No Word Yet From FAA Over Witchita AirTran Subsidy Issue

Jan. 30, 2006
The FAA found that giving AirTran millions in subsidies discriminates against other airlines serving Wichita.

The Federal Aviation Administration is still reviewing the city's response to an FAA preliminary finding on AirTran Airways subsidies.

The FAA found that giving AirTran millions in subsidies discriminates against other airlines serving Wichita.

The city defended its subsidy in a response to the FAA's claims last May.

Among other arguments, the city's letter to the FAA said that Wichita shouldn't have to subsidize Delta Air Lines because it had overcharged Wichita fliers for years.

Delta, which had asked for the same subsidy as AirTran, filed the discrimination complaint.

No decision has been made, said FAA spokeswoman Marcia Alexander-Adams.

The FAA makes grants to airports for development projects. To receive the funds, airports must agree to certain conditions, including an assurance that they won't discriminate among airlines.

There's also been no decision yet on whether Rubloff Development Group will move Ryan International Airlines Inc.' s headquarters out of Wichita, the company reports.

Rubloff, based in Rockford, Ill., bought Ryan International in 2004.

Rubloff has a "variety of companies spread out, so consolidation at some point is certainly in the realm" of possibilities, said Ryan president and chief executive Mike McCabe. "I think all options are still open."

This is Ryan's busy time of year, and "I think nothing in terms of moves is imminent," McCabe said.

The operations are going reasonably well, and "the customers are comfortable with how things are doing," McCabe added.

Ryan employs 128 people in Wichita.

An airplane mechanic was killed earlier this month when he was sucked into the jet engine of a Continental Airlines Boeing 737-500 at the El Paso International Airport as passengers were boarding a Houston-bound flight.

The engine is coming to GE Aviation Services at Strother Field. The facility performs overhaul, maintenance and repair work on General Electric engines.

GE spokeswoman Deb Case declined to release details of the work to be done. About 900 people work at the GE site near Arkansas City.

The 64-year-old mechanic, Donald Buchanan, was born and raised in Dighton, in western Kansas, the Associated Press said.

To improve aviation safety, the Transportation Security Administration should be phased out of performing passenger and baggage screening, said a study by the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based public policy think tank.

Instead, the TSA should set and enforce the rules and standards for those functions. But airports should hire their own screeners, with TSA oversight, or use TSA-certified contractors, the study said.

That removes the conflict of interest in the U.S. airport security system, with the TSA serving as regulator and provider.

The change "would give us better, more integrated security, with real accountability," said the study, called "Airport Security: Time for a New Model."

It also suggests separating passengers into three groups: low-risk, high-risk and ordinary. Low-risk travelers would undergo background checks, qualify for Registered Traveler status and receive expedited processing. High-risk passengers would receive mandatory body scans and explosive-detection inspection of checked and carry-on bags. "Ordinary" travelers would experience screening similar to current procedures.

A Bishop Carroll High School junior and winner of a high school "Be a Pilot" scholarship took his solo flight earlier this month.

Ryan Sageser took the flight at Col. James Jabara Airport. The scholarship was sponsored by Yingling Aircraft and Cessna Aircraft.

Sageser and two other finalists, Garrick Burford, a home-schooled senior, and Mike Staab, a Maize High School junior, have been taking flight lessons since October. To win, entrants had to complete an essay for high school students titled "Why Learning to Fly is Important to Me."

Wichita Eagle

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