27 October 2009

Scammed Southwest customer goes after con artist with nine iron

Like most Southwest Airlines passengers, Ted LeClair likes nothing more than a bargain. Which is exactly what he thought he’d found when a con artist offered $1,200 worth of flight coupons at a deep discount on Craigslist.

Think you know what comes next? No you don’t.

LeClair picks up the story.

I met him, booked the flight online, verified the credit card with his ID, then called the airline to confirm that the flight was purchased and non-refundable. Southwest confirmed everything.
Turns out the tickets weren’t for LeClair, but his seven-year-old daughter. He continues.
The next day my mother called me from the airport telling me that Southwest said the ticket was no longer paid for and needed to be purchased with cash.
I spoke to customer service and they said that their system kicked out the purchase in the middle of the night due to “credit card inconsistencies.”
I called the man I bought the credits from and after not answering five times, his phone started going right to voice mail. I then had to tell my mother to head home. I could hear my daughter crying in the background.
I was fuming.
Southwest wasn’t completely unsympathetic to his plight. It offered a $20 discount off of a $385 airline ticket. “A ticket,” he adds, “I could not afford.”
A representative told him Southwest’s system performs a second set of checks and balances after tickets are purchased. A “credit card inconsistency” is not detectable immediately after the booking.
There’s something else you need to know about LeClair. He is, as he describes it, “not the type to take things like this lying down.”
I saw the guy’s ad that ripped me off still on Craigslist, so I set up an e-mail account under a female’s name to buy another ticket. A girlfriend of mine then called and confirmed the purchase of the ticket and arranged a meeting at a health food grocery store for him to pick up the cash.
So, I was at least going to be able to get this con artist in front of me.
I called the police to tell them what had happened and get some assistance in catching this guy in the act.
But the police were less than helpful. After being transferred to several departments, he was promised a call back “within five days.” LeClair said he could deliver a criminal to them red-handed, but he was told that wasn’t proper procedure. When he protested, he was told, “If you think being a cop is so easy, go to the Police Academy.”
So he took matters into his own hands.
I showed up at the health food store with my nine iron.
I think when the perp first saw me, he thought I just happened to run into him. I told him I wanted my money back and he responded by wanting to book me another flight.
At this point, I knew after reading your previous blog on this, that even if my daughter was able to get on a plane, I could get charged later.
I kept asking for my money and he did what con artists do — he tried to act like I was trying to con him.
So I attacked him. I had him in a headlock when we were broken up. He called the police, I called the police, and the store manager called the police.
Although the police initially subdued LeClair, the tables quickly turned on the con man.
Once I told the story, I could see them becoming empathetic to my plight. Then we called the airline from my phone and we all listened on speaker phone about what happened with my purchase.
The police then saw that the guy had committed a crime and arrested him.
Then they asked me a very amusing question: “Why didn’t you call us?”
LeClair wonders how Southwest can continue to allow fraudulent purchases to be made through its reservations system. I’ve given the airline ample opportunity to address this issue in previous blog posts. It appears that the carrier is content to leave things as they are while stepping up the warnings of these questionable vouchers.
Seems to me Southwest ought to do something before someone gets hurt.

How Air Travel Can Be Made Less Annoying

Hello All BlkAv8tor2003 Checking In!!!

Time to break down how to make your airline travel experience and make it a little easier. This time I went to another blog to get some info so alot of what you will be reading is from the Editors at the NY Times. They have also included some other expert opinions and I have listed their input with there pics.

I will be inserting my comments and they will be in Italics so you can get my input too! If your a first time reader of my blog then I suggest you go back and review my tips on making airline travel a little more pleasent from beginning to end!

Take note because there is a wealth of information and I don't want you to become an airline travel victim completely lost, frustrated and at a loss for information especially when you can control alot of what happens when you fly the airlines in todays economy!!!

Remember, "Be Proactive Not Reactive and Enjoy Your Flight!!!"


Travelers at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago Tim Boyle/Bloomberg News

How Air Travel Can Be Made Less Annoying

The airline industry is suffering through one of its worst summers ever, with travelers pulling back on spending and fuel costs rising. Passengers who can still afford to fly are facing higher baggage fees, fewer flights and less and less contact with airline staff (though there appears to be a limit to how low-service an airline can go).

Granted, the airline industry is struggling for survival and customers are accustomed to cramped seats, no food and long delays. Still, we asked some airline and travel experts what might done to make air travel less miserable.

Patrick Smith, commercial airline pilot
Benét J. Wilson, Aviation Week
Brett Snyder, crankyflier.com
Holly Hegeman, PlaneBusiness.com

Overhaul Security, Consolidate Flights

Patrick Smith,

a commercial airline pilot, is the author of Salon.com’s weekly Ask the Pilot air travel column; his book of the same name was published in 2004.

Let’s begin with an overhaul of airport security. Certainly it’s important to screen for bombs and firearms, but the majority of what goes on at the concourse checkpoint is wasteful, tedious and does nothing to improve security — from the senseless I.D. checking to the three-ounce container rules to the confiscation of butter knives from crew members ( it happened to me). The amount of money and time spent on this absurd theater is stupefying.

The existing protocols are designed to prevent an attack that already happened and for all intents and purposes cannot happen again. The hijack paradigm changed forever on Sept. 11, 2001, rendering the inflight takeover concept all but unworkable for a potential terrorist. Not to mention, there are limitless ways to smuggle knives and other dangerous materials past guards, and a deadly weapon can be fashioned from just about anything, including no shortage of materials found on an airplane.
Frequency of flights is a huge selling point for airlines, but it’s an illusion when a high percentage of flights run late.

Second, airlines ought to better rationalize their schedules to help reduce delays. Yes, our air traffic control system is outdated and in need of upgrade, but that’s only part of it. There are more people flying than ever before, and they are doing so in smaller planes making more and more departures, snarling our skies and runways.

Carriers should consolidate flights with bigger aircraft and reduce their dependence on regional jets. At some large airports, regional jets comprise more than 50 percent of the total number of flights. That’s half of all traffic carrying about 20 percent of the passengers. Frequency of flights is a huge selling point for airlines, but in practice it’s an illusion when a high percentage of flights run late.

Third, carriers need to become better communicators. U.S. airlines have become arguably the most loathed and distrusted entities of the post-industrial American economy. Much or even most anti-airline sentiment is undeserved, but airlines have made it worse on themselves through their own reticence and poor communications skills on the front lines.

Airlines do not, as policy, intentionally lie or mislead. What people often take to be lies are more accurately garbles, caused by the faulty transfer of information within a compartmentalized airline structure, where specifics of a circumstance are passed from department to department, each with its own priorities, vernacular and expertise. Carriers need to be more forthright, punctual and accurate in the information they provide to customers. Both airport staff and crew members have to grow better at this.

Comfort? It’s Up to You

Benét J. Wilson,

is the online managing editor for McGraw-Hill’s Aviation Week business aviation channel. She has covered aviation since 1992, and has worked for two airlines and an engine manufacturer.

With the financial struggles airlines have gone through since 9/11, short of a large cash infusion, I doubt there’s really much the airlines can do to make air travel less miserable.

Airlines have had to deal with issues including record high oil prices, the current global recession and customers refusing to pay the higher prices carriers need to survive. This survival mode has made it much more challenging to improve the travel experience.
If I can get friendly airline staff, I consider that a bonus.

I am an aviation journalist, but I’m also a mother with a toddler who travels regularly to visit family and friends across the United States. I’m looking for a flight that will get me from point A to point B safely, quickly, on time and at a reasonable price.

If I can get friendly airline staff, I consider that a bonus. So I feel it’s up to me to enhance my own travel experience. I have a video iPod for me and a DVD player/books/toys for my daughter to cover inflight entertainment. I bring my own food/snacks so my child is not trying to eat the seat covers. And I pray that I have an empty seat in our row to have just a bit more room.

The airline I fly the most is Southwest, because it covers all my basic requirements, plus there are no baggage fees. My back-ups are AirTran — which has Wi-Fi and XM satellite radio — and JetBlue, which has LiveTV and XM.

The legacy carriers I prefer are Continental, which actually still serves food, and Delta. Again, airlines can only do so much during these difficult financial times, so it’s up to travelers to control the experience themselves as much as possible.

Lower My Expectations

Brett Snyder,

is the author of the consumer air travel blog, The Cranky Flier.

What can be done to make air travel less miserable? I’m sure many people will argue that airline employees need to be nicer or airlines need to reduce their fees. Some will say that the airlines need to give us more legroom, but I think there’s a simpler solution. Airlines need to do a better job of communicating and setting expectations.
The airlines should give me a 360 degree virtual tour of my cramped coach seat — at the very least, I will know what I’m getting.

When I go to book a ticket, what information does the airline give me about my flight? I know the time it goes, how much it costs, and sometimes what type of plane I’ll be on. That’s about it. If airlines did a better job of presenting the full package to me at the time of booking, then my expectations could be set appropriately.

I may know that flying out of J.F.K. at 5 o’clock is a guarantee for a delay, but why not tell me how many times that flight has actually been delayed in the last couple months? And while you’re at it, let me know how long the delay has been on average. The data is there, and anyone can find it (at FlightStats.com), but the airlines don’t usually like to share that information themselves. That’s a mistake, because if I come expecting a delay, I’m going to be an easier customer to please.

Instead of showing aspirational cartoons depicting people sleeping on clouds (yes, a certain Chicago-based airline actually does this), maybe you should give me a 360 degree virtual tour of my cramped coach seat. That alone might get me to pay the price to upgrade to Economy Plus; at the very least, I will know what I’m getting.

The problem isn’t just at the time of booking, of course. I might run into surly customer service agents, lost bags and mechanical delays, but these hassles are easier to endure when the communication is frequent and detailed. Bottom line: Keep me better informed during all stages of my trip and I will be a more satisfied customer.

Things Aren’t So Bad

Holly Hegeman,

is founder of PlaneBusiness.com

It’s a given that passengers like to gripe about the state of air travel, but there are a few myths that should be dispelled.

Myth No. 1: Air travel is miserable.

Personally, I don’t think it’s miserable. “Miserable” is dealing with my cellphone company.

Stressful? Sure. Annoying? Oftentimes. But for the most part, passengers who fly in the U.S. enjoy relatively unexciting, uneventful flights, which are exactly the kind I like.

Myth No. 2: Passengers don’t like to pay fees.

It turns out passengers apparently don’t mind paying fees. In June, “ancillary” revenue for the U.S. airline industry was up 37 percent over June 2008. Ancillary revenue is airline industry codespeak for fees — baggage fees, change fees, fees for a better seat, whatever.

All the major airlines now charge for the first checked bag in the U.S., except for Southwest Airlines. The major players have recently upped this charge to $25 per bag per flight. For more than a year, however, Southwest Airlines has hung on, refusing to tack on a fee for the first checked bag. The airline has probably left hundreds of millions of dollars on the table — all in an attempt to “do the right” thing in terms of their passengers.

Passengers have had a choice. They could either grumble about bag fees, but pay them, or vote with their money and fly on Southwest instead. Yet, from all indications, Southwest hasn’t won more market share as a result of trying to “do the right thing” for passengers.

Myth No. 3: Fares are too high.

Fares, even with the recent fare increases the airlines managed to put into place in June are still historically low. Average fare levels now are running at levels as low, if not lower, than after 9/11.

26 October 2009

Where Is the Safest Place to Sit on an Airplane? - AirSafe.com Takes a Stand

Hello All BlkAv8tor2003 Checking In!!!

This is a post from airsafe.com that is in regards to “the safest places to sit on an airplane. I like everything that Dr. Todd Curtis does and has to say when it comes to aviation safety. So I re- posted this and all the links and connections to his podcast on air safety. I will give my input and it will be in italics so that you will know it’s my opinion or comment. Hit me up if you have any questions on the topic!

When you travel remember to Be Proactive Not Reactive And Enjoy Your Trip!

(From airsafe.com) http://www.airsafenews.com/2009/10/where-is-safest-place-to-sit-on.html

A common question for this site, one that is answered briefly on AirSafe.com's Top Ten Airline Safety Questions page, is about the safest place to sit on a plane.

Last July, Business Traveller Asia-Pacific asked Dr. Todd Curtis of AirSafe.com about these issues, and what follows are their questions and AirSafe.com's response. Business Traveller Magazine In the wake of the Air France and Yemenia crashes, we feel it is appropriate to bring up once again the question about how one can survive a plane crash.
Having done some preliminary research into the subject, I have uncovered some tips but would still like some expert opinions on the matter.


1. Some sources say that sitting at the back of the plane is better while others say sitting along the aisle and close to an exit is a smarter choice. Does where you sit in a plane really make a difference to your chances of survival in a crash?

2. If your answer to question 1 is yes, which then is the best place to sit?

3. What are the other factors in play that contribute to one’s chance of survival?

4. What can plane passengers do to increase their chances of survival should a crash occur?

Dr. Curtis Responds As you can imagine, I've fielded quite a few questions about safety over the past month. In my opinion, the circumstances around airliner crashes in the first half of 2009 have resulted in far more media coverage than I normally see. The Yemenia crash had several things going for it.

There were many recent media reports about the Air France 447 crash leading up to the end of June because of the missing black boxes and the fact that their locator beacons were scheduled to run out of power at the same time. Add to that the fact that it was an Airbus and that there was a sole survivor meant that there was much more attention paid to this event than to the average crash involving a developing country's airline.

As for your questions, where to sit on the plane to heighten survival chances depends very much on the circumstances of the crash. In my opinion, it does not really matter where you sit in most fatal crashes because the level of fatalities often are either very low, with less than 10% casualties, or very high with over 90% fatalities. In the first case, the aircraft is usually relatively intact and the aircraft is either relatively undamaged or the damage does not keep passengers from exiting the aircraft. In the latter case, the aircraft is usually severely damaged or destroyed, with no survivors or a few survivors.

Also the location of where you sit on a flight as well as if your traveling by yourself can make a big difference in your survivability! Flying witout your spouse or children gives you the best chance of survival because you only have to worry about yourself.

Flight attendants are trained to look for an emergency for those passngers who look like they are people who serve others in a time of need. Fire, police, military, single individuals or other service individuals will be sought out to help if needed.

Believe it or not but doctors and nurses and those in the medical field are not considered for initial emergencies, they are considered after the emergency event has ceased to exist.

What makes an analysis of where to sit particularly difficult is that in most cases where there are a substantial number of fatalities and survivors, there is either no major investigation of the crash, or the investigating authorities do not make an effort to map out where people were sitting at the time of the crash. In some of the few cases where I have seen a seat map, the report often mentions that the map represents where passengers were scheduled to sit, not where they were actually sitting at the time of the crash.

If your going to sit in the "prime" seats on board an aircraft like the aisles, emergency exits or near a door then you need to be ready to assist when needed in an emergency. If your traveling with family/kids then I would not recommend you sit in this area/seat. If you do then take it seriously, if your going to be the most comfortable you might as well be ready to pay for the benefit!

To answer your last question, it isn't a question of where you sit, but rather a question of how you behave when you are a passenger. For example, a passenger who is aware of where the nearest exits are, who has reviewed the emergency information for the model aircraft they are on (typically provided on a card in the seat pocket), and who listens to the crew safety briefing has given himself or herself the opportunity to respond quickly and effectively if there is an emergency. Also, it helps to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum, since it may affect your ability to respond to an emergency situation. Airline emergencies are extremely rare. If one occurs while you are a passenger, your best defense is ability to act quickly and appropriately in order to escape danger and survive.

One More Thought - New Rules Will Make All Seats Safer Several years ago, the FAA changed the rules for airline seats to make them more sturdy in the event of an accident. Starting in 2009, seats must be able to withstand crash forces that are up to 16 times the force gravity (roughly the forces experienced in a 30 mph automobile collision). This is much higher than the previous standard of nine times the force of gravity. These 16g seats are much more likely to withstand the dynamic loads that the aircraft would experience in a crash with survivable impact forces, allowing passengers a better chance to escape the aircraft after such an accident.

As far as standing on a flight (primarily short flight) as a way to cut cost, I think this is rediculous and not to mention total suicide for the passenger and the airline after lawsuits get filed and settled. (Standing Airline Seats) See this story on that!!!

Airplanes that were certified after 1988, for example the 777 and A380, were already required to have these seats. While most new airliners are based on models that were certified after 1988, some new airliners based on older designs, such as the 747-400, still had 9g seats installed. Starting October 27, 2009, all airliners will have to meet this standard.

Airplane Airbags
To comply with the new 16g requirement, some airlines will use airbags for some seat locations. These airbags may be incorporated in the seat belt or it could be attached to another part of the aircraft.

