January 15, 2013
The people who manage airline companies are torn between two opposing ideas, both driven by cost concerns: having the very latest technologies in their aircraft, on the one hand, and sticking with the time-tested and proven on the other. If you don’t think airlines are a capital-heavy industry, just take a look at what’s parked on the ramp at any terminal airport. Even at a smaller regional airport, the airplanes and hardware have a total value in the millions. And that’s where the cost concerns come from. It takes a steady stream of revenue from passenger and freight operations to service the debt on all that stuff.
When fares were regulated, the numbers were stable and predictable, but deregulation arrived in 1978. Before that, airlines marketed mainly on their images as reliable or glamorous — or even hip (Braniff’s “the end of the plain plane”). With competition, the only marketing tool an airline had was the price of a ticket, and fares fell. Throughout the 80s, 90s — and even into the new century — major airline companies collapsed by the dozens, leaving merged giants that dominated in certain regions to survive.
Price competition will inevitably drive cost cutting, and airlines have turned to the suppliers of their aircraft for help. The manufacturers have to attack not the list price of the aircraft but the life-cycle cost of the airplane’s operation, which will total many times its purchase price by the time it is retired from service.
So when Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner makes headlines because of an equipment bay fire, as it has recently, it should hardly be surprising. In order to produce an airplane that would save its customers on the order of 20 percent in cost of operation, the company had to turn to completely new technologies in materials, propulsion and electronics. When you promise that kind of savings to a customer, you do one thing: you reduce the airplane’s weight. Which helps to explain why the 787 has a completely new type of battery that uses lithium instead of lead and acid or nickel-cadmium in an electrochemical closed system that produces a direct-current voltage. The battery is lighter, and it’s the same type that invaded the laptop computer market for the same reason — and occasionally with the same result: Sony made some laptop batteries back in 2006 that overheated and had to be recalled. There’s little difference between what happened to some unlucky laptops and what occurred in the battery of a 787 parked at Boston.
Airlines and their suppliers expect some birthing problems when any new type enters service. If there are new technologies aboard, those problems are almost guaranteed. The Boeing 747 had new large-fan engines, and after some time in service, their internal housings distorted from perfect circles to ovals, causing catastrophic wear. For a time, Pan Am’s global fleet carried spare engines in pods that were added near the fuselages of the jumbos. The airborne “pool” of replacements minimized the schedule delays when an airliner went out of service.
The introduction of so many new technologies at once in the 787 is almost unprecedented, and prospective passengers can take comfort in the fact that the problems have everyone’s attention. After all, these changes have the ultimate goal of keeping the price of a ticket low.
November 26, 2012
With the heightened political sensitivities during the presidential campaign season, it was fairly predictable that an invitation from Boeing to some of its suppliers to attend a workshop on aerospace manufacturing in Mexico would set off a rhubarb among the various stakeholders. Boeing is not affiliated with either U.S. political party, and the invite had no partisan implications.
But Boeing is a political hot button in itself, and both political parties know that. What voters need to know is that there has been low-level aerospace manufacturing in Mexico for a long time, and placing work there is no different than the offsets in other countries, where Boeing has spread its 787 program, in particular, all over the map. It does this for competitive reasons, and so does Airbus. By sharing the work with customer nations, Boeing “offsets” some of the cost to its customers when they buy its airplanes. Japan has been a loyal Boeing customer since World War II, and its heavy industries build the wings, the center wing box and parts of the fuselage for the 787, while its airlines, Japan Air Lines and All Nippon, were the first to order the airplane and put it into service, with the first JAL flight from Tokyo to Boston last April.
Mexico is a part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and has been manufacturing parts for U.S. automobiles as well as assembling VWs (and soon, Audis) along with Isuzus for domestic consumption.
Cessna Aircraft, a division of Textron, operates a facility in Chihuahua that makes sheet metal assemblies and wire harnesses for Citation jets. MD Helicopters, owned by Patriarch Partners, a New York holding company, uses parts made by another Patriarch company in Mexico.
Boeing has a long history of testy labor relations, and the unions that represent some of its workers are strident in opposing any work share that’s not performed by their members. But the heavy final-assembly work at Boeing is, has been, will be located in the United States for some time to come.
November 13, 2012
There was a time when a trip of more than 300 miles had you reaching for the Official Airline Guide (remember those?) for the winged alternative to driving, but times have changed. The high fares and the hassle of airline travel have conspired to move more folks onto the roads and out of the airways.
