4 new rules travelers should know for 2009

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events
By Christopher Elliott
Tribune Media Services

It’s not too soon to start thinking about traveling next year. In 2009, a series of new rules and regulations kick in that could affect your vacation. Ignore them, and you might find yourself delayed or denied access to your destination.

No, really.

Last year, when new travel document requirements went into effect, the government was quickly overwhelmed by passport applications. One of them came from Martin Mitchell, an Air Force major who sent a passport renewal in April but still hadn’t received it by mid-July. With less than two weeks to go before a planned trip, he contacted me.

“I read that you have contacts with the State Department,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I would appreciate if you could act on my behalf to try and shake loose my application.”

Well, I did have a few names, and with their help, Mitchell managed to get his passport renewed in time.

Not everyone was so lucky. Christine Simmons and her husband applied for passports after booking a vacation through Expedia last January.

But by early March, just days before her trip, her husband still didn’t have his paperwork — although, for some odd reason, she did.

“Please help!” she wrote in an e-mail. I phoned the State Department, and it was able to find the passport. It arrived a day after they were supposed to leave — “a dollar short and a day late,” she says.

Fortunately, Expedia allowed her to change her dates after paying a rebooking fee, so all wasn’t lost.

Don’t let that happen to you. Here are four new rules you need to know for 2009:

Passports will be mandatory for all border crossings

On June 1, the U.S. government will implement the full requirements of the land and sea phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). That means U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry must either have a passport, passport card or WHTI-compliant document. It’s a major — and long-anticipated — change from the current rules, under which you can cross the border with either a passport, passport card or a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, along with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.

Susan Tanzman, president or Martin Travel & Tours, a Los Angeles travel agency, is advising her clients to get their passports early.

“If they have a trip after the beginning of the new year, I tell them they need a passport,” she says. Why the rush? Tanzman, who is also a lawyer, remembers the last passport crisis, and doesn’t want her travelers caught in the middle of a possible sequel. That’s sound advice. Applications made at the end of the fourth quarter or the start of the first quarter — in other words, in December, January and February — typically get processed within two weeks, she says. After that, who knows?

Airlines must quote a total price for European tickets

The European Parliament this year approved a new “transparency” rule mandating that airfares have to include all taxes, fees and charges added to the basic ticket price and known at the time of publication.

It is expected to take effect either in late 2008 or early 2009, according to the EU. At least theoretically, that should mean no more unpleasant surprises when you buy a ticket for travel within Europe or to Europe. Under the rule, airfare or air rate, taxes, airport charges and other charges, surcharges or fees, such as those related to security or fuel, have to be included in the price of the ticket.

And any optional price supplements must be communicated in “a clear, transparent and unambiguous way at the start of any booking process” and allow passengers to opt-in for them, according to the EU.

Stanley Gyoshev, a co-founder of the online travel site Lessno.com, was one of the key proponents of the change. He says there are two reasons why American air carriers may have no choice but to adopt these transparency rules, too.

“For one, the federal government could increase consumer protection by using laws relating to unfair advertising — by insisting that airlines only advertise products and pricing which is readily available to the traveler without undue restrictions and red tape,” he told me.

“The second is that since major international airlines are selling tickets in Europe, they will need to comply with the EU regulations. Since they need to make consumer-friendly changes to their European Web sites and advertising, we are hoping there will be some carry-over to the U.S. sites.”

Visas go electronic

The Department of Homeland Security’s new Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) will become mandatory on January 12, 2009. It’s a fully-automated, electronic system for screening passengers before they begin travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

(The Visa Waiver Program allows nationals of 27 countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without a visa.)

It’s still unclear how this will affect Americans traveling to one of the countries who participate in the Visa Waiver Program. Last summer, EU ministers expressed misgivings about parts of the program, and it is possible that traveling to one of those countries may involve answering more questions and a different (and possibly confusing) application process.

Travel attorney Al Anolik says he expects “some retribution” against American travelers, if not for the ESTA, then for fingerprinting and eye-scanning inbound visitors to the United States — a practice he expects to see more of in 2009. “I don’t think it will deter people from traveling,” he says, adding that the time needed to complete a biometric scan “won’t add that much” to a traveler’s time spent at customs and immigration.

Passengers get a bill of rights — maybe

Last year, in response to increasing consumer frustration over flight delays, the State of New York enacted the New York State Passenger Bill of Rights. It provided fresh air, waste removal and adequate food and water for passengers on flights delayed by more than three hours. Although the law was struck down by a federal appeals court this spring, that decision has been appealed, and it may become law in 2009 or later.

Jeff Miller, a travel industry attorney based in Columbia, Maryland, believes the bill of rights stands a good chance of being upheld by New York’s Court of Appeals. “But one way or another,” he adds, “I think this is going to go to the Supreme Court.”

If that happens, New York won’t have a passenger bill until 2011, at the earliest. But the chances of such a law being enforced at the national level are reasonably good, according to observers who say either airlines would have to adopt the same standards nationwide, or that other states would pass New York-style laws. Either way, that’s good for passengers.

Considering that 2008 is an election year — which typically means that few significant laws are passed — next year is shaping up to be an eventful one for travelers. If nothing else, new passport, visa and airline ticket rules, plus the prospect of a passenger bill of rights, will make it an interesting one.


Two on plane killed in crash near Estacada OR

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events


By Adam Ghassemi and KATU.com Web Staff

ESTACADA, Ore. – Two men were killed Tuesday evening when a small plane they were in crashed while heading toward Valley View Airport in Estacada, authorities said.

The pilot was identified Wednesday as 54-year-old Mark Steven Greenup and the passenger was 50-year-old George Joseph Smetana, both of Estacada, according to Detective Jim Strovink, a Clackamas County Sheriff’s spokesman.

Greenup reportedly used a cell phone to call the owner of the airport to report electrical problems in the 1964 Cessna P206 sometime after 7 p.m., Strovink said. Apparently all of the electrical equipment on the plane had become inoperable.

However, most of the flight controls of the Cessna do not require electrical power to operate.

The pilot also asked that the runway lights be turned on. The airport complied with the request. It was dark at the time of the crash.

A citizen called 911 to report seeing the plane flying overhead without any lights and then hearing crashing sounds about 7:30 p.m. About 20 minutes later, the plane was found in a field near the 30700 block of Northeast Lawrence Road, Strovink said.

It was not clear where the plane took off and where it was heading. The Cessna was registered to Greenup.

Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration were heading to the site to investigate what caused the crash.

In 2006, Greenup and his family were awarded $56,400 by a jury in a lawsuit filed after their neighbor intentionally ran over their 14-year-old dog, Grizz, and they sued for more than $1 million.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report


Strap in – it can get bumpy

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Turbulence

Expert says seat belts keep air travellers safe during turbulence

By Nicholas Yong

ONE reason there were not more Singaporeans hurt on the troubled Qantas flight to Perth recently: Most had their seat belts fastened.

Those who did not found themselves tossed around and even stuck to the ceiling when Flight QF72 took two abrupt plunges.

Preliminary investigations suggest that a computer glitch caused the sudden drop in altitude, but the same can happen when an airplane meets turbulence.

Turbulence occurs when weather conditions cause winds in the atmosphere, which usually go in horizontal directions, to move vertically instead, said Dr Todd Lane of the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

This produces an unexpected or erratic response in aircraft which fly through these bodies of air.

Dr Lane emphasised that ‘almost everybody who is strapped in (during turbulence) is completely safe’. He estimates that 97 per cent of injuries caused by turbulence can be put down to the fact that the passengers were not strapped in.

Most flights experience some slight turbulence.

Engineer Tan Kok Leong, 37, recounted a flight in the United States eight years ago: ‘It had been quite a smooth flight when the plane plunged suddenly. A few retirees who were chatting at the emergency exit fell to the floor, and they ended up having to crawl back to their seats.’

Pilots can usually prepare passengers for any turbulence ahead, as the pre-flight plan takes into account the weather forecast and known areas of turbulence.

Generally, they try to avoid flying through turbulence by going over, under or around the area, said Captain Jaffar Hassan, 45, who has been flying for almost two decades.

What is hard to avoid is clear-air turbulence, which is often ‘so small and so localised, it’s very difficult to predict’, said Dr Lane, who called this kind of turbulence ‘small scale’ and ‘very transient’.

So is there a safer seat on a plane?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the back is the bumpiest.

‘The perception of airplane shaking …is definitely dependent on location within the cabin,’ said Dr Robert Sharman of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research.

Cabin crew are the most vulnerable, given the nature of their job.

The International Air Transport Association estimates that turbulence-related injuries to cabin crew cost the airline industry over US$60 million (S$90 million) a year.

Former flight stewardess Sheena Chan, 25, recalled an incident that happened while meals were being served.

‘People were scalded because their hot drinks spilt. There was a cart in the galley area which fell to the side and almost hit a steward, but he managed to get out of the way in time,’ she said.

‘Things were flung around and people were lifted off their feet by the force of the drop.’

Airlines recommend that passengers, especially children, keep their seat belts fastened at all times when they are seated, and limit their movement around the aircraft cabin.

SIA spokesman Stephen Forshaw said: ‘The seat belt has to be fastened in such a way that if the aircraft is thrown a few feet up or down, it will pull tight enough to restrain you in your seat.’

Insurance firms told The Straits Times that in cases of injury because of turbulence, the airline may be asked to prove that it took all the necessary precautions to avoid the incident.

Airlines often offer to compensate passengers as an act of good faith in order to resolve the issue, they said.


Fatal Plane Crash In Oregon

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events



NTSB: Non-Instrument-Rated Lancair Pilot Filed IFR In Fatal Accident

Plane Encountered Icing Conditions, Three Lost

The National Transportation Safety Board said several factors contributed to the downing of a plane near Albany, OR last February, claiming the lives of all three persons on board.The owner/pilot of the Lancair Super ES was seated in the left seat, and a pilot friend of the owner in the right seat. Family members indicated that friend and the owner/pilot flew together often, and the right seat pilot would provide radio and navigation assistance to the owner/pilot.

 Although neither of the two pilots were instrument-rated, according to information provided by the Seattle Air Route Traffic Control Center, the pilot seated in the right seat had filed an IFR flight plan earlier that morning.The flight originated February 8 from McNary Field, Salem, OR at 1010 local time, and was headed for Klamath Falls Airport and then on to Salt Lake City. The plane collided with terrain just minutes later, approximately four miles northeast of Albany Municipal Airport, near Albany, OR.

Numerous times during the evening prior and on the morning of the fateful flight, both pilots checked weather forecasts along the intended route. The forecast was for marginal VFR to VFR conditions in the morning that were to improve by late morning, and there were AIRMETS for icing, turbulence, and mountain obscuration. At 1003, McNary Field weather conditions were reported as “wind from 180 degrees at 14 knots, gusting to 19 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, light rain, clouds were scattered at 2,900 feet, broken at 3,500 feet, and overcast at 6,000 feet, temperature was 42 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point was 39 degrees Fahrenheit, and the altimeter was 30.29 inches of Mercury.”

In its official report on the incident, the NTSB narrative said that following departure, a pilot from the accident airplane contacted the Seattle ARTCC at 1006:58 and was cleared to climb to 13,000 feet msl.At 1012:40 the controller advised the airplane there were earlier reports of moderate icing between 10,000 and 12,000 feet msl. A voice responded with the airplane call sign.At 1013:20, the controller advised that the icing reports were moderate-mixed icing. No response was received from the airplane and the controller queried him at 1013:40. The airplane responded at 1013:46 with the call sign.At 1017:43 an occupant of the airplane contacted the controller stating the airplane’s call sign. At 1017:56 a transmission from the airplane stated, “…ah niner bravo whiskey we have (unintelligible) niner bravo whiskey.”

The controller advised the airplane that the transmission was not intelligible, and at 1018:05 a transmission for the airplane reported, “…nine bravo whiskey we’re an emergency situation niner bravo whiskey emergency (unintelligible).” There were no further transmissions from the accident airplane.

