United Airlines Shows Pride by Speaking Out on Marriage Equality

On 29/05/2015, in Airline corner, by steve

rainbowUnited Airlines (NYSE: UAL) and its employees will commemorate LGBT Pride Month this June by marching in parades, sponsoring events and hosting celebrations at destinations across the airline’s global route network. But more than the festivities, the company is marking this historic Pride Month – one in which the U.S. Supreme Court may rule on the issue of same-sex marriage – by reaffirming its support for marriage equality.

United’s Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Smisek issued the following statement:

“United Airlines is proud to stand up for marriage equality in the United States. At United, we foster an inclusive and diverse culture, where every employee is accepted, valued, respected and treated fairly. While fully inclusive equal employment, workplace benefits and non-discrimination policies have been part of our company’s culture for many years, it is time for our nation to have a uniform marriage rule that gives equal dignity to same-sex couples. With this historic Supreme Court decision on the horizon, we encourage all of corporate America to join United Airlines on the right side of this debate.”

The airline in March also joined hundreds of other U.S. corporations by signing an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to support same-sex marriage.

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FAA-Industry Initiative Will Expand Small UAS Horizons

On 06/05/2015, in UAS, by steve

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced a partnership with industry to explore the next steps in unmanned aircraft operations beyond the type of operations the agency proposed in the draft small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) rule it published in February.

“Government has some the best and brightest minds in aviation, but we can’t operate in a vacuum,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This is a big job, and we’ll get to our goal of safe, widespread UAS integration more quickly by leveraging the resources and expertise of the industry.”

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the initiative today at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Unmanned Systems 2015 conference in Atlanta, Ga.

The FAA is working with industry partners on three focus areas, including:
• Visual line-of-sight operations in urban areas
CNN will look at how UAS might be safely used for newsgathering in populated areas.
• Extended visual line-of-sight operations in rural areas
This concept involves UAS flights outside the pilot’s direct vision. UAS manufacturer PrecisionHawk will explore how this might allow greater UAS use for crop monitoring in precision agriculture operations.
• Beyond visual line-of-sight in rural/isolated areas
BNSF Railroad will explore command-and-control challenges of using UAS to inspect rail system infrastructure.

“Even as we pursue our current rulemaking effort for small unmanned aircraft, we must continue to actively look for future ways to expand non-recreational UAS uses,” Huerta said. “This new initiative involving three leading U.S. companies will help us anticipate and address the needs of the evolving UAS industry.”

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The end of the association of european airlines?

On 06/05/2015, in Airline corner, by steve

aeaAEA’s and IATA’s European office are located in the same building in a fancy neighborhood of Brussels. The IATA office moved to the European capital from London several years ago to be nearer to the EU institutions and Eurocontrol and co-locating it with AEA looked like a good idea. It was. I was an Assistant Director with IATA at the time and one of the first things we all learned was how the tasks between IATA and AEA were distributed. After all, the membership of AEA and IATA was partially common and it was fair to surmise that both organizations would have the same position on the different issues airlines were struggling with.

This was not completely true, however. IATA was looking at the big picture with world-wide implications while AEA was responding primarily to the concerns of its European members. Every now and then we would come up against a conflict of interest. Especially when the issue was money to be spent by the airlines, like a mandate for some kind of new equipment, big, influential airlines with fewer flights in Europe would put up a spirited resistance, questioning the benefits which for them would always fall out to be less than for airlines flying mostly in Europe. Luckily for us, many of the proposed mandates had questionable benefits for any airline, so getting a common position was usually not too difficult.

Once we knew what to say and why, AEA would take upon themselves to speak on the political level while we at IATA would man the guns firing the technical underpinning supporting the political statements. Anyone who remembers the war around Mode S Enhanced Surveillance will know what I am talking about.

Of course IATA and AEA were only two, though possibly the most vocal, associations representing airlines in Europe. For the low-cost guys there is ELFAA (European Low Fare Airlines Association) while IACA (International Air Carrier Association) and ERA (European Regions Airline Association) brought to the table the interests of charter and regional operators respectively.

Obviously, one may question whether it was really necessary to have so many organizations but looking at their respective clienteles, it is easy to see that properly focusing on their diverse interests was only possible via an organization that had both the understanding and the time to deal with their specific problems.

Personally, I would divide the history of airline associations into three phases. There is to-day, to which we will come back in a moment, then there was the pre-ELFAA time and the post-ELFAA time.

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How do you regulate drones in the sky?

On 01/05/2015, in UAS, by steve

droneOne thing is certain. The seemingly amazing but actually quite simple technology that made drones, these small and not so small aircraft, accessible to almost anyone caught the regulators responsible for keeping our skies safe unawares. Once it was no longer possible to ignore the presence of the new kind of flying machine or threat to other machines, as you like, the response of the regulators was swift and predictably variable. In some countries they were banned outright, in others almost impossible-to-meet conditions were imposed and yet others tried to make them unattractive both to make and to operate. There are of course countries where they can operate freely while in others only a minimum of requirements need to be met.

The above less than logical or in fact less than effective measures reflected not the actual risk drones represented but the perception of the regulators concerned of the kind of risk a drone could possibly pose as well as the perceived discipline of would-be operators to keep their machines on a short leash.

The response in the US was at first leaning towards severe restrictions but this was later changed, under pressure from the industry concerned, to a more rational but still restrictive approach.

It now seems that Europe, and specifically the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is for once taking the lead to a sensible solution to this thorny problem. Their risk-based approach would ensure safety while also minimizing restrictive regulations on this fast growing industry.

Before dwelling into the details, let’s get a few things clarified. When one says “drone” people, even professionals, tend to imagine all kinds of things, from the tiny machines you by in supermarkets to the monsters used to smoke the bad guys. Actually, the very term drone is something that does not bear much of a relationship to the large variety of machines we are talking about. The current official terms are UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System and RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) used in the US and Europe respectively. One may argue that UAS is the better term, since it indicates the main characteristic of a drone, namely that there is no flight crew present on board when it is flying; RPAS puts the emphasis on the machine being piloted remotely but this would leave out drones that actually perform operations without being piloted from the ground. Funnily, in the original edition of the EASA Concept of Operations for Drones, the term drone is used not only in the title but throughout the text. In view of the less than crystal clear meaning of the abbreviations UAS and RPAS, drone is probably a good compromise.

So what risks do we need to consider?

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