Dr. Todd Curtis, founder of AirSafe.com, talks about about MH370 on the second anniversary of its loss, laser and drone threats to aviation safety, an aviation maintenance competition, and improving the quality of media reporting of aviation accidents. In the news, we discuss supersonic planes, all-woman commercial flights, the longest flights, and air service to Cuba.
Dr. Todd Curtis
Todd Curtis is an aviation safety analyst, author, and publisher. He founded AirSafe.com in 1996 to provide the public with useful information about airline safety, fear of flying, plane crashes, TSA security, and other issues of concern to the traveling public.
While an airline safety engineer at Boeing, Todd was directly involved in many plane crash investigations, including TWA flight 800, and he was part of the engineering development team for the 777.
In addition to writing several books on aviation safety and security, Todd has also written the book Parenting and the Internet. He’s been a frequent on-air aviation expert on CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News, CBC, BBC, Discovery Channel, NPR, and many other major news media outlets around the world.
Visit AirSafe.com for airline safety and security information, as well as information about fear of flying, flying with cash, child travel, the airline complaint process, baggage tips, and much more. Follow @airsafe on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Under the preliminary design phase of the quiet supersonic technology (QueSST) program, Lockheed Martin will lead a team to design a half-scale supersonic X-plane that uses boom-suppression technology. NASA administrator Charles Bolden said, “Now we’re continuing that supersonic X-plane legacy with this preliminary design award for a quieter supersonic jet with an aim toward passenger flight.”
NASA plans to start building the supersonic X-plane in 2019, with first flight scheduled in 2020. The acoustic survey would begin in 2021 in southern California and continue for several years. The Lockheed Martin team includes subcontractors GE Aviation and Tri Models Inc.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, Air India set the record for the longest all-women operated and supported flight, which flew non-stop on March 6 from New Delhi to San Francisco. The cabin crew, cockpit crew, check-in staff, and customer care staff were all women
Air India said it would fly 20 all-women domestic flights March 8 to commemorate International Women’s Day. Every year, International Women’s Day is celebrated by Air India with all-women crews on selected international and domestic sectors.
The longest flight in the world is the 8,819 mile flight between Dubai and Auckland, New Zealand. Emirates inaugurated the route with an A380, but switched to the 777-200LR the next day. Of the ten longest flights in the world, the B777 is used on seven of them, and the A380 flies the other three.
Starting June 1, 2016, United will begin the 8,446-mile San Francisco-Singapore service with a 787-9, making it the third-longest flight in the world, and the longest scheduled flight by any U.S. carrier.
The U.S. and Cuba have agreed to permit 110 daily flights between the two countries: twenty daily flights to Havana, and ten daily flights to nine other international airports. The deadline for airlines to submit applications to the Department of Transportation for proposed flight routes has expired, and eight airlines applied.
My Favorite Airplane – Yet Again, by Micah, our Main(e) Man.
We talk with Jack Pelton, Chairman of the Board of the Experimental Aircraft Association about the status of the FAA re-authorization and ATC privatization. Also the Republic Airways bankruptcy, a WASP celebrates her 106th birthday, a first look at the Long Range Strike Bomber, and the history of the YF-12A.
Jack Pelton is Chairman of the Board of the Experimental Aircraft Association (the EAA). He’s the retired chairman, president, and chief executive officer for Cessna Aircraft Company. Jack has also worked at Dornier Aircraft in Munich, and Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach CA.
Jack was a member of the board and past chairman of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and served on the board of directors of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).
Jack gives us the background of the FAA re-authorization bill and tells us about some of its problems: the lack of GA input, heavy board control by airlines, absence of congressional oversight, taxpayer-funded assets handed to a private organization, and lack of clarity on how privatized ATC would be paid for.
The House Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act is being put aside for now in favor of a continuing resolution to fund the FAA beyond March 31, when funding runs out. The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa. said that he is working on the extension bill, but also seeking support for the privatization of air traffic control.
“After [the] announcement by leadership in the House of Representatives that ATC privatization is dead, EAA continues to focus on moving forward with the elements of the bill that are important to general aviation, including reforms in aeromedical and aircraft certification as well as hangar-use policy, that were included in the original House FAA reauthorization bill.”
Regional carrier Republic Airways has filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. Factors include: labor disputes, pilot shortages, loss of revenue and poor earnings. Flight operations will continue and employees will still get paid
Doris Lockness was one of the 1,074 women who were accepted to join the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots that ferried aircraft for the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II. Doris just celebrated her 106th birthday. After the war, Doris worked as a flight instructor, a sightseeing pilot, and she performed in air shows in a Vultee-Stinson warbird called “Swamp Angel.”
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James unveiled the artist rendering Friday based on the initial design concept. James said, “The B-21 has been designed from the beginning based on a set of requirements that allows the use of existing and mature technology.”
Airplane of the Week
Only every four years can we talk about aviation history from the 29th of February. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson bought the YF-12 from the world of the black and into the light, doing so only to protect the black. The YF-12A was an extremely successful interceptor and went on to be a great test aircraft for NASA.
“Right Footed” is an award winning documentary film about Jessica Cox, the first woman without arms to fly an airplane. The film is now available for screenings in movie theaters and in group settings. To bring the film to your community visit www.RightFootedMovie.com and click on “Host a Screening.”
We learn all about Active Noise Reduction headsets with the founder and CEO of Lightspeed Aviation. In the news: Bombardier job cuts and a CS300 order, the NASA aeronautics budget request, United 747 retirements, and the FAA reauthorization bill stalls. We also have the winner of the John Mollison print.
Allan Schrader, founder and CEO, Lightspeed Aviation.
Allan Schrader is founder and CEO of Lightspeed Aviation, a leading producer of active noise reduction headsets for aviation. Lightspeed introduced their first product in 1996 at EAA AirVenture and continues to develop and offer innovative products.
Allan tells us how he started Lightspeed and the sound cancellation technologies involved. We learn about the labs dedicated to delivering quieting, comfort, and fidelity; the headset trade-in program; and the different acoustic signatures of GA airplanes, helicopters, and airliners. Allan also talks about the introduction of the wireless headset, and integrating headsets with cockpit information to enhance the cockpit experience.
Allan has a civil engineering degree and an MBA, and started his career at Tektronix where he learned about product development and operations. Allan left Tektronix to launch a startup company producing wireless headsets, then after five years he and some of his Tektronix co-workers started Lightspeed Technologies to design and make Active Noise Reduction headsets.
Bombardier plans to cut about 7,000 jobs from its worldwide workforce of 71,000. Layoffs are expected in both Canada and Europe, split between the company’s plane and train operations. The better news is that Air Canada placed orders for 45 firm and 30 option CS300 airplanes.
The $19B FY 2017 NASA budget request asks for $790M to be used for aeronautics research impacting the safety, capacity, and efficiency of the air transportation system; a major new experimental flight initiative to demonstrate and validate new technologies that dramatically reduce fuel consumption, emissions, and noise, and open new markets for U.S. industry; and research and development for revolutionary low carbon emission aircraft, including associated transportation systems, as part of a multiagency effort to enable a 21st century clean transportation system.
Aviation journalist Brian Sumers reports that almost a year ago, United indicated that its 747 fleet would be around for a while, with maybe a 2020 decision point based on aircraft maintenance requirements. Now however, pilots were told that 747 retirements may occur at a faster rate. If United does move to retire the 747 quickly, they say they will accelerate deliveries of new widebodies.
The FAA reauthorization bill which would privatize ATC will not be introduced to the full House as scheduled. Facing widespread opposition to the bill, Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster will instead try and consolidate support. Expect the bill to be amended before it re-emerges from Committee.
