I was saddened by the news that Paul Newman died on Friday. The iconic, legendary actor, who has made up so much of what American film is about, passed away at the age of 83 at his home in Westport, Connecticut. He was an amazing guy.
When I was a correspondent for Newsweek, I did a Playboy interview with him and I spent six weeks traveling with him. (I wanted nine weeks, but the magazine said I had to do it in six.) We traveled all over the country together: We went to Las Vegas for Formula One racing, to the Keys for scuba diving, then we went up to his house in Connecticut, his home in New York, and finally home in Beverly Hills. I was actually with him right when he finished filming the movie for which he won an Academy Award, The Verdict.
The one thing I noticed about Paul Newman was that he was the best looking 70-year-old I had ever seen. What was amazing about him was not only his trademark blue eyes, but also his regimen. He had built a sauna in his house and every single morning he would go in it with a copy of The New York Times and he would read the entire paper in the sauna. Then he got a huge bucket, filled it with ice water and stuck his head it in for an hour! He looked great when he came out and I think it may have prolonged his life. He had an amazing life story and we are going to miss him.
WHERE THE FAA AND NTSB DIVERGE
The FAA suspended two sleeping airline pilots — not just one, two. Two pilots from Hawaii’s Go! airlines who slept through their plane’s landing procedure were suspended for the careless and reckless operation of an aircraft.
That’s our FAA, really jumping into action. This happened weeks ago, but they were only suspended days ago. The pilots were then fired by the airline, even though they finished their suspension on September 9. One of the pilots was later diagnosed with sleep apnea.
On a more serious note, because of the recent train crash that killed 26 people in Los Angeles, Congress has passed sweeping legislation that requires more sleep for train operators. Also, there were some rail buffs who were text messaging the operator while he was operating that train and because of cell records, we know that he texted them back within a minute of that crash. Now, L.A. metro transportation officials are requiring two operators per train — let’s just hope they are not texting each other.
The interesting thing about the FAA suspending those pilots and L.A. Metrolink adding operators is that it’s one thing to say you have a problem, but you have to determine what the problem was and you have to figure out the probable cause. Then, once you figure out the probable cause, you figure out the solution and then you implement it. This is the biggest problem I have with the FAA — the National Transportation Safety Board figures out the solution, but the FAA only wants to study it. Why? Because they don’t want to cost the airlines any more money.
Once you make an intentional decision not to go for that solution, in my mind, that is criminal negligence. Historically, the FAA has been guilty of that because they have two conflicting objectives: to enforce policies about safety, and promote the business of aviation. Every time they have to make a decision between safety and economic benefit, they always seem to choose economic benefit and that doesn’t help anyone who is flying on a plane or taking a train or driving in a car. Especially with an aging aircraft fleet and the airlines not wanting to spend a dime, we need an agency that is going to do something to fix the situation.