Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Turnaround: After jet lands, a sprint to prepare for next flight begins - for good reason

LOS ANGELES - American Airlines Flight 998 from Orlando, Fla., landed at Los Angeles International Airport at 8:19 a.m. on a cloudy Tuesday morning, carrying 181 passengers.

The minute the A321 jet reached the gate, teams of workers swarmed the plane with the precision of a marching band. For good reason.

In less than 80 minutes, the ground crew had to unload the passengers and their luggage, as well as cargo and mail, pump in 36,000 pounds of fuel, clean the plane, bring in a new flight crew and load 179 passengers for a return flight to Orlando.

In aviation terms, this is called "the turnaround," and performing it quickly is crucial to the profitability of an airline. The adage "time is money" applies. The longer a plane sits at a gate, the fewer money-making routes it can fly.

"Everyone who touches that plane has to be synced," said James Moses, American Airlines' managing director at LAX.

But if airlines try to shrink the turnaround time too much, there is no room for errors and departure times are missed, drawing the ire of travelers.

A 2010 Federal Aviation Administration study found that delays cost the U.S. economy $32.9 billion a year, with about half of the cost borne by airline passengers because of missed connections and added lodging and food expenses.

Three years ago, Southwest Airlines tried to pack too many flights in the most popular takeoff times, but the tactic backfired and the carrier's on-time performance dropped by 11 percentage points.

Southwest adjusted its turnaround time and has since improved its on-time performance to 85 percent, on par with its competitors.

A quick turnaround is so important - and employee performance so pivotal - that American Airlines has adopted an incentive program: If American Airlines ranks higher than its competitors in three key on-time categories, all 113,000 employees get $150 each.

Weather, air traffic control problems and late arriving flights account for about two-thirds of all flight delays, but factors within an airline's control, such as maintenance problems, baggage loading delays and fueling snags, account for the rest, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The pressure especially builds during the holidays when airlines add up to 40 percent more flights per day than during slower times of the year.

For American Airlines, the busiest carrier at LAX, that means a daily schedule of up to 225 flights during the crush of the holiday season.

The nerve center of the airline's LAX operations is its control center on the fifth floor of Terminal 4. Resembling an air traffic control tower, with massive windows overlooking the gates used by American's planes, it's where the turnaround of Flight 998 could be tracked by the minute, as follows:

8:19 a.m.

Once the flight from Orlando lands, the dozen or so dispatchers in the control center direct the plane to Gate 45 in Terminal 4. The crew members at the control center speak with the pilots and the flight attendants to see if there were any mechanical issues that needed to be fixed before the plane gets back on the runway.

A number of smaller glitches, such as a torn seat or a broken toilet seat, can be set aside for repairs until the plane gets a longer overnight stop. A bigger problem that risks the safety of the plane, often called a "no-go," such as damage to the fuselage, will ground a plane.

But Flight 998 is free of any no-gos.

8:35 a.m.

The plane pulls into Gate 45, 16 minutes ahead of schedule.

8:41 a.m.

Outside the cabin, near the tail of the plane, Robert Williams, a 27-year veteran of American Airlines, directs his crew of two men and two women to unload about 5,000 pounds of luggage, cargo and mail.

The job has become more difficult in the last few years since airlines began to charge checked baggage fees. Travelers are now cramming more belongings into each bag to try to avoid the fees for extra bags. As a result, Williams said luggage that once weighed an average of 25 pounds now weighs 35 pounds.

The toughest job on the crew is the "loader," the worker who climbs into the cargo hold to haul the luggage onto the belt that carries the bags down to a luggage trolley. The cargo hold is only about 4 feet tall, so the loader must either crouch or kneel to lift the luggage onto the conveyer belt.

"Nobody can tell you the best way to load luggage on your knees," said Williams, over the din of jet engines.

A few yards away, the fueling agent heaves a fuel nozzle to the plane's tank and starts pumping about 36,000 pounds of jet fuel. It's a task that will take about 20 minutes.

8:55 a.m.

Inside the cabin, the last passenger exits and a crew of four cabin cleaners begin to vacuum the carpet, pick up the trash from the floors, wipe down the tray tables and clean the three bathrooms.

9:03 a.m.

Now, cleanup crew must make way for Mike O'Connell and his two workers from the catering company, Gate Gourmet, who enter the plane from the back of the cabin. The catering workers roll carts, filled with prepackaged meals, down the narrow aisles, trying to avoid the cabin cleaners.

"We are always trying to work around each other," said Fay Mase, the operations manager for the cleaning crew.

Both crews have less than 20 minutes to complete their tasks, hoping to avoid any glitches that could delay the flight.

But both crews complete their individual tasks on time, without a glitch.

9:18 a.m.

In the front of the cabin, the plane's captain calls a security meeting with his flight crew. The captain and the flight attendants have never worked together before. The captain discusses what procedures the flight attendants should take if a pilot calls for a cup of coffee or wants to leave the cockpit to use the bathroom.

9:26 a.m.

The passengers are ready to board the plane, now designated Flight 2381 to Orlando. So far, the turnaround is on schedule. But Alice Perez, the customer care manager at Gate 45, notices a few problems that could slow the boarding time.

Many of the passengers in line at the gate are making phone calls or listening to music on their cellphones. That could slow the queue when the passengers need to flash the boarding passes downloaded on those same smartphones, she worries.

9:42 a.m.

With 23 minutes until takeoff, the final boarding call goes out. Down below, the cargo hold is closed and a tug, the vehicle that pulls the plane away from the gate, moves into place.

9:55 a.m.

With 10 minutes until takeoff, the crew begins to close the cabin doors. Mario Castillo, the American Airlines agent at Gate 45, checks his computer screen and notices that two passengers have yet to check in.

If 20 or 25 passengers were unaccounted for, Castillo said he would call the control center to see if a connecting flight was delayed. But with only two passengers missing, the crew closes the doors and the plane pulls away from the gate.

9:59 a.m.

Suddenly, a catering worker rolls up to the gate with two food carts. Perez and Castillo give each other an anxious look.

Will they have to stop the plane to haul in the carts, delaying the flight?

Don't worry, the catering worker tells them, the food cart is for the next flight scheduled at that gate.

10:05 a.m.

The jet pulls away from the gate on time.

10:14 a.m.

The plane lifts off to the west, disappearing into a bank of clouds.


Crumbling runway repaired on Air Force auxiliary airfield near Orangeburg

Charleston Air Force Base crewmen now have a safer place to train in Orangeburg County.

Work crews recently repaired the deteriorating, 3,500-foot runway at the North Auxiliary Airfield, a flight training facility often used by Joint Base Charleston airmen.

The crumbling pavement, originally constructed of asphalt, created an increased risk of foreign objects damaging airplanes and equipment.

Workmen repurposed about 21,000 tons of asphalt from the old runway as the foundation below the new concrete.

"Concrete is much stronger and will provide an improved platform for the C-17s to train on," said Rob Crossland, a pavements engineer with the 628th Civil Engineering Squadron.

He said over time the two layers of asphalt separated on the landing zone and deteriorated to the point they posed a risk to aircraft.

"What's crucial about Northfield is we train there every day and night," said Nathaniel Watts, airfield manager with the 437th Operations Support Squadron. "Northfield is strictly for training. We drop cargo and have a landing zone to simulate being down range."

The airfield's runway, much shorter than the one at Charleston International Airport where the squadron's C-17 cargo fleet is based, helps to train pilots to land in austere locations with unfinished or shorter airstrips.

Assault landings require aircraft to touch down on a runway within 500 feet and come to a complete stop on the remaining 3,000 feet. The purpose is to land in a small zone quickly.

"Imagine we are in a war zone somewhere, and there are limited resources available to build a runway," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Caleb Morris, a pilot with the 14th Airlift Squadron. "Say the Army needs troops, equipment or a tank immediately and in a very small space. They can give us a call here at Charleston."

He added, "In the real world we want to have the skills and the confidence to land the aircraft, with any cargo, in a very small, precise space. That is why we practice."

The Air Force can simulate similar training on a full-size runway by marking the abridged distance with chalk, but Morris said it's not the same as using a 3,500-foot runway.

The construction project included 66,000 linear feet of wire, a new runway lighting system and more than 36,000 square yards of asphalt shoulder to the landing zone. The repair project included the 628th Contracting Squadron and the 628th Civil Engineering Squadron.

"This runway is vital to our training, and we're excited to have our assault strip fully operational again," said U.S. Air Force Col. Jimmy Canlas, 437th Airlift Wing commander. "The assets here at North Auxiliary Airfield are an essential part of keeping our air crews ready to provide safe, precise and reliable rapid global mobility in a moment's notice."

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Amelia Earhart Airport (K59), Atchison County, Kansas

Muriel, the sister plane to one flown by Amelia Earhart, now has a sibling at Atchison, Kansas' airport.

Amelia Earhart Airport soon will begin offering flying lessons in its recently purchased Piper Warrior II, reviving a service that’s been absent from the airport for two decades.

Bethany Root, the airport’s fixed base operator, has kept busy recently organizing training sessions, searching for a flight instructor and a plane in which aspiring pilots can take to the sky. With a plane secured, Root expects to begin offering ground training in February.

Learning to fly, Root said, takes confidence, determination and self-motivation, but it is not as intimidating as it might sound.

“You’d be surprised,” she said. “All of a sudden, it clicks, and you’re ready to go.”

The plane to be used for flight training is a clean, single-engine Piper Warrior II. It has four seats, can fly at a speed of 130 mph and has a range of about 500 miles. It is currently available to rent, but the Piper’s primary purpose will be to serve as a training plane for newbie flyers.

It’s a service that hasn't been offered at the airport since the 1990s, according to Root. As FBO for Amelia Earhart Airport, Root’s goal and her job, she said, is to make the airport a destination and hotbed for aviation activity. A big, first step in that direction is embodied by the Piper.

The search for a certified flight instructor is ongoing, but ground training classes are set to commence in February. At ground training, novice and experienced pilots alike will gather at the airport for courses on practical flying topics, including one on flight controls.

The general focus of ground training will be on earning a private pilot’s license. One of the best ways to learn to fly is to hear from experienced pilots, Root said.

Those interested should watch for a schedule of classes to be posted online through the city of Atchison and Atchison Area Chamber of Commerce websites and Facebook pages.

Root said there already is a list of people waiting to get started.

Some might choose to learn to fly for recreation, but Root also stressed the “huge demand” to fill jobs in aviation. Flight schools are packed right now, she said, and highlighted the cost advantage of earning a private pilot’s license in Atchison, totaling around $6,500.


Incident occurred January 01, 2017 in New Braunfels, Texas

An ultralight aircraft crashed into a home in New Braunfels on Sunday, causing a power outage but no injuries to the pilot or the occupants of the home.

New Braunfels Police received a call about 11:30 a.m. Sunday that a small aircraft had crashed into a house in the 1600 block of Wald Road.

Officers arriving at the scene determined that the pilot, a 67-year old Converse man whose name has not been released, was flying a single-seat ultralight aircraft when the plane lost power.

Police say the pilot tried to land in a vacant field behind the home on Wald Road. But the plane flipped over after clipping some power lines, authorities said, causing it to come to rest on the roof of a carport attached to the home.

The pilot and the four adults inside the home were not injured, police said.

The New Braunfels Fire Department quickly contained a small fuel leak from the aircraft. The city’s utility department restored power to the area.

The Texas Department of Public Safety and the Federal Aviation Administration will conduct the investigation.


LETTER: Time to limit agencies to their authorized purposes

For brain surgery, would you prefer surgeons who graduated from medical schools that selected students according to diversity and inclusiveness, or instead, surgeons previously accepted to medical schools according to highest competency and examination scores?

What about air safety?

From 1995 until 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration worked with universities and colleges, verifying highest qualifying applicants would receive priority for accredited degree programs at Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) schools, according to lawyer William Perry Pendley of the Mountain States Legal Foundation.

The Federal Aviation Administration gave preference to veterans and candidates securing references from CTI administrators awarding “well-qualified” placement on the Air Traffic Selection and Training exam (AT-SAT), a “proctored eight-hour computer-based” test, Pendley said in a MSLF news release.

In 2013, Federal Aviation Administration Administer Michael Huerta, bent on a more diverse and inclusive workplace, began social engineering.

Huerta presented an analysis identifying women and minorities as underrepresented in the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Federal Aviation Administration invalidated and discarded scores of at least 2,000 trained, qualified veterans and CTI graduates, Pendley said.

According to Pendley, the Federal Aviation Administration required these candidates to pass a nonvalidated and nonmonitored biographical questionnaire, retake the AT-SAT, then reapply at the end of the line.

Andrew Brigida, holding two Arizona State University aviation bachelor degrees and a 100 percent Federal Aviation Administration ATC aptitude test score is one rejected candidate, Pendley said.

Currently, using biographical questionnaires, the Federal Aviation Administration may hire half of applicants (many struggling with English competency and dropping out) according to race.

During last fall’s Convention of States simulation, state representatives passed an amendment restraining federal regulatory authority.

Such an amendment could limit agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration to their authorized purpose.

Susan Shotthafer,

Port Angeles

Shotthafer is a member of the Port Angeles School Board.


New year ushers in more change for Charleston International Airport

The maze of temporary walls has disappeared at Charleston International Airport. So have the construction workers, orange barrels and the celebration marking the completion of the 31-year-old terminal's $200 million makeover.

But that was last year. The new year promises to bring a whole new array of transformation to the state's largest airport. The mix includes a change at the top, more construction and a possible resolution to a long-stewing lawsuit.

Chief among the changes is the search for a new CEO. Paul Campbell, 70, who piloted the Charleston County Aviation Authority through almost all of the four-year construction overhaul, is stepping down, most likely by the spring.

The state senator and former Alcoa executive announced last summer he would leave by the end of December, but the Aviation Authority board asked him to stay on until financing is secured for the airport's next big project: more parking. Campbell has agreed, and the oversight panel has expanded its search for a new CEO.

By the spring, the board hopes to have financing in place to pay for a second parking deck at the airport. More parking is needed because the number of passengers continues to swell, growing from 2 million arriving and departing in 2010 to an expected 3.8 million in 2016.

The board wants Campbell to remain as CEO to present stability in the organization to the bond markets so it can get a better rate on its debt.

Aviation Authority member Walter Hundley, a lawyer and former state senator heading the airport panel that oversees parking, said it's important that Campbell stay at the helm until financing for the parking deck is secured.

"I think it would be good for the Authority to have the stable leadership that we have so far with Director Campbell," Hundley said. "Right now, things are coming along smoothly, and we don't have any major blowups."

Campbell was tapped to lead the organization in 2013 when longtime director Sue Stevens abruptly resigned over a simmering dispute with the board. Her departure came just as the agency was about to vote on financing to pay for the airport terminal overhaul, throwing uncertainty in the mix at a crucial stage of the operation. 

Hundley said Campbell brought stability to the agency at the moment it was needed, helping to secure a better bond rate.

The new parking deck is expected to cost about $80 million, but no hard figure has been established, Campbell said.

Construction could start by mid-year, forcing airport officials to push surface parking to outlying lots for 15 to 20 months and creating a challenge during heavy travel periods such as the holidays.

"We have to make sure we take care of parking while we are building the deck," Campbell said. "We will just have to shuttle people from the outlying lots."

The board also may consider expanding the airline ticket hall into what is now the Aviation Authority's staff parking lot. More ticket counter space is needed to make way for more airlines if they choose to select Charleston as part of their service market.

Campbell said the two projects will be treated separately because of financing, but construction most likely will overlap.

"We will get the parking deck started and then in early 2018 look at expanding the ticket counter space, but we could start that in late 2017," Campbell said.

The new parking deck will be paid for through revenue bonds, tagging them to earnings produced from those who use the garage. The expansion of the airline ticket hall could involve federal and airport funds, Campbell said.

Also on the agenda next year is likely the beginning of construction for the new $40 million airport access road, according to Campbell.

The new entrance to the airport will come off Interstate 526 near the juncture of Montague Avenue and proceed next to a power line between Boeing Co.'s property and two housing communities in North Charleston off Dorchester Road. It will cross over the existing Michaux Parkway before tying into the existing loop in front of the airport terminal.

When the project is completed in about three years, Campbell said the existing International Boulevard would no longer be accessible to the airport or as a cut-through to Michaux Parkway.

Also looming for the Aviation Authority is a lingering lawsuit involving a former employee and a trial scheduled for late spring.

Former longtime airport spokeswoman Becky Beaman sued the Airport District in early 2015 after she was fired in November 2014 for insubordination.

Beaman is suing the airport district and some of its present and former employees for defamation, unpaid retirement benefits, civil conspiracy and negligent supervision. As part of her suit, Beaman claims her co-workers plotted to have her fired so they could carve up her salary for themselves. 

A judge in November squashed a motion to dismiss the claim of negligent supervision. Airport officials and employees deny all of Beaman's claims.

The trial threatens to expose the intimate inner workings of the agency that oversees air travel in the Charleston area since it includes allegations of adultery and delves into employee's working relationships.

It's scheduled for May 22, if the case is not dismissed or settled out of court before then.

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Logan International Airport hits passenger record on fewer flights in 2016

For the sixth year in a row, Logan International Airport has broken passenger records, celebrating passenger number 36 million of the year on Wednesday.

Logan handled just fewer than 29 million passengers in 2011 and has seen a uptick every year since, according to a chart displayed by the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Boston's airport.

At the airport on Wednesday, Massport Director of Aviation Ed Freni said about 2.5 million more passengers passed through Logan in 2016 than a year before.

While the number of passengers has shot upwards, over the last 10 to 15 years the number of flights per day has fallen from about 1,500 to around 1,200, according to Massport CEO Tom Glynn. Planes flying in and out of Logan are generally bigger today and more crowded, according to Massport.

Glynn said that "in theory" the reduction in flights means the airport has the capacity for an additional 300 flights per day, but said, "That's not necessarily a goal that we have."

Logan's two main challenges are expanding Terminal E to accommodate more international flights and adding parking, Glynn said. International flights make up about 15 percent of the total at Logan, he said.

Massport feted the milestone at Terminal C on Wednesday, where JetBlue airplanes bound for Richmond, Virginia, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, stood at their gates.

Retired U.S. Air Force Capt. Virginia Williams and her family represented the 36 millionth passenger at Wednesday's ceremony.

Danielle Sandars, who works in corporate communications for JetBlue, offered the four-member Williams family a free roundtrip on JetBlue wherever they want to go.

"Wow," said Jim Williams. The couple and their two children were heading to Richmond to visit "gramma," said Virginia Williams, who said she was a computer programmer in the Air Force, working at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma and Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts. The family lives in Chelmsford.

Freni gave the family two gift certificates for $100 each, he said. Virginia Williams said she received a phone call Tuesday night as a "heads up" about the ceremony, and said, "We had to be sure to be here on time."

"They were planning to go on a vacation, kind of anonymously," Glynn said, before the family and other passengers were served cake to mark the occasion.

Sandars said JetBlue has expanded at Logan from 30 crew members a dozen years ago to 3,200 crew members today, and the airline, which is now the biggest operator out of Logan, will be offering flights to Atlanta starting in March.

As city and state officials seek to attract business to Massachusetts, Logan's proximity to downtown Boston and other economic hubs is a selling point.

In the successful effort to lure General Electric to establish its headquarters in Boston, Logan's location was part of the pitch, according to the Office of Housing and Economic Development.

Massport claims Logan generates more than $13 billion in economic activity each year, serving 53 international and 75 domestic destinations.

The 36 million passengers moving through Logan in 2016 is a figure more than five times greater than the Massachusetts population of 6.8 million people.

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Shortage of pilots ripples across Alaska

Matt Gallagher, a pilot for Warbelows Air, cleans snow off the airplane in at Fairbanks airport before taking off for a flight to Beaver, Alaska. Gallagher plans to leave Alaska for a job with a larger commercial company in the lower 48. A wave of baby boomer retirements and the growth of aviation in Asia has led to a pilot shortage that is rippling across Alaska with gale force.

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Never climb into an airplane cockpit in winter without your best military-grade arctic boots, rated to minus 51 degrees Celsius. Green, cocky pilots fresh from the lower 48 states tend to forget that rule just once. Knowing when not to climb aboard the plane at all is harder and comes only with deeper experience.

"If my gut tells me this is not good, we don't go," said Matt Anderson, 55, who has spent more than 25 years flying small planes across Alaska's wild, empty and hazardous landscapes.

Generations of pilots like Anderson once came north for adventure, and to hone their skills in small planes, flying the Alaskan bush in the nation's most aviation-dependent state. Their derring-do, in turn, helped create the Alaskan mystique.

But now a shortage of pilots — global in scope, fuelled by the growth of aviation in Asia and a wave of baby boomer retirements — is rippling across Alaska. A state with six times as many pilots per capita as the rest of the United States, and the need for every one of them to connect its many far-flung dots on the map, is rewriting the equations of supply and demand.

