Pilots forced to talk about work in the cockpit

Big Brother may not be watching, but he’ll be listening. A new recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board would involve the use of “black box” recordings to monitor the conversations that occur among pilots in the cockpit. This comes on the heels of several high-profile incidents in which pilots were distracted. According to a report by USA Today, this would be the first time that workplace monitoring would penetrate the cockpit. Of course, pilots’ unions oppose the measure, calling it intrusive (isn’t that the point?).

Until now, the black boxes have only been used after accidents. This new step, if executed properly, could make the recordings useful in preventing them – well, that’s the plan, at least.

Needless to say, the timing couldn’t be better for the NTSB, given the Northwest Airlines flight that overshot its destination by a hundred miles and the Colgan crash near Buffalo last year. In both case, pilot conversations were cited as among the reasons for the problems that occurred.

So far, this is only a recommendation from the NTSB to the FAA (the former has no regulatory authority). The NTSB’s Robert Sumwalt claims, “This is not a case of Big Brother spying on pilots.” Well, it really does seem like one, but it isn’t a hard measure to defend in this climate. It might be easier to see the pilots’ point of view if their objections weren’t centered on pilot privacy. Workplace privacy is a thing of the past for everyone.

Mike Michaelis, chairman of safety at the Aillied Pilots Assocation, the union over at American Airlines, told USA Today, “It’s the wrong way to go safety-wise.” What I don’t understand is how that can be true.


Drunk pilot arrested in London

After (another) pilot was found drunk in London this week, the issue of pilot inebriation has become a frequent discussion topic. Since 1997, 11 commercial pilots, on average, have tested positive for alcohol every year. According to FAA regulations, pilots can’t fly with a blood alcohol content of above 0.04 percent (it’s 0.02 percent in Great Britain). Last year, 13 pilots tested positive, making 2008 slightly above average.

The FAA conducts more than 10,000 random alcohol tests every year, says spokeswoman Laura Brown. This is approximately 10% of the total, as there are around 100,000 commercial pilots in the United States.

The latest culprit, Erwin Washington of United Airlines, was arrested at Heathrow Airport on Monday, when he was suspected of being drunk in the cockpit — members of his crew reported him to the authorities. Washington could lose his license as a result. Two other U.S. pilots have been arrested in England on charges involving alcohol in a little more than a year.

Though an intoxicated pilot is obviously a danger to the passengers, the National Transportation Safety Board says that no airline in the United States has crashed because the pilot was drunk.

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Irony: NWA pilots land late because of scheduling discussion

The investigation into the overshooting Northwest Airlines flight continues. The National Transportation Safety Board has found that the pilots were distracted by conversations and the use of personal laptops when flying 150 miles past Minneapolis. One of the topics being bandied about was scheduling, though I suspect it didn’t involve the impact of a late arrival because of a missed airport.

According to the NTSB, “The pilots said there was a concentrated period of discussion where they did not monitor the airplane or calls from (air traffic controllers) even though both stated they heard conversation on the radio.” In the report generated by its investigation, the NTSB continued, “Both said they lost track of time.” Meanwhile air traffic controllers and airline dispatchers were trying to contact Flight 188 for more than an hour. Neither pilot realized something was amiss until they were asked about it by a flight attendant.

Delta was pretty quick to announce that the pilots were involved in activities not related to flying and that they could be fired for it. For now, the fliers are suspended pending the results of the government’s investigation (and one by the airline itself).

Helo pilot grounded because of in-flight porn star tryst

Definition of good sex: you’re willing to come back for more
Definition of great sex: you’re willing to piss away your pilot’s license
Definition of unforgettable sex: “great” sex with a porn star

David Martz is stupid enough to make receiving oral sex unpleasant. How? He was videotaped(!) on the receiving end of a passenger’s lips while flying a helicopter around San Diego. If this is some flyboy version of “put out or get out,” it may have made more sense not to let the camera roll.

What the LA Times doesn’t tell you is that Martz is Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee‘s helicopter pilot … and his passenger was none other than porn star Puma Swede (link to Wikipedia, safe for work).

The National Transportation Safety Board is out for satisfaction – much like Martz, ironically – and pushed to have his license revoked. Going down over San Diego (the helicopter, not the passenger) could have led to lost lives and plenty of property damage.

According to the NTSB, the blowjob itself wasn’t the problem. Pilot and passenger were busted because the video showed both unfastening their seatbelts … apparently much more dangerous than unfastening buttons. The giver’s body blocked the receiver’s access to the controls. Puma Swede, however, says that the whole incident didn’t take long (sorry, Martz). So, maybe the safety folks are being a bit tough on the fast-shooter.

The ruling handed down deprives Martz of his license for one year, though he can appeal the NTSB decision in federal court. Before the 2005 BJ, this pilot’s license was suspended twice and revoked once. But, he stayed out of trouble until being thanked for the spin four years ago.

Believe it or not, Martz almost got away with hit. He received the aerial bliss on May 29, 2005. This year, though, the video popped up on the internet, arousing suspicion and ultimately leading to action.

After the jump, check out a YouTube-friendly version of the video that grounded Martz, and an interview with the lovely Puma Suede.

Buffalo crash pilot lied on job application

Remember that plane crash in February, in Buffalo? There were 50 fatalities. Well, it turns out the pilot would have lost his job if he hadn’t lost his life. Marvin Renlsow, who was a pilot for Colgan, reportedly falsified his job application by not disclosing two failures on flight tests in small planes. Had his supervisors known, he “would have been immediately dismissed.”

Currently, the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating whether the crew responded inappropriately to a stall warning … as well as Colgan’s hiring and training practices. Among the issues is whether unauthorized chatter among pilots and fatigue played roles in the crash. Renslow’s copilot, Rebecca Shaw, flew from Seattle to Newark overnight, arriving the day of the accident and evidence suggests she wasn’t able to get much sleep that day.

The plane, a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 crashed in Clarence Center, New York en route from Newark, New Jersey to Buffalo. All 49 people on the plane died, along with on person on the ground.