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General aviation groups fight back against USA Today story

A new USA Today series takes aim at general aviation safety, saying that while federal investigators tend to cite pilot error in crashes, deaths and injuries were caused by defective parts and dangerous designs.

The report, called Unfit for Flight, said that 45,000 people have been killed in the past five decades in private planes and helicopters, nearly nine times the number that have died in airline crashes.

“Wide-ranging defects have persisted for years as manufacturers covered up problems, lied to federal regulators and failed to remedy known malfunctions, USA TODAY found,” the series said. “Judges and juries  have spent weeks hearing cases that took years to prepare and unearthed evidence that NTSB (the National Transportation Safety Board)  investigations never discovered.”

It didn’t take long for advocacy groups to fire back., saying that USA Today misrepresents general aviation accidents and misleads the public.

The article uses “sweeping generalizations, cherry-picked statistics, unbalanced comparisons, and unattributed figures to claim that private aviation is an inherently dangerous activity,” the Experimental Aircraft Association said.

“Unfortunately, the article’s title ‘Unfit for Flight’ perhaps would have been more accurate as ‘Unfit for Print,’” Jack Pelton, EAA chairman said in a statement. “The fear-pandering article gives the impression of an unchecked world of flight operations. In fact, general aviation’s airworthiness directive system administered by the FAA, which adds safety requirements to new and previously produced aircraft and powerplants, has the force of law and holds aviation to higher standards than any other mode of transportation in the country.”

General aviation fatalities have dropped 40 percent since the early 1990s, the EAA said, a fact that the series failed to mention.

It also did not mention efforts in the advancements in safety, it said.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association have also taken issue with the accounts.

Dave Dewhirst, a local pilot said, among other things, that the series never noted that the NTSB’s findings are not admissable in court. That’s so it can be an unbiased third party.

He also took issue with the continuous reference of “amateur pilots” with the impression that all general aviation aircraft are flown by private pilots.

“I hold a commercial pilot’s license, but I do not have a commercial driver’s license,” he said in an email. “I guess I am an amateur car driver.”




Onex Corp. raises $5.5 billion for Onex Partners IV

Onex Corp., a private equity firm, announced the successful capital fundraising and closing of Onex Partners IV — a  $5.15 billion fund.

It’s the largest in Onex’s history, the firm said.

Onex surpassed its initial target of $4.5 billion and closed earlier than expected.

It raised capital commitments from limited partners, including public employee pension plans and sovereign wealth funds around the world, it said.

“In a highly competitive fundraising market, we are grateful for the strong support from both our existing limited partners and new investors, who have entrusted us with their capital,” Emma Thompson, head of the Funds Group for Onex, said in a statement.

Including this fund, Onex has about $21 billion of assets under management, it said.

Onex is the investment firm that bought Boeing’s commercial aircraft division in Wichita in 2005, which became Spirit AeroSystems, now a publicly-held company.

Onex also partnered with Goldman Sachs to buy the former Wichita-based Raytheon Aircraft Co., which became Hawker Beechcraft and then Beechcraft Corp.

Textron bought Beechcraft in March.

Boeing’s 747-8 commemorates Seahawks appearance in Super Bowl

seahawksBoeing is celebrating the Seattle Seahawks appearance in the Super Bowl with a specially painted 747-8 freighter.

The livery commemorates the National Football Conference Championship and the team’s appearance in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Boeing is a sponsor of the Seattle Seahawks.

The 747-8 is owned by Boeing and used for flight testing.

Here are some fun facts provided by Boeing:

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s longest pass this season, at 80 yards, was almost the same length as the 747-8 fuselage at 243.5 feet.

Russell Wilson threw for 3,357 yards this season, similar to the runway takeoff distance of the 747-8.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin can dash the full length of the 180-foot  747-8 main deck in less than seven seconds.

The 747-8 can cover the length of a football field in one second at takeoff.

Southwest Airlines to temporarily operate Kansas City to Washington D.C. route

Southwest Airlines will temporarily operate a route from Kansas City International Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport starting Feb. 1.

Southwest petitioned to ensure there was no interruption of service after Frontier Airlines decided to stop daily nonstop service beginning Jan. 31.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, said Southwest’s decision is good news for Kansas air travelers.

“As the nation’s largest low-cost air carrier and MCI’s largest airline, Southwest is well-suited to provide travelers flying between Kansas City and Washington, D.C., with an affordable travel option,” Moran said in a statement. “Maintaining access to air service is essential to connecting Kansas businesses to the rest of the country.”

Last fall, Frontier Airlines was sold to Indigo Partners, a private equity firm. The new owners decided to discontinue Frontier’s current route exemptions, allocated by the Department of Transportation, for daily nonstop service between Kansas City and Washington.

While the DOT begins formal proceedings to reallocate the routes, which is expected to take months, Southwest Airlines will be allowed to serve the route on a temporary basis, Moran’s office said.





EAA, AOPA oppose FAA plan to charge for air traffic controllers at AirVenture

The cost for the Experimental Aircraft Association to put on this year’s AirVenture aviation fly-in in Oshkosh, Wis., is going up.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced plans to charge for travel costs, per diem expenses and overtime pay for the air traffic controllers who deploy to work the show.

Traditionally, the FAA has incurred the cost of deploying controllers to the show, which attracts more than 10,000 aircraft.

The new charges were announced as part of the budget sequestration.

The show runs July 29 to Aug. 4.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the EAA are denouncing the charges.

“This is extremely troubling news,” Craig Fuller, AOPA president and CEO, said in a statement. “We’ve warned that the Obama Administration wants to hit general aviation with user fees, and that’s exactly what it’s doing to the EAA and AirVenture.”

Departing from its previous practice suggests the FAA has entered into a new “pay-as-you-go era with little regard for safety,” Fuller said.

General aviation already pays for FAA services through substantial user fees, he said.

“These user fees — there is no other word for them — are a double taxation, Fuller said. And that will add a burden and hurt the industry.

PKM Steel Service to add 20 jobs in Salina

PKM Steel Service is investing $250,000 in an expansion that will create 20 additional full-time jobs in Salina.

PKM Steel produces heavy and intermediate structural steel for industrial and commercial building.

The expansion is the result of PKM gaining a major new customer, according to the announcement made by the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas Department of Commerce.

It will allow the company to continue improvements in research development, testing, fabricating, design and painting, the company said in a statement.

“It’s a success story here in Salina,” PKM chief operating officer Mark Hamade said. “We have hiring going on. We have new jobs…. We are convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day we are not just betting on strategies, we are betting on people from the community and the city of Salina.”

The news is good for Salina, said Salina Area Chamber of Commerce president Dave Lauver in the statement. “These are quality jobs that communities throughout the region are competing for.”

Boeing delivers 601 commercial airplanes in 2012, has record orders on the books


courtesy photo

Boeing delivered 601 commercial airplanes — the most since 1999 — and took net orders for 1,203 more during 2012, the company reported Thursday.

It’s the second-largest number of orders the company has taken in a single year in its history, the company said.

Boeing now has a record 4,373 unfilled commercial airplane orders on its books, it said.

During the year, Boeing increased deliveries by 26 percent, to “put more airplanes into the hands of our customers,” Ray Conner, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement.

The 737 program set a record for the most orders of any Boeing model in a single year. The company took 1,124 net orders for the 737 single-aisle airplane, including 914 for the fuel-efficient 737 MAX, an upgrade of the 737, which will have new engines.

In 2012, Boeing delivered 415 commercial 737 Next Generation airliners; 31 747s; 26 767s; 83 777s; and 46 787s.

Wichita’s Spirit AeroSystems builds portions of all Boeing commercial airliners, including the 737′s fuselage.

Machinists negotiators recommend rejection of Learjet labor contract and a strike

Negotiators for the Machinists union recommend its members at Bombardier Learjet reject the company’s proposal of a five-year labor contract and vote to strike when they go to the polls on Saturday.

The offer gives no raises in the first year of the contract and a 1 percent raise in each of the four years after.

It retains pension plans for the represented workers, but increases health care costs dramatically, said union spokesman Bob Wood.

A main sticking point is the increase in health insurance costs, Wood said. The union also dislikes the length of the contract.

The company kept noting how the market for business jets is weak, Wood said.

But it will turn around, he said.

In the meantime,”they’re trying to lock us in,” he said.

A three-year agreement would be better because the situation could be readdressed at that time.

Union members are scheduled to vote at the Cotillion Ballroom on Saturday.

Boeing projects large market for commercial airplane services

Boeing is projecting a large and growing market for commercial airplane services over the next 20 years, the company said at the Farnborough International Airshow near London.

Boeing forecasts a market for $2.4 trillion in services over the next 20 years.

The market for services is expected to grow 4 percent annually in the next two decades.

“Airlines are looking for every possible advantage to succeed, from efficiencies in maintenance services to breakthroughs in flight operations and information technology,” Lou Mancini, senior vice president for Boeing commercial aviation services, said in a statement. “Demand for this kind of support and services is only going to grow as fuel prices remain high, fleet size increases and airlines look for ways to improve their overall operations and reduce costs while focusing on their core business, serving passengers.”