Tag Archives: FAA

Nothing ‘legit’ about violent protest

As one American patriot who believes in civil disobedience, I feel the need to set the record straight on why the 1/6 riot and all those incidents of violence aboard commercial aircraft are so damn disturbing.

There is not a single, solitary aspect of either event that one can describe as “civil disobedience.” The Republican National Committee recently issued a statement calling the 1/6 insurrection an expression of “legitimate political discourse.” I have participated in many such actual events that featured “legitimate political discourse.” None of them bore a shred of resemblance to the violence that erupted on Capitol Hill that day.

And yet, that nonsense came from RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, who sought to tamp down the description of the event. She and other Republicans are uncomfortable with calling it an insurrection. However, to my eyes that is precisely what it was; the rioters sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. If that isn’t an insurrection, then the term has no meaning whatsoever.

Indeed, the Justice Department has indicted the ring leaders of the riot on a charge of “conspiracy to commit sedition,” which bears no significant difference to the insurrection term that others are throwing around.

The Justice Department has received a request from aviation regulators to allow a permanent ban on air passengers who attack flight crews or fellow passengers while their aircraft is in flight. DOJ should follow the recommendation and allow the permanent ban on those who are accused of such hideous mayhem at 30,000 feet above the Earth’s surface.

A group of eight GOP U.S. senators doesn’t want those miscreants banned. They contend the idiots are expressing legitimate concerns about mask mandates on commercial aircraft. Bullsh**! They are putting others in potentially mortal danger by engaging in fistfights with flight attendants or, in at least one case, by trying to open one of the fuselage doors as the aircraft is at cruising altitude.

Civil disobedience? My ass!


Ban ’em from airlines!

Count me as one American who believes the Federal Aviation Administration should push hard for federal legislation that would ban unruly passengers from all domestic commercial air travel.

The FAA has referred 80 cases to the FBI and has asked Congress for legislative remedies to deter future passengers from disrupting flights and putting all their fellow passengers in potential dire peril while on board commercial aircraft.

The 80 cases represent all incidents that have occurred in 2022, which just arrived about six weeks ago. The rate of these incidents is alarming in the extreme.

What has caused the surge in these cases? Hmm. Let’s think about this. Oh, mask mandates have been the cause for more than two-thirds of the incidents. Airlines order passengers to mask up; some passengers are resisting; fights break out on aircraft in mid-air. One flight attendant suffered severe facial injuries after being punched by a passenger.

Here, though, is where this story gets bizarre. Eight Republican U.S. senators have objected to any federal legislation. They have signed a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking him to forgo the criminal referral. They contend foolishly that any federal ban would infringe on Americans’ right to protest mask mandates. How absurd and stupid can these senators get?

I happen to believe in civil disobedience. However, there can be no way in this world you can consider a physical attack on another human being to be “civil.” These attacks, which have spiraled since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, put hundreds of innocent bystanders in potentially mortal danger. If someone, then, is accused and convicted of attacking a flight attendant or of trying to open an airplane door in mid-flight — which did occur in one incident — then by all means they should be banned from traveling via commercial airlines … for the rest of their life!

This form of mayhem has to stop. Thus, the FAA is correct to seek ways to deter future incidents from erupting at 30,000 feet.


National security suffers from shutdown

Donald Trump has dug in on The Wall. He wants it built and he wants you and me to pay for it, not Mexico — as he had pledged during his campaign for the presidency.

As a result, part of the federal government has shut down. Trump says the shutdown is needed to bolster — ostensibly — our national security. The Wall would protect us from those hordes of killers, rapists and sex traffickers seeking illegal entry into the United States of America.

Oh, but what about national security.

Airport security officers are working without pay. They’re calling in sick. The post-9/11 travel restrictions are suffering now because TSA agents aren’t showing up for work. Those who do are being put under undue stress while they wait for their next paycheck; they don’t know when that day will arrive.

And then we have our air traffic controllers. They are employed by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA cannot pay its air controllers, either.

Air traffic control is among the world’s most stressful of jobs even under the best of circumstances. As the head of the ATC union said this morning, those men and women have to be “100 percent 100 percent of the time.” Given the shuttering of the government, they aren’t functioning at 100 percent. They are worried about their mortgage payments, their kids’ tuition, their utility bills, grocery bills, car payments, credit cards payments. You name it, they’re stressing out.

Can these individuals spare a single moment away from their job of guiding airplanes, preventing jetliners full of travelers from crashing into each other? Of course not!

National security, Mr. President? You’ve got to be kidding — but you’re not.

Do you, dear reader, feel safer now? Me neither.

Time of My Life, Part 4: Staring down a volcano

I long have been proud to say that my career allowed me to do things that most folks don’t get to do . . . such as fly over an erupting volcano!

But in late March 1980, I had that singular honor thrust on me.

You’ve heard of the cataclysm that occurred on May 18, 1980 when Mount St. Helens exploded, wiping roughly 1,400 feet off dirt, ash and rock off its summit. It killed about 65 individuals and wiped out Spirit Lake, Wash., and thousands of acres of virgin timberland.

What you might not recall is that the eruption began two months earlier.

I was editor of the Oregon City (Ore.) Enterprise-Courier at the time. I had written a feature story about a father and son in Clackamas County who restored vintage aircraft; the son gave me a ride in a biplane, which was a thrill in itself.

I got back to the office and a day or two later we got word of Mount St. Helens rumbling; the earth was trembling under the mountain. The U.S. Geological Survey sent teams to the region to monitor the quakes. The USGS then determined quickly that the mountain was entering a pre-eruptive phase. It could blow at any minute.

I called my young friend who gave me the biplane ride and said something like this: “If Mount St. Helens starts to erupt, can I call on you to fly me to the mountain to take pictures?” He agreed.

Then came the pre-cataclysm. St. Helens began to “erupt,” meaning that the quakes began creating craters along the summit. I called my friend. I drove out to his airfield. We boarded a two-seat single-engine prop airplane and took off. In the meantime, a colleague of mine at the newspaper, David Peters, drove about 75 miles to the USGS station near the foot of Mount St. Helens, where he would interview a young man who became a legendary figure in the Pacific Northwest; more on him in a moment.

My pilot friend and I arrived at the mountain and buzzed the summit repeatedly. I threw open the window on the passengers side of the plane and snapped hundreds of pictures of the summit as ice and snow began caving into newly created craters on top of the 9,600-foot peak.

Now, full disclosure time: The plane had no working radio. We were unable to hear any warnings from the FAA or the USGS about the “stunt” we were pulling off in the moment. I would learn upon returning to the airfield that the FAA had placed a no-fly zone around the summit. We were unaware. The statute of limitations ran out long ago, so I won’t be prosecuted for this admission.

As for Dave Peters’s assignment, he interviewed a USGS volcanologist by the name of David Johnston. On May 18, 1980, it was Johnston who radioed to his headquarters in Vancouver, Wash., from a ridge north of the mountain as the peak exploded.

He yelled: Vancouver, Vancouver. This is it! The pyroclastic flow of white-hot ash and rock that sped across the ridge vaporized Johnston in an instant. He was gone. The spot where he told the world of what was occurring now carries the name Johnston Ridge.

I was enabled because of the work I did to have more fun in pursuit of that job than I really deserved. That event in March 1980 pretty much tops the list of unique experiences.

I caught my breath. We published some pictures in the newspaper. Dave Peters wrote a wonderful feature on Johnston.

My wife shared with me the thrilling experience I had on that fateful day. I told Mom and Dad about it the next day.

They, um, were not pleased.

They need to make a film about this one

Chesley “Sulley” Sullenberger landed an airplane in the Hudson River, saving the lives of passengers aboard the USAir jetliner.

They made a movie about it, casting Tom Hanks in the role of “Sulley.”

They need to make another film about a heroic pilot. Her name is Tammie Jo Shults, who this week saved the lives of more than 100 passengers when a Southwest Airlines jetliner — bound from New York to Dallas — she was flying suffered a grievous engine failure.

The engine exploded, sending shrapnel into the fuselage. It knocked a window out, nearly pulling a passenger out of the aircraft, which was at 33,000 feet when the incident occurred. The passenger suffered mortal wounds from the incident.

Shults’s reaction, though, has been hailed as nothing short of heroic. She quickly took the plane into a descent. The plane’s oxygen masks were deployed. Shults’s cool, calm and measured demeanor as she radioed to the nearest aircraft tower of her emergency has been recorded and noted.

According to NBC News:

“We have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit,” she’s heard calmly telling air traffic controllers in audio transmissions after reporting the aircraft’s engine failure.

“Could you have medical meet us there on the runway as well? We’ve got injured passengers,” Shults then requests.

The captain of the ship did her job flawlessly.

Her training as a Navy pilot stood her in great stead as she took the plane to a safe landing, saving many more lives. I’ll add, too, that only about 6 percent of U.S. commercial airline pilots are female.

The investigation will go forward. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will get to the bottom of the what went wrong and presumably recommended ways to prevent this kind of event from recurring.

After all that is done — and I know I’m not the first person to offer this view — they need to make a movie about this amazing feat.

Flaps up at FAA?

Someone, please tell me this isn’t true, that it’s a satirical piece from The Onion.

Donald John Trump has put his personal pilot on a short list to become head of the Federal Aviation Administration.

John Dunkin (left, in photo) is his name and he must one of the “best people” the president promised to populate his administration with when he took office.

This must be a joke. Trump is pulling our leg. He can’t really be thinking about this. Can he?

The Huffington Post reported: “John Dunkin isn’t just a pilot,” an unnamed White House official told Axios. “He’s managed airline and corporate flight departments, certified airlines from start-up under FAA regulations and oversaw the Trump presidential campaign’s air fleet, which included managing all aviation transportation for travel to 203 cities in 43 states over the course of 21 months.”

I’ll concede the point that Dunkin isn’t just a sky jockey. He’s got some aviation administration experience. But is it truly enough to manage a massive federal agency responsible for regulating the most complex aviation operation on Earth?

Will the president employ “extreme vetting” on this guy before he decides to give him a six-figure government job that puts him in charge of maintaining the safety and well-being of the American flying public?

Oh … probably not.

Happy Trails, Part 48

Not quite four years ago I wrote a blog post worrying about the potential advent of in-flight cell phone use.

As far as I know, the Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t allowed passengers to gab out loud at 35,000 feet into their cell phones.

Which brings me to this point: My wife and I are planning to spend the vast bulk of our retirement years tethered to terra firma traveling in our RV across North America.

Air travel has become difficult enough as it is. We have been fortunate and blessed enough to be able to travel by air over the years since 9/11: Greece, Scandinavia, Israel, Germany, The Netherlands, Belize, Hawaii.

Almost all of those flights have been pleasant. The one that will stand out for the rest of my life was the flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport while sitting across an aisle from a toddler who screamed at the top of his lungs for 10 whole hours.

I cannot fathom for a single instant how I might have reacted had I been forced to listen to some yahoo blabbing on his cell phone for that entire time, too.

I trust the FAA will keep its wits and never in a zillion years allow such in-flight idiocy to occur.

I do know that my wife and I plan to continue our travel aboard our pickup and fifth wheel RV. There will be no such nonsense to endure while tooling along our nation’s highways and byways.

Please, please, FAA: no cellphones in flight


Sully weighs in on goofy idea

Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger became an American aviation icon in the span of just a few minutes.

His jet airliner took off, ran into a flock of birds, lost power in both engines and Sully then had to make a split-second decision; he chose to land the aircraft in the Hudson River. He did so with precision and professionalism. No one was hurt.

Sully became a hero. They made a movie about his exploits; they cast Tom Hanks in the starring role as Sully; Clint Eastwood directed the film. So, when someone as iconic as Sully says it’s a mistake to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system, I believe his words are worth heeding.

The U.S. House is considering a plan to turn the air traffic control system over to a non-profit system; the White House has signed on as well.

