Saturday, May 26, 2007

Airbus Beluga A300-600ST Super Transporter

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird... it's a plane... it's a whale... it's an Airbus Beluga!

What's an Airbus Beluga? It's a funny-looking airborne heavy lifter. Here's what it says on the Airbus website:
Featuring one of the most voluminous cargo holds of any civil or military aircraft flying today, the Airbus Beluga offers a unique way to transport oversized air cargo.

The Beluga (also known as the A300-600ST Super Transporter) was developed to carry complete sections of Airbus aircraft from different production sites around Europe to the final assembly lines in Toulouse or Hamburg. Its main-deck cargo volume is greater than the C5 Galaxy, the An-124 or the C-17 airlifters.

The five-aircraft fleet of Belugas is operated by Airbus Transport International (ATI). In addition to serving the internal transportation needs of Airbus, ATI offers Belugas on a charter basis to third parties. ATI ensures a high level of customer satisfaction with loading, unloading, and delivery designed to be fast, safe, flexible, and reliable – as demonstrated by years of successful operations throughout the world.
Still don't quite know what an Airbus Beluga is? Have a look at this new video, posted today on YouTube, showing a demonstration flight of the Airbus Beluga.

Tip of the hat to YouTube user segelflugzeugbau, who posted the video.

Friday, May 25, 2007

ALPA now supports 'Age 60' rule change

ALPAThe Air line Pilots Association (ALPA) announced yesterday that its Executive Board had voted "to end the union's longstanding support for the FAA Age 60 mandatory retirement age for airline pilots." An ALPA press release about this change of position suggests that the union leadership realized the change was coming, and they want to have an active role in shaping details of the new rules. This is a complete turnaround for ALPA, which had previously supported mandatory retirement at age 60.

The news release specifies these as the priorities that ALPA now will advocate:
  • Appropriate legislative language to prevent retroactive application of a change to the Age 60 Rule, to the effect that: "No person over 60, except active flight deck crewmembers, on the effective date may serve as a pilot (captain or first officer) for a Part 121 airline unless such person is newly hired as a pilot on or after such effective date without credit for prior seniority or prior longevity for benefits or other terms related to length of service prior to the date of rehire under any labor agreement or employment policies of the air carrier."
  • Appropriate legislative language to ensure stronger liability protection for airlines and pilot unions in implementing a change to the rule, to the effect that: "Any action in conformance with this Act or with a regulation under this Act may not serve as a basis for liability or relief before any court or agency of the United States, or of any state or locality, nor may any action taken prior to the effective date of enactment on the basis of section 121.383(c) of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations as then in effect."
  • Ensuring that, under a defined benefit retirement plan, a change to the Age 60 Rule will not reduce a participant’s or beneficiary’s accrued benefit nor reduce a benefit to which a participant or beneficiary would have been entitled without enactment of such a change to the Rule.
  • Opposing any additional age-related diagnostic medical testing.
  • Opposing any attempt by the FAA to obtain greater access to pilot medical records.
  • Supporting FAA Air Surgeon Tilton’s recommendation to require a 1st Class Medical certification every six months for pilots over age 60.
  • Opposing for domestic operation the implementation of the ICAO standard that at least one pilot in the cockpit be under age 60. Once sufficient data on pilots over age 60 becomes available, unless the necessity for this mitigation for the long term is clearly shown, advocate for removal of the ICAO over/under mitigation for all operations.
  • Support the ability of a pilot to retire prior to the mandatory age without penalty.
ALPA's Executive Board also urged the union to continue to aggressively lobby for the adoption of the Akaka bill (which would provide full PBGC benefits to pilots who retire at age 60).

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ryanair Boeing 737-800 loses flight display

RyanairI wonder what this is all about: A very brief report on the NTSB website states that a Ryanair Boeing 737-800 experienced a "partial, temporary loss of flight displays" after departure from Stansted just before noon on May 13, 2007. The reports says that the flight crew declared a PAN and returned to Stansted instead of continuing on to its destination, Stockholm.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch in the United Kingdom is conducting the investigation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ATC tapes for Swissair 111 accident released

Swissair MD-11Air traffic control tapes related to the Swissair Flight 111 accident have been released to the public by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. The accident occurred on September 2, 1998. TheSwissair MD-11 aircraft was en route to Geneva from New York when a fire broke out on board. The crew were attempting to dump fuel in preparation for an emergency landing at Halifax, Nova Scotia. They didn't make it. The aircraft crashed at high speed into St. Margaret's Bay, off the coast of Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. All of the 14 crew members and 215 passengers on board were lost.

