Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pilot Shortage Hits Regional Carrier Republic: Airline Won't Seek Extensions on Some Aircraft Leases

The Wall Street Journal
By Everdeen Mason

Feb. 11, 2014 11:13 a.m. ET

Republic Airways Holdings Inc. said it will no longer look to extend the leases on 27 its ERJ aircraft due to a lack of qualified pilots, a move that will weigh on its profit this year.

The regional airline company said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it has 41 ERJ aircraft with leases set to expire this year and intended to seek extensions. But because of the congressionally mandated rule that requires pilots to have 1,500 hours of experience, there aren't enough qualified pilots and it won't seek extensions for all the aircraft.

Republic's shares declined sharply on the news, also dragging down fellow regional carrier SkyWest Inc.

A shortage of qualified pilots has hit U.S. airlines sooner and more severely than expected, leading the airlines to accelerate hiring and cut some service. Regional airlines, which offer meager starting pay and tend to lose pilots to major carriers, have so far been affected the most, but that is having knock-on effects at the big airlines, which rely on their smaller cousins to ferry passengers on shorter routes.

As it recently announced planned cutbacks at its Cleveland hub, United Continental Holdings Inc. said its regional-airline partners are beginning to have difficulty flying their schedules due to reduced new-pilot activity.

In a research note, analysts at Cowen & Co. said they think the regional airlines will continue to struggle to find pilots due to the new rules, and many of the mainline carriers will hire away pilots to meet their capacity needs.

For its part, Republic said the 27 ERJ aircraft will be removed from fixed-fee service this year, hurting its pre-tax income between $18 million and $22 million. Additionally, the company will hire about 750 fewer employees as a result of the change.

Republic, based in Indianapolis, owns Chautauqua Airlines, Republic Airlines and Shuttle America. Combined, the company operates a fleet of 230 aircraft and offer flights to more than 110 cities in the U.S., Canada and the Bahamas.

SkyWest is due to report its fourth-quarter results Thursday.

Source:   http://online.wsj.com

Florida man pleads guilty Tuesday to flying flight he was not cleared to fly, making false statements to Federal Aviation Administration

A 39-year-old Middleburg pilot who lied about his criminal history and flew an aircraft he wasn’t cleared to fly in 2009 entered a guilty plea Tuesday and faces up to eight years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In June 2009, Reginald Wayne Sibley Jr. claimed he did not have a criminal background on his airman medical certificate application with the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Investigators found he was convicted at least three times from 2004 to 2007, according to court documents.

The investigation also found Sibley was in control of a flight from Orlando to Montague, Calif. on Oct. 8, 2009 that he was not cleared to fly, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sibley planned to transport passengers from the airport in California and told law enforcement and the FAA that he was recently cleared to fly the aircraft but that he did not have his paperwork with him, according to court documents.

The FAA recommended over the phone that Sibley stay grounded until he could verify he had the correct credentials but he boarded his passengers and flew from Montague to Burbank, Calif., according to court documents.

Sibley pleaded guilty Tuesday to making false statements and representations to the FAA and illegally piloting an aircraft in air transportation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sibley faces up to eight years in prison but sentencing has not been scheduled.

Source:    http://members.jacksonville.com

Florida Man Indicted for Flying Without an Airman Certificate:     http://www.oig.dot.gov

Maryland: State May Raise Vehicle Registration Fee to Raise Money for Medevac Helicopter Fleet

Though at least $130 million in Maryland taxpayer dollars has been spent to purchase 10 new AW-139 medevac helicopters, millions is still being spent to keep the old fleet in use. Nearly $2 million has been spent since 2012 to keep the old Dauphin fleet in the air.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions about this project," Delegate Pat McDonough said.

According to state police, the roll-out is going according to plan, with four new AW-139s already in the air and flying missions, including the recent deployment of a new AW-139 for medevac service in Salisbury.

But issues with the new fleet began before the first helicopter was every delivered to the state. The helicopter takes two pilots to fly. The state police repeatedly asked the FAA to waive thar requirement, but ultimately lost. It means that state police must spend $600,000 to hire additional pilots, a cost not factored into the original price tag.

State Senator John Astle, a former aviator, sent a letter to State Police Commander Marcus Brown asking detailed questions about the deployment of the AW-139s. [CLICK HERE to see the full letter]

"I don't think the legislature has an adequate picture of what's going on," Astle said. 

His questions seek specifics on a variety of challenges facing the state's medevac system, among them pilot retention issues, extra training costs and almost $2 million in repairs to the older Dauphins which many believe should have already been sold.

They are all mounting costs that Astle worries could translate into more spending. In fact, he says closed door discussions have already begun at the state house about raising more money for the medevac program by making Maryland drivers pay more.

"I'm hearing they may be trying to increase the vehicle registration fee," Astle said.

For their part, state police says they will answer the senator's questions soon.

In a written statement state police spokesperson Gregg Shipley says he believes the senator's concerns are unwarranted.

"We believe the facts and information we will provide will alleviate his concerns and assure him the Aviation Command is transitioning to the new helicopter fleet in a professional and effective manner," Shipley wrote. 

Astle says the process will serve both the taxpayers on the ground and the pilots in the air.

Story and Video: http://www.foxbaltimore.com

Spruce Creek Fly-In, Port Orange, Florida: Missing dog Dumpling is found safe

( Courtesy of the Dreier family / February 10, 2014 )
 Dumpling the golden retriever was in a parade along with her owner, Wayne Dreier, and his horse, Reba, before Christmas 2013 at Spruce Creek Fly-In near Port Orange. The dog was discovered missing Feb. 5, 2013. 

Dumpling the dog is alive, well, and back at home. 

The nearly 2-year-old golden retriever disappeared last week after her owner, Wayne Dreier, 66, received an anonymous note criticizing him for leaving the dog outside most of the time and having her sleep in a garage at his home in the Spruce Creek Fly-In community near Port Orange.

But the disappearance may have had nothing to do with neighbors' disapproval, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said.

A woman told deputies she found Dumpling in an alley, thought she was a stray and took her home. When she saw news reports Monday about the dog's disappearance, she took her to the Flagler Humane Society in Palm Coast Tuesday morning.

Dumpling and Dreier were reunited there.

He noticed the dog was missing Wednesday night and found her collar near his driveway Thursday morning. He said he didn't think she could have slipped out of the collar, which worked with a wireless electric pet fence to contain her, and assumed someone had stolen her.

Deputies are investigating how she got loose.

Dumpling was a 65th birthday present to Dreier from his wife, Barbara.

Story, photo gallery, comments/reaction:    http://www.orlandosentinel.com

Airport director sues old employer: Curry's lawsuit says he was wrongfully terminated

Newly hired Tallahassee Regional Airport Executive Director Chris Curry has sued his old employer on a claim that his contract was unlawfully terminated in the midst of a political battle.

On Jan. 14, Curry filed suit against the Collier County Commission after it voted to reconsider a previously approved extension of his contract to September 2015. The decision left Curry without a job by October. He was hired to run Tallahassee’s municipal airport in December by City Manager Anita Favors Thompson and started work on Jan. 22.

Curry had alerted Favors Thompson of his plans to sue Collier County before he was hired, according to Assistant to City Manager Michelle Bono.

In the lawsuit, Curry asked the Collier County Circuit Court to award $122,278 in lost severance pay, wages and benefits. Naples-based attorney Joseph Stewart said the commission improperly used a county policy that allowed them to reconsider some decisions.

“But the rule they used had to do with zoning; not contracting,” Stewart said on Monday. “That’s the focus of this lawsuit.”

Curry said he was hired by Collier County in 2010 to oversee its three airports, standardize operations and enforce rules that were rarely followed. Existing tenants at the airports complained to the county commission.

“I was brought to the Collier County Airport Authority to clean up a not-so-professional airport environment,” Curry told the Tallahassee Democrat. “Part of that was standardization of some of the rules and part of that was treating tenants fairly.”

In 2012, the Collier commission voted to extend Curry’s contract but then reconsidered in March 2013. The reversal left County Commissioner Fred Coyle frustrated.

“This is the most dishonorable action I have ever seen an elected body take in my entire life,” Coyle said in a Monday interview. “It is unbelievable they have done this and it’s my opinion they have done this out of revenge.”

Efforts to reach other commissioners on Monday were unsuccessful.

Curry’s new job in Tallahassee pays $128,000. He oversees 53 employees and a $9.8-million budget. He replaced Sunil Harmon, who resigned in June for another airport director's position in Okaloosa County.

Curry said the lawsuit will be handled by attorneys and would not affect his performance here.

“That’s all up to the attorneys,” he said. “I’ve got my hands full here in Tallahassee.”

Story:    http://www.tallahassee.com

2014 Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival Canceled


The 2014 Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival has been canceled, according to Bruce Loy, airport manager at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.

Loy said Tuesday that the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, previously scheduled for a May 17 through 19 air show in Cape Girardeau, have canceled all of their 2014 U.S. air show appearances due to financial budget cuts.

"As a result of this disappointing, unexpected news, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2014 Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival," Loy said.

According to the City of Cape Girardeau, in an email delivered to Loy and all of the producers for the 2014 air shows scheduled by the Snowbirds team, Majoy Trevy Juby, Special Events Planner for the Snowbirds team, stated:
"By now you have probably heard that the RCAF is facing budget cuts...something we have been trying to resolve. Unfortunately, due to these budgetary constraints, the Snowbirds are unable to support American air shows in 2014."

The City of Cape Girardeau said online that Loy said many options were reviewed, but in the end, the Snowbirds were the main focus for the 2014 show.

"Without our headliner, we simply felt we could not go forward, especially on a weekend that included the SEMO commencement, as well as other local high school commencement exercises," 

Loy added. "We will regroup and see if we can put together another quality show for 2015. Whether or not those plans include the Canadian Forces Snowbirds will depend on many variables. The main variables will depend on whether Canadian Forces budget includes U.S. air shows next year. We will simply have to wait and see."

Source:    http://www.kfvs12.com

Marianna Municipal Airport (KMAI), Florida

City moves forward with privatization plan for airport FBO 

In addition to planned improvements to the north-south runway, the terminal, fueling options and other aspects of the Marianna Municipal Airport, a private fixed-based operator may soon be offering services to pilots and passengers.

The Marianna Airport Industrial Board in January recommended that city officials move forward with plans to privatize the FBO and this month, city commissioners gave the go-ahead for lease negotiations.

City Manager Jim Dean told commissioners during their February meeting that he has discussed the prospect at length with city attorney Frank Bondurant and that the city has been approached by a number of unsolicited companies interested in leasing the airport FBO.

Though Dean and Bondurant are now authorized to negotiate a lease “with the most qualified private party to operate the city’s FBO,” the results of those lease talks will be returned to the commission for approval before papers are signed.

Dean, reached by phone Tuesday, said the FBO lease agreement should be finalized by the end of the week, but who will sign it and manage the city FBO remains to be seen.

One of the parties interested in the contract is George Sigler, owner of several aviation companies and manager of the municipal airport in Bay Minette, Ala.

Dean said Sigler has aggressively pursued the city for the contract, but other entities have indirectly made their interest known as well.

Though no formal arrangements have been made between the city and Sigler on the matter, Dean did say, “we’ve done some due diligence work,” on the man that is Marianna’s most vocal prospect for the FBO lease.

Typical FBO services include aircraft fueling and parking services, pilot and passenger amenities, craft maintenance and flight training. While the full extent of changes to the Marianna FBO service offerings remains to be seen, whoever takes the city lease, Dean said, would, to some degree, manage fuel sales, hangar rentals and grounds care, with a portion of the public terminal building reserved for private FBO offices.

Story:  http://www.jcfloridan.com

FBI Offers Cash Reward To Catch People Who Point Lasers At Planes

The FBI is making a limited-time offer at 12 of its field offices across the nation from Albuquerque and Los Angeles to New York City and Washington, D.C.: During the next 60 days, if you help them catch someone aiming a laser pointer at a plane, the FBI is offering rewards of up to $10,000.

“If you think this is a prank, I can assure you it is not,” John Kitzinger, chief of the FBI Violent Crimes Unit, said in prepared remarks today. “This is a felony—a federal crime—for which you can be placed in federal prison for up to five years.”

That penalty became federal law in 2012. Last March, a man in California was sentenced to 30 months in prison for pointing a laser at a small jet.

The FBI, along with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Line Pilots Association International, a union representing nearly 50,000 pilots, is also starting a campaign warning of the dangers of pointing laser points at pilots. The campaign will warn the public about the threat of lasers to aircraft via public service announcements and billboards.

Powerful lasers can temporarily blind pilots. The FBI says pilots have compared it to a camera flash going off in a car traveling at night. But pilots keep cockpits dark when flying at night so they can see the instruments clearly and there is no ambient light from street lights, says Bruce Landsberg, 
president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Air Safety Foundation. He says that makes the effects more disorienting for pilots and there is nothing pilots can do to prepare for something like this.

“This is sort of like people shooting at the airplane, except they’re using light instead of bullets,” he says.

