Aircraft Accidents and Don Rickles

I already miss Don Rickles; the acerbic entertainer, who passed away at age 90, could take on anyone on their home turf.  His insults stuck like tacky tree sap: easy to laugh at yourself for getting on you, but nearly impossible to remove.  But what made him most appealing is he took on any subject and any person with a self-deprecating humor; he shot from his own vulnerabilities – subjects he knew nothing about – forcing his ‘victim’ to rise (or lower) themselves to his level.  As the James Bond Title song said, “Nobody does [did] it better.”

But, you can’t apply that ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ style to just anything.  I’m sure a Police Gun Range instructor can’t use it, nor can a Human Resources specialist running a class on Diversity; they could, but it might defeat the purpose.  In many positions, one can’t come at others with a caustic wit.  They also can’t speak from their own weakness.

I like instructing students – notice that I didn’t say teaching – there’s a difference.  To me, I associate instruction with training.  Teaching is telling students something they don’t know, e.g. teaching someone how to understand a new aircraft engine they have never seen before by breaking down all its components.  I can take the same new engine and instruct/train students on how to apply what they do know from experience, e.g. working on past engines, to apply to their understanding of what they need to know about the new engine, e.g. fuel control units, past and new.

This past week I instructed an aviation class where each of the students had been in the aviation industry for twenty or more years; it would have been presumptuous for me to ‘teach’ them anything.  However, I can tap their experience to instruct them on how to see a situation clearer.  I show them these things to make them better investigators, auditors, mechanics, inspectors, professionals.  You might say, that’s my super-power.

I was using my experience of working aircraft accident investigation to describe an accident – a maintenance-caused accident, specifically – in a way that focused their attention five steps up the line and away from an accident’s interpretation adopted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

Why would I be so arrogant as to think myself smarter than the NTSB and the FAA?  I don’t.  However, the person who investigated the accident I instructed my students on … well, that was me.  When I wrote the accident report, the NTSB adopted solely the parts they wanted, only pushing what they felt was necessary and ignoring five or six probable causes that were extremely timely and important.  The FAA, as a result, trusting to the NTSB, missed several important facts that showed up later in different accidents or incidents.

And that seems to be the trend with the NTSB, or so it appears to me: push what you’re comfortable saying was the problem, not necessarily THE problem.

I remember attending aircraft technician/Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) school; there were several instructors who had graduated, perhaps six months before I started classes.  I don’t normally object to this on principle; in the university/college environment, the taught becomes the teacher in a seamless progression that can take years, all the while gaining experience that is employed later on at the front of the class.

However, trade schools are different; these new A&P instructors experienced no progression, no build-up of experience, no discipline; they were just … POP! … made into instructors.  In an A&P trade school, where experience counts for everything important, the new instructors were inexperienced, their ability to teach was irrelevant (teaching directly from a textbook or death by Powerpoint); and their ‘war stories’ belonged to other teachers who lived them.

Most of all, they were unable to filter what was true from what was not true.

Let’s look at our Police Gun Range instructor; would one want someone who has never been in the field teaching our Police force how and when to shoot?  The purpose of instructing is to benefit one’s students with their experience and knowledge, not for the good times they’ll face, but for the bad.  You want an instructor who is level-headed; someone who can instill professionalism and a certain level of caution, not rush in where Angels fear to tread.

Instructing for aviation professionals is similar; take what experience you have and give it to others who can focus that knowledge in their own careers.  Take that valuable information and help others to use it wisely; to recognize problems, not attack them with ignorance.

But what if the inexperienced are running the class?  If the NTSB does not learn what is learnable, how can anyone benefit from the lessons unlearned from accidents?  If because the NTSB doesn’t bring the information forward and the aviation community can’t teach its inspectors, mechanics, managers, etc. how to look at the cause and effect of aviation errors, what does the industry benefit?  If textbooks are being written by the inexperienced, how do the aviation institutions of learning pass on to the next generation what they so desperately crave to make our skies safe?

Take accidents like Air Midwest 5481, National Airlines 102 or any others.  What is there that we can still learn?  What did the NTSB miss?  Why are we pursuing phantom problems that don’t answer the most important question: What were the real reasons they crashed?

Visualize if you would that the inexperienced instructors I spoke of at my A&P school become the course designers of the future without ever touching a real aircraft, never fixing a real aircraft problem.  If they write courses that lack Technical Accuracy, we in the industry have lost the high ground; we can’t cultivate young minds to think on their own; we have lost opportunities to learn lessons unlearned.  All the while aviation students are taught trivial ‘lessons’ in one of the most safety intensive industries in the United States, indeed, the world.