Competition is pushing up salaries and luring pilots and mechanics to jobs in the lower 48 states. Airlines are grooming pilots from within, bypassing the old system that made Alaska a proving ground where a pilot could log the thousands of hours of flight time needed to qualify for a major airline job. International freight haulers have also hired away Alaskan pilots as Anchorage, which has the fourth-busiest air-freight airport in the world in annual tonnage, has become a refuelling and crew-change hub for aircraft flying between Asia and North America.

"The pilot shortage is affecting the whole commercial aviation industry from the beginning to the end, the small to the large, and I think Alaska is going to get hit hard," said Bill Thompson, 47, who left the state in 2015 for a job with a regional airline in Minneapolis.

From 2011 to 2015, Alaska lost about 12 per cent of its commercial-pilot workforce, which was in fact slightly less severe than the 16 per cent fall-off rate for the nation as a whole, according to federal figures.

But flying is the lifeblood of commerce, government and society in a state that is twice the size of Texas and has hundreds of communities beyond the road system. Gov. Bill Walker jokes that he has three offices: in Juneau, the capital; in Anchorage, the biggest city; and on a plane getting back and forth.

Or consider, for example, the small passenger and freight airline called Warbelow's Air, based in Fairbanks in east-central Alaska. The company needs about nine full-time pilots to meet its weekly schedule, serving tiny towns north of the Arctic Circle and beyond. But nine pilots these days have become hard to come by. So this year the company began recruiting Air National Guard pilots to work part time on their days off, with six part-timers adding up to one full-time pilot.

"One pilot out of six, that's how we fix that problem," said Greg Probst, Warbelow's chief pilot.

Matt Gallagher, a Warbelow's pilot since 2014, is leaving next spring for a job in Colorado to be closer to his family and to seize the chance to move on to bigger and faster aircraft.

"I want to fly jets that go 40,000 feet in the air for two hours at a time," Gallagher said. "There are great opportunities for guys like me."

That flying small planes in Alaska is a very dangerous line of work is part of the shifting dynamic. From 1990 to 2009, more than a third of all commuter and air taxi crashes in the nation, and about a fifth of the fatal crashes, occurred in Alaska, according to federal figures. With only about 730,000 people, Alaska has less than a quarter of one per cent of the nation's population.

The state's plane crashes and flat-out disappearances are the stuff of legend. In 2012, a military transport plane missing since 1952 was found on a melting glacier. A plane that left Anchorage for Juneau in 1972 carrying two members of Congress, Rep. Hale Boggs of Louisiana — the House majority leader at the time — and Rep. Nick Begich of Alaska, has yet to be found.

Just this year there have been 91 aircraft accidents or incidents in the state, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, 13 with one or more fatalities. Alaska also has most of the nation's active volcanoes, which can spew corrosive ash into flight paths and engines; Bogoslof, in the Aleutian Islands, erupted just this month.

Those hazards, on top of a worsening pilot shortage, are making some researchers and entrepreneurs see opportunity for pilotless drone aircraft to fill the gap, especially for work that pilots refer to as "the three D's": flying jobs that are dirty, dull or dangerous.

The University of Alaska's Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration, one of six federal drone research centers, is testing aircraft in frigid conditions and flying unmanned craft hundreds of miles out over Arctic waters. Oil companies are starting to deploy drones to patrol pipelines for leaks or other damage.

Researchers and pilots say they see a time — sooner or later, depending on when federal safety regulation might allow it — when mail, medicine or groceries might be delivered to remote villages by drone.

"Is it technologically feasible to do it right now? The answer is yes," said Nickolas D. Macchiarella, a professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. "And one of the first places it could occur is Alaska."

Ben Kellie, 30, with his brother Nick, 27, founded a drone company, K2 Dronotics, in Anchorage last year. Their father, Mike Kellie, was a swashbuckling bush pilot of the old school, they said, who arrived in Alaska with a duffel bag and $500 to his name, wanting only to fly. Drones, said Ben Kellie, the company's chief executive and chief engineer, are the future and are less likely to produce injuries or harm if they crash.

"In Alaska, you can fly for hundreds of miles, and if you have issues you're going to hit tundra or a spruce tree," he said.

Carl France once considered the pilot's life, but decided that the future was pilotless.

"I decided I'd get bored, flying back and forth from the same place," said France, 30, chief executive of a drone startup called Aquilo, which is based in Fairbanks and was founded by engineers from the University of Alaska.

Aquilo and K2 Dronotics are both focused, at least for now, on commercial data collection — Aquilo in scientific and industrial applications, K2 Dronotics in remote-area mapping.

Anderson and his wife, Loretta Fogg, 55, who is also a commercial pilot, said the idiosyncrasies of Alaska — the weather, the terrain, the difficulty in getting help if trouble arises — bred a mentality of improvisation and intuition about how to keep passengers and oneself safe.

In flying small planes, often with fewer than nine passengers — likely as not to be repeat customers travelling to and from villages — the pilots get to know people and their lives. With pilots increasingly being drawn to greener — and warmer — pastures, some of that old hands-on intimacy and continuity could fade.

"I know families, and I know their kids," Anderson said. "Where else are you going to get that?"

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British Airways crew were left 'vomiting, dizzy and confused' after suspected 'toxic fumes' leaked into the cabin during flight

British Airways crew were left 'vomiting, dizzy and confused' after suspected 'toxic fumes' leaked into the cabin during a long-haul flight.

The London-bound Airbus A380 'superjumbo' was thousands of feet up in the sky when the cabin crew suddenly fell ill and needed to use emergency oxygen supplies.

