ASK THE CAPTAIN: New Pilot Crew Rest Rules. Will It Make Flying Safer?

PLANE TALK: GOT A QUESTION? ASK THE CAPTAIN!

Do you have a question about airline safety, flight etiquette, jet lag, or air travel in general? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.

by W. M. Wiggins

" I am curious about those DOT/FAA Improved Pilot Crew Rest Rules. Can you tell me what they are?"   


I see you are wondering what’s different, so here are the main Federal Aviation Administration changes: 

  • ON DUTY HOURS: 9 to 14 per day
  • INCREASE REST PERIOD BY 2 HOURS
  • PILOTS CAN SAY THEY ARE FATIGUED

Will these rules help?

And, if they do, will the flying public be willing to pay for the extra costs that will be added to their airline tickets?  

Before answering you,  here is a little background on just some problems associated with pilots flying in a diminished capacity….like ah….”sleep flying”.

You laugh?

If only it were funny. 

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Ask the Captain: TSA PAT-DOWNS: DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS THE PUBLIC DOESN'T KNOW

PLANE TALK: GOT A QUESTION? ASK THE CAPTAIN!

Do you have a question about airline safety, flight etiquette, jet lag, or air travel in general? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.

by W. M. Wiggins

"What about pilot and flight crew security screenings at the airport?  Are they a necessary safety precaution or just another hold up?"  - Elaine, Boston, MA. 

Every time I hear a passenger say that pilots should be searched, I shake my head in disbelief. This is like searching a brain surgeon for knives before entering the hospital’s operating room…where he is to perform brain surgery…yep ….you’ve guessed it….using knives. A pilot with or without guns, knives, grenades, “water pistols”, you name it, can NEVER be stopped if he wants to crash the jet. Crashing is as simple as a flick of the wrist when the aircraft is on short final. So, should we delay pilots and crews at security with xrays and pat downs? No. But there's so much more to this story than what's being reported.  

Let’s start with a saying from the wise old man, Ben Franklin: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -Ben Franklin's Contributions to the Conference on February 17 (III) Fri, Feb 17, 1775 

Ok, readers, I’m sorry for not jumping on this topic sooner, but I was soooooo busy with my tie dying and silk screening T-SHIRT business.

HOT ITEM T-shirts that I recommend you NOT wear through airport security:

"TSA: Training Sexual Assault"

 “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.”

There are many more items of this nature already on the street, but you get the idea, I’m sure.

Please, Please, Please …..Remember this!! First and foremost…..anything you say to TSA can and will be used against you….no joke!

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Ask The Captain: Is My Pilot Flying Drunk?

PLANE TALK: GOT A QUESTION? ASK THE CAPTAIN!

Do you have a question about airline safety, flight etiquette, jet lag, or air travel in general? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.

by W. M. Wiggins

"It feels like you can't turn on the news these days without hearing about a drunk pilot showing up for work ready to fly under the influence. Is this just media hype, or should I really be worried?"  - Kathryn

 

I hear ya, Kathryn. "THAR she  B L O W S" could be the lead-in line to the almost-monthly apprehension of professional pilots caught while flying legally drunk. But the fact remains that of the 11,000 commercial pilots tested annually, only 12 on average fail to pass. Now, that's not the zero percent we'd like to see, but it does mean that chances are good that your pilot is NOT flying drunk. 

Now, for the rest of the story, which takes us to Amsterdam. 

Amsterdam is known for it's tolerance and quirkiness

Tolerance for cafe drug purchases and prostitution in it's Red Light District.

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Icarus and The Iceland Volcano: A Pilot’s Inside Scoop

by W.M. Wiggins

Do you remember Icarus from Greek Mythology? Well, he may have been the first and original flyboy……… you see, piloting goes w-a-a-a-y back.

Icarus and his father, Daedalus, were being held captive in a sky-high tower of that nasty King Minos of Crete… and it was a far piece to the ground, let me tell you….even by Texas standards.

Icarus’ father, Daedalus, who was widely recognized as the master of ingenuity, concocted flyable wings from bee’s wax and feathers. That was just about all the material to be found in that high, old tower. Once those bird-like wings were securely mounted on Icarus and Daedalus, they were almost ready to take flight…but first, that obligatory pre departure briefing.

“Son”, says Icarus’ father, “Don’t fly too close to the Sun or too close to the water.” “If you do, son, you will be in a h-e-a-p of trouble.”

Well, we know the rest of the story. Icarus, flying in a loose formation behind his father, became bored. He zoom-climbed high toward that hot, hot, sun…melting the wax that held the feathers in place. Ploop! Into the sea he went and drowned.

Fast forward. That was then, this is now.

Iceland’s EYJAFJALLAJOKULL volcano (that’s easy for you to say) goes Ka Boom!

In this explosive eruption, volcanic ash is taken tens of thousands of feet into the air….and that’s the rub. Jet airliners need to fly in this airspace.

So, what’s the Big Deal? Ash, that’s just like dirtier dirt…right?

UNFORTUNATELY, NOOOOOOOO…..!!!

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Ask the Captain: Jamaica Airplane Crash

Plane Talk: Got a question? Ask the Captain!

Do you have a question about airline safety, flight etiquette, jet lag, or air travel in general? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.

by W. M. Wiggins

What did you see as the problem in the American Airlines Jamaica runway accident? 

 

First, I saw the problem, landing with a tailwind (possibly) out of limits. Then I see what appears to be some of the best publications relations in the realm of corporate aviation.

 The following is my opinion:

Basic airplane 101 says, point that little puppy (the jet or “de plane”, “de plane” ) into the wind for all takeoffs and landings.

The “Specs” or specifications for the Boeing 737-800 say max takeoff / landing tailwind component is 10 knots. Please note, it does NOT say About, Sorta’or Kinda’10 kts. It says 10 kts. This will be important later.

Then the  “Specs” goes on to say…There “May” be 15kts ( tailwind) as customer option. Hmmm? Seems just a tad contradictory, yes?

Uh, NO, not really.

What that means, basically, is that Boeing is “on the hook legally” for that 10 kt tailwind number.

Now, but, but, but what about that 15 kts?

Well, that’s “Show me the $$ money $$ time.

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Ask the Captain: What about the Christmas Day Bomber?

Plane Talk: Got a question? Ask the Captain!

Do you have a question about airline safety, flight etiquette, jet lag, or air travel in general? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.

by W. M. Wiggins

What's your take on the Christmas Day Bomber? What can be done? - Jim

 

Jim, it’s now a fact. We all find ourselves being exposed to the ever spreading “cracks” of the security breaches brought to light by that “Underwear Bomber”.

Why did it happen? Oh, Jeeez……please. Obviously, there were gross failures in almost every controlling agency…….the authorities charged for your safety.

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Ask the Captain: Which is the safest seat on an airplane?

Plane Talk: Got a question? Ask the Captain!

Do you have a question about airline safety, flight etiquette, jet lag, or air travel in general? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.

by W. M. Wiggins

 

When making my seat selection, I've often wondered which is the safest place to sit on a plane? In the first few seats? The emergency exit aisle? What's your recommendation? - Lyn

 

Hi Lyn, you're not alone in trying to figure this one out. The question might seem like an easy one to answer, but isn't necessarily so. First, there is absolutely no way to know what situation might occur on any given day on any given flight.

For example, take the incident that happened on a Delta Air Lines flight bound for Atlanta from Pensacola in July of 1982.

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ASK THE CAPTAIN: Frightened by turbulence

Plane Talk: Got a question? Ask the Captain!

Do you have a question about airline safety, flight etiquette, jet lag, or air travel in general? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.

by W. M. Wiggins

"I fly a lot and love to travel.  In spite of this, I have never gotten over my fear of turbulence.  I have what may be called "anticipatory anxiety".  The minute I step on the plane I worry over the "anticipated" turbulence.  I know in my mind that turbulence isn't dangerous, but I guess in the deep corners of my mind, I feel that the plane may go out of control, or fall, or ????   How can I get over this fear?  I've tried therapy, biofeedback and relaxation techniques.  They work to a certain extent."  - Margo

 

Hi Margo,

I certainly understand your anxiety and you are definitely not the "Lone Ranger" out there. A medical doctor, I am not. Nor am I a doctor of any sorts, I am a pilot. What I share with you is knowledge from this perspective. I hope what I say is of some help. I can explain to you the "why" and "how" an aircraft flies, but here, I will briefly go over some flight conditions.......just for you.

Hummmmmm ................turbulence, the "rock and roll" of flying.

First let me say......

Aircraft are actually "airships" riding on and in rivers of air instead of water. They ( the airships...a.k.a. airplanes ) are designed and manufactured to a much higher standard than almost any other type of construction. This is so airplanes can bend by design and yet, stay strong. These are both good things.

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Ask The Captain: What Was Going On With Those Northwest Airlines Pilots?

Plane Talk: Got a question? Ask the Captain!

Do you have a question about airline safety, flight etiquette, jet lag, or air travel in general? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column. Answering your questions in our NEW ASK THE CAPTAIN column is, Michael Wiggins, a retired airline pilot who has spent the better part of his life shuttling passengers around the globe.

We'd been planning to launch this column ever since a chance meeting brought Michael onto our radar screen. We KNEW we wanted him to bring his expertise and humor to our YourLifeIsATrip family, but who knew we'd start the dialogue with the question on everyone's lips these days...

by W. M. Wiggins

What was really going on with those Northwest Airline pilots in the cockpit?

 

About those NWA pilots over flying ( MSP ) Minneapolis/ St. Paul Airport by 150 miles. Jeeeez. It's a reasonable question. How CAN that happen?

The lack of attention to detail is obvious. Someone has to be driving that big ol’ Bus (AIRBUS) and somebody has to be monitoring the radios. And as they say in California, that’s a definite “for sure, for sure” dude.

It sounds to me like a couple of guys had their radio volumes turned down …. way,     w a y,       w   a   y        down. This is an especially bad thing when you are traveling at 500 miles per hour……hummmmmmmmm, divide that (500 mph) by 60 minutes ( 60 minutes is an hour….I think? )…….and you can see that  this “winged” aluminum beast is smokin’ right along at about 8.4 miles per minute.

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