Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Hawaii experts warn of commuter pilot shortage under Federal Aviation Administration regulations

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -    Before stricter FAA rules took effect in 2013, officials say co-pilots only needed 250 hours to fly smaller carriers like Mokulele. Now they need nearly as much training as first officers on larger airlines like Hawaiian. Under current FAA regulations, co-pilots or first officers must have an Airline Transport Pilot certificate -- which for the most part requires 1,500 hours of flying time. But experts are now saying the very guidelines intended to keep pilots and passengers safe are contributing to a commuter pilot shortage.

"You're going to see a reduction of flights and that's going to be impacting everyone," said Rob Moore, the chief flight instructor at Galvin Flight Services.

"It's gonna really hurt folks' way of getting around," said Mark Jones, who owns Moore Air, a local flight school.

Aviation experts say pilots used to get their hours and experience by flying for smaller commuter airlines, like those that travel inter-island, but now that the hourly requirement for commuters and major airlines are nearly the same -- fewer pilots are taking those jobs, hoping instead to fly with bigger carriers that have better benefits.

"Why stay in the bush league? Why not go straight to the majors if you can? And apparently a lot of people are doing that and its leaving a dearth of pilots at the commuter level," explained Brant Swigart, who owns Hawai'i Air Power Labs.

Officials say this shortage of commuter pilots will directly impact inter-island travelers.

"Anything that hurts aviation in Hawaii is going to hurt Hawai'i in general," Swigart said.

"They're not going to be able to fly all the flights that they're flying now, so there will be less flights. There will be less supply, but the demand will be larger than what's available so the cost will get higher for us to fly inter-island," said Jones.

According to the Air Line Pilots Association, the average starting salary for a first officer at a regional airlines is approximately $22,000 a year. Experts say pilot certifications used to cost about $50,000 but under new FAA training regulations the price tag is going up.

"Now you add on there that you have to have x number of hours in a level C simulator and a requirements for extra ground -- it's driving up the cost more to get your certificate and so it's going to get to be even more expensive for people to become a pilot," said Moore, explaining that's exactly why qualified pilots are seeking positions with major airlines as quickly as possible so they can build their seniority and paychecks.

"You already see on the mainland,  there are regional airlines canceling routes because they can't fill their cockpits with pilots -- and you are going to see some of that hit here," said Peter Forman, an aviation consultant.

Hawaii News Now reached out to Island Air for comment, but the company declined.

A spokesperson for Hawaiian Airlines says this has not been a problem for them and experts agree -- saying as a destination carrier, they will likely never experience a pilot shortage.


JetBlue Airways will fly Cleveland to Fort Lauderdale starting in April, launches service with $23 one-way fares

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The battle to control the skies between Cleveland and South Florida will heat up this April, when JetBlue Airways begins flying to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, a city already served by low-cost carriers Spirit and Frontier.

The top-rated airline announced Thursday plans to expand service in Cleveland – before the carrier's initial service even begins. Last month, JetBlue said it would begin flights between Cleveland and Boston on April 30.

On tap that same day: nonstop flights between Cleveland and Fort Lauderdale.

JetBlue will start flying to Fort Lauderdale just weeks after United Airlines pulls its nonstops between the two cities, part of its ongoing plan to eliminate its hub in Cleveland (United is also canceling nonstop service, starting in April, between Cleveland and Tampa and Fort Myers).

United's departure was largely seen in the industry as a reaction to the entrance into the Florida market by Frontier and Spirit airlines, both low-cost carriers that charge extra for carry-on bags, drinks and other amenities. Frontier started flying between Cleveland and Fort Lauderdale in June; Spirit starts service between the two cities next month.

John Checketts, JetBlue's director of route planning and revenue management, said the two low-cost carriers don't give Clevelanders traveling to Florida enough choice.

"We respect them as competitors," said Checketts. "But we also know that customers have a strong desire to fly on an airline that is going to be a better experience."

JetBlue is among the nation's most highly-rated airlines by frequent travelers, who laud the carrier's complimentary in-flight entertainment, snacks and generous legroom.

