The Takeaway

Frustrated with U.S., Amazon Tests Drone Delivery in Canada

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It's a bird ... It's a plane ... It's an Amazon drone carrying a package weighing less than 55 lbs.

Comments [4]

The Takeaway

The FAA Will Regulate Business in Outer Space

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

If you ever decide to start a business on the moon, fear not. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that it will make sure other private companies can't steal your location.


99% Invisible

120- Skyjacking

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The term "hijacking" goes back to prohibition days, when gangsters would rob moonshine trucks saying, "Hold your hands high, Jack!" However, in the early days of commercial air travel, the idea that someone would hijack a plane was scarcely even consid...


Transportation Nation

FAA Names Drone Test Sites

Monday, December 30, 2013

After sorting through dozens of applications from 24 separate states, the Federal Aviation Administration has chosen six sites to pilot "unmanned aircraft systems" -- the government's formal term for drones.

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Transportation Nation

FAA: You Can Keep Your Smartphone On During Takeoff & Landing

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The FAA today said today that passengers can keep their electronic devices on during take off and landing.  

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Transportation Nation

90 Seconds: The Technology and Investment Behind Plane Evacuations

Monday, July 08, 2013


(Marketplace) Investigators from the U.S. and Korea are meeting today with the pilot of Asiana flight 214 to help determine what caused it to crash at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday. Officials have confirmed that two of the 291 passengers on board died in the crash. Over the years airlines and aircraft manufacturers have invested in technology to improve crash survivability.

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Transportation Nation

Gadgets Could Be Allowed on Planes Soon

Friday, June 21, 2013


The Federal Aviation Administration issued rules on gadgets in flight when cellphones first became popular. There were fears they could interfere with planes’ navigational systems. So passengers are told to turn off their electronic devices at the beginning and end of a flight. But today’s gadgets have weaker signals. So, some experts say, interference should be less of a problem.

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Transportation Nation

Few Major D.C.-Area Flight Delays Three Days Into Furloughs

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


When automatic federal spending cuts under a process known as sequestration loomed in March, federal officials warned the furloughs of air traffic controllers would snarl the air travel system and leave passengers waiting in terminals for hours.

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Port Authority: FAA Furloughs Could Spark NYC Airport Delays

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Due to federal budget cuts, Federal Aviation officials say furloughs are taking effect Sunday and that could mean delays for local airline travelers.


Transportation Nation

Senator Pressuring the FAA to Hurry Up and End In-Flight Ban on Cell Phones

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

(Photo CC by Jetstar Airways)

(Shannon Mullen -- Marketplace) You know that rule when you’re on a plane that you have to shut down your electronic devices for takeoff and landing? It’s up for review by an FAA panel with everyone from government regulators to airlines and device makers.

The group just met for the first time in January and plans to recommend new standards for devices on planes by July, but Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill thinks that’s not fast enough.

“If somebody is not being the squeaky wheel on this, it could be years, knowing how long this process typically takes,” McCaskill says. She points out that the FAA lets pilots use iPads in the cockpit instead of paper flight manuals, and she says there’s no hard evidence that other devices like e-readers and laptops interfere with planes.

“Unless and until somebody shows me that data I feel sense of obligation to keep pushing to make this rule change as quickly as possible,” says McCaskill, who is already drafting legislation to change the policy.

“Makes me wonder what are we doing there if people like herself have already decided that she wants a certain result and we better come up with it,” says Doug Kidd, of the National Association of Airline Passengers.

He’s on the FAA panel and he argues that there’s no evidence today’s devices don’t affect planes, and new devices hit the market every day. Kidd adds that most people don’t mind reasonable rules during takeoff and landing.

“It’s the most dangerous part of any flight,” he says. “It’s also the time when most accidents occur, so we’d rather not take a chance on distracting the flight crew at this point in time.”

The FAA would not comment on McCaskill’s push for action.  Kidd says the panel’s progress might seem slow, but Congress is not exactly known for its efficiency either.

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Transportation Nation

FAA to Close 149 Air Traffic Control Towers (LIST)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Forced to trim $637 million from its budget, the FAA is closing 149 air traffic control facilities around the country.

The closures will start taking place early next month and will take four weeks to complete.

Air traffic controllers say this means more work for the pilots -- and could lead to delays. "When there’s no controller in the tower, it then becomes a one-in, one-out operation," said Sarah Dunn, a spokesperson for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, meaning pilots, not controllers, will be coordinating air traffic at these airports.  "All the pilots are on the same frequency checking to see who’s landing, who’s coming in and out."