Landsberg says the federal agencies are doing the right thing by aggressively going after the people who do it. In a statement, the FAA says reported laser incidents have gone up by more than 10 times since it started collecting data in 2006. Last year, there were 3,960 reported incidents. 

Source:    http://www.opb.org

Greek Government Unveils Plan for Network of Water Airports Serving Seaplanes

The Greek government on Monday unveiled plans for a network of water airports designed to improve transport links to Greece's remote islands and regions. Shipping and Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, with Deputy Transport, Infrastructure and Networks Minister Mihalis Papadopoulos, presented the plan in a joint press conference, AMNA reported.

“The implementation of water airports and the arrival of hydroplanes creates a new market for tourism, transport and the islands policy,” Varvitsiotis said. He pointed to the seaplanes΄ potential to boost islands΄ growth and create new jobs, as well as the development of Greek ports and harbors, while facilitating access to the mainland destinations that were hard to reach for both locals and tourists.

Papadopoulos noted in statements to the ANA-MPA that the water airport network, implemented in collaboration with the ministries΄ involved, was a good solution for transport links to Greece΄s many coastal and island regions and a lever for growth for Greek islands, bringing multiple benefits.

The first attempt to establish a seaplane network in Greece started in 2005, 15 licenses for water airports throughout the country were issued under new laws and a pilot program had begun in the Ionian Sea. Seaplane companies pulled out by 2008, however, citing problems with the legislative framework and the lack of a seaplane link to Attica and Athens.

The legislative framework was updated in a bill passed by Parliament last April, under which a license to operate a water airport can be issued within 65 days of submitting a technical dossier to the transport and networks ministry and the shipping and Aegean ministry.

Applications have now been submitted on behalf of several ports and harbor funds, including those of Corfu, Patras, Lavrio, Iraklio, Volos, Skyros, Rethymno and Zakynthos. Once permits are given, the port and harbor authorities can then lease the right to operate the water airport to seaplane companies, via a process of tender.

Source: http://greece.greekreporter.com

Des Moines International Airport (KDSM), Iowa

A Des Moines International Airport fire crew watches as an F-16 taxis along a runway on Dec. 27, 2012.
 Charlie Litchfield/Register file photo 

The Des Moines International Airport is facing a decision over the level of crash-rescue fire protection.

The adequate level of fire protection at an airport is dependent on two factors: first is the size of the airplanes using the airport and their fuel capacity; second is the expected number of people who will be flying in the aircraft.

The National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Air Force have minimum standards. These standards are based on evaluations of numerous crashes and firefighting operations involving aircraft. The most important factor is the ability to quickly apply sufficient fire-suppression agent at one time to extinguish the fire.

For commercial airliners and large cargo aircraft that are Boeing 737 and larger, approximately 10,000 gallons of foam and water would need to be applied within two to three minutes by airport firefighters. The rescue of passengers and crew would require a minimum of one hose line with the rescue crew on the inside of the aircraft.

The level provided at the Des Moines airport by the Iowa Air National Guard on a daily basis has been six firefighters staffing three trucks. From the information I received, the trucks had a capacity of approximately 4,500 gallons.

The equipment was based on providing adequate protection at a minimum level for the F16 jets operated by the Air Guard for their daily flying operations.

When the fighter wing was fully operational, the number of firefighters on duty would increase to approximately 15 per shift. This level of protection is still below the minimum levels for large commercial aircraft that airlines and cargo services fly.

The level of protection being recommended to the Des Moines airport’s governing board of two firefighters and one emergency medical technician firefighter would allow for one crash-rescue truck with a driver, leaving two people to perform both rescue and interior firefighting on a commercial aircraft.

Not knowing the capacity and discharge rates for fire suppression agents the proposal is recommending, I cannot comment further than to state that the capacity and capabilities of the crash-rescue truck need to be fully evaluated.

The most likely scenario of an incident occurring at the airport would be on takeoff or landing, followed by a ground incident. At a minimum, the backup from the Des Moines Fire Department would be several minutes into the incident.

Fortunately, during this period of my study of Des Moines, there has not been a major incident at the airport. Instead of taking the opportunity to increase and provide an adequate level of protection, the airport board is on the verge of further reducing the fire protection at the airport to dangerous levels.

With the Des Moines airport board being a part of the city of Des Moines, the level of fire protection at the airport should be evaluated through the Des Moines Fire Department to determine the actual level of protection and to settle on recommendations on how this should be achieved.

Will degrading of protection result in major air carriers leaving Des Moines due to concerns with cost and insurance? Does Des Moines want to be a first-class airport? The cost sometimes cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

The ideal standard may not be feasible at this time, but is dropping below the level of protection provided by the Air National Guard acceptable to Des Moines?

Three firefighters may be adequate to provide crash-rescue protection at an airport like the Ankeny Regional Airport, but is it adequate for a commercial airport with large numbers of passengers and cargo aircraft like Des Moines has? Aircraft fires and crashes do not necessarily result in 100 percent fatalities to the crew and passengers, as experience showed at Sioux City and more recently in San Francisco.

I would recommend that the mayor and City Council avoid a hasty and costly contract being signed for airport fire protection that is not in the best interests of Des Moines. Use your in-house experts, the Des Moines fire chief and his staff, to quantify an acceptable level of protection.

The mayor appointed this airport board with the City Council’s approval, thus the council and mayor ultimately bear the responsibility for the adequacy of the recommendation that is in front of the airport board.

Just remember: The cost for fire protection is never appreciated until it is needed.

Source:   http://www.desmoinesregister.com

Philippines: No Category 1 rating this February?

Spy Bits received unconfirmed reports that the Philippines will not be getting the Category 1 rating upgrade from the FAA this February as anticipated. According to inside sources, the recent audit conducted by a team from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) found the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) still non-compliant with regard to the “critical elements” under the checklist of safety requirements that FAA had been monitoring.

This is definitely contrary to CAAP’s earlier statements that the lifting of the Category 2 status was “all but certain” since “there are no more safety issues” as far as CAAP was concerned. According to a report from Journal Online, the CAAP leadership is allegedly desperate to keep this embarrassing development from being disclosed to the media and the public, noting that unlike the previous exit briefings, only three top officials were present when the bad news was delivered by the team of Gregory Michaels, head of Flight Safety Service.

Inside sources tell us, “primary aviation legislation” was one critical element that the CAAP reportedly failed in, specifically with regard to “Article No. 37 of the Chicago Convention (that) requires States to adopt international standards and procedures.” Other “findings” reportedly include procedural issues, insufficient on-the-job training for operations and airworthiness inspectors; incomplete recurrent training for operations inspectors in all areas and other technical qualifications for personnel.

