Thursday, October 31, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 31, 1999

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"Egypt Air Flight 900 crashed and killed all 217 onboard. The voice and data recorders from the aircraft revealed that, just before the tragedy, one of the pilots, apparently alone in the cockpit, turned off the autopilot and then uttered a short prayer. The cockpit voice recorder tape also contained sounds similar to a door opening and closing more than once, sources said. This evidence led investigators to question whether one of the pilots left the cockpit, which would have given the other pilot the opportunity to take some action that could have led to the crash. (See March 21, 2002.) "

In that the entry leaves you kind of hanging as to the outcome of the investigation, here's the Wikipedia entry on it.

Don Brown
October 31, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 1956

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"Oct 1956: CAA leased a computer (IBM type 650) for installation in the Indianapolis ARTCC to assess the value of computers for the preparation of flight progress strips and to familiarize its personnel with this type of equipment."

In case it's never soaked in on the 100 times I've said it before, take the time to hand write all the strips on an aircraft's flight through your airspace. Then, maybe, you can imagine what it was like to hand write every single one of them, every day. You'll learn something valuable.

Don Brown
October 29, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 30, 1955

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996

"The first commercial flights began at the new O’Hare Field, Chicago International Airport, which had been under construction since 1949. The facility was named for Lt. Commander Edward H. O’Hare, who won the Medal of Honor as a naval aviator in World War II. Subsequent years saw major improvements at the site, and the expanded Chicago-O’Hare International Airport was dedicated on Mar 23, 1963. "

Don Brown
October 30, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 28, 1998

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

" FAA officials told a public hearing in Rockville, Maryland, that, while a federal plan to consolidate four of their region's air traffic control facilities would lead to an overall reduction in airplane noise, it also might aggravate the problem for some local communities. Under the plan, FAA would close the separate terminal radar control (TRACON) facilities at Dulles International, Reagan National, and Baltimore- Washington International airports and Andrews Air Force Base and open an overall center in Loudoun County or Fauquier County. (See January 7, 1999.) "

Potomac TRACON is born. How'd that work out? Anybody remember "The Potomac Current and Undertow"?

Don Brown
October 28, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 26, 1999

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"A Learjet, without a pilot in control, flew for almost four hours from Orlando, Florida, to a swampy grassland in South Dakota. The Learjet was shadowed by USAF and Air National Guard jet fighters, whose pilots reported that the aircraft's windows were frosted over, suggesting that it had lost pressurization. USAF pilots also reported that the Learjet meandered from as low as 22,000 feet to as high as 51,000 feet, but never strayed from a northwest heading. Pentagon officials said the military began its pursuit of the aircraft at 10:08 a.m., when two Air Force F-16 fighters from Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida on a routine training mission were asked by FAA to intercept it. The F-16s did not reach the Learjet, but an USAF F-15 fighter from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida got within sight of the aircraft and stayed with it from 11:09 a.m. to 11:44 a.m., when the military fighter was diverted to St. Louis for fuel. Fifteen minutes later, four Air National Guard F-16s and a KC-135 tanker from Tulsa were ordered to try to catch up with the Learjet, but got only within 100 miles. Two other Air National Guard F-16s from Fargo, North Dakota, intercepted the Learjet at 12:54 p.m., reporting that the aircraft's windows were fogged with ice and that no flight control movement could be seen. At 1:14 p.m., the F-16s reported that the Learjet was beginning to spiral toward the ground. Professional golfer Payne Stewart was killed in the crash. "

I hope you'll take a few moments and let your mind wander through this scenario. Ask a few questions. "How long does a verified Mode C remain verified?" "How much vertical spacing do you give to a Lear and 2 fighters that wander around from FL220 to FL510 and then to the ground?" I'm a big fan of The Book but some things aren't in The Book.

Don Brown
October 28, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Just Reward

My Just Reward by Get The Flick
My Just Reward, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Life is good. In case I haven't said so lately...I highly recommend retirement.

Don Brown
October 26, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 25, 2007

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"FAA announced that 23 schools were now participating in the agency’s air traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) program, part of a broader effort by the agency to recruit, train, and hire controllers. CTI schools were accredited to offer a non-engineering aviation degree in aviation programs. To the original 14 CTI institutions, FAA added nine schools: Arizona State University; Community College of Baltimore County (Maryland); Florida Community College-Jacksonville; Green River Community College (Washington); Lewis University (Illinois); Kent State University (Ohio); the Metropolitan State College of Denver (Colorado); Middle Georgia College, and the University of Oklahoma. These nine schools joined fourteen others that renewed their commitment to the program, which was first established in 1990 at Minneapolis Community and Technical College."

