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    ORD watcher
    Official: Plane problems may have caused NV crash
    by MARTIN GRIFFITH - Associated Press,SCOTT SONNER - Associated Press


    RENO, Nev. (AP) — A vintage World War II-era fighter plane plunged into the grandstands Friday during a popular annual air show, killing at least three people, injuring more than 50 spectators and creating a horrific scene strewn with body parts and smoking debris.

    The cause of the crash wasn't immediately known, but an official with the event said there were indications that mechanical problems were at play.

    The plane, flown by a renowned 74-year-old air racer and movie stunt pilot, spiraled suddenly out of control and appeared to disintegrate upon impact. Bloodied bodies were spread across the area as people tended to the victims and ambulances rushed to the scene.

    Maureen Higgins of Alabama, who has been coming to the show for 16 years, said the pilot was on his third lap when he lost control.

    She was sitting about 30 yards away from the crash and watched in horror as the man in front of her started bleeding after a piece of debris hit him in the head.

    "I saw body parts and gore like you wouldn't believe it. I'm talking an arm, a leg," Higgins said "The alive people were missing body parts. I am not kidding you. It was gore. Unbelievable gore."

    Among the dead was pilot Jimmy Leeward, 74, of Ocala, Fla., a veteran airman and stunt pilot who named his P-51 Mustang fighter plane the "Galloping Ghost," according to Mike Houghton, president and CEO of Reno Air Races. Officials earlier said Leeward was 80.

    Renown Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Kathy Carter confirmed that two others died, but did not provide their identities.

    Stephanie Kruse, a spokeswoman for the Regional Emergency Medical Service Authority, told The Associated Press that emergency crews took a total of 56 injury victims to three hospitals. She said they also observed a number of people being transported by private vehicle, which they are not including in their count.

    Kruse said of the total 56, at the time of transport, 15 were considered in critical condition, 13 were serious condition with potentially life-threatening injuries and 28 were non-serious or non-life threatening.

    "This is a very large incident, probably one of the largest this community has seen in decades," Kruse told The Associated Press. "The community is pulling together to try to deal with the scope of it. The hospitals have certainly geared up and staffed up to deal with it."

    The P-51 Mustang crashed into a box-seat area in front of the grandstand at about 4:30 p.m., race spokesman Mike Draper said. Houghton said Leeward appeared to have "lost control of the aircraft," though details on why that happened weren't immediately known.

    Houghton said at a news conference hours after the crash that there appeared to be a "problem with the aircraft that caused it to go out of control." He did not elaborate.

    He said the rest of the races have been canceled as the NTSB investigates.

    KRNV-TV weatherman Jeff Martinez, who was just outside the air race grounds at the time, said the plane veered to the right and then "it just augered straight into the ground."

    "You saw pieces and parts going everywhere," he said. "Everyone is in disbelief."

    Tanya Breining, off Hayward, Calif., told KTVU-TV in San Francisco: "It was absolute carnage. ... It looked like more than a bomb exploded."

    Another witness, Ronald Sargis, said he was sitting in the box seat area near the finish line. The box seat area holds 300 to 400 people, while the main grandstands area holds several thousand.

    "We could see the plane coming around the far turn — it was in trouble," Sargis told KCRA-TV in Sacramento. "About six or seven boxes down from us, it impacted into the front row."

    He said the pilot appeared to do all he could to avoid crashing into the crowd. Response teams immediately went to work, Sargis said. After the crash Sargis went up a few rows into the grandstand to view the downed plane.

    "It appeared to be just pulverized," he said.

    Leeward, the owner of the Leeward Air Ranch Racing Team, was a well-known racing pilot. His website says he has flown more than 120 races and served as a stunt pilot for numerous movies, including "Amelia" and "Cloud Dancer."

    In an interview with the Ocala (Fla.) Star-Banner last year, he described how he has flown 250 types of planes and has a particular fondness for the P-51, which came into the war relatively late and was used as a long-range bomber escort over Europe. Among the famous pilots of the hot new fighter was WWII double ace Chuck Yeager.

    "They're more fun. More speed, more challenge. Speed, speed and more speed," Leeward said.

    Houghton described Leeward as "a good friend. Everybody knows him. It's a tight knit family. He's been here for a long, long time," Houghton said.

    The National Championship Air Races draws thousands of people to Reno every year in September to watch various military and civilian planes race. They also have attracted scrutiny in the past over safety concerns, including four pilots killed in 2007 and 2008. It was such a concern that local school officials once considered whether they should not allow student field trips at the event.

    The competition is like a car race in the sky, with planes flying wingtip-to-wingtip as low as 50 feet off the sagebrush at speeds sometimes surpassing 500 mph. Pilots follow an oval path around pylons, with distances and speeds depending on the class of aircraft.

    The FAA and air race organizers spend months preparing for air races as they develop a plan involving pilot qualification, training and testing along with a layout for the course. The FAA inspects pilots' practice runs and brief pilots on the route maneuvers and emergency procedures.

    Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., issued a statement saying he was "deeply saddened" about the crash.

    "My thoughts are with the families of those who have lost their lives and with those who were wounded in this horrific tragedy," he said. "I am so grateful to our first responders for their swift action and will continue to monitor this situation as it develops."



    ORD watcher
    Feds: US man planned to blow up Pentagon
    By JAY LINDSAY - Associated Press | AP – 2 hrs 50 mins ago

    BOSTON (AP) — A man was arrested Wednesday and accused of plotting an assault on the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol using remote-controlled aircraft armed with explosives — the latest of several terrorism cases to spring from federal sting operations.

    Rezwan Ferdaus was arrested in Framingham, Massachusetts, after undercover federal agents delivered materials he had allegedly requested, including grenades, six machine guns and what he believed was 24 pounds of C-4 explosive. Federal officials said the public was never in danger from the explosives, which it said were always under control and closely monitored.

    Wednesday's arrest was similar to other cases in which reputed would-be terrorists were caught in sting operations that revolved around fictional plots against various targets, such as Dallas skyscapers or a Chicago nightclub. In this case, though, authorities say Ferdaus planned the scheme.

    According to a federal affidavit, Ferdaus, 26, of Ashland, became convinced America was evil through jihadi websites and videos, and began planning "jihad" against the U.S. in early 2010. He contacted a federal informant that December and months later, allegedly began meeting to discuss the plot with undercover federal agents he believed were members of al-Qaida.

    Ferdaus said he wanted to deal a psychological blow to the "enemies of Allah" by hitting the Pentagon, which he called "head and heart of the snake," according to the affidavit.

    "Allah has given us the privilege," he allegedly told the informant. "... He punishes them by our hand. We're the ones."

    Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen who graduated from Northeastern University with a bachelor's degree in physics, made a brief initial appearance Wednesday in federal court on charges of attempting to destroy federal buildings and providing support to a foreign terrorist organization, in this case al-Qaida. A detention hearing was scheduled for Monday.

    Telephone messages were left at the office of his attorney, Catherine Byrne, and at the address listed for Ferdaus in the affidavit.

    Several alleged domestic plots have been thwarted since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including in Lackawanna, New York; Portland, Oregon; and Virginia.

    Terrorism arrests involving federal stings have often been followed by claims of entrapment, but none of the cases brought since Sept. 11 has been thrown out by a court on such grounds.

    U.S. Rep. William Keating of Massachusetts, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, said lawmakers have been warned for months of an emerging threat from homegrown extremists. He said al- Qaida is casting a wide net to radicalize individuals or small groups already in the country because of the significant advantages.

    "They're already here, so they don't have the hurdles of getting into the country, they know the country better. ... They know how to move around," Keating said. "The testimony we heard, things like this (the Ferdaus arrest) were inevitable."

    Ferdaus is accused of planning to use three remote control airplanes measuring up to 80 inches (200 centimeters) in length. Ferdaus allegedly planned to pack five pounds (2.27 kilograms) of explosives in each plane, while saving some of it to blow up bridges near the Pentagon.

    The planes, guided by GPS and capable of speeds greater than 100 mph (160 kph), would hit the Pentagon and blow the Capitol dome to "smithereens," according to Ferdaus' plan, detailed in the affidavit. Ferdaus then planned a follow-up automatic weapons attack with six people divided into two teams, according to the affidavit.

    At one point, according to recorded conversation detailed in the affidavit, Ferdaus told undercover agents that his desire to attack the United States was so strong, "I just can't stop. There is no other choice for me."

    According to the affidavit, Ferdaus traveled to Washington in June to do surveillance, and drew up a 15-phase attack plan. He also allegedly rented storage space to work on the planes in Framingham, telling the manager he planned to use the space for music.

    Asked at one point about possibly killing women and children, Ferdaus allegedly said all unbelievers of Islam were his enemies.

    Prosecutors also accuse Ferdaus of supplying the undercover agents with mobile phone devices he said could be used to remotely detonate explosives. When the undercover agents falsely told him the devices had been used to kill three U.S. soldiers in Iraq, he allegedly became visibly excited and said he felt "incredible. ... We're changing the world."

    Rezwan is unmarried and has no children, the affidavit said.

    He had at least one previous brush with the law. In 2003, The Boston Globe reported that he and two other Ashland High School seniors were accused in a vandalism spree at the school.



    AP researcher Barbara Sambriski contributed to this report.


    Cluster House Goes Up

    March 10, 2011 —An aviation event occurred over the weekend in the Southern California High Desert that had previously only taken place fictionally. A cluster balloon lifted a house into the sky, flew for about an hour, then landed 10 miles to the east on Saturday, March 5. Jonathan Trappe, who flew his cluster balloon at AirVenture last year, reprised the role of Carl from Pixar’s Up when he piloted the flying structure for a National Geographic TV show called How Hard Can it Be?, scheduled to begin airing in the fall.

    To answer the question of the show’s title: pretty hard. Lift needed to raise the prefabricated 16-foot by 16-foot structure required assembly of the world’s largest balloon cluster to date (which Trappe said he verified). There were 283 8-foot cells (balloons), each requiring an entire tank of helium (291 cubic feet each) to fill, for a grand total of 82,353 cubic feet (2,300 cubic meters) of the lighter-than-air gas.

    Those who witnessed Trappe float over the AirVenture grounds last summer will recall his 50-cell cluster balloon, which he flew for nearly 12 hours before coming to rest in Lower Michigan. The cluster house, however, was nearly six times larger – weighing in at about 2 1/2 tons. Volunteers spent 13 hours inflating the 283 cells. Both clusters shared the registration number N878UP.

    Trappe estimated the amount of helium used in the cluster house could have taken him to Florida , but the proof-of-concept, made-for-TV flight lasted a little over an hour and reached 10,500 MSL (about 7,000 feet AGL). He took off from the desert airstrip Brian Ranch Airport (CL13), traveled due east about 10 miles, and landed.

    “We weren’t really trying to go anywhere,” Trappe explained. “Our main focus was on making a flight that was one, safe; two, legal; and three, reflected well on our flying community. Those were my goals, as an EAA member and certificated pilot.”

    The flight was scheduled for a 6 a.m. liftoff. At that time, however, the system was not providing sufficient lift. As the sun rose higher it warmed and expanded the gas, thus creating increased lift. Trappe also jettisoned 3,200 of the 5,000 pounds ballast, and by 7 a.m. the house began flying.

    “It is clearly the strangest thing I have ever flown,” Trappe said. “But more than that, it may be one of the strangest things to have ever flown.”

    One of the last things he did before lifting off was affix the “EXPERIMENTAL” placard, just below the N number.

    “A little more experimental than most,” he joked.
    Airline Industry Seeks Less Hassle for Customers
    By Toby Sterling October 5, 2011 9:30AM

    The airline industry presented a model of its vision for the future of check-in security on Tuesday, including high-tech color-coded scanning corridors and what they said was the use of risk assessment techniques to ease the burden of airport security for the common traveler.
    Airline passengers will get to keep their shoes on and their bags in their hand -- toothpaste, nail clippers, laptops and all -- as they pass through the "checkpoint of the future."

    "We spend too much time on the 99.9999999 percent who mean us no harm, when threat detection surely should be focused on those with greater potential to do damage," International Air Transport Association chief Tony Tyler said at a conference in Amsterdam.

    "By making our checkpoints smarter, and using 'known traveler' programs, we can give everybody a baseline level of security ... and in the end get everybody through security much faster," he said.

    The concept faces technical and financial hurdles, and likely will be opposed by people who object to profiling or believe passing through body scanners violates their privacy. But it indicates the direction the industry hopes to go, Tyler said. He added that many elements of the plan are already in place, and others on the way.

    He argued the "risk-based approach" is not the same as profiling, since it doesn't use ethnic or religious data . It relies partly on preflight information submitted by passengers, partly on biometric scans and data stored in passports, and partly on human observers who would have the discretion to choose a more rigorous scan for someone acting suspiciously.

    Under a mock-up checkpoint on display at the Aviation Security World Conference, passengers are guided into one of three corridors upon presenting their passports: blue for frequent travelers, purple for normal passengers and orange for those deemed to require enhanced vetting.

    People don't have to empty their pockets, remove any of their clothing or subject themselves to pat-downs before walking through a 20-foot tunnel that scans metals, liquids, laptops and other potential dangers one by one.

    Security guards don't need to waste any time on small children or wheelchair-bound grandmothers unless they trigger an alarm.

    U.S. Transport Security Authority chief John Pistole said the checkpoint of the future idea parallels the TSA's own new emphasis on "risk-based security."

    "It's an idea clearly worth consideration as technology develops," said TSA chief John Pistole. "Segmenting the passenger population for different levels of security screening is exactly what we're pursuing."

    He cited an ongoing TSA trial where frequent fliers "who are willing to voluntarily share information with us before they travel" are allowed to pass security more swiftly at Dallas/Ft. Worth and Miami International airports, as well as domestic airports in Atlanta and Detroit.

    Peter Hartman, CEO of Dutch airline KLM, a subsidiary of Air France, said he didn't think profiling on some grounds was objectionable. Separately, he called on governments to contribute to costs for rolling out the technology used in new checkpoints. He said at present airlines pay around $7.4 billion per year for security, which they pass on to customers, while security costs for events such as football matches are often borne by the police.

    Tyler said elements of the 'checkpoint of the future' plan will be introduced first on most highly traveled routes, and will gradually expand to smaller airports over a period of three to seven years.


    ORD watcher
    Alitalia, Air France-KLM to suspend direct Chicago flights in winter
    Delta poised to pick up Paris route

    July 13, 2011|By Robert Channick, Tribune reporter

    Terminal 5 at O'Hare International Airport will have a little less of an international flavor this winter. Two major European carriers, Alitalia and Air France-KLM, will temporarily suspend direct service out of Chicago in response to high fuel prices and sagging seasonal demand.

    Alitalia will ground its daily Chicago-to-Rome route in December, with plans to resume service in April. And Air France-KLM will halt its daily Chicago-to-Paris flight from October to March, with Delta Air Lines taking over the route in the interim.

    "Air France saw where they could use that aircraft more profitably somewhere else," said Trebor Banstetter, a Delta spokesman. "Because Delta has actually cut back on a number of trans-Atlantic winter routes, we had that plane available."

    The three, along with KLM, the Dutch airline that merged with Air France in 2004, are part of a venture to share capacity, bookings and profits on service between North America and Europe. The cutbacks are an effort to reduce trans-Atlantic capacity by about 10 percent this winter in the face of rising fuel costs, which have grown 51 percent in the last year, according to the International Air Transport Association.

    "Jet fuel prices have gone up incredibly this year, and these flights are very costly to operate from a fuel basis," Banstetter said. "We've brought down our capacity somewhat during the winter season because that's when demand for flying drops quite a bit."

    Launched in 1997 by KLM and Northwest Airlines, which merged with Delta in 2008, the venture took full flight in 2009 with the coordinated service between Air France-KLM and Delta. Alitalia joined last year, giving the venture 26 percent of the airline industry's trans-Atlantic capacity.
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    Like Southwest, Spirit Airlines can Gain from woes of Republic Airways (LUV, AMR & LCC)
    Republic AIrways will have to sell Frontier Airlines Cheap

    By Jonathan Yates
    Published: November 16, 2011 5:34:55 AM PST

    Spirit Airlines (NASDAQ: SAVE) is a small cap discount carrier whose stock price has avoided the fates of American Airlines (NYSE: AMR), US Airways (NYSE: LCC) and Republic Airways Holdings (NASDAQ: RJET). This puts Spirit Airlines in a position to benefit from the woes of Republic Airways.

