Monday, August 26, 2013

German plane makes emergency landing in Croatia: Condor Boeing 757-300, D-ABOJ, Flight DE-1015

A German plane carrying over 200 passengers was forced to make an emergency landing in Croatia on Monday. The pilot of the aircraft took no chances when a burning smell was detected in the cabin.

The Condor-owned plane was destined for Frankfurt after departing the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Hurghada, but was forced to land in Dubrovnik over an hour before it was scheduled to land.

The smell of burning emanated from a kitchen in the rear of the plane, according to the German news agency DPA.

"A Boeing 757-300 belonging to the German company Condor made an emergency landing at the airport of Dubrovnik just before 16:00 [local time, 14:00 GMT]," Marina Haluzan, a spokeswoman for Croatian air traffic control, told AFP.

The passengers and crew were unhurt and able to leave the plane, with a replacement flight set to depart Dubrovnik just after midnight.

The plane was met by ambulances and fire engines, but none were used. The airline has sent a technical team to Croatia to investigate the incident.


Scare as LIAT airplane lands safely after wheel failure

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – The regional airline, LIAT, Monday confirmed that one of its aircraft on a flight from Guyana to Barbados landed safely at the Grantley Adams International Airport here after experiencing a “main wheel failure during takeoff”.

It said the landing of flight LI 774 with 43 passengers on board was “uneventful” and the “aircraft is being examined by the company’s maintenance department and will undergo the various checks stipulated by the manufacturer before it is returned to service”.

Over the past few weeks, LIAT has been experiencing a number of problems with passengers complaining of being left stranded at airports across the region.

Over the weekend, 29 Dominicans who attend the 11th OECS Credit Union Summit in St Kitts, claimed that they were stranded at the airport awaiting a flight home on the regional airline.

Last week, LIAT, announced that its service is “expected to improve significantly with the return of a new plane to its network”.

The airline said that the service was boosted by the return one of its two newly acquired ATR aircraft which was grounded in Barbados for a week due to a technical issue that has now been resolved.

The ATR 72, a twin-engine turboprop short-haul regional aircraft, is one of two such planes recently acquired by the company in its fleet modernization program.

Earlier this month,a prominent Dominican businessman accused LIAT of contributing to the damage of fragile economies in the Caribbean through its poor service.


Sólyom Airways to hock grocery items

The Sólyom Hungarian Airways will reportedly be flying the skies with full commercial-travel services this coming autumn, but before then the trademark falcon logo will be landing in Tesco, Reál and CBA shopping outlets, emblazoned on products bearing theNaturallebrand name.
At a press conference today, Sólyom Hungarian Airways Kft Managing Director János Lucsik and CEO József Vágó together with Sales One representatives previewed products from the incipient “premium Hungarian product line – bottled water, refined flour, sunflower oil and plum jam – developed by the latter. Sólyom was announced as a now-10% owner of the marketing company, which was established in November 2012.

Of course, nearly any story featuring the would-be national airline includes future bigger plans, and Sólyom did not disappoint today. Lucsik stated that the Sólyom/Sales One premium brand aims to employ up to 2,500 by the end of 2017. Not only this, but Lucsik also hinted that the company together with Sales One might soon be sponsoring two unnamed sports clubs in Hungary.

No questions were taken by Vágó or the others on the airline, with the latest news that Sólyom’s first charter flights are to begin in September with standard scheduled flights beginning in “early October.”


South Florida emerging as a leading flight-training location

Monday, August 26, 2013

BY MIKE SEEMUTH,  Miami Herald

Call it Florida’s “Sim City.”

Clustered along Northwest 36th Street in the area along Miami International Airport’s northern border are the companies and schools that house most of South Florida’s 62 FAA-approved airline flight simulators. Private and commercial pilots, and many aviation professionals, learn and hone their craft on the devices, which re-create the experience of aircraft flight. Only Atlanta, with 64, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with 122, currently have more.

In South Florida, three companies dominate the pilot-training landscape. As of Aug. 1, Airbus and Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, and Pan Am International Flight Academy had a total of 53 simulators at their training centers on Northwest 36th Street. That number may rise — pushing the region’s prominence higher — as Boeing concentrates all its North American flight and maintenance training at its Virginia Gardens campus.

