Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Kiwi Regional Airlines cancels flight, eyes second plane

Kiwi Regional Airlines cancelled a Queenstown flight on Wednesday due to fog - its second weather disruption in its first two days of operating.

The one-aircraft airline launched with a flight from Dunedin to Queenstown on Tuesday morning using its 34-seat twin turbo-prop Saab 340A.

Kiwi Regional Airlines chief executive Ewan Wilson said customers booked on Wednesday's cancelled flight were refunded, he said.

The Hamilton-based airline, which also flies between Hamilton, Nelson and Dunedin, slashed its Dunedin to Queenstown service on Tuesday due to a lack of passenger demand.

The airline had planned twice-daily flights on the route on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but reduced it to return flights on Monday morning and Friday afternoon.

Aviation commentator Irene King said operating an airline with just one aircraft on routes with low passenger volume was "incredibly challenging."

There were no other Saabs operating in New Zealand which meant the airline could experience long delays or cancellations if parts were needed for maintenance, she said.

"The biggest issue is what sort of alternatives have they in place if that happens."

A good operator would have an agreement either with another airline or bus service to provide services for stranded passengers, King said.

"It's just very challenging operating an airline with one aircraft."

Wilson said Kiwi offered bus transport between Dunedin and Queenstown for Wednesday's affected passengers but they all preferred a refund.

He said Kiwi had $500,000 worth of spare parts in Auckland as well as parts in Dunedin.

If they could not find parts they needed in New Zealand they would have to approach Australian carriers operating Saabs, he said.

Wilson said its Saab was purchased for about $2 million and he hoped to acquire a second aircraft within 12 months.

"It's really in our best interest to add capacity as quickly as possible."

Customers' airfare payments were held by a credit card payment facility based in Europe and Kiwi could not draw those funds until a passenger had travelled.

The airline's working capital came from shareholders rather than passengers' money.

Wilson said a Saab was the airline's aircraft of choice because it was "a really reliable workhorse" but maintenance issues were a reality of flying.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you that our airplanes won't ever break down."

King said Kiwi Regional Airlines' routes were not serviced by other airlines because they were difficult to make work, especially Dunedin-Queenstown which had never attracted many passengers.

"I would have thought if there was volume of any substance Air New Zealand would have been into it a long time ago. They understand this market backwards."

Meanwhile, Dunedin Airport welcomed its first new domestic jet service in more than four years on Wednesday afternoon with the arrival of an inaugural Jetstar flight from the Wellington.

The service competes with Air NZ's jet and tubo-prop services on the route.

The Wellington-Dunedin service is Jetstar's sixth domestic jet route and comes ahead of the airline beginning regional services to Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Napier and Nelson from December.

Original article can be found here: http://www.stuff.co.nz

EgyptAir to launch 10-year restructuring plan: chairman

DUBAI (Reuters) - EgyptAir, the state-owned flag carrier, is in final stages of launching an overhaul and expansion plan that will reverse its downturn and propel it towards growth, its chairman said on Tuesday.

“We’re developing a 10-year restructuring plan, which should be finalized by mid-December,” Sherif Fathi Attia, chairman and chief executive of EgyptAir Holding told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry conference in Abu Dhabi. Attia is optimistic the plan will get government approval.

The plan includes a network and fleet expansion and Attia said the airline could place aircraft orders in the first quarter of 2016. He said wide-body aircraft would account for 20 to 30 percent of its total order.

The airline has struggled to make a profit, facing setbacks during the 2008 financial crisis, which was followed by the turmoil after the overthrow of then-president Hosni Mubarak.

EgyptAir reported an annual loss of 2.20 million Egyptian pounds at the end of June 2011, the last results the group published since the revolution.

The turnaround project, that could see changes in middle-management, aims for profitability at the end of the current fiscal year.

Attia ruled out initial public offering for the company, which had previously been under consideration.

EgyptAir is part of a group of seven companies which includes EgyptAir Cargo. It currently has a fleet of about 66 aircraft and flies to about 162 countries.

Original article can be found here: http://af.reuters.com

Carson Air plane bound for Okanagan College

Carson Air vice-president of operations Kevin Hillier with Okanagan College AME program instructor Dale Keegstra.

A local aviation company has touched down with its second major donation to Okanagan College in as many months.

Carson Air has donated a Metroliner II aircraft to the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering (AME) M-License program; the company estimates the value of the aircraft at approximately $300,000.