How do I know this? I don’t. But I drive a lot in my travels, and I see a lot of license plates from faraway places. I’ve also noticed that traffic moves along at about 75 to 80 mph on roads that are posted for speeds that would have had my mom screaming for my father to slow down. And it’s amazing how fast you cover ground on the Interstates.
Having been through the air-travel crunch one too many times, including nights on airport floors when they cancel flights and there are no hotel vouchers (or hotel rooms), I’m now an inveterate driver.
Look at the advantages of driving: You get to take along as much as your car can hold — and there’s no additional fee. You can even pack a nice lunch to savor at a rest stop along the highway. Instead of high anxiety and stress during security check-ins, you’re cocooned in a capsule served by a high-end stereo and all your favorite music. If you’re like me, you look at what you’ve saved in air fares and spend it instead on an overnight stop at a hotel (I’m partial to Hampton Inns and their free breakfast). And you get to see the country–which is absolutely beautiful–close up.
Mind you, if I absolutely, positively had to be there for something on the West Coast, I’d swallow hard and buy a ticket, but a trip of 1,000 miles on the road is no longer out of the question.
November 2, 2012
People in the airplane sales business try to dress for success, same as anyone. But the formula has changed over the years. Back in the days of multibillion-dollar airliner deals involving Boeing, Douglas, Lockheed, Convair and others — before deregulation, during the golden age of air-travel glamour — the costume was hand-tailored business suit, preferably a nice dark blue pinstripe, and wingtips (those are shoes, for those who’ve never seen a pair–you can Google them). A rule of thumb in those days was that the price of a really top-quality suit closely tracked the market price of an ounce of gold.
The folks who sell to airlines haven’t changed clothes, even though the airline business is almost unrecognizable compared to what it was back in its heyday. At Paris and Farnborough, the boys from Boeing and Airbus are still wrapped in Saville Row as they schmooze clients. At the next level down — high-priced executive jets and even mid- to economy-priced GA airplanes — fashion has changed markedly since the ‘70s. Back then, a general aviation salesman from Wichita, Kansas who hoped to make an impression might dip a toe in the water of mod styling. You could spot the guy from the marketing department a mile off by the glare from his white patent leather belt and matching shoes. Hairstyles matched the longer, coiffed look of the times, with fuller sideburns and more exuberant cuts that draped just over the ears. Trousers were flared but not bell-bottom, and contrasting sport coats were a light color or bold pattern, with a pocket hankie to match the primary-color trousers. (Some “looks” should stay in the era from which they came. The leisure suit should not, by law, be allowed to survive except in museum collections and photos of the quaint old 1970s. It is the swastika of men’s fashion.)
That was kind of fun and adequate for selling airplanes with propellers to doctors and oilmen. But when the GA factories started building jets, the sales department went straight for that Wall Street look – the full Corporate Uniform.
Now we’re undergoing yet another, more subtle shift. Blame it on Silicon Valley, where nobody ever wears a tie knotted four-in-hand, but the business-jet crowd is showing the first signs of shedding the banker look. In some recent advertisements, manufacturers (of airplanes with a price so high one must not speak its name) are depicting their executives tieless. The big issue becomes whether to leave just one shirt button open, or go radical and liberate two [music from Born Free here]. If the Google guys and that Facebook billionaire can run around in tee shirts aboard their Boeings, surely airplane people – who are just as high-tech as you are, dammit!! – can drop the ties.
But don’t lose the dark navy-blue blazers. Please. That would be going too far.
October 12, 2012
Airplanes that look beautiful from the outside only reward their owners as they’re strolling up to board it. But time spent inside the cabin lasts far longer, and leaves a more indelible impression.
With that bit of wisdom in mind, the HA-420 Hondajet has been designed not to showcase a sleek exterior, but to afford the most spacious cabin possible in a light business jet. Now the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics has named Hondajet designer Michimasa Fujino as the winner of its 2012 Aircraft Design Award.
The first unique feature that smacks the new Hondajet owner in the eye is the engine location: It’s mounted on struts that extend from the upper surface of the wing – the very place where, as Fujino likes to recall, he was taught in engineering school you never place the engines.
The next eye-grabber is the forward fuselage and nose section, which bulge like a swollen gland. They’re configured that way to encourage smoother airflow and reduce drag, despite the off-putting squid-like appearance.
Once inside, the benefit of the engine location becomes apparent in the startling spaciousness of the cabin, which extends farther aft than it does in traditional twinjets, where the engines are mounted behind the fuselage. There’s also room for a huge baggage compartment. By mounting the engines on the wing, all the plumbing that usually fills the aft fuselage moves elsewhere, freeing up space.
Fujino-san, as he’s known to his employees at the company’s Greensboro, North Carolina headquarters, deserves the award for supreme patience and persistence, if nothing else. But then, Honda has always been a patient and persistent company. And it’s said that founder Soichiro Honda had always been interested in aircraft.
The little jet began as a design study in the 1980s, then as a flying proof of concept aircraft – the MH02 – built under the aegis of Mississippi State University’s aeronautics division. The prototype for the HA-420 first flew in December 2003, nearly 10 years ago. And it’s been Fujino’s baby from day one.
Some would argue that it’s strange to give the award to an airplane design that has yet to prove commercially successful. The Hondajet has so far sold only about 100 orders (Honda is vague on the numbers). Not to mention that the airplane has yet to receive its FAA certificate of airworthiness. When the Eclipse Very Light Jet won the Collier Trophy back in 2005, there was a muffled outcry from its competitors because its status in the market was ambiguous, and the company went under soon afterward (it has since been revived).
But the Honda situation is different. The company speaks in terms of transportation, not vehicles. It is focused on movement, not machines. Its laboratories are as likely to experiment with four-legged robot walking machines and the locomotion of insects as it is with engine emissions – an area which it happens to have pioneered. The company even launched its own small jet engine, the HF120, which has led to a partnership with General Electric’s aero engine division.
Fujino deserves this award for pursuing successfully the engine-over-wing configuration that has proven itself in testing. After all, the 420 in the aircraft’s designation is derived from its top speed in knots. That’s 483 mph, fastest in its class.
So congratulations to the man who inspired a new airplane, a new way to mount the engines on light twinjets, and a company – one with staying power – that’s brand new to aviation.
October 9, 2012
Back when the general aviation industry was booming — that would be in the 1970s and ’80s — Beech Aircraft recognized a need and formed the Aero Clubs, which were flying clubs affiliated with authorized Beechcraft dealers. As a member of the club at Greenville-Spartanburg Airport in South Carolina back in the 1970s (part of Stevens Beechcraft), I was able to fly any of the small fleet of Beech-built aircraft, from the Musketeer family to the speedy Bonanza. The club also hosted occasional cook-outs and social gatherings. And although the original Beech Aircraft has gone through ownership changes, the Beech Aero Clubs have survived.
Now the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is launching a related effort designed to encourage the formation of flying clubs where none exist at present. “It’s about accessibility,” says Thomas Haines, an AOPA executive vice president and editor in chief of AOPA Pilot magazine. He notes that flying clubs often bring the costs of operating an airplane within the reach of middle income enthusiasts who might not be able to afford their own aircraft.
The AOPA will launch a web site this Friday, October 12, to foster growth in the pilot population, which began its decline in 1981 and ’82, according to Adam Smith, a senior vice president at the AOPA’s new Center to Advance the Pilot Community. Smith, who hails from England, credits that nation’s flying clubs with providing his start in an aviation career, “twenty years before I would have done,” he says.
Smith says that in the United States right now there are about 650 such clubs, and, “Research tells us they are doing a valuable job now, and we’ll shine a spotlight on that area of aviation, which forms a vital part of a healthy aviation ecosystem.” The AOPA will provide support in the legal and organizational aspects of launching and maintaining a viable club. As Smith says, “I think there are a lot of people interested in forming a flying club, but it feels slightly daunting.”
Most airplanes, which are expensive assets, spend their time tied down on a ramp somewhere. By sharing ownership, the cost of the asset spreads out among the members and its usage rate increases. As a current member of a boat club that operates on the same model, I can vouch for the appeal. Paying monthly dues beats making airplane, insurance, hangar, tiedown and maintenance payments.
August 1, 2012
Right after September 11, 2001, when terrorists used the U.S. airlines to achieve their ends, the creation of a government entity responsible for securing air travel seemed right and prudent. In the aftermath of the attack, a new cabinet-level department (Homeland Security) was created that incorporated numerous agencies, some of which had already existed. The Transportation Security Administration was entirely new, an entity created solely in response to 9/11.
The TSA would ensure that aircraft, ramps and boarding areas would be screened to be free of devices or substances (and, it was hoped, people) that could cause harm. At the same time, the sky marshal program, originally launched under President Richard Nixon, was resurrected to place armed undercover federal officers aboard random flights — the theory being that if someone managed to get past the TSA, the airplane cabin would be covered. Some airline pilots were trained and armed, but cockpit entrances were reinforced to bar entry, which was the first line of defense for the front office.
A lot of people probably thought at the time that these measures would be temporary. After all, the original sky marshals were disbanded in 1973, only to be revived again later, and largely forgotten again even later than that. We got used to that on-again, off-again pattern, and figured that, you know, let 10 or 15 years slide by without any incidents, and the TSA would slowly fade away, just as before.
Only now it’s looking like what you see is what you’re gonna get — forever. Yes, forever is a long time, but currently, if one looks for a rationale that might allow the money and resources consumed by air security to be spent on something else, it’s hard to make the argument. In a way, the decision to give the federal government sole responsibility for secure air travel was a line which, once crossed, couldn’t be traversed again.
It’s not just that a huge bureaucracy has been created — it has — and that once created, bureaucracies endure — they do — it’s the simple logic that abandoning air security and re-opening air travel to people who would perpetrate violent acts is unthinkable. Why? Because it practically invites anybody who harbors the idea to go ahead and carry it out.
Try to imagine that you’re a member of Congress who thinks it would be good for the country to gradually reduce air security in the name of traveler convenience (I mean, everybody hates the check-in, right?) or cost savings (TSA costs just under $8 billion a year, DHS just under $40 billion). Where would you start to try to sell the idea?
Food for thought. So what do you think?
July 17, 2012
So the Chinese are coming, the Chinese are coming, and everywhere we read of how their ambitions in aerospace mean they will inevitably overtake U.S. interests in the industry. Maybe. But it’s a long-shot bet that such an outcome would happen anytime soon, if ever.
Since Deng Xiaoping began the recovery of the nation from its disastrous plunge during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, aerospace has factored in China’s plans for the future. And why shouldn’t it? The industry is considered the crown jewel of developed nations’ economies — a money machine that produces enormous export revenue, with a relatively high cost of entry that acts as a formidable obstacle to any would-be rival. Any ambitions that China may harbor to become a great power — and there’s little question that they have such plans — mean the nation would have to meet, match or overcome the perceived lead in technology enjoyed by the developed countries.
To that end, McDonnell Douglas dispatched executive Gareth C. C. Chang in the late 1970s to sell aircraft to China, even if those aircraft would be assembled in China to offset some cost. Chang’s father had been a pal of Deng Xiaoping, who blessed the project. But the enterprise foundered after China postponed it, claiming a lack of funds, and although a few MD-80s were produced, the resulting debacle was one of many reasons McDonnell-Douglas was driven into the arms of Boeing (the companies merged in 1997). A Chinese derivative of the MD-90, known as the ARJ21, was launched in 2002 and has yet to be delivered to its first customer.
Notwithstanding that history, China’s latest effort, the Comac C919, is supposed to take on the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737 if it enters operation as scheduled in 2016. With the single exception of GE Capital, all orders have come from Chinese companies. So there’s no shortage of patience and persistence in Beijing when its comes to aerospace projects. China’s first efforts to become a space-faring power have been reported on other Air & Space blogs for some time now.
More recently, Chinese organizations have gone shopping for distressed U.S. light-airplane manufacturers, and have succeeded in obtaining controlling interests in both Cirrus Design and, more recently, Hawker Beechcraft. More than one U.S. aerospace expert has fantasized about how Walter and Olive Ann Beech, founders of the family-run company from the old days, must be spinning in their graves. Still, as someone in the oil bidness once put it, it makes more sense to buy up existing wells than to drill for your crude. Connect the dots and it appears that China is buying its way into existing airplane manufacturers rather than trying to start up its own industry.
It helps to recall that with the rise and fall of various economies as business cycles play out, the supposed crown jewels of one nation can end up in the hands of another. It happened during the Japanese economic bubble, when that nation’s high-flying investors bought such properties as Rockefeller Center and the golf resort at Pebble Beach. Then Japan’s economy crashed.
What’s most important to keep in mind is that both Boeing and Airbus are steeped in an intense culture that focuses on marketing and customer service as much as on the manufacture of airframes. Both companies can marshal armies of skilled and experienced engineers and technicians to support their products: They hold the customer’s hand when a new product is introduced, and from that tradition comes confidence in their respective products. Russia and the eastern bloc built airliners, too, but sold them mainly to domestic operators because they lacked the service infrastructure that would assure outside customers of satisfaction with the product. It’s difficult to think of an industry that’s harder to break into.
China can surely learn to achieve western-style service and support, but it will take a long time. Communism and socialism were intended to provide equally for all based on the equal efforts of all, but these days China seems to be showing the outside world that family ties come before allegiance to the state or to official ideology. Until the nation can adapt to western business mores, it can’t make the rapid progress it desires.
June 13, 2012
If you grew up flying light airplanes during the heady years of the 1960s and ’70s, chances are about ten to one that you had one of Ed King’s VHF transceivers in the panel. King had earned a degree in electrical engineering, which he applied to churning out components for the industry giant of that age, Collins Radio, back in the 1940s. Collins bought him out, and he set up a new company to design and produce a better radio for light, general aviation aircraft. “Panel-mounted” radios were compact and fit right into the instrument panel, whereas the high-end airline equipment was “remote mounted” on racks in compartments that were out of reach of the crew. But King liked the challenge of reducing the “form factor” of a box while maintaining the performance and quality of the airline stuff.
Until King came on the scene, aircraft communication radios were, well, pretty awful. He set about designing circuits based on crystals that would provide a steady and reliable frequency — like the “clock” in your PC’s microprocessor — with the result that King radios soon got a reputation for reliability, ease of use, and crystal-clear voice communication.
In those days, it was a big deal to build a radio that was 100-percent “solid state,” a term that meant “no vacuum tubes allowed; transistors only.” King mass-produced them with alacrity, soon adding navigation components such as automatic direction finders, VHF omnirange receivers and, eventually complete integrated navigation systems. And all of it fit into the airplane’s panel.
Anyone close to the general aviation business in those days (I was writing for FLYING Magazine, and, being the junior staffer, was assigned the “avionics” beat; also, nobody else wanted it) came to appreciate Ed King as an engineer who mastered the art of knowing when his designers had put together a box that was “good enough.” It did the job at a reasonable and affordable price — and it left enough profit margin for the company to invest in the next generation of products. Where some avionics makers piled on the features, flashing lights and push buttons, King kept it simple.
Perhaps the most memorable single product to come out of King Radio while Ed was there was the KNS-80, which combined in a single panel-mounted unit one 200-channel navigation receiver for VORs and localizer beams (used for instrument approaches), a 200-channel DME (distance measuring equipment), a digital area-navigation computer and a 40-channel glideslope receiver. All those sub-systems must have been pretty closely crammed together, because the box required a fan to provide cooling.
The KNS-80 allowed a pilot to draw a straight line on the chart between origin and destination, then offset the various VOR navaids along the route, in effect moving them to the desired track on the ground. When that thing came out, GA pilots thought they’d seen it all. And it had only six buttons and a pair of concentric knobs. It took a little time and effort to learn how to use it, but your average Joe Pilot in his Cessna Skyhawk could fly “direct,” just as the airline guys did.
Sure, Loran-C came along, followed by today’s GPS, and now the -80 is almost a bit of nostalgia. But they’re still being sold (used or refurbished) and serviced, and as one shop’s ad says, “Even today, the KNS-80 represents a great value.”
Ed took his company public, which made the ultimate sale of it to Bendix Aviation inevitable. Allied bought Bendix, merged with Signal, and eventually, became part of Honeywell, which is where you can find the Bendix/King brand today.
Later in life, his love for the sea took over, and King Marine Radio was launched in Florida and became quite successful. Ed King died on June 3, but pilots will always remember him as the man who built their radios.
June 11, 2012
The National Transportation Safety Board needs no introduction, especially these days, when the pace at which it issues communiqués, announces industry forums, and e-mails press releases is unmatched in its history. Just to refresh our collective memories, the five members of the board are nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate for five-year terms, a time span deliberately designed to foil political influence on the choices. The President also nominates one member of the board to a two-year term as chairman, which requires Senate confirmation, and a second member as vice chairman for two years.
While it’s impossible to measure the effectiveness of one board, this group of five seems to be exceptional in its ardor for safety. And although aviation accidents sometimes seem to grab more and bigger headlines, a review of the issues this group has tackled shows a wide-ranging and deep concern for all modes of transportation, with a special focus on fatigue and distraction while driving on the nation’s highways. A cursory examination of aviation issues alone reveals a broad scope of investigation. Last August, following the rupture of an airline fuselage and the resulting decompression, the board undertook a thorough examination of airplane fuselage structural integrity. That fall, the issue of public aircraft — those operated by state and local governments or their contractors — was given a thorough airing. Exemption of this class from regulations that govern all other operational categories is now under review.
After a catastrophic crash of an unlimited racer at the Reno air races, the board conducted a lengthy investigation of the cause and published a comprehensive revelatory report that showed hard-nosed science and engineering in its analysis. Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman (more on her later) made it clear that the purpose of the effort was not to shut down air racing but to make it safe for participants and onlookers alike. Having detected a trend indicating a lack of safety, the group polled amateur-built aircraft builders, owners and operators to analyze data that showed most accidents were occurring during the first flight of these aircraft. (That had been long suspected in the community of builders, many of whom wisely hired professional test pilots to execute a series of escalating taxi tests culminating in a first flight prior to piloting the aircraft themselves. Now everybody knows it.)
An upcoming forum to be held June 19 and 20 will explore the operation of general aviation aircraft, and if it is as far-reaching as most of this board’s work, it is guaranteed to save lives. The number of lives saved can never be known, which is the peculiar irony of safety efforts.
Beginning with its chairman, the board is made up of unusually well-credentialed people. Chairman Hersman, who has made it her business to communicate as openly as possible with the public, is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a master’s degree from George Mason. After wide experience as a Congressional staffer, she was appointed to the board by President George W. Bush and became chairman following nomination by President Obama when she was just 39. She also had the foresight to earn a commercial driver license that qualifies her to drive a heavy passenger bus equipped with air brakes–and a motorcycle endorsement. She’s serving her second term as chairman and will leave the board in 2013.
The current vice chairman is Christopher Hart, a lawyer, engineer and pilot. He holds commercial, multi-engine and instrument ratings and both bachelors and masters degrees in aeronautical engineering from Princeton. He learned his lawyering at Harvard and actually has served on the board before, during the early ‘90s. Just prior to his return to the NTSB, he held two key positions at the FAA, including deputy director for air traffic safety oversight. He’ll leave the board at the end of this year.
On his second five-year term is Robert L. Sumwalt, a 14,000-hour pilot with a 24-year career in the airlines and another eight elsewhere. He served on the Air Line Pilots Association’s accident investigation board and chaired their human factors and training group. He’s also consulted with NASA and authored a book on aircraft safety. His term will be up in 2016.
Mark R. Rosekind has become one of the world’s leading experts on fatigue, which has been on the board’s list of major concerns for years and undoubtedly led to the FAA’s recent overhaul of regulations governing pilot duty hours. He earned his A.B. with honors at Stanford, two masters and a PhD at Yale, and finally, a post-doc fellowship at Brown University Medical School. He’ll be with the board through the end of 2014.
Earl F. Weener has a PhD, 24 years with Boeing, flies a Beech Bonanza and holds a U.S. Coast Guard Master’s License that he uses to navigate his steel-hull trawler along most of the waterways in the nation. As one of Boeing’s chief engineers, he had a key role in developing the first glass cockpits aboard the 757/767 airliner families.
The measure of this board’s accomplishments can be read in the proceedings of their various forums and hearings, through which you can begin to comprehend how deeply they probe into the issues facing them. When the helicopter medical evacuation safety record was marred by a string of fatalities, board members involved the entire industry and discerned some business practices (“shopping,” in which those soliciting missions in questionable weather will continue to press for someone willing to fly despite the conditions) that might have eluded a less experienced and deliberative group.
When this board made it a regular practice to invite the families of accident victims to safety forums to give voice to the tragic impact of unsafe operations, it rose above the normal levels of Washington bureaucracies and demonstrated to all who would listen that safe operations mean that pilots, passengers, patients — the people transported by aircraft — will come home to those who love them. This group of five deserves to be remembered.
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