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Everything posted by Maverick

  1. What Went Wrong with the F-35, Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter? The F-35 was billed as a fighter jet that could do almost everything the U.S. military desired but has turned out to be one of the greatest boondoggles in recent military purchasing history By Michael P. Hughes, The Conversation US on June 14, 2017 Lockheed Martin F-35A. Credit: Erik Simonsen Getty Images The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research. The F-35 was billed as a fighter jet that could do almost everything the U.S. military desired, serving the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy – and even Britain’s Royal Air Force and Royal Navy – all in one aircraft design. It’s supposed to replace and improve upon several current – and aging – aircraft types with widely different missions. It’s marketed as a cost-effective, powerful multi-role fighter airplane significantly better than anything potential adversaries could build in the next two decades. But it’s turned out to be none of those things. Officially begun in 2001, with roots extending back to the late 1980s, the F-35 program is nearly a decade behind schedule, and has failed to meet many of its original design requirements. It’s also become the most expensive defense program in world history, at around US$1.5 trillion before the fighter is phased out in 2070. The unit cost per airplane, above $100 million, is roughly twice what was promised early on. Even after President Trump lambasted the cost of the program in February, the price per plane dropped just $7 million – less than 7 percent. And yet, the U.S. is still throwing huge sums of money at the project. Essentially, the Pentagon has declared the F-35 “too big to fail.” As a retired member of the U.S. Air Force and current university professor of finance who has been involved in and studied military aviation and acquisitions, I find the F-35 to be one of the greatest boondoggles in recent military purchasing history. Forget what’s already spent The Pentagon is trying to argue that just because taxpayers have flushed more than $100 billion down the proverbial toilet so far, we must continue to throw billions more down that same toilet. That violates the most elementary financial principles of capital budgeting, which is the method companies and governments use to decide on investments. So-called sunk costs, the money already paid on a project, should never be a factor in investment decisions. Rather, spending should be based on how it will add value in the future. Keeping the F-35 program alive is not only a gross waste in itself: Its funding could be spent on defense programs that are really useful and needed for national defense, such as anti-drone systems to defend U.S. troops. Part of the enormous cost has come as a result of an effort to share aircraft design and replacement parts across different branches of the military. In 2013, a study by the RAND Corporation found that it would have been cheaper if the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy had simply designed and developed separate and more specialized aircraft to meet their specific operational requirements. Not living up to top billing The company building the F-35 has made grand claims. Lockheed Martin said the plane would be far better than current aircraft – “four times more effective” in air-to-air combat, “eight times more effective” in air-to-ground combat and “three times more effective” in recognizing and suppressing an enemy’s air defenses. It would, in fact, be “second only to the F-22 in air superiority.” In addition, the F-35 was to have better range and require less logistics support than current military aircraft. The Pentagon is still calling the F-35 “the most affordable, lethal, supportable, and survivable aircraft ever to be used.” But that’s not how the plane has turned out. In January 2015, mock combat testing pitted the F-35 against an F-16, one of the fighters it is slated to replace. The F-35A was flown “clean” with empty weapon bays and without any drag-inducing and heavy externally mounted weapons or fuel tanks. The F-16D, a heavier and somewhat less capable training version of the mainstay F-16C, was further encumbered with two 370-gallon external wing-mounted fuel tanks. In spite of its significant advantages, the F-35A’s test pilot noted that the F-35A was less maneuverable and markedly inferior to the F-16D in a visual-range dogfight. Stealth over power One key reason the F-35 doesn’t possess the world-beating air-to-air prowess promised, and is likely not even adequate when compared with its current potential adversaries, is that it was designed first and foremost to be a stealthy airplane. This requirement has taken precedence over maneuverability, and likely above its overall air-to-air lethality. The Pentagon and especially the Air Force seem to be relying almost exclusively on the F-35’s stealth capabilities to succeed at its missions. Like the F-117 and F-22, the F-35’s stealth capability greatly reduces, but does not eliminate, its radar cross-section, the signal that radar receivers see bouncing back off an airplane. The plane looks smaller on radar – perhaps like a bird rather than a plane – but is not invisible. The F-35 is designed to be stealthy primarily in the X-band, the radar frequency range most commonly used for targeting in air-to-air combat. In other radar frequencies, the F-35 is not so stealthy, making it vulnerable to being tracked and shot down using current – and even obsolete – weapons. As far back as 1999 the same type of stealth technology was not able to prevent a U.S. Air Force F-117 flying over Kosovo from being located, tracked and shot down using an out-of-date Soviet radar and surface-to-air missile system. In the nearly two decades since, that incident has been studied in depth not only by the U.S., but also by potential adversaries seeking weaknesses in passive radar stealth aircraft. Of course, radar is not the only way to locate and target an aircraft. One can also use an aircraft’s infrared emissions, which are created by friction-generated heat as it flies through the air, along with its hot engines. Several nations, particularly the Russians, have excellent passive infrared search and tracking systems, that can locate and target enemy aircraft with great precision – sometimes using lasers to measure exact distances, but without needing radar. It’s also very common in air-to-air battles for opposing planes to come close enough that their pilots can see each other. The F-35 is as visible as any other aircraft its size. Analysts weigh in Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon say the F-35’s superiority over its rivals lies in its ability to remain undetected, giving it “first look, first shot, first kill.” Hugh Harkins, a highly respected author on military combat aircraft, called that claim “a marketing and publicity gimmick” in his book on Russia’s Sukhoi Su-35S, a potential opponent of the F-35. He also wrote, “In real terms an aircraft in the class of the F-35 cannot compete with the Su-35S for out and out performance such as speed, climb, altitude, and maneuverability.” Other critics have been even harsher. Pierre Sprey, a cofounding member of the so-called “fighter mafia” at the Pentagon and a co-designer of the F-16, calls the F-35 an “inherently a terrible airplane” that is the product of “an exceptionally dumb piece of Air Force PR spin.” He has said the F-35 would likely lose a close-in combat encounter to a well-flown MiG-21, a 1950s Soviet fighter design. Robert Dorr, an Air Force veteran, career diplomat and military air combat historian, wrote in his book “Air Power Abandoned,” “The F-35 demonstrates repeatedly that it can’t live up to promises made for it. … It’s that bad.” How did we get here? How did the F-35 go from its conception as the most technologically advanced, do-it-all military aircraft in the world to a virtual turkey? Over the decades-long effort to meet a real military need for better aircraft, the F-35 program is the result of the merging or combination of several other separate and diverse projects into a set of requirements for an airplane that is trying to be everything to everybody. In combat the difference between winning and losing is often not very great. With second place all too often meaning death, the Pentagon seeks to provide warriors with the best possible equipment. The best tools are those that are tailor-made to address specific missions and types of combat. Seeking to accomplish more tasks with less money, defense planners looked for ways to economize. For a fighter airplane, funding decisions become a balancing act of procuring not just the best aircraft possible, but enough of them to make an effective force. This has lead to the creation of so-called “multi-role” fighter aircraft, capable both in air-to-air combat and against ground targets. Where trade-offs have to happen, designers of most multi-role fighters emphasize aerial combat strength, reducing air-to-ground capabilities. With the F-35, it appears designers created an airplane that doesn’t do either mission exceptionally well. They have made the plane an inelegant jack-of-all-trades, but master of none – at great expense, both in the past and, apparently, well into the future. I believe the F-35 program should be immediately cancelled; the technologies and systems developed for it should be used in more up-to-date and cost-effective aircraft designs. Specifically, the F-35 should be replaced with a series of new designs targeted toward the specific mission requirements of the individual branches of the armed forces, in lieu of a single aircraft design trying to be everything to everyone. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
  2. Quite long read so I didn't post the text. Very interesting though!
  3. OTTAWA — Federal officials are expected to sit down with representatives from different fighter jet makers in Paris next week, as uncertainty swirls over the Trudeau government's plan to buy "interim" Super Hornets. The meetings on the sidelines of the prestigious Paris Air Show are being billed as the first step towards the eventual launch of a competition to replace Canada's aging CF-18 fleet with 88 new fighters. That is how many warplanes the Liberals' new defence policy calls for Canada to buy, an increase from the 65 previously promised by the Conservatives under Stephen Harper. The policy estimates the cost at between $15 billion and $19 billion, up from the $9 billion previously budgeted by the Tories. But while much of the attention will be on the competition, which the government says it will launch in 2019, the companies are also expected to pitch their own ability to sell Canada "interim" jets if needed. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan on Monday said the government was still reviewing its decision to buy 18 "interim" Super Hornets from U.S. aerospace firm Boeing. The Liberals previously said they needed the Super Hornets to address a critical shortage of fighter jets, referred to as a "capability gap," until the full competition to replace the CF-18s could be run. The government said at the time that the Super Hornet was the only aircraft that met its immediate requirements, including being compatible with U.S. fighters and not in development. But that was before Boeing complained to the U.S. Commerce Department about Canadian aerospace firm Bombardier, sparking a trade dispute and threats from the Liberals to kill the Super Hornet deal. The plan to purchase an interim fighter jet has been unpopular with retired military officers and defence officials as well as analysts, who have instead called for the competition to start now rather than in 2019. A survey of 75 such experts conducted by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and released on Tuesday found that the vast majority didn't believe there was a capability gap, and opposed the plan to buy interim jets. But a senior government official told The Canadian Press that the Liberals have no intention of backing away from their plan to buy an interim fighter — even if it means going with a different jet. Sources say the government has not actually approached any of Boeing's competitors about stepping into the breach if the Liberals decide to scrap the Super Hornet deal. But the Paris meetings offer an opportunity for U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin, French firm Dassault, Swedish company Saab, and European consortium Eurofighter to make their best pitches on the issue. Each has indicated that it is prepared to provide interim fighter jets upon request. The government's delegation will be led by Maj.-Gen. Alain Pelletier, head of National Defence's fighter program, and Lisa Campbell, who oversees military procurement at the federal procurement department. While sources say meetings with Boeing's competitors have been set up, it wasn't immediately clear whether the delegation would sit down with the Super Hornet manufacturer as well. That is despite Boeing's plan to enter the Super Hornet in the full competition to replace the CF-18s. Public Services and Procurement Canada spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold said in an email that details of the delegation, including its schedule for the Paris Air Show, were still being finalized. "Canada is committed to fair and transparent procurement processes," Bujold added. "Supplier engagement and industry feedback are important elements of PSPC's work." The Liberals have cut off most contact with Boeing since the government threatened to cancel the planned Super Hornet purchase over of the company's spat with Bombardier last month. Boeing spokesman Scott Day said in a statement that the company continues to work closely with the U.S. Navy, through which any sale of interim Super Hornets to Canada would actually be arranged. The government also recently paid another $30 million to remain at the table as a partner in the development of the F-35, and largely backed off its promise never to buy that stealth fighter. Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
  4. A Ryanair passenger on a Brussels-Berlin flight was prevented from boarding the budget airline after launching into an angry tirade at a boarding-gate attendant. The American man, said to be called Rudy Kendall, was irked after learning he had to pay €50 at the check-in desk to print his boarding pass, having not done it himself. The 'print or pay' policy has been in place at the low cost airline since 2011. Mobile phone footage, which the passenger appears to have filmed himself, shows him becoming increasingly agitated after he is told of the cost for printing his boarding pass at the airport. He demands that the attendant, working for Ryanair's handling agent Aviapartner, call her supervisor and when she does not respond he shouts: “I’m paying your salary, what kind of customer service is this? I'm a customer, lady. I'm asking your supervisor's name so I can speak with your supervisor because I'm unhappy with the way you're performing your job. "You tell me I have to pay €50 for a flight I'm already checked in on." Abusive behaviour will not be tolerated by the airline (Getty Images) As the attendant gives a slight smile while picking up the phone – presumably to security – he says: "Is there something funny here? What's the joke? Is it your attitude? "You have a bad attitude. You have no business working here and dealing with customers." After berating her for more than three minutes at a packed boarding gate, a fellow passenger wades in to diffuse the situation and asks the man in the video to “stop harassing” the attendant. He responds by calling the man fat and bald, telling him, "You're nothing man, you're nothing." Witnessing the argument the attendant buries her head in her hands and starts to cry. As other passengers attempt to help, he tells them to mind their own business. The man, who is black, later claimed later he was a victim of "mob tendencies by Europeans against dark-skinned foreigners". However, a witness named Philipp said racism did not play a part in the incident.
