Alaska Airlines said it will equip its entire fleet with a crash-alert system from Honeywell International designed to help prevent collisions on runways and taxiways.

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Aviation

Alaska equips fleet with crash alerts

Alaska Airlines said it will equip its entire fleet with a crash-alert system from Honeywell International designed to help prevent collisions on runways and taxiways.

The unit of Seattle-based Alaska Air Group began installing the software on Boeing 737s in July and expects to have it in all planes by the end of this month, according to a statement Tuesday.

Alaska Airlines has a fleet of about 100 planes. The $20,000 software gives voice warnings identifying runways and taxiways as a pilot approaches, and even counts down distance to the end of the strip.

“Our pilots will be assured of an additional layer of safety while on the nation’s runways,” Gregg Saretsky, an executive vice president at the airline, said in the statement.

Honeywell started developing the system in 2003 and has installed it on planes for American Airlines and Emirates.

The program is an upgrade to a Honeywell system already used by Alaska Airlines that warns pilots if they’re flying too close to the ground or man-made structures.

Retail

Hermès joins Bravern roster

French fashion house Hermès plans to open a 2,100-square-foot store at the Bravern in downtown Bellevue next year.

Hermès will join Neiman Marcus, Jimmy Choo, Bottega Veneta and Louis Vuitton at the massive mixed-use development, expected to be completed next year.

The announcement Tuesday by Bravern developer Schnitzer West marks another step in its efforts to attract upscale retailers to the Eastside, despite a sputtering national economy. It also represents Hermès’ first foray into the Northwest.

The Paris retailer has stores in 19 U.S. cities, though none yet north of San Francisco on the West Coast.

Aviation

Defense audit agency faulted

In 2005 and 2006, the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) helped enable Boeing to recover about $270 million in losses from a failed commercial-satellite business, approving unorthodox accounting methods that allowed the company to receive the payments through an Air Force contract, according to testimony to be presented to a congressional panel today.

When DCAA auditors pointed out potential violations of federal acquisition regulations, they were repeatedly told by supervisors to ignore them, according to the testimony from whistle-blowers and a recent investigation by the Government Accountability Office.

“My office was directed by DCAA upper management to basically play along with this outrageous government bailout,” Paul Hackler, a supervising auditor at DCAA, said in prepared testimony obtained by The Washington Post.

Boeing spokesman Dan Beck said the company had not seen the testimony, and that the GAO’s July report on the DCAA faulted the agency, not Boeing.

An Air Force spokesman declined to comment.

Investment

Enron shareholders will share billions

A federal judge has approved a plan to distribute more than $7.2 billion recovered as part of a lawsuit by Enron shareholders and investors in connection with the company’s collapse.

U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon also approved $688 million in attorneys fees, the largest ever in a securities-fraud case.

About 1.5 million individuals and entities will be eligible to share in the distribution under the settlement plan. The plan was part of a $40 billion lawsuit claiming financial institutions participated in the accounting fraud that led to Enron’s downfall.

The $7.2 billion comes mostly from settlements made with such financial institutions as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup.

Biotechnology

University sues Amgen over patent

Amgen was sued by the University of Iowa over claims the arthritis drug Enbrel and the colon-cancer treatment Vectibix are made using a technique patented by the school.

The two patents in dispute cover tools to promote gene expression and the production of proteins used to make drugs.

The suit also names Amgen unit Immunex, the Seattle company that developed Enbrel before Amgen acquired it in 2002. Enbrel is the world’s fifth-best-selling drug and Amgen’s second-biggest seller.

Internet

Google to cut time it saves search data

Google halved the length of time it keeps users’ records to assuage privacy concerns.

Google will keep search data for nine months instead of the minimum 18-month period introduced last year, chief privacy lawyer Peter Fleischer said in a blog post.

Google now holds on to search records for less time than Yahoo and Microsoft, the second and third most used search sites.

The change is a victory for U.S. and European lawmakers who said search engines keep too much personal data with little oversight in how they use them.

Aviation

Airlines won’t trim fuel surcharges

Although oil prices have dropped over the past few weeks, U.S. airlines have no immediate plans to reduce fuel surcharges that they tack on to the price of a ticket.

Most carriers have imposed several increases in their fuel surcharges — they range up to $170 per round trip in the United States and more for international flights — on top of fare increases.

Fuel accounts for up to 40 percent of the budget at many of the airlines, topping labor as their biggest single cost.

Compiled from The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Seattle Times staff