Ready For Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion Into A Career

The Ready For Takeoff podcast will help you transform your aviation passion into an aviation career. Every week we bring you instruction and interviews with top aviators in their field who reveal their flight path to an exciting career in the skies.
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Nov 28, 2019

TWA 514 crashed into terrain while attempting to land at Washington Dulles International Airport. from Wikipedia:

"The flight was being vectored for a non-precision instrument approach to runway 12 at Dulles. Air traffic controllers cleared the flight down to 7,000 feet (2,130 m) before clearing them for the approach while not on a published segment.

The jetliner began a descent to 1,800 feet (550 m), shown on the first checkpoint for the published approach. The cockpit voice recorder later indicated there was some confusion in the cockpit over whether they were still under a radar-controlled approach segment which would allow them to descend safely. After reaching 1,800 feet (550 m) there were some 100-to-200-foot (30 to 60 m) altitude deviations which the flight crew discussed as encountering heavy downdrafts and reduced visibility in snow.

The plane impacted the west slope of Mount Weather at 1,670 feet (510 m) above sea level at approximately 230 knots (265 mph; 425 km/h). The wreckage was contained within an area about 900 by 200 feet (275 by 60 m). The evidence of first impact were trees sheared off about 70 feet (20 m) above the ground; the elevation at the base of the trees was 1,650 feet (505 m).

The wreckage path was oriented along a line 118 degrees magnetic. Calculations indicated that the left wing went down about six degrees as the aircraft passed through the trees and the aircraft was descending at an angle of about one degree. After about five hundred feet (150 m) of travel through the trees, it struck a rock outcropping at an elevation of about 1,675 feet (510 m). Numerous heavy components of the aircraft were thrown forward of the outcropping, and numerous intense post-impact fires broke out which were later extinguished. The mountain's summit is at 1,754 feet (535 m) above sea level."

As a result of this accident, air traffic controllers now assign an altitude to fly until intercepting a segment of a published approach.


Northwest 6231 crashed after encountering an aerodynamic stall. From Wikipedia:

"The flight was chartered to pick up the Baltimore Colts in Buffalo after the aircraft originally earmarked to transport the team was grounded by a snowstorm in Detroit.

The Boeing 727-251, registration N274US, departed New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport at 19:14 for a ferry flight to Buffalo. As the craft climbed past 16,000 feet (4,900 m), the overspeed warning horn sounded, followed 10 seconds later by a stick shaker stall warning. The aircraft leveled at 24,800 feet (7,600 m) until it started to descend out of control in a spin, reaching a vertical acceleration of +5g. At about 3,500 feet (1,100 m), a large portion of the aircraft's horizontal stabilizer separated due to the high G-forces, making recovery impossible. Flight 6231 struck the ground in a slightly nose down and right wing-down attitude twelve minutes after take-off, at 19:26."

The accident board determined that the pitot heat had been inadvertently turned OFF prior to takeoff, and as the aircraft climbed through clouds the pitot tubes froze, causing altimeter effect on the airspeed indicator, in which an increase in altitude will cause indicated airspeed to increase.

On many aircraft today, the pitot heat will automatically be turned ON when the aircraft is airborne.

Nov 25, 2019

Mike "Sooch" Masucci has over 9000 hours in 70 different aircraft. He was accepted into the Air Force Academy, and took flying lessons while at the Academy and earned his Private Pilot certificate, and majored in Astronautics.

After graduation, he attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base and then remained there as a T-38 instructor pilot as a First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP).

After three years as a FAIP, Mike was selected to fly the U-2 high-altitude long-endurance airplane in the special duty assignment. He eventually became in an instructor in the U-2 as well as the T-38, while still being serving in deployments. His longest mission was 12 hours (13 hours in a space suit).

After 3 years he was selected to attend Test Pilot School, and then became a U-2 test pilot. After a few years as a U-2 test pilot during major aircraft upgrades, he returned to Test Pilot School, this time as an instructor. In that role he flew the T-38, the F-16, gliders and glider tow ships.

He again served in the U-2 and retired from the Air Force in that role.

He owned a 1946 Cessna 120 while in pilot training but - in Sooch's words - traded it in for an engagement ring. He now owns a 1964 Beechcraft Travel Air.

After the Air Force he flew a Citation X for several years, accumulating 750 hours every year in Part 135 operations. He did that for several years, then received a call from Virgin Galactic and was invited to apply.

He is multi-current, flying the White Knight as well as the space ship. Both aircraft have identical cockpit designs. Mike was selected to fly the second mission into space, and earned astronaut wings on February 22, 2019.

Nov 22, 2019

What is a Runway Incursion?

Any occurrence at an aerodrome involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take off of aircraft.

What is a Surface Incident?

A surface incident is an unauthorized or unapproved movement within the designated movement area (excluding runway incursions) or an occurrence in that same area associated with the operation of an aircraft that affects or could affect the safety of flight.

There are four categories of runway incursions:

Category A is a serious incident in which a collision was narrowly avoided.

Category B is an incident in which separation decreases and there is a significant potential for collision, which may result in a time critical corrective/evasive response to avoid a collision.

Category C is an incident characterized by ample time and/or distance to avoid a collision.

Category D is an incident that meets the definition of runway incursion such as incorrect presence of a single vehicle/person/aircraft on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take-off of aircraft but with no immediate safety consequences.

Nov 18, 2019

Juan Serrato came from an aviation family, and was immersed in flying from an early age. His father was a Vietnam era helicopter pilot, and took him flying often. Juan attended a school as a teenager where aviation was part of the academic curriculum, and earned his Private Pilot certificate.

After high school Juan attended A&P school, and then was hired servicing airplanes. He then entered an ab-initio program with Mesa Airlines, barely making the cutoff because he had 148 hours and the limit was 150 hours. While attending the program, he worked as a mechanic on aircraft.

He became a first officer on the Beech 1900 with Mesa as a US Air Express copilot. He flew as many as 13 legs per day. He flew the 1900 for a little over a year, then became a first officer in the RJ (regional jet). He flew the RJ for two years, then became an EMB 145 captain, flying his first trip on September 11, 2001. He was inflight when all aircraft were ordered to land immediately due to the national emergency. He landed at Raleigh, NC. He was stuck there for three days, until his girlfriend drove down to pick him up.

At Mesa, he became an accident investigator, on scene for a fatal accident investigation for the powerplant division. He also became a simulator instructor and line check airman.

After nine years at Mesa, he was hired by Gemini Air Cargo on the MD-11, flying all over the world. After about a year, the airline went out of business, and Juan was hired by Southern Air on the B747 as a first officer, flying freighters. He flew a lot of trips out of Ethiopia on a 20-on, 10-off schedule. After two years, he was furloughed as a pilot, but worked in their headquarters on documentation.

After five years with Southern, he was hired by Atlas Air, flying several versions of the 747, including the LCF (large cargo freighter). He was at Atlas for four years, then was hired by a legacy carrier, where he works now as a flight instructor on the B737.

Nov 15, 2019

A single personal electronic device with a lithium battery that overheats and catches fire in the cargo hold could potentially down a commercial airliner.

That’s what the US Federal Aviation Administration found in its latest research.

Regulators had originally thought that the fire suppressant systems in cargo holds would be able to extinguish flames if they were to arise from an overheated lithium-battery-operated device. However, the most recent study has shown that the systems don’t actually have the power to put out the flames caused by an overheated lithium battery, commonly found in laptops, cell phones and a wide range of other devices, when combined with other flammable substances, such as gas in an aerosol can or cosmetics.

“That could then cause an issue that would compromise the aircraft,” said Duane Pfund, international program coordinator at the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The FAA forbids passengers from checking spare (uninstalled) lithium metal batteries, requiring them to be carried on. In addition, the FAA says that “all spare lithium batteries must be removed from the bag and kept with the passenger in the aircraft cabin,” when a carry-on bag is gate checked.

Lithium batteries are a type of rechargeable battery most commonly found in cell phones and laptops. Carrying them on board and in carry-on luggage doesn’t pose the same threat as if they were to be checked in the cargo hold. In the hold, bags — and therefore the potential fire — is not reachable, however, experience has shown that they can be extinguished with water, according to Bloomberg, and therefore, they’re more safe when flying in the cabin.

Bulk shipments of rechargeable lithium batteries are banned from passenger planes. However, the FAA hasn’t imposed any new restrictions on what passengers are allowed to check in their bags. In a notice to airlines in 2017, the FAA said they should consider conducting safety checks to determine what else could be done to prevent battery fires in the cargo hold.

“One way or another, we have to deal with these hazards,” said Scott Schwartz, director of the Air Line Pilots Association’s hazardous goods program.

The last few years have seen a string of incidents with batteries exploding in aircraft or near airports — including on a Delta aircraft, in a TSA checkpoint line and China Southern flight.

Nov 11, 2019

Smitty Harris was born in 1929 in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on January 2, 1951, and made Sgt before entering the Aviation Cadet Program on August 10, 1952. Harris was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings in September 1953, and then completed advanced flight training in the T-33 Shooting Star and F-84 Thunderjet. His first operational assignment was as an F-86F Sabre pilot with the 45th Day Fighter Squadron at Sidi Slimane AB, French Morocco, followed by service as an instructor pilot at Greenville AFB and then with the 3306th Pilot Training Group at Bainbridge AFB, Georgia, from January 1956 to August 1960. Capt Harris then served as Chief of the Promotions and Flying Status Branch at Headquarters Air Training Command, Randolph AFB, Texas, from August 1960 to November 1962. His next assignment was flying F-100 Super Sabres and then F-105 Thunderchiefs with the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron at McConnell AFB, Kansas, from November 1962 to November 1964. Capt Harris transferred to the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Kadena AB, Okinawa, in December 1964, and began flying combat missions in Southeast Asia in March 1965. He was forced to eject over North Vietnam while flying his 6th combat mission on April 4, 1965, and was immediately captured and taken as a Prisoner of War. After spending 2,871 days in captivity, he was released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. Col Harris was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, and then he remained at Maxwell to attend the Air War College there from August 1973 to August 1974. He remained on the faculty as Chief of Curriculum Planning until his retirement from the Air Force on July 31, 1979. After retiring from the Air Force, Smitty completed law school and joined the Mississippi Bar in December 1981. He and his wife Louise have three children. Smitty Harris was the 3rd Air Force pilot shot down and taken as a Prisoner of War during the Vietnam War.

His 2nd Silver Star Citation reads:

For the Period March 1968: This officer distinguished himself by gallantry and intrepidity in action in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force during the above period while a Prisoner of War in North VIetnam. Ignoring international agreements on treatment of prisoners of war, the enemy resorted to mental and physical cruelties to obtain information, confessions, and propaganda materials. This individual resisted their demands by calling upon his deepest inner strengths in a manner which reflected his devotion to duty and great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Nov 7, 2019

It has been estimated that 4-7% of civil aviation incidents and accidents can be attributed to fatigued pilots. "In the last 16 years, fatigue has been associated with 250 fatalities in air carrier accidents." Robert Sumwalt, NTSB vice chairman, said at an FAA symposium in July.

Symptoms associated with fatigue include slower reaction times, difficulty concentrating on tasks resulting in procedural mistakes, lapses in attention, inability to anticipate events, higher toleration for risk, forgetfulness, and reduced decision-making ability. The magnitude of these effects are correlated to the circadian rhythm and length of time awake. Performance is affected the most, when there is a combination of extended wakefulness and circadian influences.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) study of 55 human-factor aviation accidents from 1978 to 1999, concluded accidents increased proportionally to the amount of time the captain had been on duty. The accident proportion relative to exposure proportion rose from 0.79 (1–3 hours on duty) to 5.62 ( more than 13 hours on duty). This means that "5.62% of human factors accidents occurred to pilots who had been on duty for 13 or more hours, where only 1% of pilot duty hours occur during that time." 

In another study by Wilson, Caldwell and Russell, participants were given three different tasks that simulated the pilot's environment. The tasks included reacting to warning lights, managing simulated cockpit scenarios, and conducting a simulated UAV mission. The subjects' performance was tested in a well-rested state and again after being sleep deprived. In the tasks that were not as complex, such as reacting to warning lights and responding to automated alerts, it was found that there was a significant decrease in performance during the sleep deprived stage. The reaction times to warning lights increased from 1.5 to 2.5 seconds, and the number of errors doubled in the cockpit. However, tasks that were engaging and required more concentration were found to not be significantly affected by sleep deprivation. The study concluded that "...fatigue effects can produce impaired performance. The degree of performance impairment seems to be a function of the numbers of hours awake and the 'engagement' value of the task." 

One United States Air Forces study found significant discrepancies regarding how fatigue affects different individuals. It tracked the performance of ten F-117 pilots on a high-fidelity flight simulator. The subjects were sleep deprived for 38 hours and their performance was monitored over the final 24 hours. After baseline correction, the systematic individual differences varied by 50% and concluded that fatigue's effect on performance varied drastically among individuals.

The first step to understanding the critical impact fatigue can have on flight safety is to quantify it within the airline environment. An airline's management often struggles to balance rest with duty periods because it strives for maximum crew productivity. However, fatigue comes as a limitation needing increasing consideration.

A study by Reis et al. investigated the prevalence of fatigue on a group of Portuguese airline pilots. 1500 active airline pilots who had all flown within the past six months received a questionnaire. Out of the population, 456 reliable responses were received. A pretest was conducted to determine the viability of the fatigue scale adopted during the test, called Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS). The purpose of the validation survey was to set a benchmark (i.e. FSS=4) on an acceptable level of fatigue for the Portuguese culture. The scale ranged from 1 meaning no fatigue to 7 being high. Participants had one month and a half to respond to the inquiry. Results on physical fatigue found that 93% of short/medium haul pilots scored higher than 4 on the FSS while 84% of long-haul pilots scored greater than 4. Mental fatigue found short/medium haul at 96% and long haul at 92%. The Questionnaire also asked: "Do you feel so tired that you shouldn’t be at the controls?". 13% of pilots said that this never happened. 51% of all participants said it happened a few times. Limitations of the study were: fatigue levels are subjective and research did not attempt to control the number of times pilots had available to respond to the questionnaires. Overall the study establishes that pilots are subject to high levels of fatigue on the job. Levels of fatigue collected were also compared with a validation test conducted on multiple sclerosis patients in Switzerland. These patients showed average fatigue levels of 4.6 while pilots in the Portuguese study scored an average of 5.3.

High prevalence of fatigue was also revealed in a study by Jackson and Earl investigating prevalence among short haul pilots. The study consisted of a questionnaire that was posted on a website, Professional Pilot’s Rumour network (PPRUNE) and was able to obtain 162 respondents. Of the 162, all being short haul pilots, 75% were classified to have experienced severe fatigue. Based on questionnaire results, the study also demonstrated that pilots who were highly concerned about their level of fatigue during the flight often scored higher on the fatigue scale and thus were likely to experience more fatigue. Not only this, operational factors, for example a change in flights, or from flight into discretionary time often cause the pilot to experience greater fatigue.

On the other hand, research by Samen, Wegmann, and Vejvoda investigated the variation of fatigue among long-haul pilots. 50 pilots all from German airlines participated in the research. As participants, pilots were subject to physiological measures pre-departure and during flight and filled out routine logs recording their times of sleep and awakening. Pilots also completed two questionnaires. The first reflecting feelings of fatigue before and after the flight, recorded before departure, 1-hour intervals during the flight and then immediately after landing. The second questionnaire was the NASA task load index.

The second questionnaire also administered during flight, assessed different dimensions including mental, physical and temporal demand as well as performance. Key findings from the study conveyed that: outgoing flights from the home base were rated as less stressful and night flights were rated as the most stressful. The physiological measures found that microsleeps recorded by the EEGs increased progressively with flight duty. Microsleeps are recordings of alpha wave activity and they occur during wakeful relaxation often resulting in loss of attention. They are considered microsleeps if they last less than thirty seconds. Microsleep cases for pilots on outgoing flights were half compared to the number on incoming flights back to the home base showing that fatigue is more prevalent on flights returning home. Pilots are more prone to microsleeps during the cruise phase of the flight while they are more alert and less likely to experience microsleeps during the take-off, approach and landing phases of the flight. Findings also show that fatigue was greater during night flights because pilots had already been awake for more than 12 hours and would begin duty by the time they were due to go to sleep.

Pilots often have to rely on self-assessment in order to decide if they are fit to fly. The IMSAFE checklist is an example of self-assessment. Another measure that a pilot can employ to more accurately determine his level of fatigue is the Samn- Perelli Seven Point Fatigue Scale (SPS). The evaluation has a scale of 1-7, 1 described as “Fully, Alert and Wide Awake” while 7 “Completely exhausted, unable to function effectively”.

All levels in between have descriptions aiding the pilot with his decision. Another example of self-assessment is simply a visual and analogue scale. The test is represented by a line with No Fatigue and Fatigue labeled on two ends. The pilot will then draw a mark where he feels to be. Advantages of self-assessment include that they are quick and easy to administer, can be added to routine checklists and being more descriptive allow pilot to make a better decision. Disadvantages include that it is easy for the pilot to cheat and are often hard to disprove.

Between 2010 and 2012, more than 6.000 European pilots have been asked to self-assess the level of fatigue they are experiencing. These surveys revealed that well over 50% of the surveyed pilots experience fatigue as impairing their ability to perform well while on flight duty. The polls show that e.g. 92% of the pilots in Germany report they have felt too tired or unfit for duty while on flight deck at least once in the past three years. Yet, fearing disciplinary actions or stigmatization by the employer or colleagues, 70-80% of fatigued pilots would not file a fatigue report or declare to be unfit to fly. Only 20-30% will report unfit for duty or file a report under such an occurrence.

Since the 1930s, airlines have been aware of the impact of fatigue on pilot's cognitive abilities and decision making. Nowadays prevalence of fatigue draws greater attention because of boom in air travel and because the problem can be addressed with new solutions and countermeasures.

  • Cockpit napping: A forty-minute nap after a long period of wakefulness can be extremely beneficial. As demonstrated in the Rosekind study, pilots who took a forty-minute nap were much more alert during the last 90 minutes of the flight and they also responded better on the psychomotor vigilance test (PVT) showing faster response rates and fewer lapses. The control group who had not taken a nap showed lapses during the approach and landing phases of the flight. In-seat cockpit napping is a risk-management tool for controlling fatigue. The FAA still has not adopted the cockpit napping strategy, however it is being utilized by Airlines such as British Airways, Air Canada, Emirates, Air New Zealand, Qantas.
  • Activity breaks are another measure found to be most beneficial when a pilot is experiencing partial sleep loss or high levels of fatigue. High fatigue coincides with the circadian trough where the human body experiences its lowest body temperature. Studies demonstrated that sleepiness was significantly higher for fatigued pilots who had not taken any walking breaks.
  • Bunk sleeping is another effective in-flight strategy. Based on the time zone pilots take-off from, they can determine which times during the flight they will feel inadvertently drowsy. Humans usually feel drowsier mid-morning and then mid-afternoon.
  • In-flight rostering involves assigning the crew to specific tasks at specific times during the flight so that other members of the crew have time for activity breaks and bunk sleep. This allows well-rested crew members to be used during the critical phases of flight. Further research will need to show the optimal number of crew members sufficient for a well rested operating crew to operate the flight safely.
  • Proper cockpit lighting is paramount in reducing fatigue since it inhibits the production of melatonin. Studies have shown that simply increasing lighting level to 100-200 lux improves alertness in the cockpit. 100 lux level is the same as room lighting and, therefore, would not affect a pilot’s night vision.
  • Although pilots are often given layovers with ample time to rest, the environment itself may not be favorable to achieve full recovery. The temperature may be too warm, the place noisy or the time zone change may not facilitate biological sleep. As a result, the use of over-the-counter drugs may be effective. Zolpidem is a well tested pharmaceutical compound with a half-life of two and a half hours and the drug is fully metabolized within 10 hours. It can be used to initiate sleep to help obtain a good rest. It must not be combined with any cockpit-naps. The drug also has no side effects, improving sleep quality without causing insomnia or any detrimental effects on next-day alertness. As pilots know, they must not have any amount of a drug present in their systems at the time they begin duty.
  • Implementation of a personal checklist to rate fatigue before a flight can aid the decision of whether a pilot feels he is fit to fly. The Samn-Perelli checklist is a good measure with a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 meaning "fully alert" and 7 meaning "completely exhausted and unable to function."
  • Implementation of fatigue prediction models, such as the Sleep, Activity, Fatigue, and Task Effectiveness model, optimize scheduling by being able to predict pilot fatigue at any point in time. Although the mathematical model is limited by individual pilot differences it is the most accurate existing prediction because it takes into account time-zone changes, time awake, and length of previous rest.
  • Sleep and fatigue monitoring: Using wrist-worn sleep monitors to track sleep accurately. Traditionally, sleep is tracked through personal estimation which is inaccurate. With this technology, regulators could implement operating restrictions or cautions for pilots with less than eight hours of sleep in the previous 24 hours.
  • In early 2007, the 201 Airlift Squadron of the District of Columbia Air National Guard (ANG), successfully integrated the Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool FAST into its daily scheduling operations. This integration required the full-time attention of two pilot schedulers, but yielded valuable risk mitigation data that could be used by planners and leaders to predict and adjust critical times of fatigue in the flight schedule. In August 2007, the Air National Guard Aviation Safety Division, under the direction of Lt Col Edward Vaughan, funded a project to improve the user interface of FAST, permitting daily use by pilot schedulers and integration with automated flight scheduling software. This improved, user-responsive interface, known as Flyawake (, was conceived and managed by Captain Lynn Lee and developed by Macrosystems. The project cited empirical data collected in combat and non-combat aviation operations, and challenged the U.S. government's established policies regarding fatigue as a factor in degrading human performance.
Nov 4, 2019

Caroline Johnson was born and raised in Colorado Springs, CO, with her older brother, Craig and parents Marty and Nancy. Her childhood was full of skiing, hiking, biking and an array of team sports to burn her relentless energy. In high school she caught the travel bug and studied abroad in Germany, thriving in the foreign culture and absorbing as much of the experience as she could. After graduation, she traded the mountains and her skis, for the bay and a sailboat, as she embarked on the adventure of a lifetime in the Navy.

She began her military career at the United States Naval Academy in 2005, bristling against the strict rules and regimented life but loving the challenge and the friends she met along the way. Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Economics in 2009, she joined the elite Naval Aviation community and began flight school in Pensacola, FL. In 2011, she was awarded her wings of gold and designated a Naval Flight Officer, more specifically an F/A-18 Weapons Systems Officer. Finishing at the top of her class she was awarded the Paul F. Lawrence award as the #1 strike fighter graduate and also recognized as the overall Top Graduate.

Caroline flew F/A-18 Super Hornets as a member of VFA-213 the World Famous Fighting Blacklions and she embarked on the USS George H.W. Bush, deploying for 9 months in 2014. On her historic deployment, Caroline and the Blacklions flew in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve seeing action in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Her squadron employed the first weapons on ISIS in Iraq, conducted the first ever US strikes into Syria, and Caroline was the first woman to neutralize ISIS from an F/A-18. At the Blacklions, Caroline completed her SFWT level II, III, and IV qualifications, she earned her Combat Mission Commander designation, and she also graduated with honors from the University of Oklahoma with a Master of Arts in Administrative Leadership.

During her final tour on active duty, Caroline returned to the United States Naval Academy, where she taught leadership and recruited the next generation of aviators as the Aviation Operations Officer. Currently in the Navy Reserves, Caroline continues her service as an advisor and liaison officer.

Oct 31, 2019

TWA85: 'The world's longest and most spectacular hijacking'

By Roland Hughes BBC News

At the high point of the 1960s spate of hijackings, a plane was held up on average once every six days in the United States. Fifty years ago this week, Raffaele Minichiello was responsible for the "longest and most spectacular" of them, as one report described it at the time. Could those on board ever forgive him?

21 August 1962

Under the hills of southern Italy, a little north-east of Naples, a fault ruptured and the earth began shaking. Those living on the surface, in one of the most earthquake-prone parts of Europe, were used to this. The 6.1-magnitude quake in the early evening was enough to frighten everyone, but it was the two powerful aftershocks that did the most damage.

Twenty kilometres up from the epicentre and a few hundred metres north was where the Minichiello family lived, including 12-year-old Raffaele. By the time the third earthquake had subsided, their village of Melito Irpino was uninhabitable. The Minichiello family were left with nothing, Raffaele would later recall, and no-one in authority came to help.

The damage was such that almost the entire village was evacuated, razed and rebuilt. Many families would return, but the Minichiellos decided to move to the US for a better life.

What Raffaele Minichiello found instead was war, trauma and notoriety.

01:30; 31 October 1969

Dressed in camouflage, Raffaele Minichiello stepped on to the plane, a $15.50 ticket from Los Angeles to San Francisco in his hand.

This was the last stop on Trans World Airlines flight 85's journey across the US, which had started several hours earlier in Baltimore before calling at St Louis and Kansas City.

The crew of three in the cockpit were helped by four young female flight attendants, most of whom had been in the job for only a few months. The most experienced was Charlene Delmonico, a bob-haired 23-year-old from Missouri who had been flying with the airline for three years. Delmonico had swapped shifts to fly on TWA85 as she wanted Halloween night free.

Before leaving Kansas City, captain Donald Cook, 31, had informed the flight attendants of a change in the usual practice: if they wanted to enter the cockpit, they were to ring a bell outside the door, and not knock.

The flight landed in Los Angeles late at night. Passengers disembarked and others, bleary-eyed, joined the short night flight to San Francisco. The lights were dimmed so that those who had stayed on board could continue sleeping. The flight attendants checked the passengers' tickets when they boarded quietly, but Delmonico paid particular attention to one of the new arrivals, especially his bag.

The tanned young man in camouflage, his wavy brown hair flattened, was nervous but polite as he boarded. A thin container protruded from his backpack.

Delmonico moved towards the first-class compartment, where her colleagues Tanya Novacoff and Roberta Johnson were guiding passengers to their seats. "What was that thing sticking out of the young man's backpack?" Delmonico asked them. The answer - a fishing rod - calmed her fears and she returned to the back of the plane.

The flight was far from busy. With only 40 passengers on board, there was room for everyone to spread out and seek their own row in which to sleep.

Among them were the five mop-topped members of the sunshine pop group Harpers Bizarre, exhausted after a strange concert in Pasadena that night that had been temporarily halted by a man screaming from the balcony of the auditorium. It had been two years since the band's biggest hit, an adaptation of Simon & Garfunkel's The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy), but they would hit the peak of their fame just a few hours later.

Singer-guitarist Dick Scoppettone and drummer John Petersen settled on the left-hand side of the plane and, relaxing into their seats, they lit cigarettes. At 01:30 on Friday, 31 October 1969, TWA flight 85 left Los Angeles for San Francisco. Fifteen minutes into the flight, the hijack began.

Anyone sleeping peacefully would have had their rest disturbed on take-off. To boost the plane's thrust, the Boeing 707 injected water into the engines as it took off, earning it the industry nickname the Water Wagon. The effect inside the plane was violent and noisy, producing an ominous deep rumble.

Darkness fell inside the plane as the flight attendants turned the lights almost all the way down. As silence settled, Charlene Delmonico began tidying the galley in the back of the plane with Tracey Coleman, a 21-year-old languages graduate who had joined TWA only five months earlier.

The nervous passenger in camouflage from earlier stepped into the galley and stood alongside them. He had an M1 rifle in his hand. Delmonico, calm and professional, responded simply: "You're not supposed to have that." He responded by handing her a 7.62mm bullet to prove the rifle was loaded, and ordered her to lead him to the cockpit to show it to the crew.

Dick Scoppettone was drifting off to sleep but the movement further down the aisle roused him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Delmonico being followed by a man who was pointing a rifle at her back. His bandmate John Petersen turned to him from a few rows in front and stared wide-eyed. "Is this really happening?"

Towards the back of the plane, one of the passengers, Jim Findlay, got up to confront Minichiello. The hijacker turned around. He shouted to Delmonico: "Halt!"

This man is a soldier, Delmonico thought.

With Findlay ordered back to his seat, Delmonico and Minichiello moved up the cabin again. She pushed the curtain aside to enter the first-class compartment, her knees buckling under the nerves, and alerted the two flight attendants ahead of her: "There's a man behind me with a gun." They both moved quickly out of the way.

Some of the passengers heard Minichiello shout at Delmonico as he became more and more agitated next to the cockpit door. For the most part he was polite, respectful and came across, in her words, as "a nice clean-cut kid", but by now paranoia was getting the better of him.

Delmonico remembered the captain's instruction: don't knock to enter, ring the bell instead. But Minichiello, afraid he was being tricked, refused to let her do this. She knocked instead, and hoped this would alert the crew. The door opened, and Delmonico told the wary crew there was a man with a gun behind her. Minichiello stepped inside and pointed the rifle at each of the three men inside the cockpit: captain Cook, first officer Wenzel Williams and flight engineer Lloyd Hollrah.

Minichiello appeared to be well trained and well armed, Williams thought. He knew what he wanted from the crew, and was determined to get it. After Delmonico had stepped out of the cockpit, Minichiello turned to the crew and said in heavily accented English: "Turn towards New York."

The unusual sight of a man walking through the plane with a gun had not gone unnoticed by those passengers who were still awake.

The members of Harpers Bizarre had all raced to sit next to one another within seconds of the gunman passing by. Their strange evening had just got stranger. They speculated how the man might have been able to sneak a rifle on to the plane. Where could they be going? Hong Kong, maybe? They'd never been to Hong Kong, that could be fun.

Nearby, Judi Provance's training kicked in. An off-duty TWA flight attendant, she was returning home to San Francisco after eight days on rota flying around Asia. Every year, she and TWA staff would undertake training in how to respond during emergencies, including hijackings. The main lesson they had been taught was to stay calm. Another was to not fall in love with the hijacker - it was easy, they had been told, for hijackers to elicit sympathy from the crew.

Provance quietly mentioned to those around her that she had seen someone walking down the aisle with a gun. She had been taught not to cause panic, and to help manage the situation calmly. Jim Findlay, the man who had previously tried to intervene, was a TWA pilot "deadheading" on board as a passenger. He found the hijacker's bags and went through them to look for clues to his identity, and to make sure no more weapons were on board. Only later did the passengers find rifle magazines full of bullets.

Captain Cook's voice came over the loudspeaker. "We have a very nervous young man up here and we are going to take him wherever he wants to go."

As the flight moved further and further from San Francisco, other messages were communicated to the passengers, or started spreading among them: they were heading to Italy, Denver, Cairo, Cuba. The crew inside the cockpit feared for their lives, but some of the passengers felt they were part of an adventure. An odd one, but an adventure nevertheless.

It was only natural that people on board TWA85 thought they might be heading to Cuba. It had long been hijackers' destination of choice.

From the early 1960s, a number of Americans disillusioned with their homeland and entranced by the promise of a communist ideal had fled to Cuba following Fidel Castro's revolution. As American planes did not normally fly to the island, hijacking gave people the means of getting there. And by accepting hijackers from the US, Castro could embarrass and annoy his enemy while demanding money to return the planes.

A three-month period in 1961 heralded the start of the hijacking phenomenon. On 1 May, Antulio Ramirez Ortiz boarded a National Airlines flight from Miami under a false name, and seized control of the plane by threatening the captain with a steak knife. He demanded to be flown to Cuba, where he wanted to warn Castro of a plot to kill him that had been wholly imagined by Ramirez.

Two more hijackings followed over the following two months, and the next 11 years saw 159 commercial flights hijacked in the United States, Brendan I Koerner writes in his book The Skies Belong To Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking.

Hijackings that ended in Cuba were so common, he writes, that at one point US airline captains were given maps of the Caribbean and Spanish-language guides in case they had to unexpectedly fly to Havana. A direct phone line was set up between Florida air traffic controllers and Cuba. And there was even a suggestion that a replica of Havana's airport be built in Florida, to fool hijackers into thinking they had reached Cuba.

The hijackings were able to happen because of a lack of security at airports. There was simply no need to check passengers' luggage because no-one had ever caused any trouble, until the hijackings began. For years after that, the airline industry resisted introducing checks because they feared it would ruin the passenger experience and slow down the check-in process.

"We lived in a different world," Jon Proctor, a gate agent with TWA at Los Angeles International Airport in the 1960s, told the BBC. "People didn't blow up airliners. If anything, they might hijack an airliner and want to go to Cuba, but they didn't try to blow up an airliner."

It would later emerge that Raffaele Minichiello had disassembled his rifle and carried it on to TWA85 in a tube, before putting the gun back together in the plane's bathroom. Taking it on board would have been "very easy", Proctor says. Gate agents would only have weighed his backpack and not checked it.

By the time TWA85 was held up, there had already been 54 hijackings in the US in 1969, the Associated Press reported at the time, at a rate of one every six days. But no-one had ever hijacked a plane in the US and taken it to another continent.

The crew were getting mixed messages from their jittery passenger: he wanted to go to New York, or maybe Rome. If their destination was to be New York, that would be a problem: they had enough fuel to fly only to San Francisco, so would have to stop for more. And if they were heading for Rome, there would be an even bigger obstacle: nobody on board was qualified to fly internationally.

Eventually, captain Cook was allowed into the cabin to talk to the passengers. "If you've made any plans in San Francisco," he said, "don't plan on keeping them. Because you're going to New York."

After some negotiation, Minichiello agreed to let the captain land in Denver to take on enough fuel to reach the east coast. While over Colorado, Cook alerted air traffic control for the first time that the plane had been hijacked.

The plans soon changed: Minichiello would let the 39 other passengers get off in Denver, but he insisted that one of the flight attendants stay on board. A small debate broke out about who should stay. The hijacker's preference was Delmonico, whom he had led to the cockpit at gunpoint. Cook wanted Roberta Johnson, whom he knew best of all four attendants.

As Delmonico began writing a manifest of all passengers on board, Tracey Coleman went up to the cockpit with coffee for the crew. When she stepped back out, she insisted to Delmonico: "I'm gonna go." Coleman had a boyfriend in New York, she said, and could go and see him. But Delmonico knew New York would not be the final destination. "You're not going to stay in New York," she told Coleman. "He can't stay there, he'll be arrested if he gets out there. He's going somewhere else - I don't know where, but he's going somewhere else."

Coleman, in an interview with TWA Skyliner magazine after the hijacking, said she knew what was at stake. "It wasn't because I just wanted to go along for the ride," she said. "But it was feared that if one of the stewardesses didn't stay aboard, he may not let the passengers off in Denver."

Minichiello had demanded that the lights at Denver's Stapleton International Airport be turned off as the plane landed. He didn't want any surprises, and promised to release the passengers only if there was no trouble.

His nerves apparently calming, the hijacker proved unexpectedly accommodating. While he was exiting, Jim Findlay, the deadheading TWA pilot, realised he had left behind a Halloween outfit he had bought in Hong Kong. Findlay asked Minichiello if he could return to the back of the plane to retrieve it. He politely replied: "Sure."

As the passengers filed off the plane in cold, foggy weather with sunrise still two hours away, they were met by an unsmiling FBI agent in an overcoat. The relief among those allowed to leave was clear, and they were led down a darkened corridor through the terminal. At the end was a room swarming with FBI agents, who had rushed to the airport at short notice and were waiting to take statements from the 39 passengers and three flight attendants.

The members of Harpers Bizarre remembered what their manager had once told them: if they were ever involved in any trouble, anything at all, they were to call him first, even before they got to a police station or hospital. As soon as they reached the terminal, they did just that, even though it was the middle of the night where he lived.

The tactic paid off. When they had finished giving their statements, they stepped into another room and were greeted by the flash of camera bulbs, reporters shouting the band's name, and phones ringing as news outlets around the US hoped to hear their story. "It was the best publicity we ever had, by a mile," Dick Scoppettone told the BBC.

The assembled photographers captured tired passengers slumped against walls. Other passengers smiled, bemused, as they recounted what had happened. The three flight attendants gave statements to the FBI, and Charlene Delmonico's ran to 13 handwritten pages.

After a day of interviews, all the flight attendants got home to Kansas City late in the evening, as TV channels kept viewers updated as the unlikely hijack continued.

Delmonico settled in at home after more than a day without sleep. Late in the evening, her telephone rang. It was the FBI, could they come around to see her? They arrived at 23:00 and handed her a photo. The image of Raffaele Minichiello looked back at her. "Yes, that's him," she said.

It was a face she would encounter again almost 40 years later.

The three-hour flight from Denver passed peacefully. Minichiello, stretched out in first class with the gun at his side, had calmed down. He poured himself an unusual cocktail from two miniature bottles - Canadian Club whisky and gin. Only five people remained on board TWA85 - captain Cook, first officer Wenzel Williams, flight engineer Lloyd Hollrah, flight attendant Tracey Coleman and the hijacker himself.

The plane landed at John F Kennedy airport late in the morning, and was parked as far from the terminals as possible. The order from the cockpit, like in Denver, was for as few people as possible to approach the plane. But the FBI was ready, and keen to stop the hijacker before he set a dangerous precedent and took a domestic flight to another continent. Close to 100 agents were waiting for TWA85, many disguised as mechanics hoping to sneak on board.

Within minutes of the landing, as refuelling was about to take place, the FBI started approaching the plane. Through the cockpit window, Cook spoke to one agent who wanted a reluctant Minichiello to come closer to the window to speak to them.

"Raffaele was running up and down the aisles to make sure they weren't trying to sneak in the airplane," Wenzel Williams told the BBC 50 years on. "He felt he would be shot if he came to the window."

The captain, one eye on his passenger, warned the agents to stay away from the plane. Soon afterwards, a shot rang out.

The accepted version of events now is that Minichiello did not intend to shoot. In his agitated state, just outside the cockpit door, he is thought to have nudged the trigger of his rifle with his finger. The bullet pierced the ceiling and glanced off an oxygen tank, but did not penetrate it or the plane's fuselage. Had it damaged the fuselage, the plane would not have been able to fly on. Had it pierced the oxygen tank and caused an explosion, there might not have been a plane, or crew, left to fly.

Even though the shot had apparently been fired by accident, it sent shivers through the crew and they were reminded that their lives were at stake. Captain Cook - who was sure the rifle had been fired on purpose - shouted at the agents through the window, chastising them and telling them the plane was leaving immediately, without refuelling.

Two TWA captains of 24 years' experience who were allowed to fly internationally, Billy Williams and Richard Hastings, pushed their way through the FBI agents and onto the plane. Everyone else stayed on board.

"The FBI plan was damned near a prescription for getting the entire crew killed," Cook later told the New York Times.

"We sat with that boy for six hours and had seen him go from practically a raving maniac to a fairly complacent and intelligent young man with a sense of humour, and then these idiots... irresponsibly made up their own minds about how to handle this boy on the basis of no information, and the good faith we had built up for almost six hours was completely destroyed."

The two new pilots, who were in no mood to humour the hijacker, took charge of the plane. Minichiello ordered everyone else to stay inside the cockpit with their hands on their heads.

The plane took off quickly, with nowhere near enough fuel on board to reach its intended destination: Rome.

Twenty minutes after the plane had left New York with a bullet lodged in its roof, the tension on board had eased, thanks largely to Cook convincing Minichiello that the crew had nothing to do with the chaos at Kennedy airport.

The events there meant the plane had been unable to refuel, so within the hour, TWA85 landed in the north-eastern corner of the US in Bangor, Maine, where it took on enough fuel to cross the Atlantic. By now, in the early afternoon, the story of the hijacking and the drama in New York had gained the full attention of the American media. Photographers and reporters turned out en masse at Bangor's airport terminal.

Close to 75 police officers ensured the press stayed as far as possible from the plane in case the gunman was provoked again. Hundreds of people had driven to the airport to get a glimpse of the action, but were kept half a mile away from the terminal. From the plane, the hijacker spotted two people watching from a nearby building. Cook, eager to leave, radioed the control tower: "You had better hurry. He says he is going to start shooting at that building unless they get a move on." The two men quickly left.

On board, as the plane headed towards international airspace, a sense of solidarity had begun to develop among those who had been together for more than nine hours. But under the surface, even as they tried to keep the hijacker happy, the crew continued to fear for their lives.

With the new pilots on board, Cook went to sit with Minichiello in the first-class compartment, where they swapped stories. Cook spoke of his time as an air traffic controller with the US Air Force. The rifle rested between them, but at no point did the crew try to take it, mostly out of concern over how the hijacker might react.

Minichiello repeatedly asked Cook if he was married. He replied that he was, despite being a bachelor. "That seemed wiser," Cook told the New York Times later. He had assumed a jittery man with a gun would be less likely to harm married crew. "He asked how many kids I had and I said one. Then he asked about the other members of the crew and I said: 'Yeah, all of them are married.'" In fact, only one of the four original crew members was married.

Tracey Coleman, too, spent time chatting to Minichiello during the transatlantic trip, the first time she had left the United States or flown for longer than four hours. He taught her card games including solitaire and he was "a very easy fellow to talk to", she would later recall. He talked about his family moving to the US and, intriguingly, said he had "had a little military trouble after coming back to the States and just wanted to go home to Italy", Coleman later told an airline industry magazine.

She slept a little during the six-hour flight from Bangor to Shannon, on Ireland's west coast, where TWA85 refuelled once more in the middle of the night. Few others on board were able to sleep. "We were too keyed up for that," Wenzel Williams recalled. The only food on board was a handful of cupcakes left on the original flight from Kansas City to Los Angeles. "Food wasn't exactly much of an issue," Williams told the BBC. "Having a gun pointed at us a good bit of the time kept most other issues at bay."

As TWA85 crossed time zones on its approach to Ireland, and 31 October became 1 November, Minichiello turned 20. No-one celebrated.

Half an hour after landing in Ireland, TWA85 was off again, on the final stretch of its 6,900-mile (11,000km) journey to Rome.

TWA85 circled Rome's Fiumicino airport early in the morning. Minichiello had one more demand: the plane was to be parked far from the terminal and he was to be met by an unarmed police official. The hijack was nearing its end, 18-and-a-half hours after it had started over the skies of central California. It was, the New York Times reported at the time, "the world's longest and most spectacular hijacking".

In the last few minutes of the flight, Williams said, the hijacker offered to drive the crew to a hotel once they had landed, an offer they politely declined. Minichiello also feared the crew would be punished for not having stolen his gun when they had the opportunity. "I've given you guys an awful lot of trouble," he told Cook. "That's all right," the captain replied. "We don't take it personally."

At the airport, shortly after 05:00, a lone Alfa Romeo approached the plane. Out of it emerged Pietro Guli, a deputy customs official who had volunteered to meet the hijacker. He walked up the steps to the plane with his hands up, and Minichiello emerged to meet him.