Imagine then, if these same inexperienced people, some day, design courses for teaching FAA Inspectors or NTSB Investigators; unproven course designers who don’t understand the subject matter or are simply blinded by their own pride.  Or worse, intent on their own agenda(s).  We will not only miss the chance to prevent accidents by missing the basic symptoms, we will have wasted years and lives figuring out where we had gone wrong to begin with.

The past is becoming the book unopened; the accidents are the silent screams for justice; and those passionate about safety are being ignored.

Don Rickles would probably have called some of these people ‘Hockey Pucks’, or some similar insult.  I would have liked to end up on a humorous note, but this isn’t funny.  Aviation needs to be serious about the training and instructing of safety.

P. S. Starting next month, I’m beginning a series of blogs aimed at instructing in ‘Lessons Unlearned’.  It won’t rely on drama like the Weather Channel’s ‘Why Planes Crash’ or National Geographic’s ‘Mayday’ series.  It, instead, will analyze some accidents where the important points were missed.  I will try to salvage the lessons unlearned.

It’s time.

Aircraft Accidents and Entitlement

In 1974, I had a Newsday paper route in Elmont, NY.  I decided I wanted a Schwinn Varsity 10-speed bicycle like it was nobody’s business.  I could’ve begged my parents for the money, but it was sweeter for me to save up my tips and get it myself.  So, four months later, I walked out of the Mineola Bicycle store with my brand-new Varsity.  I loved that bike.  It was mine because I earned it; I made its purchase happen.

I tell that story to tell this story.  My wife and I both teach; she teaches middle-school students, while I teach middle-aged aviation professionals.  Even though we have cell phone violations where I work – if your phone goes off you buy donuts/cookies for the class – we don’t feel the need to confiscate cell phones from those who’ve bought donuts three days in a row; it’s a professionalism thing. 

My wife’s school is different.  When cell phones are a problem, the student’s cell phone is surrendered and kept at the office until the parent can pick it up.  This happened to our son twelve years ago; his cell was confiscated on Monday; my wife didn’t retrieve it until late Friday afternoon.  She handed it to him at home with a lecture, “If you lose it again, I will not retrieve it and I will cancel your service.”  My son understood; he never had his phone confiscated again.

Where am I going with this?  At my wife’s school, not only do the parents retrieve the phone THAT DAY, but they take off of work, drive from their place of business, hand the phone to the unrepentant child in front of the school administrator as if to say, “Here’s your phone that the mean school official took away from you, my baby.”  School administrators keep the graduating line moving by graduating students with less-than-adequate grades, partially in response to parental pressures to ‘not fail their baby’ … or else.

Now I’m not a guy who wears plaid shorts, black socks and sandals, screaming at the kids to ‘Get off my lawn’.  And I’m not trashing millennials; my sons are millennials.  My older son joined the Army out of high school and saved lives as a Medic.  My youngest is in the private sector; he has proven himself to be a go-to guy for his company.  Both are college graduates.

No, I’m taking issue with my own generation of parents that continue to entitle their children.  And I worry about the future of aviation; the two have a lot to do with each other.  I fear that, in the not too distant future, the United States will be nothing but a line in a digital history book; a memory of what could have been great and could have lasted, if only we taught our children to be self-reliant.

My Schwinn bicycle story isn’t a testament to a wonderful young businessman/consumer; it’s a symptom.  My wife’s story of disciplining my son isn’t a tale of hard-ass parenting; it’s a symptom.  These events demonstrate what thousands of parents have been doing to prepare their children for responsibility, hard-work and dedication … by example.

So, what does this opinion mean to aviation?  When I think about air traffic controllers, pilots, flight attendants, technicians, etc., I think of professionals who must think on their feet; run toward the emergency; think about safety – not their safety, but the safety of others in an environment where there are no break down lanes, tow trucks or ambulances.

Flight attendants are the first line of defense in terrorist situations, medical emergencies and passenger safety.  Pilots must make split-second decisions in circumstances that arrive without warning.  Air traffic controllers must be able to help troubled airliners in an airspace littered with aircraft of all types.  Technicians rely on themselves to assure those split-second decisions pilots make are non-existent.

As future aviation professionals enter the schools, training environments, or military branch designed to prepare them for their chosen life, will they be ready?  Are we as parents, indeed as a society, crippling our children by turning them into entitled adults, unable to make decisions or stick with the ones they make?

There are many schools that will teach people to become pilots.  They have strict curriculums that demand only the best in the pilot candidates; run them through their certification qualifications until the lessons are ingrained.  Technician schools are not easy to get through; they, too, have high standards and demands that a graduate truly earns their certificate.  However, in the 1980s, I saw how many incoming students, still acting as they did in high school.  They eventually washed out … back then, thirty-five years ago.  Those were different days.  Many middle-school students are an example of the times; students don’t ‘wash out’. Schools these days lean towards passing them on to the high schools and from high schools to the work force, whether they’re ready or not.

How would you feel, knowing that your pilots were passed through training because the air operator needed to maintain their numbers in the face of a pilot shortage?  Wouldn’t you want the mechanic working on your children’s airliner to be fully qualified and experienced?

My wife and I often walk to IHOP for breakfast; we’ve sat side-by-side in a booth for thirty-four years; we talk as if we hadn’t spoken in weeks: laughing, joking, arguing or just catching up.  All around us are people hypnotized by their electronic devices, unable to speak to a family member sitting directly across the table; they are incapable of pulling their attention from an i-phone to communicate, only looking up long enough to order, before returning to the bright screens.

The technologies are so fascinating; the devices answer all their questions, provide immediate satisfaction; all the while robbing people of their ability to talk, to think, to troubleshoot, to challenge themselves. 

As technology increases in this digital age, our aircraft make engine trim or navigational decisions without asking the pilot.  The aircraft tells the technician what’s wrong, removing the tech’s ability to find the answer himself/herself.  Air traffic control will soon be run by computers that speak directly to the aircraft’s computers, excluding the controller from any decisions at all.

Perhaps this is best: the computers can make future decisions for all of our safety requirements; parents can continue to indulge their children’s egos and needs; electronic devices can hold everyone’s collective attentions with the latest Facebook News Feed or Twitter hashtag.

Yes, I’m being cynical.  I’m also in the market for a new bicycle.  Being a supporter of the old ways, I never felt safer than riding a ten-speed.

Aircraft Accidents and the Flight Data Recorder

During an NTSB Sunshine Hearing, a Board Member asked me my opinion of an air operator’s maintenance program.  I replied that, although I was quite versed in their program, I could not form an opinion because, as an investigator, it is not my place to judge.  I stick to the facts.  The Board Member, who never worked a night shift or turned a wrench, proceeded to condemn the air operator’s program.

You see, I leave the judgments to the ‘experts’.

I haven’t set my wake-up alarm in six years.  My son, the Army Medic, says I’m going to get sick; my wife of 34 years just says I’m Nuts.  However, how do I, with my eyes closed, ‘know’ it’s ten minutes before wake-up time every morning, no matter what time I go to sleep?  My belief it is some internal clock or sensor; it feeds information back to my brain that I’m totally unaware of.

Last week I spoke about the importance of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR).  It’s sister data device, the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) is crucial to understanding what the aircraft did during an accident.  The ability to collect data, through a myriad of sensors, has increased exponentially in the digital age; where sensors connected to a flight control, e.g. Aileron, give direct readings on motion and position angle; this data is checked and rechecked through digital specialty computers up line.  Let me explain:

During the flight of a digital-age airliner’s flight – digital airliner numbers are in the high ninety percentile when compared to all airliners flying – a ‘Master’ computer is constantly checking the health and well-being of each of its ‘Slave’ component sensors, e.g. a flight control computer is interrogating each aileron, elevator, rudder, spoiler, etc. almost every minute during the flight by asking them, “How are you?”  You multiply that by every ‘master’ computer across every system, e.g. Air Conditioning, Pressurization, Hydraulics, etc. and it is safe to say, the airliner is very well-informed of its own health.

By the way, some of these system sensors are the reason flight attendants tell us to turn off cell phones and personal electronic devices; the aircraft’s electronics are very sensitive and are susceptible to outside interference.

But, back to the FDR: what role does an FDR play in the accident investigation?  Answer: An invaluable part.  Over the years, the necessary recording tracks assigned to sensors have multiplied exponentially from analog aircraft to digital; with additional tracks come the numerous sensors to record this previously unavailable data.  As I mentioned, the full myriad of sensors, all through the airliner, can locate with pinpoint accuracy an anomaly deserving of further investigation.

