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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Lawsuit Threatens Airline Safety

Air Transport Association 
Washington Department Labor

"This lawsuit challenges Washington's Paid Sick Leave Law"
But could impact California and Minnesota too

Who is the Air Transport Association?

Air Transportation Association is doing business as Airlines for America (A4A). Who is Airlines for America? They are a group of US Airlines that have come together with a mission: 

"Airlines For America advocates on behalf of its members to shape crucial policies and measures that promote safety, security and a healthy U.S. airline industry. We work collaboratively with airlines, labor, Congress, the Administration and other groups to improve aviation for the traveling and shipping public.

Annually, commercial aviation helps drive nearly $1.7 trillion in U.S. economic activity and more than 10 million U.S. jobs. A4A vigorously advocates on behalf of the American airline industry as a model of safety, customer service and environmental responsibility and as the indispensable network that drives our nation’s economy and global competitiveness."

While A4A alleges to promote safety, it's difficult to understand how they could file a lawsuit that would make airline employees exempt from the Washington's Paid Sick Leave Law (WPSLL). This law helps support airline employees to be able to stay out of the airplane if they have a mental illness, when a family member is ill, have been a victim of domestic violence, or their child is locked out of school for health related reasons. The rulings in this case could also impact airline employees in California and Minnesota, two additional states that have State Sick laws. 

Key points under the Washington's Paid Sick Leave Law:

When may I use my earned paid sick leave?
    • For a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition or if you need a medical diagnosis or preventative medical care.
    • If a family member (see below) needs care for a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or needs a medical diagnosis or preventative medical care.
    • If your workplace or your child’s school or place of care has been closed for any health related reason by order of a public official.
    • If you are absent from work for reasons that qualify for leave under the state’s Domestic Violence Leave Act (DVLA)
What family members may I use paid sick leave to care for?
    • Child - This may include a biological, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, or child you are legally responsible for.
    • Parent - This may include your biological, adoptive, or foster parent, stepparent, or someone who was your legal guardian or their spouse or registered domestic partner – or a person who was legally responsible for you when you were a minor.
    • Spouse.
    • Registered domestic partner.
    • Grandparent.
    • Grandchild.
    • Sibling.

What this means is that employees can use their accrued airline sick leave to stay home and care for their loved ones. In Washington state, the employer is not even allowed to ask the nature of the illness and the employee is allowed to use 100% of their sick leave. In California, a doctor's note is required and only 50% of the employee's sick leave is allowed to be used.  

We want our pilots and flight attendants mentally healthy when they are at work. When a loved one needs care, and the spouse or parent is forced to go to work, we all know where their mind will be and it won't be on flying the plane or doing their job. 

Litigation in Motion: 

Airlines for America sued Washington Department of Labor and Joel Sacks as the Director, and Association of Flight Attendants communication workers of America, AFL-CIO a labor organization. However, on October 11, 2019 the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled on this case: CASE NO. 19-cv-05092-RBL Both sides were seeking a motion for summary judgement. A4A's motion for summary judgement was DENIED, and the Washington State's was GRANTED.  But the case does not end there. 

I cannot find the file of the next event, but an appeal was filed with the Ninth Circuit Court.  On November 19, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals stated this ruling will be held in abeyance awaiting the ruling of another case that is similar: Ward v. United Airlines. 

The ruling stated: "Within 30 days of the issuance of the opinion in Ward, the parties shall each file a supplemental brief of up to 10 pages discussing the implications of the Ward disposition, if any, on this case."

United must have initially won the Ward case because on October 30, 2020, it was argued and Submitted in San Francisco, California, and on February 2, 2021, The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit order was Reversed and Remanded.  CASE No. 1616415, No. 17-55471

Therefore, ten pages were submitted by each party and now we wait. 

Because the State of California prevailed in the the Ward case, it is much more likely that Washington State will prevail too. Time will tell. 


