Saturday, March 31, 2007

Vietnam Airlines ATR-72 slides off runway

ATR-72On March 29, 2007 an ATR-72 aircraft operated by Vietnam Airlines made an emergency landing at Tan Son Nhut airport after experiencing hydraulic problems. News reports about the incident say that the aircraft touched down safely, but then slid into the grass beside the runway. No one was injured.

Vietnam Airlines Flight VN479 had just departed from Ho Chi Minh City on a scheduled flight to Phu Quoc island when the hydraulic problem developed. An article about the incident in the Bangkok Post said:
The plane, carrying 65 passengers and 5 crew members, landed properly but could not stop in time and skidded 25 metres off the runway due to the malfunction of the brakes, which were powered by the hydraulic system.

"One of the valves of the hydraulic system had broken, leaving the plane unable to retract its landing gears so it had to return," Tran Van Mai, the state carrier's Ho Chi Minh City maintenance director, said Friday by telephone.

"It might have been a mistake by the manufacturer," Mai said, adding that the plane is only five-years-old.
An item on ThanhNienNews.com said that, after it landed, the plane "was to take the E1 taxiway after finishing the runway. However, the faulty hydraulic system affected the plane’s brake system, causing the plane to miss the E1."

VietNamNet Bridge reports that the aircraft was towed to a hangar for inspection and repair.

[Photo Source]

Friday, March 30, 2007

Hijacked Sudan Airways jet lands safely in Khartoum

Sudan AirwaysA Sudan Airways flight landed safely in Khartoum earlier today after having been hijacked by a lone man armed with a knife. The flight originated in Tripoli, Libya. News reports say that there were more than 200 passengers and crew aboard the Airbus, but no one was harmed in the incident.

According to a  report in the Washington Post, the man had asked to be flown to South Africa, but the crew convinced him to allow the plane to land in Khartoum. A Sudanese civil aviation official said that the hijacker was arrested after the aircraft landed.
"The hijacker burst into the pilot's cabin about one and a half hours from landing and told the captain he wanted to meet with the British ambassador, then he asked to meet the American ambassador and the media," Abdel Hafiz Abdel-Rahim told Reuters.

"Snipers dressed as journalists then took him into custody," he added. The plane, which was carrying 210 passengers, began its journey in Tripoli.

Police released a statement later saying the hijacker was "mentally ill" and trying to take the plane to South Africa but the pilot persuaded him to land in Khartoum.

Abdel-Rahim said the hijacker identified himself as Haloub Saeed but authorities were trying to confirm this.
An article about the hijacking, published in Business Week  identified the hijacker as Said Faloun Said, 39, a Sudanese national, and said he was traveling on a temporary travel permit.

An Al-Jazeera correspondent reported from Sudan that the hijacker originally demanded to land in Bangui, the Central African Republic capital, but was persuaded by the crew to allow the plane to land in Khartoum for refueling. Once on the ground in Khartoum, Sudanese authorities were able to take all passengers off the plane and arrest the hijacker.

The Washington Post article said that the crew even managed to land the plane on schedule at Khartoum. Bravo!!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Allegiant Air jet lands at Orlando with nose gear up

Allegiant AirOrlando Sanford Airport (SFB) was shut down this afternoon after an Allegiant Air jet made an emergency landing. Allegiant Air Flight 758 experienced "a hydraulic problem related to the nose gear," according to an FAA spokeswoman quoted by news media. The aircraft landed on its main gear only, after the nose gear failed to deploy.

News photos of the accident scene, on Florida's WFTV, show what appears to be an MD80 series aircraft with its nose planted directly on the runway. An emergency slide is clearly visible, deployed from the 1R door.

Soon after the accident, Local6.com reported that the 147 passengers and crew were evacuated via emergency slides. One woman suffered a sprained ankle in the evacuation, but there were no other injuries.

Later news reports said that there were 157 people on the flight, which originated in Portsmouth, NH.

At one point Local6.com referred to the event as a "hard landing." Maybe "hard" as in "difficult" -- but judging from the photos, it probably was not just a hard landing in the usual sense!

[Photo Source]

KLM pilot assaulted by pax at Amsterdam

KLMThe captain of a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Boeing 737 was assaulted by a male passenger at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport last night after the man was denied boarding because he was "too drunk to travel." At the time of the incident, passengers were boarding the aircraft for a scheduled flight to Aberdeen.

A report on the BBC News website says that the passenger, who was not identified by name, was charged with assault and detained in Amsterdam. He was fined 1,500 Euros and later released.

The BBC provided these details:
The [KLM] spokesman said: "The captain told other passengers what had happened and was then able to conduct the flight as normal."

He said the airline had a strict boarding policy and added: "We do not tolerate any misbehaviour of passengers because we do everything we can to safeguard security.

"We can put people on blacklists, banning them from flying with the company, if they cause problems. Anyone who has any intention of causing disruption is a problem for KLM."

A spokesman for the Dutch military police said: "He had got through the security check and went to get on the plane when the captain told him he had drunk too much."
The flight was delayed 30 minutes because of the incident, but then continued on its journey to Aberdeen with the other 99 passengers. The captain was said to have suffered only "slight injuries" -- and a torn uniform.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

LAN Chile A340 has near mid-air collision with Russian spacecraft?

LAN ChileTalk about being in the wrong place at just the wrong time!

A LAN Chile Airbus A340 aircraft en route from Santiago, Chile to Auckland, New Zealand had a near collision with debris, possibly from a Russian spacecraft, late in the evening on March 27, 2007. The fiery debris missed the aircraft by just a few miles and fell into the ocean. The plane landed safely at Auckland.

An article about the incident in the Sydney Morning Herald quotes a plane spotter who was listening on his HF radio to an exchange between the crew on the A340 and air traffic controllers at Auckland Oceanic Centre when he heard the pilots say that the rumbling noise from the space debris could be heard over the noise of the aircraft.
"He described he saw a piece of debris lighting up as it re-entered [the earth's atmosphere].

"He was one very worried pilot, as you would imagine.

"Auckland is talking to [an] Aerolineas Argentinas [pilot] who is travelling [in the] opposite direction at 10 degrees further south asking if they wish to turn back to Auckland.

"They have elected to carry on at the moment.

"[It's] not something you come across everyday and I am sure the Lan Chile crew will have a tale to tell."
Indeed, I'm sure they will!

The SMH says that a spokesman for Airways New Zealand, which provides air navigation services across airspace known as the Auckland Flight Information Region, confirmed to them that the incident occurred about 10 minutes after the LAN Chile flight had entered the Auckland Flight Information Region.
Airways New Zealand had been warned by Russian authorities almost two weeks ago that a satellite would be entering the earth's atmosphere sometime today between 10.30am and midday [NZ time].

Airways New Zealand then provided that information to airlines and pilots that would be travelling in that region at that time.

They could then decide for themselves whether they wished to fly during that period.

"But clearly there has been a timing issue," the spokesman said.

"Either the time that was indicated to us was incorrect or the satellite de-orbited early."

Because the timing was wrong, the coordinates of where the satellite was supposed to enter the Earth's atmosphere also turned out to be incorrect.
In case you are wondering, the spacecraft in question was thought to be an unmanned Russian Progress 23P freighter that had been used to deliver fuel, oxygen and spare parts to the International Space Station.

Ah, but now the plot thickens: A more recent news report posted barely an hour ago on Stuff, a New Zealand news website, says that the flaming debris might not have been space junk at all. Instead it may have been a meteor.

Stuff quotes a NASA scientist from the Johnson Space Center who said that he had checked on this with the Russians. They told the NASA guy that their unmanned cargo spacecraft had fired its re-entry rockets a half day after the airliner reported the near-miss.

In any case, there were no injuries and no damage to the airliner caused by the unidentified falling object -- just a couple of pilots with their hair standing on end.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Piaggio P.180 Avanti accident at FLL

PiaggioThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a preliminary report on an accident involving a Piaggio P.180 Avanti aircraft at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport (FLL) earlier this month. The aircraft, registered to and operated by Avantair, was "substantially damaged" in the accident. The two crew were the only people on board at the time of the accident. Neither was injured.

The twin turboprop aircraft, which was operating under CFR Part 91 rules, was being repositioned from Teterboro to FLL at the time of the accident on the morning of March 20, 2007. The gear collapsed on landing.

The NTSB preliminary accident report provides these details:
According to the captain, the first officer was flying the airplane. They were landing on 9R at an approach speed of 120kts. Full flaps had been deployed.

On the landing roll the airplane began to drift to the left side of the runway. The first officer said he applied right rudder, but not to the extent necessary. He then applied right brakes. The airplane then veered right and the left main landing gear collapsed. The airplane skidded down the runway and came to rest west of taxiway Echo.

Examination of the airplane revealed the left main landing gear had collapsed, the left main tire had separated, and fuel was leaking from the airplane onto the runway. Examination of the tire revealed it had been deflated and there was a bald spot in the tread. [NTSB Report DEN07LA077].
An estimated 50 gallons of fuel leaked from the airplane, but there was no fire. The NTSB report notes that protein foam was applied to the runway surface and surrounding area.

[Photo Source]

Monday, March 26, 2007

Falcon 900 slides off runway at Rifle, Colorado

RILA Falcon 900 aircraft slid off the runway after landing at Garfield County Airport (RIL) in Rifle, Colorado this past Friday evening. There were no injuries to the people on board, but the preliminary report about the incident posted on the FAA website lists damage to the aircraft as "substantial."

No further details were included in the FAA report, however an article about the event published in the Aspen Daily News quoted airport manager Brian Condie, who said that the runway was wet at the time of the accident. The aircraft was towed to a hangar.

Condie also said that about 500 gallons of jet fuel spilled in the accident, and that RIL was closed for several hours on Friday night and early Saturday morning as a result. At least one inbound aircraft was diverted to another airport.

FAA records list Ohana Aircraft Ltd, LLC of Redwood City, CA as the registered owner of the aircraft. The Aspen Daily News says that the jet is leased to XOJet. Click here to view a photo of the aircraft, taken in 2003.

[Photo Source]

Sunday, March 25, 2007

El Al emergency evacuation at Tel Aviv

El AlMore than 100 people were evacuated yesterday via emergency slides from a Boeing 737 aircraft operated by El Al Israel Airlines. The incident happened at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, after smoke was detected inside the aircraft as it was preparing to depart on a scheduled flight from Tel Aviv to Zurich.

It is unclear exactly how many were aboard El Al Flight LY347. Various news reports about the incident said that there were 123, 126, or 128 passengers plus six crew. In any case, all were evacuated safely, although at least one news article about the incident, on Israel Today, said that five people were "treated for injuries."

A news article published by the Jerusalem Post said that the smoke was caused by "traces of cleaning fluids" remaining in an engine after routine maintenance. Haaretz later offered these details:
El Al's vice president of operations, Lior Yavor, told Haaretz that, according to an initial inquiry, the smell was caused by the remnants of substances used to clean the compressors in the Boeing 737's engines over the weekend.

Yavor said an investigation will be conducted into whether the cleaning process was carried out properly, and he promised steps would be taken against those found responsible for the incident.
A report by Israeli news outlet Haaretz quoted a passenger from the flight who said that the airplane filled with smoke and there was a smell of burning. However another passenger said there wasn't any thick smoke on the plane, only a strong smell of smoke. The Jerusalem Post reported that the aircraft "sustained considerable damage from the smoke."

