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Trudeau Says Iran May Have Mistakenly Downed Ukraine Air Jet

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday said there is credible evidence to show that Iran was responsible for the crash of a Ukrainian passenger flight that killed more than 170 people — including dozens of Canadian citizens.

“Intelligence from multiple sources indicates the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile,” Trudeau said Thursday at a news conference, adding that the incident “may well have been unintentional.”

Sixty-three Canadians were onboard the Boeing 737, which crashed Wednesday, shortly after taking off from Tehran en route to Kyiv. There were no survivors.

The plane crashed hours after Iran fired missiles at military bases in Iraq that housed American troops. The attack was carried out in retaliation for a drone strike last week that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani as his convoy departed Baghdad International Airport.

Iran has claimed that a “technical” error was responsible for the plane crash. However, aviation experts said the evidence pointed more toward the plane being shot down.

Video obtained and verified by the New York Times this week and published on Thursday also showed the Ukrainian jetliner being struck by what the outlet said appeared to be a missile “above Parand, near Tehran’s airport,” in the area where its signal stopped transmitting on Wednesday.

“A small explosion occurred when a missile hit the plane, but the plane did not explode, the video showed. The jet continued flying for several minutes and turned back toward the airport,” the Times reported.

Earlier on Thursday, Donald Trump suggested that Iran was behind the plane crash, and that the country might have fired at the plane by “mistake.”

“It’s a tragic thing when I see that, it’s a tragic thing. But somebody could’ve made a mistake on the other side,” Trump said. “It was flying … in a pretty rough neighborhood. … Some people say it was mechanical. Personally, I don’t think that’s even a question.”

Unnamed U.S. officials told reporters the same: that Iran fired missiles at the plane, though the attack may have been a mistake.

Trudeau, for his part, vowed to seek justice.

“Canadians want answers, I want answers,” he tweeted on Thursday afternoon. “That means closure, transparency accountability, and justice. And this government will not rest until we get that.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Aviation Unions Warn Shutdown Is Harming Air Safety

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

Airline safety is “deteriorating by the day” because of the Trump shutdown, warns a terrifying statement from unions representing 131,000 airline workers. As the government shutdown drags into its second month, workers in the airline industry can’t even imagine the amount of risk Trump’s actions are causing.

“In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play,” presidents of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) said in a statement. The situation is so dire that the group said it can’t “predict the point at which the entire system will break.”

“It is unprecedented,” they added.

This letter follows upon an early January letter from the ALPA to Trump warning the shutdown was “adversely affecting the safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system.”

The new statement picks up on the same theme, expressing a “growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown.”

Trump initiated the shutdown in late December when he threw a tantrum demanding $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Democratic leaders in House of Representatives have repeatedly tried to end the shutdown by passing funding bills and promising to have discussions about border security once the shutdown was over.

These efforts have been rebuffed by Trump, and his loyal minions in the Senate previously called votes on the House-passed bills “absolutely pointless.

Since Trump started the shutdown, 800,000 federal workers have stopped receiving paychecks. Yet the Trump administration is forcing hundreds of thousands of workers to show up and do their job even without pay. These workers include many federal workers in the airline industry, represented by these unions.

In addition to the safety concerns, the unions are not happy about forced unpaid labor.

“As union leaders, we find it unconscionable that aviation professionals are being asked to work without pay and in an air safety environment that is deteriorating by the day,” the statement says, before urging Congress and Trump to reopen the government as soon as possible.

The American public overwhelmingly supports the way Speaker Nancy Pelosi is handling the shutdown — which is by passing legislation to reopen the government. Unfortunately, Trump and complicit Republicans continue to put the nation at risk through their reckless obsession with a border wall.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

 

Recreational Drones Will Need To Be Registered, FAA Says

By Linda Loyd, The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

PHILADELPHIA — Just in time for the holidays, when thousands of drones will be received as gifts, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday that recreational pilots and hobbyists must register all drones weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds, including on-board cameras, by Feb. 19, 2016.

Anyone flying a drone, or unmanned aircraft, for recreational purposes after that date will face a civil penalty up to $27,500 and potential criminal charges, including a fine up to $250,000 and three years in prison, the agency said.

The registration fee is $5, but the FAA said it will waive the fee for the first 30 days, between Dec. 21 and Jan. 20, to encourage participation.

Drone fliers will be asked to provide their name, home, address, and email address. The online application will generate a certificate of aircraft registration/proof of ownership that will include a unique identification number, which must be marked on the drone.