“I don’t think there’s any other place in the world that has that many “sims” in three-mile radius,” said Gregory Darrow, senior director of sales and marketing at Pan Am International Flight Academy, the third of the trio. The price of a full-motion flight simulator generally ranges from $20 million to $30 million. “We just brought in two new [Boeing] 777 sims and a 747-400 sim,” said Darrow.

As these and other companies with South Florida facilities grow, so does the region’s reputation as a leading flight-training location. And while the “Big Three” companies with facilities on Northwest 36th Street are the giants on the pilot-training landscape, there are also many other contenders — from small private schools to college campuses — throughout South Florida as well as near MIA..

Some industry experts, noting the strong job prospects for pilots in many parts of the globe, foresee more visitors at South Florida training sites. Area hotels and businesses would benefit, they add. They remark on the sophistication and variety of training opportunities; slightly more than half of South Florida flight simulators are “Level D” models, for instance — the kind that qualify pilots to land an aircraft without requiring an actual flight test.

Less optimistic, however, are observers who also look at the increasing costs and requirements of gaining a pilot’s license. For them, the training industry faces the prospect of a bumpy ride.


Boeing had considered consolidating its North American training in Atlanta or Seattle but picked the Miami area instead, said Bob Bellitto, global sales leader of Boeing Flight Services, the company’s training unit.

“We’re going to add more than $100 million worth of simulators and devices this year, which basically doubles our investment in the [Miami] campus. So it’s very significant,” Bellitto said. “Miami is a hub for commercial shipping traffic as well as commercial aviation traffic. It’s a natural location [for training]. It’s kind of the centerline of the Americas.”

Both tourism and transportation benefit: Bellitto and others say that visitors to the training centers who stay about eight nights will generate an estimated 38,000 room-nights a year at local hotels after Boeing fully consolidates its North American training in South Florida, scheduled for completion by the year’s end.

At the Boeing flight training center near Miami International Airport, as of Aug. 1, there were 15 flight simulators; the company expects to have a total of 17 simulators there by the end of the year. Boeing this year already has moved two full-motion flight simulators for its new 787 Dreamliner, among other models, from Seattle to its training center in Virginia Gardens.

Just east of Boeing’s 134,000-square-foot training center on Northwest 36th Street is the 110,000-square-foot flight and maintenance training center of its rival, Airbus.

The company’s growth is partly fueled by its increasing share of the commercial aircraft market in Latin America, said Joe Houghton, vice president of training and flight operations support in the Americas for Airbus.

“It’s just going gangbusters for us,” Houghton said. “There’s an expansion that needs to happen.”

At the Airbus training center in Miami, “we still have some room to grow.”

Northwest 36th Street in Miami also is the home of Pan Am International Flight Academy, the original training division of the old Pan American Airways.

Its flagship facilities in Miami currently feature full-motion flight simulators, 31 types of jet aircraft ranging from the Airbus A330, and the McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 to the Boeing 747, 767 and 777. The school also has U.S. training centers for airline pilots in Denver, Las Vegas, Memphis and Minneapolis.

The presence of Airbus, Boeing and Pan Am International distinguish the pilot instruction ecosystem of Miami from smaller clusters of flight training schools and facilities in most U.S. cities.

When Boeing completes its consolidation of North American training in Miami, “this is going to be their largest flight training facility in the world,” said James Kohnstamm, vice president, economic development, at the Beacon Council, the economic development agency of Miami-Dade County.

The Airbus flight training center in Miami is the only one in the Americas and one of only five in the world, and “we hope to see some growth from them in the future” at the Northwest 36th Street location, Kohnstamm said. “They have some opportunities for growth on adjacent properties.”

Pan Am also could get busier soon. Tokyo-based ANA Group, parent company of All Nippon Airways, announced July 30 a definitive agreement to acquire the Miami-based flight training school from its owner, American Capital Ltd., for $139.5 million. The acquisition by ANA, which closed Thursday, means “we’ll be expanding dramatically in Asia,” Darrow said.


Some airline pilots who train in South Florida earned college degrees just up the road on I-95 at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.

“We train some of the best pilots in America. Twenty-five percent of all the professional pilots in the United States are trained at Embry-Riddle,” said John P. Johnson, president of the private university. Embry-Riddle students who earn four-year degrees in aeronautical science and become airline pilots learn much more than how to fly a plane. “We’re not a flight school. We’re not a flight training program,” Johnson said. “Six of our graduates are U.S. astronauts.”

Flight training schools found near South Florida’s airports are usually more down to earth. They provide instruction for the initial levels of pilot certification, and they usually offer more than just flying lessons. Typically they train students at general aviation airports on propeller-driven planes while operating such sideline businesses as aircraft rentals, sales of pilot supplies, air tours and aerial photography.

At Wayman Flight Training, for example, aircraft rentals supplement revenue from pilot instruction.

Wayman Eduardo Luy, general manager and part-owner of the flight training school, based at the Opa-locka Executive Airport, said that “the vast majority of our business is training ... We’re flying a fleet of 14 airplanes right now. We’re pretty busy. Miami is a huge flight training center.”

Many of his students are foreign nationals who work abroad as pilots after obtaining certification in Miami.

“We’re training them here and shipping them off to South America or Asia,” Luy said.

Foreign students must register with the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, which is one of the biggest changes at flight training schools since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

“Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen is required to register with the TSA for a background check to make sure you’re not a terrorist,” Luy said. “And of course, if you’re not a U.S. citizen, you need a visa.”

The Federal Aviation Administration lists 75 FAA-approved pilot schools in Florida on its Website, including 24 in South Florida. Among them are Broward College and Miami-Dade College, which provide classroom training and farm out in-flight training to private schools. In addition, many so-called “non-approved” schools operate legally and effectively without meeting FAA standards for curricula, personnel, equipment and facilities. However, the FAA requires students of nonapproved schools to obtain 40 hours of in-flight training for a private pilot certification, compared with 35 hours at approved schools.

Helicopter training requires substantially more time in the air.

Helicopter Academy, based at the North Perry Airport in Hollywood, provides 300 hours of in-flight training, said manager Tom McDermott. Students of the FAA-approved school who have learned to fly a fixed-wing plane need more flight time to master a helicopter. “You’re basically going from a tricycle to a unicycle,” McDermott said, “from something that’s basically stable to something that’s basically unstable.”

Many more hours of in-flight training are required to become a co-pilot, or first officer, with a major commercial airline. The FAA recently increased the minimum to 1,500 hours from 1,000 hours, with certain exceptions for institutions that offer more than basic flying lessons. For example, the minimum remains 1,000 hours for graduates of aeronautical science programs like the one at Embry-Riddle. “If you earn a four-year college degree, then you only need 1,000 hours of flight time,” said Bob Rockmaker, president of the Allentown, Pa.-based Flight School Association of North America.

Pilots commonly work their way into airline jobs by working as instructors for flight training schools, collecting pay rather than paying to accumulate in-flight hours. But that career path has narrowed. Rockmaker said there are about 1,500 flight training schools in the United States, down from about 2,400 before the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, perpetrated by a group of passenger-jet hijackers that included several foreign nationals who attended Florida flight schools.

“The whole flight training industry was pretty much shut down for a while” after the 9/11 attacks, Rockmaker said. “There were schools that never reopened, and there were many schools that were closed for 30, 60, 90 days because of all the challenges, the problems, the checking by the security folks that needed to check on them.”

Vocational credit availability has been a more recent challenge for flight training schools.

SLM Corp., better known as “Sallie Mae,” is a former government-sponsored provider of education loans that became a private company in 2004 and subsequently stopped lending to students of most flight schools. “Almost every flight school in the country lost their relationship with Sallie Mae,” Rockmaker said.

“The big driving force is the cost, and it can be pretty expensive, especially when you’re buying the flight time,” said Tom Jargiello, director of the Eig-Watson School of Aviation at Miami Dade College. “You’re looking at years and thousands of dollars before you can actually sit there and pilot a commercial plane.” MDC students who pursue a two-year associate egree in professional pilot technology can expect to pay more than $30,000 for flying lessons alone plus the cost of tuition, books and other expenses.

