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23 May 2008

Fear of Flying - A Basic Overview

This podcast about the fear of flying and how people are affected by this type of anxiety was first published on 23 May 2008. The transcript of the podcast, as well as a link to the MP3 audio file for the podcast, is available at

Fear of flying is a complex psychological issue, one that has been made more complex by the security concerns of the last few years. There are many books, videos, and other resources that deal with the fear of flying, so deciding what may work for you may be a difficult process.

The podcast provides a basic definition of what fear of flying is, and points out that a fear of flying may be caused by a number of factors that have no direct connection with an aircraft flight.

The podcast also provides list of symptoms or behaviors that may indicate if a person may be affected by a fear of flying.

If you would like more details about this podcast and about the fear of flying, please use the links below:

Podcast Audio (MP3)

Podcast Transcript

Fear of Flying Overview

Signs that You May Have Fear of Flying

Selected Fear of Flying Resources

21 May 2008

Investigation Update #4 for the British Airways 777 Crash of 17 January 2008

This is the fourth update from on the ongoing investigation into the accident at London's Heathrow Airport involving a British Airways 777. This update is based on information released by the AAIB the week of 11 May 2008.

This article is based on the podcast published on 20 May 2008. The podcast, available at http:/, presents the highlights of the most recent update from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch concerning the status of the investigation. There is a brief review of the details of the accident, followed by a discussion of the new information provided by the AAIB report, and an analysis of the progress of the investigation.

The accident aircraft was a scheduled international flight from Beijing, China to London, England, and the flight was routine until about two miles from touchdown. The engines would not respond to commands to increase thrust, and as a result the aircraft touched down about 1000 feet short of the runway. There was a significant fuel leak, but no post-crash fire. All 136 passengers and 16 crew members were able to successfully evacuate the aircraft, and the most serious injury was a broken leg suffered by one passenger.

The three previous AAIB updates in January and February 2008 provided detailed information about the flight, including the state of the fuel and fuel systems, and the condition of the engines and their associated control systems. You'll find details about the previous updates, as well as links to previous podcasts describing the accident sequence, at

For the last several months, the AAIB has focused on the fuel and fuel systems of the aircraft. Extensive examination of the aircraft and detailed analysis of information from the flight data recorder and other onboard recording systems have revealed no evidence of an aircraft or engine control system malfunction.

The fuel was extensively tested, and showed no evidence of contamination or excessive water content. Although the aircraft had experienced very cold temperatures, the fuel temperature remained well above freezing. Detailed examination of the fuel system revealed a loose connection in one of the fuel lines as well as the presence of small pieces of debris, but these conditions led to no unusual deterioration or physical blockages.

The ongoing investigation has also found no evidence that a wake vortex encounter, bird strike, engine icing, or electromagnetic interference played a role in the accident. The focus of the investigation continues to be the fuel system and the engines, with the goal of understanding why neither engine responded to demands for increased power even though all of the engine control functions operated normally.

Under the direction of the AAIB, the engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and the aircraft manufacturer Boeing are conducting further tests on the engines and fuel system with the goal of replicating the fuel system performance seen in the accident flight. Additional work is being conducted to gain a more complete understanding of the dynamics of the fuel as it flows from the tank to the engine.

No individual parameter associated with the accident flight was outside of previous operating experience. However, the AAIB is using a data analysis team to review data from a large sample of flights on similar aircraft to see if there was a combination of parameters that was outside of previous experience.

Unlike the last AAIB interim report issued in February 2008, this report did not contain any recommended operational changes for the 777.

I'd like to take a moment to share my opinion about the progress of this investigation. This crash investigation has not yet come up with an explanation for what happened. This is in spite of having a largely intact aircraft, a large volume of data from the accident aircraft and comparison data from similar flights, and the combined resources the engine manufacturer, the aircraft manufacturer, and the British government. This probably means that if the AAIB does come up with an explanation for why the accident happened, the explanation will include a combination of circumstances that had not been previously anticipated by aircraft designers or aircraft operators.

The suggestions made in previous podcasts about how to evaluate what's being published about this investigation are still valid .

If you're interested in following the investigation online or in the news media, keep in mind that prior to the completion of the investigation by the AAIB, anyone outside of the investigation, including aviation safety experts and the largest news media organizations, will have access only to a fraction of the relevant information.

The AAIB will likely provide several more updates prior to publishing a final report, and these updates represent the most authoritative sources of information about the ongoing investigation.

Podcast Audio and Video
Audio: MP3 | VideoiPod/MP4 | WMV | Google Video | YouTube

Podcast Transcript

Additional Accident Details and Related Podcasts

12 May 2008

Revised Bumping Compensation Shortchanges Passengers

by Dr. Todd Curtis

As of May 19, 2008, passengers will get additional protection from the Department of Transportation in the form of an increase in the maximum allowable compensation for passengers who are delayed due to being bumped, or involuntarily removed from a flight due to overbooking. This is the first increase in the maximum compensation in 30 years. Unfortunately for passengers, this increase in benefits does not keep up with inflation. What may upset passengers even more is that the DOT was well aware of what it would have taken to keep up with inflation, but chose not to do so.

Currently in the U.S., most passengers who are involuntarily bumped are eligible for denied boarding compensation. If the airline can arrange alternate transportation that is scheduled to arrive at the passenger’s destination within one hour of the original planned arrival time of the overbooked flight, no compensation is required. If the airline can’t do that, there are specific kinds of compensation that airlines are required to provide to passengers, including cash compensation.

If the alternate transportation is scheduled to arrive between one and two hours after the original planned arrival (between one and four hours on international flights), the compensation equals 100% of the passenger’s one way fare to his or her next stopover or final destination, with a $200 maximum additional cash compensation . If the airline cannot get a passenger to the destination airport within two hours (four hours on international flights), the compensation rate doubles to 200% of the passenger’s one-way fare, with a $400 maximum additional cash benefit. This compensation is in addition to the value of the passenger’s ticket, which he or she can use for alternate transportation or have refunded if not used.

The last time the rule was substantially changed was in 1982, and the last time the maximum additional cash benefit was raised was in 1978. For 2008, the DOT made several changes, the most important was a doubling of the maximum cash compensation to $400 for domestic flights and $800 for international flights. While at first this appears to be a win for consumers, in economic terms it is in fact a step backwards from when the compensation was last changed in 1978. In addition, the policymakers who approved the change were well aware that a doubling of the compensation would not have kept up with inflation.

When the DOT proposed these rule changes in 2007, it applied the government’s consumer price index (CPI) data to the 1978 compensation and concluded that to keep up with inflation, the dollar amount would have to go from $400 to $1,248 for the maximum benefit. That value has increased since 2007. According to the Department of Labor online inflation calculator, on May 12, 2008 it showed that $200 in 1978 had the same buying power as $654.99 in 2008, and $400 had $1,309.99 of buying power. The bottom line is that when the new compensation limits take effect, they would have to be about 60% higher to have actually kept up with inflation.

Air travelers, especially those who may get bumped in the near future, should keep in mind that the airlines did not directly decide on the new maximum compensation limits (though the Air Transport Association, an association of the larger U.S. airlines, did not object to the larger compensation limits). The DOT issued this rule change to double the compensation, even after reviewing options that included one that would have allowed the compensation to keep pace with inflation, and another option that would have done away with a maximum limit altogether.

In the end, the DOT approved a change in maximum compensation for bumped passengers that increases passenger compensation but does not keep up with inflation. In comments posted by the DOT on April 16, 2008, DOT Secretary Mary Peters stated that the rule will ensure flyers are more fairly reimbursed for their inconvenience. The airline industry apparently found this result to be fair as well, even though the rule change leaves a bumped airline passenger holding the (somewhat smaller) bag. welcomes your feedback on this article. Please feel free to send your comments to


Rights of Passengers on Overbooked Flights

April 16, 2008 DOT Announcement of New Bumping Rule

July 9, 2007 DOT Proposal for Compensation

Historical Consumer Price Index Values

Department of Labor Online Inflation Calculator

DOT Regulation 14 CFR 250 on Oversales (Bumping)

Federal Register from April 18, 2008 Announcing Rule Changes

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