ALTERNATIVES TO COMMERCIAL AIR TRAVEL

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The latest bad news from the airport is that the TSA folks have now been caught doing, what we all know they have been doing for some time, and that of course, is stealing computers, watches, wallets etc., from the passengers. I have frequently challenged the TSA reps regarding the security of my very important personal items and was invariably was rudely told “not to worry about it.” It is very clear that the opportunity for theft in the chaos at the checkpoint is extremely high, yet there are no firm procedures to prevent this theft.

The first and best solution to this problem, if you don’t already own your own airplane, is the wide-open world of on-demand jet charter. Drive your vehicle directly to the airport, out onto the tarmac, watch the ramp personnel load your bags in the aircraft baggage compartment, enter the aircraft, and be airborne 10 minutes later, while sipping some Dom Perignom champagne and nibbling on lobster tail. There is of course a small caveat that comes with being a jet- setter: It will be many thousands of dollars to go on a relatively short flight. If you fill the airplane up with traveling passengers the cost is still more than a first-class ticket, but in most instances the convenience will justify it.

If you can’t afford the jet, it is possible to charter a smaller propeller driven airplane at perhaps less than half the tariff of the jet. Needless to say there are downsides: It will likely be noisier and you’ll fly lower and slower which usually results in more turbulence; you will be flying with less experienced pilots, thus diminishing the safety factor. The aircraft maintenance is likely to be poorer than airline standards and the pilots are more likely to be fatigued. The rate of fatal accidents in on-demand small airplane charter is extremely high, but, it is infinitely safer than battling the 18-wheel “semis” on the interstate.

Now we will take this transportation equation to a much higher level. There are numerous aviation entrepreneurial people who are designing automobiles that fly, or if you prefer, airplanes that can be driven down the road. Furthermore, the ICON amphibious air machine is getting very close to production (http://www.iconaircraft.com/). This fun little bird allows you to tie it up at your dock, take off down the lake, and land on nearly any hard surface runway, other than the major hub airports, as well as a lake. Of equal importance is the fact that it can burn standard auto gas (nearly half the price of avgas) at an extraordinarily low rate of 4 gallons an hour while you cross the terra firma at 110 miles an hour.

At this year’s EAA Air Adventure extravaganza at Oshkosh, Wisconsin the Terrrafugia was a highlight. It was not just a static display, it actually flew. This aptly named transportation device appears to be the real deal. This roadable airplane is gaining some traction (http://www.terrafugia.com/) The Switchblade (http://goo.gl/HNh6cJ0) is another air/highway machine-in-the-making that has some viability. Two years ago I flew the above-mentioned ICON simulator at the Oshkosh Air Show and became infatuated with the ICON; an amphibious flying critter, it is getting close to production. If you live on the water it is the ultimate “boy-toy.” The Flintstones/Jetson family’s flying car is now out of the realm of fantasy. One can also consider getting from A to B with their jetpack. Hooray for creative, entrepreneurial engineers—and their financiers. Roadable airplanes will soon be as ubiquitous as drones.

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris, aka Ace Abbott, a retired commercial pilot, and aviation author; The Rogue Aviator (www.therogueaviator.com) and Dead Tired (http://www.deadtiredpilots.com/). The “Ace Abbott Aviation Affair” talk show is available at http://webtalkradio.net/

PRVATE JETS-JUSTIFIABLE DECADENCE

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As every aspect of commercial aviation travel seems to deteriorate, it is now time to consider the options. The first and easiest option is to jump into the road machine, wind the Maserati up to about 85 mph, set cruise control, and tune into XM on the Bose sound system, while avoiding screaming kids and undesirable seat companions (applicable for trips less than 400 miles).

The alternative mode for longer distance travel is to “just take the jet.”

“Taking the jet,” terminology was derived from my eight years as a Learjet jet charter pilot who also flew the rich and famous in their own personal Learjet. All of the onerous inconveniences, irritants, etc., that all commercial jet travelers are familiar with are erased. You will drive your car through the gate at the FBO (private jet terminal) and park next to your aircraft. The “ramp rats,” as they are affectionately referred to, will be very happy with the 20 dollar tip that they received for this task. You will then climb in the airplane that is supplied with current newspapers magazines, gourmet edible delicacies, and fine quality alcoholic drinks, just to mention a few of the amenities.

Yes there is a catch! You must bring a big bag of cash or a healthy platinum American Express card. If it is necessary to take out a second mortgage or home equity loan, it will be well worth the investment. A typical private jet flight that would serve eight passengers from New York to Miami would exceed $10,000. But, as the old saying goes, “if you have to ask how much, you probably can’t afford it.” Keep in mind there are options: a smaller turboprop or reciprocating propeller driven aircraft could be chartered at a much lesser tariff.

Nearly every small airport will have airplanes for charter— sometimes they can provide even single-engine aircraft at a relatively reasonable price. However, if you’re going very far, the extra money will get you there in rock star luxury and you will want to “take the jet,” or at least the turboprop. The largest jet charter company in the U.S. is NetJets. It is a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire-Hathaway. It is extremely well-run and probably the safest charter operator in the country. If you want to go with the A-team simply Google NetJets or call 877-538-4458.
There are many other viable jet charter services and a few of them are listed below:
1. Air Charter Service, Inc.; 516-432-5901
2. Flight Options; 877-703-2348
3. AvJet; 818-841-6190
4. Hop-A-Jet; 954-771-5779
5. Presidential; 888-772-8622
6. Luxury Air Jets; 646-397-5387
7. Jet Partners; 866-235-2852
8. Prive Jets; 866-967-7483
9. Executive Jet Management; 877-356-5387
10. Blue Star Jets; 866-JET-TIME
11. Piaggio Avanti (Evo Jets); 877-970-5387

This represents a few of the jet charter options, but there are many more. A Google search for any of the above named charters will take you to a page that will provide an immediate quote for your suggested flight or flights. Warning! Traveling on your own private jet may be addictive.

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris, a retired commercial pilot, who spent most of the 70s decade as a Learjet charter pilot. His jaw-dropping stories are available by reading The Rogue Aviator (In the Back Alleys of Aviation) written by Ace Abbott (pen name) http://therogueaviator.com/

THE DRONE DRAMA INTENSIFIES

The issue of U.S combat drones wreaking havoc has finally emerged to the front-and-center status, as it should have been long before now. The recently released information that four American citizens had been killed by drones operated by the U.S. government got the media wheels turning to the point where President Obama immediately stepped forward to attempt to put out this brush fire that had rapidly grown to a raging inferno. He has been acting as judge,jury, and executioner of these potential war crimes of murdering people based on circumstantial evidence.

He hosted a press conference to address this subject and a heckler interrupted his speech with some vociferous anti-drone proclamations and her protest continued as she was being forcibly removed from the area. Most uniquely, President Obama was able to hear the entirety of her rant, as did the rest of the world, since several microphones recorded her verbiage. Barack Obama was so taken aback, that he made the statement; “You know, we need to listen to her.” This, possibly unprecedented Presidential response, was very appropriate.

The protester was a recently published author by the name of Medea Benjamin and her book is titled, Drone Warfare. It is a very insightful and well researched discussion of the use of drones by the U.S. It is very critical of the use of U.S. drones in the Middle East. It points out that much of the populace of several Muslim countries is traumatized by the drones. They have witnessed innocent civilians, including women and children, being killed or maimed, and they live in constant fear of these ubiquitous UAVs flying overhead. The obvious consideration is: Will the blowback from these often un-justified killings be more powerful than the possible counter-insurgency that they purport to effectuate? Furthermore, will the Sunday talk shows and
“mainstream media” discuss this issue? Perhaps, but in a very perfunctory manner.

President Obama’s speech was a breakthrough moment in that he presents an arguement that we must be more prudent with our use of military drones and he would use his leadership to bring about this proposed reduction in the use of U.S. Miltary and CIA drone attacks in the Middle East. It is likely that the ill will and animosity towards the United States as a result of these illegal and immoral murders is deeply imbedded in the psyche of the surviving family and friends of the victims. Journalists have reported that much of the populace in areas of drone attacks are shell-shocked with severe PTSD symptoms.

For additional discussion on the subject of drones please refer to a recent interview with a veteran pilot and drone expert by listening to the Ace Abbott Aviation Affair at http://webtalkradio.net/internet-talk-radio/ace-abbotts-aviation-affair/.

This blog is prepared by retired commercial pilot, Allen Morris/aka Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator (http://therogueaviator.com/) and Dead Tired (http://www.deadtiredpilots.com/).

SOLAR IMPULSE: WILL SOLAR POWERED AVIATION FLOURISH?

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The airplane with the moniker Solar Impulse left Moffett Field near San Francisco last Friday en route to Phoenix, Arizona. Will this be the first flight on a rapidly accelerating scientific adventure of solar powered aviation? Perhaps it will, but it is not very likely. This inaugural flight is the first leg of a planned cross country flight that will end up at Dulles International Airport after stops at DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth), STL (Lambert St. Louis International Airport), and thence on to Dulles. Each destination will provide a static display for those folks that want to witness this aviation anomaly, and identify themselves with this first-ever across-the-US, solar powered flight.
In interesting statistic relating to the inaugural flight from SFO to PHX is that the flight time was 19 hours (Its normal cuise speed is 40 miles per hour). Just a little shorter time frame than it took the enthusiastic soon-to-be gold digging pan handlers, also referred to as 49ers, to travel the same distance across the Rockies to San Francisco. It is believed that the Solar Impulse took a very circuitous route from SFO to PHX, and perhaps they took some time for a full viewing of the Grand Canyon. Based on the first flights total time it will take in the vicinity of 100 hours total flight time to get this monstrosity of an air machine all the way to Washington DC (Dulles).
If you have not seen it, the solar impulse has a wingspan of 208 feet, approximately that of Boeing 747. A Boeing 747 can carry as many as 500 people and the Solar Impulse can carry one person. Although the Solar Impulse will burn no fossil fuel during its flight, the ground handling functions to support it will likely burn a very large amount of gas or diesel fuel.
The lead character in this radical Odyssey is a Swiss psychiatrist and Aeronaut by the name of Bertrand Piccard. He has very aptly stated that the flights of the Solar Impulse will not pave the way for a future of solar powered flight. He states that he is hopeful it will provide more impetus and awareness of solar power for non-aviation purposes. Anyone who is not been living in a cave in recent decades is aware that greatly expanded use of solar power is an absolute must-do. Now we must convince the Luddite-like United States Senators and Congressmen that weaning ourselves from fossil fuels is critical for the future of our children and grandchildren’s survival.
This blog is written by a retired commercial pilot and aviation author, Ace Abbott. His books can be accessed at http://www.therogueaviator.com/ and his aviation talk show is available at http://webtalkradio.net/

IMPENDING PILOT SHORTAGE: MYTH OR REALITY?

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For several decades young aspiring professional pilots have been tantalized by the aviation oracles, as they were continually told that a pilot shortage is just around the corner. Once again, the impending pilot shortage discussion is intensifying. This time it could be for real. However, the next question is: are the young potential aviators listening or do they care? After a couple decades or more of pilot pay and benefits diminishing while training cost increased, far fewer young people are electing to commit to a career as a professional pilot.
Spending up to $200,000 for the required aviation credentials to be hired by an airline for a starting salary of $22,000 a year is not very enticing. Worse yet, the rookie pilot might be condemned to a job as a banner tow pilot, a pipeline surveillance pilot, or perhaps become caught in the ugly web of being a night freight pilot (often referred to as a “freight dog”). The lifestyle of a freight dog can be researched by reading, The Rogue Aviator; (http://www.therogueaviator.com/). While the brass ring is still there on the horizon it will only be grabbed by the more fortunate few. For every professional pilot making $200,000 a year, there are 10 professional pilots making less than $60,000 per year.
After the horrific crash of Continental flight 3407 operated by Colgan air in Buffalo, New York, a congressional subcommittee on aviation safety was immediately implemented. Everyone’s favorite pilot, Sully Sullenberger was in attendance. When asked what needed to be done to enhance commercial airline safety, Captain Sully of Hudson River fame, pulled no punches. He stated unequivocally that paying the pilots an honest salary was a critical element towards the long-term safety factor. Four years later, entry-level pilot salaries, and all too often salaries of more experienced pilots, remain embarrassingly low. “This too, shall pass.”
Now to the good news! This upcoming pilot shortage is for real. In August of this year, the FAA has mandated, with a few caveats, that airline pilots must have a minimum of 1500 hours total time and an Airline Transport Pilot rating to work for a FAR 121 (airline parameters) aviation company. Currently, the minimum requirement is 250 hours. On January 14, 2014 the long-overdue revised duty and flight time limitations for commercial pilots will take effect. The more restrictive limitations will require the airlines to hire more pilots.
The equally critical factor in this equation is that the inordinate number of airline pilots that will be forced into retirement by the age 65 rule, will open many doors for new hire pilots. Furthermore, corporate aviation is booming and those jobs with companies such as NetJets, Marquis Jet, etc. are becoming quite desirable for the professional pilot. Overseas pilot jobs, particularly in China, will be extremely plentiful. The pilot shortage will drive salaries skyward. Everything is cyclical and this current down cycle for the pilot community is destined to improve significantly. I will also state—after a 36 year aviation career that took me to 44 countries with 25 employer changes—that an aviation career can be an exciting Odyssey. Take your pilot passion and create for yourself an adventuresome career.

Masters Week: Private Jets Congest Tarmac At Augusta Airports

IMG_0001Sunday at the Masters results in a few billion dollars of corporate Jets parked at the Augusta, Georgia airports. Many of these “corporate tools” will be owned, leased or chartered by men who play golf and earn a large income doing so. Many of them will be owned, leased or chartered by men who enjoy golf, but will became hyper-wealthy the old-fashioned way— that would of course be very lucrative entrepreneurial activity. Some of these people will be referred to as “Banksters.”
The tarmacs at Augusta’s Bush Regional Airport and Daniel field will be congested with aircraft referred to by the corporate pilots as “big iron”. Phil Mickelson, for instance, enjoys his air travel in a Gulfstream V luxury jet that can have a price tag of 40 million dollars; Tiger Woods will be leaving today in his newer model Gulfstream 550, the same one that his ex-wife Elin used to ride in. Currently Lindsey Vonn is a favored passenger. It should be noted that she is “walking-the-ropes” at Augusta National golf course amongst the teaming masses of humanity.
Back to business! These mega-million airplanes are business tools and there are at least 10 other PGA pros that either have their own airplane or engage in the “fractional jet” practice of investing in a small percentage ownership for very restricted use. The wiser choice for most of the golfers is chartering from NetJets, Marquis Jets, and many of the other jet charter operators. Eli Flint of Flight Operations, LLC stated that they have doubled their flights from 2009 and their charters to Augusta for the masters have increased by 50% since 2010. As commercial air travel continues to deteriorate, the use of private Jets will proliferate.
Forty years ago I flew Jack Nicklaus to Augusta for the Masters in a chartered Learjet. In today’s two-tiered economy, if you have to ride around in a Learjet, you are looked upon as “FBO trash.” For nearly a decade of my aviation career I flew the rich and famous and it became very clear to me that if you can afford private jet travel, you will never go to the commercial terminal. Carbon footprint be damned, I’m going to take the jet!
This blog is prepared by aviation author Ace Abbott; http://www.therogueaviator.com, http://www.deadtiredpilots.com, will take you to his books. A visit to http://webtalkradio.net/ will allow you to listen to his aviation talk show.

AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447 PILOTS WERE “DEAD TIRED”

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ANOTHER TOO-SHORT LAY-OVER

ANOTHER TOO-SHORT LAY-OVER

On June 1, 2009 Air France Flight # 447, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in airspace located approximately 400 miles north of the northwest corner of Brazil, inexplicably crashed in the ocean. It was somewhat inexplicable at the time, but eventually the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder were recovered from the floor of the ocean. These two devices, when reviewed, analyzed, and evaluated presented a despicably ugly picture. It revealed a scenario that was very similar to the highly publicized and equally ugly Continental (Colgan Air) flight 3407 crash on approach into Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground
The commonalities in these two aircraft crashes are uncannily similar. The pilots of Continental Flight 3407 were extremely tired and in a state of advanced sleep deprivation. They were also relatively inexperienced and poorly trained. These factors resulted in a breaking of the chain of elements that result in a successful flight. The pilots of Air France flight 447 were equally handicapped. The initial information released by the BAE (A European aviation investigation organization) and Air France indicated a very minor abnormality on the flight deck that related to an iced pitot tube resulting in erroneous airspeed. Unfortunately, as is the case in all too many aviation accidents, this was a recurring problem that had been identified by both Airbus manufacturing the aircraft and Air France, the operator of aircraft. It had, however, not been given the priority that it shouldn’t been given.
The NTSB, after sifting through the ashes of Continental #3407, determined that improper manipulation of the flight controls, along with a counterproductive retraction of the flaps by the copilot, was the cause of this accident. They also cited poor or inadequate training. Flight crew experience, particularly in this new aircraft, the Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 also played a small role. Neither pilot of this aircraft had had adequate rest in the previous 30 hours. While this was, subjectively, but unquantifiable, the primary precursor, it was only mentioned as a contributing factor. A significant sidebar to this accident is the fact that the last six fatal domestic accidents with the US domestic air carriers involved regional carriers, or, as they are more commonly referred to, “commuters.” Four of these six accidents occurred when tired pilots in the cockpit were entrapped in an excessively long duty period.
Nearly five years after the Air France Flight 447 accident, it was just recently revealed that the pilots assigned to this flight were also extremely tired. The captain had stated that he had only one hour of sleep during the previous rest period and his relatively inexperienced copilots—this was an augmented crew with one extra pilot—also were extremely tired when they began their projected long duty period (13 hours). As was the case with Continental # 3407, the Air France pilots were relatively inexperienced, but more importantly, they had no experience flying the Airbus 330 at high-altitude. The two pilots on the flight deck severely over controlled the aircraft and it entered into a deep stall. The airplane plummeted tail first, with the nose high pitch attitude of 35°, and engines at full power. It plummeted 38,000 feet to the ocean surface in three minutes and 30 seconds. The aircraft splattered into the water and 216 passengers and 12 flight crew members were killed instantly. A sadder chapter is that the pilots, and most likely all of the passengers and cabin attendants, were fully aware that the airplane was out of control and would soon be crashing. That awareness that your life will be soon coming to a very abrupt end, will most certainly create an unparalleled state of horror and emotional turmoil.
These two accidents when evaluated by the NTSB, the FAA, and the BAE in the many pilots who have read and reviewed the accident information leave those aviation oriented folks in a state of disgust. Why had the Air France pilots never been trained to fly their aircraft and cruise altitude? Like Capt. Marvin Renslow of Colgan air infamy, the two pilots on the flight deck of AF 447 flew the airplane into a deep stall and maintained that catastrophe-inducing pitch attitude. In the AF 447 flight the captain arose from his designated nap, rushed to the cockpit—actually there was a significant delay—and stood on the flight deck repeating the mantra from the two seated copilots, “What’s going on here; what’s happening.” Continental # 3407 had two tired, poorly trained, inexperienced pilots in the cockpit. AF # 447 had three pilots in the cockpit. They were somewhat more experienced and perhaps better trained, but they all experienced the common thread of diminished performance capability as a result of sleep deprivation.
For additional information relating to the problem of tired pilots in the cockpit, you can listen to my recent interview at http://webtalkradio.net/ by clicking on HOST and Ace Abbott’s Aviation Affair. The book, Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer is available at http://www.deadtiredpilots.com/
This blog is prepared by Allen Morris, a.k.a. Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator: In the Back Alleys of Aviation (http://www.therogueaviator.com/) and the above mentioned “Dead Tired”