In an unusual divergence of opinion between aviation related organizations concerning progress in the operation and development of the national air traffic system, the Airline Owners and Pilots Association (“AOPA”), the nationwide organization of private aircraft owners, opposes the plan set forth in the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act, H.R. 2997 (“AIRR Act”). That plan calls for the air traffic control (“ATC”) system currently managed by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) to be removed from federal government control, and turned over to a 13 member, largely private, board, the dominant members of which are the nation’s commercial airlines. See § 90305.
During the past week, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has taken two actions likely to elicit “equal and opposite reactions” from the aviation community specifically, and the American public in general. On the positive end of the spectrum lies FAA’s approval of a presumed cure for the dramatic malfunctions of the lithium ion batteries installed by the Boeing Company in place of the hydraulic system in the company’s 787 Dreamliner passenger jet. This “fix” will allow Boeing to begin deliveries of the aircraft again after an FAA mandated hiatus since January 16, 2013. At the extreme opposite end of the spectrum lies FAA’s decision to begin the furloughing of air traffic controllers, a move that has already precipitated the filing of petitions with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by, among others, the aviation trade group for the nation’s airlines, Airlines for America, the Airline Pilots Association, and the Regional Airline Association.
Here are quick takes on recent news items concerning aviation and airport development during the past week.
- FAA Bans Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers From Using the Anti-Smoking Drug Chantix. Apparently, the smoking cessation drug may cause serious side effects, including psychiatric disorders, including suicide. FAA felt that they were serious enough to ban pilots and air traffic controllers from using the drug. Many bloggers picked up the story. Here are just a sample of the many blogs that picked up this story:
- FAA Tests New Systems For Detecting Ground Debris. The FAA has begun to test several different systems around the country to ensure that the runways are debris-free. Debris, if sucked into jet engines can cause severe damage. Whether this is separate and apart from the NextGen technology, remains to be seen.
- In the Good News/Bad News department: Flight Delays Cost $41billion in 2007 to the industry and to passengers; and New Air Traffic Software is proven to save $27 million in delays. The disparity between the two numbers is astounding! Granted, the new software is only one portion of the "new technology" effort to cut down on delays. Blogs:
- Citing lessons learned from reports submitted by the Federal Aviation Administration and American Airlines in response to last month’s grounding of hundreds of MD-80 aircraft, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation called on the FAA and airlines to better ensure mutual understanding of what constitutes compliance with an Aviation Directive. Blogs:
- American Airlines and FAA differ about April groundings. The finger-pointing has begun. American claims that although the maintenance shortcomings did not justify canceling all of the flights, they were told by a FAA inspector to keep the planes on the ground. FAA says the decision to cancel the flights was solely American’s. Interesting story to watch as the FAA and the airlines develop a new relationship post-MD80 Wiring debacle. Blogs:
- FAA declares proposed Boston Tower too tall. FAA declares that 1000 foot tower in downtown Boston might be an obstruction, possibly in the flight path of a plane aborting a landing at Logan and unexpectedly veering off over downtown Boston at low altitude. As property near airports becomes more and more desirable, this sort of problem will only increase. Blogs:
- FAA Misses Deadline in Mechanic’s Probe. The FAA has failed for the third time to provide records to federal investigators conducting a probe into how the agency tracked falsely certified airplane mechanics. This comes at a time when the FAA has little or no political capital to spend on Capitol Hill to straighten things out. Blogs: