About Me

Steven Frischling
Live: HVN
Contact Me

Steven Frischling, aka: Fish, is globe hopping professional photographer, airline emerging media consultant working with large global airlines and founder of The Travel Strategist. Fish has racked up more than 1,000,000 miles since he started to track his mileage in 2005.

Fish's travel tends to be less than leisurely, including flying from New York to Basrah, Iraq, for six hours; Hong Kong for eight hours, Kuwait City for two hours and traveling around the world in 3.5 days to shoot a series of photo assignments in 4 cities and 4 countries on 3 separate continents.

Fish grew up at the end of New York's JFK International Airport's Runway 4R/22L, which probably explains his enjoyment of watching planes, fly overhead. When not shooting photos or traveling Fish designs camera bags, hones is expertise on airline security and spends his time at home cheering for the Red Sox with his 3 kids 102 yards from the ocean.

Defending Aircraft In Flight From Surface To Air Missiles … are we doing enough?

Surface to Air Missiles (SAM) and Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) have been used in attacks on more than fifty civilian aircraft, killing more than 1,000 people since 1973.  Presently the U.S. Department of Homeland Security knows of approximately two dozen terrorist organizations that posses SAM and MANPADS weapons.  The threat of terrorist and government-separatist groups that posses these weapons is so severe that former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that “No threat is more serious to aviation than MANPADS” during the 2003 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum.

Now as the world reels from the news of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 being shot down by a BUK surface to air missile system just outside Hrabove, Donetsk Oblast in Ukraine, killing 298 people on board, the question once again returns to the forefront of how can we protect aircraft in flight.

While some airports in high risk areas have reduced the threat of surface to air attacks by implementing steep departures and continually adjusting departure and approach patterns, aircraft at cruising altitude need to be potentially protected in other ways, and these ways are complex and not just expensive to implement, but also expensive in terms of per-flight-hour operating costs.

In the United States three major airlines have previously participated in missile counter measure tests on board their aircraft, initially the tests began with the BAE JetEye Infrared Missile Defense Systems being installed on Federal Express and ABX, aircraft, then on the 16th of July 2008 American Airlines began testing the BAE JetEye system installed on a Boeing 767-223.

The evaluation of the BAE JetEye system and Northrop Grumman Guardian systems were designed to use a directional laser to identify and divert an inbound missile away from the aircraft.   However with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending US$150,000,000 for the Counter-Man-Portable Air Defense System (C-MANPADS) test evaluation the BAE JetEye system was only effective for heat seeking missiles and was removed from all test aircraft in 2009 and the Northrop Grumman Guardian system was never installed on a commercial airliner.

Ultimately neither the BAE JetEye system nor Northrop Grumman Guardian systems met critical specifications. While the DHS publicly stated that the BAE JetEye system exceeded all test goals, the system never achieved the base requirement of 3,000 operational hours between failures, and neither system met basic cost requirements of not exceeding US$350 per operational flight hour.

As BAE and Northrop Grumman continue to work on their C-MANPADS systems for commercial airliners, Israeli defense technology company Elbit Systems has begun to push commercial aircraft security in new directions with the development of the SkyShield System.  SkyShield is a Commercial Multi-Spectral Infrared Countermeasures (C-MUSIC) system, deigned to defend airliners again surface to air missiles.

The Elbit SkyShield system is passive and employs a radar missile approach warning system (MAWS), in conjunction with a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) missile-tracking camera and both infrared and ultra-violet sensors.   The SkyShield system is housed in a pod just forward of the rear tail section below the aircraft and is small enough for even regional aircraft. Once the SkyShield detects in inbound missile it jams the missiles seeker through a directional laser, diverting the missile away from the aircraft using newer technology and a wider array of options than the BAE or Northrop Grumman systems.

The actual costs of the Elbit SkyShield are not yet released while it undergoes testing installed on an El Al Boeing 737-858 (4X-EKA), and it has not yet been formally evaluated outside of Israel.

While the threats to aviation security have remained relatively the same over the past 40 years, the technology behind those threats has evolved.   Aviation security is not just what we see at the airport, there are real threats in the skies, while they are uncommon, when the threats come to light it is tool late.

Have we become complacent?  Is it OK for organizations such as the DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate to spend more than US$150,000,000 on an airborne defense system for airliners only to come up with no viable solution?     What is the cost benefit of enabling aircraft to defend themselves in the skies … and given the estimated US$600,000 hardware cost of an airborne missile defense system in relation the cost of a new jet airliner, is cost benefit even really a factor for long haul aircraft or aircraft operating in areas that are more likely to pose a threat to aviation safety and security?

Where do we go from here?  It’s a question I wish I had an answer for.

Happy Flying!


Dear Dr. Rosenberg, Jetblue Didn’t Throw You Off For Being Jewish, They Threw You Off For Being Racist … NEXT

A week ago, on the 7th of July, as Jetblue Flight 454 prepared to depart from Gate C12, at West Palm Beach International Airport, a conflict arose between Lisa Rosenberg, M.D., a Jewish doctor from New York, seated in seat 7E and woman identified as a Palestinian in seat 9C.

On the 10th of July the Palm Beach Post published “Woman kicked off plane at PBIA after argument about Israel conflict “ in which the article states that that Dr. Rosenberg stated the Palestinian woman in seat 9C used racial slurs, threatened her daughter and Dr. Rosenberg is quoted as saying the incident was an “ugly, racially driven altercation” and that she “was completely outraged that I would be asked to leave a plane, being a Jew” …

 … however …

… prior to Dr. Rosenberg’s statements to the Palm Beach Post the Jetblue flight attendant at the center of this incident filed her report that tells a much different story of the events as they unfolded on board Flight 454.

The initial internal report and final internal reports, both filed prior to the Palm Beach Post story, which I have been able to read in their entirely, and then verify, both squarely paint Dr. Rosenberg as the sole instigator of the events on board Flight 454. Furthermore both internal reports of the incident clearly lay out Dr. Rosenberg as the person who was in the midst of spewing hateful comments towards the Palestinian passenger in seat 9C, not vise versa.

The flight attendant’s reports states that the passengers in seats 12C and 11A were gesturing for her to quickly come to the front of the cabin during the boarding process, and began pleading with her to calm the situation between Dr. Rosenberg in seat 7E and the Palestinian woman in 9C.

The official internal report goes on to state that the flight attendant witnessed Dr. Rosenberg accuse the woman in 9C of being a “Palestinian murderer” and that “ her people are all murders and that they murder children,” while Dr. Rosenberg was attempting move through the cabin and position herself physically closer to the woman in Seat 9C.

Additional passengers on board Flight 454 continued to express concern for the their safety as Dr. Rosenberg continued to rant, even after being instructed by the flight attendant to cease her engagement with the woman in seat 9C, at which time the cabin crew requested a Complaint Resolution Official from the airline be contacted to board the aircraft, and Dr. Rosenberg was informed of FAM 2-13, G PROHIBITION OF DISCRIMINATION, G.1 Race, Creed, or Colour, which says ” JetBlue provides equal service to all passengers regardless of race,creed, or colour.” 

The official internal reports go on to state Dr. Rosenberg continued to openly verbalize offensive and inappropriate language while ranting about Gaza and the Palestinians.

Upon arrival of Jetblue’s Complaint Resolution Official the crew, including the Captain, needed to make a determination regarding regulation FAM 7-4, A.3.1 On The Ground, which lays out whether of not the removal of a passenger in necessary for the reasonable safety and comfort of other passengers.

As the Complaint Resolution Official began to speak directly with Dr. Rosenberg, she began to not only continue to verbally attack the woman in seat 9C, but openly imply that the woman had explosives in her bag and intended to blow up the aircraft in flight.

At this time Dr. Rosenberg launched in to a familiar rant flight attendant are accustomed to, threatening to make sure the flight attendant would be fired as she was removed from the aircraft and met on the jetway by officers from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department. 

… through all of this, Jetblue Flight 454 managed to push off the gate only four minutes late and arrive at New York’s JFK International Airport’s Terminal 5 Gate 25 10 minutes early.

Now … of course the moral of this story is this … and I say this as a Jewish guy from New York … folks … we’re all in it together.

You cannot judge someone by their religion or their nationality and people need to stop blaming religious persecution for being removed from flights when in fact they were removed based upon their own actions.   Jetblue’s internal reports lay out an exceptionally detailed accounting of the incident, with multiple witnesses to the incident and it would seem by all accounts Dr. Lisa Rosenberg, M.D., was out of line and spewing all the hate towards one passenger.  When a passenger is verbally abusive towards others on the aircraft and proceeds to position themselves physically closer to a person they have picked a fight with, they should be removed from the aircraft. This is not a religious or racial issue; this is a safety and security issue.

Happy Flying … except Dr. Rosenberg, may I suggest renting a car and driving by yourself next time.


TSA Updates Electronics Power Up Security Measures At U.S. Airports & Who’s Behind It

Earlier today I posted … TSA’s Electronics Power Up Security Procedure Implemented In U.S. Airports & Why Its A Sham … discussing the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new security procedures being implemented not overseas, but in the United States, requiring “selectee” travelers to power up their electronics airport security check points.

Under today’s changes to the new security measure, added to the TSA’s Playbook on July 7th as Operations Directive 400.5, named SEL-001, TSA Transportation Security Officers (TSO) TSOs are required to have Selectees power up their electronics. Under the language changes to the new Operations Directive a “selectee” with an electronic device that will not power up, they will have the option to dispose of the item themselves or surrender the device to a TSA TSO, with the TSO being required to notify the onsite management of how the device was disposed of.


Under the previous language of OD 400.5, if a selectee passenger could not power the device up they would be allowed exit the screening area to charge the device and then try again. If the device failed to turn on following vein charged outside security the selectee passenger could leave to security to place the device in their vehicle or give the device to someone known to them, but not traveling with them. If the selectee passenger chooses to surrender the device to a TSA TSO, the TSO was required to place the device in the HazMat bucket.

Much like how this new security measure is being implemented overseas, not all passengers in the United States are subject to inspection of their electronic devices. The percent of “selectee passengers” is currently less than 2% of all passengers boarding flights in the United States; based on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) background checks of all passengers.

Yes, the TSA is the easy agency to jump on, however the new security measures currently being implemented for electronics being powered up at security screening overseas and in the United States, were based on input from a number of agencies, with in the DHS, White House Intelligence, the National Security Agency, Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency and other related agencies.

So while blasting the TSA is easy, as ill conceived as this security measure may be, they are just the public facing agency implementing this security decision, where as other sit quietly out of the limelight while the TSA takes the heat.

Happy Flying!


TSA’s Electronics Power Up Security Procedure Implemented In U.S. Airports & Why Its A Sham

This past week it became widely known that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had begun a new security measure to be implemented at a number of overseas airports requiring passenger power up their electronics before boarding flights bound for the United States.

The TSA’s new security procedure, to be carried out by foreign aviation security agencies, as the TSA does not operate in foreign airports, was in response to a credible threat that certain terrorist groups had devised a way for portable electronics, including mobile phones, laptops, tablets, to be used as explosive devices.      As such these devices would need to be switched on and shown to be fully functional before being allowed to pass through security.     Devices that could not be powered on would not be allowed to fly and passengers would be required to undergo additional screening.

The threat of electronic devices being used as a weapon is not a new threat, given that Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up by a bomb made of Semtex hidden inside of a Toshiba cassette radio, back on December 21st 1988, over Lockerbie Scotland.

While the TSA has flatly denied that they are requiring passengers to power up their electronics, citing no credible threat within the United States as recently as the evening of July 8th, the agency actually implemented a change to “The Playbook” that went into effect on July 7th, under Operations Directive 400.5.

As per OD 400.5, which is currently in effect from July 7th through July 28th 2014, TSA Transportation Security Officers (TSO)  are to require Selectees to power up their electronics. If a selectee passenger cannot power the device up they are instructed to exit screening, charge the device and try again. If the device fails to power up the selectee passenger can leave to place it in their vehicle or give the device to someone who may be with them, but not traveling with them. A selectee passenger may also choose to surrender it the TSO , who is required to place the device in the HazMat bucket.

The requirement that electronics be powered up is not for all passengers, only “selectees,” however it is now implemented domestically despite the agency’s statements that is not in effect within the United States.

The kicker to all this is experts at the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS Transportation Security Laboratory, under the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), in Atlantic City, NJ, have been able to successfully navigate around all the new security procedures, proving that switching on and utilizing electronic devices does not prevent them from being detonated.

Items such as netbooks, certain tablets or larger “phablets” can be packed with explosives, or have DetCord hidden inside of them and fully function, then only detonated in a specific manner.   If the TSA believes there is a real credible threat other options exist for screening electronics … such as secondary x-ray screening with better trained screeners and a more thorough explosives trace detection (ETD) swabbing.   DHS S&T indicates these are far more effective ways of detecting if an explosive has been packed inside a personal electronic device.

The upside, most mobile phones and tablets have minimal room to pack explosives within them and still function, and as such would cause minimal damage if detonated. An airliner could not be taken down by an iPhone packed with Semtex or C4.

Happy Flying!


Are Airlines Fixing Planes With Duct Tape? No … and … It Ain’t News

Yesterday evening as I settled in for a long exciting night of rereviewing a 100+ slide PowerPoint presentation … yes, this is how I was spending my Saturday night … a CBS News story caught my attention shortly after 11:00pm. The story headline was “Woman Claims Duct Tape Used To Fix Plane’s Windshield.

CBS News in New York ran a two minute segment related to a woman having snapped a photo of what appears to be duct tape holding in the windshield of a United Airlines aircraft at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and ended the long winded story by saying the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says the tape was approved.

I have written about this before, because it is misleading to the flying public, not to mention a complete waste of space on a 30 minute evening news broadcast … but indulge me here as I go into the details of the tape used on the exterior of aircraft,

Yes, there are in fact specific tapes approved for internal use and external use on aircraft. These tapes are not run-of-the-mill off the shelf tapes you’d by at the hardware store and there are strict guidelines for their usage.

Let’s start by looking at the tape passengers see inside aircraft. Yes, you may see duct tape at times, but there are in fact specific tapes that meet specific guidelines for electrical repair, securing smoke detectors and securing a damaged overhead bin. These tapes have specific purposes, but do not impact the overall safety of an aircraft in flight in the same way say the tape holding the carpet of the aircraft down. You probably never think about it, why would you?  Tape that could save your life in the event of an emergency is below your feet. P-51 flame retardant double sided tape is designed specifically for aircraft carpet.

Now onto the real issue at hand … the tape on the outside of an aircraft. Any tape you see on the outside of an aircraft may resemble duct tape, but the reality is it is nothing like duct tape. The tape you see on the exterior of an aircraft securing a windshield, covering a small fuselage tear, placed over a ding and other minor issue that are not structurally damaging the aircraft is P12L Tape, more commonly known as “Speed Tape.”


P12L tape, or Speed Tape, is a laminated aluminum foil tape, which is weather resistant, waterproof, resistant to solvents, flame resistant, isn’t impacted by UV degradation, is thermally conductive and reflects heat. There are strict guidelines for the use of P12L tape, such as it may only be used on an aircraft if the gouged or ripped metal it is covering is less than 2-inches is diameter and further than 3-inches from the edge of the damaged panel.

Speed tape is quite different than duct tape, or other aluminum tapes in another way as well, it is extremely expensive. A roll of 2″ x 60 yard heavy duty duct tape will cost around US$6.00, a roll of 2-inch x 60 yard P-14 aluminum tape costs around US$10.00 and a roll of 2″ x 60 yard P12L speed tape set you back around US$178.00 a roll.


In some cases you may see 3M’s 8672 Protective Polyurethane Protective Tape, which will cost you around US$415 for a 6-inch x 36 yard roll of tape, despite the fact it looks like a US$4.00 roll of packing tape.

So, if you get on a plane and see tape on the exterior of the aircraft, know that your aircraft is not duct taped together. If you are a news producer putting together a segment based around a woman snapping a photo of tape on the exterior of an aircraft … don’t waste your precious airtime and consider focusing on real news that actually informs the public.

Happy Flying!



So You Think You Had A Rough Landing?

We’ve all flown on flights with rough landings, and heard stories from our friends, families and colleagues about flights they have taken with rough landings … but consider the challenge of landing a McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II on board a moving ship with no nose gear.

Below is a video of Captain William Mahoney, of the United States Marine Corps VMM 263 Squadron, landing his Harrier on the deck the USS Bataan with no nose gear on the 7th of June 2014.

Chances are this will cause you to pause a moment next time you think your flight had a rough landing.

Happy Flying!



Some Friday Flying Music … Foo Fighters Learn To Fly

Travel and music go hand in hand and sometimes you just need to laugh at the airline passenger experience … so … without further interruption, the Foo Fighters’ Learn To Fly.


Happy Flying!




Delta Works To Trademark “The World’s Most Trusted Airline”

Airlines, like all businesses, are protective of their image and work hard to promote their business, however Delta Air Lines may have recently taken marketing chutzpah to a whole new level.

Delta Air Lines is planning a new marketing campaign around the slogan “The World’s Most Trusted Airlines.” The new slogan poses some significant trust issues … on what basis is Delta saying they are the world’s most trusted airline?