But the FAA says the closures won't affect safety. “We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered airports,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in a statement.

See the list of towers below.

FAA Contract Tower Closure List

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Transportation Nation

Object Lesson: How Sequestration Could Affect Small Airports

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chocks Away- business jet traffic at Kissimmee Gateway Airport could suffer if the control tower closes (photo by Matthew Peddie)

Budget cuts brought about by sequestration could force the closure of more than 100 air traffic control facilities  -- including control towers at smaller airports across the US.

Kissimmee Gateway Airport, which is just outside of Orlando, is on the list of towers which could be shut down April 7th. City leaders say that would put the brakes on one of the main economic drivers in the area.

“It’s an economic engine, not only necessarily because of what happens on the field, but also what happens adjacent to it," says Mayor Jim Swan. He says the economic impact of the airport is estimated around $100 million a year. Swan says losing the tower will make it  tough to market a $3.2 million dollar business airpark  which is being built with state and local funds.

A large part of the airport’s traffic includes business jets bringing people to functions at nearby Disney World and conventions on Orlando's International Drive.

Last year the airport saw 129,000 departures and landings from a mix of business jets, and propeller planes. Aviation director Terry Lloyd says losing the control tower- which is operated under a contract with the Federal Aviation Administration- could decrease flights to under 100,000 a year.

"I think it's something that we have a lot of dread [about], and there are a lot of unknowns," he says.

He says having a tower to help manage traffic makes Kissimmee a more attractive destination for business jets.

"The corporate traffic- that's kind of on the top of their checklist, if there's an airport with a tower, that's where they go," he says. "And then if there's not a tower they make a decision- is it important enough for us to go in there, and a lot of it's driven by the aircraft insurance companies."

Aircraft operators also have fuel agreements at airports - like Kissimmee- that guarantee the price of aviation fuel if they land there.  Lloyd says those agreements could also be jeopardized by the loss of the tower.

Other airport users say they're concerned about safety. John Calla, vice president of operations for Italico Aviation--  a company that plans to import and assemble light sport aircraft at Kissimmee -- says he's worried about the mix of traffic if there's no tower. "You see the jets that take off here and the speed they operate," says Calla. "You get a smaller aircraft that's used to flying about 60 miles per hour, integrating with something of that size, and you could get some conflicts.

Calla says the tower is important to separate and sequence the arrival and departure of planes. "They know the speed of the aircraft and they know how much to sequence it so traffic flow is not impaired. It also improves the safety as well."

Florida Congressman Alan Grayson has written to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the FAA urging them to consider the impact of closing the tower.




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Transportation Nation

Lawmakers Warn of Severe Air Travel Disruptions from Sequestration

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The airport experience will get more aggravating if Congress does not avoid the automatic budget cuts called sequestration, three Virginia Democratic lawmakers said Monday at a news conference inside Reagan National Airport, predicting fewer flights available and longer security lines.

Representatives Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran and Senator Tim Kaine, flanked by members of air travel and pilots’ groups, issued a warning for every American who plans to fly: cuts to the FAA and TSA budgets would affect key personnel who now man air traffic control towers and security screening checkpoints.

Connolly said, “47,000 [FAA] employees could be furloughed one day per two-week pay period, the equivalent of ten percent of their workforce. That number includes 15,000 air traffic controllers. That will affect the scheduling of flights and the availability of flights.”  He added, the sequestration cuts would not force a simple belt-tightening but instead affect staffing levels at airports across the country.

Some Republicans are questioning why the possible $689 million FAA budget cut, which amounts to about four percent of the agency’s $15.9 billion budget, would cause so many problems. Moran said sequestration provides no flexibility to Congress or President Obama.

“The cuts are being concentrated on what’s called discretionary programs, which is a minority of the entire federal budget, and they are also being squeezed into a seven month period out of the fiscal year,” Moran said. “So if you had 12 months in which to spread them out, if you had the ability to identify which programs are a higher priority than others, if you didn’t have to cut every program, project and activity equally, and if you could deal with the entire federal budget, the effect would not be anywhere near as severe.”

“We can fix this.  It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact it’s not that hard to fix,” said Kaine, who said congressional Republicans oppose a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction that includes tax increases and spending cuts.

Some Republicans disagree with that assessment.

Virginia Republican Congressman Frank Wolf was invited to the news conference but did not attend.  In a statement released by his office, Wolf urged both President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner to embrace “bipartisan plans to turn off sequestration.”