It’s been close to six years since the Philippines was slapped with a Category 2 rating downgrade, and many have been hoping that the safety issues should have been addressed by this time considering that the CAAP was created primarily to address the FAA findings and lift our status back to Category 1.  This piece of news will certainly impact the expansion plans of Philippine Airlines to the United States. PAL had embarked on an ambitious re-fleeting program, ordering six Boeing 777 and 64 Airbus aircraft amounting to about $9.5 billion for delivery in the next six years. Several of the Airbus aircraft and five of the 777s have been delivered, but PAL has not been able to use these aircraft for US routes – which is the biggest and most lucrative market for the country’s carrier.

Filipino-Americans have been rooting for the Philippines to get back its Category 1 status, and are strongly lobbying for PAL since they have been looking forward to flying in the flag carrier’s new aircraft – many of them complaining that the seats on the old planes no longer recline properly, and half the time the movies and audio from the inflight entertainment program are out of order.

Definitely, CAAP has to step up to get the country’s aviation industry soaring. We seem to remember the President giving the agency a one-year ultimatum. If it is indeed true that we have failed in our bid to get the Category 2 status lifted once again, will this mean CAAP once again will be “reorganized”? Is this the reason why deputy director general John Andrews reportedly went on leave early this February? The flying public wants some answers.

Story and comments/reaction:  http://www.philstar.com

Boeing Says Air India Unhappy With 787 Dreamliner’s Performance

Boeing Co. said Air India Ltd. is dissatisfied with the performance of its 787 Dreamliner, joining other carriers including Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA in slamming the manufacturer for repeated faults on its marquee jet.

“Yes, they are not happy with the reliability portion, neither are we,” Dinesh Keskar, a senior vice president at the Chicago-based planemaker, said in an interview at the Singapore Air Show today. “Over the last few months, we understood which are the components that were causing issues, which software needs to be upgraded.”

The Dreamliner has experienced a series of malfunctions since its debut in 2011, including a three-month grounding of the global fleet last year after battery meltdowns on two planes. Air India, which hasn’t reported an annual profit since 2007, and low-cost airliner Norwegian Air built their growth plans around the composite-material airliner and its promise of more fuel-efficient operation

Air India diverted one of its 787s to Kuala Lumpur this month as a precaution after a software fault on a flight to New Delhi from Melbourne. Boeing is upgrading software and changing some components on Air India 787s whenever the planes can be taken out of service, Keskar said, adding that a 13th Dreamliner will be delivered to the carrier this month.

Missing Mark

Air India, which has ordered 27 Dreamliners, will seek compensation from Boeing after the carrier found that its 787s aren’t as fuel efficient as the planemaker had claimed while selling them, The Times of India reported today, citing officials it didn’t identify. G. P. Rao,, a spokesman at Air India, wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Fuel efficiency of the Dreamliner is improving after earlier models didn’t “quite make the mark” on this count, Keskar said.

The 787 is the first jetliner built chiefly of composite materials rather than traditional aluminum. It also relies to a greater degree than other jets on electricity to run the plane’s systems, putting a spotlight on the lithium-ion batteries.

Mumbai-based Air India has sparred with Boeing over compensation for tardy deliveries. Even so, Keskar said Boeing sees potential aircraft deals in India later this year. The company is in advanced talks with discount carrier SpiceJet Ltd. and Jet Airways (India) Ltd., the nation’s biggest publicly traded airline, to sell 737 Max jets.

In January, Japan Airlines Co., one of the biggest operators of the Dreamliner, found a battery cell in an empty jet smoking during preflight maintenance. Last year’s grounding added to a history of setbacks for the Dreamliner, whose entry into commercial service in 2011 for Tokyo-based ANA Holdings Inc. was more than 3 1/2 years late because of production snags.

Boeing will increase its prediction for India plane demand in the next couple of months, Keskar said in Singapore today. The company had forecast last year that carriers in the Asian nation will need 1,450 new aircraft, worth $175 billion over the next two decades.

Story and comments/reaction:    http://www.bloomberg.com

Southwick, Hampden County, Massachusetts

B & E Precision Aircraft Components looks to build staff, grow with industry

December 11, 2013 - Southwick - Staff photo by Michael S. Gordon 
The quality control team B & E Precision Aircraft Components from left: Lisa Gagnon, Tony DiSantis, Paul Terpos, Tim Bliven and Steve Bates. 

SOUTHWICK - A 30-pound block of aluminum arrives at B & E Precision Aircraft Parts here and leaves 12 weeks later as a fuel supply part for a jet engine weighing just 5 or 6 pounds.

In that time, the aluminum gets tested, measured, bored and machined then tested and measured again. Then, it gets deburred, smoothed to a buttery softness and polished to a mirror finish before it's packaged and shipped.

All this work is for a really fancy carburetor that looks like a maze of tiny notches, slots and tunnels which helps keep a jet in the air.

"There is no room for error in aircraft parts. None," says Anthony G. DiSantis, quality control manager at B & E Precision.

The machine shop, with its 103 employees, had a good 2013 and is looking for an even better years 2015 to 2020 as aircraft like those new jetliners go from design and testing to full production , according to company president Glenn Ford,. The precision machine shop is one division of the larger B & E Group which has offices in Westfield and Florida.

The machine shop is a maze of activity with robots placing parts on machine tools and people setting up the work and telling the robots what to do. Nearby are airplane parts, including a small bracket that breaks away when a pilot hits a bird on takeoff or landing.

"We get a lot of them back to be repaired," Ford explained to a recent visitor. "Planes hit birds from time to time."

Elsewhere in the factory are stacks of heavy, U-shaped joints used to hold rotors on Sikorsky helicopters. The rotors are, of course, the part that keeps the aircraft up as well as moving in any direction.

Aircraft manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing are coming out with new planes to help airlines replace aging fleets. Jet engine manufacturers, like the Pratt & Whitney division of United Technologies, in East Hartford, Conn., and General Electric are ordering parts from shops like B & E and not manufacturing them in-house.

"It think you'll see a great next few years in the aircraft industry," he said. "All these new platforms are great for us."

He's even hopeful that the long-stalled Joint Strike Fighter project, the F-35, will finally go into full production. B & E manufactures fuel-control parts for the new fighter.

Airlines, too, are looking for new and more efficient engines for existing aircraft, said Jim Gastringer, vice president of operations at B & E precision aircraft parts.

"Efficiency is huge," Gastringer said. " If you can squeeze a few percentage-points of savings out of jet engine you are using to fly from here to Los Angeles, that is a lot of savings. It's worth it for the airlines."