Jerusalem Post columnist and correspondent Michael Freund, who also works for Arutz Sheva (IsraelNationalNews.com), happened to be aboard the aircraft at the time of the emergency, and was one of those evacuated. Click here for his description of the evacuation, with two photos.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Pair arrested at LAX were on legitimate business

HawaiiLast week I posted an item about a man and a woman who were arrested at Los Angeles International Airport for posing as police. The two, who were accompanying a man in handcuffs, claimed to be escorting a prisoner to Hawaii.

The woman of the pair was armed with a handgun, which she declared to the TSA screeners in Terminal 3 at LAX. News reports said that when airport police ran a check, they determined that the pair were not police officers, nor did the woman have a permit to carry a gun. They were arrested.

Now it turns out that they were indeed on legitimate business for the State of Hawaii. An article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports that the two people arrested are employees of a company that the state of Hawaii hired to transport an inmate. According to the Star-Bulletin article, this new information came from Jean Ireton, Hawaii State Department of Public Safety deputy director for corrections.
Ireton said her division does not often hire private security for prisoner transport. She said the two people in question work for Court Services Inc. and were transporting an inmate from Arizona. Hawaii has inmates in several mainland prison facilities, including Florence Correctional Center in Arizona.

Ireton said the inmate is now in Hawaii.
The two who were arrested were identified as Rosemary Sanchez, 48, and Gary Garratt, 53.

An earlier article in the Honolulu Advertiser said that Garratt and Sanchez had been released on $35,000 bail each.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Ariana Afghan A300 skids off runway at Istanbul

Ariana A300An Airbus A300B4 aircraft operated by Afghanistan's national flag carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines skidded off a runway at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport earlier today, according to a brief  article published in the International Herald Tribune. The aircraft had just arrived on a scheduled flight from Kabul when it apparently overran the runway after landing at Istanbul in light rain conditions.

The article says that all passengers and crew were evacuated from the aircraft using slides. No injuries have been reported.

Another report about the accident on the NTVMSNBC.com in Turkey says that the runway was temporarily closed after the accident, but that there were "only minor disruptions to other arrivals and departures."

FlightGlobal.com identifies the accident aircraft as Ariana Flight FG719 from Kabul to Istanbul, via Ankara. That article includes two photos of the aircraft with its right wing resting on the grass. FlightGlobal.com notes that "European Union air transport regulators have included Ariana on the ‘blacklist’ banning the carrier from operating to EU member states."

As a side note, the IHT article mentioned that there were 50 people aboard the aircraft, including 20 crew members. That's an unusually large crew complement for an A300 with so few passengers, don't you think? That number may turn out to be incorrect -- or perhaps some of those crew were deadheading.

[Photo Source]

Update: Less than an hour after the above post was published, a reader contacted me with a link to some more photos of this accident. Check out this post on AirportHaber.com, a Turkish website. I can't read Turkish, so I don't know what it says, but the photos quite clearly show the aircraft at rest on its starboard wing and engine. Someone please do correct me if I am wrong, but it looks like the right main gear may be collapsed -- and the nose gear is suspended well above the ground!

P.S. to the reader who sent me the link to the photos: Yes, it is definitely okay to post something like that in the comments.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

FAA: Emergency airworthiness directive for ERJ 170 and ERJ 190 aircraft

FAAThe U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) for Embraer Model ERJ 170 and ERJ 190 aircraft.  The AD resulted from "a report indicating that the aft cargo door of a Model ERJ 190 airplane opened in flight just after departure, and from a report indicating that a Model ERJ 170 airplane dispatched with an unsecured forward cargo door."

The intention of the AD is to prevent a cargo door from opening during flight, which could lead to structural failure or loss of control of the aircraft.

The AD 2007-06-53 instructs operators of ERJ 170 and ERJ 190 aircraft to carry out the following immediate action:
Before each flight after closing the cargo doors, verify that the forward and aft cargo doors are closed flush with the fuselage skin, and that all 4 latched and locked indicators at the bottom of each door are green.

Persons qualified to do this verification are mechanics and flight crew members.

If it cannot be verified that both doors are closed flush with the fuselage skin, and that all 4 latched and locked indicators at the bottom of each door are green, repair before further flight.
The above preflight verification of correct door closure should be performed before every flight -- but not to exceed 150 cycles -- pending accomplishment of a more detailed inspection described in the AD.

Specifically, the AD requires "a detailed inspection of the forward and aft cargo doors to detect signs of interference between the lock handle and the aft edge liner assembly" and "a detailed inspection for signs of damage of the lateral roller fitting on the forward and aft cargo door frames at the fuselage."

Click here to read the entire FAA Emergency Airworthiness Directive, AD 2007-06-53.

Click here for a printable ('pdf') version of AD 2007-06-53.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

2006 Citation crash at Carlsbad spawns lawsuits

airportEarly on the morning of January 24, 2006 a Cessna Citation 560, operated by JaxAir LLC, crashed on landing at McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, CA. The aircraft's two pilots and two passengers were killed in the accident. The aircraft was destroyed.

Five lawsuits related to the accident now have been filed, according to an article in the North County Times. The article says that the lawsuits include allegations that San Diego County allowed a structure near the end of the runway that violated federal regulations and created a dangerous condition that caused the crash. Two of the lawsuits, filed on behalf of the deceased passengers, allege that the accident was caused by "negligence in the way the airplane was operated."
Bruce Lampert, the attorney representing the family of the co-pilot who died in the crash, said the plane was engaging in a common practice known as a "go around," in which a pilot has the discretion for any reason during a landing to "power up," or take off again and go around before trying to land again.

Federal regulations specify what the clearance should be around the runway, Lampert said.

