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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.

777 Aviation Accident Litigation

Aviation accident litigation with a partner from a law firm that specializes in that topic. In the news, some distressing recent air traffic controller behavior, the FAA acts on Safety Team recommendations, three United Airlines employees are accused of accepting bribes, a cargo drone airline achieves first flight, the Collings Foundation ends their air tours, and Alaska Airlines looks to acquire Hawaiian Airlines.

Guest

Erin Applebaum, Partner at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, aviation accident litigation.

Erin Applebaum is a Partner at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP. Within Kreindler’s aviation practice, she focuses on representing individuals who are injured or killed in general aviation accidents and commercial airline disasters. 

Erin currently serves on the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee for the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Boeing 737 MAX litigation against Boeing and other defendants. She is also part of the team challenging the Deferred Prosecution Agreement between Boeing and the Department of Justice.

Erin maintains a robust practice of representing passengers who have been seriously injured during commercial flights. She specializes in litigating claims governed by the Montreal Convention and teaches a popular aviation accident CLE course for other attorneys – “Montreal Convention for Plaintiffs’ Lawyers: Representing Passenger Personal Injury Claims Arising on International Flights.” For the highly respected, industry-wide publication, “Annals of Air and Space Law,” published by McGill University, Erin contributed her insight on a recent landmark decision regarding British Airways and the application of the Montreal Convention to injuries caused by unexpected conditions present during passenger disembarkation from international flights.

Erin is a member of several legal professional groups. She was recently appointed Co-Chair of the New York City Bar Association’s Aeronautics Committee, serves as a Vice Chair on the American Bar Association’s Aviation and Space Law Committee, and is an active member of the American Association for Justice and the International Aviation Women’s Association.

Aviation News

Drunk and Asleep on the Job: Air Traffic Controllers Pushed to the Brink

Some distressing recent ATC incidents have been reported: a drunk controller, one who smoked marijuana during breaks, and an employee who threatened and “aggressively pushed” another who was directing airplanes. There are more reports of sleeping on the job and working under the influence. A New York Times investigation found that air traffic controllers are fatigued, distracted, and demoralized and are increasingly prone to making mistakes.

FAA Takes Action to Address Safety Review Team Recommendations

With the release of the National Airspace System Safety Review Team report, the FAA is taking immediate action to enhance air traffic controller training and safety reporting:

  • The FAA will work with Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) Program colleges and universities to ensure that graduates from these programs have the necessary skills to begin on-the-job training at a facility. These graduates still must pass the Air Traffic Skills Assessment (ATSA) exam and meet medical and security requirements. Previously, these graduates were required to attend the FAA Air Traffic Controller Academy before being assigned to a facility.
  • FAA announced a year-round hiring track for experienced controllers from the military and private industry.
  • FAA will keep filling every seat at the FAA Academy and increase classroom capacity beyond current limits.
  • FAA will expand the use of advanced training across the country. The agency has new facilities in Chicago and San Diego and will be adding them in Nashua and Phoenix in the spring. 
  • Finish deploying tower simulator systems in 95 facilities by December 2025. The FAA will deploy the first system in Austin by January 2024. 
  • To strengthen the safety culture, the FAA will provide reports from the Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service to the FAA Administrator and Aviation Safety Associate Administrator.

Three United Airlines Employees Accepted Bribes to Award ‘Lucrative’ Multi-Million-Dollar Renovation Contracts at Newark Airport

Following a Federal probe, three United Airlines employees pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and kickbacks that included renovating their homes and receiving Rolex watches. This was in exchange for awarding contracts to a company that offered higher prices than at least two other competitors. United has terminated all three employees: a corporate real estate director, an airline senior manager, and a contractor.

Qatar Airways Partners With The World’s 1st Cargo Drone Airline

Qatar Airways Cargo and cargo drone airline Dronamics have partnered, initially to link the Dronamics droneports in Greece with Qatar’s worldwide network. The Black Swan remotely piloted aircraft has a 26-foot fuselage with a 52-foot wingspan, 770 lb cargo capacity, a 1,550-mile range, and a top speed of 125 mph. Dronamics was established in 2014 and calls itself “the world’s first cargo drone airline.”

Video: Dronamics Cargo Drone First Flight

Collings Foundation Grounds Air Tour for WWII Aircraft

The Collings Foundation American Heritage Museum newsletter says, “In the wake of the 2019 B-17 Flying Fortress accident… We are moving forward on our long-term plans to bring the aircraft from a nationwide flying exhibition to permanent display here in Massachusetts.” The Wings of Freedom tour brought access to World War II aircraft like the Boeing B-17G, B-25, B-24, and P-51D. Rides on those aircraft were offered as part of a monetary contribution to the Foundation.

The American Heritage Museum is a 501(c)(3) organization located in Hudson, Massachusetts. It displays 50 aircraft and over 90 vehicles from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard vehicles, as well as some from other nations. The museum also has some large artifacts like a rebuilt Hanoi Hilton POW cell and a part of the Berlin Wall.

Alaska Airlines in Deal to Buy Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 Billion

Under the all-cash transaction, Alaska would buy Hawaiian for $18 per share, valued at $1.9 Billion (which includes $0.9 Billion of Hawaiian Airlines net debt), and operate the airline as an independent brand. Alaska said it plans to expand Hawaiian’s Honolulu hub to enable “greater international connectivity for West Coast travelers throughout the Asia-Pacific region.”

The transaction agreement has been approved by both boards and is conditioned on regulatory approvals, approval by Hawaiian Holdings, Inc. shareholders (which is expected to be sought in the first quarter of 2024), and other customary closing conditions. It is expected to close in 12-18 months. The combined organization will be based in Seattle under the leadership of Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci.

Press Release: Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines to merge

Additional information about the transaction is available at a new joint website at localcareglobalreach.com and investor materials can also be found at investor.alaskaair.com and news.alaskaair.com.

Australia Desk

The GippsAero GA-8 Airvan, which in more recent years became known as the Airvan 8, has been a success story of Australia’s aviation industry over its many years of production. Originally known as Gippsland Aeronautics, the company was founded in 1977 by Peter Furlong at the Latrobe Valley Regional Airport in eastern Victoria.  He was joined by George Morgan in 1984 and together they developed the GA200 Fatman crop sprayer and the GA8 utility aircraft.  The company was purchased by Mahindra Aerospace in 2009, with production continuing until 2020.  

But there’s good news!  George Morgan has now re-acquired the company and he has a vision to get the GA8 back into production in coming years.  This could see the eventual restoration of a large number of local manufacturing jobs, along with maintenance and other work along the way.

GippsAero GA-8 Airvan in flight.
Image credit: Steve Hitchen, Australian Flying Magazine

Co-Founder buys Mahindra out of GippsAero – Australian Flying

New LCC Bonza Air has raised the ire of many, canceling all of their new Gold Coast to Darwin flights for the entire month of December.  The move has left hundreds of passengers stranded and unable to get a satisfactory response from Bonza’s app-based contact system.  The route was announced in September and had been scheduled to commence this week.

Does the move signal troubled times ahead for the fledgling new Australian carrier?  Time will tell, but they will need to improve their customer contact methods, and quickly.

Bonza cancels Darwin-Gold Coast flights for all of December, leaving customers fuming – ABC News

Virgin Australia have announced plans to increase their current order book for Boeing 737 Max-8s to 14, with 3 already delivered, and a planned fleet of 39.  Up until this point, the 737 Max models haven’t been seen in large numbers in this part of the world, and with Qantas looking to progressively replace their 737 fleet with A320s, Virgin will eventually become the nation’s largest operator of the type.

Virgin Australia increases 737 MAX-8 aircraft order

Virgin is also aiming to rekindle its former partnership arrangement with Air New Zealand, following a break of five years.  The codeshare agreement would be most beneficial to VA passengers wanting to cross the Tasman, after the airline cut back services to all New Zealand destinations except Queenstown, as they contracted operations to focus on Australia during financial restructuring in recent years.

Virgin Australia plans to revive Air New Zealand partnership – Point Hacks

Mentioned

Video: How Many WW2 Fighters Survive in 2023?

The Owners Behind the Most Expensive Private Jets in the World

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, and our Main(e) Man Micah. Contribution by Grant McHerron and Steve Visscher.

772 Managing Small Airports

A doctoral dissertation examines success factors for small airports, two bizjets collide at Houston Hobby, an off-duty pilot tries to shut down the engines in-flight, a review of NBAA-BACE, a new FAA administrator gets Congressional approval, and Spirit Airlines halts pilot and FA training.

Guest

Dr. Mike Jones researched the factors that affect the economic impact of small airports. In his doctoral dissertation at the University of Florida, he examined the cost to small airports of ill-fitting organizational designs, and what airports can do to improve the situation.

Dr. Mike Jones headshot
Dr. Mike Jones

“Jonesy” describes single-function and multi-function airport organizations and how that correlates with airport economic impact. He found that small airports organized under a local government tend to underperform. In his research, Jonesy quantified the economic impact that small airports should generate.

We learn that the most important aeronautical predictor of an airport’s success is the length of the longest runway. The most important non-aeronautical variable is the intensity of economic activity within 15 miles of the airport. Also, a single-function organizational design with a high degree of operational control contributes greatly to airport performance.

For a summary presentation of Mike’s work, see: Measuring the Degree in Which Politicians Degrade the Performance of Small Airports. [PDF]

Jonesy is a feature writer for Cessna Pilots Magazine. He writes about flying adventures, the history of aviation and aviation pioneers, and the technology of aviation. He can often be seen at air shows and fly-in events, collecting interviews for his next feature.

Jonesy served as a U.S. Air Force Lieutenant and was an air traffic controller in Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam War. He was chairman of the Pinehurst (NC) Airport Authority for eight years. An active pilot with more than 4,000 hours in the left seat, he’s the proud owner of a Cessna T210 Centurion. He volunteers with Angelflight and has flown more than 800 Young Eagles flights.

CommAvia promotional poster showing an unfriendly airport fence with Keep Out signage.
CommAvia poster from the past.

Aviation News

Bizjets Collide after Unauthorized Takeoff Attempt at Houston Hobby

A Hawker 850XP departing without ATC clearance clipped a Citation Mustang that was landing at William P. Hobby Airport (KHOU) in Houston. The Mustang tail section was damaged. Despite a damaged left wing, the Hawker returned to the airport after getting airborne. No injuries were reported.

How safe are cockpits? Aviation experts weigh in after Horizon Air flight scare

An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot riding in the jump seat on a Horizon Air Embraer 175 flight attempted to shut down the plane’s engines mid-flight. He was arrested and charged with attempted murder and reckless endangerment. The man didn’t raise suspicions with the plane’s pilots, his neighbors, or those at the flying club where he instructed. His most recent medical exam was in September. However, the pilot told police that he had been depressed for about six months and was having a “nervous breakdown.” Could this result in a ban on jump-seat riders? 

Video: 2023 NBAA-BACE: World’s Biggest Business Aviation Show

The 2023 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) was held in Las Vegas. Highlights include:

  • The debut of the Airbus ACJ Two Twenty
  • The Boeing 737-700 BBJ
  • The Embraer Phenom 100EX made its global debut
  • Updates on Pilatus PC-24 
  • The HondaJet Echelon
  • A Volocopter 2X eVTOL live demonstration
  • WIsk Aero showed their 6th Gen aircraft
  • VoltAero introduced their Cassio 330 hybrid turboprop concept aircraft.

Also, Kevin Larosa, an air-to-air stunt pilot and aerial co-ordinator showcased his CineJet and explained how air-to-air filming was done in the Top Gun Maverick movie.

Former deputy confirmed as FAA administrator

On Oct. 24, 2023, the U.S. Senate unanimously voted to approve Michael Whitaker as the new FAA Administrator for a 5-year term. The FAA had gone for 19 months without the position being filled. Whitaker served as deputy FAA administrator from 2013-2016, where he led the FAA’s air traffic modernization program. He was also in charge of the agency’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Office.