In his letter to the president, Wolf said the best solution is to enact the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which he said would reduce the deficit and prevent the automatic federal budget cuts.

The possibility of additional hour long waits on security lines caused by cuts to the TSA’s budget is not sitting well with travelers. Some are angry Congress has failed to reach a deal to avoid disruptions to air travel.

“They ought to go back to school and learn how to add and subtract.  This wouldn’t have happened in the first place,” said one woman at Reagan National Airport who declined to provide her name. “I’m totally disgusted with government.”

Others travelers weren’t buying the dire warnings about 90-minute flight delays.

“I feel that decline in services will be fairly minimal, except perhaps for business travelers. I feel like the amount of money being cut is a small percentage of the total,” said Ed Evan as he sat in the US Airways terminal.

If sequestration takes effect, Congress can act later to restore some of the cuts, but Connolly warned the process will be difficult.

“We have a continuing resolution funding the federal government that expires March 27, so there is an opportunity… to try to fix some of these problems,” Connolly said. “But you have to remember that once sequestration kicks in, that creates a new baseline for the continuing resolution. In other words, the new number is minus the sequestration.”

It remains unclear how much wiggle room the FAA and TSA will have to adjust air traffic controllers’ and security screeners’ work schedules to maintain adequate staffing during peak travel times and the coming summer vacation months.

“The fact is no one knows right now what the impact of the sequester will be,” said Geoff Freeman, the chief operating officer of the U.S. Travel Association.



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Transportation Nation

Pending Budget Cuts Could Hit FAA Hard

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An air traffic control tower at LaGuardia Airport

While the concern over the possibility of steep federal budget cuts in January mostly focuses on the Washington metropolitan region’s defense contractors, representatives of the aviation industry say sequestration – the Washington term for automatic budget cuts – could worsen your experience at airports and damage the economy.

The Federal Aviation Administration faces a $1 billion cut from its $15.9 billion budget if Congress cannot reach a deal on long-term deficit reduction by the end of the year. Sequestration would take effect Jan. 2.  About three-quarters of the potential budget cut would affect the FAA’s day-to-day operations.

“It would be between 1,200 and 1,500 controllers that would be laid off.  There would be the closing of some towers.  You simply can’t operate the whole system at full speed if you don’t have the money,” said Marion Blakey, the head of the Arlington-based Aerospace Industries Association, a group that lobbies for the manufacturer and suppliers of aircraft.

While the safety of air travelers would be safeguarded, service at airports would suffer with fewer possible flights and longer lines to get through security, said Blakey, a former FAA administrator.  The region’s economy would also take a hit, according to a report released by the Blakey’s group.

“An airport like BWI (Baltimore Washington International) generates over $5 billion in economic activity for the state of Maryland.  You are going to lose some of that under this situation,” she said.

To what extent large and small airports would be affected remains to be seen. Congress could pass legislation to avoid sequestration or even defer it for several months, but if the budget cuts occur in early January it is unclear how many, if any, air traffic control towers would close. A spokesperson for the FAA referred reporters to a memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“I don’t think I subscribe to the notion that they will shut down service in smaller communities.  That’s a very unlikely scenario,” said Todd Hauptli, a vice president at the American Association of Airport Executives in Alexandria, which lobbies on behalf of airport managers and operators.

“My prediction is [sequestration] would end up being shorter rather than longer in part because of the impact on aviation and the traveling public,” Hauptli added. “I don’t think the American people will end up being very patient and I think Congress will be forced to act.”

The FAA may be forced to cut money from its ongoing endeavor to complete a satellite-based navigation system designed to improve the efficiency of airports’ operations, known as the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen.

“Sequestration could deal a real body blow to NextGen because when you are trying to find money in a reduced budget, you tend to go to the investment accounts and the new developments because you have to keep the current operations,” said Blakey, who helped launch the NextGen project while at the FAA.

Whether you are a lobbyist with an interest in keeping the FAA’s operations at full speed or just a traveler taking a vacation, sequestration could result in the same frustrations borne from lawmakers’ failure to compromise.

“I referred to sequestration as the sword of Damocles that was supposed to be hanging over the head of Congress forcing them to act,” said Hauptli. “It hasn’t worked so far but I’m still hopeful that it will work before it has to kick in.”

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Transportation Nation

Port Authority: Turn Off That Electronic Device Or Pay the Price

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

(photo by Kenneth Gaerlan via flickr)

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wants to fine passengers who disobey the FAA's ban on portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing.

