Monday, September 29, 2008

Recent Happenings

I apologize for the dearth of recent entries; traffic's been slow and we're having a resurgence of summer temperatures; the two combined have pretty much sapped my inspiration.

There has been a bit of recent aviation news. The first item comes from Allentown, PA, where a Mesa airlines CRJ700, operating for United, narrowly missed a Cessna that had just landed but missed its assigned exit. The controller apparently didn't hear the Cessna pilot say that he had missed his exit and was going to take the next one, and cleared the RJ for takeoff. After starting their departure roll, the RJ pilots saw the Cessna and aborted - from 120 knots. Reports are that the aircraft missed each other by about ten feet. There were no injuries reported, but the Mesa flight was cancelled. NATCA, the controllers' union, claims that the two controllers on duty were both trainees, with no 'adult' supervision. While this sounds unlikely to me, I'll concede the possibility. The timing was great for NATCA though, as the House Aviation Subcommittee was scheduled to meet two days later - to discuss runway safety. NATCA has maintained for some time now that the nation has been facing a growing controller shortage, and (naturally) lays the blame on FAA managements' ineptitude.

We don't have Mesa flying for United here at LAX, although they do operate here for USAir. Instead, the United RJ's at LAX are operated by Skywest, and here are a few photos:

We rarely have Cessnas at LAX, so to give you some idea of the size difference, here's a shot of one at a local general aviation airport.

The congress has passed a bill last week that allows the FAA to continue to operate in the absence of an actual budget. Thanks to the very muddled budget process for the last couple of years, the FAA has actually been operating under various continuing resolutions that allow the agency to keep going under the assumption that funding will be unchanged from what was last approved. This process has been rather frustrating for NATCA, who has been trying to get congress to force a change in the FAA's current way of dealing with controllers (just a quick recap: the nation's air traffic controllers have been working without a contract under imposed work rules since summer of 2006). The preferred way to make this happen is to attach an amendment to the FAA budget or some other 'must pass' legislation. The continuing resolutions have so far made this an ineffectual strategy. Meanwhile, AOPA, the aircraft owners and pilots association, has declared the current funding bill as a temporary victory in their on-going fight against user fees.

Three airlines operating at LAX are each receiving $600,000 grants to install safety equipment that will provide pilots with their location on the airport and alert them when they're about to enter or cross a runway. Southwest, Skywest, and US Airways will each install the equipment in 20 aircraft by next May as part of a study on the system's effectiveness. An FAA study indicated that over 40% of nation-wide pilot-error runway incursions between 2004 and 2008 could have been prevented by this equipment.

A pair of SWA B737's. The blue one is a 737-500, while the brown one is a -700.
The irony here is that the new paint scheme is on the old airplane.

A Southwest 737-300 departs runway 24 left in the background, and a Westjet 737-700 taxis in the foreground. Sandwiched in between is a US Air A321 - easily mistaken for a B757.

A US Air comparison shot: a B737 in the foreground and an Airbus A320 in the background. New controllers often have a hard time distinguishing the A320-series aircraft from the B737's. This photo is one I use to help my trainees learn to recognize some of the differences. In particular, look at the shapes of the tail cones and the noses. Winglets are another clue: the Airbuses all have vestigial winglets, while the Boeings either have none at all or great big ones;
look at the winglets on the Westjet and brown Southwest above.

Lots of Southwests and US Airs: LAX Terminal One, as seen from the tower.

A pair of Skywests: A CRJ-200 in the new United colors takes the runway. while an E-120 Brasilia in Skywest's own markings waits its turn.

Scheduled A380 flights at LAX will begin next month when Qantas initiates A380 service from the Tom Bradley International Terminal on October 20th. We're also supposed to get Emirates in October, although I've heard that they're going to initiate service to Dubai using B777's.

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