Is Fresh Evidence About MH370 Another Wild Goose Chase?

By Robert Mark on June 23rd, 2014 | 2 Comments »

fresh evidence in the disappearance of MH370 - The Aviation Minute

Fresh evidence has been uncovered in the disappearance of Malaysian flight 370 (MH370) according to The Telegraph of London. To date, there hasn’t been one single shred of physical evidence that proves any of the dozen or so theories about what happened aboard that airplane less than an hour after it departed Kuala Lampur in March. The mystery was never solved, just put on hold.

Then last Friday, a media note surfaced in Australia that said MH370 searchers were again altering the search area for the airplane to another part of the South Indian Ocean based on some undefined new analysis. Yesterday’s Telegraph story again pointed the possible finger of responsibility at the captain of the 777,  Zaharie Shah and his flight simulator.

The Aviation Minute

Listen to the latest Aviation Minute to learn more about new evidence in the MH 370 mystery. 

Rob Mark, Publisher

If you received this Jetwhine story via e-mail, click here to listen to the program.



Building a Positive Aviation Future

By Scott Spangler on June 16th, 2014 | Comments Off

At American airports these days is hard to find a good word from pilots about their aviation future. After covering the 57th Sonex Aircraft Builder’s Workshop at the company’s Oshkosh, Wisconsin, hangars it seems clear I’ve been looking in all the wrong places and talking to the wrong people.

From as far away at Guam, the Netherlands, and the four compass quadrants of America, 21 people attended the workshop, and 14 of them brought guests—wives, sons, brothers, and building buddies—who attend the workshop free of charge and learn metal working by building an abbreviated metal wing section.

Most were first-time builders. Some already had Sonex kits at home, awaiting the courage the new workshop skills would give them to open the boxes. Others were still deciding on the model that best met their needs, and their future flights guided their decision making.

Most remarkable is that not once did I hear a work-shopper complain about anything aviation related. And all of them, except for one who was a student in training, were pilots. The closest one of them came was criticism of his own work; “I can do better,’’ he said.

Can’t we all.

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Why Drones Really Worry Me as a Pilot

By Robert Mark on June 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

quadFirst let’s talk a little reality … Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or drones as most of us refer to them are coming … and they’re coming soon. That’s not necessarily all bad though. Drones can operate in places that are not safe to send a manned aircraft, as well as on missions where the duration would surely exhaust a human. They also come in a range of sizes from just a few pounds to the mammoth Global Hawk weighing in at about 32,000 lbs. or slightly larger than the Hawker 800 biz jet I used to fly.hawk

The FAA’s come under fire from drone manufacturers and potential users for not acting quickly enough to draft regulations allowing these pilot-less aircraft to blend into civilian airspace with the rest of the civilian aircraft. But there’s a safety problem with moving too fast that no one seems to have addressed.

Give this show a listen though and tell us what you think. BTW, for the most up-to-date coverage on drones here in the U.S., give a listen to the UAV Digest produced by my Airplane Geeks comrades Max Flight and David Vanderhoof.

Rob Mark, Publisher – If you’re receiving this Jetwhine post by e-mail, click here to listen … even from a smartphone. You can also subscribe to The Aviation Minute at iTunes.


Looking Bach at Aviation Eras

By Scott Spangler on June 2nd, 2014 | Comments Off

Recovered from his landing mishap in the Pacific Northwest, Richard Bach has resumed his online conversation, and he is as thought provoking as ever. In “Change of an Era” he reflects on the change progress has always brought to aviation, and the choices pilots must make in adapting to it.

Aviation’s first new era occurred during the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Bach wrote, when pilots who wanted to fly every day advanced from “looking at the world outside of their open cockpits” to “flying blind” with the aid of “needle-ball and alcohol.”

This instrument era of aviation lasted for 50 or 60 years, he continues, and then progressed to the digital era. With “flat plate moving maps,” he describes it as “all pretty colors to show one’s position, altitude, restricted areas, terrain, weather, other airplanes in the sky.”

In closing, Bach writes that, “uninterested in modern aircraft, modern moving maps, electric motors to turn propellers,” he realized that “aviation has passed me and my time.” But that is, it seems to me, a personal perspective.

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The Aviation Minute: A Few Memorial Day Thoughts

By Robert Mark on May 26th, 2014 | Comments Off

memorial-day1Memorial Day here in the United States is one of the days we remember all the men and women who served and perished in armed conflicts around the world since our own Civil War in the mid-1800s.

The stories emerging about how poorly we treat these men and women once we’re through with them though is not pretty. There are some parallels between VA care for vets and our aviation industry. Tell us what you think.

Rob Mark, Publisher — If you’re receiving this Jetwhine post by e-mail, click here to listen … even from a smartphone. Subscribe to The Aviation Minute at iTunes. iTunes

Is Airline Withdrawal a GA Opportunity?

By Scott Spangler on May 19th, 2014 | 10 Comments »

A recent New York Times story, “Air Travel Economics Make Midsize Hubs Unprofitable”, explained why airline travel today often demands long drives to the nearest major airline hub. This withdrawal of service from outlying communities and hubs makes perfect profit-and-loss sense for the airlines, and it poses an antipodal crisis for the companies whose employees must travel on business, who used to be, it seems, a highly desirable airline customer.

This situation should be fertile ground for the creation of a company flight department, a step many companies of a certain size took long ago. But I wonder if now might be the time for a different kind of flight department, where the employees needing transportation fly themselves in a Cirrus or Cessna. If the employee had the desire, why shouldn’t the company provide his or her training? Wouldn’t this be a win-win for both parties?

Safety would and should be the primary concern and it could be easily managed, I think. Instead of chauffeuring employees, the fly-yourself flight department pilots would provide the initial and recurrent training to the employees who fly themselves. (Naturally, companies that fly jets and other complex airplanes would employ pilot whose job is to fly them.)

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Diary of a New Flight Instructor

By Robert Mark on May 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Pavoni - jetwhine.comI like hanging around with other flight instructors. Not only do they understand how an airplane flies, but they also know the intricacies of those dark corners of a flight envelope … things that can lead a new pilot down a rabbit hole of trouble if they’re not careful.

Good flight instructors also understand that while a syllabus is a valuable tool to keep both student and teacher focused on the goal … the checkride … instructors must understand the need for flexibility in the process because everyone doesn’t learn exactly the same way.

Dave Pavoni’s a new CFI at Morristown’s American Flyers. We spoke a few weeks ago about why he took the time to earn the rating, as well as what he’s learned about teaching people how to fly and how to keep them flying safely all their lives.

Give it a listen.


Jetwhine podcasts are available on iTunes.

Rob Mark, Publisher

If you’re receiving this Jetwhine post by e-mail, click here to listen … even from a smartphone.


The Aviation Minute: Child Restraints on Airplanes

By Robert Mark on May 8th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

TAM Final LogoRGBWhen my wife and I were married a long time ago, we promised ourselves that if we ever had kids and wanted to travel on an airplane, we’d just fork over the extra money for a ticket. To us, the risk of injury should they fly out of our hands during an accident or in turbulence simply wasn’t worth the few hundred dollars we’d save.

Years later when we decided to take our then infant daughter on an American Airlines flight to LAX, we learned most of the flight attendants didn’t know much about car seats on airplanes.

Today, there is still nothing that requires a parent to put any kind of restraint on a child under two years of age. They’re still permitted to ride on their parent’s lap even though there’s no way a parent could hold them down in a crash. The 1989 crash of United 232 proved that.

So why do we permit kids to ride around in an airplane without a seatbelt when we’ve had laws for decades that prevent the same thing in a car? Here’s what I learned.


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Rob Mark, Publisher

If you’re receiving this Jetwhine post by e-mail, click here to listen in … even from a smartphone.




Culture of Fear Suppresses Joy of Flight

By Scott Spangler on May 5th, 2014 | 11 Comments »

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.

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The Aviation Minute: Episode 9 – The FAA Shoots Itself in the Foot

By Robert Mark on May 1st, 2014 | 9 Comments »

FAA-Logo_thumb.jpgWhen 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.TAM Final LogoRGB

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

If you’re receiving this edition of The Aviation Minute by e-mail, click here to listen to the show. If you have difficulty hearing the broadcast, e-mail me directly at

The Aviation Minute: Episode 8 – TSA PreCheck

By Robert Mark on April 25th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

TAM Final LogoRGBI 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.

Rob Mark, Publisher

If you’re receiving this via e-mail, this link should also take you to the program.

If you’ve missed any back episodes of the The Aviation Minute, you’ll find them here in our archive.

For Boomers, Rusty Pilot is Difficult Decision

By Scott Spangler on April 21st, 2014 | 9 Comments »

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.

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The Aviation Minute: Episode 7 – Synthetic Air Traffic Advisories

By Robert Mark on April 18th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

TAM Final LogoRGBPardon 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.

dave byers

Dr. Dave Byers

After you give the show a quick listen, stop back and watch the short video of the SATAS demonstration from Sun n’ Fun a few weeks ago.

Rob Mark, Publisher

For those of you who receive Jetwhine updates via e-mail, click here to listen to this week’s show.

Lessons We’ve Already Learned from MH370

By Robert Mark on April 14th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

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.

Malaysian Boeing 777

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.

Rob Mark, Publisher Read the rest of this entry »

First-Person View and Recreational Flight

By Scott Spangler on April 7th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

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.

vr listFrom 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 Aviation Minute: Episode 6 – ICAO and MH370

By Robert Mark on April 3rd, 2014 | Comments Off

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.

AviationMinute600x600But 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.

With that, I offer you the next Aviation Minute.

The Aviation Minute: Episode 6 (for e-mail subscribers)

Rob Mark, Publisher

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.

The Aviation Minute Continues: Episodes Four & Five

By Robert Mark on March 31st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

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.feedly

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.


Rob Mark, Publisher

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 And don’t forget to tell us the country you’re listening in from.

Aviation Safety & Unrealistic Expectations

By Scott Spangler on March 24th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

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.

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Malaysian Flight 370: A Great Show of Smoke And Mirrors

By Robert Mark on March 16th, 2014 | 18 Comments »

James Bond creator Ian Fleming

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 »

The Aviation Minute: Episode 3 – The TSA & Guns

By Robert Mark on March 14th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

TSAI 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.

 Rob Mark, Publisher