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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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Now displaying: June, 2021
Jun 28, 2021

VREF plays a crucial role in advising decision-makers within the aviation industry and is the Official Valuation Directory and Appraisal Company for the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). VREF provides valuations, appraisals, and litigation consulting services to a worldwide client base of aviation professionals, including:

  • Aircraft owners
  • Banks
  • Financial institutions
  • Law firms
  • Leasing companies
  • Manufacturers
  • Operators
  • Suppliers
  • And More

VREF Aircraft Value Reference, Appraisal & Litigation Consulting Services was founded in 1994 as an aircraft valuation firm. It has since become the go-to source for aviation.

  • VREF Online: Real-time Software to Create Aircraft Valuations
  • VREF Appraisals: USPAP Compliant Appraisals
  • VREF Verified: On-Demand Valuation Reports, “The Carfax®” For Aircraft
  • VREF Expert Witness: Litigation And Expert Witness Services
  • VREF Consulting Services: Expert Advice for Your Aircraft Investment

With headquarters located in Des Moines, Iowa, VREF has expanded to Illinois, California, Idaho, Florida, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, and China.

VREF plays a crucial role in advising decision-makers within the aviation industry and is the Official Valuation Directory and Appraisal Company for the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). VREF provides valuations, appraisals, and litigation consulting services to a worldwide client base of aviation professionals, including:

  • Aircraft owners
  • Banks
  • Financial institutions
  • Law firms
  • Leasing companies
  • Manufacturers
  • Operators
  • Suppliers
  • And More

VREF Aircraft Value Reference, Appraisal & Litigation Consulting Services was founded in 1994 as an aircraft valuation firm. It has since become the go-to source for aviation.

  • VREF Online: Real-time Software to Create Aircraft Valuations
  • VREF Appraisals: USPAP Compliant Appraisals
  • VREF Verified: On-Demand Valuation Reports, “The Carfax®” For Aircraft
  • VREF Expert Witness: Litigation And Expert Witness Services
  • VREF Consulting Services: Expert Advice for Your Aircraft Investment
Jun 24, 2021

 

An approach lighting system (ALS) is a lighting system installed on the approach end of an airport runway and consisting of a series of lightbars, strobe lights, or a combination of the two that extends outward from the runway end. ALS usually serves a runway that has an instrument approach procedure (IAP) associated with it and allows the pilot to visually identify the runway environment and align the aircraft with the runway upon arriving at a prescribed point on an approach.

Modern approach lighting systems are highly complex in their design and significantly enhance the safety of aircraft operations, particularly in conditions of reduced visibility.

The required minimum visibilities for instrument approaches is influenced by the presence and type of approach lighting system. In the U.S., a CAT I ILS approach without approach lights will have a minimum required visibility of 3/4 mile, or 4000 foot runway visual range. With a 1400-foot or longer approach light system, the minimum potential visibility might be reduced to 1/2 mile (2400 runway visual range), and the presence of touchdown zone and centerline lights with a suitable approach light system might further reduce the visibility to 3/8 mile (1800 feet runway visual range).

The runway lighting is controlled by the air traffic control tower. At non-towered airports, pilot-controlled lighting may be installed that can be switched on by the pilot via radio. In both cases, the brightness of the lights can be adjusted for day and night operations.

Depth perception is inoperative at the distances usually involved in flying aircraft, and so the position and distance of a runway with respect to an aircraft must be judged by a pilot using only two-dimensional cues such as perspective, as well as angular size and movement within the visual field. Approach lighting systems provide additional cues that bear a known relationship to the runway itself and help pilots to judge distance and alignment for landing.

After World War II, the U.S. Navy and United Airlines worked together on various methods at the U.S. Navy's Landing Aids Experimental Station located at the Arcata–Eureka Airport, California air base, to allow aircraft to land safely at night and under zero visibility weather, whether it was rain or heavy fog. The predecessor of today's modern ALS while crude had the basics — a 3,500 foot visual approach of 38 towers, with 17 on each side, and atop each 75 foot high tower a 5000 watt natural gas light. After the U.S. Navy's development of the lighted towers it was not long before the natural gas lights were soon replaced by more efficient and brighter strobe lights, then called Strobeacon lights. The first large commercial airport to have installed a strobe light ALS visual approach path was New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Soon other large airports had strobe light ALS systems installed.

