Monday, January 16, 2017

Embraer EMB-145LR, ExpressJet / United Airlines, N14904: Incident occurred January 16, 2017 at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport (KAMA), Amarillo, Texas 

An aircraft at Rick Husband International Airport slid off the runway early Monday morning while turning onto a taxiway after landing, according to a United Airlines spokesperson.

ExpressJet flight 4276, operated by United Airlines, had landed safely in Amarillo after arriving from Houston and was making a turn from the runway when the plane began to skid, the spokesperson said, resulting in the front wheel going off the pavement and into a grassy area.

The front wheel was the only part of the aircraft to end up off the pavement.

The slippery runway conditions were the result of freezing rain and snow that had been hitting the Amarillo area since Friday.

United Airlines reported there were no injuries during the incident, but later one passenger expressed concerns over general injuries. All 50 passengers on the plane was able to exit safely into the terminal using stairs and ground transportation.

The flight was originally scheduled to land shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday night, but was delayed approximately an hour and a half due to inclement weather in both Houston and Amarillo.

As of Monday morning ExpressJet and airport officials were coordinating efforts to remove the aircraft. The incident did not disrupt any other scheduled flights.

Officials at Rick Husband Airport declined to comment on the incident.


AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) -  The Rick Husband International Airport has now reopened after a United Airlines flight slid off the runway during landing in Amarillo.

The aircraft still sits where it came to a stop, although officials say all passengers and crew aboard the late night flight are safe. Everyone was removed from the plane, taken to the terminal.

It was just before 1:00 Monday morning when reports of the accident were made and the airport closed down.

Authorities tell us the FAA was en route around 3 a.m. to investigate the situation.

It's unclear how many passengers were on board the flight.

Officials at Rick Husband tell us the airport is now open, however, all flights with all airlines are delayed. They also tell us the City of Amarillo will be making a statement regarding the incident sometime before noon.


Broad acceptance of drones — and industry growth — depends on smart regulation

Rules generally rub Nevadans the wrong way, but a lack of them in one of the state’s potential growth industries soon could cause problems.

Drone industry leaders and government officials bantered during a CES panel discussion last week on regulation, specifically what needs to be done to create a clear set of guidelines from the federal level on down to the neighborhood streets.

The race, as both sides see it, is against time: one major accident involving a drone could cause public panic and knee-jerk political response before those working on a comprehensive solution can present their case.

“When you look across different industries, we have different socially acceptable levels of safety,” said Brendan Schulman, vice president of policy and legal affairs at China-based DJI, the world’s largest drone company. “A pretty serious car accident doesn’t make the news anymore, but a minor drone accident does. Acceptance will come when that doesn’t happen.”

Industry groups and regulators have talked for close to a decade about how to regulate the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry without stifling innovation. Discussion of domestic drone operation stretches beyond those purchased as Christmas gifts and into those used for commercial purposes such as farming operations and inspection of gas pipelines.

Economic development officials in Nevada see the drone industry as a pivotal piece of the aerospace and defense vertical in their diversification plan, though it largely focuses on larger UAV for military applications. In 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved Nevada as one of six sites in the country for testing the best way to integrate unmanned small aircraft into the national airspace, and the designation was recently extended through at least 2020.

The City of Henderson and Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), a nonprofit arm of the governor’s economic development office, announced last week plans for a small-drone testing range adjacent to Nevada State College. The site will feature a 150-foot runway, four vertical take-off and landing pads, an observation tower, a flight operations control center and a large netted drone area.

Aerodrome also announced last week a partnership with Boulder City for the Eldorado Droneport, touted as the world’s first commercial droneport on 50 acres approximately four miles south of the U.S. 95 exit beyond the Railroad Pass Casino.

“One of the other things that’s going to drive consumer adoption is consumer acceptance,” said Josh Turner, an attorney with Wiley Rein LLP who represents clients before the FAA and FCC. “It becomes much more socially acceptable once you have that first experience.”

The FAA released a fact sheet in June 2016 as initial guidance on the safe operation of drones for both hobbyists and professionals. Comprehensive regulation for drone development continues to plod along at a pace more suited to government than the rapid advancement of drone technology, though. Earl Lawrence, director of the FAA’s Office of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration, asked industry panelists at CES to provide direction on specifics that would allow the government to provide something that looks more like a framework than a hard set of rules.

“A good regulatory structure helps these products come to market because the insurance industry wants to know,” Lawrence said, referencing that industry’s inability to assess the risk of drones without knowing how they will be built, operated and maintained safely.

One of the primary divides in government is an age-old discussion with regard to technology, as explained by California State Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Silicon Valley.

“A vast majority of my colleagues do not share the same viewpoints as I do,” Low, 33, said. “A millennial from Silicon Valley thinks very differently about drones than a 70-year-old from Santa Barbara.”

Safety concerns coming from the public include what is being filmed by drones, the odds that they can be hacked and what happens if one crashes from as high as 400 feet, the max altitude for hobbyist drones. And that doesn’t factor in those hobbyists who won’t know the rules and might fly their machines in ways that endanger people and the future of the tech’s growth in the consumer market.

“Any one of these things could be a death blow to the industry in a particular place,” Turner said.

Read more here:

Spare Engine For TU154M Coming From Cuba

Jolted by a re­cent top manage­ment shake-up and problems with its only jet aircraft, the State-owned Guy­ana Airways has said that it is moving to have its TU-154M aircraft back in ser­vice at the end of the week or early in the next.

A top management spokesman told ‘Stabroek News’ that ar­rangements are being made to lease an en­gine from Cuba to be installed in the Soviet-built aircraft, while negotiations are con­cluded for the Corpora­tion to obtain another engine from the manu­facturers.

The aircraft, just over one year old, has re­cently been the centre of controversy follow­ing two separate inci­dents of engine pro­blems on flights out of the United States.


The first occurred on October 26 last when the crew reportedly noticed that the Num­ber Two engine was malfunctioning. A quick decision was taken to return the air­craft and passengers to the John F. Kennedy Airport where repairs were effected.

Just two months after that incident, another engine failure hit the three-engine airliner after it had left Miami International Airport on Boxing Day.

Reports confirmed both by the corpora­tion and Civil Aviation Department (CAD) of­ficials indicated that it was decided to con­tinue the flight on two engines until the craft reached Piarco Airport in Trinidad and Tobago where the stricken plane touched down and passengers were allowed to disem­bark.

This is the incident that caused regular pas­sengers and local Civil Aviation officials to really focus their atten­tion on the perform­ance of the national airliner.

One passenger told ‘Stabroek News’ that he was extremely con­cerned about the latest incident, bearing in mind that it is not a case where it was the same “Number Two engine giving trouble, but this time it was another one.”

Clearly, he feels, something needs to be done about the aircraft which flies to North America, the Carib­bean, Suriname and Brazil. “Who knows… the next time it could be Numbers Two and Three or Numbers One and Two engines.”

Director of Civil Avia­tion Anthony Mekdeci has acknowledged that his department is in­vestigating the inci­dents.


Asked whether man­agement is concerned about the aircraft’s per­formance, a top spokes­man said only that “we are looking at it.” He would not com­ment on the cost of the replacement “Tarom’’ aircraft which has been operating the schedules while the TU154M re­mains grounded at Timehri.

The October incident embarrassed GAC of­ficials who were forced to switch to the re­placement TU154B al­most at the last mo­ment when the Cor­poration inaugurated its weekly jet service to Brazil. Special permis­sion had to be sought to land the plane and its all-Romanian crew at Boa Vista Interna­tional.

The passengers who were stranded in Tri­nidad as a result of the last incident, were brought home by HS 748 flights the next day.

Informed sources say that engine failure in modern jet aircraft is unusual.


In Our View: Make real penalty for drone violations

By The Herald Editorial Board

Another day, another landmark hit by a drone. Ho-hum. If we didn’t get overly concerned when a woman was hit in the head and knocked unconscious by a drone during the 2015 annual Pride Parade in Seattle, a report complete with video from drone hitting the Space Needle — again — won’t cause a fuss.

State and federal laws already prohibit what happened, (legislators this session are focused on how to limit drones on private property) but perhaps the punishment isn’t tough enough, since incidents keep happening.

The most recent incident at the Space Needle happened at 2 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, as pyrotechnicians were preparing for the fireworks display later that night. Footage from the drone shows some panoramic views, then it speeds up and crashes into the roof of the Needle, where the workers are setting up the fireworks. So, as they say, it could have been much worse. Seattle Police are investigating and have alerted the Federal Aviation Administration.

If a drone is over 55 pounds, federal law requires it be registered with the FAA, making it easier to track down scofflaws. Approximately 600,000 people have registered in the agency’s online system that began last year. On the other hand, about a 2.8 million drones were sold in 2016, about 1.2 million over the holidays, NBC News reported. But there’s no breakdown on how many of those weighed more than 55 pounds, requiring registration.

Seattle Police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb told the Seattle Times the New Years Eve crash marks a “proliferation” of drone incidents, and the third time the Space Needle has been hit. Federal law requires a 400-foot ceiling for drones; the Space Needle roof is 575 feet high. Drones are not to be flown near airports, over groups of people, near sporting events, near emergencies such as fires, and not while the pilot is intoxicated, GeekWire reported. Additionally, the FAA forbids, “No careless or reckless operations,” which pretty much covers everything.

Additionally, the prohibition against flying drones “over groups of people” also covers just about every violation that has ever occurred. Of course people are standing below the Space Needle; just as people are often on the roof. The law is just common sense; something, unfortunately, many drone pilots seem to be sorely lacking.

The person thought responsible for striking the Pride Parade goer with a drone has been charged with reckless endangerment, the Seattle Times reported.

The FAA receives more than 100 reports a month from pilots who complain that drones have flown too close to their aircraft, an agency spokesman said. Drones have injured people and caused power disruptions, NBC reported.

Those pilot drones dangerously seem akin to all those distracted drivers who insist that other people are the problem. Despite what drone enthusiasts claim, as citizens of the United States, we don’t have an inherent right to fly dangerous objects anywhere we desire. It’s another case of technology, specifically the selling of it, before regulations are in place.

It’s necessary to make the penalties for drone airspace violations/collisions carry real consequences. It might also make sense to require a pilot license of some type, determined by a test, because these are not toys. It would also make sense to require companies to equip their drones them with a signal that lets pilots know when they have hit the 400 foot ceiling for flying, and to not go higher, lest they break the law, and crash into the Space Needle.


Boeing 747-400, MyCargo Airlines on behalf of Turkish Airlines, performing flight TK-6491, TC-MCL: Fatal accident occurred January 16, 2017 near Bishkek-Manas International Airport (FRU), Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan—The health ministry in Kyrgyzstan says a cargo plane crashed in a residential area just outside the Central Asian country’s main airport, killing at least 32 people.

On Monday, the ministry said the Turkey registered Boeing 747-412F crashed just outside the Bishkek-Manas International Airport.

Local emergency services are working on the scene.

Until 2014, the U.S. military operated a military installation at the Manas airport, using it primarily for its operations in Afghanistan.

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Jake's View: Private jet owners bemoan shortage of landing slots in Hong Hong - but I say let ‘em moan’; Tell me how big a contribution this kind of convenience brings to our gross domestic product and I might change my opinion

A lack of take-off and landing slots for private jets at Hong Kong International Airport is harming business and has at least two companies trying to sell their aircraft, according to an industry veteran.

 by  Jake Van Der Kamp

There are a few things that the private jet lobby does not tell you about its business when it regularly bemoans the shortage of landing slots in Hong Kong.

The first is that you probably have the wrong impression of the business if you think private jets are owned by rich individuals for the exclusive use of themselves or a few occasional friends whom they might graciously take along for the ride.

They are instead mostly owned by companies formed to operate private jets as a commercial business and, even if owned by individuals, are usually made available by their owners through agents for commercial use when not immediately wanted.

Nor are they all that exclusive. Just search for private jets Hong Kong on whatever digital device you favor and you will find a long list of websites and phone numbers you can contact for a flight on a private jet. It will cost you more than a commercial flight but they are available to everyone.

They are also not so very exclusive once you get on board. You will commonly find yourself sharing the flight you booked with strangers going to the same place.

So what makes a flight on a private jet all that different from a commercial flight and why should our airport give these so-called private jets any special consideration that we do not offer a regular airline?

The private jet lobby, for instance, complains that its members cannot fly in and out whenever they want but must book landing and take-off slots. That’s exactly what we require commercial flights to do. The best times of day are in big demand. Why should private jets be allowed to jump the queue?

It’s a particularly appropriate question as our airport approaches saturation and we are looking at a bill of HK$135 billion for a third runway.

The departure tax to pay for this runway is now set at HK$180 a passenger and the average commercial flight on the runway carries 200 passengers, thus HK$36,000 per departing flight. That would be an appropriate passenger departure fee for private jets. They use just as much runway as commercial flights do.

The private jet lobby also does not tell you that until summer last year the available landing slots granted to private jets were mostly bought by landing slot speculators who then marked up their prices on resale to the actual users.

I grant you this gave the users some flexibility in arrival and departure times. All they had to do was call up the speculator and pay him the price for the slots they wanted.

But the airport authority took a dim view of others making money out of the airport this way. It resolved to grant private operators more slots but required that each be tied to a parking space and could only be used for the specific flight for which it was booked.

This got rid of the speculators. Unfortunately, it also got rid of the flexibility. Personally I think it was a bad move. The airport should itself have taken up the role of the speculator by auctioning these landing slots.

It is an idea I have long favored. It will bring the airport both more income and flexibility in apportioning slots. But it should apply to both private and commercial flights.

The fact is that the real trip on which private jet flights are marketed is the ego trip. It’s a vanity thing. You cannot fly non-stop to Europe and America on them and you can already get commercial flights almost every hour to major destinations in Asia.

Get an upgrade on a commercial flight and you get as much convenience in scheduling and service as on a private jet. You also get a much less bumpy ride.

Where private jets come in handy is getting to more remote resorts or yacht harbours without three changes of flight and long times spent in the waiting lounge.

And now will someone please tell me just how big a contribution this kind of convenience brings to our gross domestic product?

Let ‘em moan.

Article and comments:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

More public comment allowed on Growler jets at Whidbey

After politicians weigh in, the Navy grants more time for public comment on the draft study of the effects of more Growler jets on Whidbey Island.

The Navy has decided to extend, by 30 days, the public-comment period for a draft environmental study of the effects of adding up to 36 EA-18G Growler aircraft to the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island-based fleet.

The new Feb. 24 deadline results from requests by Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Maria Cantwell, Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Rick Larsen for more time for public review of the draft study.

More than 80 Growler jets are based at Whidbey Island, where the Navy is a mainstay of the economy. The noise they emit during crew training has been a big concern for many residents who live near two landing strips and underneath the flight paths. In the San Juan Islands, a county website has received more than 6,500 noise reports since May 2014.

For those without computer access, the draft study can be viewed at public libraries in Whidbey Island and other surrounding areas.

Comments may be submitted online or in writing, and must be postmarked by Feb. 24. 


Space-Based Flight Tracking Comes Closer With Launch of Satellites: Ten Iridium Communications satellites, set to go into orbit Saturday, are ushering in a new chapter in air-traffic control—which the U.S. aviation industry plans to sit out for now

A JetBlue Airways aircraft in 2016. Aireon, a satellite joint venture, would give controllers full visibility and real-time flight information from planes over both water and land by next year, if all goes according to plan.

