Bob Hope adds air traffic controller

Bob Hope Airport just got another air traffic controller for precisely the time when it sees a slowdown in takeoffs and landings.

On April 13, in the wake of a scandal in which several air traffic controllers at other airports fell asleep when they should have been guiding planes to safety, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered a second air controller to work the graveyard shift at all towers staffed by a single night controller. The rule affects 27 airports, including Bob Hope.

Air controller night shifts are from 10:15 p.m. to 6:15 a.m., according to the FAA, which operates control towers. At Bob Hope Airport, commercial airlines abide by a voluntary curfew from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Airport spokesman Victor Gill said that in 2010, Bob Hope Airport had 7,699 landings or takeoffs during the commercial curfew hours. Of those, 4,270 were cargo flights, and 2,603 involved private or corporate general aviation planes, neither of which are subject to the curfew. Another 826 flights involved commercial craft that landed or departed within the curfew hours because of flight delays.

That averages out to 21 flights per curfew period, or about 2.3 per hour.

At the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority meeting on April 18, Executive Director Dan Feger said he believes the FAA is beginning a sustained push to increase safety measures at all airports.

He said he is “not aware of any sleeping controllers” at Bob Hope, but said there is no disadvantage to the new policy.

“We’re encouraged by the actions of the administration,” he said.

Sherman takes stance against Iran

Rep. Brad Sherman (D- Sherman Oaks) has joined Republican colleague Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in asking the State Department to end a program allowing U.S. companies to help repair airplanes owned by Iran.

The U.S. has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since the hostage crisis in 1979, and in recent years imposed sanctions because of Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Sherman said that 15 Boeing planes sold to Iran in the 1970s — when the shah was in power and the two nations were on better terms — contain parts that the FAA in 2010 determined are unsafe.

Current sanctions permit Boeing or other firms to seek federal waivers to do the repairs. But Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Sherman say the Iranian planes are used at times to transport weapons to terrorist groups or to help suppress popular democratic movements.

“There is no reason we should be helping the Iranians keep these planes in the air,” Sherman said in a statement. “Our message should be: these planes are unsafe, they should be grounded, and they should remain grounded until Tehran grounds its nuclear weapons program.”

This week, Sherman also reintroduced the Stop Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program Act. The measure, first proposed last year, would tighten prohibitions against U.S. companies or their foreign subsidiaries conducting business with Iran and would impose penalties on firms that pre-pay for future deliveries of Iranian oil or gas.

Schiff still working on interrogation bill

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) hasn’t convinced lawmakers to change the rules for interrogating terror suspects, but the FBI recently adopted an internal policy similar to a measure the congressman proposed last year.

Schiff wants federal investigators to have up to 48 hours to question terror suspects before they receive Miranda warnings. Current law allows investigators to hold suspects without the warnings for six hours. Schiff’s idea is to maximize the information that agents can gather while still honoring protections for criminal defendants.

Schiff’s 2010 bill went nowhere, but in December the FBI adopted similar rules in an internal memo to agents, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Schiff said the FBI policy is not enough without supporting legislation, since a federal judge must sign off on extended interrogations. The former federal prosecutor said he plans to revive his legislation soon, and that Congress must act before the next terror suspect is arrested on American soil.

In 2009, the Christmas Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, was issued a Miranda warning after less than an hour, setting off a contentious debate about the use of the warnings, civilian courts and military tribunals in terror cases.

“I hope I can thread the needle between some conservative friends who never want the criminal justice system used in terrorism cases … and my more progressive colleagues who don’t want to give the government any more authority to detain,” Schiff said.

Huff legislation targets invasive mussels

A bill from state Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) to fight invasive mussels in California unanimously passed its first test in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water last week.

Quagga and zebra mussels originated in Eastern Europe and began appearing in the Western United States in 2007. The mussels crowd out native species, clog water intake pipes and colonize the hulls of boats, according to Huff, whose district includes part of Montrose.

The mussels have been found throughout the Colorado River aqueduct system, which serves Southern California, and in reservoirs and waterways in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Imperial counties. They have no natural enemies in California, other than the California Department of Fish & Game.

The agency oversees inspections of private boats on California lakes and requires drinking water suppliers to take steps to eliminate the mussels. Huff’s measure extends the effort, which would have expired in 2012, through 2017.

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