Last Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, was one of those perfect Northern California late-autumn days, and it was a day off so I took my stepfather Dennis flying. Although he has a private pilot certificate he no longer flies. But every time I visit he asks if I can take him flying. This time, the answer was “Yes,” instead of the usual, “No, because I’m not checked out at any of the local airplane rental companies.”
I got to thinking about voluntary versus mandatory safety reporting programs after reading an article in a British newspaper about two UK pilots who allegedly fell asleep in the cockpit of an Airbus A330 shortly after takeoff. What caught my attention was the statement from the UK Civil Aviation Authority that enforcement action against the pilots is unlikely.
Going, Going, Gone: Vanishing Americana, one of my favorite books, offers compelling evidence of how fast our world is being transformed. On page after page, we see products, services, vocations and styles that once seemed integral to daily life but have nearly or completely disappeared. Remember milkmen? Carbon paper? Phone booths? Drive-in movies? Vinyl records? All gone or mostly gone.
An eruption of anger from pilots, air traffic controllers and aviation associations greeted the revelation by FAA Federal Air Surgeon Fred Tilton that pilots with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher will automatically be required to be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Once again I was reminded that I never stop learning about flying. This time it was a fuel-injected Cessna Skyhawk, which stubbornly refused to start after I landed and taxied to the gas pump to fill it up before putting it away. It was a gorgeous day in Southern California, light winds, incredible visibility and a fun flight out of Santa Monica Airport.
Unless you hang your hat in Delaware or New Hampshire or live in one of the few countries that don’t assess sales tax, you probably hand money to the government almost every time you buy something. In many U.S. states, the levy on purchases runs 5 to 7 percent or more and, with local surtaxes, you can wind up paying as much as 15.5 percent on most purchases.
The FAA talks a lot about the importance of safety management systems. It has several web pages dedicated to SMS. Newsletters dedicated to SMS. And employees certainly talk it up at internal and external meetings. But talk is cheap, as we all know.
It appears that Europe isn’t big enough for two major ATC conferences.
On October 16, London-based events marketing and communications company UBM announced the signing of a 10-year pact with representatives of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to stage its ATC Global conference in that country starting next year.
While the U.S. government is on a Congress-created enforced shutdown, the aviation industry might be tempted to wonder what the FAA actually accomplishes. What we are learning is that a lot of what the FAA does is process paperwork. And when the paperwork stops flowing, we can be forced to stop flying.