Basic Crash Positions
The FAA provides guidance on the kinds of crash positions that you should take for various situations. The video below has suggested positions for regular coach seats, rear facing seats, and for other situations. If you can't play the video, you can also download the audio podcast or the video podcast below:

Six Basic Crash Positions Podcast: MP3, MP4, WMV

Singapore Airlines Adopts Life-Saving AmSafe Airbags

PHOENIX, AmSafe Inc.
The leading provider of restraint products to the aviation, defense and ground transportation markets, today announced that its AmSafe Aviation Inflatable Restraint (AAIR(R)) system will be installed on every Business and First-class seat on 19 new Singapore Airlines (NYSE: SGF) Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. This marks the first time a commercial carrier has equipped two full classes of passenger seats with this state-of-the-art aircraft safety system.

"Recent high-profile events involving survivable aircraft accidents, backed up by our own data demonstrating that airbags on aircraft save lives, highlight the wisdom of this decision by Singapore Airlines," said Bill Hagan, president of AmSafe Aviation. "Our agreement with Singapore Airlines demonstrates their commitment to the highest levels of passenger safety, and brings aviation airbag technology to a broader group of airline operators and the flying public. We are convinced that more airbags on aircraft will enhance safety across the industry."

Singapore Airlines, recently honored by Business Traveller Germany as the "Best Airlines to the Far East and the Pacific," will feature the AAIR system on 50 Business and First-class seats on each of its new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
"As seating manufacturers and carriers seek out additional safety measures to enhance aircraft, and as more of the flying public become aware of the increased safety afforded by our AAIR system, it will only be a matter of time before airbag restraints are readily available nose to tail," Hagan said.

The AAIR technology is unique in that, unlike automotive systems, the airbag is integrated into the seatbelt such that when sensors detect an impending survivable aircraft incident the airbag deploys up and away from the seat occupant to protect the head and torso from injuries. In fact, the AAIR system is specifically designed to meet stringent head injury criteria or HIC, a predictive measure of the likelihood of a brain concussion and other injuries typical in a severe aircraft impact.

The AAIR is featured on a variety of seating arrangements on more than 20 commercial airlines around the world, including Air Canada, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Air New Zealand, and has logged millions of flight hours since entering service 2001. For more information on AmSafe and the AAIR system, visit http://www.amsafe.com/.

About Singapore Airlines
As one of the world's premier airlines, Singapore Airlines is committed to providing its customers with the best flying experience, through innovative product and service offerings, as well as by operating a young and technologically advanced fleet of aircraft.

The Airlines has recently introduced a brand new suite of cabin products on its new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft featuring the world's widest First and Business Class seats, as well as the latest eX2 in-flight entertainment system.

Singapore Airlines is also the launch carrier of the Airbus A380 super jumbo, took delivery of the aircraft at the end of 2007.

About the AmSafe Aviation Inflatable Restraint System
The AmSafe Aviation Inflatable Restraint (AAIR) is a self-contained, modular restraint system specifically designed to improve occupant protection from serious head impact injury during an otherwise survivable aircraft accident, thus enhancing the occupant's ability to exit the aircraft. When a crash is detected by the AAIR system's sensors, an airbag built into the restraint deploys up and away from the seat occupant, unlike an automobile airbag that deploys toward the occupant. The AAIR system, which adds just 1.5 to 2 pounds per passenger placement, provides a guaranteed solution for airframe manufacturers, seat manufacturers and airlines to meet the FAA 16g seat retrofit rule.

About AmSafe, Inc.
AmSafe Inc. and its affiliate companies are world leaders in safety and securement products for the aerospace, defense, and ground transportation industries. AmSafe's innovative products can be found on virtually every commercial aircraft in the world and include seat belts, restraints, airbags, cargo and barrier nets, tie-downs, and cabin interior textiles, just to name a few. Headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, AmSafe operates manufacturing and service facilities across the globe and is committed to providing quality products and timely, cost effective solutions to customers worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.amsafe.com/.

Airbags Help Airlines Meet New Safety Regs

Contrary to popular belief, most airliner accidents are survivable. Many crashes are relatively slow impacts where the forces on passengers are similar to those experienced in a car accident. For that reason, airlines are cribbing from automotive technology that has protected drivers for years — airbags. It could help them meet new federal safety regulations.

Bill Hagan is blunt in describing the problem with many seating areas in an airliner: “You have objects that are not friendly head-strike surfaces.” The former General Motors engineer is president of AmSafe Aviation, which makes 95 percent of the seat belts used on commercial airplanes. His company leads the way in implementing the use of airbags for airline passengers.

When you talk to somebody like Hagan who is responsible for designing safe occupant spaces in aircraft, you often hear terms like “head-strike surface.” At first these terms create an image that isn’t so pleasant. But new regulations that take effect later this month are aimed at increasing the margin of safety in a crash. That means many more airliners will minimize unfriendly head-strike surfaces by installing airbags in in problematic areas such as front row bulkheads and some of the reclining and bedlike seats often used in first class cabins.

The requirements take effect Oct. 27 and require all new airliners rolling off assembly lines to meet new FAA rules that say seats must withstand 16 times the force of gravity without deforming or detaching from the tracks securing them to the floor. That’s significantly stouter than the 9-g requirement in place since 1952. More importantly, passengers must be protected to this 16-g requirement. Many airliners already are equipped with the 16-g seats, but until now, only entirely new designs created after 1988 — such as the Boeing 777 — have been required to meet this standard. Singapore Airlines Adopts Life-Saving AmSafe Airbags

A large percentage of airplane crashes occur during takeoff and landing when speeds are relatively low and the aircraft usually meets the ground at a oblique angle. “Most are very survivable crash events,” Hagan says.
One of the problems is that in some seating areas the passengers are exposed to surfaces that do not absorb energy in an impact — the “not-so-friendly head-strike surfaces” Hagan referred to. In the event of a crash, most passengers are protected by the seat back in front of them which is designed to absorb much of the energy. But there is nothing to absorb that energy at the bulkhead or behind the immovable exit-row seats. Airlines could remove seats to meet the new requirement, but that would mean lost revenue. Many are opting instead for the seat belt-mounted airbag to meet the 16-g standard.

In the beginning, Hagan explains, the challenge facing engineers was how to mount airbags on the aircraft itself. You can’t mount them as you do in a car, where they’re installed in the dashboard, because “Every interior is different, it’s not practical.” The simple solution was to put the airbag in the seat belt. This not only simplifies the problem of where to place the airbag, Hagan said, but is a safer option. “The airbag inflates away from the occupant where it can’t induce an injury.”
In addition to protecting bulkhead and exit-row passengers, the seat belt airbags have allowed airlines to develop several creative seating arrangements. One example is the pod-type seats used by Singapore Airlines in the Boeing 777.

Singapore Airlines Adopts Life-Saving AmSafe Airbags

During development, the airline was having trouble meeting the 16-g requirement for the first class seats. “They had a lot of head-strike problems” says Hagan. But by using the seat belt airbag, the airline met the safety requirements. The airbags are now the norm on many airlines using similar premium seating arrangements.

Image and video: AmSafe Aviation

FAA Sled Test Without Airbag

FAA Sled Test With Airbag


21 October 2009

Why We Screen Wheelchairs Part II

Our officers work in what some have referred to as a large fishbowl. Everything they do is being observed by passengers. So, when they screen veterans & active military, children & seniors, and people in wheelchairs, people notice. It doesn’t sit well with them and we often hear about it. All wheelchairs must be screened and it's important to remember that some people, including terrorists are looking to sneak things through, by pretending to have a disability.

Lynn wrote the last “Why We Screen Wheelchairs” as a result of a passenger trying to smuggle two packages of cocaine onto a plane. Wherever you can hide drugs, you can hide bombs and other items, so we thought it was a good example to help explain why we screen people in wheelchairs. In this most recent case, a gentleman came through the checkpoint at Milwaukee’s MKE airport in his wheelchair and whoops -what’s that??? Underneath the cushion of his wheelchair was not one, but two firearms. Our officers found the following:

It turns out that the gentleman didn’t have any nefarious intentions(He forgot the guns were there) but it is yet again another example of why we screen wheelchairs and the people in them.

To help us better understand how to screen persons with disabilities (PWDs), TSA established a coalition of over 70 disability-related groups and organizations with disabilities and medical conditions. These groups have assisted TSA with writing our policies to help us thoroughly screen PWDs while ensuring they are treated with dignity and respect. Our officers are regularly trained on screening people with disabilities.You can go to TSA.gov to read more about traveling when you have a disability.

Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions

One of the primary goals of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is to provide the highest level of security and customer service to all who pass through our screening checkpoints.

Our current policies and procedures focus on ensuring that all passengers, regardless of their personal situations and needs, are treated equally and with the dignity, respect, and courtesy they deserve. Although every person and item must be screened before entering each secure boarding area, it is the manner in which the screening is conducted that is most important.

In order to achieve that goal, TSA has established a program for screening of persons with disabilities and their associated equipment, mobility aids, and devices. Our program covers all categories of disabilities (mobility, hearing, visual, and hidden). As part of that program, we established a coalition of over 70 disability-related groups and organizations to help us understand the concerns of persons with disabilities and medical conditions. These groups have assisted TSA with integrating the unique needs of persons with disabilities into our airport operations.

Since the initial total ban on liquids, gels and aerosols took effect on August 10, we have learned enough from the UK investigation to say with confidence that small, travel size liquids are safe to bring through security checkpoints in limited numbers. We are confident in our increased security measures throughout the airport. Therefore, passengers can purchase drinks in the secure boarding area and bring them aboard their flights.

TSA's checkpoint security screening procedures for persons with disabilities and medical conditions have not changed as a result of the current threat situation. All disability-related equipment, aids, and devices continue to be allowed through security checkpoints once cleared through screening.

Additionally, we are continuing to permit prescription liquid medications and other liquids needed by persons with disabilities and medical conditions. This includes:
All prescription and over-the-counter medications (liquids, gels, and aerosols) including KY jelly, eye drops, and saline solution for medical purposes;
Liquids including water, juice, or liquid nutrition or gels for passengers with a disability or medical condition;
Life-support and life-sustaining liquids such as bone marrow, blood products, and transplant organs;
Items used to augment the body for medical or cosmetic reasons such as mastectomy products, prosthetic breasts, bras or shells containing gels, saline solution, or other liquids; and,
Gels or frozen liquids needed to cool disability or medically related items used by persons with disabilities or medical conditions.

However, if the liquid medications are in volumes larger than 3 ozs each, they may not be placed in the quart-size bag and must be declared to the Transportation Security Officer. A declaration can be made verbally, in writing, or by a person's companion, caregiver, interpreter, or family member.

Declared liquid medications and other liquids for disabilities and medical conditions must be kept separate from all other property submitted for x-ray screening.

For more information on these measures, please read our letter outlining this policy --

16 October 2009

Watch the pilot!

Screenshot from Patrick Smith
Approaching a runway at JFK airport in New York.

Oct. 16, 2009

View the landing of a Boeing 767, from the cockpit. Behold the glory of approach lights at dawn.

Something new this week: videos! This lofts us to a whole new level. For nearly a tenth of a century, Ask the Pilot has virtually defined the vanguard of artistic and technological innovation on the Web, but always it lacked a certain visual flourish. Starting today, thanks to the help of YouTube, a Flip HD camcorder and some duct tape, my usual savvy explanations are enriched by the thrilling accompaniment of choppy, low-resolution video, coming to you live, as it were, from the cockpit.

Would there be a problem with hooking up a nose camera so we could experience the same view as the pilots? It'd be very cool to see the takeoff and landing as the cockpit crew sees it.
A number of airlines already have this, connected to the seat-back screens on their 777 or Airbus series aircraft. I've experienced it myself on at least two carriers -- Air France and Emirates. On Emirates, the system allows you to switch back and forth between a nose view and one that points straight down, showing what the plane is passing over. (The latter resulted in a rather silly controversy in Britain when nude backyard sunbathers worried that overflying passengers were getting a free peep show.) Iberia Airlines is among those offering a backward-facing view -- a somewhat dizzying perspective that lets you see the departure runway slowly falling away.

I am not aware of any U.S. airlines with these features. But who needs them when you've got me. Behold the glory of approach lights at dawn in this two-minute video.

Otherwise, the closest we have anymore is the audio feed on United Airlines, which allows you to eavesdrop on the conversation between pilots and air traffic control. They call it "channel 9" in honor of its position in your armrest dial. It's either fascinating or tediously indecipherable, depending on your level of infatuation with flight.

It is sometimes unavailable, at the crew's discretion, because of the unfriendly letters people send and the litigation they threaten when it's perceived the pilots have made some "mistake." Also, passengers not familiar with the vernacular may misinterpret a transmission and assume nonexistent or exaggerated troubles.

Let's say a controller is spacing a series of aircraft and asks, "United 537, um, do you think you can make it?" This is a query pertaining to whether a plane can hit a specific height or speed at a specific fix. Depending on the controller's intonation, or the pilot's reply -- "No, I don't think so" -- such innocuous exchanges might have a passenger bursting into tears and picturing his wife and children.

In the late 1970s, American Airlines had cameras in the cockpits of its DC-10s that would allow you to watch the crew performing takeoffs and landings. I remember seeing it a few times as a kid. How quaint the idea seems today. The footage was grainy, projected on the old-fashioned bulkhead movie screens. It looked something like this.

Note the fellow with the baseball cap and glasses. Pilots often wear ball caps while flying because it helps with the glare. Others of us wear them because we don't want the camera showing how bald we are.

Bangor may owe jet owner for failed deal

By Judy HarrisonBDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A federal jury will decide whether the city of Bangor must pay additional damages to an Indiana firm because more than two years ago an airport worker accidentally pumped 100 gallons of lavatory fluid, or “blue water,” into the toilet of a private jet instead of the 7 gallons it could hold.

The trial began Tuesday in U.S. District Court and is expected to last all week.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock, who is presiding over the trial, this summer decided many of the issues in the case after considering summary judgment motions.
Woodcock found that the city was liable for the repairs to the airplane performed by Duncan Aviation in Battle Creek, Mich., immediately after the May 24, 2007, incident. The city has reimbursed Aquila LLC of Bloomington, Ind., which owned the aircraft, more than $130,000 for that damage, according to court documents.

Aquila is owned by Sherman Rogers of Bloomington, Ind. The company buys, refurbishes and then sells corporate jets. It is seeking the difference between the $12 million its attorney claims Aquila would have received in a deal to sell the plane allegedly made a few days before the accidental overflow and the $11.2 million the plane actually sold for after the incident.
In addition to the $800,000, Aquila is seeking reimbursement for the nearly $400,000 it paid for a presale inspection before completing the sale in December 2007.

Information about who eventually purchased the plane is not included in court documents.
Aquila bought the 68-foot-long Canadair Challenger, a twin-engine, nine-passenger jet (Not the actual aircraft in Photo), from Caterpillar of Peoria, Ill., in 2006, the company’s attorney, Brendan Collins of Washington, D.C., told the jury Tuesday in his opening statement. In May 2007, Rogers took the plane, which had been refurbished, to the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland, in hopes of selling it.

In a “handshake deal,” Aero Toy Stores LLC, a firm that markets new and used corporate aircraft, agreed to buy the plane for $12 million, Collins said. The plan, the attorney told the jury, was to take the plane to Aero’s home base in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and complete the sale on May 29, 2007, without a presale inspection. That went awry on May 24, 2007, when the plane landed in Bangor to go through customs, take on fuel and have the blue water in the toilet replaced, Aquila’s attorney said, and Aero backed out of the deal.

Aero’s owner, Morris Shirazipour of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., later offered $11 million for the jet and Aquila declined to sell the plane for that price, according to court documents.
Martha Gaythwaite, the Portland lawyer representing the city of Bangor, told the jury in her opening statement that Bangor “has apologized” for the overflow and reimbursed the company for the cost of repairs that resulted from it. She said that Rogers discussed selling the plane with Shirazipour, but the two did not have a deal that was legally binding.

“Mr. Shirazipour was interested,” she told the jury, “but not interested enough to put money down toward the purchase or sign a sales agreement.”
Gaythwaite also told the jury that the intensive cleanup of the plane the city paid for included replacing carpeting, carpet padding and insulation. She said that once that work was completed, the market value of the plane was not reduced as Aquila claimed.

Win or lose, the cost of the lawsuit is not expected to fall to taxpayers, Paul Nicklas, Bangor’s assistant city solicitor, said in March, shortly after it was filed. He told the Bangor Daily News that because the airport is run through a separate city enterprise account, no cost would fall to taxpayers.