It's also worth it for B & E to manufacture those parts here, either for Pratt in Connecticut or for General Electric jet engine factories in Ohio, said Ford. For one thing, B & E is here with millions in machine tools. For another, it's got a workforce of highly-trained and experienced technicians and, increasingly, programs in area trade schools designed to bolster that staff.

But, it is expensive to do business in Western Massachusetts. Ford pointed to rows of parts that are among B & E's last runs of a certain product. The future work is going overseas, he said.

"We bought a new machine to do that part, they knew it and they took the job away," he said.

Not only overseas, but regional hot spots of aircraft-parts manufacturing are starting to open in other areas of the U.S., including in the Carolinas and in the West.

To compete, B & E gets more efficient. That explains the robots and what Ford calls "lights out" manufacturing. That's a machine a technician sets up in the evening and lets run all night while only other parts of the factory are staffed. in the morning the parts are ready.

Production workers at B & E start off at salaries of $30,000 a year and can earn up to $80,000.

"At any given time, I'd say we have 30 percent of our workforce learning, 40 percent really well-trained to produce and the remaining top-level employees, those are your trainers. Those are your masters, and we have to take advantage of them," Ford said

Ford said B & E also works with the region's vocational high schools.

in the office, steps from the factory floor are Artem Krapova and his sister, Ella Krapova. Both are recent graduates of Westfield Vocational Technical High School .

"I set everything up and design the job in three dimensions," Ella Krapova said. "It's a great job. I love what i do."

Story, photo gallery, comments/reaction:   http://www.masslive.com

Moorabbin Airport, Mentone, Victoria, Australia

Vic pilot injured after rough landing

A 69-year-old pilot has had a rough landing, ending up on the wrong runway at Melbourne's Moorabbin Airport.

The single engine plane came down hard during landing about 2.15pm (AEDT) on Tuesday, a police spokeswoman said.

It bunny-hopped on the runway, one of its wings touched the ground and it veered onto a neighboring runway, she said.

A Victoria Ambulance Service spokesman said the pilot was treated at the scene for leg injuries and taken to hospital for observation. 

Source: http://www.perthnow.com

Not so soft landing for pilot at Moorabbin Airport

A pilot  was left shaken after losing a wheel and running off the runway while trying to land at Moorabbin Airport this afternoon.

Emergency services were called to the airport when the single-engine aircraft damaged a wing and lost a wheel at around 2.20pm.

MFB spokeswoman Meg Rayner said the pilot, the sole occupant of the aircraft, had escaped relatively unscathed but was “quite shaken”.

“He’s hit the runway and taken a sharp turn to the left and run across the infield,” Ms Rayner said.

“Luckily his wheel came off and that brought the plane to an abrupt halt.”

Fire crews remained at the scene to check whether the plane’s fuel cell was undamaged before towing it off the runway.

The incident caused the temporary closure of the North-South runways while the plane was removed, while the other runways remained open.

Fire trucks from Carlton, Clayton, Mentone and Highett attended the accident.

Source:    http://www.heraldsun.com.au

U.S.Federal Aviation Administration Says India Must Display New Aviation Technology Knowhow

India’s aviation regulator needs to demonstrate it understands the technology behind new aircraft and it has the resources to ensure airlines follow safe practices, the U.S.Federal Aviation Administration said.

The FAA on Jan. 31. downgraded India’s aviation safety ranking to Category 2 from Category 1, putting it on par with Zimbabwe and Indonesia. Getting upgraded could take months, if not years, though only if the Indian administration moved quickly to address the concerns, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in an interview in Singapore today.

“The principal thing is, there’s been a lot evolution in the aviation industry there,” Huerta said. “They bought a lot of new aircraft to their fleet including technologically advanced aircraft. Are there inspectors trained and conversant in the nature of the aircraft the authority is operating,” he said. “As a regulator you can only oversee what you have technical understanding of.”

India, home to 1.2 billion people, couldn’t find enough officials to ensure safe operation of flights, forcing the FAA to strip the country of the top-rank safety rating and prompting Singapore to increase inspection on Indian aircraft. The South Asian country’s aviation industry has boomed in the past decade with carriers ordering more than $50 billion of new planes, including most modern aircraft such as Boeing Co. 787.

State-run Air India operates 12 Boeing 787 Dreamliners while Jet Airways (India) Ltd. has 10 on order. Air India last week had to divert a Dreamliner to Kuala Lumpur after a software glitch on a flight to New Delhi from Melbourne.

New Inspectors

The FAA’s downgrade meant Indian carriers had to freeze capacity to the U.S. at current levels. Indian authorities will hire 75 flight operation inspectors and provide training to more people to win back the rating, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said Jan. 31.

The FAA found deficiencies at India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation in December 2012, according to a statement from the U.S. regulator. It again held consultations with the DGCA and Indian ministries last year and in January. India had won the Category 1 rating in 1997.

Mexico, which was downgraded two and a half years ago, regained the top rating after only six months, a record, he said. India is considering setting up a new civil aviation authority which will replace the current regulator. That proposal has been lying with the government for over a year.

While the downgrade constitutes a criticism of the country’s regulatory framework, it’s the individual airlines that end up suffering, Tony Tyler, head of the largest aviation industry group, told journalists at a briefing in Singapore earlier this week. 

Source:   http://www.businessweek.com

State plane flew after cost-savings announcement

INDIANAPOLIS - The Governor’s office has announced the state has sold its plane two months after Gov. Mike Pence announced it would be sold for budget reasons.

The 2001 Beechcraft Super King Air B2000 twin turbine aircraft was sold Jan. 30 for $1.8 million, which was $134,000 above asking price, according to a news release issued Monday.

American Aviation from Brooksville, Fla. purchased the state plane, and the new owners took possession on Feb. 6.

The Governor’s office announced the plane would be sold in a Dec. 9 news release about cost-saving measures to address a $141 million budget shortfall.

"I even put the state’s plane up for sale," Pence said in his January State of the State address. "If you know anyone looking for a great deal on a Beechcraft King Air 200, give me a call!"

Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney submitted a records request asking why the state plane was flown four times since the Governor’s December budget announcement, as well how much the plane is costing taxpayers.

Records show on Dec. 10, Pence and six staff members flew to Louisville, Ky.

On Dec. 11, three Indiana State Police officers flew the plane to Galveston, Texas for a prisoner transport.

On Dec. 19, Pence and five staff members flew to Fort Wayne.

Pence returned to Fort Wayne via state plane, with three staff members, on Jan. 9.

"Staff with Governor Pence’s office advise the three flights with Gov. Pence were related to the Governor’s 2014 legislative agenda and to thank first responders for their efforts in the first major storm of the season," ISP Capt. Dave Bursten said in an email.

