Wednesday, October 02, 2013

2 pilots on crashed Asiana jet to work as ground staff

SEOUL, Oct. 2 (Yonhap) -- Two out of the four pilots aboard the Asiana Airlines jet that crashed in San Francisco in July plan to return to work early this month as ground staff, the airline said Wednesday.

Lee Kang-Kuk, who was in charge of the jet during the accident, and Lee Jung-Min, who was sitting in the cockpit as an instructor pilot, are scheduled to work in the airline's headquarters in western Seoul in the coming days, though no specific date has been set.

The carrier also said their new duties have not been fixed yet either.

The move comes nearly three months after Asiana Airlines' Boeing 777 crashed during its landing at San Francisco International Airport, killing three Chinese teenagers and injuring more than 180 other people.

The two relief pilots onboard resumed flying again last month.

Deborah Hersman, the chief of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, meanwhile, called off her trip to Seoul due to the U.S. government shutdown, according to Asiana Airlines.

Hersman, who heads the U.S. federal agency charged with investigating civil aviation accidents, had been scheduled to arrive in Seoul on Wednesday for talks with South Korean officials and the president of Asiana Airlines on her way to Japan.

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NTSB Identification: DCA13MA120
Scheduled 14 CFR Part 129: Foreign operation of Asiana Airlines
Accident occurred Saturday, July 06, 2013 in San Francisco, CA
Aircraft: BOEING 777-200ER, registration: HL7742
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

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

On July 6, 2013, about 1128 pacific daylight time, Asiana Airlines flight 214, a Boeing 777-200ER, registration HL7742, impacted the sea wall and subsequently the runway during landing on runway 28L at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), San Francisco, California. Of the 4 flight crewmembers, 12 flight attendants, and 291 passengers, about 182 were transported to the hospital with injuries and 3 passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and postcrash fire. The regularly scheduled passenger flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 129 between Incheon International Airport, Seoul, South Korea, and SFO. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.

Budget failure leaves airport tower in limbo: Mid-Ohio Valley Regional (KPKB), Parkersburg, West Virginia

WILLIAMSTOWN - As the federal government shuts down after the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate failed to reach an agreement for funding, the fate of air traffic control towers is again up in the air.

"We may be looking at trying to keep the tower going for a few months," said Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport manager Terry Moore.

On March 22, after a month of discussions, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would close 149 federally contracted towers across the country at smaller airports with the local tower as one of those due to a required part of a $637 million cut from the office's budget under federal sequestration.

In May, the FAA announced those towers in jeopardy would be funded through September. These towers are contracted through three companies and paid for by the FAA and have been kept open this summer following the rearranging of existing Airport Improvement Project (AIP) funds following Congress' passage of funding bills to clear up air traffic controller furlough issues.

With this new fiscal year having started and Congress without a budget, Moore said he does not know what will happen next.

"Right now, we are OK," Moore said. "The shutdown does not currently affect the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) or the tower operations."

This shutdown is for Congress-deemed, non-essential federal functions. It is unknown how long it will last or how it might end.

Moore added the tower situation could easily and quickly change and, if that occurs, the Wood County Airport Authority, the facility's managing arm, would have to decide what to do.

During discussions this spring, he went on a campaign around the area to drum up support and possible funds to keep the tower going for a short time. If funding is again cut, he could be asking for funds and support again.

"In the spring we decided that if funding is cut and there is a chance it could be reinstated, we would do what we could to keep it open ourselves," Moore said. "As long as there is a relatively short period we need to fund the tower, I think it is possible."

It is unknown how much money it will cost to operate the tower for the estimated three months in which the tower will need funding while Congress works on a budget.

Moore said he is expecting the cost to keep the tower staffed and running to be between $60,000 and $95,000.

"We are all right for now, but we need to keep an eye on what is going on in Washington, D.C.," he said. "There is a possibility full funding will be reinstated, but they could also choose to cut it completely."

If the air traffic control towers are not funded in the next federal budget, Moore said there is no point to use local funds to keep the tower operational.

"Without future federal funding why spend the money to just see the tower close, there's no reason to spend funds on something that will close any way," Moore added.

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Interim managers step up: Fairmont Municipal Airport (KFRM), Minnesota

FAIRMONT - Tuesday was the first day on the job for Fairmont Municipal Airport's interim managers.

Four men stepped forward to fill the gap left by the termination of the city's contract with Five Lakes Aviation. Comprising the team is lead manager Mark Craven, Verlus Burkhart, Dennis Thate and Homer Scott.

Craven, a farmer, has a wide scope of experience in aviation, as a flight instructor, corporate pilot for Dr. Corey Welchlin, and private pilot. Together with Scott, Craven even built an airplane.

Scott, also a farmer in the Dunnell area, has a similar resume. He is the only one of the four who does not live in Fairmont. Scott got his pilot's license in 1975. He offers flight instruction and flies professionally for Welchlin and Kahler Automation, and as a hobby. In the past, he was a pilot with United Express.

Burkhart got his pilot's license in 1968 and has been flying private planes ever since. He currently owns a Cessna 150 and TriPacer.

Thate, too, has been flying since 1968. He has his own plane and private strip.

"I'm here to help the airport get something new established for future growth," he said.

The team's management role at the facility is part-time and temporary, until a new city employee can be hired as airport manager. As temporary part-time employees, the interim managers can only work for the city for 57 days.

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, the four interim workers will take turns making sure operations are running smoothly. Their responsibilities range from figuring out what office supplies and tools are needed, to refueling and moving airplanes, to making sure all airport equipment is in proper working order and the runways are clear.

"We're gonna do the best we can to keep this airport running and make it a place people want to stop," Burkhart said.

The city is now in charge of groundskeeping, hangar leases and rent, and contracts for aviation fuel.

In the past, all of these duties were the responsibility of Five Lakes Aviation. By hiring a city employee to manage the airport, Fairmont City Council hopes to have better control of the facility.

"I think it's going to be a better airport," Thate said.

"Just making the general appearance look better is going to be nice," Burkhart added.

He and his colleagues are hopeful the new management model the city is adopting - nixing a contracted manager in favor of a city-employed manager - will work, but time will tell. If the arrangement doesn't work, city leaders have noted it is not set in stone.

"It's up in the air how the pieces will fit together," Scott said.

The posting for the new job ended Monday, and there were 37 applications submitted, according to city administrator Mike Humpal counted

"It's better than I thought we would get," Humpal said. "I worked on identifying this new management style through Owatonna and South St. Paul, and both thought there would be plenty of applicants. That's from all over the country and local."

The interim managers are not eligible to apply for the position.

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FAA flight inspectors furloughed, Chicago/Rockford International Airport (KRFD) weighs in on impact – Rockford’s News Leader  

Business as usual. Despite the federal government shut down affecting agencies like the FAA, Rockford's airport is running normally, but, there are workers who won't show up there for the time being.

FAA flight inspectors across the country aren't going to work. Their jobs are to make sure safety regulations are being followed. So, with them being gone, what does that mean for Rockford's airport industry? It depends who you ask.

"How it affects RFD, how it affects the airport authority day-to-day, for right now we're unaffected." -says RFD Operations Manager Zack Oakley.

Oakley says the airport has about six FAA flight inspectors, but they don't deal with airport administrators. These inspectors only work with airlines that touch down at RFD, like Allegiant. Oakley says airline mechanics can handle safety concerns.

"Just because inspectors aren't there doesn't mean people aren't going to do their jobs. The majority of times there's not an inspector there looking at someone while they're doing the work. These people are trained, they're certified by the FAA, they do their jobs how they're supposed to do it."

The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists federal union represents around 80 Illinois FAA flight inspectors. Illinois Chapter President Pete Rosa says there's a need for these employees.

"These are the guys who are going to airports, to air carriers, to maintenance facilities and they're spot checking regulations. They're making sure people are doing the safe thing and the right thing at the right time." -Rosa explains.

Allegiant Air spokesperson Jessica Wheeler says from a passenger perspective, the airline is operating as normal. The company will monitor any possible affects in the coming days and weeks, but for right now the furloughs aren't hindering their operations. FAA flight inspectors do oversee long-term projects at Allegiant, namely their maintenance program.

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Ogden-Hinckley Airport (KOGD) manager fired, replaced by former police chief Jon Greiner

OGDEN — Ogden-Hinckley Airport manager Royal Eccles has been dismissed by the city and will be replaced by former Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner.

On Tuesday, Ogden City Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson confirmed that Eccles had been let go, but said the city couldn’t comment further on the matter.

“We have decided to move in another direction and there is a change at the airport,” Johnson said.

Johnson said Greiner would take over the airport manager position on an interim basis, but was not sure how long the temporary period would last.

Greiner served as Ogden Police Chief for 16 years, but was fired in December 2012 because of a federal Hatch Act violation involving federal grants and his candidacy and service as a state senator.

When reached for comment on Tuesday, Eccles said he couldn’t say much about the situation, other than he enjoyed his time at the airport.

“I was brought in by the previous administration to bring in the airline (Allegiant) and I’m proud to say I did that,” Eccles said. “It’s time for me to move on, but I have nothing but positive things to say about my experience as airport manager. We have a great crew, a great fire department and just great people all around.”

Eccles was hired as airport manager in August of 2011 by former Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey.

In September 2012, the airport began commercial airline service between Ogden and Mesa, Ariz.

The service is provided by Allegiant Air, a subsidiary of the Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Company, and offers flights twice weekly.

The city has said that the service has continued to do extremely well since it opened, with the flights averaging higher than 90 percent of their maximum passenger capacity of 166.

Shortly after the service began, a small group of airport regulars and pilots brought complaints to the Ogden City Council that general aviation had suffered because of the commercial service.

The group said the commercial operation’s impact on general aviation came in the form of tighter security restrictions and regulations imposed by the Transportation Security Administration, new fees for security badges and overnight parking, and a lack of parking.

When the commercial service began, the city council approved new fees, charging $20 to $50 for various types of security badges that must be renewed every year for $10. The airport also began charging $3.50 per night for overnight parking.

Eccles was chosen over 26 other candidates when he was hired in 2011 and was paid about $80,000 annually.

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FAA Panel Endorses Wi-Fi as Safe: Report Suggests Lifting Restrictions on Hand-Held Devices Under 10,000 Feet

 Updated October 1, 2013, 10:09 p.m. ET


The Wall Street Journal

An FAA advisory committee has concluded passengers can safely use hand-held electronic devices, including those connected to onboard Wi-Fi systems, during all portions of flights on nearly all U.S. airliners, according to one of the group's leaders.

The committee's report and its more than two dozen recommendations, which haven't yet been released by the Federal Aviation Administration, go further than industry officials previously suggested in recommending lifting current restrictions on such devices under 10,000 feet.

The panel determined that no matter what applications the devices are running or what wireless-transmission mode they are in, "the vast majority" of aircraft "are going to be just fine" from a safety standpoint, according to a senior Inc. official who headed the group's technical subcommittee.

Nearly all airline fleets "already have been so dramatically improved and aircraft are so resilient" to electronic interference, according to Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president of global public policy, that the committee concluded they would be safe for "gate to gate use" of such devices.

Only normal, ground-based cellular connections—whether used for voice or data—should remain off-limits, according to the committee's recommendations. That isn't due to safety concerns, but because of long-standing Federal Communications Commission rules prohibiting airborne cellular service. Those rules, in turn, stem from concerns about interfering with communications systems on the ground. Mr. Misener said the committee urged the FAA to work with the FCC to reassess those restrictions.

If the FAA follows the committee's recommendations, fliers could potentially access email and the Internet during all phases of flight—but only through an airline's onboard Wi-Fi system, which usually requires a fee to use, and not through their own cellular data service.

In an interview, Mr. Misener also said the panel ended up endorsing a relatively simple system for airlines to demonstrate to the FAA that passenger devices wouldn't interfere with cockpit instruments on their planes. That proposed system, which hasn't previously come to light, would be largely based on reassessing earlier test results, rather than running a battery of new tests based on new standards.

Another committee member confirmed that the report doesn't recommend any restrictions on using onboard Wi-Fi below 10,000 feet. Instead, the recommendations note that aircraft already equipped with such Wi-Fi systems, or authorized to have them, should be subjected to simpler testing—or no testing at all—for portable-electronic devices. That is because they've already been subjected to rigorous testing for the Wi-Fi hardware, according to both panel members

The vast majority of commercial aircraft types used in the U.S. have been approved to handle onboard Wi-Fi systems. Almost 60% of commercial passenger aircraft in the U.S. are connected, not counting commuter jets, according to a recent Wall Street Journal survey of U.S. carriers. By the end of 2015, airlines plan to have more than 85% of their mainline aircraft connected.

For the foreseeable future, however, below 10,000 feet flight attendants may face the new challenge of determining whether phones or other devices had their cellular connections disabled, often known as "airplane mode." Mr. Misener and industry officials predicted this could pose a thorny enforcement issue, but they said if passengers widely ignored instructions from flight attendants it wouldn't present a significant safety hazard.

The fate of the recommendations is uncertain.

The FAA, which has been under pressure from lawmakers, passengers and other groups to take swift action, still has the final say in deciding what changes will be implemented. FAA officials have declined to comment on the recommendations, except to say they will study them and then decide on next steps.

Mr. Misener said the committee effectively determined there are no major safety impediments to allowing unlimited use of tablets, e-readers and other hand-held devices from the beginning to the end of flights. Among the rare exceptions: cases when pilots need to use complex instrument-landing systems in low visibility or poor weather conditions. In those cases pilots should have the authority to ask passengers to turn off devices, according to the consensus recommendations adopted by the committee.

Even when those more-advanced landing aids are used, Mr. Misener said, airlines can alleviate safety concerns by conducting extra tests on their fleets.

Amazon, which markets a variety of e-readers and other electronic devices, previously ran some of its own safety tests and for years has championed lifting FAA limits on hand-held devices. The sweeping recommendations represent an important victory for the company and others who have argued that current rules are based on outmoded technical and regulatory assumptions.

"Our customers have been telling us they don't understand" the reasons behind the ban on using devices during takeoffs and landings, according to Mr. Misener. Based on the consensus view of experts on the committee, the Amazon official said "we can rest assured" that gate-to-gate use of hand-held electronic devices—whether for data or entertainment stored on the device itself or to access the Web—doesn't pose a threat to passengers.

Along with other companies and industry groups, Amazon is urging the FAA to act quickly, perhaps by the end of the year. "Our assumption is it's not years, but months," according to Mr. Misener.

Despite the committee's conclusions, though, it appears many connected aircraft aren't set up to offer in-flight Internet below 10,000 feet anyway. Gogo Inc., the largest inflight-Internet provider in the U.S., said its Wi-Fi systems aren't optimized for service below 10,000 feet, in part because Gogo relies on cellular towers on the ground for its connection. Gogo provides in-flight Wi-Fi for about three-quarters of the roughly 2,100 connected commercial aircraft in the U.S., including those at Delta Air Lines Inc., Virgin America Inc., US Airways Group Inc. and AMR Corp.'s American Airlines.

However, the three other inflight-Internet providers in the U.S. said their systems function at all phases of flight, partly because they use satellites for their connections. These providers said they currently switch off the connection below 10,000 feet because of current FAA restrictions.

These companies include Panasonic Avionics Corp., which provides Wi-Fi to United Continental Holdings Inc., and Global Eagle Entertainment Inc., the provider to Southwest Airlines Co. "It works in all phases of flight including when the plane is on the ground," said John Guidon, Global Eagle's chief technology officer. But, he added, "normally we have restrictions in place for passenger access in order to comply with existing regulations."

JetBlue Airways Corp., which provides its own Wi-Fi through a subsidiary, said its system also functions below 10,000 feet, though the service works best at cruising altitude. "We'd only make that service available [below 10,000 feet] if it's proven safe," JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin said. If the FAA approved the use of devices and Wi-Fi below 10,000 feet, she said, "we'd love to provide that service to our customers."

According to Mr. Misener, the advisory group urged the FAA to continue requiring full-size laptops to be stowed during takeoffs and landings out of concern that such heavy devices could injure passengers in the event of turbulence or sudden maneuvers.

Regardless of the size of the devices, it's not clear that all airlines would embrace the chance to provide connectivity during all phases of flight. Last week, one big U.S. carrier said it would look closely at whether to allow Wi-Fi below 10,000 feet to ensure that passengers wouldn't be distracted from paying attention to instructions from attendants and from getting ready for takeoffs and landings.

Henry Harteveldt, a travel-industry analyst, said it would amount to a "partial victory" if the FAA approved new rules allowing only devices not connected to the Internet to be used below 10,000 feet.

But if the FAA opts to approve Wi-Fi during takeoffs and landings, "that's really what the traveler wants," he said. "Using the Web from the moment they sit down—that's ultimately the Holy Grail."

Under today's rules, the FAA offers airliners the option of conducting individual tests on specific combinations of devices and aircraft models to demonstrate resistance to electronic interference during critical takeoff and landing phases. But in practice, airlines have shunned that option as impractical and instead, they have embrace a blanket prohibition against turning on any hand-held device below 10,000 feet. But now, according to Mr. Misener, the committee has laid out a relatively painless path so "airlines may make these assessments" on their own, and present the data for FAA sign-offs.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which represents more than 2,000 companies and had a representative on the advisory panel, said it supports allowing passengers, with limited exceptions, "to use typical handheld or lightweight electronic devices" at all altitudes. "We now urge the FAA's immediate review, consideration and pursuit" of those recommendations, the trade group said. It also said recent research it participated in showed that nearly 70% of passengers who brought an electronic device onboard used it at some point during the flight.


Colorado firefighting air corps could be in jeopardy due to cost of flood-damage repairs -- Recommendations due to Governor by April 1


DENVER - The damage to the state's infrastructure from recent flooding could impact Colorado getting its own wildfire air fleet. 

 Gov. John Hickenlooper has set an April 1 deadline for recommendations from the Department of Public Safety about the state getting its own firefighting air corps.

Lawmakers on the Interim Committee for Wildfire Matters received a presentation Tuesday from Coulson Aviation about aircraft available for firefighting, including a helicopter equipped with an infrared camera.

"You're up in the air at 130 miles per hour, from an airplane, looking down, trying to see through the smoke. That's the standard operating procedure," said CEO Wayne Coulson. "(This) has a thermal imaging camera on it, so we can see through the smoke.

He made his pitch to the committee by saying conventional air tactics could lead to air retardant being dropped on smoke, where the fire used to be. But the flames have spread elsewhere.

"How much would the state have to pay for something like this?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.

"This aircraft is approximately $5,000 a day and $1,500 an hour," said Coulson.

"Is that a reasonable price for firefighting from the air?" Zelinger asked Colorado Department of Public Safety Director Paul Cooke.

"It's comparable with other types of helicopters of its type -- a Type II helicopter," said Cooke.

7NEWS also learned the state could get an empty C-130 aircraft for free from the federal government. The state would have to pay to have the aircraft equipped to drop fire retardant.

"How much would it cost to retrofit an empty C-130," asked Zelinger.

"It's between $6-and-$8 million," said Coulson.

This past fire season, Colorado had a 120-day contract to borrow two single-engine air tankers and have them parked in the state.

The damage from last month's flooding could delay the plan to for Colorado to buy its own firefighting aircraft.

"The flooding is going to impact the state general fund, just like any other disaster does," said Cooke. "We have a lot of infrastructure to replace. It's going to be very costly, so it's the same pot of money."

Even though his recommendations are not due until April 1, Cooke said he was hopeful he could get his analysis done by the end of the year, giving the the governor and legislature time to review his report and make legislative changes if necessary.

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