Monthly Archives: October 2006

On the Road This Week to Dallas

Boeing737 2

I’m leaving tomorrow for a short hop on Southwest Airlines (LUV:NYSE) over to Dallas. Wednesday is Media Day at Southwest — and the airline always makes it worth our while to come over and visit. They give full access to top management folks at the airline and sometimes they even make us play flight attendants, pilots, baggage handlers, and gate agents.


That has been a few years ago.

But the airline actually had members of the press load and unload a 737 one year. Willing employees played passengers, and members of the media drew pieces of paper that had employee job functions on them. Whatever you pulled, that was your job. We had a short session with actual employees, who told us what we had to do and how to do it — and then we had to load and unload an aircraft. Quickly.

And yes, those employees who were playing passengers were one tough crowd, I tell you.

Me? I picked the alpha flight attendant. This meant I got to clean up the cabin, I got to make the PA announcements, and I got to bump butts with Jim Wimberly, former Southwest COO, who was doing his best to get in my way as he played “provisioning agent,” loading cans of soda into “my” galley.

That was a pretty cool deal. I think most of us who went through the drill that year did get a much better appreciation of the infamous Southwest “20-minute turn.”

Bye Bye Northwest DC-10s

If one of the things on your “Must Do” list was to fly one of the old Northwest Airlines’ DC-10s across the Atlantic, I’m afraid you waited too long to do so.

Sunday marked the final Northwest scheduled trans-Atlantic DC-10 flight. Ironically, (or fittingly?) the flight was cancelled due to maintenance issues.


All of Northwest’s trans-Atlantic flying is now done on Airbus A330s.

You forget how big these things are, and how huge that tail section is, until you’re taking off behind one.

Leaving Dallas-Ft.Worth International a couple of weeks ago, I was in a Maddog that was taxiing behind a FedEx DC-10. Got to watch it rumble down the runway and finally go airborne before we made the turn.

Big mothers.

Emirates Cancels Airbus A340-600s


Reports today say that Emirates has canceled its order for 10 A340-600 aircraft from Airbus.

Emirates will, instead, go with Boeing 777s.

In addition, Emirates is apparently also talking to Boeing about a new passenger version of the 747 — a stretched 747-8, according to President Tim Clark.

Could Clark’s words be a not-so-subtle warning message to Airbus in regard to Emirate’s current order of 43 Airbus A380s? If I were a betting person, I’d say yes.

Meanwhile — it was also announced today that Qantas has agreed to buy eight more of the A380s and four more A330-200s.

Given the money Qantas is already going to receive from Airbus because of delays in the delivery of the A380 and confirmed delivery date assurances in this new order — I’d be willing to bet that the net cost to Qantas of its A380s is going to be, er, quite reasonable.

Mesaba and Unions Announce Tentative Agreements

Mesaba Ds

Mesaba and the Association of Flight Attendants have come to terms on a new tentative agreement. The deal was reached by both sides on Sunday, and will be reviewed by the union’s MEC this week. The deal will then go to the general membership for a vote.

The airline and the Air Line Pilots Association also announced they had come to terms on a new agreement Saturday.

This leaves only the mechanics, who are represented by AMFA, without an agreement with the airline.

Why Am I Not Surprised?

Talk about politics gone off the deep-end.

Thanks Jonathan for the update, but this is just a part of the story.

Friday Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) apparently decided it was better to use Christopher Soghoian’s website as an excuse to fire a shot across the bow of the Bush administration than to stop and think long enough to consider the effects of his hystrionics on Mr. Soghoian.

Friday, Markey issued the following as part of a statement, on Friday,

“The Bush administration must immediately act to investigate, apprehend those responsible, shut down the website, and warn airlines and aviation security officials to be on the look-out for fraudsters or terrorists trying to use fake boarding passes in an attempt to cheat their way through security and onto a plane.

“There are enough loopholes at the back door of our passenger airplanes from not scanning cargo for bombs; we should not tolerate any new loopholes making it easier for terrorists to get into the front door of a plane.”

What had this guy been smoking?

First of all, we all know that manipulating boarding passes is nothing new. Period.

Second, we also know there is an election less than two weeks away.

But wait, Mr. Markey is not a Republican. He wasn’t calling on his administration to smite down this threat to our security.

He’s a Democrat.

So what gives?

Re-reading the statement that Markey’s office issued on Friday it’s clear that someone thought it would be cute to jump on the posting of the boarding pass as an example of the weakness in the administration’s airport security programs.

But that is not how I took the statement when I read it. And neither did anyone else.

No, I read it as the Congressman accusing Christopher as essentially being in the same league as a terrorist.

And apparently that is exactly what the FBI thought as well.

The FBI apparently first visited Soghoian on Friday and told him to take the site down and Soghoian complied. That following morning shortly after midnight, his home was once again raided by the FBI and his computers along with other important items were gone.

Oh, and for his part, Markey put his tail between his legs in a statement Sunday, backing off his earlier bulldog stand, as he said, “Subsequently I learned that the person responsible was a student at Indiana University, Christopher Soghoian, who intended no harm but, rather, intended to provide a public service by warning that this long-standing loophole could be easily exploited. The website has now apparently been shut down.”

Yeah, now what? Okay Mr. Markey. Does this mean you are going to pay Christopher’s legal bills? Are you going to pay for his computers, all of which the FBI apparently took with them Saturday?

Speaking of, if any of you would like to contribute to Christopher’s legal defense fund, (and remember the whole reason behind all this was to show how lame current TSA procedures are) you can click here for more information.

Pointing fingers at the TSA makes Congressman and the FBI mad

An update to Holly’s post, “Fun with Boarding Passes” from Friday…

The arrest of author of the site and PHP program was called for by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., then the FBI visited Christopher Soghoian’s home, and subsequently a search warrant was issued and his home was ransacked sometime after 2 AM.

You can read more about Christopher’s harrowing 48 hours at his blog. Google also has the original page that touched off this firestorm (of government stupidity) cached, though you cannot access the actual PHP script that generated the fake boarding pass.

Another sad day for the aviation industry and civil liberties. Let’s not bother with fixing the gaping hole in security, covering up the hole with a pretty rug should take care of everything.

Warrant: Page 1 Page 2.

Fun with Boarding Passes


Christopher Soghoian is a Ph.D student in the School of Informatics at Indiana University. His courses this semester range from “Cryptographic Protocols” to “Social Informatics of Security.”

When Christopher is not pursuing his education in the ways of electronic privacy and security, or securing dirt cheap “mistake” fares on FlyerTalk, he seems to have the most fun playing with the TSA.

You can read about his various exploits at his blog.

I say “playing” because you get the impression that Christopher feels that is what the TSA Is doing with its responsibility to airport security — playing with very inadequate tools and laughable procedures.

To prove his point, Christopher has now posted a “Fake Northwest Airlines Boarding Pass Generator.” Yes, that’s right. Just fill in the blanks and you’ll have your very own.

He also explains quite clearly two ways to get into secure airport areas using fake boarding passes. Take your pick.

As for the fake Northwest boarding pass, I’m not sure that Northwest will not try to have him remove this because it does have their logo on it — but the fact remains that all he has done is gone public with what we know is already being done anyway.

Then again, as someone on an airline email list I belong to commented — all one really has to do is make a copy of a real life boarding pass, save it into Word, or even better a full-blown design program such as Quark or Illustrator, and then make changes to flight numbers after the fact.

This method would certainly work if you wanted to walk onboard with one pass, and “upgrade” yourself into business class, for example.

Although, I have a question for the airline operations geeks out there. Wouldn’t a fake upgrade be easily detected when the passenger count per cabin was taken onboard?

As I have written in PBB before, because the TSA does not use bar code readers to scan passenger boarding passes when a passenger enters the screening areas in concourses — the whole idea of “checking IDs” before one is screened is ridiculously useless.

And Christopher is all too happy to help make that point.

Surprise! The 787 Is Heavy and It’s Running Behind Schedule


We were writing and editing PBB today, so unfortunately this afternoon I didn’t have a chance to get caught up on some of today’s news. While I wrote this week about Boeing’s (BA:NYSE) earnings results, which were better than expected, I did not have a chance to listen to the company’s earnings call.

So guess what Boeing said in its call today?

First three guesses don’t count.

Yep. That’s right.

Boeing said today that the 787 is still too heavy. Not only that but more than one supplier is falling behind schedule.

While Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said in the call that the company was confident that the problems involved will not cause a delay with the plane’s entry to service, you know how silly those folks on Wall Street are.

Yep, given what we’ve seen with Airbus — you can understand why shares of Boeing were under the gun today. It’s not just a matter of being late, it’s also a matter of increasing costs. Wall Street doesn’t like hearing that costs to get the aircraft in the air could increase — but by a still undetermined amount.

For a pretty good summary of what McNerney said during the call, along with other comment, here’s an article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from this afternoon.

As we said earlier this year — this is not unexpected. It’s a new plane for cryin’ out loud.

But certainly the extent of the problems and delays with the Airbus A380 does nothing but raise the anxiety level about the 787’s delivery schedule as well.