According to an article published today by Canada's CTV, the ATC tapes, released by the Canadian Press, have not been made public until now.
After the crash, the Transportation Safety Board refused to release the ATC audio, saying it contained personal information.

John Reid, then Canada's information commissioner, initially supported the refusal. "In my view, the voices, along with the tonal and emotive characteristics, constitute personal information of three air traffic controllers and the two pilots,'' he ruled in 1999.

Reid eventually reversed on his decision after he received complaints about the board's refusal to release audio from four other air disasters.

He fought the board and Nav Canada all the way to the Supreme Court, which eventually ruled the transmissions should be released to the public.

The ruling brings Canada in line with countries that have allowed ATC recordings to be available for years.
Here is a link to a a transcript of the ATC tapes that was posted on the CTV website. (8 page 'pdf' file).

CTV has published 'mp3' audio files of the radio transmissions as well. Click here for CTV's article about the release of the tapes, and links to the audio files.

[Photo Source]

Monday, May 21, 2007

Northwest DC-9 cabin decompression incident

Northwest Airlines DC-9Several days ago, a Northwest Airlines DC-9 aircraft experienced a cabin decompression while en route from Syracuse to Detroit. The flight diverted to Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where it made a safe emergency landing. There were four crew and 95 passengers on board. No one was injured.

Northwest Flight 1411 departed from Syracuse Hancock Airport just after noon on Friday, May 18, 2007. It landed at Buffalo at shortly before 1:30 PM. News reports about the incident say that smoke filled the cockpit, the cabin depressurized, and the cabin oxygen masks deployed. After the aircraft landed at Buffalo, damage described as a 12-inch hole in the fuselage was discovered. No further details were reported.

Later in the day, passengers continued on their journey aboard another aircraft that had been ferried to Buffalo from Detroit.

[Photo Source]

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Lufthansa cabin crew to get pay increase

Lufthansa cabin crewBloomberg News is reporting that Lufthansa has agreed to include 15,000 flight attendants in a pay raise package. The announcement comes from Lufthansa employee union Ver.di:
The flight attendants will receive a 3.4 percent increase, which the airline had already agreed to apply to ground personnel, from July 1, Ver.di said in a faxed statement. Lufthansa spokeswoman Stefanie Stotz said negotiations are ongoing and declined to comment further when contacted by Bloomberg News.

Ver.di said Feb. 17 the 3.4 percent pay-raise agreement it negotiated for 27,000 ground-crew workers also applied to 15,000 flight attendants it represents. Lufthansa argued that cabin crews are already covered by a May 2005 contract with the UFO flight attendants' union providing raises of at least 2.5 percent as of January 2007 and lasting through December 2008.
Recent disagreements between Lufthansa and its cabin crew have been contentious, recently causing several disruptions in flight service as cabin crews in Berlin stopped work to demand higher wages.

[Photo Source]

Friday, May 18, 2007

Missing: One Delta Boeing 777 tire assembly

Delta B777Several days ago a Delta Air Lines Boeing 777-200ER landed at Atlanta minus its #8 tire assembly. It seems to have parted company with the rest of the aircraft as it departed Tel Aviv. The brief factual report on the NTSB website isn't very long, and doesn't offer any explanations for the incident:
After the airplane took-off, pieces of the #8 tire assembly were found along the departure taxiway and runway.

An aerial search was done in Tel Aviv along the departure flight path to try and locate the #8 wheel and tire. It was not located.

On landing in Atlanta, it was discovered that the #8 tire assembly was missing. The flight crew had no indication on departure that there was a landing gear problem.

The parts that were collected in Israel have been sent to the US for examination at BF Goodrich. [NTSB Report: DCA07WA041]
The Civil Aviation Authority of Israel is investigating the incident.

[Photo Source]

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Helo and the Great White Shark

This must be the week for stories about aircraft and marine life. Yesterday I wrote about the Aloha Airlines B737 painted with images of marine life. Today's tale comes to us from South Africa via the Aero-News Network(ANN).

ANN published a story about a sightseeing helicopter (with two honeymooners on board) that intervened between a Great White Shark and some unsuspecting surfers at South Africa's Plettenberg Bay.
The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said pilot Glen Brown spotted a shark in the water while flying the couple and another passenger over the beach. It turned out to be a Great White shark measuring more than 11 feet long and it was headed for a group of unsuspecting surfers about 150 feet offshore, according to online news source, Earth Times.

Brown flew his Robertson 44 towards the surfers to try and warn them with hand gestures, but the surfers apparently thought the pilot was just being friendly and waved back.

But when the shark closed in to about 15 feet, Brown flew his aircraft between the shark and the surfers in an attempt to create a diversion and herd the shark away from the surfers. The danger was finally realized when the helicopter passengers also waved "like mad," said Craig Lambinon, NSRI spokesman. The surfers quickly and safely made it to shore.

"The shark then began swimming away ... The pilot said he continued to monitor the shark as it moved away until it was out of sight and lost beneath the sea surface," said Lambinon.
Here in Hawaii where I live, people who participate in ocean sports have a special hand signal to indicate "shark." I'm quite sure that divers and surfers elsewhere in the world know it as well. (See photo at right).

Maybe if the people on that helo made that sign to the surfers instead of waving, they'd have understood the message sooner! In any case, kudos to helo pilot Glen Brown for spotting the big critter and going out of his way to alert the surfers -- and for giving those honeymooners a truly memorable experience!

[Photo Source: Shark; Hand Signal]

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Aloha Airlines Boeing 737 becomes a flying work of art

Aloha AirlinesAn Aloha Airlines Boeing 737-700 has begun service as a flying work of art. The aircraft, hand-painted by well-known marine life artist Wyland, is being billed as part of an effort to preserve Hawai'i's unique marine life and ocean environment by raising public awareness of them.

A page on the Aloha Airlines website about the newly painted aircraft says:
In a traditional blessing ceremony, Aloha bestowed the name Koholalele on the jetliner, which will fly between Hawai'i and the West Coast. The name Koholalele (literally "flying or leaping whale") honors the humpback whale, an ancient visitor to Hawai'i, considered by Hawaiians to be a kupuna, or elder, in its own right. Koholalele also is a place name for an area along the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island and the name of a wind that "leaps over the land" like a flying whale.
Both sides of the airliner's fuselage portray examples of marine life found in Hawai'i, including several endangered species, and some creatures unique to the islands. A large photo of the aircraft on the Aloha Airlines website shows humpback whales, two species of dolphins, a tiger shark, a Hawaiian monk seal, a green sea turtle, a Laysan albatross, and a species of reef triggerfish endemic to Hawaiian waters known locally as the 'humuhumunukunuku apua'a' (yes, really!). Visit the page and click on the animals to display a description of each.

Plane spotters on both shores of the Pacific will be watching for this uniquely painted aircraft. For the record, its registration number is N748AL.

[Photo Source]

UPDATE Sept. 3, 2007: This post was selected for the first Carnival of Aloha, a showcase of Hawaii bloggers hosted by Homespun Honolulu. Go on over there and check out the great selections from blogs about visiting and living in Hawaii. (And thanks to Evelyn for including The Aloha Airlines flying work of art in the blog carnival.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Omni Air DC-10 horizontal stabilizer malfunction

Omni Air InternationalThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a preliminary report of a safety incident involving a DC-10 aircraft operated by Omni Air International, Inc. on May 2, 2007. According to the report, the aircraft "experienced a malfunction of the horizontal stabilizer during a normal descent" into Atlanta. The aircraft landed uneventfully at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and there were no injuries to the 14 crew and 292 passengers.

Here is an excerpt from the NTSB report that describes what happened:
After takeoff the flight proceeded towards the destination airport and the captain later stated that while flying at 13,000 feet mean sea level (msl), and decelerating to 250 knots, the "Stab Out of Trim" light remained illuminated.

The autopilot was disengaged and the airplane suddenly pitched "aggressively" nose down, though the control yoke was guarded.

Attempts in resetting/moving the stabilizer setting using the pilot's and co-pilot's control yoke switches, alternate trim switches, and longitudinal trim handles were unsuccessful.

The approach was discontinued, and an emergency was declared with air traffic control (ATC). A "demanding amount of elevator back pressure was required to maintain level flight...", and the airplane was vectored for a landing on runway 27R, which was the runway requested.

The airplane was landed uneventfully on that runway with the flaps extended to 35 degrees, and the No. 2 engine at the flight idle position. The airplane taxied to the gate and the passengers were deplaned.

Preliminary examination of the airplane revealed that a shear pin/bolt in the horizontal stabilizer chain drive unit (P/N AJH7337-507) was fractured. The horizontal stabilizer chain drive unit was retained for further examination. [NTSB Report: MIA07IA088]
The passenger charter flight had originated in Shannon, Ireland.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Paramount Airways runway overrun closes airport

Paramount AirwaysAll flights to and from the airport at Visakhapatnam (aka Vizag), a city on the east coast of India, were canceled this past Saturday after an aircraft operated by privately owned Paramount Airways ran off the end of a runway after landing and became mired in mud. The aircraft had just arrived on a scheduled flight from Hyderabad. No one was injured in the incident.

Some news reports from India about the incident seem to suggest that the aircraft may have landed on a new runway that was not yet officially in service. quoted an air traffic controller who said that "the pilot got confused and landed on the wrong runway and lost control."
had this to say about the airport at Visakhapatnam:
The airport, which is managed by the Indian Navy and the Airport Authority of India (AAI), recently completed construction of 10,000 feet new runway. The in-flight calibration of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) by the AAI was scheduled to be taken up in a couple of days.

The necessary approval for using new runway from the director general of civil aviation was expected by the month-end.
An article published earlier today by notes that partial service has resumed at the airport. Smaller turbo-prop planes operated by Kingfisher and Air Deccan were allowed to land at Visakhapatnam the day after the accident, but the larger aircraft operated by Indian, Air Sahara and Paramount Airways will remain suspended till the runway is clear.
According to a Naval official, the plane has been moved for a distance of 15 metres and the operation is still going on. Besides, the Navy offered to provide technical backup for operating more small planes but no airliner came forward to operate extra flights. also commented on the investigation:
A two-member team from the office of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Chennai, conducted an inquiry into the factors that led to Saturday’s faulty landing of Hyderabad-Visakhapatnam Paramount Airways’ plane.

The team is looking into air-worthiness of the plane, competence of pilots and condition of the runway, which, left as it is, might affect the landing of planes.
Regarding the investigation, reports today:
Meanwhile, a Naval Spokesman contradicted the claim of Paramount Airways that the flight overshot the runway due to the presence of mud on the runway. The Boeing 737 of Indian Airlines had landed normally a few minutes before the mishap occurred, he pointed out.
If you're confused by that statement, so am I. Did the Indian Airlines Boeing land on the same runway as the Paramount one did? Did one, both, or neither land on the 'wrong' runway? If the Boeing landed on a different runway than the Paramount plane, why even mention it?

[Photo Source]

Thursday, May 10, 2007

First Airbus A380 in Singapore Airlines livery

A380Aviation news website has published photos of the the first Singapore Airlines Airbus A380, fresh from the paint shop.

It took 21 days to paint the huge aircraft -- number MSN003 -- in the Singapore Airlines livery. One hundred painters worked over four shifts to hand-polish the 3,100 square meters of fuselage surface area.

Singapore Airlines expects to take delivery of this first A380 in October of this year. Three additional A380s for Singapore -- MSN005, MSN006 and MSN008 -- are in production at this time.

Earlier this year published photos of the interior of another A380. That one, A380 MSN007, features a "development and demonstration cabin" that has 12 first class seats and 307 economy seats on the main deck, plus 64 business class and 136 economy seats on the upper deck.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

'Dog' Chapman the bounty hunter removed from United flight

News media are reporting that Duane "Dog" Chapman and his family were removed from a United Airlines flight yesterday after a dispute with a flight attendant. Chapman, the 'bounty hunter' of reality TV fame, reportedly was traveling with his wife and two sons from Honolulu to Denver.

The incident happened at Los Angeles International Airport where they family had arrived a short time before, and had boarded United Flight 386, their connecting flight to Denver. The aircraft had just pushed back from the gate at LAX when, reports say, there was an altercation in the first class section between the bounty hunter's wife, Beth Chapman, and a flight attendant.

KWGN News 2 in Denver reports:
A witness account said the problem arose when a flight attendant noticed that Duane Chapman, who was asleep, did not have his seatbelt fastened. The witness said his wife, Beth, was unhappy with the fact that the flight attendant nudged Chapman to tell him to put on the seatbelt.

"The disruption on the flight affected our other customers on the flight and our safety regulations," said [United spokesperson] Urbanski.

Airport police officers met the aircraft at the gate, and the flight attendant asked that the Chapmans be removed from the flight. There were no arrests, and Duane Chapman was apologetic, according to police.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin adds the detail that "the Chapmans were disrupting the flight by being loud and using profanity."

Duane, Beth, Timothy and Leland Chapman were rebooked on another flight to Denver.

[Photo Source]

Update on the 2006 ExcelAire Legacy - GOL mid-air collision

Damaged ExcelAire Legacy aircraftLast month I reported here that ExcelAire, the company that owned the Embraer Legacy 600 that was involved in the mid-air collision in Brazilian airspace last year, had blamed Brazilian air traffic control for the accident.

I linked to a blog item by journalist Joe Sharkey, who was a passenger aboard the Legacy at the time of the collision in September of 2006. Mr. Sharkey presented his account of the accident investigation in two parts in his blog, and included a link to the Portuguese language version of ExcelAire's report.

A few days ago, Joe Sharkey posted another update that includes a link to the 98-page English language version of the ExcelAire report about the accident. If you have been following the story of this accident and the subsequent investigation, I would suggest the ExcelAire document as required reading, along with a few more recent posts in Mr. Sharkey's blog.

Have a look at this post from May 4, in which Joe Sharkey writes about the Brazilian response to the NTSB letter that discusses the malfunctioning collision avoidance system on the Legacy at the time of the accident. Sharkey cites Brazilian press reports that quote Federal Police chief Renato Sayão, who said of the NTSB letter, "...this is information for the pilots' defense. This type of release is only in their interest." He was referring to the two American pilots of the Legacy, of course.

Then read what Mr. Sharkey wrote earlier today in his blog. Here is an excerpt:
The Federal Police in Brazil, having quickly finished what strikes me as a very dodgy investigation, are rushing to file criminal charges against the two American pilots as soon as they can.

The police will apparently claim that pilot negligence caused the crash, in that the Legacy's transponder (which is connected to the TCAS, the anti-collision alert) was not working for 55 minutes before the collision with a Gol 737 that sent all 154 aboard the 737 to their deaths on Sept. 29.

The police evidently will also trot out the long-discredited charge that the American pilots were also at fault because they failed to follow the filed flight plan (which -- and this is no longer in any dispute -- was superseded, as flight plans routinely are, by explicit instructions by air-traffic control to maintain 37,000 feet altitude).

We know that the transponder was not signaling. But why the transponder was not working is very much an open question -- unless one believes (as no one with the common sense of a turnip does) that the pilots deliberately turned it off.
He then recounts the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA) version of how the accident happened. He winds up his long but compelling blog post with press articles about the conclusions of the "investigation."

It has seemed, from the outset, that the Brazilian authorities have been only too anxious to assign blame to the Legacy pilots alone. It looks as though the investigation has focused solely on trying to find "facts" to support their theory. Their agenda seems to have been to find ways to justify a criminal indictment against the American pilots. Meanwhile, they have ignored, discounted or dismissed other information that might have led to a fuller understanding of what happened in order to prevent it happening again.

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Jury convicts man who threatened Southwest flight attendant

Southwest Airlines logoAnother day, another court ruling in the case of an unruly passenger. And another day of news media making light of the situation...

Carl William Persing, 41, was convicted by a jury of interfering with flight attendants and crew members. The felony conviction came after a three-day trial in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, NC.

Persing's trouble began on a Southwest Airlines flight this past September. According to a criminal complaint signed by an FBI agent, Persing and his girlfriend were "embracing, kissing and acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable." A flight attendant asked them to stop. In response to that request, Persing threatened the flight attendant.

The flight attendant reported the threats made against him to the captain, and the couple were arrested when the aircraft landed at its destination, Raleigh-Durham. The judge later dismissed the charge against Persing's girlfriend.

WWAY TV3 reported that Persing was offered a plea deal before the trial started. He could have plead to a misdemeanor simple assault, but turned it down. A trial ensued and the jury found him guilty.

Persing will be sentenced on August 6. Assistant US Attorney John Bowler said that Persing will likely serve jail time for the federal felony conviction. After the verdict was handed down, the judge told Persing that he could fly on commercial and private aircraft only if traveling to and from court appearances.

That's the gist of the story. The man had his day in court, and after hearing the facts of the case the jury saw fit to convict him. What bothers me is that some of the news media are reporting on this case in a way that trivializes this kind of offense.

Many reports -- and especially the headlines -- focused on the couple's inappropriate behavior that prompted the flight attendant to intervene in the first place, not on the subsequent threats to the flight attendant. Moreover, this was done in a snickering 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink' kind of way.

Here are just a few examples of what I'm referring to:
Headline, from WECT in Wilmington: Mid-Air Make Out Lands Couple in Court

Headline from the Wilmington Star: Man in airline love case guilty of interfering with flight crew

Headline from the News & Observer: Frisky flier is guilty of bullying -- And the story begins with the sentence, "A California man is now a convicted felon for threatening a flight attendant who asked him and his girlfriend to stop their lusty cuddling on a Raleigh-bound flight."

The headline of an Associated Press story published on MSNBC: Man convicted for mile-high makeout - and the sub-heading reads, "Jury punishes affectionate passenger for interfering with flight"
There are more, but you get the idea. Headlines like these make it sound as though this guy was raked over the coals for being 'frisky' and 'amorous.' Persing was not tried and convicted for making out with his girlfriend on that flight. He was convicted -- by a jury -- of intimidating a flight attendant, making it difficult for him to do his job. Persing also threatened to 'have it out on the ground' with the flight attendant.  That's not cute or funny, as Persing now knows.

Okay, rant mode off. For now.

Monday, May 07, 2007

American Airlines recalling 200 flight attendants

AAAmerican Airlines announced today that the company is sending recall notices to 200 furloughed flight attendants. A news release issued by the airline says that "AA flight attendants, including former TWA flight attendants will be included in this recall."

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union representing American Airlines cabin crew, confirms that the recall notices are going to the 200 most senior furloughees.

An article about the recall in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says:
American still has about 2,100 attendants on furlough, many of them former TWA employees. Under their current contract with American, furloughed attendants lose their right to be recalled after five years. That's led many TWA attendants who were laid off in 2001 and subsequent years to attempt to change the rule so they can eventually return to work.

Last year, TWA attendants protested at the headquarters of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, claiming that the union wasn't representing their interests. But some have also supported the union in its recent marches and rallies against executive pay at the airline.
Recalled flight attendants can choose to work at American's crew bases in Boston, New York or Washington, D.C

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Kenya Airways crash site discovered in Cameroon

Management at Kenya Airways confirms that its missing Boeing 737-800 has been located in a mangrove swamp, 20km South-East of Douala, along the aircraft's planned flight path. Contact had been lost with Kenya Airways Flight KQ 507 yesterday shortly after it departed Douala for Nairobi.

A message on the Kenya Airways website says that search and rescue operations are in progress, but that they have "no confirmed information about survivors or any possible casualties." The search and rescue team is still at the accident scene.

The names of the crew members who were on board Flight KQ 507 have been released by the airline. They are:
  • Wamwea Francis Mbatia - Captain
  • Wanyoike Andrew Kiuru - First Officer
  • Kiiru Phylis Njeri - Flight Purser
  • Njoroge Allan Njenga - Flight Attendant
  • Nyakweba Lydia Mocheche - Flight Attendant
  • Ong’ondo Elizabeth Achieng - Flight Attendant
  • Wakhu Shantaben Niriza - Flight Attendant
  • Kadurenge Cyprian Mande - Flight Attendant
  • Kisilu William Muia - Flight Engineer
The names were released once these crew members' next of kin were informed. There is no official word yet on their condition.

The new release notes that a newspaper published, incorrectly, the name of Henry Muchiri as the Flight Engineer on board the ill-fated flight. Mr. Muchiri was not aboard the aircraft that was lost; he is well and "on official duty in Dakar."

The news release with the crew names also has a list of passenger names and their nationalities. Click here to view the list.

An article on BBC News about this latest development says that search efforts initially focused on an area of dense jungle under the plane's intended flight path from Douala. Later, the searchers turned their attention to a mangrove swamp area where fishermen reported hearing noises the night the plane disappeared. It was the fishermen who led rescuers to the site of the crash.

When there is reliable information about the fate of the crew and passengers, I will post it.

UPDATE May 7, 2007: At this writing, Kenya Airways officials have not yet confirmed officially that there are no survivors of the accident near Douala. However news reports on usually reliable media outlets such as BBC News quote those who have visited the accident scene who say that there are "no signs of survivors" and that rescue workers have been recovering body parts from the area around the downed aircraft. In short, the outlook for finding any survivors is extremely poor, to put it mildly.

Condolences to all whose loved ones were aboard Flight KQ 507.

Here is a new link to the passenger list on the KQ website. Unlike the link above (yesterday's post) this link goes to a web page, not a 'pdf' file.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Kenya Airways Boeing 737 missing in west Africa

Kenya AirwaysContact has been lost with a Kenya Airways Boeing 737-800 with 114 souls on board. Flight KQ 507 departed from Douala, Cameroon shortly after midnight, local time, bound for Nairobi, Kenya. The flight never arrived in Nairobi, and there has been no radio contact with the aircraft since shortly after it took off from Douala, according to a press statement posted on the Kenya Airways website.

The fate of the nine crew members and 105 passengers is unknown at this time, but indications are that the aircraft is presumed to have crashed. The Kenya Airways statement says:
A distress signal was picked up on the West Coast of Africa and a search and rescue mission, initiated by the Cameroonian authorities, was initiated this morning. The search location was 100km South West of Yaoundé. The search aircraft flew over the zone extensively at low altitude but did not locate the missing aircraft. The Kenya Airways country manager in Cameroon was part of the search team.

A coordination centre has been set up where most of the Cameroonian Government authorities including police, state police, Air Force, Cameroon Civil Aviation Authorities, ASECNA, the Army, National Intelligence Agency and Kenya Airways team are present.

A helicopter has taken off to comb the area from Eseka to Ebolowa south east of Douala. The area being searched is very dense equatorial forest and there is heavy rainfall reported which is affecting the search exercise.
The newswires are full of stories about this apparent accident -- and those stories, in turn, are full of speculation about what may have happened. Notice, I said 'speculation.'

Until the aircraft is located we will not know if there are survivors, and we will not have any concrete clues as to what happened. Whenever new facts emerge, I will report them here, but you'll forgive me for not adding to the din of speculation at this time.

For those who may be looking for information about crew members or passengers aboard the flight, the notice on the Kenya Airways website tells how to inquire, and provides telephone numbers for that purpose in several countries. Click here.

There will be much more to follow. Meanwhile, my thoughts are with the crew and passengers of Flight KQ507, and their families.

Friday, May 04, 2007

American Airlines pilots seek 30.5% raise

APASeeking to make up for pay cuts they accepted several years ago, pilots at American Airlines are asking for a substantial raise. Their union, the Allied Pilots Association (APA), announced yesterday that they have "presented a plan for non-variable compensation designed to enable its pilots to share in the airline's financial recovery."
Under APA's plan, the pilots would receive a 30.5 percent pay rate increase on the date of signing retroactive to May 1, 2008 — the contract's amendable date — and five percent annual pay rate increases thereafter.

Over a three-year period, annual pay rate increases would average around 17 percent.

The plan also calls for signing bonuses equaling 15 percent of each pilot's total pay over the duration of the negotiations.

Management triggered the "early-opener" provision of the current contract on July 21, 2006, marking the start of negotiations.
APA president Capt. Ralph Hunter said, "Our airline's management has clearly demonstrated the ability to adapt to higher operating costs in areas such as executive compensation. We are confident the same will occur as part of appropriately paying our pilots.

"By accepting large bonuses during each of the past two years, management sent a strong signal to employees that it was time for financial recovery," Hunter said. "We concur with that assessment."

An Associated Press article in USA Today quotes a company spokeswoman who said the pilots' proposal had to be balanced against American's labor costs, which she said are higher than those of other carriers.

More from the USA Today article:
The unusually public offer comes against a backdrop of increasing labor-management tension at the nation's largest airline. Employees have been enraged by stock bonuses given to about 900 managers last month.

Unions estimate the value of the bonuses at more than $160 million. The company has disclosed multimillion-dollar payouts to a handful of top executives.

The bonuses were a reward for an increase in AMR's stock price, but union leaders say it was employee concessions that made the company's recovery possible.

Drew Keith, a former banker hired by the union to analyze airline industry finances, said a 30.5% raise next year would return the pilots' purchasing power back to pre-2003 levels.
A Reuters article, published on and elsewhere, explains things this way:
The APA's proposal comes less than two weeks after AMR disclosed that Chief Executive Gerard Arpey's 2006 compensation amounted to USD$5.4 million and that he would be paid USD$6.64 million as part of his 2007 compensation.

The union, whose members have given up USD$1.8 billion a year through pay cuts and work rule changes, complains that airline managers' compensation has recovered faster than workers' since the 2003 restructuring. AMR executives made sacrifices alongside the workers during the reorganization.

The bulk of Arpey's compensation comes from stock awards that hinge on company performance. It is common in the United States for a portion of executive pay to be put at risk.
APA points out that in a recent polling of its members, the pilots cited higher pay rates as their top priority in negotiations. The APA president notes, "Our pilots have spoken loud and clear that our next contract must include pay restoration. It is a prerequisite for them to ratify a new agreement."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Goodbye Gulf Air - Hello Etihad?

Gulf Air Cabin CrewThe bad news: A number of Gulf Air cabin crew may soon lose their jobs as a result of the airline's downsizing. The good news: Many of those who are let go from Gulf Air may end up being hired by Etihad Airways.

An article in the Gulf Daily News about this development quotes a source at Etihad who said that airline's management "had given the green light for the recruitment of all crew deemed surplus to Gulf Air requirements."
"Management have said: 'Just take them'," said the source.

"They are qualified, they are good and we do not have to spend money training them."

They added that qualified staff were at a premium in the aviation industry, with many airlines forced to scour increasingly remote parts of the globe for cabin crew.

The sudden availability of staff familiar with the region and capable of doing the job was described as a rare and welcome opportunity for competing firms.

However, the source revealed Etihad would not take any more than those axed by their competitor in a bid to keep relations between the two firms cordial.

"The instructions are not to take more than Gulf Air gets rid of - they do not want to hurt Gulf Air," they said.
News reports say that Gulf Air plans to cut its 6,000 workforce by about 25%.

A quick check of the Current Vacancies page on the Etihad Airways website suggests that the airline, which is based in Abu Dhabi, is in need of cabin staff. Vacancies are listed for 1,200 cabin crew and 70 cabin manager/purser positions.

James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad Airways, knows something about how a transition from Gulf Air to Etihad works. He moved to his present position late last year. Prior to that time, Mr. Hogan was the Gulf Air chief executive.

[Photo Source]

Boeing 737 abandoned on Mumbai road

MumnaiLast weekend, a decommissioned Air Sahara Boeing 737 -- minus its wings and tail section -- was supposed to be trucked from Mumbai to Delhi, reportedly to be used at a flight training academy. It didn't get very far.

BBC News is reporting that the B737 fuselage was being hauled through the streets of Mumbai when the driver apparently got lost. After taking a wrong turn, he came to an overpass that was too low for the plane to pass through.

The driver just bolted -- abandoned the truck with the plane, and disappeared. Ever since, the thing has been sitting where the driver left it.

The BBC says that it has become a bit of a tourist attraction, with people coming from all over the city just to have a look at it. But merchants and residents in the immediate area are not amused. Residents say they assumed that the 'authorities' would do something quickly to remove the huge roadblock, but so far it is not clear who is responsible for the aircraft. So it just sits there, immobile, blocking traffic and impeding local commerce.

One shopkeeper said, "I don't know how they are going to take it out because you can't reverse it, its too big, and you can't go further down the road."

I have a feeling that this fuselage eventually will be leaving the neighborhood in much smaller pieces. File this one under 'odd.'

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Auckland-bound Qantas Boeing 747 returns to LAX

On the evening of May 1, a Qantas Airways Boeing 747-400 aircraft en route from Los Angeles (LAX) to Auckland, New Zealand returned to LAX about an hour after departure due to what news reports are describing as "an engine problem." Qantas Flight QF26 reportedly had 288 passengers on board. No one was injured.

TV stations in the Los Angeles area are calling the incident an emergency landing, while the media down under are saying otherwise.

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Executive General Manager of Qantas Engineering, David Cox, who said it was not an emergency landing.
"After take-off, the aircraft conducted what we call an 'air return' following indications of a vibration issue with one of the aircraft's four engines," Mr Cox said.

"The pilot shut down the engine as a precaution and the aircraft landed without incident. No emergency was declared and there was no safety issue at any time," he said.
That's what 'the pilot' did, eh? Why do these spokesmen always say "the pilot" did this or that, making it sound as though the flight had only one pilot? Not only would a B747 never fly with one pilot, on that route it probably had an augmented crew.

Well, never mind. I don't mean to nit-pick. Let's just say that something happened to an engine and that the crew decided not to continue on across the Pacific. The passengers were accommodated overnight in hotels and continued on their journey the next day.

(Don't you just hate it when the only sources of information about an incident are news reports in the non-aviation press?)

All Nippon to outsource cargo to ABX Air

ABX AirIn order to expand its capacity All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan's largest domestic airline, will outsource some air cargo flights within Asia to ABX Air Inc. The deal marks the first such agreement between a Japanese air cargo carrier and an overseas airline on outsourcing flight and crew operations.

Beginning on May 15, 2007 ABX will operate 22 round-trip flights a week for ANA, according to a Bloomberg News item about the new agreement. ABX Air will fly two B767-200 aircraft for All Nippon in the Asian market, including Japan, China and Thailand. Reuters reports that most of the flights will be between Kansai International Airport in Osaka and a handful of major cities including Beijing, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

An article on MSN Money quotes ABX president and CEO Joe Hete, who said, "The Asian economy is the fastest-growing market in the world, and this agreement underscores ABX's commitment to grow its presence as an international provider of aircraft and aircraft-related services."

ABX has been trying to broaden its business beyond serving its major client, DHL, which accounted for 98% of ABX sales in 2005. The new deal with ANA is expected to generate about $22 million a year for ABX.

According to a Business Wire release, the agreement is for an initial period of two years, with an option for annual renewals thereafter. This is the first time the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) has approved a foreign carrier to conduct cargo aircraft operations on behalf of a Japanese airline.

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

FAA calls for new ice protection system rules for transport aircraft

FAAThe U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) calling for the installation of warning systems on transport category aircraft that would alert crews to conditions that could lead to airframe icing, prompting activation of deicing systems.

The summary of the NPRM says:
The Federal Aviation Administration proposes to amend the airworthiness standards applicable to transport category airplanes certificated for flight in icing conditions. The proposed standards would require a means to ensure timely activation of the airframe ice protection system. This proposed regulation is the result of information gathered from a review of icing accidents and incidents, and is intended to improve the level of safety for new airplane designs for operations in icing conditions. [Docket No. FAA–2007–27654; Notice No.07–07]
Click here to download the entire document. (9-page 'pdf' file.)

The FAA is inviting comments from 'interested persons.' Comments must be submitted by July 25, 2007. The NPRM includes instructions for how and where to submit comments.