"In (certain) cases, where passengers disrupt flights on a regular basis --  or have such an egregious case that it becomes overwhelming --  then we will consider filing civil action against them," said Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesperson.

The Port Authority operates the three major airports in the New York City area: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark Liberty. Coleman said in 2011, there were 400 incidents at those airports in which a plane had to turn back to the gate -- and Port Authority police had to respond -- because a passenger refused to shut off a device.

Meanwhile, the FAA said last week it was taking "a fresh look" at the ban.

The Port Authority also recently announced it's suing dozens of drivers who habitually evade tolls at the bridges and tunnels it operates.


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The Takeaway

Does the Boeing 737 Airplane Have Dangerous Structural Problems?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Every 2.5 seconds, somewhere in the world, a Boeing 737 takes off or lands. The Boeing 737 one of the world’s most popular planes, as well as one of the best-selling. But is it also plagued with dangerous structural problems? Last April, a Boeing 737 taking Southwest Airlines passengers from Phoenix to Sacramento had to make an emergency landing when part of the plane's body ripped, leaving a 59-inch hole in the roof of its cabin. It wasn't the first such incident to take place in a Boeing 737 — and a new investigation suggests it might not be the last.

Comments [1]

Transportation Nation

Mica Takes Aim at "Bloated" TSA

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, John Mica, said airports that switch from all-federal security screening to private run security could save tax payers millions of dollars.

His remarks came in a press conference at the Orlando area's Sanford Airport.

Mica said this week the newly enacted Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act should streamline the process for airports that want to contract with private security screening firms instead of relying on Transportation Security Administration run screening.

The Winter Park Republican said that, in the decade since it was created, the TSA has ballooned into a "mammoth agency that attempts to intimidate small airports that are efficiently run."

He said switching the 35 top airports in the nation to private security screening would save tax payers one billion dollars over the next five years.

Mica said the TSA rejected some airports which applied to contract with private security because it said that would cost more.

But he said the agency's reasoning was not backed up by a Government Accountability Office report.

"GAO said that TSA cooked the books, that they added costs in," he said.

Sixteen of the nation's 457 airports currently run private security screening,  and there are others that want to do the same, like Orlando Sanford International Airport.

Sanford already tried to opt out of all-federal transportation screening, but was rejected by the TSA last year.

The airport’s president, Larry  Dale,  said opting out of TSA run screening is about more than saving money.

“We’re already responsible for security here," Dale said.  "If things screw up we get the blame. We want to have a part and a say in the security of this airport.”

Airports which opt out of all-federal screening will get to choose who screens their passengers, but security firms would still have to meet federal approval and operate under TSA guidelines.

Sanford could hire its own agents to run security screening, but it's more likely to contract with a private firm.

"We're not going to go out and do it ourselves like Jackson Hole (Wyoming) does, as a much smaller airport," Dale said.

Sanford has reapplied to opt out, and Dale hopes to have an answer from the TSA within months.



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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: SF's Newest Subway Line Moves Forward; DC's Population Is Up, But Cars Are Down; LaHood Bearish On Transpo Bill

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Top stories on TN:
NY MTA Board Member: Overnight Shutdowns Too Broad--And More are On the Way (Link)
Will High Gas Prices Hurt Obama’s Reelection Chances? (Link)
Residents Look at Ways to Bring Walkability Back to Old Houston Neighborhood (Link)

(photo courtesy of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency)

It's all systems go for San Francisco's newest subway. (San Francisco Chronicle)

DC's population is up, but car registrations are flat lining. (Or as WTOP puts it, "New DC residents: I couldn't 'car' less.")

Airline co-pilots would have to meet the same experience threshold required of captains—the first boost in four decades—under regulations proposed Monday by the Federal Aviation Administration. (AP via Mercury News)

Ray LaHood is bearish on Congress' chances of passing a transportation bill before the March 31st deadline. “I’m going to use past as prologue. We’ve gone 3½ years beyond the last bill...I don’t see Congress passing a bill before this one runs out, before this extension runs out." (Politico)

Meanwhile, state and local transportation officials are anxiously watching Washington for news about the transpo bill. (Politico)

Auto sales are growing so fast American auto makers can barely keep up -- which could lead to shortages that drive up prices. (NPR)

Lawyers for NYC are heading to court today seeking an appeal of a judge's order that the Taxi and Limousine Commission must submit a long term-plan for wheelchair accessibility. (WNYC)

Following safety concerns, NYC will unveil proposed changes to the Prospect Park loop in Brooklyn that would reduce cars to one lane -- and create two separate lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians.  (New York Times)

Future roads will have new technology to ease congestion -- and more congestion because of the new technology. (Marketplace)

TransCanada says it will start building the Oklahoma-to-Texas portion of the Keystone XL pipeline. (NPR)

A bill calling for more transparency at the Port Authority was approved by a New Jersey state senate committee. (Star-Ledger)

New York Times' Room for Debate: how to make cities safer for cyclists and pedestrians? The answers: better street design -- and better enforcement. (Link)

One DC bus rider wrote a song about the errant #42 bus: "One bus, two bus, three bus, four/Can't seem to find those open doors/At this rate how am I gonna get anywhere." (Washington Post)

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Transportation Nation

Senate Backs FAA Deal, Sends to President

Monday, February 06, 2012

(Washington, D.C) Twenty-four times a charm.

The Senate gave final approval Monday evening to a four-year authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, breaking a sorry streak of 23 temporary authorizations going back to 2007.

The 75 to 20 vote sends the bill to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law. It authorizes about $16 billion in spending each year on the agency. The bill governs significant parts of airport and runway programs, air traffic control, airline safety, and navigation regulations.

Lawmakers reached a deal in January that included a compromise on federal union rules. Democrats agreed to increase from 35% to 50% the proportion of workers at a company who must petition for unionization before a shop can vote to organize. While the deal paved the way for the FAA bill to enter final negotiations, it also enraged several unions. They've been letting Democrats know about their displeasure with the deal, and it helps explain why 14 Senate Democrats, many of them with heavy union backing, voted against the final package. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a liberal Vermont Independent, also voted against the bill.

The deal also continues the controversial Essential Air Service, a subsidy program designed to encourage airlines to fly to out-of-the-way and unprofitable airports. House Republicans had tried to kill the subsidy, but some Senate Democrats representing rural states, kept it on board.

Passage of FAA's authorization represents a detente from partisan clashes over the summer. One even lead to a partial shutdown of the agency lasting more than a week. But it is unclear whether bipartisanship will reign over other, larger transportation issues in Congress. The Senate is now moving toward taking up a 2-year, $109 billion Highway Bill reauthorization. If it passes it will go up against a 5-year, $260 House GOP alternative slated for floor action next week.

The House bill contains many controversial provisions, including opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. It's also likely to include an attempt to force approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Transpo Bill a "Legislative Train Wreck," California Restores School Bus Funds, NJ Pols Want To Rein In Port Authority

Friday, February 03, 2012

Top stories on TN: New York's MTA announced the winners of its app contest. The MTA and the transit workers union formally resumed contract talks -- but not without some controversy. Efforts to preserve the surface transportation bill's  dedicated bike/pedestrian funding failed yesterday. U.S. DOT head Ray LaHood hates the bill. Senator Harry Reid says next week will be a big one for transportation. And: an expert in infrastructure financing has been tapped to head the California High Speed Rail Authority.

(photo by Patricia Towne via flickr)

Yesterday's markup of the five year, $260 billion surface transportation bill lasted 18 hours. Congresswoman Corrine Brown: "This has been the worst day of my life...This is the worst bill I have ever seen." (Politico)'

And: the bill's truck weight increase was killed. (The Hill)

Los Angeles Times on transpo bill: It's a "legislative train wreck."

And: the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled today to debate and vote on ending the 30-year policy of devoting 2.86 cents of the 18.4- cent gasoline tax paid by U.S. motorists to public transportation. "The money would instead go toward keeping a U.S. account for road and bridge construction solvent." (Bloomberg)

Meanwhile, after four years of wrangling and one shutdown, the FAA will soon get a bill of its own (NPR). Tweet from  the AP's Joan Lowy: "What will aviation lobbyists do now?"

In other news...when will New York State release the names of the bidders for the Tappan Zee Bridge project? (Wall Street Journal)

NJ lawmakers -- still fuming over last year's toll hike -- released four bills from committee intended to rein in and open up the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. (Star-Ledger)

California's legislature restored $248 million for school bus transportation that was particularly crucial for small and rural school districts. (Los Angeles Times)

Madison's buses set a ridership record in 2011. (Wisconsin State Journal)

Is there a NYC ticket blitz? (NY Times)

Carjackings in Newark rose for the third straight year in 2011. (Star-Ledger)

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