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Dear Viewers,

I am afraid to write that the show went off without a hitch Wednesday night — I don't want to jinx us for tonight — but:

Next week our show hosts a three-hour show for President Bush's inaugural (search). The show will originate from one of the balls. I would love your input: Any ideas of what you might find fascinating to add to the three-hour program? I see our job as delivering to you what news and information you want to hear. If you come up with a great segment idea, and we use it, I will tell the viewers it was YOUR idea. So this is your chance to be a producer!

As you might imagine, while we are busy getting ready for each live hour show at night, there has been much "behind the scenes" discussion about the three-hour show the night of the inauguration. You can't just "phone it in." There is tremendous show preparation. I admit the burden is NOT on me at this point, but my senior producer who is scrambling to deal with a billion things: security and secret service requirements, technical issues, guests, video, crews etc. (Frankly, a blog from my senior producer about HER day would blow your circuits. I am surprised she has five seconds to breathe!)

I read something in The Washington Post yesterday that you might find "interesting." Here it is: "Capitol Hill employees have been advised not to use water from bathroom and kitchen faucets for drinking or cooking after tests last month discovered excessive levels of lead in water at the Library of Congress." What do you think?

Yesterday in the blog I wrote a note about my flight to New York City for the Amber Frey interview. The blog provoked lots of e-mail. I can't post all of the many e-mails about airlines I received, but I feel obliged to print several e-mails which corrected me. I had made light of several things, including the fact that the flight attendant said we were on a 752 (the emergency evacuation card said we were on a 757.) Readers wrote to educate me about the 752/757 distinction and I much appreciate it (the e-mails are below.) I like to learn. I thought I would share my education with you (or maybe you already know this and I am the only one who didn't ... of course it would not be the first time that I am the only one who did not know something.)

Finally, if you fly often, or even just once in a while, you will want to read the notes below from people who do maintenance for airlines. The experiences and notes are quite varied:

E-mail No. 1

Greta:
The use of "752" is commonly used as an abbreviation for 757-200. There are two models of the Boeing 757 currently in service with many airlines they are: 757-200 and 757-300.
Ed
Vacaville, CA

ANSWER: So the flight attendant on my flight was NOT wrong when she said we were on a 752. I am (was?) the one who is ignorant. Oh well, not the first time.

E-mail No. 2 — Note: I deliberately eliminated this e-mailer's name and city. I feared that this e-mail might cause him some problems at work

Greta,
I am an aircraft mechanic for AA. I agree that the flight attendant should have known the type of airplane she was in. Some of our flight attendants are a little on the dizzy side and the girl probably was used to reading "752" from the computer generated print out of her flight schedule for that day. 752 meaning Boeing 757-200.
As far as your seat, that's a different story. From personal experience I have found those seats to be junk. AA used to buy seats from a company called Weber and those seats were fine. A few years ago in order to save money they started buying seats from another vendor, Recaro and as far as I'm concerned they are not up to par.
For many years AA had an excellent maintenance program. Our airplanes always looked good and were in tip-top shape. The AA maintenance program far exceeded the minimum FAA requirements. That changed after the merger with TWA. Studies were conducted and these studies determined that parts were being replaced too soon and maintenance was being done too often. In the old days many parts were changed due to the amount of hours they were in service. Now those time requirements have been extended or eliminated in some cases. In the past every airplane that over-nighted at a maintenance station would at least get a periodic service check called a PS0912 (check tires, oil, hydraulic fluid, obvious damage, etc). Today we have what are called "no check" airplanes. These planes sit overnight and fly out in the morning like they came in the night before. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone out to add oil, service hydraulic fluid, change a tire or brake after being called out by the flight crews on an overnight airplane. We used to do periodic service checks on through trips on day and afternoon shifts, not anymore.
I want to let you know that this should not reflect negatively in any way on the aircraft mechanic. Even though this is the only industry that is expected to sell a product below cost to make the consumer happy and in spite of pay and benefit cuts we are out there doing our jobs to the best of our abilities to ensure you a safe flight.