Registration begins Dec. 21, and covers civilian pilots and hobbyists, but not folks who operate drones for commercial purposes. The FAA said it will begin online registration of drones operated for commercial purposes sometime next spring, but did not give a specific date.

Unmanned aircraft owners can register by mail, or the Web at www.faa.gov/uas/registration, and must be at least 13 years old, the FAA said.

“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiasts are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” said Department of Transportation secretary Anthony Foxx. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely.”

Drone hobbyists with more than one model aircraft will have to register only once, and can use the same identification number for all their model unmanned aircraft. The registration is valid for three years, the FAA said.

“We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “Registration gives us the opportunity to educate these new airspace users before they fly so they know the airspace rules and understand they are accountable to the public for flying responsibly.”

©2015 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: FireFlight UAS unmanned aerial vehicles TwinHawk, Scout, Flanker, and Hawkeye 400, are displayed on the tarmac during “Black Dart”, a live-fly, live fire demonstration of 55 unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, at Naval Base Ventura County Sea Range, Point Mugu, near Oxnard, California July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon

 

Are Airlines Padding Flight Times?

By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

About a decade ago, Joe Nolan, a semi-retired electrical engineer from Palm Desert, Calif., could expect to hop on a flight at Palm Springs International Airport and arrive in San Francisco 55 minutes later.

Now the flight is usually scheduled for about 90 minutes. Nolan suspects that airlines are allotting more time for each flight to make it easier to meet their arrival schedule.

“It tells me that the on-time statistics are worthless,” he said.

Nolan might have a point. A study by a British company that collects and analyzes travel data concluded that airlines around the globe have been padding their flight schedules for nearly 20 years.

In the U.S., on-time performance rates for commercial airlines have been on the rise and airline executives have boasted about the percentage of flights that arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled time.

The study by OAG Aviation Worldwide looked at several routes around the world to conclude that the “block” times set aside for many flights have been growing since 1996.

For example, OAG looked at more than 1,400 flights scheduled between Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport in 1996 and found that no flights took longer than 90 minutes, according to the study. By 2015, nearly half of the flights scheduled between the two airports allotted between 91 minutes and 110 minutes, the study said.

On average, the allotted time for flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco increased 8 percent from 1996 to 2015, the study found.

The OAG study suggested that airlines have added the extra travel time so they can post better on-time rates but also to help carriers deal with growing congestion on the airport tarmac.

“At airports which are congested, airlines need to keep schedules realistic so their timetables are reliable,” the study said.

A spokesman for an airline trade group rejected the idea that commercial carriers are increasing the time allotment for flights just to improve on-time performance.

“We have the same goals as our customers, which is to get them, their luggage and packages to their destination safely and on time,” said Vaughn Jennings, a spokesman for Airlines for America, the trade group for the country’s airlines.

MOST TRAVEL PLANS TO EUROPE UNCHANGED

Despite the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, nearly three-quarters of travel managers for major U.S. corporations say their travel plans to Europe remain largely unchanged.

That is the finding of a survey of nearly 170 U.S.-based travel managers who were questioned by the Global Business Travel Association, a trade group for the business travel industry.

In fact, only 10 percent of the travel managers said they have temporarily suspended travel to Paris in the wake of the attacks that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more. An additional 16 percent said they made only “slight reductions” in their travel plans to Europe, according to the survey.

The U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel warning last week, urging U.S. citizens to be extra vigilant when traveling abroad, especially in public places, in large crowds and while using transportation. It was the third such “worldwide” warning in as many years.

“Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets and aviation services,” the warning says.

AMERICAN AIRLINES WORST FOR LOST BAGS

Among the nation’s biggest carriers, American Airlines has the worst record for losing and mishandling luggage.

In the first nine months of 2015, the Forth Worth-based carrier lost or mishandled 4.04 bags for every 1,000 passengers, compared with an average rate of 3.31 lost or mishandled bags for the country’s top 13 biggest airlines, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

But when American Airlines lost the luggage of Adrianne Haslet-Davis, it became big news. Haslet-Davis is a dancer who lost a leg during the Boston Marathon bombing. The misplaced luggage contained a prosthetic leg and other parts she uses to dance, valued at $250,000.

Haslet-Davis reported details of the mishap on Twitter. She didn’t give her travel itinerary but said the leg wouldn’t fit in her carry-on luggage.

When the bag was found last week, Haslet-Davis tweeted that her leg had taken an unexpected side trip:

“My leg really (loves) to travel! Just found out she took detour to Puerto Rico.”

©2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo:  REUTERS/Carlos Barria