  5. OTTAWA – Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has announced that the government will add $62 billion in defence spending delays over the next 10 years. The new procurement strategy titled ‘Postponed. Deferred. Delayed.’ seeks spend 70% more money on delays over the next decade to modernize the military’s setbacks. “If we want to be a significant global security player, we have to get serious about bogging down our equipment acquisition process,” the Defence Minister explained at an announcement. Tens of billions have been dedicated to 15 hypothetical surface vessels for the navy so that shipyards in Quebec, Nova Scotia, and BC may produce technologically advanced excuses on why the ships are not ready yet and why it will cost more. “We have allotted $15 billion for Boeing and Lockheed-Martin for state-of-the-art, frivolous lawsuits against our government when we select a competitor’s bid for a new fighter jet,” added Sajjan. This does not include bonus delays such as Canadian premiers complaining on how their province’s industries were left out in military contracts. “We have carefully planned for the Parliamentary Budget Office to release a report on how we underestimated the Operations and Maintenance costs moments before announcing a successful bid.” According to sources inside the Department of National Defence, the Sea King’s phase-out was pushed back to 2065. TAGS: CANADIAN ARMED FORCES, DEFENCE PROCUREMENT, DEFENCE STRATEGY, HARJIT SAJJAN
  6. shares An air passenger advocate is advising travellers who are in a heated dispute with an airline worker to pull out their phone and record the conversation. Gabor Lukacs is offering the advice in response to a group of angry Air Canada travellers in Halifax who missed their connecting flight to Sydney earlier this month. A number of them reported hearing an Air Canada employee threaten to put them on a "no-fly list" and calling police to deal with the verbal dispute. He said having witnesses could help if no recording was made, as was the case in the recent Halifax incident. 'I was in full panic mode': How an Air Canada flight turned into a harrowing midnight drive Lukacs took United Airlines to court for damages over a November 2007 flight from Winnipeg to Chicago that was cancelled due to mechanical failure. During the trial an airline employee alleged that Lukacs was "agitated, forceful" and that "he was yelling at her." Gabor Lukacs earns his living as a math professor. He helps airline passengers in his spare time and for free. (The Canadian Press) But after Lukacs produced a voice recording of their 13-minute conversation, the worker admitted to the judge he had not yelled. The Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba judge ruled the airline worker "exaggerated the tone and loudness of the plaintiff's words." "In Canada, you don't need the airline's permission to record the employee or the employee's permission to record a conversation with them," Lukacs told CBC. "That's what I have done in those two cases in Winnipeg and when the airline's employees agents were telling the court Gabor Lukacs was yelling at us, I pulled the recording and the judge found that they were not speaking the truth." Math professor by day, activist by night Lukacs is a math professor by profession and runs the Facebook group Air Passenger Rights as a public service after he had one too many run-ins with terrible airline service. The Halifax man has also had airlines call the police on him, so he was not surprised to learn the Air Canada official in Halifax did the same thing when faced with stranded passengers. "This is just wrong. [The job of] police is to deal with illegal activities," Lukacs said. "Those passengers did nothing wrong. They were just tired, stranded, polite and peaceful. So why call the police on them?" He pointed out that the passengers had a right to be upset, as they were stuck in Halifax because the Air Canada flight left without them. He said the "no-fly list" threat made by the same Air Canada employee was exaggerated. "He has no power to prevent someone from flying within Canada. It's a government list," he said. "Although some people unfortunately have ended up on Air Canada's no-fly list just because they had some dispute with the crew." Air Canada should take responsibility He said the no-fly lists should be used for people who smoke in the airplane toilet or harass passengers or crew, not travellers just trying to get home. Airlines should have clear guidelines for when employees should call police, he said. CBC News asked Air Canada if they had such a policy, and if the Halifax official was using it correctly when he called the police to deal with the peaceful passengers. Air Canada refused to answer either question. "We should be pointing the finger at the corporation that puts him in that situation," he said. He said airlines can help by better training employees and giving them tools to properly handle situations.