The daily flight leaves Cleveland at 11:35 a.m., arriving in Fort Lauderdale at 2:35 p.m. The return flight leaves Fort Lauderdale at 8 a.m., arriving in Cleveland at 10:50 a.m. Flights will be on 150-seat Airbus A320s.

To celebrate the announcement, the airline is offering $23 one-way fares for travel between April 30 and June 18 on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Saturdays. The introductory fares must be purchased by Friday. After the sale, fares will start at $79 one way, according to a spokesman.

Checketts credits the airline's expansion in Cleveland in part to early support from the Greater Cleveland community.

"We've been nothing but pleased with the level of support we've seen from the community," said Checketts. "We've got reasonable fares and a very high quality product. I think that's resonating with the Cleveland folks."

JetBlue is Fort Lauderdale's largest airline, with up to 74 flights a day. Depending on departure times from Fort Lauderdale, Clevelanders should be able to travel on JetBlue farther south, to destinations including San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nassau in the Bahamas and elsewhere.

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More pilots, attendants to be hired by NetJets

An improved economy has led to an increase in business and private-aviation flights. As a result, Columbus-based NetJets plans to hire 187 pilots and as many as 50 flight attendants to meet this growing demand.

“Due to the strength of our business, . . . we were able to not only recall pilots who were furloughed in 2009 because of the economic downturn, but grow our business to the point where we can open the door for new team members as well,” NetJets Chief Operating Officer Bill Noe said in a statement.

NetJets doesn’t disclose revenue, but officials said the number of hours its planes were in the air rose 7 percent in 2014 after a 6 percent jump in 2013.

The company has about 2,600 pilots in the U.S., with 222 based in central Ohio. About 50 of its 256 flight attendants are based here.

“It’s hard to say where the new pilots will be based. Our pilots can live anywhere,” said NetJets spokeswoman Christine Herbert.

The company furloughed about 500 pilots in 2009. Since then, “We’ve recalled all the ones who were still available,” she said.

NetJets and its pilots union have been in talks for a new labor agreement since May 2013, and “ there’s nothing new to report,” Herbert said. The parties are operating under the terms of the expired contract.

Business aviation is on the upswing nationally, and NetJets was in a good position to take advantage, said one industry expert.

“The economy has been strong enough for long enough to justify more corporate flights and private aviation flights,” said Scott Liston, executive vice president of the consulting firm Argus International Inc.

Flight activity was up 3.7 percent in November compared with the previous year, according to Argus data. This was the 12th consecutive month of year-over-year growth.

“NetJets is regarded as a market leader,” Liston said. “That’s a result of their continuously updating their fleet and their commitment to safety and service.”

NetJets has a fleet of more than 700 jets worldwide and is in the midst of a 10-year plan to buy up to 670 aircraft for $17.6 billion to refresh its fleet.

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Cessna 152, N965AA: Incident occurred in Sanger, Denton County, Texas

Regis#:    N965AA
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 152
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)



SANGER, Texas - A student pilot and flight instructor have escaped injury after their plane had engine trouble, clipped a power line then landed on a North Texas highway.

The Texas Department of Public Safety says the emergency landing happened on FM 455 just west of Sanger.

Sgt. Lonny Haschel (HASH'-el) says the single-engine Cessna 152 was damaged in the accident. Haschel says the plane was then pushed into a driveway to avoid traffic on the two-lane road near Sanger, just north of Denton.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the plane had some type of engine problem. Further details weren't immediately available.

About 50 homes and businesses served by CoServ Electric lost power due to the line accident. A spokesman says electricity was restored within about 90 minutes.


Department of Transportation extends support for Cape Air Albany flights

Cape Air will continue to fly from Massena to Albany and Boston for another two years, and from Ogdensburg to Albany and Boston for another four years, after the U.S. Department of Transportation renewed their contracts under the Essential Air Service program.

Cape Air, which uses nine-passenger Cessna 402 aircraft on the routes, received strong support from local officials, with the Ogdensburg City Council voting unanimously “to endorse Cape Air as the provider of choice.”

Cape Air’s reliability and its community support also gave it an edge in Massena, according to the USDOT.

Cape Air will provide three daily round-trips between Albany and Massena, and between Albany and Ogdensburg, with each of the flights continuing on to Boston.

Ogdensburg subsidies will total $2,419,820  in the first year of the four-year contract, rising to $2,721,968 in the fourth year. Massena subsidies will total $2,608,773 in the first year and $2,713,124 in the second year.

Cape Air operates a maintenance base at Albany International Airport. Hyannis Air Service, operating as Cape Air, is based at the Barnstable Municipal Airport in Hyannis, Mass.


Sen. Shumer calls for screening of airline, airport workers

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Senator Chuck Schumer is calling for daily federal screening of airport and airline workers.

Currently, the Transportation Security Administration only requires pilots and flight crews to go through metal detectors. All other workers are only subject to background checks and regular security threat assessments.

“Why we would screen a pilot or a flight attendant but not somebody who loads baggage onto the plane or cleans the plane is beyond me,” Sen. Schumer said.

This comes after five men, including an airline baggage handler, were arrested in December 2014 for allegedly smuggling more than 150 guns through New York and Atlanta airports since May.

“Carrying guns and other contraband onto airplanes should not be a walk in the park,” the senator said. “Gun runners, drug smugglers, even would-be terrorists can use this giant loophole, god forbid. And we have to close it as soon as we can.”

The office of Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson conducted the seven month-long investigation. He said the lack of physical security checks to airport and airline employees allowed defendants Mark Henry and Eugene Harvey to run the gun running ring on nearly 20 commercial flights undetected.

“We can sit here and stand here now and tell you how many guns, but we think one gun on the plane is too many let alone 150,” Thompson said.

Thompson and the senator believe the TSA should immediately require all U.S. airports to screen its entire staff.

“Something is wrong with just doing background checks if this could happen and happen repeatedly,” Schumer said.

Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy agrees with Schumer’s proposal and said it’s unfortunate the people who are supposed to protect U.S. air travelers had a large lapse in security.

“I don’t think it would add too many delays and certain there’s no baggage, no pun intended,” she said. “If they’re workers, they are there for the day and can quickly walk through their own security.”

Schumer told the Associated Press that “the basic response from TSA is that screening would be too complex to do, because many employees go back and forth between secure and unsecure locations.”

Albany International Airport released the following statement about Sen. Schumer’s proposal:

“We look forward to working with Senator Schumer, our airlines, the TSA and law enforcement agencies to further assess our current security practices and to meet any new challenges that we may face.”

TSA did not return any calls for comment. Schumer said he doesn’t think the extra screening will be expensive and the added assurance will be worth it.

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Piper PA-31-350 Chieftain, Aeroflight Executive Services Inc., N66886: Accident occurred April 09, 2014 near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom

Piper PA-31-350, N66886
Location: Field near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire
Date of occurrence: 09 April 2014
Category: Commercial Air Transport - Fixed Wing


The aircraft was on a ferry flight from Seattle in the USA to Thailand via Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland and across Europe. However the flight crew abandoned the aircraft in Greenland late in December 2013 after experiencing low oil pressure indications on both engines. This may have been due to the use of an incorrect grade of oil for cold weather operations. The aircraft remained in Greenland until 28 February 2014, when a replacement ferry pilot was engaged. Although the engine oil was not changed prior to departing Greenland, the flight continued uneventfully to Wick, in Scotland. Following some maintenance activity on the right engine, the aircraft departed for Le Touquet in France. However, approximately 25 minutes after takeoff, the engines successively lost power and the pilot carried out a forced landing in a ploughed field. Examination of the engines revealed that one piston in each engine had suffered severe heat damage, consistent with combustion gases being forced past the piston and into the crankcase.

A stricken plane suffered successive engine failures before crash landing near the A90, air accident investigators revealed today.