"So long, Don," the hijacker told the captain as he left. "I'm sorry I caused you all this trouble." Minichiello noted Cook's address in Kansas City so he could later write to him and explain what had happened after they separated.

The two men walked down the steps towards the car, Minichiello still holding his rifle, and the six people on board felt "total relief", according to first officer Wenzel Williams. They were free again. But they all hoped the next stage of the hijacking would end safely, for both Minichiello and his new hostage.


After Los Angeles, Denver, New York, Bangor, Shannon and Rome, there was only one destination now. "Take me to Naples," Minichiello ordered Pietro Guli. He was heading home.

Four police cars trailed the Alfa Romeo and the officers' voices crackled over the hostage's radio. Minichiello, sitting in the back seat, switched off the radio and gave his hostage directions where to go.


In the countryside about six miles from the centre of Rome, having somehow evaded the pursuing cars, the Alfa Romeo travelled down lanes that became ever more narrow. Eventually it reached a dead end and both men stepped out of the car. Realising he had few options left, Minichiello sprinted away in panic.

Twenty-three hours after TWA85 left Los Angeles, Minichiello's journey came to an end. It did so only because of the publicity the hijacking had generated. Over five hours in the hills around Rome, hundreds of police officers, some with dogs and helicopters, led the search for the hijacker. But in the end, he was found by a priest.

Saturday, 1 November was All Saints Day, and the Sanctuary of Divine Love was full for morning Mass. Among the well-dressed congregation, the young man in his vest and undershorts stood out. Minichiello had sought shelter in the church after shedding his military clothes and stashing his gun in a barn. But his face was now famous and the vice-rector, Don Pasquale Silla, recognised him.

When the police finally surrounded Minichiello outside the church, he expressed bemusement - interpreted by reporters as the arrogance of a young criminal - that his countrymen might want to detain him. "Paisà [my people], why are you arresting me?" he asked.


He employed the same tone hours later while speaking to reporters, his hands free of cuffs, after a brief interrogation in a Rome police station. "Why did you do it?" one reporter asked. "Why did I do it?" he replied. "I don't know." When another asked him about the hijacked plane, he replied in a perplexed tone: "What plane? I don't know what you're talking about."

But in another interview, he revealed the real reasons for the hijack.


As the news of Minichiello's arrest spread around the world later that day, Otis Turner sat down for breakfast in the mess of his Marine barracks in California.

The television in the corner was relaying the details of the daring hijack and the manhunt in the Italian countryside. "Then they flashed up Raffaele's picture," Turner told the BBC. "I was just floored, absolutely floored."

The two men had served in the same platoon in Vietnam and become close friends before being separated in the US. "I was confused at first," Turner said, "but when I really got to thinking about it, I knew he had had some issues and it all came together."

When the hijacking happened, it was four-and-a-half years since US combat forces had first landed in Vietnam and the fall of Saigon was still more than five years away. The US would leave Vietnam having completely failed in its mission, leaving more than 58,000 American service personnel and millions of Vietnamese - both combatants and civilians - dead.

Opposition in the US to the war was at its peak in late 1969. An estimated two million people across the US had taken part in the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam - reported as the biggest demonstration in American history - two weeks before the hijacking.

The lottery drafting young Americans to fight was still a month away from being enforced, but many thousands of young men had already volunteered, believing back then that the cause - to fight the communists of North Vietnam - was valid. Raffaele Minichiello was one of those who volunteered.


In May 1967, the 17 year old left his home in Seattle, to where he and his family had moved after the earthquake in their Italian homeland in 1962. He travelled to San Diego to enlist in the Marine Corps, and for those who knew him - a little stubborn, a little gung-ho - this did not come as a surprise.

Minichiello barely spoke English, and had been teased for his thick Neapolitan accent by his classmates before dropping out of school altogether. Doing so had brought an end to his ambitions of being a commercial pilot. But he was proud of his adopted country, and was willing to fight for it in the hope it would make him a naturalised American citizen.

Otis Turner arrived in Vietnam at about the same time as Minichiello, and they served in different squads in the same Marine platoon. They were "grunts" - the men dropped on to the jungle-cloaked hills of the front line for a few months at a time to take the fight to the communist forces.

"Anybody will tell you: the grunts had the toughest job in the Marine Corps," Turner, now living in Iowa, said. "We were in 120-degree (49C) weather, in monsoon season. It was terrible. We saw the worst of the worst."

In 2019, Turner looks back with some shame at what they were ordered to do, and how they complied. Their mission was brutally simple: they were to enter villages and towns and kill the enemy. "From the time we joined the Marine Corps, we were basically all about kill, kill, kill," he said. "That's all they wanted us to do. They drilled that into us from the beginning."


Of those serving on the front line, Minichiello was often the one leading the charge. Doing so brought him into firefights that killed close friends, and led him to save others who were in danger. He was awarded the Cross of Gallantry, which was given out by the government of South Vietnam to those who had displayed heroic conduct in the war.

The men had come to know only one mode - they were Marines, born to fight - and adjusting to daily life proved impossible. "There was no staging area to regroup or to get your mind and body back working as one unit," Turner told the BBC. "There was no period there just to break it all down and think about what you had just done, to see a professional.

"There were a lot of sick people, confused people. Raffaele was in some state. All of us were confused when we left Vietnam."

Turner says most members of his and Minichiello's platoon - including himself - went on to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that up to 30% of all those who served in Vietnam have suffered PTSD at some point in their lives - about 810,000 people.

Raffaele Minichiello would not be diagnosed until 2008.

Tracked down by reporters near Naples, Minichiello's father - who was by then suffering from terminal cancer and had returned to Italy - knew immediately what had caused his son to hijack the plane. "The war must have provoked a state of shock in his mind," Luigi Minichiello said. "Before that, he was always sane." He vowed to clip him around the ear when he next saw him.


Another reason for the hijacking soon emerged. While in Vietnam, Minichiello had been sending money to a Marines savings fund. He had collected $800, but when he returned to base in Camp Pendleton, California, he noticed there was only $600 in his account. It was not enough to pay for a visit to Italy to see his dying father.

Minichiello raised his concerns with his superiors, and insisted he be given the $200 he felt he was owed. His superiors didn't listen, and dismissed his complaint. And so Minichiello took matters into his own hands, albeit clumsily. One night, he broke into the store on the base to steal $200 of goods. Unfortunately for him, he did so after drinking eight beers and fell asleep inside the store. He was caught the next morning.

The day before he hijacked TWA85, he had been due to appear before a court martial in Camp Pendleton but, fearing prison, he went awol and travelled up to Los Angeles. With him, he took a Chinese rifle he had registered as a war trophy in Vietnam.

Against the odds, Minichiello became a folk hero in Italy, where he was portrayed not as a troubled gunman who had threatened a planeload of passengers, but as a fresh-faced Italian boy who would do anything to return to the motherland. He faced trial in Italy - the authorities there insisted on this within hours of his arrest - and would not face extradition to the US, where he could have faced the death penalty.

At his trial, his lawyer Giuseppe Sotgiu portrayed Minichiello as the poor victim - the poor Italian victim - of an unconscionable foreign war. "I am sure that Italian judges will understand and forgive an act born from a civilisation of aircraft and war violence, a civilisation which overwhelmed this uncultured peasant."


He was prosecuted in Italy only for crimes committed in Italian airspace, and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison. That sentence was quickly reduced on appeal, and he was released on 1 May 1971.

Wearing a brown suit, the 21 year old stepped out of the Queen of Heaven prison near the Vatican to face crowds of photographers and cameramen. Occasionally overawed by the attention and breaking into a smile that flitted from nervousness to cockiness, he stopped to speak to reporters. "Are you sorry for what you did?" one asked. "Why should I be?" he replied, grinning.

But after that, an array of prospects came to nothing. A nude modelling career never took off, and a promise by a film producer to turn Minichiello into a Spaghetti Western star was never kept. For years, rumours swirled that the character John Rambo was based on Minichiello - after all, Rambo was a decorated but misunderstood Vietnam veteran who had lost the plot - but the man who created Rambo has since dismissed the suggestion.

In the years after prison, Minichiello settled in Rome where he worked as a bartender. He married the bar owner's daughter, Cinzia, with whom he had a son. At one point he also owned a pizza restaurant named Hijacking.


23 November 1980

The earthquake that had destroyed Raffaele Minichiello's hometown in 1962 was just a precursor. Eighteen years later, a magnitude-6.9 earthquake struck southern Italy, its epicentre barely 20 miles from the one in 1962.

This was the most powerful earthquake to strike Italy in 70 years, and it caused enormous damage across the Irpinia region. Up to 4,690 people were killed and 20,000 homes - many of them in a weakened state after the 1962 quake - were destroyed.


Soon afterwards, Italians began arriving in large groups to the region east of Naples to distribute aid. Among them was Raffaele Minichiello.

The 31 year old was still living in Rome at the time, but had felt compelled to make the 300-mile trip home three times in only two weeks to deliver aid. "I know all about earthquakes in Irpinia," he told an interviewer from People magazine in December 1980. "That is where I was born, and that is where all my troubles began."

His distrust of authority, fostered during his time in the Marines, had stayed with him. "I mistrust institutions, so I give help personally," he said. "I know all about people who don't keep their promises."

Minichiello was recognised among the snowy ruins of Irpinia, but he was not quite the minor celebrity he had been when TWA85 landed in Rome 11 years earlier. At that time, his image - slick curled hair, cigarette in his right hand, casual smirk on his face - had been on the front covers of magazines around the world.


In the post-earthquake ruins, a more repentant Minichiello began to emerge. "I'm very different now to who I was," he said. "I'm sorry for what I did to those people on the plane."

Minichiello's redemption did not come with the Irpinia earthquake. And his story could have ended very differently had his plan for another attack come to fruition, although this plan was much more poorly thought-out than his hijack.

In February 1985, Cinzia was pregnant with the couple's second child. After being admitted to hospital in labour, she and her newborn son died as a result of medical malpractice. Minichiello, feeling angry and let down by the authorities again, knew what he would do. He would target a prominent medical conference outside Rome, and draw attention to the negligence that had cost his wife and son their lives. He arranged, via an acquaintance, to acquire guns with which he would launch a violent revenge attack.

While he plotted, Minichiello struck up a friendship with a young colleague, Tony, who sensed his distress. Tony introduced him to the Bible and read him passages out loud. Minichiello listened and, over time, decided to devote his life to God. He called off his attack.


In 1999, Minichiello decided to return to the United States for the first time since the hijack.

He had learned earlier that year that there were no outstanding criminal charges against him in the US, but his decision to abscond was not entirely without consequence. Because Minichiello had fled a court martial, he was given what is known as an "other than honourable discharge" by the Marines. His former platoon comrades have been fighting to get this reduced to a general discharge, to reflect his service in Vietnam, but they remain unsuccessful to this day.

"Raffaele was a great Marine, a decorated Marine," fellow platoon member Otis Turner told the BBC. "He was always the guy right out front. He would volunteer for everything. He has saved lives. What he did for this country, his part in Vietnam... you just don't throw somebody to the side like that."

As his platoon worked to clear his name, Minichiello asked them to help with another mission: finding those who were on board TWA85, so he could apologise.


8 August 2009

By the summer of 2009, Charlene Delmonico had been retired for more than eight years after spending her whole 35-year career as a flight attendant with TWA. Within a year of her retirement in January 2001, the airline no longer existed after falling into bankruptcy and being taken over by American Airlines.

Out of the blue, Delmonico received an invitation. Would she be willing to meet the man who had once held her up at gunpoint?

The invitation had come from Otis Turner and other members of Raffaele's platoon. "I thought the idea was kind of crazy," Turner said. "But I got thinking and I thought: why not try?"

Delmonico's first reaction to the invitation was shock. The hijacking had defined her life, and reshaped it. Why should she meet the man who had once put a gun against her back? Her second reaction, as a churchgoer, was different. "I was kind of surprised," she told the BBC. "And I had a strange feeling. This was something that had happened that was very scary and nerve-wracking - it really did get to me.

"Then I thought: we are taught to forgive. But I didn't know how I would receive him."

In August 2009, Delmonico travelled the almost 150 miles south from her home to Branson, Missouri, where Minichiello and his former platoon were holding a reunion. There she met Wenzel Williams, the first officer on TWA85, who was the only other person to accept the offer to meet Minichiello. Captain Cook had refused, a gesture that hurt the one-time hijacker who believed he had developed a bond with the captain as they had sat chatting in first class.

In a side room at the Clarion Hotel, Williams and Delmonico sat at a round table with the platoon members, minus Minichiello. The former soldiers presented them with a letter, expressing what they hoped could be achieved through the meeting. Their obvious support for Minichiello convinced Delmonico that they felt this was a man worth fighting for.


After some time, Minichiello walked in and sat down. The atmosphere remained tense for a while. But as more questions flowed, and Minichiello began to explain what had happened to him, the group grew closer.

Minichiello seemed different to Williams - smaller, more softly spoken. He appeared weighed down by his guilt as he relived the hijacking. But his remorse appeared sincere.

"In a way, I got a little closure, saw a different viewpoint," Delmonico said. "I probably felt sorry for him. I thought he was very polite. But he was always polite."

Before they left, Minichiello handed them both a copy of the New Testament.

Inside, he had written:

Thank you for your time, so much.

I appreciate your forgiveness for my actions that put you in harm's way.

Please accept this book, that has changed my life.

God bless you so much, Raffaele Minichiello.

Underneath, he added the words Luke 23:34.

The passage reads: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."


What happened next?

Raffaele Minichiello divides his time between Washington state and Italy, flies a home-made plane for fun and curates a YouTube feed dedicated to accordion music.

His platoon is still campaigning for his discharge to be amended to an honourable one, and in August they sent several letters to President Donald Trump asking for this to happen.

Unless his discharge is amended, he will remain ineligible for treatment for PTSD, and he will not receive any other veterans' benefits. He declined to be interviewed for this article as he has signed a provisional film deal about his life story.

According to his obituary, TWA captain Donald Cook "made his final flight up into the wild blue yonder on September 30, 2012 after a long and valiant battle with cancer".

Flight attendant Charlene Delmonico - now Charlene Delmonico Nielsen - retired from TWA on 1 January 2001 after 35 years with the company. She still lives in Missouri.

Flight attendant Tracey Coleman wrote to Minichiello while he was in prison but is believed to have left her job with TWA two years after the hijacking, despite reportedly being promised a job for life. Her whereabouts are unknown.

First officer Wenzel Williams is now retired and lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

Harpers Bizarre broke up in the mid-1970s. Dick Scoppettone now hosts a local radio show in Santa Cruz, California.

In December 1972, after hijackers demanded a ransom and threatened to fly a plane into a nuclear facility, the Nixon administration finally introduced security measures at airports, including electronic screening of all passengers. It blamed a "new breed of hijackers... unequalled in their ruthlessness".

Oct 28, 2019

Martin "Moose" Pier is a NASA flight crew member, airline instructor and airport owner. Moose started out in the Air Force and decided to take flying lessons at the base aero club. He was introduced to the club manager's daughter, and the rest was history - they are still married.

In addition to pursuing airplane flying, Moose became interested in hang gliding, and eventually bought an airport property in Colorado, intending to become active in hang-gliding. In the process, he acquired airplanes. He now owns EIGHT at last count!

Moose served in the Air Force for a full career as a flight engineer, and then became an airline flight engineer. In the process, he met the SOFIA team from NASA and was hired to fly scientific missions all over the world.

In his "free" time, Moose operates a team of two mules, "Black" and "Decker" to give rides to children.

Oct 24, 2019

Graciela Tiscareno-Sato is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. She completed the Aerospace Studies program as an AFROTC (Air Force Reserve Officer Training Program) scholarship cadet while earning her degree in Architecture and Environmental Design. During her active duty career in the U.S. Air Force, she deployed to four continents and dozens of countries as aircrew member, instructor and contingency planning officer. Flying many combat sorties over Southern Iraq in the NO FLY Zone after Operation Desert Storm earned her crew the prestigious Air Medal on her first deployment. Her favorite rendezvous for aerial refueling was with the SR-71 Blackbird as it came out of its high altitude missions over the Earth at supersonic speeds. She served with a NATO Battlestaff in Vicenza, Italy, as a military liaison officer at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador and much more. She earned a Master degree in International Management from the School of Global Commerce at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington before leaving active service. After an international marketing management career with Siemens headquartered in Munich, Germany, she created her global marketing and publishing firm, Gracefully Global Group, LLC. In November 2010, she received Entrepreneur of the Year honors at the LATINAStyle Magazine Gala in Washington D.C. In 2014, the White House honored Graciela as a White House Champion of Change, Woman Veteran Leader for creating this book series and raising educational expectations of young Latino students. Graciela actively mentors students who need education and career roadmaps, which is a central focus of her four-time award-winning and bestselling book, "Latinnovating." As a journalist and blogger, her work has been published in the U.S. and Europe in a wide variety of media. She is a sought-after keynote speaker, workshop leader and lecturer in classrooms, business schools, corporate events and educational conferences around the nation. Graciela and her family live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Graciela's military decorations include the Air Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, the Combat Readiness Medal, the National defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, and the Armed Forces Services Medal.

Oct 21, 2019

Randall Larsen is the CEO of Randall Larsen Presents, a company dedicated to bringing great stories in film and print to the American public. He also serves as the National Security Advisor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

From 1998-2012, Larsen served in a variety of executive positions in national and homeland security including:

  • Chairman, Department of Military Strategy and Operations at the National War College
  • Founding Director, Institute for Homeland Security
  • Senior Fellow at the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University
  • Executive Director of the Congressional Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism
  • CEO, The Bipartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center

Larsen is the author of Our Own Worst Enemy: Asking the Right Questions About Security to Protect You, Your Family, and America (Grand Central, 2007).  His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Business Week.

Colonel Larsen retired in July 2000 after serving in both the Army and Air Force for a combined total of 32 years of active duty military service. His flying career began as a 19-year old Cobra pilot in the 101st Airborne Division. He flew 400 combat missions in Vietnam. He is a command pilot with more than 4,000 hours and also served as military attaché at the US Embassy in Bangkok, the chief of legislative liaison at the US Transportation Command, and the commander of America’s fleet of VIP aircraft at Andrews AFB MD. His decorations include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, 17 awards of the Air Medal (3 with “V” Device for Valor), and the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

Oct 17, 2019

At thirteen years old, Beth’s heart was broken when her father died suddenly. But there was a bigger challenge ahead when doctors told her she probably had multiple sclerosis at 22 years old. Beth vowed that this new challenge would not put restrictions on her life and embarked on a lifelong dream to fly for the airlines. Starting at the small local airport, the aviation world swallowed her whole, and the next five years of her life were as turbulent as an airplane in a thunderstorm, never knowing when, how or if she would emerge. An agonizing love affair with her flight instructor, dangerous risks in the sky and flying broken airplanes for shady companies all intertwined to define her road to the airlines. She made it to her goal and was hired by Trans World Airlines in 1989. Flying Alone is told with soul-baring candor, taking readers on a suspenseful journey through the terror, romance and ultimate victory of those years.

Oct 14, 2019

In a Career that was 99% pure exhilarating fun balanced by 1% of pure terror the lessons of leadership, survival, faith, love, perseverance, and camaraderie were plentiful, direct, and changed his life. As a Navy Strike Fighter, Brick amassed over 4500 hours and nearly 1000 arrested carrier landings during multiple combat deployments. His tours of duty include F/A-18 Hornet Squadron Command and he also provided leadership and instruction to two of the Navy’s elite air power training organizations - the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center and to Naval Strike Force Training Pacific. In the blink of an eye it was over as he bid farewell to his beloved Navy at his final Command, Naval Base Ventura County.

From Finance to Transportation, the lessons and experience from his unique past continues to be useful to others. But if given the choice, his go to move is to Coach and Mentor young Men and Women either professionally or through his first passion – Lacrosse. And when it comes to Joy and fulfillment there is no greater force in his life then the support from, and pride in, his devoted family -  his wife Terrie and their four children Sarah, Rachel, Anna, and Bradford.

Oct 10, 2019

Simultaneous Close Parallel Precision Runway Monitor (PRM) Approaches are independent approaches conducted to runways with centerline spacing of less than 4300 feet (1310m) but at least 3000' (915m). PRM is an acronym for the high update rate Precision Runway Monitor surveillance system which is required to monitor the No Transgression Zone (NTZ) for specific parallel runway separations used to conduct simultaneous close parallel approaches. PRM is published in the title as part of the approach name for Instrument Approach Procedures (IAP) used to conduct Simultaneous Close Parallel approaches. “PRM” also alerts pilots that specific airborne equipment, training, and procedures are applicable.
Simultaneous Close Parallel PRM Approach (Source: FAA AIM):
Note that aircraft will be separated laterally or vertically prior to the beginning of the NTZ and that the NTZ monitoring continues past the missed approach point (MAP) to ensure aircraft separation in the event of simultaneous missed approaches.
Simultaneous close parallel ILS PRM approaches are depicted on a separate Approach Procedure Chart titled ILS PRM Rwy XXX (Simultaneous Close Parallel). Note that one or both of the ILS PRM approaches in a simultaneous close parallel operation may be substituted with RNAV PRM or GLS PRM approaches. Because Simultaneous Close Parallel PRM approaches are independent, the NTZ and normal operating zone (NOZ) airspace between the final approach courses is monitored by two monitor controllers, one for each approach course. Simultaneous Close Parallel PRM approaches must meet all of the following requirements:
specific pilot training
PRM in the approach title
NTZ monitoring utilizing a final monitor aid
publication of an Attention All Users Page (AAUP) as part of the IAP
use of a secondary PRM communication frequency
One of the unique features of Simultaneous Close Parallel PRM Approaches concerns the "breakout" protocol. Because of the close proximity of aircraft on adjacent approaches, should an aircraft on approach blunder into the NTZ, it will be the aircraft on the opposite approach that will be given breakout instructions by ATC.
Pilot Training
Pilots must complete special training before accepting a clearance for a simultaneous close parallel ILS PRM, RNAV PRM, GLS PRM or LDA PRM approach. Operators must be approved for Simultaneous Close Parallel PRM Approach procedures by their National Aviation Authority (NAA). Commercial operators will detail the specific training requirements in their Company Operations Manual in accordance with their approved Operations Specification (Ops Spec) for PRM approaches. Non commercial operators must be familiar with the content of the FAA Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) pertaining to PRM operations.
NTZ Monitoring
The final approach courses of Simultaneous Close Parallel Approaches are monitored by two monitor controllers, one for each approach course. The NTZ monitoring system consists of:
high resolution ATC radar displays
automated tracking software which provides
aircraft identification
aircraft position
a ten-second projected aircraft position
aircraft speed
visual and aural NTZ penetration alerts
Attention All Users Page (AAUP)
Multiple PRM approach charts at the same airport have a single associated AAUP. This page must be referred to in preparation for conducting the approach. Bullet points are published summarising the PRM procedures which apply to each approach and these must be briefed as part of the approach briefing. The following information may be summarized in the bullet points or published in more detail in the Expanded Procedures section of the AAUP. Briefing on the Expanded Procedures is optional. Bullet points on the AAUP include:
ATIS - When the ATIS broadcast advises ILS PRM approaches are in progress (or ILS PRM and LDA PRM approaches in the case of SOIA), pilots should brief to fly the ILS PRM or LDA PRM approach. If not qualified to flight PRM approaches, ATC must be advised.
Dual VHF Communications Required - To avoid blocked transmissions, each runway will have two frequencies, a primary and a PRM monitor frequency. The tower controller will transmit on both frequencies. The monitor controller’s transmissions, if needed, will override both frequencies. Pilots will ONLY transmit on the tower controller’s frequency, but will listen to both frequencies. The pilots should not select the PRM monitor frequency audio only until instructed by ATC to contact the tower. The volume levels should be set about the same on both radios so that the pilots will be able to hear transmissions on at least one frequency if the other is blocked. This procedure ensures that critical breakout instructions are not missed.
Breakouts - Breakouts differ from other types of abandoned approaches in that they can happen unexpectedly and at any point during the approach. A pilot that is directed by ATC to break off an approach must assume that an aircraft is blundering toward them resulting in Loss of Separation. Pilots must always initiate the breakout in response to an air traffic controller’s instruction and the breakout must be initiated immediately. The following points provide specific breakout protocols:
Execution - to expedite the manoeuvre, breakout procedures must be hand flown
ATC Instructions - directed breakouts will consist of a turn away from the NTZ to a specified heading and a climb or a descent to a specified altitude. A descending breakout will be directed only when there are no other reasonable options available, but in no case will the descent be below the minimum vectoring altitude (MVA) which provides at least 1,000 feet required obstruction clearance
Phraseology - If an aircraft enters the no transgression zone (NTZ), the controller will breakout the threatened aircraft on the adjacent approach using the phraseology "(aircraft call sign) TURN (left/right) IMMEDIATELY, HEADING (degrees), CLIMB/ DESCEND AND MAINTAIN (altitude)"
TCAS - Should a TCAS RA (resolution advisory) occur during a breakout maneuver, the pilot should react appropriately to the TCAS vertical guidance. However, in this situation, it is critical that the turn to the ATC assigned breakout heading is also executed.

Oct 7, 2019

During his active duty career in the U.S. Navy, Francesco “Paco” Chierici flew A-6E Intruders and F-14A Tomcats, deployed to conflict zones from Somalia to Iraq and was stationed aboard carriers including the USS Ranger, Nimitz and Kitty Hawk. Throughout his military career, Paco accumulated 3,000 tactical hours, 400 carrier landings, a Southwest Asia Service Medal with Bronze Star, and three Strike/Flight Air Medals. Unable to give up dogfighting, he flew the F-5 Tiger II for a further ten years as a Bandit.


Paco is now a pilot for a major U.S. airline.

Oct 3, 2019

When the aircraft arrived from London earlier that morning, the previous flight crew had reported a frozen door seal and abnormal noises coming from the right aft service door. They requested a full inspection of the door. The inspection was carried out by a ground engineer who then performed a pressurization leak check. In order to carry out this check without requiring the aircraft's engines, the pressurization system was set to "manual". However, the engineer failed to reset it to "auto" on completion of the test.

After the aircraft was returned into service, the flight crew overlooked the pressurisation system state on three separate occasions: during the pre-flight procedure, the after-start check, and the after take-off check. During these checks, no one in the flight crew noticed the incorrect setting. The aircraft took off at 9:07 with the pressurization system still set to "manual", and the aft outflow valve partially open.

As the aircraft climbed, the pressure inside the cabin gradually decreased. As it passed through an altitude of 12,040 feet (3,670 m), the cabin altitude warning horn sounded. The warning should have prompted the crew to stop climbing, but it was misidentified by the crew as a take-off configuration warning, which signals that the aircraft is not ready for take-off, and can only sound on the ground.

In the next few minutes, several warning lights on the overhead panel in the cockpit illuminated. One or both of the equipment cooling warning lights came on to indicate low airflow through the cooling fans (a result of the decreased air density), accompanied by the master caution light. The passenger oxygen light illuminated when, at an altitude of approximately 18,000 feet (5,500 m), the oxygen masks in the passenger cabin automatically deployed.

Shortly after the cabin altitude warning sounded, the captain radioed the Helios operations centre and reported "the take-off configuration warning on" and "cooling equipment normal and alternate off line". He then spoke to the ground engineer and repeatedly stated that the "cooling ventilation fan lights were off". The engineer (the one who had conducted the pressurization leak check) asked "Can you confirm that the pressurization panel is set to AUTO?" However, the captain, already experiencing the onset of hypoxia's initial symptoms, disregarded the question and instead asked in reply, "Where are my equipment cooling circuit breakers?". This was the last communication with the aircraft.

The aircraft continued to climb until it leveled off at FL340, approximately 34,000 feet (10,000 m). Between 09:30 and 09:40, Nicosia ATC repeatedly attempted to contact the aircraft, without success. At 09:37, the aircraft passed from Cyprus Flight Information Region (FIR) into Athens FIR, without making contact with Athens ATC. Nineteen attempts to contact the aircraft between 10:12 and 10:50 also met with no response, and at 10:40 the aircraft entered the holding pattern for Athens Airport, at the KEA VHF omnidirectional range, still at FL340. It remained in the holding pattern, under control of the auto-pilot, for the next 70 minutes.

Two F-16 fighter aircraft from the Hellenic Air Force 111th Combat Wing were scrambled from Nea Anchialos Air Base to establish visual contact. They intercepted the passenger jet at 11:24 and observed that the first officer was slumped motionless at the controls and the captain's seat was empty. They also reported that oxygen masks were dangling in the passenger cabin.

At 11:49, flight attendant Andreas Prodromou entered the cockpit and sat down in the captain's seat, having remained conscious by using a portable oxygen supply. Prodromou held a UK Commercial Pilot Licence, but was not qualified to fly the Boeing 737. Crash investigators concluded that Prodromou's experience was insufficient for him to be able to gain control of the aircraft under the circumstances. Prodromou waved at the F16s very briefly, but almost as soon as he entered the cockpit, the left engine flamed out due to fuel exhaustion and the plane left the holding pattern and started to descend. Ten minutes after the loss of power from the left engine, the right engine also flamed out, and just before 12:04 the aircraft crashed into hills near Grammatiko, 40 km (25 mi; 22 nmi) from Athens, killing all 121 passengers and crew on board.

Sep 30, 2019

Anna Rice fell in love with aviation as a child, as she accompanied her flight attendant mother on trips to Europe. She attended Metro State College of Denver (now Metropolitan State University of Denver), majoring in Aviation, and was selected as an intern at American Airlines.

After graduation, she became a CFI and then a pilot for a small airline, and was on track to become a pilot with American Airlines when the attacks of September 11th crippled the U.S. airline industry. She continued to work as a CFI until another airline job became available.

THEN another career hurdle appeared, the airline pilot age limit raising from 60 to 65. That caused total stagnation in upward movement at her airline, and she was furloughed.

When she had children, she saw the furlough as a blessing, as she was able to stay home to raise them, and she bypassed her recall until the children were older.

She is now back at her airline as a B737 First Officer.

Sep 26, 2019

The introduction of the Advanced Qualification Program (AQP) in the early 1990s marks another stage in the evolution of error management. Under
AQP, a voluntary program, the FAA allows air carriers to develop training programs specific to their individual needs and operations. A condition for
AQP authorization is the requirement to have a CRM program that is integrated into technical training.

To accomplish this objective, air carriers began to “proceduralize” CRM by incorporating desired behaviors into operational procedures and checklists.

Although AQP is a voluntary program, the FAA Flight Standards Service encourages air carriers to participate. AQP provides for enhanced curriculum development and a data-driven approach to quality assurance along with the flexibility to target critical tasks during aircrew training. The AQP methodology directly supports the FAA’s goals for safety enhancement. The primary goal of AQP is to achieve the highest possible standard of individual and crew performance. In order to achieve this goal, AQP seeks to reduce the probability of crew-related errors by aligning training and evaluation requirements more closely with the known causes of human error. For example:

a. Crew Performance. Most accidents are attributed to crew error. Traditional training programs focus on individual training and evaluation. Under AQP, the focus is on crew and individual performance in both training and evaluation.
b. CRM. Most accidents are caused by errors of judgment, communication, and crew coordination. Traditional training programs focus primarily on flying skills and systems knowledge. Under AQP, competence in flying skills and systems knowledge are integrated with CRM skills in training and evaluation throughout the curriculum.
c. Scenario-Based Training and Evaluation. Most accidents are caused by a chain of errors that build up over the course of a flight and which, if undetected or unresolved, result in a final, fatal error. Traditional training programs, with their maneuver-based training and evaluation, artificially segment simulation events in such a way as to prevent the realistic buildup of the error chain. Under AQP, both training and evaluation are scenario-based, simulating more closely the actual flight conditions known to cause most fatal carrier accidents.
d. Additional Benefits. Added benefits that are expected for individual applicants will vary, but may include:
(1) The ability to modify training curricula, media, and intervals.
(2) Crew evaluation as well as individual assessment.
(3) Improved standardization across fleets and flight personnel.
(4) Shift from programmed hours to proficiency-based training.
(5) Access to innovative training ideas and research.
(6) Opportunity to achieve more efficient training.

Sep 23, 2019

Under Chairman Sumwalt’s leadership, the agency’s ranking in the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government has advanced 33 percent to the agency’s current position of Number 6 of 29 small federal agencies. He is a fierce advocate for improving safety in all modes of transportation, including teen driver safety, impaired driving, distractions in transportation, and several aviation and rail safety initiatives.

Before joining the NTSB, Chairman Sumwalt was a pilot for 32 years, including 24 years with Piedmont Airlines and US Airways. He accumulated over 14,000 flight hours. During his tenure at US Airways, he worked on special assignment to the flight safety department and served on the airline’s Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) monitoring team.

Following his airline career, Chairman Sumwalt managed the corporate aviation department for a Fortune 500 energy company.

In other notable accomplishments, he chaired the Air Line Pilots Association’s Human Factors and Training Group and co-founded the association’s critical incident response program. He also spent eight years as a consultant to NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) and has written extensively on aviation safety matters. He has co-authored a book on aircraft accidents and has published more than 100 articles on transportation safety and aircraft accident investigation.

Chairman Sumwalt earned an undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Aeronautical Science (with Distinction) from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, with concentrations in aviation/aerospace safety systems and human factors aviation systems. In recognition of his accomplishments, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of South Carolina, and an honorary doctorate from Embry-Riddle. He is an inductee into the South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame.

Sep 19, 2019

In RFT 086 we discussed Stabilized Approaches. According to AINOnline fully 96 percent of all airline flights conclude with stabilized approaches. Of the 4 percent that are not stabilized, virtually NONE of them (3%) result in a go-around!

FAA recommends</a> that approach stabilization start as far out as possible. Simply stated, a stable approach is a 3-degree glide path, executed on-speed and fully configured for landing. It's easy to calculate a 3-degree glide path - simply take half your groundspeed and multiply it by 10 to get the vertical speed to maintain the 3 degrees.

Since the go-around is not performed nearly as often as a normal landing, it is essential that the crew review the procedures involved in a go-around when they brief the approach.

Sep 16, 2019

From LinkedIn:

Chris “Elroy” Stricklin is an award-winning leadership author, a highly sought after motivational keynote speaker and a Combat-Proven Senior Military leader retiring after 23 years which culminated with CEO-Level leadership of a 7,000-person strong, $7B worldwide organization. During this time, he was responsible for 11,383 personnel, $323M Payroll, $160M Contracts, Creation of 1,891 jobs and local economic impact of $566M.

His style combines the skills acquired as a combat-proven leader, mentor, author, speaker and coach integrating the fields of dynamic Leadership, followership, negotiations, positive change, public relations, public speaking and complex organizational change as a business strategist.

Unique experience as a U.S.A.F. Thunderbird Solo coupled with CEO-Level duties and Pentagon-level strategic management of critical Air Force resources valued at $840B, multiple N.A.T.O. assignments, White House and DARPA fellowships, and command-experience in the United States Air Force allow his unique synthesis of speaking, following, leading, management, negotiations, continuous improvement and positive change. His acclaimed keynote reveals the secret to Teamwork…The Thunderbird Way, an insight into the success principles and training methods used by The Air Force Thunderbirds to ensure precision and success each season.

A combat-decorated Fighter Pilot, Chris is also a Certified Manager with degrees in Economics, Financial Planning, Management, Real Estate, Strategic Studies and Operational Art and Science. He authored a negotiation primer subsequently published and adopted as required Air Force Pentagon new action officer orientation. He and his wife, Terri, have 4 children. 

Chris's website has more information.

Sep 12, 2019
  • Secretary Rice: “I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile”
  • 1972: Southern Airways Flt 49 threatened to crash into Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • 1974: S. Byck attempted to hijack Delta DC-9 to crash it into White House
  • 1993: Iran training pilots to fly into buildings
  • 1994: Air France Flt 8969
  • 1994: FedEx Flt 705
  • 1994: Terror 2000
  • 1995: Bojinka plot included crashing planes into Sears Tower, Transamerica Bldg, WTC, John Hancock Tower, U.S. Congress, White House
  • 1996: Ethiopian Airlines Flt 961
  • 1996: Chechen rebel threatened crash into Kremlin
  • 1998: Kaplanicar (Turkish) attempt to crash airplane into tomb of Attaturk
  • 1999: MI6 warned of suicide attack
  • 1999: Research Div. of L.O.C warned of airplane attacks
  • 1999: Keynote address at NDU warned of UAV attacks on buildings
  • 2000: Security consultant warned “most serious threat to WTC was someone flying a plane into it”
  • March, 2001: The Lone Gunmen – hijacked B-727 flown into WTC
Sep 9, 2019


What began as one dog on an airplane several years ago has evolved into a team of over 100 volunteers who fly or drive animals from danger to safety. Founded in 2009 by pilots and friends Brad Childs and Jonathan Plesset, the organization become a recognized 501c(3) entity in 2012. Since then our teams have conducted a wide range of missions including hoarding cases, saving animals from dog fighting rings and natural disasters, and helping overcrowded shelters. We now have the capability to respond to a huge variety of rescue needs both near and far. During the devastating hurricanes in 2017, PAART made its first international journey, heading to the storm-ravaged island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands to rescue not only 42 animals, but two rescuers who had found themselves stranded on the island for weeks. Our reach stretches from Texas to Florida and all the way up the East Coast to Massachusetts. We have conducted rescue missions as far inland as the Mississippi River. While Pittsburgh is in our name, it actually makes up less than 10% of the area we cover.

Our rescue partners are many, ranging in size from large organizations like The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and North Shore Animal League America, as well as small shelters in remote areas of West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and beyond. One of our newer partners is St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey. With an increasing population disparity in the northern states, St. Hubert’s serves as a hub for animals heading into New England where rescue dogs are scarce but people still want to have the fulfilling opportunity to rescue a beautiful, healthy animal who otherwise would have met a devastating fate.

Sep 5, 2019

mmonly known as “takeoff safety s

The second segment requirement is often the most difficult one to meet. Segment two begins when the gear is up and locked and the speed is V2. This segment has the steepest climb gradient: 2.4 percent. This equates to a ballpark figure of around 300 feet per minute, and for a heavy airplane on a hot day with a failed engine, this can be a challenge. Often, when the airlines announce that a flight is weight-limited on hot summer days, this is the reason (the gate agent doesn’t know this kind of detail, and nor does she care; she just knows some people aren’t going).

The magic computers we use for computing performance data figure all this out, saving us the trouble of using charts and graphs. All we know is that we can either carry the planned load or we can’t.

Second segment climb ends at 400 feet, so it could take up to a minute or more to fly this segment. Think of all the obstacles that might be in the departure path in the course of 60 seconds or more.

Third segment climb begins at 400 feet, and here the rules can vary. The climb gradient is now half of what it was before: 1.2 percent. However, we are also required to accelerate to a speed called VFS (final segment climb speed). In graphs and publications, the third segment of the climb is often depicted as being a flat line for the acceleration. In many turboprops, that’s exactly the way it’s flown. The airplane is leveled off (and the pilot is using a very tired leg to overcome the increasing yaw tendency via the rudder) and accelerated before the final climb begins.

In jets, however, there is generally enough power in the remaining engine to avoid a level-off. If the airplane can continue to accelerate during the third segment, it may continue to climb, so long as it can do so without a decrease in speed or performance. In fact, during the climb it must continue to meet the climb gradient while accelerating to VFS.

Third segment climb ends upon reaching VFS.

The fourth and “final segment” begins upon reaching VFS and completing the climb configuration process. It is now permissible (and maybe necessary) to reduce thrust to a Maximum Continuous setting. The climb gradient is again 1.2 percent, and VFS must be maintained to 1,500 feet above field elevation.


Third segment climb begins at 400 feet, and here the rules can vary. The climb gradient is now half of what it was before: 1.2 percent. However, we are also required to accelerate to a speed called VFS (final segment climb speed). In graphs and publications, the third segment of the climb is often depicted as being a flat line for the acceleration. In many turboprops, that’s exactly the way it’s flown. The airplane is leveled off (and the pilot is using a very tired leg to overcome the increasing yaw tendency via the rudder) and accelerated before the final climb begins.

In jets, however, there is generally enough power in the remaining engine to avoid a level-off. If the airplane can continue to accelerate during the third segment, it may continue to climb, so long as it can do so without a decrease in speed or performance. In fact, during the climb it must continue to meet the climb gradient while accelerating to VFS.

Third segment climb ends upon reaching VFS.

The fourth and “final segment” begins upon reaching VFS and completing the climb configuration process. It is now permissible (and maybe necessary) to reduce thrust to a Maximum Continuous setting. The climb gradient is again 1.2 percent, and VFS must be maintained to 1,500 feet above field elevation.

From d,” but in technical terms, the speed for best climb gradient.

The second segment requirement is often the most difficult one to meet. Segment two begins when the gear is up and locked and the speed is V2. This segment has the steepest climb gradient: 2.4 percent. This equates to a ballpark figure of around 300 feet per minute, and for a heavy airplane on a hot day with a failed engine, this can be a challenge. Often, when the airlines announce that a flight is weight-limited on hot summer days, this is the reason (the gate agent doesn’t know this kind of detail, and nor does she care; she just knows some people aren’t going).

The magic computers we use for computing performance data figure all this out, saving us the trouble of using charts and graphs. All we know is that we can either carry the planned load or we can’t.

Second segment climb ends at 400 feet, so it could take up to a minute or more to fly this segment. Think of all the obstacles that might be in the departure path in the course of 60 seconds or more.

Third segment climb begins at 400 feet, and here the rules can vary. The climb gradient is now half of what it was before: 1.2 percent. However, we are also required to accelerate to a speed called VFS (final segment climb speed). In graphs and publications, the third segment of the climb is often depicted as being a flat line for the acceleration. In many turboprops, that’s exactly the way it’s flown. The airplane is leveled off (and the pilot is using a very tired leg to overcome the increasing yaw tendency via the rudder) and accelerated before the final climb begins.

In jets, however, there is generally enough power in the remaining engine to avoid a level-off. If the airplane can continue to accelerate during the third segment, it may continue to climb, so long as it can do so without a decrease in speed or performance. In fact, during the climb it must continue to meet the climb gradient while accelerating to VFS.

Third segment climb ends upon reaching VFS.

The fourth and “final segment” begins upon reaching VFS and completing the climb configuration process. It is now permissible (and maybe necessary) to reduce thrust to a Maximum Continuous setting. The climb gradient is again 1.2 percent, and VFS must be maintained to 1,500 feet above field elevation.

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