Entries in FAA (52)


FAA Chief says Investigation Discovered 2nd Air Traffic Control Incident 

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday, FAA Chief Randy Babbitt revealed the group discovered an additional incident similar to the situation at  Reagan National Airport last month when pilots were unable to make contact with the air traffic controller on the ground.

“I’m disappointed to say in our investigation, we did find another incident different from this one,” Babbitt said.  “It was unfortunately willful, and we are in the process of disciplinary proceedings which will terminate this employee.”

Babbitt did not offer further information about the location or date of this incident.  Babbitt expressed disappointment in the Reagan incident and stressed the FAA’s dedication to ensuring a similar incident does not occur in the future.

“I was outraged personally at that lapse, and the controller has been suspended from operational duties.  Furthermore, we’ve taken several steps to ensure that a similar incident will not happen again,” Babbitt said.  “Bottom line, I am determined that we will not repeat this unacceptable incident.” 

In addition to the situation at Reagan National Airport, Babbitt addressed concerns surrounding the Southwest scare this last week, emphasizing the need for inspections to determine the safety of aging aircraft.

“Make no mistake, Friday’s event was very serious, but I want to make absolutely certain that what we learn from this accident gets incorporated into  our requirements for reviewing aging aircraft,” Babbitt said.  ““I want the traveling public to be assured that the system that they fly in and the airplanes that they fly in meet the highest levels of safety.”

Earlier this week, the FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive ordering the inspection of airplanes with 30,000 flight cycles to be completed within 20 days of the AD, and airplanes with 35,000 total flight cycles or more must be inspected within five days of the AD.

In addition to the safety concerns surrounding air traffic controllers and aging aircraft, Babbitt assured the committee that a looming government shutdown would not jeopardize the safety of the air transportation system.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


UFO Sighting Spooks Lafayette, Colorado 

Thinkstock(LAFAYETTE, Colo.) -- Was it an airplane? Was it a satellite? 

The strange triangular formation of lights hovering above Lafayette, Colo., last week has many wondering if it's a sign that we're not alone.

Leroy van der Vegt and his son, Nick, captured the sight on camera.

"It was completely quiet. No noise at all," van der Vegt said.

The unidentified red lights did not blink but were in a triangular shape as they hovered in the sky.

Van der Vegt doesn't know what it was but he is sure that what he saw was not a satellite, helicopter or airplane.

Eventually, the triangle headed northeast and the lights faded, van der Vegt said.

Lester Valdez and all of his neighbors saw the unidentified lights.

"I have never witnessed anything like that," said Valdez.

He said they looked like tiny, bright alien ships from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

"It was exactly something like that where you see an object and they all got into a pattern and they stood in a pattern, and they all moved in a direction and then they pretty much dropped and that was it," Valdez said.

Grant Gazvoda and two friends sat in front of a Lafayette convenience store talking about the lights. Gazvoda said he saw them Monday night as he and friends were out stargazing.

"When it flew over, there was a really weird energy. Almost like a hyper need to move. My mind started racing. My body started shaking," Gazvoda said. "I freaked out at that point."

When asked what he thought the lights could be, Gazvoda said speculation is running rampant through town.

"UFO, maybe government stuff. People are saying aliens," he said.

Skeptics like Lafayette residents Katie and Kevin Caron say there must be a reasonable explanation for the lights that doesn't involve little green men.

"There's a lot of things you can't explain but the idea of it being an alien spacecraft is pretty wacky," Kevin Caron said.

ABC News called the Federal Aviation Administration but they declined to talk.

For now, it's clear this is an unidentified flying object.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FAA Implements New Procedures Following Control Tower Incident

John Foxx/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Following the midweek incident at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport where an air traffic controller fell asleep while on duty, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented an interim plan to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

In a statement, the FAA announced that effective immediately, all radar controllers have been directed to contact air traffic control towers to ensure that a controller is prepared to handle an approaching flight. Personnel have also been instructed that if contact cannot be made with a control tower, proper procedures require personnel to offer pilots the option of diverting to another airport.

“I am determined to make sure we do not repeat Wednesday’s unacceptable event,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt in a statement.

