Monday, October 06, 2014

New restrictions put in place for aircraft flying near lava flow

The lava flow continues its slow crawl toward Pahoa, sparking a large bush fire this morning and advancing 150 yards since Sunday.

And interest in the lava flow is so great, Hawaii County Civil Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration have now teamed up to place new restrictions on air traffic in the area.

Before Monday, aircraft could fly right over the flow, while dropping down to no less 500 feet in open areas, and a thousand feet near populated areas.

The new rules create a two-mile buffer around the flow and restricts altitude to no less than 4,000 feet.

Darryl Oliveira, director of Hawaii County Civil Defense, said “so in an effort to provide for the safety of residents — for people on the ground as well as the increased amount of traffic in the air — we worked with the FAA and Civil Defense to request this new restriction over the lava. It’s because we’re seeing a lot more activity over the lava flow, and multiple times last week, I personally had a chance to witness fixed aircraft, as well as helicopter traffic, in the same space.

“We do understand the historic nature of this, and the value of the media coverage, but based on what were were seeing last week with the uncontrolled air space, we had to take steps to provide safety first, then go forward with everyone and see how we can manage that better.”

Oliveira says the restrictions are similar to those put into place years ago when lava devastated Kalapana.

Tour operators, not surprisingly, tell KHON2 the restrictions come at a time when business is booming. They are hoping to work with Civil Defense and the FAA to strike a balance between public safety and witnessing history.

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No ban on travelers from West Africa, but additional screenings are coming

The Washington Post
By Mark Berman and Brady Dennis

October 6 at 7:53 PM

President Obama said Monday the U.S. government would increase passenger screenings in both the United States and Africa to detect the Ebola virus, though he resisted calls to impose a total travel ban on those traveling from the three West African countries most affected by the outbreak.

Neither the president nor White House officials elaborated on what those new screenings would entail. At the moment, passengers leaving the three nations riven by the virus — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — are screened for symptoms at the airport.

“The ability of people who are infected who could carry that across borders is something that we have to take extremely seriously,” Obama said Monday afternoon after a meeting with top advisers to discuss Ebola.

The range of new screening possibilities under consideration include everything from taking the temperature of travelers from impacted countries upon their arrival at major U.S. airports to conducting more stringent travel histories for international travelers arriving in the U.S., said a federal official familiar with the discussions, who asked to remain anonymous because plans have not been finalized.

Obama emphasized that the country was prepared to contain Ebola, saying that he felt the odds of an epidemic in the U.S. “are extraordinarily low.”

“In recent months we’ve had thousands of travelers arriving here from West Africa, and so far only one case of Ebola has been diagnosed in the United States, and that’s the patient in Dallas,” he said.

Obama spoke as Thomas Duncan, as a Liberian man stricken with Ebola, remained in critical condition in a Texas hospital. And his remarks came shortly after a nurse in Spain became the first known person to contract the virus outside of Africa.

This woman contracted the virus after caring for a priest who had been flown from Sierra Leone to Spain last month for treatment, Ana Mato, the Spanish health minister, said at a news conference Monday. The nurse’s condition was stable on Monday, and officials were trying to determine exactly how she contracted the illness, Muto said.

During his remarks Monday, the president was sharply critical of other countries that he said have not acted aggressively enough in response to the epidemic, which has killed more than 3,400 people and infected more than twice that number.

“Countries that think that they can sit on the sidelines and just let the United States do it, that will result in a less effective response, a less speedy response, and that means that people die,” he said.

Several Republicans on Monday called for heightened screenings or complete travel bans, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) called for “enhanced screening procedures.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R) wrote a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration pointing out that the busy holiday season is looming and asked if the agency is planning on limiting or suspending air travel to the countries where Ebola is prevalent.

Perry and Cruz, both potential 2016 presidential candidates, hail from Texas, where last week Duncan became the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. The state is also home to international airports in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio that saw more than 55 million travelers in 2012, according to the Department of Transportation.

This issue has also come up in several key midterm contests in states that are home to some of the country’s busiest airports. Thom Tillis, the Republican nominee for Senate in the crucial battleground state of North Carolina, last week called for U.S. officials to ban travel from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. In Michigan, Republican Senate nominee Terri Lynn Land has also called for a travel ban.

North Carolina is home to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, which saw more than 20 million passengers in 2012. Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Michigan saw nearly 16 million passengers the same year.

U.S. airlines said Monday they would meet with federal authorities to discuss what would provide another layer of protection for their passengers. The trade group Airlines for America, which represents most of the major U.S. carriers, said “members that fly to affected countries remain in steady contact with government agencies and health officials, and have procedures in place to monitor and quickly respond to potential health concerns.”

Still, despite the furor, there does not appear to be a guaranteed way to prevent Ebola victims from flying into the U.S. There are, however, time-tested means by which the U.S. weathered two earlier global health scares: The swine flu pandemic in 2009 and the outbreak of severe SARS in 2002 and 2003.

Procedures developed during SARS and swine flu pandemic require flight crews to radio ahead whenever a passenger falls ill. In some cases, a heart attack, for example, the call would be made so that an ambulance could meet the aircraft. But with symptoms specified by the CDC, airlines are required to notify the federal disease control agency before the flight lands.

There are no direct flights by U.S. carriers from the three hard-hit nations: Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, and fewer than half a dozen flights from anywhere in West Africa.The vast majority of travelers from Africa to the U.S. fly through hub cities in Europe. For example, Duncan flew from his native country to Brussels, where he boarded a flight to Dulles International Airport, changed planes and continued on to Dallas.

If a passenger books travel on a single ticket — Liberia to Brussels to the U.S. — tracking by the U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection will reveal the travel originated in Liberia. But any passenger who buys two tickets — Liberia to Brussels, and then Brussels to the U.S. — won’t show up the same way in the Customs data scan.

Airport officials, meanwhile, emphasized Monday that the CDC remains the lead agency for any response to the Ebola outbreak. The CDC maintains full-time offices at Dulles and other major U.S. destinations for international flights and there are quarantine stations at major airports across the country.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages Reagan National and Dulles International airports, said that while there have been no formal discussions, there have been informal conversations regarding procedures in the event a passenger suspected of having Ebola moves through Dulles.

“As this has developed it’s on the forefront of people’s minds,” said Christopher Paolino, a spokesman for the airport authority. “Everyone wants to make sure we are prepared.”

The Federal Aviation Administration has the power to restrict flights by U.S. carriers and, working with the CDC and the White House, could revoke the right of specified foreign carriers to land in the U.S.

“While the FAA has the authority to direct flight operations in United States airspace, any decision to restrict flights between the United States and other countries due to public health and disease concerns would be an interagency decision,” the FAA said in a statement. “The World Health Organization and the CDC have not recommended general travel restrictions to or from the countries affected by Ebola.”

The White House said it was not thinking about banning travelers from West Africa, despite the uneasiness that followed Duncan’s diagnosis and the warnings that other Ebola cases are expected in the U.S.

“A travel ban is something that we’re not currently considering,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday. He cited the “multi-layered” screening system currently in place as well as guidance given to flight crews and Customs and Border Patrol officers.

In a sign of how seriously the president is taking the Ebola outbreak, Obama convened virtually all of his top aides — from Lisa Monaco, Obama’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, who is leading the inter-agency coordination effort, to Katie Fallon, the White House director for legislative affairs — to discuss the administration’s response to the outbreak.

Public health officials have resisted a complete travel ban, which they warn would further impact the economies of these countries, hinder the ability to deliver desperately needed food and supplies and even limit the ability of doctors, nurses and humanitarian workers to travel into these areas.

Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Sunday that the agency has increased exit screenings at airports in the Ebola-riddled countries, using a combination of thermometers, questionnaires and “visual inspection” of travelers.

This screening had stopped 77 people from boarding planes, including 17 last month, he said.

However, this system is not foolproof, as is evidenced by Duncan’s diagnosis in the U.S. It relies upon a person filling out a questionnaire honestly and correctly, even though they may not know they had contact with a person with Ebola. A person who has contracted the disease but has not become symptomatic would not have a fever or any visible signs of illness, which means the thermometer and visual check would not help.

Duncan had his temperature taken by a person trained by the CDC using a thermometer approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Frieden said last week. He had no fever and did not display any symptoms until four or five days later.

The hospital treating Duncan, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, said Monday that over the weekend he had begun receiving an experimental treatment for the deadly disease. Known as brincidofovir, the drug is produced by Chimerix, a North Carolina-based biotech firm that describes itself as a developer of “novel, oral antivirals in areas of high unmet medical need.”

Brincidofovir is an antiviral drug developed to treat a range of viruses, including those in the herpes family and adenovirus, which accounts for some acute respiratory infections in children. The company, which also has sought to use the drug as a treatment against smallpox, said it also received permission to offer the drug to Ebola patients from the FDA, which must sign off on the experimental use of unapproved drugs. There currently are no approved treatments or vaccines for Ebola.

