I'm not sure I'll ever look at jet contrails quite the same way again. I took this photo around sunset on Wednesday, struck by the intersecting trajectories, each headed straight as an arrow for their respective destinations. They looked so purposeful and intentional. I'm still pretty sure the geese knew where they were going. Not so sure about the humans anymore.
By coincidence, the photo was taken at the very same time that Delta Airlines' Northwest Flight 188 was enroute from San Diego to Minneapolis, an hour or so before the pilots started losing "situational awareness," eventually overshooting their destination and heading into Wisconsin toward Eau Claire. Right here in Madison, Air National Guard fighters were put on alert, but the Northwest flight crew's situational awareness apparently returned before the fighters could be deployed to check on the wayward airliner.
We don't know yet whether the flight crew was engaged in a “heated discussion over airline policy,” as they told investigators, or as was widely rumored, just plain asleep. It was the second case of Delta absent-mindedness in the week -- just two days earlier, another Delta jet landed on an active taxiway in Atlanta instead of the runway. Pilots are human, and humans make mistakes. But when mistakes involving life-and-death situations happen too often, you have to start looking at the system that is producing them.
Ever since Reagan broke the air traffic controllers' union, airline industry employees have been relentlessly squeezed by deregulation, consolidation (like the Delta-Northwest merger) and cost-cutting. Compensation has been slashed and pensions have disappeared. The flying public has benefited in cheaper -- if less pleasant -- air travel, but at what cost?
Remember "Sully" Sullenberger, his heroic landing in the Hudson River and his subsequent testimony to Congress?
Hero pilot Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger, who landed the US Airways airbus on the Hudson, has a tough message for Congress: Pilots are getting so shafted by their employers that the good ones are leaving to do something else.Looks like it's time to start paying attention.
Sully, for one, is paid 40% less than he was a few years ago and is maintaining a middle-class existence only because he started a consulting company on the side. Folks on the Hudson flight are no doubt glad he didn't decide to start consulting full time.