790 Airline Ticket Price

The components of an airline ticket price, Boeing’s contract negotiations with the International Association of Machinists, the NTSB’s frustration with Boeing’s cooperation, American Airlines’ order of 260 planes, an Alaska Airlines flight with an open cargo door, pilots falling asleep mid-flight, an Alaska Supreme Court ruling on aircraft surveillance, and a “technical event” involving a LATAM flight.

Aviation News

UK Air Passenger Duty Increasing, Premium Cabins Hit Hardest

The passenger tax in the UK is called the Air Passenger Duty (APD) and it is just one part of an airline ticket price. One Mile at a Time calls the APD “the highest passenger tax on air travel anywhere in the world.” As of April 1, 2024, the APD is going up:

  • The domestic economy APD will increase by £0.50, from £6.50 to £7 (~$9)
  • The domestic premium APD will increase by £1, from £13 to £14 (~$18)
  • The long haul economy APD will increase by £4, from £84 to £88 (~$112)
  • The long haul premium APD will increase by £9, from £185 to £194 (~$246)
  • The ultra long haul economy APD will increase by £1, from £91 to £92 (~$117)
  • The ultra long haul premium APD will increase by £2, from £200 to £202 (~$257)

Additional increases are planned for 2025.

An airline ticket price is made up of the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges. Government taxes and fees include an excise tax (a 7.5% tax imposed by the U.S. government on domestic flights), flight segment tax (a $4 fee per flight segment), a passenger facility charge (an airport fee determined by the U.S. airport from which you depart), the September 11 security fee ($5.60 per one-way trip to offset security costs), Air Passenger Duty (APD) (for flights departing from the U.K.), and other country-specific charges.

As watershed contract talks with Boeing open, Machinists think big

International Association of Machinists logo.

Boeing and the International Association of Machinists are negotiating a new labor contract. The union’s District 751 represents more than 32,000 Boeing Machinists. The union says they’ll ask for a wage increase of over 40% over the next three years and the restoration of its traditional pension. Also, a commitment to build the next new Boeing airplane in Seattle, more quality inspectors, more union input into quality control, and a shift in the corporate culture to one that doesn’t alienate employees. IAM president Jon Holden said the union “must stand up and save this company from itself.” A mass meeting and strike authorization vote are scheduled for mid-July. The contract expires on September 12, 2024.

NTSB Chair Not Pleased With Boeing’s Cooperation On Door Plug Probe

Regarding the investigation into the Alaska Airlines door plug incident, NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy recently testified at a Senate hearing that “Boeing has not provided us with the documents and information that we have requested numerous times over the past few months.” At the hearing, Homendy complained that Boeing was not cooperating as the NTSB attempted to interview team members.

NTSB Chair: Alaska 1282 investigation is like ‘peeling an onion’

In an exclusive interview with The Air Current, Jennifer Homendy said the NTSB is planning a public investigative hearing into the January 5 accident aboard Alaska Airlines 1282. Homendy told TAC that the hearing will occur towards the end of the summer.

American Airlines to buy 260 new planes from Boeing, Airbus and Embraer to meet growing demand

American Airlines ordered 260 new aircraft and placed options for up to 193 more planes. The orders include 85 Boeing 737 Max 10s, 85 A321neo planes from Airbus, and 90 E175 aircraft from Embraer.

Alaska Airlines flight carrying pets arrives with cargo door open as carrier and Boeing face $1B lawsuit

Alaska Airlines logo

An Alaska Airlines flight from Los Cabos, Mexico arrived at Portland, Oregon with its cargo door partly open. None of the pets in the cargo hold were injured. Alaska Airlines told KOIN in a statement that “there was no indication to the crew that the door was unsealed during [last Friday’s] flight and all indications point to the door partially opening after landing.” Also, “Our maintenance teams inspected the aircraft, replaced a spring in the door, tested the door, and reentered it into service.”

A plane was flying with 159 onboard. Then both pilots fell asleep

A preliminary report by Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee says both pilots of a PT Batik Air Indonesia flight fell asleep at about the same time for around 28 minutes. The plane was carrying 153 passengers and four crew members headed to Jakarta on a two-hour and 35-minute flight.

Officers need warrants to use aircraft, zoom lenses to surveil areas around homes, Alaska court says

According to the Alaska Supreme Court, law enforcement officers cannot use aircraft with binoculars or cameras with zoom lenses to surveil a person’s home, unless they obtain a warrant. This stems from a 2012 case where Alaska State Troopers flew past a property to verify a tip that marijuana was being grown there. The officers used a camera and zoom lens to take photos of the property. Based on what they saw, a search warrant was obtained.

At least 50 hurt as LATAM’s Boeing 787 to Auckland ‘just dropped’ mid-flight

A Boeing 787 operated by LATAM Airlines experienced what the airline called a “technical event” mid-flight from Sydney to Auckland. Reportedly, the plane abruptly dropped and at least 50 people were hurt. Ten passengers and three cabin crew members were taken to a hospital. One person is in serious condition. The 787-9 Dreamliner (registered CC-BGG) operated as flight LA800 between Sydney, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand.

A passenger told the BBC “The plane, unannounced, just dropped. I mean it dropped unlike anything I’ve ever experienced on any kind of minor turbulence, and people were thrown out of their seats, hit the top of the roof of the plane, throwing down the aisles. Some of the roof panels were broken from people being thrown up and knocking through the plastic roof panels in the aisle ways. And there was blood coming from several people’s heads.”

Mentioned

Understanding The UK Air Passenger Duty (APD)

FlightSimExpo

This new Airbus air taxi has a 50-mile range and is quieter than a hairdryer

XPeng’s AeroHT flexes its eVTOL expertise, taking its X2 flying car to the skies above Guangzhou

Aviation Careers Podcast

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

789 Scaled Composites

We talk with both the President of Scaled Composites and the VP of Flight Operations. In the news, the FAA tells Boeing to make a plan, Boeing looks at re-acquiring SpiritAerosystems, Skyryse takes deposits for a fly-by-wire helicopter, the V-22 Osprey could be returning to flight, airlines scale back pilot hiring, and the JetBlue – Spirit merger is off.

Guests

Peter Siebold and Greg Norris of Scaled Composites standing on the apron.
Peter Siebold and Greg Morris

Greg Morris is the president of Scaled Composites, and Pete Siebold is the VP of Flight Operations. Scaled Composites is the aerospace company founded by Burt Rutan to develop experimental aircraft. Currently owned by Northrop Grumman and located at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, Scaled focuses on designing and developing concept aircraft that are often unconventional.

Greg and Pete describe the Scaled “secret sauce” and the company culture that keeps employees engaged and operating at their creative best. We hear about the experience of a first flight in a Scaled aircraft and the preparations made before test flights. Also how Scaled helps customers define their requirements and then designs the aircraft technology to meet those requirements. Interestingly, the design for a technology demonstrator can be quite different than the design for manufacturability. The two explain the personal and professional qualities that position an individual for an aviation career such as you might find at a company like Scaled Composites.

Greg Morris

Greg joined Scaled Composites in 2023 from Gauntlet Aerospace where he was President and Chief Test Pilot. He operated a flight school for 7 years and had 10 years of experience in flight test operations, including teaching in the Qualitative Evaluation Program for the United States Air Force Test Pilot School and target and chase support for the 412th Test Wing. Greg is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and serves on the SETP Membership Committee. He is a nationally designated FAA Experimental Examiner and he’s conducted check-rides for a variety of aircraft, both Scaled Composites and others. 

Greg received a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California and a Masters of Science in Flight Test Engineering from the National Test Pilot School.

Peter Siebold

Pete joined Scaled Composites in 1996 as a Design Engineer on the VisionAire Vantage. He worked extensively as a Flight Test Engineer on multiple programs before becoming a Test Pilot for the company. During his time at Scaled, Pete has held multiple leadership positions within engineering and flight operations, including Director of Flight Operations. Pete has flown 4 first flights at Scaled and 11 different Scaled aircraft. He was heavily involved in the development of Scaled’s simulator and avionics capabilities.

Pete obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He became a certified flight instructor while attending the university, a rating he retains to this day. He is an Associate Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and holds an Airline Transport Pilot Rating with seven Experimental Aircraft Authorizations and two Type Ratings. In 2004, Pete was part of the test team that won the Iven C. Kincheloe award for SpaceShipOne. He was bestowed the honor again in 2009 for his work as Project Pilot for WhiteKnightTwo.

Video: Model 401 Sierra First Flight

Video: Proteus: 25 years of Flight

Find Scaled Composites on Twitter/X, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Aviation News

FAA to Boeing: Develop a plan to fix your quality issues within 90 days

At a meeting in FAA headquarters, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker told Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun that Boeing has 90 days to provide an action plan that addresses its “systemic quality-control issues.” After the meeting, Whitaker said, “Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements. “Making foundational change will require a sustained effort from Boeing’s leadership, and we are going to hold them accountable every step of the way, with mutually understood milestones and expectations.”

The plan must take into account the findings of the expert review panel report and the results of an FAA production-line audit. It will include the steps necessary to mature Boeing’s Safety Management System and integrate this with the company’s Quality Management System, to “ensure the same level of rigor and oversight is applied to the company’s suppliers.”

Justice Department Looking Into Boeing Blowout

The DOJ is examining whether the door panel incident falls under the government’s 2021 deferred-prosecution agreement with Boeing after the two fatal 737 Max crashes. If prosecutors determine that Boeing’s handling of the incident violated the 2021 agreement, they could rescind it and bring criminal charges against the company.

Engineering union and Boeing face off in fraught pilot contract dispute

The labor contract is with 23 flight technical and safety pilots in the flight operations group. These pilots don’t routinely fly production aircraft. The flight technical pilots develop pilot training programs and pilot manuals and liaise with airlines on their flight operations. The safety pilots help develop flight deck systems for new aircraft and support the certification process. The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace union (SPEEA) says its members have “first-hand experience of the kinds of safety-culture problems an expert panel reported on…”

Boeing in Talks to Buy Troubled Supplier Spirit AeroSystems

Spirit AeroSystems has had preliminary discussions with Boeing and has hired bankers to explore strategic options. Spirit is also looking at selling its Ireland unit that makes parts for Airbus. Both companies have confirmed they are having merger discussions. The talks might not result in a deal. In a statement, Boeing said, “We believe that the reintegration of Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems’ manufacturing operations would further strengthen aviation safety, improve quality, and serve the interests of our customers, employees, and shareholders.”

Skyryse Taking Deposits for Fly-by-wire Turbine Single

Skyryse One is a Robinson R66 helicopter that has been retrofitted with the proprietary SkyOS operating system. This features a single-stick control and two touchscreens. It’s an IFR-capable, aircraft-agnostic, triple-redundant fly-by-wire system. Skyryse is taking refundable, non-transferrable $2,500 deposits.

V-22 Osprey Fleet To Return To Flight After 3-Month Worldwide Grounding

The V-22 Osprey fleet received approval from U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for a safe and measured return to operations. The Naval Air Systems Command could lift the grounding and allow the services to resume V-22 flight operations. The cause of the crash has been identified, but the reason for the failure has not. The investigation continues.

Southwest Airlines Scales Back Pilot Hiring In 2024

A Southwest memo says, “Based on expected capacity growth beyond 2024, we’ve made the difficult decision to suspend Initial First Officer Training classes through the remainder of 2024 and defer job offers, beginning with our April classes.” The airline said pilots with conditional job offers would be placed in a “deferred candidate pool.” Once hiring resumes, those pilots would be called up.

JetBlue, Spirit end $3.8 billion merger agreement after losing antitrust suit

Citing regulatory hurdles, the two airlines ended their merger agreement. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “Today’s decision by JetBlue is yet another victory for the Justice Department’s work on behalf of American consumers.”

Mentioned

Making Like Maverick in an L-39 by Rob Mark in JetWhine.

Bob Heil

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

Tesla Model S and Model 3 vulnerable to GNSS spoofing attacks

Wheel Bearings podcast.

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

788 Corporate Flight Attendant

The struggle to mandate corporate flight attendant egress training, the Bombardier Challenger jet crash in Florida, major executive changes at Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems whistleblowers, 737 Max Service Difficulty Reports, FAA’s Enhanced Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative program, FAA safety recommendations for Boeing, and details on Boeing’s “traveled work.”

Guest

Susan C. Friedenberg is the CEO of Corporate Flight Attendant – Tech Training and Consulting. Over the past 25 years, Susan has been committed to continually raising the standards for flight attendants in all aspects of business aviation. Her school teaches students the professional role of a corporate flight attendant. She has dedicated herself to the idea that egress training is critical to ensuring the safety of the passengers and crew in an emergency.

Susan C. Friedenberg, advocate for corporate flight attendant egress training.

Susan started Corporate Flight Attendant – Tech Training in 1999 when she realized there were just two valid egress training companies for business aviation and that neither offered students a chance to learn the professional role of a corporate flight attendant. In her 5-day – 50-hour Zoom training, guests include a senior Pfizer employee explaining cockpit resource management and a major business aviation caterer who discusses what their kitchens need to know to expedite and deliver a perfect catering order.

Starting her aviation career as a flight attendant at American Airlines, Susan eventually moved on to Capitol Air until 1984 when that company went bankrupt. Discovering business aviation, she flew full-time for Coca-Cola’s flight department in Atlanta, Dupont Aviation in Wilmington, Delaware, and American Standard Companies from Teterboro, New Jersey. She’s also flown as a contract flight attendant.  

Susan has been active for decades with the NBAA and served on the association’s Flight Attendant Committee and the Scholarship Committee. Susan was also the Chair of the Contract Flight Attendant Group for two years. 

She’s written numerous articles about the corporate flight attendant’s professional role and created a safety presentation called, “Why You Need a Trained Person in the Back of Your Aircraft.” Her company also provides abridged training for Flight Techs (A&P’s) who act in a dual role aboard a business aviation aircraft as both a mechanic and a flight attendant in the back of the plane.

Aviation News

‘We’ve lost both engines,’ pilot said before private jet crashed onto Florida interstate, killing 2

A Bombardier Challenger 600 series jet carrying five people crashed while attempting to make an emergency landing on Interstate 75 near Naples, Florida. The pilot and co-pilot were killed. A crew member and two passengers escaped.

Boeing removes the Head of 737 Max program in wake of safety incidents

Eighteen-year Boeing veteran Ed Clark has been removed from head of the 737 Max passenger jet program. He had previously held the roles of 737 Max chief engineer and chief 737 mechanic. Katie Ringgold fills Clark’s position as head of the 737 Max program. She had been vice president of 737 Max deliveries. Boeing also announced the creation of a new executive position, Senior Vice President for BCA Quality. Elizabeth Lund fills that position. Lund had been senior vice president and general manager of airplane programs for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Mike Fleming fills Lund’s position. He had been senior vice president of development and customer service.

With Boeing in hot seat, claims against supplier Spirit AeroSystems take shape

Two former Spirit AeroSystems employees have come forward with quality deficiency allegations. The first was a quality auditor at the Wichita plant who was fired in 2022 for allegedly failing to conduct inspections that were his responsibility. Now a second ex-employee who worked alongside the first has corroborated the allegations.

Airlines Filed 1,800 Reports Warning Regulators About Boeing’s 737 Max

More than 1,800 service difficulty reports concerning the 737 Max were filed by operators over the last three years. Alaska Airlines alone filed more than 1,230 737 Max reports over that period. The nonprofit Foundation for Aviation Safety compiled federal safety reports and found 737 Max issues including fuel leaks resulting from misapplied sealant, malfunctioning stabilizing motors, fuel tank FOD, engine stalls, and anti-ice system problems. Under § 121.703, certificate holders must file Service difficulty reports for the occurrence or detection of certain failures, malfunctions, or defects.

