FAA says staffing issues will bring delays, especially in Northeast

FAA says staffing issues will bring delays, especially in Northeast

A shortage of air traffic controllers will lead to a large uptick in flight delays this summer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned in a memo on Wednesday. 

Delays could increase by 45 percent at New York City-area airports, the FAA said, noting that staffing levels at those hubs are at just 54 percent of the FAA’s target and travel is projected to rise 7 percent compared to last summer.

In its memo, the FAA asked airlines to voluntarily give up 10 percent of their flight slots at John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport from May 15 through September 15 “to allow carriers to reduce operations to enable scheduling and operational stability.”

The agency explained that air traffic control issues will be alleviated when it moves operations from Newark to Philadelphia — but that isn’t expected to happen until September 2023.

Nationwide, the FAA is at 81 percent of its staffing goal, according to the memo. The agency, which has long battled air traffic controller shortages, said that safety measures implemented during the pandemic created a training backlog. 

Rich Santa, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said Thursday that the number of certified controllers dropped 10 percent over the last decade and is nearing a 30-year low. He added that the FAA needs more funding to reduce delays and crack down on the recent near-crashes.

“When you control more traffic with less operation positions, you introduce risk into the system,” Santa told members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s aviation panel.

Airlines have struggled with cancellations and delays in recent years. Top U.S. carriers blamed inadequate staffing at the FAA for last summer’s disruptions.

Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president of legislative and regulatory policy at Airlines for America, the top trade group for carriers, said Thursday that the upcoming FAA reauthorization bill will tackle the air traffic controller shortage that “has simply gone on for too long.” 

“FAA must update their staffing model, and hire and train accordingly,” Pinkerton said.

Congress is crafting a five-year FAA funding bill with the goal of passing it this year as the agency struggles with near-misses and a recent system meltdown.

The agency hasn’t had a Senate-confirmed administrator for almost a year, and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee this week punted on President Biden’s nominee Phil Washington. 

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Pilot in crash that killed 7 experienced 'spatial disorientation': NTSB report

Pilot in crash that killed 7 experienced 'spatial disorientation': NTSB report

The seven on board the private jet were identified as:

  • Gwen Shamblin Lara
  • William “Joe” Lara
  • David Martin
  • Jennifer Martin
  • Jonathan Walters
  • Jessica Walters
  • Brandon Hannah

Gwen Shamblin Lara founded Remnant Fellowship Church in 1999 as an extension of her popular book “The Weigh Down Diet.” Her husband, William Lara, was an actor, best known for playing Tarzan in the television series, “Tarzan: The Epic Adventures.” Hannah was Gwen’s son-in-law, having married her daughter in 2003.

The others, David and Jennifer Martin, and Jonathan and Jessica Walters, were members of the Remnant Fellowship Church.

Though NTSB doesn’t identify those involved in transportation accidents, local authorities previously identified William Lara as the pilot.

On Wednesday, the National Transportation Safety Board released its report, which claimed the pilot became disoriented shortly after takeoff from Smyrna Airport.

In the report, the NTSB claims the Cessna 501 took off, bound for West Palm Beach, Florida, and made a climbing right turn while entering the clouds above the airport. The plane then began to descend and the pilot did not initially respond to air traffic control (ATC) instructions.

The pilot acknowledged the instructions after a second request by the ATC and began a climbing right turn followed by a left turn. The pilot then went radio silent and did not respond to the ATC.

The plane soon descended rapidly and crashed into Percy Priest Lake at a high rate of speed.

After examining the wreckage, the NTSB concluded there was no evidence of any mechanical issues or failures that would have led to the crash.

Following the analysis of the flight track, it was concluded that the pilot was experiencing spatial disorientation shortly after takeoff. He was said to “not effectively use his instrumentation during takeoff and climb,” which he was not able to recover from to avoid the crash.

The report also reaches the conclusion that medication use or medical conditions were not a factor in the deadly crash.

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FAA calls on airline industry to take action following series of close calls

FAA calls on airline industry to take action following series of close calls

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) called on the airline industry to take a series of steps on Wednesday in response to several incidents of airplanes almost hitting each other this year. 

The FAA said in a release that it issued a safety alert for airlines, pilots and others to take action following the close calls. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has recognized that an “uptick in serious close calls” has happened at airports throughout the country this year. 

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board have confirmed at least seven close calls have happened during 2023, and Buttigieg said a total of more than 20 might happen by the end of the year. 

The safety alert lists five major steps that members of the airline industry should take to try to minimize the number of incidents in the future. 

The agency said airline should ensure pilots and flight attendants have the same understanding of “sterile flight deck,” which means that a pilot should not have unnecessary communication that is unrelated to fulfilling their responsibilities during key parts of the flight like takeoff and landing. 

The FAA also said airlines should emphasize the need for awareness of aircrafts in relation to taxiways, runways and other aircrafts and encourage staff to “identify and report existing and emerging safety issues” through the existing reporting programs. 

The agency also said airlines should reinforce pilots and flight attendants following the published processes like checklists, air traffic control instructions and internal company procedures and ensure that safety management systems, the official approach to managing the safety risks of flights, account for a rapidly changing industry. 

Some of the close calls included one incident at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City in January where a flight needed to abort its takeoff as another flight crossed the same runway. Another one of the seven happened earlier this month at Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport when a flight crossed a runway without authorization and blocked another flight that was cleared for takeoff.

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Report: EV battery repair hurdles may inflate insurance premiums

Report: EV battery repair hurdles may inflate insurance premiums

(Green Car Reports) — A lack of standards for repair and replacement of EV battery packs may lead to higher insurance premiums, according to a recent Reuters report (via Automotive News).

Battery packs can represent up to 50% of an EV’s price tag, often making it uneconomical to replace them, according to the report. And while there is no standard procedure for addressing damaged battery packs, it’s more common to replace rather than repair. In some cases that could lead to relatively new vehicles being “totaled” by insurance companies over minor damage.

Automaker policies on repairability of battery packs vary, the report found. Ford said individual battery modules could be replaced, and said it had developed an easier way to replace the battery pack tray if the outside is damaged. Nissan and Renault also said modules could be replaced without junking the whole pack, but indicated this could only be done at dealerships or other manufacturer-associated facilities.

Polestar 2 battery pack

Stellantis said it does not repair batteries after crashes where the airbags deploy, while the structural pack in newer versions of the Tesla Model Y, using 4680-format cells, can’t be repaired, according to the report.

Repairability might also be an issue with cell-to-pack tech that skips the modules for performance and energy-density gains. Chinese battery firm CATL is starting to offer it to automakers, starting with Geely’s Zeekr brand, and potentially expanding to future Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis models. Chinese startup Beta Auto aims to advance the concept with cell-to-chassis applications, although so far no company has announced plans to use either configuration in U.S.-market vehicles.

GM electric pickup silhouette – from 2020 Ultium platform preview

General Motors said its new Ultium battery packs are designed to be repaired at the module level, and it has previously boasted that its wireless battery management system and pack structure will allow new cell designs without redesigning the pack—and it might permit simpler pack repair.

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While automakers can’t agree on whether a battery pack should be repaired or replaced, they are gradually coalescing around recycling those packs and their precious materials when they have truly reached the end of their useful lives. GM has named Canada’s Li-Cycle as official recycler for Ultium battery cells, while Ford, Toyota, and the Volkswagen Group’s Audi and VW brands have partnered with Redwood Materials.

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Dodge Deamon by the numbers: 1,025 horsepower and more

Dodge Deamon by the numbers: 1,025 horsepower and more

(Our Auto Expert) – Dodge signals the end of an era. After this year, V8 engines will no longer be produced as the automotive industry continues switching to electrification. And they are going out with a bang. 

The Dodge Demon 170 is a beast straight from hell. Known simply as The Demon 170, this monster can reach 60 miles an hour in 1.66 seconds and has the highest g-force acceleration of any production car at 2.004 Gs. Thanks to an overwhelming 1,025 horsepower. No, that isn’t a typo. 

What also helps catapult it is a brisk 945 pound-feet of torque from its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8. You need a few specialty items to ensure you obtain these over-the-top numbers. 

You will need E85 gasoline and, as a result. Dodge says you can get a quarter mile time of 8.91 seconds at 151 mph on a prepared surface. However, even when burning 91 octane, the new engine makes 900 horsepower and 810 pound-feet of torque. 

Depending on the situation, you might need to adjust what fuel you run. 

The new Demon engine also sucks air through a more significant 105 mm throttle body. At up to 164 gallons per hour, the new injectors can flow more fuel than a typical showerhead can dispense water.

The last time we saw the Demon was in 2018. It was made especially for drag racing. However, the NHRA banned it. It was limited to only 3300 units and could be driven on the street. It burned 100-octane fuel and could hit wheelies. The quarter-mile time of 9.65 seconds at 140 mph was the reason for the ultimate NHRA ban. 

Other variants have come and gone, like the Hellcat red eye in 2019. And in 2020, the 807 hp Hellcat super stock. But nothing quite like this. This year sent mixed emotions to Dodge enthusiasts, as it’s the last year for the V8, But also the year of the new 1,025 Demon 170.

Dodge launched its seven-part “last call” series of special editions last August. The Demon 170 is the last of the seven to be revealed. And it objectively is the most out there and powerful version. 

Dodge wrote the blueprint for what a muscle car should be. The Demon 170 will cost $100,361 when production starts this July, but only 2,500 to 3,000 U.S. vehicles are planned through December 31. After that, V-8 Hellcats will no longer be produced.

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New Audi naming strategy will split EV, ICE cars

New Audi naming strategy will split EV, ICE cars



(Motor Authority) — Audi is set to introduce more than 20 new or updated vehicles by the end of 2025, starting with a new Q6 E-tron electric compact crossover due in the second half of 2023.

More than half of the new vehicles will be electric by then, and Audi plans to revise its naming strategy to ensure customers are clear on which models feature electric powertrains and which models still have an internal-combustion engine.

In a presentation on Thursday outlining Audi’s 2022 financial results, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann said the revised naming strategy will see Audi EVs carry an even number in their names and its pure ICE models as well as plug-in hybrids carry an odd number in their names.

He said the transition started with last year’s renaming of the E-Tron as a Q8 E-Tron following the electric SUV’s mid-cycle update. It means the current gas-powered Q8 SUV might be renamed a Q9 after it undergoes its own mid-cycle update later this year.

Markus Duesmann

Similarly, Audi’s upcoming redesign for the A4 is rumored to swap to the A5 name, with an electric A4 E-Tron to be introduced shortly after.

Eventually, Audi’s EVs will also use odd numbers in their name as the automaker expects to be exclusively selling EVs by around 2033. Audi has already confirmed that its final vehicle equipped with an internal-combustion engine will be launched in 2026.

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During the same presentation, Duesmann also confirmed plans for an EV positioned below the current Q4 E-Tron. It isn’t clear if the model he was referring to is an A4 E-Tron or something smaller like an A2 E-Tron.

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