Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Flight from Mexico diverted to Nashville airport overnight


A plane is heading back to Mexico after the flight was diverted from Chicago to Nashville.

Aeromexico Flight 660 left Guadalajara late Monday night.

According to a passenger, the plane couldn't land at the O'Hare International Airport because of the fog. The flight was then redirected to Nashville.

The website Flight Aware shows the plane flew over Illinois and then turned back south, landing at BNA.

A spokeswoman for the Nashville International Airport confirmed that no one was allowed to get off the plane before it left Nashville early Tuesday morning.

The flight is now en route to go back to Guadalajara. Approximately 180 people are believed to be on board.

Source:   http://www.wbrc.com

Greater Rochester International Airport firefighters union calls out county on contract deliberations

 The president of the of the union that represents the county's airport firefighters says they deserve higher wages and they're hoping the New Year brings a new round of contract talks with the county.

They respond to fires, medical calls and hazardous spills -- just like any other firefighter -- plus they also deal with issues related to the airport. But airport firefighters say they don't get the respect they deserve.

The Monroe County Airport Firefighters Union says its 21 members at Greater Rochester International Airport have been working without a contract since 2012 and it's costing the county some of its best and brightest.

The union president says it has really hurt morale.

"We're looking to be given some respect in what we do," says Paul Miller, union president. "The county shows very little respect for what we do."

Rachel Spotts: "Why do you think that is?"

Miller: "I don't know."

"We do pretty much everything that any other fire department would do," adds Miller, "structure fires, car accidents, medical calls, spills, anything like that plus we have the responsibility of the aircraft themselves."

Miller says they were among the first to respond when threats were made to the airport last Thursday. He says these men and women keep the airport safe, but they're not being treated fairly. He says their paid well below other firefighters in the county.

"The closest fire department to us, their compensation is about $19,000 ahead of ours," says Miller.

The director of communications for Monroe County responded Monday saying they did offer the union a contract two years ago, but never got a response: "The county respects the great work our airport firefighters do every day and we look forward to settling a contract which honors that commitment while protecting our community's taxpayers. Our negotiating team stands ready to receive a response to the county's previous offer."

Spotts: "Why is that? Why no counter?"

Miller: "When we've offered a counter, they've told us no that it wasn't something they were going to talk about. We told them to get back to us when they're serious about negotiating and we haven't heard anything since then."

The union hopes to renew talks with the county in the next week or so. Keep in mind this isn't the first time contract issues have come up between the county and area unions. The most notable being the contract dispute between the sheriff's road patrol union and the county that has also persisted.

Story, video and comments:  http://www.whec.com

Trump could clear path for privatizing air traffic control

Rep. Bill Shuster finally might have a receptive ear in the White House for his plan to privatize air traffic control systems at U.S. airports, a plan long opposed by Democrats.

After a Federal Aviation Authority reauthorization plan failed to include a private, independent air traffic control authority during the summer, Shuster is planning to make the FAA one of the top priorities for his committee in the new Congress. Authorization for the FAA expires at the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30.

Upon once again being selected chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Pennsylvania Republican said reforming the FAA is a top priority. That echoes calls from President-elect Trump, a massive critic of U.S. airports who has said U.S. airports are akin to "third-world" infrastructure.

Stay abreast of the latest developments from nation's capital and beyond with curated News Alerts from the Washington Examiner news desk and delivered to your inbox.

"We have more work to do, including passing an FAA reform and reauthorization bill that ensures the United States has a safe, modern, efficient aviation system for the future," Shuster said last month. "We have a unique opportunity to accomplish a great deal for the American people with a president-elect who is focused on improving the nation's infrastructure."

Shuster's plan, introduced in the beginning of 2016, would have created an independent air traffic control provider, which he said was standard in the rest of the world. The private company would be chartered by Congress and have an 11-member board of directors.

The board would be made up of four people appointed by major airlines, two people appointed by the aircraft owners association, one person appointed by the airline pilots union, one person appointed by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, two at-large appointees and the CEO of the corporation, appointed by the board.

Privatization of air traffic controllers has been suggested by major airlines since the 1980s, but has been shot down whenever it is raised in Congress. However, Shuster feels the time is right for a new push.

Having the FAA in charge of air traffic control means too much bureaucracy and too little chance for change. The status quo isn't capable of handling increasing demand and will result in more costs, he said.

That seems to echo Trump's general assessment of American airport infrastructure.

In September, weeks before he won the presidential election, Trump said U.S. airports are similar to the ones found in a "third-world country." While Trump has gone quiet on most policy specifics following the election, his website includes upgrades to the nation's airports in his $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

He plans to "work with Congress to modernize our airports and air traffic control systems, end long wait times, and reform the FAA and TSA, while also ensuring that American travelers are safe from terrorism and other threats," according to the site.

Shuster told reporters last month that Trump's transition team is open to his ideas.

"I've had some conversations with Trump transition folks and they seemed very interested in putting this in their larger infrastructure bill," Shuster told reporters.

The proposal would face staunch opposition from Democrats, who killed the Shuster's proposal in the July bill extending FAA authorization.

In 2016, Democrats didn't like the idea of handing over billions of dollars worth of infrastructure — bought and paid for by the American taxpayer — to a private corporation. In addition, the plan would toss the FAA into an uncertain oversight role, according to a memo prepared by House Democrats.

The plan would call for about 30,000 employees to be transferred from the FAA to the new corporation, according to the memo. Democrats called that plan a "poison pill" in the bill during committee hearings about the bill last year.

A Government Accountability Office report indicated there are many complicating factors in separating the air traffic control systems from the federal government.

The report said separating air traffic control from the rest of the FAA would complicate NextGen, a long-term initiative to modernize air traffic control that is estimated to cost about $850 million.

"A critical part of NextGen is developing and implementing new [air traffic control] procedures, which might be more difficult to do if the ATC entity and safety regulator are separated," the report stated.

No legislation has been proposed on how the independent corporation would be funded, what the oversight of that funding would look like, how the private entity would reduce risk and liability, and how assets paid for by U.S. taxpayers would be privatized.

The length of time needed for a transition could be a problem as well, according to the report. An entire restructure of the American air traffic control system would take between five and seven years to work through all problems that may arise. The U.S. air traffic control system is generally considered the busiest in the world, handling more than 50,000 flights per day and 700 million passengers per year, according to the GAO.

Following November's election, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said Shuster's plan still has too many unanswered questions.

"Any proposal to overhaul the existing [air traffic control] system must be thoroughly vetted, not rushed through Congress just because the political landscape makes it easier," he said.

"If privatization proponents are serious about moving any [air traffic control] proposal forward in the new Congress, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure needs to schedule a series of hearings and hold in-depth discussions that address the major concerns raised by opponents, stakeholder groups and the GAO. There is no consensus on this plan, and we cannot take that lightly."

Source:   http://www.washingtonexaminer.com

Since runway expansion, Hagerstown Regional Airport revenues have taken off

Back in 2003 and 2004, the idea of extending one of the runways at Hagerstown Regional Airport met with some resistance.

The late Washington County Commissioner John Munson mused on the day the construction contract was awarded that he didn't think the project was worth the cost, and it wouldn't "bring in the businesses that we've been told."

Munson said he thought about 2 percent of county residents supported the extension, and he was sorry the project was approved, according to Herald-Mail reports at the time.

"I think 98 percent of the people in Washington County are sorry, too," he said.

The county's initial tab for the more than $60 million investment — $47 million of which came from the Federal Aviation Administration's Aviation Trust Fund — was to be 5 percent, or a little more than $3 million.

But because of the FAA's reimbursement policies, the county was asked to finance the initial costs, which raised its early contribution a bit. The rest came from the state.

Back then, the airport brought in a reported $48 million per year to the local economy.

By the time ground was broken in April 2004, the Maryland Aviation Administration reported the airport directly or indirectly generated 831 jobs and posted an average of 152 flight operations, or takeoffs and landings, per day.

An average of 44 passengers per day took commercial fights to Pittsburgh International Airport through U.S. Airways, and many predicted the shuttle service would soon end.

Two months before the extended runway opened in late 2007, that is exactly what happened.

The shuttle service ended, and flight operations were at about 120 per day, according to Airport Director Phil Ridenour.

But in the 10 years since the runway project was finished, much has changed.

The number of jobs generated by the airport had almost doubled to nearly 1,500, and their personal annual income totaled almost $80 million, according to the latest report from the Maryland Aviation Administration.

The airport was generating $109 million in business revenue and $8.4 million in state and local taxes. Flight operations are back up to an average of 150 per day, and commercial passenger service has returned, the report said.

'Good investment'

Ridenour said during a recent interview that he anticipates MAA's next report will look even better, "based on conversations that we've had with businesses around the airfield."

At least 16 aviation-related businesses are currently operating on the airfield, he said.

"We have a big variety of businesses on the airport," he said. "We have Department of Defense contractors, we have other contractors that provide services, we have aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul services; smaller aircraft-painting facilities."

"The expansion of the runway is a good investment in the county," said David Rider, who with his son, Ben, is the owner-operator of Rider Jet Center on the airport's north side.

He has been involved with just about all of those airport businesses, and some are housed at the jet center.

"The general public perceives aviation and aircraft as for the rich and famous," David Rider said. "That is far from the truth."

All the businesses in the area use the airport and not just for passenger travel, he said.

"There's a lot of freight that goes through here," he said. "A lot of it goes to Volvo."

Rider said that the airport also provides a base or transfer point for more benevolent and humanitarian purposes.

For example, Life Net 81, a critical-care transport service, is based at the airport, he said.

And at least monthly, "we have planes come in that are transporting rescue animals from one location to another; these are general aviation pilots that volunteer their time. This is a transfer point where they stop," Rider said.

Runway 'drawing card'

But nobody out there discounts the airport's revenue-generating potential, and the longer runway has helped attract business, Ridenour said.

Defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. occupied two buildings at the airport when the runway was going into place, he said.

"They now have seven buildings on the airport," he said. "They have drastically increased their workforce, they've drastically increased their workload at the airport."

Ridenour said he believes the runway extension helped with some of the company's contracts.

Sierra Nevada's Hagerstown operation is part of the company's Integrated Mission Systems Division that modifies aircraft with reconnaissance and surveillance equipment.

"Because of the 7,000-foot runway, we're able to accommodate just about any aircraft except for the larger, wide-bodied jets and things like that," Ridenour said. "We can accommodate a whole host of aircraft at the airport now."

Sierra Nevada uses the long runway in its marketing materials, Ridenour said.

"They use that as an advertising tool to say: 'We're on an airport that has a 7,000-foot runway, it's 150-foot wide, it's a grooved surface, it has full instrumentation at both ends of the runway, so all of the capabilities are here.' I'm sure that's a good tool for them to use in their contracts."

The runway, in fact, is the second longest in Maryland, after Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Commercial carriers

The airport now has two commercial carriers, with flights to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, as well as Orlando/Sanford, Fla., and — returning in February — flights to Clearwater/St. Petersburg.

As of Nov. 15, Allegiant was averaging 141 passengers per flight to Florida for an average load factor of 84 percent, according to airport statistics.

And as of Oct. 31, 6,565 passengers had used Southern Airways Express to Pittsburgh and Dulles International Airport in 2016 for an average of 656 per month.

The Dulles flight was switched to BWI last month.

Allegiant, which began flights from Hagerstown in 2012, flies twice a week to Orlando/Sanford and has in the past scheduled flights to Clearwater/St. Petersburg from February to August.

"If we wouldn't have had the 7,000-foot runway there's a very, very good chance that they wouldn't have come here because the aircraft that they were flying at the time that they started was an MD-80, and it required a pretty long runway," Ridenour said.

"So more than likely they would have had to turn us down, just because of the length of the runway. I'm not saying they would have, but there's a good possibility they could have," he said.

Runway length is not so much of an issue for Allegiant now because some of the airline's newer planes can land on shorter runways.

But Ridenour said runway length "was one of the drawing cards" that brought Allegiant to town.

The airline makes two flights per day to each destination on weekdays, and one per day to each on weekends.

Now, airport officials are considering where it can grow next.

Ridenour said the airport layout plan is continually updated, looking toward areas that can be acquired in the future.

"We're getting to the point where we have a limited amount of land for development, and we need to increase our acreage so that we have additional possibilities for future development," he said.

Story and comments:  http://www.heraldmailmedia.com