Category Archives: Uncategorized

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/).

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AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447 PILOTS WERE “DEAD TIRED”

Airbus 330

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”

THE DREADED DRONE DEMISE

If you are a queen bee it’s great to have a drone hanging around. When that big mama bee needs a little male companionship she simply summons her drone. However, if you live anywhere near northern Pakistan, drones are dreaded and draconian. After NBC’S  Michael  Isikoff’s very important investigative journalism relating to the US governments drone program, the newsrooms are a beehive of activity as the buzz relating to the drone dilemma intensifies. The political ramifications are numerous and complex; unfortunately, the biggest complications relates to a concept initially coined by the CIA, and referred to as “blowback.” Chalmers Johnson has written an entire book that elaborates on blowback and its potential very harmful effect on the well-being of the United States of America and its citizens as hordes of angry people suffer from the consequences of drone attacks

But then, here at home, we also have to learn to deal with the drone. The always precarious fourth amendment rights are now out on the edge of a slippery slope as the likelihood of camera equipped drones will soon be creating a vision in the sky that might be compared to Alfred Hitchcock’s scene from his movie The Birds. As drones rapidly accelerate to the ubiquitous state, and high-tech cameras can be easily attached to a drone we can forget about the concept of privacy. Those who sunbathe in the nude might have every nook and cranny, wrinkle and scar, available for the whole world to see. Monaco, Nice, LeTouque and all of the any many other nude beaches on the French Riviera will have to face the reality that their tan lines and all of the sagging body tissues will be viewed by everyone who has a computer.

The ramifications of our law enforcement folks utilizing camera-carrying-drones will cure many of us from going over to the tree to take a pee. Many community coffers will be filled by men who have to pay a misdemeanor fine for their public indecent exposure. That could be just the tip of the iceberg. The fellas who wrote Brave New World and 1984 were very prescient. Fasten your seatbelt and hang on tight; this new world of drones is already conceptualized to wrangle its way into commercial aviation. There will be no more miraculous, heroic pilot-saves such as Denzel Washington exhibited in his movie Flight.

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/a.k.a. Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator: In the Back Alleys of Aviation (www.therogueaviator.com) and Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue Aviation’s Insidious Killer; www.deadtiredpilots.com

THE “SWITCHBLADE”–AUTO, AIRPLANE, OR BOTH?

Ace and Sam with their favorite air machines

Ace and Sam Bousfield with their favorite air machines

The concept of an automobile that can be transformed into an airplane (or vice versa) has run rampant through the dreams of creative engineers for more than a half century. A few of them got airborne (briefly) but any attempt to mass-market these crossbreed contraptions was unsuccessful. However, the creative and entrepreneurial spirit is once again taking off. The Switchblade flying car is being designed by Samson Motors.
I was selling and signing copies of the The Rogue Aviator at last weekend’s US Sport Aviation Expo at Sebring, Florida when I noticed a large crowd gathering at a neighboring vendor. When I wandered over to the area I soon learned about this innovative, revolutionary ground or air transportation device called the Switchblade. It is very simply, a space-age, rocket ship look-alike that can be driven as an automobile and flown as an airplane. The vendor, Samson Motors, owned and operated by Samson Bousfield was hosting media folks and the entire area was abuzz with gawking aviation enthusiasts. Pilots who are anxious to fly/drive this unique air machine were at the controls of the Switchblade simulator.
It was a joyous festive atmosphere as the crowd embraced the beautiful design of this multifaceted transportation device while the Switchblade marketing experts drummed up enthusiasm for customers to place a deposit for their own air/road machine. The Switchblade is a kit design, but it does not require advanced mechanical or engineering skills to complete. The projected cost of the kit is $60,000. A nominal deposit of $2,000 will get you into the rapidly-growing que for ownership of a Switchblade.
The basic operating parameters are as follows: the maximum airborne speed is 190 miles an hour; normal cruise is 160 mph. In the road-mode it can accelerate to 100 miles an hour. As a two passenger airplane its maximum range is 400 miles. For additional information, the company website is http://www.samsonmotorworks.com/switchblade and Wikipedia also provides a factual discussion of this projected revolutionary transportation device. Along with its versatility it displays stunningly sensual design lines— its aesthetic appeal alone justifies having one parked in your driveway.
This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/aka Ace Abbott, a retired commercial pilot and author of two books, The Rogue Aviator: In the Back Alleys of Aviation (www.therogueaviator.com) and Dead tired: Pilot Fatigue-Aviation’s Insidious Killer (www.deadtiredpilots.com).

