By macleans.ca - Monday, February 18, 2013 - 0 Comments
The U.S. goes four years without a commercial airline crash and J. Lo finds a way around the Grammys dress code
Safe and sound
As of Tuesday, the U.S. had gone four years without a commercial airline crash—its longest accident-free run since the dawn of passenger jet travel in the late 1950s. Experts attribute the record to better engines and plane bodies, as well as systems that allow regulators, pilots and airlines to share information about flying hazards. Whatever the reason, we hope the news registers with authorities in more accident-prone countries—like Russia, which has seen a number of crashes in recent years.
French army wins—really
French troops routed al-Qaeda-backed militants in Mali last week, giving the West African country a crucial window to gird itself against further attacks. All signs suggest the Islamist rebels have melted into the desert mountains to fight another day, so a proposed UN peacekeeping force would be of limited benefit (special forces teams and special forces training for Malian troops would make more sense). Either way, neither the government nor its allies should rest easy. They’re dealing, after all, with a de facto guerrilla army, backed by the world’s most notorious terrorist group.
By Jesse Brown - Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 5:55 AM - 0 Comments
Maybe Louis CK is right: air travel is a miracle and we should all just shut up about the minor inconveniences that come along with it.
Or perhaps we can appreciate the wonder of aviation while maintaining a healthy skepticism toward authorities determined to keep us in a fog of ignorance and anxiety about it. Will 2013 be the year we finally challenge their baffling and invasive demands? Some recent developments have me hoping:
- A former TSA agent has been cheerfully tooting little whistles on his old employer. Among the revelations on the Taking Sense Away blog (get it?) are that fellow agents routinely laugh at nude photos of passengers rendered in radiation by backscatter machines, which the blogger calls “useless” and potentially harmful. Another blogger, Jonathan Corbett, posted a Youtube video documenting a pretty credible and face-palmingly simple backscatter hack that allows any metal object to pass through the machine undetected (Spoiler alert: Apparently all you need to do is put the bomb/gun/drugs/Altoids tin in your side pocket).
- The FAA, meanwhile, is under increased pressure to admit that the ban on cellphones and tablet use during takeoff and landing is based on bogus science. One U.S. senator has demanded proof that wireless gadgets create interfere, on behalf of a public “growing increasingly skeptical of prohibitions.”The FCC is demanding answers, and the New York Times’ Nick Bilton has done a terrific job of consistently challenging the FAA’s spurious claims that it’s okay for pilots to use iPads but not passengers because, when it comes to radio wave emissions, “two iPads are different than 200″ (they aren’t).
We’ve been playing along for more than a decade, submitting to illogical little rituals in the name of security. In 2002 I was scared too, and probably would have hopped on one foot in my underwear while singing the national anthem if someone in a uniform told me it would keep planes from exploding.
Today, I think it’s not selfish but fair and necessary to question some of this security theatre.
Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
CEO Michael O’Leary is even proposing standing-room only tickets on flights
The outspoken CEO of the European discount airline Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, wants to do away with seat belts in airplanes, arguing they are useless in the event of a crash. He wants to remove the last 10 rows of seating in his firm’s Boeing 737s to sell $1.59 standing-only tickets. “You don’t need a seat belt on trains which are travelling at 120 mph and if they crash you’re all dead,” O’Leary told the Telegraph. His plan is certain to be rejected by authorities. Seat belts may not help in a crash, but they do save lives and prevent injuries in storms, heavy turbulence and hard landings. O’Leary has at least succeeded in drawing more attention to his airline. His penchant for the spotlight has been a key to its success in what has been a period of turmoil for many other airlines. Last week, Ryanair reported a 10 per cent rise in net profits from April to September compared to the same period a year ago.
By Kate Fillion - Monday, January 26, 2009 at 10:37 PM - 1 Comment
Aviation safety expert Robert Helmreich talks to Kate Fillion about pilot error, engine failure, and ditching on the Hudson River
Q: You’re known as the “father of crew resource management,” which is credited with dramatic improvements in aviation safety. Capt. Sullenberger, the pilot who safely landed on the Hudson River, was involved in implementing CRM training at USAir. What is CRM, exactly?
A: It’s the application of human factors to flight and aviation, the study of how humans interact with each other and machinery that may or may not be very friendly. What I really do is social psychology in the aviation setting.
Q: Is Sullenberger a hero?
A: I’m sure he doesn’t think of himself as a hero—most pilots who perform splendidly in crises don’t think of themselves that way—but it’s reassuring to the public to think of him that way. One thing he did that was particularly good was setting a tone for the passengers. A lot of the time, pilots are so involved in managing a crisis that they tend to forget they might have a couple hundred people in back who are in a state of panic.