Sunday, September 13, 2015

US Airways plane experiences flap problems

A US Airways plane set to arrive in Melbourne on Sunday evening was reportedly experiencing wing flap problems and emergency personnel were being alerted.

The plane reportedly touched down at 7:32 p.m.

The plane was a U.S. Airways Express Canadair, flight 5068 from Charlotte, N.C. 

Reports show it flew past the runway toward the west on its initial approach, pulled up and circled back over the ocean and flew west again for its approach. 

Aerojet to Push Bid for Boeing-Lockheed Venture at Aerospace Gathering

The Wall Street Journal
September 13, 2015 6:26 p.m. ET

Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. officials hope to use an aerospace conference that kicks off Monday to promote their uphill bid to acquire the Pentagon’s leading satellite launch provider, according to people familiar with the matter.

When military and defense-industry officials gather at the Air Force Association’s air and space conference in suburban Washington, a major topic of discussion on the sidelines is likely to be Aerojet Rocketdyne’s $2 billion offer for United Launch Alliance LLC, a 50-50 rocket venture between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co.

Aerojet Rocketdyne officials hope to discuss the bid with the joint venture’s parents, as well as Air Force brass, according to people familiar with the matter.

“We might see some movement” after those efforts, one person said, “either positive or negative.”

As of Saturday, the joint venture hadn’t allowed Aerojet Rocketdyne representatives to conduct due diligence on its books, according to this person.

The offer has been pending for weeks. Aerojet Rocketdyne initially had hoped to wrap up negotiations in time to make a big splash with an announcement during the aerospace conference. But disputes over valuation and questions about possible responses by the Pentagon have complicated the process, according to people familiar with the details.

In addition, Boeing has balked at selling, according to several people, partly because United Launch’s leadership has held out the possibility of granting Boeing lucrative contracts to produce components for the Atlas V rocket.

The parts could be manufactured at a government-owned facility in New Orleans where Boeing already builds parts for a different rocket being developed for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, according to one person.

If successful, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s bid would shake up a global rocket industry already reeling from the emergence of low-cost launches offered by entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp; aggressive marketing efforts by Europe’s Arianespace SA to sell bargain launches on Russian-built Soyuz rockets; and increasing indications that the U.S. Air Force eventually wants to purchase most of its satellite launches as a straight commercial service, rather than invest taxpayer dollars to develop a new generation of rockets.

All told, United Launch is expected to have to invest more than $2 billion through the beginning of the next decade to replace its current fleet of Atlas V and Delta IV launchers with a family of lower-cost rockets containing all domestic content. The venture, however, confronts congressional pressure to phase out use of Russian-built main engines on the Atlas V before then.

Meanwhile, United Launch faces eroding profits and reduced financial support from its parents, who have been unwilling to make long-term commitments to fund the new rocket, dubbed Vulcan.

Tory Bruno, United Launch’s chief executive, abruptly changed the complexion of the venture’s rocket development strategy last week by announcing an agreement with a startup company run by Inc. Chairman Jeff Bezos, to ramp up production of the BE-4 engine. Choosing between the BE-4, offered by Mr. Bezos, and a rival engine being developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne had been slated to occur in late 2016.

Mr. Bruno has been unwilling to comment on Aerojet Rocketdyne’s interest in United Launch, except to say on Twitter that he expects to “see a very bright future for ULA and for the future of space.”

Original article can be found here:

Opportunities and Challenges for Chinese Helicopter Makers

New calls are being made to try to groom more domestic helicopter producers.

This follows a major helicopter expo this past week in Tianjin.

CRI's Qi Zhi reports.

Many taking part in the now-concluded China International Helicopters Expo in Tianjin say they're excited about the possibilities in the helicopter market here in China.

Among them is Larry Roberts with US-based Bell Helicopter Textron.

"So if you look at the ratio, the possibility in China is tremendous. When it comes to provide service, provide air medical transport, provide fire prediction, provide security and aid relief in a major earthquake, helicopters can provide tremendous services in China and I'm sure this future is not far away."

In China, Airbus Helicopters currently dominate, holding around 40-percent of the market share.

It's orders this year have doubled compared to last year.

Airbus is hoping to up its market share to 60-percent in the next 5-years.

Norbert Ducrot, President of Airbus Helicopters China, says they're also looking beyond just sales.

"Helicopter market in China is very competitive. You know the market is very open. Today, we need to develop our network of assembly center and training center to make sure that we can train properly all the pilots for the safety of the flights. We need to provide not only the helicopters for the customer, but also become a service provider to make sure the helicopter operator can operate and do business with its helicopter."

The dominance of foreign helicopter producers in China is creating new calls for better domestic production.

Yu Feng with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China says China's domestic helicopter industry needs to step up.

"As the government gradually opens the low-altitude airspace, the civil helicopter market is going to grow. But are we ready for that? It's a challenge for us. China's helicopter industry needs to be more competitive in the years to come."

Xi Jiasheng, researcher with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, says the development of the local helicopter market will require outside help for now.

"We have to step up our game. But we're going to require outside help to start with. Our new AC352 model is the result of joint-cooperation with France. We need to learn both design and management experience from foreign producers."

There are currently only around 700 non-military helicopters operational on the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao.

This is just 1.5 percent of the world's total.


Cessna 177 Cardinal, N2835X: Accident occurred September 13, 2015 near Smith Mountain Lake Airport (W91), Moneta, Bedford County, Virginia

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA354 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, September 13, 2015 in Moneta, VA
Aircraft: CESSNA 177, registration: N2835X
Injuries: 2 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On September 13, 2015, about 1630 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 177, N2835X, impacted the ground while maneuvering for landing at Smith Field Lake Airport (W91), Moneta, Virginia, and a postimpact fire ensued. The commercial pilot and passenger were seriously injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings, the empennage, and the fuselage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the aerial observation flight, which departed Norfolk International Airport (ORF), Norfolk, Virginia, about 1630. The airplane was owned by a private individual and operated by another individual for the aerial photographic flight, which was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to several witnesses, some of which were pilots; the aircraft entered the downwind leg of the traffic pattern for runway 23. The airplane was observed above the expected approach path, while on the final leg of the approach; however, none of those eyewitnesses observed the airplane begin a go-around maneuver. Another eyewitness, who lives in the immediate vicinity of the accident location, reported the engine was "missing and backfiring" prior to the accident. They further reported that the airplane impacted two trees and then the street.

According to fuel records, the airplane was last fueled at Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU), Durham, North Carolina, on September 12, 2015. The manager of the fixed base operator further reported that it was "topped off" at that time. No other fuel receipts were located for the time between that refueling and the accident. The airplane departed RDU on September 13, 2015, about 1230, flew to, and landed at, two other airports prior to the accident flight.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration inspector, the airplane came to rest on a street in a residential neighborhood, located near the departure end of runway 23. The aircraft was thermally damaged aft of the firewall, including the cabin section and part of the empennage. The fuel tanks, one in each wing, were breeched and evidence of thermal damage was noted.

The nearest recorded weather observation, located at an airport 22 miles to the northwest of the accident location, indicated that the wind was from the northwest between 9 and 12 knots, around the time of the accident,.

Several electronic devices were sent to the NTSB Recorders Laboratory for download. The engine was retained for further examination.

FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA Richmond FSDO-21

MONETA, Va. (AP) -- Police have identified two people who were injured in the crash of a small plane in Moneta.

Virginia State Police say the pilot, Jeremiah Anthony Kelner, and a passenger, Victoria Mallett, remain hospitalized.

The single-engine Cessna crashed and caught fire on Sunday afternoon about a quarter-mile from the Smith Mountain Lake Airport. Airport manager Mike Matt has said the pilot was trying to land when the crash occurred.

State police Sgt. Michael Bailey tells The Roanoke Times that a preliminary analysis indicates the pilot lost power as he tried to gain altitude after overshooting the runway. The plane then hit trees.        

MONETA (WSLS 10) – A federal investigation is underway in Moneta after Sunday’s fiery plane crash about a quarter-mile from the Smith Mountain Lake Airport. The plane crashed down near Parkside Drive and caught on fire. The two passengers were taken to the hospital, one with severe burns.

Airport manager Michael Matta studied surveillance video of the accident. He said he thinks the pilot was trying to land and realized he was coming in too fast and too close to the end of the runway.

Matta explained, “At some point realized he could not make the landing and attempted what we call a go around,  that’s my speculation, but that’s what I believe happened. And when in that process either he lost power in the engine which can happen once you put the throttle back forward.”

Area neighbors said the airplane fell about 80 feet from the sky. On the way down, the plane sliced through some trees and skimmed over housetops.

“It made just a loud noise,” said Wess Cooper. “I would say somewhere to an automobile crash…just a a large balloon or something…just more of a pop.”

A sound that echoed throughout this quiet neighborhood stopped Wess Cooper like others in their tracks. Calling 911, Cooper rushed to accident to find both passengers out of the aircraft and the pilot rolling on the ground.

“When he got out he was on fire,” commented Cooper. “And, within about two-minutes of him getting out of the plane, the plane just exploded. I mean, it didn’t started burning…it just suddenly exploded.”

The plane was a 1967 single engine airplane. The FAA said the age of the aircraft was likely not a factor in the crash.

