A Diversity Ethics Conundrum: Is It Plausible That Phil Washington Is Qualified To Head The FAA?

Phil Washington, President Biden’s nominee to head the Federal Aviation Administration, apparently knows absolutely nothing about aviation. He is black, however, and the Biden Administration has made it quite clear that that feature, virtually all by itself, can make an individual fully qualified for difficult and important government positions without any other indicia of special competence. [See: Karine Jean-Pierre, Kamala Harris et al.] In his testimony before Congress last week, Washington did not exactly dazzle with his answers to questions related to America’s civil aviation system. Senator Ted Budd (R-NC) received these responses to seven questions about basic aviation (in baseball terms, Washington was 0 for 7):

Budd: “What airspace requires an ADS-B transponder?”

Washington: “Not sure I can answer that question right now.”

Budd: “What are the six types of special use airspace that…appear on FAA charts?”

Washington: “Sorry, senator, I cannot answer that question.”

Budd: “What are the operational limitations of a pilot flying under BasicMed?”

Washington: “Senator, I’m…not a pilot.”

Budd: “But, obviously you’d oversee the Federal Aviation Administration, so any idea what those restrictions are under BasicMed?”

Washington: “Well, some of the restrictions I think would be high blood pressure some of them would be…”

Budd: “It’s more like how many passengers per airplane, how many pounds, and different categories, and what altitude you can fly under, and amount of knots — it’s under 250 knots — so, it’s not having anything to do with blood pressure.”

Budd: “Can you tell me what causes an aircraft to spin or to stall?”

Washington: “Again, senator, I’m not a pilot.”

Budd: “What are the three aircraft certifications the FAA requires as part of the manufacturing process?”

Washington: “Again, what I would say to that is that one of my first priorities would be to fully implement that Certification Act and report…”

Budd: “You know the three types?”

Washington: “No.”

Budd: “That’s type certificate, production certificate, and airworthiness certificate. Let’s just keep going and see if we can get lucky here. Can you tell me what the minimum separation distance is for landing and departing airliners during the daytime?”

Washington: “I don’t want to guess on that, senator.”

Budd: “Are you familiar with the difference between Part 107 and Part 44809 when it comes to unmanned aerial standards?”

Washington: “No, I cannot, uh, spell that out…”

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Lock ‘Em Up!

Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, a group of corporate managers and their lackeys will actually have to spend time in prison for killing people, instead of just reaching into company coffers and paying a fine. If that does happen to the Boeing villains, it might save a lot of lives.

Boeing negotiated an agreement with federal prosecutors allowing it to pay a fine of $2.5 billion instead of being prosecuted for killing the 300 passengers who didn’t know they were flying in a plane, the 737 Max that its makers knew was going to crash sooner or later, and probably sooner. The families of the victims of that crash opposed the settlement on the grounds that the government violated their rights by agreeing to it without consulting them first. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled last year that the victims were victims of a deadly crime so the government should have consulted with their heirs. This week, Judge O’Connor specifically ordered Boeing to present representatives for a criminal arraignment, meaning that he has rejected the settlement, and that there will be criminal charges after all.

Good.

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Observations On “Flight/Risk”…And Related Matters

“Flight/Risk,” an Amazon production, was released on the streaming service today. The documentary is the most recent examination of the tragedy and scandals surrounding the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max planes within a five month period in late 2018 and early 2019. The horrible and disturbing story  is narrated by Pulitzer-winning Seattle Times journalist Dominic Gates, and revealed from the perspective of the deceased passengers family members, their lawyers, and whistleblowers.

Amazon’s fatuous description of its own product, primarily designed to be a “trigger warning,” explains that the movie may be too traumatic to watch for “some” and says the planes crashed “without anyone really understanding why.” That is, to be blunt and vulgar, bullshit. Lots of people understood why, including Boeing engineers, Boeing executives, FAA officials, and anyone (like me) who knows why large organizations are almost always incompetent, unethical and untrustworthy. {Ethics Alarms has several posts about the 737 Max scandal.]

What is so infuriating about the story is that it is so familiar. This is the Challenger disaster all over again, even to the detail of a whistle-blowing engineer being punished for having the courage to speak up, and eventually killing himself. In other ways, it is like the recent Ernst and Young cheating scandal, which Ethics Alarms discussed here.

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Tales of The Great Stupid: The FAA And The Crash Video

One of the really, really bad ideas that has taken toxic root in Woke World, which includes the Biden administration, is that penalties and punishments are mean, and that the consequences of deliberate wrongdoing should be minimal even when the miscreant isn’t “of color.”

This will not, as they say, turn out well.

Last November, Trevor Jacob, a former Olympic snowboarder turned Youtube entrepreneur, crashed his small propeller airplane into the mountains of California’s Los Padres National Forest after the propeller stopped spinning. The exact moment when his plane’s propeller seized was caught on camera, as was his jump out of the airplane with a parachute. He used a selfie stick to film his descent. Three weeks later, Jacob posted a YouTube video titled “I Crashed My Plane.” It got over 2 million views. The video features Jacob narrating his brave trek out of the forest and his eventual rescue. “I’m just so happy to be alive!” Jacob exclaims at one point.

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