Aviation community demands action on alcohol to combat increase in ‘air rage’

“In a small metal tube 12,000 metres above the Earth no-one can help you,” said Martina Benkova, a Slovakian flight attendant who is now training crew in dealing with disruptive travellers. She was opening Dispax World, a conference held at Heathrow aimed at reducing the risks from unruly passengers – and crew.

The extent of in-flight disruption is increasing, according to the conference organiser, Philip Baum: “It is affecting 300-400 flights a week.” And the evidence at the conference is that alcohol is at the root of many potentially dangerous “air rage” incidents.

Problems begin on the ground, said Ms Benkova: “Ground staff don’t care if people are drinking at the airport – they just want to get rid of the problem.”

Carol Michel, a US lawyer representing airlines, said: “In Las Vegas, I see passengers wheel-chaired up to the door of the aircraft, because they’re too drunk to walk. I don’t think the bars and restaurants have any idea they are endangering the safety of that flight.”

But an aviation medicine specialist countered the widely held belief that drink has a heightened effect when flying. “It’s an urban myth that flying exacerbates the effect of alcohol. At cabin altitude there is no effect,” said Professor Michael Bagshaw from King’s College. However, he said some passengers who are fearful of flying are likely to turn to drink or drugs. He urged cabin crew to “avoid patronising or heavy-handed confrontation, and allow petty infractions to pass unchallenged.”

The desire for a cheap flight could be one reason for the rise in air rage, according to Professor Tom Baum of Strathclyde University: “The enthusiasm to get the cheapest possible flight to Australia means that people aren’t taking a stopover as they used to. If you’re at the end of your 24-hour tether, good behaviour can go out the window.” He said that changing social attitudes also had an effect:  “It’s not just alcohol – people’s expectations of entitlement puts a lot of pressure on front-line staff.”

Professor Baum said the best way to prevent disruptive incidents was to talk to passengers: “Give space and time to engage with them. Rage is much less likely with your ‘friend’ than with an anonymous uniform.”

Rebekah Tanti-Dougall, a lawyer from Malta, condemned the lack of resolve among airlines to prosecute “air rage” offenders – choosing instead just to give them a written warning. “Any passenger who poses any threat should not be treated lightly.”

 More informations

Airbus electric aircraft takes to the skies

Imagine taking a peaceful flight, gliding along without much noise or any fuel, effortlessly descending into the airport without a trace of emissions.

Sounds like a dream? It is. But one we can imagine in the not-so-distant future.

E-Fan, the brainchild of parent Airbus Group, is a prototype hybrid electric motor glider which will first be used for training pilots for their license at a school in Bordeaux, France, by 2017.

It debuted with its first public test flight in April 2014, and the two-seater electric aircraft is powered by two batteries, producing 60 kilowatts of power, which will be able to run for half an hour.

The E-Fan has been a continuous journey of evolution, says chief technical officer Jean Botti. “This is a learning curve to get to the big ones in the future.”

It started five years ago when Airbus Group experimented with the Cri-Cri, a tiny plane based on the 1970s Cri-Cri, one of the smallest twin-engine planes in history.

Besides the benefits of noise and emissions reduction, the reduced cost of training pilots with the E-Fan is incredible, says Botti. It costs about two cents per hour to fly the electric plane, a number which is up to 20-50 times cheaper than the normal fuel costs of today’s aircraft, he says.

Ultimately, these savings will get passed on to the customer, explained Botti, as the electric-powered flight training becomes a reality.

What’s ahead for electric?

Eventually, the company has its eye on building planes for regional flights, with up to 90 people flying for three hours, although this is still 15-20 years away, says Botti.

“We’re not talking about replacing the A380,” he says. But the shorter-term goals also include helicopters with hybrid electric technology.

For Airbus Group, much of the investment is being mobilized by the European Commission’s “Flightpath 2050” which aims to cut aircraft CO2 emissions by 75%, and noise levels to be reduced by 65% from their 2000 levels.

The goal is to make tens to hundreds of these planes, and Airbus Group says it will be designed by schools with apprenticeship programs in order to help raise up the new engineers of tomorrow.

The biggest challenge for E-Fan is developing new energy storage. “We cannot afford to stay with the state of batteries today. We need to go much higher in terms of efficiency,” says Botti, adding that the company’s new research center in Munich, Germany, will have the capacity to do just that.

Alternative planes take off

It’s not just Airbus looking to alternative aircraft to help save energy, cut fuel consumption and reduce noise.

There are several others developing alternative aircraft with their own success. Recently, the Solar Impulse 2, a fully solar-powered aircraft, was unveiled by a Swiss duo which will attempt to fly non-stop for 120 hours without any fuel next year.

Made of carbon fiber, its predecessor, Solar Impulse, smashed aviation records as it succeeded in the first solar-powered overnight flight, lasting 26 hours in 2010.

Another creation is the Dutch-designed, German-built Antares 23E, an electric aircraft with 23-meter wings which can glide for 60 kilometers (37 miles). The Antares 23E can climb to 3,500 meters on a single battery charge.


 More informations

Students learn about aviation at local airport field trip

Students gained a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how an airport functions earlier this week, as the Yellowstone Airport invited local classrooms out for a day of fun in the world of aviation.

Yellowstone Airport manager Jeff Kadlec came up with the idea of a field trip for local students, and had Dave Hoerner and Stefani DeMars come down from the Montana Aeronautics Division in Helena to let the youngsters try out a flight simulator and sit in the cockpit of a Cessna 206, while giving each student a toy plane to take home.

Hoerner serves as the head safety and education bureau chief for the Montana Aeronautics Division, traveling around much of Montana for clinics all year. They do this, in part, to spread aviation awareness.

“We work a lot with kids to try to build awareness in aerospace and aviation,” Hoerner said. “In little towns they don’t get introduced to aviation, so we let them realize what aviation does. It’s not just a pilot, there’s a lot more to do in aviation than just flying. We’re trying to spark a little interest.”

Students in Shelley Johnson’s first-grade class and Jeanne Hoskins’ second-grade class came out for the morning, while Sarah Hanson’s sixth-grade class spent the afternoon at the airport.

As Johnson and Hoskins’ classes arrived, students first watched a short film, followed by hands-on time with a flight simulator. Later, students met with on-site Transportation Security Administration officers to learn about the various machines, scanners and technology they utilize to keep air travelers safe.

After individually weighing themselves on the airport baggage scale, students headed out onto the runway to meet with Air Idaho Rescue staff and get a close peek at a Bell 407 helicopter.

Before wrapping up the half-day excursion, Kadlec helped each student board a Cessna 206 airplane. This allowed youngsters to explore all the controls and pretend they were flying, if only for a moment.

Hoerner and DeMars assembled a free toy airplane for each student to take home, and many tested out their new set of wings on the runway before enjoying an ice cream treat to end the trip.

Kadlec says bringing students out to the airport helps show children how the airport works, while also introducing them to a possible career path.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids to be exposed to aviation at their own airport,” he said. “I think they hard fun; children are intrigued with flight.”

Kadlec says he became interested in aviation in a similar way as a child.

“I fell in love with aviation as a young child going to air shows,” he said. “If they catch the aviation bug, it’s a cool industry to get into.”

The airport manager says he looks to continue hosting field trips on an annual basis, as he wants all the students to eventually experience a similar field trip.

The airport also recently held an art competition with the school, where the top student art in each grade from K-6 will be put on display in the terminal throughout the airport’s summer season. Art being displayed includes the area’s wildlife, thermal features and landscapes.

 More informations