Thursday, May 22, 2014

Flight attendants warn that Transport Canada’s proposed staffing changes could make flying riskier

Flight attendants are concerned that proposed Transport Canada changes to staffing ratios in Canadian skies would put the flying public at risk.

At a Transport Canada technical meeting on Thursday, linked by video conference in nine cities across Canada, flight attendants from different carriers including Air Canada, Air Transat and Sunwing Airlines, warned that having fewer flight attendants on board would reduce safety, especially in the event of an emergency.

Air Canada flight attendant Tina Tremblay noted that airline travel has changed in recent years, as airlines try to squeeze more passengers onto aircraft to boost revenues. That can result in more passengers, and “you are increasing our risk on board,” said Tremblay.

Transport Canada is currently looking at allowing commercial airlines to operate with one flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats, instead of the current rule of one flight attendant per 40 passengers.

For decades, the Canadian staffing ratio remained unchanged despite requests from airlines to harmonize it with the 1 to 50 ratio used in the United States and Europe.

However, last year, WestJet Airlines and Sunwing Airlines were granted a special exemption to operate with the 1:50 ratio on their planes, bringing a substantial staff savings.

Other airlines including Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge and Transat have also applied, but Transport Canada is instead considering an overall regulatory change. A recommendation will be made to Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, and if approved, could be in place by year’s end.

“We keep slashing and cutting, making all of these sacrifices for competitiveness,” said Fiona Hannan, an Air Canada flight attendant and treasurer with Canadian Union of Public Employees in Calgary. “We need to protect people, Canadians.

“Seat belt laws came into effect for a reason. I feel like we are taking two steps back,” Hannan said.

Transport Canada’s safety inspector for cabin safety standards Christopher Dann acknowledged that there was a safety difference between the two ratios.

“It can’t be equivalent. A 1:50 to passengers will never be equivalent to a 1:40 in passengers,” Dann said, but at the same time Transport Canada is proposing mitigating regulations including requiring a flight attendant at every floor level exit on wide-body planes to boost safety.

Aaron McCrorie, director of standards, added: “If we implement a 1:50 in passengers seats, without any mitigation measures, there would be increased risk.”

But with Transport Canada’s additional requirements including more crew training will “raise the safety level in all instances,” McCrorie said. “I am going to feel safer because there are new requirements.”

Marc-Andre O’Rourke, director of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents the country’s biggest airlines, wants to see a ratio change to harmonize rules.

“Safe and secure air travel is of the utmost importance to the member airlines of the NACC and this move to standardize Canadian regulations will in no way compromise the safety of passengers and crew,” O’Rourke said in an email.

Other participants raised issues including challenges of traveling with young infants, and a family lawyer who said it would be harder for unaccompanied minors to travel with fewer flight attendants on board. Similarly, an advocate for developmentally disabled travelers, who need more assistance, worries they won’t have enough support on flights.


Wimberley, Texas: Man Sues Federal Aviation Administration Over Drone Policy

Gene Robinson of Wimberley uses drones to search for missing people, but the Federal Aviation Administration is shutting him down.

The FAA sent Gene a cease-and-desist letter because current law states that it’s illegal to fly drones for commercial use.

"We don't use it for compensation, which has been the argument for so long,” Robinson said. "Our little airplane has been credited with eleven recoveries already. We've been in thirty states and four countries.

Robinson filed a suit saying "there is no legal basis for the FAA to prohibit the operation of a model aircraft for volunteer search and rescue activities."

"We feel like the process has been stagnated and has taken way longer than needed to be completed," he said.

In 2012, when drones’ popularity was growing, Congress told the FAA to come up with new drone guidelines by 2015, but the FAA is moving slowly.

"If they get this legislation wrong, there are going to be some serious consequences and there are going to be a lot of people who are angry with them if they don't do it correctly," Aaron Sankin, a journalist with The Daily Dot, said.

The FAA has to balance safety with privacy, and determine what use is legitimate and what's not.

Until then, they've shut down practically everyone.

"The FAA is really trying to balance everything and come up with something that works for everyone, but it's complicated," Sankin said.

Some of the money the FAA received to study drones went into building six different testing sites around the country, one of which is in College Station.

The FAA is supposed to have the new policy guidelines by 2015.

- See more at:

Drones used to find missing people: Wimberley based company using drones for search and rescue, recovery missions

Low flying Navy jet spotted in Marquette and Alger Counties - Michigan

The reports of a low flying jet across portions of the Upper Peninsula Thursday afternoon prompted concerned residents to call 911.

The Negaunee Post of the Michigan State Police says the jet was spotted near Lakewood Lane in Chocolay Township just after 1:30.

There were also reports of a fighter jet over Coast Guard Point in Grand Marais in the same time period.

The Federal Aviation Administration in Minneapolis was told about the jet, and said it was a Navy military aircraft conducting a training flight over water.

The FAA said the pilot did not violate any FAA regulations.


Federal Aviation Administration Closes a Hiring Runway for Air-Traffic Controllers: Colleges, Students Balk as Agency Ends an Inside Track

The Wall Street Journal

By  Susan Carey

May 22, 2014 7:04 p.m. ET

For years, aspiring air-traffic controllers in the U.S. have enrolled in schools selected by the Federal Aviation Administration to offer special courses that could smooth the way for a job at the agency.

But at the end of December, the FAA abruptly ended that special status for the 36 participating colleges and universities, leaving school officials fuming and students frustrated. Under the old system, graduates, who received associate or bachelor's degrees, weren't guaranteed FAA positions, but strong performers who passed an agency aptitude test and were recommended by their schools were put on a special waiting list to be hired.

The change means the FAA now considers applicants from the general public on an equal basis. Applicants don't need any background in the field or even a college degree. The FAA also added a biographical questionnaire that the agency said measures characteristics shown to predict controller success—but that many applicants have found to be baffling.

The FAA said the new process is designed to eliminate long, fruitless waits by job candidates on the former preference lists, to reduce costs, and to "increase objectivity in the assessment of candidates." But some critics suspect it is intended partly to increase the share of minorities and women among controllers, who are now 83% male and white. A study for the agency last year found the school graduates had more success in the hiring process, which disproportionately hurt minority candidates.

The agency said the new hiring process "is blind on the issue of diversity."

School officials, meanwhile, complain that they have invested heavily in flight simulators, buildings and faculty, and contend that they deliver a diverse group of graduates with customized training that lowers the FAA's own training costs. Some school officials say their controller enrollment already has fallen off because of the FAA change.

The FAA's new stance "just doesn't make sense," said Douglas Williams, aviation-program director at the Community College of Baltimore County in Catonsville, Md., who says 42% of the students in its associate-degree controller program are minorities and 30% are female. "They're not getting the best-qualified applicants this way," he said. Since the change, about 40% of the first-year students in the program have dropped out, he added.

Students who have studied for the controller degrees fear they wasted time and money. Navy veteran Oscar Vega recently completed the two-year air-traffic program at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif. He said he passed the FAA controller aptitude test last year, so he was shocked when, in February, he failed the biographical assessment.

"They say you can take it again," said the 28-year-old. "But it's not a test you can study for. And we don't know why we failed because we don't get any feedback."

Controller jobs are stressful. The FAA doesn't take candidates older than 30, and the mandatory retirement age is 56. The pay, however, is good: The 2012 median income was $122,500, according to federal data.

The FAA currently has more than 14,000 controllers, and it plans to hire upward of 11,000 new ones in the next eight years to cover retirements and attrition.

The FAA first informed the schools on Dec. 30 that it was going to end its practice of keeping "an inventory," or pool of applicants on the preferential list of qualified controller candidates. The last time the agency put out a public call for jobs was in 2009.

In February, more than 28,000 people—including some graduates of the designated colleges and universities—applied for 1,700 controller positions. Only 2,200 passed the new biographical assessment, allowing them to advance to the aptitude test.

The FAA said the new test helped screen "a large pool of applicants into a smaller group of the best candidates."

The schools estimate that more than 3,000 graduates have been removed from the FAA's hiring pool because of the new policy. The FAA said the number is closer to 1,500 out of 2,400 candidates in the pool.

"There is a problem of diversity in the controller workforce," said Stephen West, head of the air-traffic-control program at the University of Oklahoma. "We want to help the FAA. But we think diversity has to go hand in hand with quality."

Graduates of the designated schools, along with former military controllers, have typically made up a majority of the FAA's recent hires. As recently as February, the agency said on its website that it considered the graduates "a valuable hiring source" and allowed them to bypass the first five weeks of controller training at the FAA Academy. In a recent statement, however, the FAA said applicants with controller-school backgrounds have no greater success than other groups, a claim the schools dispute.

A different study the FAA completed last year found the schools helped introduce the profession to minorities and were making strides toward achieving more multicultural student bodies.

"We were kind of shocked," said Ramon Claudio, chairman of the air-traffic controller program at Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas, of the FAA's diversity studies. "We have Asians, three students from Samoa. We have a lot of Hispanics, African-Americans. Twenty-five percent of my classes are female."

Meanwhile, at least 28 controller applicants have brought discrimination claims against the FAA, including one seeking class-action status. A redacted copy of that complaint alleges the FAA eliminated the preferential hiring list to discriminate against the scholastic group to benefit minority applicants even though, the complaint says, the earlier system wasn't found to have hampered them.

The FAA said it hasn't discriminated against anyone, adding that it can't comment on pending litigation.

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Sean D. Tucker: Bethpage Air Show Pilot Prepares to Run Circles Around the Sky in Jones Beach


The Wall Street Journal 
By Jackie Bischof 
May 22, 2014 

Aerobatic pilot Sean D. Tucker spent years perfecting his “Sky Dance,”  a 13-minute routine featuring more than a dozen stomach-bending maneuvers, which he will perform at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach State Park May 24 and 25.

But the 62-year-old, based in California, said he was a “fearful flyer” when he first got his private pilot license in the early 1970s, carrying the trauma of a friend’s death in a sky diving accident with him whenever he flew.

Learning to roll, pitch, dive and fly upside down helped him conquer that fear, and 38 years after performing in his first aerobatic show, he estimates he’s flown around 15,000 practice flights.

“I just fell in love with what I was so afraid of,” said Mr. Tucker, who will be performing his routine, which has up to 200 movements, some iterations or repetitions of the same move, for audiences of the Bethpage Air Show at 1:40 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, just before the Navy’s Blue Angels take to the sky.

“My job – people say, ‘Oh, he’s crazy.’ Well in my business, you can only be crazy once,” said Mr. Tucker. “I am a risk mitigator; I manage risk. I try to take all the risk out of this,”  Mr. Tucker said.

“I love sharing what the sky is all about,” said Mr. Tucker, who considers the job of aerobatic pilot empowering. “We inspire people and we thrill people and we have a big responsibility not to kill ourselves in front of people” at air shows, he said. “We want to entertain, mesmerize and inspire and empower, and not traumatize.”

In addition to flying, Mr. Tucker is the founder of the California-based non-profit Every Kid Can Fly and the chairman of a program called Young Eagles, run by the Experimental Aviation Association and aimed at introducing to flight to young people, “just to light that spark within,”
Mr. Tucker said.   "We’re passionate about what flight represents and the majority of pilots are very reverent about having the privilege and opportunity to fly,” he said.

Despite the thousands of hours he’s clocked at the helm of a plane, Mr. Tucker said he has only had two flights in his career that he would consider perfect. “That feeling of perfection in the sky where the wings become your arms and you’re totally one with life is what I’m striving for,”
Mr. Tucker said.

The pilot said he knows when to back away from danger, citing one flight in Oklahoma City where he came so close to a lightning bolt that his hair stood on end. “Then I knew it was time to land,” he said. The experience also called to mind an old saying: “I’d rather be on the ground wishing I was in the sky than in the sky wishing I was on the ground,” Mr. Tucker said.

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SkyRunner ♥♡

The flying dune buggy that got stuck in Shreveport Customs 

WASHINGTON -- Shreveport businessman Stewart Hamel wants to start manufacturing what he describes as a part all-terrain vehicle/part light-sport aircraft. But Hamel says he ran afoul of an "overzealous and hostile" EPA official who wouldn't provide a required sticker to move a prototype model, built in England, from the U.S. Customs facility at the Shreveport airport.

