Showing posts with label fear of flying. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fear of flying. Show all posts

Monday, December 02, 2013

Aviophobia/fear of flying part 7 - Poem: The trouble with flying

By Jack Brummet

The trouble begins,
and usually ends,

When you make an unplanned transition
From an initial flying state

To a subsequent not flying state.
Falling per se is OK.

The hitch comes the moment
Falling becomes not falling,

Or, what the pros call
The uncontrolled landing problem.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Aviophobia (fear of flying), Part 5

By Jack Brummet, Aeronautics and Travel Ed.

I'll never love flying.  But it seems to get me where I want to go and I've learned to live with it. I've gone in the last five years from being completely terrified, and needing to be knocked out like BJ Barackus, to barely ambulatory/seriously medicated walking down the jetway, to mostly OK with it. All those trips across the country and Europe I made for work a couple years ago (75 flights in one year alone), along with our own travels to Mexico, Europe and Asia, somehow have made it, at least tolerable.   On our recent trip to South America, between coming and going, and doing a couple of in-country flights, we were on nine flights.  That would formerly have left me as a basket case for the entire trip, not only for the actual flights, but the anticipation of them...

I still take a Zanax, but I am no longer really a white knuckle flyer.  I'm still sometimes feel as crazy as a latrine rat on flights, but somehow I've managed to modulate it.

In fact, I've actually come to love both taking off and landing (especially landing), which are, of course, two of the most dangerous things you do while flying.  I've even come to liking it when those white stripes (the takeoff zone) pop up as we turn onto the main runway. . .


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Poem: Hard Landing

By Jack Brummet 

A plane embedded in the ground
And scattered across the desert
Is called an hard landing.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Friendly Skies: it's safer than ever before to fly (well, maybe except on The Dreamliner)

By Jack Brummet, Aviophobia Ed.

  • The past 10 years have been the safest in the country's aviation history, with 153 "just" fatalities. That translates to two deaths for every 100 million passengers on commercial flights, according to an Associated Press study of government data.
  • All fatal crashes in the U.S. in the past decade occurred on regional airlines.
  • Ten years ago--which was the the safest air travel had ever been--passengers were 10 times as likely to die when flying on an American plane. The risk of death was even greater during the early years of jet travel, with 696 people dying (133 out of every 100 million passengers) from 1962 to 1971. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

A skillful plane crash

By John Newton Brummet III, Aviophobia Editor

Now, this is one skillful 'plane crash—the kind I'd like to be in if, say, God said, "OK Jack, I'm assigning you to a plane crash." Hudson River Sully has nothing on this pilot, although I bet there were likely some seriously rattled molars and passengers and pilots in dire need of an underwear change.


Monday, November 22, 2010

The New New Patdown & The TSA uproar

By Jack Brummet
All This Is That Social Mores Editor

I've written quite a few times over the last three years about TSA and their various security procedures. Mostly I've probably been dismissed (perhaps rightfully) as a crank. 

I've flown about 170 times in the last four years, and every single time (except two--both at John Wayne Airport in Orange County), I've set off the metal alarm in the scanners because of the stainless steel femur that was installed in my leg 15 years ago. [Note: this doesn't apply to my travel in Europe and Asia, where I have never been singled out]. Setting off that metal-detection alarm means you are subjected to a close personal inspection.   I've been patted down a couple hundred times times now.  First, they would go over your whole body with a wand.  And then they would give you a close pat-down, focusing on theareas that set off the alarm on the wand (like your hip, and the zipper on your jeans). 

No one really thought a lot about it when it was just those of us with joint replacements getting pulled out of the security line and frisked.  But now...the uproar has begun because it's everyone.  You either need to pass through the machine that sends an image of your naked body to a friendly TSA guy or gal, or if you would prefer not to be seen naked you get to have a close personal pat-down.

I just had the opportunity to undergo the "new New NEW pat-down" the day after the revised and aggressive security regulations took effect.  Look, it's not not actually invasive, but it is extremely close, and they've have very definitely Cranked Up Their Act.  They've seriously ratcheted up the pat-down we've had to endure these last ten years.  On the other hand, they now forgo the wanding...which always seemed a particularly inept follow up measure.   And as a side-note, they've also become extremely friendly and apologetic about the procedure.  To be fair, I've always just grinned it and beared (Bore?) it, and avoided getting visibly cranky about it.  The TSA guys didn't make the rules, and in all my dealings with them, they've been pretty OK.  Normally I smile and say no problem and try to get through it as quickly as possible, since I almost never arrive at the airport more than 45-60 minutes before my plane leaves! 

With all of the time I've spent with TSA folk (including two times when I got the total invasion, about which, see below), I have been able to ask questions...and I usually try to get them talking about dry runs or how they profile people, which is of course about the last thing they will talk about.  I've always had the best luck with them asking for their cranky customer stories.  And they all have millions.  I've seen dozens of tantrums and shocking disrespect towards the TSA guys--and you know, in my experience, there is roughly a 90-10 ratio of good guys to assholes in the TSA--which may well surpass the ratio among the citizenry at large.

The total invasion consists of a mortifyingly close evaluation of all your gear (and your whole act..the people I've talked to those two times definitely seemed like profilers), which happens all at random according to the TSA stooges.  I had three books.  They thumbed through each and every page, and shined a flashlight down the spine of the hardcover.  They took out my iPad and brought it back to a special area, along with my BlackBerry, a Nintendo DS, and two USB flash drives.  They turned every piece of clothing inside out, squirted fluids from liquids I had (contact lens solutions, witch hazel, SFP 15 sun blocker, India Ink --for drawing)  for what?  testing?  They invite you to repack, once they've inspected every item, inside and out.

This article has links to about a dozen earlier stories of life and times with the TSA.


Thursday, July 08, 2010

RyanAir liked our suggestions so much they now propose pay toilets and standing room "seating" (but will not be offering the Crisco)

By Jack Brummet, Social Mores Editor
& Pablo Fanque, National Affairs Editor

Earlier this year, All This Is That published a satire piece about an airline (Spirit Air) that was about to begin charging for seat belts and restroom use.  Four years ago, we published another satire "Airlines consider offering standing room and Crisco in lieu of seats ."  What earlier seemed completely absurd  has come to pass. 

" 'As you know,' the source told our national affairs editor Pablo Fanque, 'we have positioned ourselves as the 'ultra low-cost' airline (ULCC). It wasn't much of a leap to go from charging for carry-on bags to charging for other, well, services.' The source disclosed that Spirit Airlines is about to impose a modest ($5.00) fee for seat belt rentals on all flights."

The Daily Mail recently reported that RyanAir is thinking about not only pay toilets, but is also considering standing room "seating.Ryanair travellers would "perch on a narrow shelf and lean against a flat padded backboard. They would be restrained with a strap stretching over their shoulder, the budget airline said." 

Ryanair plans to replace the back ten rows of seats on its fleet with 15 rows of vertical seating.  In addition, the airline, at the same time, announced they will begin charging a fee for use of the toilets on their aircraft.

All This Is That pages cited in this article:


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spirit Airlines to institute pay toilets and seat belt surcharges on all flights

By Pablo Fanque,
All This Is That National Affairs Editor
Fact checking and research by Jack Brummet

As you may recall, All This Is That has recently been researching a story on airline surcharges and fees.  Pablo Fanque received a call (and tip) from a senior manager at Spirit Airlines Monday afternoon.  The manager, who had been a source for Fanque on aspects of the articles on airline fees, called to tell him that Spirit Airlines recently decided to impose additional fees and charges on its passengers.  

"As you know," the source told Fanque, "we have positioned ourselves as the 'ultra low-cost' airline (ULCC).  It wasn't much of a leap to go from charging for carry-on bags to charging for other, well, services."    The source disclosed that Spirit Airlines is about to impose a modest ($5.00)  fee for seat belt rentals on all flights. 