The Wall Street Journal
Updated Jan. 15, 2017 2:11 p.m. ET

A cluster of satellites launched over the weekend is intended to begin overhauling the way air-traffic controllers track planes around the world, but the U.S. may not take a lead role in undertaking those changes.

For decades, controllers have used ground-based radar to direct planes over land. More recently, they have been finding aircraft locations via global positioning satellites, or GPS, but they can do so only over land or near the shore. There has been no real-time ability to track planes in flight over oceans, which cover 71% of the planet, or remote polar regions.

A new satellite-based joint-venture called Aireon LLC would give controllers full visibility by next year, if all goes according to plan, providing real-time flight information from planes over both water and land.

The first 10 satellites were blasted into orbit Saturday morning from a central California Air Force base by entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., and were determined to be functioning normally. Eight of them are expected to begin commercial operations in about three months, after various checks are completed. SpaceX, as the company is called, has signed contracts to launch 70 such satellites into orbit.

Until recently, many supporters of the fledgling traffic control system seemed optimistic that U.S. authorities would embrace the changes relatively quickly. But over the weekend, the head of the satellite-services company backing the venture indicated that wasn’t likely.

Skepticism among some U.S airlines and federal budget constraints are contributing to that reluctance, according to industry officials. But along with other countries and foreign air-traffic-control providers, federal experts are slated to start verifying the accuracy of the data transmitted by the system shortly.

Aireon dates back to 2011, when Iridium Communications, Inc., a McLean, Va., telecommunications-satellite operator, formed a consortium with foreign air-navigation agencies to find a way to track global air traffic from space. The idea was to piggyback the air-traffic control technology onto Iridium’s replacement constellation of telecom satellites.

An air traffic controller in the control tower at Los Angeles International Airport in 2016. Using conventional land-based systems, air-traffic controllers must extrapolate the location of airplanes flying over water; with a satellite-based system they would see each airplane’s exact location.

Proponents say Aireon’s technology would give pilots greater flexibility to change routes, avoid turbulence and cut flight times. It would help airlines save fuel and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. And it would allow planes routinely to fly within 15 miles of each other over water, compared with about 80 miles of separation under current rules—leading to more traffic in the air on any given route.

The U.S., with the busiest airspace, hasn’t signed on yet with Aireon as either an investor or customer. Budget constraints and reluctance by some airlines to invest in additional equipment have prompted an advisory committee of the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of an Aireon contract compared with upgrades of existing ground-based services. Preliminary results are expected next month; though a decision isn’t likely until later this year.

The FAA has been focused on rolling out advances of its new land-based satellite surveillance system, which cost $2.7 billion and isn’t expected to be fully operable until at least 2020.

Iridium Chief Executive Matt Desch, after the weekend’s satellite launch, projected that the FAA’s embrace of the technology will be slow and gradual, probably taking at least several years. “It won’t be quite the big bang we expected” initially, he said, adding that even after agency agrees to sign up, it is expected to start using the service only in limited areas. Mr. Desch said Iridium intends “to support the process in the U.S.” but looks forward to “signing up the rest of the world.”

The Aireon technology has gained currency in the almost three years since the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. That event helped persuade global authorities to adopt international aircraft-tracking rules and look for better ways to pinpoint the location of downed planes.

Today, U.S. controllers in Oakland, Calif., are responsible for a swath of the Pacific Ocean from the West Coast to the Philippines. Controllers in Canada and Great Britain share responsibility for busy North Atlantic routes with counterparts in New York and on Portugal’s Azores Islands. Without full visibility, these and other “oceanic” controllers have to funnel planes onto designated aerial highways, keeping them well separated.

“I’m very excited about how this is going to change my job,” said Neil Collins, a 17-year Canadian controller in Gander, Newfoundland, who helps direct airplanes over the North Atlantic. “We will know exactly where [the planes] are.”

Currently, if a plane deviates from its flight plan, controllers must extrapolate where it is, he said. Most aircraft emit position reports only every 15 minutes and while moving at about 500 miles an hour.

The technology also could obviate the need for developing countries to build or maintain conventional land-based tracking systems. “This would be very similar to the transformative impact of wireless in developing nations,” said John Crichton, Aireon’s chairman.

A study last summer by the Flight Safety Foundation, an independent, nonprofit, international aviation-safety organization, found such satellite-based navigation “should be an overall substantial improvement to the global aviation safety net.”

The venture’s success depends on a number of factors. The planned total of 66 Iridium satellites—including the 10 launched Saturday plus nine orbiting spares to provide full coverage of the Earth—needs to tested and validated as they orbit 485 miles above the planet.

Airlines must install new equipment on their planes to take advantage of the technology, although new models may already come equipped. National air-traffic control agencies will need to sign up and pay for the service: The price will depend on the volume of air traffic crossing their airspace, whether the planes are over land or water, and whether controllers will use the system as a primary tool or backup. Normally the agencies defray their expenses by charging airlines and other airspace users.