John Mollison Print Giveaway
We announce the winner of the John Mollison signed print showing the B-25 flown by Dick Cole and Doolittle, Bud Anderson’s P51B, Alden Rigby’s P51D, and Maury Magneson’s P47. John was our guest on Episode 388 where he told us about his “Old Guys and Their Airplanes” video documentaries.
We also play a moving recording called “Grandpa’s Untold Story” that describes how the picture of one man’s B-17 came to be on the wall of his grandson.
Airplane of the Week
Listener Glenn Towler tells us the history of the English Electric Lightning.
The history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) and the controversy surrounding their burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Also, battle lines forming over privatization of air traffic control, Southwest pilots take a stand, Iran orders more airplanes, a high altitude long endurance pseudo-satellite, tanker news, the Knightwatch E-4B, and your favorite airplanes.
Sarah Byrn Rickman
Sarah Rickman is the editor of WASP News, published by Texas Woman’s University (TWU), the home of the official WASP Archives. The Women Airforce Service Pilots flew for the U.S. Army in World War II. Since 2003, Sarah has been a WASP oral historian for TWU, recording many of these ladies’ stories on audiotape.
Sarah tells us about the history of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). We also discuss the current controversy about the burial of WASPs at Arlington National Cemetery, the United States military cemetery.
Two new books on the WASP will be published this spring: WASP of the Ferry Command: Women Pilots, Uncommon Deeds from the University of North Texas Press, and Finding Dorothy Scott: Letters of a WASP Pilot, from Texas Tech University Press.
Sarah received the Combs-Gates Award for 2009 presented by the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. Her grant is to research and write the story of the WASP who flew for the Ferrying Division in World War II. In addition to her books on the WASPs, Sarah is the author of numerous magazine and journal articles about the WASP.
Sarah is a former reporter/columnist for The Detroit News and former editor of the Centerville-Bellbrook Times (Ohio). She earned her B.A. in English from Vanderbilt University and an M.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University McGregor. She describes herself as a former journalist and former novelist who “found” herself when she met these amazing women who flew airplanes for the Army back when many women didn’t even drive cars.
The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee conducted a “markup” hearing February 11 on the Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (H.R. 4441). The bill was amended and the Committee voted to send the legislation to the full House for consideration.
The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) voiced its opposition to privatizing ATC by submitting a statement in opposition to privatized ATC.
Jack J. Pelton, EAA’s CEO and chairman said, “ATC privatization is simply a bad idea on many levels; it will not solve the FAA’s funding dilemma and will create a substantial number of new problems and challenges that would cripple general aviation.”
AOPA President Mark Baker said, “We’re profoundly disappointed that user fees are still part of this legislation.AOPA simply won’t accept user fees in any form on any segment of general aviation. And while there are some very positive provisions for GA in this proposal, user fees are a nonstarter for us.”
Nicholas Calio, the president and CEO of Airlines for America says separating ATC is “an international best practice that a growing consensus believes will create a more nimble, efficient, reliable and even safer system than the one we have today. Doing so will remove the kinks from an uneven and unpredictable funding apparatus while clearing the way for other improvements: more choices for customers, more direct flights, lower fuel consumption and reduced air emissions. So it’s puzzling why some would argue that everything is working just fine — an assertion that flies in the face of all that travelers have experienced over the past decade.”
A group of 13 right-leaning groups sent a letter to Congress stating that moving ATC to a new nongovernmental organization is “an excellent foundation upon which to build a new model for an operation historically mired in old-style thinking and fiscal ineptitude. To us it is an axiomatic economic principle that user-funded, user-accountable entities are far more capable of delivering innovation and timely improvements in a cost-effective manner than government agencies.”
FAA Reauthorization 2016 – NATA
National Air Transportation Association (NATA) President & CEO Thomas L. Hendricks calls ATC privatization a “threat” to general aviation. More at the NATA Congressional Action Center.
In an editorial piece, the New York Times characterizes privatizing air traffic control as a “solution in search of a problem” that “would do nothing to improve the present, federally operated system and indeed could make it worse.”
350 members of the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association flew to Las Vegas on their day off to tell the public that they are upset. Why? because they don’t have a contract. Union president Jon Weaks said the pilots love Southwest and wouldn’t engage in travel disruptions. But they want to “give our company avenues so that we can trust them again.”
Under the sanctions, Iran’s commercial aviation capability suffered greatly. That’s all changing now. Iran Air has signed a purchase agreement with ATR for 20 firm and 20 option ATR 72-600 turboprop aircraft. The deal is valued at €1 billion.
In January, Iran Air placed an order for 118 Airbus single-aisle and widebody aircraft: A320ceo and A320neo families, A330ceo and neo airplanes, A350-1000s and 12 A380s. (Three A380’s were also purchased by Japan’s ANA in January.)
Solar-powered, long duration drones and other aircraft are development by companies like Google and Facebook to provide Internet service using them as pseudo-satellites. Now the British military is purchasing two solar-powered “Zephyr” high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAVs from Airbus. These autonomous unmanned systems would be used for long-term surveillance missions, and possibly to provide communication and ground support in remote areas.
The Zephyr, originally developed by UK firm QinetiQ, has a 23m wingspan and yet only weighs 55kg and cruises at 20km.
Naval Air Systems Command plans to release a new draft request for proposal later this year for an unmanned aerial refueling tanker. According to sources, the final RFP for the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS) is due out in FY 2017, with contract award in FY 2018.
The Airplane of the Week
David finishes out his discussion of Doomsday Planes with the converted 747-200Bs, otherwise known as the E-4B Nightwatch that serves as the National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC).
Bruno Misonne composes music that incorporates the sounds of aviation in very unique ways. His latest creation is “The Sound of Flaps.” Bruno tells us this was “the most challenging project ever created. Everyone who regularly takes the plane becomes aware of this characteristic sound of flaps extending or retracting, a sound that becomes very audible when you are sitting in the cabin above the wings! It has been challenging to find a way to mix that sound with music since at first glance it seems quite impossible to do in such way that the result is pleasant!
The Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee’s Airman Certification System working group (chaired by AOPA) has been tasked with developing new certification standards, handbooks, and test development guidance for aircraft mechanics.
John Mollison tells us how his artwork and his interviews capture the human side of aviation history. In the news, we talk about the FAA reauthorization bill, and consider if United Airlines is getting better. Also, spraying airplanes to fight the Zika virus, the A-10 gets a reprieve, and Icelandair steps up their game with a Stopover Buddy.
Artist and writer John Mollison has interviewed well over 100 highly decorated airman since 1999 including: Medal of Honor recipients Joe Foss and Leo Thorsness, Presidential candidate and Senator George McGovern, bestselling author Robert Mason, and Morris Jeppson, the Bomb-Electronics Officer aboard the Enola Gay, to name a few.
In his words, John “Interviews old guys and draws their airplanes.” He uses the process of capturing an exact, historically accurate rendering of a particular combat aircraft to learn more about the human side of history.
John interviews the pilots and aircrew of particular aircraft to to learn: What makes people go to war? What makes people cope with stress? How do people define success? And most importantly, what can be passed on to future generations so they can avoid the mistakes of the past?
The AIRR Act proposes privatizing ATC via a federally chartered not-for-profit organization, third class medical reform, certification reform, and user fees for airlines and Part 135 charter operators.
In his press release, Shuster says, “The comprehensive reauthorization bill, which removes over 30,000 people from the federal government’s payroll, also streamlines the FAA’s aviation equipment and aircraft certification processes, provides additional consumer protections, addresses aviation safety issues, gives the FAA more tools for the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems, and provides for airport infrastructure improvements across the country.”
CEO Oscar Munoz was upbeat and enthusiastic in the earnings call, 79% of the United pilots ratified a two-year contract extension, United operations are improving, United is building its San Francisco hub as the primary U.S. gateway to Asia, Boston-based PAR Capital Management increased its stake in the carrier to 8.9 million shares or 2.4% of the airline.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the DOD is “…investing to maintain more of our 4th-generation fighter and attack jets than we previously planned — including the A-10, which has been devastating ISIL from the air. The budget defers the A-10’s final retirement until 2022, replacing it with F-35s on a squadron-by-squadron basis so we’ll always have enough aircraft for today’s conflicts.”
Icelandair and WOW Air are competing with low fares between the U.S. and Europe using Iceland as a waypoint. But now Icelandair is stepping up the game and testing an idea where passengers enjoy Iceland’s sights during a layover, before proceeding to their destination. Under this program, passengers can request an Icelandair Stopover Buddy to act as a kind of free tour guide.
Jeff Pino was president of Sikorsky aircraft from 2006 to 2012. Recently, he was the Vice Chairman of XTI Aircraft Company, developing the Trifan 600 VTOL for the commercial market. Pino and was killed February 5, 2016 in the crash of his P-51 Mustang in Arizona.
We talk with Master Flight Instructor Greg Brown about flight training and flight instructors, pilot training at American Airlines, the Boeing 737 MAX first flight, air traffic control privatization and user fees.
Greg Brown with two of his photo art prints
Greg Brown writes the Flying Carpet column in AOPA Flight Training magazine. He also runs a Group on Facebook for student pilots called Greg Brown’s Student Pilot Pep Talk Group. Greg has been a licensed pilot since 1972 and a CFI since 1979. He was the 2000 National Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year, winner of the 1999 NATA Excellence in Pilot Training Award, and the first-ever Master Flight Instructor.
Along with his writing activities, Greg has been an avid photographer from childhood. Since earning his pilot’s license at age 19, he’s been shooting photos from aloft, some of which have illustrated his Flying Carpet column and book. Many are now available as fine art metal prints.
The new pilot training and recruiting program will take place at regional subsidiaries Envoy Air, Piedmont Airlines, and PSA Airlines. This is intended to bring more pilots into the system, and eventually feed mainline operations. The program offers up to $16,000 in tuition reimbursement, and training in the Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program course at no charge. American has created partnerships with more than 40 universities and flight schools.
American Airlines reported lower revenue for the fourth quarter, but the drop in fuel prices more than compensated and resulted in record profits. They expect to save another $2 billion on fuel in 2016.
Boeing conducted a successful first flight of the 737 MAX on January 29, 2016. This was an initial test flight conducted mostly at 15,000 feet and with speed limited to 250 knots. Takeoff was at 9:48 in the morning with the landing at 12:32. There are three more test aircraft to come, and Boeing plans flights six days a week through the summer.
Boeing was awarded a $25.8 million contract for preliminary work on Air Force One aircraft based on the 747-8. The total value of the two airplanes is believed to be $1.65 billion. The only other viable option was the A380.
A coalition of consumer-advocacy groups created a petition addressed to Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member DeFazio, and the members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The petition asks, “Instead of privatizing air traffic control, we believe that Congress should create a pathway to allow the FAA to move forward with long-term capital planning without relinquishing Congressional oversight or allowing a new corporate monopoly run by the airlines to slash air traffic control jobs. The cost of privatization is simply too high. It is bad for workers, bad for passengers, and harmful to smaller and rural communities.”
This week David doesn’t look at just one plane. Instead, he tells us the history of one mission flown by three airplanes over time. All three were Boeing products, and with a 55-year anniversary this week, and Boeing’s 100th, it’s time to go through the Looking Glass.
Boeing EC-135C Looking Glass by Mike Freer – Touchdown-aviation.
U.S. Navy Boeing E-6B Mercury airborne command post. U.S. Navy photo.
The Logbook podcast – Don “The Pre-Buy Guy” Sebastian is the storyteller in Episode 26 of Lucas Weakley’s podcast.