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023 (S. 1939) was introduced into Congress on June 13, 2023, and is currently in the legislative process. See GovTrack, which is now on Mastodon as @GovTrack@mastodon.social.

Spirit Airlines halts new pilot, flight attendant training after difficult quarter, Pratt engine issue

The airline says it will suspend training for new pilots and flight attendants in November “until further notice.” Demand is soft and dozens of Airbus A320neo aircraft will need to be grounded for inspections due to an engine manufacturing problem. Spirit Airlines posted a third-quarter net loss of $157.6 million. It expects negative margins for the fourth quarter as well.

Australia Desk

With the situation in Israel and Gaza showing no signs of easing, the Royal Australian Air Force has been getting involved in repatriation flights for Australian citizens wishing to return home.

RAAF flights assist with Israel departures

Qantas hasn’t had the best of years, especially when it comes to reputational damage, and the latest Roy Morgan Trusted Brands Awards bear this out following a year-long survey.  Virgin Australia has now replaced its larger rival as the most trusted airline brand in the land.

It’s Official: Woolworths is Australia’s Most Trusted Brand

Meanwhile, Qantas has found another way to annoy customers (and they likely won’t be the only airline doing it), announcing fare increases of 3.5% for their mainline network, and 3% for Jetstar flights, thanks mainly to the rising cost of fuel.

‘Taking the p**s’: Passengers rage as Qantas flight prices set to soar

A local Member of Parliament had a lucky escape when a skydive aircraft he was on board lost power soon after takeoff and returned to Earth with a thud.  Everyone walked away, with only two people requiring first aid…which was lucky because this MP just happened to be a former professional firefighter.

Victorian MP who survived plane crash says pilot showed ‘amazing skill’

And is Australia planning to start its very own Space Force??   Well…probably not, but a recent agreement signed by the US and Australia will unlock the potential for both countries to move ahead with a space launch from Down Under in the near to medium future.

SIAA welcomes deal to unlock US space launch from Australian shores

Mentioned

Eric Paterson, Ph.D., Executive Director, Virginia Tech National Security Institute, Rolls-Royce Commonwealth Professor provided additional information about the truss braced wing concept. This concept was developed and explored at Virginia Tech more than 25 years ago. There was a substantial team working on this, including, Dr. Bernard Grossman, Dr. Joseph Schetz, Dr. William Mason, Dr. Rakesh Kapania, Dr. Raphael Haftka, Dr. Frank Gern, Philippe-Andre Tetrault, Joel Grasmeyer, Erwin Sulaeman, Jay Gundlach, and Andy Ko.

A strut-braced wing model in a NASA wind tunnel.
2013 wind tunnel test at NASA Langley.

Boeing Air Taxi Company Flies in Los Angeles

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, David Vanderhoof, Rob Mark, and our Main(e) Man Micah. Contribution by Grant McHerron and Steve Visscher.

769 Transonic Truss-braced Wing

A transonic truss-braced wing aircraft gets an X-Plane designation, some categories of air travel capacity have returned to pre-pandemic levels, detecting germs on airliners, and the Collings Foundation reaches a settlement.

Aviation News

Next Generation Experimental Aircraft Becomes NASA’s Newest X-Plane

The transonic truss-braced wing experimental aircraft has received the designator X-66A. This will be developed under the NASA Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD) project and produced under a partnership between NASA and the Boeing Company. Recently, Boeing flew an MD-90 airplane from Victorville, California, to its facility in Palmdale, California, where the X-66A conversion will take place. The plane’s wings will be replaced with longer and thinner wings stabilized by diagonal struts.

Transonic Truss-braced Wing concept
Transonic Truss-braced Wing. NASA concept.

See the Wikipedia List of X-planes to learn more about past X-planes.

Air travel is back to pre-pandemic levels with new turbulence ahead

Based on data from aviation analytics firm Cirium, capacity (measured by scheduled available seat kilometers) has returned to pre-pandemic levels. However, IATA says industry profits will be more than 40% below 2019 levels. Airline analyst Helane Becker at TD Cowen says, “Industry revenues are back to 2019 levels but costs are over 2019 levels by about 18 or 19%.”

Just how germy are airplanes? We put one to the test.

Using a microbial detection test from Charm Sciences, the author swabbed 10 high-touch points on a recent flight. Nine tests failed. The worst spots were the lavatory sink handle and a tray table. The test that came back with zero contaminants might surprise you. Or maybe not.

Collings Foundation Reaches Settlement With Nine-0-Nine Crash Victims

The Collings Foundation has settled the remaining legal claims involving eight of the 10 passengers who were aboard the Nine-0-Nine B-17 when it crashed at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut on Oct. 2, 2019. Terms of the settlement will not be made public. In its final report, the NTSB found pilot error, lax maintenance practices,  and a dysfunctional safety management system had contributed to the crash. We interviewed pilot Mac McCauley under the wing of that plane one week prior to the crash in AirplaneGeeks.com/573.

Mentioned

FAPA.aero (Future and Active Pilot Advisors) offers “objective and independent advice for aspiring pilots of all levels.”

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight and Rob Mark.

767 Aircraft Seat

We talk with the CEO of an aircraft seat upholstery specialist company. In the news, airline loyalty programs are changing, unapproved parts are plaguing the airline industry, and Boeing is expanding its presence in India.

Guest

Jacobo Mesta

Jacobo Mesta is CEO of Soisa Aircraft Interiors, an AS9100-certified aircraft seat upholstery specialist headquartered in Chihuahua, Mexico, with a further facility in Dubai, UAE. The family-owned and run business was founded in 2006 and provides a range of flexible design and manufacturing services including prototyping, product and quality engineering, and the integration of foams, composites, and other interior parts. 

Soisa employs over 250 skilled workers across its sites and manufactures airplane seat dress covers, cushions, composite panels, curtains, carpets, and armrests. The company works with all major seat OEMs and its products are currently flying with more than 100 airlines worldwide. Soisa also has a robust ESG (environmental, social, and governance) program.

Aircraft seat cover from Soisa.
Soisa aircraft seat cover

We learn how Soisa pivoted in 2006 and joined the aerospace industry, growing its business and adding capabilities over time. Originally a fill-to-print shop, Soisa now has design and engineering capability. Products include seat dress covers, composite panels, and foam for OEMs and the aftermarket.

Jacobo explains who their customers are, the important design criteria, and some of the material and design changes that have occurred. We also learn about Soisa’s very strong ESG  (environmental, social, and governance) program where the company provides surplus material to the local Tarahumara tribe in Chihuahua who then make products they sell for income. Leasing company Avolon has started contributing seat components as well. Also, Soisa works with people in jail in a similar program.

Cross section of Soisa aircraft seat cushion showing layers.
Soisa cushion

Prior to becoming CEO, Jacobo held a number of roles, including Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and Sales Director.

Before joining Soisa and the aviation sector, Jacobo was involved in fuel oil trading at PEMEX, serving as a fuel oil trader and managing storage operations in Houston and Panama from 2002 to 2006.

Find Soisa Aircraft Interiors on their website, and on LinkedIn.

Soisa partners with Avalon to recycle used cabin materials

With artisanal interior reuse partnership, Soisa focuses on ESG

Aviation News

Airlines Are Just Banks Now

The Atlantic says airlines “make more money from mileage programs than from flying planes—and it shows.” In Delta SkyMiles changes: Airline overhauls how you earn Medallion status in biggest change yet, The Points Guy says,

Delta Air Lines is overhauling how you earn Medallion status as part of perhaps one of its biggest loyalty updates yet. The airline is retiring Medallion Qualifying Miles and Medallion Qualifying Segments, and it’ll instead focus on a redefined version of Medallion Qualifying Dollars… Depending on your personal travel and spending habits, Delta’s news may not necessarily sting that much, but there will certainly be some flyers who will miss the old program.

The Points Guy

Under the old Delta SkyMiles formula, status was based on a combination of dollars spent and miles traveled. In the revised program, status is based on dollars spent, and the amount of spending required to achieve status has gone up. As The Atlantic says, “SkyMiles is no longer a frequent-flier program; it’s a big-spender program.”

Durbin Pushes Legislation to Reduce Credit Card “Swipe Fees”; Critics Say Rewards Programs at Risk

A new bill proposed in Congress would reduce the so-called “swipe fees” retailers pay every time a customer uses a credit card. This could impact airline (and other) credit card loyalty programs.

Escalating scandal grips airlines including American and Southwest, wreaking havoc on flight delays and cancellations as nearly 100 planes find fake parts from company with fake employees that vanished overnight

Airlines around the world have announced they have found parts sourced from AOG Technics that lack valid documentation. Allegedly, the parts were sold to shops repairing CFM International jet engines. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) says that certain documents had been forged to make it appear as if AOG Technics’ parts had come from legitimate manufacturers.

Boeing New Facility Outside the US to Open Sooner

Boeing is opening a 43-acre complex in Bengaluru, India that will include laboratories, testing infrastructure, and research and development activities. It may create about 3,000 jobs. The company announced the investment following an order from Air India for 20 787 Dreamliners, 10 777Xs, and 190 737 MAX aircraft. Boeing has headquarters in Delhi and field service offices in other locations. Boeing is also expanding its Boeing India Engineering & Technology Center (BIETC), with locations in Bengaluru and Chennai.

Mentioned

Step-by-step Guidance for Visually Impaired Travelers Now Available at Honolulu Airport

Pratt and Whitney 4360 – $12,000 (Fulton)

For sale by owner, the Pratt and Whitney 4360 Wasp Major R-4360-63A is a 28-cylinder, supercharged, air-cooled engine. This example was removed from a 1955 Douglas C-124 Globemaster II.

Pratt and Whitney 4360 Wasp Major engine on trailer stand.
Pratt & Whitney R-4360-63A

Wikipedia reports the R-4360 is an American 28-cylinder four-row radial piston aircraft engine designed and built during World War II. First run in 1944, at 4,362.5 cu in (71.5 L), it is the largest-displacement aviation piston engine to be mass-produced in the United States, and at 4,300 hp (3,200 kW) the most powerful. It was the last of the Pratt & Whitney Wasp family and the culmination of its maker’s piston engine technology.

The engine was used postwar on many aircraft, including:

Hosts this Episode

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

747 Boeing 747, the Queen of the Skies

This episode focuses on the “Queen of the Skies,” the Boeing 747.

The last Boeing 747 to be delivered on the tarmac.
The last Boeing 747. Photo by @Jetcitystar.

Boeing 747

We look at the history of the Boeing 747, some facts and figures, our memories of the plane, the 747 in the news, and we discuss a few of the accidents and incidents. We also have some personal photos of the Boeing 747 taken by our listeners.

35 Years Of Flight: Which Standard Active Boeing 747-400s Have The Most Cycles?

What It’s Like to Fly in the Top Deck of a Rare Boeing 747 ‘Queen of the Skies’

The United Kingdom Has A Boeing 747 Operator Again

US judge awards lessor over $400 million for Boeing 747-8s stuck in Russia

Dramatic Landing: Cargolux Boeing 747 Incident at Luxembourg

Dutch investigators recommend changes to Boeing 747 engines following failure

British Airways smashes record for quickest subsonic flight from New York to London

Australia News Desk

This week being episode 747, the boys decided to have a little fun and look at some Australian Boeing 747 milestones over the years.  There are so many to cover, so these are just a snapshot.  We highly recommend checking out http://aussieairliners.org/ as a superb reference on Jumbo’s and many, many other types in Australian service.

Qantas VH-OJA on the runway.
Qantas VH-OJA. Image credit – Seth Jaworski

In the news this week, regional operator ReX have made the decision to cut schedules across their route network, citing the impact of global supply chain issues impacting their ability to service and operate their fleet, especially in terms of sourcing parts & spares for their SAAB 340’s. 

Rex Cutting Flights In Australia

The Australian Government’s Defence Strategic Review has been released, and we continue to pour over the details, with the Army appearing to cop the brunt of cutbacks and/or changes to equipment and posturing, while the impact, if any, on defence aviation operations remains to be seen.  We’ll have more on this in future editions of this report, and on Plane Crazy Down Under and the Australian Defence Magazine podcast in coming weeks.

The ADM Podcast is produced by Southern Skies Media on behalf of Australian Defence Magazine. It’s hosted by Grant McHerron and produced by Steve Visscher.

Listener Photos

KLM 747-400 at the gate.
KLM 747-400, Amsterdam June 2018. Photo by Ted.
Sheik of Dubai’s Boeing 747 parked at LEX.
Sheik of Dubai’s Boeing 747 parked at LEX. Photo by Greg.
Joplin Missouri Presidential visit in 2006 - Air Force One. Photo by Adam.
Joplin Missouri Presidential visit in 2006. Photo by Adam.
Lufthansa 747-8i landing LAX. Photo by Greg.
Lufthansa 747-8i landing LAX. Photo by Greg.
First time spotting. Photo by Heliscone.
First time spotting. Photo by Heliscone.
Atlas Air Boeing 747 cargo plane landing at CVG. Photo by Greg.
Atlas Air landing at CVG. Photo by Greg.

Mentioned

Southern California Logistics Airport (“Victorville Airport”)

EarPlanes, pressure-preventing earplugs.

The Air Up There: Podcast Sn 5 Ep 1: Flying With Kids: Tips From An Expert

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, David Vanderhoof, Max Trescott, and our Main(e) Man Micah. Contributions by Grant McHerron and Steve Visscher.

736 Autonomous Aircraft

We talk about autonomous aircraft with an Xwing executive. In the news, Airbus and Qatar Airways settle their dispute over A350 paint problems, a personal eVTOL, the 2019 report that explains how Boeing lost its way, a close call with a B737 taking off and a B767 landing on the same runway, the F-22 Raptor gets its first kill, and a Boeing 737 has crashed fighting fires in Australia.

Xwing Caravan taking off.
Xwing Caravan

Guest

Earl Lawrence is the Chief Compliance and Quality Officer at Xwing, a Part 135 air carrier operating across the United States. The company is building an air transportation system of certified autonomous aircraft, starting with the express regional air cargo market. Xwing has demonstrated an autonomous gate-to-gate flight with a cargo aircraft. The plane was able to taxi, take off, land, and return to the gate entirely on its own.

Headshot of Earl Lawrence, Chief Compliance and Quality Officer at Xwing
Earl Lawrence

Earl explains that the Xwing vision for autonomous aircraft doesn’t mean moving the cockpit to the ground or eliminating the pilot. It means taking the pilot out of the airplane and into a control center. A single pilot could provide guidance to multiple flights from one console while handling ATC communication.

Doing this offers cost savings, greater aircraft utilization, and more stable and predictable hours for pilots. Earl tells us about the positive impact on pilot lifestyle and the opportunity for some disabled people to become pilots.

Earl points out that Xwing is using autonomous technologies, but for the most part following existing regulations. Autonomy is needed to bring the price of flying down and make it simpler and more accessible to people.

Earl brings more than three decades of experience in the aviation industry to Xwing. Most recently, Lawrence served as the Executive Director of Aircraft Certification at the FAA, leading an organization of over 1,400 people that oversee all types of certification, production approval, airworthiness certification, and continued airworthiness of the U.S. civil aircraft fleet – including commercial and general aviation activities. Before joining the FAA, Earl spent sixteen years at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), where his efforts contributed to the creation of the Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft categories. Throughout his career, Earl has consistently led the charge in bringing cutting-edge aviation technology to market.

Aviation News

Airbus and Qatar Airways settle A350 dispute

In 2021, Qatar Airways complained to Airbus that some A350 fuselage paint was peeling and unsightly. Qatar grounded some 30 aircraft and asked Airbus for compensation. Airbus said it was only a cosmetic issue, which they would address. But Qatar refused to take new deliveries and Airbus canceled the A350 contract with Qatar. And then Airbus canceled an order for A321neo jets. Qatar filed a lawsuit in London.

Now both parties have made up and “reached an amicable and mutually agreeable settlement.” Terms were not made public.

Press release: Qatar Airways and Airbus reach amicable settlement in legal dispute

Startup Says It’s Personal eVTOL is the One for Supercar Customers

Israeli company AIR has spent four years developing and testing a sport eVTOL “that is easy to handle and can be used daily.” Their mission is to “create personal, intuitive flying vehicles at scale, for exciting and safe experiences.” The winged multicopter seats two. You can pre-order the AIR ONE with a $1,000 deposit. The base price is $150,000. They have 300 pre-orders.

Artist's rendering of an Air One in flight.
Air One in flight.

The Long-Forgotten Flight That Sent Boeing Off Course

That flight is the headquarters move from Seattle to Chicago. “A company once driven by engineers became driven by finance.”

Fedex B763 and Southwest B737 at Austin on Feb 4th 2023, loss of separation on runway resolved by go around

A FedEx 767-300 was on final for a CATIII ILS approach to Austin Texas runway 18L and was cleared to land. The tower let the crew know that a Boeing 737 would depart prior to their arrival. The 767 was cleared to land. Meantime, a Southwest Airlines 737-700 was holding short on runway 18L for departure and was cleared for takeoff from that runway. The tower let the Southwest pilots know that a Boeing 767 heavy was on a 3-mile final. About 30 seconds later the Tower asked if they were on the roll, and the crew confirmed they were. Shortly thereafter (25 seconds) someone says “Southwest abort, the Fedex was on the go (around)”.

F-22 Shoots Down Chinese Spy Balloon Off Carolinas With Missile (Updated)

The large balloon traversed much of the country, sometimes over sensitive military locations. As the balloon moved off the coast, F-22 fighters from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force used a single AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile to bring it down.

Why stratospheric balloons are used in era of space-based intelligence

Balloons can hover closer to the ground and may be able to intercept communication or electronic signals that orbiting systems can’t. Balloons also offer more persistent, less predictable coverage over an area of interest.

A Boeing 737-300 Has Crashed Fighting Fires In Australia

Early reports indicated both pilots were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The 737 was operated by Coulson Aviation to help firefighting efforts in the Fitzgerald River National Park. After dropping the load at around 700 feet, flight tracking data shows the plane reaching about 1,800 feet and then crashing.

Australia News Desk

While it hasn’t exactly been your stereotypical summer weather in Australia, we haven’t (yet) seen any snow – and certainly none in Sydney.  Snow, however, was exactly what greeted a Sydney-bound passenger this week as confusion with the airport code when booking saw him arrive in a rather chilly Sidney, Montana

G’day? Man Realizes Too Late He Bought a Ticket to Sidney — not Sydney

Meanwhile, the Qantas and Emirates codeshare agreement noted up ten years this week.  We look at what that has meant to Australian travelers.

10 years on, has the Qantas-Emirates partnership delivered?

Qantas is still in the sights of local media, however, with another turnback, this time for a QantasLink Dash 8 due to severe turbulence.  The event forced CEO Allan Joyce to go on the offensive, pointing out a few facts about turnbacks, comparing them not only to airlines overall but specifically the local QF rival, Virgin Australia

Qantas passenger and flight attendant rushed to hospital suffering head and neck injuries after sudden turbulence

Mentioned

Video: What it’s like to fly the Opener BlackFly eVTOL

AOPA Podcasts

The people who live inside airplanes

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, and Max Trescott. With contributions by Grant McHerron and Steve Vischer.

735 Aircraft Automation

The co-founder and CEO of Reliable Robotics explains how aircraft automation sets the path to bringing certified autonomous vehicles to commercial aviation. In the news, the first graduating class from United Aviate Academy, the NTSB and BEA comment on the Ethiopian Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau’s final report on the 737 Max crash, pilots working to make their airport safer, the government wants to know if the Southwest meltdown was caused by unrealistic scheduling, and ADS-B Exchange purchase by Jetnet.

Guest

Robert Rose headshot.

Robert Rose is the co-founder and CEO of Reliable Robotics, a company that seeks to bring certified autonomous vehicles to commercial aviation. Their vision is to leverage aircraft automation to transform the way we move goods and people around the planet with safer, more convenient, and more affordable air transportation. The company is headquartered in Mountain View, California, and has a distributed global workforce.

Robert explains how incremental safety enhancements can lead to the long-term goal of remotely piloted aircraft. Reliable Robotics is developing a higher precision navigation system, followed by the capability for auto-land without airport infrastructure. From there, an auto-takeoff capability that includes takeoff rejection, and auto-taxi. Altogether, these significantly impact the safety of GA aircraft

Admitting that fully autonomous aircraft are not a near-term possibility, Robert says that aircraft automation takes us down the path to autonomous operation.

He sees certification in three phases:

  1. Certification of a continuous engagement autopilot for the Cessna Caravan.
  2. Certifying the management of contingencies outside the system’s control.
  3. Certifying detect and avoid and the communication system with the pilot in a control center.

Robert’s engineering experience spans aerospace, self-driving cars, robotics, gaming, and consumer products. Prior to co-founding Reliable Robotics, he was the Director of Flight Software at SpaceX where he led the development of the onboard flight software for the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft, resulting in the first commercial mission to the International Space Station. At Tesla, Robert was the Senior Director of Autopilot, Robert brought to market the first consumer automobile with fully unassisted self-driving capability. At X (Google’s skunkworks division), Robert led a team bringing advanced machine perception and manipulation technologies to large vehicles. 

Earlier in his career, he developed three Game of the Year award-winning titles as a Game Engine Programmer at Sony PlayStation. Robert holds a B.S. in Computer Science, a B.S. in Computer Engineering, and an M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Oregon State University.

Aviation News

United Airlines celebrates historic first graduating class of Flight Academy Pilots

United Aviate Academy graduated the first 51 student pilots out of what United hopes will be 5,000 by 2030. United is the only major U.S. airline to own a flight school. Nearly 80% of this inaugural graduating class is made up of women or people of color. The airline hopes that at least half of the graduates will be women or people of color. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says only 5.6% of pilots are women and 6% are people of color.

What’s next for the graduates?

  • Some will work as Certified Flight Instructors at the academy and build their hours toward 1,500 required flying hours
  • Others will build hours at participating flight schools or universities, including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Purdue University and Hampton University.
  • Graduates are encouraged to eventually fly for a United Express carrier, take on leadership roles at an Aviate participating Part 135 operator, or become a Fleet Technical Instructor at United to complete their training.
  • Aviate participants can expect to become a United pilot within about six years of graduating from United Aviate Academy.

NTSB Finds More Problems in Ethiopian 737 Max Final Report

The Ethiopian Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (EAIB) final report focuses on system failures, not the actions (or inactions) of the pilots. The NTSB and BEA believe the failure of the pilots to execute proper procedures was a contributing factor. Comments made by NTSB and BEA to that effect were not included in the EAIB final report. NTSB and BEA have gone on record to express their belief that the final report is deficient in this respect.

Boeing pleads not guilty to fraud in criminal case over deadly 737 Max crashes

Boeing pleaded not guilty to felony fraud in the recent arraignment in federal court. The families asked Judge O’Connor to impose certain conditions on Boeing as a condition of release, including appointing an independent monitor to oversee Boeing’s compliance with the terms of the previous deferred prosecution agreement, and that the company’s compliance efforts “be made public to the fullest extent possible.” Boeing and the Justice Department opposed the request and the judge did not rule on those at the time.

Aspen Pilots Want to Improve Airport Safety Record

The Aspen Airport (KASE) has been regarded as a dangerous airport. The Aspen Times called it “the most dangerous [airport] in the United States.” A number of jet and piston accidents have occurred there, some fatal. In December 2022, the formation of the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport FlightOps Safety Task Force was announced. The task force includes a dozen volunteer pilots

Transportation Department looking into whether ‘unrealistic scheduling’ played role in Southwest holiday meltdown

A Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesperson said, “DOT is in the initial phase of a rigorous and comprehensive investigation into Southwest Airlines’ holiday debacle that stranded millions … [and] probing whether Southwest executives engaged in unrealistic scheduling of flights which under federal law is considered an unfair and deceptive practice.”

Southwest Airlines says travel disruptions could cost $800 million

“In a …filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, [Southwest Airlines] estimated pretax losses from the disruption of $725 million to $825 million for the quarter. Of that, it expects to lose $400 million to $425 million in revenue directly from the flight cancellations.”

The Flight Tracker That Powered @ElonJet Just Took a Left Turn

ADS-B Exchange was purchased by Jetnet, which Silversmith Capital Partners own. Some people are expressing outrage and worry that ADS-B Exchange will lose its openness. Founder and president of ADS-B Exchange Dan Streufert was our guest in Episode 692.

Australia News Desk

Auckland floods: International flights resume at Auckland Airport, 600% increase in calls to Air NZ

This week we take a look across the Tasman Sea as New Zealand’s capital, Auckland, was hit with historic levels of flooding, leading to the temporary closure of their International Airport, leaving passengers from all corners of the globe stranded for many hours in the terminal, and saw a number of inbound flights diverted.

Steve’s a little tired after being recertified as an instructor…not for airplanes…but for trains.  We discuss the similarities in approaches to training between rail and aviation, including one of Steve’s more interesting sim sessions.

Train simulation

Saber announces first projects to fly in Australian Astronaut Program

Meanwhile, Grant’s literally over the moon following Saber Astronautics’ plans to send Australian tech to the International Space Station in coming years, including beer in a specially made zero-G bottle.  

Sydney Airport chaos as control tower incident triggers evacuations and grounds flights

Flights were temporarily halted in and out of Sydney Airport this weekend when the control tower had to be evacuated following the smell of gaseous fumes in the ventilation system.

And finally, we pay tribute to local aviation photographer Matt Savage, of Mach One Aeromedia, who passed away recently after a long battle with illness.  Matt was a man who shared our passion for aviation and was a big supporter of our work.  Though he left us way too soon, his skill with the lens will live on as a lasting legacy for all of us to enjoy. 

Plane in flight photograph by Matt Savage.
Image by Matt Savage – 2022

Mentioned

Air Traffic Out Of Control podcast.

AutoGyro USA

Calidus Gyroplane on the tarmac.
2014 Calidus Gyroplane

New aviation museum planned at the Santa Maria Airport ready to take off

Donate here: https://www.pofsantamaria.org/

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, and David Vanderhoof. With contributions by Grant McHerron and Steve Vischer.

734 Grand Dames of Aviation

We speak with the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Grand Dames of Aviation. In the news, Boeing and NASA team up to develop a Transonic Truss-Braced Wing airliner, a US judge orders Boeing to appear for an arraignment on a 737 Max fraud charge, SWAPA authorizes a strike vote, and a procedure change and the JFK runway incursion. We also have an Australia News Desk report and interviews from the 2023 Seattle Aerospace BBQ.

Guest

Grand Dames of Aviation founder Carol Dean in the cockpit.
Carol Dean, founder of Grand Dames of Aviation

Carol Dean is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of the non-profit Grand Dames of Aviation. Formed in 2017, the Grand Dames of Aviation is an exclusive group of accomplished women in professional aviation. What started as a private Facebook group has grown into a large organization that celebrates, educates, and inspires women to believe, achieve, and lead in aviation.

Carol explains the requirements to become a Grand Dame of Aviation and mentions some of the notable members. We learn about scholarships, mentoring, and leadership networking. Cultivating the talent, innovation, and leadership of women is critical for the future of aviation and aerospace.

Carol is currently a B757 pilot for a major carrier and has over 30 years of experience in aviation. As a test pilot and pilot instructor on the Design-Build Team, she helped certify the Gulfstream V in 1997 and was the first woman to fly the aircraft. Carol is an FAA-Designated GV Pilot Examiner and a JAA-certified GV Type Check Airman. She flew Gulfstreams Part 91 and 135 for various Fortune 500 companies for 20 years before going to the airline in 2016.

Grand Dames of Aviation Watch

Grand Dames of Aviation Watch – The “Grand Dame” is offered by Abingdon Company. This timepiece was designed to honor trailblazing women in aviation. Fierce. Accomplished. Confident. Skilled. All proceeds go to the Grand Dames of Aviation scholarship fund. For a limited time, Grand Dames receive a special 15% discount.

Grand Dames of Aviation private Facebook group.

Sisters of the Skies  

AVIATE with Shaesta

Carol Dean standing in front of jet.

Aviation News

New aircraft design from NASA and Boeing could benefit passengers in the 2030s

The Sustainable Flight Demonstrator Project brings NASA and Boeing together to create a plane with a Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (or TTBW) configuration. This features long thin high wings supported by diagonal struts to the fuselage belly. Boeing is to produce and test a full-scale single-aisle demonstrator aircraft with the first test flight planned for 2028.

Artist’s concept of Boeing Transonic Truss-Braced Wing aircraft.
Artist’s concept. Courtesy Boeing

US Judge Orders Boeing Arraigned on 737Max Fraud Charge

In January 2021 the U.S. Department of Justice granted Boeing immunity under a $2.5 billion deferred prosecution agreement. A Texas federal judge has now ruled that Boeing must appear in court on Jan. 26, 2023, to be arraigned on federal criminal charges over the 346 deaths in two Boeing MAX 737 crashes in 2018 and 2019. The judge believes the victim’s families were not part of the process under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.

SWAPA President Casey Murray Calls for Strike Authorization Vote

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association has authorized a strike vote beginning May 1, 2023. “This historic action on the part of the pilot union comes in the wake of Southwest’s largest meltdown and the utter lack of meaningful progress on a contract negotiation, with scheduling work rules and information technology asks in particular, that has been ongoing for more than three years.”

First Officer On American JFK Runway Incursion Flight Had Added Task At Departure, Source Says

New cockpit procedures Introduced on January 2 were being executed for the first time by the first officer. These procedures required the first officer to make a takeoff announcement for the passengers and flight attendants. The announcement must be made with precise timing, and other tasks are to be interrupted. An unnamed source said, “She has all this data to analyze and input, plus she has a new task on top of all that. She was overwhelmed.”

Australia News Desk

The guys recap a little of their history with the show, for the benefit of newer listeners, digging into the archives to find their first report as a team from episode 52 in 2009.

On the news front, Bonza Airline announces its inaugural flight

‘Overdelivering on expectations’: excitement builds for a Bonza first flight

The Defence Department announces a confirmed order for 40 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for the Australian Army, with deliveries to commence at the end of this year

Black Hawk helicopters for Defence

And QANTAS has sure had better weeks, with multiple in-flight mechanical issues making the news and causing a media frenzy!   Oh dear….

Fixation on Qantas won’t end, even if string of incidents were unconnected

Qantas calls for calm after engine failure and three flight turnbacks

Seattle Aerospace BBQ 2023

Brian Coleman attended the 2023 Seattle Aerospace BBQ and recorded four interviews:

Isaac Alexander from Hype Aviation and the organizer of the Seattle Aerospace BBQ.

Robin Koenig, the founder of Hype Aviation, the news aggregator and media intelligence service for aerospace industry professionals and enthusiasts.

Nick Benson of JetTip.net, the smart flight alert service for aviation enthusiasts. Flight alerts are sent by app notification or email, and filterable arrival/departure boards make aircraft spotting a breeze. JetTip tracks flights of interesting and unusual aircraft at major US and Canadian airports.

Dave Honan, a photographer and plane and train spotter living in the Seattle area. See his Instagram.

Attendees eating at the 2023 Seattle Aerospace BBQ.
2023 Seattle Aerospace BBQ. Photo by Isaac Alexander.

Mentioned

ZeroAvia successfully completes first flight of world’s largest hydrogen-electric plane

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, and David Vanderhoof. With contributions by Grant McHerron, Steve Vischer, and Brian Coleman.

729 Airport Lounges

We speak with the operator of the world’s largest network of airport lounges. In the news, United’s order for Boeing planes, air travel trends for 2023, Boom Supersonic plans to develop its own engine, the U.S. Army selects the Bell V-280 over the Sikorsky/Boeing offering, and passengers are injured by turbulence on a Hawaiian Airlines flight.

Guest

Stuart Vella is Vice President of Commercial Development and Operations with the Plaza Premium Group (PPG), an award-winning leader in premium airport hospitality services. PPG operates the world’s largest network of airport lounges. In the U.S. the company operates the Plaza Premium Lounge at DFW Terminal E and recently opened a lounge at Orlando (MCO) Terminal C. Stuart has been in the hospitality industry for some 30 years and has an extensive travel background.

Stuart Vella
Stuart Vella

We talk with Stuart about airport lounges and making the travel experience less hectic. He explains how PPG was formed to cater to those without access to elite lounges. PPG offers lounges for all travelers, regardless of cabin class or airline. Customer demand is high for more lounge access not necessarily tied to an airline or credit card.

PPG owns the lounges they operate and offers full food and beverage service with production kitchens, full bars, showers, play areas for children, and quiet areas for business people. The benefits of each lounge are tailored to the demographics of travelers going through that specific airport.

We discuss the PPG pricing model, LEED ratings, and the “ALWAYS” meet and greet at DFW.

Plaza Premium Lounge Opens at Orlando International Airport

Plaza Premium Lounge Wins Skytrax Awards Six Years in a Row [PDF]

Airport lounge

Aviation News

United places order for 200 Boeing planes, giving two troubled jets a vote of confidence

The United order represents 35% of the orders received by Boeing commercial airplanes this year. The announced order includes 100 firm/100 option 787 Dreamliners and 56 firm 737 Max planes for delivery between 2024 and 2026. The airline also exercised options on 44 737 Max jets with delivery between 2024 and 2026.

3 air travel trends to watch for in 2023

Three trends are noted in a conversation with United’s Director of UK, Ireland, Israel and Off-line Sales:

  1. “Alternative” airports will increase in popularity
  2. Greener air travel will remain a top priority
  3. Travel will become a lighter-touch experience

Boom plans new Symphony supersonic engine design

Boom Supersonic could not get any of the major engine manufacturers to commit to developing an engine for them. Boom now plans to develop its own engine, called Symphony, a medium-bypass engine producing 35,000 pounds of thrust. Three partners were announced:

Boom Supersonic Symphony engine.
Symphony (conceptual render). Courtesy Boom Supersonic.

Kratos purchased Florida Turbine Technologies in February 2019 and formed the Kratos Turbine Technologies (KTT) division. KTT develops and produces small high-performance jet engines for cruise missiles and unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

A Reality Check On The Army Picking V-280 Valor Over SB>1 Defiant

U.S. Army’s fleet of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters is to be replaced under the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft initiative, or FLRAA. The Army has chosen the Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor over the Sikorsky/Boeing Defiant X, a compound coaxial helicopter based on Sikorsky’s X2 technology. The Army said the V-280 offered the “best value proposition” without providing any specifics.

Note: Paul Wilson, chief engineer for the Bell V-280 Valor program was our guest in Episode 576 Bell V-280 Valor.

Passengers and Flight Attendants Hit the Ceiling After Severe Turbulence Strikes Hawaiian Airlines Plane From Phoenix

The A330 flight from Phoenix to Honolulu encountered severe turbulence, injuring as many as 36 passengers, 11 seriously. The pilots declared an emergency following the incident due to the number of injuries and the plane was given priority clearance to land.

See inside of Hawaiian Airlines plane rocked by turbulence

David’s Christmas Story

Hosts this Episode

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