The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

You know your industry is in trouble when...

The United Airlines debacle at O'Hare last week underscored how much people really hate airlines:

The severity of the situation really dawned on me last Thursday as I sat in an interview with a local Fox reporter. We started talking about the Chicago Aviation Police, and that’s when it hit me. Over the last few years, police violence has been a hot-button issue. It has spawned the Black Lives Matter movement, and it has polarized people around the country. And here was a textbook example of what people have been rallying against… a defenseless, older minority was dragged off an airplane by the police, and he was severely injured (though not killed, fortunately) in the process. You would have thought this would have ignited another round of vitriol aimed at the police, but no. Everyone blamed United. The Chicago Aviation Police even suspended officers over this, but nobody seems to care. It’s all about United, and that really says a great deal about just how much people hate airlines.

And unfortunately, there is no quick fix:

Can they do that? Well they’re trying. Flush with reasonable profits instead of the razor-thin margins (often negative) they’ve lived off of for years, airlines in the US are investing in their products. It’s now fairly normal to get free video content and free snacks when those were far from the norm just a couple years ago. And this stability also makes it a better work environment for employees. That should result in better service.

But while airlines have started to improve, they’ve also introduced product changes people instantly dislike, including Basic Economy and the decision to add more seats to airplanes. There may be rational justification for these moves, but they don’t play well publicly. Two steps forward, one step back. Or maybe it’s one step forward and two steps back. Either way, any improvement is met by the public with skepticism as people wait for the next axe to fall.

I wonder if people faced similar problems booking passage on sailing ships 200 years ago?

Schneier on trusting the government and the laptop ban

Security expert Bruce Schneier weighs in on the ridiculous airplane laptop ban the Trump administration and the British government imposed last week:

This current restriction implies some specific intelligence of a laptop-based plot and a temporary ban to address it. However, if that's the case, why only certain non-US carriers? And why only certain airports? Terrorists are smart enough to put a laptop bomb in checked baggage from the Middle East to Europe and then carry it on from Europe to the US.

Why not require passengers to turn their laptops on as they go through security? That would be a more effective security measure than forcing them to check them in their luggage. And lastly, why is there a delay between the ban being announced and it taking effect?

One analysis painted this as a protectionist measure targeted at the heavily subsidized Middle Eastern airlines by hitting them where it hurts the most: high-paying business class travelers who need their laptops with them on planes to get work done. That reasoning makes more sense than any security-related explanation, but doesn't explain why the British extended the ban to UK carriers as well. Or why this measure won't backfire when those Middle Eastern countries turn around and ban laptops on American carriers in retaliation. And one aviation official told CNN that an intelligence official informed him it was not a "political move."

In the end, national security measures based on secret information require us to trust the government. That trust is at historic low levels right now, so people both in the US and other countries are rightly skeptical of the official unsatisfying explanations. The new laptop ban highlights this mistrust.

But to the Trump team, distrusting government is a feature, not a bug. They just may not have thought through all the consequences.

Did I miss a scare piece on Fox News?

Apparently we're now frightened of everything:

Passengers on foreign airlines headed to the United States from 10 airports in eight majority-Muslim countries have been barred from carrying electronic devices larger than a cellphone under a new flight restriction enacted on Tuesday by the Trump administration.

Officials called the directive an attempt to address gaps in foreign airport security, and said it was not based on any specific or credible threat of an imminent attack.

The Department of Homeland Security said the restricted items included laptop computers, tablets, cameras, travel printers and games bigger than a phone. The restrictions would not apply to aircraft crews, officials said in a briefing to reporters on Monday night that outlined the terms of the ban.

The new policy took effect at 3 a.m. E.D.T. on Tuesday, and must be followed within 96 hours by airlines flying to the United States from airports in Amman, Jordan; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Because, hey, if it's illegal for the administration to block people coming from those countries, maybe we can simply make them not want to come here? Oh, right. This is only going to stop people who need to work on those long flights; i.e., people we probably want to come here.

Great work, DHS. Nice.

Not posting much lately

Since December I've been the technical lead on an 18-person project at work, which has tanked my blogging frequency. I may return to my previous 3-posts-in-two-days velocity at some point. For now, here are some articles to read:

That's all for now.

Long day, so much to read later

Tabs open but not read in my browser:

There was one more item, but it's too big to gloss over.

Easier medical requirements for general aviation

Starting May 1st, general aviation pilots like me will have an easier time getting aviation medical endorsements:

Starting on May 1, pilots will have the option to maintain their 3rd class medical, or opt to use the BasicMed rule. Under BasicMed, a pilot will be required to complete an online medical education course every two years, undergo a medical exam every four years, and comply with aircraft and operating restrictions. The medical exam will include a four-page FAA form to be completed by your doctor and kept available by the pilot for FAA inspection. Your regular doctor can complete the form, and they don’t need to deal with the FAA at all.

