Monthly Archives: May 2012

CARGO PILOTS NEED REST- FAA DISAGREES!

After a few decades of delay, and despite strong urging from the NTSB, the National Safety Council, pilot unions , and any other group or agency that is concerned about aviation, the FAA has capitalized on three years of study and decades of sleep-deprivation research and have reached the following conclusion: Pilots that fly passengers for hire under the stringent rules of FAR 121 which governs all  of the operating parameters for airlines along with the commuter airlines, must have their flight and duty times decreased in order to enhance aviation safety and reduce the increased probability of a tired pilot crashing an airplane. We all remember the Continental flight 3407 (operated by Colgan Air) that crashed in Buffalo, New York with two “dead-tired” pilots at the controls.

There is, however, an interesting caveat relating to this new aviation safety-enhancing legislation, and that is, very simply: cargo-carrying airlines, (such as Fed-Ex or UPS) are exempt from the new rules. The next immediate question is: Do cargo pilots require less sleep than passenger pilots? Of course not, but money and politics have once again trumped aviation safety. We all remember the 1970s Harvard Business School mantra of “maximum utilization of human resources.” This is one more example of that axiom being employed at the expense of aviation safety. An interesting addition to this travesty is that a little research into aviation accident investigations will reveal that far more cargo airplanes are involved in accidents and incidents than passenger carrying airplanes. The cargo “freight-dog” pilots who often operate on the “back-side” of the clock and have their fatigue factor intensified by circadian rhythm dysfunction.

As one might expect, the cargo pilots and their unions have very wisely jumped into this fray and are now filing lawsuits to eliminate this severely mis-guided shortsightedness by the FAA. In December, 2011 The Independent Pilots Association (IPA) that represent 2,700 pilots who fly for UPS, filed a petition asking the federal appeals court to review the rules.

The FAA very recently decided to review the rules after stating that it made “errors” in cost calculations used to justify the exemption. That is a glaring example of a confession of a decision that was made regarding aviation safety that once again placed corporate profits ahead of the possible consequences of a Boeing 747 filled with cargo, (perhaps hazardous material) flown by tired pilots that crashes into the hospital. If there was ever high-level government officials left with “egg-on-their-face” this is a high-level glaring example. 

This blog was prepared by Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator (www.therogueaviator.com)  

           

A SUPER STAR AVIATRIX HAS LEFT US

Marylee at the 727 flight engineer’s panel

Aviation World Mourns Loss of Evelyn Bryan Johnson

‘Mama Bird’ was the highest-time female pilot in history

Evelyn Johnson        Evelyn Bryan Johnson in 2003. (Photo courtesy John Riedel/Women in Aviation International)

May 14, 2012 – Evelyn Bryan Johnson, who had more flight hours logged than any living female pilot in the world, died Thursday, May 10, in Jefferson City, Tennessee. She was 102 years old. According to the National Aviation Hall of Fame, which inducted her in 2007, “Mama Bird” Bryan Johnson had 57,635 flight hours – more flying time than any woman in aviation history and second all-time only to Ed Long’s 64,000. She also taught more than 5,000 pilots how to fly, and as an FAA designated pilot examiner since 1952, conducted more than 9,000 checkrides. Evelyn was a member of EAA from 1979 to 2009, and was a Vintage Aircraft Association member from 1980 to 2008. * (excerpt from the May 14, 2012 EAA electronic newsletter)

Evelyn is one of the many wonderful women in aviation who has contributerd so much to fellow pilots. One of her colleagues stated that she had trained as many as 3,ooo pilots who went on to get their private pilot’s license. During my many air show presentations of my book, The Rogue Aviator, I have been fortunate enough to meet and chat with several of the WASP aviatrix ladies and it was always an enlightening experience. Many of them, now in their 90’s, have the spirit and mental acuity of a teenager. The level of chutzpah that they exhibited by going off to fly airplanes is an example of getting “way out of the box,” especially if you consider that is was only a couple of decades prior when women were finally given the right to vote.

During my 36 year aviation career I was fortunate enough to have trained several lady pilots in my capacity as a check-airman in the Boeing 727. One of those ladies was Marylee Bickford. We flew together at four different airlines and became good friends. For nearly a decade she insisted that I write a book about my radical aviation career. Here goading was the impetus for my book. Yesterday, my wife and I met her for lunch in Sausalito, California and she once again displayed that wonderful personality pizazz that led her to aviation as a young woman. The Powder Puff Derby and the organization, Women In Aviation provide a wonderful platorm for the aviatriz. As the cliche goes, “You go girl!”

This blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator: in the back alleys of aviation.  www.therogueaviator.com 

FUTURE FUEL FOR FLYING MACHINES

FREEDOM FROM SHACKLES OF FOSSIL FUELS

Is the future of aviation dependent upon the availability of fossil fuel? The answer is a clear-cut yes and no? For those few people that are paying attention to the concept of “peak oil”—a subject that has resulted in the publication of many books; but read by few—the diminishing availability will not be bell-curve-like. It will be more analogous to a large boulder being nudged over the cliff. It will leave the Hummer drivers agape in awe with jaw-dropping amazement and disillusionment. It will make the Amish and Mennonite folks appear to be extremely prescient as the value of horses skyrockets. Enjoy the relatively inexpensive air travel while you can. Ticket prices can only increase and the rate of increase might be profound.

But fret not, you addicted jet-setters there is hope on the horizon. Aviation is now so imbedded in the culture of the entire planet that the visionary creative engineers are coming out of the woodwork with numerous marginally plausible plans and a few that will probably be effective in keeping aviation alive. While I promote enthusiasm for the future of aviation, even after the complete exhaustion of fossil fuels, I must issue a caveat. There will be no more $169 roundtrip flights from the Northeast United States to Florida. Air travel will be primarily for the well-to-do. Those people at the top of the food chain will still have their private jets but their aircraft will be powered by one of the following: biofuels, electricity from batteries, and solar power. Nuclear powered aircraft and/or hydrogen cell powered aircraft are very unlikely unless the engineers engage in some quantum leaps forward in dealing with the shortcomings of these two sources.

Based on the most recent advances in the development of solar power for airplanes it appears that it will be quite feasible for smaller, four-seater type air machines. The current technology requires extremely large-winged aircraft for two or four people maximum. For commercial operations as we know it, there is very little likihood of electric-solar powered aircraft becoming viable for the operation of aircraft to haul hundreds of people. The bright side is there would be very little night flying and fewer pilots sleeping in the cockpit. The recent Sun ‘N Fun Air Show hosted a workshop with the moniker: International Workshop for Electric Standardization. The Oshkosh Air Show in July will be buzzing with the subject of alternative fuels.

The biofuels such as ethanol from corn has been a bust for autos and it will not solve the jet fuel and avgas problem. The use of items such as “switch-grass” and other non-consumable wild grasses and weeds has been discussed and researched. It now appears that the best source of fuel to replace  jet fuel and avgas is an algae-based product. In a recent speech in Miami, President Obama stated that we could derive up to 17% of our fuel needs fuels from algae. Twenty-four million dollars in grants for this research has been issued. As usual, there is a caveat. It takes 350 gallons of water to produce one gallon of algae fuel. It is almost a certainty that man’s instinctual enthrallment with flying will result in creative and innovative people stepping forward to solve the problem. The changes in air travel in the next ten years will be very interesting!

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/aka Ace Abbot,  the author of The Rogue Aviator: in the back alleys of aviation; www.therogueaviator.com

“WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US” (TSA)

TSA: TERRORISM OR ANTI-DOTE

As the disdain for a trip through the TSA controlled airport security intensifies it appears that progress is being made to reduce the level of intrusion that occurs at these government-mandated check-points. Ironically, this backlash against the onerous activities of the poorly-trained and often un-screened cadre of the all-too-frequently “wannabee cops” is being led by the former TSA Administrator, Mr. Kip Hawley. He has published a whistle-blower-themed book titled: Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the fight for the future of American Security. He is in demand at the news-talk shows and with his impetus; perhaps we can get our government to cease stripping us of our dignity unnecessarily.

He points out the obvious fact that the pilots now often have guns in the cockpits, there may be armed Air Marshalls in the cabin, and the cockpit door is fortified like a CITI bank safe. It is no longer necessary to snatch away personal possessions such as small knives, scissors, or any other pointed object that the TSA agent could deem to be a weapon. He also points out that the 3 ounce rule for liquids is equally inane. The most frequent complaint amongst air travelers, the overzealous pat-down, should be seriously curtailed and a bit of judgment interjected. (See Ace Abbott’s book, The Rogue Aviator, for more information about pat-down scenarios.)

The draconian and often hostile treatment of innocent people who are treated like criminals must come to an end. Currently, we are seeing the old axiom of “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The agents have the ability to have people arrested for the most meaningless transgression and the intervention of police at these emotionally charged and stress-inducing situations, all too often, results in actual arrests with no crime—the old “disturbing the peace” charge can always be employed and anyone who is paying close attention to the intensification of the “criminal justice system” is aware that trumped up charges are the norm. I experienced police intervention twice in the year 2002, but since I was in my airline uniform and had 170 people waiting to go to Cancun the police officers decided to let me proceed to my aircraft. One of my pilot colleagues was not so fortunate—he was arrested and fired from his job when he protested the idiotic snatching of his nail clippers since he had a large crash-axe in his cockpit.

Janet Napolitano has her work cut out for her and she had better step forward. The commercial airline environment is coming unraveled and more potential flyers are now heading for the highway as they do not want to deal with all of the stress, grief, and aggravation that frequently haunt the airline passenger. Chaos in the cabin is intensifying and now we hear of pilots and flight attendants flipping out. A precursor to the stress in the cabin is the always emotionally-trying passage through the gauntlet of airport security. The airlines are losing a lot of revenue as people avoid the long lines and oppressive treatment. As Popeye so famously said, “I can stands so much, and I can’t stands no more.” It is time for the American people to take back at least a portion of their human rights and dignity and stand up for some humane treatment at the airport.

You-Tube has numerous videos that portray activity at airport security that will repulse the viewer. To become further repulsed please note that a recent drug bust in LAX implicated several TSA agents and a similar East Coast investigation revealed that agents at three airports were on the take while facilitating illegal prescription drug transportation. An internal memo recently revealed that TSA people are hired for their jobs before a security clearance has been accomplished. Pre-TSA airport security was pathetic but our current system appears to be in need of major rehabilitation. We must hire people who can be trusted to make sound judgment decisions such as avoiding the pat-down of babies and crippled grandmothers in wheelchairs. For those folks that understand the airport environment it is very clear that most of the TSA concourse lunacy is eye-wash.

This blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, the author of The Rogue Aviator: in the back alleys of aviation. (www.therogueaviator.com)