Outsourced to Avoid Regulations: The Disturbing Truth About How US Airlines Maintain Their Planes

In the last decade, most of the big U.S. airlines have shifted major maintenance work to places like El Salvador, Mexico, and China, where few mechanics are F.A.A. certified and inspections have no teeth.

 

ot long ago I was waiting for a domestic flight in a departure lounge at one of the crumbling midcentury sheds that pass for an American airport these days. There were delays, as we’ve all come to expect, and then the delays turned into something more ominous. The airplane I was waiting for had a serious maintenance issue, beyond the ability of a man in an orange vest to address. The entire airplane would have to be taken away for servicing and another brought to the gate in its place. This would take a while. Those of us in the departure lounge settled in for what we suspected might be hours. From the window I watched the ground crew unload the bags from the original airplane. When the new one arrived, the crew pumped the fuel, loaded the bags, and stocked the galley. It was a scene I’d witnessed countless times. Soon we would board and be on the way to our destinations.

As for the first airplane, the one with the maintenance problem—what was its destination going to be? When you have time on your hands, you begin to wonder about things like this. My own assumption, as yours might have been, was that the aircraft would be towed to a nearby hangar for a stopgap repair and then flown to a central maintenance facility run by the airline somewhere in the U.S. Or maybe there was one right here at the airport. In any case, if it needed a major overhaul, presumably it would be performed by the airline’s staff of trained professionals. If Apple feels it needs a “Genius Bar” at its stores to deal with hardware and software that cost a few hundred dollars, an airline must have something equivalent to safeguard an airplane worth a few hundred million.

About this I would be wrong—as wrong as it is possible to be. Over the past decade, nearly all large U.S. airlines have shifted heavy maintenance work on their airplanes to repair shops thousands of miles away, in developing countries, where the mechanics who take the planes apart (completely) and put them back together (or almost) may not even be able to read or speak English. US Airways and Southwest fly planes to a maintenance facility in El Salvador. Delta sends planes to Mexico. United uses a shop in China. American still does much of its most intensive maintenance in-house in the U.S., but that is likely to change in the aftermath of the company’s merger with US Airways.

Read more of this story.

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9 Ways Introverts Can (Quietly) Outperform All the Loud People Around Them

How can introverts become successful when it seems the world only has time to listen to those who shout the loudest?

Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking has been a bestseller ever since it was first published back in 2012. Cain also recently launched Quiet Revolution, which she describes as “a mission-based company that offers parenting and educational services to unlock the power of introverts.”

She recently did an “ask me anything” event on Product Hunt. Here are 10 highlights of what she had to say about how introverts can succeed and find happiness in a world dominated by louder voices.

1. Learn to take risks.

“It’s easier to take risks in the service of something or someone you really care about. Professor Brian Little speaks of our “core personal projects”–the projects and people we place at the center of our lives. What and who are these for you? Once you’ve identified them, don’t even think in terms of risk or not-risk. Just think in terms of how do you accomplish your goals.”

2. Ignore the misconceptions.

“The No. 1 biggest misconception [is] thinking introverts are unfriendly or antisocial, when in fact we just like to socialize differently, more intensely, with a smaller group of people. … I would add to this answer that people often see introverts as less powerful (because we tend to speak more softly, not enjoy conflict, etc.), when in fact introverts possess a whole suite of powers that have moved the world–powers of persistence, of concentration, of sensitivity, of ability to think deeply, and so on.”

3. Practice before preaching (literally).

“I used to be really scared of public speaking, so I spent the year before my book came out (and the year before giving that TED talk) practicing public speaking in small, manageable, low-stakes settings. Do not begin by giving a TED talk! … You want to practice over and over with audiences before whom it doesn’t matter how much you seem nervous or forget what you were going to say.”

4. Leverage your strengths as a salesperson.

“[F]ollow the age-old sales wisdom: “We all have two ears and one mouth and should use them in that proportion.” Truly, the best salespeople listen really well and think about–and care–what their prospects need.”

5. Work by yourself if that works best.

“Just … say so. And if you can point to examples of great work you’ve gotten done via such a process, all the better.”

