Tag Archives: dead tired

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/

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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/).

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

FEMALE FIGHTER PILOT

AN ELDERY EX-FIGHTER PILOT NOSTALGIZING

Female Fighter Pilot Breaks Gender Barriers

Col. Jeannie Flynn Leavitt is not only a decorated fighter pilot; she has broken
through gender barriers few thought possible. She was recently named the Air Force’s
first female wing commander, commanding 5,000 airmen at Seymour Johnson Air Force
Base in North Carolina.
Twenty years ago, when she had completed part of her training, she was told that
if she wanted to be fighter pilot, she would be the first and would draw attention.
“I said, ‘Well, I don’t want the attention, but I want to fly fighters more than
anything,'” she responded.
She knew she was entering a world dominated by male swagger. Think “Top Gun” – “The
plaque for the alternates is down in the ladies room.”
And that attitude was not just in the movies. Even the Pentagon brass once argued
that male bonding was critical.
“If you want to make a combat unit ineffective, add some women to it,” retired Gen.
Robert Barrow, the former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, had said at a 1991
hearing before Congress.
Like it or not, though, they were ordered to change by the Secretary of Defense.
And now, Leavitt and others have inspired a new generation. There are currently
700 female pilots in the Air Force and 60 female combat pilots.
“Regardless of your gender,” Capt. Patricia Nadeau said. “I think everyone’s goingto look up to her.”
Leavitt, 46, has logged more than 2,700 hours – 300 in combat over Iraq and Afghanistan
-andd dropped bombs on enemy targets and avoided enemy fire.
Along the way, she married a fellow fighter pilot – who’s now stationed “only” three
hours away – and had two children, Shannon and Michael.
She now trains others for combat, commanding a 5,000-member fighter wing. On one
particular day, she led a mock bombing raid in the skies over North Carolina.
“You know gender, race, religion, none of that matters, what matters is how you
perform,” Leavitt said.  (Excerpt from a Curtis Lewis newsletter on 10/11/2012)

Pretty Female Fighter Pilot

Some 45 years ago when I was in pursuit of the lofty status of a combat ready jet fighter pilot, the thought of the female fighter pilot was inconceivable. During that period of time (1967), there were no commercial female pilots and the possibility of a woman becoming a military fighter pilot was nihil. It was a very elite fraternity and the male macho persona wanted nothing to do with “a little lady,” clouding the waters by entering their cockpit— women were still supposed to be cheerleaders and had to sit on the sidelines and watch the machismo pilots strut around the base. Air Force pilots, particularly in the glory years of the Vietnam War era, soon learned that the flight suit was a magnet for women, and would not hesitate to wear it off base. With the sleeves rolled up, an unzipped flight suit showing a hairy chest, and an alpha male mustache, the fighter pilot of that era reeked of testosterone.

My best friend, Marylee Bickford, is a female pilot who worked with me at four different airlines. She started her aviation career as a line girl, pumping gas during the winter months in Maine. At age 23 she became a Boeing 727 flight engineer— a job that entailed getting down and dirty during the external pre-flight (walk-around) and sometimes returning to the cockpit, smelling of hydraulic fluid and jet fuel. Her total persona exuded femininity, yet she would not hesitate to perform those traditionally male tasks in order to achieve her goals. She eventually became a Boeing 737 Capt. at Carnival airlines. She was also a major impetus that led to my aviation memoir, The Rogue Aviator: in the back alleys of aviation (www.therogueaviator.com). She is the major female protagonist in this improbable aviation saga.

Most of us will agree; if the lady can do the job, forget about antiquated traditions and put her right over there in the captain’s chair. From fighter pilots to airline captains and aviation entrepreneurs such as Denise Wilson of Desert Jet (www.desertjet.com), allow the ladies to barge right through that glass ceiling. The amazing subchapter of the Col. Jeannie Flynn Leavitt story is that she also does function as the proverbial “little lady,” since she is also married to a fighter pilot. And furthermore, she is the mother of two sons. She has taken the expression, “the right stuff,” to a much higher level.
This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/a.k.a. Ace Abbott, the 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).

AMERICAN AIRLINES- ANOTHER AVIATION APOCALYPSE

Every veteran pilots favorite airplane- the magnificent Boeing 727

Aviation’s most recent apocalypse, the sad demise of American Airlines, seems to intensify daily. I remember well the collapse of Eastern Airlines and the horrific operational chaos that accompanied it. It now appears that the AA bankruptcy saga will display a comparable level of animosity between management and labor. Having been through far too many airline bankruptcies, I can attest that the safety quotient of an airline in the Chapter 11 phase of bankruptcy is severely reduced. The laundry list of operational problems that contribute to the reduced safety factor are too lengthy to mention.

The disintegration of the relationship between labor and management has many of the elements of an angry divorce. Most of the AA employees had, at one time, been infatuated and exhilarated with their status as an American Airline employee. The antipathy and the emotional trauma that comes with this ugly, and bitterly contested divorce will seriously jeopardize the possibility of AA to provide their customers with quality service. The following snippet is from a recent article in Business magazine and sheds additional light on the situation.

In Bankruptcy, American Airlines Looks At All Options

Pat Henneberry is an airline’s dream customer. She flies all week, every week, and buying an $800 ticket so that she can have full flexibility is standard operating procedure. She’s an American Airlines platinum customer. But she is fed up with the endless delays and cancellations.

“On Monday I didn’t get on

Henneberry says that not making her meetings is not an option.

“Next week I have five flights that I’m on with American. If I don’t get where I’m going — I own my own business — I don’t get paid,” she says.

American has been forced to cancel hundreds of flights, and its on-time performance has collapsed to a little more than 50 percent. The airline says its pilots are to blame.

“We’re talking about write-ups for things like broken coffee pots, inoperative passenger reading lights and torn seat pockets that are causing delays. They’re calling maintenance out to have those things checked and are causing delays. And those were up more than 34 percent,” American spokesman Bruce Hicks says.

In 2003, with American on the verge of collapse, the pilots, mechanics, ground crew and flight attendants gave back nearly $2 billion in concessions. Later, it emerged that the airline’s top managers quietly awarded themselves millions in bonuses, and tens of millions more when they retired. The workers have never really gotten over that betrayal.

“The history is the history,” Hicks says. “The fact is that all of our labor groups and management and non-union groups in 2003 made significant concessions to keep American Airlines out of bankruptcy. And we worked very hard to stay out of bankruptcy, but in fact we lost $10 billion over the next 10 years — $10 billion.”

On Wednesday night, it looked like there was progress. The pilots met and voted to go back to the bargaining table. After all, they’ve been without a contract since 2003 and are still working at their 1993 pay rates. But after the vote, a letter arrived from American management threatening to take the union to court if the pilots didn’t stop delaying flights.

“Within 24 hours of being invited back to the bargaining table by this management team, they fired off a letter that essentially threatens legal action against the pilots,” says Tom Hoban, who flies a 777 for American and is an officer in the union. “In that regard, it’s like a baseball bat with an olive branch wrapped around it, and they just hit us up the side of the head here. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Now the pilots are furious; they see executive duplicity once again. And as of Thursday afternoon, they’re not going back to the bargaining table. Instead, they’re meeting with their lawyers about management’s letter.

“This corporation has taken this airline from first to worst. There simply is no faith in the current leadership of this management team, which is why we’re pressing hard for a merger with US Airways and a change in leadership,” Hoban says.

And what’s American Airlines customer Pat Henneberry going to do?

“I won’t happily go back at this point. I have lived through a few of these with American Airlines. And to be honest, I’m having an incredible experience on Delta. You know, I have to do business,” she says.

Delta Airlines has cleverly matched the platinum status Henneberry has with American. So while American management fights to the death with its pilots union, its best customers are wandering off.

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

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.