The project, known as SkyRunner, is back on track, Hamel said, after Sen. David Vitter, R-La, intervened. But for a while, Hamel, managing principal of Hamel Interests and Private Equity, LLC in Shreveport, said he feared the EPA official would seize the vehicle and possibly destroy it.

Hamel said he is seeking to produce what effectively is a dune buggy, with an attached parachute, that can fly for 200 nautical miles at 55 mph at 10,000 feet above sea level. It's top speed on the ground is 115 mph.

Hamel sees the dual vehicles as having potential for large landowners, ranchers, farmers, pipeline companies, emergency medical teams and fun lovers with spare cash. He expects to sell them for $119,000 each.

The U.S. military is also interested, Hamel said, though "I can't say how they would be used."

The SkyRunners are being marketed as a quick way to get medical supplies to injured people stuck in remote or areas inaccessible to road vehicles.

But Hamel's goal of getting them to market starting in the third quarter in 2014, seemed hopeless when he said he encountered an EPA official who wouldn't tell him what he needed to get a sticker to get the prototype released from the Shreveport Airport's bonded Customs facility. The prototype arrived in early April, and the dispute with the EPA official carried on for weeks, Hamel said.

"I kept telling David (the EPA official) that I want to do everything by the book," Hamel said. "But he was hostile from the beginning. It was scary that you can run into this abuse of power and have no recourse. If I hadn't called David Vitter this deal would have been in real trouble."
After Vitter intervened, Hamel said the EPA admitted it didn't have authority over the prototype vehicle and Customs released it from a locked facility at the Shreveport airport. Now, he's working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to get the vehicle certified.

 "They (the FAA officials) have been nothing but professional and helpful," Hamel said.  "You expect your government to work with you, not put unreasonable obstacles in the way."

Vitter Wednesday wrote to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy to ask for an explanation, saying the official (whom the Picayune isn't naming until giving him a chance to respond) has abused his authority with other applicants for EPA permits.

"Beyond the threats of seizure and destruction of property, it has been brought to my attention that (the official) has a history of intentionally delaying EPA authorization for importation in order to force private businesses to incur additional costs," Vitter wrote. "Specifically, there is a history of targeting products that could be used by our military to save American lives."

EPA said it would respond to Vitter's letter.

 SkyRunner weighs 926 pounds and can accelerate to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, with a top speed of 115 mph on the ground and 55 mph in the air, according to its English producer. It uses a 1.0 liter EcoBoost direct injection turbo engine's 125PS (92kW) power and has a 500-mile road range.

No, you can't use it to fly above rush hour traffic, Hamel said. The vehicle isn't designed for highways.

 But you don't need an airport runway, Hamel said.

"Open fields, grass strips and secluded beaches will be the runways of choice," Hamel said. "In the United States 98 percent of airspace is open to light sport pilots."
Hamel hopes to produce the vehicles in Shreveport, as well as production facilities in South America and Australia.

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U.S. Coast Guard: Special Local Regulation for Jones Beach Air Show - New York

NEW YORK - The Coast Guard is establishing a temporary special local regulation on the navigable waters for the Jones Beach Air Show, in Jones Beach, N.Y., from May 23rd through May 25, 2014.

The special local regulation establishes that the navigable waters between the Meadowbrook State Parkway and the Wantagh State Parkway as a “Slow or No Wake” area and restricts vessel movement to no wake speed.

The affected areas include the navigable waters of the Sloop Channel through East Bay, Zach’s Bay near Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, N.Y., and the waters off of Jones Beach. Each area will be clearly marked with buoys and will be enforced by the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and local maritime law enforcement agencies.

The second measure establishes a regulated area that would restrict southbound traffic into and within Zach’s Bay from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., during each day of the Jones Beach Air Show.

In addition, this SLR establishes a “No Entry Area” in the waters off of Jones Beach, the area marked by the red box.

It is critical that spectators and boaters observe the boundaries of the SLR area established for the safety of air show participants, spectators and the general public during the event.

Persons, boaters or licensed mariners found in violation of a SLR may be subject to civil penalties, which comprise but are not limited to termination of voyage, suspension and revocation of license, and fines up to $5,000.

