Well no wonder that we now use the phrase flight attendant to describe those hard working folks who run about before during and after a commercial flight.
Stewardess – a ten letter word. Six more than four.
Apparently its also the longest word in English typed just with the left hand. Try it at home, kids.
Imagine a court case where two stewardesses claim the other has committed libel in 1954. A typewriter does not have copy and paste, so the cramping in the left flexor muscle would have been severe as the court scribe pounded away. Think about the extensor digitorum which is a classic antagonist to the flexor muscles and is based in the forearm.
That means when you stick the middle finger up in the air, your flexor muscle is antagonised by your extensor digitorum.
While considering this incredible fact, its time to drop another list into the plethora of listicles spreading like a pool of warm custard across the ether. Some arbitrary facts on the listicle could include:
American Airlines slashed $40,000 from costs by removing one olive from each salad served in first class.
The Wing-span of the Airbus A380 is longer than the aircraft itself. Wingspan: 80m, Length: 72.7m.
As the commercial airliner climbs, the cabin atmosphere dries out your nose and eyes and as altitude increases, around one third of your taste buds are numbed. You feel like more salt and pepper. And not just your hair.
The internet & on-line check-in was first used by Alaska Airlines in 1999.
In the 1930s The first women flight attendants were required to weigh no more than 115 pounds, be nurses and un-married. In those days they were called stewardesses.
A single window frame of a Boeing 747-400’s cockpit costs as much as a BMW.
After some thought, its also time to analyse two words, the left-hand cramping stewardess and the far more diverse, flight attendant. Here are two definitions:
A woman who performs the duties of a steward; especially: one who attends passengers (as on an airplane). Merriam-Webster 2018.
I collect dictionaries. Here are a few other definitions of stewardess.
A female waiter on shipboard . Websters Complete Dictionary 1882.
A female steward specifically a woman employed in passenger vessels to attend to the wants of female passengers. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary 1913.
A female steward, specifically a woman employed on shipboard to attend passengers, esp women and children. Webster’s New International Dictionary 1934.
B. Flight Attendant/In-flight crew member
Aperson who attends passengers on an airplane.
So not much history there – or is there?
The first the first flight attendant was a German man called Heinrich Kubis who first attended the passengers on board the DELAG Zeppelin in 1912. He also attended to the famous Hindenburg and was on board when it burst into flames and survived by jumping out a window as it dropped to the ground.
But things have changed over the years. For example, in the USA (and many others countries) in the 1950s, stewardesses had to be registered nurses or have at least two years in college behind them.
Appearance was very important and eventually the concept came to represent models in the sky. In the 1950s Stewardesses had to be female, between the ages of 21 and 26, between 5 feet 2 inches and 5 feet 6 inches tall and weigh no more than 135 pounds.
So the idea of stewardess emanated from the shipping world, where the derivation results from the international British maritime tradition dating back to the 14th century and the civilian US Merchant Marine.
So the first stewardess was actually a steward who was also a flight attendant.
Kenya is the second country in Africa to launch a Cargo Drone service after South Africa with Rwanda following shortly if officials there get their way. Ethiopia is also drafting drone regulations so things are looking up in UAV land.
Astral Aviation based in Nairobi says it wants to become the largest operator of cargo drones and as Amazon and other digital companies compete internationally in this space, entrepreneurs are lining up.
At this stage, drones are heavily used in South Africa and in Kenya along with Mauritius, but many other countries remain drone-free, at least officially.
Astral’s offering includes three drones with the largest called the FlyOx which is a $1.5m behemoth that can carry 2200kg’s more than 1,300 kilometres. That means the drone could fly cargo between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The FlyOx is manufactured by Singular Aircraft which is designed and built in Barcelona, Spain. It’s first flight was on May 16, 2015 at the airport in Hofn, Iceland and it is now signing with aviation companies worldwide. The name FlyOx is really ironic, considering that one of the main modes of transport in the olde days was the ox wagon.
Here are the FlyOx specs.
Wing span 14 Mts
Overall lenght 11.50 Mts
Tail height 3.60 Mts
Max. weight 4,000 Kg
Landing gear retractable tail-wheeler
Landing surfaces Sea and Land
Basic empty weight 2,200 Kg
Payload 1,850 Kg
Take off roll 750 Mts
Landing roll 540 Mts
Rate of climb @ Vy 2,000 Ft/min
Rate of climb 1 engine operating 440 Ft/min
VNE 142 Kts
V. cruiser at 75% power 126 Kts
V. cruiser at 65% power 103 Kts
Max. Operational altitude 24,000 Ft
The smaller drones will carry between 5 and 10kg objects for shorter distances.
In South Africa, drone companies have been targeting mines and agriculture, but the Kenyans are planning to offer services to gas and oil companies, along with these other two sectors.
With roads and railways in Africa still grappling with major underdevelopment, the Cargo Drone is another aviation solution that could escalate quite quickly.
With a price tag that is not for the faint hearted, but given its payload, this aircraft is expected to become a standard cargo carrier operating in East Africa – if certified by the country’s aviation association.
SAA needs R20 billion to make it to 2021. That’s the amount of cash it requires for operations which is only R1bn less than Mpumalanga’s entire annual education budget. So let’s sink back into our bottom-scarring sardine-sized economy class seats and ruminate on possible SAA scenarios. If you’re South African place story over mouth and nose because your tax money is involved.
1. Business Continues
Note: This option is highly unlikely.
SAA is in the throes of proving constantly that it is a “going concern” and this doesn’t mean its going like a Boeing. No, going concern is simply having enough cash flow and dosh to continue paying workers, suppliers, international ATC and apron costs, landing fees, fuel and the large number of over paid executives who burgeoned like flies on a dying Pterodactyl courtesy of previous political deployment (PPD).
The problem is, the Auditor General has publicly warned that SAA is “not a going concern”.
Truth A: Shamble Air
SAA is technically bankrupt and had it not been a “national” airline bailed out repeatedly by politicians, it would have been shut down two years ago. Called on by parliament to explain the shocking state of affairs, former Board Chair Dudu “wake me up before you go-go” Myeni immediately disappeared into the humid air of Richards Bay like exploding methane from a hot sphincter.
I digress. Here then is the latest SAA spreadsheet:
R3.7-billion loss for the period 2016/17 which is 71% higher than the budgeted R2.2-billion loss.
Year-to-date costs were R561-million above budget
SAA is forecasting a loss of R4.8-billion for 2017-18 as well as in the 2018-19 financial year
International sales declined 9% (R816-million)‚ regional sales 2% (R91-million) and domestic sales 16% (R617-million)
Maintenance costs 19% (R580-million) above budget‚ energy 3% (R173-million) above budget & labour 2% (R79-million) above budget.
If SAA was a proper company, the thundering noise you’d be hearing would be heads rolling down OR Tambo International arrival hall as overpaid deployee’s were dispatched by Excel spreadsheet waving Financial Viking Pravin Gordhan.
On the Wednesday 2nd May Gordhan told a joint parliamentary sitting of the portfolio committee on finance and public enterprises that he plans to locate the moolah funnelled out of these State owned Entities including names, dates and receipts.
Importantly, Gordhan also will change the way boards are appointed because they’ve become willing partners in state capture he said. Myeni enveloped in her invisibility cloak and others will be watching with some disquiet.
We await the moment of rolling heads with baskets.
Truth B: Tax the poor to pay the deployed
No-one but government is willing to give this airline a few billion rands for its perennial begging bowl. So taxpayers – get ready. Most of you will never fly SAA but you’re going to be coughing up just so that some cadre deployed underdeveloped space cadet can wallow about the world pointing his/her latest hot thing at the SAA colours emblazoned upon a tail making grandiose statements like “I have an airline in Africa” and “Look Bushbuckridge unemployed are paying for my First class seat through the increase in VAT, they must be proud”.
2. Private Sale
Note: This scenario is unlikely
Who wants this debt-ridden Pterodactyl of the modern aviation marketplace?
All you get is an over staffed fat, waddling and decrepit carcass, full of angry newly entitled folks who will strike if you try deal with the debt after purchase. There are a few possible purchasers knocking about, but the government of South Africa is facing a classic ideological conundrum.
To state-own or not to state-own, that is the question.
State owned enterprises may be undergoing an operational reboot thanks to President Cyril Ramaphosa and his gifted special force financial Viking Enforcer, Pravin Gordhan the Excoriator, but its hard to remove rotten staff when they’re embedded like maggots inside the eviscerated bodies of SoEs.
Truth A: Protect staff = no sale
How much is SAA really worth?
Given its financial report: R1.
That’s because the BIG problem at SAA is its debt. So any new buyer gets a name, a few leased aircraft, and the fun of facing political overlords called NUMSA et al with their union-leader purchased BMW Z3s and 5% per worker protection racket.
No chance of reality there. So any buyer is really not getting more than some great pilots and cabin and ground crew and a few ageing airliners. And a very nice logo.
Truth B: Groans about loans
SAA says after making huge losses for the next 2 years, its long-term strategy will lead to a profit in 2021.
But what happens to all these tax payer loans? These politically inspired bits of billions poured into our symbolic national airline? Written off? Sorry taxpayer. Nix back.
The challenge of strangely structured employment contracts and onerous agreements are SAA’s millstone, but any new buyer would be forced to honour these. No go zone for proper investors.
3. Liquidate and Relaunch
Note: This is the most likely scenario
And thus, we have come to the only solution for SAA. When a company like SAA reaches the financial point of no return, an obvious option is to liquidate and relaunch. This has happened many times in recent years across the world of aviation.
Truth A: Bankrupt airlines can recover
The following airlines have been relaunched with most operations intact:
Swiss Air – liquidated then bought by Cross Air who relaunched Swiss Air Swiss International, now resold (with a profit!) to Lufthansa. Jobs saved. Well mostly.
Sabena Air – the Belgian government bailed out the national airline, then tired of this folly and let it be liquidated. Brussels Airline took over (owned by the Brussels Provincial government) made a profit and .. yes .. you guessed it .. sold to Lufthansa. Some jobs saved.
Austrian Airlines – Bankrupted in 2008 and sold by its owner, the Austrian Government. A year later, yes the big boys of Europe, the Lufthansa Group purchased the airline after the deal was scrutinised by the EU. A few jobs saved.
Truth B : Sometimes they can’t
Alitalia – Italy’s national airline. The Italian government allowed Alitalia to file for bankruptcy in May 2017. Its up for sale by auction and remains so. This is the most likely option for SAA, with a long-drawn out negotiation as the pilots leave for Emirates et al, skilled maintenance engineers phone Beijing and cabin crew and ground crew are snapped up by Emirates, Qatar, etc etc. They don’t know what to do with the jobs.
Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) – Once the symbol of commercial passenger aviation Pan Am actually helped launch the International Air Transport Association (IATA) but in the 1970s the rot set in. This was linked to deregulation and like SAA, it was a behemoth unable to cope with the lithe competitors. However it took one moment to permanently ground the airline – the 1988 Lockerbie disaster of Pan Am Flight 103, when Libyan terrorists planted a bomb that led to the deaths of all 243 passengers on board. Pan Am died in 1991. No jobs saved.
If SAA was a person, the family would be sorting out final matters and thinking about flowers and the cost of a casket. Sorry, much as I emotionally support my national airline, the reality is this beautiful story of Africa’s best Airline for well over 50 years will most likely end up being bankrupted, reconditioned and relaunched.
The other terrible truth which must be whispered is that times have changed. Kenya and Ethiopia are geographically located to steal SAA’s thunder. These two countries are placed on the lucrative East West routes meaning they can tap into trans-continental passenger and cargo routes. They can actually compete with Dubai for example, particularly Ethiopia.
Will SAA continue to dwell in the past as deployed cadres take turns through the boardroom turnstile, hustling to make a quick buck while the creditors pick apart the airline carcass, or will there be real hope and change?
Another aviation hero has emerged folks. Her name is Tammie Jo Shults and is being lauded after a Boeing 737 suffered a catastrophic un-contained engine failure as the aircraft headed west over the south side of New York at about 32,200ft doing around 850kph. Her fighter pilot training skills are believed to have helped as she and the First Officer fought to stabilise the plane as it lurched in the sky and then landed at Philadelphia International Airport.
Captain Shults was one of the first women fighter pilots in the US Navy and had the skill to land the lurchy F-18 fighter jet at over 300kph on the deck of a pitching aircraft carrier.
Her calmness and her ability to deal with the emergency really settled the passengers down while the cabin crew apparently were panicking. She came over the tannoy to soothe passengers and after the touch done, walked around the cabin making all her pax feel better.
When Tammie Jo Shults wanted to learn to fly she was told that the Air Force didn’t accept girl pilots. But she fought this perception and initially studied medicine while continuing to apply at the Air Force, then the US Navy. Eventually she was welcomed into the flying programme and became one of the first female F-18 pilots.
She went on to become an instructor before leaving the Navy in 1993 and joining Southwest.
When the Southwest Airlines flight 1380 lost its port engine, she immediately told ATC that part of the plane was missing and she was making an emergency landing at Philadelphia Airport.
“So we have a part of the aircraft missing so we’re going to need to slow down a bit,” was her understated comment.
Here is the audio recording of the conversation she had with ATC which indicates just what a cool character Ms Shults is.
Unfortunately the bits of engine shattered a window and a passenger was partially dragged out before other passengers grabbed her and pulled her back into the cabin.
The passenger has been named as Jennifer Riordan who died as a result of injuries sustained. Seven other passengers were also injured. Riordan was seated in 14A which is just forward of the wing trailing edge.
What is being questioned now is why the reinforced ring around the engine which is supposed to contain bits of titanium alloy fan when the turbine destroys itself did not work effectively.
Its not the first South West Airlines event attributed to what looks like metal fatigue of the fan blade root. But its nice to know that should this happen again, pilots like Tammie Jo Shults are in the front of the plane.
“They’re in the simulator and practice emergency descents … and losing an engine … They did the job that professional airline pilots are trained to do,” National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt is quoted as saying.
The airline says it has now ordered inspections of all similar engines.
“The accelerated inspections are being performed out of an abundance of caution and are expected to be completed over the next 30 days. The accelerated checks are ultrasonic inspections of fan blades of the CFM56 engines,” it said in a statement.
The heat is coming off the aviation sector in the United Arab Emirates and not because of the desert. No its far more deadly. The UAE has accused Qatari fighter jets of flying close to Emirate Civilian aircraft during scheduled commercial flights, endangering the passengers.
UAE Civil Aviation Authority DG Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi has filed a formal complaint with both the UN and ICAO.
In a statement he said :
“These aggressive actions by Qatar against UAE civilian aircraft are considered deliberate violations of international covenants and conventions governing civil aviation and are a threat to the safety of civil aviation. The UAE outright rejects these acts.”
But what is really behind all this hot air is something that is really serious. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have decided to shut down Qatar for a long list of perceived terror links. At least that’s the formal notice. The informal reality is that passengers on Emirates Flights may be blissfully unaware of just how dangerous these air lanes are right now.
Swirling around the desert air are allegations of various sorts. Qatar is a one-party state run by conservative clerics who are accused of funnelling cash to extremists while hosting friendly media.
In the latest spat, Qatari fighter jets apparently flew close to two UAE civilian aircraft and in January, a similar incident is reported to have taken place when a Qatar jet flew in front of two other planes. At least that’s according to the UAE.
In January, Qatar complained to the United Nations saying that a UAE jet flew into their airspace on December 21st.
Then in January, the UAE said two civilian flights carrying 277 passengers were intercepted by Qatari military aircraft while preparing to land at Bahrain International Airport.
It all began in June 2017 when Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Middle East cut diplomatic ties with Qatar which immediately pushed up the price of oil. You know how commodity speculators work, any sign of a hitch and they’re all off shorting the world’s crude.
But its all very serious. Qatar is accused of funding extremism in the Middle East and Africa. Everything in the UAE and Qatar and Saudi Arabia is controlled by these country’s governments, including the much touted al-Jazeera network broadcasting from Qatar. Despite its claims of independence, it has shied away from probing the Qatar government too closely, while digging deeply into Egypt, the U.S.A, Israel etc etc.
But this is an aviation blog, so I digress.
Riyadh had criticised Doha for supporting Iran and Islamist organisations accused of destabilising the Middle East. Then a mysterious cyber attack threw a digital spanner in the works in May 2017. The State-run Qatar News Agency was attacked by hackers who posted articles that were confused but clearly sought to damage Doha’s image.
At the time, Qatar issued a statement accusing Saudi Arabia of being behind the hacks but before they could sort this out, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen cut all diplomatic ties with Qatar.
They also cut all land, sea and air links while recalling their diplomats.
In the midst of this caterwailing the UAE said pointedly that Qatar supported “terrorist, extremist and sectarian organisations”. Not that the UAE is not itself a conduit for dirty cash, with its loose attention to money transfers that South Africans know only too well. Given the Gupta-links and the ease at which they managed to pull their cash out of South Africa and directly into Dubai-linked bank accounts.
While the UAE and Qatar spar with each other, the reality of what belies this clash is almost insurmountable because it involves religion. Qatar and Turkey are a known link with Islamic extremists and organisations that other Middle Eastern countries believe are terror-linked. These include the Muslim Brotherhood which Egypt has banned but Qatar supports. Saudi Arabia and Qatar also support extremist groups in Syria, although both deny any links.
Yet Qatar mediates between countries and terror organisations including the release of US soldier Bowe Bergdahl captured by the Taliban. Doha was the go-to country which could be relied on when it came to Taliban links. Whatever your freedom fighter/terrorist belief system, the real story is a real danger to aviation.
And because Etihad is government sponsored, and Emirates too, neither of these airlines is willing to respond to journalists inquiries about these dangers. Government said say nothing so neither will they.
These are airlines which are subsidised and are not operating on a level playing field so their very livelihood depends on towing the government line. The aviation industry in general in both Qatar and the UAE is central to the perception that they have a vibrant economy and are modern. They both boast about being able to attract the best pilots and cabin crew and operate the latest aircraft. Their business models are based on being an connecting region for flights from Africa, Latin America, South East Asia, Australasia and Europe.
So enjoy your flights onboard Emirates and Etihad folks, because if this conflict gets any worse, these state-subsidised airlines may find themselves caught up in the diplomatic war more regularly and that’s really dangerous.
Qatar Airlines already flies a circuitous route to avoid Saudi and UAE airspace which is adding millions of dollars to its operating costs.
This issue is a small step away from a major event.
Oh the delight that filled my ears last night as I flew ZS-PWO around the circuit for a dual check with Darius. For dear reader, a Dave Clark H10-13.4 headset had found its way onto my noggin.
Firstly, the Cirrus SR22 has a loud engine. It is a Continental 310 HP Engine fronted by a 3-blade Hartzell propellor which tears through the air pulling the craft of beauty at a cruise speed of 170 knots, or 315 kph which is, in the words of the Bard, SENDING IT.
For those bereft of a proper upbringing, SENDING IT means going really fast.
There will be many, many thousands of pilots who scoff at my “going really fast” comment because compared to a Gulfstream G650 which cruises at Mach 0.885 or 1 093 kph, its not.
But for a PPL who loves aviating at night its sufficiently quick to keep you busy.
Back to the noggin-covering David Clark headset. After almost ten years of aviating about South Africa wearing a Sennheiser lightspeed, it was time for an upgrade. I have read quite a bit recently about how really good quality headsets save your hearing. Being 55 years old this is becoming more important by the day. Not that the Sennheiser is a shoddy piece of kit, but we have to understand scales of effectiveness.
Like all bits of hardware, the trade off is in the price. Whereas the Sennheiser costs around R2.8k the David Clark’s are R7k.
Yes, a significant difference. And so too in their quality. I shall now bore the living daylights out of non pilots and post their specifications :
Universal flex boom for perfect microphone placement
Exclusive M-7A, the most advanced noise-cancelling microphone available
Low-profile volume control knob with detent settings
Molded cord assembly made to exceptional pull and flex standards
5-Year Warranty, Made in USA
FAA TSO Approved C-57b, C58a
Exceeds RTCA/DO-214 Standards
Weight (without cord assembly): 16.5 oz.
Certified Noise Reduction Rating – 23 dB
What all of these bullet points don’t tell you, is just how comfortable the headset feels. When you’re flying for hours at a time in various temperatures, its vital to feel as comfortable as possible.
At this point in my aviating career I’m forced to wear spectacles at night and in low light. The headphones slot neatly over the arms of the spectacles and shut out the sound.
The remarkable thing in today’s world is that these headphones are not manufactured in China or Vietnam on behalf of a name brand. They’re 100% built in the U.S.A. and as with other quality goods like the Harley Davidson or my Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster, there’s no comparison to plastic rubbish.
David Clark’s are steel and double foam topped, its microphone cover is soft and .. um .. cuddly .. and all around I’m one very happy chap. Furthermore, the brand has been linked to incredible feats of aviation.
For example they developed pressure suits used on the Red Bull Stratos programme where Felix Baumgartner performed his famous record-breaking free fall in 2012. The company began producing aviation products in 1941, including the first standard anti-G suits used by allied fighter pilots during World War II.
My Sennheiser’s are now the spare which passengers who deign to come fly on board the good ship Cirrus SR22 can experience while I indulge in “Clarking”.
Passengers aboard Emirates flight EK730 which had just landed at Uganda’s Entebbe airport on Wednesday are alleging a female cabin crew member jumped out of an Emergency Exit holding a glass under her chin.
She died after plunging three storeys to the apron. The woman was reported dead on arrival at a local hospital. But what happened just before she either jumped or fell is causing intense speculation. Emirates has issued a terse statement saying that a cabin crew member :
“appeared to have opened the emergency door and unfortunately fell off an Emirates aircraft that had safely landed and parked …”
The badly injured flight attendant was photographed lying crumpled on the tarmac before she was taken to hospital where she was declared DOA.
Capital FM in Uganda reported that “…an Emirates Air hostess commits suicide at Entebbe International Airport…” and was rushed to Kisubi Hospital. All social media reports from passengers on board are very clear, however, what set off this incident.
The attendant had apparently had been involved in a loud verbal altercation with other crew members and they say she then deliberately opened the door with a glass held under her throat and jumped.
Emirates prides itself on its diverse cabin and flight crew drawn from all over the world. However, having flowing this airline a few times, I’ve often noted tension between crew members, particularly between males and females from different nationalities. There are totally different people and despite the airlines’ attempt at using its own corporate culture as the basis of operations, these kinds of tensions are inevitable.
On one flight to the U.S. in 2016 one of the cabin crew was quite rude when they ran out of custom forms (I like sitting at the back). When I complained she just walked away. Another crew member from New Zealand overheard and went to locate a form. The initial crew member was from Malaysia and didn’t seem to understand how to think laterally. She also seemed to think she was doing me a favour instead of doing her job, while the New Zealander was just trying to make things work.
In a terse statement the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority said an investigation is under way into the cause of the crew members death and repeated the Emirates quote:
“A female member of the crew appeared to have opened the emergency door and unfortunately fell off an Emirates aircraft that had safely landed and parked.”
Russian Gold Falls From the Sky
In other aviation news today which is somewhat bizarre, 3.4 tonnes of gold fell onto the runway at Yakutsk during the aircraft’s takeoff. The AN-12 was carrying the 20kg gold bars which shifted on take-off and smashed through the fuselage leaving a gaping hole.
The aircraft made an emergency landing 12 kilometres away at the Magan airfield and the remaining gold, reportedly 8.7 tonnes of the yellow stuff, was safe. The aircraft was also carrying platinum and diamonds and had made a refuelling stop in Yakutsk. All 172 gold bars that fell out were recovered.
No-one was prepared to say exactly where the gold and treasure emanated.