Duncan, who remained in critical but stable condition Monday, joins a handful of other Ebola patients who have received experimental drugs during the course of the current outbreak. Two U.S. missionaries infected this summer while working in West Africa were given doses of another unapproved drug, known as ZMapp. But the very limited supplies of that drug were soon exhausted; the San Diego-based company behind it is trying to produce more as quickly as possible. Another experimental medicine by a Canadian company, Tekmira, has been used on another American doctor who was flown to Nebraska from West Africa for treatment.

No one else that had contact with Duncan has showed any symptoms of Ebola, authorities said Monday.

Ashley Halsey III, Lori Aratani, Juliet Eilperin, Elahe Izadi and Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.

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Virgin Atlantic grounds loss-making UK carrier

The airline was intended as a feeder for Virgin’s transatlantic business but the flights were less than half full, making services unsustainable

Sir Richard Branson suffered his second blow in a month yesterday as the Virgin Atlantic founder announced the closure of the loss-making Little Red domestic airline after just 18 months.

Little Red began flights from Heathrow to Manchester, Aberdeen and Edinburgh in March 2013, using its own prized Heathrow take-off and landing slots as well as those which competition authorities forced its bitter rival, British Airways owner IAG, to relinquish following its purchase of domestic carrier bmi in 2011.

The airline was intended as a feeder for Virgin’s transatlantic business but the flights were less than half full, making services unsustainable. It comes a month after Virgin Atlantic cut routes to Mumbai, Tokyo, Vancouver and Cape Town in favor of new transatlantic business in an attempt to restore profitability this year.

Little Red’s services to Manchester will end in March with final flights to Edinburgh and Aberdeen in September next year. Sir Richard hit out at the European Commission for giving the fledgling airline little chance with its small allocation of airport slots. He said: “We were offered a meagre package of slots with a number of constraints on how to use them and we decided to lease a few planes on a short-term basis to give it our best shot. The odds were stacked against us and sadly we just couldn’t attract enough corporate business on these routes.”

Virgin leased the pilots and aircraft from Aer Lingus to deliver the Little Red service. A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman said around 100 Little Red cabin crew would be offered jobs on its long-haul routes. Virgin used four slots to provide Little Red’s Manchester service, but those used to serve Edinburgh and Aberdeen will revert to British Airways if no other airline applies to the Commission to use them.

The closures comes days after IAG boss Willie Walsh launched a fresh attack on Little Red: “I’ve said from the very start that Little Red will be ‘big red’. I don’t know why they did it. I’m delighted to have been proven correct.”

In a reference to US airline Delta’s 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic, an IAG spokesman added: “Little Red’s planes are flying about one third full so it is no surprise its masters in Atlanta have decided to axe it.”

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The manslaughter case against pilot John Patrick Crumpton who crashed a plane resulting in death of girl, 11, a ‘complex matter’ • Maule M5-235C, VH-HOG

The case against John Patrick Crumpton — charged with manslaughter over a joy flight on the north coast that ended in the death of an 11-year-old girl — has been described as a “complex matter”. 

On April 12, the four-seater Maule M-5 crashed into the Clarence River at Ewingar, south of Tabulam.

The Goonengerry pilot, who did not attend Lismore Local Court this morning, was charged in August with manslaughter, recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm and endangering the life of another.

The 53-year-old, who has not entered a plea, had taken a Murwillumbah father and daughter on a Saturday joy flight to Tenterfield when the plane struck powerlines and crashed into the water about 12.30pm.

The 35-year-old dad suffered serious injuries and was taken to Lismore Base Hospital but his 11-year-old daughter died at the scene.

Magistrate David Heilpern granted the DPP a six-week request to prepare a brief on the “complex matter”.

Mr Heilpern said he would excuse himself from the case if there were any “controversial aspects” as he had mutual friends with Mr Crumpton.

Sydney-born Crumpton, excused from attending after receiving a future court appearance notice from Strike Force Vanin, will return to Lismore Local Court on December 2.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation into the wire strike will be finalized by April next year.

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Investigation number: AO-2014-068 
Investigation status: Active
Wirestrike involving Maule Aircraft Corp M-5, VH-HOG, 74 km west-south-west of Lismore Airport, NSW on 12 April 2014  

While tracking along the Clarence River, the aircraft struck powerlines before impacting the water. A passenger in the aircraft was fatally injured. The investigation is continuing.

Great Bend flights to Wichita may cease: Airline requests scheduling change to increase passenger counts

When Seaport Airlines took over as Great Bend’s Essential Air Service provider in June, it offered flights to Wichita. However, the air carrier has learned those flights were not that popular and this was putting Great Bend Municipal Airport’s federally-funding EAS status at risk, a company official told the City Council Monday night.

“We want to do everything we can to continue our partnership,” Seaport’s Jeff Dale said. “We want to get more people on that plane.”

So, at the request of Seaport, the council voted to submit a letter to the United States Department of Transportation seeking permission to drop the flights to Wichita and replace them with flights to Kansas City, Kan. The USDOT has the final say in the matter since it is the agency that manages the EAS program.

The Seaport Airline proposal is to replace  the 12 weekly round trips to Wichita and six one-stop flights to Kansas City with 12 weekly  round trips to Kansas City. Although number of daily departures would decline by a third, hours flown by Seaport would increase by 50 percent.

Flights to Kansas City showed a higher usage, a study done by Seaport in August noted. Despite being a one-stop and having 50 percent less frequency than Wichita, Kansas City flights generated  69 percent of the traffic since SeaPort took over EAS service.
What does this mean? Airport Manager Martin Miller said the feds will subsidise the carriers at airports like Great Bend up to a $1,000 per passenger under the EAS designation.

However, when passenger counts go down, the subsidy paid to the airlines increases, something frowned upon by the DOT. Through August, subsidy per passenger averaged $1,462.

The result the change, Miller said, would be increased usage which would reduce the subsidy.

Dale said the ticket price would remain at  the current $49 to $99 price points.

If approved by the DOT, the new schedule would take affect Nov. 16.

The request came with the endorsement of the Airport Advisory Committee held a special meeting on the matter Sept. 10.

In June, SeaPort Airlines, based in Portland, Ore., started commercial air service from Great Bend, offering  flights to Wichita Mid-Continent Airport and Kansas City International Airport. The carrier, which also serves the Salina Regional Airport, was awarded a two-year Essential Air Service contract for Great Bend by the United States Department of Transportation, replacing Great Lakes Aviation.

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Fowl hazards near Cape Girardeau Regional Airport (KCGI) discussed at council meeting

One of the first discussions to take place at the Cape Girardeau City Council's Monday night meeting centered around the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.

Airport officials were concerned about additional rice fields being planted in the area and possibly attracting large waterfowl such as ducks and geese. The animals, which are attracted by the rice grains and standing water, pose risks to flying aircraft.

David Westrich owns property near the airport along Nash Road and leases land to farmers. He and lawyer Craig Billmeyer attended the council meeting to share information about discussions they recently had with airport manager Bruce Loy. Billmeyer said the farmer who wishes to plant the rice field has agreed not to allow hunting on the field, which eliminates some concern.

Some farmers allow standing water to remain on their fields after harvest to intentionally attract waterfowl, then allow hunters to come onto the property. Billmeyer said the animals, particularly geese, will be attracted to the rice field and many other food crops, but Westrich and the farmer leasing the land have no intentions to attract the birds unnecessarily.

They also expressed interest in allowing Loy to disrupt the birds and encourage them not to settle in the area if he notices a flock in or around the field. He also has permission to contact authorities if he sees hunting taking place in the field.

Loy said Westrich and the farmer have been "good neighbors" to the airport. When discussion of the rice field first began, Loy was afraid hunting might take place in the field, but knowing that's not the case "mitigates the majority of my concern," he said. But Loy worries the airport may one day have a less accommodating neighbor.

The Federal Aviation Administration recommends airports that sell Jet-A fuel, like the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, keep a 10,000 feet buffer between the airport and "hazardous wildlife attractants," including flooded rice fields intended for hunting purposes. But Loy said no laws or regulations exist granting the airport the authority to maintain that buffer or prevent someone from bringing an attractant inside the buffer zone. He told the council he plans to continue looking into the matter and possibly working with local representatives to establish legislation that would grant airports more authority on the matter.

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Bees swarm jetway in Texas, delay Charlotte-bound flight

For the second time in a week, a Charlotte-bound flight has been delayed by critters.

Passengers of USAirways flight 2076 were buzzing on social media Monday afternoon when they learned their flight was being delayed by bees.

The flight was slated to leave Austin, Texas at 11:45 a.m. but the jetway was swarmed with bees. This is the enclosed, movable connector which extends from the terminal gate to an airplane.

Passengers snapped photos after a beekeeper was brought out to the jetway to help move the bees.

US Airways officials told WBTV that the flight was delayed by nearly two hours. The flight was expected to land in Charlotte around 5:30 p.m.

Last week, a flight from New York to Charlotte was delayed after "numerous" crabs escaped in the cargo area of the flight. Crews had to sweep out the cargo area before the flight could take off.

In both cases, US Airways' officials say the critters didn't get into the cabin of the plane and no passengers were near the crabs or bees.

It's not the first time US Airways flyers in Charlotte have been delayed by bees.