The aircraft and operating restrictions under BasicMed include: pilots cannot operate an aircraft weighing more than 6,000 pounds and cannot have more than six people on board. IFR operations are allowed, but pilots must fly at less than 18,000 MSL and no faster than 250 knots. Pilots using BasicMed also cannot fly for compensation or hire. To qualify for BasicMed, pilots also must have held a medical that was valid any time after July 15, 2006.

So instead of a $200 aviation medical exam every 2 years (at my age), I can just fill in a form and keep it in my flight bag? Sign me up. I'll take the online course just as soon as the FAA releases it.

So maybe I'll get bck in the cockpit this spring? I haven't flown for a while because it's expensive and I don't live near the airport...and also because I haven't gotten off my ass to renew my Class III medical certification. Well, here's one fewer thing I need to do.

 

Post-posted

High above the North Atlantic, our hero reads the articles he downloaded before take-off:

  • Releasing to Production the day before a holdiay weekend? No. Just, no. OMFG no.
  • American Airlines just won a lawsuit started by US Airways that opens up competition in airfare consolidation—maybe. Bear with it, because this one article explains a lot of what's wrong with competition in any endeavor today. (I'll find a link to the Economist print article I just read on this topic when I land.)
  • The Washington Post helpfully provides 94 questions we Democrats are asking as we slouch towards a Trump presidency. Thanks, guys.
  • In the spirit of Christmas, Citylab remembers when Manhattan had the El. (How is this about Christmas, you ask? No El.) It's interesting to me that only now, more than 60 years later, is New York replacing the east-side transit options with the Second Avenue Subway.
  • Also from Citylab, an interview with Costas Spirou and Dennis R. Judd about their new book Building the City of Spectacle, how Mayor Richord M. Daley remade the city. (Note to self: buy their book.)
  • Finally, the Deeply Trivial blog compiles a couple of videos every Star Wars fan should watch. I know for a fact that the author was born well past the Ewok Divide, and yet seems to have a good bead on the Star Wars universe. Perhaps there is hope for the galaxy.

Today's flight is remarkably fast. We caught the jet stream off the Labrador coast, and with about an hour to go, we're hurtling 1,074 km/h off the west coast of Ireland. This could end up the fastest trans-Atlantic flight I've ever been on, in fact. Details later.

N.B.: Most of the entries on this blog since 2011, and a good number of them going back to 1998, have location bugs that show approximately where I was when I wrote the entry. Click the globe icon directly below and it will call up Google Maps.

If I write an entry at my house, I use a street intersection a few hundred meters away for an approximate location. In a city of three (or, in 1998, seven) million, I feel that's enough privacy. Otherwise, I try to be accurate, even going so far as to whip out my mobile phone to get a GPS fix in flight, as I've just done. Why, you ask? Because it's cool, I reply.

Lunchtime links

It's not all about PETUS today:

  • Via AVWeb, the FAA has issued an airworthiness directive requiring owners of Boeing 787-8 airplanes to reboot them at least every 21 days. I am not making this up.
  • Trump, never a fan of intelligence of any kind, is sticking his fingers in his ears about Russian hacking of our election. Jeet Heer warns that this yet another way Trump is very dangerous. Plus, he's lying about the CIA's role in the Iraq WMD fiasco. It wasn't the CIA who lied; it was the Administration.
  • By the way, Trump has the lowest approval ratings of any incoming president since 1988 (and probably since 1974).
  • Oh, and we got about 200 mm of snow over the weekend. Parker's going to need a new pair of pairs of shoes.

Winter is here.

So, this happened

Folks, if you have to evacuate a burning 767, leave your fucking bags in the plane. That would have prevented most of the injuries sustained when this happened yesterday at O'Hare:

The plane's 161 passengers and nine crew members scrambled down emergency chutes on the left side of the plane while flames flared and thick black smoke billowed from the wing on the right side, according to the airline and video from the scene.

Twenty people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, mostly bruises and ankle problems, according to fire Chief Juan Hernandez, head of emergency medical services at the airport.

The aircraft experienced an "uncontained engine failure," in which engine parts break off and are spewed outside the engine, a federal official said. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the incident and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The danger of such a rare and serious failure is that engine pieces effectively become shrapnel and can cause extensive damage to the aircraft.

Scary, and they can't use the plane again, but since everyone survived and there were only minor injuries, this counts as a good flight.