The Lancair was equipped with a Chelton navigation system, and the two display units were examined at the NTSB Recorder Laboratory in Washington, DC. Review of the data obtained from the units showed that the accident flight power-on time was approximately 28 minutes. Through most of the flight, the engine revolutions per minute (rpm) were 2,600 rpm, decreasing to 2,000 rpm at 1018:04, and 14 seconds later the final reading showed 1,600 rpm. During the last portion of the flight, the descent rates increased to 10,000 feet per minute, and the indicated air speed showed an increase from 100 knots to approximately 160 knots. The last 45 seconds of data showed great fluctuations in the recorded data and performance numbers for ground speed, heading, track, rate of climb, pitch, bank, and vertical acceleration. A witness about 2 miles west of the accident site saw the airplane come out of a cloud layer about 2,000 feet above ground level. With the right wing pitched down, the airplane was in a clockwise corkscrew pattern, at a descent angle of approximately 45 degrees. It continued this corkscrew pattern until going out of view of the witness.

The NTSB determined the probable cause of this accident to be the pilot-in-command’s failure to maintain aircraft control while in cruise flight. Contributing factors to the accident were inadequate planning/decision making, icing conditions, and continued flight into known icing conditions.According to FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 91-51A, “The most hazardous aspect of structural icing is its aerodynamic effects. Ice can alter the shape of an airfoil. This can cause control problems, change the angle of attack at which the aircraft stalls, and cause the aircraft to stall at a significantly higher airspeed. Ice can reduce the amount of lift that an airfoil will produce and increase drag several fold.”

 FMI: www.ntsb.gov aero-news.net

Ever Felt Sick During Or After A Flight?

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Fumes, Other Events



Sometimes passengers and crew on airplanes are exposed to contaminated bleed air which is circulated through the cabin and cockpit. The contaminated air contains many different chemicals and can make you very sick. If you have ever experienced any of these symptoms during or after a flight, please call us at 1-866-606-4127. This is what to look for:



Numbness and Tingling,


Trouble Breathing,


Metallic Taste in Your Mouth.


Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Turbulence


Incorrect flight data led Qantas A330 to descend sharply: ATSB

A Qantas Airways Airbus A330 that descended suddenly appears to have received faulty data from one of its units and this then played havoc with the aircraft’s flight control system.

“At this stage of the investigation, the analysis of the available data indicates that the air data inertial reference unit (ADIRU) 1 abnormal behaviour is the likely origin of the event,” the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) says in a statement today, referring to an incident that occurred on 7 October while the Qantas A330 was enroute from Singapore to Perth.

 “The faulty ADIRU unit continued to feed erroneous and spike values, for various aircraft parameters, to the aircraft’s flight control primary computers.” This “led to several consequences including: false stall and over-speed warnings, loss of altitude information on the captain’s primary flight display and several centralised aircraft monitoring system warnings.”

Because the ADIRU 1 generated very high, random and incorrect angles of attack it meant that “the flight control computers commanded a nose-down aircraft movement, which resulted in the aircraft pitching down to a maximum of 8.5 degrees.”

 It also “triggered a flight control primary computer pitch fault”. The ATSB says the crew responded in a timely fashion and helped prevent the aircraft’s rapid descent from being even greater. In its preliminary review released on 9 October the ATSB says the A330 descended about 650ft in about 20s, before returning to the cruising level of 37,000ft.Then about 70s later the A330 descended about 400ft in about 16s before returning to the cruising level. In both instances the aircraft was pitched nose-down.

 Of the 303 passengers and 10 crew on board 14 people were seriously injured, an additional group of up to 30 had serious enough injuries to receive medical treatment in hospital and up to a further 30 required first aid treatment, says the ATSB.The Qantas pilots responded by making an emergency landing at Learmonth, a remote airport in northwest Western Australia and from there the passengers were put on other aircraft and flown to Perth.

In today’s statement the ATSB says Airbus a few moments ago issued an operators information telex providing information about the incident along with recommendations to A330 and Airbus A340 operators that have aircraft fitted with the same type of ADIRU as on the Qantas aircraft.

The recommendations include “guidance and checklists for crew response in the event of an inertial reference system failure”. ATSB says it will issue a preliminary factual report within 30 days of the incident. ADIRUs provide data with regards to the aircraft’s air speed, altitude, position and altitude.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news

American Airlines Flight From Seattle Emergency Landing

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events
The pilots of an American Airlines flight carrying 185 passengers were forced to make an unusual emergency landing last month in Chicago with limited ability to control the jet after they lost electrical power, according to newly released information from a federal investigation.

The Boeing 757 skidded off a runway at O’Hare International Airport on Sept. 22, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said. Although none of the 192 people aboard was injured, the pilots flew on backup battery power for long beyond the 30 minutes that their emergency handbook said the batteries would last, the NTSB said.

The pilots of the Seattle-to-New York flight drained the jet’s battery backup system, leaving inoperable vital systems that help stop a jet, according to a preliminary report released this week.

The pilots told investigators they had difficulty raising and lowering the jet’s nose and felt they had only one chance to land, the NTSB said.

“They should have landed as soon as practical,” said Michael Barr, an instructor at the University of Southern California’s Aviation Safety and Security Program. “That would have been the conservative approach. I don’t see why they thought they could fly all the way across country on their backup electrical system.

The pilots had switched to battery power shortly after leaving Seattle when electrical problems developed. The batteries last for about 30 minutes, but the pilots continued toward their destination until the jet’s electrical systems began failing about an hour and 40 minutes later.

The need to land as soon as possible when aircraft systems begin to fail has been reinforced by several accidents, such as Swiss Air Flight 111 in 1998, Barr said. The Swiss Air pilots attempted to diagnose where smoke was coming from before deciding to divert, Canadian investigators concluded. The jet became engulfed in fire and crashed off Nova Scotia, killing all 229 people aboard.

Last month, the American Airlines pilots had to stop the jet without thrust reversers and other devices that help a jet stop, the NTSB said. The electrical system failure was so complete that the pilots were unable to shut off the engines after they came to a stop, the report said.

Barr said investigators will want to know what the airline’s manuals and emergency documentation instructed pilots to do, what the airline’s maintenance department advised the pilots to do and how pilots were trained to handle electrical malfunctions.

American and its pilots union, the Allied Pilots Association, declined to comment while the case is under investigation.

Air Canada flights delayed after computer glitch

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events



Source: Edmontonjournal.com

Published: Monday, October 20

EDMONTON – Passengers travelling on Air Canada this morning experienced some delays after a nationwide computer glitch left employees scrambling to check in passengers manually.

No flights were cancelled at the Edmonton International Airport due to the problem, said Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.

“There have been some delays throughout the day, but we expect that everybody will get to travel who was planning to,” he said.

Fitzpatrick said that at about 8 a.m., the company experienced a computer malfunction because of a routing problem with Bell Canada.

The problem affected all of Air Canada’s operations, including reservations and check-ins. The glitch prevented passengers from being checked in electronically and caused delays at checkout counters at most airports.

The computer problem lasted about two hours before normal operations resumed, Fitzpatrick said.

Canwest News

32 injured in China Airlines plane accident

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Discrimination




BANGKOK  — A total of 32 people were injured when a China Airlines plane lost control and experienced a steep drop in altitude when approaching Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport around Thursday noon.The CR641 747-400 passenger plane, which belongs to Taiwan’s China Airlines, had departed from Hongkong to head for Bangkok. The fall occurred 20 minutes before its landing time at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. It finally managed to the land safely at 1:23 pm (0623 GMT) at the airport.A total of 21 passengers and 11 crew were injured. They were sent to three hospitals in Bangkok after the plane landed

FAA Safety Chief to Step Down

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events

FAA Safety Chief to Step Down

FAA associate administrator for aviation safety, Nicholas Sabatini, will retire on 3 January after 30 years with the agency.Replacing Sabatini effective 1 November will be Peggy Gilligan, currently the deputy associate administrator for aviation safety. Sabatini is responsible for a workforce of more than 6,800 federal employees who handle the certification of aircraft, pilots and mechanics and maintenance operations as well as the safety and certification oversight for the more than 7,000 commercial airlines and air operators in the US.

Widely regarded as key figure in the modernizing the FAA workforce and introducing new technologies like enhanced and synthetic vision into the cockpits of certified aircraft, Sabatini’s organzization was also criticized recently for allowing what some US lawmakers said were too-close relationships between regulators and airlines, an accusation spelled out in congressional hearings in April over airworthiness directive abuses by Southwest Airlines.

 Also retiring from the FAA on 3 January will be FAA acting deputy administrator, Ruth Leverenz, in the position since September 2007.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news