spreading one of its speckled wings. “I think it’s a long eared owl,” said Kolodzinski, initiating a common challenge between the airport biologists. “Sometimes we have arguments for an hour,” he said.

AirAsia Starts Hiring for India Venture

March 4, 2013, 5:04 a.m. ET
The Wall Street Journal

AirAsia Bhd. is moving ahead with plans to set up an Indian budget airline with interviews planned this week to recruit senior staff and pilots.

AirAsia, which last month announced the joint venture with the Tata Group, aims to name its chief executive for the new company soon and will conduct interviews for senior pilots in Mumbai later in the week, according to people familiar with the situation.

AirAsia will need senior pilots on board early on to help with the airline's certification and approval process with India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation. But before that, AirAsia first needs to receive approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board for the proposed tie-up.

Sepang, Malaysia based AirAsia didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

AirAsia and Tata are aiming to crack India's difficult aviation market where excessive government regulation and jet fuel prices that are among the highest in the world have stifled the industry. AirAsia will own a 49% stake in AirAsia India, while Tata Sons, the Indian salt-to-software conglomerate, will own 30% in the venture. Arun Bhatia of Telstra Tradeplace Pvt. Ltd. will own the remaining 21%.

Among the pilots being approached by AirAsia include several Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. captains, according to the people familiar with the situation. As many as 30 Kingfisher captains are in the job market after their airline was grounded in October as the carrier, owned by liquor baron Vijay Mallya, failed to keep flights going because of mounting debt.

AirAsia, which will operate Airbus A320 aircraft in India, can employ many of these pilots with little retraining needed as they operated the same aircraft type while at Kingfisher.