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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I have returned from Paris Air Show 2011... somehow!

My Twitter followers would have noticed that I have disappeared from blogging this past 10 days, to attend the Paris Air Show. I have now returned and hope to share with all of you some of the stuff I did/found/whatever when I was there, as well as the other stuff that went around that deserves a blog entry.

In the meantime, I bring you some nice stuff already posted by FlightGlobal and their blog team (who really dominated the #PAS11 twitter timeline!!!!!):

This is a video of what amazing gem FlightGlobal had in their Chalet! During the trade days, the FlightGlobal chalet was a favourite place for me to visit. I must thank the FlightGlobal team for their hospitality throughout the show! Food, drinks, and the FLIR Camera... the best way to watch the flying displays when the weather is rather murky!

Day 1 Flying Display

Now here are the wrap ups by Jon Ostrower (@FlightBlogger) and Mary Kirby (@RunwayGirl) 
Day 1.5 wrap up!
Holy Crap! Mary, I still can't believe you said that!

Final Trade Day Wrap Up!

I didn't have timeto visit AviationWeek's chalet. I owe someone there lunch! @AvWeekRupa, don't kill me! Next time OK? What you said about Bus #152 during the tweetup saved our team a lot of grief at the end of Day 1!

Here is a video on the awesome Eurocopter X3 by AviationWeek:

Interestingly, it was the subject of the conversation with the taxi driver on the way back from the Tweetup! (And oh, did I mention a 5 Euro "discount" from the driver?)

Paris Air Show 2011, an amazing experience! And thanks to the fellow Tweeps who directly or indirectly helped our team a lot through the week! @AvWeekRupa, @FlightBlogger, @Ghimlay, @LizMoscrop, @NigelMcD, @RunwayGirl and others I've missed. Till next time!

I am now home, and stuck on what to do with what to post on the blog... well, my luggage being left behind by someone in Paris CDG didn't help! I guess we, the DNK and Indoflyer Teams who went, will need to wait for the luggage to arrive first!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Low levels of trust between the passengers and the airlines equals strange mishaps!

I was sent an interesting picture the other day...

It was taken by one of the passengers onboard that aircraft...

When the aircraft pushed back and started its engines, a tailpipe fire occured. The residual fuel in the combustion chamber and turbine blades of a jet engine produces smoke and fire on the next engine start. Whilst it's no big deal, it could cause concern for those who never saw one and do not know what it is. Normally, if someone raised the concern, the cabin crew would just assure them that it is normal... unless you're in Indonesia.

On this Garuda flight, a passenger panicked and immediately ran to the door, opened it and deployed the slide. The result was a delay for the other passengers. The scheduled 1445 departure, left finally at 1750, after an aircraft change. The costs to the airline, a new escape slide, and meals & drinks compensation for the other passengers.

Why didn't the passenger heed to the cabin crew's call to remain calm? The answer lies in Indonesia's airline industry history since 2000. The boom in the industry meant 2 things:
1. Accidents.
2. Lots of incidents.
3. Lots of delays.
4. Lots of stress for the passengers.
5. Passengers losing trust but still flying.

Whilst the first 3 can be solved by proper enforcement of the operating regulations and industry best-practice preventative measures, the latter 2, are tricky.

What didn't help was the industry's method of "hush-hush" and "just tell them a lie and the rants will go away" to solve problems between 2000 and 2007. Whilst not all airlines are guilty, the multiplier effect of just 1 frontline staff doing it, cannot be underestimated.

The multiplier works by other staff thinking, "hey, that worked, so I'll start doing that too!" Then the line managers starts adopting the same method and before you know it, several companies would adopt the same method.

Sweeping the problem under the carpet works in the short run. Eventually, one will just go too far and the passenger snaps the weakened chain of trust. The airline most guilty of doing this was the now-defunct Adam Air... and one other carrier who allegedly utilize the method on a regular basis, still exist, and is still flourishing somehow (no, it's not Garuda).

What airlines need to know is that even if the passengers hate you, put the price low enough and the haters will still fly with you. If they've had enough, they don't stop flying, they fly someone else. Unfortunately, they bring their trauma and distrust along with them even when they fly someone else!

Whilst the industry's safety record has improved significantly since 2007, my perception seems to indicate that incidents of "unruly/panicked passengers" are on the increase. The lag of the peak of occurences can be understood, but does the industry realize this?

Last year (I think), a tailpipe fire resulted in the same thing... 1 Batavia Air passenger panicked, overwhelmed the crew, and opened the door and jumped out. Since 2007, this appears to have occured at least once a year, but the other ugly behaviours are increasing.

Delays (even by weather), now begin to produce increasingly confrontative and angry passengers. Just last week, we had 2 crew members walking through the terminal were "detained" by passengers who held the hostage unless their delayed flight, departed immediately. A few months ago, a passenger on a rampage after "attempts to hush" him failed and several terminal information displays were destroyed along with 1 x-ray machine giving up after it was bumped during the rampage.

This does not limit itself to "bad carriers", Garuda suffered this, Air Asia also had "passengers detaining crew" due to delays (despite winning the Best Low Cost Carrier award). A Sriwijaya Air tech delay resulted in Jambi Airport being taken over by its passengers to prevent the crew from leaving the airport 1 - 2 years ago... The worst case, was around that same time when a Sriwijaya Air passenger was denied boarding in Ambon and he decided to call his friends in Jakarta to do a drive-by shooting at the airport...

And these are just the stuff I hear or made it to the news... I dare not think how many other cases had occured. But what surprises me the most is when I discuss it with people working at the airlines or the airport, their reaction was, "How do you know?" or "Hey, you're not supposed to know that!"

As long as there are those preferring to hide these kinds of problems and incidents, no matter how minor, it's a safe bet that "silly incidents" will increase! I wonder how long/short we'd have to wait until someone does get killed at the airport for some silly/insignificant altercation or delay...

But, in the meantime, let's be relieved that no Tristars (God Bless them!)are in service in Indonesia! Just have a look at the following:

Photos by: Mick Bajcar, Lasse Lehtonen and Viktor Laszlo via Airliners.net

With engine starts like those, and the passengers we get in Indonesia these days, am sure aircraft escape slides would be a best seller if Tristars are in service today!!!!!

And with starts like this:

 Photo by: Mathias Henig via Airliners.net

They might as well open their own slide production plant next to the airport!

As bad as all the stories I hear about passenger service in the US, those frontline staff there should feel lucky they're not in Indonesia!

The Holidays are coming!
Stay Calm Everyone!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Scaremongering on Cellphones & Airplanes: The difference between Good Journalism and Bad Journalism

Cellphones and airplanes has always been a hot issue. But I came across an link on a friend's Facebook this afternoon and I was in disbelief.

So, just one mobile phone or electronic device during a flight, can cause a plane's system to shut down. Sure, a lot of the electromagnetic interference from mobile phones or smart gadgets have been deemed "unrepeatable in laboratory conditions hence unable to be confirmed or dismissed as dangerous", and that everyone has been siding on caution. But, with all these new developments in cabin services,THE HOT ITEM for the industry has been CONNECTIVITY and WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY for IFE, and whatever you can think of!

If you read and believe what that Daily Mail article contained, I can't blame you for thinking that someone decided to put everyone in danger... but seriously, it is NOT that simple, and not that dangerous, provided everyone obey the rules on when you can and cannot turn on your mobiles or personal gadgets.

The article mentioned incidents caused by these gadgets and I have no doubt that the causes were what is written. My friends who fly around the world as crewmembers, also know the dangers of these interference. One had his ILS receiver dying just as he intercepted the glideslope on an approach to a Turkish airport with hills and mountains on the sides of the approch path. These interferences, he claimed, happen so often, his cabin crew knows which rows are the most likely suspects... and they were mostly mobile phones.

