Tag Archives: FAA

Phones On Planes – Even VoIP – Are Another Circle of Hell

15 May

Regular readers of my blog know my strong feelings about cell phones on planes: I am against it for many reasons (you can ready why here).  So this headline in The Next Web – Delta calls cops on Viber founder for using VoIP app on plane – really caught my eye.

Talmon Marco is the founder of social VoIP and free texting app Viber. On a recent Delta Air Lines flight, Marco was told by a flight attendant that he couldn’t use the voice part of Viber, citing FAA regulations.  In fact, FAA says it doesn’t have any regulation specifically covering VoIP, adding it’s more an issue with airlines.  The flight attendant then told Marco he was violating the terms of service of Gogo, the carrier’s inflight Wi-Fi vendor.

Marco took to Twitter complaining about a regulation that doesn’t exist, and was told by the airline that they had called the police, who would be there when he landed.  They were, but let him go when they realized that he hadn’t broken any laws.

I won’t go off on a tangent about how flight attendants like to throw around the phrase “FAA regulations” when they want passengers to do — or not do — something.  Technically, Marco  wasn’t breaking any rules.  But if I’m flying in a metal tube sitting next to or near him, I do NOT want to hear him gabbing away via VoIP.

Random Avation Photo

9 Feb

Back in November 2008, I was working on a story for Aviation Week on the opening of the new fourth runway at Washington Dulles International Airport.  I was there to do an interview and photo shoot with Bobby Sturgell, who was then the acting administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration.  One of the bonuses was that we got to go up in the Dulles tower.  The view up there is grand, and I snapped the photo of a United/TED Airbus A320.  Enjoy!

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

23 Jan

It was quite a week in aviation, with topics including cracks in the Airbus A380’s wings, a snowstorm in the Pacific Northwest that shut down airports, American Airlines continues moving ahead in Chapter 11 and Memphis-based regional Pinnacle Airlines facing the same.  So I had to fight to decide what made the top 10 this week.

  1. I’ve been steeped in the business aviation side of the business since late 2008.  After Boeing announced it was shutting down its plant in Wichita, the self-proclaimed Air Capital of the World, the New York Times came out with this profile of the city and its history with the Chicago-based company.
  2. At the beginning of my journalism career, I covered topics including education, economic development and employment and training.  So it was with great interest I read a blog post in Aviation Week’s Things With Wings blog: The Art of Attracting Top A&D Jobs.  The post not only discusses what happened with Boeing in Wichita, but covers how other companies are making the balance between capacity and work.
  3. I flew down to Austin on Southwest Airlines last week, and noticed that the carrier has begun its integration with AirTran Airways.  So I read two stories last week with interest.  One, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, discusses how the Dallas-based carrier will dismantle Atlanta as a hub.  The second story, in the Washington Post, covers how the carrier will keep 22 AirTran cities, but drop another 15.
  4. Even before American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, rumors were rampant that the carrier was a merger target for US Airways.  Bloomberg BusinessWeek has a story about how US Airways is working on a plan that would “fix a weak domestic route system at American Airlines and boost revenue.”
  5. Back in 1996, on my first day of work at the Regional Airline Association, I got to sit in on a call where a major airline executive had words with my new boss over a decision not to take sides in the fight over user fees to fund the Federal Aviation Administration.  And now, 16 years later, the fight continues.  The latest shot was fired when the White House responded to a petition asking that a proposed $100 per flight user fee be scrapped, according to a story in AOPA Online (my current employer).

Episode 181 of the Airplane Geeks podcast features my boss Craig Fuller, who discusses user fees, NextGen and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, Calif.  Finally, below is a video of Southwest Airlines installing its new EVOLVE interior in a Boeing 737. Enjoy!

Rolling Aviation Thoughts

4 Jan
  • Regular readers know how I feel about lap babies on planes ( my post is here).  So was US Airways really so wrong in throwing off a family of two adults, a 3-year-old, 20-month-old twins and an 8-month-old baby because the parents did not buy tickets for the younger children, as reported in Yahoo News.  Technically, the twins and the baby could fly as lap children.  First the parents wanted to put one of the twins in a seat with the 3-year-old (really?).  Then they took an offer from a stranger to hold one of the twins (a stranger?).  They also accepted an offer from a passenger to buy another ticket for one of their children (why not buy your own?).  In the end, it’s about safety, and that’s why they were booted, according to US Airways. I won’t judge, but I don’t disagree with US Airways’ handling of the situation.
  • I can’t wait to see what U.S. airline merge this year. The only question: which ones? American Airlines-US Airways? JetBlue-American Airlines? Alaska Airlines-American Airlines? Virgin America-JetBlue? Bahahaha!
  • I really wanted to fly on the Farmers Insurance zeppelin when I went to Oshkosh last summer.  This article from the Ventura County Star really makes me even sadder that I didn’t try harder to get a ride.
  • Will 2012 be the year we FINALLY see a long-term FAA reauthorization bill? Considering this is an election year, I’m afraid that we won’t see any real action until 2013. How sad is that?
  • An O&D airport like New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International needs to step up its concessions game. A city with such a rich food heritage should have an airport that reflects the same. With a few exceptions (like Acme Oyster House), it’s been only a dream, as cited in this article on NOLA.com. It’s an embarrassment, and the city — and its visitors — deserve better.
  • My parents leave on Thursday for a trip to UAE, with stops in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.  They took my advice and will fly Etihad out of Chicago O’Hare. Too bad they won’t get to experience the first class chef, as profiled by Business Traveller.
  • Back in late 2003, I did a mileage run to keep my Continental OnePass gold status. I flew from DC to San Jose in a day; I even rented a donut-wheel car just to add onto the pile.  So I love The Points Guy website for helping us all feed this strange addiction.
  • And last, but not least, a question for my pilot and student pilot friends: I hear songs in my head when I’m flying. Is this normal?

Top Aviation Stories Of The Week

12 Aug

First, thanks again for sticking with me last week as I ran another best-of while I attended the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Philadelphia.  While I didn’t do any writing, I did keep up with the news.  But I couldn’t be constrained to only five stories, so check out my list of the most interesting aviation/airline news, below.

  • My Aug. 10 post about the Tuskegee Airmen prompted Ernie Nackord (@WWIIPilots) to post a comment with a link to a 47:10 minute video interview with Airman Adolph Moret and his wife Eline.  I plan on watching it this weekend, and I hope you take the time to do the same.
  • Scott McCartney posts at the Wall Street Journal’s Middle Seat Terminal blog on how despite airlines offering better food choices, you guys insist on going for the junk food.  My July 19 post offers my own view on inflight food.
  • Cranky Flier (aka Brett Snyder) says why the airlines were correct in NOT passing along a temporary FAA tax cut along to passengers.
  • Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) is chairman of the House Transportation Committee and loves to shoot out sound bites about parts of the air transportation system that catches his attention.  This week he targeted the Essential Air Service (EAS) program in the Sunshine News, saying he wants to shut the program down.  But those are fighting words to rural lawmakers, including Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce committee.  I covered my feelings on EAS in a Feb. 9 post.
  • The Los Angeles Times writes about how the new ABC-TV television show Pan Am has sparked a nostalgia for the airline’s logo line. (There’s more after the video, kids)

We’ll end the week with two things that are perfect bookends — a post on Up Up And A Gay on flight attendants talking about gross things passengers do on planes (snot-covered blankets, dripping breast milk) and Aviation Week’s Strange But True Aviation News (urinating passengers, bats on a plane). Enjoy the weekend, kids!!

Top Five Most Interesting Aviation Stories Of The Week

22 Jul

This week’s big news was the massive American Airlines order split between rival manufacturers and the potential partial shut-down of the Federal Aviation Administration.  But there were other things going on, below.

  1. There were hundreds of stories on the American Air order, but I really liked this one in Aviation Week from my colleague, Darren Shannon. In this story, Shannon explains why the carrier had to split its order between Boeing and Airbus.
  2. Aviation Week has been all over the potential shut-down of FAA because Congress can’t get it together and stop doing short-term reauthorizations over and over again.
  3. Delta Air Lines and US Airways finally got approval from the Dept. of Transportation to do a swap that will give Delta more slots at LaGuardia Airport and US Airways more slots at Washington National Airport, reports USA Today’s Today in the Sky blog.
  4. Back when I worked at Delta Air Lines, it was during a time when the carrier was struggling to make its pension fund more stable.  With questions on what would happen to the fund in the long term, there were cases where pilots divorced their wives so their spouses could get a lump-sum payment, but they would still live together.  The airlines caught on and Continental took nine of its pilots to court over what they called “sham” divorces.  The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling dismissing the lawsuit, reports the Houston Chronicle.
  5. Anyone who’s ever flown on a plane knows the drill — when the boarding call is made, people start flocking to the boarding gate even though their row isn’t called. Sometimes it’s so bad you feel like a salmon spawning upstream when it’s time for you to board.  Which is why I read Scott McCartney’s Middle Seat Terminal blog post on the boarding process with interest.  In my humble opinion, I think Southwest Airlines has it right.

We have some really crazy stuff in this week’s edition of Strange But True Aviation News, including airline panty checks, the Octomom having a bit of kid trouble in business class and folks with TSA screener issues.  Next week I’ll be in aviation geek heaven, covering the annual EAA AirVenture air show, the world’s largest.  So I have to decide — will I try and post from the show or do a best-of next week?  We’ll see.  Meanwhile, enjoy your weekend!

Best Of Aviation Queen: Babies On Planes: Lap Child Or Separate Seat?

2 Jun

Editor’s Note: I have a bunch of family obligations going on this week, so for today, I’m re-posting this from Dec. 22.  Although I was writing about it for the holiday season, I think the topic is appropriate year-round for parents who travel with babies and toddlers.  Enjoy!

As we reach the home stretch into the holiday season, many of us (including me and my rug rat) will be taking to the skies to see family and friends.   Airlines currently allow one child under the age of two to sit on their parent’s lap.

But a  debate that has been raging for years has now reared its head yet again, with questions including: should parents be made to pay to buy a seat for their small children;  how big must a child be before he/she can no longer be considered a lap child; and should airlines require parents to show proof of age?

I am in no position to judge how parents should answer this question.  I can say that we as parents decided to buy a seat for our child, starting when she took her first flight at 10 days old.  My reasoning is it’s safer for my daughter and frankly, more comfortable.

I fly Southwest Airlines most times, and I can’t remember the last time I flew on them where there was an open seat.  I have seen parents struggle to contain their lap child in a very tight space.  I’ve also seen children that look WAY too big to still be considered a lap child.  Southwest is one of the few carriers left that offer discount fares for babies.

The Federal Aviation Administration does not require parents to buy seats, but strongly urges that they do.  You can see their guidelines here.

I think about all the things I do as a parent to keep my child safe, and I see buying that seat as just another cost of doing that.  When my child was younger, my parents bought me the best gift ever: the All-in-One Child Travel Seat from the Sky Mall catalog.  It’s an FAA-approved seat that can be used on a plane or in a car, and my daughter loved sitting in the best seat on the plane, outside of the cockpit.  Now that she’s older, we use the Kids Fly Safe CARES harness, also FAA approved.  It comes in a nice little pouch that my daughter packs in her little Disney Princess rollerboard.

For more on this issue, check out this article from the Consumer Traveler blog and this article from travel columnist Harriet Baskas on the MSNBC Travel website.  So what do you think? How do you handle travel with small children?



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