The pilot and passenger were initially treated at the Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The pilot was airlifted was later airlifted  to Wake Forrest Baptist Medical Center for burn treatment after suffering from second and third-degree burns.

The victims names were not released.

The FAA is still investigating and said it could take months to figure out what caused the crash.

Story and video:

It was about 4:15 p.m. Sunday when Rick Herron heard a plane backfire near his Smith Mountain Lake home. Less than a minute later, that same plane — a small, red and white, single-engine Cessna — crashed in the middle of Parkside Drive in The Forty Acres, a small, private lakeside subdivision where Herron lives.

The pilot sheared the tops off a few trees but was able to avoid all power lines and structures in the area before the plane crashed and caught fire.

Two individuals were airlifted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital as a result of the crash, one of whom later was flown to Wake Forest for burn treatment, according to Sgt. Richard Garletts of the Virginia State Police.

The Civil Air Patrol secured the crash site, located within a quarter-mile of the runway at Smith Mountain Lake Airport, Sunday night. Federal Aviation Administration personnel are expected to arrive in the coming days.

“This is the first [plane] crash that I’m aware of,” Mike Matta, manager of the airport, said Sunday night. Matta, who took the position in January, has lived at the lake for the last 14 years.

A retired pilot himself, Matta said he did not recognize the plane or recall it ever being at the airport.

The pilot “was attempting to land, we know that,” he said, adding that the plane had about 20 gallons of fuel on board.

“Everything [else] right now is speculation,” he said.

Two hours after the crash, the acrid smell of fire still clung to the plane debris splayed across Parkside Drive, about 1,000 feet from the end of the airport runway .

Standing in his driveway midway between the first piece of the plane debris that fell about 50 feet from his garage and the charred body of the plane, Herron said he was sitting on his back porch overlooking the lake when he heard the plane backfire then crash about 30 seconds later. By the time he got to the front of the house, he said, the plane had exploded in a ball of fire.

“It scared the daylights out of me,” he said.

He said he and other neighbors helped a woman and a man escape the burning plane and helped smother the flames on the pilot, who was on fire.

Herron and neighbor Paul Meeker said plane traffic is common on the weekends. Many residents spend their weekends at the lake and use the airport to come and go, Herron said. Meeker, who has lived in the subdivision for more than 30 years, said this is the first accident that he can recall occurring there.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the majority of traffic at SML airport is local. The airport reported 2,639 local flights and 2,290 itinerant flights in 2014. The airport itself has reported nine accidents since 1992, none of which have resulted in injuries according to Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

According to FAA records, the 1967 Cessna Cardinal is a four-seat, fixed-wing, single-engine plane privately owned by John Dwyer and registered in Florida. Officials did not confirm the identity of either the pilot or passenger on Sunday. Dwyer was unreachable for comment.


Expanded runway would mean bigger Gulfstreams in Aspen, Colorado

Aviation acronyms casually were thrown around at two Pitkin County commissioners’ meetings this week regarding the airport’s future. FAA, EA, ALP, MOD and FBO were common parlance.

But a new ingredient in the alphabet soup — VLJ — emerged when consultant J.D. Ingram was explaining what type of corporate jets would be able to serve the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport when it has an expanded runway.

VLJ stands for “very large jets,” Ingram said, noting that the Gulfstream G650, which is too big to fly into Aspen now, could do so with the widened and reconfigured runway. The G650 also falls, Ingram said, in the VLJ department.

“It is designed to go from Aspen to Paris,” he said. “It’s that type of range — 7,000 miles.”

Gulfstream jets are fairly common sights on the airport’s tarmac, especially during the high seasons and holidays. But the G650, the company’s largest jet, is too big for the existing runway.

“It’s the top of the line for Gulfstream,” Ingram said. “Previous to that is the G550. ... The 550 does operate out of this airport all the time.”

The G550 — a version of the Gulfstream V — can travel as far as 6,750 miles, seats as many as 19 passengers, sleeps eight, has a maximum takeoff weight of 91,000 pounds and tops out in speed at Mach 0.885, according to Gulfstream’s website. New G550s can command more than $50 million.

The G550’s wingspan is 93 feet, 6 inches, which is within the Aspen airport’s 95-foot limit.

The G650 can fly as far as 7,000 miles, seats 19 passengers at most, sleeps as many as 10, has a maximum takeoff weight of 99,600 pounds and can travel as fast as Mach 0.925. The G650s, which have a cruise speed of 594 mph, cost in the $65 million range and a have wingspan of 100 feet — too big for the Aspen airport.

According to airport Director John Kinney, there’s demand for the G650 among Pitkin County’s moneyed set.

Kinney said Thursday that he learned a few months ago that 22 individuals with Aspen real estate connections had placed orders for the G650s.