In addition, the airline will begin charging a fee for use of the toilets on their aircraft.  On all flights lasting longer than two hours, patients will be given a voucher card, good for one visit to the restrooms.  After that "complimentary" visit, all passengers will be required to use debit cards to unclock the toilets.  While the fee is also modest ($1.00 for five minutes), the manager did indicate they expect pushback from the public. "However, even our $45 carry-on baggage charge has met with far less resistance than we expected.  We ARE the cheapest airline in the country. . .and we intend to keep it that way."  Since receiving the call from our source, we have verified the story with two other highly placed executives, as well as a member of the Spirit Airlines Board of Directors.

Calls--and nine emails--placed to three other major airlines, asking for comment, were not returned. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bombay calling! Getting there

We left Seattle at around 2pm Sunday.  We arrived in Bombay sometime around 3:30 am Tuesday. It took about 24 hours to get here on a Boeing 777...ten hours to Seoul Korea and a couple of hours there, then a nine hour trip from Seoul to Mumbai-Bombay. 

At the airport we took a wild ride (note: they are all wild rides!) to our hotel.  You ride through the famous slumdog slum, dodging may pope dog and other cars and taxis, beeping the horn whenever you near another vehicle or person.  There were maybe thirty red lights on the way; we did not stop for one.  More about traffic here later.  I wonder if any gringo is crazy enough to actually rent a car...

I walked around outside at 5am, and discovered literally dozens of people on our block, sleeping beside their stands or their trike-rickshaws.  As I discovered later, they mostly arise around 7 am, and begin their day.  More soon!  jack

Friday, January 16, 2009

All This Is That Hero of the Year: Sully! Chesley Sullenberger's amazing qualifications for pulling off a miracle

The Pilot who landed his disabled jet in the Hudson yesterday and then helped get everyone off the plane (even walking up and down the plane twice and looking under every seat) is truly an American Hero. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III is a captain for American Airways with over 40 years of flying experience. But get this. . .of all the people who could have flown that plane, he may have been singular in that he was the best trained of almost any pilot for an emergency. He is a scholar of air disasters, and even has a company that teaches and consults on air safety.

From the SRM web site, read his amazing qualifications:

SRM Founder Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III is a captain for a major U.S. airline with over 40 years of flying experience. A former U.S. Air Force (USAF) fighter pilot, he has served as an instructor and Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) safety chairman, accident investigator and national technical committee member. He has participated in several USAF and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident investigations. His ALPA safety work led to the development of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Advisory Circular.

Working with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists, he coauthored a paper on error inducing contexts in aviation. He was instrumental in the development and implementation of the Crew Resource Management (CRM) course used at his airline and has taught the course to hundreds of his colleagues. Sully is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy (B.S.), Purdue University (M.S.) and the University of Northern Colorado (M.A.). He was a speaker on two panels at the High Reliability Organizations (HRO) 2007 International Conference in Deauville, France May 29-31, 2007. He has just been named a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Aviophobia: Part 28 - Flight attendant intentionally starts fire on jet

Dave Kolpack of the Associated Press reported today that a disgruntled flight attendant--Eder Rojas, 19--smuggled a lighter aboard an airplane and started a fire in a bathroom, forcing an emergency landing. Rojas was angry because he had been assigned to routes he didn't like.

The Compass Airlines flight carrying 72 passengers and four crew members landed safely in Fargo, N.D. on May 7 after smoke filled the back. No injuries were reported. Read the entire sordid story here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Aviophobia: Pilot's gun discharges on US Airways flight

This little news item really hit home, since I just flew on U.S. Airways a week ago. From the WCNC (Charlotte) news:

Pilot's gun discharges on US Airways flight
by Diana Rugg

"A US Airways pilot’s gun accidentally discharged during a flight from Denver to Charlotte Saturday, according to as statement released by the airline. The statement said the discharge happened on Flight 1536, which left Denver at approximately 6:45am and arrived in Charlotte at approximately 11:51am.

"The Airbus A319 plane landed safely and none of the flight’s 124 passengers or five crew members was injured, according to the statement. It was a full flight. And airline spokeswoman said the plane has been taken out of service to make sure it is safe to return to flight.

A Transportation Safety Administration spokeswoman reached by WCNC Sunday said the pilot is part of TSA’s Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program, which trains pilots to carry guns on flights. Andrea McCauley said the gun discharged in the cockpit, but she could not release how the gun was being transported at the time. She did not release the pilot’s name, but said he was authorized to carry the weapon and was last requalified in the FFDO program last November.

A statement from TSA said the airplane was never in danger, and the TSA and the Federal Air Marshals Service are investigating the incident. WCNC reporter Diana Rugg is following up on this story. If you or someone you know were on that flight, please e-mail her at


Friday, March 14, 2008

Blown by the TSA again/Aviophobia once again

The Bombardier 200, the 36 passenger turbo-prop used
on the runs between Seattle and Eugene and Portland, OR

I'm back from two nights, three days, four flights, and five cities (SF, Emeryville, Oakland, Eugene, Portland) on the road. Since I get frisked on every flight, I received the goosing four times this trip. And in San Francisco, I was once again blown by the TSA. They put you in a booth and jets of wind swirl around you for five seconds and stop. Then a red light comes on as the machine analyzes your scent for explosives, and allegedly, drugs, and maybe even the anarchist scent. I particularly resent being blown by the TSA, because it's clearly done by profiling. Being frisked, I am more sanguine about. Yeah, I have a large stainless steel femur and it sets off alarms. Fine. But when they put me in the blowjob booth, it's not because of my prosthetic hip but because I am not apparently a businessman.

I am a Vice President of something or other, but they have no way of knowing that. It doesn't cut any ice if you don't fit the traditional mold. Since I dress in Salvation army couture (aka northwest grunge/boho), have shaggy hair and a beard, and carry a pack instead of one of those tacky rolling suitcases, I get singled out. I resent the blowbooth and everything it stands for. The TSA would tell you they're doing a great job of profiling people, because nary a plane has been hijacked since September 2001. Au Contraire. They've been lucky. At least once I've accidentally carried a very sharp Gerber mini-magnum onto a plane undetected...even though I was singled out at the metal detector and frisked. But leave your computer or a bottle of water in your luggage, and the entire TSA cadre harangues you and points you out as an example to the other hapless security line goobs.

There were about seven or eight girls ahead of me in line, traveling together. I don't think most of them had ever flown before. The TSA was merciless because they hadn't taken their belts off, removed their shoes, placed their gels, liquids in a plastic bag in which none of the liquieds ir gels could exceed 3.4 ounces, removed their laptops and placed them in a bin separate from the bin for their shoes, belt, and liquids. Naturally, they also fluffed the "remove your coat, warm up jacket, sports coat, jacket and any other outer garments" and didn't finesse whether hooded sweatshirts were kosher or trefe. They seemed like sweet kids and it was a comedy of errors that became amusing to watch. They all kept apologizing. I helped the last two sort their gear in accordance with the latest protocols and we finally go through "security."

The flight from Eugene to Portland, although it is only about 30 minutes, was harrowing this time. We encountered King Hell turbulence ten minutes into the trip, just about as we hit 10,000 feet. The plane, probably ten times, dropped 100 feet or so, and at one point both dropped 100 feet and tilted almost sideways. Naturally, they cancelled the Horizon free wine and beer cart immediately--just when you needed it most!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The absurdity of excesive air traveler scrutiny

The New York Times blog on air travel--Jet Lagged--had a great editorial (The Airport Security Follies), on December 28th, by Patrick Smith, a commercial pilot and the author of Salon's "ask the pilot." Read the full editorial here.

"Six years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, airport security remains a theater of the absurd. The changes put in place following the September 11th catastrophe have been drastic, and largely of two kinds: those
practical and effective, and those irrational, wasteful and pointless. The
first variety have taken place almost entirely behind the scenes. Explosives
scanning for checked luggage, for instance, was long overdue and is perhaps the most welcome addition.

"Unfortunately, at concourse checkpoints all across America, the madness of passenger screening continues in plain view. It began with pat-downs and the senseless confiscation of pointy objects. Then came the mandatory shoe removal, followed in the summer of 2006 by the prohibition of liquids and gels. We can only imagine what is next."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Heading to Austin...

Long time reader, friend for thirty-nine years, and someone who makes my year every time I get to see him [1], wrote suggesting I quit using the image of the crashed monoplane when I write about traveling, and instead use the cover of the Special Beat Service album by the English Beat. And he's right. As it happens, I and The English Beat will both be in Austin, Texas tomorrow, and we will be in the same room at Antone's. Oddly enough, it was Kev who introduced me to The English Beat, and their final album, Special Beat Service. I became a fan, and followed the careers of their offshoots and motherlodes, The Specials, General Public, and Fine Young Cannibals. And now it's all come full circle. And Kev, God bless his soul, said I should post the SBS album cover because "they all arrive safely as you always do."

Who'd have ever thought I would fly all around this world? Or that I might become discombobulated when I hadn't flown anywhere for a couple of weeks? I remember back to a time when an 84 hour bus or train trip was preferable to boarding a 'plane for a four hour flight.

I am still sorting this all out. Somehow I have moments when I miss being petrified about flying, and wonder if I haven't just been hypnotized by the Great Corporate Snake?

Anyhow, I will endeavor to write more from Austin in the next few days...and, of course, give a show report on my happy reunion with The English Beat.


Jack (boarding the 'plane for San Francisco and on to Austin in five hours)

[1] Like I did this June, when I reconnected with NYC and had a ball with Kev and our familial entourage stalking our old haunts, and new ones, in the East Village, Times Square, The Upper West Side, and Brooklyn, and marveling about the changes in us, and New York, and the world.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Aviophobia, Part 26

As December approaches, I am taking stock of my last year. Incredibly, in the last year, I have traversed America on 70 different airplanes. You may recall, in the early weeks of the year, I was locked in the throes of acute chronic aviophobia.

Even when I lived in New York City, and San Francisco, it was all I could muster to get on a 'plane at all once a year to travel home to Seattle. Now, I routinely take multi-legged trips all over the map, switching 'planes, and hopping on turbo-props from one airport to the next.

Only a year ago, I needed Xanax, Vallium, or any sort of phramaceutical psychic soother to get close to an aiport. And those aids were often bolstered with a bloody mary, screwdriver, or glass of wine. The weeks leading up to a flight were filled with dread, and an increasing sense of doom the closer I got to boarding the "aircraft." Today? I barely even think about it until the night before I depart. Yeah, I usually only sleep a few hours that night before, but I have become sanguine about the flights. On the 'plane, I bring a load of distractions: whatever book I am currently reading, a Nintendo DS to play games, a laptop computer (that I almost never use in flight), a sketch pad or canvas to draw on, and a notebook for stories and poems.

It mostly works. I don't even think about my stainless steel hip setting off alarms and the subsequent indignity of friskings and patdowns. It's just part of the deal now. I am extremely uneasy in flight, but I've mostly sorted it out. I'll be traveling to England and Pune, India in the next couple of months, so I shouldn't get too cocky. . .but for the moment, I've tamped down the extreme anxiety and fear of flying to a level that's at least tolerable. And oddly enough, I am happiest on a turbo-prop, flying close to the ground, with the propeller whirring about five feet from my head. What's the deal with that?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Aviophobia, Part 22

I don't know how much you fly, but have you ever noticed that when you're about to fly somewhere, everyone reminds you to "have a safe trip." I realize it's a sweet sort of blessing or good wishes for fliers. But wouldn't it make more sense to wish that when I was climbing the wheel of the car, where I might actually have an impact on the outcome of the trip? About the only thing in my power to do to have a safe trip on a plane is not freak out and break down the cockpit door and strangle the captain and first mate.

I just got back from a trip to Newport Beach, but I had one of my more unpleasant T.S.A. experiences of late. This time I had cut it really close--I got into the security line with about 40 minutes before my plane took off. I don't know if they do this at random, if I was profiled, or what, but the woman who checks your driver's license and boarding pass, just said "Come with me." And she led me to the special, elite, bad-ass TSA security section. Only a handful of people were there getting the once over. And it was quite a once over. When I set off the metal detector (due to having a stainless steel hip), I received the most thorough going over I have ever received. I have probably flown forty times this year, but never had this treatment. It wasn't invasive or anything, just paintstakingly thorough and methodical.

As I was being patted and frisked, two other TSA stooges went through my bags. One guy unfolded every shirt, unrolled every sock, and opened every bottle of liquid I was carrying in my TSA approved plastic pouch, and the other guy took my shoes over to a special machine (presumably one that sniffs plastique explosive), and after the shoes, he went over to another machine with my laptop, my smartphone, my Sennheiser headphones, my Nintendo DS, and my iPod, and gave them some sort of electronic scan.

By the time I got to the gate, they had closed the doors. I could get another flight by paying $400, or I could hope for the best and go standby two and a half hours later.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Poem: Landing, or, Aviophobia, Part 26

The plane eases down from 36,000 feet
And as the ground rises up,
My aviophobia dissipates.

The closer we get, the better I feel
Even though earth, and not the air
Is most likely to do me in.

I could maybe handle falling 36,000 feet
In a screaming jet moulting its parts.
It's that last foot that does you in.

The landing plane could flip head over teakettle,
And burst into technicolor flames
As it cartwheels to a stop down the runway,

When I'd use my lifeless seatmate's
Head as a stepstool to vault
From the twisted wreckage,

And I would still sigh
With relief when my ankles broke
As my feet touched mother earth.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Another pathetic travel day

Jack writing in from Austin, Texas. Getting here was not easy. . .There were thunder storms all over the tri state area, hundreds of planes were cancelled, and the ones that weren't were stacked up waiting to land and take off.

My plane from Boston was two hours late, and I was about to miss my connection in Newark. So, our assistant in Seattle rigged up a plan where I would wait at the airport until 9:30 (my original plane was at 5:30), grab a plane to Cleveland that would take me to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where I would wait two hours and hop on a plane to Dallas and then another plane to Austin and arrive in the morning around 10:30. But at the last minute they found a seat on another plane heading to Newark, and I made my connection--because it was two hours late. And I finally arrived in Austin at 1:30.

Of course, I was too wired to go to bed, so I walked over the warehouse district and had a beer. And now I am back in another grim corporate hotel. Hoping to sleep five hours. But all that aside. . .it doesn't matter, because I am here in one of my favorite cities in the world, albeit for about 36 hours. I am going out for music tomorrow night. About which, see the next post. And this one was supposed to be about hobo let's get started!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The "TB Dude" Speaks Out

The T.B. Dude And Wife

Everyone's up in arms about the TSA/the border inspector who allowed the TB "typhoid Annie" into the U.S. Especially me. And all the 80 year olds with his replacements. . .as the drug smugglers and others waltz right up the jetway. As I stepped onto the 737 in California last night, I had been frisked and patted down 12 times by the TSA times this month alone (due to my stainless steel femur).[1] And yet this guy, teeming with deadly cooties gets passed right onto the plane. Even though the "system" had flagged him as a risk:

An Associated Press article today said: "A globe-trotting Atlanta lawyer with a dangerous strain of tuberculosis was allowed back into the U.S. by a border inspector who disregarded a computer warning to stop him and don protective gear, officials said Thursday. The inspector has been removed from border duty."

From ABC News: Andrew Speaker has asked for forgiveness from the airline passengers he exposed to a rare strain of tuberculosis, and told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview that he has a tape recording of a meeting with health officials that he claims will confirm his view that it was all right to travel in his condition.

Germs Lurk on Planes, Trains and Buses

Tuberculosis -- Are You at Risk?

"He says he wants everyone to know how he made the decision, why he felt so strongly that it was not endangering anybody else and [is] also asking forgiveness of those onboard who are now having to be tested," Diane Sawyer said after spending an hour with the TB patient and his wife, Sarah Speaker, at the National Jewish Research Center in Denver, where he is currently in isolation.

"He talks at length about the decision first of all to go abroad, to hold his wedding abroad, and … there is a tape recording of the meeting that he had with health officials, and they say it confirms completely their view that it was all right for him to travel," Sawyer said.

You can see a video of Diane Sawyer on her interview here.

[1] Let me also note that I have now been patted down and frisked by the same TSA agent in Newport Beach three different times. He stands out in my mind, because of all the searches I get, his are the most, shall we say, extensive or intensive? This guy is thorough, and I started wondering this time if he doesn't enjoy his work a little too much?