For more information regarding the SLR established for the Jones Beach Air Show, contact referred to Coast Guard Station Jones Beach at 516-785-2995.

 *Not for navigational purpose*
May 23-25, 2014 
Red: No Access Area 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday - Sunday 
Yellow: No Wake Zone 3 p.m. to­ 9 p.m. Saturday - Sunday 
Blue: No Southbound Traffic 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday - Sunday

Flying W Airport (N14), Lumberton, New Jersey: Friday night, music and a tiki bar

What better way to welcome the coming of summer than lounging by the pool or at a tiki bar with a live band playing off in the distance? The folks at Flying W Airport Resort know that's an indisputably perfect Friday night, and that's exactly what they have planned.

At 7 p.m., Flying W will welcome The Exceptions for a live show. The facility's pool, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits and tiki bar will be open during the band's set, as well.

With 37 years of performance history under their belts, The Exceptions, based in Bensalem, Pa., is a 10-piece band that plays hits by Frank Sinatra, Etta James, Van Morrison, Cheap Trick, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and more, from classic hits to modern tunes.

Each year, the group is invited to perform the national anthem at a Phillies game. But its repertoire also includes weddings, private parties and casinos throughout the tri-state area. Last summer, the group did a residence at The Deck at Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, performing every Sunday evening.

The show starts at 7 p.m. Entry is $10. Tickets can be purchased online or at Flying W, 60 Fostertown Road, Medford. For more information, visit or call 609-267-7673.


St. George, Utah: Warbird museum to honor Armed Forces with hangar dance, exhibitions


Memories fade as years pass, but a local nonprofit museum in the St. George Municipal Airport complex aims to preserve some of the United States' history of involvement in wartime air campaigns.

The Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum second annual Wings and Wheels celebration of the Armed Forces will kick off tonight with an old-style hangar dance, followed Saturday by an exhibition of vintage fighter planes, classic cars and thundering motorcycles.

"I love aviation. I love aircraft. But maybe my biggest thing is I love veterans," said Rebecca Edwards, the museum's manager. "I love those who served, and I want to teach young people … about those who served, so maybe they'll appreciate it and grow up to be good people."

The hangar dance with live swing band music will have an admission fee of $15, and The Red Rock Swing Dance group will appear in period dress to perform war-era dance moves and give dance lessons.

"If (people) want to come to the dance, they can dress in '40s styles or they can dress in current-style clothing," Edwards said. "A few World War II veterans are coming to the hangar dance, and the youngest of them is 88."

The Saturday exhibitions will be free to the public. Because the museum is a nonprofit organization, any donations it receives during the event can provide donors a tax break.

The museum normally houses five "warbirds" on display for visitors, but it recently added a T-38 Talon jet trainer that it acquired from the Hill Aerospace Museum in Layton.

A T-33 trainer will do a noon flyby at the airport Saturday as part of an Armed Forces flag presentation, and a T-6 Texan pilot will offer rides for sale at the event. Visitors also can climb into the cockpit of a Korean War-era MiG-15 to take photos.

"We try to add something new each year," Edwards said.

Some of the museum's planes will be part of the Thunder Over Utah air show in July, which will feature appearances by the Navy's Blue Angels precision aerobatics team, as well as the Army's Golden Knights precision parachutists.

"Some of our aircraft will be out on the ramp during the (July) show, and a couple of them will be flying, including the T-33, a MiG-15 and the British Jet Provost during the show's first day," Edwards said.

The T-33 will continue to be part of the July show's second and third days. People who buy tickets for the air show can have $5 of their admission donated to the museum by using the online code WSAWM during the ticket purchase.

Edwards said "anywhere from a few hundred to 1,000" Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders also plan to tour this weekend's event as part of a National Armed Forces Day Freedom Ride based at Washington City's Zion Harley-Davidson store Saturday.

If You Go

• What: Second annual Armed Forces Celebration Wings and Wheels.

• Where: Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum, St. George Municipal Airport complex.

• When: Dance, tonight from 7 to 11 p.m.; exhibition, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Cost: Dance, $15; exhibition, free.

• Information: Call 435-229-4985 or visit Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum's Facebook page.

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