Browsing Tag: FAA

The FAA gets dissed.

The FAA gets dissed.

Since politicians were not able to come to an agreement over extending the operating authority of the FAA as of midnight tonight, about 4,000 people will be out of work and federal airline ticket tax will no longer be collected. The shutdown will not affect airline safety, but it will stop airlines from collecting about $200million per week in ticket taxes that would help to to fund FAA programs. In the short term, passengers might celebrate since they will be able to save money by not paying taxes, but this means that projects will be delayed and costs might end up being higher in the long run.

At this time it seems unclear exactly how this partial shutdown will affect the airline industry. Although confusing, I am willing to bet that Spirit Airlines will come up with some fancy advertising campaign about the FAA shutdown. Although I normally celebrate an airline’s unique advertising campaign, it seems odd to celebrate a failure in politics, which will end up hurting airline-related projects, but I am sure it will happen.

Update 1: looks like Virgin America jumped on the tax-themed sale already.

Update 2: Boeing confirmed via email to AirlineReporter.com that 787 Dreamliner and 747-8 certifications will not be affected by the FAA partial shut down.

Update 3: Alaska Airlines is also advertising (see screen shot) lower fares from the FAA partial shut down on their homepage. Still nothing from Spirit Airlines — guess I was way off on that one.

Here is the direct copy and paste of the FAA’s press release as well as some information from Alaska Airlines how these changes will change their fares…

From the official FAA Press release:
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt expressed disappointment today after Congress adjourned for the week without passing a clean FAA reauthorization extension. Because of Congress’ inaction, many states will have to bear a significant economic burden and many airport projects will be halted.

“I’m very disappointed that Congress adjourned today without passing a clean extension of the FAA bill,” said Secretary LaHood. “Because of their inaction, states and airports won’t be able to work on their construction projects, and too many people will have to go without a paycheck. This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world.”

The current FAA reauthorization expires at midnight tonight, Friday, July 22, 2011. Congress has extended the FAA’s authorization 20 separate times without controversy. Without an extension, the FAA will be forced to furlough nearly 4,000 employees and will be unable to move forward on important airport construction projects and other critical airport activities.

While this lapse in FAA’s authorization affects thousands of public and private sector jobs, it is important to note that the safety of the flying public will not be compromised.
“The FAA employees who will be furloughed perform critical work for our nation’s aviation system and our economy,” said FAA Administrator Babbitt. “These are real people with families who do not deserve to be put out of work during these tough economic times.”

The Airport Improvement Program has already stopped processing new airport grants in anticipation of a furlough. The program, which provides construction project grants to airports, will be shut down and unable to provide roughly $2.5 billion for airport projects in all 50 states that could put thousands of people to work in good paying jobs.

For example:
* Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida is still waiting on funding to rehabilitate a major taxiway
* St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport in St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida is still waiting on funding to rehabilitate Runway 04/22
* Cambridge Municipal Airport in Cambridge, Ohio is still waiting on funding to acquire snow removal equipment and conduct a survey to develop an instrument approach procedure
* Houghton County Memorial Airport in Hancock, Michigan is still waiting on funding to modify their terminal building and discourage wildlife from entering the active airfield
* Richmond International Airport in Richmond, Virginia is still waiting on funding to proceed with construction of a new apron for terminal concourse A
* Henderson City-County Airport in Henderson, Kentucky is still waiting on funding to rehabilitate Runway 09/27
* Clovis Municipal Airport in Clovis, New Mexico is still waiting on funding to relocate the localizer equipment due to a runway extension construction. This equipment is out of service on the main runway until the project can proceed
* Lubbock International Airport in Lubbock, Texas is still waiting on funding to begin the third phase of a critical runway rehabilitation
* Adams Field in Little Rock, Arkansas is still waiting on funding to begin the rehabilitation of taxiway lighting, construction of a Runway Safety Area, and the installation of Precision Approach Path Indicator

Additionally, the FAA will be forced to withhold money for states and individual airports as a result of the lapse in authorization. For example, Florida airports will not have access to over $40 million in funding and the state of California cannot use nearly $38 million. The FAA also cannot give the state of Ohio over $10 million in airport grant money or the state of Virginia over $16 million for which they are eligible.

Up to 4,000 FAA employees in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will be furloughed and forced to go without pay. Large numbers of employees in New Jersey, New York, California, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, Illinois and the District of Columbia will be affected. This includes many of FAA’s engineers, scientists, research analysts, administrative assistants, computer specialists, program managers and analysts, environmental protection specialists, and community planners.

Specific Details from Alaska Airlines:
For tickets sold on alaskaair.com starting 12 a.m., Saturday, July 23, 2011, the following taxes will not be collected until congress votes to reinstate them:
* The 7.5% tax generally applicable to domestic transportation (as well the7.5% tax on amounts received from the sale of “frequent flier miles”.)
* The $3.70 domestic segment tax.
* The $16.30 international arrival/departure tax.
* The $8.20 departure tax for flights between Alaska/Hawaii and the mainland US.

For example, on Alaska this represents a savings of approximately $44 off a $300 roundtrip ticket, or about 14 percent. All other taxes and fees will continue to apply.

Cockpit of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Cockpit of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Uh oh, is that electronic device authorized?

“Sit down, shut up and turn off your electronic devices!” Okay, it is not really that bad, but sometimes I get pretty annoyed when I have to turn off my personal electronic device (PED) during taxi. I am a spoiled American and if we are delayed on the tarmac for take off, not having access to my precious electronic devices is difficult. So why the heck are you required to turn your devices off anyhow? And can they really bring down a plane?

If something happens to the plane and you are on above 10,000 feet, you have time. Time to try to navigate to an airport, time to put your toys away before landing. When you are below 10,000 feet things need to happen quickly and it is more dangerous.

One of the important reasons you have your devices off, is to make sure you are paying attention. First you need to pay attention to the flight attendants giving their safety announcement (they don’t do it for fun). Secondly, you should be paying attention to your surroundings. If the plane catches on fire while taxiing out, you need to be ready to react, not listening to the newest Justin Bieber song (is he still “cool” — I dunno). You also need to be able to get out of the plane as soon as possible. If there are cords and cables in the way and your neighbor is distracted, that can slow things down, causing people injury or possibly death.

Next are those pesky electronic signals. All electronic devices give off some sort of signal that could interfere with the cockpit. Even the Federal Aviation Administration isn’t too sure how much these signals affect the avionics in an airliner, but are playing it safe. The FAA’s website states site, “there are still unknowns about the radio signals that portable electronic devices and cell phones give off.”

Airplane manufacturers, airlines and the FAA work together to make sure that any electronic equipment that might go into an airplane will not cause it harm. According to Flight Global, recently on board Wi-Fi tests resulted in some Honeywell avionics to react adversely. This goes to show that yes, electronic equipment can affect instruments, but it also shows that rigorous testing by all those involved make sure that these sort of things won’t happen past the testing phase. Currently all those involved are working together to find the cause and a solution.

Yes, it might be annoying to put your devices away, but I think there are some very valid reasons for doing so. Next time you are on a flight and you hear the call to turn off your devices, be a good sport and do as you are told.

For more information and quotes from Boeing, Virgin America and the FAA, check out my story on AOL Travel News.

 

Oh noes! Will AvGeeks be save taking Laviator photos in the future? Taken on Air New Zealands Boeing 777-300ER

Oh noes! Will AvGeeks be safe taking Laviator photos in the future? Taken on Air New Zealands Boeing 777-300ER

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered airlines to remove the oxygen tanks located in lavatories in 6000 aircraft across the United States. The FAA determined that someone could use the oxygen tanks to start a fire or to create a bomb. The Air Worthiness Directive 2011-04-09 stated that airlines had to comply over a 21-day period, ending on March 4th. The entire process was kept a secret to the general public, since the FAA did not want someone to use the information for evil doing.

This means that if cabin pressure is lost mid-flight, there would be no oxygen mask for a passenger in the bathroom. This has some people very upset (and afraid), but really flight attendants are trained to take care of you and although some people think depressurization happens all the time it is a very rare situation — especially when you think about how many flight hours are completed in the US on a daily basis. I would rather take the risk of being in the bathroom during decompression versus someone using the oxygen container for something bad.

So why have the bathroom oxygen tanks been removed, but not the others in the main cabin? I suspect the ones in the lavatories were targeted since passengers have a pretty high level of privacy and could barricade themselves in. The airlines and aircraft manufactures are working on a better solution (I am thinking an alarm to access the oxygen tank?), but there is no word when oxygen will be re-activated in the lavatories.

To learn more, check out my story on AOL Travel News (http://aol.it/ex6xq5).

A nice view of Mount Rainier.

A nice view of Mount Rainier.

Not that long ago I wrote a blog talking about Koito falsifying the safety of their seats and about three Eva Air Boeing 777’s sitting at Paine Field with no seats. Well, the story now gets better (or I guess worse).

Mary Kirby on FlightGlobal.com highlights the new issues facing the Koito seats. Due to Koito’s lack of following proper procedures 150,000 seats flown all over the world could have unknown safety issues and now the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have proposed airworthiness directives (AD) for the seats. The EASA proposal is a bit more strict than the FAA.

“The Japanese airworthiness authority (JCAB) has informed EASA that a review of the safety of passenger seats manufactured by Koito industries has disclosed discrepancies which include falsification of static, dynamic and flammability testing, as well as uncontrolled changes to production data (material and dimensional),” says EASA in its proposed AD.

“In addition JCAB confirmed that Koito records, showing evidence of falsification, could not be deemed complete. Examples include: fictitious dynamic test pulse plots inserted into test reports following failure to meet required certification requirements; flammability test coupons not representative of production parts, for instance by use of alternative adhesive not specified on the approved drawing; and fictitious deformation values entered in test reports when values exceeded the maximum allowed.”

Because of all the issues, the EASA has asked airlines to remove all Koito seats with-in the next two years. However, if additional testing shows the seats are safe, this could be changed to ten years. The FAA’s proposal puts it onto the airlines to test the seat’s safety. If airlines determine the seats are unsafe, they must be removed.

“Because this proposed AD will not require full compliance with every applicable regulation, seats on which the requirements of this proposed AD are completed successfully and are permitted to remain in service are limited in how they can be used. That is, unless they are shown to fully comply with the regulatory requirements, this proposed AD would restrict the installation of such seats and would require specific marking. These seats can be used as a direct spare for the same part number seat. However, any other use of such seats would be considered a new installation approval and would be required to comply with all regulations. Thus, seats not meeting all regulations could not be installed except as noted above, and if removed from an approved arrangement, would have to be destroyed or rendered unusable in some other manner acceptable to the FAA,” says the agency in its proposed AD.

The FAA estimated that its directive would affect 40,365 seats on 278 airplanes in the US with a total estimated cost of $875,000. However, I assume that the cost would be much higher than that.

Flight Global asked the FAA if they are concerned that unfavorable comparisons will be made about the their AD versus the EASA’s. An FAA spokesman explained,  “Clearly the FAA doesn’t operate in a vacuum, but that said what we have to do is look at the safety impact and the safety issue and the proposed solution based on our environment, not the environment that exists in Europe.”

Most of the Koito seats flying in the US are on Continental Airlines aircraft. It looks like they anticipated this direction and have already started testing. “We’ve been working closely with the FAA over the past year in anticipation of the proposed rulemaking and have completed initial testing on the majority of our aircraft,” Julie King with Continental Public Relations explained to me via an email.

I started looking into this story because of the three Eva Air Boeing 777’s sitting at Paine Field, so I wanted to check in with them to see their status. They are still sticking with the, “no comment,” stance, which again, is not surprising.

So, what does this mean to you? Not too much, unless it turns out these seats are unsafe you end up sitting in one during an incident. However, as explained earlier, the chances of being in any airline seat during an accident, is very rare, being in a Koito seat is even less likely.