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The Air Up There Podcast

Travel Safe this Holiday Season

Season 3, Episode 7
Published: Friday, November 12, 2021

The holiday season is upon us! Are your travel plans underway? Make sure safety is at the top of your itinerary. In this episode, we explore safety precautions you should take when you fly, as well as the dos and don'ts for packing your bags. If you're thinking about chartering an airplane, we'll help you learn the rules, regulations, and requirements so you can easily identify a safe air charter service. You'll hear from: Jay Sorah, an FAA Hazardous Materials Aviation Safety Specialist; Don Riley, an FAA Safety Inspector; and Ryan Waguespack, Senior Vice President of Aircraft Management and Air Charter Services for the National Air Transportation Association.

To learn more, visit FAA's Safe Air Charter Operations and PackSafe for Passengers pages.

Travel Safe this Holiday Season

Travel Safe this Holiday Season

Transcript

Liz:
Welcome to The Air Up There, a podcast about the wide world of aerospace. I'm Liz Cory.

Adam:
And I'm Adam Newberry. Liz, the holidays are coming up fast. They're actually right around the corner. And we want to make sure people who travel do so safely as possible. With that in mind, we've broken this week's episode into a couple parts.

Liz:
First, let's look at renting an aircraft. You want to take your family on a trip, but you want to avoid the crowds at the airport, or you have several colleagues who need to fly somewhere, and you think it's cheaper to rent your own pilot in plane.

Adam:
The tricky side of this is that the pilot who comes along with that plane may not be properly trained or certificated to fly it. And there's also the chance the plane itself could need some critical maintenance.

Liz:
The reason why the FAA has regulations is to ensure that all air operations are safe. And it works … when everyone complies. The FAA has rules that cover the training of the pilot, the maintenance of the aircraft and the rules of flight. The problem? Some charter companies ignore those rules.

Adam:
Yeah, but what if the pilot just doesn't know the rules? Say you're the pilot, you could be looking to earn some extra hours or working for a flight school and you get asked to fly some strangers across country? What do you need to know to protect yourself and that license you work so hard for? And don't forget the most important part? How do you keep everyone safe?

Liz:
Well, Adam, the FAA has been looking at this problem for several years now. We realize we need to educate folks on the safety requirements. And we're working hard to get those bad guys out of business.

Adam:
Don Riley is an FAA safety inspector, his job is to make sure people know what is and isn't legal. For those who don't or won't comply, he makes sure they face appropriate consequences. Brian Waguespack is the Senior Vice President of aircraft management and air charter services for the National Air Transportation Association. They're both working to educate the people public and pilots about these risks.

Liz:
Ryan starts us off with an overview.

Ryan:
It is the unlawful commercial use of an aircraft. And I know that's a lot. That's a big obtuse term. But it comes in many shapes and sizes, I think the challenge is trying to educate the public on what is right and what is wrong. Because it all does boil down to safety, and keeping you in the back safe, or your family or your work colleagues and trying to mitigate risk where we can. What has exacerbated this is two things: the Uberization of our culture, it's this, Hey, I'm gonna go get into anybody's aircraft — assuming you are making a lot of assumptions that the aircraft is maintained, that the crew is trained — you're very cost aware, very cost sensitive, you want to get from point A to point B, the easiest, the most cost effective way as possible. Also, you take into consideration being in the back of a car, you're going to notice the tires being bald, or you're going to notice things you know, because you're also a driver, most likely and you know, typical wear and tear is versus things you just wouldn't want to get into. You wouldn't want to risk driving 80 miles down in interstate and have an accident. Unfortunately, you just can't see those same things. In the business aviation world, an aircraft shows up, a pilot walks out of the cockpit. He's in his white shirt. Nevertheless, that checks the box in your mind. But unfortunately, it's just not. But also the pandemic has exacerbated the desire and need for private aviation. You've got it was perceived for years for decades as a luxury now it's perceived more as an essential method of travel. So we're saying hey, I want to take my family, I want to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. And I've got capital, I'm going to leverage private aviation, whether that's a 182 or a G 5, it doesn't matter. Well, it has the possibilities of being real dangerous. I mean, deadly. And matter of fact, you truly don't know if that pilot is qualified to operate the aircraft. And unfortunately, we would typically say, Well, no pilot would fly an aircraft that they're not qualified to fly on. Unfortunately, that's just not what we've seen in history. That's not an anomaly. The same thing as it relates to the mechanics of the aircraft. How is this aircraft maintained? We make too many big assumptions. Well, I know Jim, he wouldn't do that, he would maintain his aircraft, we would never ask Jim right, we just make assumptions. And so I always like to say Would I go and borrow your car and say, I'm gonna take it across the country? Probably not. I'd want to know I don't want to be stuck on the side of the road. Unfortunately, we are in an industry where there is high risk.

Liz:
Our next Guess Don Riley, the FAA aviation safety inspector tells us more

Don:
Real legitimate operators have oversight by the FAA. And we have a plan, you know, to look at those operators every so often to make sure that there are safe but the illegal guys, the only way we find out about it is through complaints. Otherwise, no one's really looking at them. And they can become unsafe, pretty quick. You know, the old saying sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And that really goes for these kinds of flights, they're going to be cheaper than the legitimate operators. If you're seeking out the cheapest price, you really need to ask questions, if you take a bid from an operator, ask them to see their carrier certificate or operating certificate. And if they are unwilling or kind of hem haw about it, you probably need to look elsewhere. A legitimate charter operators, we have a surveillance plan, we have an oversight plan, we look at them every so often, we have approved training programs, and maintenance programs and things like that. But these aren't really charters. Okay, the operations we're talking about. So there is no oversight. And we like to say, you know, if you're not following the rules, you're inherently unsafe, if the maintenance isn't being done on an aircraft, that's a big deal, right? The pilots aren't trained like they are with a legitimate charter operator, that's a big deal. You may not even have insurance to cover if something goes wrong, you know, if you buy ticket on a legitimate charter operator, they have insurance in the background. So these are all things you need to think about. And the cheap price isn't always a good deal. If you look at everything. We're working with industry partners, to help educate the public, the pilots, the operators, and aircraft owners, on what to do, what not to do. If you see something that looks fishy, how to report it, we're educating our inspector workforce, on how to address these issues. We've done multiple public webinars and meetings, live meetings to help, again, educate the public. And you know, the public's really hard to reach because the people in the back just really want to keep price. And they don't know that they even need to ask questions, to be honest with you. So we're really trying hard to reach the public, making them aware that you should be asking questions, just don't accept on face value, what you're told, there is some people out there that do these things. And they're kind of unaware that they're illegal, and they're outside of the regs. So if they're willing to work with us, we will help bring them into compliance. So we're trying that angle too. You have a pilot that flies for an owner, he flies the owner everywhere, he knows the owner. But then when people start getting on that plane, that he doesn't know, it should be kind of a red flag, say what's going on here, especially if it's all different kinds of people, if it's his family happens a couple of times, okay. But if it's all different sorts of people that don't seem related to the actual owner of the aircraft,that could be a red flag for the pilot.

Liz:
The bottom line, ask questions, go to faa.gov and search for safe charter, call your local FAA office and ask them to look up a potential charter operator. The office can tell you if that operator is legal to carry you and your loved ones. If you are a pilot or operator, please talk to the FAA. Be sure that you know the rules. Don't put your pilot's certificate at risk.

Adam:
Yeah, Liz for my job as a videographer for the FAA, I travel a bunch and there are things like batteries, laptops and portable power banks and my camera bags that I know I have to take into consideration when I'm packing to fly. And I'm not alone in having to think about those sorts of things either. Nearly every person who travels no matter what type of aircraft they board is likely to have some sort of luggage that could be a rolling suitcase or carry on backpack or their purse. Once you pack in your carry on and check baggage is really important.

Liz:
Jay Sorah is a specialist in the FAA security and hazardous materials division. He has some important tips, especially for those of us who may not have traveled in a while.

Jay:
So somebody who's either new to fly or they haven't flown in two or three years. And what are the top couple of things that they should know prior to flying. Number one is to plan ahead of time know what it is that you're planning on trying to fly with. If they're a consumer electronics, if you have batteries. If you have photography equipment, if you have a drone or UAS or you have gifts that have batteries and things in them, check and see if number one if you're able to actually fly with it, and if not, how can you safely ship it to your point? Or how do you properly prepare it prior to getting to the airport so Number one, go to FAA PackSafe are doing your research on there as far as the toiletries that you're going to take the medication you're going to need to take and also about the electronics. And what you need to do, you can you can access that. Number two, check with your air carrier, especially at the airport that you're flying out of. And the airport that you're going to to set there and see if there's any kind of additional information that you need or restrictions that may be exposed. If you're traveling internationally. Three, check with TSA check TSA website, see what their information is. And if there's any other restrictions. And then most of all, when in doubt, ask, don't just guess, don't be afraid. Reach out and ask to see if you need additional help with something definitely check your baggage that you're flying with right now check to make sure there hasn't been things left in it, we've seen a bump or increase, in firearms illusion ammunition being discovered at the airports and allow that's just where people have been traveling via ground, and they forgot to check. Check your baggage, check to see what it is that you're going to fly with. And if there's any kind of if you believe that there's to be a risk with it, or it's a dangerous good, check the PackSafe chart, and check with the air carrier and check with TSA. Your phone and your Kindle, and your laptop, they all contain lithium batteries, they're fine, we want you to be able to bring them we want you to bring them safely. And we want you to have them on the cabin with you. And that way if there's an issue with any of them, that's something overheats or something shorts out, you're going to be able to see it hear it or smell it or somebody else will, they'll be able to have access to it where they can sit there and mitigate any issues that might be a problem with that phones, the laptops, the candles, things like that. Vapee cigs mods, depending on people who utilize those, there's a lot of really misinformation about those, you are allowed to bring those onto the aircraft, you're not allowed to utilize them when you're on the aircraft, but we actually want you to have them with you, we don't want them in the cargo hold. Because all of them, they have the capability of generating heat, that's part of their process. And so we want to where you have control over where you know that they're off, into, where if for some reason they were to self-activate, or if they were to be hit and come on, somebody would see it, hear it, smell it, they have a way to access it. And they have a way to mitigate that issue. One of the things that happens very commonly that people they're not sure about what they can do or what the responsibilities are. And they'll have their vapes or their e-cigs, they'll clear the screening, and they'll have it on their carry on. And then when they get on to the aircraft, the overhead might be full. And when the flight attendants ask them, Hey, can we go ahead, check your bag, they're afraid to tell them that they have, you know, an e cig or vape in there, or they forget and we want people to remember or not be afraid to go, Hey, I actually have my e cig, or my vaping device, can I please get it out. And that way you're letting them know you've got they're not going to take it away from you, but you have it and that way you can keep it safe and you can monitor it. That's one of the areas that we really are trying to work with the flying stakeholders to let them know, if you have these devices, please do bring them on the aircraft with you. Don't put them in check bags, don't put them in cargo, we have a whole section for that within packs eight that has really good information about that we're coming up on the holidays, it's really nice people are getting back out and traveling. We have the best and safest aviation system transportation system in the world. And it really is about the people that use it that work within it. Everybody has a part and responsibility and keeping it safe. And so know that the FAA is here, for your safety for the safety of our air system. We're here to work with you. We're here to help you. We're here to provide resources for you. We have tools like PackSafe if you're a passenger, Safe Cargo, if you're a shipper, and we want to continue to build those resources out, there's things on there, you can't find contacts, let us know, we're trying to continue to keep these things updated with the latest and greatest information and make them a really viable resource. But I want people to have confidence in the safety while their transportation system, but also want them to know that they are a very important partner in that safety and they have a huge responsibility and helping to make sure they're not introducing risk to that system. If you take nothing else away from this entire conversation. It really is that we have the safest transportation system in the world, that you have an important role to play in it and we're here to work together with you on it.

Adam:
To learn more, visit faa.gov/packsafe. And if you choose to send any packages through the mail, check out the safe cargo page, which is also right there on the FAA webpage. We have answers to a ton of questions that can help us stay safe aboard an aircraft.

Liz:
That's right, Adam, those web pages are really important and you can find them at faa gov. Thanks for joining us for these important travel safety tips. Stay tuned for more tips as we get into the holiday travel season.

Adam:
The Air Up There is a podcast from the Federal Aviation Administration. If you liked today's episode, remember to subscribe and share it with someone else. You can find the FAA on social media, or @FAA on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn and @FAAnews on Twitter and YouTube.

Liz:
Thanks for listening.