“About four weeks ago, that pending total had risen from 22 to 33,” he said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Commissioner George Newman acknowledged the demand: “Given our clientele and second-home owners, they may be looking to upgrade to a VLJ because they are residing in VLHs,” or very large homes.

But those VLJs can’t fly into Aspen, at least for now. Widening and reconfiguring the runway, however, would expand the airport’s wingspan restriction to 118 feet, meaning the larger private jets made by Gulfstream and Bombardier would be flying the Aspen skies.

But a lot needs to happen for that to take place.

Commissioners Wednesday approved an airport layout plan calling for a new terminal as large as 80,000 square feet and a runway widening and configuration. Improving the runway by widening it 50 feet and shifting its center line 80 feet to the west would allow wingspans as wide as 118 feet, according to Federal Aviation Administration guidelines. A small stretch of Owl Creek Road, which is located within a county right of way, also would have to be moved to accommodate the runway. The runway and taxiway currently are divided by 320 feet, but that would increase to 400 feet.

But first, the FAA must approve the layout plan and then begin an environmental assessment, which could take as long as two years.

The county estimates that if the process goes smoothly, the improved runway would be ready by 2027.

The increased capacity also would allow a new generation of commercial aircraft to serve Aspen. Airlines are phasing out Bombardier CRJ700s, which make up 95 percent of commercial service.

Story and comments:

Air India crew get 3 months to get fit

For women crew a BMI of 22-27 is overweight and 27 and above obese. 

Based on periodic medical reports, the cabin crew would have to be categorized by designated doctors as “fit”, “temporarily unfit” and “permanently unfit,” according to the guidelines.

As per the norms, a cabin crew member found overweight is deemed “temporarily unfit” and given three months to reduce weight.

A cabin crew can continue with flying duty for up to 19 months with the temporarily unfit tag, but if he or she fails to reduce weight to meet the required BMI during this period, he or she will be deemed “permanently unfit.”

“These employees have already availed 18 months’ time to meet the required BMI but failed to do so, leaving us with no choice but to replace them,” sources said.


Should Eastern Iowans be worried Allegiant flies older planes? Experts say age irrelevant, but recent incidents under Federal Aviation Administration investigation

CEDAR RAPIDS — On an overcast summer morning, the only sunburst was the one painted on a sleek white Allegiant jet landing at The Eastern Iowa Airport.

The flight from Florida’s St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is a regular route for Allegiant Air and this plane, an MD-83 with tail number N427NV, is an old hand.

Since it was manufactured in 1986, it has logged 51,344 “airframe” hours, the FAA reports, which translates to 10,000 five-hour flights.

Until March 2010, N427NV — then called OY-KHC — flew passengers to Denmark, Norway and Sweden as part of the Scandinavian Airlines System.

SAS sold the plane to Allegiant in 2010 as part of an effort to phase out aging aircraft. Other airlines, including American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, also have ditched MD-80 series jets in favor of newer planes that don’t require as much upkeep.

“These are economic decisions made by airlines,” said Richard Wlezien, department chairman and professor in Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University. “Working with older airplanes, you will incur added maintenance.”

Allegiant flights account for about 20 percent of the passenger volume at The Eastern Iowa Airport, director Marty Lenss said. The Las Vegas-based carrier is taking heat nationally for mechanical issues causing diverted flights and emergency landings. None of the incidents happened on flights bound for Cedar Rapids, but a June 12 Allegiant flight from Las Vegas to the Quad City International Airport in Moline returned to Vegas because of engine problems.

All airlines have occasional mechanical issues, but at least two Allegiant incidents have drawn the FAA’s attention. The agency is investigating an extremely unusual mechanical failure in an MD-83 Aug. 17 in Las Vegas that caused the nose wheel of the jet bound for Peoria to lift prematurely before takeoff.

Allegiant pilots aborted the flight.

The FAA also is reviewing an emergency landing in Fargo in July.

Brian Muldoon swore off Allegiant after hearing about incidents like these.

The Lancaster, Wis., resident regularly drove to Cedar Rapids and Moline to take direct Allegiant flights for vacation. In July, Muldoon’s flight back from Las Vegas was canceled for mechanical problems.

“The next day after we got home, I Googled Allegiant Air and saw in the news section stories of multiple flights making emergency landings in Florida,” Muldoon said. “There are more flights running low on fuel, engines with catastrophic failure in North Carolina and residents of Las Vegas seeing flames coming out of a 757.”

Allegiant officials acknowledged recent mechanical issues, which they say have been caused by heavy travel over the summer.

“Our overall safety record continues to be one of the best in the industry, and we continue to operate every flight with the safety of our passengers and crew the No. 1 priority,” the company said in an Aug. 31 email to The Gazette.

Older planes

Allegiant Air, a low-fare carrier, started Cedar Rapids-to-Las Vegas routes in 2004. With a sun-and-fun focus, Allegiant now has nonstop flights from The Eastern Iowa Airport to Las Vegas, Phoenix/Mesa, Orlando/Sanford, Punta Gorda and St. Pete-Clearwater.

The airline flew nearly 1,300 flights to and from Cedar Rapids in fiscal 2015. The biggest month was March with nearly 50 flights per week, the airline reported.

The average age of Allegiant’s fleet is 22.1 years, according to, which tracks the fleet status of nearly all the world’s airlines. In comparison, American has an average fleet age of 11.7 years, United Airlines 13.6 years and Delta Air Lines 17.2 years, according to

The Gazette observed nine Allegiant arrivals at The Eastern Iowa Airport in early August and recorded the plane tail numbers, which can be used to look up the planes ages with the FAA. These planes included five MD-80 series jets manufactured in 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990 and 1991 and four Airbus 320-family planes built in the early to mid 2000s.

MD-80 series planes, a midrange, two-engine, one-aisle jet introduced in 1980, are workhorses with some of the best safety records in the sky. A 2013 analysis by Boeing Commercial Airplanes showed MD-80s had a lower fatal hull loss rate, which scores crashes involving fatalities, than the average for all commercial jets.

“The age (of planes) is almost irrelevant,” said Tom Schnell, a University of Iowa associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering who flies fighter jets as part of his work with the UI’s Operator Performance Laboratory. “What’s relevant is how you maintain them.”

Maintaining aging aircraft

Allegiant says its aircraft are inspected and serviced by the company’s mechanics every night. Large-scale maintenance projects are driven by cycles — counted as one takeoff and one landing — or by time.

“Cycles put pressure and strain on an aircraft, and so required maintenance for most carriers with high utilization is driven by these cycles,” Allegiant said. “However, if an aircraft is not being utilized at a high rate and not reaching cycles limits, there are time intervals that will drive maintenance.”

An MD-80 is rated to fly 100,000 cycles, or flights, Allegiant spokesman Brian Davis told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2013. N427NV — the 29-year-old plane that landed in Cedar Rapids Aug. 9 — has flown 43,215 cycles, the company said.

A detailed FAA report requested by The Gazette shows SAS signed a form May 10, 2010, saying N427NV had been in no accidents and had no “major failures” or fires before its sale to Allegiant.

The FAA assigns a team of inspectors to each airline and grants an airworthiness certificate to each plane that can be revoked if inspectors find maintenance gaps, said Elizabeth Isham Cory, the FAA’s Midwest spokeswoman.

The agency raised its surveillance of Allegiant last spring after pilots threatened to strike over contract disputes. After a federal judge blocked the strike, the FAA returned to normal surveillance and started allowing Allegiant to add new routes.

One of the nation’s fastest-growing airlines, Allegiant had a 63 percent increase in net income, totaling $54.3 million, during the second quarter, compared with the same period in 2014, according to the Washington Post. Allegiant has experienced a 76 percent boost over the same period a year ago.

Critics allege incidents

Some in the industry think the airline isn’t reinvesting in fleet maintenance.

“The money is there,” Chris Moore, a longtime airline mechanic with the Aviation Mechanics Coalition, told The Gazette. “Put it back into the maintenance program, you can get rid of a lot of these problems.”

The coalition is part of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents pilots in the ongoing contract dispute with Allegiant.

The group created an anonymous tip line for Allegiant pilots and mechanics to report problems with the planes they were fixing or flying. Over seven months, callers reported dozens of incidents that included smoke in the cabin or cockpit, pressurization issues and engine problems, according to an April 2015 report from the coalition.

None of the events reported to the tip line happened at The Eastern Iowa Airport, but callers described two incidents on Allegiant flights to the Des Moines International Airport and one headed to the Moline airport. The events reported on Des Moines-bound flights included an inoperative weather radar Jan. 30 and issues with the flight control system Feb. 1, the coalition reported.

A Sept. 28 flight to Moline was diverted, the report noted, because of issues with navigation instruments.

The FAA did not have service difficulty reports on the incidents alleged for Des Moines-bound flights

The FAA had not received service difficulty reports on any of these alleged events, although airlines usually only report diversions, aborted takeoffs and emergency declarations.

Under investigation

Some industry experts think Allegiant’s critics have tipped off the media about Allegiant’s problems, large and small, to make the airline look bad.

The malfunction on the Aug. 17 flight from Las Vegas to Peoria was not a minor problem, said experts have said in other news reports. If the flight had not been aborted, pilots could have had difficulties controlling the plane.

“This new story is very distressing,” said Wlezien, the ISU aerospace engineering professor. “It points to a rare and dangerous situation that may be the result improper maintenance.”

The FAA’s preliminary investigation found a nut on a component that moves the left elevator had fallen off, causing the control surface to become jammed in the up position.

“Immediately following the event, Allegiant initiated a fleetwide inspection of all of its MD80 aircraft to ensure the flight control systems in those aircraft were functioning properly before returning them into service,” Allegiant told The Gazette. “All aircraft were found to be in working order.”

The FAA won’t comment on the ongoing probe.

There’s little data available to benchmark Allegiant with other airlines.

The U.S. Department of Transportation releases monthly air travel consumer reports that list how the major airlines scored in mishandled bags, oversales, consumer complaints, reports to Homeland Security and animal incidents. Allegiant isn’t included in this review because it doesn’t meet the threshold of at least 1 percent of the nation’s total domestic flights.

A side effect of minor mechanical issues can be flight delays or cancellations. Allegiant is in the middle of the pack for both canceled and delayed flights into and out of The Eastern Iowa Airport, a Gazette review shows.

Still, Allegiant’s Chief Operating Office Steve Harfst told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in an Aug. 29 story the airline plans to move to an all-Airbus fleet to improve fuel efficiency and cheaper operations. He predicts half the airline’s fleet will be Airbuses by 2018

United regional carrier has highest share of delayed Cedar Rapids flights

A regional carrier for United Airlines had a larger share of delayed flights than other airlines at The Eastern Iowa Airport last year.

Trans States, a Saint Louis-based airline, had delays of at least 15 minutes on 268 scheduled flights to or from Cedar Rapids in fiscal 2015, which was 37 percent of 731 total flights, according to a Gazette analysis of data provided to The Gazette by online flight tracker Flight Aware.

The airline did not respond to emails and a phone call seeking comment.

Of the 17,314 scheduled arrivals and departures at The Eastern Iowa Airport in fiscal 2015, 28 percent were at least 15 minutes late. That fits data showing about three-quarters of U.S. flight arrivals since Jan. 1 were on time, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

But when flights are late — or worse, canceled — travelers can be surly. Unpredictable flight delays and cancellations were listed as the No. 1 frustration for 67 percent of 2,700 air travelers surveyed by Trip Advisor earlier this year.

Foul weather, mechanical issues and crew illness all can cause flight setbacks, said Marty Lenss, Eastern Iowa Airport director. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport recently tweaked flight patterns, which caused several months of delays for planes headed to Cedar Rapids and other destinations, Lenss said.

“For all the many things that could make a plane not run on time, the entire system functions very well,” he said.

Envoy Air, an American Airlines regional carrier, had the largest number of scheduled flights to and from The Eastern Iowa Airport in fiscal 2015, with 6,553, Flight Aware reported. Of those, 2,089, or 32 percent, were delayed by 15 minutes or more and 389, or 5.9 percent, were canceled.

“The highest numbers occurred at the beginning of the year, primarily due to weather,” said Martha Thomas, American Airlines spokeswoman. “We had a pretty stormy and wet beginning of the year.”

Envoy flies mainly Embraer 145 aircraft out of the Chicago O’Hare International Airport and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Thomas said. Air traffic controllers at those airports issued a large number of weather warnings last winter, she said, and regional flights on smaller planes are the first ones canceled.

Allegiant Air, which has faced criticism in recent months about mechanical issues with flights in other states, saw delays on 26 percent of its 1,280 scheduled arrivals and departures at The Eastern Iowa Airport in fiscal 2015.

The Las Vegas-based carrier, which provides non-stop flights to warm weather locales, had only 10 canceled flights to or from Cedar Rapids last year, Flight Aware reported.

Original article can be found here:

Air India to hire 40 expat pilots for three years

Air India Charters (AICL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India, has initiated the process of hiring 40 expat pilots for a term of three years for flying the company’s B737-800 narrow body planes. 

Government officials said that AICL operates flights to West Asia and Southeast Asia and will be expanding its fleet next year for which pilots are required.

“AICL plans to increase the fleet size to 25 aircraft from 17 aircraft by 2016-17,” said the officials. 

The subsidiary operated 350 flights every week. The hiring, officials said, is in anticipation of “short-term requirement” of up to 40 pilots in the next three years.

For the same, Air India has initiated the tendering process for selection of agencies for hiring the pilots.

 The tender also lays down the requirements for the pilots, including remuneration and qualification criteria.

“The bidder (agency) can place its bid to induct as many pilots, minimum being five, for technical qualification, by the end of this year,” said officials. 

However, Air India has taken care of its rentention process.