Of the many arguments, the A4A group challenges the fact that airline employees fall under the Railway Labor Act and Airline Deregulation Act (ADA). They claimed and argued that all airline employees have collective bargaining agreements.... but that is not true in all cases. There are airlines within the A4A group that do not have collective bargaining groups for flight attendants or mechanics. Those employees would be unprotected. They argued the expense of tracking these types of sick leaves would be high, yet never justified that claim. But, how much is this litigation costing? They argued sick leave abuse. However, if people are going to abuse sick leave, a state law makes no difference. They also argued it wouldn't be fair for other employees in states that don't offer the same protections. That could be remedied if ALPA decided to Nationally implement similar protections for all ALPA pilots. 

There is truth, justice, and what you can prove in court. The truth is, this fight is all about airline management expecting employees to go to work even if a loved one is home sick. They do not want the employee to use their accrued sick leave to care for a loved one. The practicality is that any employee who is not of the right mind because they have a loved one at home in need of medical care should not be flying.  This is fight is a safety issue. 

The Bottom Line

No employee should be forced to work if they are ill, or if they have a loved one who needs care. I certainly want my fellow employees' head in the game when they are flying, and not worrying about their spouse or child's illness. I hope the judicial system does the right thing for the right reason. The reality is, if management behaved accordingly to make the appropriate provisions for employees in need, then we would not need regulations forcing them to do so. Laws are designed to protect us from people who do not have self-regulation to do the right thing, and in this case to promote passenger safety. For those of you who work in California, Washington, and Minnesota... for now you are covered! 

Enjoy the journey!
XOX Karlene

Saturday, March 20, 2021

History of the Black Box

By Rebecca Seales
BBC News, in Melbourne

A friend forwarded me this story, and I followed the link and learned of the origin. One of those little bits of history that most people don't know.  Thank you for a wonderful story Rebecca! 

"On Friday 19 October, 1934, the passenger plane Miss Hobart fell from the sky to the sea.  Eight men, three women and a baby boy fell with her, swallowed - it's believed - by the waters of the Bass Strait that lies between Tasmania and mainland Australia.  The plane's wreckage was never found.

One of those on board was a 33-year-old Anglican missionary, Rev Hubert Warren, who had been traveling to his new parish in Enfield, Sydney. His wife Ellie and four children had stayed behind, intending to follow by boat.

The reverend's last present to his eight-year-old son, David, had been a crystal radio set that the boy treasured deeply.

As a boarder at Launceston Boys' Grammar School in Tasmania, David Warren tinkered with the machine after lessons, learning what made it work. He charged friends a penny to listen to cricket matches, and within a few years was selling home-made copies at five shillings each.

By his mid-twenties, David Warren had studied his way to a science degree from the University of Sydney, a diploma in education from Melbourne University and a PhD in chemistry from Imperial College, London.

His specialty was rocket science, and he went to work as a researcher for the Aeronautical Research Laboratories (ARL), a part of Australia's Defense Department that focused on planes.

In 1953, the department loaned him to an expert panel trying to solve a costly and distressing mystery: why did the British de Havilland Comet, the world's first commercial jet airliner and the great hope of the new Jet Age, keep crashing?

He thought it might be the fuel tanks; but there were dozens of possible causes and nothing but death and debris as evidence. The panel sat down to discuss what they knew.

"People were rattling on about staff training and pilots' errors, and did a fin break off the tail, and all sorts of things that I knew nothing about," Dr Warren recalled more than 50 years later.

"I found myself dreaming of something I'd seen the week before at Sydney's first post-war trade fair. And that is - what claimed to be the first pocket recorder, the Miniphon. A German device. There'd been nothing before like it…"

The Miniphon was marketed as a dictation machine for businessmen, who could sit at their desks (or on trains and planes) recording letters that would later be typed up by their secretaries. David, who loved swing music and played the clarinet, only wanted one so he could make bootleg recordings of the jazz musician Woody Herman.

However, when one of his fellow scientists suggested the latest doomed Comet might have been hijacked, something clicked for him.

The chances that a recorder had been on board - and survived the fiery wreck - were basically nil. But what if every plane in the sky had a mini recorder in the cockpit? If it was tough enough, accident investigators would never be this confused again, because they'd have audio right up to the moment of the crash. At the very least, they'd know what the pilots had said and heard.

The idea fascinated him. Back at ARL, he rushed to tell his boss about it.

Alas, his superior didn't share his enthusiasm. Dr Warren said he was told: "It's nothing to do with chemistry or fuels. You're a chemist. Give that to the instruments group and get on with blowing up fuel tanks."

David knew his idea for a cockpit recorder was a good one. Without official support, there was little he could do about it - but he couldn't get it out of his mind.

When his boss was promoted, David pitched his invention again. His new superior was intrigued, and so was Dr Laurie Coombes, ARL's chief superintendent. They urged him to keep working on it - but discreetly. Since it wasn't a government-approved venture or a war-winning weapon, it couldn't be seen to take up lab time or money.

Dr Warren said the chief superintendent had cautioned him: "If I find you talking to anyone, including me, about this matter, I will have to sack you."

It was a sobering thought for a young man with a wife and two children.

But his boss's backing extended to sneakily buying one of the precious new dictation recorders, and chalking it up as "an instrument required for the laboratory…"

Encouraged, Dr Warren wrote up his idea in a report, titled "A Device for Assisting Investigation into Aircraft Accidents", and sent it out across the industry.

The pilots' union responded with fury, branding the recorder a snooping device, and insisted "no plane would take off in Australia with Big Brother listening".

That was one of his better reviews.

Australia's civilian aviation authorities declared it had "no immediate significance", and the air force feared it would "yield more expletives than explanations".

Dr Warren was tempted to pack it all in.

However, Dr Warren took to his garage and assembled his 20-year-old radio parts. He'd decided the only way to overcome his critics' mockery and suspicion was to build a solid prototype.

It would be the first ever "black box" flight recorder.

One day in 1958, when the little flight recorder had been finished and finessed, the lab received an unusual visitor. Dr Coombes, the chief superintendent, was showing round a friend from England.

One day in 1958, when the little flight recorder had been finished and finessed, the lab received an unusual visitor. Dr Coombes, the chief superintendent, was showing round a friend from England.

"Dave!" he said, "Tell him what you're doing!"

Dr Warren explained: his world-first prototype used steel wire to store four hours of pilot voices plus instrument readings and automatically erased older records so it was reusable.

There was a pause, then the visitor said: "I say Coombes old chap, that's a damn good idea. Put that lad on the next courier, and we'll show it in London."

The courier was a Hastings transport aircraft, making a run to England. You had to know somebody pretty powerful to get a seat on it. Dr Warren wondered who this man was who was giving away tickets round the world to somebody he'd never met.

The answer was Robert Hardingham (later Sir Robert), the secretary of the British Air Registration Board and a former Air Vice-Marshal in the RAF.

In David's words: "He was a hero. And he was a friend of Coombes, and if he gave away a seat, you took it."

A few weeks later, Dr Warren was on a plane bound for England - with strict instructions not to tell Australia's Department of Defense what he was really doing there, because "somebody would frown on it".

In a near-unbelievable irony, the plane lost an engine over the Mediterranean.

Dr Warren recalled: "I said, 'Chaps, we seem to have lost a donk - does anyone want to go back?' But we'd come from Tunisia and it was about 45 degrees overnight. We didn't want to go back to that hellhole."

They decided they could make it if they ploughed on.

He recorded the rest of the flight, thinking that even if he died in that limping transport plane, "at least I'd have proved the bastards wrong!"

"But unfortunately we didn't prang - we just landed safely…"

In England, Dr Warren presented "the ARL Flight Memory Unit" to the Royal Aeronautical Establishment and some commercial instrument-makers.

