THE DRONE DRAMA INTENSIFIES

href=”https://therogueaviator.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/airlan7271.jpg”>A PILOTLESS AIRPLANE

The drones shall soon dominate life on planet Earth. Disregard the concern about extraterrestrial aliens taking over. The man-made sci-fi device, commonly referred to as a drone, but more accurately described as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), will be playing a bigger role in our lives at a rapidly expanding pace. Currently a front-and-center news media issue, that is already fraught with controversy, the issue of drone usage and the resulting consequences will potentially create very seriously heated debate on an issue that is a classic example of the “double-edged sword.”
Just recently, the pilots of an Alitalia Airlines commercial aircraft on approach at JFK International Airport in New York reported seeing a drone. The description of the drone was consistent with that of the very popular drone device called a quad copter. These quad copter critters can be purchased and used by anyone. They are designed to be a toy, but they are already proving to be a menace. It will certainly be a menace to more than commercial aircraft as their potential for wreaking havoc has no limits.
These high-tech toys are often equipped with a small, but technologically advanced camera that can provide illegal surveillance, particularly by men who are afflicted with the voyeur syndrome. For those folks that enjoy nude sunbathing, too many of them will discover that they are the stars in a highly provocative YouTube video that reveals, pimples, scars, and sagging tissue, along with very private nooks and crannies, and perhaps tattoos that were not meant to be shown to the general public. Considering man’s natural inclination to lust after women with youthful attractive bodies we may see numerous midair collisions of these snooping quad copters. And this just represents one small arena of the potential abuse of unregulated civilian drones.
On the bright side, drones can be used for certain rescue missions, a variety of functions that will assist farmers, the oversight of pipelines and electrical wires, the transport of needed supplies or medicine to a remote location, monitoring of traffic flow, and most importantly, the rescue of little kittens who are trapped high up in their trees. Law enforcement will be greatly enabled with drone use and we can hopefully eliminate the high speed and frequently counterproductive high-speed car chase. Drones are already being used very effectively to monitor the Mexican-American border to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs. As drone technology continues to improve we will find an endless variety of functions for these remote-controlled UAVs.
The use of military drones has been in effect for more than 20 years and now dominates the United States warfare activity in the Middle East. Unfortunately, it is extremely controversial, and justifiably so. Several international organizations have published figures that indicate far more innocent people are being killed by drone strikes, primarily with Hellfire missiles, than the US government would like to admit. The concept of “collateral damage” is a very sticky wicket. Although the US military-might remains dominant there are now nearly 50 countries that have drone technology and perhaps as many as 10, including Iran, that have operational drones that can be used for military purposes. The UAV technology is relatively simple and the proliferation of drones operated by nongovernment agencies as well as military organizations has opened a Pandora’s Box. We have just seen the tip of the iceberg. A US predator drone operated by Homeland security was recently hacked by a University of Texas college professor. Iran has captured an American Predator drone. Its computers were most assuredly hacked as it landed in Iranian territory without being damaged.
A discussion of the intended use of UAVs as commercial passenger-carrying aircraft is too lengthy to be covered in this blog. An interview with author and web talk radio host Ace Abbott will provide the listener with some interesting insights and information on this topic. To access this interview go to: http://webtalkradio.net/ and select Ace Abbott’s Aviation Affair.
This blog is prepared by retired commercial pilot and aviation author, Allen Morris, aka Ace Abbott (pen name). His books can be accessed at http://www.therogueaviator.com

TIRED PILOTS: A WORLDWIDE AVIATION PROBLEM

Sweden

ANOTHER TOO-SHORT LAY-OVER

ANOTHER TOO-SHORT LAY-OVER

The ongoing problem of tired pilots in the cockpits of airplanes continues to undermine the safety of commercial aviation. In the United States, the FAA has finally stepped forward and made an effort to mitigate the problem of pilot fatigue. The changes were well thought out and based on significant analysis and study of sleep deprivation research. They will be very effective in reducing the number of accidents and incidents that result from pilot error in which sleep deprivation was a precursor. Unfortunately, there are two small caveats relating to this legislation: 1.The revised rules do not go into effect until January 14, 2014; Caveat number two: they do not apply to commercial pilots who fly cargo. This malfeasance was precipitated by allowing the profit factor to trump the safety factor. The lobbyists once again kneed the pilot force in the groin for the financial enhancement of their masters.
The highly publicized Continental flight 3407 accident in Buffalo, New York on February 12, 2009 was a great wake-up call that forced the FAA, after nearly 50 years of inaction, to finally act proactively regarding the problem. Amazingly enough, the pilots who fly for Canadian airlines and any of the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) airlines are now dealing with overzealous controlling agencies that want to increase the workload of commercial pilots. A recent survey amongst pilots from Austria, Sweden, Germany and Denmark revealed that fatigue is “common, dangerous and underreported.” The EASA is calling for regulations that will allow for 22 hour duty days for flight crews. This might be somewhat of an improvement, since 50% of surveyed pilots have reported being on duty after having been awake for 23 hours or more.
The Continental Flight 3407 (Operated by Colgan Air) that crashed in Buffalo on February 12 2009, provided the impetus to totally revise the FAA’s rules regarding flight and duty times. The two pilots in the cockpit of this airplane were severely fatigued and the NTSB did indicate that their state of fatigue was a precursor to the accident. After several years of in-depth studies of sleep deprivation and pilot fatigue instances and incidents, the FAA produced a science-based, airline safety enhancing set of revised regulations that will be finally implemented on January 14, 2014. The previous mentioned caveat: cargo pilots are exempt from the new more restrictive ruling has resulted in a lot of justifiable backlash from the pilot community.
ALPA to the rescue! An ALPA study has revealed that the FAA study relating to the projected cost savings of allowing the cargo pilots to utilize the antiquated and less restrictive limitations was an error. The FAA “cooked the books,” to indicate that pilot fatigue played a small role in cargo airline accidents. In actuality, during the last 20 years cargo airline accidents have been infinitely more prevalent than passenger operations. Captain Lee Moak and his ALPA colleagues have recently been making a very strong stance in Washington DC, regarding this issue. Hopefully, the ALPA lobbying will overcome the efforts of the spokesman for the cargo airline management operatives who do not want to have to hire additional pilots to fly their airplanes. There have already been too many “dead-tired” cargo pilots who have bought the farm.
For more information relating to pilot fatigue, consider reading Ace Abbott’s book, Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer. (www.deadtiredpilots.com)
This blog is prepared by retired commercial pilot and aviation author Ace Abbott; (www.therogueaviator.com

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).

BOEING 787–DREAMLINER OR NIGHTMARE AIR MACHINE?

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has been plagued with recent turbulence. The airplane that was supposed to be the best thing since retractable landing gear appears to be a big black eye for the Boeing engineers. While it is true that most new high-tech devices will have preliminary bugs, it seems that the Dreamliner is burdened with a plethora of them. The ongoing growing pains that frequently erupt are usually related to the lithium ion batteries. They are a relatively recently developed type of battery that appears to have not been given the appropriate quality control evaluation.
While United Airlines has had a few recent Boeing 787 Dreamliner incidents, Japan Airlines (JAL) has had numerous incidents, including a recent fire in the cargo compartment, likely caused by the lithium ion batteries. Luckily the airplane was on the ramp at Boston’s Logan Airport. Another aircraft operated by JAL had a windshield shatter. Most of the recent rash of problems has been related to electrical smoke and fire caused by the lithium-ion batteries.
The most recent incident involved the All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight that departed Western Japan and had to make an emergency landing in Takamatsu airport where the passengers disembarked, utilizing the emergency escape slide system. There were, as always, a few injuries during this evacuation procedure. ANA and JAL operate one half (24) of the 787 Dreamliner aircraft that are currently operational. Both airlines have elected to ground all of their 787 Dreamliners until the Boeing tech reps and engineers can provide a solution. An interesting and ironic side note is that the Boeing engineers union (SPEEA) is threatening to go on strike.
United Airlines is the only US carrier operating the 787 aircraft and both Ray LaHood, the director of the NTSB, and Michael Huerta, the FAA administrator stated they would not hesitate to ride on the aircraft. {{ “Should travelers be worried? No, says Charles “Les” Westbrooks, Associate Professor of Aeronautical Science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. “In aviation we have learned that accidents are caused by a series of events rather than any one catastrophic event. Because of this we have ‘safety stand downs’ when events are happening in succession so as to break the chain of events which could lead to an accident.”}} (Extracted from Forbes Lifestyle by Andrew Bender/ 1:37 pm EDT, Jan 16, 2012
This blog is prepared by aviation author, Allen Morris/a.k.a. Ace Abbott, (www.therogueaviator.com) and (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)

