Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase podcast host and author Betty Thesky tells us about the life and experiences of a flight attendant. We look at airline seating, airline fees, and pay for flight attendants. Also, a “new” indigenous fighter jet from Iran and an Across the Pond segment on the Light Aircraft Association and general aviation in the UK.
Betty Thesky is a flight attendant with a major U.S. airline, and she produces the Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase podcast, a collection of funny airline and travel stories reminiscent of an old-fashioned radio show. Her job as a flight attendant allows her to indulge in her passion for travel and has taken her all over the world. The popular show launched in 2005 and it is one of the first aviation-related podcasts. Betty in the Sky also spawned several books and Betty has branched off into writing fiction.
Betty tells us how the podcast got started and how her theme song was created. We talk about the life of a flight attendant, how that has changed over the years, and what type of person makes a good FA. Betty also has some tips for travelers that would improve their experience.
As a child, when someone asked Betty what she wanted to do when she grew up, her answer was, “I want to travel!” and that’s exactly what she went on to do. She earned her BA in Communications with a minor in Psychology and was then hired by People Express as a flight attendant. Later she applied at one of the major airlines and has been there for more than 20 years.
When American Airlines installs premium economy on its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft, it will cut the number of business class seats to 20 from 28. The seats will be the Zodiac Aerospace Concept D product in a staggered forwards-backward herringbone configuration, rather than the outward-facing B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat on other American 787s in the American fleet. Delta is replacing the Zodiac inward-facing herringbone seats on the Boeing 777-200ER and -LR fleet with the Thompson Vantage XL staggered doored product. United continues to roll out it’s Polaris retrofits, but at a slow rate.
The Senate version of the FAA Reauthorization Act mandates that airlines disclose their baggage fees, cancellation fees, change fees, ticketing fees, and seat selection fees “in a standardized format.” Christopher Elliott asks, “Why is it so hard to figure out what you’ll have to pay for a plane ticket — and what you’re paying for?”
United Airlines plans to start charging more for an economy class seat near the front of the plane than it does for the seats in the back. At the International Aviation Forecast Summit, United Airlines President Scott Kirby said, “We’ve got ‘Economy Plus’ today, which has more legroom, but there are also rows that don’t have more legroom but they are at the front of the airplane. We are now going to let those people select those seats as well for a fee.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median wage was $50,500 in 2017, with the lowest 10% earning less than $26,860, and the highest 10% earning more than $79,520. PayScale says the average flight attendant salary is $39,022. Glassdoor says the average reported salary is $52,217, with some as low as $18,000.
Across the Pond
In this month’s Across The Pond segment, Pieter talks to Neil Wilson from the Light Aircraft Association about their role supporting general aviation in the UK and he gets a preview of the upcoming LAA SywellRally, the UK’s biggest fly-in.
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.
The air show industry suffered last year under sequestration with the loss of the military demonstration teams. This year, however, many of the military performers are back, to the benefit of the military and the public. So now the focus is on contingency planning for any possible repeat of the loss of military performers.
We discuss the impact of rising fuel prices on the air show industry, how air show spectator satisfaction is measured, and the annual ICAS convention.
ICAS works to maintain safety at air shows, serves as an information resource on air show issues, provides for the training and continuing education needs of the members and air show professionals generally, and promotes the air show industry to the media, Corporate North America, and the general public.
This week the guys are having some fun flying all over the countryside but still managed to bring in a quick report.
Steve and ATC Ben host the segment from the cockpit of a Cirrus SR20, VH-SJA, at 9000 feet and 162 knots on their way up to the annual NatFly event in Temora, New South Wales. They chat briefly about the flight and the news this week that Avalon Airport in Victoria are trying to pitch themselves as “GA friendly” by offering “discounted” user fees. And yes, they still charge a fortune to use that airport, along with Essendon, which they also operate.
Grant in his balloon
Grant also drops in with a quick report from on board his hot air balloon at 1,500 feet, which he was flying at Leeton in New South Wales, not too far away from Temora. Sounds like he was having way too much fun!
Guest Nils Haupt is Director and Head of Corporate Communications for The Americas, Lufthansa German Airlines. We talk about the airlines and associated companies that fall under the Lufthansa airline group, their cargo operations and how Lufthansa is dealing with the severe night flight ban in Frankfurt. Also how Lufthansa operating in a high cost country means they have to deliver quality. We touch on competition with low cost carriers, the Germanwings strategy, and cooperation with United and Air Canada. Nils comments on their 747-8 experience, the cost of fuel, the schedule for interior upgrades, and much more.
We also talk about some of the recent aviation labor activity, big news on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, bizjet engine advances, and the attempted Predator shoot down by Iranian jets.
David’s Aircraft of the Week is the Sukhoi Su-25 “Frogfoot.”
In this week’s Australia Desk report:
There is a disturbance in the Force as the Qantas pilots union agrees with management on an issue. In this case, Qantas is refusing to pay the operators of Brisbane International Airport up front for the construction of a new runway. In other news, Qantas announces further maintenance job cuts – nearly 500 more to go from Avalon and Sydney, and some aerial fire suppression operations go a little wrong in New South Wales after a helicopter fills its bucket from a sewerage treatment pond and deposits the contents on 29 firefighters. Yuk!
Pieter gets an update from Diego López-Salazar from Aeropodcast.com. First his recent delayed trip to China, then we cover Spain and of course his pet topic Ryanair! Find Diego on Twitter as @dlopezsalazar.
Kurt Barnhart is Professor and head of the Department of Aviation at Kansas State University. He’s also Executive Director of the Applied Aviation Research Center which focuses on integrating unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace system. Kurt been a National Association of Flight Instructors’ Master Flight Instructor since 2003.
In this week’s Australia Desk report: Virgin Australia re-branding completed, Polynesian Blue re-branded as Virgin Samoa, Sydney International Airport to upgrade & reconfigure its terminals, China Southern to increase its presence in Australia & is looking for a more Aussie feel to its services, Scoot looks to fly to Sydney from Singapore while it’s CEO has a possible Freudian slip when talking about the value of low cost carriers. Find more from Grant and Steve at the Plane Crazy Down Under podcast, and follow the show on Twitter at @pcdu. Steve’s at @stevevisscher and Grant at @falcon124.
This week on Across the Pond, Pieter brings back Gareth Stringer and Tim Robinson for our monthly update on aviation news in Europe. Tim has visisted Dubai for the Airshow and brings back stories on Qatar Aiways and the fights with Airbus over the A350-1000 modifications. Gareth tells us about the next edition of Global Aviation Resource monthly digital aviation magazine and we discuss our favourite photo of 2011 on The Hangar. Find Gareth at www.globalaviationresource.com and Tim at www.aerosociety.com.