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?


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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 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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