    Republic AIrways recently announced that it would be selling Frontier Airlines. Frontier Airlines was acquired by Republic Airways in 2009, besting Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) for the bankrupt carrier. Two years later, Republic Airways is trying to unload Frontier Airlines, which is ample evidence of how well the acquisition fared.

    This is a terrible time to be selling an airlines. American Airlines has been trying to find a buyer for American Eagle, its regional carrier. So far, it has not found any takers. Republic Airways is likely to find the same problem with the sale of Frontier Airlines. Higher fuel costs have been devestating for the industry.

    Spirit Airlines should consider the flight path taken by Southwest Airlines. In becoming the largest domestic air carrier, Southwest Airlines mastered the art of the deal in picking up competitors at bargain prices. This was detailed on in the article, "Southwest Airlines is Ascending through Shrewd Acquistions like Warren Buffett for Berkshire Hathaway." That Southwest Airlines made a bid for Frontier Airlines shows the value of the assets. The price now for Frontier Airlines will be less than the $1.1 billion cost for Republic Airways Holdings in 2009.

    It has been a good first year of being publicly traded for Spirit Airlines, as reviewed in the article, "Spirit Airlines continues Soaring Higher," on The stock is up more than 12% for the month and over 38% for the quarter. For 2011, the share price of Spirit Airlines has risen more than 44%. Starting to acquire assets at deep discounts will help Spirit Airlines expand profitably like Southwest Airline.


    Former Trailblazer Kodak Files for Chapter 11
    By Ben Dobbin January 20, 2012 9:53AM

    Kodak's moment has come and gone. The glory days when Eastman Kodak Co. ruled the world of film photography lasted for over a century. Then came a stunning reversal of fortune: cutthroat competition from Japanese firms in the 1980s and a seismic shift to the digital technology it pioneered but couldn't capitalize on. Now comes a wistful worry that this icon of American business is edging toward extinction.
    Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday, raising the specter that the 132-year-old trailblazer could become the most storied casualty of a digital age.

    Already a shadow of its former self, cash-poor Kodak will now reorganize in bankruptcy court, as it seeks to boost its cash position and stay in business. The Rochester, N.Y.-based company is pinning its hopes on peddling a trove of photo patents and morphing into a new-look powerhouse built around printers and ink. Even if it succeeds, it seems unlikely to ever again resemble what its red-on-yellow K logo long stood for -- a signature brand synonymous in every corner of the planet with capturing, collecting and sharing images.

    "Kodak played a role in pretty much everyone's life in the 20th century because it was the company we entrusted our most treasured possession to -- our memories," said Robert Burley, a photography professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.

    Its yellow boxes of film, point-and-shoot Brownie and Instamatic cameras, and those hand-sized prints that made it possible for countless millions to freeze-frame their world "were the products used to remember -- and really define -- what that entire century looked like," Burley said.

    "One of the interesting parts of this bankruptcy story is everyone's saddened by it," he continued. "There's a kind of emotional connection to Kodak for many people. You could find that name inside every American household and, in the last five years, it's disappeared."

    Kodak has notched just one profitable year since 2004. At the end of a four-year digital makeover during which it dynamited aged factories, chopped and changed businesses and eliminated tens of thousands of jobs, it closed 2007 on a high note with net income of $676 million.

    It soon ran smack into the recession -- and its momentum reversed.

    Years of investor worries over whether Kodak might seek protection from its creditors intensified in September when it hired major restructuring law firm Jones Day as an adviser. Its stock, which topped $94 in 1997, skidded below $1 a share for the first time and, by Jan. 6, hit an all-time closing low of 37 cents.

    Three board members recently resigned, and last week, the company announced that it realigned and simplified its business structure in an effort to cut costs, create shareholder value and accelerate its long-drawn-out digital transformation.

    The human toll reaches back to the 1980s, when Tokyo-based Fuji, an emerging archrival, began to eat into Kodak's fat profits with novel offerings like single-use film cameras. Beset by excessive caution and strategic stumbles, Kodak was finally forced to cut costs. Its long slide had begun.

    Mass layoffs came every few years, unraveling a cozy relationship of company and community that was perhaps unequaled in the annals of American business. Kodak has sliced its global payroll to 18,800 from a peak of 145,300 in 1988, and its hometown rolls to 7,100 from 60,400 in 1982.

    Veteran employees who dodged the well-worn ax are not alone in fearing what comes next. Some 25,000 Kodak retirees in this medium-sized city on Lake Ontario's southern shore worry that their diminished health coverage could be clawed back further, if not disappear, in bankruptcy court.

    It's a long cry from George Eastman's paternalistic heyday.

    Founded by Eastman in 1880, Kodak marketed the world's first flexible roll film in 1888 and turned photography into an overnight craze with a $1 Brownie camera in 1900. Innovation and mass production were about to put the world into cars and airplanes, the American Century was unfolding, and Kodak was ready to record it.

    "It's one of the few companies that wiggled its way into the fabric of American life and the American family," said Bob Volpe, 69, a 32-year employee who retired in 1998. "As someone at Kodak once said, `We put chemicals in one end so our customers can get memories out the other.'"

    Intent on keeping his work force happy -- they never organized a union -- Eastman helped pioneer profit-sharing and, in 1912, began dispensing a generous wage dividend. Going to work for Kodak -- "taking the life sentence," as it was called -- became a bountiful rite of passage for generations.

    "Most of the people who worked at Kodak had a middle-class life without a college education," Volpe said. "Those jobs paid so well, they could buy a boat, two cars, a summer place, and send their kids to college."

    Propelled by Eastman's marketing genius, the "Great Yellow Father" held a virtual monopoly of the U.S. photographic industry by 1927. But long after Eastman was stricken with a degenerative spinal disorder and took his own life in 1932, Kodak retained its mighty perch with a succession of innovations.

    Foremost was Kodachrome, a slide and motion-picture film extolled for 74 years until its demise in 2009 for its sharpness, archival durability and vibrant hues. In the 1960s, easy-load Instamatic 126 became one of the most popular cameras ever, practically replacing old box cameras. In 1975, engineer Steven Sasson created the first digital camera, a toaster-size prototype capturing black-and-white images at a resolution of 0.1 megapixels.

    Through the 1990s, Kodak splurged $4 billion on developing the photo technology inside most of today's cellphones and digital devices. But a reluctance to ease its heavy reliance on film allowed rivals like Canon Inc. and Sony Corp. to rush largely unhindered into the fast-emerging digital arena. The immensely lucrative analog business Kodak worried about undermining too soon was virtually erased in a decade by the filmless photography it invented.

    "If you're not willing to cannibalize yourself, others will do it for you," said Mark Zupan, dean of the University of Rochester's business school. "Technology is changing ever more rapidly, the world's becoming more globalized, so to stay at the top of your game is getting increasingly harder."

    In November, Kodak warned it could run out of cash in a year if it didn't sell 1,100 digital-imaging patents it's been shopping around since July. Analysts estimate they could fetch at least $2 billion.

    In the meantime, Kodak has focused its future on new lines of inkjet printers that it says are on the verge of turning a profit. It expects printers, software and packaging to produce more than twice as much revenue by 2013 and account by then for 25 percent of the company's total revenue, or nearly $2 billion.

    CEO Antonio Perez said in a statement Thursday that the bankruptcy filing is "a necessary step and the right thing to do for the future of Kodak." The company has secured $950 million in financing from Citigroup Inc., and expects to be able to operate its business during bankruptcy reorganization and pay employees.

    On its Web site, Kodak assured customers that the nearly $1 billion in debtor-in-possession financing would be sufficient to pay vendors, suppliers and other business partners in full for goods and services going forward. The bankruptcy filing in the Southern District of New York does not involve Kodak's international operations.

