An Airplane Window on Mitt’s Thinking

Let me start by saying I’m grateful that Ann Romney–as well as the pilot and co-pilot who were in the cockpit of Ann’s chartered plane where a fire broke out Friday, forcing them to make an emergency landing–are safe. I’m sure the entire episode was frightening and I’m happy that the pilots didn’t panic about the fire.

But now that she is safe–but looking ahead to six more solid weeks of chartered air travel–I’m surprised by Mitt’s problem solving process. The solution to this scare, Mitt says, is to make it possible to open windows on planes.

“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were,” Romney said. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she’s safe and sound.”

Never mind the obvious reasons you can’t have windows that open on jets, never mind the additional problems introduced if you tried to have open windows in the cockpit, where the fire and smoke–and therefore the greatest risk–broke out.

I’m more interested in what this says about Mitt’s problem solving.

If it were my spouse on the plane, I’d want to know the cause of the fire–preliminarily they say electrical problems–and more importantly why it wasn’t prevented. On a commercial jet, a pilot would have to follow a pre-flight protocol to try to identify any failures; did this charter? On a commercial jet, you’d have the maintenance schedules to track whether someone overlooked an electrical problem; did this charter jet?

The charter company Mitt uses most–Air Charter Team–is a broker. It doesn’t operate or staff the planes involved. They contract our to other operators. They ensure the safety of the planes they deal with by contracting with a research company to grade the teams they use.

Air Charter Team has contracted with Aviation Research Group (ARG/US) to provide our customers with comprehensive safety information on the charter operators and pilots we utilize on your behalf. The report our company receives on each air charter operator and pilot gives us the background and safety information we need to make a sensible decision on who to use for your private jet charters.

[snip]

The CHEQ report (Charter Evaluation and Qualification report) has three major components that air charter companies use: historical safety ratings, current aircraft and pilot background checks, and on-site safety audits. Analysis of these components results in four potential levels of safety rating: DNQ, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Each level reflects analysis and ranking based on increasing amounts of detailed information on the charter operator.

If it were my spouse who had had an emergency landing on a charter my campaign was using (and presumably would use for the next six weeks), I’d want to double check this assurance. Was Ann on a Platinum graded plane? Were the reports in the plane’s historical aircraft checks accurate?

That is, I’d want to know if the subcontractors my contracted service was using were fulfilling my needs. But not Mitt. This guy–a guy with a a JD/MBA–thinks first of a way to minimize the damage from a fire that would be dangerous under any circumstances, rather than ensuring very obviously procedural means to try to avoid a fire were in place.

Such a method of problem solving–even a problem that affects him personally–doesn’t say much about what kind of problem solving he’d do as a President.

Update: According to the pool reporter, Mitt was joking about the windows.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

29 replies
  1. bourbaki says:

    It’s probably not fair, but the first thing I thought when I read Romney’s quote was “What sort of boob wants to increase the oxygen supply available to a fire?”

  2. harpie says:

    EW: “I’m more interested in what this says about Mitt’s problem solving.”

    Well, Mitt’s always hired others to do that for him.

    He doesn’t know “why they don’t do that?” OY!

    And he thinks she’s just as clueless as he is:

    And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were.

    Well, I know one thing [well, two things, if you count that I know why “they don’t do that”]: my family would know that I would know how worried they would be.

    Don’t charter planes have those little oxegyn masks?

  3. Snarki, child of Loki says:

    Mitt can avoid all that “can’t open the windows on an airplane” stuff by just strapping ’em on top of the plane.

    Good enough for Seamus!

  4. Jessica says:

    I am quite certain this man has no internal processing ability – all his thoughts are word vomits. (Apologies for those whom may be eating).

  5. Peterr says:

    I wonder what the Secret Service thinks of this arrangement.

    No, actually I don’t. I’m reasonably sure that it gives them very high blood pressure every time they think about it. At least.

    And if they raised this as a problem with Lord Romney and he dismissed it with a shrug of his shoulder and a firm grasp on his wallet, that raises even bigger questions about his problem solving skills.

  6. noble_serf says:

    And we’ve run our wars like this for 10 years or so (pay a guy who pays a guy who hires a guy to build a thing or provide a service)

  7. chetnolian says:

    Let’s be clear, what Mitt said was simple, and to be fair, probably emotional, rubbish.

    And yes Challenger 600s have smoke masks. I suspect there are windows which open in the cockpit but indeed you don’t pour fresh oxygen on a fire, nor do you put it into an aircraft cabin unless there is a direct need.

    This may or may not re-open the quite different question of smoke hoods for passengers which have been considered and rejected over many years by safety obsessed experts. By the way, scheduled flight in modern jets is safer than it has ever, ever been. And the top end of executive jet travel is not far behind, the differences being largely accounted for by operational, not technical, issues.

    Having said all that though, the first rule of air accident and incident investigation is “Never assume”. We have no idea why a fire occurred. It doesn’t sound as if the pilots put a foot wrong, so anything questioning their competence at this stage simply isn’t fair.

    We may be sure that there are people swarming over the plane as we speak with no other task than to find out exactly why such a very rare thing occurred and to try to stop it ever happening again.

  8. emptywheel says:

    @chetnolian: Agree about the pilots–no reason to doubt their competence at this point. I’m more interested in maintenance records.

    Incidentally, I also find it eerie that Mit had two CO-related emergencies in short succession. First the plane crash in Pueblo that forced him to reschedule last Sunday, and then this, which forced Ann to make an emergency landing in Denver.

    Of course Mitt seemed to have no problems in Pueblo today, so it’s all good, I guess.

  9. Arbusto says:

    @emptywheel 10: There’s an old aviation adage “shit happens.” I understand the angle on your post, and agree with your take on Mittens reasoning ability; but as long as there are bus bars and currents flowing through them, electrical fires can happen. It’s the action during and after the emergency that matters. Mittens character flaws are enough to know he’d fail badly.

  10. Peterr says:

    @emptywheel: Then my guess is that the answer to your questions “Was Ann on a Platinum graded plane? Were the reports in the plane’s historical aircraft checks accurate?” are “Yes” and “we’re looking into that.”

  11. Citizen92 says:

    Air Charter Team is a broker… That also does the complex logistics of campaign travel. And if i recall right they also do the FBO’s, billing, etc. It is an extreme niche market. A company named Air Partner used to do the same for the WH press charters.

    The planes are fine, and undoubtedly near new. Indeed, sh*t happens. I recall one of my political charges was once on a USAF 707 whose engine caught fire on takeoff. The crew dealt with it, professionally.

    My take is that the Mittster was trying to show his down home smarts. Can’t open windows on an airplane. Har har. Bet some of you rubes thought that airplane windows open, but you wouldn’t know, since you’ve never been on an airplane, har har.

    I bet he would also speak louder if a Spanish speaker didn’t understand his English. Because “they” understand if you speak louder. Sheesh.

  12. bigchin says:

    “…This guy… thinks first of a way to minimize the damage from a fire that would be dangerous under any circumstances, rather than ensuring very obviously procedural means to try to avoid a fire were in place.

    Such a method of problem solving–even a problem that affects him personally–doesn’t say much about what kind of problem solving he’d do as a President.”

    Sounds EXACTLY like Obama’s “look forward/no prosecutions” strategy to “minimize damage to” (indeed, strengthen and expand upon) the very corrupt institutions (Wall Street, The Pentagon, the CIA) that caused the damage rather than pursuing any means to make sure they don’t happen again.

    Such a method of problem solving says everything about the problems Obama has refused to act upon.

    So, who are you going to vote for?

    I’m voting for Jill Stein, in Florida.

  13. posaune says:

    @Citizen92: Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Rick Riley (Rove’s friend in Alabama – who took down Dan Siegelman) one of the owners of Air Partners?

  14. Petrocelli says:

    This matter is far less about safety checks on the Plane, than it is about the depth and breadth of Romney’s ignorance. If opening a window would allow more Oxygen into the Cabin, that would feed the flames and cause a larger fire. But there is far less Oxygen at high altitudes, which is why Jets feed Oxygen into the Cabin. So opening a Window at that altitude would reduce available Oxygen, not increase it. A better query from Romney would have been, why didn’t the Oxygen Masks deploy, and placed on Ann’s face so that she could recover from smoke inhalation.

    Also, opening a window up there would cause a pressure issue, those who weren’t buckled up would be seriously injured or get sucked out the Plane. And of course, the chance of the plane crashing increases if a Window is opened.

    For someone like Myth Romney, who must’ve been flying on Jets for decades now, his ignorance of these simple facts about air travel says a great deal about just how shallow his Knowledge Stream really is.

    Safety checks are performed before every flight, stress tests are performed according to how many hours of flight, and differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. If this was a Gulfstream, I wonder if the folks in Georgia who monitor all Planes, can be contacted for flight info. of this one.

  15. P J Evans says:

    Well, opening a window at 35,000 feet might put out the fire, simply from the lack of oxygen. It wouldn’t be healthy for the people on board, though.

    Someone needs to ask Rmoney if he remembers what happened to Payne Stewart.

  16. posaune says:

    @Petrocelli: Good comment, Petrocelli. I’m reminded of my trip in 2001 (Sept 16, actually) to UK for the 65th reunion of my dad’s B-17 HB Group at Bassingbourne (the Memphis Belle base). All these 80-85 yo guys and their boomer kids on the plane, one of the first flights out of Dulles after 9/11. The kids were nervous as all get out. The old guys? Unflappable. “At least the Germans aren’t after us this trip.”

    At any rate, there was an 76-yo former P-38 Mustand fighter pilot along for the trip. Had been stationed at Duxford during the ETO. This guy Clark was a hoot, and he was amazed himself that as a 20-yo he was given a $250,000 plane to fly. He recalled, with some mirth, hitting an ME109, and diving down to 8,000ft altitude, turning off the O2, and having a smoke before going up to get another hit. It was an amazing trip.

  17. scribe says:

    @Petrocelli: I had an expert witness once who as a 20-something kid had helped design flight test regimes for new aircraft during WWII. He was one of those natural-born engineers who was crazy about planes his entire life. He had some stories to tell, like how flight crews compelled him to ride along when flight-testing planes like the B-29 and B-32. Or how a test pilot, angry about the “weight and balance” of his captured Me-262, threw him into the space behind the seat where the radio had been and took him for a ride to show him. My witness had no idea what an Me-262 was until then, but related he knew at a glance it had been built by slaves – “you could see the grass going by through the holes in the bottom where the rivets had never been installed”.

    I suspect you’d find similar people in any generation subjected to the kinds of experiences they went through, but that makes them no less cool or heroic.

  18. emptywheel says:

    @JohnT: I thought about that. There’s another charter they use that uses GulfStreams, which might make it more likely. As I said above, Obama and other Dems also use this service. You think they’d know to avoid that.

  19. tbob says:

    What’s with all the nit-picking here? Wasn’t Ann wearing her magical “garment”?

    Come to think of it, I don’t know why (in lieu of armor) we don’t issue same “garments” to the troops in Afghanistan…imagine that would help with the deficit.

  20. klynn says:

    This story has been interesting to follow. Conservatives are saying that he is not stupid, that he has a “barbed” sense of humor and his words were a joke.

    So that makes him a cad.

  21. evodevo says:

    If it was a joke, he REALLY REALLY needs to work on his delivery !! Maybe Sheldon will offer him a gig in Vegas to polish his act.

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