JetSuiteX Blowing Off Airport Authorities, Still Planning Scheduled Flights Out of Santa Monica

We’re down to the last two weeks. On February 6th, a charter operator wants to add to the impacts at Santa Monica with the start of scheduled passenger service on 30-passenger jets, offering flights to San Jose, Carlsbad, and Las Vegas. It appears the airport has not been certified to handle this type of operation, that for example the emergency response personnel and equipment is not sufficient for a possible accident by the operator ‘Delux Public Charter’ under JetSuiteX. But, corporate hubris ignores safety, legality, and environmental compatibility.

The scrollable PDF below shows a recent article by Beige Luciano-Adams, in a local paper, the Argonaut. This reporter did a very good job asking questions and getting candid answers from both sides. On the other hand, attempts to get candor from FAA were rebuffed. Indeed, in this whole matter, the worst character is FAA. They are truly acting as a captured regulator serving only aviation, enabling JetSuiteX to compel the City to waste resources protecting the City and people from excessive and unacceptable risks.

A real aviation regulator would have put a stop on JetSuiteX in December, shortly after they started selling tickets online. A real aviation regulator also would have ordered JetSuiteX to cease selling of these tickets with discounts for Santa Monica residents, a practice that is discriminatory and thus appears to be illegal. A real aviation regulator would have worked hard to bring the operator and the airport authority together to quickly resolve all issues, trying earnestly to create air service, but rejecting the proposal if it failed safety standards and other requirements.

FAA has done nothing … which is part of the collaborated plan.

Readers are encouraged to study this article. Reader comments/analysis shared with aiREFORM may be added to this aiREFORM page, with or without attribution, at the request of the reader.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

To read another local article, and to also see an analysis showing how poorly JetuiteX has done selling passenger seats to Santa Monicans (despite the discriminatory pricing), click here.

Real time tracking, FDR transmission needs to happen now

Scott Hamilton at Leehamnet nails it again: aviation regulators need to get off their butts and implement effective tracking and transmission of flight data, to support timely search and rescue after remote crashes.

The failure to mandate what should be a relatively cheap system installation and operation cost only encourages the news media to spin off wild misinformation, seeking to fill the news information void. In a recent post, Mr. Hamilton noted that this “… is to the great disservice and most likely distress of the families and friends of the victims on the flight….” It also substantially undermines the public’s perception of the safety of today’s passenger aviation program. Mr. Hamilton goes on to note, “…for the industry, it all comes down to costs and in this context, dead people don’t matter, only cost matters. It’s the infamous tombstone mentality that enough people have to die before there is enough of an outcry to force regulators to do the right thing and force the airlines to follow….”

A Simple & Inexpensive System

The solution is a simple combination of technology and regulation. FAA and other regulators would simply require that all commercial passenger flights operating beyond continuous radar coverage must install a system that would transmit a basic data bundle in the event of a potential emergency.

Essentially, the system would track (each second) the flight’s basic data, including latitude & longitude, altitude, indicated airspeed, pitch angle, bank angle, and heading. The system would also apply logic to identify substantial heading/speed/altitude changes within the previous 15-seconds.

A transmission of data bundles would be triggered by odd parameters, such as excessive pitch angle and/or bank angle, abnormal speeds and/or altitudes, or substantial heading/speed/altitude changes. Once triggered, data bundles would be transmitted each second.

Each data bundle would require only three basic parameters: position (lat/long), altitude, and indicated airspeed. A few additional parameters would be added to the data bundle, as appropriate; for example, if the system noted excessive pitch angle or bank angle, or substantial heading/speed/altitude changes within the previous 15-seconds, these parameters would be included in the data bundle. On the assumption that this is a flight emergency, the transmissions would continue indefinitely.

For security purposes, if the transmission was triggered during a flight, the shutoff/override authority would NOT be in the aircraft. Instead, it would be by the ground dispatch/monitor personnel, who would need to communicate with the crew via radio, satellite, ACARS etc., to ensure the transmission is an anomaly, not a real emergency.

The Truth is the First Casualty of any Air Crash

Geoffrey Thomas, at AirlineRatings.com in Western Australia, seems to have one of the best factual views of the QZ8501 tragedy. And he is doing a great job posting coverage since the Indonesia AirAsia flight disappeared nearly six days ago. One of his Posts on New Years Day re-declares the maxim that, when anything bad happens in aviation, facts are the first things to disappear.

He’s correct, but it should not be this way. Every nation has an aviation authority, such as FAA in the United States. These agencies are stuffed full of employees, theoretically there to serve the Public. In their early years, these agencies did very important safety and infrastructure development work. But, as these agencies have matured, they seem to have become less and less productive, more about quietly helping the airlines than about aggressively speaking up for safety. So, when an accident or incident occurs, they tend to say nothing. It is as if their speaking up might get in the way of how the accident airline needs/wants to manage the PR spin.

Given this, when an incident like QZ8501 happens, we end up with a deep informational vacuum. Neither airlines nor regulatory authorities take charge to clearly and timely articulate the known facts. And as we all know, where there is an informational vacuum, rumors and other garbage will quickly fill the void. This is happening (AGAIN!) with QZ8501, while victim’s families suffer, and while millions of others ponder just how safe aviation is.

It’s a new year.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if FAA’s leadership chose to set a new, higher standard for the world to follow, by aggressively working for maximized aviation safety? Wouldn’t it be great if, when a serious accident or incident happens, the relevant national authority would step forward and firmly assert the known facts, and then stay up front to keep us all urgently posted? This is kind of the way NTSB’s Deborah Hersman handled the investigation, in early 2013, when the B787 battery fires were happening.

Can we make that our new standard for aviation safety transparency?

The Lack of Tracking

20150101cpy.. QZ8501 crying prayingIn today’s aviation, hundreds of people can disappear in an instant. We have the technologies to safely track flights, but implementing these technologies does not conform with the fiscal bottom line. So, one flight disappears, tens of millions are spent fruitlessly searching, then another disappears, and we just stumble about … while the families and friends of those lost grieve horribly. They grieve for their real personal loss, and their pain is intensified by the cold lack of explanations.

Granted, we will not necessarily save lives by showing up at an oceanic crash scene within three hours. But, let’s not forget that one of the primary reasons for preserving this flight data is to learn from the incident and prevent it from happening again. In the U.S., we have spent decades studying civil passenger aviation and slowly acquiring new knowledge. We have learned about: wake turbulence, microbursts, crew coordination (and the need for crew resource management), icing, spatial disorientation, and basic human fatigue. In most cases, we have applied the lessons learned to create new technologies, new procedures, and new protocols. All for safety.

Today, perhaps more than ever, our government regulators are clearly teamed up with corporate officials to encourage the rapid growth of a robust trans-oceanic passenger airline industry. Countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are prime markets, owing to their populations and multi-island geography. But, we as passengers are left to wonder: are our government regulators placing enough emphasis on safety and risk reduction, to learn from one accident so that a repeat accident never happens?

Case in point: the flight data recorders, aka ‘black boxes’. These devices have been around for six decades. They record all the key flight data, but they function remotely, like padlocked desktop computers without an Internet connection. When an accident happens, we still have to find the black box and hope it provides the data we need to see. And within these black boxes, the design anachronistically records voice over what was recorded two hours earlier. This is the design standard approved by agencies such as the FAA. It is as if we want to minimize our odds of producing hard data. And yet, if we can put thousands of songs on a slim personal device, surely we can record an entire flight’s worth of flightdeck conversations, right?

Is anyone served well by the current program? No. Though, in an odd way, the lack of hard data denies legal proceedings. Instead, that lack of hard data fosters a quick round of apologies and payouts to victim families, followed by head-scratching and ‘let’s forget this happened, now, and get back to the business of growing this business’. Which, seemingly, is a lousy way to run a business.

“Given that a standard iPhone can record 24 hours of audio, surely the black box should have sufficient memory to record cockpit conversation for the full duration of any flight.”

– Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, after the disappearance of MH370

Basic Streaming Data for Flight Incidents

There is no valid reason that a system cannot be deployed to stream basic flight data for all commercial passenger flight emergencies. A device that assesses the flight second-by-second and, if key flight parameters are exceeded (rate of descent, rate of climb, bank angle, pitch angle, airspeed, altitude above terrain, distance from planned route, etc.), once any parameter is exceeded, the system independently transmits the basic data for accumulation into a data cloud. A small investment, to share data to a satellite, in a situation where an on-board device senses a developing incident.

Each second, a bundle of data gets stored for quick access by others, including rescue authorities. This is not a huge and expensive bundle of data. This bundle reduces to just three basic parameters: position (lat/long), altitude, and indicated airspeed. And, if the system notes substantial changes within the previous 15-seconds, add just a few other parameters to the bundle: the heading, and/or the pitch angle, and/or the bank angle. This way we can see if the aircraft went into a spin, perhaps related to catastrophic failure. This is a mighty small bundle of data, and the least that should be done for passengers on these over-water flights.

We’ve had the technologies for many years. Now, we need the will and the leadership to use them, to start collecting data from failed oceanic flights.