Delta Air Lines is not winning JD Powers awards

Delta Air Lines is not topping the list with SkyTrax

Delta Air Lines is not the most on time airline

Delta Air Lines is not the safest airline

Delta Air Lines is not winning Freddie Awards

Delta Air Lines doesn’t have the lowest numbers for separated luggage

Delta Air Lines been named the Most Admired Company for the Airline Industry three times in four years by Fortune Magazine, but let us not confuse Admired and Trusted. Fortune has selected Delta Air Lines because of the airline’s financial strategies and business success. Delta should absolutely be admired for its business success … but does that make it “The World’s Most Trusted Airline”?  No.

While Delta is among the largest airlines in the world, with a massive global network, its brand recognition outside of the United States is lacking, even in foreign destinations it serves. When British Airways chose the slogan “The World’s Favourite Airline” in 1989 the airline had substantial global brand recognition, and it is a slogan people still associate with the airline, despite it being dropped in 2001.   In order for Delta Air Lines to use “The World’s Most … “ anything, it must first achieve real global brand recognition, something it has yet to do.

We can all debate who the most trusted airline in the world is, but some of those airlines that come to mind are not global airlines, so it is impossible for any airline to not only adopt the slogan of “The World’s Most Trusted Airline” much less live up to that hype.

Happy Flying!


The #TNI #Travel Chat Join Us Today To For China & The Legendary Silk Road

Clear your schedule for today, the 12th of June, at 3:30pm EDT (UTC-4) for a journey through culture and history as the weekly  Travelers’ Night In (#TNI) Travel Chat on Twitter explores China and The Legendary Silk Road with the Chinese National Tourism Office.


The Silk Road, which first became a travel route around 206 BCE, is one of the original travel journeys we as a global society have a record of, and that route continues today as travelers explore it in many ways.  Along the way travelers can travel by foot, boat, camel, train as they find the treasures of an ancient passage that has shaped global trade and international and intercultural travel .



The #TNI #Travel Chat, established in 2009, is the longest consistently running travel chat on Twitter, and its format is 10 questions, with a new question asked every 10 minutes for 90 minutes. We have a great community of regulars and encourage people to drop in for a topic they may enjoy, or of course keep coming back every week.


Joining the #TNI #Travel Chat is easy, simply follow the #TNI hashtag in your favourite Twitter application, or follow either @flyingwithfish or @Official_#TNI.   You can also follow #TNI’s fantastic regular co-hosts @petchmo@trvlinsalesgal or @jeromeshaw … and today follow @VisitChinaNow.


Have any questions?   Tweet me, I’d be happy to answer them.


Happy Flying and hope to see you at #TNI!



Who To Complain To About Baggage Policies & Fees … Not Who You’d Think

When you, the passenger, complain about checked baggage rules, carry on regulations and anything baggage related, do you know who oversees the regulations?  Probably not, because it is not one agency in the United States and the rules are not implemented in some cases by a regulatory governing body, only enforced by them


There is a very common misconception is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) oversees airline carry on baggage regulations, but this is incorrect. The TSA has absolutely nothing to do with carry on bags, aside from setting the passenger and baggage screening policy and carrying out or overseeing passenger and baggage screening.   When passengers send complaints to the TSA about their carry on baggage allowance those complaints are fruitless and waste of time and energy.


For those travelers who are unhappy with an airline’s checked baggage policy, the appropriate agency to complain to is the Department of Transportation (DOT), the parent agency of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  The DOT established and enforces the guidelines for checked baggage and belly cargo and handles the complaints for things placed under the aircraft. While airlines must adhere to strict safety and security policy for cargo and checked baggage, individual airlines have the ability to place their own checked baggage into effect, including size and weight limits.


If you’re a passenger upset with an airline’s carry on baggage policy, the agency that oversees cabin baggage is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) … however … the FAA only enforces the cabin baggage policy created by each individual airline.


Yes, you read that right; the FAA only enforces the carry on baggage policy created by each airline, which is then approved by the FAA.  The FAA steps in to enforce carry on baggage policy only if an airline violates its own policy that they themselves created.


If an airline’s baggage fees upset you, either for checked baggage or more recently cabin baggage, neither the FAA nor DOT has any regulatory oversight on those fees. Airlines may choose to charge for baggage or not charge for baggage, as well as decide the fee structure for baggage accepted onto their aircraft.


Ultimately if you are unhappy with an airline’s baggage policy or fees, the appropriate entity to complain to is the airline itself.


Happy Flying!