Thursday, October 27, 2011

Emails About Colgan Pilot Skim Over Larger Industry Woes

Well, with a great sigh of relief and a "our work here is done" my 16-year old son Joseph got his learning drivers permit at the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday. 

But it was dark by the time we turned onto the street where we live so that when Joseph asked if he could drive the rest of the way home, I had to weight the risk: reduced visibility, no sidewalks and pedestrians walking home from the train and his inexperience driving a manual transmission car. So I told him "no". Of course he was disappointed, but all my neighbors are still alive and so is he.

So why oh why, didn't the managers at Colgan Air do the same risk benefit analysis in deciding whether 47-year old Marvin Renslow was ready to be the pilot in command after a slew of performance evaluations showed less than stellar piloting skills? Oh wait. They did. Only in their case, as a series of internal company emails show, they cast those concerns aside.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Dreamliner that Nightmares Are Made Of

How embarrassed is the All Nippon Airways ground crew in Japan after towing the brand spankin' new, close-to-$200 million Dreamliner into a passenger boarding bridge last Thursday? Oh, I'd say that kind of a ding requires something northward of a "my bad"  and something southward of hari-kiri.

From what I read, the plane checked out good as new and will fly - as scheduled - and in the Japanese-style (that is fully packed) on Wednesday the 26th from Tokyo to Nagasaki.

Remarkably, no cameras captured this nightmare-inducing boo-boo but this is what it looked like on September 28th, when the nearly all-composite twin-engine airliner landed at Tokyo International Haneda Airport.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

And the (woomph, woomph, woomph) Beat Goes On

Photo from Illinois DOT documents
Chicagoans, be prepared for the woomph, woomph, woomph of helicopter blades comin' in from over Lake Michigan once the Children's Memorial Hospital places a helipad on its roof, 411 feet above the street.  At the end of last week, the Illinois Department of Transportation issued permission for the hospital to locate the high altitude helipad in a community of skyscrapers, community and concerned activists be damned. 

It may be noisy, it may cause the values of million dollar properties on Chicago's Miracle Mile to decline but that's not the issue as far as I'm concerned. It's the safety stupid!

Friday, October 14, 2011

UPDATE on Passenger Removals and Hawaii Heroes

One never knows when a good story will result in a tip that leads to another and this week I've had a double dose.  After writing on my travel blog GO HOW about how arbitrary the decisionmaking can be when it comes to removing passengers from airplanes, I received accounts from three separate sources that just baffle me.

Saying that his recent removal from a Finnair flight was embarrassing (I have no doubt) business class passenger - let's call him Hannu - had to purchase another ticket and was not reimbursed for his original fare of €2800. I wasn't there and I don't know Hannu, but he claims the episode began when he complained to a flight attendant about a delay. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Heroics in Hawaii Might Save More Than One Life

I recognize that as an aviation journalist I am part of the problem. And the problem as I see it is this. We generate so many words about safety but the attention is disproportionately paid to airlines. Don't get me wrong, as a frequent flyer, I'm all for safe airline operations. It's just that other forms of transportation - riskier forms of transportation without the sex appeal of the big airlines, sometimes seem to get a pass.

Just last week, for example, I wrote a story for The New York Times, reporting that a motor coach operator responsible for a horrific crash that killed 15 people earlier this year, had essentially evaded a Department of Transportation cease operation order by simply transfering buses from the sanctioned company to another bus company also under his control.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Don't Touch That Dial! No the Other Dial!

Certainly the Japanese safety authorities know better than to tell pilots of All Nippon Airways to be more careful in the future and don't touch the knob that can turn a 737 upside down with a full load of passengers in the back. But I'm not so sure the boss does judging from his comments the other day.

Futoshi Osada, chief of the country's Civil Aviation Bureau was quoted as saying, "It is really deplorable that the incident occurred as it threatened to undermine public trust in the safety of the public transportation system." Osada then told the airline's president to "to take appropriate action and report back."