3:44 PM

We must
expect better.


Even without ever boarding one of their flights, I am a huge fan of JetBlue. But the recent delays at JFK – up to 10 hours – that trapped pax inside those sealed tubes simply is unacceptable in commercial air travel:

Ten JetBlue flights were loaded with passengers on board. Some made it to the runways only to run into icing problems that kept them grounded. Some of the planes at the gate became frozen to the ground and passengers weren't able to disembark. JetBlue apologized, saying that the delays were caused when half of its 550 flights were cancelled because of a winter storm that also caused massive traffic and transit delays throughout the Tri-State area.
Now up here in western Oregon, we always get one whopper ice storm a year...and the TV weather guys can even see them coming two days out. It's pretty easy for any aviator to see it coming to. Here's what happens: When you have very cold surface air trapped in an inversion layer, the upper air can sometimes be much warmer, driven by a tropical jet stream. When that river of warm air blows a front across the forecast zone, rain falls, and then freezes as it drops through the cold surface air...coating everything with a solid sheet of ice.

So I am at a complete loss to come up with a reason why JetBlue's dispatchers and also JFK's own traffic handlers missed this obvious call. If they knew the ice storm was coming, why load the passengers aboard in the first place? If they did not know the ice was coming, shame on them...that is WX forecasting 101, not rocket science.

We need to expect better from our airlines. Because if their forecasters can miss this kind of easy call, do we really want that kind of dispatcher working a flight that is already in the air, headed for nasty WX? My guess is that the weather guys were screaming about the danger of these 10 planes departing, and someone in Corporate might have chosen to override their decision to save money.
So many people dropped the ball on so many levels here. Luckily, nobody got injured or killed, so there most likely will not be any kind of formal FAA or NOAA investigation. And we will never know for sure, but I sincerely expect the Top Brass at JetBlue to dig deep into what happened here and roll some heads to make a point about safety and the importance of proper weather forecasting.
And if they haven't already done so, there are about 10 planeloads of souls who should all get free first class upgrades to anywhere the airline flies. That is, if those peeved individuals will ever get on a JetBlue flight again. Spending 10 hours held hostage is always a sure way to ruin a carrier's credibility...at least for those stuck in the steaming tube, being forced to breathe air permeated with the stench of overflowing toilets.

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