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Tuesday
Aug132019

New FAA administrator says there is no timeline for the 737 MAX's return to service

Margarita Polyakova/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The new head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Stephen Dickson commented on the 737 MAX's return to service shortly after he was sworn in as the agency's 18th administrator on Monday.

The former senior vice president of flight operations for Delta Air Lines was confirmed by the Senate on July 24 in a 52 to 40 vote that went along party lines.

"I want to again be clear and absolutely committed, that the FAA is a safety driven organization and safety is my highest priority," Dickson said after being sworn in by U.S Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao . "This plane will not fly commercial service again until I'm completely assured that it is safe to do so."

Governments and airlines around the world have grounded the Boeing 737 Max aircraft after two fatal crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 that killed a total of 346 people.

"At this moment an entire fleet of U.S. made aircraft is grounded due to two tragic accidents overseas," Dickson said. "My heart, my prayers, go out to the families of those who perished in Indonesia and Ethiopia."

Reports by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times looked into alleged flaws in the FAA's certification process.

Acting FAA Deputy Administrator Carl Burleson responded to those reports in a Senate subcommittee hearing on July 31 that discussed the FAA's oversight of the Boeing 737 MAX.

"The professionals who are working this day in and day out have an incredible commitment to trying to get it right," Burleson said at the hearing. "The fundamental process of how we went about certifying the MAX was sound."

Dickson said on Monday that the FAA is not following any timeline for returning the aircraft to service.

"We're going where the facts lead us and diligently ensuring that all technology and training is present and current before the plane returns to passenger service," Dickson said.

In June, FAA pilots found a new potential issue with the 737 Max aircraft involved in both fatal crashes during a simulated flight, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The new flaw was traced to how data was processed by the flight computer and not related to reported problems with the anti-stall system, MCAS, sources told ABC News. They said it was connected to a broader anti-stall system called "speed trim."

Last week, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the company had worked its way through the "technical details" and are "in the final stages of repairing that software."

"We'll go through certification with the FAA," Muilenburg said. "We plan to submit that certification package in September and currently anticipate that we will return the airplane to service early in the fourth quarter."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug122019

Nike launches first-ever sneaker subscription service for kids

Instagram/@nikeadventureclub(NEW YORK) -- Nike has a solution for all the parents who constantly have to buy new sneakers for their children: a subscription service.

On Monday, the brand announced that for the first time ever Nike Adventure Club will give kids the opportunity to select from more than 100 sneaker styles monthly.

This new venture primarily services adolescents from ages 2 through 10 (size 5c-7Y) and is available for as low as $20 for four pairs a year.

"In providing footwear, we're always trying to answer, 'What do kids want?'" Dominique Shortell, director of product experience and retention for Nike Adventure Club, said in a statement.

"But an equally important question is, ‘What kind of experience are we providing for their parents?' We want to make shopping for footwear as convenient as possible for them," she continued.

Once you receive your sneakers, there is an option to keep them. Or, you can also send them back if you want a new pair.

Shoes also won't just go to waste; they're either recycled or donated to select non-profits in collaboration with Nike Grind.

An added bonus to the personalized Adventure Club Box: the sneakers come in a kit that features fun, kid-friendly outdoor games activities.

For now, you can sign up on Nike Adventure Club's waitlist for the new subscription services and the first set of orders will begin rolling out Aug. 12.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug122019

Karma Automotive hopes for a second chance in the auto industry 

Karma Automotive(NEW YORK) -- Detroit may be the nation’s hub of car manufacturing and engineering, but 3,000 miles away in Southern California, a boutique automaker is looking to reclaim a place at the table.

It’s not trying to be the next General Motors, Ford or even Tesla. But Karma Automotive is hoping for a comeback that will jolt the industry nonetheless -- tying its fate to a fleet of new electrified vehicles, including a lithe 535 horsepower plug-in hybrid sedan.

In 2014, Karma Automotive emerged from the remnants of Fisker Automotive, the eco-minded manufacturer of plug-in hybrid sports cars founded by veteran auto designer Henrik Fisker that experienced a meteoric rise and precipitous fall. Fisker was at the forefront of the electric revolution in 2007, years before mainstream automakers, with the exception of Toyota, took hybrids and pure electric vehicles seriously.

When Fisker unveiled the Fisker Karma concept in 2008, the world took notice. Celebrities lined up to get one. It was instantly declared one of the most beautiful cars -- ever. Even the Department of Energy jumped on the bandwagon, loaning the company $529 million. Fisker Karma would become the new symbol of the U.S. automotive industry, a perfect example of the Obama administration’s efforts to boost fuel efficiency across the U.S. auto industry.

Then the dream suddenly imploded. Henrik Fisker walked away from the business. The company declared bankruptcy. Wanxiang, a privately-owned Chinese auto parts company, later swooped in and purchased the remaining assets at a fire-sale price of $149 million.

Fast forward five years. The company, still based in Irvine, California, now goes by Karma Automotive. This spring, it introduced the 2020 Revero GT, a sinuous plug-in hybrid sedan and a much improved version of its first Revero vehicle, dubbed 1.0 internally, in 2017. At the Shanghai auto show in April, two more Karmas were shown off: the SC1 Vision concept electric vehicle and a GT concept designed in partnership with Pininfarina, the legendary Italian design and engineering house.

This appears to be only the beginning for the burgeoning automaker. The GT will make its North American debut at Monterey Car Week in California starting Aug. 15.

“We come from Fisker but we are not Fisker anymore,” Dr. Lance Zhou, Karma Automotive’s CEO, told ABC News in a recent interview at the company’s headquarters. “We can utilize history to move our company forward.”

Every Karma vehicle will be produced at the company's Innovation and Customization Center (KICC), a $100 million facility in Moreno Valley, California. Thirty percent of Karma's future inventory will be range extenders (plug-in hybrids) versus 70 percent of pure electric vehicles. In addition to the Revero GT and two concepts, an SUV, convertible and compact SUV are in the works.

“We will have everything – no company can survive on one car,” Zhou said.

Expansion plans are moving rapidly: the company expects to launch in 19 countries by next year and build out its limited dealer network. The company has also been actively hiring, staffing up for the coming push both across North America and in Europe. A public offering may happen as soon as 2021.

Karma’s comeback hinges on the success of the Revero GT, which officially enters production in September with customer deliveries beginning in the fourth quarter. The goal is to sell 500 in the first year and the company has already received “hundreds” of deposits from interested buyers, according to Zhou, including some customers in China. How the public responds to the Revero GT will be turning a point for Karma, especially since 75% of the vehicle was completely overhauled from the 2017 version.

“The Revero 2.0 is all new and on my watch,” Bob Kruse, Karma’s chief technology officer, told ABC News before a test drive of the prototype. “We have retuned the suspension, improving the ride and handling at the same time.”

Kruse, an industry veteran who led GM’s strategy behind the Chevrolet Volt, joined Karma in 2017. He didn’t like what he saw on the 2017 Revero -- “that car was built with a lot of parts we got out of the Fisker bankruptcy” -- so he set out on engineering a better version. The 2020 Revero is 357 pounds lighter, quicker and more responsive. Kruse replaced the old GM engine, which he said "sounded a bit like a tractor," with a new, more efficient BMW 1.5L turbo three-cylinder engine that was recalibrated and enhanced with Karma’s in-house technology.

“We added some tech to the exhaust system, changed the pedal map,” he noted. “The throttle is more aggressive and in sport mode you get more performance and a very robust sounding exhaust note.”

His team was also able to upgrade the lithium ion battery power from 20 to 28 kilowatt hours, boost the range in “stealth,” or electric mode, from 50 miles up to 80 (total range extends to 360 miles when the generator kicks in and the car is fully charged) and shave nearly a full second off the 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds.

The Revero GT also produces 536 horsepower and 550 lb.-ft of torque.

“We have an on-board generator that can make electricity to supplement the battery,” Kruse noted. “All of our torque and propulsion comes electrically. Once you drive an electric vehicle and get used to that instant torque, it’s very addicting. When you step on the accelerator your head will snap and your face will smile.”

The battery and motors were not the only changes; the Revero’s interior got an entire makeover, including the headliner, infotainment console, seats and steering wheel. The latest safety technologies were added and Kruse and his team developed a proprietary sound system that Kruse said trounces the competition.

Customers who decide to shell out $135,000 on the Revero GT will likely be impressed with the finished product. Everything about the new vehicle is better: the controls, comfort, styling, driving performance and electric range.
 
“The Revero failed to take off in 2017 but the Moreno Valley plant was also brand new with an untested workforce, limiting their ability to crank out cars,” according to Ed Kim, a longtime automotive industry expert and vice president of industry analysis at AutoPacific. “The Revero 1.0 was pretty much an exact carbon copy of the Fisker Karma and launched with uninspiring performance and range that was acceptable in 2011 when the original Fisker version launched, but not in 2017.”

“The new Revero GT appears to fix the first version’s performance and range,” Kim added.

Sunil Pandya, a physician and health tech entrepreneur in Florida, bought a Fisker Karma in 2012 after falling in love with it.

“I loved the name, it was amazing to look at and at the time had cutting-edge technology,” he told ABC News by phone. “I put 20,000 miles on it but there were engine issues, fit and finish problems. It was beautiful but a gamble.”

The vehicle’s constant problems, however, forced him to park it in the garage.

“It was a paperweight,” Pandya said.

His poor experience did not deter him from owning the Revero that emerged post-bankruptcy -- he’s on his second vehicle and will be one of the first customers to have the Revero GT later this year. A self-described car addict, Pandya said his 23 other cars -- including McLarens, Lamborghinis and Teslas -- are not as special as his Revero.
 
“I feel more exclusive with the Karma,” he said. “It’s a hybrid exotic that looks sexy and is an eye catcher.”

For Andreas Thurner, a former Rolls-Royce designer and Karma’s vice president of global design, the company presented an opportunity for him to “be small” again. He convinced others to follow his lead and join the startup.
 
“They all left good, secure jobs from established OEMs [original equipment manufacturer] because they all wanted something new,” he told ABC News. “You have to take the risk sometimes.”

He said the Karma name “gives us some recognition as opposed to zero” but acknowledged the company has to work with “world class people” to compete in the cutthroat luxury space.

“We are in a transition phase,” he said. “We have to inspire people. Karma is very design focused. We build show cars for the street. It’s a huge opportunity to be at Karma.”

Zhou and other executives eagerly tout the company’s Southern California roots at every opportunity. Car colors are influenced by the state (Borrego Black, Pacifico Grey, Balboa Blue, Napa Red) and the wood in the Revero GT cabin comes from felled trees in King Gillette Ranch national park. Customers who choose the wood option will receive a personal certification authenticating the material’s Californian birthplace.

“We 100% believe in California,” Zhou noted. “People here will resonate with the car.”

Jeff Schuster, president of global vehicle forecasting at LMC Automotive, said some Americans may be leery of buying a car from a Chinese automaker.

“On top of the naming issue, being a Chinese company in the current political environment adds another layer of risk for generating sales,” he told ABC News. “They clearly are trying to overcome the Chinese ownership reality by boasting about being a California-based company.”

Zhou disputed that Wanxiang has any involvement in Karma's business.

"We're an American company," he asserted. "There is no Chinese government influence."

Karma may be forever linked to Henrik Fisker but Kim said there are “absolutely” second chances in the automotive industry.

“Fisker’s bankruptcy didn’t involve product issues that crippled other brands that stumbled in spectacular public fashion,” he said. “Hyundai launched strong when it debuted for the 1986 model year, but poor quality and reliability sent sales tumbling quickly and it was decades until Hyundai was re-established as a builder of excellent vehicles. Audi faltered in the 1980s with a 60 Minutes report on unintended acceleration, and it similarly took well over a decade for the brand to recover because the issue was related to safety.”

Thurner said Karma has its sights set on one goal: to produce the best and most beautiful cars on the market.

“The new Revero is a huge departure from where we came from,” he said. “We’re not backwards-looking. We’re not nostalgic. It’s a fantastic starting point but let’s look into the future.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug122019

Olive Garden fans can snag exclusive lifetime pasta pass today only

Olive Garden(NEW YORK) -- Olive Garden is taking the term "endless pasta-bilities" to a whole new level.

The Italian restaurant chain announced the return of the never-ending Pasta Pass and introduced a first-of-its-kind Lifetime Pasta Pass.

The coveted card for carb lovers will be available to 24,000 diners for $100 each, but the first 50 guests to complete their online transaction can "opt-in" for the lifetime version and upgrade for an additional $400.

The passes are available for purchase exclusively at www.PastaPass.com for 30 minutes -- or until sold out -- beginning at 2 p.m. ET on Aug. 15.

Guests are encouraged to visit the website early to join the online waiting room starting at 1:55 p.m. ET.

Upgrading to the first-ever lifetime pass will pay off, on average, by the time a customer enjoys their 45th bowl, according to Olive Garden.

"The Lifetime Pasta Pass includes a lifetime of unlimited servings of guests’ favorite pastas, homemade sauces and toppings, accompanied by unlimited soup or salad and breadsticks," the company said in a press release.

Guests who claim the regular Pasta Pass will be able to enjoy the unlimited bowls of noodles for nine weeks from Sept. 23 through Nov. 24.

For this year's never ending pasta promotion, Olive Garden added creamy roasted garlic sauce to the menu.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug122019

Chick-fil-A rolls out new mac and cheese side option nationwide

Chick-fil-A(ATLANTA) -- Starting Monday, Chick-fil-A customers will have another item they can choose from the menu: mac and cheese.

The cheesy addition will be available nationwide as a side option with any lunch, dinner, Kid’s Meal or catering order.

It’s the restaurant chain’s first permanent side addition to its menu since 2016.

“Mac & Cheese is the quintessential comfort food, and something we are so excited to offer our guests at Chick-fil-A,” Amanda Norris, Chick-fil-A’s executive director of menu and packaging, said in a statement Monday.

The side dish was tested in five markets before it rolled out across the U.S.

“We have a very high bar when it comes to adding a menu item but the feedback from our customers in the test markets made this decision easy,” Norris said. “I am excited it will be available for all of our guests across the country starting today.”

According to Chick-fil-A, the new menu item is a “classic macaroni and cheese recipe, featuring a special blend of cheeses including cheddar, parmesan and Romano” and is “baked in restaurant each day.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug122019

Tesla Model 3 bursts into flames after crash in Moscow

jazz42/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Yet another Tesla Model 3 has crashed while reportedly in driver assistance mode.

This time, the incident took place in Moscow. The driver of the Model 3 told a Russian TV website he was using the electric vehicle’s auto pilot system when he hit a stopped tow truck on a highway.

The vehicle caught fire after the crash but the driver was able to escape before the car was engulfed in flames.

Tesla, which has come under scrutiny by regulators following several accidents involving self-driving systems on its Model 3, has not yet commented on the incident.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug122019

NBA Experience debuts at Disney: Here's everything you need to know

Shannon McLellan/ABC(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- The NBA Experience at Walt Disney World's Disney Springs is a slam dunk for basketball fans of all ages.

The immersive, one-of-a-kind attraction allows guests to get an inside look at the NBA in a way that's never been done before.

"When we were young, we played basketball in our driveways or in the park, creating those imaginary moments of making the game-winning shot for a championship," said Stan Dodd, executive producer, Walt Disney Imagineering. "We want to take that energy and help you feel what it's like to be an actual NBA or WNBA player."

The interactive exhibit gives visitors the opportunity to personalize their experience by allowing them to register using their Disney wristband. Once they're scanned in, guests will be able to pick their favorite team along with a personalized basketball nickname. At each exhibit, visitors can scan in and have their experience be personal to them and the team they love.

ABC News toured the entire NBA Experience and breaks it down in four quarters below:

Quarter 1: Put Me In, Coach


Several immersive games will put visitors' basketball skills to the test and tell them how they stack up against current NBA and WNBA stars.

"Combine" will measure visitors' wingspan, reach and vertical leap. Once the results are in, the interactive screen will show how guests compare to today's most popular NBA stars like Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and more.

If you get discouraged after your combine results, have no fear: There are plenty of interactive basketball activities to help guests sharpen their skills on the court.

"Dribble" has guests work with an interactive coach to show the drills and skills they need to become the next great point guard while "Shoot" tests players to see how many shots they can make from different areas of the court in just 15 seconds.

To really feel like an NBA superstar, however, visitors should head to "Dunk." The rim can be lowered from the normal 10 feet to 7 feet and visitors have one minute to give their best Slam Dunk Contest-worthy performance. Once the minute is up, guests can check out pictures of them slamming the ball through the hoop like NBA superstars.

Quarter 2: Welcome to the NBA

After guests sharpen their skills at the NBA Experience's immersive basketball attractions, they'll be ready for the league.

Visitors will be able to experience one of the biggest milestones in a professional basketball player's career -- the NBA draft. Get drafted by your favorite team and snap a photo with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver -- or at least a life-like replica of him.

Once drafted, visitors will be ready to hit the locker room. This room, which is an exact replica of an NBA locker room, houses jerseys from all of the NBA and WNBA teams. Along the walls are interactive screens, which allow visitors to take a look at each team in the league and explore their current rosters, records and highlights.

Now that guests are in their league, they'll need to see how they measure up to the competition. The "measure up" wall has life-size cutouts of NBA star Mo Bamba and WNBA star Elena Delle Donne. Guests can also compare their hand size to current NBA players on basketballs lining the walls.

Quarter 3: The League's Legacy

Now that guests are in the league, they'll want to experience the NBA's rich legacy.

"Champions" allows visitors to learn about the legacy of great teams in the NBA and the WNBA. Visitors will get the chance to snap photos with replicas of the Larry O'Brien NBA Champions trophy and the Most Valuable Player award.

Guests will also be able to watch the impact of the league through two film experiences. "Game Time" shows the heartwarming impact attending an NBA game makes on a young woman and her father, while "Together" follows the incredible on-and-off court story of an NBA superstar in an 180-degree cinematic presentation.

Once immersed in the legacy, visitors will be able to put their knowledge to the test with NBA trivia. This multi-screen room allows guests to play trivia with other visitors of the experience in real time.

Quarter 4: All Fun and Games

Once guests get the full NBA journey, it's time for a little fun! The experience has a ton of games that will make people of all ages feel like a kid again.

The arcade has a ton of games that are perfect for some friendly competition. Visitors can take on their friends in Pop-A-Shot and also challenge them to the latest NBA 2K video games.

Perhaps the most fun attraction in the entire exhibit is the "Slingshot" game. Guests use over-sized slingshots to fire balls into varying sized hoops, in a race against the clock against dozens of other visitors.

The NBA Experience allows people of all ages to be everything from a fan to a referee to a draft pick to, ultimately, an NBA champion. With all these elements combined, one thing is for sure -- everyone is a winner!

