Monday, January 2, 2023

What's Up by LeRoy Cook

Is This Any Way To Run An Airline?

What a difference a week made! Emerging from Christmas week’s subzero arctic winds to 70 degree weather last week, we saw flying revitalized into more normal levels. Perhaps the drop in gas prices to less than six bucks, or even five dollars in some places, helped airplane owners wax more enthusiastic. Anyhow, we spotted a Cirrus coming in one day, and a pair of Piper Archers were fighting for airspace here on Saturday. 

Out of the locally-based fleet, Jerimie, Jim and Maggie Platt took the Grumman Tiger on a Fliar’s Club flyout to breakfast on Saturday morning, Jon Laughlin and I both flew his Piper Cherokee 180C, and Rebekah Knight and Nate Schrock individually flew Cessna 150 missions. 

As we move into 2023, January’s long-range weather predictions look for near-normal patterns of frontal and wind patterns. There are never enough good flying days in this sucky month, so don’t let a clear day go unflown. Problem is, in wintertime wide-open skies are usually accompanied by cold temps. If it warms up, low clouds and moisture often appear.

Most of last week’s aviation news centered on the breakdown of Southwest Airlines’ flight system, which resulted in thousands of cancelled holiday flights and calls for heads to roll. Son Will, like lots of others, had to drive home from his celebration on the Gulf Coast instead riding on Southworst. Multiple causes were behind the big mess, but SWA bore the brunt of the slings and arrows, because its computer system couldn’t cope with all the reshuffling of planes and people.

In reality, it’s a major miracle that these snafus don’t happen more often. The flying public thinks airliners are like buses, always rolling in and out at the scheduled hour, safely enclosed in their nice warm pressurized aluminum tube blasting through the hostile atmosphere. What people and politicians don’t get is that safety has to come first, always, and as the final word. If there’s a major winter storm on, I want my pilot to wait it out. If there’s a doubt over the airplane’s fitness to fly, I want it grounded. And if the computer says it can’t figure out an answer, I want a human to verify it before we launch. Better to be inconvenienced on the ground than run out of options in the air. Passing more laws won’t help. 

In last year’s final column, our question to be answered was “what’s the actual meaning of the term ‘Roger’ when used in a radio transmission?” All it really means is “I heard you and understand.” We seldom use it today, as we’re required to read back all instructions and at least acknowledge with our call sign. For next time, how many flight crew members participated in the World War II Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in 1943? Send your answers to

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