I recently flew on Emirates from Jakarta to Hamburg via Dubai, and back. On all the flights, the aircraft were equipped with On-board GSM service provided by Aeromobile. Yes, you read it right... ON BOARD MOBILE PHONE SERVICE, using YOUR OWN MOBILE PHONE! All the approaches done into Dubai and Jakarta that I was on, were ILS approaches. My aircraft did not go-around because the ILS receiver blanked out during approach, nor did any of the flights suffered deviations from their designated flight path on all phases (unless instructed by the ATC or deliberate deviations to avoid weather)

I even switched my mobile phone on during the flight, and I am still alive and well today.

So why did I make it and those 75 incidents had to suffer? The answer is simple. I did not switch the phone on between the ground and 10,000ft as per the publicly announced instructions. Why?

The aircraft had onboard Picocells, which are basically, mini-BTS, the stuff your mobile phone logs on to. The wonderful thing about the Picocell is that at 30,000ft, your phone does NOT go to full power and search for a far-away BTS to log on to, but after an initial scan, it will detect the Picocell, and latch on to it at low power. The risk of interference is therefore reduced to acceptable levels.

Airlines have to use certified equipment for on-board cellular service, which will not leak back RF energy into the aircraft onboard systems. Once that is equipped on the aircraft, the system has to prove that it will not interfere with critical systems when it is used. If during a particular phase of flight it does cause interference, then that system cannot be used during that particular phase of flight.

Now, this is why there is still that 10,000ft rule. Below 10,000ft, crew workload is high and they can do without any interference from these on-board wifi or cellular systems. The risks of interference also increases as you go lower because there is a higher chance that your phone would pick up a ground BTS instead of the onboard Picocell. Now that, could cause these problems that the 75 flights endured.

In this video interview, world leading journalist on In-Flight Connectivity, Mary Kirby of FlightGlobal, talked to AeroMobile CEO. It was revealed then (early April 2011, a mere few days before I took that Emirates flight), that over 5.5 million different Emirates customers had used the AeroMobile onboard cellular service. Not one of their flights, had to go through an interference incident (well, not that we hear of anyways)

If Emirates did not apply that 10,000ft rule, perhaps we'd have one as a smoking hole in the ground thanks to mobile phone interference by now. Thankfully, none has occured. I would put the clean record as a sign of passenger compliance to the rules set forth by Emirates on Onboard mobile phone use. The universal rule apply, follow the applicable policy of the airline you're flying on!

Whether you believe that Daily Mail article as gospel or not, whether you are a smartphone internet & social media addict to the level that you need to constantly tweet and post a Facebook status every other minute or not, you are, in all countries, obliged by law to follow instructions of the crew. That includes whether or not you can use your mobile phone or not on that flight, and when you can, please follow the instructions on when you can and cannot use it! Our side of the deal as passengers really is that simple!

Throughout my career, I have been asked by journalists of various sorts to comment on a development, or an incident, or an accident. Whilst I enjoy all my encounters with good journalists (ie: objective but sharp in getting to the truth), I never enjoy being contacted by the bad ones (ie: subjective, not interested in the real truth, and agenda ridden!). What good journalists and I have in common is that we do like to get to the bottom of things and do so objectively. Therefore it irks me when I end up seeing a good journalist complaining about a piece of bad journalism, and when I agree with the former, sitting around and letting it go by might me betraying the truth, or at least MY truth (as this is my blog).

This is what ticked me off in the end, seeing:
@RunwayGirl: RT @sooneralison: Evidence of in-flight interference http://t.co/wZqJQu8 via @msnbc // A flawed article, with NO mention of pico cell tech

If that shortened link expired by the time you read this blog post, here it is Hang up and fly right: More evidence of in-flight interference

I tweeted the link to the Daily Mail article above, and the common word used to describe these two articles are:
SCAREMONGERING!(I'd never thought good journalists would use that phrase as well!)

No, this industry isn't interested in putting your lives at risk. Aviation is like banking, once you lose trust, all hell breaks loose! The challenge for the In-flight Connectivity industry, and the aviation industry in general, is how to bring you the latest technologies to bring you more convenience, without putting your life at risk!

Now if you're scared about high-speed internet bringing planes down from the sky, you should rethink about using some 4G internet service!