The aircraft landed at the Vernon Airport on Oct. 16, welcomed by students, instructors, and Okanagan College employees outside the college’s aerospace hangar adjacent to the runway.

“This aircraft has served Carson Air very well and we are proud to see it put to use as a training tool at Okanagan College,” said Carson Air’s vice-president of operations Kevin Hillier.

“We’ve hired numerous graduates of the college’s AME program over the years, so in a way, we are supporting the future of our industry and our company with this donation.”

On Sept. 19, Carson Air announced a donation of $125,000 to support the purchase of a flight simulator for the Commercial Aviation program in Kelowna.

“Support from industry plays a vital role in the college’s ability to provide high quality training experiences,” said Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton.

“We sincerely appreciate Carson Air’s investment in our students, Canada’s future aircraft maintenance engineers and aviators, through these very generous donations.

“A gift like this from Carson Air, a local employer of our graduates and mentor to our apprentices, speaks volumes to their commitment to education in the region.”

Built in 1980 in San Antonio, Tex., the Metroliner II saw service with two US regional airlines before being imported to Canada in 1994 when it was converted to haul cargo.

Nearly 60 feet in length and with a wingspan to match, the 19-passenger, twin-engine turboprop has been part of Carson Air’s fleet since 1998.

The plane’s arrival in Vernon from Carson Air’s hangar in Kelowna marked the final flight for the aircraft, after more than 35,000 hours in the air over Canada and the U.S. (about 14,000 under Carson Air’s banner).

While the aircraft’s time in commercial service may be over, its utility as a teaching tool will go on for years, said AME program lead and acting chair Dale Martell.

“It will be utilized primarily for structures and electrical training,” said Martell. “Electrical is one of the most challenging areas facing AME students, and so the hands-on experience they can get by working on an aircraft of this complexity is invaluable.”

Also upping the excitement factor for students is the fact that the aircraft was still in active service only days before it landed at the college.

“The more types of aircraft we work on, the greater depth of experience we gain,” said AME student Ashley LaPointe.

“This gives us pure experience on an aircraft we’ll definitely encounter out in the industry, which is very beneficial.”

Earlier this month, the college received a Jetstream 31 aircraft from the Swanberg family of Grande Prairie and Fort St. John. That aircraft was valued at nearly $700,000, putting the total in-kind value of aircraft received by the college in 2015 at about $1 million.

Through the AME M- and S-License programs offered in Kelowna and Vernon, the college instructs students on structures, electrical and mechanical maintenance of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and welcomes donations of aircraft and components.

Learn more about OC’s AME program online at okanagan.bc.ca/ame.

- Original article can be found here:  http://www.kelownacapnews.com

airBaltic teams up with LOT Polish Airlines

Latvian national carrier airBaltic has concluded a cooperation agreement with LOT Polish Airlines, known in the industry as code-share agreement.

This cooperation will offer convenient connections to southeastern Europe for airBaltic customers, while LOT Polish Airlines passengers will benefit from better access to northern Europe, airBaltic said.

airBaltic and LOT offer together up to twice daily flights on the Riga – Warsaw route.

The new partnership will allow LOT Polish Airlines to offer their passengers convenient connections between Warsaw and Oslo (Norway), and between Warsaw and Helsinki (Finland). At the same time, airBaltic will offer its passengers two new and convenient destinations – Sofia (Bulgaria) and Belgrade (Serbia).

airBaltic serves over 60 destinations from its home base in Riga. Founded in 1995, its primary shareholder is the Latvian state, which holds 99.8% of the stock. The airBaltic fleet consists of 25 aircraft – 13 Boeing 737 and 12 Bombardier Q400Next Gen.

Original article can be found here: http://www.balticbusinessnews.com

Southwest Airlines to make flying from Dayton easier

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Southwest Airlines make it easier to to fly to more destinations from Dayton International Airport.

The City of Dayton announced Tuesday that beginning in April 2016, Southwest Airlines will shift all of their flights to the Chicago Midway International Airport hub. Currently, Southwest flies to one of three different hubs.

From Midway, passengers will able to connect to 62 U.S. cities and eight international location by direct flight.

The airline will provide three daily flights to Midway.

Southwest’s Dayton to Midway service will be provided on Boeing 737-700 aircraft with 143 seats.

