David Schaper | KBIA

David Schaper

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.

In this role, Schaper covers aviation and airlines, railroads, the trucking and freight industries, highways, transit, and new means of mobility such as ride hailing apps, car sharing, and shared bikes and scooters. In addition, he reports on important transportation safety issues, as well as the politics behind transportation and infrastructure policy and funding.

Since joining NPR in 2002, Schaper has covered some of the nation's most important news stories, including the Sandy Hook school shooting and other mass shootings, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, California wildfires, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and numerous other disasters. David has also reported on presidential campaigns in Iowa and elsewhere, on key races for U.S. Senate and House, governorships, and other offices in the Midwest, and he reported on the rise of Barack Obama from relative political obscurity in Chicago to the White House. Along the way, he's brought listeners and online readers many colorful stories about Chicago politics, including the corruption trials and convictions of two former Illinois governors.

But none of that compares to the joy of covering his beloved Chicago Cubs winning the World Series in 2016, and three Stanley Cup Championships for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, 2013, and 2015.

Prior to joining NPR, Schaper spent almost a decade working as an award-winning reporter and editor for WBEZ/Chicago Public Media, NPR's Member station in Chicago. For three years he covered education issues, reporting in-depth on the problems and progress — financial, educational and otherwise — in Chicago's public schools.

Schaper also served as WBEZ's Assistant Managing Editor of News, managing the station's daily news coverage and editing the reporting staff while often still reporting himself. He later served as WBEZ's political editor and reporter; he was a frequent fill-in news anchor and talk show host. Additionally, he has been an occasional contributor guest panelist on Chicago public television station WTTW's news program, Chicago Tonight.

Schaper began his journalism career in La Crosse, Wisconsin, as a reporter and anchor at Wisconsin Public Radio's WLSU-FM. He has since worked in both public and commercial radio news, including stints at WBBM NewsRadio in Chicago, WXRT-FM in Chicago, WDCB-FM in suburban Chicago, WUIS-FM in Springfield, Illinois, WMAY-AM in Springfield, Illinois, and WIZM-AM and FM in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Schaper earned a bachelor's degree in mass communications and history at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and a master's degree in public affairs reporting at the University of Illinois-Springfield. He lives in Chicago with his wife, a Chicago Public School teacher, and they have three adult children.

The devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the air travel industry is becoming clearer, as United Airlines announced on Wednesday that it may need to cut its U.S.-based workforce nearly in half when federal payroll funding runs out in October.

On Wednesday, the Chicago-based airline notified 36,000 employees, about 45% of the company's domestic employees, that they may lose their jobs on or after Oct. 1, the earliest date that airlines that received government-funded payroll grants can eliminate jobs under the terms of the CARES Act.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

More than 15 months after grounding Boeing's 737 Max, the Federal Aviation Administration conducted the first in a series of certification test flights of the aircraft Monday, a pivotal step toward allowing the troubled plane to return to service.

The news sent Boeing's stock soaring, as the aerospace giant's share price climbed more than 14% on Monday. The 737 Max is the company's best-selling commercial jet ever. Nearly 5,000 of the planes were on back-order at the time the plane was grounded last March.

The Federal Aviation Administration is facing bipartisan outrage. Senators from both parties accuse the agency of "stonewalling" congressional investigators and keeping them "in the dark" in their effort to examine what went wrong in certifying Boeing's troubled 737 Max airplane.

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Police in Minneapolis will be forbidden to use chokeholds and neck restraints under reforms negotiated by city and state authorities.

In an emergency vote Friday, the Minneapolis City Council approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which opened a civil rights investigation this week into the city's police department in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

Updated 2:25 p.m. ET

Protesters staged large-scale demonstrations across the country on Sunday, expressing outrage at the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and, more broadly, anger at police brutality. Some cities, including Minneapolis, Atlanta and Louisville, saw clashes with police, buildings and cars set afire, and looting.

Updated at 8:40 p.m. ET

Boeing is cutting more than 12,000 jobs as the Chicago-based airplane manufacturer copes with the sudden drop in air travel demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The summer travel season is kicking off this year with more uncertainty than any time in recent memory. The coronavirus pandemic has led millions of people to cancel vacation and travel plans. Airlines have lost billions of dollars in revenue, flying nearly empty planes and canceling tens of thousands of flights.

Amid a huge increase in consumer complaints, the federal government is once again reminding airlines of their obligation to offer customers refunds for canceled flights. At the same time, regulators say they will provide airlines some relief from a requirement that carriers continue flying into cities where demand for air travel is close to nonexistent.

In recent years, airlines have been cramming more seats onto planes and squishing passengers ever closer to one another. The entire airport experience isn't much better, with overcrowded eateries and bookshops, as well as tightly packed lines of people queuing up at check-in counters, at security checkpoints and on the jet bridge for boarding.

But that's not the case anymore.

"Airports are empty. The flights are empty," said physician Frank Garcini after stepping off a recent flight from Phoenix at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

Amtrak is the latest transportation provider to require all passengers to wear facial coverings or masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, beginning Monday.

The intercity passenger rail agency joins most of the nation's passenger airlines and many public transit systems in requiring coverings or face masks on passengers.

Two more airlines are reporting staggering losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. American Airlines announced Thursday that because of a sharp decline in air travel, the company lost more than $2.2 billion in the first quarter of 2020. United Airlines reported a $1.7 billion loss for the quarter.

On a day the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy shrank 4.8% in the first quarter, ending a record long expansion, a company that usually represents American economic might has bad news, as well.

Boeing reported a $641 million loss for the first quarter and announced it will be cutting back airplane production and eliminating thousands of jobs.

The aerospace giant will reduce the size of its global workforce by 10%, eliminating about 16,000 jobs as the company adjusts to nearly nonexistent demand for air travel in the wake of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

In the midst of Chicago's brutal January cold and knowing that March brings its own kind of misery to the Midwest, Mary Fabianski made plans to spend a week in early spring on Florida's beaches with family.

She booked a flight to Sarasota on United Airlines for $488 round trip on Jan. 22, before the pandemic started affecting travel in the U.S. But as it got closer to her March 29 travel date, Fabianski suspected the trip might not happen. Still, she didn't cancel her plans right away.

United did that for her on March 26.

Boeing will start reopening its airplane manufacturing plants in Washington state next week, bringing 27,000 employees back to work under new safety protocols, the company said, even though customers are deferring and canceling orders for new planes.

Airlines are again pleading for government assistance, only this time, they want a break from some federal regulations instead of financial aid.

A global industry group warns that many of the world's airlines are running out of money and on the brink of financial collapse and therefore they cannot afford to give customers refunds for canceled flights.

Regulations in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere require airlines to fully refund fares paid by customers when the airline cancels their flight.

Airlines are slashing service, canceling hundreds of flights a day as the number of people traveling on planes plummets. And the numbers from just the past month are stark. The TSA screened only 146,000 people at airport security checkpoints across the country on March 31, down 93.5% from the almost 2.3 million screened on March 1.

Arriving at Reagan National Airport in Washington on Tuesday for a flight to Newark, N.J., Greg Weinman expected to see at least a few other people. Instead, "It's empty. It was eerily quiet. There was nobody in the security line," he says.

Updated 3:14 p.m. ET

A pretty big chunk of the $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package will go to the commercial aviation industry; most notably, the airlines, airports and airplane manufacturer Boeing.

Ethiopian investigators said a flawed flight control system triggered by faulty sensor data, is at least partly to blame for last year's crash of a 737 Max airplane operated by Ethiopian Airlines. All 157 people on board were killed.

Authorities in Ethiopia also said training on the Max planes provided by Boeing "was found to be inadequate" adding that the flight control system, known as MCAS, was activated four times as pilots struggled mightily to regain control of the plane before the crash.

Across the country and around the world, flights are being canceled, trade shows are being called off and businesses are cutting back on employee travel — all because of fears related to the spread of the new coronavirus.

The sudden and unforeseen slowdown could cost the travel industry billions of dollars.

Updated at 11 a.m. ET

As he moves into the chief executive's suite in Boeing's 36-story world headquarters building in downtown Chicago today, David Calhoun will find he has monumental tasks ahead of him.

The aerospace giant is still reeling from the fallout of two 737 Max jetliner crashes — in Indonesia in October 2018 and in Ethiopia last March — that killed a total of 346 people.

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One year to the day after first of two horrific crashes of its bestselling 737 Max commercial jet, Boeing's CEO finally took public questions this past week about whether the company downplayed safety concerns, hid design flaws from regulators and tried to cover up its mistakes and missteps. CEO Dennis Muilenburg endured close to nine hours of often intense grilling over two days of congressional hearings on Boeing's role in the 737 Max crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, with some victims' family members in attendance.

Dennis Muilenburg, the president and CEO of Boeing, appeared before a Senate panel Tuesday where he was peppered with questions regarding a pair of crashes of 737 Max jets and was asked if the company purposefully hid sensitive information about flaws in its onboard flight system from regulators.

Sounding like a huge swarm of angry bees or maybe a hedge trimmer on steroids, a small quadcopter lifts up off of a landing pad in front of the main hospital building on the WakeMed campus in Raleigh, N.C. Underneath it is a metal box — smaller than a shoebox — with vials of blood samples inside of it that are now heading across the campus to the lab for analysis, guided by a drone operator on the ground.

It's not a long trip.

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Westbound traffic on many Chicago streets came to a stop between 6:40 and 6:50 p.m. Central Time on Monday as drivers snapped pictures over dashboards, passengers with smartphones in hand leaned out of windows, and pedestrians set up tripods in the middle of some busy roadways — all so they could capture the incredible image of a burnt orange sun setting exquisitely framed by a canyon of skyscrapers.

Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET

With American Airlines joining United in pulling 737 Max planes from their schedules and cancelling flights into early November, many travel industry observers are bracing for the next shoe to drop: higher priced fares and cancelled flights for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays season.

American Airlines announced Monday it is pulling the 737 Max from its schedule through Nov. 2, canceling about 115 flights per day. American reported last week that the Max grounding has already cost the airline $185 million in lost revenue.

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