"We believe there was an obstruction on the airport runway, in the environment of the airport runway, that was improper," Lampert said.
The two pilots killed in the accident were John C. Francis of Boise, Idaho, and James A. "Andy" Garratt of Hailey, Idaho. The two passengers who perished were Janet Shafran of Ketchum, Idaho, and Frank H. Jellinek Jr., of Rye, N.H.
Lawsuits filed on behalf of Shafran's and Jellinek's families allege that the two passengers did not die instantly. Those lawsuits and the cases filed on behalf of Francis's and Garratt's families allege that each of the four people killed in the crash suffered injuries that included burns and smoke inhalation.

In separate lawsuits, Shafran's family and Jellinek's family are suing San Diego County, the estates of the pilot and co-pilot, the company that owned the plane, Goship Air LLC, and the company that operated the plane, Jaxair LLC.

Those two companies, Garratt's family and Francis' family are suing only the county. The lawsuit that Goship and Jaxair filed together March 5 against the county alleges that the plane was "fully capable of continued safe flight" during the attempted go-around procedure, but that the antenna and ladder structure "intruded upwards into the airspace at the departure end of the runway," causing the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has yet to issue a final report, but the preliminary report on this accident posted on the NTSB website indicates that the crew were executing a visual approach in visual meteorological conditions at the time of the accident on Runway 24 at McClellan-Palomar Airport. The aircraft impacted the localizer antenna platform during an apparent aborted landing.
According to numerous witnesses, the aircraft came across the runway threshold at a speed significantly higher than they had observed with other aircraft of the same or similar model.

It reportedly touched down more than 1,500 feet down the runway, whereupon the thrust reverses were deployed and then ultimately stowed. The aircraft then lifted off the surface near the departure end of the runway, but its landing gear impacted the localizer platform structure, and its left wing tip collided with a platform access ladder attached to the far left side of the platform.

The aircraft then traveled approximately 400 feet passed [sic] that point, whereupon it settled to the terrain, and then impacted much of the external surface of a 150 foot long commercial self-storage building.

Just after coming to rest at the west end of the storage building, the aircraft burst into flames, and except for the empennage and engines, was almost totally consumed by the ensuing fire. [NTSB Report SEA06MA047]
The attorney for the Shafran family commented that there did not appear to have been any problem with the airplane and that Francis was a well-qualified and highly recommended pilot.

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Recent DHC-8 landing gear problems in Japan

DHC-8News media are reporting that a Bombardier DHC-8-103 airplane operated by Japanese regional carrier Amakusa Airlines Co. made an emergency landing in Kumamoto Prefecture in southwestern Japan because its landing gear failed to lower. A brief article on Bloomberg.com about the incident quotes officials of the Japanese Transport Ministry who said that the aircraft landed safely after the gear was lowered manually. There were no injuries to the 15 passengers and three crew aboard the aircraft.

This incident follows another a week ago when a similar aircraft operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA) made a nose gear-up emergency landing at Kochi airport in western Japan after the gear failed to deploy. That aircraft, a DHC-8-400, was carrying 56 passengers and four crew. None were reported to be injured.

An article about last week's emergency landing on FlightGlobal.com includes photos of the damaged aircraft after it came to a rest on the runway. The article says that live television pictures of the emergency landing in Kochi showed sparks from the nose as it made contact with the runway on the landing roll.

ANA subsequently grounded its entire fleet of Bombardier planes and the Japanese Transport Ministry ordered emergency inspections for all 36 Bombardier DHC-8s in use in Japan, according to CBC News in Canada. After the inspection, the aircraft were returned to service.

CBC News quoted Bombardier spokesman Marc Holloran who said this was the first incident of its kind since the so-called Q400 series of aircraft was put into service in 2000.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Airbus A380 arrives in the U.S.

A380It's here. The world's newest and largest airliner, the Airbus A380, touched down at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York at 12:10 EDT today. An Washington Post report about the historic event  says that as the plane taxied, a pilot waved an American flag.

Operating as Lufthansa Flight 8940, the first flight from Frankfurt to New York is a part of Lufthansa's route proving program for the mega-jumbo aircraft. Moments after the landing at JFK, another A380 landed at Los Angeles.
The first U.S. flights are a chance for the European plane builder Airbus and German airline Lufthansa AG to show off the jewel of Airbus' offerings to potential American buyers and to the airports they hope to turn into flight bases for the jet. The 239-foot-long A380 can seat as many as 550 passengers, hold 81,890 gallons of fuel, cruise at 560 mph and fly some 8,000 nautical miles.

Lufthansa Flight 8940 is meant to be a statement by Airbus that it can accommodate vast numbers of travelers comfortably and efficiently. [Washington Post]
For more details, visit the special Airbus website about the A380 Route Proving program. The site has information about the aircraft, the proving routes, and the crew, as well as A380 screensaver and wallpaper downloads for your computer. You might also be interested to have a look at Touch-down A380 USA, a blog by Lufthansa employees about the new aircraft's first visit to the United States.

Here's a link to a Wall Street Journal video about the Airbus A380.

[Photo Source]

Sunday, March 18, 2007

United B767 suffers bird strike on takeoff at ORD

UALA Boeing 767-322 aircraft operated by United Airlines sustained "significant damage" to its number one engine after a bird strike at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. The incident occurred on takeoff, according to a preliminary report on the FAA website. The aircraft returned to the airport and landed without incident. No one was injured.

United Flight 843 was departing Chicago for Sao Paulo, Brazil on the evening of March 15, 2006. After the bird strike, the number one engine was shut down. A report about the incident on the website of ABC7, a Chicago TV station, says that the bird ingestion caused a fire in the engine. That article includes a link to a home video that shows what appears to be a fire on an airborne plane, purportedly the flight that experienced the bird strike.

The Chicago Tribune quoted a United Airlines spokeswoman who said that "United inspectors later determined that multiple large birds got inside the engine."

The flight was canceled after the incident. Passengers were put up in hotels and continued on their journey to Brazil the following day.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Two arrested for posing as cops at LAX

LAXA man and a woman posing as police officers were arrested at Los Angeles International Airport as they were preparing to board a plane with a gun yesterday morning.

According to a Los Angeles Times article:
Two plainclothes security officers — one male, one female — escorting a prisoner in handcuffs provided documents to officials at a checkpoint in Terminal 3 about 8 a.m., saying they had the authority to escort him to Hawaii for a court hearing, law enforcement officials said.
A  report on SFGate.com says that the woman told TSA personnel at an LAX screening area that she was carrying a firearm, and that she had documents to show that she was authorized to carry the weapon.

Airport police ran a check and determined that the pair were not police officers, nor did the woman have a permit to carry a gun. The two were arrested for impersonating police officers, and the woman also was charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

A report about the arrest on NBC4.tv in Los Angeles mentioned that the pair were bounty hunters.

Friday, March 16, 2007

NetJets Gulfstream skids off taxiway at HPN

HPNA Gulfstream 200 Galaxy with six passengers and two crew on board skidded off a taxiway at Westchester County Airport (HPN) this morning. No one was injured.

The aircraft, operated by NetJets, had just arrived from Bermuda, according to an article about the mishap on the Journal News website. Airport manager Peter Scherer told the Journal News that the aircraft had made a safe landing, but then the pilot "missed a turn and slipped off the taxiway."
"He was taxiing over to customs and the tower asked him to expedite his taxiing," Scherer said. "He must have gotten a little disoriented and missed the turn. He slid a little too far and got stuck in the mud."
The weather was poor at HPN at the time of the incident, due to the same winter storm that disrupted commercial air travel all over the northeastern United States.
The airport suspended flights after the 9:48 a.m. incident, and reopened the runway to arrivals and departures at 1:25 p.m. Airlines had already canceled hundred of flights at New York area airports because of bad weather.

To free the stuck aircraft, two tow truck operators, using two different vehicles, wrapped straps around the aircraft's wheels and then gingerly hauled it out of the mud. Airplanes cannot back up, and their wheels have no traction, so the aircraft could not free itself, Scherer explained. It was a delicate operation because they did not want to damage the aircraft.
The flight information page on the Westchester County Airport website was showing dozens of commercial flight cancellations throughout the day.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

NATCA to FAA: Weather radios in towers, please

NATCALast September the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned all personal electronic devices -- including radios -- from the cabs of air traffic control towers in the United States. The purpose of this regulation was to eliminate potential forms of distractions to controllers as they work.

While that may sound logical on the surface, in fact it is too broad a prohibition. It makes no exception for devices like weather radios, which controllers could use to receive the latest severe weather and tornado warnings to fill in the gaps left by radar equipment that only detects precipitation. This is a potentially serious safety issue, as I pointed out in a post I wrote in this blog in January of this year.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is rightfully up in arms about this issue. They have repeatedly called upon the FAA to rescind the ban on weather radios in the towers.

Their most recent effort to call attention to this issue came yesterday. In a media release, NATCA explains:
The agency initially exempted weather radios from the ban, even confirming for reporters explicitly last December that one of its own managers installed a weather radio at the control tower at Daytona Beach International Airport just two days after a Christmas Day tornado roared within 150 yards of the tower and carved a destructive path through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. But the FAA did an about-face in late January, declaring the weather radios officially banned and yanking the one out of Daytona Beach Tower, again putting the safety of controllers and the flying public at risk.

"It's really just amazing to me that we have to even continue to ask this from an agency that says it is committed to aviation safety. It's such a no-brainer," National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Patrick Forrey said. "Don't believe it when the FAA tells you we have every possible weather tool at our fingertips. There is no tool available to tower controllers that can detect a tornado within a thunderstorm. We must have either a weather radio or access to the Emergency Alert System to get the latest weather bulletins."

Forrey added that while a select few towers, like New York-JFK, have advanced equipment that can identify wind shear, it is not like Doppler technology that television meteorologists have which shows rotations within thunderstorm supercells that are indicative of tornadoes and also predict the path of those storms. "The FAA can supply access to low-cost alternatives to enhance situation awareness," Forrey said. "We need weather radios in the towers so we at least have a fighting chance to keep up with the latest weather information given to the public from these meteorologists who are tracking severe storms."
So what's the problem, FAA? The kind of weather radios we are talking about here are not for entertainment. They only operate on frequencies that broadcast emergency announcements and serious weather alerts.

Why can't an exception be made to the 'no personal electronic devices in the ATC cab' rule that allows for dedicated weather radios that only broadcast safety-critical information from the National Weather Service and the Emergency Alert System?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

FAA: Emergency Airworthiness Directive issued for B737-800

FAAThe U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) for Boeing Model 737-800 series aircraft. The AD identifies "an unsafe condition that is likely to exist or develop" on airplanes of this type design.

The agency says that it has received a report of seven flight spoiler actuator jams on in-service Model 737-800 Short Field Performance (SFP) airplanes. These were discovered during a routine maintenance walk-around and were believed to have occurred on the previous landing during auto speedbrake extension. Five other instances occurred during spoiler system testing at Boeing prior to delivery. The cause of the failure has been identified as interference within the actuator main control valve.

Here are some details:
The two in-service failures of flight spoilers resulted in the spoilers not retracting after the speedbrake handle was moved to the DOWN position after landing, on a Boeing Model 737-800 airplane equipped with an SFP package. In both of these cases, the spoiler was discovered in the full-extended position during a routine maintenance walk-around. The spoiler remained in the full-extended position after cycling of the speedbrake handle.

