Aircraft Accidents and the FAA Re-Authorization Act Part 2

One of the pleasures I have in traveling is the discussions I have with flight attendants (FA), those I consider the least appreciated, yet most important people in air travel. These men and women border on saintly in the day-to-day accomplishments of their tasks, limited to the area of a hollow tube with a variety of characters that would challenge Mother Theresa’s patience.
I read a good article by Sarah Steegar in Flyertalk, a travel circular; she talks realistically about upcoming changes discussed in the FAA Re-Authorization Act, namely ten hour minimum layovers, ‘just like pilots’. The key word missing is ‘uninterrupted’ and just what ten hours means.
The range is from gate-to-gate ten hours, not hotel arrival to hotel departure. This is an important human factor issue, when one considers that one hour – minimum – is lost on both ends just getting out of the airport. This is followed by the trip to and from the hotel and all the check-in and eating. It’s not much, assuming your circadian rhythm is not beaten up by the time zone changes.
There are many ways for airlines to play around these hours and regional FAs may not benefit as well as mainline FAs. This is wrong because when we think of flying, automatically we think of pilots, and they do earn the right to perks that make their jobs safer. But FAs are just as important, if not, more so for their responsibility.
And ironically, the ten-hour minimum layover times may not get passed.

Aircraft Accidents and the FAA Re-Authorization Act Part 1

There seems to be a bru-ha-ha over the effects of the Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2016, or simply the FAA Reauthorization Act or the AIRR Act (I hate these acronyms). We in the industry have our own views on what makes sense and what doesn’t as they apply to this Act. And don’t get me wrong, my views are not all that matters to me; I see great logic in some of the arguments brought forth so far. But then, this is my Blog, so …
I read in Ben Popper’s piece in The Verge, a technology and science circular, that Congress was set (as part of the AIRR Act) to simplify the process for companies to fly small drones. Indeed it will create a new sub-title: ‘Micro-UAS’. It is supposedly the brainchild of Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL), who is trying to push the new category. Now Congressman Davis has been on the Subcommittee for Aviation, as well as four other committees since January 2013 – three years. But what does he know about aviation, other than what he hears on committee?
This is when the government stands strongly in the way of safety. In the dawn of UAV certification, do we want someone who understands less about the topic than any other average Joe, making laws that he/she does not grasp the consequences of? Does it seem strange that a Congressman adopts a sappy title for a device that can possibly threaten aviation safety in order to pass a law that holds less water than a sieve, while amateurs get lost in a world populated by professionals trying to make a living? This is the greatest danger to aviation safety: incompetent law makers who push laws to satisfy a handful of constituents, while the industry may possibly suffer for their indifference.
This is why government cannot think for us.

Aircraft Accidents and Culture

I had a discussion about the Federal Aviation Administration’s move to privatize air traffic control. I understand the push against such a leap; the FAA has been in control of ATC for years. But what is the function of the FAA to industry?
First, the FAA is not a business; a culture exists, but not one likened to an airline; it is more in line with Law Enforcement than making a profit. Airmen and air operators are under the FAA’s oversight; the main function is air safety as is the responsibility of the Federal Railroad Administration to oversee the railroad industry’s safety. Yes, the FAA provides a service, but it is not for monetary gain; any monies it gets are from certifications, engineering and civil penalties.
But then ATC is not a business either; it also provides a service. But the service is traffic, not oversight. When an airliner violates certain airspace or pilots break their altitude, the FAA handles the violation, not the air traffic controller.
And that’s the difference: FAA is oversight; ATC is not.

Aircraft Accidents and Engine Failure

The NTSB reported that two incidents – a Delta 747-400 and a JetBlue A320 – occurred recently involving engine failure. Engine failure, a classification that cannot be fully appreciated unless one understands the forces a jet engine works under.
Increasingly compressing air, expanding forces of ignition and the rush of this exhaust to exit the tail are underappreciated for what power that is. The compressor and turbine sections spinning at an incredible speed, perfectly balanced and carefully maintained to avoid catastrophic failure.
In 1996, Delta flight 1288 had an uncontained engine failure on an MD-88; the blades separated from the engine core, pierced the fuselage and killed two passengers. The findings pointed to a crack in a compressor hub. In 1989 United DC-10, flight 232 crashed in Sioux City, Iowa, after a catastrophic failure of the stage 1 fan disk of the #2 engine.
On September 18, 2014, Jet Blue flight 1416 suffered an engine failure inflight out of Long Beach. Three days later a Delta 747-400 suffers engine failure on climb out of Atlanta.
After Delta 1288, the NTSB recommended upgrading the inspections of internal engine components. However that was almost twenty years ago. Slowly we forget the lessons of the past, and are doomed to repeat them.