Eyewitnesses watched in horror as smoke billowed from the private aircraft before it came down in farmland next to the busy A90 dual carriageway near Stonehaven.

The pilot risked his life in the accident in April last year to bring the twin engine aircraft to a controlled skid through the muddy field - before emergency services arrived on scene.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said an examination of the aircraft revealed that pistons in each engine had suffered heat damage.

The AAIB report concluded: "Ultimately, it was not possible to establish why pistons in both engines had suffered virtually identical types of damage, although it is likely to have been a 'common mode' failure, which could include wrong fuel, incorrect mixture settings (running too lean) and existing damage arising from the use of incorrect oil in cold temperatures."

The pilot of the small plane managed to avoid a disaster when he glided the aircraft down over the road and landed it on its belly in the mud on April 9 last year.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing a loud bang as the aircraft passed over the town of Stonehaven, heading from Wick to France.

They watched in horror as smoke came from the aircraft as it descended towards the busy A90 around rush hour.

The pilot had been on the second leg of a journey from Canada to deliver the eight-seater plane to its new owners in Thailand.

The pilot was put in a neck brace and taken to hospital for treatment having managed to initially walk away from the wreck of the Piper PA-31-350 Navajo Chieftain.

He was uninjured in the accident.

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Federal Aviation Administration Sets Standards for Safety-Data Analysis by Carriers • Rule Seeks Complementary Safety-Data Collection and Analysis Across U.S. Airlines

The Wall Street Journal
By Andy Pasztor

Updated Jan. 7, 2015 2:46 p.m. ET

Federal aviation regulators on Wednesday set out industrywide standards for airline safety-data analysis programs, calling such steps the key to reaching the “next level of safety” for U.S. carriers.

The final rule issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, in the works since 2010, establishes criteria for proactive efforts to identify and reduce hazards before they cause accidents. Nearly all scheduled U.S. cargo and passenger airlines already are heading down this path, with the biggest carriers relying on sophisticated risk-mitigation systems that collect voluntary incidents reports, cull data from routine operations and then target areas for safety improvement.

But now, airlines will have to demonstrate that details of their individual safety-management systems comply with the FAA’s principles and guidelines, and that findings from the data can be shared across the industry. Initial plans must be submitted by the middle of 2015, and final versions must be in place by 2018.

The FAA rules don’t apply to charter or on-demand operators, and they don’t cover any maintenance facilities.

Illustrating the difficulty of quantifying benefits from the rule, the FAA estimated industry compliance costs at $135 million through 2023. That compares with a range of $104 million to $241 million that the FAA projects will be the overall benefits from avoiding accidents or incidents.

“We’re not telling airlines how to meet this requirement,” FAA chief Michael Huerta told reporters, but the goal is to foster a strong safety culture focused on getting ahead of accidents. Airlines will have to designate a single executive responsible for overseeing the programs.

Unlike other major FAA regulatory moves that sometime prompt criticism and even legal challenges by industry players, the head of the leading airline trade group participated in Wednesday’s news conference and announced his support. Nicholas Calio, chief executive of Airlines for America, or A4A, which represents the country’s largest carriers, said the intent of the rules “are not new to our members.”

The association representing the nation’s regional carriers also announced its “strong support” for the rules.

In 2010, Congress passed legislation giving the FAA a July 2012 deadline for adopting a final rule. International safety standards also call for countries to issue rules establishing safety management systems.

In addition to setting up formal procedures to gauge and reduce risks, the rules call for airlines to promote safety to employees. According to the FAA, 59 carriers that already have been voluntary reporting programs for pilots and other employees are expected to expand them. Some 50 other carriers are expected to use government-supplied computer systems to start processing voluntary reports.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters that he considers the FAA’s rules a linchpin for enhancing safety in other modes of transportation.

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Pierre Regional Airport (KPIR) saw only 9,174 boardings in 2014; feds could cut $850,000

Only 9,174 passengers boarded Great Lakes Aviation aircraft last year at the Pierre Regional Airport to fly to Denver or Minneapolis, according to figures released Tuesday by Mike Isaacs, airport manager.

That’s not only a big plunge from previous years — 34 percent below the five-year average of 13,872 boardings — it’s well below the crucial level of 10,000 annual “enplanements.” Coming in beneath that level could cost the city nearly all of the $1 million in federal subsidies each year to maintain the airport, Isaacs and city commission members say.

Mayor Laurie Gill said Tuesday after the numbers were announced that they were the lowest she’s seen in 15 years on the city commission and threaten the airport’s future.

The airport receives $1 million in federal funds to small community airports each year. But those funds are pegged to seeing that at least 10,000 passengers use the airport annually.

Isaacs said it’s a firm federal line: “If enplanements are 9,999, we get $150,000 (in airport subsidies).”

Gill said that would be a back-breaker.

“That’s not enough, long-term, every year to keep that airport open,” the mayor said.

The figures from the feds that Isaacs released Tuesday are not official and won’t be for several months, but there’s no reason to think “we’re going to find another 826 passengers” in the data, said Commissioner Jeanne Goodman.

From 2009 through 2013, the airport saw an average of 13,872 passengers annually while airline configurations changed, including Mesaba, Delta and Allegiant as well as Great Lakes, ranging from 15,184 in 2011 to 11,565 in 2012.

In 2013, Great Lakes reported 14,010 enplanements while Allegiant reported 148, for a total of 14,158; Great Lakes reported 11,565 in 2012.

In 2011, Delta reported 10,646 and Great Lakes 4,538, for a total of 15,184.

“We have had one year of troubled air service,” she said. She said while Great Lakes has been pressured, like many airlines, by the new federal regulations 18 months ago requiring more pilot training, the inconsistent service including canceled flights has been too much to bear for too many. Boardings averaged only 765 each month last year, compared with 1,180 in 2013. In December, only 673 passengers boarded Great Lakes in Pierre, including Mayor Gill.

She returned Jan. 3 from visiting family in Phoenix, flying to Denver where she got on the Great Lakes plane for Pierre. The flight was fine, except she had to re-book it after Great Lakes cancelled her reservation in November, part of many such cancellations, Gill said. “At least I got back the day I wanted to,” she said.

But for many it doesn’t work, she said.

“The way this has played out for us, we’ve got a community that has decided they are going to drive somewhere else to fly.”

The city will ask the DOT for a waiver from the rule of 10,000 hoping to keep the $1 million airport subsidy, Gill said.

But that would only be good for a year and it’s a one-time deal, meaning the long-term problem of falling passenger numbers has to be solved, Gill and Goodman said.

That’s why the city a month ago recommended to the feds that a charter airline company, Aerodynamics Inc., be authorized to begin scheduled commercial flights to Denver from Pierre under the Essential Air Service subsidy program.

ADI proposed flying 12 round-trip flights a week from Pierre to Denver if EAS funding of $2 million comes through as part of a program to subsidize air service to and from isolated communities.

Gill said Tuesday night she hasn’t heard yet from DOT, although she had expected to know by now.

Although questions have been raised by some in the community, and also in other communities, about the fitness of ADI, Gill said it’s the federal government’s job now to make that decision.
It’s possible the DOT will award the EAS subsidies to Great Lakes rather than ADI, she said.

Isaacs said Pierre has a history of higher numbers of air travelers and that the region near Pierre could provide thousands more, making 20,000 enplanements a year a reasonable goal given better airline service.

In other business, the city commission heard complaints from retired city employees who were told recently their health insurance costs would increase up to 88 percent.

A group of six former city employees who retired before they reached the age of 65 continue to receive subsidized premium rates under the city’s health insurance plan. Five of them attended Tuesday’s meeting to say it was unfair they were given only a week’s notice their monthly insurance costs would be greatly increased. City commissioners said errors in previous calculations meant the retirees had not been paying as much as they should be paying, so a correction is needed. But the commission tabled the issue for a week to discuss ways to phase in the increases to make them less painful for retirees.

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