The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

He just can't help it

Today's Covid-19 news roundup highlights how no one in the White House should go anywhere near this crisis response effort:

All of this, and we still have an hour to go before lunch.

There was one bit of good news, though. The National Transportation Safety Board released a report this week that said air-transport fatalities dropped by 75% between the 1983-2000 period and 2001-2017. One expects that Covid-19 will reduce those numbers even further.

Another historic loss

No, I don't mean Kenny Rogers, who died last night at age 83. I mean that Royal Dutch Airlines KLM has decided to remove all their 747s from service nine months early because of the pandemic:

The current date of the final flight is March 26, though even that date could get moved up if more flight cancellations ensue.

Generally speaking, fleet retirements are met with large fanfare. The last two major airlines to retire the 747-400, United and Delta, both in 2017, had large send-off parties and several “final” flights for aviation fans and employees alike.

KLM’s retirement of the 747-400 was expected to be the same. The airline announced late last year that the final revenue flight was set to occur on January 3, 2021, from New York JFK to Amsterdam. Even if passengers weren’t able to be on the last flight, the final months were sure to see thousands of people going out of their way to fly on the Queen of the Skies one last time.

The Officer Wayfinder post has tons of photos from inside one of the 1990s-era 747s en route from the US to Johannesburg.

I had a chance to see one of these guys pass a few meters above my head at Princess Juliana Airport (SXM) in 2014:

Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt

What an exciting 24 hours.

President Trump made a statement from the Oval Office last night about the COVID-19 pandemic that completely failed to reassure anyone, in part because it contained numerous errors and misstatements. By announcing a ban on travel from the Schengen area of 26 European countries that applies to non-US residents, he enraged our European allies while doing nothing to stop the spread of the virus for the simple reason that the virus has already spread to the US. Not to mention, having a US passport doesn't magically confer immunity on people.

But let's not question the virologist-in-chief at this moment, who has so far refused to heed his experts' advice to issue an emergency declaration until Jared Kushner signs off on it. And wouldn't you guess? Republicans in the Senate have balked at an emergency spending bill because it has the potential to demonstrate that government can help in a crisis, which is why they blocked prevention measures earlier.

A few minutes after trading started today, the New York Stock Exchange hit the brakes to hold the plunge in equities values to 8% for 15 minutes while traders pissed themselves. Trading seems to have stabilized as it resumed, but the markets have now fallen about 25% from their February records.

The National Basketball Association has suspended its season and the National College Athletic Association played the first few games of March Madness without audiences.

In Chicago, PepsiCo became the first company to close its headquarters building, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has halted in-person trading entirely. Following California's ban on assemblies of more than 250 persons, Illinois is considering a similar measure. (Scotland has banned groups of 500, and Ireland has cancelled St Patrick's Day events.) And local colleges have moved their spring classes online.

Finally, as a member of the Apollo Chorus of Chicago Board of Directors and as the co-chair of our annual benefit, I am in the position of having to make some of these decisions myself. In another post I'll talk about that. For now, I can say we've sent a few hundred emails around the organization in the past 24 hours because we have concerts scheduled for this weekend and a dress rehearsal scheduled for tonight.

And, of course, I'm working from home again, and I think I should vote today instead of Tuesday.

Updates as conditions warrant.

Flat Earther died trying to prove it

Daredevil "Mad" Mike Hughes, who either believed the world is flat or merely played the role of a Flat Earther, died Saturday trying to launch a home-made rocket in an effort to "prove" the belief:

In December, buttressed by his conviction and advances in homemade rocketry, “Mad” Mike Hughes flipped on a camera and fantasized about the moment when he shows mankind that it lives on a verdant disk.

The plan: Float dozens of miles high in a balloon, then fly a rocket to the Karman line, the 62-mile-high barrier that separates the atmosphere and the cold vacuum of space, filming the entire way. “For three hours, the world stops,” Hughes said during a live stream, imagining the reaction.

Justin Chapman, a freelance reporter, witnessed the launch while reporting a longer story on Hughes. The rocket’s green parachute tore away moments after takeoff, sending the crowd of 50 or so people into a panic, he said.

Hughes’s support team went to inspect the crash site about a half mile away, Chapman said, and returned with the harrowing news: Hughes was dead, the rocket had pancaked, and the other three parachutes never deployed.

I believe this fits the Greek definition of "tragedy" perfectly.

By the way, here is proof the Earth is a spheroid:

Fastest JFK-to-LHR flight since the Concorde

British Airways flight 112 arrived at 4:47 this morning at Heathrow, having made the trip from New York in an astonishing 4 hours, 56 minutes:

Virgin Atlantic wasn’t far behind British Airways, though. VS4 from New York JFK to London Heathrow was scheduled to depart at exactly the same time. The flight was operated by an A350-1000, and that plane completed the flight in just 4hr57min. It ended up arriving at the gate at Heathrow at 5:05AM, a full 1hr25min ahead of schedule.

Tail winds on both flights were as high as 425 km/h, and the planes reached maximum [ground] speeds of over 1,325 km/h.

It should be noted that this was not the fastest trans-Atlantic trip since Concorde, or even last night:

Aer Lingus flew from Boston to Dublin in a flight time of 4hr49min, which is actually not that impressive when you consider that the flight is nearly 800 km shorter (however, the 747 has a faster cruising speed than the A330).

It's still impressive.

Things of interest when I have the time to spend on them

Not just articles today, but also a whole HBO mini-series:

For yet another thing to worry about today, after this post and the one before it, the New Yorker has started a series about the last time democracy almost died. (Hint: it got better.)

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.

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.