State records show between July 1, 2013 and January 31, 2014 the King Air cost $35,839 in fuel and maintenance.

The hangar lease for all aircraft cost $33,998 for the same time period, records show.

According to a news release issued Monday, the state plans to use funds received from the sale to help support public safety duties of the Indiana State Police.

For more details on which staff members flew on each flight click here -- http://bit.ly/1jr6Ryb

Source:   http://www.theindychannel.com

Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey: Coast Guard hosts aircraft mishap exercise




What looked like a routine helicopter landing was anything but in the eyes of officials with Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, the 177th Fighter Wing Air National Guard, the FAA and the Atlantic City International Airport as all of the agencies worked together in a simulated aircraft mishap exercise.

As part of the training, a Coast Guard helicopter was said to have collided with an FAA airplane while landing.

"Basically, its an exercise so we can test our safety and mishap plans to make sure they're all functioning well and if there are gaps that we then address them or figure out solutions to get them addressed," said Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City Commanding Officer, Captain Peter Mingo.

The mock emergency began with the water rescue of a stranded pilot. Upon landing, flares and red smoke marked the fictional crash site. As several emergency vehicles hurried to respond, the exercise also helped to strengthen the bond between the neighboring agencies.

"These types of exercises are an excellent way for us to establish relationships, validate our procedures and techniques and to learn and find out areas where we can improve," said Commanding Officer of the 177th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard, Colonel Kerry Gentry.

"This is a good opportunity for us to reach out to our partners here both at the 177th and over at the FAA to make sure those relationships we have on normal occasions function just as well as them when we have mishaps and safety issues," said Captain Mingo.

In addition to emergency response training, Coast Guard officials say this also provides a valuable lesson in decision making. For example, the first responders are unaware of what the fictional injuries are until they respond to the accident. Injuries that included broken legs and ribs, severe back injuries, head trauma and even the simulated death of one of the pilots.

"The magnitude of this is based on how far we simulate the reach and this is about as big as it would get so this is pretty substantial," said Capt. Mingo.

"It's a great relationship. It is great to have th em nearby here. It certainly allows us to do things we wouldn't otherwise do," said Col. Gentry.

Commanding officers say the drill appeared to be a success, and all agencies involved will take a closer look their performances in the coming weeks.

"It will probably take one or two weeks before we can take tease on all the issues on our checklist to make sure we hit them properly."

Coast Guard officials say the training also involved walk-through inspections of the aircraft to help familiarize first responders with the equipment

Fictional training situations that carry a very real value.


A.C. Airport disaster drill Tuesday will simulate crash of Coast Guard helicopter, FAA plane

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Authorities will hold a disaster drill Tuesday at Atlantic City International Airport, simulating the collision of a Coast Guard helicopter and Federal Aviation Administration plane.

The multi-agency drill will test the resources of the Coast Guard’s Air Station Atlantic City, the FAA, the New Jersey Air National Guard 177th Fighter Wing and the firefighting unit based at the airport.

Scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to noon, the drill will begin with the simulated crash of a military fighter jet and the rescue of its downed pilot over the ocean. It continues with a Coast Guard helicopter carrying the rescued pilot to the airport, but crashing into an FAA research plane on the ground, Coast Guard Lt. Matthew Kroll said. Airport firefighting and rescue crews will respond to the simulated disaster.

Source:   http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com

Cambodia: Government warns frequent flier

A dispute has erupted off the coast of Sihanoukville. On one side is the country’s aviation authority, backed by the local airport. On the other side are a couple of guys and a few flying boats.

The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) said yesterday that it would turn to local law enforcement to suspend the operations of an unlicensed microlight aircraft operator after three cease and desist letters reportedly went unanswered.

The company, aptly named Flying Boat Cambodia, operates a small fleet of fixed-wing vessels, and for $50 a pop a trained employee will pilot tourists up and around the coast, taking off and landing in local waters.

Concerned about safety and protecting what it called restricted air space, the SSCA initially issued the company with the order on December 12 last year, more than seven months after it had received initial approval from the provincial government for its scenic tour service.

After getting no response and learning of ongoing flights, the SSCA issued a second order on January 3 and a final letter on January 23.

“Again, this letter is to alert the SSCA that the company (Flying Boat Cambodia) is continuing operations without SSCA regulation approval,” the letter dated January 3 states, referring to microlight aircraft regulations which were installed in late 2013.

There is currently just one microlight aircraft licence holder in Cambodia.

Chhun Sivorn, deputy director of flight operations and air safety at the SSCA, confirmed the regulator’s failed efforts to ground Flying Boat Cambodia’s operations, amid fears its sightseeing flights are interfering with Sihanoukville International Airport’s restricted airspace.

“They need to fly with permission from the SSCA and the Sihanoukville airport, where there are many commercial flights. They are in the flight path,” Sivorn said, without citing any accidents or close calls.

Sample video of the flights provided to the Post showed the vessels flying not far from the beach, with no commercial airliners in sight.

“The next step would be to involve local authorities, unfortunately,” he said Hun Chhoeun, director of the Sihanoukville International Airport, said the company has been freely flying its boats through restricted airspace, and urged the regulator to shut the business down immediately.

“It is a risk to the commercial airlines. While no one has been injured, there is a real risk that if they do not follow permissions of the airport and SSCA something could happen,” he said.

All of this is a big headache for the owner of Flying Boat Cambodia, Lim Vannadeth, who yesterday rejected claims his pilots had entered restricted airspace, and said he had attempted numerous times to contact the SSCA by phone but was unable to get any assistance.

“I sent the documents for our official microlight machine license more than a month ago,” he said.

Vannadeth admitted that he did not immediately cease flying operations upon receiving the SSCA order, since his company was conducting pilot training, “and the tourist season is very short – just two or three months”.

He urged the SSCA to be flexible with small business operators in regards to microlight licensing laws. His four aircraft, which cost about $30,000 each and operate in a similar fashion as a paraglider with a motorised propeller, have been popular with tourists since first taking to the skies in May last year.

Vannadeth said there have been no accidents.

“The aviation authority in other countries does not need to provide approval for these kinds of machines. That is why, after receiving approval from the governor of Sihanoukville, we commenced our business.

“This is an opportunity to increase tourism in Cambodia.”

Source:  http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Darwin International Airport, Northern Territory, Australia

The plane is towed back to the terminal.  
Picture: HELEN ORR 
Source: NT News

A light plane has been involved in an incident at Darwin International Airport.

The six-seater, single-engine Piper Saratoga had one person aboard when its landing gear "experienced issues" on landing at 9.10am, according to a Darwin Airport statement.