All approach lighting systems in the United States utilize a feature called a decision bar. Decision bars are always located 1000 farther away from the threshold in the direction of the arriving aircraft, and serve as a visible horizon to ease the transition from instrument flight to visual flight.

Approach lighting systems are designed to allow the pilot to quickly and positively identify visibility distances in Instrument meteorological conditions. For example, if the aircraft is at the middle marker, and the middle marker is located 3600 feet from the threshold, the decision bar is 2600 feet ahead. If the procedure calls for at least half a statute mile flight visibility (roughly 2600 feet), spotting the decision bar at the marker would indicate enough flight visibility to continue the procedure. In addition, the shorter bars before and after the decision bar are spaced either 100 feet or 200 feet apart, depending on the ALS type. The number of short bars the pilot can see can be used to determine flight visibility. Approaches with lower minimums use the more precise 100-foot spacing systems for more accurate identification of visibility.

Several ALS configurations are recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); however, non-standard ALS configurations are installed at some airports. Typically, approach lighting systems are of high-intensity. Many approach lighting systems are also complemented by various on-runway light systems, such as Runway end identifier lights (REIL), Touchdown Zone Lights (TDZL), and High Intensity Runway Lights (HIRL). The most common approach light system configurations include:

  • MALSR: Medium-intensity Approach Lighting System with Runway Alignment Indicator Lights
  • MALSF: Medium-intensity Approach Lighting System with Sequenced Flashing lights
  • SALS: Short Approach Lighting System
  • SSALS: Simplified Short Approach Lighting System
  • SSALR: Simplified Short Approach Lighting System with Runway Alignment Indicator Lights
  • SSALF: Simplified Short Approach Lighting System with Sequenced Flashing Lights
  • ODALS: Omnidirectional Approach Lighting System
  • ALSF-1: Approach Lighting System with Sequenced Flashing Lights configuration 1
  • ALSF-2: Approach Lighting System with Sequenced Flashing Lights configuration 2
  • CALVERT I/ICAO-1 HIALS: ICAO-compliant configuration 1 High Intensity Approach Lighting System
  • CALVERT II/ICAO-2 HIALS: ICAO-compliant configuration 2 High Intensity Approach Lighting System
  • LDIN: Lead-in lighting
  • REIL: Runway End Identification Lights
  • RAIL: Runway Alignment Indicator Lights

In configurations that include sequenced flashing lights, the lights are typically strobes mounted in front of the runway on its extended centerline. These lights flash in sequence, usually at a speed of two consecutive sequences per second, beginning with the light most distant from the runway and ending at the Decision Bar. RAIL are similar to sequenced flashing lights, except that they end where the white approach light bars begin. Sequenced flashing lights and RAIL do not extend past the Decision Bar to avoid distracting the pilot during the critical phase of transitioning from instrument to visual flight. Sequenced flashing lights are sometimes colloquially called the rabbit or the running rabbit.

Jun 20, 2021

On this Father's Day I want to honor my father, Morris Nolly. He was the reason I became a pilot.

Morris Nolly was a first-generation American, the fourth of five children born to Russian immigrants Wolf and Tillie Noloboff in 1909. He grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Speaking only Yiddish at home, he didn't learn English until he entered grade school. He excelled in his studies, and received a full scholarship to New York University, where he studied Aircraft and Navigation Instruments, and he graduated from Cooper Union College with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

Finding money for flight training was a challenge during the Depression, but he periodically took lessons in a J-3 Cub starting in 1935, and eventually earned his Private Pilot certificate in 1941. His logbook originally had the name Noloboff, but was changed to Nolly when Morris officially changed his name.

As an Electrical Engineer, he designed the entire lighting system at the Aquacade at the 1939 World's Fair in New York, and then was hired by DuPont Company in Wilmington, Delaware. A fellow employee introduced him to his niece, Rose Dworkin, and it was love at first sight. They married shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Morris enlisted in the Army Air Force and was assigned as a Research Engineer, stationed at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) in Dayton, OH, where he specialized in airfield lighting systems and photographic lighting. During his free time he taught himself gymnastics and had success as an amateur boxer. While in the Army, he filed his invention for the precursor to Inertial Navigation System (see below).

After the war he bought a J-3 Cub and continued his flight training, eventually earning his Commercial Pilot certificate with an Instrument Rating. Then, when he was laid off from DuPont, he sold the airplane and went into business for himself as the proprietor of a liquor store. He renewed his flying with the Civil Air Patrol, where he served as a Major.

Morris taught himself Morse Code and was active in "ham" radio, using the call sign W3FZM. He used his ham radio to summon emergency response forces when a bonanza disintegrated in flight over his house on April 28, 1955. The pilot, Floyd Quillen, was Morris's friend.

Father's Day 1960 was a special day. We spent the day on the Chesapeake Bay, and posed for a photo to see who had a bigger nose. It was the culmination of a time period when Dad and I had been especially close.

Two days later Dad was killed during a robbery of the family store. He was 50 years old.

Jun 17, 2021

Inertial navigation is a self-contained navigation technique in which measurements provided by accelerometers and gyroscopes are used to track the position and orientation of an object relative to a known starting point, orientation and velocity. Inertial measurement units (IMUs) typically contain three orthogonal rate-gyroscopes and three orthogonal accelerometers, measuring angular velocity and linear acceleration respectively. By processing signals from these devices it is possible to track the position and orientation of a device.

Inertial navigation is used in a wide range of applications including the navigation of aircraft, tactical and strategic missiles, spacecraft, submarines and ships. It is also embedded in some mobile phones for purposes of mobile phone location and tracking  Recent advances in the construction of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) have made it possible to manufacture small and light inertial navigation systems. These advances have widened the range of possible applications to include areas such as human and animal motion capture.

An inertial navigation system includes at least a computer and a platform or module containing accelerometersgyroscopes, or other motion-sensing devices. The INS is initially provided with its position and velocity from another source (a human operator, a GPS satellite receiver, etc.) accompanied with the initial orientation and thereafter computes its own updated position and velocity by integrating information received from the motion sensors. The advantage of an INS is that it requires no external references in order to determine its position, orientation, or velocity once it has been initialized.

An INS can detect a change in its geographic position (a move east or north, for example), a change in its velocity (speed and direction of movement) and a change in its orientation (rotation about an axis). It does this by measuring the linear acceleration and angular velocity applied to the system. Since it requires no external reference (after initialization), it is immune to jamming and deception.

Inertial navigation systems are used in many different moving objects. However, their cost and complexity place constraints on the environments in which they are practical for use.

Gyroscopes measure the angular velocity of the sensor frame with respect to the inertial reference frame. By using the original orientation of the system in the inertial reference frame as the initial condition and integrating the angular velocity, the system's current orientation is known at all times. This can be thought of as the ability of a blindfolded passenger in a car to feel the car turn left and right or tilt up and down as the car ascends or descends hills. Based on this information alone, the passenger knows what direction the car is facing but not how fast or slow it is moving, or whether it is sliding sideways.

Accelerometers measure the linear acceleration of the moving vehicle in the sensor or body frame, but in directions that can only be measured relative to the moving system (since the accelerometers are fixed to the system and rotate with the system, but are not aware of their own orientation). This can be thought of as the ability of a blindfolded passenger in a car to feel himself pressed back into his seat as the vehicle accelerates forward or pulled forward as it slows down; and feel himself pressed down into his seat as the vehicle accelerates up a hill or rise up out of their seat as the car passes over the crest of a hill and begins to descend. Based on this information alone, he knows how the vehicle is accelerating relative to itself, that is, whether it is accelerating forward, backward, left, right, up (toward the car's ceiling), or down (toward the car's floor) measured relative to the car, but not the direction relative to the Earth, since he did not know what direction the car was facing relative to the Earth when they felt the accelerations.

However, by tracking both the current angular velocity of the system and the current linear acceleration of the system measured relative to the moving system, it is possible to determine the linear acceleration of the system in the inertial reference frame. Performing integration on the inertial accelerations (using the original velocity as the initial conditions) using the correct kinematic equations yields the inertial velocities of the system and integration again (using the original position as the initial condition) yields the inertial position. In our example, if the blindfolded passenger knew how the car was pointed and what its velocity was before he was blindfolded and if he is able to keep track of both how the car has turned and how it has accelerated and decelerated since, then he can accurately know the current orientation, position, and velocity of the car at any time.

All inertial navigation systems suffer from integration drift: small errors in the measurement of acceleration and angular velocity are integrated into progressively larger errors in velocity, which are compounded into still greater errors in position. Since the new position is calculated from the previous calculated position and the measured acceleration and angular velocity, these errors accumulate roughly proportionally to the time since the initial position was input. Even the best accelerometers, with a standard error of 10 micro-g, would accumulate a 50-meter error within 17 minutes. Therefore, the position must be periodically corrected by input from some other type of navigation system.

Accordingly, inertial navigation is usually used to supplement other navigation systems, providing a higher degree of accuracy than is possible with the use of any single system. For example, if, in terrestrial use, the inertially tracked velocity is intermittently updated to zero by stopping, the position will remain precise for a much longer time, a so-called zero velocity update. In aerospace particularly, other measurement systems are used to determine INS inaccuracies, e.g. the Honeywell LaseRefV inertial navigation systems uses GPS and air data computer outputs to maintain required navigation performance. The navigation error rises with the lower sensitivity of the sensors used. Currently, devices combining different sensors are being developed, e.g. attitude and heading reference system. Because the navigation error is mainly influenced by the numerical integration of angular rates and accelerations, the Pressure Reference System was developed to use one numerical integration of the angular rate measurements.

Estimation theory in general and Kalman filtering in particular, provide a theoretical framework for combining information from various sensors. One of the most common alternative sensors is a satellite navigation radio such as GPS, which can be used for all kinds of vehicles with direct sky visibility. Indoor applications can use pedometers, distance measurement equipment, or other kinds of position sensors. By properly combining the information from an INS and other systems (GPS/INS), the errors in position and velocity are stable. Furthermore, INS can be used as a short-term fallback while GPS signals are unavailable, for example when a vehicle passes through a tunnel.

In 2011, GPS jamming at the civilian level became a governmental concern. The relative ease in ability to jam these systems has motivated the military to reduce navigation dependence on GPS technology. Because inertial navigation sensors do not depend on radio signals unlike GPS, they cannot be jammed.

 

 

 

 

 

In 2012, researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory reported an inertial measurement unit consisting of micro-electromechanical system triaxial accelerometers and tri-axial gyroscopes with an array size of 10 that had a Kalman filter algorithm to estimate sensor nuisance parameters (errors) and munition position and velocity. Each array measures six data points and the system coordinates the data together to deliver a navigation solution. If one sensor consistently over or underestimates distance, the system can adjust, adjusting the corrupted sensor's contributions to the final calculation.

The addition of the heuristic algorithm reduced a flight's calculated distance error from 120m to 40m from the designated target. The researchers coupled the algorithm with GPS or radar technology to initial and aid the navigation algorithm. At various points during the munition's flight they would cut off tracking and estimate the accuracy of the munition's landing. In a forty-second flight, 10s and 20s availability of aiding demonstrated little difference in error as both were approximately 35m off target. No noticeable difference was observed when experimentation took place with 100 sensor arrays rather than ten. The researchers indicate this limited experimental data signifies an optimization of navigation technology and a potential reduction in cost of military systems.

 

 

 

Jun 14, 2021

Anthony “AB” Bourke is a highly experienced F-16 fighter pilot who has flown tactical missions in countries all over the world. He has accumulated more than 2,700 hours of flight time in numerous high performance aircraft and was one of the first pilots to fly his F-16 over New York City in the homeland defense efforts on September 11th.

Following his impressive military career, “AB” took the tools and techniques that made him one of our nation’s premier fighter pilots and applied those to the competitive world of business. He ascended early in his career to become the top producing mortgage banker in the Western US for a prominent lending institution. His success in the mortgage industry led to a new opportunity at a California based start-up company where his team of 40 professionals dramatically grew revenue from $500,000 to $65M in three years.

Following these two endeavors, “AB” partnered with two other fighter pilots to form Afterburner Inc., a global management training company. “AB” served as Afterburner’s CEO & President where for over a decade he combined his love of business with his passion for tactical aviation. Under Bourke’s leadership, Afterburner grew into a best-in-class training company and was twice named one of Inc Magazine’s 500 fastest growing companies.

As CEO & Founder of Mach 2 Consulting, Bourke brings his tactical knowledge and vast business experience to the forefront of the management training world. “AB” has traveled the globe sharing his message of peak performance with over 50,000 people in nine different countries, and is currently working on a book titled “The Art of The Debrief.”

Jun 10, 2021

FOQA is a voluntary safety program that is designed to make commercial aviation safer
by allowing commercial airlines and pilots to share de-identified aggregate information with the
FAA so that the FAA can monitor national trends in aircraft operations and target its resources to
address operational risk issues (e.g., flight operations, air traffic control (ATC), airports). The
fundamental objective of this new FAA/pilot/carrier partnership is to allow all three parties to
identify and reduce or eliminate safety risks, as well as minimize deviations from the regulations.
To achieve this objective and obtain valuable safety information, the airlines, pilots, and the
FAA are voluntarily agreeing to participate in this program so that all three organizations can
achieve a mutual goal of making air travel safer.

From AOPA:

The FAA requires ADS-B Out capability in the continental United States, in the ADS-B rule airspace designated by FAR 91.225:

  • Class A, B, and C airspace;
  • Class E airspace at or above 10,000 feet msl, excluding airspace at and below 2,500 feet agl;
  • Within 30 nautical miles of a Class B primary airport (the Mode C veil);
  • Above the ceiling and within the lateral boundaries of Class B or Class C airspace up to 10,000 feet;
  • Class E airspace over the Gulf of Mexico, at and above 3,000 feet msl, within 12 nm of the U.S. coast.

From AvWeb Insider:

If I were more diligent about keeping logbooks, I could look up the date when my airplane partner and I flew up to meet John and Martha King in Jacksonville for some kind of event or another. When we got to the airport to depart, the weather was crap; probably ¼-mile and indefinite ceiling. It was night. This was—and probably still is—just the kind of instrument flying I love. I remember John saying he agreed and was happy to see someone else actually doing it.

Despite that avuncular presence on the green screen, Mr. King’s inner wild child is revealed by another comment he made earlier that day when we were discussing the five bad attitudes the FAA is always trying to browbeat us with to warn that a mild-mannered podiatrist can metastasize into a psychopath at just a whiff of 100LL. You remember them, right? Anti-authority, impulsivity, invulnerability, macho and resignation. “Hell,” John observed, “you have to have three of those just to want to be a pilot in the first place.” My three are that I have resigned myself to my anti-authoritarian impulsivity and so far my machismo has rendered me untouchable. I guess I’m over budget.

And here, I’ll segue into the Martha Lunken story Russ Niles filed this week and which is otherwise bouncing around social media like a rubber check in a tile bathroom. Summary: Ms. Lunken, a well-known Ohio aviation personality and Flying Magazine columnist, decided, on a whim, to fly under the Jeremiah Morrow Bridge that carries I-71 over the Little Miami River in Oregonia. Ohio. Here’s a picture, so you can see the appeal. It’s the highest bridge in Ohio. If your reaction is, “that would be a cakewalk,” you’re not alone.

But the act is indefensibly boneheaded, which she admits. But for one line in the FAA enforcement letter, it’s not wild-eyed crazy, either. The line is: There were people under the bridge. It provides no further detail so we don’t know if they were in boats or having picnics on the shore. For me personally, if I were willing to take on the bridge stunt, I’m not willing to risk the remote chance of having the flaming wreckage with me in it land between the chicken and the potato salad of the Stooldrear’s Sunday outing. That, if you’ll pardon me, is a bridge too far.  

I’m not too worried about knocking the bridge over or hitting cars. Still, I wouldn’t try it for reasons related to the thrill-versus-consequences ratio. The potential ^%$ storm Ms. Lunken is now inevitably enduring, with this blog being another predictable gust, is hardly worth the payoff. Now if I were flying with Michael Goulian inverted … give me a minute on that. Nor would I accept the argument that one bridge buzz job is necessarily emblematic of a pattern of bad judgment or a gateway drug to yet more demented acts, say, like buying an Ercoupe.

Being a columnist and all, Lunken is an opinion leader of sorts and thus expected to be, if not a moral guidepost, at least not too much of a knucklehead. It is a kind of burden to bear, earned or deserved or not. Readers develop a perception of a media persona as somehow an exemplar. Perhaps showing yourself to be all too human is the on-ramp to redemption. Nonetheless, one needn’t bore holes under a major interstate artery to reach that higher plane of aeronautical wisdom conferred upon those of us who sin, repent and rejoin the flock. The more mundane runway excursions, fuel exhaustions and taxiing into hangar doors should suffice without the prospect of a permanent chair on the beach because you appeared to show criminal intent.

The eye-opener is that the FAA raised the charge to Murder 1 because they claimed Lunken intentionally turned off her ADS-B to avoid detection. She says she did not. This shows the low standard of proof in administrative law. You are presumed guilty if the government says you are and the burden is on you to prove otherwise. They revoked all of her certificates. She has to start anew if she wants to fly again. Odd calculus indeed. If I had to go through all that just to reinstate my certificates, I’d rejoin my bowling league. That said, there might yet be a pretty good T-shirt business is this. Aviation, like motorcycling, has its outlaw contingent.

Her case also shows the uneven way penalties are assessed. The day before we reported this, I got a call from a reporter in Oregon asking about a case where a local pilot—the mayor of a town—was suspended for 200 days for operating a Skyhawk that was two years out of annual and without having had a flight review in six years. He appears to have run the airplane out of gas and landed on a beach causing grievous injuries to one of his passengers. Scroll to 11:11 in this video to see it. In my view, he got a light sentence despite a persistent pattern of bad judgment and noncompliance.

While we’re at it, don’t let it escape notice that ADS-B is now an enforcement tool, even if isn’t working. And I did not know that if the FAA decides you turned it off to evade detection, it’s an automatic—or at least potential—revocation.

And since bad things come in threes, I learned of another accident this week in which ADS-B may be a factor. A flight school Skyhawk crash landed on a golf course after an ADS-B track that may show impromptu aerobatics. Even if that isn’t true, the ADS-B will be the music for a rug dance for the pilots, I’m sure.

There are two blades to this dull axe. On the one hand, if knowing that ADS-B is the all-seeing eye it may appear to be serves as an inhibition to doing stupid stuff—like flying under bridges on a whim—that’s not a bad thing. On the other hand, the data might be compromised or made to somehow catch you in a marginal act leading to enforcement that wouldn’t have otherwise happened. I’d much prefer they spend their resources trying to find causes for all those unknown engine failures.

Of course, if your airplane has no electrical system, like my old Cub, that’s different, isn’t it? (It does have the 1930’s style three-foot N-numbers under the wing, however.) I’m still not doing the bridge thing. Bucket list or not, I’ve never liked explaining myself and I’m pretty sure I’m not gonna start now. Don’t want the time, not doing the crime.

 

Jun 7, 2021

Andy Cook is one comfortable guy.

He’s on a Louisiana layover.

Inside what’s left of a retired, renovated, old New Orleans Hornets Boeing 727 airplane.

WGNO’s Bill Wood is there, too.

He’s been invited into Andy’s man cave.

Andy has decked out his home away from home.

It’s actually just behind his home.

He landed his 727 man cave right in his own backyard.

And it’s a short commute from work.

Andy Cook is an air traffic controller at the Houma-Terrebonne Airport in Houma, Louisiana.

He’s had a career of guiding in planes across the country.

He loves planes, always has.

His passion started when he was a kid.

The plane he snuggles up in now flew for the NBA for New Orleans, when the team was the Hornets and for two other NBA teams.

Fasten your seatbelt for one of the few 727s still in service.

It’s on a non-stop flight.

In the first-class imagination.

Right there in the driver’s seat, there’s a Louisiana pilot.

 

Jun 3, 2021

A flight attendant on a Southwest Airlines plane lost two teeth over the weekend after allegedly being punched by a passenger who had "repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions," according to an airline spokesman.

The Port of San Diego Harbor Police Department charged Vyvianna Quinonez, 28, with battery causing serious bodily injury in the incident, which was caught on video and later went viral.

The incident sparked widespread outrage, but for flight attendants it was just the latest example of an increase in travelers becoming disorderly and in some cases turning violent against those tasked with enforcing federal and airline rules.

Southwest Airlines said Friday it would delay its return to serving alcohol to passengers "given the recent uptick in industry-wide incidents of passenger disruptions inflight."

"We realize this decision may be disappointing for some Customers, but we feel this is the right decision at this time in the interest of the Safety and comfort of all Customers and Crew onboard," the airline said in an email.

The FAA is keeping track of attacks

The number of unruly passengers on U.S flights has taken off in 2021, with many more people boarding planes as the pandemic eases.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, from Jan. 1 through May 24, there were roughly 2,500 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, including about 1,900 reports of people contravening the federal mask mandate, which is still in place.

The FAA has not always tracked unruly passenger reports but began keeping a tally last year as it started to observe a surge in complaints, specifically around noncompliance with the face-covering mandate, said FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor.

"Based on our experience, we can say with confidence that the number of reports we've received during the past several months are significantly higher than the numbers we've seen in the past," Gregor said in an email.

The FAA does, however, keep data on the number of "unruly passenger" violations it has identified. Through May 25, the agency has already recorded 394 potential violations, while in all of 2019 and 2020 there were just 146 and 183 violations, respectively.

Flight attendant unions say the hostility is unprecedented

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants across 17 airlines, said the level of hostility toward flight attendants is unprecedented.

"We've never before seen aggression and violence on our planes like we have in the past five months," Nelson said in a statement. "The constant combative attitude over wearing masks is exhausting and sometimes horrific for the people who have been on the front lines of this pandemic for over a year."

Nelson said the strained situation is causing some flight attendants to quit.

The surge in unruly passenger complaints is also getting the attention of federal officials, who have warned travelers to be on their best behavior in airports and on planes or risk facing the consequences.

"Let me be clear in underscoring something," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said during a Tuesday press conference. "It is a federal mandate that one must wear a mask in an airport, in the modes of public transportation, on the airplane itself — and we will not tolerate behavior that violates the law."

Just this week the FAA announced that it was proposing civil penalties as high as $15,000 against five more passengers for violations that included allegedly assaulting and yelling at flight attendants.

In an open letter, Lyn Montgomery, president of TWU Local 556, the union for Southwest flight attendants, suggested the airline be more consistent in banning unruly passengers and called for an increase in the number of federal air marshals on planes.

From The Points Guy:

There has been a succession of news stories lately about unruly passengers causing trouble in the air during this recent travel surge. U.S. airlines are taking precautionary measures as they’ve witnessed a recent uptick in disorderly passenger behavior.

American Airlines is the latest airline to ban alcohol sales in its economy cabin this summer. According to an internal memo sent to flight attendants on Saturday and first obtained by CNN, economy passengers flying with the airline will have to wait until at least Sept. 13 before they can order a mid-flight drink.

This comes at the heels of the Southwest Airlines announcement that they too are pausing alcohol sales after a flight attendant was physically assaulted in-flight by an inebriated passenger.

In the memo, vice president of flight service Brady Byrnes stated the reasoning behind the airline’s decision:

“Over the past week we’ve seen some of these stressors create deeply disturbing situations on board aircraft. Let me be clear: American Airlines will not tolerate assault or mistreatment of our crews. While we appreciate that customers and crewmembers are eager to return to ‘normal,’ we will move cautiously and deliberately when restoring pre-COVID practices.”

 

The Sept. 13 date coincides with the federal face mask requirement for airplanes, airports and other modes of transportation that currently runs through Sept. 13.

American was planning to resume full main cabin beverage service, including alcoholic beverage options, as well as its buy-on-board food program later in the summer. However, those plans have now been put on hold.

For now, pre-departure beverage service remains suspended in premium cabins. In the main cabin on flights under 250 miles, non-alcoholic beverage service is available upon request. On flights of 250+ miles, non-alcoholic beverage service with be offered with a snack. “Alcohol will continue to be offered in premium cabins (First/Business class),” according to the memo — but only inflight. American notes that “Pre-departure beverage service continues to remain paused.”

When asked whether or not it had plans to change its alcohol sales policy, Delta Air Lines said in a statement to TPG there are “no changes” to on board services including beer, wine and cocktails for purchase in the main cabin “on most domestic flights.” The spokesperson continued, “Nothing is more important than the safety of our flight crews and customers. And as part of our values-led culture, respect and civility among all are key components of the Delta experience for our customers and people.”

TPG also reached out to United Airlines for comment and will update this post with additional information.

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