Thursday, November 26, 2015

Delta suing its regional carriers over canceled flights

ATLANTA — Delta Airlines is suing its regional carriers over canceled flights caused by a suspected pilot shortage.

According to the lawsuit, it’s costing Delta millions of dollars.

The airline is taking aim at both Republic Airways and Shuttle America, which operate small regional flights for Delta all over America. Delta says the airlines are inconveniencing its customers.

“We try to avoid them but usually it’s when we fly Charlotte to Columbia, it will be a carrier of Delta and it’s canceled a lot. We try to avoid those flights if they can,” one passenger said.

The Atlanta-based airline giant filed a lawsuit recently moved to federal court against the two carriers claiming they breached their contract by causing Delta to cancel flights and rework schedules, which is costing Delta millions of dollars in lost revenue.

An aviation expert Channel 2's Rachel Stockman spoke with says the pilot shortage is due, in part, to the fact that regional pilots are now required to have 1,500 hours of flight experience.

The increase is a result of safety concerns following the 2009 regional plane crash in Buffalo, New York, where 50 people were killed.

Airline passengers say while the cancellations are inconvenient, the increased regulation makes them feel more comfortable.

Republic Airways denies it breached its contract with Delta and has filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed.

Story and video:

Motat rallies to save the world's last remaining Solent flying boat

Motat's senior aviation volunteer Norm McKelvey has overseen the restoration of more than 20 aircraft.

It's the last of its kind and sits in an Auckland aviation workshop waiting to be fixed.

The world's only remaining Solent Mark IV Flying Boat is housed at the Museum of Technology and Transport (Motat).

But the vessel has fallen into disrepair and will require major work to preserve it.

The flying boat was first restored in the 1980s by retired members of its original flight crew as well as enthusiasts from the Solent Preservation Society.

Motat's senior aviation volunteer Norm McKelvey says the museum's aviation display hall was built to house the vessel.  

The Solent was moved outside when the workshop was extended years later.

"Unfortunately a delay occurred and instead of being outside for a few years it was out for five years," he says.

"It has fallen into disrepair as it had been outside in the weather for so long."

The first phase of the aircraft's restoration was funded by Air New Zealand and focused on the interior of the aircraft.

But the restoration of the plane's exterior has been put on hold until the museum can fund it.

"As it is with any plane, it costs money to restore them and you need quite a lot of money to accomplish what needs to be done," McKelvey says.

The museum aims to return the Solent to the way it looked during the 1950s.

Motat's commercial manager Jeff Morris says the Solent was constructed in 1949.

"This majestic flying boat once graced the Pacific skies ferrying passengers along the Coral Route," Morris says.

"The route was labelled the most romantic in the world by those who flew it."

Built in Belfast, the Solent would transport passengers from Auckland across to Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti and the Cook Islands.

Mckelvey, a retired aircraft engineer, says the aircraft played an important role in the growth of Air New Zealand as it allowed the airline to branch out and cover more of the Pacific.

Gala dinner

Motat is hosting a gala dinner and charity auction to raise funds for the restoration of the Solent.

California-based journalist and culinary historian Richard Foss will be the guest speaker at the "Dining in the Skies" event.

His talk will cover the history of inflight foods and will look at how meals were prepared on Zeppelins, flying boats and other airliners.

"Over the years, the vessels that carry humans in the air have presented the most challenging cooking environment to ever exist," Foss says.

"But cooks and engineers rose to the challenge and some strange things were tried."

The formal event will take place at Motat's Aviation Display Hall on December 3 from 6pm.

Visit for more information or to donate to the restoration project.


Mysterious flying object search proves fruitless in Brevard, Florida • Caller reported seeing bright light falling from sky

MELBOURNE, Fla. - Though emergency personnel searched by air, land and sea on Thanksgiving following reports of a mysterious flying object that crashed near the Pineda Causeway, no evidence was found, Brevard County Sheriff's Office Cpl. David Jacobs said Friday morning.

A 911 caller reported seeing a plane crash into the Banana River just south of the causeway, according to police scanner traffic.

Jacobs said a sheriff's office helicopter scanned the river using a thermal-imaging camera. Land-bound deputies also looked in vain, and the U.S. Coast Guard, Brevard County Fire Rescue, Patrick Air Force Base and Satellite Beach police were notified.

"Nothing was ever found, which leads me to believe that they didn't see what they believed they saw," Jacobs said of people who reported the flying object.

News 6 partner Florida Today reported that Coast Guard personnel determined that one witness who was driving by saw a sailboat operator lowering its sail — and mistook the movement for a plane falling from the sky, Petty Officer Steve Lehman said Friday morning. The Coast Guard conducted phone interviews, but did not send people to the scene, Lehman said.

Joe Zayas, a Rockledge retired aerospace worker, said he called Rockledge police and the Coast Guard after he spotted "a bright light falling out of the sky" near dusk. He lives near Lowe's at Fiske and Barnes boulevards, and he was eating Thanksgiving dinner on his outdoor patio looking toward the east.

"It looked to me like an object on fire. Whatever it was, it was falling on fire," Zayas recalled Friday morning. "It was heading at a slight angle towards the Pineda.

"All I know is, it took my breath away because I thought, 'That could be a plane. That could be an act of terrorism.'" he said.

Zayas said he watched the object for about two seconds before it disappeared beyond the treetops, and it left no smoke trail.


Update, 6:40 p.m.:

Several Brevard County agencies have called off the search for a possible crashed plane after no evidence was found in the Banana River.

Agencies searched with a helicopter and boats, but were unable to find anything.

The Coast Guard will still search the scene as a precaution.

Brevard County Sheriff's Office deputies said they would not know if there was a plane crash until they finish searching the river.

6:08 p.m.:

Emergency personnel are investigating reports of a possible plane crash in the Banana River.

The Brevard County Sheriff's Office, Brevard County Fire Rescue, Satellite Beach police and U.S. Coast Guard have all been notified of the possible crash.

A 911 caller reported seeing a plane crash into the Banana River just south of the Pineda Causeway, according to police scanner traffic.

Patrick Air Force Base officials have also been notified.

A Brevard County Sheriff's Office helicopter with thermal imaging is searching the water.

FLORIDA TODAY journalists are at the scene and investigating.

- Source:

Reserve Bank of India relaxes norms for aircraft, helicopter imports

Relaxing norms for aircraft and helicopter imports, RBI today said banks can allow advance remittances for imports once the company has approval from aviation regulator DGCA. 

With the latest notification, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has done away with the earlier requirement whereby Civil Aviation Ministry's nod was compulsory for advance remittances. 

Previously, advance remittance was allowed by banks only when the importing entity had requisite approvals from Civil Aviation Ministry, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and other agencies. 

"... Banks may, while allowing advance remittance without bank guarantee or an unconditional, irrevocable standby letter of credit up to USD 50 million, ensure that only the requisite approval of DGCA for import of aircrafts/helicopters," have been obtained by the company, RBI said. 

This would be applicable on companies operating Scheduled or Non-Scheduled Air Transport Services, including Air Taxi Services. 

"In other words, the approval from Ministry of Civil Aviation will not be required," RBI said. 

The relaxation comes at a time when the Ministry is working on a new aviation policy that seeks to provide various incentives for the sector. 

In another notification on evidence of import of goods, the RBI said that with the establishment of Free Trade Warehousing Zones/SEZ Unit warehouses, imported goods can be stored therein, for re-export/re-selling purposes for which Customs Authorities issue Ex-Bond Bill of Entry. 

"...Banks are advised to consider the Bill of Entry issued by Customs Authorities named as Ex-Bond Bill of Entry or by any other similar nomenclature, as evidence for physical import of goods," it said. 

Further, in cases where goods have been imported through couriers, the Courier Bill of Entry, as declared by the courier companies to the Customs Authorities, may also be considered as evidence of import of goods.


Opinion: Collingwood Airport talk needs to come in for a landing

A plane flies into Collingwood Airport.

By Steve Berman

The Collingwood Airport has been a hot topic of discussion lately, at the council tables in Collingwood, Clearview and Wasaga Beach; in area newspapers and even the local blogosphere.

Before I weigh in on this, how many of you knew that Collingwood had an airport? Did you know that it's not actually in Collingwood? Have you ever used it? Did you know that Collingwood taxpayers pay approximately $150-200K a year just to keep it up and running?

I've been closely following the goings on at the airport since the spring of 2013 when rumors surfaced of men with "bags of cash" going around and trying to buy up the land surrounding the airport.

Since that time, there have been a number of actual land purchases, business proposals, and changes in the makeup of the municipal councils, staff and boards involved.

One thing that does not seem to have changed, is the direction that Collingwood politicians have taken throughout this entire process.

Keep in mind that things like roads, bridges, water and wastewater, are examples of assets that a municipality must have. An airport or a hydro company, are examples of "discretionary" assets, meaning that it is not required by the Municipal Act that your town actually owns one.

The previous council showed that they were receptive to the idea of selling off airport lands by passing a motion in that regard, unanimously, back in September, 2013.

That same council also had the foresight in January 2014, to vote unanimously against supporting the Fairview Wind Farm Project near the airport, due to safety concerns. This current council echoed that sentiment with a unanimous vote of their own at the last council meeting.

The previous council recognized the need for an actual business plan for our airport, and voted to spend $20K on one, back in March, 2014. Unfortunately that plan never took flight, as it turned out that the cost of doing a plan costs roughly five times that amount.

I think these were all good steps that needed to be taken, in order for Collingwood get an idea of the true potential of our airport, rather than blindly throwing money at it during each budget season.

Our current council appears to have has picked up where the previous one left off with the airport, and is pursuing a course of action that will best serve our residents.

The most important part of any potential transaction of this size, is due diligence.

While the public is not privy to in-camera meetings that discuss things like legal advice or land appraisals, it is obvious from the amount of times council has discussed this topic, that they are doing their due diligence on the airport, regardless of whether they chose to keep it, or look to sell it.

The 7-1 vote by council last week, against signing a letter of intent for Mr. Bonwick and the CCAC development, was the right thing to do, in my opinion, even though it looks as though it's being used as a red herring by some of the interested parties.

They say that when you post something on the internet, it can haunt you forever. I believe that this was the risk for Collingwood had they signed a letter of intent. There is no benefit to Collingwood to sign a letter of intent, especially when they haven't yet decided what they want to do. To put something in writing, binding or not, can come back to bite them in the tail somewhere down the road.

Last term, council made two decisions that involved almost $30 million dollars of your money between them.

The first, was the sale of 50% of Collus Hydro, and the second was the purchase of the two Sprung structures. Both of those decisions were made quickly, and without nearly enough due diligence. Both were subsequently named in the CBC report "Corruption in Collingwood?", as being under investigation by the OPP.

I don't want that to happen with our airport, and believe that we need to encourage this council to take all the time they need, to finally do it right the first time.

When council went in-camera to discuss the airport at their last meeting, Councillor Kevin Lloyd publicly refused to participate. The rest of council (minus Mayor Cooper, who had to recuse herself as her brother Paul Bonwick is involved in the potential deal), spent an hour in-camera listening to critical legal information they needed to know, in order to make any further decisions.

I don't know why Kevin Lloyd felt that he didn't need to hear this information, but I have no doubt that he should have. It's in all of our best interests for councillors to have as much information as possible before they cast their votes.

Lloyd chose not to do this, yet when the rest of council came back to the table to vote, he felt that he knew all he needed to know, and cast the lone vote in favor of giving Mr. Bonwick his letter of intent.

Did he do his due diligence? I'll leave it up to you.

Steve Berman is a husband and father of two, and a municipal politics junkie. Feel free to contact him with questions, comments or concerns by emailing

-Original article can be found here:

Ice would have severe effect on air travel

WICHITA, Kan. - As passengers get set to fly out for the Thanksgiving holiday, a looming ice storm threatens travel. 

While freezing rain could mean delays and cancellations at Wichita's Eisenhower Airport, the airport said a shutdown is unlikely because it's a complicated decision with many parts. The airport authority said airlines can decide on their own not to fly based on their specific regulations. In addition, the airport itself can decide to close down certain runways based on icy conditions.

As for ice on the planes, the crews at YingLing Aviation say they're prepared. They do the same process for sleet and snow too.

"We are very prepared. We don't want any delays and we want everyone to get to grandma's for Thanksgiving," said Lonnie Vaughan, President of YingLing Aviation. "We have never run out of de-icing fluid."

YingLing is responsible for handling the de-icing and anti-icing of many airlines at Wichita's Airport. It is also the back up for airlines that have their own private companies. Vaughan said there are two kinds of chemicals used on airplanes depending on the conditions. One is for removing existing ice or frost from an airplane and the second is a thick, gel substance used to absorb moisture and keep ice from forming on the plane for a specific amount of time.

Vaughan said application depends on the person flying the plane. He said, "What we are responsible for is whatever the captain's orders are on the airlines and on general aviation on how he wants the aircraft cleaned for flight."

Vaughan said YingLing does advise pilots sometimes as well to make sure passengers are safe. But he said Wichita's airport is much simpler than a larger airport when it comes to de-icing.

"Our abilities to do de-icing and get the aircraft in the air is much greater versus if you go to say Chicago. You will mostly see those aircraft being de-iced at the end of the runway because typically you're sitting in line for 10 or 15 or 20 minutes," he said.

So why does de-icing matter so much to airplanes? Augusta Airport Manager Lloyd Partin said it's a huge deal if it's not addressed correctly. He said as a pilot, he knows firsthand.

"When you have ice adhere to the wings of an aircraft, it disrupts the lift on the airplane plus it adds weight and so when the aircraft gets too heavy, it takes a lot longer for it to take off, you need a longer runway," Partin said.

Partin added most airplanes leaving from Wichita's airport are larger jet engines and have some anti-ice technology on the plane.

"Jet aircraft are equipped with anti ice equipment on them. Typically the leading edges of the wings are heated from bleed air from the engines. Other heated surfaces, wind screens are heated so that the pilots can see out of the aircraft," he said.

Partin said he's predicting Wichita will not be a great place for air travel if this storm hits as predicted, and for a good reason. He said if a pilot encounters a situation where ice begins to stick to the plane, the pilot would not have too many options.

"You either have to land immediately, try to get to an area that's either warmer, that could be above or below depending on the temperature. Sometimes you can actually find warmer air up above. But in any case it turns into an emergency situation very quickly you either have to turn around or get out of there as quickly as you can," Partin said.

Usually, Partin said, pilots can get above the precipitation or get away from the storm. But they aren't in the clear if they have to land somewhere dealing with ice.

"In the case of freezing rain, there is no braking action and that's again, worst case scenario. You're landing on a runway that's iced over. You have no control over the airplane it's just like being in a vehicle on an icy road," he said.

Airports can put a chemical on the runway to help melt ice and there are different mechanisms used on the tarmacs to keep them active, but Partin said sometimes, the ice takes over and it's safer to shut parts of the airport down.

Story and video:

Supercomputers to propel Richard Sandberg’s jet engine research

Richard Sandberg.
Melbourne University researcher Richard Sandberg is hoping the three millenniums worth of research he plans to do in a single year will help develop cleaner and more environmentally friendly jet engines.

Professor Sandberg will use 100 million core computer hours on some of the world’s fastest computers to conduct research into the flow of gases in aircraft engine components such as low-pressure and high-pressure turbines.

He believes the use of supercomputers made possible by the US Department Of Energy’s INCITE program and Swiss supercomputing centre CSCS will allow him to make advances in turbine technology that is difficult to obtain with existing tools.

The machines are up to 50 times faster than those currently available in Australia. The researcher has estimated he would need 25 million hours, or 2845 years, to do the same work on a desktop or laptop computer.

The chair of computational mechanics at the Melbourne School of Engineering is working with US engine manufacturer General Electric on two projects.

“We’re looking at the turbine and trying to understand really the very detailed physics of the flow going through the turbine,’’ he said. “By learning what exactly happens, we can help the designers tweak these kinds of components to be more efficient.

“But the other aspect of the research is really also to develop better models from these data sets that we generate.’’

Professor Sandberg said it was impossible to spend 50 million hours of computing time on each iteration of the design process and the industry needed lower-order models that could do design work much faster. These tools would help produce the next generation of more efficient engines with fewer emissions.

“The current generation of the models that they use are good and calibrated for particular situations but as soon as you go off design they don’t really trust them any more and you can’t rely on them.

“What we want to do is really use those data bases that we’re generating with the high-fidelity approaches to improve the models that industry can use.’’

Work has already begun on the Swiss supercomputer and will start on the US system, the world’s second-biggest in terms of operations per second from January 1.

Some of the simulations will take weeks, or even months, despite being run on two of the world’s biggest computers.

Professor Sandberg said the two computers were similar in that they used graphics processing unit (GPU) accelerators in conjunction with central processing units (CPU) to give them their processing speed. The development of GPUs was driven by the computer games industry, but they are now being used to benefit other areas such as science.

The power of computers is continuing to increase and Professor Sandberg said today’s supercomputers could be readily available to engine designers in 10-15 years.

Professor Sandberg’s project will account for almost half Australia’s 2016 National Computational Merit Allocation Scheme allowance.


Incident occurred November 26, 2015 in Farmingdale, Long Island, Nassau County, New York

FARMINGDALE, Long Island (WABC) -- A blimp that flew over the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday morning was forced to land behind a Long Island school when wind directions changed and the pilot realized he would not make it back to Republic Airport.

The blimp landed behind the Woodward Parkway School in Farmingdale at around 9:45 a.m.

The pilot decided to make a controlled landing after winds changed direction and started blowing them off course.

The pilot determined that if they went any more off course, they would have run out of fuel, so he decided to land in an open space.

After determining his first choice of a school did not have enough open space, he picked the Woodward Parkway School, where he made a successful controlled landing.

Three people were on the blimp, the pilot and two others. No one was injured.

The blimp was hired by the Manhattan Institute as part of a multi media tour to promote the web site over the parade.

It had just finished three hours over the parade and was heading back to Republic Airport to refuel when the wind directions changed, threatening to blow the blimp off course.

Story and photos:

Alaska Airlines Admits Mineta San Jose International Airport (KSJC) Workers Played Games With Luggage

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – As many people travel to be with loved ones for Thanksgiving, a passenger at Mineta San Jose International Airport recorded video of workers playing a game, tossing baggage like bean bags.

The video shows what appears to be airline or airport workers playing some sort of a game. Luggage was tossed, for either distance or accuracy, as employees seemed to be cheering each other on.

An Alaska Airlines spokesperson told KPIX 5 that its employees were the ones tossing the baggage. The spokesperson said the luggage was a dummy bag, filled with magazines.

Alaska said it should not have happened, especially in view of passengers.

“This game should not have been played at the airport,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement Wednesday night. “The optics of this video are unfortunate and we apologize for any confusion this has caused San Jose travelers or Southwest Airlines.”

Chase Platon was flying from San Jose and shot the video before boarding a Southwest jet to the Midwest. He was angered by what he saw.

“I would be pretty mad, obviously I was a little concerned because I had just checked in my bag just earlier so I was a little peeved,” Platon told KPIX 5 via Facetime.

Platon said he immediately uploaded the video to Southwest Airline’s Facebook page with the message, “Um, Southwest, is this how you treat all our bags?

“You trust them with your bags, you trust them to get you where you need to go and you kind of just…you lose the trust,” Platon said.

Southwest messaged back saying the airline appreciates Platon sharing the video and promised to look into the incident.

The airline told KPIX 5 late Wednesday afternoon that Southwest employees were not involved. Southwest and Alaska share the same terminal at the airport.

Story and video:

JetBlue Shakes Up Pilot Hiring by Training Them From Scratch

JetBlue Airways Corp., breaking with historical practices at U.S. airlines, plans to recruit potential pilots with no flight experience and provide its own training under a proposal awaiting approval from federal regulators.

The program would be the first of its kind in the U.S. and would be similar to those used by some European and Asian carriers. Candidates still would have to meet U.S. requirements, including 1,500 hours of flight experience, to be certified as commercial airline pilots, JetBlue said.

JetBlue crafted its plan to gain access to a broader group of candidates, oversee their training from the start and expose them earlier to being part of a crew on large aircraft, said Doug McGraw, an airline spokesman. Dubbed Gateway 7, the initiative is being targeted for introduction on a trial basis in 2016 and will initially involve only a small percentage of recruits.

“The program is designed to accommodate prospective trainees with little-to-no aviation experience, but who pass a rigorous selection process,” McGraw said.

JetBlue is focused initially only on pilots for its 100-seat Embraer SA E190 jets. McGraw said that after the trial period, the airline will evaluate whether to extend the program, possibly to the larger Airbus Group SE aircraft that make up more than two-thirds of its 211-plane fleet. They carry at least 150 passengers.

Major U.S. carriers have long relied on bringing in pilots with the minimum flight hours, typically amassed in military aircraft or by working as a civilian instructor before snagging a regional-airline job. Either way, pilots would begin in small aircraft and gradually work up to faster, more-sophisticated multi-engine models.

Simulator Time

JetBlue’s approach is known as ab initio -- Latin for “from the beginning.” One point of emphasis: More time in simulators for exposure to scenarios involving bad weather and mechanical failures. Recruits also would take academic classes at JetBlue before moving to a partner company to gain the required 1,500 hours of flying time. They then would return to New York-based JetBlue, or could apply at another airline.

“We’re opposed to it,” said Captain Jim Bigham, chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association union at JetBlue. “We think there are thousands of pilots available that have higher qualifications right now than any pilot coming out of an ab initio program.”

The program is being reviewed by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, McGraw said. The FAA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gateway 7 is similar to a so-called multicrew pilot license introduced several years ago by the International Civil Aviation Organization and since adopted by airlines including Germany’s Deutsche Lufthansa AG and the U.K.’s EasyJet Plc. Pilots in that system start training in multiperson cockpits in simulators instead of gaining their first experience in small, single-engine planes.

JetBlue plans to begin accepting applications in the first quarter and to open training in mid-2016. Successful trainees would join the airline as first officers in 2020. Gateway 7 will consider applicants with no prior training as well as those with flight experience, McGraw said. Prospective pilots would pay for their own training.

“We can assess early whether someone would make a great JetBlue pilot and get them on the path,” McGraw said.

The program isn’t a response to a potential pilot shortage, McGraw said. JetBlue, the fifth-largest U.S. airline, receives thousands of candidates for pilot positions and expects that to continue. Rather, Gateway 7 will supplement six existing recruiting efforts at the airline, he said.


PrecisionHawk: US testing an 'air traffic control system' for drones

Installed in a drone, the software sends the location, altitude and speed of the drone to a centralized control that can divert drones away from each other, or from public buildings. 

The Guardian has gained access to the first tests of an experimental air traffic control system for drones that could open the skies to millions of low-flying unmanned aircraft.

On an isolated cattle ranch in rural North Carolina – and under the watchful eye of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – drone startup PrecisionHawk is putting experimental drones in the air alongside paragliders. 

This is the first time that human pilots have officially shared US airspace with commercial drones.

“Building technology that enables drones to fly reliably and to stay away from airports and other flying objects is stupidly difficult,” says Bob Young, CEO of PrecisionHawk. “But safety is critically important. Without safety, you don’t fly, period.”

If only that were true. The FAA is panicking, just a little bit, about the rapid increase in the number and capability of drones now available to the general public. Drone sightings by pilots in 2015 are set to triple or even quadruple from last year. The FAA estimates that 700,000 more quadcopters will be sold to Americans in the run up to Christmas, prompting a last-minute drone registration program.

Meanwhile, Google, Amazon and Facebook are developing fleets of drones to deliver packages or provide internet service from the sky. Photographers, farmers and utility companies are also pressuring the FAA to allow unmanned aircraft for their businesses. If all these drones are to flit about the cities and countryside without colliding or bumping into manned aircraft, they will need a way to automatically avoid one another.

Millions of drones to come 

The existing air traffic control system, which relies on a few, powerful radars, simply won’t work. Not only are the smallest drones almost impossible to detect, radar does not work well at low altitudes, where its signals are obscured by hills and buildings. Besides, any system of human operators could not possibly scale to accommodate the millions of drones expected in years to come.

That’s where PrecisionHawk’s Latas technology comes in, says Young. Latas, which stands for Low Altitude Traffic and Airspace Safety, is a digital air traffic control system for drones. Instead of a central radar station detecting everything in the air, each Latas-equipped aircraft reports its location, altitude, heading and speed to software in the cloud, which then automatically warns nearby drones to avoid it.

“One of our bright young engineers suggested using the text messaging system on cellphone towers,” says Young. A drone could send up to 40 SMS text messages every second, detailing its progress through the air. “It actually worked beautifully, even on primitive 2G networks that can barely maintain a voice call any more.”

However, once PrecisionHawk started working with wireless provider Verizon, which has been working on drone navigation for some time, it realised that using 4G LTE wireless data made more sense. Not only can 4G be used to send flight data to and from the cloud, Latas could also triangulate signals from multiple towers to improve the accuracy of a drone’s location from GPS.

But what about drones surveying remote fields or filming surfers far from a mobile phone tower? “The trick is redundancy,” says Young. If there’s no phone signal, Latas can switch seamlessly to the Iridium satellite phone network, available virtually worldwide. It even incorporates ADS-B broadcasts, radio signals transmitted today by manned aircraft to reduce the chance of collisions far from traditional air traffic controls.

One big problem for a networked system like Latas is that it can only avoid all accidents if every flying machine is using it. Realistically, that would mean the FAA mandating its use. It’s a question that Young doesn’t have a good answer to at the moment, except to say, “The FAA would much rather regulate around solutions that the industry brings to it than having to pick winners. We are working extremely hard to help the industry move forward as quickly as we can.”

To that end, PrecisionHawk is starting to ramp up Latas for mass manufacture. At launch, Young expects the system to range in price from a few hundred dollars for 4G chips in hobbyist drones to perhaps a few thousand for Iridium and ADS-B equipped devices. Before it can ever take to the skies, however, Latas needs testing.

‘Geofencing’ protects buildings from drones

Peering up into the stormy skies of North Carolina on an unseasonably warm November afternoon, high above me is PrecisionHawk’s Lancaster drone (“the ugliest drone in the world” admits Young) flying back and forth with a Latas chip on board, automatically surveying the muddy fields around me.

PrecisionHawk’s main business is providing data expertise to agricultural drone operators: sensors, algorithms and analysis to turn endless gigabytes of crop photos into actionable intelligence. This cornfield might need more water, perhaps, or that orchard could be suffering from a pest that needs tackling immediately.

Senior engineer Ricardo Rodriguez is sitting in front of a laptop beneath a flimsy awning. On his screen, a webpage shows the Latas interface. The Lancaster drone is at the centre of the map, with two ghostly plane icons indicating commercial jets flying far above us and to the west. Rodriguez then zooms in and sets up a virtual “geofence” around one corner of the cow field.

When the drone flies into it, Rodriguez instantly receives a text message on his phone (and on his Pebble smartwatch) alerting him to change course. Permanent geofences will be programmed into Latas to protect airfields and government buildings, and the system will also surround every aircraft with its own dynamic geofence.

“For safety, the geofence will be much bigger than the size of the vehicle, maybe 20 metres or 30 metres in diameter,” says Rodriguez. “Although if you’re flying with your friends, you may want to get closer.” PrecisionHawk hopes that Latas will be as much a social network as a safety net, with the ability to “friend” other drones in the vicinity and subscribe to their live video feeds.

When it’s not conducting programmed aerial surveys, the Lancaster drone is piloted manually by an operator sitting at another laptop. He can take control of the propeller-driven aircraft at any moment and especially during takeoff and landing. In the future, however, drones will be expected to look after themselves for hours at a time, avoiding other aircraft as they deliver parcels or scan roads for speeding motorists.

“Testing the Lancaster with an autopilot is the next big thing,” says Rodriguez. “I’m looking forward to surprising it and seeing how it reacts, to see it take control.”

That day is not far off. In fact, PrecisionHawk is laying the groundwork for it today, with a pioneering test involving a paraglider and a drone in the air simultaneously.

‘If drones came at me, I’d kick them out of the sky’

Brian Goff is a professional paraglider pilot who has worked on nature documentaries and with the US military. He brushes off concerns about sharing airspace with the Lancaster. “I couldn’t care less about that thing,” he tells me as he slips a portable Latas transceiver, about the size of a mobile phone, into a pocket of his flight suit. “If these little ones came at me, I’d just kick them out of the sky.”

The test today, which is part of the FAA’s Pathfinder program to explore the future of drone operation, is to see how long it will take the Lancaster’s operator to spot Brian as he flies over the horizon towards the drone. A paraglider has roughly the same visual and sonic footprint as a light aircraft, but is much cheaper and more flexible for testing. “It’s like a relatively complicated game of hide and seek in the air,” says Rodriguez.

Goff fires up his paraglider engine, runs, leaps and roars into the sky, swooping around the pasture as he circles higher and higher. The PrecisionHawk team ready the Lancaster for another takeoff, then suddenly fall silent. The FAA requires three miles of visibility to operate the drone, and an approaching storm has just broached this meteorological geofence.

But the tests will continue here all week. A subsequent phase in the spring will involve putting the drone and paraglider much closer together, and seeing whether Latas can reduce the time it takes for the human drone pilot to respond to an aerial intruder. Ultimately, of course, PrecisionHawk wants Latas to control the drone directly.

Meanwhile, Goff continues to circle far above us, either waiting for the storm to shift track or just enjoying his time aloft. Although his engine is clearly audible, it is surprisingly tricky to pick out the narrow paraglider wing from the clouds gathering behind him. “Even a really good human observer can’t accurately describe the position, heading and speed of an incoming aircraft,” says Rodriguez. “But Latas can.”

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Incident occurred November 24, 2015 at Saskatoon International Airport, Canada

A STARS air ambulance had to make a precautionary landing at the Saskatoon airport this week, after pilots reported a possible bird strike.

According to a Transport Canada report, the helicopter was about 50 kilometres from the city, returning from a cancelled emergency call on Tuesday, when the flight crew heard a thud.

After that happened, the crew started feeling a small vibration in the aircraft.

The pilots could not confirm if they had struck a bird or something else had happened, but decided to make a precautionary landing at Saskatoon International Airport.

After landing, one of the main rotor blades was found to be damaged. 

No emergency was declared, and pilots didn't have any problem controlling the helicopter.

STARS' maintenance crews and the manufacturer of the helicopter are now investigating the incident.

In August, an Air Canada jet hit several birds as it was landing in Saskatoon.

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Airbus vs. Boeing in China: Will C919 Be Able To Catch Them?

China is expected to surpass the US to become the world’s biggest aviation market in terms of passengers turnover by the end of 2035. In expanding regions, China currently holds the top position in Air transport growth.

The country’s growing middle class also acts as a key driver to China’s air traffic growth. 

This has led to the high demand of passenger planes commonly known as Single-Aisle aircraft.

