Monthly Archives: October 2009

Military Planes Crash Offshore California

The fate of seven Coast Guard and two Marine Corps personnel is unknown, as search-and-rescue operations go into a second day over the Pacific Ocean near California, say US military officials.


Reports say last night around 7 PM, a Coast Guard C-130 transport and a Marine Corps AH-1W Cobra Attack Helicopter (both pictured) collided in midair approximately 50 miles southeast of San Diego near San Clemente Island.

Earlier this week, another Cobra Helicopter collided with a UH-1 helicopter in Afghanistan, killing four American troops and wounding two more, according to a Marine Corps spokesman.


Leave a comment

Filed under Military

Fresh Perspective on Northwest Pilots’ Misadventure

My good friend and fellow airline pilot, Mike Preihs, forwards this tongue-in-cheek final insight on the professional mindset at Northwest Airlines:

It’s hard to understand how the Northwest Airlines pilots got that incredibly distracted on their recent attempt to fly directly to MSP…especially after a long restful San Diego layover.
As is obvious in this typical Airbus cockpit photo, there is enough going on to keep the pilots quite busy, and hardly any way to explain away their inattention…falling asleep or otherwise.


Leave a comment

Filed under Commercial Aviation

NASA Test-Launches Newest Rocket


Billing it the “First Flight of a New Era,” NASA successfully test-launched the “Ares I – X” (experimental version) rocket minutes ago following multiple delays. The 327-foot-high spacecraft (world’s tallest) is a key component of NASA’s new “Constellation” rocket systems, set to replace the ageing Space Shuttle (launch videos posted below).

The six-minute flight from Cape Canaveral follows up successful tests of the rocket engines last September in the Utah desert (see Sep 11 blog below). In today’s launch, the vehicle reached a height of more than 150,000 feet and then splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean about 150 miles down-range from the Cape. Scientists are collecting data from the first two minutes of the flight NASA says is key to moving the $3 billion program forward.

When fully operational, the Constellation program includes the two-stage Ares I rocket, designed to lift an “Orion” crew capsule perched atop into space. Astronauts could then either dock at the International Space Station or rendezvous with a second “Ares V” rocket, which would carry necessary supplies for a manned flight to the moon, Mars, or beyond. The Orion crew capsule returns to earth using parachutes and an ocean splashdown not unlike the Apollo capsules of the early 70s.

Success of the Constellation program is critical. The space shuttle fleet is planned to be retired next year, forcing US astronauts to hitch a ride with the Russians to service the International Space Station. As it is, only weeks ago a government audit questioned the viability of the entire program, given NASA’s projected budget. The commissions conclusions have already all but killed expectations to land on the moon by 2020 (see Jul 30 and Aug 14 blogs below).

With the success of this launch, NASA hopes to keep alive its vision for manned flights into deep space beyond the earth’s orbit.

Here is the actual launch:
[ ?posts_id=2798778&dest=55929]

Video courtesy of Nasa TV and

And here is a NASA simulation of the flight:

Leave a comment

Filed under Space

Northwest Incident Explained – Kinda!

Forget about texting-while-driving! In the ultimate “distracted-driving” incident, safety investigators now say the two pilots of the Northwest flight, which overshot its landing at Minneapolis-St. Paul by 150 miles, were busy using their personal laptops to learn new crew scheduling procedures (see related blogs below).

Reports say Northwest pilots are disgruntled with the new procedures put in place since their recent merger with Delta Airlines. In this incident, investigators believe the two pilots became so engrossed in learning the new system, they completely forget about navigating the airplane.

Now late word is the FAA has revoked the licenses of the two pilots, and I say “good”!

The whole situation is unconscionable. Airline policy forbids pilots to do ANYTHING that might distract them from their primary responsibility to fly the airplane. At my airline, you couldn’t even read a magazine while flying the airplane; only materials related to safely operating the aircraft. Part of the captain’s pre-flight briefing is to clearly designate which pilot makes flying the plane their PRIMARY responsibility to the exclusion of everything else. So where do these pilots come off getting so sloppy as to fool around in their laptops to the point they fly 150 miles off-course?

No, methinks the “Feds” got it right on this one!

Leave a comment

Filed under Commercial Aviation

Northwest Mystery Deepens

The pilots involved in the mysterious 150-mile overflight of the Minneapolis-St.Paul Airport are now giving conflicting stories on what was going on in the cockpit (see Oct 23 blog below).

At first, they indicated they overflew the airport by 150 miles because they were involved in a heated discussion over company policy, but few believed that. Most thought the two were asleep. But now the pilots are saying they were engaged in their personal laptops going over company business.

Is it me, or does all this strain credulity? As Judge Judy might quip, none of these explanations has “the ring of truth” to it. In all my experience in the cockpit, I have NEVER had ANYTHING distract me from checking out what the airplane was doing for anywhere NEAR that length of time — some 50 minutes of being clueless! So none of these answers quite work for me.

Safety officials say the cockpit voice reporter indicates they were talking to a flight attendant in the cockpit. But keep in mind the recorder only goes back 30 minutes prior to landing, to a time when they already knew they had overflown the airport. So no telling what went on some 20 minutes prior to that, when the flight cruised past its descent point.

Fresh speculation is maybe a third crewmember in the cockpit kept both pilots, er — distracted! Whatever it is, these two are starting to remind me of the Northwest pilots from a few years back, who were caught intoxicated just before they attempted to takeoff. Where in the heck is Donald Trumpp when you need him?

They are all sooo FIRED!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Northwest Crew Asleep at the Switch?

A Northwest Airlines fight crew has been relieved of duty after controllers say the San Diego – Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) flight overflew the airport by 150 miles.


The pilots were so engrossed in a “heated discussion over airline policy,” they lost track of where they were, according to the NTSB. But skeptics suspect the two fell asleep. The Northwest Flight 188 A320 jet landed safely at MSP with 144 passengers on board, but not before the pilots had reportedly missed repeated radio calls to descend. Meanwhile, the North American Aerospace Defense Command placed military fighters on alert, fearing a possible hijacking.

Just Monday, Northwest’s parent company, Delta Airlines, landed a Boeing 767 on a taxiway instead of the runway at Atlanta-Hartsfield International.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Barefoot Teen Stealing Airplanes

File this one under “bizarre”!

Cops say a bare-footed teen is suspected to be the serial plane bandit they seek in Idaho. Read story at:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized