10 Reasons The U.S. Is No Longer The Land Of The Free

I believe “The Home of the Brave is next to go.


Below is today’s column in the Sunday Washington Post . The column addresses how the continued rollbacks on civil liberties in the United States conflicts with the view of the country as the land of the free. If we are going to adopt Chinese legal principles, we should at least have the integrity to adopt one Chinese proverb: “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.” We seem as a country to be in denial as to the implications of these laws and policies. Whether we are viewed as a free country with authoritarian inclinations or an authoritarian nation with free aspirations (or some other hybrid definition), we are clearly not what we once were. [Update: in addition to the column below, a later column in the Washington Post explores more closely the loss of free speech rights in the West].

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Malaysia Flight 370. Some serious questions on the search areas.

Yet another idea

Most of the location information to date has been provided by Inmarsat. The potential accuracy of position data from this source has been questioned. So how can we know the most probable search areas?

First, lets look at data that has the potential to be accurate;radar. There are two kinds of radar of interest in this case. First there is air traffic control (ATC) radar. This type displays position of aircraft. Altitude data is not provided unless the aircraft being tracked has a transponder. The transponder provides information which includes altitude, flight number and ground speed. Other parameters may also be transmitted along with the radar “blip”.

If the aircraft does not have a transponder, or it is turned off, the radar return is known as a “skin paint” This is what is usually described as a “blip”. No altitude data is available.

The other type of radar is one used by the military for defense purposes. It is capable of determining altitude from a skin paint, a reflection off the aircraft surfaces. Military radar would be available to all nations in the vicinity to the north and west of Malasia. The maximum range for a skin paint of these radars would depend on the elevation of the antenna and the altitude of the airplane. For example, if the radar antenna was at sea level and the airplane was at thirty five thousand feet the range might be on the order of 250 miles. The range wold also be dependent on size of the aircraft, power of the radar and weather obstructions.

Radar earth curvature

The various tracks shown by the media indicate the initial track toward Bejing and the left turn.The southerly track to the Indian Ocean has been provide by Inmarsat. This data has ben questioned as to the methodology and potential accuracy.

My personal belief is that had the aircraft turned back to the north or northwest it would have reentered the radar coverage areas for the military radars. The countries involved are very serious about their airspace and would have attempted to contact MS 370 or scramble aircraft to investigate. By eliminating a west or northwest track we fare left with a) the Inmarsat track or b) a potential track to the west or southwest toward Africa. The Inmarsat data is suspect so perhaps we should be looking to the west.

Indian ocean map

Hawaii Inter-island Air Fares Through the Roof

In the past few years inter island air fares have incased dramatically along with a reduction in the number of seats. While Hawaiian Air is a good airline it has a operated without real competition since Aloha Airlines went out of business on March 31, 2006.

Since then fares have have risen four and five fold, adjusted for inflation. While it is proper for Hawaiian to make a profit, the current capacity restrictions have created a monopoly market. One way fares have gone from $59 shortly after Aloha’s demise to more than $200 today.

The flight frequency has been drastically reduced. For example, Aloha Airlines had thirty-one flights per day from Honolulu to Maui. Twenty-three daily flight from Kona to Honolulu. There was service between Hilo and Kona and between Kona and Maui. There were at least five flights per day between Kona and Maui. Hawaiian offered similar frequencies. Today, it is a struggle to get between Hilo and Kona or Maui and Kona. Some airports previously served by jet aircraft are either not served at all or served by small propeller airplanes on an unreliable basis.

As an Island state, air service is vital to residents for recreation and business alike.

Fare wars are not the answer as they only provide a short term benefit to the traveler and can be terminally harmful to an airline.

Starting an airline is an arduous undertaking, but there might be a solution with an airline like Alaska who already has a trans pacific presence here and operates Boeing 737s.

Service and fares will probably never return to the good old days but the presence of another reputable airline in the market would be welcome. I have often said there is room in the island market for 1.5 carriers. We just need to find the .5.

Aloha timetable 1990 2

The M&M theory

M&Ms. No, not the candy. I speak of the twin “Ms” that generate action from government. They are: Money and Media. Any effort to generate interest in addressing a problem or issue will not be effective unless it contains one or both of these “Ms”

For instance, your congress is now considering legislation to address the safety anomalies associated with  the regional airline industry: low pay for pilots, pilot fatigue, minimum training standards and aircraft inspections.  Do you know how long these issues have been around? A long, long time. Pilot groups and unions have been vocal concerning the standards of these carriers. They have written, faxed and emailed their legislators with no result.

Then, there’s a tragic crash in Buffalo, N.Y. with relentless and ongoing media attention. The “M” (as in media) has obtained a response from the previously unresponsive. Once again,  the M&M theory is validated.

Regional airlines transparency

The relationships between the major carriers and the regionals are now getting scrutiny in the wake of the  the most recent accident in Buffalo.  If an airplane is painted in the colors and logo of a major carrier,  passengers are led to believe that the operator of the airplane IS the major carrier. Of course  that is not true. The major airlines began to use what were then called commuter airlines to serve smaller airports after deregulation in 1978.

One must remember the time when service to those smaller markets was provided by the major airlines. With the advent of deregulation, airports that had been served with 727’s DC-9s and 737s sometimes found themselves with no service at all as the big airlines abandoned them. The larger, short haul jets no longer served those communities and passengers found themselves flying in a small twin engine propeller airplane instead of jets. In time small “regional” jet airplanes were developed and they began to be flown by small operators under their own names.

Then someone got the idea to brand those flights as United, Continental, American, etc. Thus, the big carriers were able to regain a presence in the markets they had pulled out of at much lower cost. They were able to avoid the cost of a unionized, senior workforce and the capital costs of larger airplanes. There were no legacy costs because there was no legacy.

The branding was (and is) a facade. Although some regionals have made a concerted effort to mimic the operational sophistication of larger airlines with some having success, many do not have the resources, support or the will to do so.

The public needs to know which airline they are actually flying on so that they ay be able to make an informed choice.