The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

On time within the usual delays

This looks very familiar to me:

As does this:

And it means that my 10:20 flight connecting through Charlotte is now a 12:06 flight connecting through Washington. Welcome to travel from O'Hare in January.

At least I'll have some time to nap. Or read. Or nap while reading...

About that JET-A raining down on a schoolyard...

I'm not the only one who questioned whether a Delta B777 dumping fuel over Los Angeles made a lot of sense:

Fuel dumps occur only to reduce planes' weights for unexpected landings because some of them have maximum takeoff weights higher than their landing weights, said John Cox, a former US Airways captain who runs Safety Operating Systems, an aviation safety consulting company.

While the procedure is standard for an emergency landing, it can be accomplished more safely if it is done at a high altitude, allowing the fuel to evaporate before it reaches the ground, and it can be done over designated secluded areas.

"The question investigators are going to ask is that if you're going to dump fuel, why didn't you advise air traffic control, and why didn't you go where fuel dumping is approved, which would not be over a highly populated area?" Cox said. "If you had an on-board fire or something like that, it makes absolute sense to do that. But this was not that case."

The crew of Delta Flight 89 did not inform air traffic control that it was going to dump fuel, according to a review of communications, the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday. Typically, air traffic controllers direct planes to appropriate fuel-dumping areas, the agency said in a statement.

Apparently the airplane suffered a compressor stall, which doesn't usually affect the safety of flight. Fun fact: Boeing 777 airplanes meet ETOPS-207 standards, meaning they can safely fly for 207 minutes—up to about 4,000 km—on one engine. So even if the compressor stall took the engine offline, they could have flown back out over the Pacific to dump fuel.

Again, I'm looking forward to the NTSB report.

Too many things to read this afternoon

Fortunately, I'm debugging a build process that takes 6 minutes each time, so I may be able to squeeze some of these in:

Back to debugging Azure DevOps pipelines...

It was 20 years ago today

...that I finally passed my private pilot checkride and got my certificate.

I finished all the requirements for the checkride except for two cross-country flights for practice on 18 July 1999. Unfortunately, the weather in New Jersey sucked on almost every weekend for the next six months.

I finally took a day off from work in early December, took my checkride...and failed a landing. (I was too far off centerline to pass, but otherwise it was a perfectly safe landing.) It then took another six weeks to take that one part of my checkride over, on 15 January 2000.

Someday soon, I hope to get back in the air. Probably this spring. But as any private pilot can tell you, life sometimes interferes.

Fuel dumped on a schoolyard? Really, Delta?

A Delta 777 en route from LAX to Shanghai declared an emergency and had to dump thousands of kilograms of fuel to land under the safe landing weight. Planes, particularly heavy transport-class aircraft, do this so they don't destroy their landing gear and the runway itself when landing in an emergency situation.

Now, if you know LAX, you know that generally planes take off over the ocean. In those rare cases when they have emergencies and need to circle back, they dump fuel over the ocean.

Not this guy:

A Delta flight injured more than 50 people after dumping fuel on a Los Angeles schoolyard and school buildings when it declared an emergency shortly after departing for China from the Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday.

At least 20 children were were treated for minor injuries after being exposed to the jet fuel, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The department said it had a total of 44 patients from four schools: Park Avenue Elementary, Tweedy Elementary, Graham Elementary and San Gabriel Avenue Elementary.

Another 16 people were treated from two schools, Jordan High School and 93rd Elementary, which were also exposed to jet fuel, the Los Angeles City Fire Department said.

Here's the plane's track:

Going by the track log, the plane had a relatively normal climb out for about two minutes to 5,000 feet, then started a turn to the north and leveled off at just below 8,000 feet. The diversion occurred nine minutes into the flight over Simi Valley. I suppose they needed to get him back into the approach path over land because there weren't any good alternatives once he got over land again.

The fuel dumping occurred about halfway between the final turn southwest and landing. At that point the plane was level at 2,400 feet and in no position to do much else but land. But Jet-A (aka kerosene) doesn't evaporate completely from that altitude. So kids got covered in it. Yuck.

The L.A. Times has more:

Ross Aimer, chief executive officer of Aero Consulting Experts, said fuel dumping is very rare and is used only in case of emergencies or if pilots have to lessen the load of the plane to land.

“Most pilots choose not to dump fuel unless the emergency really dictates it,” Aimer said.

Among the emergencies would be landing gear that is not functioning and would make it hard to control the plane.

Aimer said that without knowing what Flight 89’s emergency was, the pilot may have been in the final stage of dumping fuel as it was heading toward LAX, resulting in today’s controversial fuel dumping incident.

The L.A. Times also believes the world is flat, as both articles about the incident by staff writer Matt Stiles insist that the plane diverted over Santa Monica Bay, rather than over Hidden Hills, as the track shows. The great-circle departure vector from LAX to PVG is 312°, or northwest. And the flight plan as filed called for the plane to fly 336° (nearly north) and intercept today's westbound route over the Pacific, which it would probably have picked up some distance due north over California or Oregon.

I can't wait to read the NTSB incident report. And I do wish reporters knew aviation better.

Busy day links

I had a lot going on at work today, so all I have left is a lame-ass "read these later" post:

I'd say "back to the mines," but I believe I have a date with Kristen Bell presently.

Hurry home, little blue book

On Tuesday I mailed my passport to the National Passport Agency in Philadelphia with an extra $60 so they'll expedite its replacement. I feel a little anxious without it. Not because I live in 1950s Czechoslovakia or anything; more that I love travel so much, not having a passport even for two weeks every 10 years feels a little off.

Well, not exactly 10 years, more like 9½. While US passports last 10 years, many countries—for example, the UK, where I go several times a year—won't let you in if your passport will expire within six months. For me, my August 2010 passport would not meet UK entry requirements at the beginning of next month, so off it went. But I held onto it until after the new year so that the new one expires in 2030 instead of 2029.

I'll get the new one probably in two weeks. Meanwhile, the only sign of life I have is the certified mail receipt the Postal Service emailed me yesterday. So my old passport arrived safely in Philadelphia after all. I can hardly wait for the new one.

Statistics: 2019

As I've done several years running, I'm taking a look at my statistics for the past year:

  • I flew the fewest air miles since 1999 (14,462 against 1999's 11,326), and took only 9 trips out of town (up 1 from 2018). As in 2018, I took 11 flights, but because I took two road trips I wound up visiting 9 states (Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Colorado) and 2 foreign countries (UK and Ontario, Canada) to 2018's 8 and 1, respectively.
  • I posted 551 times on The Daily Parker, up 33 from last year and a new all-time annual record! (The previous record was 541 in 2009.)
  • Parker got 187 hours of walks, up 54 hours and 40% from last year.
  • I got 5,135,518 Fitbit steps and walked 4,630 km, down 2½% from last year. But I went 207 days in a row, from April 15th to November 7th, hitting my 10,000-a-day step goal, which I did 352 times overall. Also during the year I passed 25,000,000 lifetime steps and 20,000 lifetime kilometers.
  • Reading jumped a lot. I started 36 books in 2019 and finished 33, up 50% from 2018, and my best showing since 2010 (when I spent several days on airplanes and read 51 books). With at least three trips to Europe planned for 2020, both my flying and my reading should improve.

Let's see what 2020 brings. I'm especially bummed that my Fitbit numbers declined, even though Parker got 40% more walk time. (But he walks 40% more slowly than last year, so...)

Moments in great timing

First event: Last night around 7pm, my main data drive seized up after storing my stuff for a bit less than 4 years. Let me tell you how much fun Micro Center is at 9pm two days before Christmas. After 12 hours it looks like it's about 75% restored from backup, and I didn't suffer any data loss.

Second event: Just look at this lovely, peaceful scene:

That's the cemetery in my neighborhood a few minutes ago. And that's what we call "dense fog," with about 200 m visibility and what they call "indeterminate" ceilings at 100 m.

Which is exactly what you want in Chicago on Christmas Eve, the second-biggest travel day of the year:

Amid dense fog reducing visibility in Chicago, the Federal Aviation Administration early Tuesday grounded incoming flights at Chicago’s O’Hare International and Midway airports until at least 8 a.m.

For a short time Tuesday morning all flights were grounded, according to the FAA, but as of 7:30 a.m. the agency’s website noted the “ground stoppage,” or halting of flights, was indicated only for airplanes arriving at the city’s two airports. Flights were departing regularly at Midway, according to travelers at the airport.

Still, the ground stoppage for incoming flights means not all departing flights will leave on time and travelers could miss connecting flights, leading to a chain-reaction of air travel delays during a traditionally peak period for travel.

Have a safe and fun travel day, and if you're going to or through Chicago, enjoy your airport time.

I love this car

A year ago today, I got this lovely plug-in hybrid:

Because she (her name is Hana, or 初夏) has an on-board computer (well, probably a couple dozen, to be honest), I know exactly how well she did:

Total distance 6,969.4 km
Total fuel consumed 186.7 L
Fuel economy 2.7 L/100 km
Farthest north 43.68°N
Farthest south 41.32°N
Farthest east 79.37°W
Farthest west 87.96°W

Sad to see she never made it all the way to the 88th meridian, given that I live only about 21 minutes east of it. But she did make it to five states and one Canadian province, with trips to Toronto and Cleveland.

In all, I filled up the car six times, five of those on road-trips, and spent only $130.77 on gasoline all year.

As I suspected when I went car shopping a year ago, a plug-in hybrid is the perfect car for me. On average I drove 18.6 km per day overall, which is deceptive because I didn't drive on 228 days of the last 366. On the 138 days I did drive, I averaged 50.5 km per day. Which again doesn't paint the full picture, because I only crested 50 km on 19 occasions, 100 km on 10, and 200 km on 4. Take those 19 days out and I averaged just 21 km per day.

In other words, out of 366 days, I needed to use gasoline about 30 times, and usually only a few centilitres per trip. Hana can go about 40 km on a charge in winter and 50 km in summer (because the heater uses more power than having the windows down).

For an urban dweller who primarily uses public transportation, but who occasionally needs to haul a big old dog somewhere or go out of town, a plug-in hybrid makes a ton of sense. And it's fun to drive, too.