To this day, I still look at this program as a scam. I realize that some people will be upset by that, but it's the way I feel. I went to Oklahoma City right after the PATCO strike in 1981 and was paid a good salary to learn air traffic control. The washout rate was well over 50%. (65% if I remember correctly.) To send people to college for a "degree" for which there is (effectively) only one employer and a washout rate of over 50% is crazy. And it saddles the FAA with people that shouldn't be controllers and people that should be controllers with a lot of student loan debt.

I am not the only one that holds this opinion. Some have expressed it with better nuance.

Don Brown
October 25, 2013

Drifting Towards Decay

Drifting Towards Decay by Get The Flick
Drifting Towards Decay, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

It would seem as if it's not just the swans that are molting.

Don Brown
October 25, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 24, 2000

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

" FAA awarded a contract to Sensis Corporation to develop the Airport Surface Detection Equipment, version X (ASDE-X), a traffic management system that provides seamless coverage of the airport surface, as well as aircraft identification, to air traffic controllers. ASDE-X uses a combination of surface movement radar, transponder multilateration, and sensors to display aircraft position labeled with flight call-signs on air traffic control tower displays. (See June 14, 2000; February 29, 2004.) "

Don Brown
October 24, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 23, 2001

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"The National Transportation Safety Board issued its findings on the crash of an American Airlines MD-82 during landing at Little Rock airport in 1999. The Board determined the probable cause of the accident was the flight crew's failure to discontinue the approach when severe thunderstorms and their associated hazards to flight operations had moved into the airport area, and the flight crew's failure to ensure that the spoilers had extended after touchdown. Contributing to the accident was the flight crew's impaired performance resulting from fatigue and the situational stress associated with the intent to land under the circumstances, continuation of the approach to a landing when the airline company's maximum crosswind component was exceeded, and use of reverse thrust greater than 1.3 engine pressure ratio after landing. The accident occurred on June 1, 1999, as the flight was arriving from Dallas/Fort Worth with 139 passengers and six crewmembers on board. The aircraft overran the runway, passed through a chain link fence, went down an embankment and collided with a structure supporting the runway lighting system. The captain and 10 passengers were killed; over 100 others were injured. As a result of the investigation, the Board made 22 new recommendations to FAA and two to the National Weather Service. (See June 3, 1999.) "

Don Brown
October 23, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 22, 2003

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"FAA issued a new rule reducing the minimum vertical separation between aircraft from the current 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet for all aircraft flying between 29,000 feet and 41,000 feet. RVSM implementation would significantly increase the routes and altitudes available and thus allow more efficient routings that would save time and fuel. FAA planned to implement Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) procedures on January 20, 2005, to give airlines and other aircraft operator's time to install the more accurate altimeters and autopilot systems needed to ensure the highest level of safety. The long-awaited rule – FAA initiated the process with a notice of proposed rulemaking in May 2002 – detailed equipment requirements, including dual altimeters and a more advanced autopilot system. Aircraft equipped with traffic alert and collision avoidance system version II (TCAS II) had to be updated with new software, compatible with RVSM operations. (See May 10, 2002; November 26, 2003.) "

This is one of the most effective changes the FAA made in my entire career. We had two sectors at ZTL (Atlanta Center) that were among the toughest in the facility -- SALEM and GA HIGH (Georgia High). They were both abominations. The airspace needed to be totally redesigned but ZTL was fighting the natural order of busy, hub airspace to trend towards long, narrow corridors working arrivals and departures into and out of the hub (Atlanta in this case.) With the number of thunderstorms ZTL has to deal with, this was understandable (if futile.)

Anyway, SPA HIGH (Spartanburg, SC) worked the east departures out of ATL (Atlanta) from FL240 through FL330. On the opposite end, PSK HIGH (Pulaski, VA) worked the arrivals from the northeast into ATL from FL240-FL330. As ATL grew, both became unworkable. In man's eternal quest to reinvent the wheel, ZTL management decided to spilt the sectors by altitude instead of geographically. The boundaries of SALEM and GA HIGH both looked exactly like PSK and SPA HIGH (respectively) except they only had two altitudes -- FL310 and FL330.

It worked. For awhile. But as they got busier and busier it got harder and harder to work an increasing number of airplanes with only two altitudes. Not surprisingly, all four of these sectors managed to make the "Top Ten" on ZTL's list of operational errors by sector every year. With the introduction of Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM), SALEM became a piece of cake (comparatively.) It's pretty simple to figure out a sector is easier to work with four altitudes instead of only two.

The introduction of RVSM brought its own set of problems. Every facility had its own idea of how sectors should be spilt by altitude stratum. Some wanted FL240-FL340. Some wanted FL240-FL330. Some wanted something different. I don't remember how it all ended up, I just remember what a mess it was until the dust settled. While it was great progress in the Enroute world, I think it worth noting that it didn't increase the capacity of a single airport. It's still the runways, Stupid.

Don Brown
October 22, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!

Hopefully, my regular readers remember the name Martin Wolf -- the chief economics writer at the Financial Times. That's all you need to remember at the moment -- the head economics guy at the United Kingdom's version of the Wall Street Journal.

Everything you have heard from Conservative Republicans about economics since 2008 is wrong. (It was wrong way before that but we don't have that much time.) Everything you've heard from the Tea Party people about economics is Crazy wrong. (That's "crazy" with a capital "C".)

Pay attention to these quotes from his interview with Bill Moyers. The subject is sequestration, the debt ceiling, default and balancing the U.S. budget

"Now, the fact is that an instantaneous balancing of the budget, even if we leave aside the terrible possibility of defaulting on debt, would do enormous economic damage, impose an instantaneous and, I think, really very large recession on the US and on the world."

"But also it would create an enormous recession because instantaneously, even if they cover their interest obligations, the budget deficit will be closed. It's about a little over four percent of GDP, which is a very big sum, instantaneously that will be taken out of the economy and the economy would just as its beginning to recover reasonably well, collapse again."

"But threatening actually to default on your obligations in this way seems to me to go well beyond normal political life. And any president it seems to me has to defend the political process against that."

"...there's a lot of hysteria about it, but I think the US has a completely manageable long term debt position."

"...imagine a negotiation with the Democratic Party which after all really did win the last election..." (Emphasis added. I took that to mean the million plus more votes Democrats received nation-wide vs. the Republicans.)

"What I think is the bigger cost if the theater goes on is simply that the government of the United States is distracted. Obviously if it's going to now have a rolling every couple of months crisis and a rolling discussion of these issues, it can't do any of the other things that the world would like the US to do..." (A major, major ploy of the Republicans. Budget, immigration, banking reform and a whole host of things that Republicans don't want to change.)

"I think actually the US is clearly cutting the economic functions of the government too far, it's basically being reduced to just defense interests, social security and Medicare. There are other things government needs to do which are shrinking dramatically to a tiny proportion of national income. I think it's a tremendous mistake. So I think you should relax budget, not tighten further."

There's more. A lot more. Now go watch it and listen to the context.

Did you catch this part. I think it's the most important part.

"What has surprised me is how little pushback there has been from the Democrat side in arguing that the government really did have a very strong role in supporting the economy during the post crisis recession, almost depression, that the stimulus argument was completely lost though the economics of it were quite clearly right, they needed a bigger stimulus, not a smaller one."

Continuing that thought....

"And it does seem to me that the Democrats have, for reasons I don't fully understand, basically given up on making this argument. And so in a way the conservatives, the extreme conservative position has won, because nobody is actually combating it."

I suggest you "combat". Push back. Stop muzzling yourselves. The Federal Government does some mighty important things -- things a lot more important than National Parks -- and you happen to do them. Stand up. Be counted. Or the nuts are going to take over your government.

Don Brown
October 21, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 21, 2003

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"October 21, 2003: FAA announced the nationwide deployment of the first all-digital airport radar system. The Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR-11) replaced older-generation analog radars nearing the end of their service life. The replacement technology provided improved digital aircraft and weather input needed by FAA’s new air traffic control automation systems, such as the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS). The first ASR-11 went operational in March at the Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, Naval Air Station, and was providing radar data to STARS at the Philadelphia International Airport. The new radars grew out of a joint FAA/DoD program. FAA planned to procure a total of 112 ASR-11s, with scheduled deployment completed in 2009. FAA had procured 25 systems since the contract was awarded in December 1996. "

Don Brown
October 21, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- Oct 20, 1980

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996

”Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan wrote to PATCO president Robert E. Poli, saying: "You can rest assured that if I am elected President, I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available and to adjust staff levels and work days so that they are commensurate with achieving a maximum degree of public safety." On Oct 23, the PATCO executive board endorsed Reagan for President. At the same time, the union charged President Carter with ignoring serious safety problems that jeopardized the nation's air traffic control system. (See Aug 15, 1980, and Dec 15, 1980.) “

Don Brown
October 20, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- Oct 19, 1927

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996

”Pan American Airways began its operations with an air mail flight between the United States and Cuba, accomplished with a rented plane to meet a contract deadline. The company began regular air mail service route on Jan 16, 1928. “

Don Brown
October 19, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

FAA History Lesson -- October 18, 2001

In case you ever wondered how long it took to get things back to normal after the 9/11 terrorist attacks...

