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Apr 212013
 

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Air travel is likely to become even more frustrating than usual, starting Sunday. The Federal Aviation Administration has begun furloughs resulting from mandatory budget cuts for some of its 47,000 agency employees.

It’s unclear how many employees are already affected by so-called sequestration, the automatic federal spending cuts that kicked in this year after Congress failed to reach a deal to reduce the national deficit.

The bottom line is that travelers are faced with the real possibility of hours-long delays as air-traffic controllers — there are 15,000 of them — begin to take unpaid leave, the FAA says.

American Airlines has said that some of the nation’s busiest airports will most likely be affected by the FAA cuts: John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York; Newark Liberty International Airport; Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport; Los Angeles International Airport; and New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

This is a relatively slow time of year for air travel, so any fallout would likely intensify in the summer, when weekends rival Thanksgiving for busiest air-travel time, travel experts say. Throw in unpredictable summer thunderstorms, and there’s reason for worry, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

But there are already signs of trouble:

@akashgoyal tweeted on Sunday, “Is our gate agent for real? She’s blaming a 45-min delay to my flight on ‘government cut-backs’ on overhead announcements.”

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has picked up early signs of delays: Ronald Reagan National is reporting “several minute increased wait times at TSA security screening” on Sunday, the authority says.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has reported no substantial holdups on Sunday with the light travel and good weather.

American Airlines, which represents most domestic carriers, filed a lawsuit against the FAA Friday in an attempt to block controller furloughs.

In a statement issued by the carrier Saturday, customers were urged to check their flight status before coming to the airport on Sunday.

“Unfortunately, the FAA has not yet provided specific details to the airlines, making it difficult to communicate exactly how customers will be affected,” American said. “However, we will make every effort to communicate with our customers as information becomes available.”

Ordered to find a way to cut $637 million from the agency’s budget, the FAA is forced to schedule one furlough day every two weeks for an unspecified number of employees, which officials say will mean fewer takeoffs and landings.

As ABC News reported Friday, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at a news conference warned that passengers could see “a wide range of impacts across the system,” adding that “safety is not up for negotiation during the sequester” and “will not be compromised in anything that we do.”

“This is not what we signed up for,” LaHood added. “[The sequester] is a dumb idea.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 232013
 

ABC News(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) — A sign at the Birmingham airport fell on a family on Friday, killing a 10-year-old boy and injuring other family members.

The child, Luke Bresette, was killed Friday afternoon when a large information sign, weighing an estimated 300 to 400 pounds, peeled off of the wall and fell on the child, his mother, and two of his brothers.

According to the Birmingham News, it took six men to lift the sign off the family. Luke’s mother was hospitalized with two broken ankles and a fractured pelvis, one of the brothers suffered a broken leg and broken nose, and the other brother was treated for a concussion.

The airport remains open, though the area where the sign fell was cordoned off. Officials are investigating the cause of the accident.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Dec 272012
 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A Southwest Airlines plane veered off the taxiway and into the grass at Long Island’s MacArthur Airport Thursday morning.

Passengers were forced to evacuate onto the runway.  No injuries were reported.

It appears the plane took a wrong turn in the rain, left the taxiway and came to a stop in the mud.  The plane appeared to be tilting to the side, ABC News affiliate WABC-TV reported.  Some 134 passengers were on the 737.

According to the airline’s website, flight 4695 was scheduled to depart at 6:15 a.m. and arrive in Tampa, Fla., at 9:15 a.m.  The website has changed the departure time to 11:55 a.m. on Thursday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Oct 202012
 

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Transportation Security Administration is taking so-called body scanners that use a specific type of technology out of major airports and moving them to less-busy ones.

But it is not making the change because of privacy issues or safety, the two main complaints that have plagued the machines and the agency since they were introduced in 2010.

The reason for the move, said the TSA, is operational efficiency.

“TSA is strategically reallocating backscatter advance imaging technology units in order to allow for expanded use of advance imaging technology units at other airports,” said TSA spokesman David Castelveter.

The machines with backscatter technology are being removed from Los Angeles International, New York’s John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, Boston Logan, Charlotte Douglas and Orlando International, and relocated to smaller airports, Castelveter said. He said it was yet to be determined which smaller airports would get them.

The millimeter wave units that are arriving in the larger airports use a different type of technology. The machines do produce different types of images, but the customer experience is the same. Millimeter wave produces a generic outline of the passenger being scanned, while backscatter is more specific. The TSA maintains that with backscatter technology, the officer doing the screening cannot identify the person being scanned and the image is immediately discarded.

“It’s not feasible to have the two different types of machines in the same airport,” Castelveter said. The two machines require different training and maintenance. While the agency has additional millimeter wave machines to deploy, it does not have additional units using the backscatter technology.

No matter the technology, the machines still have their detractors.

“It seems that the TSA is wasting millions of dollars on fancy equipment that could be better served deploying more effective security screening techniques,” said Brandon M. Macsata, Executive Director of the Association for Airline Passenger Rights. He said that his organization is planning a “major campaign” against TSA’s “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Body scanners were first introduced in 2010 following the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing attempt on a Northwest Airlines flight headed for Detroit.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio