Tag Archives: The Rogue Aviator

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/).

IMPENDING PILOT SHORTAGE: MYTH OR REALITY?

Pilot shortage A PILOTLESS AIRPLANEimage017

For several decades young aspiring professional pilots have been tantalized by the aviation oracles, as they were continually told that a pilot shortage is just around the corner. Once again, the impending pilot shortage discussion is intensifying. This time it could be for real. However, the next question is: are the young potential aviators listening or do they care? After a couple decades or more of pilot pay and benefits diminishing while training cost increased, far fewer young people are electing to commit to a career as a professional pilot.
Spending up to $200,000 for the required aviation credentials to be hired by an airline for a starting salary of $22,000 a year is not very enticing. Worse yet, the rookie pilot might be condemned to a job as a banner tow pilot, a pipeline surveillance pilot, or perhaps become caught in the ugly web of being a night freight pilot (often referred to as a “freight dog”). The lifestyle of a freight dog can be researched by reading, The Rogue Aviator; (http://www.therogueaviator.com/). While the brass ring is still there on the horizon it will only be grabbed by the more fortunate few. For every professional pilot making $200,000 a year, there are 10 professional pilots making less than $60,000 per year.
After the horrific crash of Continental flight 3407 operated by Colgan air in Buffalo, New York, a congressional subcommittee on aviation safety was immediately implemented. Everyone’s favorite pilot, Sully Sullenberger was in attendance. When asked what needed to be done to enhance commercial airline safety, Captain Sully of Hudson River fame, pulled no punches. He stated unequivocally that paying the pilots an honest salary was a critical element towards the long-term safety factor. Four years later, entry-level pilot salaries, and all too often salaries of more experienced pilots, remain embarrassingly low. “This too, shall pass.”
Now to the good news! This upcoming pilot shortage is for real. In August of this year, the FAA has mandated, with a few caveats, that airline pilots must have a minimum of 1500 hours total time and an Airline Transport Pilot rating to work for a FAR 121 (airline parameters) aviation company. Currently, the minimum requirement is 250 hours. On January 14, 2014 the long-overdue revised duty and flight time limitations for commercial pilots will take effect. The more restrictive limitations will require the airlines to hire more pilots.
The equally critical factor in this equation is that the inordinate number of airline pilots that will be forced into retirement by the age 65 rule, will open many doors for new hire pilots. Furthermore, corporate aviation is booming and those jobs with companies such as NetJets, Marquis Jet, etc. are becoming quite desirable for the professional pilot. Overseas pilot jobs, particularly in China, will be extremely plentiful. The pilot shortage will drive salaries skyward. Everything is cyclical and this current down cycle for the pilot community is destined to improve significantly. I will also state—after a 36 year aviation career that took me to 44 countries with 25 employer changes—that an aviation career can be an exciting Odyssey. Take your pilot passion and create for yourself an adventuresome career.

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)

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)

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.