I hope you never have a need to know this.

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced that beginning the following Friday, October 26, flights at Reagan National Airport would be expanded to include 18 more cities, bringing to 26 the number of cities served by the airport after the president authorized its reopening. (See October 13, 2001; November 19, 2001.)"

Don Brown
October 17, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

FAA History October 17, 2011

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"FAA broke ground on a new $69 million, 324-foot air traffic control tower and terminal radar approach control facility at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. The new tower would replace one opened in 1988. FAA expected to commission the new tower and TRACON in late 2014."

Don Brown
October 17, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

FAA History October 16, 2000

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"A Cessna 335, carrying Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan, his aide, and piloted by his son, crashed ten miles northwest of Hillsboro, Missouri. All three persons on the aircraft died in the crash."

Don Brown
October 16, 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Electric Peak at Sunrise

I got into Yellowstone for the sunrise, right before it was closed by the House Republican's failure to do their job. It was the first decent sunrise of the week. Yeah, I was mad for the rest of my (expensive) vacation. But it beats being a controller and not getting a paycheck.

Don Brown
October 15, 2013

FAA History October 15, 2003

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology 1997-2012 (A .pdf file)

"The White House commission established to investigate the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks issued a subpoena to obtain needed documents from FAA. In May, the commission had requested all documents relating to FAA's tracking of the hijacked airliners and communications with the North American Aerospace Defense Command. FAA had provided 40 boxes containing 150,000 pages of information in September, but during subsequent interviews, the commission had learned that some materials had not been included. FAA officials responded that their failure to turn over all documents had been caused in part by internal procedures used to search for material. (See July 22, 2004.)"

Don Brown
October 15, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

No Paycheck? Blame Art Pope

I've written so much stuff over the years that I can't find it. And on this particular one, this is the second time I couldn't find it. It's tough getting old. But don't let me distract you. (Like I haven't already.)

I'll keep this short and sweet because I want you to be able to read it for yourself. In 2010, a guy named Art Pope bought the mid-term election in North Carolina. He owns the Rose's department store (amongst other things) and is (surprise, surprise) a conservative. As you ought to know by now, the Democrats lost big in 2010, the Republicans took over and gerrymandered a bunch of Congressional districts, which ensured they'd keep the House of Representatives for a while.

One of the districts they redrew was North Carolina's 11th -- around Asheville, NC. As you might have guessed, Asheville is a hippy-dippy-artsy Democratic place surrounded by Conservative hillbillies.

The guy that took over NC-11 for the Republicans was Mark Meadows. He's another Conservative whack-a-doodle that is more than willing to whip up the Birthers and other whack-a-doodles whether he truly believes in their nonsense or not.

In August of 2013, Congressman Meadows (NC-11R) sends a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner and suggests he refuse to fund the government unless Democrats agree to defund Obamacare. (Side note: Send this link to your Conservative friends that need to know how Obamacare is doing.)

So, it's a straight shot for you. Billionaire buys the North Carolina election for the Republicans, Republicans redraw the electoral map, a Democrat gets replaced by a Republican in a previously liberal district and the next thing you know, I'm locked out of Yellowstone and you don't have a paycheck.

Who are you going to vote for next year?

Here's the link to the New Yorker story you should have read back in 2011:

State for Sale -- A conservative multimillionaire has taken control in North Carolina, one of 2012’s top battlegrounds.

And you can click on the video below for Rachel Maddow's briefing on Mark Meadows.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Don Brown
October 12, 2013

Monday, October 07, 2013

Looks Crowded

Looks Crowded by Get The Flick
Looks Crowded, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

I really have no idea why I'm still not living in the mountains. Somewhere. Here would do.

Don Brown
October 7, 2013

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Yellowstone National Park -- Fall 2013

Just Add LightYellowstone BluesA Lucky BreakWinter's WarningBefore the ShutdownReach
White HotBetweenSurroundedFire & RainWide Angle WowPoser

I'm finally getting some pictures up and captioned from Yellowstone. I'll probably add a few more but this is a good start.

Don Brown
October 6, 2013