DRUNKEN PILOTS! “SAY IT’S NOT SO”

American Eagle pilot accosted by the airport authorities:

The recent interception of a potentially drunk pilot by airport authorities is one more black mark on American Eagle Airlines. American Eagle is renowned for engaging in maximum exploitation of their pilots. Or, as the Harvard business school mantra of the mid-70s stated: “Maximum utilization of human resources.” Perhaps the draconian work conditions and a meager salary led this pilot “to drink.” Perhaps the layover in Minneapolis, St. Paul in the middle of a cold, depressing winter left him in the clinically acknowledged state referred to as “SAD” and a few hot toddies was needed to help them avoid deep depression.
The vast majority of today’s airline pilots are extremely conscientious and very few of them ever report for work, even a little bit hung over. The obsolete FAA regulations still say, “eight hours between the bottle and the throttle,” but most airlines have a 12 hour window from alcohol consumption to climbing into the cockpit. Delta has a 24-hour policy, which probably should be adopted by all airlines— perhaps with the caveat of one glass of wine or a beer with dinner. The “glory days” of the airline culture that involved “fast-lane partying” are in the dustbin of aviation history. Pilots and flight attendants on layovers rarely engage in excessive consumption of alcohol.
Perhaps this pilot, and/or his fellow flight crew members were influenced by the relative success of “Whip Whittaker” a.k.a Denzel Washington in the movie Flight as he landed his crippled airplane under the influence of alcohol, marijuana in cocaine. This aviation themed movie was actually an in-depth look at the nuances of substance abuse of a free-spirited pilot. The poignant scenarios throughout the movie, has very possibly resulted in abstinence for many people who were once substance abusers. Unfortunately, the American Eagle pilot, Captain Kristiansen, is now caught up in pathos and emotional turmoil, as his aviation career is likely to be permanently derailed.
While there are many reasons and explanations for a pilot reporting to duty in a state other than perfectly sober, there are no acceptable excuses. A professional pilot must dedicate himself to being prepared at the highest level possible for every flight.
This blog is prepared by Allen Morris, a.k.a. Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator: In the Back Alleys of Aviation (www.therogueaviator.com) and Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer (www.deadtiredpilots.com)

LEARJET CRASH WITH JENNI RIVERA–TIRED PILOTS?

sleeping-pilot1

 

Last Sunday morning’s crash of a Learjet with renowned singer Jenni Rivera aboard recently jumped into the forefront of the news cycle. The aircraft departed Monterrey, Mexico at 3:15 AM en route to Toluca, Mexico. It was reported the aircraft was it 35,000 feet and made a rapid descent to 9,000 feet, during which time air traffic control communication was lost. At 3:30 AM the aircraft slammed into the high terrain South of Monterrey. All seven people aboard were killed, including the two pilots. The Learjet was chartered from a Las Vegas based company.

The media have not yet discussed or even mentioned the likelihood of tired pilots in the cockpit. It will be very interesting to read the final NTSB report that will hopefully have a report of the two pilots most recent rest period prior to the flight. Based on my experience of eight years flying chartered Learjets I would be near certain that pilot fatigue played a major role in this accident. The world of on-demand jet charter lends itself to frequent scenarios that result in severely fatigued pilots flying high profile wealthy people. A 3:15 AM departure would require the pilots to have been awake since no later than 1:30 AM. It is likely and almost certain that they were prepared for departure several hours prior to the actual departure. On-demand jet charter is fraught with significant delays. It is not likely that anyone would schedule a flight departure for 3:15 AM.

Also relating to pilot fatigue, the FAA has just determined that the lawsuit filed by UPS cargo pilot union, IPA has no merit. This lawsuit was in reference to the revised crew rest, flight time and duty limitations that are to be implemented on January 15, 2014. These new rules were mandated to enhance aviation safety after the crash of Continental flight 3407 (operated by Colgan air) in Buffalo on January 12 2009. These revised rules for commercial pilots operating in the FAR 121 airline environments were mandated by Congress. As a result of lobbying and special interest groups influence all cargo airline operations were exempt from these new rules— effectively an exemption from operating at a much higher level of safety. As I stated in my book, The Rogue Aviator, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you— unless you are a pilot who might want to get a little sleep.”

The media has barely scratched the surface of this onerous failure to reduce the pilot fatigue factor in cargo airline aircraft. My book, Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer, elaborates on the subject as it points out the obvious; if allowed, corporate profits will always trump any element of safety that might be implemented. Unbeknownst to most laymen, the power of airline unions has been a significant contributor to aviation safety. A review of aircraft accidents operated by nonunion pilots will validate this. The exemption of cargo pilots from reasonable work rules that result in minimizing pilot fatigue in the cockpit will reveal a continuation of aircraft crashes and incidents that were piloted by very tired pilots.

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris, a.k.a. Ace Abbott (pen name), author of The Rogue Aviator: in the back alleys of aviation, (www.therogueaviator.com or http://goo.gl/Y2LhX, and Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue Aviation’s Insidious Killer (www.deadtiredpilots.com or http://goo.gl/Gzucw.

ACE ABBOTT SMOKES DOPE WITH BOB MARLEY!

IS THE CAPTAIN TIRED OR STONED?

Of the many implausible and radical encounters during my aviation career, smoking a little ganja (by default—residual smoke) with Bob Marley was one of the most memorable. The “bad guys” had just tried to kill him and his family, friends, and colleagues because they did not like his politics. I was summoned to smuggle him and his entourage out of Kingston, Jamaica, where his longevity was in severe jeopardy. Nine passengers were stuffed into the Learjet as we headed for Nassau, where a large and enthusiastic crowd of reggae devotees were awaiting his arrival.

Shortly after lift-off, the cabin—and the cockpit—were inundated with the sweet smell of burning marijuana leaves. Bob had been a little stressed from his intensity-filled free-concert along with the attempted assassination he experienced, so he used the very popular Rastafarian sacrament of “ganja” to enhance the relaxation factor. Most of his fellow passengers joined him for one of those Jamaican delicacies referred to as a “big spliff.” As the smell of the marijuana intensified, my co-pilot started singing “every little thing is going to be all right.” At that point the fog of residual smoke was so strong that we donned the oxygen masks.

The legalization of marijuana is working its way forward to become a front-and-center issue in the United States. Even Paul Ryan, the very conservative VP candidate recently issued a statement that he advocated legalizing medicinal marijuana. The statement was soon rebuffed by the RNC—they said Ryan was a little confused.  Perhaps, in a private policy meeting they later asked “What was he smoking?”  Most of the European countries have already seen the failure of putting people in jail for what they put in their body and have addressed the problem pragmatically.

If we decriminalize marijuana, will pilots be flying us  in their jets a little “higher” than their actual altitude?  The answer is no. Alcohol abuse is much more prevalent in the pilot community than is use of marijuana. While there may be a few pilots who occasionally toke on the controversial weed, they represent probably less than one percent of professional pilots. Those pilots that do occasionally indulge will keep their indulgence many hours or, preferably days, (the stoned state does have a lingering effect) from the cockpit. In the late 60s and early 70s the use of marijuana was much more prevalent with the young pilots than it is today.

The mandatory random drug tests administered to flight crews has had a very beneficial result in keeping impaired pilots out of the cockpit. It is now more important to focus on the tired pilots in the cockpit. My recent released book, Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue-Aviation’s Insidious Killer addresses this issue (www.deadtiredpilots.com). For more details about the Bob Marley adventure, please refer to The Rogue Aviator: in the back alleys of aviation (www.therogueaviator.com).

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/aka Ace Abbott, a retired commercial pilot/aviation author.