Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Former pilot union president sues over vacation time

The former president of the Charlotte-based union that represents US Airways pilots filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the union, claiming he was unfairly cheated out of payment for almost 100 unused vacation days he accrued.

Michael Cleary, a pilot, headed the U.S. Airline Pilots Association from 2008 to 2012. He was a fierce opponent of US Airways and led a high-profile “safety campaign” in 2011 that the company claimed was in fact a secret work slowdown.

The union charged that US Airways was skirting safety requirements, but a federal judge in Charlotte sided with the company and issued an injunction ordering pilots to stop the slowdown.

In his lawsuit, Cleary claimed he worked seven days a week for the union for most of his four-year term and took only seven paid days off during that time. He worked on those seven days he took off as well, Cleary said.

“Mike routinely worked seven days a week. He had no choice because there was work to be done and, in the beginning, few employees to do it,” wrote Cleary’s attorney, Josh Van Kampen. “Weekends off were nonexistent, and Mike had virtually no chance to use the vacation he was accruing.”

A spokesman for USAPA said the union hadn’t received a copy of Cleary’s lawsuit Tuesday and had no comment.

When Cleary left USAPA in 2012, he said in his lawsuit that he was paid for only 21 days of vacation time, not the nearly 100 days he had accrued. According to the lawsuit, the union’s treasurer had assured Cleary that he would receive payment for all of his accrued vacation time.

Although Cleary was a pilot for US Airways at the same time he served as USAPA’s president, he only flew the bare minimum necessary to maintain certification. The union paid Cleary all of his wages and benefits, according to the lawsuit. Van Kampen declined to say exactly how much money Cleary is seeking from USAPA.

The union is in the early stages of integrating with the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines pilots, after that company’s merger with US Airways in December. For years, USAPA has been bitterly divided over pilot seniority stemming from the 2005 merger of America West and US Airways.

Integrating the pilot work groups seamlessly is seen as an important step for the American-US Airways merger to succeed.

Source: http://www.charlotteobserver.com

Time for Three denied access on U.S. Airways flight

Passengers on U.S Airways flight 4781, bound for Fayetteville, Arkansas, may have been leaving on a jet plane, but local recording artists, Time for Three, were stranded on the tarmac.
Why? One word: Violins. 

Band members Zach De Pue and Nicolas Kendall posted a video on YouTube Monday afternoon which showed them standing outside of a U.S. Airways Express Jet with their bags and violins.

"Zach and I were on our way to meet up with our bassist, Ranaan Meyer, to play at the Artosphere Arts and Nature Festival," said Kendall. "We were making our connection on U.S. Airways out of Charlotte, N.C., to Fayetteville, Ark., when we were stopped as we entered the plane by the captain and his stewards."

The crew told the musicians that the FAA would fine the airline if they were found not to have complied with FAA regulations, which, according to the captain, said Kendall, prohibited musical instruments to be carried on the plane.

"U.S. Air is not letting us put our violins on an airplane," said Kendall in the video, standing next to the plane. "How many artists have to deal with this s---?"

Kendall then trained the camera on De Pue who began playing his violin.

"Out of frustration, I decided to start playing my violin," said De Pue on the phone from Arkansas.

At one point in the video, a flight crew member came down onto the tarmac to retrieve a piece of luggage and Kendall shouted, "Can you explain to us what you're trying to do?" But the crew member turned his back on Kendall and headed back into the plane.

"The 2 of us were just standing there planeside for a good 10 min before the [complaint resolutions officer] came. There was no getting around it. We could either put the violins under the plane, or forfeit the flight," wrote Kendall in an email. "We decided to forfeit the flight."

In 2012, congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which states, "An air carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a violin, guitar, or other musical instrument in the aircraft cabin or under a passenger seat, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to any standard fee that carrier may require for comparable carry-on baggage."

"We sincerely apologize for not only their delay, but what occurred at the airport," said Bill McGlashen, a spokesperson for U.S. Airways. "We did accommodate them on a later flight to Fayetteville and we wish them good luck and good playing at the festival."

When asked about the Modernization and Reform Act, McGlashen said that sometimes on regional jets it's a different dynamic with carry-on items, and it's a tough judgement call regarding what fits and what doesn't, what should be carried on and what shouldn't.

"All airlines have to submit their carry-on policy to the FAA for approval and it has to meet the basic FAA requirements," said McGlashen. "Each policy differs from airline to airline."

Story, photo, video and comments/reaction:  http://www.indystar.com


Atherton urges Surf Air to fly at higher altitudes

Taking a new approach in efforts to reduce airplane noise over Atherton, the town is sending a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration urging that planes fly at a higher altitude until closer to the San Carlos Airport.

Noisy planes became an issue soon after a new small airline, Surf Air, began flying passengers into the San Carlos Airport in June 2013. Cory Cozzens, co-founder of Surf Air, says the airline currently has nine daily arrivals in San Carlos on weekdays, four on Saturdays and eight on Sundays.

Surf Air, whose customers pay one monthly price for unlimited flights on small passenger planes, recently added flights to and from the Truckee airport to their weekend flight schedule.

At their May 21 meeting, City Council members agreed to have a letter signed by Mayor Cary Wiest sent to the FAA, urging the change in the GPS flight path that aircraft are asked to observe.

Mr. Cozzens says Surf Air has told the FAA the airline supports the proposed new GPS flight path.

“Adding a higher GPS approach would result in aircraft flying 25% higher over homes in the Atherton, North Fair Oaks and Menlo Park neighborhoods,” the letter to the FAA says. “We believe that this increase in altitude would greatly reduce the noise impacts.”

Councilman Rick DeGolia, who serves on the San Carlos Airport Noise Working Group along with Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis, said the airline has promised to make another change to lessen noise. Pilots for the airline have been dropping their landing gear and powering up 6 miles from the airport, he said, while other pilots do that only 3 miles away. Surf Air officials have promised to start dropping the landing gear closer to the airport, he said. “That will be the most material change,” Mr. DeGolia said.

In December 2013, approximately 75 people attended a community meeting in Atherton to air their concerns about increased flight noise. Since then the working group has met several times to attempt to find a solution to the problem that would not move aircraft over other residential neighborhoods.


Albert J. Ellis (KOAJ), Jacksonville, North Carolina: Airport projects receive Onslow County Board of Commissioners blessing

Albert J. Ellis Airport got the go-ahead last week to move forward on its expansion plans. 

At the Onslow County Board of Commissioners May 19 regular meeting, six of the agenda’s nine general items involved the construction projects at the 43-year-old airport.

The board voted unanimously in favor of an amended project ordinance on a $4.4 million general aviation terminal that will house a flight school, a crew rest area and meeting rooms. The design portion of the terminal, as well as the aircraft parking apron, was approved by the board in 2012. The board on Monday approved adding the construction and construction administration phase to the project.

“All the existing buildings at the airport, apart from the fire station, are well over 40 years old” Sandra Janssen, manager of finance and administration for the airport said. “The existing GA terminal (and the) T-hangars were all going to be destroyed with the building of the new terminal.”

RS&H consulting firm of Jacksonville, Fla., has been selected to design the terminal. Bids for the construction phase are expected to go out in June.

According to county documents, approximately $1.6 million for the plan is expected to come from installment purchasing funds, an $8.4 million loan taking out by the county that will be paid by the airport. The rest will come from state and federal grants, passenger facility charges, tenant contributions and the airport fund balance.

Construction on an estimated $2.3-million air traffic control tower project was also approved this week by the commissioners. The project is expected to be funded primarily through grants from the Federal Aviation Administration. The remainder is expected come from other sources, such as installment purchases, passenger facility charges and the airport fund balance.

According to Janssen, the airport estimates that the grants will cover 90 percent of the project’s cost, along with paying the employees that will work in the tower; though she said approval for funding has been delayed due to last year’s federal sequestration.

The board also approved an approximate $1.86-million plan to construct three passenger boarding bridges connected to the new terminal. Approximately $1.4 million will come from federal grants while the rest will come from passenger facility charges and the airport fund balance.

An amendment approved Monday also directs funds left over from construction on new T-hangars — which cost $292,195 instead of the budgeted $460,000 — to be transferred to other projects, according to documents for the county.
The hangars opened in March.

