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Entries in Air Travel (19)

Wednesday
Aug082012

Alaska Airlines Passenger’s Confidence Shaken by Message on Wing

Boeing247/Reddit.com(SEATTLE) -- While aboard an Alaska Airlines flight leaving Burbank, Calif. bound for Seattle, Wash., a passenger looked out a window to see a handwritten message scrawled on what appeared to be a damaged area of the plane’s wing.

“We know about this,” the note said. Below the message, an arrow pointed down to a portion of the wing that appeared to be missing.

The passenger took a picture and uploaded it to social news website Reddit under the name Boeing247.

“The maintenance team for this Alaska Airlines 737 sure knows how to instill passenger confidence,” Boeing247 said. “The method of communication here shows a unique level of professionalism.”

Commentors on the posting weighed in on the airlines’ unorthodox policy, including one Delta airlines operations employee.

“This is for the ground personnel meeting the arriving aircraft (parkers), who are required to inspect the ship and document any damage found on arrival. Marking apparent damage prevents reports from being filed at each station at which the aircraft arrives,” the employee said.  “Delta does not do this and we inefficiently file a report tens of times for damage that has already been documented, creating needless redundant emails and work.”

Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said that the photo showed a permanent approved trim repair to the corner flap of the right wing, and that the plane was absolutely safe to fly.

“The small indent shown in the photo was reported multiple times in multiple flight crew reports. A maintenance technician wrote on the wing to acknowledge to flight crews that the repair was made, documented and that the plane was airworthy,” she said.

Egan said the airline immediately removed the message from the wing upon hearing about it, and apologized for any alarm it may have caused.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul182012

Flight Schools Still Unknowingly Training Terrorists?

Chris Rank/Bloomberg via Getty Image(WASHINGTON) -- More than a decade after the Sept. 11 terror attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans, thousands of foreign flight students are still not subject to terror database screening until after they've completed pilot training, according to a new report from the government's watchdog.

"Thus, foreign nationals obtaining flight training with the intent to do harm, such as three of the pilots and leaders of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, could have already obtained the training needed to operate an aircraft before they received any type of vetting," says report, published today by the Government Accountability Office.

In the Sept. 11 attacks, 19 foreign nationals hijacked four commercial airliners and used the planes as weapons to hit the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in the nation's capital. Several of the hijackers attended more than a dozen American flight schools in the weeks before the attacks to learn how to fly the jets.

After the attacks, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) established the Alien Flight Student Program (AFSP), which is designed to prevent flight schools regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration from "providing flight training to a foreign student unless the Secretary of Homeland Security first determines that the student does not pose a threat to aviation or national security."

But the new GAO report says that the AFSP database is woefully behind and more than 25,000 foreign nationals who were in the FAA airmen registry were not found in the AFSP database, "indicating that these individuals had not applied to the AFSP or been vetted by the TSA before taking flight training and receiving an FAA airman certificate."

"It is disturbing to learn we could still be vulnerable to the same actions the 9/11 hijackers took over a decade ago," said Rep. Mike Rogers (R.-Alabama), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Transportation Security.

The GAO report is the centerpiece of the subcommittee's hearing today, but the problem has apparently persisted despite being publicly exposed years before. In both 2006 and 2008, ABC News reported that government officials were growing increasingly frustrated with the AFSP system.

"Some of the very same conditions that allowed the 9-11 tragedy to happen in the first place are still very much in existence today," wrote one regional security official to his boss at the TSA in 2008. "Thousands of aliens, some of whom may very well pose a threat to this country, are taking flight lessons, being granted FAA certifications and are flying planes."

TSA official Kerwin Wilson said in a prepared statement before today's subcommittee hearing that the Administration "concurred" with the GAO's recommendations and said it would update the watchdog agency in 60 days on its own investigation into the vetting problem.

"TSA employs risk-based, intelligence-driven operations to prevent terrorist attacks and to reduce the vulnerability of the Nation's transportation system to terrorism," Wilson said. "Our goal at all times is to maximize transportation security to stay ahead of evolving terrorist threats while protecting privacy and facilitating the flow of legitimate commerce."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul162012

Exclusive: The Airplane Mystery Wire that Triggered Delta Scare

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- New details emerged Monday about the two mysterious pieces of wire encased in straws that triggered a short-lived but widely-reported terror scare on a Delta flight last week from JFK airport in New York to Madrid.

A government picture of one of the wires, obtained by ABC News, provides the first look of what a federal air marshal feared could be a component for a bomb.

The wire that led to the false alarm appears to be no more than two inches long, running through a dark straw shield.

Authorities speculated it could be part of a rectifier, a device that converts AC to DC current.

Federal authorities also revealed Monday that the Barnes Air National Guard base in Westfield, Massachusetts was placed at "battle stations" as Delta flight 126 aborted its route to Madrid and turned around north of the island of Nantucket to return to JFK airport in New York.

A public affairs spokesperson at NORAD, Lt. Commander Bill Lewis said, "We were aware of the situation but we did not launch any aircraft." The plane, with 206 passengers on board, returned to JFK and declared an overweight landing emergency due to the amount of fuel on board for the transatlantic trip. The plane landed without incident.

According to a report on the incident, the two wires in the right rear lavatory were first discovered by a flight attendant who notified the flight's first officer who then alerted one of the federal air marshals on flight.

Concern apparently grew because the wires, one on the lavatory floor and the other on the toilet, "were not there during a pre-flight check," according to the report reviewed by ABC News.

The report said none of the lavatory's panels had been tampered with and the wires did not appear to be part of the aircraft.

The federal air marshals questioned a 43-year old male passenger identified by flight attendants as the last person to be near the lavatory before the discovery of the wires.

He was identified in the report as traveling on a Bolivian passport with a US green card. Initial reports suggested he was of Pakistani descent.

The air marshals cleared the passenger after he denied using the lavatory and a background check conducted by the FBI raised no concerns, according to the report.

There was no immediate comment from representatives of the Federal Air Marshals or the TSA.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May302012

Authorities Probe Security Breach at San Diego Airport

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Authorities on Wednesday continued to investigate how a man was able to board a Los Angeles-bound plane at San Diego International Airport Tuesday without a ticket.

The man, whose name has not been released, was arrested and charged with trespassing. He’d just been released from prison and authorities said he had an extensive criminal history.

The suspect allegedly walked through an alarmed but unguarded emergency door inside the terminal. He then joined a line of passengers boarding United Airlines flight 6323 on the tarmac.

“When he went through the door, it set off the alarm,” San Diego Harbor Police Lt. James Jordan told Fox 5 San Diego.  “It was caught on camera.”

Flight attendants became aware of the extra flier, who was then seated on the plane, during a final passenger count.

“They said: ‘What’s your count?’” said passenger Nicholas Blasgen. “She said: ‘This is my count.’ And they said: ‘That’s wrong.’”

Agents from the Transportation Security Administration arrested the man, who was reportedly not deemed a threat.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May152012

Travel Increase Predicted for Memorial Day 2012

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of Memorial Day vacationers to travel more than 50 miles from home is expected to increase by 1.2 percent in 2012, according to an annual survey from the automobile group AAA.

As is typical, the number of people expected to travel by car far outnumbers those expected to travel by plane. More than 30 million people will get to their destinations by car, while roughly 2.5 million will get there by air.

Eighty-eight percent of holiday voyagers will travel by car; 7 percent by air and the remainder by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.

The total increase in travelers comes from drivers, at a rate of 1.2 percent. The number of people traveling by air is expected to decline 5.5 percent from last year's 2.7 million air travelers.

More than half of the survey's respondents said gas prices would not affect their Memorial Day holiday travel plans. However, the average travel distance is considerably less this year than in 2011. The average distance vacationers will travel will be 642 miles, which is 150 miles less than last year's average travel distance of 792 miles.

This is despite gas prices being, on average, 25 cents per gallon cheaper than this time last year, according to the AAA.

TripAdvisor, which ran its own Memorial Day travel survey, found a larger increase in the expected Memorial Day travelers: An 8 percent increase compared with 2011. The site also found that respondents weren't letting gas prices affect their summer vacations.

It's not only gas prices that are on the decline: AAA reports weekend daily car rental rates will average $36, which is 4 percent, or $2, less than last year.

Hotel rates, though, are expected to climb between 8 and 10 percent compared with last year.

The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 24, to Monday, May 28.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov032011

Airlines Will Be Stuffed for Thanksgiving

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Don’t count on an empty seat next to you if you are flying over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Air Transport Association, which represents the majority of domestic airlines, says it expects 23.2 million passengers to fly over the holiday. While that is a 2 percent decline over last year, planes will still be packed.

“While demand is down from last year and remains well below the 2006 peak, passengers still should expect full flights during the Thanksgiving holiday travel season as airlines have begun to reduce capacity and limit the number of seats available for sale due in part to rising cost pressures,” said ATA vice president and chief economist John Heimlich in a press release.

“Based on published airline schedules, these cuts are expected to continue through the winter,” he added.

The crunch comes as airlines have reduced capacity in the face of higher operating costs. In particular, Heimlich says that fuel costs for airlines are up more than 38 percent over the past year. For fliers, this all means there are fewer seats available.

If you are flying for Thanksgiving, the ATA says the busiest days will be Friday, Nov. 18, Sunday, Nov. 27, and Monday, Nov. 28.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct242011

TSA Sex Advice? Woman Finds 'Freaky' Note In Luggage

Medioimages/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- Frequent travelers may be used to finding an official note from the Transportation Security Administration alerting them that their checked bags have been searched, but rarely does the TSA take the opportunity to get a little more -- or a lot more -- personal with travelers.

But that's what one blogger said a TSA officer did based on an unusual note she found in her luggage Monday. Jill Filipovic, a blogger at Feministe.us, tweeted a picture of the TSA notification on which, alongside the official form, someone had scrawled "GET YOUR FREAK ON GIRL" in big capital letters.

"Just unpacked my suitcase and found this note from TSA," Filipovic tweeted. "Guess they discovered a 'personal item' in my bag. Wow."

Attempting to discreetly explain the "personal item" on Feministe, Filipovic wrote it was "the most basic lady-thing you can imagine."

Filipovic had traveled from Newark, New Jersey, to Dublin, Ireland, over the weekend and had just Monday morning opened her luggage. She said that except for when the bag was checked -- from the time she packed to the time she unpacked -- she had been with the bag, meaning it was unlikely an elaborate practical prank by a friend. She said the fact that the note was left on the TSA notice led her to believe a TSA officer had written it.

A spokesperson for the TSA said that they are "one of several entities" that handle checked bags and that at this time there is "no concrete evidence who wrote the note."

Still, the TSA said that "if inappropriate conduct is discovered, TSA [will take] appropriate disciplinary action."

Initially, Filipovic wrote on her blog that the note was "total violation of privacy, wildly inappropriate and clearly not OK, but I also just died laughing in my hotel room."

But upon further reflection, Filipovic told ABC News she believed it to be "offensive" and said she'd likely be filing a complaint with the TSA once she returns to the U.S.

"I hope they do see the complaint, they'll look into it and remind their staff that going through people's personal belongings is a responsibility that should be treated with some modicum of professionalism," Filipovic said.

The TSA said it opens checked bags for hand inspections if any alarms are sounded during the screening process and the TSA inserts the inspection card after the search.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct042011

TSA Expedites Security Screening for Select Fliers

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) is rolling out a new pilot program Tuesday aimed at speeding the security screening process for known travelers.

The process, called PreCheck, is available on a trial basis to a select group of frequent fliers from Delta Airlines and American Airlines. Members of the Customs and Border Patrol’s “Trusted Traveler” program will also be eligible.

Passengers will be asked by their airline if they want to “opt-in” to the program. Those who choose to do so will provide additional information about themselves, and the TSA will use that information to determine if the passenger qualifies for expedited screening. If the passenger qualifies, he or she will be directed to a designated security lane at the airport. That expedited screening could mean certain fliers get to leave their shoes on.

TSA officials caution that PreCheck is in its infancy and only available at one check point in each of the four participating airports. And the agency maintains that expedited screening is by no means guaranteed and notes on its website, “Passengers are always subject to random, unpredictable screening measures.”

The program is now underway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County, Miami International and Dallas-Fort Worth International airports. The Known Traveler program is part of a broader TSA effort to evolve its screening process.

TSA Administrator John Pistole has publicly stated he wants to move the agency away from a “one size fits all” approach to a more risk-based effort. In an interview with ABC News conducted in prior to the 9/11 anniversary last month, TSA’s Pistole touched on such new efforts while discussing the evolution of the terror threat against the United States.

“We are trying a number of new initiatives that will ask for the public’s patience as we try to improve the passenger experience, while providing the most effective security,” Pistole said.

“But we have to be mindful that there are terrorist(s) who are trying to kill us and we need to do the best possible job and provide the most effective security in the most efficient way.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep062011

Napolitano's Future: Airline Passengers Can Keep Shoes On

Digital Vision/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sees the future of American air travel, and it is full of passengers who are allowed to keep their shoes on through security.

"We are moving towards an intelligence and risk-based approach to how we screen," Napolitano said Tuesday, according to Politico, at an event sponsored by the news organization. "I think one of the first things you will see over time is the ability to keep your shoes on. One of the last things you will [see] is the reduction or limitation on liquids."

Airports began demanding passengers remove their shoes for a separate scan after convicted terrorist Richard Reid unsuccessfully attempted to set off explosives hidden in his shoes during a transatlantic flight in December 2001.

"[T]he threat posed by shoe bombs didn't end with the so-called shoe bomber," the Transportation Security Administration says on its website. "Government tests have shown how a shoe bomb could easily slice through metal and potentially take down a plane."

Napolitano said "new technology" was the solution to the current "inconveniences" of air travel security -- such as shoe removal -- but did not elaborate on what that technology was. However, she said that technology does not yet exist that is capable of distinguishing harmless liquids from potential bombs in one, quick scan, meaning it could take much longer to ease the restrictions on liquids, according to the Politico report.

Napolitano's comments come less than a week after Germany declared full-body imaging systems currently in use in some U.S. airports too unreliable to use in their airports -- partially due to what the German government said was a high frequency of false alarms, including the system's reported inability to distinguish human sweat from potentially deadly chemicals.

As the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks approaches, Napolitano joined the chorus of government officials who said there is so far no "specific or credible information" on an impending attack, but Napolitano warned the symbolic date could be a tempting target for a "lone wolf" actor.

"It's also a possibility that we will have...a lone wolf decide, 'This is a great day to get some attention. I'm going to do something,'" she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug112011

Hypersonic Flight: New York to Los Angeles in 12 Minutes?

Falcon HTV-2 (darpa.mil)(WASHINGTON) -- The military launched a rocket Thursday carrying a test aircraft that could someday reduce the flying time between Los Angeles and New York to minutes -- 12 minutes, to be exact. But controllers said they lost contact with the hypersonic plane less than an hour after it left the ground.

Twelve minutes to cross the country is the estimated flight time for the U.S. military's Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2), which launched on its second-ever flight test Thursday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc, Calif. The steerable, rocket-launched craft was designed to fly at Mach 20, or 13,000 mph, before diving into the Pacific Ocean.

The launch was successful, and DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, first reported that the HTV-2 was on course and sending data. But 20 minutes later it sent a message saying it had lost contact with the vehicle.

Another 45 minutes passed. "Downrange assets did not reacquire tracking or telemetry," said DARPA on its Twitter feed. "HTV2 has an autonomous flight termination capability," it said -- probably shorthand for saying it can self-destruct if there is a danger it has flown out of control.

An earlier version of the hypersonic craft, which is unmanned, made a flight back in April 2010, but it also lost contact, nine minutes into flight. Thursday's flight was meant to build on the knowledge from that experiment and add to the technical understanding of hypersonic flight, DARPA said.

The Defense Department is trying to develop technology to respond to threats around the globe at speeds of Mach 20 or greater. A warhead flying through the atmosphere might be harder to intercept than one carried into space by a missile.

Building a hypersonic aircraft is considerably different from a spacecraft, even though a ship in orbit travels faster -- 17,500 mph on average at altitudes of a hundred miles or more. Hypersonic planes need to cut through the atmosphere, and the dynamics of how to do that have proved surprisingly difficult.

The military has a long history of setting aviation milestones. Oct. 14, 1947 marked the first time an airplane flew faster than the speed of sound when the Bell X-1 reached 700 miles per hour, Mach 1.06, and in 1959 test flights began for the X-15, which set new speed records when it attained Mach 4, 5 and 6.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio