Tag Archives: Congress

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/

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ELECTION 2012: THE LADYS HAVE SPOKEN

Election 2012-Women to the Forefront!

While our Congress has still not passed the Equal Rights Amendment, the women of this country are taking the proverbial bull by the horns and gaining power by leaps and bounds. The election of 2012 is historic in many regards; one of them being that the women’s vote played a large role in both the presidential election and many of the congressional elections throughout the country. The misogynist right-wing ranting’s of the GOP tea-party-inspired candidates was not ignored by those women who do not want elderly men whom they don’t know, controlling their personal health choices. The suggested defunding of Planned Parenthood by many of the GOP candidates brought the ladies into the public square with pitchforks and torches (metaphorically).

And now we go briefly back to aviation. A little-known aviation fact is that there are now three female pilots on the Air Force Thunderbird flight demonstration team. The organization, Women in Aviation, now has nearly 9,000 members. Any visit to the airport will reveal ladies in epaulets who will be flying the big jet up to JFK or ORD. As equally incongruous as this invasion in to the “good old boys network” of aviation, is the invasion of several new ladies into the sacred Senate Chamber in our Capitol Building. This brings the new total up to 20. None of them are shrinking violets! They will not hesitate to mix it up with the established “good old boys network,” that is now experiencing some challenging assimilation of the newcomers. Based on the current obstructionist dysfunctional modus operandi in Congress, a bit of new blood might be just what the doctor ordered.

The state of New Hampshire has distinguished itself with a lady Governor, two lady US Senators, and their two Congressional seats will be occupied by women. The five most important government positions in New Hampshire are being held by women. Hillary Clinton has distinguished herself as an excellent Secretary of State and Susan Rice is a likely candidate to succeed her. The proliferation of female authors, artists, comedians, writers, etc. ad infinitum, is shattering the old “glass ceiling”, as women are grabbing that big desk in the CEO office. In academia they are accelerating way ahead of their male contemporaries. TV journalism has several new woman superstars: Rachel Maddow of MSNBC; Soledad O’Brien of CNN; and the iconic Christiane Amanpour remains active.

I am perhaps in a minority amongst my fellow American males, but based on my experience with highly competent women and the knowledge that they sometimes exhibit certain strengths that supersede those of most men, I am very happy to see them excelling in these arenas that were once the exclusive domain of men. The extreme right wing of the Republican Party attempted to throw the women of this country under the bus by taking away their Planned Parenthood programs, while railing against the use of contraception. The redefining of rape as “an act ordained by God’s will” that required the rapist’s victim to bear and care for his child, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The women are now jumping on top and brandishing a whip. The old cliché’ “beware a woman scorned” will now reveal its validity.

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris, A.K.A. Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator (www.therogueaviator.com) and Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue Aviation’s Insidious Killer (www.deadtiredpilots.com).

TIRED PILOTS CRASH AIRPLANES

 

A recent USA Today article delved into the major factor that undermines airline safety; that, of course, is pilot fatigue. A poll they conducted revealed that one-quarter of the pilots surveyed find themselves on the job in a fatigued state. After the February, 2009 Continental #3407 (Colgan Air) accident in Buffalo, where tired pilots in the cockpit played a major role, the FAA finally responded to the tired pilots syndrome, as a result of some prodding by Congress, and went to work on formulating some updated rules and regulations that would govern the flight time and duty time limitations for airline pilots working under the FAR 121 mandates. This was all-well-and-good with a couple of small caveats. The first is that the final compliance with these new rules will occur nearly 5 years after the initial discussions regarding the importance of the need to prevent lives being jeopardized by tired pilots in the cockpit. The second major shortcoming of the new rules relate to all-cargo airlines. They are exempt!

But now back to the bright side. The FAA, the DOT, the airline management folks and the unions, did an excellent job of evaluating all aspects of pilot fatigue and the revised rules deal with the many variables quite well. The new rules reduce the maximum time on duty from 16 to 13 hours. Research has revealed that after 13 hours, the diminished functionality of the pilot is equivalent to someone who had a .05 blood-alcohol level. As an ex-non-sked charter pilot who experienced too many 20 hour duty days, I will readily attest to being in the cockpit in this awful physiological condition. Research has also revealed that after 13 hours of duty, the rate of mistakes that result in accidents increase by 5 times over one who is well-rested. After 8 hours of duty the accident rate increases exponentially.

