Michael

About Michael

Senior

Aviation Safety

Hometown: Saddle River New Jersey
Career Goals: Cabin Safety/Survival with the FAA
Why I chose Embry-Riddle: In 2006, a friend was killed as the working flight attendant aboard Delta Connection Flight 5191 and I decided it was time to abandon the Flight Attendant career that inspired me out of high school and enter a field to promote and regulate change for a safer Aircraft Cabin Environment.

August 24, 2010

I flew to Nashville to give myself a mini-vacation and to get on the endangered species of a bird, the DC-9-40. It was pretty cool to get on one of seven remaining aircraft in the world. I got to fly one of four remaining DC-9-30s on the leg back. It brought me back to my days of being 18 years old, pre-Riddle and doing what I did best and loving every minute of it.I start my final chapter at Embry-Riddle on Tuesday. It is kind of scary actually. I remember walking through the doors as a freshman trying to find every loophole to drop out and go back to flying 7 days a week, but now it’s here and I’m not sure I’m ready.

I found a lot of people I care about here and people who care about me (or they would have let me drop out and not finish my education).Further, when I went to Oklahoma, I was surrounded by employers who were very impressed with my photographic memory of accidents past, specific safety-related events and ideas for ways to improve safety. So I think that my education paid off at Embry-Riddle and I will be put into a position where I cannot only say that I did something to help change, I think I’ll actually achieve it.

Speaking of change, Friday the 27th will be four years since Delta Connection Flight 5191 impacted the ground during its takeoff role. Within four years of the accident I will be a college graduate in the field that was inspired after this accident. I can’t believe that the time just kept marching on and I am four years older and wiser.On the 26th I will be flying out to Kentucky with a friend who works for Comair and he will be working the 0600 departure back from Lexington to Atlanta on the 27th. It will be a mirror of the accident flight four years earlier, but it was something he needed to do for himself, and he asked me if I would tag along for moral support. The one thing that we were talking about was how back in 2006, on the 26th, flying seemed fun, safe, and a way of life, but on the 27th we woke up, and it had all changed.

August 8, 2010

I went out to Oklahoma City and went to the FAA Cabin Safety Research facility and worked on some interesting projects with airline professionals from all over the world. We did evacuation drills and saw that even the most experienced in the industry still have trouble evacuating a smoke filled aircraft. The fire exercises were the most difficult for me emotionally though. The flight attendant trainers made an interesting comment. “This is a step up from initial” I nodded and we talked to the FAA facilitator. She told us that this is a better simulation of an actual crash. I definitely have a new respect for smoke inhalation victims after doing this exercise. As I exited the aircraft and saw the light, and fresh air, I needed a second to recover. The rest of the night was a little difficult for me as well. The next day we did fire exercises to test the effective use of the flight attendant vs. fires. Later that night we all went into downtown Oklahoma City and did some of the touristy stuff such as boat tours and local restaurants. We had such as great time together. I would have to say though that the pool day was the best. The life raft drills were the best to show how flight attendants and passengers really need to work as a team to make sure that no one falls overboard or gets out the plane. I loved my “Crew” for the week and it was so hard to leave them. Luckily, I impressed the crowd with my ability to counter argue anything that was thrown at us by being able to photographically layout any accident or piece of information from research that was thrown at us. In the end it looks like I will have an internship lined up in a cabin safety-related field to better educate the future of flight attendants forever!

All I can say is sometimes you cannot help it, the action gets to you and you can’t tell the difference between reality and research or simulation. You start to believe that the events unfolding around you are real, the sounds of screeching metal, the smell of fire and burning furnishings, and the sounds of the screaming. You can forget how scary a deceleration process and post crash environment can be and there’s only one thing you can do…fasten your seatbelt!

July 24, 2010

I have been working a lot! As August nears, it’s scary to think that I am approaching my 90 days already of being part time. I still love every minute of my job and the people I work with.

I am finishing up an online course that I started (always remember to check with the Records and Registration Office when you take courses off campus). It was a very interesting course about the history of aviation in America.

I have been hanging out with friends and doing some fun things. Also picking up shifts and generally enjoying my last summer as an undergraduate.

My trip to Oklahoma City is coming up in two weeks and I can’t wait to meet some of the FAA Cabin Safety people.

I hope that everyone who is coming to Riddle in the fall is excited and has all their things in order. August does creep up on you!

July 3, 2010

The next few weeks will be exciting. I booked my trip to Oklahoma City for the FAA Cabin Safety and Survival convention in the beginning of August. Research topics include: aircraft accident research, aircraft seat and restraint systems research, brace-for-impact positions, infant/child restraint systems, aircraft evacuation research and procedures, aircraft fire safety research and procedures, water survival research, emergency equipment and procedures, drug testing and toxicology, and fatigue countermeasures research. I am super excited and hopeful to meet my future co-workers.

With graduation nearing, I have started to write an essay called “From Lexington to Graduation” reminiscing about the times I had prior to getting to school, all the times at school and still open-ended to the possibilities that await in my final term of my undergraduate. I have been accepted into Riddle’s graduate program for Aeronautics and System safety but I applied to Cranfield University in the United Kingdom to pursue some Cabin Survival research opportunities in their full scale cabin simulators. That will be one of the toughest choices if it comes down to it because I know that it would provide the best opportunity for me to complete my investigations in the cabin environment but I know that Riddle will provide me a wonderful education as well.

Leaving my friends behind and having to go seasonal at monorails for a flexible schedule will put a damper on things for me as well. We will cross that bridge if we come to it. The summer has been challenging working 5 days a week and going to school the other two. I am hoping to actually take some personal time this summer and return back to New Jersey to spend more time with my family. I am still enjoying work and making new friends while keeping in touch with old ones. All in all my fortune cookie said it best the other day, “When work brings you joy, never leave.”

June 24, 2010

Aviation Safety:

When I received my award check from my Aviation Safety award, I sent a huge portion of it to the people designing the OH5191 memorial in Kentucky so that it could help fund the project. I am proud to say that last week, the final design was released for the memorial for Delta Connection Flight 5191 which impacted the ground during takeoff in August of 2006. The design, by sculptor and Kentucky resident Douwe Blumberg, will feature 49 birds which are the major component to be a memorial to the crash victims and a tribute to those who tried to save them. Around the perimeter of the base upon which the sculpture will rest will be the names of those who perished, and an appropriate tribute to the first responders. It makes me feel so much better to know that everyone affected by this accident will have a place to visit their loved ones as well as a place for all of us to go “visit” Kelly. The project is expected to be completed by the fifth anniversary of the accident, August 27 2011.

Monorail:

Like time, the system keeps going. The past few weeks have been very hot but everyone is still all smiles when they know they are going to Disney World! I really love my job. I know I keep saying it, but I would not trade it for the world. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the guests of all ages is something you cannot put a price on. The magic they feel when they see the castle for the first time, or the “Ooo ahh!” you hear watching the production of Summernighttastic! Fireworks, makes me proud to be a cast member.

The best part for me is knowing that I am getting them to that magic. The magic may start when you first drive onto property and see the purple signs, but our department is one of the first departments a guest may come in contact with. We transport about 360 guests per train during the opening hours of the parks! At first it was a terrifying thought to be in charge of that many people at one time alone but at Disney we are never alone. We have a great team of support so that you guys can enjoy every minute of your experience here. I am talking to some of my managers to join the safety committee in our department to really dive into the department head-first in the area that interests me most!

Finally, I went to Blizzard Beach when I got back to Florida from Jersey the other day with my friend who works in Watercraft. We had a really fun time playing in the parks and enjoying some fun in the sun.

June 10, 2010

Monorails:
Monorail is the best place to be on Disney property. Not only are we awesome, but the fast-paced working environment reminds me of the airline industry. Like Jet Fuel, the hustle and bustle of moving trains and people has gotten into my blood and I can’t control the want to be at work. The trains are so much fun to play with and I can’t believe I’m getting paid to have this much fun! The other part I love about my job is making magical moments for my guests. From handouts to a friendly smile, bringing the joy to them as Disney did for me when I was there for the first time is what makes this job oh so much better than anything else.

Aviation Safety:
I’ve been continuing my work on my “Everyone Comes Home” Program and it is coming together nicely. I launched the program and it got its final name in a conversation with Kelly’s significant other in December of last year. “He never promised me much, he just promised me he’d be home from that trip” got my wheels turning on a name for a program for occupant survivability. It finally hit me listening to Bryan Adam’s “I Will Always Return” and the name stuck. The program is exactly what the name implies. It is a program that we in the safety field need to make sure that everyone (Flight Crew or Passengers) comes home from a trip. The program entails education in the Cabin Safety and Survival field from potential injuries one may incur to the effective efforts of fire fighting from Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting. It is an extensive 300 page program written by yours truly. The poster came out great minus some crooked letters J but I’m going to make a final poster soon. It was a rough draft to get my point across.

Other Stuff in the News:
Next week I am going to go flying to Nashville to get on the Douglas DC-9-40. There are only 7 in the world and I can’t wait to get on one. It is a rare treat and a nice change from the Airbus A320 or 737-NG. I am also enjoying working in the admissions phone room. Again, because I get to help out people who are calling to ask questions about the university and applying. I think I can sum it up into one sentence that I REALLY like helping people out and making their day just a little bit better!

June 7, 2010

Last week, I took a trip to south Florida to see my grandma as a late Mother’s Day present. While I was down there with my friend, we went to the Valujet Airlines Flight 592 memorial site in the Everglades. Flight 592 experienced an in-flight fire back in 1996 and impacted the ground while attempting to return to Miami killing all 110 aboard the DC-9. Being involved in Aviation Safety, I knew how important it was to visit the site so that number one, the people are not forgotten and number two, that we remember our past and do not repeat our mistakes. The site was very touching and meeting a family of one of the flight attendants was also a good reminder of why I do what I do every day in the classroom.

In April I got hired as a monorail pilot at the Walt Disney World Resort and I began my first day a few weeks after getting hired. My job is so cool! I get to interact with people from all over the world, load then drive 12 different color trains and promote a safe environment for my fellow cast members and guests.

My first day on the job was fun. I got to actually take part in interacting with the guests and the trains. I learned my general duties as a monorail pilot and the safety procedures that are in place to maintain a safe yet efficient environment. My training comes in two parts; platform and drive. I will learn to actually drive the trains in about 30 days from my hire date but throughout the course of my platform training I will learn little by little the skills to successfully pilot a train.

I also finished one of my aircraft cabin survivability projects which answered some chilling questions about the Lexington accident, the accident that changed my life and led me to pursue studies in aircraft safety.

In that accident, in a matter of just 10 minutes, people’s lives had changed forever knowing that their loved ones were dead and there was no reset button. This is why I have found that, when dealing with any accident, the hardest part of it is definitely the people. Then the investigation where we seek to finding out the order that the dominos fall. After the three years it took me to complete my Lexington survivability case study, I saw it from a different view that would change my view on what needs to be done in our industry to keep people alive.

When I first started working on the case study in 2006, like many, I was under the impression that everyone had already lost their lives when the airplane came to a rest. Although tragically 38 occupants had already lost their lives upon impact, through extensive research techniques I was able to determine that the impacts were survivable for 2 crewmembers and 10 passengers. So I posed a question to the industry as a combined effort in survivability for Lexington. “Why do we stand here today with one occupant alive when 12 occupants survived the impact?”

The answer was in finding out that the flight attendant’s only route of evacuation was jammed and it became evident that a timely Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) response time was of the essence in order for him and the 10 passengers to have any chance of getting out of the cabin.

At the conclusion of my Lexington study, having being very frustrated over the fact that it took Air Traffic Control at least two minutes to first notify ARFF of the accident, and then it took ARFF 8 minutes to respond to the scene, I decided that my Alert III project was necessary to educate the industry on the responsibility of first responders to survivable impacts as well as effective training for cabin crews to achieve the highest survivability rate.

Alert III started out being a project simply focusing on proper flight attendant training and how that affects occupant survivability in combination with ARFF. After acquiring a few different textbooks and other resources, I decided to change the scope of the project to focus on everything that affects an occupant’s survivability and the responsibility between the two major players, flight crew and ARFF. While Alert III’s purpose was initially something completely different then what it turned out to be, it still achieved the goal of increasing awareness for not what only educating people in the need for survivability but also what affects survivability.

Although I haven’t studied other accidents in as much depth as Lexington, Lexington type accidents have and are happening where there are occupants alive when the aircraft finally stops and for one reason or another, the dominos fall and the fatality rate spikes. I cannot stress enough the need for effective communication in our industry because one small disconnect in communication or situational awareness can change a survivable accident into a death that shouldn’t have happened. It is important for Air Traffic Control, Flight Crews (Cabin and Flight Deck), as well as ARFF to come together and to work together as an emergency unfolds to change a matter of life and death.

I have learned to never take for granted a takeoff climb or landing roll-out because I know the living hell and panic that people have gone through in our industry’s worst accidents. It is the events that follow in the wake of an accident that will dictate whether those involved walk away from it or not.

Finally, knowing that the challenges of survivability are huge undertakings, I found that if you are committed to the lives of the people who are sitting in a burning aircraft and you are the person who knows they are making a difference in saving their life, those undertakings quickly become one of the most amazing and self-fulfilling feelings ever. Since an accident happens so fast and for the occupants and their families there is no reset button, having the highest possible occupant survival rate is crucial in our industry when an accident does occur. On our continued road to a safer aircraft cabin environment…