Babbitt also said that he has ordered a nationwide review of the air traffic control system to ensure appropriate backup procedures and equipment are in place and are being used.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FAA Suspends AWOL Controller at Reagan National Airport

John Foxx/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Aviation Administration suspended an air traffic control supervisor Thursday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport who went AWOL early Wednesday morning, leaving the control tower silent and forcing pilots of two commercial planes to land on their own.

"I am determined to get to the bottom of this situation for the safety of the traveling public," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement announcing the suspension while the investigation proceeds. The name of the controller was not provided. "As a former airline pilot, I am personally outraged that this controller did not meet his responsibility to help land these two airplanes," he said. "Fortunately, at no point was either plane out of radar contact and our back-up system kicked in to ensure the safe landing of both airplanes."

Federal transportation officials have launched an investigation of the incident and a comprehensive review air traffic controller staffing at airports across the country.

Pilots of an American Airlines and United Airlines plane each said they had been in contact with regional air traffic controllers before being handed off to the Reagan National tower for approach and landing.

But as the planes radioed their requests to land in the nation's capital early Wednesday morning, all they heard was silence.

"American 1900, just so you're aware the tower is apparently not manned," a regional controller told the pilots of one plane, according to radio recordings obtained by ABC News. "So you can expect to go in as an uncontrolled airport."

The pilot executed an airport flyover -- routine aviation procedure -- before landing on his own without help from the ground.

Fifteen minutes later, United flight 628 from Chicago was also unable to contact the Reagan tower.

"The aircraft went in just as an uncontrolled airport," one regional controller says on the recording. "It's happened before though."

The United pilot again treated the airport as unmanned and landed safely.

The National Transportation Safety Board is also looking into the incident, which occurred between midnight and 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

While Reagan National is staffed with multiple air traffic controllers during the day, the overnight shift is managed by just one controller, because there are no departures overnight and few arrivals.

"The reality is that we should probably never have just one controller at a major airport anytime, anywhere," said aviation expert John Nance. "But the fact that it's Washington, DC, obviously accelerates the questions like this."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took the unusual step late Wednesday of immediately ordering a second air traffic controller at Reagan National Airport on the midnight shift. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mystery Goo Turns Icicles Green and Yellow in NY Town

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(SNYDER, N.Y.) -- A mysterious greenish-yellow goo that fell from the sky has splattered homes in Snyder, N.Y., and triggered investigations by the FAA and the town's waste engineer.

Most of the houses along Washington Highway and Berryman Drive have taken down their Christmas lights, but are now sporting green or yellow icicles. The sides of houses are splashed with a deep brown substance and sidewalks are also spotted with the stuff.

Residents say the material appeared between 9 a.m. and midnight last Tuesday.

Initial suspicions focused on "blue ice," the frozen human excrement known to fall from passing jetliners, but the FAA investigated and quickly dismissed that possibility.

"The local flight standards inspectors investigated the situation and determined it was not from an aircraft," FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac told ABC News.

The Amherst Town Supervisor's Office said that they are looking into the situation.

"We have contacted our emergency services people and we also have a waste water treatment plant in town and the interim engineer for that is trying to get the debris tested," said Lisa Kistner, a spokeswoman for the town supervisor.

One resident provided Kistner with her own theory.

"We received a call this morning from a woman who owns a house on the same street, Washington Highway. She gave us her explanation because it happened to her last year," Kistner said.

"She said it's actually because the seagulls eat fast food at McDonald's, which upsets their digestive tract. They were eating French fries out of paper bags... As soon as she got the fast food restaurants to make sure all of their trash was cleaned up in their parking lots, she no longer had that problem," Kistner said. "She suggested that someone check the fast food parking lots because that is probably the root cause of this issue."

Bird experts who have seen pictures of the goo agree that they resemble bird droppings.

"The splotches we see on the siding are consistent with what we would expect from a large flock of birds such as European starlings, a species that is found in large numbers in upstate New York at this time of year," said Miyoko Chu, a spokesperson for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FAA Announces Record Number of Laser Events in 2010 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The FAA announced Wednesday that in 2010, nationwide reports of lasers pointed at airplanes almost doubled from the previous year to more than 2,800. This is the highest number of laser events recorded since the FAA began keeping track in 2005.

Los Angeles International Airport recorded the highest number of laser events in the country for an individual airport in 2010, with 102 reports, and the greater Los Angeles area tallied nearly twice that number, with 201 reports. Chicago O’Hare International Airport was a close second, with 98 reports, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport tied for the third highest number of laser events for the year with 80 each.

“This is a serious safety issue,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Lasers can distract and harm pilots who are working to get passengers safely to their destinations.”

Nationwide, laser event reports have steadily increased since the FAA created a formal reporting system in 2005 to collect information from pilots. Reports rose from nearly 300 in 2005 to 1,527 in 2009 and 2,836 in 2010.

“The FAA is actively warning people not to point high-powered lasers at aircraft because they can damage a pilot’s eyes or cause temporary blindness,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “We continue to ask pilots to immediately report laser events to air traffic controllers so we can contact local law enforcement officials.”

Some cities and states have laws making it illegal to shine lasers at aircraft and, in many cases, people can face federal charges.

The increase in reports is likely due to a number of factors, including the availability of inexpensive laser devices on the Internet; higher power levels that enable lasers to hit aircraft at higher altitudes; increased pilot reporting of laser strikes; and the introduction of green lasers, which are more easily seen than red lasers. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Investigation Launched after Unusual Landing at Jackson Hole Airport

Jackson Hole Airport. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Wednesday that it would investigate an incident involving American Airlines flight 2253 at Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming.

The inbound flight from Chicago O'Hare International Airport reportedly ran off the end of the runway while landing Wednesday morning local time.  No injuries were reported among the 181 passengers and crew aboard the jetliner.

The plane came to rest 350 feet past the runway overrun area in hard-packed snow.  It was apparently snowing at the time of the incident.  No damage to the aircraft has been reported.

The Federal Aviation Association, Boeing, the  Allied Pilots Association and American Airlines have all agreed to participate in the investigation into the botched landing.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Blinded by the Light: FAA Warns Pilots of Laser Dangers

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Federal Aviation Administration officials are investigating a rash of incidents where lasers have been aimed at airline cockpits, possibly jeopardizing air travel safety.

About a dozen pilots filed reports last week saying someone aimed green laser lights at their cockpits while they tried to land at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.

"The Federal Aviation Administration takes laser incidents very seriously because of the potential safety hazards they pose," Jim Peters, an FAA Spokesman, said in a statement to ABC News New York affiliate WABC.

At Newark Liberty Airport, there have been 17 reported laser incidents involving planes landing from the north within the past week, WABC reported.

Some pilots have reported blurred vision and damage to the retina.  The powerful laser beam can hit a target miles away and can also burn though thick plastic.

Shining a laser at an airplane is a violation of federal law.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Despite FAA Rules, New York Airports Continue Congesting Air Traffic

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Regardless of what airport you're in in the U.S., if your flight is delayed, chances are high that it is due to air traffic congestion in the New York area.  A Department of Transportation report says the Federal Aviation Administration has to do a better job preventing those delays.

John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport continue to be main air traffic bottle necks for the entire country.  New rules imposed by the FAA two years ago to limit the number of flights at all three New York area airports have done little to reduce delays, according to the report.  The ripple effect has an impact on airports elsewhere.

The report says the FAA needs to re-examine its rules to make them more realistic to air traffic conditions.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


FAA Unable to Identify Objects Flying Over NYC

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- New Yorkers froze in their tracks Wednesday and gazed skyward at mysterious objects that hovered above the iconic Manhattan skyline for several hours.

"We are not able to make an identification of what the objects were," Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Arlene Salac said. "We know they weren't aircraft or helicopters. We wouldn't be able to say if they were balloons or something else."

Described as bright white lights or glittery silver balloon-like objects, the floating balls seemed to separate and converge on Manhattan's West Side, high above the trendy Chelsea neighborhood.

The New York Police Department said it received dozens of calls about the unidentified flying objects, but it would not speculate on what the objects were.

"Maybe [it's] Superman, maybe Wonder Woman," one bystander told ABC News affiliate WABC-TV, who confessed he would rather it was Wonder Woman.

"I think it's a balloon," said another man, adding, "but then again balloons don't stand still."

Students and faculty at a Westchester County, New York elementary school believe the balloons may belong to language arts teacher Andrea Craparo, reports the New York Daily News.  Craparo received the balloons for her recent engagement, but the wind swept them away. 

The National Weather Service reportedly said that the direction and speed of the wind Wednesday afternoon make the balloon theory plausible.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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