The Age of Aerospace – This five-part series sponsored by Boeing explores the advancements in civilian, military and space technology around some of America’s greatest achievements. On Science Channel.
Links from listener Stuart on the topic of shining lasers at aircraft:
Guest Steve Hinton is a record holding air racer, president of Planes of Fame Air Museum, and owner of a military aircraft restoration company. In the news, United is replacing 50-seaters with larger aircraft, more bad behavior by airline crew members, military drone crashes, desert beetles and airplane frost, and airlines sucking away regional pilots. Also, the Boeing P-26 Peashooter, and the A-10. Again.
Northrop N9MB. Courtesy Planes of Fame Air Museum
Steve Hinton is an American aviator who held a world speed record from 1979 to 1989 and won six Unlimited-class air races, including two national championships. He won four consecutive Unlimited races in one year, and remains the only pilot ever to do so. He retired from racing in 1990.
Steve is now president of Planes of Fame Air Museum with locations in Chino, California and Valle-Grand Canyon, Arizona, and owner of Fighter Rebuilders, a military aircraft restoration company.
On August 14, 1979, Steve set the piston-driven aircraft 3-kilometer world speed record at 499.018 mph in the highly-modified RB51 Red Baron at Tonopah, Nevada. At age 27, he was the youngest person ever to capture the speed record.
On September 16, 1979 while racing the RB-51 in Reno, Steve’s plane suffered catastrophic engine failure. He finished the race in second place, but crashed short of the runway. Although the plane’s fuel erupted in a fireball, the cockpit was thrown away from the fire and Steve survived with a broken back, leg, and ankle.
Steve became the chief test pilot for the Tsunami Racer in 1987. Some of his notable wins in air racing include:
1978, Mojave, Red Baron
1978, Reno (Unlimited National Champion), Red Baron
1979, Miami, Red Baron
1979, Mojave, Red Baron
1985, Reno (Unlimited National Champion), Super Corsair
1990, Sherman, Texas, Tsunami
Steve is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and charter member of the Motion Picture Pilots Association. He has worked on more than 60 films. In 2002 he received a nomination from the World Stunt Awards for the Taurus Award, Best Aerial Work in Pearl Harbor.
United intends to retire many of its 50-seat regional fleet by 2019 and replace them with larger aircraft. This is just the first buy. FlightGlobal reports United has 256 50-seat regional jets and had “considered the 110-set Bombardier CS100 and both the 90-seat Embraer 190 and 120-seat E190-E2 aircraft.”
The man faces Federal charges for allegedly flying two Alaska Airlines flights while under the influence of alcohol. Arntson was selected for drug and alcohol testing after he landed at John Wayne Airport.
A Washington Post investigation says that over 400 large U.S. military drones have crashed since 2001. In one incident, the pilot didn’t realize she had been flying the aircraft upside-down. In another, the pilot didn’t notice he had squeezed the wrong red button on his joystick, putting the plane into a spin.
Scientists at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute think they have learned something about controlling frost from a beetle that lives in the desert. The Namib Desert beetle can collect water in the air through bumps on its shell which then directs water droplets into the beetle’s mouth. The scientists believe they can scale this up to work on large objects, like airplanes.
Seaport Airlines based in Portland, Ore., has been forced to drop some routes because of a pilot shortage. Seaport executive vice president Tim Sieber said, “A lot of regional airlines are undergoing this challenge right now, one we think will last a long time.” He said once Seaport pilots accumulate 1,500 hours of flight time, they typically leave for more lucrative jet-flying jobs on bigger airlines, and their vacancies are not being filled fast enough by newly-licensed pilots. “We’ve downsized the airline to one where we can focus on providing a reliable level of service with our smaller fleet,” Sieber said.
The Airplane of the Week
David tells us the history of the Boeing P-26A Peashooter.
Boeing P-26A Peashooter at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, by David Vanderhoof
Christopher Sims talks about affordable air charter travel, and creating a secondary charter market.
