Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The TFR of SB 863

As you likely know, President Obama was in the Southern California area this past weekend to give a commencement speech at UC Irvine, among other political agenda items.

When the president comes to town a funny thing happens to the airspace in the area - it becomes restricted.

These limitations are call Temporary Flight Restrictions and carry with them certain special rules that govern access, including when and where.

All VIP TFRs, as a presidential TFR is known, have 3 basic rule components of compliance if a flight is intended within the geography and time of a TFR: there must be a flight plan on file which must be activated, the aircraft must be in constant communication with Air Traffic Control, and the most misunderstood part of TFR compliance, the aircraft must have a discrete "squawk code" prior to take off.

A squawk code is a transponder signal that is picked up by ATC radar. The general squawk code, i.e. one that says you are an aircraft though not a specific plane, is 1200. A discrete code is one that is particular to your aircraft for the flight.

These three basic rules are misunderstood, or not understood at all, by a lot of pilots and as a consequence the offending pilot is asked to talk to someone with disciplinary authority from the FAA.

The worst cases are those where the aircraft is not in any communication with ATC - that's when an F-16 from the Air National Guard makes its presence known by flying formation alongside the transgressing plane, rocking it's wings.

You don't want to see this when you fly...
This means two things: 1) you're in trouble and you'd better follow me to the nearest airport and land, and 2) if you don't there's another F-16 behind you that you can't see with it's missiles armed and ready to shoot you down if you don't comply.

In order to fly as slow as most general aviation aircraft (think a Cessna 172) an F-16 needs to be at near full thrust to counter all the drag necessary to fly at 80 knots or so ... basically the only think keeping it in the air at that speed is jet thrust, which you can imagine is a deafening roar.

This past Saturday, well aware of the TFRs, I filed my plan, got my code, and talked to ATC all the way down to see Mom. Along the way I overheard on the radio a couple of pilots getting directions from ATC to call the FAA when they landed - and all of them sounded surprised.

Their plight was the same - they took off from an unrestricted airport, likely aware of the TFRs (they are highly publicized), and called up ATC for flight following, which is a courtesy service of ATC to provide traffic and hazard information, or to open their flight plan in the air. My guess is that these pilots assumed that if they were communicating with ATC for flight following and/or opening their flight plans that this was sufficient to comply with the TFRs.

They were wrong.

Regardless of communicating and regardless of having a flight plan, the biggest detail failed was obtaining a discrete squawk code prior to take off, i.e. on the ground.

The reason for this requirement is so that ATC can be sure of exactly who is departing when and where they are going at all times and all phases of flight. This assures no flight transgressions, and if there were, you could be certain of a couple of F-16s intercepting and doing some military type things...

So it is with California workers' compensation - for some reason people are surprised that there has been an increase in cumulative trauma claims, particularly in the greater Los Angeles area, but there should be no surprise because it's just attorneys following the detailed instructions in the most recent work comp TFRs.

Employers and their carriers are acting like they've been wing-rocked by California applicant attorneys, but employers failed to get their discrete squawk code on the ground.

At last Thursday's Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau annual meeting the Los Angeles area was again identified as having significantly greater frequency of larger claims involving multiple body parts and cumulative trauma.

Cumulative trauma accounted for approximately 8.9 of every 100 indemnity claims in the Los Angeles area in 2012, compared to 5.7 in the San Francisco Bay Area and 4.9 in the rest of the state. Since 2010, the percentage of indemnity claims involving cumulative trauma coming from Los Angeles has been about 50% higher than in the Bay Area and 80% higher than the rest of the state.

Participants in a panel discussion Thursday afternoon said that cumulative trauma claims seem to be the main culprit for the frequency increase, particularly post-termination cumulative trauma claims.

Cumulative trauma gets around the post-termination defenses by establishing a date of injury prior to date of termination.

But I think Gary Nelson, an applicants’ attorney in Modesto on the panel, figured out why.

He said the increase in CT claims is at least partially attributable to the 1st District Court of Appeal decision in Benson v. WCAB, which requires multiple work-related injuries to be separately rated, and the requirement under Senate Bill 899 that doctors apportion how much of the injured worker’s disability is attributable to the injury and how much is caused by degenerative conditions.

“Any self-respecting applicants’ attorney is going to ask where that degeneration came from,” he said. If a doctor says part of that deterioration was attributable to work, “you have a new claim.”

That a higher percent of this activity is in the L.A. area may be more attributable to the size of the population compared to Northern California rather than any particular nefarious activity by certain groups. If a Northern California attorney knows and understands the rules of engagement there'd be no reason not to assert that strategy - the panel did not address whether this activity was also seen in NoCal claims, just that there were more in SoCal.

The alphabet soup organizations are in the process of studying this phenomenon, but I don't think it's all that mystical.

The legislative and regulatory TFR's have been instituted, applicant flight plans filed and activated, written and oral communications occurred, and discrete case codes were obtained on take off.

There's no enigma here. Just the roar of an F-16's engine near maximum thrust keeping the plane in the air while wing rocking the transgressive. Follow it or be shot down...

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