Entries in Airline (10)


Pilots to Get New Training: 'Most Substantial Change...In Two Decades'

Valueline/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Federal aviation officials proposed new rules Wednesday for pilot training, following a crash in western New York.

Pilot error contributed the deadly crash of Continental flight 3407 outside Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009. When the aircraft experienced an aerodynamic stall, the captain performed the wrong maneuver. Investigators at the time said pilots need better training. Now, more than two years later, FAA Administrator Randy Babbit said they will get it.

Pilots will receive better training on how to recognize and recover from stalls and aircraft upsets, Babbit said, calling the overhaul “the most the last 20 years.”

“Under this proposal, flight crews would have to demonstrate, not just learn, critical skills in “real-world” training scenarios,” the FAA said in a statement. “Pilots would be required to train as a complete flight crew, coordinate their actions through Crew Resource Management, and fly scenarios based on actual events. Dispatchers would have enhanced training and would be required to apply that knowledge in today’s complex operating environment.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Not Again! Air Traffic Controller Falls Asleep On the Job

Comstock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- Another air traffic controller fell asleep on the job Saturday morning, just as the Federal Aviation Administration plans to change schedules linked to controller fatigue.

The agency claims that no flights were impacted by this latest incident. The air traffic controller has been suspended.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt announced Saturday that he has ordered certain scheduling changes to take effect within 72 hours.

“We are taking important steps today that will make a real difference in fighting air traffic controller fatigue," Babbitt said. "But we know we will need to do more. This is just the beginning.”

The air traffic controller at the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center did not miss any calls from aircraft, according to the FAA.

In a joint op-ed for USA Today published online this weekend, Babbitt and National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi said, “These recent incidents have cast doubt on whether our nation's controllers are truly committed to keeping the skies safe. We want to tell you they are.”

The pair called the American aviation system the safest in the world, but added that “we can do better.”

“On Monday, we are kicking off our Call to Action on air traffic control safety and professionalism," the op-ed reads. "We will be traveling to air traffic facilities around the country, to reinforce the need for all air traffic personnel to adhere to the highest professional standards.”

The article, written before this latest incident, was to be published in Monday's print edition of USA Today.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ex-Continental Pilot: Low Pay Led to Dangerous Fatigue

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A former veteran commercial airline pilot lived for more than a year at the beginning of his career in and out of a bare-bones "crash pad" and was so tired while flying that he drifted off to sleep in the cockpit, the pilot told ABC News.

Josh Reikes, who began flying in 1999, said money was so tight in his first years that whenever he commuted to a new city before a flight, he could not afford a hotel room and opted to stay in a crash pad.

"You're bunked up with six, seven, eight people stumbling in at all hours of the night waking you up," recalled Reikes. "It's not good sleep at all. But what's the alternative?"

An ABC News investigation found these dormitory-style rooms, designed to pack in as many airline crew members as possible, are spread out in cities across the country. After the few hours of sleep some pilots are able to snag in the crowded crash pads or on the couches and chairs of crew rooms, they report to duty and are entrusted with dozens, or sometimes hundreds, of passengers' lives. In the past 20 years, more than two dozen accidents and more than 250 fatalities have been linked to pilot fatigue, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration told ABC News airline companies deny pilots are sleeping overnight in crash pads.

Reikes told ABC News he lived for more than a year in and out crash pads because it was the only way he could get by on his $17,000 per year starting salary at ExpressJet, which offers flights under the name Continental Express as a Continental Airlines regional carrier.

"There were about 15 of us bunking in a small hotel room," Reikes told ABC News of the crash pad he called home. The kind of sleep he was afforded there caused him on more than one occasion to either deliberately take a nap in the cockpit or drift off to sleep inadvertently, Reikes said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pilot Fatigue and 'Crash Pads' Threatens Airline Safety

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Despite denials from the airline industry, large numbers of pilots report to duty every day after getting only a few hours of what fatigue experts call "destructive sleep" in crowded crew lounges and so-called "crash pads," an ABC News investigation has found. Widespread pilot fatigue is putting airline passengers at risk, say critics, and may already have cost lives.

Current and former pilots described missing radio calls, entering incorrect readings in instruments and even falling asleep in mid-flight are some of the findings ABC News uncovered.

Former Continental Express pilot Josh Reikes says one captain warned him, "Don't you ever let me wake up and find you sleeping."

America's most famous pilot, Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, doubts he could have landed his stricken U.S. Airways jet safely in the Hudson River, saving all 155 people aboard, if he had slept in a lounge or crash pad. "Had we been tired, had we not gotten sufficient rest the night before," said Sullenberger, "we could not have performed at the same level."

Undercover video taken inside the crew lounges by pilots was provided to ABC News contradicts what the FAA says it has been told about the use of crew lounges for overnight sleep.

"We're getting a different answer than you're getting, so somewhere there's a gap," FAA administrator Randy Babbitt told ABC News.

"Good sleeping occurs in a dark room, a quiet room, a room that's cool in temperature, and a room where there is no intrusive noise," said Dr. Martin Moore-Ede, a fatigue expert who consults for airlines, unions and the government. "That does not describe a crew lounge."

The report comes two years after the crash in Buffalo of Continental Connection flight 3407, operated by Colgan Air, that killed 50 people. The pilot of the plane, who commuted to his Newark base from Florida, had spent the night before sleeping in a crew lounge at Newark airport, raising concerns about the role of fatigue with safety investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board. The co-pilot had commuted to work on overnight flights from Seattle and also tried to sleep in the crew lounge, unable to afford a hotel room.

"We did recognize that they were likely impaired by fatigue," says Deborah Hersmann, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB also found that about 70 percent of the Colgan Air pilots based at Newark were commuters, many coming from long distances to work. Approximately 20 percent commuted from more than 1,000 miles away. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


TSA Unveils New Body Scanner; Seeks to Increase Privacy

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- The Transportation Security Administration is unveiling a new, more modest full-body scanner Tuesday at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

The current scanners show the detailed contours of the participant's body on a screen and are viewed only by a second screener in a private room, where they would report back to the checkpoint if they see anything suspicious.

The new software will show a generic, chalk-like outline of a body that will be identical for all passengers. If there is a threat, a red box will appear on the outline at the location of the object. If there is no threat, an "OK" will appear on the screen without an outline.

It will also allow the passengers to see what the TSA agents see when they step through the scanner. With the new generic body outlines, there is no need for a second screening of the images in another room.

The new system is being tested to determine if it can provide the same level of security as the previous, more controversial model.

The new software will be tested at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in the next few days. Complete testing will take 45 to 60 days.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stranded Fliers Scramble for Flights, Get Busy Signals

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Fliers trying to head in or out of the Northeast Wednesday will still face long lines, confusion and a maddening scramble for available seats.

Even though the snow has stopped and airports have re-opened, the airlines are running on reduced schedules and canceling or delaying hundreds of flights.

Continental canceled more than 520 departures Tuesday, the vast majority of them on smaller regional jets.  There was only one runway open at the airline's hub in Newark, New Jersey.  On the other side of New York City, Kennedy Airport also operated most of the day on one runway.

Some people have now been told there won't be seats on flights for them until sometime during the new year.

"There is an eight to 10 hour wait just to get to a ticketing agent," one traveler at Los Angeles International Airport said Tuesday.  "The ticketing agent tells you at that point that the first available flight to Newark or anywhere on the East Coast is Jan. 1 or 2."

Passengers from coast to coast had one persistent complaint: They couldn't get answers from anybody at the airlines.

Phone lines jammed with multi-hour waits and airline websites crashed at points because of the increased volume.  Now, the airlines don't just risk losing millions of dollars but also thousands of passengers burned by bad customer service.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Stranded Fliers Might Not Get Home Until Thursday

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Some airline passengers stranded in the northeast from this weekend's blizzard might have to wait until the end of the week to make it home.

Flights slowly started to return to the air Monday night, but the backlog created by the storm might take days to clear as airlines struggle during one of the busiest times of year to reposition airplanes and crew, and find seats on already-crowded planes for stranded passengers.

"You are trying to put them on planes that are already packed.  There isn't a lot of room to re-accommodate folks," said AirTran Airways spokesman Christopher White.  His airline is hoping to return to normal operations by late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Those with confirmed tickets for flights Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday typically get priority over passengers whose flights were canceled earlier in the week.

New York's three area airports re-started some operations Monday night.  A LaGuardia Airport spokesman said they planned to open a second runway Tuesday morning.

For airlines, the problem might not be whether planes can take off and land, but whether there will be enough staff at the airport to load baggage, take tickets and do security screenings of passengers.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Obama: TSA Security Scans, Pat-Downs Necessary for Now

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(LISBON, Portugal) --  President Obama said Saturday he understands Americans’ frustrations with what some have called invasive screening procedures conducted by the TSA throughout the nation's airports. The president, however, noted that the process is the best way right now to ensure their safety.

“What I’ve said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to ensure the American peoples’ safety and you have to think through are there ways of doing it that are less intrusive?” he said.
President Obama said his counterterrorism advisors have told him that these procedures “are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat we saw in the Christmas Day bombing.”

“Every week I meet with my counterterrorism team and I’m constantly asking them whether is what we’re doing absolutely necessary, have we thought it through, are there other ways of accomplishing it that meet the same objectives?” he said.

U.S. airline pilots learned Friday that they will be exempt from the invasive x-ray screening and pat-downs that have sparked a revolt across the country.

As of yet, there is no change in policy for regular travelers.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


New Bill to Address 'Gaping Hole' in Aviation Security

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – Amid increased concern over cargo security, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., proposed a bill in a letter to House colleagues that would extend security screening mandates to 100 percent of airplane cargo.

The bill would act as an extension to a similar law authored by Markey in 2007, which required the screening of all cargo aboard domestic and international passenger planes in the United States.

“Al Qaeda continues to put aviation at the top of its terrorist target list, and our nation must close the cargo loophole that continues to put lives and our economy at risk,” said Markey, adding that terrorists have begun to turn their attention to less protected all-cargo aircrafts. 

The Air Cargo Security Act would require the Department of Homeland Security to develop a system that would screen 100 percent of cargo transported on all-cargo aircrafts within three years, with half of the cargo screened within 18 months.

New passenger screening techniques also came to the forefront Tuesday.

While on Capitol Hill to discuss cargo security, the head of the Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, was asked about also Advanced Imaging Technology (full body scanners) and enhanced pat-downs. 

Pistole defended the TSA’s techniques, saying that the agency has to balance privacy concerns with flight security.  Meanwhile, a website is calling on passengers to “opt out” of the full-body scans during Thanksgiving travel, when an estimated 24 million passengers will take to the skies.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Airline Passenger Complaints Up in 2010

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – The number of complaints from airline passengers to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) rose 32 percent from 2009, according to a report by the department.

In the first nine months of 2010, the DOT received 8,811 overall complaints from passengers. That figure includes 440 complaints regarding treatment of the disabled and 111 complaints over discrimination, both up from last year.
Meanwhile, long delays on the tarmac were down in September compared to the same period in 2009, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report released Tuesday by the DOT.

The nation’s largest airlines reported four flights in September with delays that exceeded four hours, down from six such flights in 2009.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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