Our “Main(e) Man” Micah brings us the last conversation on the A-10. Maybe.
James Fallows talks with us about aviation in China. Also, the NTSB Most Wanted List, A-10 retirement put on hold, the C-130 keeps on flying, a flight attendant meltdown, a new study about lasers pointed at pilots, and more on-demand flying.
James Fallows and his Cirrus SR22
James Fallows is an American writer and journalist. He has been a national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly for many years, and his work has appeared in Slate, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker and The American Prospect, among others. He is a former editor of U.S. News & World Report, and as President Jimmy Carter’s chief speechwriter for two years, he was the youngest person ever to hold that job.
Jim has been a visiting professor at a number of universities in the U.S. and China. He is the author of ten books, including National Defense, for which he received the 1983 National Book Award, and China Airborne, which examines China’s plan to rival America as the world’s leading aerospace power. Jim is an instrument-rated pilot and owner of a Cirrus SR22.
In our conversation, Jim describes how China Airborne tells the larger story of China through the aviation lens. We talk about building the airport infrastructure and how that’s being funded, and issues for General Aviation in China, such as the shortage of airports, military control of the airspace, and training for controllers. Jim gives us his thoughts on the Comac C919 program and the state of business aviation in China.
For years, the U.S. Air Force has wanted to retire the A-10 Warthog ground attack airplane. That’s been met with congressional criticism, as well as cries from many A-10 enthusiasts. According to sources, the USAF will postpone mothballing the plane in its 2017 budget request to Congress in February.
A 67-year old flight attendant who has been employed by American Airlines for more than 45 years, faces federal charges for some reportedly serious behaviour on a November flight between Charlotte and Frankfurt. These include “claims that she slapped co-workers, punched air marshals, even attempted to open the door of her jetliner as it taxied for takeoff in Germany.”
A new study by researchers at the University of Calgary suggests that pilots struck by lasers do not suffer permanent eye damage. Momentary blindness or blurry vision, yes. Permanent damage, no. Dr. Michael Fielden, assistant clinical professor for the Cumming School of Medicine said, “Once their eyes settle down, they’re worried if there’s any permanent damage that could affect their ability to fly in the future. Fortunately we haven’t found any permanent damage.”
Personal transportation company Uber is expanding beyond vehicles to other modes of transportation. You can now order up on-demand rickshaws in India and boats in Turkey. Now Uber and Airbus Group are planning to launch a pilot program at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah using Airbus H125 and H130 helicopters.
NYCAviation.com editor Ben Granucci on plane spotting, CEO change at Spirit Airlines, drone news from the 2016 CES, a new FAA app, the Airbus A350, hand flying the airplane, five-engine airplanes, and the odd-looking Northrop Tacit Blue.
Ben Granucci inside Fedex A300 at EWR’s Airport Day. Photo by Maggie Bradley.
Ben Granucci is the Standards Editor for NYCAviation.com, a New York City-based, globally focused aviation news, commentary, and enthusiast website. He is an avid aviation photographer and a lifelong avgeek. In addition to his work with NYCAviation, Ben also occasionally writes for AirlineReporter.com. Follow him on Twitter at @blgranucci and visit his Facebook page.
Some of Ben’s favorite photos:
Plane spotting at St Maarten
A Tarom A310 carrying the Hungarian delegation taxis to depart while a Cathay Pacific 777-300ER lifts off in the background during UN Week 2015.
An F-22 Raptor and P-51 Mustang perform the Heritage Flight during day 2 of the first ever New York Air Show.
A LAN Airlines A320 departs Santiago, Chile at sunset.
The Spirit Airlines board announced that board member Robert Fornaro would replace Ben Baldanza as the CEO of the ultra low-cost airline. Fornaro was the AirTran CEO who managed the sale to Southwest 2011. While Spirit remains profitable, it is less so than before, and stock prices have tumbled. Could there be a merger in Spirit’s future?
China-based EHang announced its EHang 184 autonomous electric drone at CES, and says it should be in production in a year. The aircraft carries a single passenger, is limited to a 23 minute flight, and is expected to have a price of $200,000-$300,000.
At CES, FAA Administrator Huerta announced the public release of the B4UFLY app for iOS, and the beta of a version for the Android operating system. The FAA says, “B4UFLY tells users about current or upcoming requirements and restrictions in areas of the National Airspace System (NAS) where they may want to operate their unmanned aircraft system (UAS).”
The U.S. Transportation Department Office of the Inspector General released a report saying the FAA is not ensuring that airline pilots maintain the skills they need to take control from automated systems during an unexpected event.
The FAA has issued a new advisory circular for flight instructors that promotes hand flying skills during flight reviews and proficiency checks. The AC says, “The FAA reminds CFIs conducting flight reviews and IPCs to ensure that a pilot under evaluation is proficient with the automated system and knows what to do if it fails.”
A wide-ranging conversation about airlines with travel industry analyst and advisor Henry Harteveldt. Also, United bundles amenities, the Mitsubishi MRJ is delayed, Allegiant Air mis-cues, the viability of an Uber for the skies, the Westland Lysander, aviation maintenance technician training, the English Electric Lightning, a book review, and bird strikes.
Henry Harteveldt is a well-known analyst and advisor in the travel industry. He spent more than 15 years in marketing, planning, distribution, and strategy roles at companies such as TWA, Continental Airlines, the Trump Organization, the Fairmont Hotel Management Company and GetThere. He was head of Forrester Research’s global travel research practice, and launched Atmosphere Research in September 2011 serving the global travel industry.
We discuss airline strategies for bundling amenities and what an airline “loyalty” program really is these days. Henry touches on airline labor relations, he describes the things he looks for in 2016, what the airlines might do with their profits, and how they might respond to the next downturn.
Henry shares some good insight on the low cost model, how travel technology companies enhance what airlines can offer and how that changes the passenger experience. We discuss IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) standards, what that means for airline offerings and the total value presented to the consumer by the airline. (It’s more than just price.) Henry gives his opinion on the clash between US majors and Middle Eastern carriers, and why the US carriers have lost in Washington.
The Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) has been delayed again. Launch customer ANA Holdings had been planning first delivery in 2017 Q2. Mitsubishi has conducted flight tests and they are not saying specifically what is causing them to push out deliveries. Statements from the company suggest they were just too optimistic in their test schedule.
It seems Allegiant Air can’t stay out of the news. Flight 760 made an emergency landing after reporting an engine problem. A flight to Bangor, Maine was diverted after passengers reported an abnormal smell. Another flight to landed in North Dakota with a deicing equipment problem. A flight to Youngstown, Ohio was diverted to Jacksonville, Florida. That turned out to be a faulty indicator light.
Flight attendants reported smelling smoke just after takeoff and the captain returned to the airport. Emergency vehicles arrived, the captain called for an evacuation, but some unidentified voice over the radio instructed the captain to stay put. After some time and confusion, the captain evacuated the airplane.
An Allegiant Air MD-80 attempted to land at Fargo airport, but it was closed for an airshow rehearsal. They landed after using some of their emergency reserve fuel. The union questioned Allegiant’s safety. Now the FAA issued a “letter of correction,” which carries no enforcement action.
Chris Elliott asks, “Airbnb changed the hotel industry. Uber changed ground transportation. So why can’t the same change happen for air travel?” The US airline industry is now highly consolidated, and commercial flight sharing could introduce competition. For this to happen, the rules need to change. Is the entire concept viable?
The Airplane of the Week
The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s Westland Lysander IIIa by David Vanderhoof
With the disappearance of Westland Helicopters to Finmeccanica, it was time to do a Westland aircraft. So David chose his favorite, the Lysander! It’s designer also designed the EE Lightning, so he can also say he started the Lightning segment.