See also:

Malaysia Flight #370: An Update

It was a full nineteen days ago that first word appeared of a flight that had ‘disappeared’. A flight with 239 on board, all of whom trusted the safety and security aspects of today’s commercial aviation system. What followed was a series of mis-steps in which authorities repeatedly withheld information while also disseminating misinformation. People around the globe became increasingly upset about aviation officials – both with the airlines, and with the regulators. Frankly, the story became less about the 239 fatalities and more about the big question: can we trust that those who focus on making money in aviation will deliver a safe service/product and will also deliver the real transparency we all demand?

Debris Field MH370 032614Now, nineteen days on, it appears relatively certain that the flight did end up crashed far from land, on the surface of the south Indian Ocean. The map presented here links to Leehamnews.com, one of the best sources for both news and commentary about this terrible aviation event.

The latest headlines are announcing satellite identification of an apparent debris field, more than 1,500 miles west of Perth, Australia. A DailyMail (UK) news article provides numerous satellite images, maps, and photos. The article goes on at length, and offers details into the marital problems the flight captain was allegedly experiencing. In fact, the article notes that a friend of the 53-year-old captain, “…also a pilot, said Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah had been left rattled by his family problems, and didn’t appear to be in the right state of mind to be flying. He warned that it was ‘very possible that neither the passengers nor the other crew on-board knew what was happening until it was too late’….”

One of the more informative news items was a CNN interview of airline pilot and writer John Nance; here is a link to a YouTube video of that interview. Mr. Nance has a deep background in aviation, and his theory seems about as close as we can come to a relatively simple, best-fit explanation of what happened. He concludes an intentional action where the aircraft was depressurized at altitude to kill the passengers, and then the autopilot was used to fly off to a remote crash location. The instigator may have been onboard terrorists, or it may have been one (or both, though seemingly less likely) of the assigned flight crew. And, due to the remote crash location, we may never know the full and true story.

In this world, rife with stress and conflict, some people may go collectively dark and join others as organized terrorists. Others may go singularly dark and not see the evil when they take other lives while they commit suicide. We have to protect against both possibilities. Perhaps the best protection is to simply learn to get along.

UPDATE, 4/1/14:Leehamnet has posted an interview with former-NTSB investigator Greg Feith, who notes it is highly probable we will never find the wreckage. Feith states that the flight did NOT climb any higher than 35,000 feet. He goes further and discusses the aircraft and the ATC system, effectively debunking most theories. The one theory  he does NOT debunk is the idea that this was a suicidal action by a rogue-pilot.

Malaysia Flight #370: An Update, 10-days After the ‘Disappearance’

Although authorities have been terrible about delaying the release of information, some information continues to slowly emerge. Now, ten days after the ‘disappearance’, a NY Times article presents more precise information, clarifying the transition of the flight from normal radar ATC handling over the Malaysian peninsula, to crossing over the Gulf shoreline, to loss of contact midway across the Gulf. (takeoff at 12:41 AM, reached cruise FL350 at 1:01, last ACARS message sent at 1:07, crossed the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia at 1:08, and transponder was either turned off or lost connection due to distance at 1:21)

All the more interesting are some exceptional comments by readers who are concerned not just about what happened to the flight, but also about how it is being mishandled by aviation authorities worldwide. Here are four selected NY Times comments, showing the Public intelligence that deserves to be fed real information, not spin…

A perspective from an Ex-Malaysian, new york city posted…

I grew up in Malaysia, came here for college and have stayed since for the past 20 years. I am now an American citizen. There have been a lot of conspiracy theories of the Malaysian government covering up some elements of the incident. I could probably shed light on this, by stating old adage – never attribute to conspiracy what could be easily explained by incompetence. I have relatives and friends in Malaysia and I am back there once a year. The government through years of corruption, single-party rule and a highly cultivated patronage culture, has truly atrophied – there’s a terrific NYT article here that points to this. There’s a general malaise in the country in terms of what’s considered as “good enough” is good enough. Another element at play is the face-saving culture of the patriarchal society. First question asked among the politicians invariably involve “how can we manage this so we don’t look stupid or have our political flanks exposed?”, ironically. Even though it’s a democracy, it’s a fairly authoritarian country where press is owned by the government. Elections are bought and paid for, when it gets tenuous, like this recent one. What you see on display in the conference today is just the tip of the iceberg on the level of incompetence. Welcome to my world in the first 19 years.

alan brown, manhattan posted…

Malaysia’s government and the Malaysian Airlines officials doubtless knew this the first day. Their first concern was not the plane or its passengers but the effect of potential pilot complicity or hijacking/terror on the reputation of the country and its national carrier. They put at risk, because of this concern, many pilots from other nations with their disinformation. By delaying the search of the homes of the pilots they may have fatally compromised the effort to pin down the cause and motivation behind this tragedy.

BHC, Twinsburg, OH posted…

Hundreds of lives.  Thousands of grieving family members not knowing what has happened.   A plane worth a third of a billion dollars.   And missing because the international industry is opposed to spending a few thousand dollars per plane to send a signal to a satellite with the following data: flight number, altitude, longitude, latitude. Not being a physicist, I am not sure these data would provide enough information to find the rest of the plane with the black box, but I am sure the problem is not beyond reach.   It sounds like there is more sophisticated homing device equipment on inexpensive drones. We listened to this issue after the Air France tragedy and nothing was done.

JenD, New Jersey posted…

This is so sad and must be excruciating for the families and loved ones of the missing passengers and crew. I hope they at least get some answers soon.

UPDATE, 3/17/14: — another detailed article at BBC.com. Among other details, it states the 27-yr-old copilot has been identified as operating the flight radio during the last regular transmission.
UPDATE, 3/24/14: — they Malaysian Prime Minister today declared that the flight crashed in the south Indian Ocean. This declaration was based on a new analysis of satellite data by the British company Inmarsat. [article]

Malaysia Flight #370: Charts & Flightplan

Eight days after this Boeing 777 ‘disappeared’ between Malaysia and Vietnam, radar and satellite information is slowly being revealed. The revealed data is increasingly pointing toward what was effectively a hijacking of the flight, though it is as yet not revealed if the action was taken by on-board terrorists or members of the flight crew.

Click on this link to an aiREFORM.com page with some analysis, including charts describing the filed flightplan and the locations where key actions occurred.

UPDATE, 3/16/14: — a news article out of New Zealand discusses the taboo nature of ‘pilot suicides’, which some believe is under-reported and under-recognized.

Malaysia Flight #370: Missing over the Gulf of Thailand

The Boeing 777 took off just past midnight on Saturday, March 8th. It had leveled at 35,000 feet before contact was lost. A 12-mile-long oil slick was found in waters to the south of Vietnam. The simplest explanation, based on the minimal news that has thus far been revealed, is that this may have been a terrorist event. Two passengers listed on the official passenger manifest were not on board and did not try to board this flight; their passports, stolen last August and two years ago, were evidently used by two unidentified passengers.

Here’s a clip from a NY Times article dated 3/9/14:

“…Operating as Flight MH370, the plane left Kuala Lumpur just after midnight on Saturday, headed for Beijing. Air traffic control in Subang, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, lost contact with the plane around 1:30 a.m., Malaysia’s civil aviation department said. China Central Television said that according to Chinese air traffic control officials, the aircraft never entered Chinese airspace.

A European counterterrorism official said the Italian man whose passport was stolen, Luigi Maraldi, 37, called his parents from Thailand, where he is vacationing, after discovering that someone by the same name was listed on the passenger manifest. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Maraldi reported the theft last August to the Italian police. The official said the passport of the Austrian man, Christian Kozel, 30, who is currently in Austria, was stolen about two years ago.

The European official said he was surprised that it had been possible to check in with stolen passports at the Kuala Lumpur airport and that an alert should have popped up on the airline agent’s computer….”

UPDATE, 3/10/14: — a Wikipedia page clarifies that the flight departed at 00:41 Kuala Lumpur time on Saturday, March 8th (16:41 UTC on March 7th, thus 11:41 AM on Friday, March 7th, New York time).
UPDATE, 3/11/14: — As always, Leehamnet has an excellent Post tracking ‘progress’ (?) on the search. Within that post is a link to an article at The Aviation Herald, where this comment was submitted: “…with absolute and all sympathy and respect for victim’s families, the handling of this disaster is another disaster. I have followed this site since day one, and so far Malaysian handling of this reads like a Monty Python script: Plane goes missing, ATC doesn’t tell airline for a while, apparently landed in China, they know nothing of this, BUT they DO know it descended and changed direction? Rumors of 10-tons of gold on a/c and confirmed Interpol-wanted passengers on board. Debris in sea here, there, everywhere, not the plane? Mobile phones ringing, airline reps talking about Italian football players, military ATC decides plane actually went towards Indian ocean. Three days later. Possibly. Maybe….”
UPDATE, 3/15/14: — Latest news reports reveal what appear to be critical actions by a person(s) to disable aircraft-satellite communications and then turn off the transponder. The flight allegedly then climbed to FL450 before descending to FL230, climbing again and heading west. A new webpage by aiREFORM.com presents charts and a brief analysis of the original filed flightplan from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.