In July 2013, a US Airways flight was delayed for nearly three hours, its passengers trapped onboard, after a swarm of bees attacked the plane at the Charlotte airport.

As the plane was pushing back from the gate, a swarm of bees began circling around the tug that pushes the aircraft away from the Jetway.

Passengers were stuck on the plane while the crew tried to figure out how to handle the situation. The plane was able to reconnect with the jetway and a beekeeper was called out to remove the bees.

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Man stops breathing on plane, dies: Milwaukee man dies at General Mitchell International Airport (KMKE)

MILWAUKEE (WITI) —  A 46-year-old man died after arriving on a flight at General Mitchell International Airport just before 3 p.m. Saturday, October 4th.

Deputies responded to an alert of a Southwest Airlines passenger who was unresponsive and had stopped breathing.

The plane landed at 3:00 p.m., and the man was taken off the plane onto the jet way where he was treated by GMIA Fire Rescue and Milwaukee Fire Department personnel.

The man was pronounced dead shortly before 3:30 p.m. He has been identified as Mark Hensiak of Milwaukee.

Sheriff’s Office detectives are conducting the death investigation.

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Ebola Scare Affects Some Baltimore–Washington International Airport (KBWI) Passengers Monday

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, killing more than 3,400 people in West Africa. Now President Barack Obama is trying to reassure Americans steps are being taken to prevent any spread here. This as an Ebola scare affects some passengers at BWI.

Meghan McCorkell has the latest on the fight against the deadly illness.

The president is calling for additional screenings for incoming passengers at US airports amidst the Ebola outbreak in Africa.

The fifth American to contract Ebola is now in an isolation unit at a Nebraska hospital. Thirty-three-year-old Ashoka Mukpo was working as a freelance news photographer in Liberia when he caught the deadly virus.

“Of course, it’s still quite frightening. But he’s hanging in and he’s really strong,” said Diana Mukpo, the patient’s mother.

With the rapid spread of the illness in West Africa, President Obama says steps are being taken to prevent Ebola-stricken patients from entering the US.

“We’re also going to be working on protocols to do additional passenger screening, both at the source and here in the United States,” President Obama said.

Some of those protocols are already in effect.

WJZ has obtained a picture of emergency crews outside Southwest Airlines flight 718 in Orlando, bound for BWI.

“We saw all the ambulances and the police cars,” one witness said.

Flight crews called the CDC after a passenger, who recently traveled to West Africa, became ill.

“They took a man off the plane and took him down to the tarmac and did all kinds of taking his temperature and checking him for everything,” said passenger Jay Wiedel.

“Apparently he got sick on the plane and that caused a whole lot of craziness from the passengers,” said passenger Kathy Linton.

Medical crews determined the man did not have any communicable diseases.

Officials at the Orlando Airport say the passenger was isolated out of an abundance of caution and posed no health risks to other passengers. The man was cleared to board the flight, which landed Monday here in Baltimore.

Obama maintains the chance of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States remains extraordinarily low.

Officials say a Liberian man who’s being treated for Ebola in a Dallas hospital has slipped into critical condition. He’s now being given an experimental drug.

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Passenger taken away by police after starting e-cigarette on Tiger Airways flight

A Tiger Airways passenger was taken away by federal police after he started an e-cigarette on a flight to Melbourne last week, setting off smoke alarms on board.

The airline has confirmed a passenger was intercepted by the Australian Federal Police upon landing at Melbourne Airport at 6pm on Friday for breaching its “zero tolerance” nonsmoking policy.

A Tiger spokeswoman said vapors from an electronic cigarette set off smoke alarms on the 2.40pm flight TT 565 from the Gold Coast.

“Although permitted for carriage, the use on of e-cigarettes on board the aircraft, including recharging, is strictly prohibited,” the airline said.

“The airline can confirm that a breach of this policy did occur on a Gold Coast to Melbourne service last Friday afternoon.

“The matter was appropriately handled as per standard procedure for an incident of this nature.

“The AFP met the passenger on arrival at Melbourne Airport for further questioning.”

The airline said it was standard for any breach of its nonsmoking policy to be referred to the AFP.

It could not elaborate further on the incident as “the matter was now with the AFP”.

An AFP spokeswoman said members met a passenger at Melbourne’s domestic terminal after the flight touched down and questioned him about the use of an e-cigarette on board.

“As this investigation is currently ongoing, it would be inappropriate for the AFP to comment further,” she said.

E-cigarettes, like cigarettes, are allowed to be carried on to Tiger Airways flights, but are strictly prohibited for use on board as the vapor they emit can offend other passengers and set off smoke alarms.

They also contain lithium ion batteries, which can be dangerous.

Were you on this flight? Please email   

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