A leaked internal report on the disturbing alert has now detailed how flight attendants became 'spaced out' – wandering around 'lost' on the plane and 'stuffing' food into their mouths while wearing oxygen masks.

Cabin crew union Unite last night said the new details were 'deeply concerning' and criticized British Airways for 'downplaying' the incident.

The airline said no fault had been found with the plane, but yesterday did not reveal what had caused the scare on the flight from San Francisco on October 25.

The report, written by the flight's cabin service director, described how around 40 minutes after take-off the crew noticed a potent noxious smell like burning plastic.

The captain declared an emergency and told air traffic control the problem was 'toxic gas-type fumes'.

The flight was diverted to Vancouver, Canada, where all the double-decker plane' s flight attendants and three pilots were taken to hospital.

The new report, seen by the Sunday Times, said the smell was detected by a door in the main cabin and on the upper deck of the 850-capacity aircraft.

It reads: 'It soon became apparent that more crew were behaving in a non-normal manner ... [with] reports of dizziness, light heads, headaches, nausea, itchy red eyes, metallic taste in mouth, floating-type feelings, flushed, aggression and, most worryingly, forgetfulness and confusion, inability to think straight and converse in normal manner.'

The document also revealed senior flight attendants had 'lost' colleagues who had ended up at the other end of the aircraft 'not knowing how they got there'.

Crew were seen 'in corners on [the] floor with blankets over their heads' and also 'stuffing food' in their mouths while on oxygen'.

The report said 12 crew members showed worrying symptoms, while nine staff – including the captain – used emergency oxygen.

It also said crew members had continued to feel ill after leaving hospital – with one collapsing and vomiting at Heathrow.

One crew member on the flight told how staff were 'sobbing' during a debriefing session at Heathrow while some were still off work.

Show business publicist Ciara Parkes, who was also on the flight, said the crew appeared so panicked that she thought they were being hijacked, adding: 'I think that's probably the most terrified I've been in my life.'

She said some passengers had bloodshot eyes while her chest became 'incredibly tight' and she struggled to stand. She said she had suffered from regular headaches ever since.

But British Airways, which has described the incident as an 'odour event', yesterday did not have an explanation for what happened.

A spokesman said: 'Our highly-skilled engineers inspected the aircraft in Vancouver and carried out further tests on its flight back to London. No fault was found.

'The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority. We have shared our detailed and thorough investigation with the CAA and fully comply with all safety regulations.'

Unite, the union that represents cabin crew members, yesterday called for further investigation into the scare and the wider threat of 'contaminated air' on flights.

A spokesman said: 'This deeply concerning account raises further serious questions over why the airline sought to downplay the incident as a mere 'odour event'.

'That none of the relevant civil aviation authorities have seen fit to investigate what was clearly a serious toxic fume event is equally astonishing.

'Fume events and continued exposure to contaminated air on board aircraft is a long standing problem which cannot be simply swept under the carpet by British Airways and the wider industry.'

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Captain Doron: The Aviators

Video by Captain Doron 

Published on December 31, 2016

Time served, $44K restitution for aircraft yoga arrest

In this April 21, 2016 file photo, Hyongtae Pae stands outside the federal courthouse in Honolulu, after pleading guilty to interfering with a flight crew. Pae, a Korean tourist who was arrested after he became violent when he wasn't allowed to do yoga on a plane leaving Hawaii won't get additional jail time. But he must pay United Airlines more than $44,000. A federal judge in Honolulu on July 28, 2016, sentenced Pae to time served, which was about 13 days. He'll be under court supervision for three years, which is the amount of time he has to pay the restitution. 

HONOLULU — A Korean tourist who was arrested after he became violent when he wasn't allowed to do yoga on a plane leaving Hawaii won't get additional jail time. But he must pay United Airlines more than $44,000.

A federal judge in Honolulu on Thursday sentenced Hyongtae Pae to time served, which was about 13 days. He'll be under court supervision for three years, which is the amount of time he has to pay the restitution.

Pae and his wife were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary with a Hawaii vacation and the couple was headed home when he was arrested.

According to court records, Pae didn't want to sit in his seat during the meal service on the March flight from Honolulu to Tokyo, so he went to the back of the plane to do yoga and meditate. Authorities say he refused to return to his seat, threatened crew members and passengers and shoved his wife. The pilot turned the plane around and returned to Honolulu. Pae told authorities after his arrest that he hadn't slept in 11 days.

Court records say he threatened to kill passengers and was yelling that there is no god. Pae went into a rage because he felt the flight crew was ordering him around, prosecutors said.

He pleaded guilty in April to interfering with a flight crew and was allowed to return home to South Korea, even though prosecutors warned he might not return for his sentencing.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor said she agrees with prosecutors that Pae's actions constituted a violent felony. Because of that, it's possible he may never be allowed to return to the United States. That's fine by Pae, who is in his 70s and doesn't intend to travel to the United States in the future, said his defence attorney, Jin Tae "J.T." Kim.

"I think your client is getting off very easy" with the $44,235 restitution amount considering the costs of turning the plane around, including jet fuel and all the passengers who had to return to Honolulu, Gillmor said.

"I take this very seriously and I have a great deal of concern about this behaviour," she said.

It was a traumatic experience for the passengers and the flight crew, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Otake, adding that it's fortunate there were Marines on board who helped restrain him.

Pae tried to bite and head-butt the two Marines, prosecutors said.