To cater to the huge Chinese demand, the world’s two biggest plane makers, Boeing Co. and Airbus Group compete toe to toe with each other. 

The deal is all about who grabs the highest market share and receives more orders. 

China’s growing fleet market has opened up tremendous opportunities of growth for both Airbus, and Boeing. 

The country’s aviation market has grown significantly both in terms of quality and quantity. 

The increasing demand for new aircraft is largely driven by low cost carriers (LCCs).  LCCs have been a major success in this region and have inserted significant growth in air traffic. They made travelling easy and affordable for larger part of the population. European and the US plane makers also benefited from the higher LLCs demand. Similarly, the Chinese government’s decision to ease up the visa polices also boosted the country’s air traffic growth. 

Recently, the government decided to ease travel restrictions that uplifted China’s air traffic rate. This also means that there is a need for new passenger planes, and Airbus and Boeing will take the responsibility for it. In the recent past, the world’s second largest economy faces a persistent slowdown in its economic growth; however, there is no decrease in the country’s domestic traffic, regional traffic, and amazingly a momentous increase in the international traffic. China is important to both Boeing and Airbus due to its high demand for planes. Both the companies want to fully make use of potential Chinese aircraft market. Thus, a fierce competition is imminent.

Airbus in China

Airbus started its operations in China in 1984. In 1985, it delivered its A310 aircraft to a local China Eastern Airline. Since then, the leading European plane maker has seen tremendous growth in the country. Currently, Airbus holds 50% of China’s aircraft market. As of July 2015, the company had over 1,150 planes in operations with Chinese airlines. Recently, the leading aircraft maker also decided to increase its A320 production rate by 43% to 60 planes per month from a previous figure of 42. 

Likewise, the company has also extended its partnership with its Chinese partner to 2025. In this time, it is expected that the company will speed up its A320neo plane production and deliveries. The A320neo is an upgraded version of A320 including a new generation engine, which is expected to provide 15% fuel savings. It has also built a finishing facility in China, which is operating effectively. The giant European plane maker also enjoys healthy relationship with its Chinese manufacturers. Airbus and Chinese aviation industry’s cooperation’s total value is expected to be around $500 million in the fiscal year 2015. Airbus 3QFY15 financial results also showed significant improvement. It reported a 6% year-over-year (YoY) in its operating revenue. The company’s total net orders also increased 13% quarter over quarter (QoQ). Moreover, its commercial aircraft segment also saw an increase of 7% YoY.

Boeing in China

Boeing has been operating in China for more than 40 years. Today, it holds more than 50% of commercial jetliners functioning in the country. Recently, the leading US plane maker is also in talks with the Chinese government for a deal of 6,330 aircrafts worth $1 billion. The company sees China as a huge potential market, which would drive growth in its aircrafts sales. To cater the growing needs of planes in the country it is also planning to increase its 737 passenger planes to 52 planes per month by the end of 2018. As of now, the company sells one in every three produced 737 in China. 

The company also estimates that China will need around 7,120 airplanes worth $1 trillion by the end of 2035. In this period, it also expects China’s passenger traffic to grow at a rate of 7% annually. The company also plans to introduce its first manufacturing facility in the country to a higher demand of its 737 Single-Aisle planes. In the next two years, the company is expected to deliver around 40% of its planes to China. Boeing is also determined to assist Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC) in restructuring the country’s aviation sector, improving business practices, and bringing efficiency in its supply chain management. Boeing also reported robust 3QFY15 earnings. Its quarterly profits rose by 24.5%. Likewise, the company’s revenue inclined 8.6% QoQ. Similarly, the company’s commercial aircraft deliveries also saw an increase of 7.5% YoY.

Introduction of C919 Home Grown Passenger Jet

Despite their dominance in the Chinese aviation industry, Boeing and Airbus are expected to face tough competition from the home grown C919 passenger jet. Manufactured by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), the locally produced passenger plane is expected to contest with the leading foreign plane makers in the long run. The twin engine C919 aircraft can fly as high as 3,451 miles and has a capacity of 178 passengers. The introduction of C919 aircraft will provide stability to the local aircraft market and may help in reviving economic growth. COMAC has already received around 517 orders for the aircraft from 21 buyers. The home grown jet also receives unlimited amount of government support and substantial amount of funding, which the foreign plane makers don’t get to enjoy much. China’s aircraft market is mostly dominated by foreign companies. However, the multi-billion dollar project may test the foreign dominance in a decade or two. The country is also expected to add around 6,330 aircraft worth $960 billion to its passenger fleets. The maiden flight for locally produced C919 has been scheduled for next year. COMAC also confirmed that its wide body C929 has also entered R&D stage. It will be able to carry around 300 passengers and is expected to give tough competition to Boeing’s 777 wide body jets in the next 10 to 15 years. The attempt to carry out the local production may improve country’s overall revenue growth; however, it will take a significant amount of time to challenge Boeing’s 737 and Airbus' A320 Single-Aisle supremacy in the country.

Future Outlook

As reported by Airbus Global Market Forecast, by 2034, the people of China will be flying as much as Europeans today. It further illustrates that domestic China will be the largest flow in the next 20 years and is expected to grow nearly four times. Moreover, according to CLSA Asia-Pacific market report by the end of 2020, the number of Chinese tourists is expected to reach 200 million, primarily due to increase in income. All these estimates provide greater growth opportunity for the leading aircraft makers, but potential long term risk may follow. The introduction of C919 passenger jets and additional supply chain pressure due to higher demand may hurt the companies’ bright perspectives.


