Wednesday, October 31, 2007

CNN Video Tapes Delays

CNN sent a news crew on a flight from Chicago's O'Hare Airport to JFK in order to document the airlines' outrageous delays.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Profile of an Angel Flight volunteer

Here's a great article about someone who is taking advantage of his retirement to make a difference in California. As a volunteer for Angel Flight, Jerre McClelland has made more than 600 trips since 1992, flying hundreds of patients and their families.

Mr. McClelland recently received a Wingman award from Angel Flight West. Click here to read more.

Monday, October 29, 2007

GA Makes A Difference

We all know how much GA makes a difference in people's lives but it is always nice to read these stories. Grace Flight, a company that provides air travel for those in need, flew 13 year-old Andrew Madden and his doctor to Boston for game 2 of the World Series. Andrew won the tickets from his doctor, who promised them to him if he pulled through heart transplant surgery...which he did.

Here's the Article from Aero-News:

Grace Flight Transports Young Heart Patient To World Series

Sat, 27 Oct '07

Recovery Room Bet Leads To Fenway Park

Here's a story with a lot of heart... from everyone involved. An Odessa, TX teen was able to live his dream of attending a World Series game, with a little help from Grace Flight of America, his doctor, and the Boston Red Sox.

Andrew Madden, 13, made a bet with fellow Boston Red Sox fan Dr. Kristine Guleserian in the cardiology ward of the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, TX: If he pulled through heart transplant surgery and the difficult recuperation process, she'd treat him to a Red Sox World Series game.

"It was just kinda something to hope for," Madden told the Boston Herald. "(Something) to get my mind off how I was sick and the surgery and everything."

Madden received his new heart September 30... and Thursday night, both doctor and young patient enjoyed watching Game 2 of the World Series at Fenway Park, in a suite donated by Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino. Nonprofit group Grace Flight of America flew the two -- along with Andrew's mom, Lauri Wemmer -- to Boston on a private jet.

Madden even threw out the first pitch.

The teen credits Dr. Guleserian for assisting in his quick recovery. "She’s amazing," Madden said. "That’s really been the true experience, just getting to meet her and have her as a friend."

"First we’d talk on what was going on in baseball," added Guleserian, "and then it was 'how are you feeling?'"

And speaking of that, Madden told reporters Thursday "I feel great. I have a lot of energy!"

So did his beloved Red Sox... who will take a two-game series lead to Denver, after beating the Colorado Rockies 2-1 Thursday night.

Nice job, everybody.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Airline tax break putting flight students at risk

In a column in the Rocky Mountain News, David Cole of Colorado Northwestern Community College argues that proposed new fees and taxes on general aviation would cripple the industry, making aviation careers less appealing to potential students.

Cole writes, "This would eventually reduce the number of trained pilots available to work in our state, harming the businesses that rely on planes to serve customers in rural areas, and even the airlines themselves."

Click here for the full story.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

DOT To Fine Late Airlines

It looks like the Department of Transportation is going to start fining "chronically late airlines" reports the Associated Press. It's about time the DOT did something about delays that will really send a message to the airlines - go after their bottom line.

Unfortunately the airlines may just pass the cost off to their customers...

Chronically late airlines could face US fines

Carriers criticize government's threat of penalties

WASHINGTON - Airlines that operate chronically delayed flights could face stiff fines in the coming weeks as the government concludes a six-month investigation into potentially deceptive business practices.

The Transportation Department in May began investigating flights that are at least 15 minutes late more than 70 percent of the time, and so far has identified 26 that meet those criteria, an agency spokesman said yesterday.

If any of those 26 flights also were delayed in the most recent quarter being reviewed, the responsible airlines will face "significant financial penalties," agency spokesman Brian Turmail said. Results of the investigation are expected within weeks.

The commercial airlines trade group criticized the government's possible penalties.

"No one has greater incentive to move its flights on time than the airlines," said David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, because they cost the industry $6 billion per year and it means "we fail our customers." But the answer is not eliminating flights from the chronically delayed list, which are there based on customer demand, he added.

The Federal Aviation Administration handles roughly 85,000 flights per day, a number predicted to reach more than 111,000 flights by 2020.

But delays this summer reached record levels.

The Transportation Department earlier this month said more than 25 percent of domestic flights arrived late between January and August - easily the industry's worst performance since comparable data began being collected in 1995.

In August alone, 23 flights were late at least 90 percent of the time, and more than 100 flights were late at least 80 percent of the time. Almost half of Atlantic Southeast Airlines' flights were delayed, and two arrived late every time they took off.

Kristen Loughman, a spokeswoman for ASA - a Delta Connection carrier owned by SkyWest Inc. - said the company was unaware of any fines being considered by the government. Any Atlantic Southeast flight on the Transportation Department's monthly report of delays becomes its top priority to fix, she added.

Other airlines that operated flights that were late at least 90 percent of the time in August were: ExpressJet Holdings Inc., which flies regional service for Continental Airlines Inc.; SkyWest Inc.; AirTran Holdings Inc.; and Delta Air Lines Inc. and its subsidiary Comair Inc.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Airlines in denial

These two quotes say it all. The airlines are still refusing to acknowledge the fact that they have caused delays by overscheduling flights into and out of JFK, Newark, and LaGuardia.

"We're not sure just reducing commercial operations will have any significant impact on delays." - David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association

“When publishing schedules that offer 61 departing flights between 8 and 9 a.m. — when the airport can handle only 44 departures — is not fair to fliers.” -Mary Peters, Secretary of the Department of Transportation

Monday, October 22, 2007

Department of Transportion to Try to Fix Delays at JFK

The Department of Transportation wants to alleviate some of the delays at JFK by capping the number of flights in and out of the overcrowded airport. Guess what the airlines want? To stick their heads in the sand and hope the problem just disappears.

Full article in The Wall Street Journal:

JFK Flights May Be Capped

October 22, 2007; Page A10

WASHINGTON -- Ahead of a meeting next week with airlines, the Department of Transportation said it will seek to reduce the number of scheduled flights at New York's Kennedy airport by as much as 20% during peak rush hours next year in a bid to relieve congestion.

In August, more than 100 flights were scheduled during certain hours at Kennedy Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Next year, the agency is aiming to cap that at around 80 flights.

JFK is last in on-time departures so far this year among major airports, and near bottom in arrivals, according to DOT statistics. The FAA singled out the airport for scheduling reductions last month.

In recent weeks, FAA officials have increasingly pointed to overscheduling by airlines as a leading cause of delays, which have soared to record levels amid increasing demand for air travel this year. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said the agency would rather not impose scheduling restrictions -- a move that can leave consumers with fewer choices during popular travel times -- but said inaction on the part of airlines left regulators with little choice.

"Our strong preference is to develop market-based solutions that will address delays and preserve passenger choice," Ms. Peters said in a statement. "But we will consider scheduling reductions as a last resort in order to prevent a repeat of this summer's nightmare delays."

A trade group representing airlines objected to the move. "This is a disappointing decision. Slashing operations at JFK alone will not solve the congestion problem but will shut the door on growth for our country's leading international gateway," said James May, CEO of the Air Transport Association. "We know that there are better solutions to New York's capacity needs and we are committed to working with FAA to put them into effect."

Airlines say the high-level of scheduling during certain hours reflects consumer demand, and they are pushing to get the FAA to redesign New York's airspace to improve efficiency in the region. That effort is proceeding slowly amid objection from local communities. Airlines are also hoping to convince the military to open restricted airspace during periods of bad weather to free up additional airways.

Next week, the FAA will meet individually with each carrier operating at JFK to determine exactly how many flights they can operate during rush hours. It is shaping up to be the most contentious round of scheduling negotiations since a similar process for Chicago's O'Hare International Airport dragged on for two weeks in 2004.

The Chicago round of negotiations mostly involved two dominant carriers, United Airlines and AMR Corp.'s American Airlines. The situation at JFK is more complicated and involves many domestic and international carriers, suggesting the talks could stretch for several weeks.

The FAA would likely seek to apportion any cuts in the number of flights equally among carriers.

Write to Christopher Conkey at

Friday, October 19, 2007

High profits for airlines, but what about customer service?

Several news reports this week have commented on the fact that the airlines earned huge profits this summer while flight delays soared.

CBS puts it this way: "Worst Summer Ever For Passengers Results In Banner Quarter For Carriers."

The Los Angeles Times tells a similar story: "Despite the worst summer ever for air travelers, major airlines posted huge profits as they packed more passengers into fewer and smaller planes."

Click here, or here to read more.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Great Day for GA in Fredricksburg, VA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fredericksburg, VA is hopefully going to get their first sport pilot program (pending a successful pitch to the Stafford Regional Airport Authority). GA is vital to the economy of rural America and any new program that will train pilots serves to strengthen that economy. Good Luck Fredericksburg; hopefully you'll be flying soon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A former Senator speaks out

Yesterday's blog post highlighted the importance of general aviation to small businesses - here we have another column attesting to the value that GA can have on a state's economy. Former U.S. Senator Jake Garn writes that Utah's businesses "serve as a shining example of how small companies can positively impact local communities and the state as a whole."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

AP Shows How GA Helps Small Business

Check out this AP article, it highlights how GA helps small business.

"There are also cases where a plane has helped save a business.

"Richard Shine, who owns Manitoba Corp., a metal recycling business outside of Buffalo, N.Y., credits his plane with just that. Starting in the 1970s, companies in upstate New York that once provided scrap metal to Manitoba started moving their businesses elsewhere. To expand the company's supply base, Shine began using a small plane, in which he owned a half-interest, to find new suppliers.

"Since then, the company has bought a bigger plane -- a Mitsubishi Mu-2 Solitaire -- and now makes the aircraft a major part of its marketing materials.

"'We think of it as the same as having another sales person on staff," said Shine, a former Air Force pilot. "It costs about the same, but it doesn't complain and it's almost always willing to work.'"

Monday, October 15, 2007

Weathering delays

The Washington Post has a brief column about weather-related air travel delays - click here for the whole story.

The airlines refuse to compensate passengers if delays are due to factors outside their control - such as weather. Unfortunately, their hub-and-spoke system means that a thunderstorm in one part of the country can cause delays on the opposite coast. Outside their control? You be the judge.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Another Great Blog

To all you Aviation Across America Blog readers - check out Robert Mark at Jetwhine ( - another ally in the defense of general aviation.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A 7 Hour Wait?!

One would think that after all the delays and complaints about the airlines trapping passengers in airplanes for hours on end they would learn. Well, these are the airlines...

Check out this article from the USA Today:

US Airways flight stuck on tarmac for 7 hours


PHOENIX (AP) — Passengers on a US Airways flight from New York to Phoenix spent nearly 7 hours sitting on the tarmac waiting for bad weather to clear, finally arriving nearly six hours late, and presumably a whole lot grumpier.

Flight 17 from John F. Kennedy International Airport was due to leave at 6 p.m. Tuesday, but didn't actually take off until about 1 a.m., airline spokesman Phil Gee said.

Dozens of other aircraft were delayed because of a storm passing through the area, which closed the airport for about 90 minutes.

Gee said the plane pushed back from the gate at 6:30 p.m. ET and spent hours sitting on the tarmac so it wouldn't lose its takeoff slot.

The plane finally went back to the gate to refuel, but then resumed its wait for a takeoff slot. Several passengers decided to get off the plane while it was being refueled.

Flight 17 finally arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport at about 2:45 a.m. MT Wednesday. Once they had taken off, the pilots shaved some time off the scheduled 5 hour flight.

The incident comes nine months after Congress was flooded with complaints from passengers left sitting on airplanes for hours last winter. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., introduced a bill that would prohibit airlines from keeping travelers stuck on the tarmac for longer than three hours in February.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Delays "out of control" - Sen. Schumer

Senator Charles Schumer, speaking at a news conference in Rochester, echoed the feelings of many Americans when he said that air travel delays have become "off the chart and out of control." (link)

With the airlines pushing more and more flights into hub airports, Sen. Schumer charged the FAA with a failure to regulate congestion. Schumer also called the development of a new air traffic control system a "crucial step."

Why, then, are the commercial airlines opposing a bill that would provide historic levels of funding for modernizing our national air traffic control system?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Inaccurate flight information on airline websites

As frequent fliers know all too well, one's flight can be delayed for hours before an explanation is given - if it ever is! With information often hard to come by at the airport, many turn to the Internet for flight information. According to today's Wall Street Journal, "In these days of long delays, flight tracking and flight status alerts have become important tools for travelers." (link)

Unfortunately, as we find all too often when dealing with the major airlines, the information they provide is often outdated, misleading, or just plain wrong. Check out this Wall Street Journal article for a few examples - such as when a flight delayed by four hours was described on the airline's website as arriving twelve minutes early.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Aviation Week Gets It Right!!!!!

Aviation Week Says GA Not Causing Delays!!!!!!!!

Controllers Say Bizjets Not Causing Delays in New York Area

By David Hughes

A group of National Air Traffic Control Assn. union officials say that short staffed ATC facilities and airline over scheduling are causing air traffic delays in the New York City area, not business jet flights.

The Air Transport Assn. has been claiming that the bizjets operating out of Teterboro, a main business jet hub airport, are not taking their fair share of delays -- adding to airline woes.

NATCA Eastern Regional Vice President Phil Barbarello says it's not true that business jets are causing delays in the New York area because they have "separate arrival fixes and separate airspace when they enter the New York Terminal Radar Control (TRACON) area, and they don't impede air carriers." In fact, he added, bizjet arrivals are often restricted to accommodate airline arrivals at Newark.

Eddie Kragh, the NATCA facility representative at the Newark tower, says this airport has a very restricted capacity of 22 departures per half hour. But on Oct. 2, between 9 and 9:30 a.m., the airport had scheduled 33 departures to deal with. This amounts to an "automatic built-in delay" for 11 aircraft he adds.

NATCA President Patrick Forrey say his union believes delays will continue to increase next year ion the New York area. He echoed Kragh in saying airlines over scheduling there and around the nation is part of the problem.

Air carrier operations have grown in the New York area by 14% over the past five years while general aviation activity has shrunk 9%, according to Forrey. At Newark and LaGuardia only 3.5% of departures involve general aviation traffic while at John F. Kennedy International it is only 1.7%. ATA's claim about bizjets in the New York area is a "fallacy and a distraction from the real issues," Forrey concludes.

As always, NATCA continues to harp on controller shortages as one of two key reasons for delays in the New York area and nationwide. Dean Iacopelli, the NATCA representative at the New York TRACON, says prior to Sept., 2006, the FAA authorized this facility to be staffed by 270 certified air traffic controllers. Now the authorized number has been reduced to a maximum of 188 "based solely on budget." Iacopelli says this is the lowest staffing level in 10 years when the New York Tracon is facing the highest volume of traffic ever at JFK.

Barrett Byrnes, the NATCA representative at the JFK tower, says is now handling 1,400 operations per day (up 40%) with a controller workforce that has shrunk from 37 to 25 for round the clock operations. And one more controller is due to leave this year while five of the most senior ones face mandatory retirement next year while six more will probably choose to retire voluntarily, he says.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Air travel problems must be fixed before 2020

As seen yesterday on this blog, the airlines like to blame our air traffic control system for any problem that arises. While all segments of aviation agree that modernizing ATC is very important, the NextGen system "is not likely to significantly improve air travel until 2020." (link)

Are passengers expected to put up with delays like this summer's for more than a decade? It's time for the airlines to step up to the plate and help solve the problem - in 2007, not 2020. Putting an end to overscheduling would be a good starting point.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What Will The Airlines Think of Next?

The Aero-News Network is reporting that that the airlines are trying to blame lost luggage on air traffic control system.

"Somewhat curiously -- given the airlines themselves made this decision -- carriers also blame luggage woes on the abundance of regional aircraft, which can't carry as many bags as their larger mainline brethren.

"The Air Transport Association -- lobbying group for the nation's airlines -- was quick to make an arguably tenuous connection between lost baggage, and the nation's aging ATC system.

"'The primary reason behind mishandled bags is delayed and misconnected flights,' said ATA spokesman Dave Castelveter. 'And we're seeing record delays this summer... No airline tries to [lose bags]... The carriers are trying the best they can given the existing situation.'"

What will the airlines try next, blaming the peanuts for tasting funny on the airport's ground crew?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Great Article on AOPA's Website

AOPA posted this great article on its website - it's right on!!!

Here's the link and the aritcle is reproduced below.

Even the White House blames the airlines

The White House and the Department of Transportation announced Sept. 27 that they were taking "new steps" to tackle "aviation congestion and delays" in New York and across the nation. But there's less there than meets the eye, according to House transportation leaders.

"The administration's proposal contains a good deal of talking and planning, but little action to address the delay problem and help consumers in the short term," said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn).

"While the airlines have consistently tried to blame general aviation for their delay problems, the White House did finally acknowledge that airlines themselves were, in fact, a significant factor," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. The administration's fact sheet said that the Department of Transportation has started a process to "help the busiest airports adopt new policies to efficiently address chronic airline over-scheduling, which leads to long lines and delays on the tarmac."

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the top Republican on the Transportation Committee, echoed that assessment by saying, "The administration needs to put the brakes on airline over-scheduling at our most congested airports. We must recognize the need for additional runways and new airports."

The administration also announced the formation of the New York Aviation Rulemaking Committee (NYARC) that will "explore market-based mechanisms and other options for addressing airspace congestion and flight delays in the New York area."

But the announcement wasn't even public before the airlines attacked it. The Air Transport Association sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, objecting to congestion pricing and other market-based mechanisms that would "artificially constrain" demand.

ATA called congestion pricing a tax, and said neither the DOT nor the FAA had the authority to impose a tax.

The administration also accused Congress of failing to act on its FAA funding proposal (which included user fees and huge tax increases for general aviation), suggesting lawmakers had to accept some blame for chronic airline delays.

The leaders of the Transportation Committee took umbrage with that.

"This administration put forward an extremely controversial financing proposal for which there was absolutely no consensus," Oberstar, aviation subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), and aviation subcommittee senior member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said in a joint Sept. 27 statement.

"The administration's controversial funding proposal has directly contributed to the delay in passing legislation reauthorize the FAA.... [It] failed completely to hold the airlines responsible for what we are now told are 'scheduling practices that are at times out of line with reality.'

"It is the Bush administration that is once again out of line with reality." They said that "lack of oversight" and "failure to use statutory authority" by the administration has played a part in the suffering of airline passengers today.

During a press conference, the Transportation Committee leaders noted that their FAA funding bill (H.R.2881, which has passed the House) would provide $1 billion more for air traffic control modernization (NextGen) than the administration's proposal, and $4 billion more for airports.

Monday, October 1, 2007

High stakes for rural America

Niel Ritchie, executive director of the League of Rural Voters and an Alliance board member, says that small rural towns stand to lose out if new fees and taxes are enacted on general aviation. In a Minneapolis Star-Tribune opinion piece, Ritchie writes that many rural communities depend on general aviation for economic survival.

Read the full story here.