Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Much to Learn from Lucky Landings

Working on my back deck with a friend in 2010
Last summer, while replacing some of the planks on my back deck, I distractedly turned on my cordless circular saw and upon feeling the end of my work glove starting to twist, looked down to see I was just about to saw off a couple of fingers. I had a lot to say at the time, none of which I'll repeat here. But from the safe distance of time, I will now calmly describe the episode as they do in aviation as a "near miss."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why A Certain Qantas A380 Must Fly Again

The Airbus A380 that sported tail number VH-OQA will return to the sky. Someday. That's the word from Qantas CEO Alan Joyce as reported in Air Transport Intelligence News today by Will Horton. "We'll be in the air by the end of the year with that aircraft," Horton quotes the Qantas boss saying.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why Sometimes I Feel Like a 747

Photo by Gail Hanusa and  courtesy Boeing

Congratulations, Wunderbar and Chuka Haeyo to Boeing for the banner day it had Sunday, unveiling its newest version of the 747, the 747-8 Intercontinental. Throw whatever numbers you want after the dash, add a glamorous "Intercontinental" to the end of it, but what you've got there my friend was and always will be the Queen of the Sky.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lasers and Helicopters a Disaster in the Making

Negroni predicts this could end in tears.

I'm talking about an episode in Los Angeles earlier this week in which a local police helicopter was hit with a laser wielded by a 14-year old child. Last month the Federal Aviation Administration released a report showing that airplanes are targeted by lasers in Los Angeles more than any other municipality in the United States. But this is a world wide problem

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Medical Transport of a Benevolent Kind

When I saw the headline of the press release, I must say it gave me pause: Southwest Airlines Medical Transportation Grant. Medical transport and aviation in the same sentence makes the mind rush, my mind at least, to emergency medical helicopters - about which I often rant on my blog.

But readers, this is not another tirade on emergency medical helicopters, though I can't promise I won't get back to that subject in a future post. I'm already half-way there, wound up about an announcement from the for-profit helicopter ambulance company OmniFlight that it would be offering EMS memberships to U.S. military veterans. Talk about wrapping the flag around a crass commercial venture. Don't get me started...

No, today I want to praise Southwest Airlines for its decision, just announced to add a new hospital to its program to make round-trip airline tickets available for people who must travel for medical care. The addition of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin brings to 60 the number of medical facilities in 24 states that can offer free Southwest Airline tickets to patients. Southwest says it expects to give away about 5,500 tickets in 2011.

Airline philanthropy isn't unique to Southwest. Many airlines devote serious time and money to charitable causes. American Airlines spends a bucket load no doubt on its sensational C.R. Smith Museum. And who of us who flew on Delta Air Lines last fall can forget the sight of all those employees sporting pink ties and pink dresses to raise awareness of breast cancer?

With no disrespect to the wearing of pink, I favor the color myself, how much more effective is a campaign that puts pilots into schools to help kids conquer science and math and perhaps even become pilots themselves. And then there's my friend John, another Southwest pilot, maybe he's not so fond of the classroom but he regularly donates his employee flight coupons to servicemen and women through the USO.

Photo courtesy Southwest R.J. Hinkle - QuadPhoto
All this gives me the impression that something more authentic is going on at Southwest; when this airline takes on a project its a roll-up-our-sleeves and pitch-in together-like-family-kinda-thing and it goes back to the airline's first days. The story is told of how faced with the sale of one of the four airplanes in its 1970s fleet, employees figured they could do more with fewer airplanes if they all shook their tails and worked faster, unloading, cleaning, prepping and reloading their planes lickety split. From this stroke of brilliance and we-can-do-it-if-we-try camaraderie, Southwest invented the 10-minute turnaround for which it is now famous.

In the light of its apparent commitment to both working together and giving back, let me tell a quick story about a small act of charity from Southwest's new acquisition. Last November after just one simple request, AirTran Airways donated two round trip tickets for an auction to benefit Creating Learning @ FPC, an after school program for disadvantaged children in Stamford.  Yep, its a small token but it speaks to AirTran's ability to be nimble and responsive, revealing that the company's corporate heart is in the right place. 

Separate and distinct from all the other reasons the Southwest - AirTran marriage might be good, on the doing-the-right-thing-front - the two airlines seem highly compatible.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy to Inform You That Airlines Are Not Always Right

Several years ago when I was still packin' an American Airlines credit card in my wallet, I had a dispute with the airline and I sat down and wrote a letter to someone, I don't know, pretty high up in the company. (This story is coming from memory, I'll get the gist of it right, but the details have long since taken a one-way flight out of my noggin.) Anyway, a few weeks after mailing the letter I got a reply from the airline which started out this way:

Dear Ms. Negroni,
We are happy to inform you that you are wrong...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Rundown on Commuting and Fatigue on the Flight Deck

Before the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407, there wasn't a lot of attention paid to the oftentimes grueling commuting schedule of pilots in the United States. At the office of the International Civil Aviation Organization, however, they've been talking about this for years. Next month, in fact, ICAO is expected  to adopt a fatigue risk management system that could result in airlines and regulators taking a more sophisticated approach rather than just smacking an arbitrary number into the rule book that says, "This is how much you can fly."