Further investigation revealed that the spoiler actuator failure is most likely to occur when the speedbrakes are deployed on the ground (automatically or manually) for either a rejected takeoff or normal landing. The takeoff configuration warning will not sound if any flight spoiler remains extended with the speedbrake handle in the DOWN position. The cause of the failure has been identified as interference within the actuator main control valve.

This condition, if not corrected, could result in a spoiler actuator hardover, which could cause the spoiler surface to jam in the fully extended position. Two or more hardover failures of the spoiler surfaces in the up direction on the same wing, if undetected prior to takeoff, can cause significant roll and consequent loss of control of the airplane. [FAA AD 2007-06-51]
The AD notes that the Boeing 737 Flight Crew Operations Manual Bulletin No. TBC-67, dated March 5, 2007, describes procedures for inspecting spoilers to determine spoiler position after landing and after any rejected takeoff maneuvers. For airplanes on which any spoiler is found in the up position with the speedbrake handle in the down position, the bulletin specifies to contact maintenance. The AD adds additional requirements to those in the aircraft maintenance manual (AMM) for this type.

Click here to read the entire FAA Emergency Airworthiness Directive, AD 2007-06-51.

Click here for a printable ('pdf') version of AD 2007-06-51.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Evacuation stories from the Biman accident in Dubai

Biman A310Yesterday, an aircraft accident occurred at Dubai International Airport after a Biman Airbus A310 rejected takeoff. The nose gear collapsed, the aircraft pitched forward, and ultimately skidded to a stop near the end of the runway, resting on its nose and its engine nacelles. (For details about what happened, see previous post.)

All 236 aboard Biman Flight BG006 were evacuated from the aircraft using emergency slides. A report about the evacuation on the Gulf News website says that more than twenty of the passengers were hurt during the evacuation. Some injuries occurred because one of the slides did not reach all the way to the ground.

Here are a few passenger 'first person' accounts from that same news report:
"I fell on my back and got my arms and neck sprained," said Abdul Qader, a passenger who was travelling along with his 22-year-old daughter Noorjahan.

The passengers said no one listened to the announcements that were being made by the cabin crew to remain calm.

"Even before the aircraft could stop, many of the passengers just got up from their seats trying to reach out for their hand baggage from the overhead cabins. Children were crying, mothers were screaming.

"Everyone thought that at any given moment the aircraft was just going to explode," said a passenger, 55-year-old Abdul Bashar, who sustained bruises on his feet, hands and legs.

He said panic gripped the passengers when the aircraft cabin filled with black smoke making it difficult to breathe...

"When the aircraft came to a halt, all the passengers who were seated in the back seats fell on the ones who were seated into the front rows," said Nuruzzaman, another passenger.

"The airplane started to take off, and about 30 seconds later it became very bumpy and after that I heard a bang and the plane started to shake," recalled Mohammad Jahn, 30.

He said: "The cabin crew were also panicking. Initially nothing was done by the crew to help us, and they refused to open the door, saying that there was nothing to worry about."
Another article -- also published by Gulf News -- talked about the people who were injured in the evacuation. Most of the injuries were relatively minor. Only one woman needed to be taken to a hospital.
Abdul Rahman, the husband of the 54-year old woman who was taken to the hospital, told Gulf News that a combination of smoke and passengers' rush to exit the aircraft was to blame for his wife's injuries.

His wife, Mariam Begum, a UK resident of Bangladeshi origin, was treated at the trauma centre for lacerations on her forehead, which required stitches, and scratches on her left hand.

"We were taxiing down the runway and something went wrong with the tyres. And then my wife saw fire in the engine. Smoke filled the cabin," he said.

At that point, he said everyone started to panic.

"There was too much smoke. Nobody could see anything. Everybody was pushing, so she fell down. They all wanted to get out at the same time," he said.
Fortunately the woman's injuries were not as severe as originally feared and she was later discharged from the hospital.

[Photo Source]

Biman accident closes Dubai airport for 8 hours

Biman A310Yesterday was a chaotic day at Dubai International Airport (DXB) in the United Arab Emirates.

First, a Cathay Pacific freighter arriving early in the morning from Frankfurt burst a tire on landing. Although shredded bits of the tire were scattered over the runway, according to Khaleej Times, the B747-300 aircraft was able to taxi to the ramp. No one was injured in the incident.

Only minutes after the Cathay Pacific freighter mishap, an Airbus A310 operated by Biman Bangladesh Airlines experienced a nose wheel failure during its takeoff roll. It is unclear from press reports whether the fault was with a tire or some other aspect of the nose gear.

At least one report, attributed to a Dubai Civil Aviation (DCA) official, said that "the wheel sustained damage due to the pressure of the brakes." If that is accurate, it suggests that the nose gear may have collapsed due to rejected takeoff.

In any case, the forward section of the aircraft slammed to the tarmac, and the plane skidded down the runway. Photos taken at the scene after the accident show the A310 resting on its engine nacelles, with the fuselage tilted markedly forward.

Biman Flight BG006, with 236 souls on board, was departing Dubai for Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. After the aircraft came to a rest, passengers were evacuated using emergency slides. Gulf News is reporting that 27 people were injured, but only one needed to be hospitalized. There was no word on whether any crew were among those injured.

The accident caused DXB to shut down for about eight hours, according to a press release issued by Dubai International Airport. During that period, 36 aircraft departures were canceled and 35 incoming flights had to be diverted to other airports, including Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Al Ain, and Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE; and to Muscat, Oman; Kuwait; and Shiraz, Iran.

Gulf News is predicting that financial losses due to the eight-hour shutdown of DXB will likely run into the millions.
While there are no clear estimates of the financial impact resulting from the disruptions, airlines will be affected from the loss of revenue from the cancelled flights. And with the diverted flights, airlines will also bear the costs involved with transporting passengers by bus or plane back to Dubai.

"It's very difficult to measure the financial impact of this sort of disruption, but it will certainly be in the millions of dirhams," said David Kaminski-Morrow, editor of Air Transport Intelligence.
The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and DCA are investigating the cause of the accident.

UPDATE: Click here to view a YouTube video of the Biman accident, apparently captured by a security camera at Dubai International Airport.

[Photo Source]

Monday, March 12, 2007

Atlanta runway incursion causes aborted takeoff

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 that had just begun its takeoff roll had to abort after a controller mistakenly cleared two other aircraft to taxi across the runway into the path of the departing aircraft. The Delta flight aborted the takeoff, turned onto a taxiway and rejoined the line-up for its departure to Los Angeles.

The incident happened at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. This was the second aborted takeoff due to controller error at that airport in three months.

Here is an account of what happened, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The controller cleared Delta 509 at about 12:10 p.m. to take off on Runway 26 Left, which is about 10,000 feet long. Fourteen seconds later, the same controller cleared a Midwest Airlines Boeing 717 and an ASA CRJ to taxi across the runway downfield.

The Midwest jet had moved onto the runway and the ASA plane had crossed the "hold short" line that separates the taxiway from the runway when alarms in the control tower alerted air traffic controllers of the danger. The controller cancelled Delta Flight 509's takeoff while the plane was traveling about 40 miles an hour, then slowed and turned off the runway. It got back in line for takeoff and left uneventfully a few minutes later.

The Delta and Midwest planes were about 3,500 feet apart at their nearest point.
Gary Brittain, a veteran controller at Hartsfield-Jackson, said mistakes are being made at the Atlanta tower because controllers are being short-staffed and overworked.

"This is the kind of thing that happens when you've got controllers working six-day weeks, week after week," he said. "They're beginning to crack a little."

The controller who reportedly caused the incident was decertified, subject to retraining.

[Photo Source]

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A bit of flight attendant history

The Chicago Tribune has published an article about the history of flight attendants that is worth reading. Its title, Skies often were overly friendly, may give you a clue to what it's mostly about: Sexism.

Here's a sample:
In the 1960s and '70s, flight attendants unions used the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to initiate some of the most significant shifts in the profession. For starters, union contracts of the era began replacing the term "stewardess" with its unisex substitute, "flight attendant," reflecting the fact that greater numbers of men were entering the field.

Through negotiation and litigation, the no-marriage rule, no-pregnancy requirement and age restrictions were struck down, and body-weight policies were liberalized.

In the 1960s and '70s, when airlines were competing to lure male business travelers, they sought to capitalize on the attractiveness and attentiveness of their flight attendants. National Airlines launched its sexually suggestive "Fly Me" ad campaign, and Braniff International Airways unveiled its "Air Strip" marketing ploy, which featured flight attendants peeling off layers of clothing in the aisle.

"The '80s and '90s saw the shift back to professionalism in public perception, and after 9/11, I think people recognize that the flight attendant's primary role is safety, not serving lunch," [author Johanna] Omelia says.

"I think the airlines downplayed our safety duties prior to 9/11 so people wouldn't focus on potential dangers," [AFA historian Georgia Painter] Nielsen says. "Heaven forbid that the public think flight attendants do more than serve you the best martini you ever had."
The article winds up with a timeline citing major events in the history of flight attendant profession.

Read it in the Chicago Tribune.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

RegionsAir grounded by FAA

Regions AirPrivately owned RegionsAir, Inc., which has been operating as American Connection out of St. Louis and Continental Connection out of Cleveland, shut down its operations several days ago. According to a news report in the Southeast Missourian, the FAA grounded the RegionsAir fleet, citing inadequate training for line check airmen. The article quoted an FAA spokeswoman who said, "We determined that the line check airmen, the pilots who instruct and check out other pilots, were not properly trained themselves."

RegionsAir spokesman Nathan Vallier said he has no idea when operations will resume and is still in the dark about why the most recent shutdown occurred.
"I can tell you that the FAA conducted no line check on our operations during last week. They did not send inspectors for pilots, so what are they basing this on? You'd have to ask them," he said.
A notice on the RegionsAir website says simply that they have "ceased scheduled operations" and that "all aircraft and crew have been repositioned to the Smyrna, Tennessee headquarters."
"We are going to continue our dialogue with the FAA and resolve the issues brought forward," says Nathan Vallier, Director of Sales & Marketing, "but for the time being we are suspending scheduled operations until further notice. We plan on making any revisions to our Line Check Airman Certification & Training program so that we can return to the skies."
Meanwhile, several of the communities served by RegionsAir are completely without commercial air service. RegionsAir ground personnel at those smaller airports have been furloughed indefinitely.

Friday, March 09, 2007

British Airways pilot wins the right to fly part-time

British AirwaysA 27 year old British Airways (BA) pilot has won the right to work part-time -- 50% of her normal schedule -- in order to spend more time raising her young daughter.

The pilot, Jessica Starmer, actually won an employment tribunal claim of indirect sex discrimination in 2005, but it was expected that British Airways would take the case to the Court of Appeal. Today, however, BA backed down and announced that they had decided not to appeal, and that Ms. Starmer would be allowed to reduce her hours to half.

A BBC News article about this development quoted a joint statement by British Airways and the British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA), the union that represents BA pilots:
"It is now three years since Mrs Starmer first asked to reduce her working hours to 50%.

"Since that time, Mrs Starmer has been working at 75% and British Airways recognises the high standards that she has been able to maintain.

"Her flying experience has now reached a level which, together with other measures agreed with British Airways, satisfies its safety concerns and meets its high level of operating standards.