If any pilot, once inducted quits before six months, the agency fees will be confiscated.

Retention of pilots have been a constant problem for the state-owned carrier. 

Recently, 20 Dreamliner pilots planned to quit for better options in private companies. 

Experts said that is one reason why Air India will rather hire some additional pilots, fearing shortage later.

Private companies, to which Air India loses its staff, have better salaries and often better work environment.

In 2014, the carrier saw exit of 40 pilots.

Officials said that they expect the process of hiring the expat pilots to get over by early next year, before the fleet of AICL is expanded.

Original article can be found here:

American Airlines accidentally sends uncertified plane to Hawaii

HONOLULU – American Airlines confirms to CNN that it accidentally put an Airbus A321S aircraft — that was not certified to fly over the Pacific — on a long-haul flight from Los Angeles to Hawaii.

American spokesman Casey Norton said “someone on the ground” realized the mix-up sometime after AA Flight 31 had departed LAX on August 31st, filled with passengers and crew. American Airlines declined to identify who first noticed the mistake.

Norton said American immediately notified the flight crew and the Federal Aviation Administration and the decision was made to allow the crew to complete the flight, and the plane landed safely in Honolulu.

Hawaii-bound aircraft are required by the FAA to have extra fire suppression equipment in the cargo hold and extra medical equipment on board, including oxygen — since there are no points in between for an aircraft to divert to if there is an on board emergency. American Airlines said the correct aircraft, the A321-H, was just put into service on August 18th.

Norton said the new plane was part of the airline’s long-term strategy to upgrade service, and it replaced a Boeing 757 that flew that route up until last month.

“Somebody screwed up big-time, somewhere,” an American Airlines pilot, who is not authorized to speak on the record, told CNN.

The pilot explained that maintenance crews have to sign off on all extended operation certified equipment on any long-range aicrcraft and have a checklist of items that they have to go through and approve before a plane is certified to fly.

“All (extended operation) related equipment must be certified and be operational before a plane is cleared to fly. That means everything from oil quantities, to crew oxygen quantities, to retardants — they all have to be looked at,” he said. “All I can say is, thank God they didn’t have an emergency on that flight.”

For its part, American Airlines said once the mistake was identified they acted quickly.

“When we realized what happened, we immediately notified the FAA and began a thorough review of our procedures,” Norton said. “Already, we have revised our software to properly identify the correct aircraft are operating the correct routes.”

The return flight on that aircraft was canceled, and the plane was flown back to LAX with just a minimal crew on board.

“The A321-S flies over water regularly for many missions, but is not (extended operation certified), which is required by the FAA for American’s Hawaiian flights,” Norton said, adding that both planes are very similar otherwise, with the same engines and same range.

CNN has reached out to the FAA for comment, but has not heard back.

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Potential condition for Renn Farm rezoning eliminated: Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK), Maryland

Recommendations abound when it comes to local developer Matan Cos.’ plans to develop the Renn Farm property in east Frederick.

The rezoning from light industrial to mixed-use, which will pave the way for a combination of residential and commercial use on the site, has sparked interest from local and national groups.

City staff from multiple departments, project team members, the Planning and Airport Commissions, elected officials and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association have all weighed in, suggesting a variety of conditions to attach to the rezoning or opposing it altogether.

One previously discussed condition — to give notice to homeowners of the new residences on the land’s proximity to the Frederick Municipal Airport — is off the table.

During previous workshop discussions, several aldermen said they didn’t think this condition could be adequately enforced. But Airport Commission members, who feared that residents’ noise complaints could jeopardize the airport’s future, agreed that some type of notice could ease their concerns if the rezoning goes through.

That won’t fly with the Land Management Code though, which limits rezoning conditions to those that relate directly to property improvements or the land itself, said Gabrielle Collard, the city’s division manager of current planning.

“We can’t condition on the behavior of individuals,” she said.

What’s left for rezoning conditions? City planning staff recommended five stipulations, including to construct a shared use path connecting the east Frederick site to the city’s downtown, and to prohibit development on the northern edge of the property due to its location within the Runway Inner Safety Zone.

The board of aldermen will vote on these conditions at a public hearing Thursday. They could oppose the rezoning altogether, but not because the conditions aren’t adequate. Instead, they must agree that changing the zone doesn’t fit with the city’s comprehensive plan, Collard said.

If they move forward with rezoning, however, they can only vote on the conditions Thursday. The rezoning itself won’t come until a later meeting — the developers have up to 90 days to accept or reject the rezoning conditions before that decision.

Pro-Renn contingent gets another member

The Airport Commission and AOPA stand against the rezoning of the Renn Farm. Matan Cos. and the Planning Commission have lined up in favor of the rezoning, though the commission’s recommendation included the nixed condition.

Another organization will join the ranks of the “pro-Renn” group — the Downtown Frederick Partnership. Executive Director Kara Norman said she planned to submit a letter to the city supporting the project, including the necessary zoning change.

The partnership typically sends letters of support for “significant projects” that impact downtown, according to Norman. And the benefits Matan Cos.’ project will bring to the downtown community are many.

The planned shared use path would give pedestrians and bicyclists a way to easily travel from the east Frederick Farm to downtown. The dedicated 73-acres of city parkland, another recommended condition of the rezoning, will create complementary recreational opportunities to the existing Baker Park, Norman said.

And the 1,050 residences planned for the site will fill the growing demand for housing near downtown, a need that is the focus of a new strategic plan the partnership will unveil next month.
“One of our big initiatives is working to increase the number of people who live in downtown,” Norman said.

As of Thursday, Norman said the contents of the letter were still in her head, but she planned to send it by the Sept. 17 hearing.

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Airbus Set to Open Jetliner Production Plant in the U.S. • Mobile, Alabama facility is expected to help the European plane maker increase market share, lower costs

The Wall Street Journal 
By Robert Wall
Sept. 13, 2015 3:03 p.m. ET

Airbus Group SE on Monday will inaugurate its first jetliner production facility in the U.S., as the European rival to Boeing Co. seeks greater market share and lower production costs.

Airbus has invested around $600 million to build the facility in Mobile, Ala., which will employ about 1,000 workers. Building jetliners in Boeing’s backyard is Airbus’s highest-profile move yet to bolster its presence in the U.S.

“We wanted to make the U.S. one of our industrial homes,” Allan McArtor, chairman and chief executive of Airbus’s U.S. unit, said in an interview.

Airbus already employs 1,400 workers in the U.S. for activities ranging from building helicopters to providing flight training. The company scaled back ambitious plans to secure Pentagon business after several failures to win high-profile contracts, such as producing aerial refueling planes for the U.S. Air Force.

The company, based in Toulouse, France, initially picked Mobile for the refueling plane program, establishing a relationship that moved to commercial aviation after it lost the military contract to Boeing. Lower labor costs in Alabama and access to a port attracted Airbus to the site, the company said.

The plane maker is betting that, like European auto makers, whose U.S. plants helped spur sales, its jetliner business with U.S. carriers will benefit from a domestic presence. That is key for Airbus, particularly in the narrowbody market, where Mr. McArtor said the U.S. is expected to be the single-largest market over the next 20 years, with combined deliveries of up to 4,800 planes.

Airbus plans to deliver the first of the single-aisle planes to be built in the U.S. to JetBlue Airways Corp. next spring. American Airlines Group Inc. is the biggest operator of Airbus planes in the U.S., and the carrier also has the largest backlog of planes to be delivered.

The company traditionally builds its A320-type planes in Hamburg, Germany, and Toulouse. It opened a site similar to the Mobile final assembly line in Tianjin, China, in 2008. Around 40 expatriates from Europe are in Mobile to help train the local workforce, though that number will be reduced.

The U.S. facility gives Airbus lower-cost production capacity than in its home markets and potential leverage over its European workforce, according to analysts. The move matches one made by Boeing that has added jetliner production outside of its unionized facilities in Washington state at a nonunionized plant in South Carolina.

Mobile’s production output will gradually rise to four narrowbodies. Production could double with only modest investment, Mr. McArtor said.

Airbus currently produces 42 single-aisle planes a month, with plans to boost output to 50 aircraft starting in 2017. The plane maker is considering boosting output to as many as 63 single-aisle planes a month, with a decision expected before the end of the year.

Fabrice BrĂ©gier, who heads Airbus’s plane-making business, has said boosting output is a matter of when, not if. Airbus is assessing whether suppliers can support higher output, with many stretched by also having to satisfy Boeing’s interest in building more planes.

Mr. McArtor said recent global economic turmoil hasn’t shaken Airbus’s confidence that demand for A320-type planes is robust. “Demand for the single-aisle is not vulnerable at all. If anything, it is getting more,” he said.

The company is adjusting some of its production processes to build planes in the U.S. Wings and major parts of the plane that are built in Europe are being shipped to Mobile and then trucked from the port to the factory. Other items, such as engines and interior components that come from U.S. suppliers, will go directly to the Alabama site to cut time and costs.

Airbus will first assemble current model A319, A320 and A321 jets—the backbone of its single-aisle product—in Mobile before transitioning to the updated “neo” versions, for new engine options, which offer lower fuel burn.

Though the Mobile facility currently is intended only to build narrowbody jetliners, Mr. McArtor said there is ample space to accommodate additional commercial jetliner or military work if the need arose.

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