Entries in FAA (52)


FAA Readies to Close Dozens of Air Traffic Control Towers 

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One of the first major impacts from Washington's budget sequestration will soon kick in as the Federal Aviation Administration gets ready to close dozens of air traffic control towers.

Of the 189 airports on the FAA's original list of potential tower shut-downs, 149 have landed on the final roster. Most of them are in small to mid-sized communities, such as Danbury, Connecticut,  but a few that serve fairly sizable communities -- Topeka, Kansas, Branson, Missouri, and Boca Raton, Florida, for example -- will all see at least their secondary airports lose their control towers. The head of the FAA said the agency will work with all 149 areas to ensure air safety at soon-to-be-uncontrolled airports.

Paul Estefan, Airport Administrator at Danbury Municipal airport in Connecticut, which serves 13 operators, said all traffic will be handled by radio with New York. This could present safety issues, he said, especially on hazy days when "a pilot's flying in the area and the controller's not there to point out additional traffic based on the radar screen they have in front of them in our control tower."

The FAA had given the airports a chance to appeal the decision in early March if they could prove it would be an issue of national interest. Estefan said he wrote to the FAA under that issue and they responded Friday, telling him and five other Connecticut airports that they didn't make it. The FAA decided to keep 24 towers open under the national interest issue.

The airport towers confirmed to shut down are scheduled to close on April 7.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


LaHood Warns Budget Cuts Would Be ‘Very Painful for the Flying Public’

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned Friday that looming across-the-board spending cuts would cause flight delays at major airports, force the Federal Aviation Administration to furlough workers and have a “very serious impact” on the nation’s transportation services.

Painting a bleak picture, LaHood told reporters “it’s going to be very painful for the flying public” if the cuts kick in at the end of the month.

Overall, the Department of Transportation would need to cut roughly $1 billion from its $74.2 billion budget, less than two percent. More than $600 million of the cuts would come from the FAA, which would be forced to furlough the majority of its nearly 47,000 employees.

As a result, travelers could expect delays of up to 90 minutes at major airports like New York, Chicago and San Francisco because there would be fewer controllers on staff and some flight towers at smaller airports could close temporarily.

“You’ve got a big budget. Can’t you find some other way to cut that without telling air traffic controllers to stay home?” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl asked.

“That’s a lot of money, Jonathan,” the secretary, a Republican, replied.

LaHood’s surprise appearance at the daily briefing comes as the White House is trying to ramp up pressure on Republicans to reach a deal to avoid so-called sequestration.

“I would describe my presence here with one word: Republican. They’re hoping that maybe I can influence some of the people in my own party,” the former Illinois congressman admitted.

LaHood urged his former Republican Party colleagues to “step up” and compromise and recommended they see the movie Lincoln for inspiration. “What Lincoln did is he gathered people around him the way that I believe president Obama is doing, by calling Republicans, talking to them, trying to work with them. And when that happens, big things get solved,” he said.

LaHood, 67, cautioned lawmakers to expect a flood of calls from their constituents if air-traffic delays occur. “Why does this have to happen?” he asked. “Nobody likes a delay. Nobody likes waiting in line. None of us do."

“If we can’t get our hamburger within five minutes, if we can’t get on the plane within 30, 40, 50 minutes after going through, you know what happens. They start calling their member of Congress.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FAA Probes Pilot in Risky Plane Stunt Video

Team Stunters/WFAA(NEW YORK) -- The pilot performing a breathtaking feat in a video posted online, in which an aerobatic plane travelling at 200 miles an hour comes within feet of a man on a Texas runway, was performing the stunt on an expired waiver, ABC News has learned.

Stunt pilot Jason Newburg advertises as a daredevil for hire, specializing in death-defying aerial ballet at air shows.  He posted the clip on YouTube on Monday, in which the wing of his plane tipped dangerously close to the ground as he speeds by, nearly taking out a man on an all-terrain vehicle and the cameraman shooting the stunt.  The clip before it was taken down had nearly 150,000 views.

