Entries in Federal Aviation Administration (8)


Report: FAA to Review Boeing 787 Dreamliners After Fire

Matt Hosford/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The Federal Aviation Administration will hold a news conference Friday morning to discuss the recent rash of problems with Boeing's new 787 Dreamliners.

Bloomberg reports the government will call for a review of the plane's newly-designed electrical power system, which caught fire this week in Boston's Logan Airport.

The fire broke out Monday morning on board an empty 787 that had flown in non-stop from Tokyo.  The Massachusetts Port Authority's fire chief, Bob Donahue, said the blaze began in a battery pack for the plane's auxiliary power unit, which runs the jet's electrical systems when it's not getting power from its engines.

No major injuries were reported and one firefighter experienced skin irritation after contact with a chemical used to douse the fire, Donahue said.

The FAA has not commented on Bloomberg's report.

Boeing issued a statement in response, saying, "We actively work with the FAA daily, across all of our product lines.  We do not publicly comment on the nature and content of those communications."

"We are absolutely confident in the reliability and performance of the 787.  We are working with the FAA and our customers to ensure we thoroughly understand any introductory issues that arise.  While we take each issue seriously, nothing we've seen in service causes us to doubt the capabilities of the airplane," Boeing's statement continued.

There are 50 Dreamliners flying worldwide, six in the United States alone.  United Airlines, which operates all the 787s in the U.S., says it has no plans to take the jets out of service.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Senate Passes FAA Funding Bill to End FAA Shutdown

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate was in session for less than one minute Friday morning and passed, by unanimous consent, the House’s FAA funding bill, ending a stalemate that had sent more than 75,000 workers and contractors home without pay from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Currently in pro forma session, the procedural action Friday didn’t require Senators to return back to Washington, D.C. There was a gavel in, then Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia asked for unanimous consent. Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin approved the extension. Then a gavel out.

The next step in terms of the FAA funding bill will come from the administration. Once the deal is signed by President Obama, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood can use his authority -- granted in the bill -- to issue a waiver allowing at least some of the subsidies at the 13 small rural airports, the major sticking point, to continue.

The bill only provides short-term funding until Sept. 16, so once Congress is back from summer recess they will be basically right back where they started. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s statement following passage Friday wasted no time setting up the battle ahead, once the extension expires.

“Republicans like Representative John Mica are already threatening to force these 74,000 Americans out of their jobs again when this extension expires on September 16,” Reid said. “With millions of Americans struggling, we cannot afford for Republicans to hold common-sense jobs bills hostage to the Tea Party's ideological agenda. I hope Republicans will come to their senses and put the interests of the middle class ahead of the Tea Party and favors for airline CEOs.”

The Senate has now ended legislative business for the session and all Senators will head back to their homes for their district work periods: aka summer recess. The Senate will be in session next on Tuesday September 6.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


LaHood to Congress: Don't Rest Until FAA Shutdown Is Resolved

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Monday that lawmakers should not go on their summer vacations until they pass legislation to end the Federal Aviation Administration shutdown, saying it was not fair for Congress to hold workers hostage.

“I’m urging Congress… to take action to pass legislation so that people can go back to work and negotiations can begin on whatever the sticking points are that members of Congress feel they need in a final FAA bill,” LaHood said on a conference call. “Do not go on your vacations until this issue is settled.”

It’s been over a week since the FAA shut down for the first time in history after Congress failed to pass a bill to continue its funding. For ten days now, nearly 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed and as many as 70,000 construction workers have been out of work.

Now that a deal to raise the debt ceiling has been reached, LaHood said that “Congress has the ability, they have the time to pass an FAA bill before they leave on their summer vacation” and he called on Congress to pass a clean extension through the end of September.

“To hold hostage, construction workers… [and] FAA employees is just simply not fair when Congress has the ability to pass the 21st extension the way they have done on 20 other occasions without any controversy,” he added.

In the meantime, the Secretary insisted that safety has not been compromised as a result of the shutdown. However, to keep things running smoothly roughly 40 FAA safety inspectors across the country are continuing to work for free.

“Because Congress has failed to act, these inspectors are doing their job without pay. They’re traveling around the country to airports at their own expense,” FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta said on the call.

LaHood did not back away from chastising airlines for continuing to charge customers a federal tax on tickets and pocketing the money for themselves. “I don’t think it’s right for them to collect this amount of money under the idea that it’s a part of the taxes that are collected, because they’re not being collected,” he said. “That money is going directly into the coiffeurs of the airlines and costing passengers.”

Asked if there is a chance that customers could get a refund, LaHood said he is working with the Treasury to “figure this out.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FAA Shutdown: 4,000 Furloughed For One Week and Counting

(WASHINGTON) -- A week after funding for the Federal Aviation Administration expired, there is still no end in sight to the partial shutdown that has sent 4,000 employees home without pay, shuttered 219 airport construction projects and cost $200 million in lost tax revenue.

But with Congress entrenched in the debt-ceiling battle, there is not much light at the end of the runway.

“For all the talk around here about debt and deficit, that money is being lost to the Treasury, and we're trying to figure out if it can be made up or not,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters at a White House briefing Thursday. “So for people who really care about debt and deficit, pass a clean bill.  Let's get back on track, let's get our workers back to work, let's get construction projects going again, and let's start collecting the tax that goes into the federal Treasury.”

LaHood stressed that airline safety will not be compromised and air traffic controllers, plane inspectors and test pilots will all continue working because safety operations are funded through the Treasury Department’s general fund.

Engineers, project developers and construction managers, on the other hand, are funded through the FAA’s Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which Congress has not reauthorized the FAA to draw from.

Without reauthorization, the FAA cannot continue to collect the 7.5 percent federal excise tax on airline tickets or the $3.70 take-off tax applied to every flight.  Together, these taxes cost consumers about $57 on a $500 round-trip ticket with one layover each way.

Almost every major airline is now pocketing that would-be tax money, having raised base ticket prices so consumers pay the same amount despite airlines’ no longer paying those taxes to the IRS. Only Sprint, Hawaiian and Alaska airlines are passing the tax savings along to customers, according to USA Today.

Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for the Air Transport Association, said the airline industry is collecting about $25 million per day from the price increases.

“The good news for consumers is ticket prices are the same as they were last week,” Medina said.

Medina pointed out that as a whole, airlines are losing more money than they are making, posting a loss of $400 million from January through June.

“Airlines can’t continue to fly customers if they are losing money,” Medina said.

The airlines have until Aug. 3 to report how much they increased fares after the FAA partially shut down and how much money they are making from the increased fares.  

The congressional reauthorization stalemate revolves around labor union voting rights and rural airport subsidies. Republicans, who passed a FAA funding bill through the House in April, want to cut $16.5 million worth of airport subsidies and reverse a labor law from last year that allows airline employees to unionize with a simple majority vote.

Traditionally, employees who did not cast a ballot were counted as “no” votes. The new law only counts the votes that were cast, making it easier to unionize.

Democrats refuse to take up the House’s bill and want both measures removed from any reauthorization bill.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ticket Tax Expires, But Airlines Raise Prices, Punt to IRS on Refunds

John Foxx/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Airlines seem to be taking an "it's not our problem" approach to refunding passengers for taxes that are no longer authorized to be collected after Congress failed to pass legislation funding the Federal Aviation Administration.

Thus far, only one major airline has announced it will directly offer a refund of the 7.5 percent excise tax and a per-segment flat fee.  On a $500 round-trip connecting ticket, a customer would be due $42.30.  If the flight leaves the U.S., add another $32.60 for a total of $74.90.

After the midnight Friday deadline passed for re-authorization of the FAA, almost 4,000 FAA employees have reportedly been furloughed and federal air transportation excise taxes have expired.

The Internal Revenue Service clarified on Wednesday that tickets purchased on or before July 22 for travel on or after July 23 may be entitled to the tax refund.

Jetblue is the only major airline accepting requests for ticket tax refunds.  A message on its website instructs customers who are flying within the next seven days to contact the company while all others should check back at a later time.  Other major airlines are directing customers to the IRS.

The IRS' announcement came after the major airlines acknowledged they increased their fares concurrent with the expired taxes, preventing fliers from reaping any savings on tickets purchased on or after July 23.  Virgin America used the so-called "tax holiday" for an email marketing campaign on July 23 despite reportedly increasing its fares in lockstep with the other airlines.

That Virgin America email marketing campaign stated, "Take a tax holiday. Grab a seat with fewer federal taxes for a limited time only."

Virgin America said it immediately passed on the exact equivalent discount as soon as the expiration happened at 11:59pm on Friday night through Sunday night and promoted the discount to guests during that time.

"But, given the dynamic nature of fares, with the Monday morning fare changes, some fares held the discount, some went up and some went down," Abby Lunardini, Virgin America spokeswoman, said.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV, D-W. VA, chairman of the committee on commerce, science and transportation, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., aviation operations, safety and security subcommittee chairwoman, wrote a letter on Tuesday to the Air Transport Association (ATA) chairman, Richard Anderson, who is also the CEO of Delta Airlines, saying they were "deeply perplexed by the industry's pocketing of passenger tax revenue."

"Most of ATA members have elected not to pass the savings along to consumers through reduced ticket prices, but rather have decided to increase the base fare of airline tickets," the Senators wrote.  "We urge the nation's airlines to put all of the profits that they are making from the lapse of the aviation taxes into an escrow account so that they can be transferred back into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund when Congress reinstates the taxes."

Despite the request from the tax agency and the Senators, most airlines are directing customers to the IRS to request a refund.  The IRS said that "passengers who are unable to obtain a refund from the airline may obtain a refund by submitting a claim to the IRS."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FAA Losing $30 million Per Day until Congress Passes Funding

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On Monday, 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees were told not to report for work, and as a result, the government lost $30 million in airline tax revenue and $2.5 billion worth of airport construction projects were left abandoned.

For the first time in history, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been shut down because Congress adjourned Friday without passing a bill to continue its funding.

The shutdown does not affect TSA security screeners, air traffic controllers or flight safety inspectors in any way. “I want to make this very clear. The traveling public’s travel will not be compromised,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “[Air traffic] controllers went to work all over America this week. People are flying safely all over America.”

In a conference call with reporters Monday, LaHood said Congress' inability to keep the FAA up and running "is exactly why the American people are fed up with Washington.”

“We cannot afford to wait,” LaHood said. “Congress needs to get its act together, come back to Washington and get to work this week to pass an FAA reauthorization bill.”

In the meantime, projects such as plans to improve airport efficiency, inspections at five airports to approve runways for larger planes and engineering initiatives to design quieter approaches in and out of airports have all been halted, said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

"This is going to slow down our ability to expand to keep up with growing demand,” Babbitt said. “We just simply want to have Congress do its job and let us get back to running the safest and best aviation system in the world.”

LaHood said there is “no excuse” for Congress failing to at least pass a “clean” funding bill, like it has 20 times since the last long-term authorization bill expired in 2007.

Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin proposed such a “clean” bill Friday afternoon, but was met with objections from Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, who said the Senate should pass the House’s version of FAA reauthorization instead, which passed the lower chamber in April.

The House bill includes two sticking points for Senate Democrats. First, it cuts subsidies for rural airports and second, it rolls back a new law making it easier for airline employees to unionize.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


U.S. Air Travel to Double in Next 20 Years

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) - If airline crowds already make you cringe, expect them to get much worse. The Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday it expects airline crowds to double over the next 20 years.

The FAA has predicted that 737 million passengers will take to the skies this year, with that number reaching 1.3 billion by 2031.  The agency has used the new figures to reinforce their call for moving to a more modern air traffic control system – one based on satellite navigation rather than radar –  in order to meet airspace demand.

“We need to invest in aviation today to make sure America’s economy remains competitive,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Innovative NextGen technology will help meet the demands of the future by getting passengers to their destinations safely and more quickly.”

The FAA has said that NextGen, the Next Generation Air Transportation System, will also provide more precise routes, save on fuel and reduce emissions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


UC Berkeley Study: Passengers Pay Half of $32.9 Billion in Flight Delay Costs

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BERKELEY) -- A study released Monday by the University of California, Berkeley found that domestic flight delays cost $32.9 billion, with $16.7 billion of that cost falling onto the lap of passengers through lost time and expenses.

"This is the most comprehensive study done to date analyzing the monetary cost of airline flight delays," said Mark Hansen, UC Berkeley civil and environmental engineering professor and lead researcher on the study. 

The study, which was commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration, analyzed data from 2007 that was intended to calculate the financial impact of flight delays on both airlines and passengers, the cost of lost demand, and the collective impact of these costs on the U.S. economy, according to UC Berkeley.

Study results ultimately showed that "decreased delays directly correlate with increased costs."  The $16.7 billion costs carried by airline passengers was calculated  "based on lost passenger time due to flight delays, cancellations and missed connections, plus expenses such as food and accommodations that are incurred from being away from home for additional time," said UC Berkeley researchers. "The FAA commissioned the research because previous studies had discrepant numbers in some key areas of concern."

"The significance of this study is its use of innovative techniques to quantify the total cost of congestion to the aviation industry, the economy and society," said David K. Chin, director of performance analysis and strategy at the FAA's Strategy and Performance Business Unit. "These innovations created new economic measures for airline schedule padding, passenger delay impact and lost productivity," said Chin.

According to the report, "not all delays can or should be eliminated, especially delays due to mechanical failures and severe weather that are necessary to protect passenger safety."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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