Incident occurred November 25, 2015 at Sacramento International Airport (KSMF), California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) —A flight from Sacramento was forced to turn around Wednesday soon after takeoff after one of its engines was damaged during a bird strike, according to Sacramento International Airport officials.

United Airlines Flight 2005, which had with 114 people onboard, was leaving the Sacramento International Airport about 5:45 p.m. bound for Denver.

Soon after takeoff, the bird strike forced the plane to return to Sacramento. It landed about 6:30 p.m., officials said.

"All of a sudden, we heard this noise, which I've never heard and a terrible smell and on the right engine, there were flames," said passenger Debbie Delfer.

Six-year-old Owen Naqica was seated at a window seat next to the engine.

"I saw the bird coming next to the engine, and then the bird came in and then when the bird went in, there was an explosion, and I saw it and I heard it," Owen said. "Well, I was worried, but I didn't scream or anything. I was just like, I want to get off this plane right now."

No injuries were reported.

The airplane was taken out of commission to make repairs on the engine.

All passengers had to re-book their flights for Thursday morning.

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Incident occurred November 25, 2015 near Dallas Love Field Airport (KDAL), Texas

For at least the 15th time this month, the Federal Aviation Administration reported a laser strike on an aircraft above North Texas.

In the latest incident, a Southwest Airlines pilot saw a green laser coming from the ground about three miles northwest of Dallas Love Field at about 6:16 p.m. Wednesday, the FAA said.

There were no injuries.

On Sunday, the FAA reported eight other laser strikes, including seven on Southwest Airlines planes. One of the pilots in those incidents reported an eye injury as a result of the laser strike.

Earlier this month, pilots flying into Love Field reported six strikes in two nights, three each on Nov. 11 and 12.

Police have been searching for the person or people responsible for the laser strikes. So far, no one has been arrested.

Targeting planes with a laser is a federal offense.

Earlier this year, two men were sentenced to prison for pointing lasers at Texas Department of Public Safety helicopters.

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Safety concerns raised over island flights

Alistair Carmichael MP, Tavish Scott MSP and Liam McArthur MSP sought clarity on safety measures in relation to lifeline air links servicing their island communities.

In recent weeks, both in the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament, all three Northern Isles parliamentarians have raised the concerns of islanders about problems affecting air services to and from Orkney and Shetland.

There has been a number of delays and emergency landings by the Loganair flights.

An emergency landing took place at Glasgow Airport on November 19 due to a technical issue. No passengers were aboard at the time.

Another emergency landing took place at Aberdeen airport on November 10. The aircraft was travelling from Glasgow to Sumburgh with 13 people on board when one of its engines was shut down by the pilot following a cautionary warning. No one was hurt.

In a joint statement, Mr Carmichael, Mr Scott and Mr McArthur said: “This was a useful discussion with senior representatives of the CAA. It enabled us to relay some of the concerns that are being expressed by our constituents and to seek assurances that these are taken seriously by the airline and the regulator.

“Loganair has acknowledged that improving reliability of their services is an absolute priority. In the meantime, we remain determined to keep representing the interests and views of our constituents, who depend on these lifeline services.”

A CAA spokesman said: “Aviation safety is our top priority and we ensure all UK registered airlines meet strict European safety standards.

“We work closely with Loganair and all other UK airlines on a continual basis, to provide safety oversight and advice. We can confirm that Loganair meets these European safety requirements.”

A Loganair spokesman said: “As we have said on many previous occasions, the safety of our staff and customers is and always will be the airline’s number one priority and we’re pleased that the CAA has once again confirmed Loganair meets European safety requirements, deemed in the aviation industry to be some the most rigorous standards worldwide.

“Everyone at the airline is focused on the job in hand – to return punctuality on our services to a level Loganair customers expect.

“A range of measures, including the recent recruitment and training of skilled engineers, have been introduced to ensure this is the case.”


Calgary Airport Authority to roll out quieter flight take-offs and landings

Fine-tuned flight paths meant to lower the decibels of incoming airliners over Calgary are being rolled out to Calgarians.

Following thousands of noise complaints since the opening of a new runway in June 2014, the Calgary Airport Authority is hoping a GPS-based approach to arrivals will ground those concerns, said spokeswoman Jody Moseley.

“GPS is very precise. (The plane) glides in instead of using engines to thrust,” she said of the process called Required Navigation Performance (RNP). “It means aircraft come in quieter and arrive quicker.”

The authority and Nav Canada will explain RNP at a series of information and feedback sessions in December and January in Calgary and Airdrie.

During the new runway’s first eight months of operation, the airport received about 1,500 noise complaints, calls which are still being made, said Moseley.

But while the authority takes the concerns seriously, she said 85% of the calls come from 25 people.

“One called well over 3,000 times, another 2,000 times,” she said.

The airport’s goal is to have 25% of incoming flights use RNP, an approach already used by Calgary-based WestJet, said Moseley.

It could shave 18 to 20 km and three to four minutes off a flight and reduce greenhouse gas emissions annually by 6,000 tonnes.

Given the airport’s importance, fine-tuning aircraft landings is crucial to the city, said Moseley.

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