Newburg’s waiver to perform aerobatics expired in November, sources told ABC News.  And even if it hadn’t, pilots are required to ensure the safety of people on the ground.

“Several points along the way this guy could have make mistakes that would have killed himself, and the two people that are filming the action here,” ABC News aviation consultant Steve Ganyard said.

Newburg often performs with motorcycle showmen known as the Dallas Stunt Riderz, who choreograph maneuvers beneath his bright green plane.  But the Federal Aviation Administration is apparently not amused by his adrenalin burst of showmanship, telling ABC News it is investigating the incident.

Efforts by ABC News to reach Newburg have been unsuccessful.

Newburg’s company was involved in a helicopter crash in 2008.  The National Transportation Safety Board's report on that crash says the pilot, who was not named, was not licensed to fly a helicopter, and that he took off with -- instead of against -- the wind, causing a hard landing.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


FAA Orders Grounding of Boeing Dreamliners in US After Japanese Incident

Duncan Chard/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered the grounding of Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets until their operators prove that batteries on the planes are safe. Several planes operated by overseas carriers have run into trouble recently, the latest because of a suspected battery fire on board.

The FAA order applied to the six 787s being flown by United Airlines, which will need to prove to the FAA that there is no battery fire risk on those planes.

"Before further flight, operators of U.S.-registered Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the batteries are safe and in compliance," the FAA said in a statement Wednesday. "The FAA will work with the manufacturer and carriers to develop a corrective action plan to allow the U.S. 787 fleet to resume operations as quickly and safely as possible."

The FAA's "emergency airworthiness directive" came after two Japanese airlines grounded their Boeing 787 Dreamliners following a forced emergency landing Tuesday.

An emergency airworthiness directive is one that requires an operator to fix or address any problem before flying again.

United Airlines responded Wednesday night with a statement: "United will immediately comply with the Airworthiness Directive and will work closely with the FAA and Boeing on the technical review as we work toward restoring 787 service. We will begin reaccommodating customers on alternate aircraft."

All Nippon Airways (ANA) said a battery warning light and a burning smell were detected in the cockpit and the cabin, forcing the Dreamliner, on a domestic flight, to land at Takamatsu Airport in Japan.

The plane landed safely about 45 minutes after it took off and all 128 passengers and eight crew members had to evacuate using the emergency chutes. Two people sustained minor injuries on their way down the chute, Osamu Shinobe, ANA senior executive vice president, told a news conference in Tokyo.

ANA and its rival, Japan Airlines (JAL), subsequently grounded their Dreamliner fleets. ANA operates 17 Dreamliner planes, while JAL has seven in service.

Both airlines said the Dreamliner fleet would remain grounded at least through Friday.

ANA said the battery in question during Tuesday's incident was the same lithium-ion type battery that caught fire on board a JAL Dreamliner in Boston last week. Inspectors found liquid leaking from the battery, and said it was "discolored"

Japan's transport ministry categorized the problem as a "serious incident" that could have led to an accident.

John Hansman, an MIT professor of aeronautics and astronautics, said, "If this was an actual fire, that's a major problem. And it would be a major problem even if nothing happened over the past week."

The FAA ordered a comprehensive review of the 787's design in a news conference Jan. 11 with Boeing. But the agency assured the public that the 787s were safe to continue flying while they looked into the fleet's design and safety measures.

After the latest incident, but before the FAA airworthiness directive, Boeing said, "We will be working with our customer and the appropriate regulatory agencies."

The Japanese Transport Ministry dispatched its own inspectors to Takamatsu Airport Wednesday. A spokesman said the Transport Safety Board and Civil Aviation Bureau will conduct separate investigations.

 A fire broke out Jan. 7 on an empty JAL Dreamliner at Boston's Logan Airport after a non-stop flight from Tokyo. It took firefighters 40 minutes to put out the blaze.

