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Aviation News Rundown: Ocala airport to open ATC tower

Quick-hitting news notes this morning in what should be a busy Friday for us here at GlobalAir.com (will post more about that later if time permits).

The big story coming into the day was the announcement yesterday of a committee to advise the federal Transportation Department in a concerted attempt to strengthen the economy within the aviation industry. Links are posted in the blog entry below this one. Other news tidbits:

- Aviation Week follows up on Chevron’s recent announcement that it will end the branding of its and Texaco fuels at 200 FBOs in 27 states by this fall.  Benet Wilson reports that many FBOs first learned of the move from other fuel providers trying to win them over.

- An ATC tower will open for business at the Ocala (Fla.) International Airport (OCF) on May 17. Controllers will direct traffic with visual observation.

- Russian Helicopters plans to roll out a fifth-generation helicopter for combat that would be invisible to radar and able to attack fighter jets. The company needs a government contract before it can move forward.

Finally, the AP reports that 9-year-old Ruben Van Assouw, survivor of the Airbus crash this week in Libya, may soon return home. His parents and brother are thought to be among the 103 killed. 

Airports and social media

Airlines give customer support and announce promotions on Twitter. Their presence on the micro-blogging social media site has won them great gains, as well as cost them a couple PR black eyes.

Take Southwest for example.

Its airfare promotions and other tidbits announced on the site have resulted in its Twitter account gaining more than 1 million followers. Whenever the company makes an announcement, each one of those followers hear about it directly.  That kind of promotion cannot be bought.

On the other hand, when movie director Kevin Smith ran into a seating snafu with the airline, it created a fair amount of backlash for the company as the spit hit the fan on Twitter.  With the highs, so come the lows.

Social media accelerates both gains and losses for companies who utilize services such as Facebook and Twitter.

InventorSpot.com looked at how social media benefits airports that use it, and how untapped potential in the industry still runs rampant.

It pointed to how Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP) offers online discounts that can be accessed via smart phone and presented to an airport retailer or restaurant for a discount.

The site then wonders how AirMall at Pittsburgh International (PIT), home of the highest grossing retail sites at a U.S. airport, would fare if it adopted a similar approach.

Read the complete article and its analysis here, and let us know in the comments how social media has affected your aviation business — or your experiences with aviation businesses — for better or worse.

Aviation News Rundown: Predator drones over Texas?

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The above video comes from a YouTube channel called National Business Series and, via Sterling Aviation, it highlights benefits of business aviation. Check it out.

- In the news today, the Texas border between the United States and Mexico could soon resemble the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, at least in one aspect.

Predator drones could deploy soon to monitor activity in the area. It is another effort to combat illegal immigration into the U.S., according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman. 

Though political figures have accused the FAA of foot dragging, a spokeswoman said the agency is working on approving a plan to allow the flights “as quickly as we can.”

The aircraft would be housed in a Naval base in Corpus Christ Christi.

- British firm Balli Aviation, Ltd., was recently fined $2 million by a U.S. Federal Court for illegally exporting a Boeing 747 into Iran.

Court documents contend that the company planned to bring three commercial jets into the country without a required export license.

- A recently published Harvard report outlines the steps needed to implement NexGen air traffic control nationwide.

Recommendations include a governance strategy to build support from pilots, controllers and travelers; leadership from government and commerce; placing incentives to speed up conversion; developing financing solutions; and creating an entity for risk management. Read the full report here.

- EAA Airventure will include a live auction this year, the first of its kind. To sign up to sell or buy a plane, or merely to get more info on the event, click the blue text here.

 

Sole survivors in airline crashes

Today’s crash in Libya was at least the third of its sort in the past few years to weave a small miracle into its largely tragic story.

A 10-year-old boy from the Netherlands was in good condition Wednesday in a Libyan hospital, aside from a few broken bones, and despite 103 other people around him perishing.

Last July, 14-year-old Bahia Bakari survived a Yemenia Airways crash in the Indian Ocean that killed 152 others as the weak swimmer clutched to a piece of wreckage in the choppy waters.

First officer James M. Polehinke survived a Comair CRJ-100 that crashed on takeoff in Lexington, Ky., in August 2006, killing 49. He was the only one to live through it.

All three share an improbable connection:  They are a sole survivor of a commercial aircraft crash.

In the past 40 years, 14 airliner crashes resulted in a single person surviving. In an overwhelming number of cases (about 75 percent), just as the three above, a child or crewmember was that fortunate soul.

Some speculate that the training of a staff member or the not-fully-developed skeleton or lighter weight of a young person may slightly increase the odds of survival. In the larger scope, though, it’s like changing a baseball game by throwing a blade of grass onto the field. So much is left to be determined by forces we do not understand.

Juliane Köpck, 17 years old at the time, survived more than a week on her own in the Peruvian jungle after being the only person to survive a 1971 crash. She routinely defied every astronomical improbability thrown her way.

It is important to note that all three of these recent incidents occurred near take-off or landing, as do the bulk of aircraft crashes.

However, Popular Mechanics not too long ago published a story explaining what one would need to do to survive a 35,000-foot fall from a jetliner in mid-cruise. The article’s conclusion: protect your head, try to land in a soft swamp or snowdrift and hope you are lucky.

The article cites the Aircraft Crashes Record Office in Geneva to conclude that of the 118,934 people to die in 15,463 plane crashes between 1940 and 2008, only 42 survivors made it through the experience alive after falling from a height over 10,000 feet.

Like many things, crash survival stories are mysteries. The latest chapter makes one wonder whether such events are random happenings. A compilation of sole-survivor crashes from the AP shows the rarity.

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