TOPIC: Federal Aviation Administration

FAA Cleared for Takeoff

The U.S. Senate is expected to approve a bill this morning written by the House that will resume operations at the Federal Aviation Administration — at least until Sep. 16, reports the New York Times’ Edward Wyatt. At issue in the FAA’s shutdown is a Congressional dispute over whether the agency should give subsidies so rural airports get commercial airline service. The broader issue is Congress’s astonishing indifference about a functioning federal agency. (more…)

Crisis at the FAA

Overlooked in the agreement reached by Barack Obama and Congress on the debt ceiling is that an entire federal agency — the Federal Aviation Administration — has shut down with Congress on vacation until September. That means, among other issues,  that the agency has no authorization to keep funding projects like the expansion of O’Hare airport in Chicago or, as Nathan Hurst of the Detroit News reports on today, the reconstruction of a taxi way at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The agency has shut down because of a dispute over how airline workers can unionize and how much subsidies should be provided to rural airports. These are fairly significant issues — but ones that a Congress that cares in the slightest about a functional aviation agency should have been able to solve.



FAA shutdown could ground O’Hare expansion

The Federal Aviation Administration’s partial shutdown – where the chief debate is over whether or not the agency should provide subsidies to rural airports – has temporarily stopped airport construction projects country-wide dead in their tracks. The Chicago Tribune’s Jon Hilkevitch had a good piece yesterday on how the federal dispute could delay the already absurdly delayed expansion of O’Hare airport. Funding for a new runway could be halted, along with the dozens of other airport improvement projects across the country that rely on federal funds.

Can anyone on board privatize this airport?

Midway airport

Not if a bill proposed by Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin becomes law, reports Paul Merrion of Crain’s Chicago Business. The legislation, “would make make privatization of Midway Airport and other major transportation assets such as Amtrak far more difficult, if not impossible, by requiring the federal government to be reimbursed for its investment in that infrastructure before a deal could go through.” The legislation appears to be the nail in the coffin for a plan to privatize Midway. But Durbin’s bill could signal a broader push back against the privatization of what are essentially public utilities. (more…)

Airplane!: The inspection

As you may have heard, a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 recently landed in Sacramento — with a five-foot fuselage tear along the roof. Consequently, the Federal Aviation Administration wants Chicago-based Boeing to inspect all 400-500 of their 737 planes, Reuters reports. These are some of the older planes in the Boeing fleet: the model with a fuselage hole had been around 15 years and flown about 39,000 times.

O’Hare expansion created dangerous conditions

The expansion of O’Hare airport is not just taking too long, it’s also taking too many chances. Jon Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune reports that the Federal Aviation Administration found several near-tragic incidents at Chicago’s O’Hare airport that were, in essence, caused by airport expansion construction. For example, one plane was inches away from crashing into a concrete blast fence erected to protect construction equipment. FAA said it will revise its daily alerts to O’Hare pilots as new runway construction gets underway.

LaHood enables O’Hare expansion

Ray LaHood

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation will give Chicago’s O’Hare international airport $155 million to help build a third runway as part of the O’Hare modernization plan. The way Chicago Tribune’s Jon Hilkevitch reports it, it seems like Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood probably sighed and said, “Okay, okay just give Chicago the damn money” before moving on to more interesting business. A recurring theme of O’Hare expansion is that Washington pushes the project along but airline companies and the city fail to take the next steps. (more…)

Air traffic out-of-control at O’Hare

The Federal Aviation Administration reports that mistakes have increased among O’Hare air traffic controllers, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Jon Hilkevitch. Most of the controllers’ mistakes involve not keeping a proper distance between planes, and they happen more while new air traffic controllers are being trained. O’Hare has trained more air traffic controllers in the past year due to the aiport’s planned expansion. Dept. of Transportation investigators are visiting O’Hare today to “examine staffing levels and other issues that affect safety.”

Third Chicago airport gets off the ground

The Illinois Dept. of Transportation submitted a report Friday to the Federal Aviation Administration that outlines its plan for a third Chicago area airport, reports the Associated Press. The AP calls the Facilities Requirement Report “one of the last steps in developing an airport master plan” for an airport in the Chicago suburb of Peotone in Will County. Illinois politicians have sporadically touted the need for a 3rd Chicago area airport (besides O’Hare and Midway) and Jesse Jackson, Jr., the U.S. representative for Peotone, has made it a pet issue, forming his own Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission. (more…)

Making real choices on high-speed rail

The nation’s biggest public works project could end up as the biggest boondoggle in history, according to Mike Rosenberg and Gary Richards of the San Jose Mercury News, who scour up a myriad of reasons why linking California’s major cities by high speed rail will be a colossal failure. (more…)