E-mail No. 3

Greta,
Every aircraft has an abbreviated, three digit identifier for use in airline schedules. A Boeing 757-200 is identified as 752. Similarly, a Boeing 757-300 (a longer or stretched version) is identified 753.
That does not excuse the flight attendant's on-board announcement. She should know that three digit aircraft abbreviations are not in common knowledge by most passengers. She should have said 757 or 757-200.
Don Tuegel
St. Louis, MO

ANSWER: Don, I think it is clear I am a bit of a dope. Thanks for trying to "lighten" my mistake.

E-mail No. 4

Greta,

I have been an aircraft mechanic for 25 years. I have always worked for a major airline. I don't think you should be overly concerned about airline safety because aircraft mechanics who possess Airframe and Powerplant licenses are ultimately responsible once they sign off on aircraft maintenance. We do our jobs with safety the number one priority.
I think your concern should be flying airlines who outsource their aircraft maintenance. This has been a concern of mine especially with those U.S. carriers who outsource their heavy maintenance to other countries. There are aircraft maintenance contractors in Mexico, Central and South America, virtually all over the world.
The concern is not necessarily that those mechanics are not trained as those in this country, but rather the security of those facilities.
What if a mechanic with a foreign repair station is recruited by a terrorist organization. That mechanic, once he is on an aircraft, can now place an explosive device in literally hundreds of places He can hide a device in areas never seen by anyone other than an aircraft mechanic. That device could be set to go off at a later time when it is back in service or it can be remotely detonated. Or that mechanic can simply sabotage an aircraft.
So, while airline CEOs seek to increase profit margins by decreasing costs through outsourcing, they may, in the long term be doing more harm than good. Aside from the fact that outsourcing costs the US jobs, the threat of bringing another airliner down is increasing when 9/11 comes to mind.
Something to think about.

E-mail No. 5

Greta,
I am a mechanic with Delta Air Lines. In response to your inquiry, we have not and will never sacrifice safety for any reason. We all know that safety is the most important job in aviation. We also look at everything we do from the perspective that we or our family will most likely be on that aircraft sooner or later, and we want them to get there and back safely.
Bruce

E-mail No. 6

Hi Greta,
I'm an ex-airline mechanic, laid off due to the Iraq war. By the way, they were praying for the war to start so they could get out of our job protection language. I had 7 years with Northwest Airlines and 3 years with a 3rd party maintenance vendor, that's not counting 2 years of schooling to get my federal maintenance license. I have seen up close and personal the work getting done and not getting done at both the airlines and the vendors. When I left the vendor shop, they were hiring non-licensed, right to work people from the welfare and unemployment offices to do mechanic work. That is legal, if they can pressure some brown nosed company person to sign their work off. Northwest received 9-11 government bailout money and then conveniently laid off American workers and shipped more of our jobs to China and Singapore. Don't even ask about the poor quality work I have seen coming out of those places, this letter is going to be long enough the way it is. They all preach safety, safety, safety. Yeah, right! Make sure the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted and the plane is good to go. They have mechanics stateside patching things up as soon as the planes hit the ground from those places. I'll bet you wonder about the FAA, they are in cahoots with the airlines so bad that it would make your head spin. They have confidential hotlines for mechanics to report safety violations, all that does is to ensure that everything gets swept under the rug. The FAA is the biggest joke in aviation. I have a new career now and wouldn't step foot on another airplane if my life depended on it, thank you very much, I think I'll just drive. The sad reality is that some VIP will have to be on board the next time a plane turns into a lawn dart. Mark my words, the time is coming sooner rather than later. It's not just at Northwest, my brother is a mechanic at United and it's the same song and dance over there too. So good luck on your future flights, don't sweat the broken seats, drink lots of free cocktails, take a nap and most importantly, pray first!
P.S. I could get a hundred guys that I use to work with that would vouch for everything I've said in a heartbeat