“We are excited about the opportunity this presents Dayton travelers,” said Terrence Slaybaugh, director of Dayton International Airport. “This shift in service will provide even more connectivity to more destinations than Southwest currently offers from Dayton. Passengers will have greater accessibility to many more flights, getting them to more destinations. Because of this, passengers will be less likely to become stranded due to unforeseen cancellations of their flight.”

Baltimore, Denver and Orlando service from Dayton will continue to be provided by Southwest Airlines throughout the upcoming busy holiday season. These non-stop destinations will remain until April 11, 2016.

- Original article can be found here: http://wdtn.com

Russia’s Aeroflot group to give jobs to more than 6,000 Transaero employees

MOSCOW, October 27  -- Russia’s Aeroflot group plans to employ 6,600 employees of the bankrupt Transaero air carrier, an Aeroflot source told TASS on Tuesday.

"At the moment, different Aeroflot units have selected and are approving the candidatures of 735 persons (137 airborne personnel, 379 flight attendants, 61 flight safety specialists, 125 people from the administrative and managerial staff)," the source said, adding, that "labor contracts have been signed with 29 employees."

According to the source, the Rossiya airline (subsidiary of Aeroflot group) intends to give jobs to 3,295 former employees of Transaero. So far, 447 former Transaero staff members have been pre-selected and recommended for employment.

On October 1, the government made a decision on the airline bankruptcy. The company stopped selling tickets. Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) based on the results of Transaero’s auditing, despite the desire of co-owner of S7 Group Vladislav Filev to buy a controlling stake in the company, decided to revoke the carrier’s air operation certificate starting from October 26. It was decided to transfer 56 international routes of the bankrupt air carrier to Aeroflot. In mid-October, Alpha Bank and Sberbank had filed bankruptcy claims against Transaero. On Tuesday, October 27, it has become known that Gazprombank also intends to file a bankruptcy lawsuit against Transaero.

"Gazprombank notifies of its intention to appeal to the arbitration court to declare Transaero air company insolvent (bankrupt), due to the presence of signs of bankruptcy stipulated by paragraph 2 of Article 3, paragraph 2 of Article 6 of the Federal Law on insolvency (bankruptcy," the bank said in a release.

The decision of the Transaero airline bankruptcy that has accumulated 250 bln rubles ($3.9 bln) of debt, and was under the operational control of Aeroflot, was made at the government meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on October 1. The carrier stopped selling tickets. Transaero round-trip tickets with the departure date before December 15 and return after December 15 will be canceled as well as all the bookings for dates after December 15, 2015.

- Original article can be found here:  http://tass.ru

Delta Air Lines to Leave Airline Trade Group: Carrier intends to drop out of Airlines for America in April

Delta Chief Executive Richard Anderson, who once served as chairman of the trade association, recently stopped attending meetings of the group’s board.

The Wall Street Journal
Oct. 27, 2015 5:43 p.m. ET

Delta Air Lines Inc. said Tuesday it intends to pull out of Airlines for America, the leading U.S. carrier trade association, in April. The move, which will save Delta $5 million in annual dues, will free up the carrier to find “a more efficient way of communicating in Washington” on issues important to Delta, its customers and employees, the company said in a statement.

Airlines for America said the move wasn’t unexpected because Delta “has not been aligned with other… members on a few key industry positions, including the need to modernize and improve the nation’s air-traffic control system,” said association CEO Nick Calio.

Delta’s departure will reduce the trade group’s airline membership to nine big airlines, including three cargo carriers. Left among the passenger airlines will be American Airlines Group Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., Alaska Air Group Inc., JetBlue Airlines Corp. and Hawaiian Holdings Inc.’s Hawaiian Airlines. The loss of Delta, the third-largest passenger carrier by traffic, could weaken the group’s lobbying efforts.

Doug Parker, CEO of American and the current chairman of the trade association’s board of directors, said the group has been and will continue to be more effective as an industry advocate “with a unified voice in Washington,” Mr. Parker said in a statement. Other issues the association is working on are fighting higher taxes on airlines and unnecessary regulations, while pushing for updated infrastructure and modernizing the nation’s air-navigation system.

Delta Chief Executive Richard Anderson, who served as chairman of the trade association for the first two years of Mr. Calio’s tenure, recently stopped attending meetings of the group’s board, although other Delta employees still serve on number of trade group councils and committees.

Mr. Anderson, chief of the Atlanta-based airline since 2007, isn’t shy about taking a contrarian view. Delta is the only leading U.S. airline to pick a fight with the U.S. Export-Import Bank for offering loan guarantees on Boeing Co. aircraft to well-heeled foreign carriers. The export bank, whose mandate wasn’t extended earlier this year, currently is fighting for its life in the budget battle playing out in Congress.

Mr. Anderson also lead the charge, later joined by American and United, against three large Persian Gulf airlines. The three U.S. carriers want the U.S. government to curtail the Gulf trio’s access to the U.S. on the grounds they are highly subsidized by their government owners, assertions the Gulf carriers deny. The U.S. position has led to conflict within the trade association, with JetBlue, Alaska and the cargo carriers decrying what they fear is protectionism on the part of the largest three members. The other U.S. carriers also fear retaliation by the Gulf airlines, with whom some of them have close ties.

And the Delta CEO has said numerous times this year that he doesn’t believe a privatization or corporatization of the nation’s air-traffic control system is a good idea. Many other U.S. airlines think the government should take air-navigation activities out of the Federal Aviation Administration and put it into a federal corporation, a public-private partnership or a nonprofit company. More than two dozen foreign countries have made that move.

U.S. advocates believe the FAA’s big air-traffic-control modernization program would roll out faster and surer under privatized authority. Mr. Anderson has said he thinks the FAA is doing a good job, and he recently assumed the leadership role of an influential committee that advises the FAA on that modernization effort.

Original article can be found here:  http://www.wsj.com

Investigation into flight diversions

An investigation has been launched to determine why two planes were unable to land in Mallorca or Menorca and had to do so in Ibiza.

On September 4, a Boeing 757, operated by Jet2.com flying from Manchester to Palma with 208 passengers and eight crew members on board was unable to land due to storms.

It was given authorization to land at Son Sant Joan airport, after already having requested to be diverted, but weather conditions were too bad. The pilots asked for permission to land at Menorca airport, but storms also prevented it.

After an hour of failed attempts, it was low on fuel and after sending out a mayday headed to Ibiza where it landed without incident.

The Committee for the Investigation of Civil Aviation Accidents and Incidents, has opened an investigation.

Three days earlier, a Thomas Cook flight from Norwich, carrying 186 people, also had to request an emergency landing in Ibiza due to the weather conditions. The Airbus A321 had been unable to land in Mallorca or Menorca because of the wind, rain and hailstones and was running low on fuel.  

- Original article can be found here: http://www.euroweeklynews.com

Loganair pilots raise serious engineering concerns

Loganair has moved to reassure passengers that its aircraft are safe to fly in after a strongly-worded letter from pilots to company management raised a number of serious concerns about the “crisis” within its engineering department.

An internal letter from pilots’ union BALPA’s company council, sent to Loganair chief executive Stewart Adams on Thursday, complained that planes were “being returned to the line despite being unserviceable” and in some cases “aircraft retain defects that clearly affect flight safety”.

BALPA subsequently emphasized to Shetland News that its pilots would never fly an unsafe plane.

In a statement on Tuesday, Adams said Loganair wished to “make it absolutely clear that the safety of our crews and passengers is and always will be our number one priority”.

The two-page letter outlines major concerns pilots have about Loganair’s engineering department, which has contributed to the troubled airline delivering an “appalling” service to passengers. It describes morale as being “at the lowest ebb ever witnessed by many employees”.

BALPA questions the effectiveness of measures put in place since Loganair belatedly acknowledged its poor performance, which has seen one in four flights delayed by 15 minutes or more in 2015.

Islanders have grown wearily accustomed to flights being grounded for hours due to technical problems. Unless there are big changes, the pilots state, they “do not see a future” for Loganair.

Despite initiatives designed to improve things, “it appears that things are getting worse instead of better” – last week being “particularly poor with crews left wondering how much worse things can get”.

In September, Loganair insisted its Saab aircraft had plenty of shelf life remaining. But pilots say the aircraft are “going in and out of the hangar with recurring faults that cannot seem to be resolved”.

“There are also cases where aircraft are being returned to the line despite being unserviceable,” the letter states. “In some cases aircraft retain defects that clearly affect flight safety and in others have restrictions placed upon them which render the aircraft effectively unusable in our operating environment.”

In response, Adams said the final decision on whether a flight departs is “always in the hands of the pilot, and we know that none of our pilots would ever leave the ground if he or she had any safety concerns”.

Loganair operates around 34,000 services a year and is subject to regular inspections by the CAA, which is “considered to be one of the most stringent” aviation authorities in the world”.

Adams continued that the airline holds a European Aviation Safety Agency air operator certificate and fully complied with all legislation and safety requirements.

“This demands that we must demonstrate we have a fully functional and effective safety management system which specifically manages all aspects of our operational safety,” he said.

“We are always open to discussing matters of concern with our flight crews, and have responded quickly to both BALPA and the pilot representatives with an offer to meet with them at the earliest opportunity to address their issues in detail.”

On Monday, BALPA general secretary Jim McAuslan told Shetland News that the union was “encouraged by the speed of response” to its letter.

That response includes arranging a tour of Loganair bases to meet pilots and discuss the issues raised, and McAuslan said management were “clearly committed to resolving these issues and we will be happy to work with them on this”.

He added: “For the avoidance of doubt no pilot will fly an aircraft unless he or she believes it to be safe, and in this respect Loganair pilots are no different to those of any other airline.”

Thursday’s letter to management stated that engineers were “being worked very hard and the strain is showing”, while it is “clear that there is insufficient engineering cover around the network”.

In particular, there is no engineering cover at Sumburgh Airport until 11am each day – meaning “any faults found by crews in the morning cause lengthy delays to have these faults investigated”.

“Matters have now reached the stage where our cabin crew colleagues, worried by what they have experienced recently, frequently ask us whether we think that our aircraft are safe to fly,” the letter reads.

Pilots say the engineering crisis results in “us as a company offering an appalling service to our passengers: missed connections, delays getting to holidays, missed hospital appointments and more, are all the fault of Loganair”.

“The staff that feel the brunt of this are the check-in staff and the cabin crew as they have to face our understandably angry passengers who can at times be abusive from their frustrations.”

During the frequent delays staff “do not know what to tell passengers as operations are not able to give them a firm plan, as they simply do not have the resources they need to do their jobs”.

The disruption has also led to major upheaval to staff rosters, with “perpetual changes” affecting crew members’ lives. There is “increasing strain” on the relationship between crews and the operations team.

BALPA said Loganair was “deteriorating as a place to work” with morale “at the lowest ebb ever witnessed by many employees, including some of the longest serving”.

It raised fears that the problems of its engineering department (“specifically the apparent rapid loss of a significant group of highly experienced individuals”) was “in danger of being repeated in the flight operations department at a time when the company already appears short-staffed across many departments”.

The letter concluded: “Quite simply, crews no longer have faith in management that they will be able to resolve this crisis.

“We all want to see Loganair succeed and remain committed to working together to achieve this, but we feel compelled to raise our concerns as we do not see a future for Loganair if things continue as they are.”

Adams said engineering department issues had been caused by “a number of experienced employees leaving or retiring and having to be replaced”.

Training their replacements to work with the “very specialized aircraft” on Loganair routes “takes time, but we are now well into this process” with 10 engineers recently incorporated into its maintenance team after completing a Saab course.

An apprentice scheme is also to be initiated “aimed at future-proofing us against the worldwide shortage of aviation engineers”.

Adams repeated that Loganair was undertaking a review to improve “both punctuality and reliability” of its services, including opening a new spares hub at Glasgow Airport “to house more than double the stock to which we have access”.

Previously parts had to be sourced from overseas, resulting in transportation delays.

Last month the company announced that experienced directors had been appointed to both engineering and operational divisions.

Adams continued: “In addition, back-up aircraft will be based at both Aberdeen and Glasgow to be used if and when there is a need for them to be deployed to support the daily flying program.”

He said Loganair was making a “significant” investment and was “confident it will have a positive effect on services we have provided for our valued customers for more than half a century”.

Adams added: “These changes will not happen overnight, but I can assure everyone that Loganair is working hard to improve performance.”

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said: “We’ve been assured that huge efforts are being made on engineering, and pilots are obviously not seeing any benefits of that, and Loganair really need to resolve that to the travelling public’s satisfaction immediately."

- Original article can be found here: http://www.shetnews.co.uk

Flytenow, the aviation version of Uber and Lyft, is locked in court battle with regulators

Flytenow co-founder Matt Voska, third from left, and passengers Steve McHugh, left, Zac Campbell and Greg Skloot prepare to depart from Palo Alto Airport on a trip to Monterey. Voska, a private pilot, said the passengers used the firm's online service to find his flight.

