Northwest Digest

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Jet flies off taxiway instead of runway

ANCHORAGE - Federal officials are investigating a report that an Asia-bound cargo jet took off from a taxiway at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport instead of its assigned runway.

The incident involved an MD-11 freight jet operated by Taiwan-based EVA Air.

On Nov. 5, the jet was cleared to fly from runway 32, which extends more than two miles from the airport terminal area toward Knik Arm, said Scott Erickson, a safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board in Anchorage.

The jet had originally been moving toward a different runway, but the air traffic control tower notified the EVA Air crew that runway 32 was available and gave permission to take off there, Erickson said.

The NTSB was notified that the jet turned in the correct direction, but went up the taxiway that runs parallel to the runway on its west side, Erickson said.

Runways are the broad concrete expanses where aircraft take off and land. Taxiways are the narrower access roads used by jets and planes to reach the runways for takeoff, or move to the terminal after landing.

No other aircraft was on the taxiway, and the EVA Air jet apparently flew to Taipei as planned, Erickson said.

This particular taxiway, designated "Y," is almost as long as the runway, according to an airport diagram.

"Any time you have an aircraft that doesn't follow the directions of the (air traffic) controller, it kind of puts a safety deficit in the system," Erickson said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

Lawsuits take issue with Canadian fishing

SEATTLE - Canadian fishing is severely cutting into salmon recovery efforts in the Pacific Northwest, according to two new federal lawsuits.

One lawsuit seeks to bar the import from Canada of any salmon protected by the Endangered Species Act, while the other would force the U.S. government to reconsider a biological opinion it wrote supporting the 1999 Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada.

Both lawsuits were filed Monday in U.S. District Court by the Salmon Spawning and Recovery Alliance, a collection of environmental and recreational groups from Washington and Oregon, as well as the Snohomish County Public Utility District. The lawsuits name the Commerce Department, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the State Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Interior Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service as defendants.

The lawsuits say that chinook salmon from Puget Sound rivers migrate north to Canadian and Alaska waters, then return to spawn in their native rivers. About 88 percent of the chinook salmon caught in the commercial troll fishery off the west coast of Canada's Vancouver Island are of U.S. origin, the lawsuits said, citing data from the Pacific Salmon Commission, which implements the salmon treaty.

Many of those fish are exported to the United States - despite Endangered Species Act rules forbidding the import or export of protected species, including certain salmon populations, the lawsuits said.

Bush backs breaking up 9th circuit court

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department is backing efforts by congressional Republicans to split up the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation's largest federal appeals court and the frequent source of anti-Bush administration rulings.

"The department believes that dividing the 9th Circuit would improve the administration of justice," Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella wrote in a letter released Tuesday by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., an advocate of breaking up the San Francisco-based circuit.

"The sheer size of the 9th Circuit has led to serious administrative difficulties that have adversely affected its ability to render justice efficiently," Moschella wrote.

The letter was addressed to House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who is pushing legislation to break up the circuit that covers nine Western states, arguing it's too big to be effective.

Opponents allege political motives by Republicans annoyed by the court's rulings, including a 2002 opinion that declared the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional when recited in public schools. The Bush administration had maintained the pledge is not an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

Sensenbrenner's legislation would create a 9th Circuit covering California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, and a new 12th Circuit covering Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Arizona. A Senate bill by Ensign and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would accomplish the same split.

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