Air traffic control

FAA Call-Out: Design a Sustainable Control Tower

Think you can design a cost-efficient, sustainable air traffic control tower?

The Federal Aviation Administration, (FAA) has more than 100 aging control towers at regional and municipal airports across the United States that will need to be replaced. So, the agency is launching a nationwide solicitation for a new design for control towers that can be built and operated sustainably.

The FAA points to the tower at Tucson International Airport (TUS) as an example of a sustainable tower building already in operation. The TUS tower is the first air traffic facility with net-zero energy consumption. It uses a 1,600-panel solar farm to generate power for all of its electrical needs. And it supplies unused power back to the grid. The solar farm also produces ice, which is stored in large containers and used to cool the building when solar panels are not generating electricity. 

You can read about the deadlines and the solicitation phases for the new tower RFP here.

But even if you’re not an architect or an engineer, note that the last time the FAA invited architectural firms to develop a modular design concept for new control towers it hired the company headed by then rising architect I.M. Pei. Several of the 16 Pei-designed towers—including at Chicago O’Hare, Sacramento, Madison, and Jacksonville international airports—are still operating.

Diversions, waivers following Asiana Airline crash at SFO Airport

Some airlines are offering waivers for passengers scheduled to fly to or from SFO, in light of the Asiana Airlines crash.

So far:

American Airlines

Delta Air Lines

Frontier Airlines

Jet Blue

Southwest Airlines

United Airlines

Virgin America

(More to come…)

Lots of flights diverted today to other airports due to the crash of an Asiana Airlines plane at SFO. Here’s a report sent out at 5:53 west coast time tonight on the flights diverted to Sea-Tac Airport: 

“In total we had six international diversions, all flights inbound to SFO diverted on their way. SEA recorded three domestic flight cancellations from SEA-SFO (two Virgin American, one United). With the reopening of runways at SFO, several are now on their way to their destination. For further details, check with the specific airlines.”

List of international diversions (note updates on some flight numbers):

British Air #285 from London, held at gate, now departed to SFO

Emirates #225  From Dubai, held at gate, now departed to SFO

United #902 from Frankfurt, flight cancelled, passengers accommodated overnight

United #927 from Frankfurt, diversion was scheduled to arrive at 6:30pm, but is now going to Portland. 

SwissAir #38 from Zurich, refueled and departed to SFO

Air France #84 from Paris, held at gate and departed to SFO

 For updates, see the SEA flight information page.

At Sacramento International Airport, spokesperson Rosemary Barnes reports that SJC received 25 diverted flights from SFO today, four of which where still planning to land this evening.  Two of these 25 flights were international; one each from GDL (Guadalajara) and PVR (Puerto Vallarta).

“All passengers have deplaned and were transported off-site through a number of methods, including coach buses chartered by some of our airlines.”

And, here’s a link to the FAA statement sent out Saturday evening in regard to this crash.








Two unscheduled landings; two different reasons

An Alaska Airlines plane flying from Los Angeles to Seattle with 116 passengers and five crew members on board had to make an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon Thursday night because the pilot lost consciousness.

According to an airline spokesperson, the co-pilot declared an emergency and landed Flight 473 safely.  Medical personnel  met the airplane on the runway and the pilot was taken to the hospital. The plane continued on later to Seattle with a new pilot. (A few more details here.)

The reason for the diversion of a JetBlue flight on Thursday night was a bit different: according to the Denver Post, JetBlue flight 185 from New York’s JFK airport on route to San Diego was diverted to Denver International Airport because of an unruly female passenger. The woman was escorted off the plane and met by police, but as of late Thursday night it was unknown if the woman was arrested.




Surprised by Santa at Munich Airport

While I’ve had my share of long waits,  I’ve thankfully never been one of those passengers held hostage for hours on end on a plane waiting to take off or deliver passengers at an airport

So, last night, when the captain of my Lufthansa flight on a small plane heading from Munich Airport to Geneva – a one hour trip – announced we’d be sitting on the ground for at least an hour because snow removal had closed two runways, I thought “OK, now it’s my turn to be stuck on an airport for ten hours.”

I wasn’t prepared.  Neither my cell phone nor my laptop was fully charged. For food, I had a bag of licorice I’d bought as a gift.  And my book was in the carry-on suitcase I’d stuffed into the overhead bin.

I stole a look at my seatmate and at the people around me.  Were there kids or babies bound to start crying; who was likely to be traveling with good food or snacks; and were these going to be interesting people to be held hostage with on an airplane?

Luckily, I didn’t have to find out.

Within minutes of the pilot announcing our delay, flight attendants appeared with water and juice and trays of white cloth bags, each with a jolly embroidered Santa Claus on the front.


Inside each bag was a mandarin orange, a cheese sandwich on dark bread, a package of good cookies and a tiny chocolate Santa.

“Classy,” I thought. “Definitely not the bag of pretzels passengers would be getting if they were stuck on an airplane in the U.S.”

I immediately ate the chocolate Santa and half the sandwich. Then, already thinking like an airplane hostage, I  carefully re-packaged my snacks for later.

I didn’t end up having to swap that orange for a sweater, something to read  or the use of a charged cell phone to call my family or the hotel. After about an hour and a half of sitting out there in the snow, we were indeed on our way.

Good job, Lufthansa and Munich Airport. And thank-you, Santa!




Reagan Airport: self-service landings?

Even more alarming than the video of Snoop Dogg and my furry friend Rico
is the audio of two American Airline pilots chatting with each other about the fact that there was apparently no one home in the air traffic control tower at Reagan Washington National Airport early Wednesday morning.

Here’s the audio from that the Washington Post put on its website this afternoon.


And here’s more information about what officials say did – and did not happen.

Sort of scary….