The pilot was uninjured.

The plane came to rest between two taxiways.

Two landing aircraft had to be moved to another runway.

Two green airport fire trucks were sent to the scene, along with engineers, and followed the plane back to the general aviation section of the airport as it was towed on its own wheels.

It was inspected and laid-up. Airport spokeswoman Virginia Sanders said: "There was minimal impact on airport operations".

"There was no damage to the runway and operations are continuing as normal."

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has not been notified, but spokesman Dan O'Malley said unless it was an "immediately-reportable matter", the ATSB did not need to know straight away.

Know more on this story? Please contact conor.byrne@news.com.au or 8944 9765.

Source:   http://www.ntnews.com

The pilot disembarks at Darwin Airport after the incident. 
Picture: HELEN ORR 
Source: NT News

Attorney General’s office: Governor’s helicopter use justified

SANTA FE (KRQE) – The Attorney General’s office says it looked into the governor’s use of the state helicopter to get her to a political event and says no laws were broken, but she might think about paying taxpayers back.

Gov. Susana Martinez used the helicopter in November of 2011 to get to the Sunport where she then got on a commercial flight to Texas for a governor’s association fundraising event.

A spokesman for the governor says a state board of finance meeting ran late, making Martinez late for her commercial flight. That’s when the state police helicopter was summoned.

In a letter, the AG’s office says while the use of the chopper did provide a personal or political benefit to the governor, there is a plausible official purpose identified for the action, and there is no reason for further investigation.

But the letter went on to say that it would be highly appropriate for Martinez’s campaign to pay taxpayers the $800 it cost to operate the helicopter that day.

This letter comes from Attorney General Gary King’s office, and he is running for governor.

When asked if the governor for a response, her spokesperson said in part, “this was just one more baseless attack. Gov. Martinez sold five of the state’s airplanes and has used the GSD aircraft 10 times less than the previous administration.”

Story and comments/reaction:  http://krqe.com

Philippines fails to get United States aviation upgrade

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines failed to get a much-coveted aviation rating upgrade from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which still found the country "unsafe" in a recent audit.

This means Philippine carriers are still banned from opening new routes or mounting additional flights to the US.

In January, an FAA team visited the country to review compliance of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) with international safety standards, and gave an unfavorable 5-page report.
A copy of the report obtained from CAAP sources showed CAAP did not comply with several requirements, retaining its Category 2 status and failing to move up to the Category 1 list.

CAAP has been working on getting the upgrade for 6 years now. It was confident it was going to get the upgrade last month, with Deputy Director-General John Andrews saying he'd resign if they didn't.
The FAA downgraded CAAP's safety rating in 2008 upon the recommendation of the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). At the time, ICAO found "significant concerns" over CAAP's ability to meet international safety standards.

Under Category 2, Philippine carriers may continue existing flights to the US, but they cannot launch new routes or additional flights. Category 2 also puts them under heightened surveillance.

Following the US downgrade, the European Union also imposed a ban on Philippine carriers in 2010 due to the same safety concerns.

But last year, ICAO gave the Philippines a passing mark in its audit, while the EU allowed legacy carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) to fly to the 28-nation bloc again.

The US status is the only remaining negative rating against the country.

The FAA is expected to announce its latest findings in Washington soon.


CAAP sources said the regulator failed to pass in 4 of "8 critical elements" that the FAA has been monitoring for "safety oversight" compliance by civil aviation authorities of ICAO-member countries.

FAA rules require that the aviation authorities hurdle all 8 elements to be upgraded to Category 1 status.

The 4 elements where there were findings against CAAP include:

  • Primary Aviation Legislation
  • Technical personnel qualification and training
  • Technical guidance, tools and provision of safety critical information
  • Licensing, certification, authorization and approval obligations

Among the findings in the FAA report were:

  • CAAP has not complied with the Article of the Chicago Convention with regard to Amendment 37 to Annex 6 part 1 issued March 28, 2013 related to approach ban provision.
  • The CAAP Airmen Examination Board personnel are not trained to prepare, administer and evaluate written theoretical examination. Records indicate that only 1 out of 9 employees has four initial trainings. There is no evidence of having correct training in almost all of Caap’s development course. None has completed the formal training policy and programs for operations and Airworthiness Inspectors does not include sufficient on the job training.
  • CAAP Airworthiness Technical Guidance does not contain complete policies, procedures and standards.

A CAAP source said, "Most of the FAA findings are doable, but nobody in CAAP is actually doing the actual work to conform with regulations."

The FAA review was conducted from January 20 to 24 by a team of 5 people, led by Gregory Michael, head of Flight Standards District Office of FAA.

The exit interview on January 24 was reportedly attended by top CAAP officials, including Andrews and head of Flight Safety Inspectorate Service Beda Badiola.

Andrews is on leave and will report back for work on February 17. Director-General William Hotchkiss, on the other hand, is attending the Singapore Air Show 2014.

In a phone interview with Rappler, CAAP chief financial officer Rodante Joya declined to confirm whether or not the Philippines got the upgrade.

He said, "It is the FAA that will announce that in Washington. We have not received any official communication if we failed or passed the review."

Joya said the FAA is expected to make the announcement "65 days from the last day of the audit."

Against expectations

In November, Andrews was confident the country would finally win an upgrade from US authorities this year.

"If it does not happen, the buck stops at me. If this does not happened… I will no longer be here. That is my commitment," he said then.

Andrews drew confidence from ICAO's move in February to give the Philippines a passing mark and the EU's decision to lift its ban.

Sources said the FAA will return in March for another CAAP audit.

Philippine carriers are banking on the upgrade as they plan on expanding in the US.

Currently, only PAL is allowed to fly to the US. Budget carrier Cebu Pacific has expressed desire to operate the lucrative route. – Rappler.com

Story and comments/reaction:  http://www.rappler.com

Boeing Considering 787-Size Medium-Range Jetliners

Boeing is Studying the Feasibility of Midrange Jets Similar in Size to Flagship 787. 

The Wall Street Journal
By Jeffrey Ng

Feb. 11, 2014 3:33 a.m. ET

SINGAPORE— Boeing Co. is studying the feasibility of a medium-range jetliner that is similar in size to its flagship 787 long-haul jets because of strong customer interest, its top commercial aircraft salesman said Tuesday.

The U.S. aircraft manufacturing giant hasn't developed a successor to its midrange Boeing 757 jets, which seat up to 230 passengers, since the company stopped production of the popular plane in 2004, though hundreds are still flying today.

Instead, Boeing has in recent years focused more on revamping its highly successful but smaller 737 series jets and on its long-haul widebodies, such as the 787s and the 777s. But some customers are now asking about a possible midrange option.

"There may be a marketplace...in an airplane that doesn't have the range capability of a 787...but in the size category of 200 to 300 seats," said John Wojick, who heads global sales of commercial aircraft at Boeing, at the Singapore Airshow.

Mr. Wojick said there are many markets in Asia with routes between 4,000 and 5,000 miles in length that would suit such a midrange plane. However, he said the aircraft maker remains in "the study phase and the customer requirement phase" and no decisions have been made on whether to proceed.

"We've got an awful lot of discussions to go with our customers on what the size of that market may be and what kind of interest there is," said Mr. Wojick, noting that this is one of many studies Boeing is undertaking on new aircraft.

For now, Boeing is working on boosting the reliability of its technologically-advanced 787 jets following a spate of technical incidents involving the jets. Meanwhile, the plane maker is trying to fill new orders for its recently-launched 777X, the latest variant of its twin-engine long-haul jetliner.

So far, Boeing has secured firm orders from five international airlines for the new jet, and Mr. Wojick says the company is trying to pitch to existing operators of the 777-300 extended range planes for new orders. One airline Boeing is in discussions with is Singapore Airlines Ltd  which is looking to phase some of its older generation 777s that joined its fleet in the 1990s.

"We spent an awful lot of time speaking to (Singapore Airlines) about the 777X," said Mr. Wojick, noting that Boeing is working hard to secure orders from the premium airline. Singapore Airlines said Tuesday that any discussions it has with aircraft manufacturers are kept confidential.

On the production side, Boeing is also busy fulfilling its large production backlog of orders, which stands at 5,080 planes. The company said it expects to deliver a record 715-725 planes this year, up from 638 last year.

Many of Boeing's orders are coming from emerging markets in Southeast Asia, which fueled a proliferation of low-cost airline travel in the region. While some Asian currencies have weakened significantly in recent months, Mr. Wojick said he is "not seeing a whole lot of impact from our customers on that level."

Source:   http://online.wsj.com

Boeing struggles with 787 production bottlenecks

(Reuters) - A 787 that rolled out of Boeing's factory in Everett, Washington, in January was hailed as an important milestone: the first Dreamliner built at a rate of 10 a month, the fastest for a twin-aisle jet.

But some employees who work on the aircraft are calling into question Boeing Co's ability to sustain that pace. They say the two factories that assemble the 787 are struggling to cope with a ramp-up in production that started late last year, and a huge backlog of unfinished work threatens to slow output.

Boeing's plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, cannot finish thousands of work orders and is sending pieces to the larger plant in Everett to be completed so that the company can maintain its 10-a-month rate, according to four employees who spoke on condition of anonymity. A work order can be as simple as attaching a part or as complex as installing a duct system.

A senior employee in Everett said the problem is particularly acute with the jet's complex wiring: fuselage sections were arriving from North Charleston with large bundles of wires that were not connected properly.

The South Carolina workers have the skills to produce the plane correctly "but there are not enough of them to match the rate increase," the senior employee said. "They can't keep up."

Boeing said it is aware of the bottlenecks and is working to fix the problems. The company has hired hundreds of contract workers in South Carolina, and created special teams in Everett to inspect the planes and tackle the extra tasks, known as "traveled work" because it was moved from South Carolina to Everett.

"While we try to minimize it, traveled work is something we deal with in all production programs," said Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel. "The 787 program remains on track to meet its delivery commitments in 2014 and we are producing 787s at a rate of 10 per month as planned."

The backlog, first reported in the Seattle Times, comes as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has launched an audit of Boeing's factories this month. The FAA said the audit was regularly scheduled and declined to comment further.

Boeing said the audit was routine, performed about every two years at multiple facilities, and required for Boeing to maintain its FAA certification to produce all of its airplanes. It was not focused on the South Carolina plant, Boeing said.


Boeing's ability to churn out the Dreamliner is crucial to its financial performance this year as the company is relying on commercial jetliners to offset a weak defense business. While Boeing still loses money on each 787 that it builds, it gets closer to breaking even as production increases.

Cash flow from the 787 is expected to improve next year, provided the factories stay on pace, Boeing said. The cash is needed to fund new plane development, as well as fulfill investors' desire for share buybacks and dividends.

Boeing's South Carolina facility makes all aft and midbody fuselage sections for the 787. Most of those sections are shipped to Everett for final assembly of the airplane, with the remainder assembled into finished planes in South Carolina.

Boeing said South Carolina aims to build three finished jets a month by mid-year, with Everett producing seven.

A Boeing employee in South Carolina said factory managers are telling workers to put down their tools and let pieces move along the assembly line even if they are not finished, so that the plant can maintain its output rate.

Boeing's spokesman confirmed it is sometimes more efficient if unfinished work is moved elsewhere so the line can keep operating at the planned pace.

The production problems with the wiring bundles have caught the attention of the FAA, whose inspectors issued Boeing at least one "letter of investigation" on the matter months ago, according to the senior Everett employee.

The letter was part of ongoing FAA oversight and has not been linked to the current audit or to any issues on the delivered planes, including the 787 battery fires that grounded the entire fleet for more than three months last year.

According to Boeing, it has addressed the wiring issues raised by the letters. The company has teams to inspect all wiring, both from suppliers and its own facilities, as is standard practice.

The Everett worker said wiring is now no longer being fully installed in South Carolina. Instead, wiring bundles are being "pre-routed," or put in loosely, and the actual connections are done in Everett.

The employees who discussed the 787 problems all asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly and feared losing their jobs.


One contractor recently hired in South Carolina said his job consists of working "shoulder to shoulder" with assembly workers to review engineering plans, inspect components before they are installed, oversee installation and review the final work to make sure it was done properly. Other contractors perform assembly or fabrication work.

He said 9,500 work orders were backlogged late last month. The Boeing staff worker in South Carolina said the backlog has since fallen to about 7,500

Boeing disputed those figures, but declined to give other numbers. It said about 7,000 contract and staff employees currently work at the South Carolina facility.

The contractors are being paid overtime on mandatory work Saturdays, the contract worker said. Sunday work is voluntary but there is pressure to volunteer, the worker said.

Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney told an industry conference last week that bottlenecks in the South Carolina factory appeared as Boeing added a stretched version of the 787-8, known as the 787-9, while increasing the production rate.

There was "not any sign that the 787 program is off the rails or we may not be able to hold 10 a month," McNerney told the conference organized by Cowen & Co.

"This is what happens on all of our programs," he said. "Sometimes when we break to a rate, it surfaces an issue that needs some extra attention. And that's really the story here."

Source:  http://www.reuters.com