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Miles flown for stories
2014: 138,116
2013: 330,818

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Why Do I Have to Turn Off My Electronic Devices Below 10,000 Feet?

Cockpit of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Cockpit of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Uh oh, is that electronic device authorized?

“Sit down, shut up and turn off your electronic devices!” Okay, it is not really that bad, but sometimes I get pretty annoyed when I have to turn off my personal electronic device (PED) during taxi. I am a spoiled American and if we are delayed on the tarmac for take off, not having access to my precious electronic devices is difficult. So why the heck are you required to turn your devices off anyhow? And can they really bring down a plane?

If something happens to the plane and you are on above 10,000 feet, you have time. Time to try to navigate to an airport, time to put your toys away before landing. When you are below 10,000 feet things need to happen quickly and it is more dangerous.

One of the important reasons you have your devices off, is to make sure you are paying attention. First you need to pay attention to the flight attendants giving their safety announcement (they don’t do it for fun). Secondly, you should be paying attention to your surroundings. If the plane catches on fire while taxiing out, you need to be ready to react, not listening to the newest Justin Bieber song (is he still “cool” — I dunno). You also need to be able to get out of the plane as soon as possible. If there are cords and cables in the way and your neighbor is distracted, that can slow things down, causing people injury or possibly death.

Next are those pesky electronic signals. All electronic devices give off some sort of signal that could interfere with the cockpit. Even the Federal Aviation Administration isn’t too sure how much these signals affect the avionics in an airliner, but are playing it safe. The FAA’s website states site, “there are still unknowns about the radio signals that portable electronic devices and cell phones give off.”

Airplane manufacturers, airlines and the FAA work together to make sure that any electronic equipment that might go into an airplane will not cause it harm. According to Flight Global, recently on board Wi-Fi tests resulted in some Honeywell avionics to react adversely. This goes to show that yes, electronic equipment can affect instruments, but it also shows that rigorous testing by all those involved make sure that these sort of things won’t happen past the testing phase. Currently all those involved are working together to find the cause and a solution.

Yes, it might be annoying to put your devices away, but I think there are some very valid reasons for doing so. Next time you are on a flight and you hear the call to turn off your devices, be a good sport and do as you are told.

For more information and quotes from Boeing, Virgin America and the FAA, check out my story on AOL Travel News.

 

Who Needs Seats? Airline Lets Six Passengers Stand for Five Hours

A Tatarstan Boeing 737-500

A Tatarstan Boeing 737-500

There has been a lot of talk about these new SkyRider seats where people get only 23″ of seatpitch vs 30″+ of most other low cost carriers. Well, it could be worse. Tatarstan Airlines, based in the Russia Federation, allowed six passengers to stand for a five hour flight.

You see, a charter group booked out all 148 seats on a Tatarstan Boeing 737 from Antalya, Turkey to Ekaterinburg, Russia.  At the last minute, the airline had to swap out planes, but the new 737 only had 142 seats. This is where the big mistake was made.

Instead of telling six people they won’t be able to take the flight, they gave them a choice. Either wait seven hours until the next flight or fly on this one standing up for five hours. Decisions, decisions. Well, all six people decided to stand.

The airline should have never given the choice to the passengers. There are grave safety issues with having extra people on an aircraft. Weight, life vests and no security from turbulence. I don’t know who is more stupid in this scenario, the airline that gave the option to stand or the passengers who took them up on the offer.

Not related to the story, but I wanted to share this photo of two old IL-86′s that Tartarstan used to fly.

Thanks Ben for the tip!

Image: Osdu

DOT Says Tarmac Delay Rule is Working – Not So Fast!

Why would you expect delays with nice weather like this seen in Seattle over the summer? Let's wait until winter DOT!

Why would you expect delays with nice weather like this seen in Seattle over the summer? Let's wait until winter DOT!

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is working with some funny math and concluding that the tarmac delay rule is working. Both Aubrey Cohen with the Seattle PI and Brett Snyder with CrankyFlier.com take a closer look at their math and don’t come to the same conclusions.

Instead of re-inventing the wheel, please  read:
* DOT’s report, “Long Tarmac Delays in July Down Dramatically from Last Year” that claims delays are down and cancellations have just a, “slight increase.”

* Snyder’s post, “DOT Continues to Claim Tarmac Delay Victory Despite 20 Percent Rise in Cancellations,” which shows how he doesn’t think a 20% increase in canceled flights is considered “slight.”

* Cohen’s article, “Cancellations inch up, or surge, thanks to tarmac rule,” takes a look how it might be a 20% rise, but when dealing with such small numbers, is it a big increase?

After taking a look at all three, I am not even close to admitting defeat (I am against the tarmac delay rule). It just started April 29th of this year and has only seen the summer. I am waiting to see what happens over the winter. Yes, I imagine delays will be down, but cancellations will be up — quite a bit. If I am wrong, I will more than happy eat my words, but I have a feeling there will be a lot of angry passengers this winter season.

TSA Angers Photographers

Make sure photographers don't steal planes!

Make sure photographers don't steal planes!

When I saw this poster yesterday via Carlos Miller on Photography is Not a Crime, I thought it might have been fake. Making photographers look like bad people is a bad idea. It will cause more people to be fearful and waste the time of law enforcement officials. Yes, if you see someone by an airport doing something suspicious, report it. Taking photos of aircraft is not suspicious.

Every time I fly I am constantly taking photos. I used to use an HD camcorder, but decided to stop and use a standard digital camera. There have been multiple times I have received odd looks for taking photos using the camcorder and I even had a run-in with the TSA.

If you are a photographer and “get caught,” it might be a good time to inform them of your hobby. Drewski2112 shared on Airliners.net about his run-ins with the law plane spotting in Seattle. He once had five cars pull up on him at the same time. Instead of getting angry, he calmly explained what he was doing, shared his passion and by the time they left, some were asking for his website address to take a look at his photos. I only hope I could keep that calm and collective if I had five cop cars on me due to being a perceived security risk.

Unfortunatly this poster is not a fake, but it is very real. Knowing that many people were upset about the poster, the TSA confirmed on their blog yesterday. They tried to play it off that photographers are important for seeing suspicious activity, but I am not buying it. “In fact, many photographers would be prime candidates to use such vigilance programs to report suspicious activity since they’re extremely observant of their surroundings.” I am guessing this is more of an afterthought.

Photographers are not criminals and they should not be treated as such. If you do take airport-related photos, don’t let fear of law enforcement stop you, but be prepared. Have identification on you, know your local laws and try to talk to them with a smile and be proud of what you are doing. Oh and if you get some good airplane photos, email them on over to me and I would love to share them on the blog!

By the Numbers, Flying is a lot Safer than Driving or Taking the Train

Wonderful shot of American Airlines Boeing 777-200ER

Wonderful shot of American Airlines Boeing 777-200ER

I hear from a lot of aviation enthusiasts, “why are people afraid of flying? It is the safest transportation out there.” I have heard all sorts of fascinating statistics on how much safer flying is than driving, but I wanted to check them out for myself and share what I found.

A lot of people feel they have a lack of control while flying. They are sitting in a seat 30,000 feet in the air and their life is in the hands of the pilot and luck. Many feel they have full control in their automobile and are able to avoid a deadly crash. Yes, there are many auto incidents that can be avoided, but in most fatal accidents, there is nothing the driver can do.

First, some raw information from government websites:

Data from NHTSA (2008):
Total Auto-Related: 34,017
Deaths to Drivers: 19,220
Deaths to Auto Passengers: 7,397
Pedestrian Deaths: 4,378

DATA FROM FRAOSA (2008):
Total Train Related Deaths: 800
Deaths on a train: 3

Ok you ready for this?

DATA FROM NTSB:
Deaths on 14 CFR 121 (Airlines)…

From 1982-Present: 2924
In 2009: 45
In 2008: 0
In 2007: 0
In 2006: 47
Deaths on 14 CFR 135 (Commuters)…
From 1982-Present:  364
In 2009: 0
In 2008: 0
In 2007: 0
In 2006:  1

The raw numbers are pretty interesting all on their own. I was hoping to compare 2008 stats with all transportation methods, but there just weren’t any airline-related fatalities in 2008. It is amazing that in 2008 34,017 Americans died in car related accidents, but in 28 years from 1982-2010 only 3,288 Americans have died from airline-related accidents. Just think about that… statistically, that means it would take over 117 years of airline fatalities to equal the same number of auto-related deaths just in 2008.

Although telling already, I also wanted to compare number of deaths per miles traveled by car versus airplane versus train. According to the Research and Innovative Technology Administration with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Americans in 2008 traveled 2,553,043,000,000 miles  in cars, 583,506,000,000 miles via commercial aviation and 16,850,000,000 miles by rail. Doing the math, I looked at the number of deaths per 100 million miles traveled in the US:

TRAIN RELATED: 4.40
People being killed by a train in any fashion via FRAOSA

OTHER AUTO: 1.73
Motorcycles, pedestrians, auto related

AUTOS: 1.33
Only passenger vehicles

PASSENGER TRAIN: 0.13
People dying on the train via FRAOSA

COMMERCIAL AIRLINES: 0.0077
2009: 0.0077
2008: 0.0000
2007: 0.0000

Once again, it is hard to compare, since so many years for airlines have zero deaths. This means the average American is 190 times more likely to die in an auto accident in 2008 versus an automobile accident per 100 million miles traveled. So why do people concentrate so much on airline-related deaths versus others?

Well, the media and public really attach on to an airline crashing anywhere in the world. Heck, you normally will hear when an airline needs to make an emergency landing. However, you barely hear a peep about an auto-related death on the local news, let alone an auto death happening somewhere else in the nation or world. This slanted coverage gives passengers this false idea that airlines are inherently unsafe and people die all the time. Also, where an average of about 90 people die per day in a car related accident, they are spread through out the day and all over the country. It isn’t as shocking as 30-250 people dying at one time in an airline incident.

This just helps to reinforce how amazing air travel is in the US. What other transportation can you use in America today that is safer than that… other then not leaving your home? These are very complex machines, constantly flying as cheap as possible at all hours of the day. It truly is amazing more incidents don’t occur. Those that ask for the “good ‘ol days” of travel, should remember how much safer your flight is now than it was just 50 years ago.

On the other side of this, should airlines and airport continue to put millions of dollars into safety, when the industry is already very regulated and comparatively very safe? Is there such a thing as spending too much money to make air travel “too safe” or are the costs worth it?

Anyhow, getting off my soapbox, I know if you are afraid of flying, seeing these statistics probably isn’t going to help you feel too much at ease.  However, next time you hit a bit of turbulence, think of how few people die each year flying and that there is a really, really really, really, really good chance you will be a.o.k!

Image: Luis Argerich