    "To be able to hop from stone to stone across the stream takes great agility and foresight and passion for excellence, and Kodak is capable of that. They have some killer stuff in inkjet printing. It's becoming a profitable product line but what they need is the runway to allow it to take off," Zupan said. "As the saying goes, `the best way to anticipate the future is to invent it.'"

    The company and its board are being advised by Lazard, FTI Consulting Inc. and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. Dominic DiNapoli, vice chairman of FTI Consulting, will serve as chief restructuring officer. Kodak expects to complete its U.S.-based restructuring during 2013.


    International In-Flight Wi-Fi Remains a Rarity
    By Josh Noel April 3, 2012 9:37AM

    Technology couldn't be more pervasive. It is always at our fingertips, meeting every need at every moment, providing constant communication. Right?
    Judging by how quickly people fire up their phones after the plane lands, not quite.

    One of the last significant hurdles for wireless communication is the airplane. Though Wi-Fi is increasingly available on domestic flights, it remains expensive and relatively little-used, according to most analyses. On international flights, where it can be argued that it is most needed, Wi-Fi remains a rarity.

    Australian airline Qantas inched the world closer to international in-flight Wi-Fi in March by launching an eight-week trial with the service on flights between Australia and Los Angeles, allowing passengers in first and business classes to access the Internet on laptops, phones and tablets. They join airlines that include Lufthansa, and, later this year, United.

    This is revolutionary in 2012? For airplanes crossing oceans, yes.

    Michael Planey, an airline industry consultant who tracks in-flight technologies, said there are several reasons for the slow move to Wi-Fi on international flights. Most of it, predictably, comes down to money.

    Most Wi-Fi signals on domestic flights are provided by a series of ground towers. Qantas' experiment, like all flights over water, uses satellite connections. The satellite connections are far more expensive propositions for airlines. That cost is increased by what appears to be moderate user interest at current pricing levels.

    "Airlines have not been able to find a business model they like that doesn't cost them money to provide the service," Planey said. "And people are making do without it."

    Planey isn't sure that in-flight Wi-Fi has demonstrated itself as a product worth buying. Sure, there's enough bandwidth to send emails, texts and tweak the Facebook and Twitter accounts. But when it comes to streaming video or downloading music -- the things we now take for granted while waiting for the bus -- the execution isn't always as clean at 38,000 feet.

    His idea: Airlines should invest in the infrastructure, use the Wi-Fi for its own purposes, then give a small amount free to passengers, whose expectations will drop -- because it's free -- to the point that not being able to stream YouTube videos will barely matter. They'll just be glad to update their Facebook status.

    "Once people start paying for it," he said, "they expect a premium service."

    One day Wi-Fi on airplanes will have seemed inevitable. Consider that Aircell, the company behind Gogo, the Wi-Fi service for most domestic flights, recently announced that it is working on a satellite system that will enable international service by 2015.

    "Honestly, I thought going into 2012 we'd have a more settled business model," Planey said.

    Qantas' small step shows how far we have to go.


    Everything’s looking up for aircraft with Internet connections
    27-Jun-2012 15:58 GMT

    Gogo has made solid market inroads with ground-based communication towers.

    Hughes and Row 44 have teamed up to provide satellite communications that can be more easily deployed globally.

    Antennas from Gogo communicate with land-based towers, so they can be more compact.

    Both commercial and private aircraft are increasingly carrying antennas that link them to communications satellites or terrestrial towers that link planes to the Internet. Ground-based systems are popular now, but satellite links are widely considered to be the future for global connectivity. Many market watchers feel this trend has reached critical mass, beginning the spiral of rising volumes and falling prices that makes systems affordable enough for mainstream markets.

    In-Stat predicts that in-flight Wi-Fi services will generate revenues of more than $1.5 billion in 2015, when 6100 commercial planes will have Internet access. That’s more than triple the number of Wi-Fi-equipped planes last year.

    In the U.S., Gogo has gained solid market share with a terrestrial system that works much like a cell-phone system, communicating over a network of towers. The technology is used by both commercial and business planes.

    While this technology has fared well domestically, many vendors feel that satellite links are more viable in many international regions. Gogo plans to begin providing Ka-band satellite links to extend its reach outside the U.S.

    Though terrestrial communications can be less expensive, it may not be practical for many aircraft to carry both types of antennas, partially because the protrusions that hold the antennae cause drag. Additionally, air-to-ground (ATG) networks are costly and time-consuming to deploy.

    That may force many to pick one connection, either looking earthward or to orbiting satellites. One factor behind this decision is that it’s not practical to bounce between terrestrial communications and satellite links.

    “Development of integrated systems requires significant investment, which would only be supportable if there were more ATG networks globally to inspire such innovation,” said Frederick St.Amour, Sales Vice President for Row 44. “The primary limiting factor is the lack of commercially viable equipment sets and software that enables such switching.”

    Though satellite systems don’t require as much switching as ground-based communications, they can’t track a single satellite during a long flight. When planes fly across the U.S., for example, they usually need to access three satellites. Switching from one satellite to the next is not as simple as when cell phones shift from one terrestrial antenna to another.

    “There’s a momentary break when you switch,” said Dave Jupin, Product Line Manager at Hughes Network Systems. “We have to determine when to make the switch and reorient the antenna so it’s focused on another satellite.”

    Switching from one antenna to another highlights the complexity of these systems. Antennas must always focus precisely on the satellite they’re communicating with. They must also work at varying speeds, and beams must be very accurately positioned so they don’t cause interference with other communication signals.

    “To make these systems work, you have to provide Doppler compensation for jets flying at high speeds,” Jupin said. “You’ve also got to be sure that the plane’s communications don’t interfere with other satellites.”

    At present, most of the satellite links use the Ku-band, a technology that is widely deployed. That’s likely to change over the short term. Satellite providers are gearing up for Ka-band links, which provide far more bandwidth.

    “Everyone’s looking forward to Ka-band; it offers more capacity. In the next three to five years, there will be enough Ka-band satellites to support aircraft,” Jupin said.

    One example of this interest level came in April when Honeywell signed a 20-year pact with satellite provider Inmarsat to sell aircraft antenna that will communicate with three Ka-band satellites that Inmarsat plans to launch over the next couple years. Honeywell expects to earn nearly $3 billion over the two decades of the deal.

    While providers look to the future, existing satellite technologies are not going away. Vendors can use new technologies to squeeze more capability from satellite systems that are already orbiting.

    “We introduced a Ku-Band option combined with a router that uses compression algorithm to optimize available bandwidth,” said Yannick Dansereau, Lead Product Manager for Cabin Systems at Bombardier.

    Some techniques for reducing demand for satellite bandwidth will occur on the aircraft. One is to store some of the most commonly accessed material on hard drives before the aircraft takes off. Servers can then disseminate it without communicating with the satellite.

    “There’s a significant increase in the amount of content that may be stored and updated to support the content in greatest demand by passengers,” St.Amour said. “In the future, low-cost data and content loading technology will be deployed, enabling rapid updating of onboard servers with extremely large quantities of data. This will shift data loading from satellite links and physical efforts to terrestrial GSM and Wi-Fi links, reducing costs and security risks and improving commercial flexibility.”

    Terry Costlow
    Последнее редактирование:


    Airbuses suffer cockpit power failure, await fixes
    The Associated Press

    NEWARK, N.J. — As United Flight 731 climbed out of Newark with 107 people aboard, the pilot and first officer were startled to find screens that display crucial navigational information were blank or unreadable and radios were dead.

    They had no way to communicate with air traffic controllers or detect other planes around them in the New York City area's crowded airspace.

    "I made a comment to the captain about steering clear of New York City, not wanting to get shot down by USAF fighters," first officer Douglas Cochran later told investigators. He wasn't joking: "We both felt an extreme urgency to get this aircraft on the ground as soon as possible."

    Within minutes, Cochran and the captain had turned around and safely landed the Denver-bound Airbus A320 at the Newark airport. Cochran later told investigators that clear weather might have been the only thing that saved them from a crash.

    The January 2008 emergency was far from the first such multiple electrical failure in what is known as the Airbus A320 family of aircraft, and it wasn't the last, according to records reviewed by The Associated Press. More than 50 episodes involving the planes, which first went into service more than two decades ago, have been reported.

    And it could be another few years before the last of the thousands of narrow-body, twin-engine jets in use in the U.S. and overseas are modified to counteract the problem. The Federal Aviation Administration issued an order in 2010 giving U.S. airlines four years to make the fixes. The FAA's European counterpart did the same thing in 2009.

    While no accidents have been blamed on the problem, the pilots union in the U.S. wanted the FAA to give airlines just two years to comply, but the FAA rejected that.

    Aviation safety consultant Douglas Moss said the FAA should have acted a lot more quickly.

    "These things cost money and the industry is in bad shape, so you have the economics thrown into it. But if the end result is higher airfares and higher cost of transportation, then that is the price we have to pay to ensure a safe transport system," said Moss, a California-based commercial pilot with 34 years' experience, including 14 years flying Airbuses.

    A National Transportation Safety Board investigator said long time frames for fixing problems are not uncommon, because of the inconvenience involved in grounding planes for repairs. And FAA spokeswoman Allison Duquette said the four-year window was determined by the estimated 46 hours required to fix each jet. Safety regulators put the cost at $6,000 per plane.

    The Airbus A320 family includes the A318, A319, A320 and A321 models — passenger jets with 100 to 220 seats.

    France-based Airbus told NTSB investigators in 2008 that 49 electrical failures similar to the Newark emergency happened on its planes in the U.S. and abroad before that episode. Nearly half involved the loss of at least five of six cockpit displays.

    Also, pilots who post to a website operated by NASA have described at least seven more instances of multiple electrical failure that forced them to abort takeoffs or make unscheduled landings. Four happened after the FAA directive was issued in 2010.

    Rudy Canto, director of flight operations-technical for Airbus Americas, said that temporary electrical failures in all makes of jets aren't uncommon and that all planes have backup systems — as well as backups to the backups — to handle those situations. New Airbus models are equipped with an automatic power switchover to counteract failures like the one at Newark, Canto said.

    But Patrick Smith, a commercial pilot since 1990 who has written extensively on aviation safety for, said he has never experienced anything remotely similar to the multiple failures described by Cochran and others.

    "I can't even recall a case of losing more than a single non-critical instrument, so the idea of all critical flight displays going out at once is pretty radical," Smith said.

    Also, electrical failures that cause communication blackouts are more dangerous nowadays, given the post-Sept. 11 fear of terrorists seizing the cockpit.

    It isn't known how many of the 633 A320-series jets operated by U.S. carriers are flying without the required modification because airlines do not have to notify the FAA about each one. United said it has completed work on about 90 percent of its fleet of 152 Airbuses covered by the FAA's directive, and Delta said it has made the fix on 124 of its 126 planes. USAirways said it has modified "more than 60 percent" of its 189 affected Airbuses.

    About 2,400 of the planes in service with non-U.S. carriers are required to make the modification, according to Airbus. A spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency said the organization doesn't have figures on the number of planes fixed.

    A pilot who recounted a 2009 incident on NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System said that 28 years and 20,000 hours of flying experience couldn't help him explain why the cockpit was "like walking into a simulator with no power or batteries on ... only light was the moon." The website does not identify the airlines or airports involved.

    On the Newark flight, Cochran told investigators, nearly all cockpit indicators and gauges were lost, including his standby attitude indicator, a display that enables pilots to keep a plane at the correct angle. His primary attitude indicator also failed, but re-emerged shortly before landing.

    "If they'd had bad weather, they could have lost the airplane, absolutely," said Moss, who has conducted accident investigations and served as an expert witness in aviation cases. "It was just dumb luck that it was daytime and the visibility was good."

    In the Newark tower, a chilling thought occurred to controllers as Flight 731 circled back without warning: Was this another 9/11 about to unfold?

    "You could see him making a hard right and then another turn; he's deviating off his course and loaded with fuel," a controller working that day recalled. The controller spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of rules against talking to the media. "He turned back east and was going right toward New York, and I thought, 'Oh, here we go again.'"

    A 2006 failure described by Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch was similarly alarming. Ninety minutes into an EasyJet flight from Spain to England, electronic instrument displays and radio communications went dead. As the pilots struggled to fix the problem, the Airbus stopped sending radar signals for 10 minutes.

    With "no means of knowing where the aircraft was or what had happened to it," French air traffic controllers diverted another plane that would have passed through the same airspace less than 20 seconds apart, according to the British report.

    The plane landed safely in England with the pilots trying unsuccessfully to reach the control tower with cellphones. They told investigators they worried they would be intercepted by military aircraft if they tried to land at another airport.

    Bill Bozin, Airbus Americas vice president for safety, said the company took steps to address the problem before the Newark emergency, issuing two service bulletins in 2007 recommending electrical system modifications. Unlike a regulatory agency, an airplane manufacturer can't require airlines to make safety upgrades.

    Bozin said increased awareness of the problem has improved the situation "immensely" even though many planes are still flying without the required modification — an automatic power switchover.

    "With both Airbus, through its communication with its customers, and FAA, which has put out safety bulletins on this issue, we feel that the procedures have been sufficiently emphasized that we are safe right now even before we get the ultimate solution, which is the automatic switchover," he said.

    While the NTSB has called the electrical failures "a significant safety risk" on takeoffs and landings in low visibility, long gaps between when a safety recommendation is issued and when airlines must carry it out are not uncommon, an investigator in the Flight 731 probe said.

    "I would love for it to be done immediately as a safety protocol, but that can't happen," said Scott Warren, team leader of an NTSB group that investigates electrical and hydraulic failures. "That puts a huge burden on the operators to ground the planes every time a safety recommendation is made. So you have to evaluate whether it makes sense to wait a month, two months, four months, or more."


    August 22, 2012 03:41 PM EDT


    Should U.S. Airlines Allow Cell Calls During Flight?
    By Bart Jansen October 9, 2012 9:36AM

    Hundreds of thousands of passengers on foreign airlines in parts of Europe and the Middle East have been using cell phones in flight once planes have climbed past 10,000 feet. Airlines offer the service with the blessing of their governments. But the practice is forbidden in the U.S. Many foreign carriers contend that U.S. concerns are unfounded.

    Since May, passengers on some Virgin Atlantic flights from London to New York have turned on their cellphones in flight, typed text messages or made calls -- without getting in trouble.
    They're doing what hundreds of thousands of passengers on foreign airlines in parts of Europe and the Middle East have been doing for at least four years: using cellphones once planes have climbed past 10,000 feet. Airlines offer the service with the blessing of their governments.

    But when Virgin Atlantic passengers get within 250 miles of the U.S. coast, the talking and texting stop. The practice is forbidden in the United States because of government safety concerns about cellphone signals interfering with communication networks on the ground and possibly interfering with the plane's communications and navigation equipment.
    U.S. airlines also worry that fliers don't want to listen to others yakking on their phones.

    "Airline customers have commonly opposed in-flight cellphone capabilities, because passengers don't want to endure listening to calls from their fellow travelers on a flight," says Victoria Day, spokeswoman for the industry group Airlines for America.
    But a new report from the Federal Aviation Administration found no problems, with either flight safety or noise complaints, in talking or texting on foreign airlines. The report is raising questions about whether the U.S. ban on cellphone use is out of date.
    Many foreign carriers contend that U.S. concerns are unfounded.

    "There is a misperception out there that it is dangerous," says Patrick Brannelly, spokesman for Emirates Airline, which began offering the service in 2008 and has it on about 90 planes. "I think the real fear is people yabbering on the phone at loud volume, annoying people around them. That just simply hasn't happened."

    Safety Concerns
    Historically, polls have indicated U.S. passengers oppose allowing cellphone use in flight because they don't want to hear seatmates' noisy calls.
    That could be changing., a fare-comparison site, this summer surveyed 500 travelers and found two-thirds wanted to be able to talk on their phones.
    The Federal Communications Commission has prohibited using cellphones in flight since 1991 out of worries about network interference. Because the phones send signals directly to towers, the concern is that planes could shower thousands of calls on ground stations and bog them down.

    The Federal Aviation Administration, meanwhile, is concerned that the radio signals that cellphones emit could interfere with a plane's communications, navigation and flight control. Dozens of scientific reports have warned that radio signals from phones and other electronics can interfere with cockpit instruments in unpredictable ways.

    "If it's a nice clear day out and I'm flying, I'm not nervous," says Bill Strauss, an aviation engineer who researched the subject in 2000 for a touchstone doctoral thesis. "If it's cloudy, rainy, bad weather, and the pilot's absolutely got to be sure where he is when he breaks through the clouds at 500 feet, I'm asking the guy next to me to shut his phone off."

    Anonymous reports from pilots to NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System give credence to those concerns. Reports include:
    The crew of a DC-9 approaching Philadelphia in October 2003 got a warning on an instrument panel saying they were about to collide with a plane less than a mile ahead. After the plane climbed from 6,000 to 7,000 feet, air traffic controllers said radar showed no other plane nearby. A flight attendant later said she caught a passenger trying to call her daughter about the time the plane started climbing.

    A Boeing 737's instruments swung oddly during a flight descending into Baltimore in March 2003, and crew members found themselves a mile off course as they broke through clouds at 1,800 feet. The captain suspected several passengers used cellphones after an announcement about the war in Iraq.

    The crew of a Bombardier CRJ700 regional jet heard what sounded like a fax machine at repetitious intervals interfering with instructions from air traffic controllers while climbing out of Charlotte in June 2005. After a repeated announcement to turn off cellphones and pagers, devices were turned off, and the noise stopped.

    The FAA found no reports of cellphones interfering with navigational equipment in its study of their use abroad on foreign airlines.

    One advantage the foreign planes have is equipment on each aircraft to relay calls to the ground. Each plane basically has its own cellphone tower: a base station designed to avoid interfering with the plane's equipment.
    On U.S. planes without base stations, cellphones squawk at their highest power while seeking relay towers on the ground. Higher power means greater risk for interfering with the plane's equipment.
    "You're going to be screaming, just like if you and I were far away from each other," says Strauss, the electrical engineer.

    But in foreign planes, cellphones are so close to base stations, signals use as little as 1 milliwatt, or one-thousandth as much power as on the ground, says Brannelly of Emirates.
    Foreign airlines and regulators such as the European Air Safety Agency studied the base stations to ensure they're safe for flying.

    Aurelie Branchereau, a spokeswoman for OnAir, which provides service for 14 airlines, including British Airways, says the company works with regulators and airlines to ensure cellphone use doesn't interfere with a plane's electronics.
    In the U.S., the FCC considered relaxing its cellphone ban in 2004. But it decided against a change in 2007 as airlines, manufacturers and phone companies continued research.

    During the same period, the FAA asked a government advisory group to assemble a committee of experts to study whether using phones or other electronics on planes is safe.

    But in 2008, that panel, co-chaired by a Boeing executive, "concluded that the possibility exists that cellphone transmissions have the possibility for interference with on-board systems, like the navigation system," says Boeing's Bret Jensen.

    Broad Opposition in U.S.
    The opposition to making cellphone calls in the air is substantial enough in the U.S. that the FAA won't consider the issue while it undertakes a newly announced review of what other electronic gadgets, such as tablets, can be used during flights.
    "It's annoying and irritating," says Henry Harteveldt, an airline industry analyst who is co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group. "It's bad enough to overhear a noisy passenger talking to her or his seatmate -- a tube full of people yakking on their cellphones at 35,000 feet would be enormously unpleasant."

    Many frequent fliers agree. Jim Pancero, a sales consultant from Carrollton, Texas, says he doubts using cellphones causes technical problems. But after 30 years of flying millions of miles as a professional speaker, he hopes the ban continues, for the mental health of frequent fliers. "I can't imagine how noisy and irritating it would be if they allowed phone calls on the plane," he says.

    Wide Growth Overseas
    Overseas, phone service for talking and texting in flight is expanding rapidly. The company OnAir provides mobile -phone access to Aeroflot, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Egyptair, Emirates, Etihad in United Arab Emirates, Libyan, Oman, Qatar, Royal Jordanian, Saudi, Singapore, TAM and TAP Portugal.

    Another provider, AeroMobile, is now aboard 14 for Thai Airways, four for Virgin Atlantic, two for Gulf Air, one for Malaysian and one for Transaero in Russia. Five more airlines are committed to joining before the end of the year on a combined 350 aircraft: Lufthansa in Germany, Etihad of United Arab Emirates, Turkish, Aer Lingus in Ireland and Scandinavian. Singapore Airlines has committed to providing the service aboard 20 of its Airbus 350 aircraft due in 2014.
    "We believe this is going to be standard in most airlines," says Pal Bjordal, CEO of AeroMobile. "We believe that concerns once expressed about mobile-phone use and other forms of in-flight connectivity are proving to be unfounded."
    The service isn't allowed during takeoffs and landings, and shuts off hundreds of miles before reaching the U.S. Service starts at 13,000 to 20,000 feet, depending on the company. Text messages are more popular than voice calls. OnAir found that 47% of customers prefer sending texts, 42% checking e-mail and 11% making calls.

    "There are probably a handful of people who need to be in touch," says Brannelly of Emirates. "I just put it on and leave it there."
    The FAA report, which surveyed airlines about how the services work, found complaints about the cost of service or uncertainty about its availability on some planes. Costs vary. One carrier charges $12 a minute, though the price typically is about $2.50 for an average two-minute call.

    "The vast majority of use has been to send and receive text messages rather than phone," says Josh Crouthamel, spokesman for Virgin Atlantic, which limits the services to six phones on each plane. "We've received no complaints, and my trolling through the Twitterverse has surfaced nothing but positive comments."
    Taking Flight-Tracking Apps for a Test Drive
    By Dennis Schaal August 28, 2012 9:15AM

    A mobile app to track flights is a great tool for the savvy business traveler who can't afford to waste time. Four major apps are FlightTrack Free, AirportZoom, FlightView and GateGuru; all provide you with up-to-the-minute arrival and departure times and terminal, gate and baggage claim locations. Many clue you into airport amenities.

    About 20 percent of major U.S. airline flights were delayed in June, according to the Transportation Department. And that's reason enough to have a mobile app to track flights before you head to the airport.
    But many of today's leading flight-tracking apps -- including FlightTrack Free, AirportZoom, FlightView and GateGuru -- provide more than arrival and departure times and terminal, gate and baggage claim locations.
    Many of these free apps also let you find the best shoeshine at the airport and the best restaurant choices near your departure gate.

    My favorite of the four apps reviewed was FlightTrack Free (iOS and Android ) from Expedia-owned Mobiata. But AirportZoom by FlightStats (iPad), which has a different focus, was a close second.
    I liked FlightTrack Free for its elegance and simplicity in tracking a flight. It covers 1,400 airlines around the world and 16,000 airports, but lets you monitor the progress of one flight at a time on a zoomable map.
    Its search function by airline and flight number or route also is easy to use. It doesn't bury you with mountains of information.

    AirportZoom takes advantage of an iPad's graphics and is more comprehensive than FlightTrack. But the amount of information it provides -- a delay index for the airport, current weather, a seven-day forecast and gate changes -- can seem overwhelming.
    GateGuru's Airport Info & Flight Status app (iOS and Android) doesn't let you view a flight's progress on a map. But it's easy to use and provides basic flight and arrival status in an attractive manner on flight cards. GateGuru's prowess is providing ratings and reviews for restaurants, shops and services at about 125 airports around the world.

    FlightView 2.0 (iOS) lets you track flights on a map, and provides weather and airport information. But it seems bare-bones and not very interactive.
    A new feature on FlightView 2.0, Where's My Plane?, offers an interesting twist: a specific aircraft's previous flights on different routes over the past couple of days to provide past on-time performance for your flight. This feature is available only for certain flights by about a dozen airlines, including United, Virgin America, WestJet, British Air, JetBlue and Air New Zealand.

    A closer look at the four apps:

    AirportZoom by FlightStats
    Overview: IPad app enables flight tracking on a map. Provides detailed flight and airport arrival and departure status, gate locations on a map, terminal maps at 120 airports, information and reviews about restaurants, amenities and services.
    Pros: Comprehensive information on flights, including scheduled aircraft type, codeshares, on-time performance ratings. Nice graphics.
    Cons: Amount of information can seem overwhelming at times. Flight tracking on map not as attractive as with FlightTrack Free.
    Take-away: For the serious aviation buff, the flight-event timeline, and barometer and dew point information provide much to dig into.

    FlightTrack Free by Mobiata
    Overview: Covering 16,000 airports and 1,400 airlines, this iOS and Android app enables searching and tracking of a single flight on a zoomable map, and provides departure and arrival information, plus gate and baggage-claim information, all refreshed every five minutes.
    Pros: It's a beautiful app, elegant in its simplicity, as a plane appears in motion, progressing toward its arrival airport.
    Cons: In its mission to keep it simple, app is less comprehensive and lacks information on airport amenities.
    Take-away: Easy to use, interactive and attractive. FlightTrack Free is a keeper.

    FlightView 2.0
    Overview: IPhone app tracks flights on a map with radar weather. It also provides terminal, gate and baggage-claim information, and has flight-status push alerts and driving directions to the airport.
    Pros: The new Where's My Plane feature that shows an aircraft's previous flights and on-time performance over the past two days is a nice wrinkle.
    Cons: The app seems fairly bland in its appearance and lacks interactivity.
    Take-away: The app provides flight-tracking basics and an aircraft's altitude and ground speed. But I'd opt for FlightTrack Free or AirportZoom.

    Overview: IPhone and Android app tracks flights on flight cards, offers push notifications on flight-status updates, provides ratings, user reviews and tips about airports, terminals and their restaurants, shops and services.
    Pros: Great tool for at-the-airport experience, with detailed look at amenities near gate.
    Cons: Flight tracking seems almost an afterthought, given GateGuru's focus on the airport amenity information. Some user reviews are very old, and not particularly illuminating.
    Take-away: Valuable app for scoping out airport amenities, while flight-tracking feature less appealing.
    Последнее редактирование:


    Thinking wing is on fire, passenger tries to open exit on Delta jet
    By Erin Alberty | The Salt Lake Tribune
    First Published Oct 16 2012 10:14 pm • Last Updated Oct 17 2012 12:10 am

    A Ukrainian traveler allegedly tried to open the emergency exit door of a moving jet at Salt Lake City International Airport, later telling federal agents that he had been drunk for 50 days and imagined a fire on the wing.

    In federal charges filed Tuesday, agents wrote that Anatoliy Baranovich was a passenger Monday evening on Delta Flight 1215 from Boston, which was landing in Salt Lake City. Baranovich, who was asleep, woke up as the plane descended, agents wrote. He began yelling, in Russian, to his seatmate that he thought the wing of the Boeing 757 was on fire, agents wrote. The seatmate did not understand Baranovich.

    As the plane touched down, about 10:30 p.m., Baranovich ran to the back emergency exit door and tried to open it, ignoring a flight attendant’s orders to stop. In his efforts, Baranovich caused a malfunction that jammed the door, "malfunctioned" the inflatable slide and "caused extensive damage to the fuselage," agents wrote.

    The flight attendant asked the other passengers for help, and several wrestled Baranovich against the opposite side of the galley, agents wrote. As Baranovich tried to open the other emergency door, a passenger who is a former police officer put Baranovich into a wrist lock and forced him to the floor.

    Through a translator, Baranovich said he had been visiting family in Ukraine for 50 days, during which he tried to begin building a house he had been planning.

    "Unable to begin construction, Baranovich stated that he got drunk and stayed drunk for the entire 50 days," agents wrote. "Baranovich stated, ‘I never sobered up.’ "

    He said he had several alcoholic drinks while traveling — his flights took him from Kiev to Amsterdam, Boston and Salt Lake City before his planned final leg to Portland, Ore. — but he could not specify how many drinks or when he drank them. He "fell asleep or passed out" on Delta 1215, agents wrote.

    Delta representatives could not comment Tuesday night as to how the emergency exit jammed, how the inflatable ramp malfunctioned or how Baranovich’s alleged attempt to open the door damaged the fuselage. A spokesman said Delta was cooperating fully with investigators.

    Baranovich was charged with willfully damaging and disabling an aircraft and assaulting and intimidating crew members of an aircraft.


    Avoiding traffic congestion in the air
    05-Sep-2012 18:45 GMT


    Passengers on Bombardier jets will often have several communication links open, so it’s important to maintain data integrity for each connection.

    Once aircraft are linked to satellites or ground-based stations, the design challenge shifts to disseminating signals to passengers. Design engineers have to ensure that network traffic doesn’t overwhelm the Wi-Fi link’s ability to provide satisfactory performance inside the aircraft.

    The latest versions of the Wi-Fi networks used in coffee shops usually provide enough bandwidth for users on the plane, though the challenges are more daunting in aircraft. Some suppliers also provide cell-phone connectivity for the growing number of smart phone users.

    “Our systems provide Wi-Fi connectivity with passenger devices using 802.11g/n,” said Frederick St. Amour, Sales Vice President for Row 44. “Our GSM option enables GSM services using a base station transceiver and leaky line antenna.”

    These links must support users who are viewing movies, listening to music, and doing a wide range of Web searches while sending messages. When many passengers are doing three or four things at once, it puts a fair amount of strain on networks. Adding Wi-Fi routers is the obvious solution, though that adds cost and weight while increasing power requirements.

    Another challenge for network designers is to ensure that all these data streams don’t suffer from errors when signals are interrupted. Momentary glitches are likely when planes must shift from one satellite or ground station to another. Designs must also account for routine interruptions that originate from the pilot or crew.

    “When the pilot interrupts streaming video and audio, all those streams need to restart without any synchronization problems,” said Andrew Poliak, Director of Business Development at QNX Software Systems. “The operating system needs to meet these real-time requirements and have the capability to work in the consumer environment. Connecting to consumer products is very important on corporate jets, where everyone wants to connect their personal equipment.”

    While providing speedy connections is a central focus, network developers also have to make it simple for users to get those connections started. Passwords and payments aren’t necessary on private jets, but commercial passengers can’t view signing on as a barrier to Internet access.

    “Rapid, efficient activations are vital if airlines are to optimize their connectivity investments,” St. Amour said.

    Network designers must also ensure that there is no interference when aircraft and satellites are using more than one communications link. Bombardier, which works closely with satellite provider Inmarsat, is among the companies that have resolved this issue.

    “We have router usage rules that can be set to avoid this situation,” said Yannick Dansereau, Lead Product Manager for Cabin Systems at Bombardier. “With our multichannel Inmarsat SwiftBroadband solution, people logged onto one channel for Internet access do not affect the available bandwidth on the second available channel.”
    Boeing receives $1.9 billion contract for 11 P-8A Poseidon Aircraft
    09-Oct-2012 21:06 GMT


    The U.S. Navy awarded Boeing a $1.9 billion contract for 11 P-8A Poseidon aircraft, which will take the total fleet to 24 and bolster the service's anti-submarine, anti-surface warfare and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. This third low-rate initial production award follows two last year that totaled 13 aircraft. Boeing has delivered three of the production P-8As, which are based on the company's Next-Generation 737-800 commercial airplane, and the Navy plans to purchase 117 to replace its P-3 fleet. Boeing assembles the P-8A aircraft in the same facility where it builds all its 737 aircraft. The Poseidon team uses a first-in-industry in-line production process that draws on Boeing's Next-Generation 737 production system. Boeing's industry team includes CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Spirit AeroSystems, BAE Systems, and GE Aviation.

    Matthew Monaghan
    Ukraine cooperates with Russia on $4 billion AN-70 project
    16-Aug-2012 20:17 GMT

    Ukrainian company Antonov together with Russian United Aircraft Corp. will participate in manufacturing Antonov An-70 transport airplanes. Russian defense ministry already placed an order for 60 such machines, $67 million apiece. Developed since 1978, An-70 can carry heavier cargo than existing transport planes and land on ill-equipped runways. An-70 can carry 300 troopers, or 200 injured persons, or 47 ton of freight. Comparably, the closest alternative to the An-70—Airbus A400M Atlas—can carry 37 ton of cargo. The An-70 planes will be produced at JSC Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Production Association in Kazan, Russia. The plane can fly at a speed of 780 km/h at distances of up to 7800 km. An-70 is capable of landing on 600- to 800-m runways with earth surfaces. Onboard navigation equipment allows the plane to land and take off at airports lacking special earth-based equipment.

    Matthew Monaghan


    FlySmart, GateGuru Apps Help Navigate Airports
    By Dennis Schaal December 18, 2012 9:29AM

    If your flight leaves from an unfamiliar airport, several mobile apps can get you up to date quickly on the restaurants, shops and services near your gate.
    Among them are two updated free apps for smartphones: GateGuru and FlySmart. Both track flights and have information on airport amenities.

    If you select one as your go-to mobile airport guide, pick GateGuru, which allows easier flight tracking and provides a more comprehensive and unbiased perspective on airport eateries and retail outlets.

    The FlySmart app, developed by Sapient for airport, radio and outdoor advertising firm Clear Channel Communications, seems geared more toward providing promotional services for airport advertisers than giving travelers the information they need to "fly smart."

    For example, if you're leaving from gate 11 at terminal 5 in New York's JFK airport, the FlySmart app tells you that the 5ive Steak restaurant, which it rates four stars out of five, is two minutes from your gate.

    FlySmart gives basic information about the restaurant, and raves: "With an energetic bar scene and sidewalk seating, 5ive Steak takes a relaxed approach to the classic American Steakhouse." Nearly all of FlySmart's summaries of restaurants, shops and services at the 60 or so airports it covers include similar promotional descriptions.

    GateGuru also rates 5ive Steak four stars. But it omits marketing-laden summaries in favor of 14 user reviews of the restaurant.

    One traveler wrote on Jan. 2, for instance, that it has "great burgers and fries. Service was slow, but it was because people were just training."

    FlySmart's boosterism and GateGuru's frank user assessments provide a clear line of demarcation.

    FlySmart didn't respond to requests for comment.

    Here's a closer look at the two apps


    Overview: The free app (iPhone, Android , and BlackBerry) enables users to track their flights, receive push notifications about delays, gate changes and cancellations, use Bing Maps to view facilities at 60 airports, and peruse information about airport restaurants, shops and services.

    Pros: The app takes the pain out of flight tracking, and the push notifications about changes affecting the trip seem timely.

    Cons: FlySmart's chief priority seems to be serving advertisers over travelers. You can't read anything negative in the app about an airport restaurant or shop, and lack of user reviews makes the app below par. If you want to track your flight, you can search for your airport, airline and flight number, but you have to enter the information from within the app. It's cumbersome to have to manually enter your flight details.

    Takeaway: There are several better alternatives, including GateGuru, for wisely navigating your way through an airport.


    Overview: The free GateGuru app (iPhone, Android and Windows Phone) provides flight-tracking with push notifications of changes, airport maps from FlightStats and nearly 40,000 reviews and tips pertaining to eateries and services at more than 200 airports.

    Pros: The app is comprehensive, and having a number of reviews about establishments near your gate makes it a winner. Users' tips about the airport, including which security lane usually moves faster and the strength of a Wi-Fi signal, are insider nuggets. Airport maps are attractive. Providing last-minute car rentals from Avis, and integration with Trip-It and Kayak, are useful additions.

    Cons: A previous iOS update removed the ability to search an airport unless flight details were entered first, creating much criticism from users. However, the latest iPhone update, Version 3.1, restores the freewheeling airport-search capabilities.

    Takeaway: Flight-tracking capabilities are much improved from last summer, and the GateGuru app is almost essential when looking for things to do and restaurants to sample near the gate.


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    Icelandair will be offering flights to St. Petersburg, Russia, from June 1st 2013. Flights to St. Petersburg will depart twice a week from Keflavik International Airport in Iceland between June 1st and September 17th 2013.
    Book your flight to St. Petersburg today with Icelandair.

    The new route will allow passengers to fly from Icelandair destinations in North America such as Toronto or New York to St. Petersburg with an average connection time of one hour, guaranteeing one of the fastest routes between North America and St. Petersburg.

    Flights to St. Petersburg with Icelandair land at Pulkovo Airport ...


    ORD watcher
    Surf Air CEO Wade Eyerly on CNBC Launching Revolutionary Airlines
    Surf Air CEO Wade Eyerly on CNBC discusses the launch of a revolutionary airline - a flat fee "All You Can Fly" membership airline launching today and running flights from the L.A. area to the Bay Area. CNBC correspondant Phil LeBeau interviews Wade discussing today's exciting launch from Burbank, CA.

    ---------- Добавлено в 20:55 ----------

    Surf Air Interview on Bloomberg with CEO Wade Eyerly - "The Future of Air Travel"


    iPhone map app directs Fairbanks drivers onto airport taxiway
    Dermot Cole
    September 24, 2013

    Relying on the iPhone map app's directions to get to Fairbanks International Airport is downright dangerous.
    That’s because the directions take you on a turn-by-turn route to Taxiway Bravo. From there, it's a direct shot across the main runway to the terminal.
    At least twice in the past three weeks, drivers from out of town who followed the directions on their iPhones not only reached airport property, but also crossed the runway and drove to the airport ramp side of the passenger terminal.


    Twice in the past three weeks drivers from outside Fairbanks who relied on the iPhones built-in map app to get to the airport have driven onto Taxiway Bravo and proceeded to drive across the main runway. No one has been injured and Apple promises a fix by Wednesday.

    “These folks drove past several signs. They even drove past a gate. None of that cued them that they did something inappropriate,” said Melissa Osborn, chief of operations at the Fairbanks airport.
    Angie Spear, marketing director for the airport, said the incidents show how much blind faith drivers who are unfamiliar with an area will place in their electronic gadgets' instructions.
    “No matter what the signs say, the map on their iPhone told them to proceed this way,” Spear said.

    The turn-by-turn directions were specific, using the access route that general aviation pilots use to the East Ramp, which is on the other side of the runway from the main airport terminal.
    The map directions concluded by telling drivers to go to Taxiway Bravo, shown as "Taxiway B" on the satellite image in the app. The directions did not tell drivers to cross the main runway used regularly by 737s and other aircraft.
    But once drivers reached the taxiway, it was only natural for them to look up and see the terminal on the other side of the runway. So that’s where they drove.

    After airport personnel, police and the TSA converged on the driver of a rental car during the Sept. 6 daylight runway crossing, the airport staff complained through the attorney general’s office to Apple, said Spear.
    The problem was supposed to have been fixed promptly, according to reports form the Apple legal department to the attorney general's office and Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, but it hasn’t been, Spear and Osborn said.
    “We asked them to disable the map for Fairbanks until they could correct it, thinking it would be better to have nothing show up than to take the chance that one more person would do this,” Osborn said.
    A “lot of legal speak” ensued, Spear said.

    On Sept. 20, it happened again. The airport has since closed the aircraft access route to Taxiway Bravo from the Float Pond Road.
    A Notice to Airmen has been issued and new barricades are in place. Airport officials said they will not be removed until it is clear the maps are corrected. Spear and Osborn said that Apple officials have assured the state the problem will be fixed by Wednesday. As of Tuesday afternoon, the app continued to direct passengers to use Taxiway Bravo to access the airport.

    “As always, please remain vigilant when on the east ramp, watch for drivers who appear unfamiliar and report them to the airport,” users of the east ramp were advised.
    Osborn said she believes that the computer mapping application is using the airport reference point -- the center of the airport property -- as the destination when someone types in and seeks directions to the airport.
    The problem does not occur when the physical address of the airport is used, but not many people use that on a map search.

    The Sept. 6 incident was not the first case of wrong-way driving at the airport. On Aug. 17, Sheila Toomey wrote in the Anchorage Daily News' Alaska Ear gossip column that Rep. Les Gara, while rushing to make a Fairbanks plane, was given the same wrong directions by his mobile phone map app, but decided not to go onto the general aviation ramp.
    The state Department of Transportation contacted Gara's office in August but wasn't able to determine the exact map app that tried to lead him astray. Gara said he believes his office communicated a clear message that it was the iPhone 5 map app.