Thursday, September 29, 2011

Following the Leader in Airline Emergencies

Scott McCartney’s story in today’s Wall Street Journal makes some excellent points about the special challenges of saving lives in aviation catastrophes.

First of all, let’s set aside the myth that an aviation accident  =  everybody dead. It’s not the case though it leads some people adopt the fatalistic and passive view that if anything goes wrong there’s little they can do about it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Plot by Airlines to Make Us Behave Better

Okay, I'm just a few years late in hearing about the otherwise famous Kyla Ebbert and her equally famous little-white-skirt both of which had a Southwest flight attendant hyperventilating back in 2007. Seems the lovely Hooters waitress -turned Playboy model was considered inapproprately dressed for her flight from San Diego to Tuscon and she was asked to change outfits or get off the plane. Well that was then.

Oh wait, is it now?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

When Airlines Were On Top of the World

Sony Pictures Television / Patrick Harbron
Fellow aviation geeks, don't be too tempted to quibble over just how authentic the new television show, Pan Am is - already Mickey Maynard is tweeting that the blue of the stewardesses uniforms is the wrong shade. And I confess, when I saw the first episode, (I got to see it two weeks ago but you'll have to wait until Sunday - Thanks Sony!) I did wonder if the set designers couldn't do a better job on the B707 boarding bridge.

Still, if handsome Capt. Dean Lowrey looks too young to be in command of a plane full of 1960s-era travelers, think again. Think in fact, of Capt. Robert Evans.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Air Show Race and Hollywood Special Effects

When I heard Canadian Defense Force Major Adam Cybanski talking about his Hollywood approach to air crash investigations, by analyzing the videos of citizen documentarians, I knew he was on to something. What I did not know was that his Tuesday lecture to the International Society of Air Safety Investigators would be Friday's reality.

National Championship Air Race pilot Jimmy Leeward (R) crashed his World War Two P-51 Mustang into a seating area at the Reno race track Friday afternoon and within minutes, two separate videos were posted on You Tube.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Facebook Kinda' Investigation

The proliferation of cameras isn't just food for the bottomless pit that is You Tube. Very, very soon, air accident investigators will be saying a big "Thank You" to the army of people armed with iPods, smart phones, and digital cameras who are recording aviation accidents. They are already a source of valuable investigative data.

Need I remind you of the close encounter of the behemoth kind at JFK Airport this past April? The Air France A380 whacked a Delta Connection commuter plane, while inside the terminal someone recorded the whole thing.

It was the bump heard - correction - seen 'round the world. But it was far from the first, or even the most dramatic video caught by a bystander that turns out to be beneficial to the folks who try to understand why accidents happen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Day of Simple Flying - A Time of Complex Questions

Is there any better way to start a week of aviation-related travel than by flying in an open cockpit biplane through the canyons of Utah? That's a rhetorical question, the answer is no

Stearman pilots, Patrick Veillette (left) and Steve Guenard

My first day in Salt Lake City, where I have come to attend and write about the annual conference of the International Society of Air Safety Investigators, was dedicated to spending some time with my friend Patrick Veillette, who is also my partner in the Comprehensive Medical Aviation Safety Database, and a pilot qualified to fly an astonishing array of aircraft: hot air balloons, gliders, helicopters, business jets, and even the lovely yellow Stearman above with the tail number N1387V.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Turning Aviation Upside Down - The Legacy of September 11th

My sons, Antonio, Sam and Joseph in 2001
Through the window of the room my three sons shared in 2001, they could lie in bed and watch airplanes on approach to New York City's many airports. A few days after September 11, my youngest son, Joseph, then seven, asked me to close the blind. He was worried that the planes would fly through the window. 

It saddened me that airplanes would become a source of fear to my children but as far as aviation is concerned this is the legacy of September 11.

Monday, September 5, 2011

You Want a Smile? That's Gonna Cost You

I have to laugh at the timing - in the span of two days two very different air travel stories appeared in The New York Times.

The first, in Sunday's Travel Section and reported by Michelle Higgins reveals that for a fee, American Airlines is offering to treat its passengers like VIPs.

On a recent flight, Higgins and her husband coughed up $200 for the airline's Five Star Service program, which entitled them and their young child to an escort from curbside at New York's LaGuardia airport through bag check, into a lounge with snacks and finally, priority boarding. In assessing the program, Higgins wrote that she bought a "civilized airport experience."

Friday, September 2, 2011

When a Patient Dies, It's a Different Story

Read the update on this story by clicking here.

There's a frightening sameness to the accidents that continue to plague the helicopter ambulance industry, but the crash that killed 58-year old Terry Tacoronte in in Missouri last Friday is notably different. Tacoronte, of McFall, Missouri was a patient, and though there have been 19 helicopter ambulance accidents in since 2009, this is the first time a patient has been killed since October 2008 when the toddler, Kirstin Reann Blockinger died in a crash in suburban Chicago.