One day later, a different Dreamliner jet owned by JAL sprang a leak from its number-one engine right before takeoff at Logan Airport, spilling about 40 gallons of fuel onto the runway. It had to be towed back to the gate before taking off later that day.

ANA cancelled a domestic flight to Tokyo Jan. 9 after a computer wrongly indicated there was a problem with the Boeing 787's brakes.

A 3-foot-long crack appeared in the cockpit window of an ANA 787 flying in Japan Jan. 11.

Another JAL Dreamliner leaked fuel while undergoing tests at the airport near Tokyo Jan. 13. It was the same plane involved in the Jan. 8 incident in Boston.

No one was injured in any of those incidents, but JAL has followed ANA's lead and also ordered their entire 787 feet to be grounded.

"As a result of the incident involving another airline's 787 in Japan today, to ensure safety, JAL has decided to cancel its 787 operations today," JAL said in a statement.

Six 787s have been delivered to the United States, all purchased by United, while there are 50 flying worldwide, including Poland and Chile.

"It's a rough couple weeks for Boeing and ANA," Hansman of MIT said. "I think clearly in the short term this type of bad press has been tough for Boeing. I think in the long haul, this is a good airplane. It's in a good market."


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


FCC Urges FAA to Allow Gadgets During Takeoff and Landing

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- You and Alec Baldwin aren't the only ones who get annoyed on a plane when you have to turn off your phone, or tablet, or laptop during takeoff or landing. Turns out the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would like flight attendants to stop saying "please turn off your electronics" before takeoff as well.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration's Michael Huerta, urging the agency to adjust its rules and allow for electronics usage during all phases of airline flight.

In the letter, a copy of which was sent to ABC News, Genachowski writes, "I write to urge the FAA to enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable electronics devices during flight, consistent with public safety."

In August, the FAA announced that it would be reviewing or taking a "fresh look" at the policy. It came after reports that electronics didn't cause interference with a plane's electronics.

Genachoswki writes that he supports the review. "The review comes at a time of tremendous innovation as mobile devices are increasingly interwoven in our daily lives. They empower people to say informed and connected with friends and family, and they enable both large and small businesses to be more productive and efficient, helping drive economic growth and boost U.S. competitiveness."

When reached by ABC News, the FAA would not comment specifically on the FCC letter. It did point out its announcement of plans to conduct a six-month review with an Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which includes the FCC and other representatives, including pilot and flight attendant groups, airlines, and passenger associations.

"We're looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today's aircraft," Huerta said in a statement in August. "We also want solid safety data to make sure tomorrow's aircraft designs are protected from interference."

Ironically, it is the FCC that bans the use of the cellular signals on planes. According to the FCC's website, "Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules prohibit the use of cellular phones using the 800 MHz frequency and other wireless devices on airborne aircraft. This ban was put in place because of potential interference to wireless networks on the ground." The FCC considered lifting the ban in 2007, but it ultimately didn't. The FCC and FAA allow the use of phones in "airplane mode" on flights, which turns off the cellular radio, but not during the takeoff, taxiing, and landing periods of the flight.

While in-fight Wi-Fi services have been in use on planes over the last several years, making calls using those services are also restricted by the airlines. The reason is not technical; airlines say they don't want callers bothering other passengers.

Virgin Atlantic began to allow very limited cellphone use on select airplanes in May. Other international airlines have experimented with picocell units, which bring cellular connectivity to the skies.

In June, the FAA did a study on the use of cellphones on planes by interviewing non-U.S. aviation authorities that had experience with cellphone usage on planes.

"No non-US civil aviation authority reported any cases of air rage or flight attendant interference related to passengers using cellphones on aircraft equipped with on-board cellular telephone base stations," the report says.

"The non-US civil aviation authorities who have approved the installation of onboard cellular telephone base stations on aircraft reported that the aircraft with these installations undergo extensive analysis, functional tests, ground tests, and flight tests to demonstrate that the cellphones and base stations do not interfere with aircraft systems," it adds. The report was not done as part of the current FAA review of the use of electronics during takeoff and landing.

The FCC declined to comment to ABC News on the use of cellular signals on planes.

The FCC's restriction of cellular capabilities aside, support for the use of non-cellular connected electronic devices during takeoff and landing seems to be growing, but it still appears passengers will be waiting for a while before they can keep their gadgets powered on.

While many pilots are using iPads during all phases of flight, and many experts say there is no evidence that electronics are interfering with planes' systems, significant testing would have to be done to make sure every device is safe. Each device and each of its different models (iPad 2, iPad Mini, 4th generation iPad, etc.) would have to be tested on each different plane model. That can take quite a long time -- up to two years, some experts say -- which means the FCC and the rest of us will be waiting for some time before we don't have to hear those announcements.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Two Sets of American Airlines Seats Become Loose in Flight

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Another set of seats came loose on an American Airlines flight Monday, the second such incident in three days on one of the carrier's flights. There was a similar incident of seats becoming loose, resulting in an emergency landing, over the weekend.

The latest incident took place on flight 443 from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport to Miami. The plane returned to JFK without incident when the seats were discovered, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

An airline spokesperson said the airline does not believe either incident is related to American's ongoing labor issues.

The earlier incident took place Saturday night when seats came unbolted on American Airlines Flight 685 from Boston to Miami. The flight was diverted and made an emergency landing at JFK.

The passengers in those seats were moved to other seats on the plane. No one was injured and the aircraft landed safely at JFK. The passengers were delayed three hours before being put on another flight to Miami.

As a result of the two incidents, the carrier has taken a total of eight aircraft out of service until they can be inspected.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement it is looking into both incidents and said both Boeing 757 jetliners have been taken out of service. The FAA said that the airline's initial inspection of each aircraft found other rows of seats that were not properly secured.

"Preliminary information indicates that both aircraft had recently undergone maintenance during which the seats had been removed and re-installed. Including these two airplanes, the airline has taken eight aircraft with similar seat assemblies out of service until they can be inspected," the FAA statement read.

The FAA has stepped up scrutiny of American during its bankruptcy, as it has in the past for other carriers in similar situations. AMR Corp., American Airlines' parent company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Nov. 29, 2011.

American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguley said in a statement the airline is conducting an internal investigation and that there could possibly be an issue with a certain model of seats and how they fit into the tracking used to secure the seats.

"Out of an abundance of caution, American has decided to proactively reinspect eight 757s today that could possibly have this same issue. The seats were installed by American maintenance and contract maintenance. The issue does not seem to be tied to any one maintenance facility or one workgroup.

"This afternoon, the company flew engineers, tech crew chiefs, and inspectors from its Tulsa maintenance base to New York to evaluate the aircraft and determine the next course of action to correct the problem.

"We are in contact with the FAA. They are aware of our internal review."

This is the latest in a string of recent problems for American Airlines. Maintenance and employee issues have led to significant delays and cancellations in recent weeks.

ABC News reported last month that the airline was forced to delay nearly 40 percent of its flights, with most forced to be late or even cancelled by an "unprecedented and very significant" increase in maintenance issues. The airline blamed the pilots, who it claimed were calling out sick 20 percent more than normal.

"The recent disruptions are primarily due to the significant increase in maintenance write-ups by our pilots, many right at the time of departure," the airline said in a statement last month.

The pilots union said there is no sanctioned work action under way and disagreed with American's accounting of sick leave and crew cancellations.

A fight last month between two flight attendants over a cellphone forced a plane to turn back to the gate at JFK and delayed passengers four hours while the airline found a new crew.

The trouble at the airline has prompted at least one airline industry expert to advise passengers to book away from the airline for the time being.

Wall Street Journal travel editor Scott McCartney warned passengers, "My advice is, until things get straightened out with the operations, if you have a choice, you ought to book another airline. It's just not worth it."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Refrigerator-Size Plane Door Crashes Into Washington Neighborhood

ABC News(SEATTLE, Wash.) -- Residents in a Seattle suburb are questioning how and why a sheet of metal the size of a refrigerator fell from the sky and onto a heavily trafficked street.

Witnesses say the object fell from the sky just before 7 a.m. Friday morning, crashing down onto a residential street in Kent, Washington's East Hill. The piece of metal skipped about 30 feet before coming to rest on the street, KOMO reported.

The Federal Aviation Administration was soon on the scene to investigate the incident. In a statement, the agency told ABC News the object was "a landing gear door from a Boeing 767."

Residents in Kent are still perplexed over exactly where the landing door came from. Just moments before the door crashed into the neighborhood, people described what looked like a cargo jet flying unusually low.

"It sounded like maybe a little distressed, or vibrating," Kent resident Diane Oien said.

Witnesses told KOMO that many people walk through the area each day, including children heading to school. No one was injured in the incident.

Col. Stephen Ganyard, retired U.S. Marine Commander and ABC News Consultant explained that air force on the plane may have led to the door being stripped from the plane.

"What could have happened in this instance is, as the aircraft was coming in to land in Seattle, the force of the air on the landing gear door could have torn off an already weakened gear door that may have then lead to this piece of metal going into the residential area," he said.

This is not the first instance of plane parts being stripped from aircrafts and falling from the sky.

In May, pieces the size of cell phones from an Air Canada Boeing 777 scattered onto cars near Toronto.

Just days prior, a door from a small plane landed in the middle of a fairway on a Miami golf course.

In 2009, a dozen houses and numerous cars in Manaus, Brazil were reported damaged when parts -- one weighing as much as 550 pounds -- fell from a cargo freighter.

"This is something that happens quiet frequently, especially as airplanes get older and things tend to break," Ganyard said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NTSB Suggests Wingtip Cameras on Planes

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The National Transportation Safety Board is suggesting that large aircraft be equipped with external cameras to give pilots a better view of a plane's wingtips as they travel along the taxiway -- and possibly cut down on ground crashes.

On planes such as the Boeing 747 and the giant Airbus A380, the safety board said, pilots can't see the wingtips from the cockpit unless they open the side window and stick out their heads.

Kevin Hiatt, a former commercial pilot and the chief operating officer of the Flight Safety Foundation, agreed that cameras might be a help.

"Physically, visually, you can't see those wingtips," he said. "If they [pilots] get into a tight situation, they might be able to use that reference of that camera in the cockpit to take a look at the wingtip."

In May, the wingtip of a Boeing 747-400 cargo plane hit the tail of an American Eagle flight as it taxied at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. No injuries were reported and the collision remains under investigation.

Outside cameras are standard on the Airbus A380 and A340-600 but are optional on the A330 models and A340-500. The cameras, however, primarily help the pilots see landing gears, not look at the wingtips.

Boeing told ABC News Thursday that it also has one plane with external cameras -- the 777-300 -- but not for wingtips.

While the safety board can make recommendations, it is up to the Federal Aviation Administration to decide whether to move forward on recommendations and require new safety equipment.

The NTSB said that the camera systems should be placed on new airplanes as well as those currently being flown.

Hiatt said that a sensor, like those in some cars, might work better. The sensor would set off a noise, like a beep, when the wingtip got too close to something.

"It would yet be one more thing that might bark at us to say 'Hey, watch out,' but in this particular case versus hitting something, I wouldn't mind that," he said.

Pilots that ABC News spoke with Thursday, however, said they did not like the camera suggestion.

Although they did not want to be quoted, they raised concerns about unintended consequences and distraction in the cockpit. Their biggest worry was that pilots would be tempted to keep an eye on the camera view, rather than scanning the tarmac in front of them.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Breakthrough Radar System Helps Pilots Avoid Rough Turbulence

ABC News(WILMINGTON, N.C.) -- In-flight turbulence causes more injuries on an airplane than anything else, but a breakthrough piece of technology could help pilots avoid these pockets of unstable air and make for safer flights.

Pilots report more than 70,000 instances of moderate to severe turbulence a year. According to the FAA, three-fourths of all weather-related accidents are caused by colliding winds and temperature changes that shake up the cockpit and the cabin.

That is why flight attendants are always pestering passengers to keep their seatbelts on. In-flight injuries are expensive and cost the airlines hundreds of thousands of dollars per incident.

Rough weather rarely brings a plane down, but it does cause a dozen serious injuries as well as a half billion dollars in damages and flight delays each year.

But for the first time, a new 3-D radar system installed in business jets, and soon, fleets of commercial jets, will allow pilots to spot not only turbulence, but lightning and hail from more than 60 miles away. Southwest already has it in 19 planes.

Honeywell, the maker of the new radar, intentionally flew ABC News into rough weather over Wilmington, N.C., to demonstrate how the system works. As the clouds were billowing and the cabin started shaking, the radar screen flashed bright icons identifying lightning cells and hail miles away.

"The things that a pilot would not see with conventional weather radar are these lightning strike symbols, the hail icons," chief test pilot Markus Johnson said. "Both of those are areas that pilots need to keep away from."

Johnson said the older radar would only identify areas of precipitation, while this new radar can show the probability of hail. While lightning might frighten passengers the most, a hailstorm is what really causes the damage to the aircraft.

"It can be as large as a golf ball, and when that hits your airplane, it can tear right through," he said.

In a nutshell, the new system provides information that will help pilots make better flight decisions faster, Johnson said, "It allows me to concentrate on deciding where to go to have the smoothest, safest ride."

To find out how the radar system works and what happened when ABC News' Jim Avila flew into rough weather, tune into Nightline at 11:35 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Near Midair Collision Between Three Jets Prompts FAA Investigation

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into an incident, first reported by the Washington Post, in which three airplanes nearly collided midair at Reagan National Airport Tuesday afternoon.

The newspaper reported on Wednesday that an incoming US Airways jet that was cleared for landing ended up flying directly towards two departing US Airways jets after it had been rerouted.  A storm that brought a change in wind patterns prompted air traffic controllers to reverse the flow of traffic around 2 p.m. Tuesday.

A collision was avoided -- by about 12 seconds, according to the Post -- between the inbound plane and the first of the two outbound planes when an air traffic controller recognized the mistake and ordered the inbound flight to change course.

The FAA, which was alerted to the near mishap by the newspaper, issued a statement Wednesday night explaining the situation.

"DCA (Reagan National Airport) had been landing and departing aircraft on Runway 1, from the south to the north.  Due to the bad weather developing, the Tracon (Terminal Radar Approach Control) was switching operations to land and depart aircraft from the north to the south on Runway 19.  During the switchover of operations, miscommunication between the Tracon and the DCA tower led to a loss of the required separation between two regional jets departing from Runway 1 and a regional jet inbound for Runway 19," the FAA said.

"Preliminary information indicates that the closest proximity was 1.45 nm lateral and 500 ft. vertical for the first plane departing Runway 1 and 2.42 nm lateral and 600 ft. vertical for the second plane," the agency noted.  Standard separation requirements are 3 nm lateral and 1,000 ft. vertical.

The FAA said it was "investigating the incident and will take appropriate action to address the miscommunication."

The National Transportation Safety Board, which was also made aware of the report, said on Wednesday it was in the process of gathering information to determine whether it too will launch an investigation.

US Airways, the airline reportedly involved in the incident, issued a statement saying it was looking into the matter and working with the FAA to determine what happened.

"The safety of our customers and employees is always our top priority," the carrier said.

According to the Washington Post, 192 passengers and crew members were aboard the three planes.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio