Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Distracted Solutions

I'm peeved. The FAA and NTSB already has access to a recording of the last 30 minutes of each flight, which they can review in case of an accident. That will soon become the last 2 hours of the flight. I've got no complaints about that. But this latest “safety” initiative that you just read about by these agencies, and some of their stooges in Congress, is an insult to our intelligence and integrity, and if implemented will itself become a cockpit distraction.

Big Brother wants to hear all of the conversation in our cockpits, all of the time. I think this is unchecked government intrusion that can grow like cancer. Moreover, the need for this invasion is not borne out by facts. Despite some isolated incidents, we have brought about the safest era of flying in history.

Yes, there are exceptions. In Buffalo last year 50 died when two neophytes that should have never been in that cockpit prattled like school kids while their plane stalled. That was an anomaly.

And the guys who overflew their destination while working with their laptops? Another anomaly. Nobody died. Not even close.

So, comes now the corporate manager, who jumps on the government bandwagon to show his “concern” with this “problem.” He seeks to garner brownie points with the regulators by conjuring up a new rule to reduce cockpit distraction.
While high over the North Atlantic, riding along in the quiet ebony skies, the three auto-pilots performing flawlessly, we sent an innocuous ACARS message to Dispatch: GOT A SCORE ON THE SUPER BOWL YET? Not only were we curious about the game but several of our passengers had asked me prior to takeoff that I keep them informed about the score.

Shortly a message issued from the printer. My F/O tore it off, read it and looked at me, mouth agape. I took it.

Here. Read it for yourself:
Sorry, indeed. Needless-to-say, we got miffed. In fact, we got so miffed that the very message became a nagging distraction as we let down into the demanding London terminal area.

After we got on the bus to the hotel one of the F/Os got on his Blackberry to spread the word to his friends about the message. Others had also gotten it it. Then he learned that the new “policy” had suddenly been rescinded―only two hours after it was issued.

So, had someone else, even higher up the management ladder, seen it as nonsense? Or had our union found out about it and slapped some sense into the company's face?

Don't know. All I know is that problems, real or perceived, don't get solved with cockeyed, knee-jerking directives. The idea of monitoring cockpit talk falls solidly into that category.

BTW sports fans, what does the red lines across the message mean?

One of my favorite sights: The contrail angle swing.
Man! Do I have a good job, or what?

Quote of the post:
"A recession is when you have to tighten your belt; depression is when you have no belt to tighten. When you've lost your trousers, you're in the airline business."
--Sir Adam Thompson