Commissioners approved a project amendment for pre-construction services on another new terminal and a new weather observation system for the airport.

These requests come after the approval of the next fiscal year’s budget in which the airport becomes an enterprise fund. This means the airport will operate with the fees they obtain instead of local taxes, though Janssen said the airport has been dong that for the past several years.

During Monday’s meeting, the board also approved:

• Purchasing $239,339.67 worth of data processing and computer equipment for the Onslow County Government Center

• Writing off of outstanding funds owed to the Onslow County Health Department funds. According to Health Department Director Angela Lee, the unpaid funds, $7,824.65, come from 101 people whose reasons for not paying included death, leaving the area and filing for bankruptcy.

• Setting a public hearing during the June 2 regular meeting on Friendly Medical Transportation’s application for an ambulance franchise.

Source:   http://www.jdnews.com

Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio: Enterprise Park at Calverton may still have a shot at Federal Aviation Administration facility

The Federal Aviation Administration has announced that it will build a new Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility on Long Island, but it hasn’t announced where on Long Island.

And that would seem to indicate that the Enterprise Park at Calverton might still have a chance of having the facility built there, as Riverhead Town officials had hoped.

“So, we’re still in the running and that’s a good thing,” said Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who urged the Town Board to submit a proposal to the FAA seeking to build its new facilities at EPCAL. “Hopefully, they will bring the facility to EPCAL and bring all the jobs that are associated with it.

“We’ve got plenty of room at EPCAL to build the TRACON facially now and the other facility at a later date.”

The current TRACON building is in Westbury and is more than 30 years old. The FAA had planned to build a new $490 million Integrated Control Facility that would have combined the functions of the TRACON with those of the New York Air Route Control Central in Ronkonkoma. The FAA had sought proposals for sites where this facility could be located, with ECPAL being submitted by Riverhead Town officials.

But now, with the FAA not building the Integrated Control Facility for the time being, it’s uncertain if the locations that were proposed for it, such as EPCAL, would need to be resubmitted in order to be considered as a site for the new TRACON.

“The FAA has not been clear on that,” said Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), who represents the five East End towns, Brookhaven Town and part of Smithtown.

“All they said is that it is going to be on Long Island and it is going to be built in a location that will allow for future expansion,” Mr. Bishop said.

With the possibly of both FAA facilities and the 950 jobs contained in them being moved off Long Island, Mr. Bishop views the decision to built the new TRACON on Long Island as a victory.

“Our goal was to keep the facility on Long Island, because it could have gone elsewhere,” Mr. Bishop said.

The Long Island Congressional delegation, including himself, Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington), Congressman Peter King (R-Seaford), and Congresswoman Caroline McCarthy (D-Mineola) all agreed that they would fight to keep the FAA facilities on Long Island, rather than each trying to get it located in their own districts, Mr. Bishop said.

“So the fight we wanted to win, we won,” Mr. Bishop said.

In addition to the 950 jobs that could have been lost had the facility been moved off Long Island, the construction cost for the new TRACON is estimated at about $250 million, Mr. Bishop said.

Air traffic controllers located at these two facilities have an average salary of $137,000 and the overall average salary at these two locations is $100,000, said U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-Brooklyn).

The FAA will upgrade the TRACON facility on Long Island and consider additional upgrades to the Ronkonkoma facility at a later date, he said.

The FAA said in a release: “The new facility may be at a location with the capability to expand to manage operations from other facilities in the area.”

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, who initially opposed Ms. Giglio’s proposal to try and lure the FAA to EPCAL, said Thursday that he was under the impression, from press accounts, that the FAA was simply going to rebuild the TRACON at Westbury. He said that while it would be nice to have the facility in EPCAL, the town would have to give the FAA 50 acres for free and then hook it up to utilities.

“That’s an expensive proposition for the Town of Riverhead,” he said. “It may be a blessing in disguise if they don’t come.”

The supervisor said there are many Riverhead residents who work at the Air Route center in Ronkonkoma and probably some who work at the TRACON in Westbury.

Source:   http://riverheadnewsreview.timesreview.com