FAA panel finds Boeing safety culture wanting, recommends overhaul

The FAA commissioned a panel of independent aviation experts. Their report is critical of Boeing’s safety culture and makes more than 50 recommendations: Section 103 Organizational Designation Authorizations (ODA) for Transport Airplanes, Expert Panel Review Report, Final Report. [PDF]

FAA Moves to Accelerate Air Traffic Controller Hiring by Enhancing College Training Program

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker says, “Hiring more air traffic controllers is a priority. We need more entry points for controller candidates and this enhanced college controller training program is an additional avenue to get controllers into facilities sooner.” The Enhanced Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program is designed to increase the number of students who can begin facility training immediately upon graduation. As of May 2023, the FAA lists 31 approved AT-CTI schools. [PDF]

Mentioned

Why a Good Flight Attendant Matters

Gulfstream 550 Evacuation Crewmember Training

G550 Will Require Evac Crewmember

PBS – The American Experience: Come Fly With Me: They Wanted to See the World and Ended Up Changing It

The Biden administration’s bet on sustainable aviation fuel

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

787 California Science Center Space Shuttle Endeavour

The vertical stacking of the space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center, the delay in Boeing’s T-7A Red Hawk program, communication interruptions for El Al, infrastructure grants for US airports, Delta Air Lines trading cards, and the possibility of rescinding Boeing’s immunity deal.

The Final Move of the Space Shuttle Endeavour

Back on July 20, 2023, the California Science Center commenced Go for Stack, the process of moving and lifting each of the space shuttle components into place for Endeavour’s upcoming 20-story vertical display. This feat has never been done outside of a NASA facility.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour being stacked at the California Science Center.

Press release: Space Shuttle Endeavour Is Now Fully Stacked and Mated, Completing World’s Only Ready-to-Launch Space Shuttle Display.

Brian Coleman attended the recent Endeavour stacking event and spoke with the museum’s President and CEO and the Curator for Aerospace Science:

Jeffrey N Rudolph, President and CEO of the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California, and the President of the California Science Center Foundation. He provided the leadership for the planning, design, fundraising, and implementation of the California Science Center Master Plan which transformed the California Museum of Science and Industry into the new California Science Center and created an award-winning Exposition Park Master Plan to guide the redevelopment of Exposition Park in central Los Angeles. Jeff serves as a Fellow of the California Council on Science and Technology and the Executive Committee for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board and the Los Angeles Tourism Marketing District. He is the past chair of the Board of the Association of Science & Technology Centers and past chair of the Board of the American Alliance of Museums. Jeff received an M.B.A. from Yale University and a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Kenneth Phillips, PhD, Curator for Aerospace Science at the California Science Center. Ken develops the California Science Center Foundation’s programs and exhibits on aeronautics and space exploration. As curator, he is responsible for creating the vision that shapes these programs and leading the team in the process that includes concept and storyboard development; multiple phases of design; prototype development and testing; artifact acquisition; audiovisual production; exhibit fabrication and research on visitor learning.

Major projects include Phase III of the Science Center’s 25-year Master Plan featuring the space shuttle Endeavour and the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center; the SKETCH Foundation Air and Space Gallery in Science Court; the Roy A. Anderson A-12 Blackbird Exhibit and Garden; and collaboration on the development of the Creative World gallery. 

Ken received his B.S. degree in Physics from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, an M.S. in General Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, and a Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University in Environmental Engineering.

Dr. Ken Phillips and Brian Coleman observing the Space Shuttle Endeavour being stacked at the California Science Center.
Dr. Ken Phillips and Brian Coleman.

Aviation News

Will Biden Rescind Trump’s Boeing Immunity Deal?

After the two 737 Max crashes, the previous administration negotiated a deferred prosecution agreement whereby Boeing was granted certain immunity from prosecution, including fraud charges, and protection for Boeing’s senior executives. Many have criticized the deal.

The agreement required Boeing to “protect and detect violations of the U.S. fraud laws throughout its operations, including… those of its contractors and subcontractors.” Also, the Justice Department had “sole discretion” to decide if the “Company has breached the Agreement and whether to pursue prosecution of the Company and its subsidiaries.”

A lawsuit filed after the Alaska Airlines door plug blow-out alleges that Spirit AeroSystems had engaged in a “fraudulent scheme” to falsify records and hide “excessive” numbers of manufacturing defects. The theory presented in the article is that if the fraud allegations are substantiated, the Justice Department could rescind the deferred prosecution agreement.

Boeing pushes back T-7 plans due to faulty parts

Low rate initial production (LRIP) of the T-7A Red Hawk training jet has been pushed out to mid-2024. Boeing said part quality problems are to blame, along with supply chain issues. The T-7 will replace T-38 jet trainers. The Air Force plans to buy 351 T-7s by 2034.

Israeli flight from Thailand faced attack by ‘hostile elements’ – report

For the second time in a week, someone attempted to take over the communication network of an El Al plane and divert it from its destination. The crew noticed that the instructions it was receiving were improper and ignored them.

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Nearly $1 Billion in Grants from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to Improve 114 Airports Across the U.S.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocates $5 billion ($1 billion annually from 2022 to 2026) to provide competitive grants for airport terminal development projects. In FY24, the FAA is awarding $970 million to 114 airports in 44 states and three territories.

The FAA has an excellent data visualization tool for the airports receiving funding. Hover over an airport to see the amount of the funding and details about how the money will be used. You can filter by better PAX experience, expanded capacity, sustainability, safety, accessibility, serving smaller communities, and tower upgrades.

What the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Means for U.S. Aviation

Portland Jetport to receive more than $10 million from FAA for improvements

Maine airports getting federal funding for critical terminal upgrades

Army CH-47s Fill In For Grounded Marine MV-22s In White House Airlift Role

The fleet of V-22 tilt-rotors was grounded after the fatal crash of a U.S. Air Force CV-22 off the coast of Japan in November 2023. The U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps all fly versions of the V-22. Other aircraft are being pressed into service to fill the role of the tilt-rotors. CH-47F Chinooks are accompanying Marine 1, which is unusual in the U.S., but not uncommon overseas. Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) uses a dozen MV-22Bs for presidential airlift support missions. 

Delta has been keeping a secret for the past 20 years—and pilots really want you to ask about it

Unbeknownst to many passengers, Delta Air Lines has had a trading card program since 2003. The cards are exclusive to pilots and feature images of the aircraft they fly. New artwork is voted on by the pilots and introduced every five years. This recently broke on social media and now everyone is after the cards. In 2023, Delta handed out over 1.5 million cards.

Mentioned

Micah had a chance to meet up with listener Stephen Ivey who flies the Embraer Phenom for one of the big charter operations. He was doing a pickup at PWM and had some time to kill. Micah toured the Phenom, which is a smaller jet than he thought, but still very comfortable. This older one flies with a G1000.

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

786 Flying Tigers

The founder and Executive Director of the Flying Tigers 69th DRS Association discusses the legacy of the men who kept the Flying Tigers in the air during World War II. In the news, GPS jamming and spoofing aircraft positioning systems, 737 MAX 9 lawsuits, Boeing quality actions, sustainable aviation fuel options, FAA and airline pilot retirement age, AV-8B Harrier phase-out, and a positive airline story.

Guest

Charlene Fontaine, founder and executive director of the Flying Tigers 69th DRS Association.

Charlene Fontaine is the founder and executive director of the Flying Tigers 69th DRS Association, Inc. That organization was founded in 2005 to carry on the legacy of the 350 men who served under Gen. Clare Chenault in World War II. This special squadron was requested by Chiang Kai-Shek and their mission was to drive the Burma Road, fly the Hump, and keep the aircraft flying.

We discuss the history and stories of the Flying Tigers and the 69th Depot Repair Squadron during World War II. Topics include the challenges of flying the hump, the experiences of the men who served, and the importance of preserving and sharing their history. Charlene tells us about the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum and her work on trauma and mental health. She also gives us a little taste of the film she is working on.

Mechanic repairing a Flying Tigers P-40 aircraft.
P-40 Warhawk under repair.
Burma Road switchbacks
Burma Road

In addition to awarding youth scholarships, the Association seeks to educate others on the history of China, Burma, India (CBI) and continue to build relationships with the people of CBI.  The 69th DRS Association works with other WWII organizations to help veterans and their families navigate the challenges of age, injury, and illness.

Charlene is an international consultant, speaker, author, root cause expert, wellness advocate, and researcher. Her main interest is how stress, trauma, and loss affect our daily lives. Her focus is on history and communication: how it shapes us, helps make life better and what can be gained. She works with industry, the military, law enforcement, veterans, and youth. The 69th engagements find her at air shows, conferences, schools, and reunions to inspire youth to learn history and honor our elders and all those who serve our country.

69th test pilots standing in front of a C47 airplane.
69th Test Pilots Heiner, Brecht, Garrison, and Sgt Twiggs.
Truck convoy on the Burma Road.

Aviation News

GPS interference now a major flight safety concern for airline industry

EASA partners with IATA to counter aviation safety threat from GNSS spoofing and jamming

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) says GPS jamming and spoofing incidents have increased in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. EASA recently held a joint workshop with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) with the “high-level conclusion… that interference with satellite-based services that provide information on the precise position of an aircraft can pose significant challenges to aviation safety.” Mitigating these risks requires short-, medium- and long-term measures:

  • Short-term, pilots and crews need to identify the risks and know how to react and land safely.
  • Medium-term the certification requirements of the navigation and landing systems need to change.
  • Long-term the agency needs to be involved in the design of future satellite navigation systems.

The workshop attendees agreed to several measures:

  • Reporting and sharing of GNSS interference event data. In Europe, this would occur through the European Occurrence Reporting scheme and EASA’s Data4Safety programme.
  • Guidance from aircraft manufacturers to ensure that aircraft operators are well-equipped to manage jamming and spoofing situations.
  • Alerting: EASA will inform airlines, air navigation service providers, manufacturers, and airports about attacks.
  • As a backup, aviation must retain a Minimum Operational Network (MON) of traditional navigation aids to ensure there is a conventional backup for GNSS navigation.

Boeing shareholders sue after midair 737 Max 9 blowout

Shareholders filed a class action lawsuit alleging that Boeing misled them about potential “serious safety lapses.” The suit was filed for those who purchased Boeing common stock between Oct. 23, 2019, and Jan. 24, 2024. On that date, Boeing and its executives claimed they were “making steady progress” on their “top priority … the safe return to service of the 737 MAX” following two deadly crashes in late 2018.

The suit claims “Unbeknownst to investors, statements such as those… were false and misleading because Boeing failed to disclose that it had been prioritizing its profits over safety, which led to poor quality control standards in the production of its commercial aircrafts such as the 737 MAX…”

Other related suits:

  • Six passengers filed a class-action suit claiming physical and emotional distress.
  • Four passengers are seeking damages from Boeing and Alaska Airlines for experiencing “havoc, fear, trauma [and] severe and extreme distress.”

Feb 4, 2024: Boeing to dedicate more days in 737 factory to address quality issues and ideas

In a message to employees, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Stan Deal said the 737 program will spend several days in the Renton factory to focus on quality, including inspecting some undelivered airplanes for potential nonconformances before delivery.

Fat, sugar, trash: All the weird things that may fuel planes by 2050

Right for Whom? Airlines Shift SAF Goals to Easier – And Far Less Effective Targets

Aviation has a net-zero carbon goal by 2050 with sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, being a key driver. The Washington Post says that in 2023, production of SAF in the United States was less than 0.2 percent of the airline industry’s jet fuel consumption. The goal is 100% by 2050. SAF can be produced from fat (cooking oil, vegetable oil, animal fat, Ethanol from corn now and other feedstocks in the future, waste (residue and “cellulosic cover crops” grown in the off-season), and hydrogen.

As the Marine Corps Says Goodbye to Decades-Old Jet, Its Maintainers Hit the Fleet for the Last Time

The F-35B Lightning II STOVL jet is the future for the Marines, replacing the AV-8B Harrier II which has been in service since the 1980s. The Harrier will be phased out over the next two years.

FAA warns US Congress against hiking airline pilot retirement age

In a letter to Congress, the FAA Administrator said the mandatory retirement age of airline pilots should not rise to 67 from 65 without first conducting additional research.

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

785 The Boeing Company

Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems continue to dominate the news, along with 737 MAX certification, lap babies, the proposed JetBlue and Spirit Airlines merger, route growth at United Airlines and Breeze Airways, and the demise of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. Also, flight tests for the B-21 Raider and more favorite aviation movies.

Aviation News

Boeing, not Spirit, mis-installed piece that blew off Alaska MAX 9 jet, industry source says

Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems builds the 737 fuselage for Boeing. A person familiar with the situation says the door plug was removed by Boeing, and then reinstalled on the 737.

127 Days: The Anatomy of a Boeing Quality Failure

In The Air Current, Jon Ostrower reconstructs the journey of fuselage 8789 from Spirit AeroSytems to Alaska Airlines. It’s an insightful look at the relationship between Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems.

Opposition grows to Boeing 737 MAX 7 safety exemption

Boeing wants an exemption to certify the 737 MAX 7 and MAX 10, despite problems with the engine anti-ice system.

Video: United Airlines CEO: Boeing’s 737 Max-9 grounding is ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ for us

NTSB Urges Parents Not to Fly With Children on Laps After Alaska Incident 

At a recent press conference, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said “We would urge passengers to put their children under two in their own seat, in an FAA-approved car seat, so they are secure and safe in case something like this happens.” Currently, the FAA allows children under the age of two to be held in an adult’s lap.

Boeing CEO to meet with senators scrutinizing 737 MAX 9 blowout

Dave Calhoun has been meeting with U.S. senators to answer their questions about the 737 MAX 9. After meeting with Calhoun, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth said he “offered no assurance” that Boeing would withdraw its exemption request for the 737MAX 7 jet. 

Boeing Whistleblower: Production Line Has “Enormous Volume Of Defects” Bolts On MAX 9 Weren’t Installed

JetBlue casts doubt on its merger deal with Spirit Airlines after judge rules against merger

JetBlue Airways has informed Spirit Airlines that the merger agreement might be terminated. JetBlue feels some conditions of the merger agreement can not be met while Spirit says there is no basis for terminating the merger agreement.

United Airlines To Launch First-Ever Route From Washington DC To Alaska

Breeze Airways Adds Three Airports, 11 Routes To Network

After Three Years on Mars, NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Mission Ends

On April 19, 2021, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter made history by becoming the first craft to achieve powered, controlled flight on another planet. After sustaining rotor blade damage, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced that the Ingenuity mission had come to an end after  72 flights.

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter sitting on the surface of Mars.
This view of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was generated using data collected by the Mastcam-Z instrument aboard the agency’s Perseverance Mars rover on Aug. 2, 2023, the 871st Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

For more information about Ingenuity, see https://mars.nasa.gov/technology/helicopter.

Mentioned

Do Electric Aircraft Face Lapse Rate Challenges?

B-21 Raider Flight Testing Now Underway

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

784 Inflight Connectivity

Inflight connectivity with the CEO of air-to-ground network provider SmartSky Networks. In the news, an update on B737 MAX 9 inspections, unleaded avgas testing, and an Air Force officer has been crowned Miss America. Also, more favorite aviation movies.

Cessna Citation Excel equipped with SmartSky inflight connectivity.
SmartSky-equipped Cessna Citation Excel

Guest

David Helfgott is the Chief Executive Officer of SmartSky Networks, a provider of air-to-ground inflight connectivity services. The company offers real-time, low latency, bidirectional data links that serve the business aviation, general aviation, and commercial aviation markets. The network takes advantage of patented spectrum reuse, advanced beamforming technologies, and 60 MHz of spectrum for enhanced connectivity.

David Helfgott headshot. CEO of SmartSky Networks
David Helfgott, SmartSky CEO

Dave describes the pros and cons of ground and satellite-based inflight connectivity systems. He explains the practical differences between bandwidth, latency, and upload/download speed, and the reasons why some aircraft employ both ground and satellite networks.

We look at the differences in antenna size and weight for the different network solutions and how that impacts system selection for commercial and business aviation use. Dave describes the supporting SmartSky ground network and how the towers use beam forming to provide connectivity to specific aircraft. We touch on several other topics, including the data requirements of the three different domains of commercial aircraft (PAX, operational, cockpit), the unique needs of air cargo, and future industry trends.