What does that mean, “deserving of further investigation?”  No data track is taken at face value.  For instance, an aileron was moved by either the pilot or autopilot in an ‘inconsistent’ manner at Cruise just before an accident.  There could be many reasons: from a faulty autopilot input to a response to winds aloft to the pilot bumping the yoke while getting up to use the bathroom; this could be crucial to an accident’s outcome, or coincidental; this data needs to be confirmed or discredited.

An FDR is a collection of data; it is defined by a timeline, e.g. in twenty second increments.  Each sensor track runs simultaneously with its fellow sensors; their tracks are divided into the timelines so we can ‘see’ what each sensor was doing at critical points in the lead-up to an accident.

But still something is missing, or better said, something else is necessary.  Last week I spoke about lining up the FDR and the CVR; only by doing so, could I understand that, e.g. the pilots were not expecting the emergency; that the flight was otherwise uneventful.  But by lining up the two recorders’ timelines, I could better understand how the emergency evolved; what the pilots knew in those final seconds and what totally astonished them.

So, is FDR data irrefutable?  I would never say that.  Anything can be intentionally or unintentionally corrupted; the adage that, ‘if you torture the data long enough it will confess [to anything]’ is very accurate; in politics, we have seen this many times over the last few decades.  In my blog last week, the data was interpreted with an eye on preconceived notions; this resulted in a battle between me and other investigators.  But if analyzed correctly, the FDR and CVR data are major pieces in an investigatory jigsaw puzzle.

So, wouldn’t cockpit video be even more helpful?  Probably not.  It is my opinion that video is the quintessential bad idea of bad ideas.  I say this with complete conviction, partially because of my experience, but also because of common sense.

For one, we give video too much credit; we rarely contradict what is before our eyes.  However, with different size cockpits and various placements of pilot and check-rider seats, where do you put a camera to capture all that goes on?  On a flight deck, that can be flying away from the sun and within five minutes face the sun, how do you adjust for lighting and glare?  It would make the evidence more confusing.

For two, the cons for videoing professionals doing their jobs outweigh the pros.  Standing over ones shoulder in a crisis is counterproductive; doubt, resulting in pilots second-guessing their own decisions.  The results?  Delays in critical thinking and responses the flight crews may perform.

I qualify that by pointing to recent video escapades.  How have we tied our police forces’ hands these days?  They are understandably hesitant to make life-or-death decisions due to some person(s) taking video.  These recordings conveniently eliminate the events prior to and immediately following the incident, the Paul Harvey ‘Rest of the Story’.  The ability for anyone with a camera to confound the events can turn trained experts like police and emergency responders (and, if cockpit videos are passed, pilots) from decision-making proactive professionals to second-guessing reactive people.  I can’t think of anything more dangerous.

The United Airlines incident, where the passenger was removed from a flight, has made the rounds this week.  I refuse to chime in; I don’t doubt my eyes, but a snippet of i-phone video is not enough for me to make a determination of what preceded and what followed.  The video is like a partial quote, conveniently removing the important words to forward a particular narrative.  I refuse to judge what happened; I continue to stick to the facts.

I’ll, instead, leave the judging to the experts.

Aircraft Accidents and the Cockpit Voice Recorder

I’m teaching a class this week that is showing the National Airlines 102 accident in Bagram video.  The students I’m showing it to are professional aviation people; they’ll look beyond the tragedy to see what went wrong.  It’s not the use of a disturbing aircraft accident video that bothers me about it being played – I didn’t watch it myself; it’s the fascination or questionable need the general public have with showing it.

Videos like that are an accident investigator’s gold mine; they give an outside-the-plane analytical view of what struggles the crew went through to control the aircraft.  However, my opinion is that once an accident investigation is over, it should never be shown again.  Why not?  My reply to that question is simple: Why should it?

A video is the eyewitness to the tragic end of people’s lives.  Will anything else be learned by replaying a flight crew’s final battle or error in judgment?  Can you see or hear the pilots’ decisions or struggles?  What does it benefit the general public to watch the Challenger disintegrate on throttle up?  Do we learn much from observing the different angles United Flight 175 was swallowed by the South Tower?  Hasn’t the Zapruder film of President Kennedy’s assassination become entertainment as it is played over and over in Oliver Stone’s film, JFK?  Imagine if people were reviewing your last moments; is that something you’d want your spouse, parents or children to watch repeatedly, splashed on the television screen?

It seems to me the replayings are always accompanied by a self-proclaimed expert who is advertising a new book or their blog site.  It matters not that these experts have never rotated a plane on take-off or turned a wrench on an airliner.  They will tell everyone what the flight crew is ‘thinking’, and by the way, my book is available in e-book.  So now, the tragedy becomes a marketing scheme.

Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) tapes are in a similar class of fascinating recordings; they represent the final moments of people caught in a tragic situation; if investigators are listening to a CVR, the pilot(s) and passengers probably didn’t survive.  However, news outlets and self-proclaimed experts make extraordinary efforts to play transcript sections when they acquire them; newspapers/magazines print the conversations.  Many NTSB accident report readers flip past the factual information to go right to the CVR printouts.

But CVR information is almost hallowed ground; the last words of doomed lives come to disastrous ends.  In many cases, the accident came without warning; the events unfolded rapidly with humans acting in very human ways.  There is nothing sensationalistic about them.

While I worked at the NTSB, it was standard procedure that only Operations people – the pilots – and air traffic controllers were needed to review the CVRs.  I never complained, having no interest in participating; the CVR rarely speaks to a mechanic and, besides, what would I be listening for?

Actually, that question answered itself.  On three separate aircraft crashes, I was expected to listen to the CVR.  On one, the flight controls acted in reverse and I had to figure out why from the preflight checks; the second, I was asked by the FBI to identify noises in the background.  The third required I listen to the CVR for a Colombian airliner; I listened for a pronounced ‘bang’ in the cabin area of a cargo flight – it wasn’t an explosive decompression – it was far back in the cabin, close to the wing box and almost too distant for the cockpit mic to pick up with the cockpit door closed.  But, with a written English interpretation in front of me, I needed to listen to why the flight crew struggled with the flight controls … ALL the flight controls.  The voice recording could not separate the aircraft’s noises into separate tracks from the crew’s voices on the two cockpit mics.

Interestingly enough, although I was required to marry the flight data recorder readouts with the CVR readouts, I was able to reconcile the mysterious ‘bang’ to the true beginning of the emergency; the pilots did not react right away.  It made sense why they struggled with the controls, even though what happened was unprecedented since the Turkish Airlines Flight 981 accident in 1974: a decompression caused by a failed cargo door.  This accident did not suffer a decompression, but was caused by an improper structural modification, yet resulted in the same effect.

Each time I listened to the last minutes of that flight, the agitated commotion of the captain and first officer faded further into the back ground.  In my head, I was able to silence the crew’s back-and-forth – I already knew what words they were speaking – as I listened for the ‘bang’ and any noises that may have followed.  I don’t suggest I didn’t hear the doomed crew members, but what I needed to do was analyze the evidence; dispose of any empathy; focus on what the pilots were doing as the emergency progressed.

That’s what CVR readouts are for; what videos are for: Analysis.  In my opinion, after the analysis, the recordings should be filed away, only replayed when an accident occurs under similar circumstances.

As for me, I never listened to a CVR again.

Aircraft Accidents and Leggings

Believe me, I never thought I’d write about something as inane as the ‘United Airlines versus three interline traveling girls ignoring their dress code policy’ issue, but here I am.  I’m not suggesting that leggings will bring down an airliner.  However, the political correctness nonsense and the pressure to control the conversation are driving us to make decisions based on saving face, not lives.

This exaggerated controversy by celebrities is representative of what is wrong with the main stream media and social media today; indeed, it’s what’s wrong with public safety.  Let’s look at the insipid argument: an anti-gun organization founder who was on the aforementioned flight tweeted that the ban was, ‘sexist, ridiculous and an unfair decision’ and told the Washington Post that the Interline policy ‘sexualizes little girls.’  Seriously?!

So far celebrities, e.g. William Shatner, Patricia Arquette, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, and a celebrity by the name of Chrissy Tiegen (I have no idea who she is) joined the bandwagon to defend the young girls breaking of the rules, converting it into something beyond the true nature of the controversy and turning the heat up on an airline for something so absurd, it makes you wonder: Is there no limit to what celebrities will defend in the name of Ignorance?  At what point do we put aviation safety aside to appease the celebrity community?

Several years ago, Alec Baldwin refused to turn off his cell phone on a flight, berating the flight attendant until the airline removed him from the flight.  That story about poor Alec Baldwin lasted for weeks; he played the martyr to an illegitimate cause.  And for what?  Because Mr. Baldwin ignored the requirement mentioned in a safety briefing moments before.

The reason electronic devices are to be turned off is because of the interference they cause to the airliner’s electrical systems.  Whether Alec Baldwin – or anyone else, for that matter – agrees with this safety assessment or not is irrelevant.  I agree with it because I’ve dealt with the electronic systems of new age aircraft; many of the systems operate on the level of microamps, which is one one-millionth of an ampere of current, that is 0.000001 amps; they are very susceptible to unshielded power sources.  To give this proper perspective, when I worked on some of the avionics equipment in the Electronics bay on digital airliners, I had to wear static dischargers; these wrist-straps allowed static electricity on my body and clothes to discharge to the aircraft so that the circuitry in the computers didn’t get FRIED.  So, the bottom line is, some of this equipment is very sensitive to currents and radio waves used in the aircraft that are not discharged properly.  This is why what Mr. Baldwin did was so important; his selfishness was putting the safety of all onboard that airliner at risk.

As an FAA Inspector conducting safety checks on passenger airliners, I’ve witnessed at least three people removed from airliners for refusing to power down their electronic devices.  They lost their seat because Alec Baldwin and his celebrity kin raised their inexperienced voices to ward off the ‘unfair’ safety practices of the airlines.

Is it because of ‘sexism’ or ‘profiling’ that airlines and airport security act the way they do?  In November 2001, I was pulled out of the boarding line because I have a dark complexion and a beard; it was exactly two months after 9/11 and I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma; I was working for the NTSB on the American Airlines 587 accident; I was in town to investigate American’s hangar facility.  Two months prior, I worked in Shanksville, PA, The Pentagon and the Twin Towers terrorist sites.  I didn’t cry about profiling or even flash my government credentials, but accepted the ‘inconvenience’ in the name of safety.

Celebrities exert the same pressure that has enabled untrained animals to fly as ‘comfort’ animals, a complete distortion of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Many legitimate people who are handicapped or served with distinction earned the right to have a trained pet accompany them.  Now, every selfish person crying that they need their pet with them has corrupted an Act meant for worthy individuals; these ‘comfort’ animals serve no extraordinary purpose; they only serve the owner’s purpose of keeping the animal with them during the flight.

However, when an emergency breaks out, these animals represent a very real and critical danger to all aboard in an evacuation.  The ‘comfort’ animals come in many varieties, e.g. dog, cat, Shetland pony, pig and even a turkey.  Let’s use the turkey as an example: the talons on a turkey are sharp and long; the bill is narrow and sharp and can deliver a deep wound; turkeys have weight and can do unnecessary damage to anyone the turkey sees as a threat, even a child that wants to pet it.  And do we know the anatomy of an animal enough to know how it reacts to various conditions of a flight, e.g. cabin air pressure changes, lights/sounds, flight crew announcements, turbulence or even the owner’s need to use the restroom (what does he do with Tom Turkey?  Bring the turkey into the bathroom or ask the person next to him to hold the turkey?)

What happens when a dog, cat or turkey gets loose in a smoke-filled cabin in an emergency landing situation?  Survival instinct will kick in and they will attack other passengers trying to evacuate; they will get under foot or enhance the confusion in a highly frustrating and chaotic situation.  If you haven’t been in an emergency evacuation simulation, believe me, it’s unnerving to get to the emergency exit even when you know you will survive.  Someday a situation like this will occur; in my opinion, the deaths and injuries of innocent children and other passengers will be a hard question for the FAA and the airlines to answer.

But let’s get back to the leggings incident: Interline rules have been around for decades, since before I was in elementary school; even though I worked for an airline, I don’t enjoy that benefit.  Dress codes were mandatory – that’s it, end of story.  ‘I’m With Stupid’ T-shirts and frayed shorts were on the no-go list for interline travelers; dress shirts and pants were required.  Why?  Because it’s a matter of professionalism and company image.  These were – and are – small inconveniences for free travel and NO ONE complained in all those years.  My opinion: These selfish young girls should have their interline privileges revoked permanently, the punishments should not be negotiable, no matter how trivial they may appear.

As for United Airlines?  United’s intention to stick to the rules in the face of celebrity shaming should be applauded.  Why?  Because if they were willing to risk public ridicule for something so trivial that affects no one else but Interline employees, then how far are they willing to go to protect the lives of their passengers and crew when it comes to a real issue of aviation safety?

There are many terrorists willing to force profiling issues; there are people wanting to transport illegal substances or devices who will cry, “Discrimination,” when forced to submit to further scrutiny.  And there are people – especially celebrities – who will bully flight attendants, the very professionals who are there for their protection.

And to those celebrities?  Do us all a favor and get your facts straight before you open your mouth.  After that, do the world a favor and Shut Up!