Gillmor said Pae may return to home to Korea, but before he leaves must meet with a probation officer to work out restitution payments.

Pae declined to speak in court. "He didn't say it but he does apologize for what happened," Kim said outside of court. "This is a truly isolated incident." Kim noted that Pae flew to Korea and back without incident.


Federal Aviation Administration changing medical certification for private pilots: New regulations expected by July

CHESTERFIELD — Legislation pushed by Rep. Todd Rokita to change the medical certification for pilots is awaiting new regulations by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Rokita, R-4th District, was at the Anderson Municipal Airport on Wednesday to discuss the proposed changes with the local Experimental Aircraft Association.

The change to the Third Class Medical Certification will save pilots up to $150 per year by allowing them to have a form signed by a family doctor once every four years.

He first introduced the legislation in 2014. It was opposed by the airline pilots union, but the bill was passed and signed into law by President Barack Obama in July.

Rokita said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is required by law to have the new regulations in place by July 15, 2017, and he expects the new form for doctors to sign to be unveiled in January for public comment.

Larry Miller, a Yorktown pilot, said the medical certification change covers aircraft weighing less than 6,000 pounds, allows up to five passengers and the pilot, and to an altitude of 18,000 feet.

“It’s for private, not for hire, planes,” Miller said. “It is for pilots flying for pleasure. You have to be found medically fit to fly by a family doctor once every four years.”

Rokita said initial resistance to the change focused on allowing a pilot to fly without a medical certificate.

“I told him we allow people to drive a 6,000-pound SUV down I-69 and we don’t know their medical condition,” he said.

Rokita said the previous effort hit a “nail in the coffin” with the airline pilots union opposed the changes in 2014.

“It was unheard of for them to come out against a regulatory reform,” he said.

Rokita said the current Congress passed a bill in the House and some changes were made in the Senate before it was signed by President Obama.

The legislation grandfathers in any pilot that received a Third Class Medical Certification in the past decade.

“A major question is if you family doctor is not an aviator, will they sign the FAA form?" Rokita said. "There will be a new list of parameters for doctors to follow; they will be different from the current parameters.”

He said the new rules and forms will be crucial to the change in the medical certification licensing.

“In theory, it could become worse if some doctors won’t sign the form,” Rokita said.


Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk, United States Army, 291st Aviation Regiment, 87-24651: Fatal accident occurred November 23, 2015 in Fort Hood, Killeen, Texas

Black Hawk crash reports differ, raise more questions

Sgt. 1st Class Toby Childers

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen B. Cooley

Sgt. 1st Class Jason M. Smith

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael F. Tharp

The cause of the 2015 Black Hawk crash was redacted in a long-awaited Army report released last week. Deep within the report’s 345 pages, however, was this statement: The craft “was not airworthy at the time of the incident.”

That was followed by this statement:

“The (Integrated Vehicle Health Management System) ground station indicated the tail rotor had been out of balance (greater than 0.7 inches per second) from 10 November until the accident.”

Four soldiers from Fort Hood’s First Army Division West were aboard the helicopter when it went down sometime after 5:49 p.m. Nov. 23, 2015, in the northeast portion of the Fort Hood training area. The soldiers aboard were Sgt. 1st Class Toby Childers, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen B. Cooley, Sgt. 1st Class Jason M. Smith and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael F. Tharp.

Investigators for the unit determined the crash was caused by pilot error. Their report, released in September, said the pilot in charge at the time executed a “break turn” maneuver that exceeded the aircraft’s maximum angle of bank, causing the aircraft to stall.

The September report said in its assessment that there was “no mechanical failure and (mechanical failure) was not a contributing factor with regard to the incident. The evidence indicates that all mechanical safety precautions were followed prior to the flight.”

The report released in September was conducted by First Army as an internal investigation. The report released in December came from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, Fort Rucker, Ala., the organization responsible for investigating accidents Army-wide. Both investigations began immediately following the crash.

Maj. Joseph Odorizzi, First Army spokesman, said the unit would decline to make a statement about the release of the December report until they had an opportunity to thoroughly review the document.


One of the consistencies between the two reports is that weather had nothing to do with the crash. The sky was clear with unrestricted visibility for 10 miles.

Another is that the break turn maneuver conducted right before the helicopter went down was attempted at 120 knots, or about 138 mph, with a 60-degree bank at 300 feet above ground.

A break turn is a combat maneuver pilots are required to learn for certification before going into combat.

Both reports state that after the break turn maneuver, the helicopter descended rapidly and hit a tree before the aircraft broke into two pieces and hit the ground.

A supplemental investigation contained in the December report by the Corpus Christi Army Depot Analytical Investigation Branch concurred with the September report that a visual inspection of the Black Hawk “revealed no pre-existing defects or anomalies that would have contributed to this accident.” The supplemental investigation goes on to say the analysis is supported by data retrieved from the flight data recorder and the integrated vehicle health management system.

Both the September and December reports agree that the soldiers were killed instantly and could not have been saved, no matter how quickly medical assistance were to arrive.


The investigation by the Corpus Christi Army Depot, which is an investigative subdivision of the Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, contradicts the review of the helicopter’s airworthiness included in the December report. The data used to determine that the tail rotor on the UH-60 Black Hawk was out of balance came from the same flight data recorder and integrated vehicle health management system used to determine that the helicopter was in sound mechanical condition in both the September unit report and the Corpus Christi Army Depot report.

Additional information might clear up apparent inconsistencies within the Corpus Christi Army Depot report, but the findings were redacted from the December report.

Under the facts, findings and recommendations of the September report, however, the document states the “aircraft maintenance records were all in compliance” and had no overdue inspections. The unit report further states that there were no mechanical failures on the aircraft and the “evidence indicates that all mechanical safety precautions were followed prior to flight.”


Michael Negard, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, said the two investigations are distinct and were conducted separately and apart from one another.

“As you know, the accident unit in this case conducted a legal accident investigation under the provisions of Army Regulation 15-6,” he said, referring to the unit’s report released in September. “The purpose of this AR 15-6 investigation, like all 15-6s, is to collect information for the command so that the command can make an informed decision based on facts and evidence, which is legally sufficient.”

According to the regulation, the evidence gathered during a 15-6 investigation may be used in any administrative action against an individual “regardless of the particular procedures used, and regardless of whether that individual was a subject or designated as a respondent.”

Negard said investigations by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center rely on a Department of Defense policy as the regulatory document that defines safety confidentiality and provides guidance for mishap notification, investigation, reporting and record-keeping. That policy — specifically DOD Instruction 6055.07 — is the reason why the December report contains redactions that include findings, recommendations and the cause of the crash.

“Safety investigations serve to preserve vital national defense manpower and hardware. They are conducted for accident prevention purposes only and contain privileged safety information, which is not releasable to the public,” Negard said. “The safety privilege does not apply to a legal (15-6) accident investigation, and they generally contain more releasable information than the safety accident investigation.”


One of the soldier’s widows said she hasn’t heard anything from the Army since receiving copies of the September unit 15-6 investigation.

“I read about the (December) report in the (Herald),” said Trisha Smith, widow of Sgt. 1st Class Jason Smith. “I don’t really have any contact with the Army anymore — we left Fort Hood rather quickly after the accident because we just didn’t feel welcome there.”

Smith said her husband was new to the unit, so there might not have been the same level of care toward her and her three sons as there was for the other families affected by the crash.

Part of her frustration, she said, was in how information was passed to her family. After the crash, she was told by officials from her husband’s unit that they thought he was on the flight, but they weren’t positive and someone would confirm with her later whether he had been killed.

“It was an unofficial ‘official’ notification that something had happened,” Smith said.

As later she sought information about other aspects, “All the questions I had were always answered with (the crash) was ‘under investigation,’” said Smith, who moved to Prairieville, La., after the crash.

The incident made her feel she had been written off, she said.

“It wasn’t pleasant. I wouldn’t want any other family to go through what I did,” Smith said. “When (a unit representative) would tell me anything, it wouldn’t match the report.”

The copy of the unit 15-6 investigation Smith received contained information not released to the Daily Herald under the Freedom of Information Act request, such as sworn statements that brought into question whether the pilots had enough recent flight time to conduct the flight and a written transcript of the cockpit voice recorder.

The information raises more questions. The transcript from the cockpit voice recorder shows a flight path stabilizer alarm went off seconds before the crash. Among the unresolved issues: What made that happen, and did it distract the crew during the final turn?


NOV. 23, 2015

Second Battalion, 291st Aviation Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade and First Army Division West were scheduled to fly in both daylight and nighttime conditions in Training Area 22.

5 p.m. — Mission briefing officer determined mission to be low risk. Mission is approved.

5:20 p.m. — Someone else takes over as night supervisor for flight operations section.

5:21 p.m. — Aircraft voice recorder records pilot initiating training.

About 5:26 p.m. — The Back Hawk crashes.

5:30 p.m. — The sun sets.

5:49 p.m. — The Black Hawk’s crew fails to check in with Hood Radio and becomes overdue. Hood Radio attempts to reach the Black Hawk several times.

6 p.m. — Hood Radio notifies Robert Gray Army Airfield base operations, Gray Ops, that an aircraft is overdue.

6:20 to 6:30 p.m. — Robert Gray Army Airfield base operations tries to contact flight operations three times without an answer.

6:30 p.m. — Gray Ops attempts to contact the pilot in charge by cellphone. There is no response.

6:37 p.m. — Gray Ops contacts flight operations.

7:10 p.m. — Hood Radio requests that an aircraft in the vicinity fly over the area the Black Hawk is expected to be in and attempt to locate it. The results are negative.

7:28 p.m. — It’s confirmed the missing Black Hawk is not on the ramp at Hood Army Airfield. The last known position is determined.

7:28 to 7:40 p.m. — Gray Ops contacts someone at Hood Army Airfield to inform of the situation and request assistance. Gray Ops receives recommendation that Fort Hood Installation Operations Center should be involved.

7:40 p.m. — Gray Ops first contacts the Installation Operations Center and requests the approval of search and rescue. The operations center answers with “this is not in their lane,” so Gray Ops contacts Temple Airport, Shell FARP and Range Control in an attempt to get more information.

8:07 p.m. — The IOC is informed of its responsibilities, and search and rescue efforts are approved.

8:07 to 8:27 p.m. — Several phone calls are made in which the Installation Operations Center denies responsibility for search and rescue.

About 8:30 p.m. — Search and rescue efforts are launched in the crash area.

About 9:45 p.m. — Search and rescue teams report locating the crashed Black Hawk and initiates crashed aircraft procedures.

Compiled by Josh Sullivan

Source: Army reports

Original article can be found here: