Five at 8 – 2/3/10: Flying cheap

1) File this in the “coming soon” file. PBS is going to explore the life of pilots for “regional airlines” and what it means for your safety. The Flying Cheap documentary producer says:

The crash of Continental 3407 outside Buffalo last year, killing all on board, was big news, as any commercial crash is. But like many who were fortunate enough not to be touched personally by the tragedy, what most caught my attention was the news that followed. The co-pilot had been making less than $16,000.

While I knew the airline industry had been struggling through tough times since 9/11, I sure didn’t know that some of the folks that fly me around are working second jobs and overnighting on lounge room La-Z-Boys. And I didn’t know that regional airlines, once thought of as puddle-jumpers, had grown so fast that they now account for more than half the nation’s daily departures. We are on our way to becoming a regional airline nation.

The show will apparently reveal the extent to which the nation’s airlines hide the fact that you’re not really flying on a “big airline” all the time. If only someone had mentioned something like this before.

Miles O’Brien is the reporter on the documentary. He talked about it this morning on PRI’s The Takeaway.

Who’s responsible for this problem? It depends on what factors go into how you decide which airline to fly. Would you pay more to fly with pilots who have more experience? How much more?

Coincidentally, the National Transportation Safety Board released the results of its probe into last year’s Continental (it was really Colgan Air) crash in Buffalo. As I mentioned last year, it reads eerily similar to the Northwest Airlink (it was really Express Airlines) crash in Hibbing in 1993. Despite the perception that the NTSB is just now realizing there are “two levels of safety” in the nation’s airlines, they were aware of it 16 years ago.

Here’s the full NTSB report.

Update 9:26 a.m. Here’s my weekly conversation with Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer:

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2) A sharp-eyed News Cut reader noticed a name missing from the list of Minnesota Olympians I published yesterday — Lindsey Vonn, perhaps the most famous (at least by the end of the Olympics) of all of the team members. The local media will follow her because she’s one of us, of course. But she’s listing Vail, Colorado as her hometown instead. Vail Resorts is one of her sponsors. (By the way, see her very glitzy Web site.)

Who will we follow now? Curlers. Curlers don’t have glitzy Web sites. And every four years, MPR does a story about curling. Today, Cathy Wurzer takes a lesson from MPR’s Euan Kerr:

3) Is there a digital doomsday coming? What we know about the past we know because of clay tablets, pottery, and well-preserved paper. But most of what we’re learning we’re storing in a digital form. New Scientist considers how much of our knowledge would survive the end of our civilization and concludes that none of it would.

Let’s suppose, however, that something less cataclysmic occurs, that many buildings remain intact and enough people survive to rebuild civilisation after a few decades or centuries. Suppose, for instance, that the global financial system collapses, or a new virus kills most of the world’s population, or a solar storm destroys the power grid in North AmericaMovie Camera. Or suppose there is a slow decline as soaring energy costs and worsening environmental disasters take their toll. The increasing complexity and interdependency of society is making civilisation ever more vulnerable to such events

4) Psst. Hey, buddy. Want to see some pictures of Brett Favre’s ankle and and leg after the game against the Saints?

5) Lies, damned lies, and statistics. There’s a faint buzz emanating from the Hot Stove now that PECOTA projections have been released, showing the Minnesota Twins will win the AL Central Division with 83 wins, three games ahead of the Chicago White Sox. Well, good for all the guys with a baseball glove on one hand and a slide rule in the other. Now let’s take a look at how they did last year. Winning the Central Division, the projections said, would be the Cleveland Indians with 90 wins. Cleveland ended up losing 97 games and finished dead last.


On Tuesday the legendary groundhog saw his shadow, which is supposed to predict that winter will last six more weeks. But in Minnesota, it’s a safe bet that winter will be interminable. Why do you choose to live in Minnesota?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: As scientists explore the human genome and medicines tailored to particular genes, a provocative question emerges about whether there is a genetic marker that could explain why some treatments work better for different racial groups. And some say the narrow focus on race misses the point of social disparities and what we now know about genetics.

Second hour: Acclaimed author Tracy Kidder on Paul Farmer, a doctor credited with improving the health of thousands of people in Haiti and around the world.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Gov. Tim Pawlenty in studio to answer questions from Gary Eichten and MPR listeners around the state.

Second hour: MPR political analysts Todd Rapp and Maureen Shaver will sift through the tea leaves from Tuesday’s precinct caucus results.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Political trivia quiz with Ken Rudin.

Second hour: A new biography of Mark Twain reveals its subject within a narrow window of time – the last five years his life. The great writer knew he had little time, and found his relationship with God, and with his only living daughter, strained. Author Michael Shelden

discusses his book, “Mark Twain: Man In White.”

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – My radio piece on the Wrenshall High School girls basketball team airs this evening. The blog piece will be posted here at 11 a.m.

In the spirit of the new frugality, MPR’s Euan Kerr introduces us to artists creating pieces out of frozen water, preparing for a weekend event in a St. Paul Park.

From NPR: During World War II, when Britain stood alone against the Nazis, Londoners

loved U.S. Ambassador Gil Winant. He would go out on the streets of London during the raid while bombs were falling, and he would ask people he encountered what he could do to help. Winant is largely forgotten, but he’s one of the subjects of a new book.