  7. Are Australians being misled over the real cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter A Joint Strike Fighter lands during the Avalon Airshow in March. Pic: Getty Images ROBERT GOTTLIEBSEN Business columnist Melbourne @BGottliebsen One of the world top independent defence experts has conduced an incredibly exhaustive examination of the real cost of the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) to those countries that are buying it. The expert, Paris-based Giovanni de Briganti, of Defence-Aerospace, estimates that the average unit cost of Lockheed Martin JSF in the ninth low-rate initial production run is $US206.3 million. The Australian parliament has been told by Defence Minister Marise Payne and Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne that the cost of our Joint Strike Fighters will be in the vicinity of $US90 million. Such a huge variation means that either Giovanni de Briganti has completely got his calculations wrong when applied to Australia, or Pyne and Payne may have misled parliament. I do not have the ability to decide which of the alternatives are correct but there is a good chance that the Pyne/Payne $90 million vicinity estimate leaves out essential costs. F-35 fighter deal doesn’t fly Giovanni de Briganti believes the aircraft’s engine is one of the costs they leave out. Let me explain what I think has happened. Defence officials for over a decade have been hoodwinking politicians on both sides by conveniently leaving out the massive expenditures required to get the JSF aircraft into service. At least in the past that has included leaving out the cost of the engine. De Briganti believes the low cost estimate covers only a partially-completed aircraft about to leave the factory and not one that is ready for action, which is the only true cost. Pyne and Payne may have fallen into the trap. The parliament needs to get to the bottom in the real cost of the JSF. De Briganti emphasises that his $US206.3 million cost includes “engines, fixes and upgrades” — as any proper cost calculation would include. A series of US defence officials have claimed that the cost of the JSF has been reduced thanks to the intervention of President Donald Trump. De Briganti disputes whether there has been a significant fall, so Trump may also have been hoodwinked. The Joint Strike Fighter. There are three different JSF aircraft, which each have slightly different cost structures. De Briganti calculates a “generic” F-35, which a notional aircraft used to compare unit costs from year to year. It is calculated on the basis of the average cost of one aircraft in each of the three versions (F-35A, F-35B and F-35C) in the same production lot. He says that a direct comparison of the aircraft costs released by the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) shows that the cost of a “generic” F-35 has actually increased by $US7.63 million over the five years, 2012 to 2017. According to de Briganti, JPO’s figures show that, of the three variants, only the F-35A saw its cost decline — a modest $3 million over those five years. Australia is buying the F-35A so at least the claim that we have had a cost reduction may be justifiable. However de Briganti is adamant that the official Joint Strike Fighter costs produced by JPO only compare airframe costs, and for reasons it has not explained exclude engine and other costs. If de Briganti is right then clearly the Australian parliament has been quoted costs for the JSF without the engine. If he is right, words fail me. De Briganti says his detailed analysis and indeed the JPO’s own figures contradict many public statements by Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office claiming that unit costs are dropping with each successive production lot. In December, JPO Director Lt Gen Christopher Bogdan claimed that by the time the plane enters full rate production in 2019 the price will be down to $US80-$US85 million for an F-35A, $US110 million for a F-35B, and $US96 million for an F-35C. These figures are the ones Pyne and Payne use. Unfortunately, according to de Briganti, “Lot 9” aircraft being delivered today actually cost $US206 million, on average, including their engines, fixes, retrofits and upgrades, Not (repeat NOT) anything like $US85 million. Furthermore, de Briganti says the JPO continues to award contracts for “Lot 9”, so it is likely the unit cost of “Lot 9” aircraft will continue to grow. Pyne and Payne might say we are parroting what the Americans tell us. That’s not good enough. Our parliament and the public deserves the full facts.
  8. There's an opportunity for Canadian carriers here I think.
  9. Probably some truth in that but there are hundreds upon hundreds of them available and they are cheap. In fire fighting guise they will probably perform pretty well. Look for the -500 versions soon. Same engine as a -300 but less weight. I'd bet though that in 10 years most of the worldwide tanker fleet will be 737 classics and early NG's.
  10. I think you've answered your own question.
  11. You know that WestJet doesn't ovebook, right?
  12. Fair enough seeker. I thought the pensions were indexed. My bad, Are you happy now runaway? As far as the funds from the sale Aeroplan I remember reading something about a chunk of that that was used to keep AC solvent at the time. As Milton has stated, AC was literally hours away from being shut down. It's almost 15 years ago now but Aeroplan would have had significantly less value had AC gone under and ACE new that. I somehow doubt we'll ever know what exactly went on at that time though.
  13. What's your point? First off you obviously don't understand what "street cred" is as opposed to "credentials" I'm not going to bother explaining it either but I am curious as to why you feel the need to defend someone else's post? Deicer's a big boy and if he asks I'll explain. Have a nice day.
  14. "Self proclaimed credentials" not this guy.
  15. No
  16. If I remember correctly Aeroplan was sold for somewhere north of 1$ Billion and that was the biggest factor that kept AC from going under in the early 2000's. You may want to keep that in mind when you're enjoying your gold-plated, indexed pension.
  17. WJ has been extending and renegotiating a number of leases of late. Mostly -700's but I think they're getting too good a rate to let them go back.
  18. That's the funniest thing I've seen in a long while! Thanks Kip. Malcolm. Just stop.
  19. And.... the cup run is over... FORE!!!!!
  21. Does she walk? Does she talk? Does she come complete? My homeroom homeroom angel Always pulled me from my seat She was pure like snowflakes No one could ever stain The memory of my angel Could never cause me pain Years go by I'm lookin' through a girly magazine And there's my homeroom angel on the pages in-between My blood runs cold My memory has just been sold My angel is the centerfold Angel is the centerfold My blood runs cold My memory has just been sold My angel is the centerfold Angel is the centerfold Slipped me notes under the desk While I was thinkin' about her dress I was shy I turned away Before she caught my eye I was shakin' in my shoes Whenever she flashed those baby-blues Something had a hold on me When angel passed close by Those soft and fuzzy sweaters Too magical to touch Too see her in that negligee Is really just too much My blood runs cold My memory has just been sold My angel is the centerfold Angel is the centerfold It's okay I understand This ain't no never-never land I hope that when this issue's gone I'll see you when your clothes are on Take you car, Yes we will We'll take your car and drive it We'll take it to a motel room And take 'em off in private A part of me has just been ripped The pages from my mind are stripped Oh no, I can't deny it Oh yea, I guess I gotta buy it! My blood runs cold My memory has just been sold My angel is the centerfold Angel is the centerfold R.I.P. J. Geils.
  22. All they had to do was keep upping the ante. $2000 x 4 PAX would have done it almost certainly. The gate agents may not have that discretion though. Make no mistake, this is going to cost all of us in this industry going forward.
  23. It just keeps getting worse for United. It’s hard to find examples of worse decision-making and customer treatment than United Airlines having a passenger dragged from an overbooked plane. But United’s shabby treatment of Geoff Fearns, including a threat to place him in handcuffs, comes close. Fearns, 59, is president of TriPacific Capital Advisors, an Irvine investment firm that handles more than half a billion dollars in real estate holdings on behalf of public pension funds. He had to fly to Hawaii last week for a business conference. Fearns needed to return early so he paid about $1,000 for a full-fare, first-class ticket to Los Angeles. He boarded the aircraft at Lihue Airport on the island of Kauai, took his seat and enjoyed a complimentary glass of orange juice while awaiting takeoff. Then, as Fearns tells it, a United employee rushed onto the aircraft and informed him that he had to get off the plane. “I asked why,” he told me. “They said the flight was overfull.” Fearns, like the doctor at the center of that viral video from Sunday night, held his ground. He was already on the plane, already seated. He shouldn’t have to disembark. “That’s when they told me they needed the seat for somebody more important who came at the last minute,” Fearns said. “They said they have a priority list and this other person was higher on the list than me.” They said they’d put me in cuffs if they had to. Apparently United had some mechanical troubles with the aircraft scheduled to make the flight. So the carrier swapped out that plane with a slightly smaller one with fewer first-class seats. Suddenly it had more first-class passengers than it knew what to do with. So it turned to its “How to Screw Over Customers” handbook and determined that the one in higher standing — more miles flown, presumably — gets the seat and the other first-class passenger, even though he’s also a member of the frequent-flier program, gets the boot. “I understand you might bump people because a flight is full,” Fearns said. “But they didn’t say anything at the gate. I was already in the seat. And now they were telling me I had no choice. They said they’d put me in cuffs if they had to.” You couldn’t make this up if you tried. It shouldn’t make any difference where a passenger is seated or how much he or she paid for their ticket. But you have to admire the sheer chutzpah of United putting the arm on a full-fare, first-class traveler. If there’s anybody whose business you want to safeguard and cultivate, it’s that person. So how could United possibly make things worse? Not to worry. This is the airline that knows how to add insult to injury. A United employee, responding to Fearns’ complaint that he shouldn’t have to miss the flight, compromised by downgrading him to economy class and placing him in the middle seat between a married couple who were in the midst of a nasty fight and refused to be seated next to each other. “They argued the whole way back,” Fearns recalled. “Nearly six hours. It was a lot of fun.” David Dao, United passenger who was dragged from plane, says he's still in the hospital Back in Southern California, he consulted his lawyer and then wrote to United’s chief executive, Oscar Munoz, who commended airline workers after the passenger-dragging incident “for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.” Fearns requested a full refund for his flight from Kauai and asked for United to make a $25,000 donation to the charity of his choice. This is how rich guys do it. He received an email back from a United “corporate customer care specialist” apologizing that Fearns apparently had an unpleasant experience. But, no, forget about a refund. As for that charitable donation, what are you kidding? A hard no on that. Instead, the service rep offered to refund Fearns the difference between his first-class ticket and an economy ticket — about a week later, as if that wasn’t the first thing they should do in a situation like this — and to give him a $500 credit for a future trip on the airline. “Despite the negative experience, we hope to have your continued support,” the rep concluded. “Your business is especially important to us and we'll do our utmost to make your future contacts with United satisfactory in every respect.” I reached out to United and asked if anyone cared to comment on Fearns’ adventure in corporate catastrophe. No one got back to me. Julia Underwood, a business professor at Azusa Pacific University, said United’s actions in both the dragged-off-the-plane episode and with Fearns reflect a coldhearted mindset utterly devoid of compassion for customers. “They’re so locked into their policies, there’s no room for empathy,” she said. As a result, Underwood said, situations that should be manageable spiral out of control and result in unnecessarily messy PR disasters. “What United and all companies need to do is to train and empower workers to deal with specific issues as they arise,” she said. “Don’t just follow whatever is written in your policies.” I couldn’t agree more. United is neck-deep in trouble this week because its workers are clearly out of their depth in handling out-of-the-ordinary events. You have to think someone on the flight crew would have been able to step up, if given the trust and authority to do so by the carrier. Fearns said three different members of the crew on his middle-seat, economy-class return to L.A. apologized for how he was treated in Hawaii. But they said they were unable to do anything. He’s now considering a lawsuit against United — and he certainly has the resources to press his case. I asked if he’ll ever fly United again. Fearns could only laugh. “Are you kidding?”
  24. Very cool indeed! Any chance you could show us a pic of Smoky 02? I've got a bit of Convair 580 time myself.
  25. No discussion is required. Thanks for your consideration.