E-mail No. 7

I work for American Airlines at the 767/777 overhaul base. I'm a mechanic and I can assure you corners are NOT being cut on maintenance and safety.
We have had several former United Airlines 777 in. These were in bad shape from 3rd party overseas repairs. They are being repainted and leased to Air India.
I didn't work on this aircraft, but several mechanics I know told me it ex-United aircraft were "beat up" poor maintenance.
Mike

E-mail No. 8

Greta,
I am a mechanic with Delta Air Lines. In response to your inquiry, we have not and will never sacrifice safety for any reason. We all know that safety is the most important job in aviation. We also look at everything we do from the perspective that we or our family will most likely be on that aircraft sooner or later, and we want them to get there and back safely.
Bruce

E-mail No. 9

Greta,
You don't have to be an airline mechanic to answer your question. Look at the seat you were forced to sit in, the quality of the cabin attendant's ministrations, and ask yourself what else is suffering for lack of money. Those big tin birds we all think are so invulnerable can actually be swatted right out of the sky by some pretty small omissions when it comes to maintenance or pilot training.
Let the condition of the seat be your guide!
I don't fly these days!
Roy Hogue
Newbury Park, CA

ANSWER: By the way, in my blog yesterday I mentioned the broken seat I had on my flight. Some of you wrote asking why I did not move to another seat. The answer is simple: the flight was full. I am capable of a lot of stupid things, but I am not that stupid that I would have sat in a broken seat if a non-broken one were available!

E-mail No. 10

Greta,
The price one pays for a seat on an airplane should at least guarantee that the seat is semi-comfortable and in proper working order. Sitting as you did for three hours could of done serious damage to your spine. Yes, there are worse things going on in the world, but disaster relief is not the business the airlines is in.
Peggy J Robbins
Forsyth, MO

E-mail No. 11

Greta I am not a mechanic but I was a F/A for a major airline. The fact that the F/A did not bring back the extension was wrong, but even worse was that on take-off and landing no one checked that the seat belt was fastened.
We have yearly training for flight crews and they could have gotten you safely out of the plane if need be, however if you are seated next to an overweight psgr again and he does not fasten his of her belt call the F/A they can be embarrassed (quite often we have to notice it because they don't want to tell us). It is also for your safety if it is a hard landing or crash that person will become a flying missile and land on you or block you from getting out into the aisle think of your safety and not the psgrs feelings. I like your show now that you are on FOX. Safe flying.
Peggy

E-mail No. 12

How about this airline story, Greta:
This happened many years ago, before 9/11. My husband and I were flying out of the Minneapolis airport and after spending a Christmas holiday with his family in Wisconsin. I was carrying a book-bag over my shoulder that we packed with various things ... including a lead crystal decanter my husband received as a gift. To make sure nothing fell out of the knapsack, I tied numerous knots in the strings. Well, the bag went through the scanner and was singled-out because the worker thought something was in the bag. I had tied so many knots that I couldn't open the damn thing. I struggled and struggled with it until finally the official said for me to just go (with the bag). Wow ... talk about security .... Kinda scary to think of something like this happening in the world these days ... I wouldn't want to be on an
airplane with a suspicious bag.
Christine Payton
Lafayette, LA

E-mail No. 13

Re: your airline saga, which is all too frequent an occurrence these days, here's a headline we'll probably soon be reading: Delta slashes prices; passengers to sit in terminal for half fare.

E-mail No. 14

Greta,
Some time back, I was bragging about the place I work at (Wegmans Food Markets). You may have read that that we were ranked the No. 1 place to work at in Fortune magazine. Just like you and your staff at OTR, we give our best to deliver a quality product and excellent service. There was never a doubt in my mind that we would reach this summit when I was hired 19 years ago. Our working philosophies have a lot in common... good to be king!
Sorry about the Pack,
Dave Jones
Rochester, NY

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