Aireon, made up of Iridium and air-traffic organizations in Canada, Ireland, Denmark and Italy—all equity stakeholders—said it already has contracts with air-navigation providers in the U.K., Singapore, South Africa and Iceland, among others. Agencies in Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Germany are assessing the potential for their skies.

Original article, photos and comments:

Job cuts, fewer flights? Hong Kong airline Cathay set for overhaul

SYDNEY/SHANGHAI, Jan 16 Cathay Pacific Airways is expected to announce job cuts, cost reductions and to shift flights to its short-haul arm when it unveils the results of a key review this week, as it grapples with growing competition from Chinese carriers.

The 71-year-old Hong Kong airline is under pressure to combat aggressive state-supported mainland carriers, and to position itself against an "open skies" deal signed last month between China and Australia.

Cathay scrapped its second-half profit forecast in October and announced a review of its business. The December edition of Cathay's staff magazine, seen by Reuters, reported Chief Executive Ivan Chu would unveil the results on Jan. 18.

Cathay declined to comment on the details of its review.

"The new management direction has to look past market share gains," said Will Horton, a Hong Kong-based analyst for aviation consultancy CAPA. "That hasn't been profitable and will become more competitive. It is well past time to get serious on costs."

Cathay's share price has tumbled to its lowest level since the depths of the global financial crisis in 2009, and none of the 18 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters have a "buy" recommendation on the stock.

Some analysts say the carrier will for 2017 report its first full-year loss since 2010.

The rapid growth of Chinese rivals such as China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines has put pressure on ticket prices at a time when Cathay's costs have risen because of the strength of the Hong Kong dollar against the Chinese yuan.

Lower cost hometown rival Hong Kong Airlines is also expanding rapidly to destinations served by Cathay.


James Pearson, who heads Basair Aviation College in Brisbane, said Cathay may need to slash its 33,700 workforce, reduce frequencies on underperforming routes and cut costs at short-haul arm Cathay Dragon, where it could shift more flights.

"[It could also] focus more greatly on ancillary products to drive incremental revenue, a focus on the back-end of the plane which hasn't traditionally been Cathay's forte," Pearson said.

Cathay does not have a low-cost arm, and costs at its short-haul carrier Cathay Dragon are nearly as high as those at the parent, said one source with knowledge of the situation who was not authorised to speak publicly about the matter.

Cathay is also caught on the wrong side of China's "one country, two systems" arrangement towards Hong Kong, as the regional hub is excluded from the air transport deals China is cutting.

The latest was an open skies agreement signed in October between China and Australia, a key market for Cathay for both direct flights and connections throughout Asia and to Europe.

Flights to the South West Pacific and South Africa - the bulk of them to Australia - represented 13.6 percent of Cathay's capacity in the first half of 2016.

The open skies deal allows mainland carriers unlimited capacity on routes to Australia, at a time when Cathay is not allowed to add any more flights to Australia's biggest airports and can only increase capacity by using larger aircraft.

Capacity between Australia and mainland China grew by 61.6 percent in the five years ended 2016, according to data from Flightglobal. Over the same period, capacity between Australia and Hong Kong grew by just 2.6 percent.

In an emailed statement to Reuters, the Hong Kong government said it had not held major talks with Australia about expanding air access since 2015, when no deal was reached.

Chinese hubs such as Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing have seized market share as a result.

"Almost three years ago, the three Chinese hubs shared less than a third of Hong Kong's connections. Now it's catching up," said Singapore-based UOB Kay Hian analyst K. Ajith, who has a "sell" rating on Cathay.

"One must rise while the other one must fall."


What chemicals are being sprayed by jets in the skies over Dothan, Alabama? How long will this continue?

A: The white trails, or contrails, that jets leave in their wake are caused by water vapor in the jet exhaust.

According to Art Morris, airport director at Dothan Regional Airport, any aircraft that is powered by hydrocarbon gasses (aviation gasoline or jet fuel) contains water vapor in the exhaust. Automobiles have water vapor in their exhaust.

“The temperature at high altitudes is quite low which causes the water vapor in the exhaust to freeze and form ice crystals which leave a ‘trail’ behind the aircraft,” Morris wrote in an email. “These are called contrails. They are usually more visible in the winter than in summer but they can occur at any time.”

Morris said Dothan is located underneath several airway corridors.

“These corridors are analogous to highways in the sky,” Morris wrote. “They are the designated travel lanes for commercial and military aircraft to fly in as part of the air traffic control system in the United States.”

Morris said the aircraft that overfly Dothan on any given day come from all segments of the aviation community.

The aircraft seen by the reader who asked the questions could be military aircraft from any branch, commercial airliners or privately owned business aircraft.


3,391 firearms discovered in carry-on bags in 2016, Transportation Security Administration says

NEW YORK -- A record number of firearms was discovered in carry-on bags in the U.S. in 2016, the Transportation Security Administration says.

In total, 3,391 firearms were found in carry-on bags at TSA checkpoints across the country -- averaging more than nine per day and amounting to a 28 increase in firearm discoveries from 2015, when 2,653 were discovered, the TSA said in a blog post on Thursday. 

Eight-three percent of firearms found at TSA checkpoints last year -- or 2,815 -- were loaded. 

“The number one excuse that we hear is that they forgot that they had it with them,” TSA official Lisa Farbstein said, CBS Baltimore reported. “The second most common excuse we hear is that their wife or husband packed their bag. And I tell you what, neither of those excuses fly.”  

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson international airport was no. 1 on the list of top airports for firearms discoveries, with 198 guns being found by TSA agents. 

Firearms were intercepted at a total of 238 airports, with Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Denver International Airport rounding out the top five airports for firearms discoveries. Orlando International Airport, Nashville International Airport, Tampa International Airport, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport completed the top ten list.

Data from the TSA shows that the number of firearms found nationwide has increased almost every year since 2005, when 660 were discovered. The only drop was from 2006 to 2007 -- from 821 discoveries to 803.

The issue of firearms at airports caught lawmakers’ attention after a fatal shooting earlier this month at Fort Lauderdale’s airport. Lawmakers are taking a new look at rules about guns on planes following the rampage, which unfolded in baggage claim.

The TSA allows guns in checked baggage, CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil reported. They have to be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container, and owners have to declare them at the ticket counter.  

“We’re going to have to take a hard look once and for all at the unsecured areas of our airports,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said. 

Wasserman Schultz said she plans to review security procedures with TSA leaders.  

Some travelers last year also attempted to bring gun powder on planes, and officers uncovered inert grenades in carry-on and checked luggage, the TSA said. Inert items can lead to closed terminals and checkpoints, and the problem with the items is that the TSA doesn’t know if they’re real, replicas or toys until explosives experts are called upon, the TSA said.

That wasn’t all that officers found in 2016.

“There were many instances last year when travelers attempted to hide items, or the items they packed were disguised to look like other items,” the TSA said. “TSA officers regularly find sword canes, credit card knives, belt buckle knives, comb/brush knives, knives hidden in shoes, knives hidden in thermoses and knives hidden under the bag lining near the handle mechanism.”

TSA officers screened 466 million checked bags, 24.2 million airport employees and 738,318,264 passengers in 2016, which is more than 43,255,172 more passengers than for the same time frame in 2015, the TSA said.

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County claims no liability for Sumner County Regional Airport (M33); votes to fund $108,000

Just minutes after telling audience members the county was not legally responsible for the Sumner County Airport, members of the county Budget Committee voted unanimously Monday, Jan. 9 for an emergency spending measure of $108,000 to assist the Airport Authority in an ongoing lawsuit at the facility.

The lawsuit stems from a 2009 imminent domain case where the Airport Authority took land abutting the airport from then -property owner J.H. Whitaker in order to extend the runway.

At the time, the property was assessed at $192,000 - the amount still in escrow, but the original appraiser has since died. Whitaker had his own reappraisal of the property done, claiming its actual worth was $495,000.

Don Drayton, chairman of the Airport Authority, said since the original appraiser has passed and cannot be called as a witness, the airport was court-ordered to have a second appraisal done at a cost of nearly $6,000. That appraisal came in at $300,000.

"Our experts say it is (valued at) $300,000," Drayton said. "Their experts say $485,000. They are not going to go lower than $300,000. It cost us $5,500 to find out it's not $192,000.

Drayton said the court date for the lawsuit has been set for November 16, and at the advice of the board's attorney, he asked the Budget Committee for the $108,000 difference between the $192,000 originally paid and the new $300,000 appraisal the authority had done.

"What we are asking for is consideration of $108,000 for this escrow account," he said.

Drayton has previously presented the matter before the county General Operations Committee earlier that evening and when it came up during the budget meeting, resident Kevin Baigert asked if the county was responsible for the airport financially.

"The airport is its own standalone entity," Budget Committee chairman Kevin Pomeroy said. "The airport is not a county liability."

But the motion for the funding was put on the floor and voted in with little discussion. The money is being earmarked through an $11,000 rainy day fund, referred to by the county as the hospital fund.

Drayton said the lawsuit was one of more than 10 problems he and the new board had inherited from the previous board; most of which have been resolved, he said. Drayton also added the airport is no longer in the red and has a positive cash flow.

Until the lawsuit is heard in November, it is not known whether the additional $108,000 will be accepted or whether the ruling for the entire $485,000 will be granted. If that were to happen, the county could be asked to contribute an additional $185,000.


Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (KMFR) seeding to cut through fog on Sunday

Medford, Oregon  — The Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport is seeding on Sunday, to help improve visibility. 

With freezing fog conditions, airport officials made the call to begin seeding operations.

Authorities say the airport sends up a helium-filled balloon  with a spreader that disperses crushed dry ice. The device helps to clear fog for planes to land safely.

Seeding operations will take place on Saturday between 6:00 AM and 9:00 PM when Medford Tower is in operation.


Officials: Intoxicated man drives through fence at Detroit Metropolitan Airport (KDTW)

ROMULUS, Mich. (WJBK) - A drunk driver crashed through a security fence at Detroit Metro Airport early Sunday morning.

Sources tell FOX 2 that the vehicle had left a nearby bar with a car full of people, shortly before the incident.
According to airport media relations, the driver of the car ran off the road and went through a security fence at the airport, but did not access a runway, as sources had previously told FOX 2.

Eventually, the car exited the same location of the fence through which it had crashed. There was no chase according to airport media relations.

A short time later, a vehicle was stopped by Airport Authority Police near Middlebelt and I-94, matching the description of the vehicle involved in the incident.

According to airport media relations, the driver and one passenger were in the vehicle when it was stopped. Both occupants were removed without incident.

The driver was arrested for drunk driving, with a BAC high enough to be considered Super Drunk under the Michigan drunken driving laws.

The driver will also face charges of leaving the scene of an accident and breach of security, which is a violation of an airport ordinance.

The passenger was cited for breach of security and released.

Crews are on the scene at DTW, where repairs are being made to the fence.

The safety and security of the airport, passengers, and employees were never at risk, according to airport media relations.


Qatar Airways to launch Las Vegas flights

Qatar Airways has unveiled plans to launch a four times weekly, non-stop service to Las Vegas, Nevada, starting January 8, 2018.

The new route will be the airline’s 11th to the US, connecting McCarran International Airport to Hamad International Airport in Doha, making Qatar Airways the first Gulf carrier to provide regular scheduled service to Las Vegas.

“Las Vegas is a thriving leisure destination and adding the city to our route map has been long overdue. Growing our western US network is important to the airline as we are seeing exponential growth in passenger demand from the East via our state of the art hub in Doha,” said Qatar Airways Group chief executive, Akbar Al Baker.

“Our passengers appreciate the glamour, style and allure of Las Vegas and beginning in 2018, we are going to give our passengers from around the world direct and convenient access to this unique capital of entertainment.”

The new route also provides US-based flyers with an additional point of departure, when travelling abroad to Qatar Airways’ global network of over 150 destinations. It will be Qatar Airways’ second route from the American west, after the airline launched their popular Los Angeles to Doha route, in January 2016.

“International travel has been on an exponential rise and Qatar Airways serves more than 150 destinations, providing US passengers with shorter travel times to popular destinations in Thailand, Africa, the Middle East and India,” continued Al Baker. “With each new US destination, we are bringing our signature Qatar Airways hospitality to more Americans and raising their expectations for the services and sophistication a global airline can offer.”

This year, Qatar Airways is celebrating its 10th anniversary of serving the US, having started serving New York/Newark in 2007. Qatar Airways currently serves 10 American cities. Las Vegas will join Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City/JFK International Airport, Philadelphia and Washington DC. The new route will operate with a Boeing 777-200LR. 


Crashes 'part of the job' says former crop dusting pilot pilot Bruce Aitken

Bruce Aitken, survived eight plane crashes and started a top-dressing business in Hawera.

Bruce Aitken has survived eight near-fatal plane crashes and not once was he put out of the top-dressing industry. 

Flying is in his blood, he says. 

"Four of my crashes were just part of the job.They were bound to happen because at the time it was an industry in its infancy stages.

Former pilot Bruce Aitken (90) has published a book about growing his top-dressing business in the 1950s, 60s and 70s and making one hundred flights a day to fight for his business in the competitive aerial fertilizer dropping business.

"It's hardly surprising when you're flying six-feet above the ground carrying a full load of fertilizer."

Aitken, who went on to start his own top-dressing business in Hawera in 1954 has just completed a self-titled memoir about his time in the then-dangerous line of work.

"In its first 16 years of existence 51 pilots were killed, seven in one year," he says. "It was just part of the job."

Though the industry has improved drastically since Aitken was in the air - where roughly two percent of the workforce was dying - there has still been 61 accidents and six fatalities between 2006 and 2016 in New Zealand. 

Aitken says his most notable crash made headlines at the time for his "miraculous survival" after hitting powerlines in Waitara, North Taranaki.

"I remember asking the farmer if there were any power lines in the gully to the left of the airstrip, to which he assured me there weren't. 

"Turns out that there was and I struck them, which somersaulted the plane and sent me crashing through trees.

"I felt petrol dripping down my back and saw a man running over to me and drag me out of the wreck. Then I heard it catch fire behind me.

"Miraculously I wasn't hurt at all, not even knocked unconscious."

However, he didn't just stumble into the business - as he's stumbled into a few powerlines and trees - Aitken says he grew up with his head in the clouds.

"I grew up in Rongotai [Wellington], where you could literally throw stones onto the airport boundary," he says. 

"I used to climb up on the roof with a telescope and watch the planes come in."

Before he gained his pilot's licence he was sent to Japan with the New Zealand army's occupation forces where he stayed for two years, which piqued his childhood interest in the aviation industry. 

On his return to New Zealand he was determined to get his pilot's licence. He trained in Palmerston North, then went on to his first top-dressing job in Gisborne, before spending a year in Whanganui earning his stripes.

After making a few contacts among farmers in South Taranaki a friend of his started his own business and hired a few pilots. 

"But I saw one of the pilots crash 60 yards from out on a job, he wasn't killed but he was fired, and then I crashed myself quite badly in Matau not long after," he said. 

"After that I thought there's no way I'm flying for anyone else so I started my own business."

With the help of four farmers in Hawera that's exactly what he did, forming Farmers Aviation Ltd and going on to hire nine pilots and a fleet of top-dressing aeroplanes. 

During his ownership of the business Aitken never lost a pilot, although one had a major crash, something he puts down to tough training.

"I was pretty tough on them.

"I felt I had a job to train them properly and to look after them."

However, in the early 1980's a hangar of his in Hawera caught fire, destroying five of his aircraft and effectively signalling the end to more than 30 years in business. 

Insurance money from the fire allowed Aitken to purchase one new plane which he operated for two years before deciding it was time to end the business. 

But it wasn't the end of his flying career as he broke into the stunt flying game in New Zealand soon after.

Aitken, now 90, lives in Taupo and and his self-published memoir can be purchased by emailing him at 

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U-2 pilot Charles Stratton used up ‘all of his nine lives’ in high-altitude exit

Charles B. Stratton is seen in this early 1950s photo, before he became a U-2 spy plane pilot in the U.S. Air Force. 

By Doug Clark, columnist

Nightmare at 73,000 feet.

Jan. 2, 1962. The autopilot guiding one of the country’s secret U-2 spy planes fails, sending the aircraft into a violent spin that is literally ripping it apart.

Charles Stratton, an experienced U-2 pilot, calculates the odds in an instant. His only shot at survival is to engage the seat ejector and blast out of this doomed machine.

The Air Force captain also knows that there is an unfortunate wrinkle with this plan: No pilot has ever been so crazy or desperate enough to attempt such an exit at such a high altitude.

North Spokane resident Charles B. Stratton died Tuesday from complications of prostate cancer.

The retired Air Force colonel and former U-2 spy plane pilot was 87 years old.

He was a decent, loving man who put his family above even his passion for hunting and fishing, which is saying a lot, according to his two sons, Chuck and Bob.

True to the fighter-pilot stereotype, Stratton possessed plenty of swagger. “He was a type-A leader and take charge kind of guy,” agreed Bob, 60. “But he also had a big heart and everybody loved him.”

When I heard about this man’s passing I couldn’t wait to drive to the Stratton homestead and meet the guys who believe their dad deserves to be remembered as an American hero.

This family photo shows pilots Charles B. Stratton, second from left, with Francis Gary Powers, left, and other unidentified pilots during their training in early jets in the 1950s. Both Powers and Stratton became U-2 spy plane pilots.

They’re absolutely right. Stratton was one of a small, elite group of aviators who flew dangerous, high-altitude surveillance missions during those incredibly tense Cold War years, when the United States and Soviet Union were on the brink of turning each other into radioactive dust.

Known as a “fragile, and hard-to-maneuver beast,” Lockheed U-2 airplanes packed sensors and high-grade cameras that were designed to gather data and photograph the terrain below.

They still do. Mention the plane today and most people will probably think you’re referring to YouTube or the Irish band.

It surprised me to learn that U-2 airplanes – though upgraded and computerized – are still flying today.

Originally built for the CIA in the mid-1950s, no civilians knew America had such spycraft until May 1, 1960.

That’s the day Soviets shot down a U-2 flying over their airspace. The pilot, Francis Gary Powers, was captured and held until his release in a 1962 prisoner swap.

Stratton and Powers were more than poker buddies, said Chuck, 61, adding that his father even served as best man in the luckless pilot’s first wedding.

Stratton had a stellar career. He flew U-2 missions over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He logged 165 combat hours over Southeast Asia in 1964 and 1965, and retired from Fairchild Air Force Base.

The man’s official list of commendations includes “the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Air Medal with eleven Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, and the Vietnam Service Medal.”

But none of the exploits during Stratton’s 35-year military career quite compare with when that autopilot crapped out during a nighttime training mission over Mississippi.

“He used up all nine of his lives on that one bailout,” laughed Chuck.

Out of the airplane just before it exploded, Stratton found himself spinning with so much force that he feared he would throw up in his helmet and suffocate.

No one at Lockheed planned for such a high ejection. Because of that, the oxygen tank keeping Stratton alive was too small to last very long.

But what else could he do?

Enduring all the carnival gyrations he could, the captain opened his parachute and prayed he had enough O2 to get him below 20,000 feet where he could breathe naturally.

The oxygen ran dry. Stratton popped his helmet and hoped for the best.

Sure enough, he could breathe as he floated to earth and straight into the branches of a 125-foot Cypress tree.

It was 9:30 p.m. From the starlight Stratton knew he was over water. But it wasn’t enough information to let him know if he should climb down or stay put.

Stratton dropped his helmet – and listened. The resulting splash, he would later say, “sounded like a bucket going down into an empty well.”

He wisely decided to stay put. Using his emergency radio, Stratton called for help and began a wait that lasted overnight.

The front-page story that appeared in the Bryan Daily Eagle put it this way: “An Air Force rescue team plucked U-2 pilot Charles Stratton from a Cypress tree in snake-infested swamplands near Picayune (Miss.) today.”

Bob and Chuck never tire of telling the tale. Because of Stratton’s influence, the “boys” went on to their own military careers.

Chuck became a U.S. Army helicopter pilot. Bob graduated from West Point and later resigned his commission from the Army as a captain.

They both agree that of all the things their father accomplished, he had only one true love: Ann, his wife of 65 years, who still lives at their Spokane home.

She was “the center of his universe,” said Bob, in a choked voice. “Everything he did was to make her life better.”

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