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15 August 2014

When political leaders deserve special care and attention

13 August 2014; AF Andrade Empreendimentos e Participações Cessna 560XLS+ Citation Excel; PR-AFA; Guarujá, Brazil: The aircraft was approaching Guarujá Airport after a charter flight from Santos Dumont Airport in Rio de Janeiro, and crashed into a residential area about 4.3 km fro the runway. Both pilot and all five passengers were killed. Among the passengers were a candidate for president of Brazil, Eduardo Campos, his wife, and one of their five children.

This particular crash is of interest to because of the status of one of the passengers. Candidates for the highest political offices in Brazil, the United States, and other democracies have to travel extensively around the country, and if they have not already been elected to those offices, they don't have access to the kinds of military or airliner aircraft used by those who are currently in those offices.

In January 2008, after the private plane carrying presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama was damaged in an incident on the ground at Chicago's Midway Airport, pointed out US policy may expose presidential and vice presidential candidates to excessive air transportation risks. While the US currently provides Secret Service protection for the presidential and vice presidential nominees of major political parties, there are no special provisions or legal requirements for air transportation.

In short, US laws and regulations provide world-class protection from assassins for candidates seeking to be elected to the offices of president and vice president, but takes no special precautions to protect candidates from the risk of air travel. In the US, these candidates spend several months flying around the country, in everything from helicopters and smaller private planes to executive jets and airliners.

This kind of intense flying may also be done by presidents and vice presidents seeking reelection, but they are typically flown on specialized aircraft that are maintained and operated at a level at or above that of a typical airline aircraft. Also, in the US the sitting president and vice president don't fly on the same aircraft. The same is not true for candidates seeking these offices.

Taking extraordinary steps to protect a world leader does not prevent them from falling victim to a plane crash. Since WWII, at least eight national leaders or heads of international organizations have been killed in plane crashes. However, not taking at least reasonable steps to protect candidates seeking high office may be financially sound in the short run, but increases the chance that an accident will have potentially devastating effects to a nation's electoral process.

The potential policy question for Brazil, the US, and other countries that choose their leaders by popular vote is whether exposure to air travel risks faced by presidential candidates should be limited by requiring that flights taken by candidates meet some minimum set of standards. A realistic limitation could take many forms, such as requiring candidates to fly with aircraft operators or airlines that meet relatively high operational standards, or perhaps requiring that candidates use government or military air transportation.

The reasons for even considering such a a policy are the potentially negative political and social impacts of having a candidate seriously injured or killed during a campaign, especially from manageable risks such as those associated with air travel.

One can only speculate the effect that the Campos campaign may have had on the election, but there is no doubt that had he been elected, he would have had a profound effect on the direction of Brazil's political, social, and economic future. Given the potential impact that potential presidential candidates may have, it seems reasonable for Brazil, the US, and other countries to consider some kind of risk reduction policy for candidate air travel that may make it less likely that an accident will lead to a catastrophic disruption in the presidential election process.

Eduardo Campos Wikipedia entry

08 August 2014

Todd Curtis of to discuss MH370 on premiere of Ghost Planes on the H2 channel founder Dr. Todd Curtis will appear in the special Ghost Planes on H2, which is part of the History Channel network. The show’s is scheduled to air again on Wednesday, September 3rd at 8 p.m. EDT (check for showtimes in your area).

The show will focus on Malaysia Airliners flight MH370, as well as a number of other aircraft have been declared missing over the last several decades, so-called ‘Ghost Planes’ that have vanished without a trace.

Todd was one of the experts interviewed by the show’s producers to discuss some of the theories that may explain the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

The aircraft, which was on a scheduled international flight from from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, went missing in March 2014, and while authorities suspect that the plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean, no trace of the plane or its 227 passengers and 12 crew members have yet to be found.

This special utilizes interviews with experts and the families of passengers, and uses computer animated re-enactments and archival news footage to explore the several theories surrounding the fate of missing on flight MH370.

07 August 2014

Ebola risks and airline travel

The recent Ebola outbreak in Africa has claimed nearly 1,000 lives since March 2014 in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria, represents a potential risk for air travelers because the virus that causes the disease can be spread by direct contact with an Ebola victim.

Map of 2014 Ebola outbreak (CDC)

Recently, Emirates and British Airways became the largest airlines to suspend airline service in one or more of the most affected countries. Other airlines like Delta have allowed passengers to change flights to, from, or through certain west Africa airports in the affected areas without penalty.

Several media outlets, including the Premium Times of Nigeria stated that the first Ebola death in Nigeria was from a man who flew into Nigeria on July 23rd and two died two days later from Ebola. The report also states that the victim had shown signs of illness during the flight.

What is Ebola?
Ebola, also known as Ebola virus disease (EVD) or Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans, with a fatality rate of greater than 50%. It is caused by a virus that is commonly spread through close contact with an infected person.

How can a person get Ebola?
A person can become infected with the Ebola virus from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood or bodily fluids of infected people, or from contact with objects or environments contaminated with such fluids.

What are the effects of Ebola?
The effects of an infection are not immediate, with symptoms showing up between two and 21 days after infection. A person who falls ill may experience a sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

Is there a vaccine or treatment for Ebola?
There are currently no approved vaccines available for Ebola. While symptoms such as dehydration can be treated, there is no proven treatment for the underlying viral infection.

What risks do airline passengers face?
Although there are no reports of airline passengers or airline staff being infected on an airliner, there is the possibility that someone can be infected with Ebola while in an airplane or while at an airport. In areas where there has been an outbreak of Ebola, airlines and governments have done the following to reduce risks to air travelers and airline professionals:

  • Provide updated information about Ebola risks (see links below)
  • Limiting flights to or from areas experiencing Ebola outbreaks
  • Screening passengers prior to boarding

What can passengers do?
The two most important things that you can do is to avoid travel to areas experiencing an Ebola outbreak, and to seek medical attention before traveling if you are experiencing Ebola-related symptoms.If you already have a trip planned into an area with an active outbreak, you can delay or cancel the trip (check with your airline on their policies for areas of high risk).

If you are on a flight where another passenger is exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms, do your best to stay away from that passenger and inform your flight attendant about the situation. If you are unable to do this, avoid direct contact with that person, or with any object or surface touched by that person.

Basic Ebola information Ebola information page
World Health Organization (WHO) Ebola fact sheet
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Ebola overview
Ebola Q&A from the CDC

Travel warnings and advisories
CDC travel health advice
US State Department travel alerts and warnings
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Canadian government travel advice by country