6. Motivate yourself by focusing on mission.

“I remember, when Quiet first came out, feeling raw and exposed to the world. But I really did get used to it over time, and learned to focus not on the exposed feeling but rather on the sense of mission that made me write the book in the first place. That’s what I tune in to now every single day.”

7. Be inspired by other introverted leaders.

“Jim Collins did a famous study where he looked at the CEOs of the 11 best performing companies, and found that all 11 of them were described by their peers and colleagues as quiet, unassuming, low-key, soft-spoken, even shy. Gandhi was this kind of leader, as was Eleanor Roosevelt. Look around Silicon Valley today … from Larry Page to Bill Gates and beyond.”

8. On being an introverted entrepreneur.

“[W]hile sometimes you will have to act outside your comfort zone, it’s much better to figure out how to communicate passion and conviction while still being yourself. …  If it is coming from an authentic place, people will feel it. It also helps to have an extroverted partner or senior colleague who can do the things you don’t like to do, and vice versa. My favorite example of this is Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s introverted CEO, and Sheryl Sandberg, extroverted COO. They are the ultimate yin-yang pair.”

9. Learn to “advertise yourself.”

“I would look for ways to showcase your expertise–whether through internal company blogs, small speaking roles at a company conference, etc. Second, if you have expertise that your colleagues could benefit from–share it! Send them emails with info they can use, etc. And finally, … [make] a list of some of your accomplishments. … Even if you never share the list with anyone, it will help center you emotionally around the value you bring.”

Comets 4 vs. Amerks 2

Down 2-0 early at the Utica Memorial Auditorium, Michael Zalewski and the Utica Comets stormed back for a 4-2 win vs the Rochester Americans on Saturday night. For the second consecutive night Zalewski netted two goals, including the game-winning goal.

Hunter Shinkaruk (1-0-1), Mike Zalewski (2-1-3) and Jon Landry (1-2-3) scored goals for the Comets and Joe Cannata stopped 20 saves en route to the win.

Back at The AUD for the first time in two weeks, the Comets had their work cut out for them as the Amerks jumped out to a two goals within the first five minutes of the contest.

With the first period coming to an end, Shinkaruk scored his 17th goal of the season with 4:09 remaining in the period. After he received a pass from Jon Landry, Shinkaruk wristed a shot through traffic and into the net. The goal was also assisted by Zalewski.

In the second period Zalewski scored his first goal of the night when he forced a turnover and scored a short-handed breakaway tally on Ullmark.
Just five minutes into the third period, Zalewski struck again for his 12th of the season. Brendan Gaunce collected a rebound and slipped a pass across the crease to Zalewski who quickly fired a shot into the gaping net for the game-winning goal.

Jon Landry added an insurance goal when he scored on an empty-net from his own zone.

With the win the Comets record improves to 19-17-3-3.

The Comets are back on the road next week as they head to St. Johns, Newfoundland to face the IceCaps, next Saturday, February 5th at the Mile One Centre Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00pm.

AAR’s Hamberger unveils industry’s 2016 priorities

Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger  announced the industry’s 2016 agenda, which will includes the issues of positive train control (PTC) implementation, maintaining “balanced” economic regulation at the Surface Transportation Board, extending the short-line tax credit, overall tax reform and advancing security-safety legislation.

Hamberger set out the agenda in his remarks at the 246th regular meeting of the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers, AAR officials said in a press release. The three-day conference focused on challenges and opportunities for shippers, railroads and the supply chain.

On the PTC front, freight railroads face a deadline later this month to provide the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) with PTC implementation plans. Hamberger reaffirmed the industry’s stance that the technology will be fully installed where required by 2018 and all testing for full coast-to-coast operations completed by 2020.

“The past year brought much excitement and success for the freight rail industry, both from a service perspective and in terms of regulatory and legislative activity,” said Hamberger. “We take very seriously our mission to deliver our customers’ goods efficiently, reliably and safely and look forward to our continued partnerships.”

He also addressed several successes for the rail industry from the past year, including stopping efforts to increase truck weights, pushing for safer tank cars that move flammable liquids, and achieving reform in environmental permitting.

Hamberger also mentioned a long-term project that will be getting more emphasis in 2016: working with other industries and government to review the rulemaking process and improve a regulatory system that, in the industry’s view, limits innovation and efficiency.

He maintained that with a still-soft economy, American industry requires empirically-driven policy rooted in sound science.

5 Ways Mentally Strong People Conquer Self-Doubt

Insecurity kills more dreams than lack of talent does. Believing things like “I’ll never get promoted” or “I can’t compete with the other businesses” will turn your self-doubt into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

All of us experience self-doubt sometimes, no matter how confident we are. But, mentally strong people don’t let self-doubt prevent them from reaching their goals. Here’s how to keep self-doubt from holding you back.

1. Embrace a little self-doubt.

Don’t worry about a little self-doubt, because slight insecurity could actually bolster your performance. A 2010 study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that individuals who experienced a little self-doubt actually performed better compared with people who were completely confident in their skills. Other studies have found similar results.

So rather than waste energy worrying that your self-doubt is really a sign from the universe warning you that you’re about to fail, recognize that self-doubt can be helpful. Perhaps you’ll spend more time rehearsing or maybe you’ll put in more effort when you’re aware that there’s a chance it might not go smoothly.

2. Examine the evidence behind your thoughts.

When you encounter serious self-doubt, examine the truth behind your thoughts. Ask yourself, “What evidence do I have that I can’t do this?” Then ask yourself, “What evidence do I have that I can do this?” Write down your answers on a piece of a paper.

Looking at the facts can help you see things in a more realistic manner. Although this exercise may not eliminate all of your self-doubt, examining the facts can help reduce your insecurities to a more helpful level.

3. Consider the worst-case scenario.

Self-doubt is fueled by catastrophic predictions like “I’m going to mess everything up.” When you find yourself guessing things will go poorly, ask, “What’s really the worst thing that could happen?” If you do make a mistake, would it really be that bad?

Remind yourself that even if things go terribly, it’s unlikely to be life altering. Losing a game, stumbling over your lines, or failing to get a promotion probably won’t matter that much in a few years. Keeping things in proper perspective can help calm your nerves.

4. Monitor your emotions.

Your emotions play a major role in how you think and behave. Anxious feelings can fuel doubtful thoughts and impair your performance, unless you take steps to regulate your emotions.

Pay attention to how your emotions influence your choices. If your anxiety skyrockets, calm your body and your mind by taking deep breaths, going for a walk, or distracting yourself with mundane tasks. Don’t allow your short-term discomfort to convince you to bail out, give up, or cave in.

5. Focus on your present performance.

Whether you’re stepping on a stage or running out onto an athletic field, telling yourself “I’m going to embarrass myself” will distract you from your performance. So rather than allow your inner monologue to drag you down, stay focused on the present.

Before you take the giant leap into whatever you’re feeling doubtful about, give yourself a quick pep talk. Saying “All I can do is my best” will remind you that you don’t need to strive for perfection. With that reminder, you’ll be better equipped to put your energy where it needs to be–on your performance.

By Amy Morin

Author, “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do”

Comets 4 @ Albany 3 (OT)

Propelled by Michael Zalewski’s two-goal performance in his first game back in the line-up, the Utica Comets defeated the Albany Devils 4-3 in overtime at the Times Union Center on Friday night. Zalewski, fresh off of his first call-up to the Vancouver Canucks, scored the Comets first goal and then the game-winning overtime goal just 46 seconds into the extra frame.

Jordan Subban (1-1-2), and Chris Higgins (0-2-2) joined Zalewski (0-2-2) as multi-point scorers. Andrey Pedan (1-0-1) also scored for the Comets. Richard Bachman turned aside 22 of the Devils shots en route to his eighth win of the season.

One of the league’s premier power play units struck the very first chance they got 12:27 into the game. From one knee, Reid Boucher one-timed a cross rink pass past Bachman from the top of the face-off circle to stake the Devils to a 1-0 lead.

After the first period ended, a mini-melee ensued in Bachman’s crease after Tropp barreled into the Comets goaltender as he tried to stuff a rebound into the net. The end result gave the Comets a power play opportunity a minute into the second period.

With the man advantage, Michael Zalewski stuffed home a rebound to tie the game at 1-1. Jon Landry fired the initial shot that set up the Comets tying goal.

The Comets power play unit struck again early on in the third period when Jordan Subban sniped a wrist shot over the glove of Danis from the top of the face-off circle. Ronalds Kenins and Chris Higgins tag-teamed added assists on the goal.

The lead was short-lived as Reid Boucher scored his second of the night for the Devils just a 80 seconds later.

The Comets re-established the lead when Andrey Pedan’s slap shot fought its way through a screen set by Carter Bancks and through the legs of Danis. The goal, scored at the 7:31 mark of the third period, was Pedan’s third of the year for the Comets.

Last season’s Most Valuable Player, as a member of the Manchester Monarchs, came back to continue to haunt the Comets. Brian O’Neill crashed the net hard and somehow found a way to force the puck across the goal line with just 1:59 left in regulation. Travis Green challenged the call, but after a quick review by the officials the call on the ice stood.

Just 46 seconds into overtime Zalewski struck again. The New Hartford, NY native stripped Marc-Andre Gragnani from behind, and walked in all alone on the Devils goaltender. Uncontested, Zalewski darted to Danis left and quickly beat the goaltender stick side for the game-winning goal.

With the win the Comets record improves to 18-17-3-3.

The Comets finally return home to The AUD on Saturday night to take on the Rochester Americans at 7 pm.

CP ‘disappointed’ in UP CEO’s comments on proposed NS merger

Canadian Pacific officials today said they were “surprised and disappointed” to learn that Union Pacific Railroad‘s chief executive is reportedly working behind the scenes with other railroads to prevent consolidation of the Class I rail industry.

They reiterated their view that a CP merger with Norfolk Southern Corp. would enhance competition and is in the public’s interest. They noted that UP itself has been the product of numerous mergers that “created one of the largest route networks in North America.”

“It is unfortunate that UP would try to use political pressure to co-opt the regulatory process and prevent other railroads from enjoying these same benefits and becoming more effective competitors to UP,” CP officials said in a press release.

UP Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President Lance Fritz was quoted by the Journal of Commerce as saying a CP-NS merger is not in the best interest of the rail industry or customers. Fritz was speaking to attendees of the annual winter meeting of Midwest Association of Rail Shippers, according to the Journal.

A CP-NS merger would damage competition and set off a string of consolidations that would present challenging headwinds to the North American rail industry, the Journal reported.

There are a lot of risks in front of us. I’ve outlined a lot of them,” Fritz said, according to the Journal. “But, job 1, from our perspective, is to stop a Class I merger from occurring.”

CP officials responded to the reported comments by adding that Fritz’s “attempts to rally support for the status quo among the other Class Is demonstrate a disregard for competition, the processes of the STB, and the needs of shippers and the broader economy.”

State Senator Charles Squadron urges MTA to inspect R subway line

The R train is desperately in need of improvements, according to state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who is among several elected officials pushing the MTA to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the subway line.

Squadron, Councilmember Vincent Gentile, the Riders Alliance, the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and 41 other elected officials called for the MTA’s next Full Line Review to study the R train.

In 2009, Squadron worked with the MTA to create Full Line Reviews of subway lines in which the agency takes a close look at train service over a period of months to see if improvements are needed.

The Full Line Reviews, which have been done for the A, C, F, G and L trains, have led to more frequent and on-time trains, newer and cleaner subway cars, and other cost-effective service improvements along the subway lines, Squadron said.

Not only are Squadron, Gentile and transit advocates seeking a Full Line Review of the R train, they are also looking for the inspection of the subway line to go faster than previous reviews of other train lines.

“This Full Line Review can’t be as delayed as an R train commute,” said Squadron (D-Brooklyn-Manhattan). “I hope the MTA pursues this Full Line Review, and quickly offers results and improvements.”

In a Jan. 11 letter to MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast, Squadron, Gentile and their fellow lawmakers urged a speedy review process.

“We also request that this review be conducted in a timely manner. The almost 18 months that it took to complete the A/C Full Line Review is, simply, too slow. Riders cannot be expected to wait that long for service assessments and improvements,” the letter reads in part.

The R train runs from 95th Street in Bay Ridge to Continental Avenue in Queens with several stops in Manhattan.

For Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-parts of Bensonhurst), the new push for better R train service confirms what he has always believed — that it’s not just Bay Ridge residents who are suffering.

“I have heard my local constituents’ tireless complaints regarding R train service for the entirety of my term in the City Council. However, ridership grievances stretch far beyond Bay Ridge. Riders from Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn share the same sentiment: R train service is a nightmare,” Gentile said.

The R train is repeatedly late and overcrowded, suffers from infrequent service, frequent delays, unkempt stations, inadequate audio systems and the use of older subway cars, Gentile said.

Gentile recently held a rally outside the R train station at 77th Street and Fourth Avenue to demand serviced improvements.

Lisa Levy,amember of the Riders Alliance, is an R train rider. “There’s always a problem with the R train. The other week it took me two hours to get home because of a disruption, and there was no service announcement!” she said.

Cate Contino Cowit, coordinator for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, said riders want answers soon. “The goal here isn’t to study the R train to death, but to create timely and practical ways to better serve the tens of thousands who use it. Today, riders often call the R the ‘Rarely.’ Maybe if transit officials do their best, one day its nickname will be the ‘Reliable,’” she said.

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the R train will be getting a Full Line review, just as all subways lines are. “Chairman Prendergast has committed to undertake Full Line Reviews of all subway lines in the system,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle via email.

But transit advocates shouldn’t expect an R train review any time soon, according to Ortiz, who said it has to wait out of necessity.

“A review of the R has not yet been scheduled because if we were to conduct a line review of the R now, it would be obsolete almost immediately, because the opening of the Second Avenue Subway will significantly change overall service on the Broadway Line. The opening of Second Avenue Subway will affect how many people ride the R and how the R operates, so it would be premature for us to conduct an R line review on the cusp of such a change,” he said.

Power Plant Gulf War Syndrome

Power Plant Men

Originally posted December 13, 2014.

It seemed like it was getting dark already when Scott Hubbard and I were driving home from the plant in Scott’s pickup on January 16, 1991. We were listening to NPR on the radio, as we did most days. Just as we were entering Stillwater on Hwy 177, NPR suddenly stopped their regular broadcast to announce that there were reports of bombs dropping in Baghdad.

Up to this point, we had all hoped that Saddam Hussein, seeing the massive buildup of the U.S. and other countries at his border would pull his forces out of Kuwait and go home. At 5 pm Central Standard Time (2 am Baghdad time), the week long air assault on Saddam Hussein’s troops began. Scott dropped me off at the church where he had picked me up 9 1/2 hours earlier and I drove straight home. Glued to the radio…

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Amtrak touts its new electric locomotives, sustainability practices

Amtrak‘s new advanced-technology electric locomotives are now in service along the Northeast Corridor, marking one of the latest components of the railroad’s sustainability program, Amtrak officials announced yesterday.

The Siemens ACS-64 locomotives, which will save the cost of about 3 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and cut greenhouse gas emissions during the next decades, are part of Amtrak’s commitment to following sustainable practices in its operations, Amtrak officials said in a press release.

Designed for easier maintenance, the locomotives maximize energy efficiency by using a regenerative braking system that feed energy back to the power grid.

“We’re proud of our work to provide reliable, energy-efficient transportation, draw more customers to rail, and ultimately reduce the carbon footprint of the traveling public,” said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman.

Recently, Amtrak signed the International Union of Railways‘ (UIC) Railway Climate Responsibility Pledge. In signing the agreement, Amtrak committed to reducing energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions; stimulate modal shift to rail in national and international markets; actively communicate climate-friendly initiatives; and publicly report data on energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.

Amtrak also is a member of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which reports on climate change initiatives. On its most recent submission to the CDP, Amtrak received a score of 99B. The 99 out of 100 reflects Amtrak’s commitment to comprehensive and transparent reporting of greenhouse gas data and climate-related risks and opportunities. The B represents the performance band and measures the company’s actions to promote climate change mitigation, adaptation and transparency, Amtrak officials said.

Also, Amtrak’s 2015 CDP score was an improvement over its 2014 score of 96B.

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