Author Archive

A Deadly Week Illustrates Private Flying Has Its Risks

December 2, 2019

Two high-death count general aviation accidents punctuated the American Thanksgiving holiday weekend. In South Dakota on Saturday a Pilatus PC-12 turboprop crashed in near blizzard conditions shortly after taking off from the south-central part of the state on an 800-mile flight west to Idaho.  Nine people were killed, three were injured. Four generations of men from the Hansen family, business owners in Idaho Falls, were aboard the airplane. The Pilatus may have been overloaded as this airplane has seats for two crew and up to nine passengers and 12 were aboard. On Wednesday, Otabek Oblokulov, his wife and three children 3, 11 and 15 years… Read More…

A Lesson For Boeing & the FAA From the Time When UL Certified Airliners

November 25, 2019

In the early days of aviation, those with the second most to lose in a crash – the first being the occupants of the airplane – took responsibility for making sure the plane and its pilots were safe. That entity was not the government, it was the insurance companies. “They couldn’t prevent pilots from stunt flying and the planes would crash and they would pay out,” said Rachel Madden an archivist with UL in Illinois, also known as Underwriters Laboratories. The National Aircraft Underwriters Association asked UL to register pilots, to create airplane manufacturing standards and to inspect and certify the finished products. Between 1921… Read More…

No Proof of Muilenburg’s Claim Boeing’s Self-Certification Makes Skies Safer

October 30, 2019

Among the many claims made by Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg that does not pass the smell test is the one he made on Tuesday, asserting that America’s broken process for certifying the airliners is in fact, enhancing air safety. Boeing has attained never-before-levels of autonomy in self-certifying the airworthiness of its designs after lobbying Congress for that authority and in fact, actually helping to write the new laws, according to The New York Times.  “The creation of the delegate authority has enhanced safety,” Muilenburg told members of the Senate’s Commerce Committee on Tuesday. “There has been a 90 percent improvement in safety, a portion of… Read More…

Boeing Practiced in Hiding Information from Investigators

October 29, 2019

Boeing’s decision to keep from investigators text messages from 2016 in which a 737 Max test pilot, Mark Forkner, worried that there were egregious problems with the airplane’s flight control system prompted the Administrator of the Federal Aviation  Administration two weeks ago to demand answers from Boeing. In a letter to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, Steve Dickson wrote that he expected an immediate explanation. Likely, members of the Senate Commerce Committee will make a similar demand of Muilenburg when he testifies on Tuesday. To be clear, however, this is not the first time that Boeing purposefully withheld information that would have been useful to investigators…. Read More…

Lion Air Crash Report Urges Realistic View of Pilot Capabilities

October 25, 2019

The final report on the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 tells a lengthy but ultimately old story; many things combined to lead to the October 29, 2018 disaster that killed 189 people. The National Transportation Safety Committee details nine as it lists the shortcomings of Lion Air, Air Nav Indonesia and Boeing. Incorrect, flawed, erroneous, incomplete and ineffective are just some of the damning words that litter the list of contributing factors. But it is its recommendation to Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration that goes to the heart of the global debate that heated up with the twin Max disasters. What is the… Read More…

Most Experienced B-17 Pilot in Command of Plane that Crashed

October 4, 2019

The 75-year old California pilot in command of the B-17 Nine-O-Nine that crashed in Connecticut on Wednesday was the highest time pilot on that model aircraft in America with 73-hundred hours, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Ernest McCauley, 75, of Long Beach, California was also the safety officer of the Collings Foundation, which owned the airplane since 1986 and operated it as part of its Wings of Freedom Tour. Jennifer Homendy, the NTSB board member at the scene told reporters “a lot has been accomplished” during the investigators’ first full day at the scene at Bradley International Airport outside of Hartford. “We’ve requested… Read More…

Warbird Operators Worry After B-17 Crash As Senator Calls for Closer Scrutiny

October 3, 2019

Having survived combat and oftentimes years of neglect, flying warbirds in America and their owners may be headed into a new battle. Triggered by Wednesday’s fatal crash of the Collings Foundation B-17 Nine-O-Nine at Bradley International Airport, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal says more scrutiny is needed for passenger flights on historic aircraft. Seven people were killed and six others on the airplane injured along with two people on the ground when the Nine-O-Nine crashed shortly after takeoff. The Flying Fortress was to make a 30-minute fly-around the area during the foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour that started earlier in the week. Responding to a question… Read More…

Irony of Pilot Laying Blame On Pilots in Boeing 737 Max Disasters

September 21, 2019

Full disclosure, I own and have read nearly every book ever written by William Langewiesche. He is a gifted writer with a stunning intellect and this is just an aside, he’s quite the looker. I have interviewed him twice but with his latest article in The New York Times Magazine, I think my crush is over. In a lengthy piece just published, Langewiesche weaves the known facts of the two 737 Max disasters into a jumble of opinion, pilot-bashing and Western superiority. Ostensibly, he is informing Times readers that not all pilots are Chuck Yeager and to justify the headline of the article, when it… Read More…

United Pilot’s Revenge Porn Case Exposes Larger Problem

September 18, 2019

After being charged by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission with fostering a hostile work environment by failing to take action against a pilot posting revenge porn, United Airlines is now said to be in settlement discussions with the Federal agency. Perhaps, after years of pretending a flight attendant’s torment wasn’t the airline’s problem, United will finally do the right thing. When it comes to pilots behaving badly, it’s hard to beat the now-retired United Capt Mark Uhlenbrock of Chesterfield, Missouri. From 2006 until 2015 when he was arrested by the FBI, he posted nude photos of the United flight attendant with whom he’d had a… Read More…

Exhausted in a Gladiola Field, I Find Dutch Samaritans on a Bicycle Built For Two

September 12, 2019

  Intending no disrespect Google Maps, but could you please stop predicting how long it will take me to pedal 30 miles in Holland? I’m biking because I want to linger: see the sites, smell the roses, dig my toes into the sand on Holland’s expansive beaches all of which I CANNOT DO if I am racing across the landscape at 15 miles per hour. That said, when an expected two-and-a-half-hour ride from Rotterdam to Zeeland turned into something much longer, my energy level was so depleted that I started to worry I would not/could not make it to my hotel for the night.  Then… Read More…

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