California-based Flytenow Inc. — the aviation version of the ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft — is locked in a court battle with federal regulators, who contend the emerging air-pool business amounts to an illegal charter operation.

The company, which started on the East Coast early last year and later moved to Mountain View in Silicon Valley, runs an online bulletin board where private pilots post their flight plans and potential passengers can arrange to fly with them on the condition that expenses are shared equally.

Flytenow's founders say the operation complies with federal regulations that allow pilots to share the cost of fuel, aircraft rentals and airport fees with travelers or aviation enthusiasts — a practice that was established long before the invention of the Internet.

But the Federal Aviation Administration asserts that flight-sharing is illegal when it involves an online service that can reach a broad segment of the public interested in flying. After receiving an FAA notification to that effect, Flytenow stopped listing flights in late 2014 and went to court.

"It's OK for pilots to post a written notice at an airport or a college campus with 10,000 students, but if they post the same message online, the FAA says no. Where do you draw the line?" said Matt Voska of San Francisco, a private pilot and a co-founder of Flytenow. "What we are doing is permissible."

The company's case was heard late last month in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which handles matters related to federal agencies. A decision is pending.

Meanwhile, other flight-sharing services, such as Airpooler Inc., which served Boston, Palo Alto and San Diego, have ceased operations at least until the outcome of the case. Airpooler also received a FAA notice that its online operation violated federal regulations.

Before Flytenow shut down its site, the company was fast becoming part of the growing sharing economy that involves hundreds of start-ups in the U.S. Among the more well-known firms are room rental service Airbnb as well as Uber and Lyft, both app-based transportation networking companies.

Flytenow's founders say their online service has attracted about 25,000 members, including travelers, flying enthusiasts and several thousand private, commercial and air transport pilots who filled the website with their personal flight plans.

"The biggest risk to society today is the need for the government to keep pace with innovation," said Alan Guichard, an attorney and co-founder of Flytenow. "This whole concept is now taking off in Europe."

Voska estimated that he made about a dozen trips to carry passengers to such destinations as Half Moon Bay, Merced, Monterey, Napa and Sonoma. He said expenses were shared equally by him and his passengers, who also paid a separate $10 fee to Flytenow.

Flytenow officials estimate that the cost of a typical round trip ranged from $60 to $70 per passenger, hundreds of dollars cheaper than an air charter. For example, they said a round trip from Palo Alto to Lake Tahoe would cost about $100 a person, while a comparable flight on Southwest Airlines from San Francisco to Reno/Tahoe would run $190 to $227 with an advanced reservation for the cheapest option.

"Tons of people want to use this," Voska said. "They want to see it happen."

FAA officials declined to comment on the case. The agency contends in court papers, however, that by accepting paying passengers through Flytenow's website, pilots have been conducting illegal commercial flight operations without government scrutiny or proper certification.

The FAA claims that pilots who list flights online are holding themselves out to the public as available to provide air travel for compensation, in this case expenses.

As such, the government argues that the pilots must obtain commercial operator's licenses, known as Part 119 certificates, which subject them to tougher safety requirements and additional qualifications.

FAA attorneys also assert that the expense-sharing rule that Flytenow relies on allows only "casual" cost sharing by pilots who wish to take some friends or acquaintances on a trip. In contrast, they say, the service's website was designed to attract the attention of a broad segment of the public.

Flytenow disagrees, arguing that the company and its participating pilots should be exempt from the FAA's commercial licensing requirements

Guichard said obtaining an operator's certificate would be difficult for private pilots, who would have to develop a business plan, have at least 1,500 hours of flight time, train to get a commercial pilot's license and submit to additional FAA inspections.

"This would be cost-prohibitive for a private pilot who is only sharing expenses," Guichard said.

Company lawyers note that since the expense-sharing rule was adopted in 1963, private pilots have long posted written notices of their planned trips at airports, kiosks, colleges and universities as well as other public places.

Jon Riches, a Flytenow attorney with the Goldwater Institute in Arizona, said pilots using the website have complied with the rule because they split expenses and do not make a profit. They also determine when and where they will fly, not the passengers or Flytenow, he added.

The company further contends that both pilots and passengers have met an additional requirement of having a common purpose for the trip, such as conducting some kind of personal business — an indication the flight is not merely to transport passengers.

"This is just people in small planes sharing expenses," Riches said. Given the FAA's position, "Sully Sullenberger and Neil Armstrong could not fly passengers using Flytenow."

Original article can be found here: http://www.latimes.com