Yet despite the high cost of becoming an airline captain or first officer, job opportunities for pilots appear ample, especially abroad.

Boeing last year forecast worldwide demand for 460,000 additional commercial airline pilots by 2032, including 185,600 in China alone. Boeing will release an update of its annual forecast of global demand for pilots and aircraft mechanics during the public event Thursday at its Miami training center.

“There’s a huge pilot shortage right now. There’s an estimated 300,000 pilots that are needed across the world,” said Bellitto, the Boeing executive. “Countries like China and India need more and more pilots as they’re developing their industries,” and in the United States, “the baby boomers are retiring, and Vietnam-era pilots that were trained in the military are retiring.”

Read more here: 

The ‘Big Three’ pilot schools on 36th Street 


Address: 4355 NW 36th St.,

Miami Springs

Features: Seven full-motion jet flight simulators

Total space: 110,000 square feet

Trainees: 1,400 a year

Full-time employees: 100


Address: 6601 NW 36th St.,

Virginia Gardens

Features: 15* full-motion jet flight simulators

Total space: 134,000 square feet

Trainees: 4,500* a year

Full-time employees: 100

* 17 after Boeing completes its consolidation of North American flight training in Miami.


Address: 5000 NW 36th St., Miami

Features: 31 full-motion simulators for Airbus, Boeing, McDonnell-Douglas and other jet aircraft

Total space: 210,000 square feet

Trainees: 3,000 a year

Full-time employees: 60

Read more here:

Public 'backs pilots' on work hours after it is revealed they could be awake for 22 hours

Air passengers are concerned about proposed changes to flying rules that could lead to an aircraft being flown by a pilot who has been awake for 22 hours.

Nine out of 10 people are worried about the changes being voted on by MEPs in October, according to a survey by British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa).

The new rules could lead to pilots operating long haul flights with two rather than three crew members and working up to seven early starts in a row.

The changes to pilots' duty times and rest requirements have been proposed by the EU’s European Aviation Safety Agency's (EASA) and are aimed at ‘harmonising’ limits on pilots’ hours across the EU.

Under the new rules, pilots could be landing commercial jets after 22 hours awake - including 11 hours flying, plus stand-by time and travel to the airport.

Under the current UK rules, pilots work a maximum of three early starts in a row and a maximum of 95 hours in 14 days. EASA is proposing to change this to seven early starts in a row and a maximum of 110 hours in 14 days.

Three pilots are needed on many long-haul flights but EASA has proposed that only two pilots are needed on some of the longest flights. Balpa says this will mean that the pilots have no opportunity to rest in flight before the landing.

There are also currently many restrictions around pilots being called for duty on days off so that they can plan rest but, under the proposed changes, they can be called at any time on any day with no restrictions.

The number of hours pilots can be on home standby will increase from 12 hours to 16 hours, with flight duty starting to clock up after eight hours instead of six.

Jim McAuslan, Balpa's general secretary, said: "The British public are understandably concerned about their pilots being awake for 22 hours before landing a plane under new EU rules. Evidence shows this is similar to being four times over the legal alcohol limit for flying.

"The time is running out for our ministers, MEPs, the UK regulator and MPs to take urgent action and reject these unsafe EU rules to ensure that the skies above Britain remain among the safest in the world."

The European Commission (EC) said safety was the only objective of its proposal to revise the current EU rules in relation to flight time limitations (FTL).

An EC spokesman said: "The Commission is determined to see stronger, safer rules applying across Europe in relation to FTL.

"This is the principle presiding the Commission's proposal to revise the current EU FTL rules.

"The Commission believes that the proposal presented to the Council and the Parliament in July will bring about major improvements across Europe for the safety of our citizens and flight crew.

"This proposal includes a number of clarifications and adjustments addressing issues identified by aircrew unions, by airlines, by the European Parliament, and by Member States.

"The proposal will not result in lowering the safety standards in any Member State."

A Commons’ Transport Select committee warned that 22 hours of wakefulness was ‘an extraordinary figure' - particularly for night flying - that raised levels of fatigue equivalent to being ‘drunk.’ UK pilots can currently go up to 18 hours without sleep.

The committee said it was concerned that "the new regulations are setting a standard that accepts a higher level of fatigue more generally and, if not managed properly, that could well lead to a situation where the accident risk will increase."

The Department for Transport insisted the EU blueprint would neither compromise safety nor increase the risk of pilot fatigue.

However, the Government did accept some of the MP’s findings - including a recommendation to investigate ‘the potential under-reporting of pilot fatigue’.

Ministers said they would also be seeking a strengthening of specific EU ‘fatigue’ rules surrounding flight duties and rest periods and ‘stricter limits’ on how frequently airlines could use discretion to exceed maximum levels.

Story and Comments/Reaction:

T. Rowe bans some American Airlines employees from fund trading

NEW YORK, Aug 26 (Reuters) – T. Rowe Price Group has permanently banned about 1,300 American Airlines employees from trading among its funds in their 401(k) retirement plans, a rare move to curb “collective” trading by subscribers to an investment newsletter.

About 800 additional employees have received warning letters about their trading patterns, according to sources at the airline and at JPMorgan Chase & Co, administrator of the retirement plan.

The ban, confirmed by the airline and the fund company in response to a Reuters inquiry, follows a period of several years in which T. Rowe Price imposed a series of temporary trading restrictions on some subscribers to the EZTracker LLC newsletter for American Airlines employees.

The newsletter suggests monthly mutual fund trades to more than 2,000 subscribers who invest in the company’s defined contribution plan known as $uper $aver 401(k). The plan has more than 80,000 participants.

Investment newsletter veterans said a permanent ban is highly unusual, and raises questions about why a giant like T. Rowe Price, which manages $614 billion, would single out activities of a small group of people. The controversy comes as workers’ anxiety about managing their own retirement investments grows while employers close company-paid and professionally managed pension plans.

“It’s like taking a chainsaw to an ingrown toenail,” said Dan Wiener, publisher of “Independent Advisor,” a newsletter for investors in Vanguard funds. Wiener said he knew of no similar cases.

T. Rowe Price spokesman Bill Benintende said collective trading can disrupt portfolio managers’ strategies and raise costs for long-term investors.

“In limited situations” the company’s funds restrict investors who significantly alter their holdings on the advice of a newsletter, he wrote in an emailed statement confirming the ban. He declined to name the newsletter or discuss other specifics.


The publishers of EZTracker’s newsletter for American Airlines employees said many of its subscribers were banned. They did not know if other airline employees were also affected.

An American Airlines spokesman said the company in its role as plan sponsor has acted appropriately. Despite the ban, all plan participants still can put new payroll deductions into T. Rowe Price’s funds or cash out of them, he emphasized. They cannot trade among the four T. Rowe Price funds in the plan, which has about 26 other investment choices.

Still, the restriction is rankling employees at a sensitive time.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Justice Department sued to block the merger of American Airlines’ bankrupt parent AMR Corp  with U.S. Airways Group.

Last month, American distributed about $3.5 billion to pilots from a company-funded and professionally managed pension plan it had shuttered.

To avoid tax penalties, most pilots are reinvesting the money in 401(k) plans and other retirement vehicles.

“They have kept me from some of the better performing funds,” William Simons, an American Airlines pilot wrote to Reuters in an e-mail. “We thought we were doing everything legally, yet we were punished.”


T. Rowe Price covered itself by amending in 2010 the prospectuses of its funds in the American plan, according to some lawyers who declined to be named because they work with the firm. The new language permits each fund at its discretion to reject trades that “could dilute the value of the fund’s shares, including trading by shareholders acting collectively (e.g., following the advice of a newsletter).”

EZTracker’s co-publishers Paul Burger and former American Airlines captain Michael DiBerardino call the restrictions anti-competitive and vague. “We are being held to a standard that’s not being applied to other newsletters, publications or investment advisers,” Burger said.

The permanent ban was probably triggered by EZTracker’s April 1 suggestion that employees sell T. Rowe’s High Yield Fund, which it had suggested buying five months earlier, he said in an interview.

EZTracker has recommended exiting T. Rowe Price funds in American’s 401(k) plan six times since mid-2010 after a holding period of less than a year, Burger said.

The recommendations trigger a rush of buys and sells in the days following the end-of-month release of the newsletter, Burger acknowledges. He voiced doubts that those would be significant enough to affect the performance of such large funds. The other funds in the plan are T. Rowe’s Science & Technology, MidCap Growth and New Horizons funds.

Since 2010, T. Rowe Price sent a series of warning letters and outright one-year trading bans to several subscribers, some of whom complained to EZTracker. SEC COMPLAINT In May 2012, EZTracker filed a complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, saying that the then-temporary restrictions were “discriminatory and anti- competitive.” It said it had received complaints from hundreds of subscribers, claiming they were injured by the bans. SEC spokesman John Nester declined to comment on the status of the complaint. The T. Rowe Price letters were sent through JPMorgan, which also markets a managed account service called JPMorgan Personal Asset Manager to participants in many of the plans it administers. EZ Tracker charges $84.95 a year for its newsletter while JPMorgan charges an asset management fee that can result in charges of $945 for a $250,000 account. Unlike the newsletter, which simply advises subscribers who make their own trades, the JPMorgan program makes trades on behalf of participants. Burger said he suspected JPMorgan helped orchestrate the trading bans to further its own advisory services among highly compensated airline employees. The complaint to the SEC said the bank’s willingness to enforce the bans is “self-serving.”

“I’m sure they would like to manage the 401(k) plans of all our subscribers,” Burger wrote in an email.

The bank dismissed allegations of conflict.

“JPMorgan in its role as a plan service provider and financial intermediary for the funds has acted appropriately and as directed by the plan sponsor and the fund provider,” bank spokeswoman Kristen Chambers wrote in an email.

“All communication to participants is plan-sanctioned, including any mention of the managed account feature.”

Super-cheap airline may be ready for takeoff

A super-cheap airline may be launched as Indigo is reportedly seeking to buy Frontier Airlines to create a carrier with low fares and lots of fees

Get ready for the takeoff of another super-cheap airline offering ultra-low fares with loads of passenger fees.

Industry insiders say the new super discount airline may soon be launched with the help of Indigo Partners, the Phoenix private equity firm that invested in Spirit Airlines in 2006 and helped convince the Florida airline’s chief executive, Ben Baldanza, to adopt dirt-cheap fares and abundant fees.

Indigo is reportedly negotiating to buy Frontier Airlines from the Denver carrier’s parent company, Republic Airways Holdings Inc. Meanwhile, Indigo has started to divest itself from Spirit, with Indigo owner William Franke and Indigo principal John Wilson resigning from the Spirit board of directors Wednesday.

“They really are taking the Spirit Airlines playbook from Florida to Denver,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst with Hudson Crossing in New York.

Indigo officials did not respond to requests for comment, and Republic Airways representatives would only say that they expect to sell Frontier to a “third party purchaser” by September.

It would make sense for Indigo to transform Frontier from a typical low-cost carrier to an ultra-cheap airline because Spirit has been so profitable, said Fred Lowrance, vice president and senior research analyst at Avondale Partners in Nashville.

The airline reported a profit margin of 8.5% in the three-month period that ended June 30, more than twice the rate of many of its competitors, and shares of Spirit have nearly tripled in value since the company went public in 2011.

“That business model has proven successful,” Lowrance said.

92% increase in travel, tourism jobs analyzed

Hiring for travel and tourism jobs has surged so much in the last few years that the industry has recovered 92% of the positions lost during the recession while the rest of the economy has recovered only 77%.

But some economists dismiss the swell in hiring, arguing that many travel and tourism jobs are part-time or minimum-wage positions, such as waiters.

To address such disdain, the U.S. Travel Assn., the trade group for the nation’s travel industry, has analyzed data to show that most of those travel and tourism jobs generate a middle-class income.

Of the 7.5-million jobs in travel and tourism in the U.S., about 3 million are in food service, such as waiters, with a median salary of about $22,000 a year, said David Huether, senior vice president for research for the U.S. Travel Assn.

The other 4.5-million jobs offer salaries that range from a median annual salary of $27,000 for sales positions, such as travel agents, to $80,000 a year for management positions in hotels and restaurants, he said.

“Jobs in travel and tourism run a huge gamut,” Huether said.

Alaska Airlines tests solar-powered passenger ramps

The green trend is taking hold in the airline industry.

United Airlines announced plans in June to buy 15 million gallons of lower-carbon, renewable jet fuel over a three-year period.

And Alaska Airlines is testing solar-powered passenger ramps.

The mobile ramps used to get passengers on and off planes are equipped with solar panels that power the batteries that drive the ramps’ electric motors. Traditional mobile ramps and passenger stairs are powered by gasoline or diesel engines.

Alaska has been testing the ramps at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the solar ramps can be plugged into an electrical outlet, said Michael Keith, sales manager for Keith Consolidated Industries in Oregon, which built the ramps.

“They are extremely efficient,” he said of the ramps. “There is a lot of savings, not just in fuel but in emissions as well.”

Fueling excitement: JetBlue at Worcester Regional Airport (KORH), Massachusetts

There’s an airline coming in for a landing soon, and it needs no introduction. The buzz over JetBlue’s decision to begin passenger service at Worcester Regional Airport in November is doing much of the marketing work for free.

But it would be foolish not to assist the airline’s debut with an ad campaign. It’s in the area’s interest to help reinforce the message that travelers to and from Florida will have a solid new option in Worcester starting Nov. 7.

MassPort has applied for $350,000 in federal grants to promote JetBlue’s daily flights between Worcester and Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

The federal funds would be combined with $450,000 in state and local funds.

On top of the $800,000, JetBlue is receiving other bonuses for agreeing to do business here.

MassPort will waive airport fees for landing, parking and terminal rent from JetBlue, amounting to a savings of $349,000 for the airline.

It is tremendously important for JetBlue to launch well here. The company has indicated routes to New York City and San Juan could be added if the Florida destinations are popular.

The direct and ancillary benefits to Central Massachusetts residents, colleges and businesses of a trustworthy, well-liked airline operating flights to and from our city are enormous.

For those in and very close to the city, an ad campaign will convey excitement and provide handy, practical information. The ads should reach outside the immediate area as well, serving notice that Worcester’s airport is in the ring of competition with other airports in the region, particularly T.F. Green and Manchester.

JetBlue’s arrival is a big deal, and has a lot riding on it. With or without the federal assistance, it is appropriate and smart for the city and the state to pledge money for marketing.

Travelers will soon be promoting JetBlue’s success in Worcester by buying tickets. To that end, we expect quite an advertising blitz to soon be cleared for takeoff.

All Nippon Airways: Boeing Dreamliner flight experiences radar malfunction, turns back to Tokyo

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA) and bound for Kumamoto had to make a u-turn and go back to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport after a malfunction of the weather radar was detected. There was no major incident during the flight back, and all passengers and crew members were able to transfer to another plane that flew them to their destination.

Flight 641 took off from Tokyo at around 9AM and was bound for the southern city of Kumamoto with 234 passengers. But after a little more than an hour, the plane returned to Haneda at around 1020AM, due to “trouble with the weather radar”. They transferred to another Dreamliner and that plane safely reached Kumamoto early afternoon, without incident. According to ANA spokesman Ryosei Nomura, the problem with the radar was not specific to the 787 and it “could happen in other models of airplane”.

While the error was not uncommon for other planes, this incident is just another one in the long line of problems operators have had with the Boeing high-tech plane. Earlier this year, there was a four-month world-wide fleet grounding of all Dreamliners after problems with the batteries caused problems with ANA and Japan Airlines, two of the biggest operators of the 787s. The resumption of the flights last June has been followed by a series of smaller mishaps, including wiring defects and problems with the emergency beacon. Boeing and the two Japanese carriers took out ads in major Japanese dailies to promote the safety of the 787s before they resumed their flights.