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Alaska Airlines to Issue iPads to Pilots

June 1, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Pilots | 0 comments

Alaska Airlines Pilots iPads

Can a cockpit get any more high-tech? Apparently so.

Beginning later this month, Alaska Airlines will issue iPads to all its pilots.

There are a number of reasons for this, and one of them has to do with weight of the “print edition” flight manuals that most pilots currently use, and have to lug around; we are told the cumulative weight of these manuals is about 25 pounds or so. In contrast, an iPad weighs a mere 1.33 pounds.

We’ve also heard that using iPads will result in “fewer back and muscle injuries” to pilots because of the new light-weight electronic manuals, and I hope to learn more about this from Alaska (we’ve posed this and other queries to them and will update you when we hear back).

More questions:

Q: Will they have to turn the iPad off during takeoffs and landing?

A. Yes, that’s what we hear

Q: What will the pilots do then?

A: Good question, and one that I asked Alaska. We’ll let you know what they say.

Q: Why an iPad and not some other tablet?

A: Because Apple needs the money? Probably not; let’s see what Alaska has to say.

Q: Will pilots be allowed to play Angry Birds in flight?

A: Uh…extremely doubtful, but again, we are seeking clarification on this.

Here’s a final clarification: If you want to learn when airfare prices go down for flights to that city you want to visit, sign up for FareCompare Airfare Alerts, and we’ll let you know in real-time.

Air Traffic Controller AWOL at Airport Along with Common Sense

March 24, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Pilots,Travel Safety | 0 comments

Air Traffic Controller AWOL at Airport So is Common Sense

UPDATE: Officials are now saying the controller fell asleep on the job.

EARLIER: This was all over the news today: how first an American Airlines plane, and then a United flight landed at D.C.’s Reagan National Airport without benefit of an air traffic controller. Nope, there was nobody home – or at least, nobody was answering the pilots when they checked in with the tower the other day.

Fortunately, there were no problems and both aircraft landed safely.

By the way, there was only one controller on the job. That’s right, just one. That controller has since been suspended while an investigation is underway.

Here’s my $.02: As a passenger, I would prefer that there be two folks in the cockpit as well as two folks in the tower every time I fly; if not, please let me know about this before I buy my airline ticket.

This is just another example of common sense being tossed out the window only to be uncovered in what could have been a potentially disastrous situation.

FAA Takes On Pilot Distractions

April 26, 2010 | Posted in: Pilots | 4 comments

FAA and Pilot Distractions

Several fairly recent events (pilots overshooting a runway, for one) have brought the issue of pilot distraction to the forefront. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), to this point, had deemed the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) response to the problem as “unacceptable.”

However, the FAA now appears to be making a somewhat aggressive move to address the issue of pilot distractions:

“In its notice to airlines today, the FAA emphasizes that carriers should take specific steps to eliminate cockpit distractions. The agency says airlines should create a ‘safety culture’ – a top-to-bottom expectation that safety will be taken seriously – that emphasizes eliminating distractions. The FAA calls on carriers to set more specific rules and improve training.” (from the USA Today)

In a world where texting, checking emails on your phone, and near constant-connectivity have become the norm, some pilots appear to be like most of us; unable to put to put it all away for a few hours. However, this isn’t something that Transportation Secretary Roy La Hood is willing to let slide:

“There is no room for distraction when your job is to get people safely to their destinations…The traveling public expects professional pilots to focus on flying and on safety at all times.”

The FAA’s move is a voluntary one, but as pointed out in the same USA Today article, if airlines fail to follow guidelines, they could incur further inspection.

Five Airlines Say, “WE Won’t Charge Carryon Bag Fees”

April 19, 2010 | Posted in: Airline News,List,Pilots | 2 comments

five airlines carryon bag fees

UPDATE: Add Sun Country to the list

Sen. Charles Schumer, who’s been on a rampage lately against Spirit Airlines’ new carryon bag fee (from $20 to $45) says at least five other airlines won’t be jumping on this odious bandwagon.

Several news organizations are reporting that the Democrat from New York says he “personally contacted officials at American Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue, United Airlines and US Airways, and secured commitments from all five companies” not to charge passengers for carryon bag fees.

Where is Continental in that list? Perhaps it was too busy romancing United (and I’m talking mergers, not marriage).

My first reaction to these five commitments was a bit of surprise: I mean, when it comes to fees, airlines are usually part of the “never say never” school . On the other hand, they no doubt remember the scorching publicity US Airways received when it decided to charge for water and Cokes (that didn’t last long).

Apparently, there are some things even the airlines concede are sacrosanct – and one does not cross that line lightly.

Fake Pilot is Sentenced, Flew for Airlines for 13 Years

April 13, 2010 | Posted in: Airfare News,Europe,Pilots | 4 comments

fake pilot flew airlines

You may recall this story: a Swedish man was arrested last month at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport while he was in the cockpit of a Corendon Airlines plane – just as the fake pilot was about to fly his 100+ passengers to Turkey.

He was stopped and taken into custody when somebody figured out, hey, this guy doesn’t have a license to do this.

But apparently, that never stopped our hero – he was a pilot for a variety of airlines in Europe for 13 years.

Anyway, his case came to court in the Netherlands today, and – did he get the three month jail term that prosecutors were pushing for? Nope. He got fined just 2,000 euros (about $2,723). Amazing. By the way, the “pilot” – 41 year old Thomas Salme – didn’t even bother to show up.

But then, maybe that’s understandable. He was probably too busy job-hunting.

FAA Changes Policy, OK’s Depression Medication for Pilots

April 5, 2010 | Posted in: Airfare News,DOT,Pilots,Travel Tips | 3 comments

faa depression pilots

Did you know something like 15 million Americans suffer from depression? And naturally, that would include some of the men and women in the cockpits of the planes you fly. Except of course, they’ve had to keep that a secret.

Until now.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is changing its rather anachronistic policy that banned pilots from taking depression medication. Which meant, in the past, pilots who wanted to fly either had to quit taking their medication – or hide it – or not take any at all.

Kind of scary, huh?

By the way, depression is considered a very treatable condition – although a substantial number of people don’t bother with treatment, presumably, in part, because of the stigma. Which is a shame.

Keep reading for the “rationale” behind the FAA’s change of heart: it’s all about – safety…

FAA Changes Policy, OK’s Depression Medication for Pilots

Worst Nightmare: Pilot Dies and You Have to Fly the Plane

April 1, 2010 | Posted in: Airfare News,Passengers,Pilots | 0 comments

worst nightmare pilot plane

Pharmacist Doug White and his family were heading home to Louisiana aboard a private plane they’d chartered last spring to attend a funeral in Florida, when the stuff of nightmares happened: their pilot slumped over the controls and died.

According to the CNN report, White grabbed the radio and said, “I’ve got to declare an emergency. My pilot’s deceased. I need help.”

White was not a total fish-out-of-water – he had had three months of flight lessons – but that was on a tiny, single engine plane and not the sophisticated King Air aircraft he suddenly had to pilot (the article said, “that’s like going from a Volkswagen to a race car”).

But thanks to air traffic controllers in Ft. Myers who coached him every step of the way (with help from a flight instructor they recruited by phone), White made it down safely. And White – and the controller – were honored at a ceremony in Orlando this week.

If that sounds like the pat ending to a feel-good TV docu-drama, consider this: the air traffic controllers only gave the White family a 5% chance of survival. Fortunately, they didn’t let the White family in on this prognosis.

Strike: British Airways has $250-an-hour Flight Attendants?

March 30, 2010 | Posted in: Airfare News,Europe,Flight Attendants,News,Pilots | 4 comments

british airways flight attendants

Guess who might be offering you a Diet Coke on your next British Airways flight? A pilot. Maybe.

While the strike continues (the latest segment ends tonight), the union representing striking cabin crew members accuses British Airways of using some of its pilots to fill in – and the union claims these subs get their regular salary which works out to about $250 an hour. Regular flight attendants with five years experience, says the union, make about $25 an hour.

Understandably, the union delights in pointing out the irony: the carrier is trying to save money by imposing a pay freeze on its cabin crews. All British Airways will say is, a “number of crew [are] reporting for duty”.

Meanwhile, both sides say they are open to further talks, but that’s sort of up in the air at this point (sorry).

I will note that British Airways is doing an excellent job at keeping its customers informed of all developments during this difficult time – its website is constantly updated with information about flights and options for fliers.

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