WINTER AIRPLANE OPS: “SLIP SLIDIN’ AWAY”

ICE IS FUN IF YOU ARE A POLAR BEAR

ICE IS FUN IF YOU ARE A POLAR BEAR

“Slip slidin’ away,” was the chorus of a Paul Simon hit from the 60s. During this time of year, it is what airplanes frequently do on runways and taxiways. In the winter weather, pilots operating north of about 35° north latitude, particularly near the Great Lakes and other bodies of water, will also be dealing with ice accumulating on their aircraft. They will do what they can to get this ice, “slip-slidin” off of their airplanes as they activate their anti-ice and de-ice devices.  The ice on the runways and taxiways and the airborne ice is a major issue for pilots as both types of ice can lead to crumpled piles of aluminum, along with injuries or death.

A few days ago a Southwest Airlines jet, while taxing for departure at MacArthur Airport on Long Island, went “slip-sliding away.” Although the taxiway was not ice covered it was still dark, and it was raining. As most pilots will attest, taxing large aircraft at night on a slippery surface is extremely challenging. Yesterday a Russian airliner landing in Moscow during a snowstorm departed the runway at a very high speed resulting in four people dead and four injured. The airplane was broken into several pieces and will be headed for the beer can factory. The airplane did not “disintegrate” as the Associated Press article indicated. Disintegration of a large aircraft is only marginally feasible.

Between now, January 30, 2012, and March 31, 2013, several hundred aircraft will go “slip sliding” away” as the pilot loses control of his air machine. In January 1975 I landed a Learjet at Montréal’s Dorval airport. The cold front had just passed through, the runways and taxiways were snow and ice covered, and the wind was at 25 knots gusting to 40. After turning off the runway the aircraft’s heading was then 90° to the direction of the wind. In a split second the airplane turned 90° as it responded to its aerodynamic inclination and weather-vaned directly into the wind. Later in my career, after landing an Emery Airfreight Boeing 727 at Dayton, Ohio I experienced the exact same encounter. Freezing rain had created a glaze of ice and the braking action was “nihil,” rather than poor, as the tower was reporting.

Landing a large jet aircraft, for that matter, any aircraft during reduced visibility, such as in a snowstorm, with gusty crosswinds, and on ice covered runway at LaGuardia Airport is probably more challenging than landing in the Hudson River on a nice day. Even Sully Sullenberger would likely agree with this premise. Winter weather aviation operations require extremes diligence, awareness, and skill. Proper use of airborne de-ice and anti-ice procedures should be reviewed by all pilots. If your air machine has been deiced prior to takeoff, it is prudent to be 100% sure that there is no ice or snow adhering to any of the control surfaces prior to takeoff. Far too many aircraft and passengers have come to a sad end in an aircraft that was not properly deiced.

Quite interestingly, we will note that the rest of Paul Simon’s chorus lyrics are as follows: “slip slidin’ away, the near you get to the destination, the more you are slip slidin’ away.”  May all your aviation experiences be devoid  of any, “slip slidin’away.”

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)