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Aug112019

FAA investigating former Boston air ambulance pilot who allegedly fell asleep at controls

Ralf Geithe/iStock(BOSTON) -- The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating an incident in which an air ambulance pilot allegedly fell asleep at the controls.

The former Boston MedFlight pilot fell asleep while conducting a flight from Martha's Vineyard to a Boston hospital on June 24, FAA officials said in a statement.

The pilot overflew the designated helipad at the hospital, but the transport was completed successfully, and there were no injuries to the patient or flight crew, Boston MedFlight CEO Maura Hughes said in a statement.

Fatigue played a factor in the alleged "isolated incident," Hughes said. The company is now working with a fatigue management consultant to review its policies and procedures so it won't happen again.

The company conducts about five flights per day on average, according to its website.

"Throughout our 34-year history as a nonprofit organization providing critical care medical transport to over 75,000 patients in need, the safety of our patients and crews has always been our highest priority," Hughes said.

Additional information was not immediately available.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug092019

Uber reported a $5.2 billion loss for the second quarter

nycshooter/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Uber posted its largest-ever quarterly loss -- $5.2 billion -- this week, as it faces increasing competition and investor scrutiny as a publicly-traded company.

The bulk of the loss -- $3.9 billion -- came from employees cashing in after the company's IPO in May, $300 million in driver appreciation awards band investment spending, the company said.

The company also reported slowing growth, as overall revenue rose 14% to $3.2 billion, the smallest quarterly increase on record.

"While you often have to make trade-offs in life, we believe that we can continue to invest aggressively in growth while driving efficiencies from scale by building great tech to improve effectiveness and from good old-fashioned focus on the bottom line," Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in an earnings call on Thursday.

Khosrowshahi said he expects investment spending to peak this year, and start declining in 2020.

Khosrowshahi said the company would refocus on its technology and the efficiency of its ride shares, which have already resulted in more profitable UberX rides.

"We'll continue to innovate in the shared-ride space with exciting new products such as nonstop shared rides, much more sophisticated pricing algorithms and some pretty interesting innovations coming up in the second half of the year," Khosrowshahi said.

Meanwhile, the company also reported aggressive growth plans to launch new services and features, including Uber Rewards, in addition to its other loyalty programs: Uber Cash, an Uber-branded credit card, and subscription packages for rides and Uber Eats. It is also globally rolling out its new premium economy ride-share feature, Uber Comfort.

Still the losses renewed investor concerns about the company's ability to become profitable, since rival Lyft posted better-than-expected earnings a day before Uber's report.

"This was not the quarter the bulls wanted to see especially after Lyft’s strong results," Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives told ABC News.

Lyft, which also went public earlier this year, posted better-than-expected earnings for the second quarter.

The company reported a 72% increase in revenue over the second quarter in 2018, taking in $867.3 million. More importantly the company updated its outlook for the year, saying it expected to expected to lose $850 million to $875 million in 2019, a much-improved outlook compared to its prior estimate of $1.15 billion to $1.175 billion.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug092019

Frontier Airlines offering free flights to passengers with certain last names

Laser1987/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Frontier Airlines is offering free flights for people with the last names "Green" or "Greene" as it promotes "Green Week," an effort to highlight eco-friendly initiatives.

The Colorado-based airline boasts its use of "one of the most fuel-efficient aircraft in the world," and on Wednesday, flew what it called "America's Greenest Flight." The trip flew from Denver to Greenville, South Carolina, and the company says it made efforts to provide compostable cups and napkins made from recyclable materials, bamboo stirring sticks, and snacks and drinks in eco-friendly packaging.

Now, it's continuing its efforts by inviting those with the last names Green and Greene to fly for free on August 13. Passengers have to book online, must depart on August 13 and return by August 20, and must prove their legal last name is Green or Greene.

"Our fleet's fuel efficiency is unmatched by other U.S. airlines," President and CEO Barry Biffle said in a press release. "We are proud to serve communities across the U.S. and understand the importance of being good stewards of the environment."

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