The new rules will very definitely save a lot of lives and crunched aluminum air machines. Amongst the very positive changes is consideration for the “circadian rhythm monster” which is as insidious as single-time-zone pilot fatigue. This is well addressed in the new changes along with a requirement for flight crew and management training regarding pilot fatigue—it addresses developing an awareness of fatigue in the cockpit and possible countermeasures. Most importantly, the new rules state that if a flight crew member informs the company that he/she is too tired to fly, there can be no action taken against that pilot. In certain realms of aviation the pilot that tells the boss he has to cancel a flight to get some rest, he would be fired.

And now comes the monster caveat: The revised rules do not apply to all-cargo operations! That is correct. The question is: Will that cargo-laden Boeing 747 (for instance) make less of an impact when it slams into the school or hospital than a passenger carrying 747? That is an easy one—emphatically no! Why did this anomaly arise? It has to do with the bottom line of the cargo carrier and the power of the lobbyists in Washington that influence our government. A quote from the rule-makers is as follows: “The final rule does not apply to all-cargo operations, although these carriers have the ability under the new rules if they so choose.” It should be noted that the instances of airplane crashes with tired pilots in the cockpits of cargo airplanes is off-the-scale higher than passenger-carrying airline crashes. The all-cargo loophole should be fought tooth-and-nail by all pilots. The passenger pilot can shortly fine himself in the “night-freight-dog” world. For more information about the professional pilot’s trials and tribulations of pilot fatigue I suggest that you read The Rogue Aviator; in the Back Alleys of Aviation.

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/aka Ace Abbott, author of  The Rogue Aviator   (www.therogueaviator.com)

AMR AGAIN ABUSES AMERICAN AVIATORS

AN ANTIQUATED GAS-GUZZLER

AMR, the parent company of American Airlines has finally done the inevitable. As a major “legacy” airline it had not filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as the other “legacy” carriers had done years or decades ago. The airline management modus operandi  of the last 40 years is to combine severe mismanagement with exorbitant  bonuses and salaries for the executives and CEO’s, and then come running to the employees for salary and benefit cuts. Invariably the people who sacrifice the most in these “company restructuring”’ are the pilots. Since they are the highest paid workers, the company feels that they can snatch the most additional pay and benefits from the pilot group.

Let it be known that in 2003 the American Airlines management came begging to the employees and they relinquished 1.6 billion dollars in wages and benefits. Meanwhile the company mismanagement continued, primarily by operating a fleet of gas-guzzling jets, when even the janitor in the broom closet knew that fuel prices would skyrocket. The current request is for a 2.0 billion dollar “employee give-back.”  Of equal concern is that the current employees will take a major hit on their projected retirement benefits and the current retirees will also take a big hit on their monthly check. The pension fund is underfunded by 4 billion dollars.

The union worker is once again being dashed against the rocks and the timing is particular synchronistic since the Super Bowl will be played in Indiana. The governor of Indiana is working hard, along with some of his neighboring Midwest governor colleagues to break and/or eliminate all of the unions in his state. Meanwhile, here come the NFL players who are represented by a very strong and effective union and the first year minimum salary for an NFL player is $560,000 per year.  Many of the pilots that operate sophisticated aircraft into Indianapolis for the regional carriers, such as the AMR contract company American Eagle, will be working for a salary of low to mid-20 thousands per year.  We have experienced professional pilots who are eligible for food stamps and making less that the government’s declared poverty level. Wouldn’t it be great if the NFL players would step forward in a very out-spoken fashion and endorse the union workers in Indiana and the tens-of-thousands of pilots who are severely underpaid?

We have failed to improve the school teacher’s salary to a respectable level and we are now paying pilots a despicable wage for a very demanding job. Recent worldwide math exams revealed that the U.S. is 30th amongst a recent evaluation of  first-world industralizedcountries. They are crashing airplanes in India and Russia at an alarming rate as result of airlines operating their aircraft with underpaid and inexperienced pilots in the cockpit. When “Sully” Sullenberger of Hudson river fame testified before Congress nearly three years ago, he stated that it was imperative to increase pilot salaries or our commercial aviation would suffer severely.  Many of the pilots at American Airlines are seeking employment elsewhere and many more pilots will be seeking new careers in a different field.  Poor school teacher salaries is a contributor to an uneducated public but poor pilot salaries will result in a greatly reduced safety quotient when you jump on that commercial aircraft.

To get a good perspective on the underpaid pilot problem, please refer to the PBS Frontline TV special of two and one-half years ago titled, Flying Cheap.  It is available by going to PBS.ORG and finding the internet version of this very important but sparsely watched documentary by Miles O’Brien. It will give the viewer a very valid perspective of what happens when the profit factor overrides the safety factor. It represents a glaringly ugly example of the old Harvard Business School mantra of “maximum utilization of human resources.”

