The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

On time within the usual delays

This looks very familiar to me:

As does this:

And it means that my 10:20 flight connecting through Charlotte is now a 12:06 flight connecting through Washington. Welcome to travel from O'Hare in January.

At least I'll have some time to nap. Or read. Or nap while reading...

About that JET-A raining down on a schoolyard...

I'm not the only one who questioned whether a Delta B777 dumping fuel over Los Angeles made a lot of sense:

Fuel dumps occur only to reduce planes' weights for unexpected landings because some of them have maximum takeoff weights higher than their landing weights, said John Cox, a former US Airways captain who runs Safety Operating Systems, an aviation safety consulting company.

While the procedure is standard for an emergency landing, it can be accomplished more safely if it is done at a high altitude, allowing the fuel to evaporate before it reaches the ground, and it can be done over designated secluded areas.

"The question investigators are going to ask is that if you're going to dump fuel, why didn't you advise air traffic control, and why didn't you go where fuel dumping is approved, which would not be over a highly populated area?" Cox said. "If you had an on-board fire or something like that, it makes absolute sense to do that. But this was not that case."

The crew of Delta Flight 89 did not inform air traffic control that it was going to dump fuel, according to a review of communications, the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday. Typically, air traffic controllers direct planes to appropriate fuel-dumping areas, the agency said in a statement.

Apparently the airplane suffered a compressor stall, which doesn't usually affect the safety of flight. Fun fact: Boeing 777 airplanes meet ETOPS-207 standards, meaning they can safely fly for 207 minutes—up to about 4,000 km—on one engine. So even if the compressor stall took the engine offline, they could have flown back out over the Pacific to dump fuel.

Again, I'm looking forward to the NTSB report.

It was 20 years ago today

...that I finally passed my private pilot checkride and got my certificate.

I finished all the requirements for the checkride except for two cross-country flights for practice on 18 July 1999. Unfortunately, the weather in New Jersey sucked on almost every weekend for the next six months.

I finally took a day off from work in early December, took my checkride...and failed a landing. (I was too far off centerline to pass, but otherwise it was a perfectly safe landing.) It then took another six weeks to take that one part of my checkride over, on 15 January 2000.

Someday soon, I hope to get back in the air. Probably this spring. But as any private pilot can tell you, life sometimes interferes.

Fuel dumped on a schoolyard? Really, Delta?

A Delta 777 en route from LAX to Shanghai declared an emergency and had to dump thousands of kilograms of fuel to land under the safe landing weight. Planes, particularly heavy transport-class aircraft, do this so they don't destroy their landing gear and the runway itself when landing in an emergency situation.

Now, if you know LAX, you know that generally planes take off over the ocean. In those rare cases when they have emergencies and need to circle back, they dump fuel over the ocean.

Not this guy:

A Delta flight injured more than 50 people after dumping fuel on a Los Angeles schoolyard and school buildings when it declared an emergency shortly after departing for China from the Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday.

At least 20 children were were treated for minor injuries after being exposed to the jet fuel, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The department said it had a total of 44 patients from four schools: Park Avenue Elementary, Tweedy Elementary, Graham Elementary and San Gabriel Avenue Elementary.

Another 16 people were treated from two schools, Jordan High School and 93rd Elementary, which were also exposed to jet fuel, the Los Angeles City Fire Department said.

Here's the plane's track:

Going by the track log, the plane had a relatively normal climb out for about two minutes to 5,000 feet, then started a turn to the north and leveled off at just below 8,000 feet. The diversion occurred nine minutes into the flight over Simi Valley. I suppose they needed to get him back into the approach path over land because there weren't any good alternatives once he got over land again.

The fuel dumping occurred about halfway between the final turn southwest and landing. At that point the plane was level at 2,400 feet and in no position to do much else but land. But Jet-A (aka kerosene) doesn't evaporate completely from that altitude. So kids got covered in it. Yuck.

The L.A. Times has more:

Ross Aimer, chief executive officer of Aero Consulting Experts, said fuel dumping is very rare and is used only in case of emergencies or if pilots have to lessen the load of the plane to land.

“Most pilots choose not to dump fuel unless the emergency really dictates it,” Aimer said.

Among the emergencies would be landing gear that is not functioning and would make it hard to control the plane.

Aimer said that without knowing what Flight 89’s emergency was, the pilot may have been in the final stage of dumping fuel as it was heading toward LAX, resulting in today’s controversial fuel dumping incident.

The L.A. Times also believes the world is flat, as both articles about the incident by staff writer Matt Stiles insist that the plane diverted over Santa Monica Bay, rather than over Hidden Hills, as the track shows. The great-circle departure vector from LAX to PVG is 312°, or northwest. And the flight plan as filed called for the plane to fly 336° (nearly north) and intercept today's westbound route over the Pacific, which it would probably have picked up some distance due north over California or Oregon.

I can't wait to read the NTSB incident report. And I do wish reporters knew aviation better.

Busy day links

I had a lot going on at work today, so all I have left is a lame-ass "read these later" post:

I'd say "back to the mines," but I believe I have a date with Kristen Bell presently.

Hurry home, little blue book

On Tuesday I mailed my passport to the National Passport Agency in Philadelphia with an extra $60 so they'll expedite its replacement. I feel a little anxious without it. Not because I live in 1950s Czechoslovakia or anything; more that I love travel so much, not having a passport even for two weeks every 10 years feels a little off.

Well, not exactly 10 years, more like 9½. While US passports last 10 years, many countries—for example, the UK, where I go several times a year—won't let you in if your passport will expire within six months. For me, my August 2010 passport would not meet UK entry requirements at the beginning of next month, so off it went. But I held onto it until after the new year so that the new one expires in 2030 instead of 2029.

I'll get the new one probably in two weeks. Meanwhile, the only sign of life I have is the certified mail receipt the Postal Service emailed me yesterday. So my old passport arrived safely in Philadelphia after all. I can hardly wait for the new one.

Moments in great timing

First event: Last night around 7pm, my main data drive seized up after storing my stuff for a bit less than 4 years. Let me tell you how much fun Micro Center is at 9pm two days before Christmas. After 12 hours it looks like it's about 75% restored from backup, and I didn't suffer any data loss.

Second event: Just look at this lovely, peaceful scene:

That's the cemetery in my neighborhood a few minutes ago. And that's what we call "dense fog," with about 200 m visibility and what they call "indeterminate" ceilings at 100 m.

Which is exactly what you want in Chicago on Christmas Eve, the second-biggest travel day of the year:

Amid dense fog reducing visibility in Chicago, the Federal Aviation Administration early Tuesday grounded incoming flights at Chicago’s O’Hare International and Midway airports until at least 8 a.m.

For a short time Tuesday morning all flights were grounded, according to the FAA, but as of 7:30 a.m. the agency’s website noted the “ground stoppage,” or halting of flights, was indicated only for airplanes arriving at the city’s two airports. Flights were departing regularly at Midway, according to travelers at the airport.

Still, the ground stoppage for incoming flights means not all departing flights will leave on time and travelers could miss connecting flights, leading to a chain-reaction of air travel delays during a traditionally peak period for travel.

Have a safe and fun travel day, and if you're going to or through Chicago, enjoy your airport time.

I'll take an antacid with my lunch now

With only two weeks left in the decade, it looks like the 2010s will end...bizarrely.

More people have taken a look at the President's unhinged temper tantrum yesterday. I already mentioned that Aaron Blake annotated it. The Times fact-checked it. And Jennifer Rubin says "It is difficult to capture how bizarre and frightening the letter is simply by counting the utter falsehoods...or by quoting from the invective dripping from his pen."

As for the impeachment itself, Josh Marshall keeps things simple:

Here are three points that, for me, function as a sort of north star through this addled and chaotic process.

One: The President is accused of using extortion to coerce a foreign power to intervene in a US presidential election on his behalf.

Two: There is no one in US politics who would ever find that behavior remotely acceptable in a President of the opposite party.

Three: The evidence that the President did what he is accused of doing is simply overwhelming.

In the UK, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry (Labour—Islington South and Finsbury) has announced a run for Labour Party leader: “Listening to Labour colleagues on the media over the last week, I have repeatedly heard the refrain that the problem we faced last Thursday was that ‘this became the Brexit election’. To which I can only say I look forward to their tweets of shock when next Wednesday’s lunch features turkey and Brussels sprouts … I wrote to the leader’s office warning it would be ‘an act of catastrophic political folly’ to vote for the election, and set out a lengthy draft narrative explaining why we should not go along with it."

The Times review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker left me feeling resigned to seeing the movie, rather than excited. A.O. Scott said:

The director is J.J. Abrams, perhaps the most consistent B student in modern popular culture. He has shepherded George Lucas’s mythomaniacal creations in the Disney era, making the old galaxy a more diverse and also a less idiosyncratic place.

Abrams is too slick and shallow a filmmaker to endow the dramas of repression and insurgency, of family fate and individual destiny, of solidarity and the will to power, with their full moral and metaphysical weight. At the same time, his pseudo-visionary self-importance won’t allow him to surrender to whimsy or mischief. The struggle of good against evil feels less like a cosmic battle than a longstanding sports rivalry between teams whose glory days are receding. The head coaches come and go, the uniforms are redesigned, certain key players are the subjects of trade rumors, and the fans keep showing up.

Which is not entirely terrible. “The Rise of Skywalker” isn’t a great “Star Wars” movie, but that may be because there is no such thing. That seems to be the way we like it.

Well, that's a ringing endorsement. I mean, I'm sure I'll come out of it feeling like it was worth $15, but I'm not sure I'll see it over 200 times like I have with A New Hope. (It helps that ANH came out when I was about to turn 7.)

And in other news:

Will the world be better in 2020? We'll see.

In other news...

Let me first acknowledge that the biggest news story today today came from the House Judiciary Committee, which has drawn up two articles of impeachment against President Trump. This comes after committee chair Jerry Nadler nearly lost control of yesterday's meeting.

As Josh Marshall points out, no one expects the Senate to remove the president from office. So the Democratic Party's job is just to demonstrate how much malfeasance and illegality the Republican Party will tolerate from their guy.

If only that were the only story today.

And tonight, I get to preside over a condo-board meeting that will be at least as fun as yesterday's Judiciary Committee meeting.

News? What news?

As Gordon Sondland throws the president under the bus (probably because (a) he's under oath and (b) the president would do it to him soon enough), there are actually a lot of other things going on in the world:

More work to do now.