More than it has in the previous two years I’ve judged an airport writing contest, fear was a central theme in the nearly three dozen essays submitted by students in elementary, middle, and high school. Most of them addressed airline flights and began with the TSA and continued until they reached the desired destination, often in Florida.
The handful that wrote about their general aviation flights also focused on their fear, but unlike all of their airline flying peers, two of them actually looked out the window and marveled at the different perspective flight gives of the world they live in on the the ground. Dismissing the easy explanation that kids today are different, looking at the world in which they are maturing, being afraid is what our culture has taught them to be.
And as their parents and grandparents, it’s our fault.
A common Facebook theme lists all the things we did as kids that kids today don’t do, from riding a bike without a helmet and walking to and from school without a guard or guide to playing outside unsupervised and without organized activities. Keeping kids safe is every parent’s responsibility, but using fear of the consequences to achieve it has the unintended consequence of suppressing rational risk assessment.
When the FAA tells you they’re changing the way they conduct business because they want to be more fair to someone, or that they want to save money, it’s probably time to duck. You can pretty much be sure that whatever they have in mind isn’t going to be as effective as they think.
Late last year the FAA completely revamped the way it hires air traffic controllers. The reasons seemed clear to the agency folks I think … recruit a better caliber of controller, save money by reducing training time and … if you read between the lines, to increase diversity in the controller ranks.
Are you really going to be surprised when I tell you that they seem to have failed at all of these goals? AND, they created a problem at all 36 CTI schools – their regular supply line for new controllers – where one didn’t exist before.
Rob Mark, Publisher
The Aviation Minute: Episode 9 - The FAA Shoots Itself in the FootPlay Now | Download
I can’t believe I’m going to say something nice about the TSA again. That’s twice in a couple of months.
I do think it’s worth mentioning that the TSA has actually created a product with value in their new TSA PreCheck card, part of the DHS’s Global Entry system. Of course there is just one tweak I think it needs desperately. Give a listen and tell me if you agree.
Since I learned to fly in 1976, the vicissitudes of life have removed me from the cockpit and later returned me to the left seat. As a rusty pilot, I am again at a point where my return to the sky is possible, but deciding whether to take advantage of the opportunity isn’t as simple as it was 20 years ago.
At 40 I was halfway to my expected expiration date. When it came to planning for retirement and related concerns we’ll all face in the final chapter of life, it was easy to procrastinate. At 60 the proximity of what awaits me is clear enough to see without my glasses. I imagine many among the half-million rusty pilots AOPA identified in its research face a similar dilemma.
Pardon our tardiness delivering this week’s episode, but we wanted to wait for our new logo to show up. Many thanks to @runwaygirl’s sister Anne Kirby and The Sweet Core crew for launching us into the 21st Century.
On to the content. This week I’m focused on innovation and the people who create it, like my friend Dr. Dave Byers. A few years back, he figured out how an off-the-shelf radar system might just prevent midair collisions and runway incursions at non-towered airports. He called it the Synthetic Air Traffic Advisory System, or SATAS.
While it may seem to many of you as if the Malaysian Airlines 370 story has been going on forever, we’re really only into the opening scenes of this investigation. Remember it took two years to recover the data recorders from Air France 447.
Lessons we’ve already learned from MH370
Even though everyone seems to believe we’re close to the area where MH370 hit the water, there still hasn’t been a single ounce of evidence recovered from the ocean’s surface in that area. I would have thought something would still be floating … suitcases, seat cushions, clothing … something.
Be that as it may, even if the boxes are found, they’re sitting on the ocean floor three miles beneath the surface which means the recovery effort is no small task.
The Chicago Tribune last week asked me to write an editorial putting what we know into context. It ran Friday and I focused on the fact that there are already plenty of good people leading the search efforts and the why behind most of this accident will come later. But I do think we have already learned quite a bit about where the airline industry needs to head in the next few years … if we can just convince the airlines of course.
During a radio interview on Friday, the host asked me about Plan B if these signals turn out not to be from MH370. Honestly, there is no plan B …
Because the Chicago Tribune website made it a bit difficult for many of you to read the story, I’ve pasted the text in here, as well as the direct link if you’d like to sign in there to read more. Do tell me what you think.
From the first time we looked up, what has attracted humans to flight is seeing the world from the perspective of a bird. That attraction still drives many of us, but how we achieve this first-person view (FPV) has changed with technology. If you doubt this, think about all the cool video on the Internet that has been captured from drones.
From a mass-market mindset, which would you rather do to satisfy your desire to see the earth from above: Spend $10,000 and a year of your life to become a pilot and then pay upwards of $100 or more for an hour’s flight; or invest $1,200 or so for a ready-to-fly small drone like this DJI Phantom 2 Vision, spend several hours mastering its GPS-stabilized flight control system, and recording that aerial first-person view on your smart phone?
Given the number of drone videos posted on YouTube, I’m guessing that these flights, which usually last less time than it takes to thoroughly preflight a Cessna 172, will totally satisfy the aerial FPV cravings of most people born during and after the 1980s. Let’s face it, if a smart phone is involved, it’s a winner among people who text rather than talk, even when they are sitting at the same table.
For those of us born before the 1980s, this evolution of recreational aviation doesn’t bode well for fun flying as we remember it. But such is the nature of progress. Yes, for a few who look skyward, drones will not be enough. They will be the generational outliers who invest the time and money necessary to collocate their body with their view. And they will be the ones who get hands-on to build and restore the flying machines that stirred their dreams.
But their numbers will never replace the pilots who’ve since retired from the cockpit. And I’ve talked to a number of them who’ve traded their airplanes for a FPV drone. With the advent of FAA small drone regulations, today may well be their “good old days,” which should not be missed. – Scott Spangler, Editor
The past month has been one of amazement for most of us in the aviation industry as millions of people around the world try and figure out what happened to Malaysian Airlines flight 370.
CNN decided to go 24/7 with MH370 coverage, while I was happy to help the Fox News people with their own news analysis on the disappearance.
But here we are nearly a month after the Boeing disappeared and we’re only slightly closer to finding the airplane than we were in March. One of the biggest stumbling blocks of course has been the Malaysian government itself, that was woefully unprepared for such a calamity. Answering questions and researching news for Fox and for an upcoming book really got me thinking that it’s time to talk about the future of this industry. I’m not giving up on the people aboard MH370 of course, but we need to decide what lessons the next generation of aircraft designers, pilots and passengers must take from MH370 as it stands today.
BTW, I owe those of you who receive The Aviation Minute on e-mail a huge apology. I had no idea you’d be unable to access the podcast player directly. While I work on a more permanent solution, I’ll continue adding a hyperlink to the episode as I did above which will allow you to listen to the episode.
It’s time to get our listeners caught up on The Aviation Minute.
Seems that working the kinks out of our new podcast turned out to be a bit more time consuming than I’d at first thought. Now that the iTunes folks tell us The Aviation Minute has been added to to the approved list of shows, it seemed like just the right moment to bring people up to speed on episodes four and five. From this week forward, you can also expect a new episode of The Aviation Minute each and every Thursday.
Episode four speaks to women in aviation and why the percentage of ladies in this industry remains so dismally tiny, while episode five offers a few parting thoughts to outgoing NTSB Chairman Deb Hersman and her respected team of investigative personnel.
Subscribing to the Aviation Minute
Because a show’s value increases with the number of listeners, I wanted to be sure you knew the easy ways to follow us. Certainly people using smart phones might find following The Aviation Minute easier through iTunes, but there is another system word mentioning … RSS. Despite the meaning — Really Simple Syndication — my first attempts at hooking up through RSS were a dismal failure. It took me awhile to learn that you need a reader of some sort to act as the aggregator for your feeds … so much for the simple part … no one mentioned that.
Google’s Feedly app has become my aggregator of choice, so much so that I’ve turned it into my default browser page. Now when I log on each morning, I can tell at a glance which of my favorite sites have created fresh content without the need to remember to continually check back at a dozens locations
So enjoy episodes four and five of The Aviation Minute … and of course be sure and tell your friends if you think the content’s worth 90 seconds of their time every week.
PS — Is there an issue in the aviation world that’s driving you crazy? Tell us about it and maybe we’ll use it for an upcoming episode. E-mail me directly at email@example.com. And don’t forget to tell us the country you’re listening in from.
Has the exemplary aviation safety record become its own worst enemy because it instills unrealistic expectations of risk in the minds of those fly? As a consequence, reactions to these infrequent but unpreventable circumstances instantly climbs to a level above and beyond hyperbole.
We all know that complacency in pilots can lead to unfortunate outcomes. But what about passengers? Do the years that often separate fatal airline and business aviation accidents build a sense of risk complacency in their minds? Do they think “It can’t happen to me.”?
And what about passengers in general aviation airplanes flown for fun and/or personal business? Do they harbor delusions of risk-free flight? Do they consciously acknowledge the risk they assume when they fasten their seat belts, like those who must read the mandatory passenger warning in amateur-built experimental aircraft: This aircraft is amateur built and does not comply with the federal safety regulations for standard aircraft.
Some might say that a realistic understanding of the risks involved with flying would be bad for business. This might be true for the media, which reaps the financial rewards of higher ratings by force feeding questionable “news” to an audience that can’t turn away (or turn off) the spectacle. But if the automobile industry is any clue, a more realistic grasp on the risks involved wouldn’t hurt aviation.
Ian Flemming and Tom Clancy, both master writers of suspense and political intrigue — and their alter egos James Bond and Jack Ryan respectively — are probably looking down from heaven in awe at the story created in Malaysia to cover up the disappearance of MH370.
Jack Ryan’s creator Tom Clancy
Just as the tragedy of 9/11 redefined aviation security worldwide more than a decade ago, the March 8 Hijacking of MH Flight 370, in addition to creating one of the greatest smoke and mirror shows ever, is certain to redefine airline security yet again … whether or not we ever find the missing Boeing 777.
An overwhelming lack of hard evidence hasn’t slowed the 24/7 media machine and most anyone with a radio, TV or computer from trying to figure it all out though. But while the search for the airplane goes on, we can’t forget this is not simply an academic exercise. The fate of more than 230 people is still unknown. Nor can we ignore the planning of some people and the incompetence of others on the ground in Malaysia that made this crime possible. Read the rest of this entry »
I know the TSA costs us billions every year, but for once, I think people need to appreciate them for the good things those folks do … especially in light of the possibilities that hijackers may have taken out Malaysian 370 last week.
By Scott Spangler on March 11th, 2014 | Comments Off
Le Tourneau University introduces 6th grade girls to aviation opportunities.
In case you missed it, last week was Women in Aviation Worldwide Week, and this past weekend Women in Aviation International held its 25th annual International Women in Aviation Conference at Disney’s Coronado Spring Resort in Orlando, Florida. Both activities share the common goal of increasing the number of female flyers, and this includes getting more females involved in all aspects of aviation.
These international events inspire others to get involved in the effort at a local level where individual women in aviation inspire the next generation face-to-face in hands-on activities. The best example I’ve seen so far occurred at the LeTourneau University’s School of Aeronautical Science, where CFI Lee Foster introduced 6th grade girls to the thrill of flight.
The school’s blog provided the details of the day in Incredible Women in Aviation, but the priceless message of the experience comes about halfway through the video. The student’s wide-eye surprise when the Cessna 172R lifted off the runway conveyed more than words could express. If there is anything that can get people interested in aviation, and keep them interested, it is seeking out and pursuing exciting revelations that make a person’s eyes grow wide.
This experience is surely different for everyone, so why not start by sharing the aspect of aviation that still makes your eyes reveal your enjoyment of it. –Scott Spangler, Editor
Thanks to all of you for the great comments about The Aviation Minute‘s first episode. You’ll find episode 2 below, which actually evolved from comments related to the first show about the regional airline pilot shortage.
Show Updates: If you look in the right-hand column here on the Jetwhine home page, you’ll see that we’ve added an easy way for you to subscribe to just The Aviation Minute episodes if you choose. We’re still waiting for the Apple people to work their magic on our iTunes feed which should be up and running by episode 3. In the next week, we’ll also have our show archive operational for a quick episode re-listen.
Future Show Ideas: Thanks to the new listeners who took the time to share topic ideas that need some serious media attention. We can never have too many, so if there’s an industry on your mind … be it air traffic control, business aviation, safety, learning to fly or anything else, tell me about them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, a show like this really depends upon listeners like you to tell their friends. If you like The Aviation Minute, send your friends back here to Jetwhine.com and ask them to click on The Aviation Minute icon or just fill in their e-mail address.
Thanks for listening. Rob Mark, Publisher
The Aviation Minute Episode 2: Regional Airline SafetyDownload
When I created Jetwhine wayyyyy back in 2006, the tagline was pretty simple … “aviation buzz and bold opinion.”
Since then, some 650 stories of fact and aviation opinion have appeared on these pages. Some of them have have driven readers simply crazy, like some we’ve written about air traffic controllers and the FAA for instance. Some haven’t raised so much as a speck of dust anywhere. But that’s life.
The stories written by our editor Scott Spangler though are often much more controversial than mine. The difference of course is that Scott’s style is so smooth that he makes his point without seeming to point fingers in people’s faces. I’m still hoping he can teach me that trick.
Now as we enter 2014, I think it’s time to add a new element to Jetwhine … more audio.
Today we’re rolling out Episode One of The Aviation Minute. These podcasts (scroll down) are designed to briefly capture the essence of a single topic. They’re also designed to create enough interest for you to seek more information on your own. It’s the only way you’ll ever stay informed on the ever changing world of aviation. And let’s be serious … this is not the aviation world I came into when I soloed a Champ in 1966 around the patch at Champaign Airport, IL (CMI).
Our first show is devoted to the pilot shortage. And if I stay on top of things, we should have a brand new episode each week that tantalizes you just enough on one topic to make you think.
And of course, I also hope these will someday bring my delivery up to the standards of Scott Spangler … but I still have a way to go.
BTW, we’re always on the lookout for fresh topics that we should keep an eye on. Some of the best of the best have been suggested by you our readers … and listeners now. So please feel free to send along your ideas and comments to me … email@example.com.
For those of you who have come to expect complete technology savvy shows, let me mention there will soon be a separate RSS feed and iTunes account to subscribe to only The Aviation Minute should you choose. More on that soon.
If curiosity got you past the headline, stick with me for a few more words for an idea that might help save general aviation. If you’ve attended EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, even for a day, most likely its passionate enthusiasm dispersed a year’s worth of bad vibes about aviation’s future possibilities.
AirVenture has been my annual aeronautical antidepressant for the past 35 years. Over that time I and many others have tried unsuccessfully to explain why. I’ve finally found the answer in a National Geographic story, Karma of the Crowd, about the world’s largest religious festival. For the millions who gather in India at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, psychologists attribute the mental boost the to “collective effervescence.”
Émile Durkheim, a French sociologist, coined the term in the 19th century, said National G. In the future, around the time of Star Wars, people might call it the Force. In the current epoch of technology, I’d call it crowd-sourced and shared behavioral synergy. Regardless the term, researchers studying its emotional and spiritual benefits say it is more effective and long lasting than prescription antidepressants. And the only source seems to be a crowd united for a common purpose.
Like moths seeking illuminated warmth, pilots are genetically drawn to aviation accident reports. Most say they pore over them to perhaps discern details that might keep them from ending up as the subject of their own accident report. As they read, I’m sure many have unspoken, fleeting thoughts similar to mine…Facing the same situation, I’D never do that!
Such thoughts are easy when reading the detail of an accident because we hear them in our individual intracranial echo chambers. Unless we’ve faced impeding doom, I’m sure the voices that play the different roles carry none of the original emotion, especially when reading the transcripts from a cockpit voice recorder, which by its phonetic initials is Charlie Victor Romeo, the title of a new 3D adaptation of a play first staged in 1999.
The film is now playing in New York and LA. It is listed on Netflix but is not yet available. After watching the trailers, which focuses on a snippet of the DC-10 arrival at Sioux City, one of the six airline accident CVR recitations, I’m not sure I want to. The presentation is all too real because the actors perfectly embody the focused and controlled pilot voice Tom Wolfe wrote about in the opening pages of The Right Stuff.
Watching these gripping snippets introduced a new voice—my own. Too many aviation tragedies are still the unintended results of decisions made by those involved. No matter how many accident stories we read, pilots still run out of gas, push the weather, and lose control of the airplane at low altitudes. We can find solace in the delusion that we’re immune to bad decision making, but how will we react in a situation with fatal consequences not of our own making? Will the CVR record a legacy of focused intent and composure? – Scott Spangler, Editor
By Scott Spangler on January 27th, 2014 | Comments Off
Technology rules the present and future of every aspect of aviation. It seems clear that pilots can’t fly today without it, or very well with it. If there’s handwriting on the hangar walls that pilots should be paying attention to it would be drone code, UAV, UAS, and RPA. But aviators are not alone. The technology geeks should check out “With Math as Inspiration, a New Form of Flyer” in the January 15 New York Times.
Dr. Leif Ristroph, an applied mathematician at New York University’s Courant Institute, created this small flying machine with four 3-inch wings. Electrically powered, it keeps itself right side up without sensors or a righting mechanism. Its stability depends completely on the shape and movement of its wings. And it is not alone. A variety of geometric shapes, a pyramid and section of a cone, float in a stable hover before the four-wing flying jelly fish flaps its way into the video that accompanies the article.
This captivating design is not a helicopter or some insect-derivative drone. Dr. Ristroph and his Courant Institute colleague, Stephen Childress, wanted to create a new form of hovering flyer. Why they wanted to create it is an unspoken question not answered in the article, but ultimately I guess it really isn’t that important. It’s also interesting that their design work that started with mathematics, which bring images of Sheldon’s formula-covered Big Bang whiteboards to mind.
Even more interesting is that the duo didn’t model their hovering jellyfish after the real thing. They made the connection after they turned their formulas and force diagrams into something tangible. Still, it makes sense because water and air are both fluids. I take comfort in the reality that while they solved the engineering side of the stability challenge, mathematically, “we don’t really understand for the active flyers how this works.” Nor do they know if their creation will be something useful, but for me, being captivatingly cool is enough. –Scott Spangler, Editor
By Robert Mark on January 20th, 2014 | Comments Off
Taking a Bite Out of Those GA Accident Statistics
Whenever a flight instructor finishes up a training session with a GApilot — new or old — they always hope that pilot really understood the lesson before they head out on their own. An instructor knows that when an emergency arrives one day, there won’t be time for a last minute review. Just one more reason for all pilots to take some kind of regular flight training.
With GA accident numbers that never seem to decline, it’s nice to write about a pilot who did everything right … despite significant odds against him.
I spent some time chatting with private pilot Keith Baird the other day. He bases his 1968 Cessna 210 at Chicagoland’s Brookeridge Airpark, also known asLL22 southwest of the city. On December 28th, Baird decided to take a friend for an after-Christmas flight in some nice weather. But climbing through 400 feet or so on departure, Baird’s airplane collided with a 15-pound Canada goose, about the same size as the ones that downed a US Airways flight shortly after departure from LaGuardia five years back.
If you haven’t yet watched the short video shot from inside the airplane that day, it’s worth a few minutes of any pilot’s time. I’d never seen a video of a bird and a plane colliding through a windshield. Trust me it’s eye opening. Baird Bird Strike video. But come back for the rest of the story … Read the rest of this entry »
By Scott Spangler on January 6th, 2014 | Comments Off
Although we’ve never met face to face for more than a few moments at EAA AirVenture, Paul and Victoria Rosales and I have been friends for more than a decade. After building their Van’s Aircraft RV-6A, Paul made its first flight on July 4, 2000. Each year since, I’ve eagerly awaited their Christmas letter that summarizes the previous year’s aerial adventures. At the end of this year’s letter, Paul scrawled a note: “13 years now flying the RV-6A and almost 3,800 hours.”
The Rosales are not 1-percenters who spend their discretionary income going places. The last time we talked, Paul lived off his job at the Lockheed Skunk Works. Working second shift, he paid for his flying by substitute teaching. Victoria complemented both by developing a thriving Tupperware sales business. And they are never at a loss for things to see or places to go in their airplane, which is why I refer anyone who moans apathetically about $100 hamburgers to www.paulrosales.com.
The website collects Paul’s well-written travelogues in words and photos, and 2013 was a pretty typical year for them. In other words, they flew some place every month. Usually it’s within a state or two of their California home, and they usually take one big trip a year. In April 2013 they spent four weeks logging 70 hours and more than 10,000 miles flying around the Caribbean, where Paul pursues his other passion, scuba diving. Victoria relishes the warm and sunny weather.
Regardless of where they go, near or far, what binds them all is participatory aeronautical friendships. So if you’re looking at a New Year of boring meals at the same old airports, read on about some of the adventures the Rosales had last year. Maybe they will inspire you to fly out of your aerial rut.