It’s not as nutty a notion as turning prisons over to private firms, but this one is still pretty strange.

“I know what works and what doesn’t. Our air traffic control system is the best, the safest in the world,” Sullenberger says. “Why would we give such an important valuable national asset to the largest airlines — the same airlines … who often put expedience and cost-reduction ahead of the safety and welfare of others?”

Read more from The Hill here.

Indeed. Remember, too, how some of the major air carriers have suffered some serious public relations damage owing to the behavior of employees and their treatment of passengers. I have little faith in the airlines’ ability to handle the task of controlling air traffic.

I’m going to stand with an iconic pilot with 50 years of general aviation experience. If Sully says the air traffic control privatization idea stinks, that’s good enough for me.

Ted Cruz: Texas-sized embarrassment

Ted Cruz is my senator. I accept that he’s one of two men who serve in the U.S. Senate on behalf of Texas.

I didn’t vote for him in 2012. I likely never will vote for him for anything. Still, he’s my senator.

And that gives me the right to declare that I am ashamed of him. Deeply so, in fact. His latest shameful attack has been leveled at the State Department, the Federal Aviation Administration and the president of the United States over his idiotic suggestion that the FAA ban on U.S. flights to Israel is somehow intended to do actual harm to our strong ally in the Middle East.


This guy is a Harvard-educated lawyer, right? He’s supposed to be a bright guy, correct? What on God’s Earth is he suggesting here? It cannot possibly be that President Barack Obama actually wants Israel to be wiped off the map, which is what the Hamas terrorists want to happen.

Hamas launched the conflict in Gaza by firing rockets into Israel. The Israelis have responded with tremendous force to put down the uprising. The terrorists have ratcheted up their own response by landing a rocket near the major international airport outside of Tel Aviv.

The FAA suspended U.S.-carrier flights for less than two days. The ban has been lifted. Cruz, though, has suggested the FAA, the State Department and the White House are politically motivated, that they want to harm Israel.

Commentators on the left have compared Cruz’s fire-breathing rhetoric to the stuff that came out of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s mouth in the 1950s, when he accused the State Department of hiring communists.

I’m wondering now if Ted Cruz’s reckless implications today will produce the kind of response that McCarthy drew from his critics.


Flight ban was no embargo

The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted its brief ban on commercial U.S. jet service to David Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Did the FAA knuckle under to some ridiculous political criticism? I hope not.


The FAA had banned the flights into Tel Aviv’s air terminal, citing security concerns created by Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. One rocket landed about a mile from Ben-Gurion, causing the FAA to suspend U.S. air carrier service to the massive airport.

Then came the ridiculousness from the likes of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Their complaint? They called the flight-service suspension an “economic embargo on Israel” that punished the Israelis unfairly.

Bloomberg even went so far as to board an Israeli El Al Airlines jet from New York to Tel Aviv, and fly to Israel to make some kind of bombastic statement criticizing the suspension.

Cruz, of course, wasted no time plastering this decision — which was made independently by the FAA — on President Obama. This has become a common theme from Cruz and other loudmouthed Republican lawmakers: Let’s be sure to politicize this any way we can and, oh yes, be sure to put the blame squarely on the president; and in this case, let’s be sure to imply that he is following some kind of “anti-Israel” policy, which of course is standard for someone with “pro-Muslim” leanings.

Their stupidity is mind-boggling.

And to think Republicans still rail at those who — they contend — still want to blame George W. Bush for the nation’s economic mess and all these foreign-policy crises.

Well, the ban on U.S. carriers’ flights to David Ben-Gurion has lifted. That’s a good thing. The FAA assessed the security risk and determined that it’s OK to fly there.

Take it from me, as one who’s flown in and out of that terminal: You haven’t lived until you’ve been interrogated by an Israeli airport security official prior to boarding an outbound flight from David Ben-Gurion International Airport.

They know how to protect themselves against terrorist attacks.

As for the FAA, they were being extra cautious. Given the stakes involved, I’m glad they locked down those flights.