Inflight connectivity antenna on belly of plane.
SmartSky Networks antenna

As a 20+ year industry veteran, Dave has extensive experience in airborne communications, satellite broadband, mobile telecommunications, and commercial and government SATCOM networking services.  He was previously President and CEO of phased-array antenna developer Phasor. Before that, he held several senior executive roles including President and CEO of Inmarsat Government, President of Tactical Wireless Communications for Cobham, President and CEO of Datapath, and President and CEO of SES Government. He holds a BA degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the Darden School of Business.

Aviation News

Boeing Still Without a Timeline to Return to the Skies

Following the loss of a mid-cabin door plug on a Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplane on January 5, 2024, the first round of 40 preliminary inspections was completed. The FAA is reviewing the results. The planes remain grounded until an inspection and maintenance process is approved by the FAA and then applied to all grounded planes.

See also: 

NTSB chair: Boeing CEO called, wants to rectify errors made in past

At a briefing to House of Representatives lawmakers, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said that Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun called and said “they want to rectify errors” made in the past.

Phillips 66 Suspends Unleaded AvGas Testing

Phillips 66 has been evaluating an unleaded avgas alternative with Afton Chemicals under the Piston Engine Aviation Fuels Initiative. After a major test failure, Phillips 66 has “paused” their evaluation. The FAA confirmed that “PAFI evaluation of the Phillips 66/Afton Chemical 100M unleaded fuel has been paused due to issues encountered during durability testing.” Three other companies are developing unleaded avgas:

US Air Force officer crowned as 2024 Miss America

22-year-old Madison Marsh was crowned as the 2024 Miss America. She’s a second lieutenant in the US Air Force and a master’s student at the Harvard Kennedy School’s public policy program. Marsh became the first active-duty Air Force officer ever to win the contest. See One Lieutenant’s Journey from USAFA to Miss Colorado to Harvard from the Air Education and Training Command.

Mentioned

The Myth Of Old Boeing by Bill Sweetman.

17th Annual Triple Tree Fly-In September 23-29, 2024, Triple Tree Aerodrome, Woodruff, South Carolina.

Flashlight damages $14 million F-35 fighter engine beyond repair at Luke AFB

A report by the Air Force Aircraft Accident Investigation Board [PDF] showed the incident occurred on March 15, 2023, while the jet was undergoing some maintenance work.

Japanese startup plans to vaporize space junk using ground lasers

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

783 Favorite Aviation Movies

Our listeners’ favorite aviation movies. In the news, the Alaska Airlines B737 MAX 9 cabin door plug incident and cockpit doors, a British Airways pilot was kidnapped and robbed, Spirit Airlines initiated a sale/leaseback transaction to pay their debt, Netjets instituted a mandatory age 70 retirement for pilots, and Cirrus Aircraft announced a new generation of the SR-22

Listener’s Favorite Aviation Movies

We asked our listeners to tell us their favorite aviation movie, not including Top Gun. (We excluded Top Gun because it would likely overpower the results.) Listeners responded in great numbers. In no particular order, these are our listener’s favorite aviation movies:

The winner of our favorite aviation film random drawing: The Great Waldo Pepper. Theatrical release poster by Gary Meyer.
Theatrical release poster by Gary Meyer

The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) (Paul F.) After WW1, an ex-pilot takes up barn-storming and chance-meets a former German ace fighter pilot with whom he co-stars in Hollywood war movies depicting aerial dogfights. Paul: My grandfather learned to fly in a Jenny and that movie just resonated with me.  I recently found it on Netflix and enjoyed it all over again! Winner of the random drawing.

The Arrow (TV miniseries 1997) (Kevin H.) Starring Dan Aykroyd as Crawford Gordon, an experienced wartime production leader after World War II and president of Avro Canada during its attempt to produce the Avro Arrow supersonic jet interceptor aircraft. The film also stars Michael Ironside and Sara Botsford. Kevin: Ok guys…. so I’m not entirely sure if a TV miniseries would qualify, but if you played the four episodes back to back it would be a 180-minute movie. It was only Canada’s greatest aviation achievement, so of course it has a special place in the hearts of all Canadian avgeeks.

No Highway in the Sky (1951) (James H.) Starring Jimmy Stewart and Jack Hawkins in a supporting role (yes it was made in England), Based on a Neville Shute Novel, Great use of visuals, based on models, As the major plot point identified the issue of metal fatigue long before the Comet disasters, And while a black and white film is a well-told yarn.

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes (1965) (Holger L. and Thierry B.) Hoping to push Britain to the forefront of aviation, a London publisher organizes an international air race across the English Channel, but must contend with two entrants vying for his daughter, as well as national rivalries and cheating. Holger: It’s funny but it’s also about aviation history.

Airplane vs. Volcano (2014) (Hendrik N.) Not really my favourite aviation movie, but just to enter a really weirdly bad aviation movie. It is incredible how bad a movie can be. But it is so bad that it starts to be funny again.

Devotion (2022) (Greg H. and Dag G.) A biographical war film based on the 2015 book Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos, which retells the comradeship between naval officers during the Korean War. Dag G: I saw the preview live-streaming theater in the woods on my laptop during AirVenture, and went to see it in the theater with one of my best friends. It has the most beautiful airplane shots and the most moving story.

Airport (1970) (Rick B.) The original featuring Dean Martin, Burt Lancaster, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, and George Kennedy as the mechanic everyone aspired to be; Joe Patroni of TWA.

Air America (1990) (John R. and Tom B.) An action comedy film directed by Roger Spottiswoode and starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. as Air America pilots flying missions in Laos during the Vietnam War.

The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress (1944) (Michael R.) Watching The Memphis Belle as a kid was a contributing factor to my interest in WWII, and especially in the B-17.

Memphis Belle (1990) (Mark C. and Andrew C.) In 1943, the crew of a B-17 based in the UK prepares for its 25th and final bombing mission over Germany before returning home to the USA. I enjoyed the  Memphis Belle movie, about a flying fortress, when it came out in the early 1990s.I think it is time I see it again.

Midway (1976) (Ted P.) My grandfather took me to see it when I was school-age and it ignited my love of airplanes and naval history.  He flew B-24s in WW2 but did not deploy as his father passed when his squadron was sent to Europe. He ended up training flight crews and family lore was he buzzed the family farm in South NJ and the chickens didn’t lay eggs for a week.

American Made (2017) (Pawel M.) The story of Barry Seal, an American pilot who became a drug-runner for the CIA in the 1980s in a clandestine operation that would be exposed as the Iran-Contra Affair.

Fail Safe (1964) (JD) A technical malfunction sends American planes to Moscow to deliver a nuclear attack. Can all-out war be averted?

Strategic Air Command (1955) (Jeffrey L.) It holds a special place since my 20-year Air Force career started at Carswell AFB, Texas when it still was a SAC base, and that’s where many of the B-36 scenes were shot.  The hangar where Frank Lovejoy (yes, related) introduces the B-47 to Jimmy Stewart belonged to the squadron I was in from 1986-1992.  The factory across the runway was where Consolidated was building the B-36s, and later F-16s, and now F-35s.  Lots of history there.

Midway (1976) (Mike S.) I can watch that every week!

The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) (Paul F. and Roland H.) Stars Robert Redford, Bo Svenson, and Bo Brundin. Paul: My grandfather learned to fly in a Jenny and that movie just resonated with me.  I recently found it on Netflix and enjoyed it all over again! Roland: I have seen this many, many times as a kid on a VHS tape recorded from TV. Years ago I tried to find it on DVD and it wasn’t that easy. I did find it eventually. I think I just feel the urge to watch it again 🙂

High Road to China (1983) (Adam H.) Grew up in an aviation family and was always fascinated by WW1 aircraft. When this movie came out in the 80’s starring Tom Selleck and Bess Armstrong I was hooked. An heiress hires a washed-out ace and his mechanic to find her father so he won’t be declared dead by the courts. They fly two Belgian Stampe biplanes filling in for Curtis Jennys from England to China and have plenty of adventures along the way.

The Big Lift (1950) (Gerard O.) Experiences of two Air Force sergeants during the 1948 Berlin Airlift. Starring Paul Douglas and Montgomery Clift.

Miracle Landing (1990) (Sarah J.) A made-for-television drama film based on an in-flight accident aboard Aloha Airlines Flight 243 in April 1988. I watched it as a 9-year-old with my mum and wasn’t allowed to tell anyone that she let me watch it. Oh, the thrill of having a secret! Also, the movie isn’t actually bad for 1990.

Hot Shots! (1991) (Kyle T.) A parody of Top Gun (1986) in which a talented but unstable fighter pilot must overcome the ghosts of his father and save a mission sabotaged by greedy weapons manufacturers.

633 Squadron (1964) (Bill A.) A RAF squadron is assigned to knock out a German rocket fuel factory in Norway. The factory supplies fuel for the Nazi effort to launch rockets on England during D-Day. I definitely love the Mosquito and the scenes of them flying what I think is the Mach Loop in Scotland.

Always (1989) (Andrew F.) The spirit of a recently deceased expert pilot mentors a newer pilot while watching him fall in love with the girlfriend that he left behind. It has a great cast, a great storyline, and really cool flying. Fun fact about this movie: The featured B-26 (and others) was owned by Hawkins and Powers Aviation in Graybull, WY. The owner would fly that airplane over to Sheridan, WY where I was based with Great Lakes Aviation. What I thought was really cool was that there were two different liveries painted on each side of the airplane. That way they could use it in the background of different shots representing more than one airplane.

Dunkirk (2017) (Matt R.) Not an aviation movie, but the aviation scenes haunt me. They made me think about how challenging and potentially frightening it would be to fly in a noisy cockpit with limited visibility, little communication, and no source of information except your eyes through goggles to warn you of an enemy whose goal is to destroy you, all with the ticking clock of fuel consumption constantly on your mind.

The Final Countdown (1980) (RT) A modern aircraft carrier is thrown back in time to 1941 near Hawaii, just hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It has multiple military aircraft (airplanes and helicopters), a dogfighting scene of F-14s and Japanese Zeros (What other movie would have that?), an aircraft carrier, and time travel.

The Rocketeer (1991) (Andy B.) A young pilot stumbles onto a prototype jetpack that allows him to become a high-flying masked hero. I fell in love it: pure fiction yes, but full of waning days of the golden age of aviation context- with just the right dash of historical anachronism to “…really tie the room together!”

Bat*21 (1988) (Mike S.) During the Vietnam War, Colonel Hambleton’s aircraft is shot down over enemy territory and a frantic rescue operation ensues. Starring Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, and Jerry Reed.

Behind Enemy Lines (2001) (Peter T.) A disillusioned pilot shot down over war-torn Bosnia goes on the run from the local military and an assassin, as his commanding officer risks all to save him. There is a good plot and is not necessarily aviation-intensive but the aviation scenes are, in my opinion, well done! I actually bought the DVD from Blockbuster. Starring Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson, and Gabriel Macht.

Iron Eagle (1986) (Quinn M. and Shannon V.) A young pilot plans a rescue mission when his father, an Air Force Colonel, is shot down over enemy territory and captured. The one that makes me smile at so many levels is “Iron Eagle” but not the sequels. One of my favorite features is the credits have a statement to the effect the the USAF had nothing to do with it but thanks so much to the Israeli Air Force for their help in filming… Explaining the camo that USAF planes have never used and the Kfir bad guy planes. I am very amused by the “totally not Libya”  bad guy country that had features of Iran and some of the other Israeli neighbors. Shannon:  Louis Gossett Jr. and the music of Queen, are you kidding me? It doesn’t get any better than that.

The War Lover (1962) (Ed L.) In 1943, while stationed in Britain, arrogant Captain Buzz Rickson is in command of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, but his recklessness is endangering everyone around him. A great, realistic, black-and-white, B-17 movie. It’s also a great book by John Hersey. Starring Steve McQueen, Robert Wagner, and Shirley Anne Field.

The Blue Max (1966) (Kerry K.) A young pilot in the German air force of 1918, disliked as lower-class and unchivalrous, tries ambitiously to earn the medal offered for 20 kills. Probably a favorite because it was seen at an early age and the details of the movie always stuck with me.  Few movies about WWI and biplanes, especially with the same production value.

Cloud Dancer (1980) (Luke H.) A fictionalized account of a competition acrobatic pilot. They used real aircraft, the actors were also in the seat of the two-seat Pitts.

Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress (1944) (Paul A.) A documentary on the 25th bombing mission of the Memphis Belle, a B-17 in the US 8th Air Force. I saw this as a kid and rewatched it recently. The scene that has stuck with me and that I remember as a kid, is the solemn, tense moments depicted when the ground crews wait for the planes returning from the mission. The viewer is on the edge of their seat as we watch real footage of the landing aircraft, the stragglers limping home and arriving one by one…we feel as if we’re on the airfield praying for the safe touchdown of the damaged aircraft.

Flight of the Intruder (1991) (Todd P.) During the air war over Vietnam, a U.S. Navy A-6 Intruder bomber pilot schemes with a hardened veteran to make an unauthorized air strike on Hanoi. “Fighter pukes make movies. Bomber pilots make… history!”

Airplane! (1980) (Markku H., Steve S., Steve L., and Adam W.) After the crew becomes sick with food poisoning, a neurotic ex-fighter pilot must land a commercial airplane full of passengers safely. Harkku: Funny movie, I saw it when I was a little boy. Perhaps not politically correct nowadays with the Air Israel kipa and beard on the plane. Steve S: The best and funniest aviation movie ever. And stop calling me Shirley. Steve L: So many classic one-liners. And don’t call me Shirley! Adam: I saw it many times as a kid and then had the fun of sharing it with my own child.  Even seeing it at a different stage in my life, I laughed at some of the same things while also laughing at some different gags, all having to do with aviation.  No doubt, I’ll watch it again sometime in the near future.

The Spirit of St Louis (1957) (Greg P.) Charles ‘Slim’ Lindbergh struggles to finance and design an airplane that will make his New York to Paris flight the first solo transatlantic crossing. Starring James Stewart, Murray Hamilton, and Patricia Smith.

Twelve O’Clock High (1949) (Rich M. and d12776) A hard-as-nails general takes over a B-17 bomber unit suffering from low morale and whips them into fighting shape. Yes, it is about flying  B-17s in WWII. But it is also one of the best movies about leadership. I was an instructor at the Air Force’s Squadron Officer School in the late 70’s and we built an entire lesson plan on leadership and how Brig Gen Savage changes his leadership style depending on the situation. We taught situational leadership and this movie was a great example. Fantastic movie! Starring Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, and Gary Merrill.

The Final Countdown (1980) (Martin-Guy C.) A modern aircraft carrier is thrown back in time to 1941 near Hawaii, just hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I love the sequence F-14A v Zero. Sad that VF-84 no longer flies. Another good scene is the A-7E barricade.

American Made (2017) (Chris B. and Job S) The story of Barry Seal, an American pilot who became a drug runner for the CIA in the 1980s in a clandestine operation that would be exposed as the Iran-Contra Affair. Job: Definitely the best aviation movie ever… hands down!

Black Box (2021) (Belinda D.) A young and talented black box analyst is on a mission to solve the reason behind the deadly crash of a brand-new aircraft. A French language aviation thriller. I think it’s a really clever film, particularly in light of recent certification difficulties with Boeing- really really enjoyed it! Original title: Boîte noire.

Things to Come (1936) (Craig L.) The story of a century: a decades-long Second World War leaves plague and anarchy, then a rational state rebuilds civilization and attempts space travel. Starring Raymond Massey. Based on H.G. Wells’ “The Shape of Things to Come.” Check out the Wikipedia synopsis!

Up in The Air (2009) (Brian G.) Ryan Bingham enjoys living out of a suitcase for his job, traveling around the country firing people, but finds that lifestyle threatened by the presence of a potential love interest, and a new hire presenting a new business model. Starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick.

Wings (1927) (Andy D.) Two young men, one rich, one middle class, who are in love with the same woman, become fighter pilots in World War I. The silent film, specifically when accompanied live by Clark Wilson at the console of a Mighty Wurlitzer theater pipe organ.

As Green As It Gets [Original title: Grüner wird’s nicht, sagte der Gärtner und flog davon] (2018) (Peter W.) The German 2018 movie where the protagonist gardener takes off in his beautiful Platzer Kiebitz biplane and travels through the countryside. The cinematography especially of the airplane scenes is fantastic!

The Aviator (2004) (Martin K.) A biopic depicting the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes’ career from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, and Kate Beckinsale.

Flight (2012) (Max) An airline pilot saves almost all his passengers on his malfunctioning airliner which eventually crashed, but an investigation into the accident reveals something troubling. Starring Denzel Washington, Nadine Velazquez, and Don Cheadle.

Air Force One (1997) (Andre M.) It is a great movie, it has Han Solo in it, airplanes, and it is one I watched over and over when I managed to get my laptop to play those new fandangled DVD movies back when they first came out.

Soul Plane (2004) (E.R.) Things get raucously funny aboard the maiden flight of a black-owned airline, thanks to some last-minute passenger additions. Diversity and culture.

The Terminal (2004) (Dee) An Eastern European tourist unexpectedly finds himself stranded in JFK airport and must take up temporary residence there. It’s a demonstration of someone staying positive despite being presented with so many obstacles and loosely based on an actual event.

Godzilla Minus One (2023) (Bill H.) The movie starts with an airplane scene and there isn’t much more aviation until the last part of the movie. But it’s worth the wait. The story takes place in Japan in the immediate aftermath of WWII. A plan is devised to ambush Godzilla, but he must be lured to the right place. This job falls to our hero flying a specially prepared plane, the J7W Shinden. The Shinden was designed to intercept B-29s and inspired some hope among the Japanese at a time when the war had become hopeless. In the new Godzilla movie, the airplane is recast as a warrior in a non-military struggle, a role that suits it perfectly. Yes, it’s a low-budget monster movie, and all of the flying scenes are done with CGI. But it’s well worth it to see this spectacular airplane at center stage facing a worthy challenge.

One Six Right (2005) (Adam F.) There was just something about hearing so many stories of other pilots who loved flying at a time when I was so new to it myself. There are at least three spots guaranteed to bring on tears every single time I’ve viewed it. One section that’s especially powerful is the retired airline pilot explaining that as he was starting out in DC-3s, if he had been told by the end of his career he would fly near 40,000 feet at 600mph he would have considered that prediction as completely crazy – but with only 34 years between the DC-3 and 747, that’s how aviation grew in his career. On a cinematic level, the transitions between various segments can be a little rough – in a single movie covering everything from the history of a specific airport, emotional remembrance of the first solo, future warnings in the wake of Meigs, air traffic controllers, broader community complaints of noise, etc. But admittedly this roughness didn’t really occur to me until I had seen it more than a few times.

Pan Am (2011-2012) (Sarah M.) ABC TV series. Period drama about the pilots and flight attendants who once made Pan Am the most glamorous way to fly. Not really a movie, but…

The Geek’s Favorite Aviation Movies

The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) (Max Flight) After an oil company plane crashes in the Sahara, the survivors are buoyed with hope by one of the passengers, an airplane designer who plans for them to build a flyable plane from the wreckage.

Sully (2016) (Rob Mark) When pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed his damaged plane on the Hudson River to save the flight’s passengers and crew, some consider him a hero while others think he was reckless.

Flying Tigers (1942) (Brian Coleman) Capt. Jim Gordon’s command of the famed American volunteer fighter group in China is complicated by the recruitment of an old friend who is a reckless hotshot.

The Final Countdown (1980) (Steve Visscher) A modern aircraft carrier is thrown back in time to 1941 near Hawaii, just hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

One Six Right (2005) (Grant McHerron) An exhilarating documentary film that celebrates the unsung hero of aviation – the local airport – by tracing the life, history, and struggles of an airport icon: Southern California’s Van Nuys Airport.

Strategic Air Command (1955) (David Vanderhoof) An ex-pilot and current baseballer is recalled into the U.S. Air Force and assumes an increasingly important role in Cold War deterrence. Starring James Stewart, June Allyson, and Frank Lovejoy.

Sky King (TV series 1951-1962) (Max Trescott) King usually captured criminals and spies and found lost hikers, though he did so with the use of his airplane, the Songbird. Starring Kirby Grant, Gloria Winters, and Ewing Mitchell.

Micah’s Favorite Aviation Movies

Our Main(e) Man Micah struggled to pick just one favorite aviation movie. In his story, he mentions these films:

  1. Top Gun
  2. The Aviator
  3. Iron Eagle
  4. Air Force One
  5. Snakes on a Plane
  6. Pearl Harbor
  7. Flight
  8. Jet Pilot
  9. Flying Leathernecks
  10. Flying Tigers
  11. Islands in the Sky
  12. Fate is the Hunter
  13. The Wings of Eagles
  14. The High and The Mighty
  15. Task Force
  16. Fighter Squadron
  17. Dive Bomber 
  18. Wings
  19. Hell’s Angels
  20. Keep ‘Em Flying
  21. Captains of the Clouds
  22. Air Force
  23. God Is My Co-Pilot
  24. Zero Hour!
  25. Airplane
  26. Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines
  27. The Flight of the Phoenix
  28. Airport 
  29. Tora! Tora! Tora!
  30. The Great Waldo Pepper
  31. Midway (1976)
  32. Midway (2019)
  33. The Final Countdown
  34. Always
  35. A Guy Named Joe
  36. Twelve O’Clock High
  37. Command Decision
  38. The Dawn Patrol (1930)
  39. The Dawn Patrol (1938)

Move Favorite Aviation Movies

These movies were submitted by listeners after the episode posted:

The Right Stuff (1983) (Obiwankenobi8999, Joe) The U.S. space program’s development from the breaking of the sound barrier to the selection of the Mercury 7 astronauts, from a group of test pilots with a seat-of-the-pants approach.

A Gathering of Eagles (1963) (Tom L.) During the Cold War, Air Force Colonel Jim Caldwell shapes up his Strategic Air Command B-52 wing to pass a nuclear war readiness test.

Whisky Romeo Zulu (2004) (JP) The film tells the story prior to the accident LAPA Boeing 737 on 31 August 1999 after hitting an embankment in central Buenos Aires, killing 67 people.

Only Angels Have Wings (1939) (Peter D.) At a remote South American trading port, the manager of an air-freight company is forced to risk his pilots’ lives in order to win an important contract as a traveling American showgirl stops in town.

Aviation News

FAA investigating if Boeing failed to ensure certain aircraft were safe for operation after door blew on Alaska Airlines plane

The FAA is investigating Boeing to determine if the company ensured that “products conformed to its approved design and were in a condition for safe operation in compliance with FAA regulations.” After the B737 MAX 9 grounding, Alaska and United found loose hardware on some planes. According to the FAA, these “circumstances indicate that Boeing may have failed to ensure its completed products conformed to its approved design and were in a condition for safe operation in accordance with quality system inspection and test procedures.”

Alaska flight incident reveals another feature Boeing didn’t inform pilots about

Immediately following the cabin decompression on the Alaska Airlines B737 MAX 9, the cockpit door swung open, to the surprise of the pilots. That’s the design behavior. NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said that Boeing would make this clear in the MAX 9 manual.

British Airways Pilot Kidnapped, Brutally Assaulted and Robbed in Terrifying Ordeal During Layover in Johannesburg

The First Officer was on a 2-day layover, staying in a gated and guarded community. While returning to the community after shopping, a woman asked him for assistance but then he was forced into a vehicle. Taken to a house for four hours, his bank accounts were emptied.

Spirit Sells 25 Aircraft to Reduce Debt 

The airline entered into a sale-leaseback deal. The transaction allowed the airline to repay $465 million in debt payments for the aircraft. The sale also generated $419 million in net cash proceeds. The specific aircraft involved were not specified. Spirit operates an A320-family fleet of over 200 aircraft.

NetJets Implements Mandatory Age-70 Pilot Retirement

NetJets instituted an age-70 limit for its fractional-share (Part 91K) pilots effective January 10, 2024. Fewer than 100 pilots are affected, and they have been removed from NetJet’s schedule.

Notice of the change was issued by NetJets on January 10, 2023. This came after Congress’s omnibus spending bill that was adopted in December 2022. That bill allowed certain Part 91K and 135 operators to implement an age-70 ceiling. Such operators had to have logged at least 75,000 annual jet operations in 2019 or any subsequent year.

The NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP) filed a grievance which NetJets denied. An arbitrator found no violation and also denied the grievance. Eight NetJets pilots filed a lawsuit seeking “a preliminary injunction to keep the age cap from taking effect Jan. 10, 2024.” The U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas Dallas Division rejected their arguments and denied the motion for a preliminary injunction.

See: Congress passes rule raising voluntary pilot age restriction

Cirrus Unveils Generation Seven of the SR-22

The G7 features Cirrus Perspective Touch+™ by Garmin®, advanced safety systems, improved visibility, increased legroom, and enhanced convenience features. The G7 integrates a  touchscreen-controlled flight deck with a comfortable and stylish cabin. This redesigned flight deck reduces pilot workload while offering enhanced situational awareness for both pilot and passenger.

Video: SR Series G7 Features

Mentioned

Video: Van Halen – Dreams 1986 (Blue Angels)

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof, Brian Coleman, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

782 NASA X-59 Test Pilots

Two X-59 test pilots discuss the NASA X-59 mission, the design and technology of the X-59 aircraft, the role of test pilots, and the challenges of flying supersonic.

The X-59 in flight. Graphic courtesy NASA.
X-59 in flight. NASA image.

Guests

Photo of X-59 test pilot Nils Larson.
David Nils Larson

David “Nils” Larson is a research test pilot at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. He is NASA’s lead pilot for the X-59 aircraft, and is assigned to Armstrong’s F/A-18, F-15, T-34 research and mission support aircraft, and DC-8 airborne science aircraft. Nils also serves as senior advisor for NASA aeronautical flight research. In this role, he is a strategic advisor to program directors for agency mission directorates concerning aeronautics flight research planning, execution, aircraft airworthiness, and risk management for future flight research projects.

Before joining NASA in 2007, Nils was on active duty with the U.S. Air Force. He has accumulated more than 7,000 hours of military and civilian flight experience in more than 100 fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft.

Photo of X-59 test pilot James "Clue" Less.
James “Clue” Less

James “Clue” Less is a research pilot and aerospace engineer at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. He is a project pilot for the X-59 aircraft.

Clue has worked at Armstrong since 2010 conducting flight research and airborne science missions as a pilot for the F-15, F-18, T-34, and King Air, as well as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a  modified 747SP jetliner, and various remotely piloted aircraft, including the MQ-9 Ikhana and aircraft from the center’s subscale research laboratory.

Before joining NASA, Clue served as an officer and pilot in the U.S. Air Force for nearly 21 years. Upon graduating from Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training, he flew F-111 aircraft at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico and the F-117 Stealth Fighter at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Quesst

Commercial supersonic flight over land is prohibited because the noise of the sonic boom is objectionable. But NASA and Lockheed Martin believe they can turn the boom into a thud by designing the X-59 in a way that manages the shock waves. The NASA Quesst mission has two goals:

  1. To design and build NASA’s X-59 research aircraft which includes technology that will reduce the loudness of the sonic boom.
  2. Fly the X-59 over U.S. cities, collect data from the communities about the sound, and share the public reaction to the quieter sonic “thumps” with the FAA and international regulators. 

The regulators can then consider writing new sound-based rules to lift the ban on supersonic flight over land.

On January 12, 2024, NASA held a public unveiling ceremony for the X-59 supersonic research aircraft.

Video: Rollout of the X-59 Quesst Supersonic Plane (Official NASA Broadcast)

Graphic of expected X-59 sonic noise compared to other sound sources. Courtesy NASA.

Hosts this Episode

Rob Mark and our Main(e) Man Micah.

781 Astronaut

A veteran NASA astronaut, scientist, and author discusses his journey to becoming an astronaut and his experiences in space. In the news, FAA orders Boeing 737 Max 9 planes grounded, a JAL A350 collides with a Dash-8, seating layout and air rage, American Airlines launches Smart Gating, and JSX plans to buy more than 300 hybrid-electric aircraft.

Guest

Astronaut Tom Jones standing in front of the Atlantis Space Shuttle

Thomas D. Jones is a veteran NASA astronaut, scientist, author, pilot, and speaker. He flew on four space shuttle missions to Earth orbit in more than eleven years with NASA. In 2001, Tom led three spacewalks to install the American Destiny laboratory, the centerpiece of the International Space Station. He has spent fifty-three days working and living in space. Tom has written seven space, aviation, and history books. 

Tom’s latest title is Space Shuttle Stories: Firsthand Astronaut Accounts from All 135 Missions from Smithsonian Books. This book is a comprehensive oral history of the thirty years of the Space Shuttle. Tom collected stories from astronauts across all 135 shuttle missions.

Book cover: Space Shuttle Stories

A Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force Academy, Tom piloted B-52D strategic bombers, earned a doctorate in planetary sciences from the University of Arizona, studied asteroids and robotic exploration missions for NASA, and engineered intelligence-gathering systems for the CIA.

Tom’s awards include the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, four NASA Space Flight Medals, the NASA Exceptional Service Award, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the NASA Exceptional Public Service Award, Phi Beta Kappa, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and Distinguished Eagle Scout. Asteroid 1082 Tom Jones is named in his honor. In 2018, Tom was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Tom served on the NASA Advisory Council and the Association of Space Explorers and the Astronauts Memorial Foundation boards. He consults on the future direction of human space exploration, uses of asteroid and space resources, and planetary defense. A frequent public speaker, he is often seen on-air delivering expert commentary on science and space flight.

For more, see Tom’s website, follow him on Twitter/X at @AstroTomJones, and he’s also on Facebook.

Aviation News

FAA orders grounding of certain Boeing 737 Max 9 planes after Alaska Airlines incident

FAA orders temporary grounding of Boeing 737 Max 9s

A new Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 lost a plugged rear-aft door as it climbed out from Portland, Oregon. The plane depressurized and immediately returned to the airport. No injuries were reported. The FAA ordered maintenance and safety inspections.

Haneda accident outcome the sum of decades of integrated air safety lessons

What if the Haneda Accident Had Occurred in the US?

A landing Japan Airlines A350-900 collided with a Japan Coast Guard (JCG) Dash 8-300 resulting in the deaths of five members of the JCG and the total loss of the A350. All 368 passengers and 12 crew members of JAL plane evacuated safely.

Class ‘Inequity’ Fuels Air Rage

The Physical and Situational Inequality on Airplanes Predicts Air Rage study by Princeton University found that the chance of an air rage incident increased four times when the aircraft had a first-class section. The chance doubles again when boarding economy-class passengers pass through the first-class section.

Smart Gating: How American Airlines Is Using Machine Learning To Reduce Taxi Times By 20%

The American Airlines Smart Gating system is designed to streamline operations, reduce taxiing times, save jet fuel, reduce carbon emissions, and improve operational efficiency. The system uses real-time flight information and assigns aircraft to the closest gate. This can reduce taxiing time by up to 20%. Smart Gating has been deployed across American Airlines’ major hubs.

Video: American Airlines Smart Gating

JSX Plans To Add 300+ Hybrid-electric Aircraft to Fleet

Public charter operator JSX intends to purchase up to 332 hybrid-electric aircraft: 82 Electra nine-passenger eSTOL aircraft (32/50 firm/options), up to 150 Aura Aero 19-seat Era model (50/100), and up to 100 Heart Aerospace 30-seat ES-30 (50/50).

Mentioned

Ramrod to Munster by Stephen C. Ananian [PDF]

Aircraft Accident Investigation (AAI) course, University of Southern California.

The course is designed for individuals who have limited investigation experience. All aspects of the investigation process are addressed, starting with preparation for the investigation through writing the final report. It covers National Transportation Safety Board and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) procedures. Investigative techniques are examined with an emphasis on fixed-wing investigation. Data collection, wreckage reconstruction, and cause analysis are discussed in the classroom and applied in the lab.

Can you spot Max Trescott?

The Journey is the Reward podcast, Episode 60: A Conversation with Capt Jeff of the Airline Pilot Guy.

Hosts this Episode

Rob Mark, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.