The Brits loved it. The BBC ran TV and radio programmes examining it, and the British civil aviation authority started work to make the device mandatory in civil aircraft. A Middlesex firm, S Davall and Sons, approached ARL about the production rights, and kicked off manufacturing.

Though the device started to be called "the black box", the first ones off the line were orange so they'd be easier to find after a crash - and they remain so today.

Peter Warren believes the name dates from a 1958 interview his father gave the BBC.

"Right at the end there was a journalist who referred to this as a 'black box'. It's a generic word from electronics engineering, and the name stuck."

In 1960, Australia became the first country to make cockpit voice recorders mandatory, after an unexplained plane crash in Queensland killed 29 people. The ruling came from a judicial inquiry, and took a further three years to become law.

Today, black boxes are fire-proof, ocean-proof and encased in steel. And they are compulsory on every commercial flight.

It's impossible to say how many people owe their lives to data captured in the death throes of a failing plane - to the flaws exposed, and the safety innovations that followed.

David Warren worked at ARL until his retirement in 1983, becoming its principal research scientist. He died on 19 July, 2010, at the age of 85."

For more detail, more photos, TV footage from 1958 of David Warren explaining his invention to BBC, and a little explanation on what is a black box... please follow the links below: 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Most Amazing B777 Ever!

Built by Saul Midler...

Of course if you're building a simulator in your house, you need to have the catering cart to go with it. But who spends three years building such an incredible machine? The worlds biggest AvGeek, and technically brilliant human! Keep reading if you want to learn how he did it. 

2007 - Aero L-29 Delfin. 
Hands-on including barrel roles and 3G turns.

Saul tells me that he has always loved aviation and has dabbled in flying.  He even took lessons and learned how to barrel-roll a fighter jet. But as he said, "Sadly I didn't make it my career."  At first I thought he hadn't made a career of military flying. After watching his expertise flying the B777, I knew he must be an airline pilot. 

But he's not a pilot. Saul said, "I've flown desktop sims since Microsoft released their first version in the 90's. By 2017 I had three screens on a shelf (outside world), one screen centered on the desk (MIP), a basic yoke fixed to the desk and no pedals. Then a friend showed me some youtubes and dared me to build something better - I hate being dared to do something better!" 

How to Build a Simulator 

Step 1 - Build a prototype.
  • Cleared out home office (a room not quite 4m x 4m)
  • Designed a layout to maximize the space. Unfortunately the room was too small for all 6 windows.
  • Purchased and installed 3 second hand projectors.
  • Built a wooden frame for Pedestal and MIP
  • Built a curved screen 2.4 m high and 8.5 m long providing 220 degrees of field of view outside the aircraft
  • Yoke on a block of wood
  • Bought two car seats from a car wrecking yard ($40 each!!!)
  • 2 x reasonably good PCs
  • Learn lots of different software product

6 months later: Prototype successful

Step 2 - 2 year tear-down, rebuild. and upgrade

  • Purchased a new more powerful PC (total 3 computers)
  • Purchase 3 new brighter sharper projectors
  • Seats sliding mechanism (currently version 3)
  • Throttle quadrant (currently version 3)
  • B777 Yoke (currently version 2)
  • MCP upgrade
  • Sound (upgrade to 5.1 surround sound)
  • Lots more software including real weather interface

Overhead is a computer screen driven by a mouse

Step 3 - Overhead rebuild. 
12 months slow construction during 2020:

  • MCP: FO EFIS control panel
  • B777 overhead panel
  • Wet-compass
  • butt-kicker in captain's seat
  • 4 air-con ports into the flightdeck

Overhead on work bench (dining table) 
showing wiring to interface card

The Final Product 

Ingenuity, Creativity and Time, 
There is nothing Saul can't do. 

All I can say now is ....
Saul, I dare you to build me a better an A330! 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene