Its that time of the year again … the last hours of this year are dwindling fast … the end of the year is near.
Outside my window the snow has finally fallen, being whipped around in the wind, while at this moment friends in Australia are already three hours into the New Year having celebrated in shorts on a warm summer night. They are firmly in 2013 embracing the year to come while I am still reflecting on the year past.
My last blog post of 2012 sadly matches that of my first blog post, discussing the realities of theft from baggage. It is a topic I would love to stop writing about, but it is a problem that persists and I am sure will continue to be one covered on Flying With Fish until better theft security options become available.
In between the first and last posts, other things occurred … not just baggage thefts …
… for starters; The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) put into place the monitoring of journalists. Its not hard to monitor most journalists these days, with blogs, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, but starting this year the DHS’s National Operations Center, with Operations Coordination and Planning expanded the reach of its Social Network/Media Capability to actively monitor journalists. The overall implications of this still remain to be seen … but its one more notch in the belt for potentially restricting the voice of the media.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) made one of the stupidest denials for entry and deportations in the fairly extensive history of stupid decisions made in the DHS’s short history of existence. At the end of January the agency detained and deported Leigh Van Bryan at LAX, on holiday from England, due to his Tweets , “Free this week for a quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?” followed by a tweet stating “3 weeks today, we’re totally in LA pissing people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up!”
One tweet uses common British slang, the other is a quote from The Family Guy … good use of Section 515 of the Homeland Security Act (6 U.S.C. § 321d(b)(1)), which is intended to search for legitimate foreign and domestic threats.
In February the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) appeared before the House Appropriations Committee with a request that was odd … even for them … they requested a budget increase due to the screening of less checked baggage. Yes … they wanted more money to screen fewer bags.
The Olympics are a big deal, and the TSA wanted a piece of it … capitalizing on serious problems in Olympic Security staffing, the TSA sent staff to England to be present in airports but provide no security. All these months later I still have no idea why the agent sent personnel to England, and neither does the agency.
El Al, Israel’s National Flag Carrier made claims that were boggling, blaming everyone but themselves. When pressed by Israel’s Knesset Economic Affairs Committee as to why the airline was having financial difficulties the airline’s CEO stated “We are unable to join any alliance because we’re Jews, not due to any economic reason.” The CEO believes that anti-Semitism prevented them from joining an alliance.
For the auto enthusiast … how about drag racing a Jeep down the runway at Philadelphia International Airport, cutting off a landing jet airliner? Yea, I break out in a sweat just thinking about it. This story stuck in my mind all year for all sorts of reasons.
This year Air Zimbabwe’s soap opera, which I had been picking apart piece by piece for some time, came to a halt. The airline’s phantom aircraft orders turned out to be just phantom jet orders, its aircraft were repo’d and seized and despite the airline saying that everything was OK, everything came to a grinding halt. If anyone were to write an airline political drama, Air Zimbabwe would be the ideal case study for researching the plot line.
Amid international tension, sanctions and the sense of Iran vs The World, Iran Air once again managed to modernize its fleet. In 2010 the airline picked a fleet of Boeing MD-80 aircraft to replace Soviet era TU-154s, and this past March the airline picked up three Boeing 747-338s from Qantas. While these aircraft were originally delivered between 1985 and 1987 they are newer than the airline’s fleet of seven Boeing 747s delivered between 1976 and 1982.
As American Airlines works to emerge from bankruptcy, the airline’s major labour unions threw out a curve ball as they publicly announced their support for a US Airways bid to merge with American Airlines. American continues to see to exit bankruptcy as a standalone airline … but with labour supporting US Airways this is a complex juggernaut AMR needs to navigate.
Kuwait’s airline industry has been left behind by its neighbours. The country wants its airline to move forward but the process for privatizing Kuwait Airways is more complex than staring at an M.C. Escher drawing at 3:00am while on heavy duty pain killers … but the country managed to get something passed. Kuwait is spending US$6-billion to modernize and expand an airport while having no airline to fill the airport and no interested carriers in serving its expanded potential. You know if they have US$6,000,000,000 to spend on the airline industry they probably want to modernize and stabilize their airline first
Do you hate kids? Well if you do, Malaysia’s AirAsia X is the airline for you … as they rolled out a new Kids Free Zone on their long haul flights. No more crying babies for you.
Make all the jokes you want about Newark New Jersey, but here is a joke that is a real story. Newark’s Liberty International Airport had a dead man working in security for 20 years … but it isn’t what you think it is.
Typically any nation’s Presidential Pilots are loyal to their nation, their service, their President, but not two Captains in Eritrea’s Air Force assigned as President Isaias Afewerki’s private pilots. These two pilots had enough of their boss and defected with the Presidential aircraft … but where did they defect too? Saudi Arabia. What’s the funny part in all this? They defected in an Israeli aircraft.
Towards the end of the year, as the United States Congress works to pass laws somewhat quicker than the rest of the year, the lawmakers of the 112th Congress’ 2nd Session passed S. 3242, the “No Hassle Flying Act of 2012.” This new law sounds wonderful … except is does absolutely nothing to reduce the hassle of flying.
On a trivial note … you ever wonder why commercial airliners board from the left side? That was discussed also this year.
This year the aviation world lost two very influential people who spent time outside of this world … NASA Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride.
Neil Armstrong did far more than take “one small step for man one giant leap for mankind,” when he was the first person to walk on the moon. Neil Armstrong opened up horizons for generations of dreamers. When he stepped off that ladder it became known that we can do anything and the world was a better place because of his small step. Neil Armstrong took his final step into the unknown at the age of 82 on the 25th of August.
Sally Ride, not only the first American woman to orbit the earth, but also the youngest American Astronaut to go into outer space, was an inspiration to not only those who dream of the stars, but to girls growing up, knowing they can do anything they want. This year, as my daughter headed off to the US Coast Guard’s Aviation Day with her Girl Scout Troop, I introduced her to Sally Ride, her accomplishments and hoped who and what Sally Ride was would take root in my daughter’s mind. At the age of 61 Sally Ride headed for the stars one last time on the 23rd of July.
In my life, I lost my Dad on the 30th of January. I’ll miss calling him tonight asking him if he’s celebrating New Years at 8:00pm before going to bed just to get a laugh … I miss his laugh.
So … there goes another year, just like that in the blink of an eye.
Who knows what 2013 has in store for you, me and us?
Have A Happy and a Healthy New Year Everyone!