Aircraft Accidents and Flight Attendant Respect

I believe – and this is me – but a job that is without a doubt largely disrespected … and underappreciated, is the flight attendant (FA). Quite frankly I don’t have the patience necessary to not haul back and deck some of the most obstinate idiots I’ve had the displeasure to be locked in a long aluminum tube and fly with.
But that’s me.
I’ve had the chance to meet some of the most accommodating, safety minded folks that fly for all different airlines. As an FAA inspector, I constantly spoke and laughed with these safety officials of the airlines, getting to know them and their trials before enrouting home from an inspection. They are professionals, kid yourself not.
These professionals are more than drink servers and pillow finders. They are trained, in the strictest use of the word, to guarantee everybody’s safety on the aircraft. They perform unselfishly to put their passengers first in emergency and do their best to make the flight as pleasurable as possible. They are not responsible for the size of seats or how many peanuts a passenger is allowed. They are there for cabin safety … PERIOD!
On one trip, a passenger thought it funny to hide his cell phone from the flight attendant, hiding it between his legs during the FA’s safety check, as she walked up and down the aisle. Although not enrouting, I was on government business. I counted how many time this insolent fool hid his phone, continuing the call as soon as the flight attendant passed by. I held my tongue. As soon as the aircraft broke free from the gate, the aircraft was now an active flight. I held my credentials over the seat and told the man that this was now an active flight and in my jurisdiction; I reminded him that the flight attendant had informed everyone that the cell phones were to be turned off for safety reasons and that he was violating the Federal Regulations, and that his actions were punishable by a minimum of a five thousand dollar fine as per FAA Order 2150.3.
He turned off the phone.
The cabin, six rows in either direction, erupted into applause; the only reason it was not a standing ovation was that all the passengers were told to remain buckled in during taxi, and after all, there was an FAA inspector onboard.
Now let me break that down for the average passenger just what the violation means: Order 2150.3B is the FAA Compliance and Enforcement Program; it is the document FAA inspectors use to determine the procedures for and the civil penalty resulting from violations under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations. It gives the FAA inspector the legal power – supported by the US Congress – to level monetary or certificate violations against anyone threatening the safety of air commerce, even if they do not have an FAA-issued certificate. So, let’s see what the cell phone prankster was liable for (and each violation would be easy to defend on the part of the inspector – myself). These penalties can be checked on pages B-28 and B-29 of the Order.
1 – B-3-p (1) Interference with a crew member 14 CFR 121.580 (which includes disobeying or refusing to follow the directions of a flight attendant): civil penalty of $5000, plus,
2 – B-3-p (6) Acts in a manner that poses imminent threat to safety of aircraft and other individuals on aircraft (Cell phones are ordered to be turned off because of threat to the avionics of aircraft) under 49 U.S.C. § 46318: civil penalty of $27,500, plus,
3 – B-3-q (6) Operating a portable electronic device: civil penalty of $5000.
That’s a total of $38,500 in penalties.
If the passenger is unruly or threatening, more civil penalties can be tagged on; you know who I’m talking about, all those ‘brave’ individuals who feel empowered to intimidate a flight and/or cabin crewmember, this one’s for you:
B-3-p (4) Threatening to physically assault flight or cabin crewmember under 49 U.S.C. § 46318: civil penalty of $5000, and,
B-3-p (2) Physical assault of a flight or cabin crewmember under 49 U.S.C. § 46318: civil penalty of $8000.
So, the next time you see someone feeling ‘brave’, understand that for that brief exhibition of bravado – or stupidity – the price tag can be upwards of $40,000. And the lesson would be well learned.
Flight Attendants are there for flight safety; let’s not forget that people.

Aircraft Accidents and Dangerous Expertise

Several months ago, I was interviewed for a news channel. It didn’t go as well as expected; for one my son hung a creased twin sheet behind me during the Skype interview to hide the unpainted walls.
Also the interviewer asked me what kind of expert I was (I’m guessing to give the interview validity). I said I was not an expert and insisted on being titled ‘Former NTSB Investigator’. The interview was successful, but I could not help feeling the interviewer’s disappointment at not having an ‘expert’ to interview.
I am presently working on an aviation course rewrite; the other writers involved are ‘experts’, convinced they are the voices of authority. Instead they ignore criticisms while dismissing the advice of people like myself who point out inconsistencies and deviations from law. It is the ‘expert’ who refuses to see the forest for the trees.
Unfortunately, the terms ‘expert’ and ‘consultant’ are non-qualifying terms; they don’t need to be proven to be applied; they’re sort of like the on-line minister gimmicks that give people who apply the powers to marry others with only the filling out of a form; the title without the substance. But when do these self-nominated ‘experts’ start to realize their danger to others? Most likely, never.
Take the MH370 disaster; the ‘aviation experts’ dragged the victims’ family members through hopeless months and years of tortuous agony that their family members would be found, if only they would listen to advice of the ‘experts’. The emotional pain is real and yet no remorse on the effect they had on those poor people.
It also applies to those who assume the reins of ’expert’ in things they are unqualified for. As an aircraft mechanic, I’ve worked with pilots most of my life. However, I would never assume to place myself as an expert to comment on the physical, emotional or psychological issues that face that workgroup. Imagine the arrogance of me saying I know pilots, air traffic controllers, etc. just to sell myself as an ‘expert’ on television, radio or the web. Would one who would do this realize the damage they do to that profession by assuming the role of pilot expert/psychologist? Do they realize the legal ramifications of placing one in that position of ‘expert’?
What of writers who write about real people and real aircraft, using them wrongly to sell a magazine or book. How many writers have I read where actual aircraft or people are misused, damaging the reputation(s) with no regard to the consequences of their misdemeanor.
I would never call myself an ‘expert’; never would I falsely parade myself, putting others’ livelihoods and/or reputations at risk. I’m not an expert; you’ll never hear me say otherwise.

Aircraft Accidents and Ejection Seats

I have felt that the one heroic thing that is often missed in this world of safety is when a true hero places their life second to the innocents they put first. The idea that one can survive a disaster … only if; it puts a new perspective on the term ‘unselfish’. There have been many Herculean efforts of pilots the world over who, when faced with the thought of self-elimination versus self-centered, chose the former. Whether it was a fighter pilot who delayed ejection past the point-of-no return to steer his/her fighter jet away from a neighborhood; or perhaps a private pilot who chose to hit the trees instead of the highway when noticing a minivan in his way, oblivious to his danger.
Recently someone had commented on how ‘we need to come up with a way for helicopter pilots to better eject from their flight cabins’. The troubling concept idea of this is not that we shouldn’t exhaust efforts to save all lives, but there are times when saving the pilot is next to impossible; if the pilot can be saved, perhaps he/she will choose to save the innocents below.
When we think of an aircraft heading to the scene of the accident, we think fixed wing. That’s right, it has that glide ratio – too short at minimum; exaggerated, at best. It however does give a fixed wing aircraft some extra time, dependent on altitude. With enough forward momentum, a fixed wing aircraft can turn, circle, or dive to build up speed.
If you believe the James Bond film: Goldeneye, there is a helicopter that ejects the main rotors before the cockpit is jet-powered away from the helicopter’s fuselage. The death toll would be significant as the rotors would spin away at great speeds every which way and the fuselage would crush anyone in the way of its descent.
However, the same rules that apply to a jet fighter do not apply to a helicopter; every helicopter pilot knows and understands that their craft is a rock. The pilot can autorotate, a procedure that sacrifices altitude for the energy necessary to keep the rotor turning at a speed that keeps the craft aloft.
But to do this, the pilot must man the controls … all the way to the ground. And what will the pilot find below him on the way to the ground? A neighborhood? A city street? Unlevel hilly ground? It is possible that the only thing between a playground full of children and certain death is the helicopter pilot. Whether it is to prevent dropping a silent helicopter on top of the children or that the hills in question will shatter the main and tail rotors, sending the separated blades going everywhere. Someone has to maintain control.
And that’s what we need to remember the pilot for: the decision to stay, even when it means certain death. Because even if the pilot could escape, I like to believe they would choose to stay. That decision should be honored and appreciated for the selfless act it is.