We talk with the author of Why Flying is Miserable: And How to Fix It. In the news, the NTSB comments on the increase in near-miss aviation incidents, the FAA will appoint an ARC to examine pilot mental health, an NTSB preliminary report on the Hawker/Cessna collision, cargo pilots are offered $250,000 to go regional, and United adjusts their frequent flyer program.
Ganesh Sitaraman is a policy expert, Vanderbilt law professor, and the author of the book titled Why Flying is Miserable: And How to Fix It. The book was written to stimulate conversation about the state of air travel in the U.S. and what might be done to make it serve more Americans, more efficiently, with fewer federal bailouts and headaches.
Why Flying is Miserable takes the reader through the history of the U.S. airline industry and how deregulation has brought us to where we are today. In the early years of flight through the 1930’s, policies were defined by the needs of airmail. Then in the 1930s to the 1970s, airlines were regulated largely under a public utility model, ultimately through the Civil Aeronautics Board. This regulated oligopoly was changed to a free market model with deregulation in 1978. The resulting unregulated oligopoly resulted in cutthroat competition in the 1980s which led to consolidation without regulation.
Ganesh describes why flying is miserable for the flying public and miserable for the industry itself. With no changes, another bailout situation will present itself sooner or later, he argues.
Ganesh offers some reform principles that consider the dynamics of the industry and the goals of a national airline policy: no more ﬂyover country, no bailouts or bankruptcies, and fair and transparent prices. He offers some creative and thought-provoking approaches to achieve those principles.
Ganesh is director of the Vanderbilt Policy Accelerator for Political Economy and Regulation. He’s the author of numerous books, previously a senior advisor to Elizabeth Warren for her presidential campaign, and is a member of the Administrative Conference of the United States and the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Jennifer Homendy told a U.S. Senate aviation committee that the increase in near-miss aviation incidents is a “clear warning sign that the U.S. aviation system is sharply strained.” Homendy stated the need for “more technology for runway and cockpit alerting… We cannot wait until a fatal accident forces action.”
American Airlines dangles a $250,000 bonus to lure pilots from FedEx and UPS to fill job shortage that has led to canceled and delayed flights
American Airlines regional carrier PSA Airlines is reportedly offering cargo pilots a $175,000 bonus in the first paycheck, with an additional $75,000 after one year. As the airline cancels flights due to staffing shortages, FedEx and UPS are experiencing reduced demand and flight cuttings. So those carriers are encouraging their pilots to consider the American offer.
As previously reported, the left wing of a Hawker 850 (N269AA) hit the vertical stabilizer of a Cessna Mustang (N510HM) landing on a crossing runway at Houston Hobby Airport (KHOU). According to the NTSB preliminary report:
HOU has intersecting runways, and the local controller had instructed the crew of N269AA [Hawker] to line up and wait (LUAW) on runway 22. The crew of N269AA said in a post-accident interview that they believed they heard that they were cleared for takeoff when they took off. The collision between the two airplanes occurred at the intersection of the two runways.
N269AA was in the takeoff roll on runway 22 when the flight data/clearance delivery controller alerted the local controller about N269AA’s movement, and at 1519:47 the local controller stated “november nine alpha alpha, stop, hold your position.” There was no response from the crew of N269AA, and at 1519:53 the local controller again stated, “alpha, alpha, hold your position, stop,” to which there was still no response.
The flight crew from N269AA stated in their post-accident interview they had a rudder bias alert, and a pitch trim alert which they had to resolve as they were in the takeoff roll.NTSB
HOU tower is equipped with an Airport Surface Detection Equipment – Model X (ASDE-X) system that the FAA describes as “a surveillance system using radar, multilateration and satellite technology that allows air traffic controllers to track surface movement of aircraft and vehicles. It was developed to help reduce critical Category A and B runway incursions.”
ASDE X collects data from
- Surface surveillance radar located on top of the air traffic control tower and/or on a remote tower
- Multilateration sensors located around the airport
- Airport Surveillance Radars such as the Mode S
- Automatic Dependent Surveillance — Broadcast (ADS-B) sensors
- Terminal automation system to obtain flight plan data.
By fusing the data from these sources, ASDE-X can determine the position and identification of aircraft and vehicles in the airport movement area, as well as aircraft flying on final approach to the airport. Thirty-five major airports have received ASDE-X.
The FAA says it is appointing a Pilot Mental Health Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). The committee will provide recommendations on breaking down the barriers that prevent pilots from reporting mental health issues to the FAA. FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said, “Mental health care has made great strides in recent years, and we want to make sure the FAA is considering those advances when we evaluate the health of pilots.”
The FAA said it would also work to address uncompleted recommendations from a July inspector general’s office report on pilot mental health, which found the FAA’s “ability to mitigate safety risks is limited by pilots’ reluctance to disclose mental health conditions.”
In addition, the FAA will work with the ARC to address open recommendations from the July 2023 DOT Office of Inspector General report on Pilot Mental Health Challenges, which found that the agency has “comprehensive procedures to evaluate pilots’ psychological health.”
FAA fact sheet on pilot mental health oversight, Pilot Mental Fitness.
UA says they won’t change overall requirements for elite frequent flyer status in 2024. Instead, the airline will give customers 25 qualifying points for every $500 they spend on co-branded credit cards. United will also lift caps on credit card spending that can qualify for elite status. Presently, customers earn 500 points for every $12,000 spent.
The Indo-Pacific International Maritime Exposition (IndoPac 2023) was held between November 7th and 9th in Sydney, and Grant was in attendance, gathering content for Australian Defence Magazine. We take a brief look at the expo, particularly in terms of a focus on maritime aviation and defence.
Local company Rosebank Engineering has secured a contract for RAAF F-35 component maintenance, activating their wheel & brake repair depot, east of Melbourne.
The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) this week celebrated 30 years of operations at RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia, conducting lead-in and advanced training for their military pilots. The Australian Defence Force enjoys a close working relationship with the Singaporeans not only at Pearce but in several other aspects of training including CH-47 Chinook training at the Army Aviation Regiment’s base at Oakey in Queensland.
And speaking of maritime topics, what exactly was Steve eating for lunch that has Grant so concerned? Tune in to find out! Anchors away….
Hosts this Episode
Max Flight, Rob Mark, and Brian Coleman. Contribution by Grant McHerron and Steve Visscher.