Wouldn’t it be great if the NFL players would step forward and endorse the union workers in  Indiana and the tens-of-thousands of pilots who are severely underpaid?

Thie blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, the author of The Rogue Aviator: in the Back Alleys of Aviation, (www.therogueaviator.com)

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Another”fish story”

Another “fish story”

Where Have All The Fighter Pilots Gone?

We used to go to the Officers Club or NCO Club Stag Bar on Friday afternoons to drink, smoke and swap lies with our comrades. Think about this when you read the rest of the letter below. What happened to our Air Force (or Military)?

Drinking then became frowned on. Smoking caused cancer and could “harm you.” Stag bars became seen as ‘sexist’. Gradually, our men quit patronizing their clubs because what happened in the club became fodder for a performance report. It was the same thing at the Airman’s Club and the NCO and/or Top 3 clubs.

Now we don’t have separate clubs for the ranks. Instead we have something called All Ranks Clubs / community clubs. They’re open to men and women of all ranks….from airman basic to general officer. Still, no one is there. Gee, I wonder why.

The latest brilliant thought out of Washington is that the operators (“pilots?”) flying remote aircraft in combat areas from their duty station in Nevada or Arizona should draw the same combat pay as those real world pilots actually on board a plane in a hostile environment. More politically correct logic? They say that remote vehicle operators are subject to the same stress levels as the combat pilot actually flying in combat. —– REALLY!!!???

Now that I’ve primed you a little, read on.

There are many who will agree with these sentiments, but they apply to more than just fighter pilots. Unfortunately, the ones with the guts to speak up or push for what they believe in are beaten down by the “system”.

Unfortunately there is a lot of truth in the following text – supposedly, Secretary Gates has a force beating the bushes to learn who wrote this….

Subject: Where Have All The Fighter Pilots Gone?

Good Question. Here is a rant from a retired fighter pilot that is worth reading:

It is rumored that our current Secretary of Defense recently asked the question, “Where are all the dynamic leaders of the past?” I can only assume, if that is true, that he was referring to Robin Olds, Jimmy Doolittle, Patton, Ike, Boyington, Nimitz, etc.? Well, I’ve got the answer:

They were fired before they made major.

Our nation doesn’t want those kinds of leaders anymore. Squadron commanders don’t run squadrons and wing commanders don’t run wings. They are managed by higher ranking dildos with other esoteric goals in mind.

Can you imagine someone today looking for a LEADER to execute that Doolittle Raid and suggesting that it be given to a dare-devil boozer – his only attributes: he had the respect of his men, an awesome ability to fly, and the organizational skills to put it all together? If someone told me there was a chance in hell of selecting that man today, I would tell them they were either a liar or dumber than shit.

I find it ironic that the Air Force put BG Robin Olds on the cover of the company rag last month. While it made me extremely proud to see his face, he wouldn’t make it across any base in America (or overseas) without ten enlisted folks telling him to zip up his flight suit and shave his mustache off.

I have a feeling that his response would be predictable and for that crime he would probably get a trip home and an Article 15. We have lost the war on rugged individualism and that, unfortunately, is what fighter pilots want to follow; not because they have to but because they respect leaders of that ilk. We’ve all run across that leader that made us proud to follow him because you wanted to be like him and make a difference. The individual who you would drag your testicles through glass for rather than disappoint him.

We better wake the hell up! We’re asking our young men and women to go to really shitty places; some with unbearable climates, never have a drink, have little or no contact with the opposite sex, not look at magazines of a suggestive nature of any type, and adhere to ridiculous regs that require you to tuck your shirt into your PT uniform on the way to the porta-shitter at night in a dust storm because it’s a uniform.

These people we’re sending to combat are some of the brightest I’ve met but they are looking for a little sanity, which they will only find on the outside if we don’t get a friggin’ clue. You can’t continue asking people to live for months or years at a time acting like nuns and priests. Hell, even they get to have a beer.

Who are we afraid of offending? The guys that already hate us enough to strap C-4 to their own bodies and walk into a crowd of us? Think about it.

I’m extremely proud of our young men and women who continue to serve. I’m also very in tune with what they are considering for the future and I’ve got news for whoever sits in the White House, Congress, and our so-called military leaders. Much talent has and will continue to hemorrhage from our services, because wanna-be warriors are tired of fighting on two fronts – – one with our enemies, another against our lack of common sense.

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