Back in Fla. 13th-20th, fun with airline travel

Builders:

I have taken a break from the western Corvair College tour to fly back to Florida, and spend a solid week in the hangar making more parts and components. I spent the last week in Chino California working with Corvair College #37 host Steve Glover, and almost all of the prep for #37, which starts on the 22nd, is in place.  On the 20th, two days before #37, Dan Weseman and I are flying out to California, and we will do all the tech support and teaching at the Chino college.

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I flew back from LAX to Jacksonville, by way of Atlanta today. The send leg to Jacksonville was Delta flight 774, an MD-90 aircraft. I was seated near the very back of the plane, in row 34. About 5 minutes into the flight, while the plane was still climbing hard, we entered a cloud layer, and several times in the space of 60 seconds you could feel the plane gently porpoise in pitch. It was enough to make my sweat shirt float for a second or so. The passengers didn’t notice, but anyone who was a pilot would have known something was going on. The pilot stopped climbing, and in a clam voice announced that we had a trim failure, and we were returning to the airport.

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People groaned, because they are fools who understand nothing about command decisions on safety. The first thought on my mind was that this plane, an MD-90, had a nearly identical trim system as the MD-83 that was Alaskan Airlines 261 crash in 2000. That plane stayed airborne for 10 minutes before plunging into the Pacific Ocean.

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If you saw the movie “Flight” a few years ago, you saw Denzel Washington’s character try to fly an airliner inverted. The movie was fiction, but it had some roots in reality; The black boxes from Alaskan 261 showed that as a last ditch chance to survive, the flight crew actually tried flying their MD-83 inverted. It didn’t work, and everyone on the plane perished.

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The Delta crew did an excellent job of calmly bringing the flight back to Atlanta. We were greeted by a full compliment of fire trucks and rescue vehicles. We taxied back to the gate and everyone was loaded onto a different MD-90. This is the only airline flight I have ever been on in my life that was terminated after take off for a mechanical failure. We got to Jacksonville 2 hours late, but with the same flight crew. I spoke to the pilot for a moment and he said the failure was likely an elevator trim motor. I complimented him on his judgment, smooth flying, and his clam voice on all the announcements. He smiled, but shrugged it off.

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An aviator of ethics and principles, John J. Liotine:

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John Liotine was a very experienced aircraft mechanic who worked for Alaskan Airways. He went to the FAA and reported that Alaskan was filing fictitious maintenance records. The FAA investigation confirmed this. 3 years before the Flight 261 crash, Liotine recommended replacing the very jack screw that failed, but Alaskan did not. After the crash  investigation showed that Liotine was right, and the Airlines claims about his character were slander, he was awarded $500,000 in damages.  People who debate the power of corporations to elude justice should consider this: No criminal charges were ever filed against anyone in the ownership or management of Alaskan Airlines.

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-ww.

2 Replies to “Back in Fla. 13th-20th, fun with airline travel”

  1. I guess it’s OK to be political here: If corporations are considered ‘persons’ and are allowed to contribute to political candidates, causes, lobby, etc., then they ought to go to jail when they put profit before safety. On the other hand, the law that states a publicly traded corporation’s first priority is the profit of its shareholders should be amended to say “after the obvious priority of consumer safety and value advertised”, or words to that effect. Glad you had a good pilot.

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