My kiddos aboard an Airbus A320, thanks to a gracious Delta first officer
Knowing you’re in good hands is more than an insurance company slogan, it is a daily practice for the talented men and women who fly millions of people safely around the globe on a daily basis. So instead of complaining about the legroom or snack selections on board, please take a minute and and thank your pilots (hey, don’t forget the flight attendants too).
Less than 24 hours after the engine explosion that killed one person on Southwest Airlines flight 1380, I boarded an airplane with my two children for an international flight back home. The kiddos (11 and 8) heard a little news about the incident, but I intentionally did not give them all the details so they wouldn’t get worried as we had two flights with a combined eight hours in the air that day.
As soon as we boarded, the first officer immediately said hello to my kids and quickly offered them a look up front. The kids were game and their AvGeek dad was more than willing to check out the flight deck of the Delta Air Lines A320 that would be safely getting us back to the USA. That kind gesture took away any nervousness I had about flying that day.
Being the former TV news reporter, it’s habit to ask him lots of questions – which planes he’s flown, Airbus or Boeing, and what one is his favorite. The thing that stuck out about the chat was his mentioning flying a KC-10 refueling tanker for the Air Force.
Will the future cockpit have a Nintendo Wii?
With recent stories of pilots being distracted while flying, one might think a Nintendo Wii is a bad idea to have in the cockpit. However we aren’t talking about playing Mario, it is for the health of the pilots. Most airliners are designed for the comfort of the passengers, but don’t think of the pilots. Each year airlines lose productivity and money due to pilots taking time off the job from back injuries. Graduate student, Nicoline van der Vaart, took a look at what future cockpits might look like to increase pilot comfort and reduce airline costs.
The concept is not just about improved seats, but also improved habits of pilots. Some of the suggestions are:
* Have personal sitting instruction
* Reference book with information and exercises
* Let pilots know about fitness opportunities at destination hotel
* Have a back review for pilots every six months
Van der Vaart looks at the present, 2nd generation and possible 3rd generation of cockpit comfort. The next step is to provide pilots with a better seat and instructions given above. The 3rd generation gets into some pretty cool stuff (ie: Nintendo Wii). In the future they will have super comfortable seats that will be able to be customized. The cockpit will remind pilots to change position and Nintendo Wii-Fit programs will keep the pilots active during long flight.
So next time you think you are in a cramped seat for a few hour flight, think of the pilots who are up front all day long. Hopefully in the future, pilots will have more comfort, less injuries and airlines will have lower costs and happier employees.
I found this interesting story on Mary Kirby’s Runway Girl blog, check it out! To see Van der Vaart’s entire presentation go here.
Trans States Airlines ERJ-145
Last month I told you about two flight crews who forgot to start the second engine on their regional jet before take off. Yes, people can make mistakes, but this is a pretty big mistake.
Since then I have found more information on one of the incidents. It turns out that the Trans States pilot who forgot to turn on his second engine, was not a new pilot, but a very experienced one. Michael White, the airline’s former chief pilot and currently its director of flight operations is the one who made this mistake.
White is stating that his second engine shut down on its own and Tran States is supporting his statement. Two pilots who were flying in the passenger cabin at the time said they felt the second engine was never started, which contradicts White’s story. The FAA isn’t buying White’s version of events and has opened an enforcement case to see if White is trying to cover up his mistake. The Wall Street Journal is stating that pilots have told investigators they have felt intimidated to back up White’s version of this story.
“We don’t believe that any member of management has tried to dissuade pilots from telling anything,” an airline spokesperson told the FAA. He added that the FAA has “never told us there was any kind of investigation involving intimidation or coercion,” of pilots.
After the incident White was barred from flying passengers, but has since passed a proficiency test and is once again able to fly.
I was able to speak to a Trans State’s pilot about this situation, via email. Due to their obvious fear of repercussions, I will not be using their real name. For ease, I shall call them “Pilot Smith.”
Smith confirmed that White is not your average pilot, “The Captain [White], who was on a line check (which is a type of test we are required to do, once a year for currency in the aircraft) and is our director of operations (aka management). He is someone who hardly EVER flies and yet dictates our rules and regulations on a daily basis, with emphasis based on punishment if WE (pilots) do not follow them.”
Smith talked to me about how much they love their job, but it has only been getting more difficult. Most pilots have to put their time into regional jets before moving on to larger aircraft to make more money and have better hours. However, due to the poor economy, pilots are having to spend more time and are becoming more experience. Even though they have the hours and the experience, they still are “stuck” in the regional airlines realm. Smith feels, “It is of the utmost importance to keep safe, fly smart, and offer the best customer service I can to our passengers.” However Smith stated it is difficult to do all of that, while having to work so many hours and being in a hostile work environment.
No matter what, Smith loves flying and will continue to keep doing what they love, “I love flying an airplane and will never miss the feeling of taking off into the great blue yonder.”
I have a feeling the truth about this will come out. The date logs should be able to show if the engine was started or not. If it turns out that the engine did stop on its own, I will be the first to apologize to White and Trans States Airlines. However, if it turns out that White didn’t start his engines and the airline was part of a cover up…well let’s just say I won’t be happy and you will know about it!
Cockpit of Virgin America Airbus A320
Senator Jim DeMint (R from South Carolina) is looking to change the rules about airlines being able to access recordings from the cockpit. He is currently working on a bill, called the “Pilot Professionalism Assurance Act,” that allows airlines to review the cockpit voice recorder when there are cases against the pilots for misbehavior or “to evaluate or monitor the judgment or performance of an individual pilot.”
Currently, labor contracts between pilots and airlines stop an airline from using the data stored in the flight-recorders against the pilots. Airlines can only listen to the voice recorder if there is an accident or major incident being investigated by the FAA or NTSB.
Today, there is an anonymous reporting system, where pilots can report safety lapses to the FAA. This allows the FAA to record statistics and help to fix future issues. There is a fear that there one files a report, then the airline or the FAA will want to listen to the conversations and pilots would be much less likely to report such safety issues.
I have some serious issues with this proposed legislation. I feel the bill (even the name) questions professionalism of the pilots. Yes, there have been some pilots who have been making poor decisions, but as I talked about the other day, a huge majority of pilots are extremely professional and do they do their jobs well. Should people that do their job well be punished? I think not.
What do you think about this proposed legislation? Is reducing the privacy of pilots worth the increased safety? Would you want a voice recorder at your work that your boss could listen to?
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Congratulations pilots! You win the first ever AirlineReporter.com AWESOME Medal!
Commercial airline pilots haven’t been getting good press recently. I am reading a lot in the “mainstream” media about how this is an epidemic and how pilots are now so unprofessional. Most of these folks like big headlines, but offer little content or support.
Sure, they do have some valid material to work with. We have the Qantas pilots who forgot the landing gear, we have the pilot asking passengers to pray, we have the pilots who overshot an airport, and most recently a United Airlines pilot got arrested for being too drunk.
Yes, all these incidents are not professional, inappropriate, and dangerous. These pilots should be dealt with appropriately. But this is NOT an epidemic, this is not going to be an on-going trend, and most importantly these actions do not represent the huge majority of pilots out flying today.
Pilots don’t always have it easy. With pay cuts, increased hours, time away from family, it can be a difficult job. But most pilots are not doing it for the free airline tickets or a fancy pilot’s hat. They do it because they have a passion for flying and absolutely love their jobs.
On any given day in the United States there are about 87,000 flights. About 30,000 of which are commercial airline flights. Those are a lot of flights flown by professional pilots who safely get their passengers, cargo, and themselves to their destination safely each and everyday.
I just want people to be aware and do not discriminate against a whole profession, just from a few bad apples!
So, to celebrate the 99.9% of wonderful pilots out there, I give my first ever AirlineReporter.com AWESOME medal to all those great pilots out there, who help to make an airline industry exciting!
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Image: Orig from American Airlines