Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Agonizing and Awe-Inspiring; Another Year in Aviation Flies By

Bookending the aviation news for the year 2014 is the Dreamliner battery; the sizzling lithium ion-flavored power source that I suggested in January was already being reviewed by the eggheads and pocket protector-wearing engineers at Boeing. The end of the year arrives and the Japan Transport Safety Board is asking for the same thing. 

I'm not bragging about being prescient here because any reasonable person can see that the risks outweigh the benefits of using this high-density battery chemistry. It's the recipe used more than a decade ago for laptops and handheld devices that started to spontaneously combust prompting the world's largest industrial recall. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Indonesia's Troubled Aviation Safety Past

At the Adam Air crash scene. US Navy photo
If the wreckage of missing Asia Air Flight 8501 is found at the bottom of the sea, as Indonesia's search and rescue chief, Bambang Soelistyo suggests, let's hope that the nation of islands does more than it has in the past to thoroughly investigate the disaster. In a statement to reporters on Monday, Soelistyo admitted Indonesia does not have the equipment to search underwater for the Airbus A-320.  

This does not sound good, in light of how the Indonesians frittered following the New Year’s Day crash of Adam Air Flight 574 in 2007.  A Boeing 737 sunk in the Makassar Strait off the west coast of Sulawasi killing all 102 people on board. Three were American, everyone else was from Indonesia. 

A Navy ship in the region, the USNS Mary Sears, pinpointed the debris field within a few weeks and provided the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee with the precise location for the cockpit voice and flight data recorders.What happened next still baffles. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Air Asia Mystery, the Benefit of Seeing This Before

The Air Asia communication executives sat at a round table with chaos all around, trying to concentrate on banging out a press release, twitter updates and Facebook posts while absorbing, processing and regurgitating each bit of new information about the disaster that had just befallen their airline.

They faced a gaping maw; an unfulfillable appetite for information and not just from reporters and family members, but from the dozens of agencies that would also be involved. The minutes clicked by like milliseconds.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Timing is Right to Remember Wright Brothers as Symbols of Perseverance

Now. While we are celebrating the Wright Brothers historic flight 111 years ago, let me tell you the story of two other brothers; pilots and tinkerers who, in their own small way are commemorating the achievement and contributing to the Wright Brothers legacy.

Nick and Giles English are founders of the Bremont Watch Company, based in Henley-on-Thames in England, who struck a deal with the Wright Family Foundation to embed in a limited edition watch, a scrap of fabric from the wing of the original Wright Flier. Even while the popularity and necessity of conventional watches is on the wane there is a small and well-heeled minority who collect fancy watches and no surprise here, aviators are well represented among them.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Does Black Friday Sale on Lasers Threaten Air Travel?

This post has been updated to include comment from the U.S. FDA and from Patrick Murphy of 

One of the largest sellers of high powered laser pointers has done an about face, discontinuing sales of devices that are styled to look like Star Wars light saber toys but are strong enough to blind in seconds. Wicked Lasers issued a press release explaining its decision and attributed it to the sale of the company to a "government-backed optoelectronics manufacturer" in China. 

Wicked Laser got cross-wise with the Food and Drug Administration several years ago because it did not comply with all of the rules governing the sale of high-powered, hand held lasers. They have since fixed those deficiencies, according to Patrick Murphy of, by installing some safety features on their products, and requiring buyers to click through an educational page before purchases are complete. Wicked Lasers sells hand held lasers with close to one thousand milliwatts (or one watt). Anything with more juice than 5 miliwatts is considered high powered and not suitable for use as a laser pointer.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dreamliner Battery Still Not Safe Enough, NTSB Report Says

Firefighters at Logan Airport NTSB photo
How many ways did the company producing the lithium ion batteries on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner fail to meet safe standards? I'm still wading through the 100 page report and the exhibits in the thick docket accompanying it, but so far, the list is lengthy.