"British Airways intends that pilots in similar circumstances to Mrs Starmer will be eligible for 50% contracts subject to the same measures in the future."
Jim McAuslan, general secretary of BALPA, said: "This is only one step in Balpa's effort to get the industry to be more flexible in accommodating individuals who want lifestyle choice.

"Pilots are in a highly skilled profession, in short supply, and unless airlines start to show flexibility, they will struggle to recruit among this talented pool," he said.

Ms. Starmer's husband is a pilot as well.

Click here to read the whole text of the joint statement on the BALPA website.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

FDR and CVR from Garuda Indonesia crash sent to Australia

Australia's ABC News Online is reporting that both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder from the Garuda Indonesia B737 that crashed at Yogyakarta have been recovered. The devices have been sent to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) head offices in Canberra.
The boxes, a cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, will help investigators piece together the events leading up to the crash that killed more than 20 people.

Once the recorders are inspected, investigators will be able to determine if any flight data can be retrieved.

The pilots of the Garuda flight have blamed a sudden strong wind gust for the crash at Yogyakarta airport.

But Indonesia's national police spokesman has cited human error as the best initial assessment.
Commenting on accounts by eyewitnesses and survivors regarding the cause of the accident, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said that "speculation doesn't help..."

ATSB spokesman Joe Hattley says it could take months for a full analysis of the flight recorders.
"The guys will be working over the weekend to download these particular recorders," he said.

"Then we hope to get some preliminary information back to the investigation team probably early on next week.

"The analysis of that information will then take a lot longer and you're talking months."
An earlier article, also on ABC News Online, said that the two pilots had been interviewed by Indonesian authorities about the accident, and that they claimed that wind caused the plane to hit the runway hard before it exploded.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Update on Garuda Indonesia accident at Yogyakarta

GarudaThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is sending a team to Indonesia to assist with the investigation into the cause of the crash of a Boeing 737-400 operated by Garuda Indonesia. In addition to NTSB personnel, the American team will include representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Boeing Company.

Garuda Flight 200 overran the runway at Yogyakarta after arriving from Jakarta. It reportedly broke through a fence, crossed a road, and came to rest in a rice paddy. The aircraft was destroyed by fire after the crash.

While there have been conflicting reports in the various media about exactly how many survived the crash and how many were lost, an NTSB press release that I received via email now puts the number at 21 fatalities and 50 serious injuries. Among those injuries were burns and broken bones, according to reports published in various news outlets.

Here is some of what a report on CBS News says:
Alessandro Bertellotti, a journalist with Italian broadcaster Rai, said the plane was going at a "crazy speed" as it approached Yogyakarta airport after a 50-minute flight from the capital, Jakarta.

"It was going into a dive and I was certain we would crash on the ground," he told the Italian news agency ANSA. "I was sitting behind the wing. I saw that the pilot was trying to stop it, but it was too fast. It literally bounced on the strip."
...

Wayan Sukarda, an Indonesian cameraman for Australia's Seven Network, managed to scramble off the plane, then shot dramatic video of dazed passengers fleeing as smoke poured from the fuselage. An explosion and fireball then ripped through the air, apparently as the fire reached a fuel tank, the footage showed.

Sukarda had called the network as the plane was crashing, a colleague told The West Australian newspaper. "He was screaming, 'The plane's crashing.' I thought he must have seen another plane crash. I didn't know it was the one he was on. You could hear all the alarms and sirens going off, people screaming," said Channel Seven's Danny Sim.
The video shot on the scene by Sukarda has been posted on the CBS News website. Here's the link to the video. (Be patient -- you have to sit through a commercial message before the accident footage appears!)

BBC News has a collection of still photos of the crash site on its website.

The crash is big news in Australia since there were a number of Australians aboard the flight, some of whom are believed to be among the fatalities. At least two Australians were severely injured and have been evacuated from Indonesia, according to a story on Australia's ABC News Online.

Almost every news outlet that I've seen has published comments and speculation about the cause of the crash, made by surviving passengers or observers in Yogyakarta. Most seemed to say that the aircraft "shook" or "shuddered" just before it landed, and that it bounced after it touched down. Eyewitnesses and passengers also claimed that it was "coming in too fast."

A gentleman by the name of Robert Heath, identified variously as an 'aviation expert' or a 'crisis management expert,' is being quoted widely about the accident by the Australian media. Apparently he also believes that excessive speed on landing may have figured into the accident.
University of South Australia associate professor Robert Heath said the Garuda flight appeared to land intact and said the fire that then engulfed it may have been caused by an engine break-up or a puncture to a fuel tank.

"From what I can see so far the aircraft appeared to land intact and that may point to excess speed being a factor," Professor Heath said.

"The fire may have been caused by the nose wheel hitting things as it ran off the runway or engine destruction.

"It was probable that a fuel tank was punctured on impact."[news.com.au]
That same article also said that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered that the accident investigation include "the possibility of 'nontechnical' causes - an apparent reference to sabotage."

Here is more commentary from Professor Heath:
"The key questions here are how soon did the aircraft catch fire and how soon were rescuers able to get there," he said.

"The fact that the structure was intact also meant the only escape routes were through the doors rather than other holes in the structure.

"This means less chance for people to escape the toxic fumes and lack of oxygen, which are the main reasons most people die rather than being killed by the flames themselves."

Prof Heath said it did not appear that weather conditions were a factor in the crash but it shouldn't be assumed it was caused by pilot error.

"There are a number of other factors such as runway conditions, weight of the aircraft, tyre burst or jamming of controls for some reason that would also have to be considered," he said.[The Australian]
What about the condition of the runway? I have heard privately from pilots who say that the runway at Yogyakarta is quite bumpy, and that its condition may have deteriorated further due to recent earthquakes in the area.

Australian media are reporting that investigators at the crash scene have recovered "the black box" from the aircraft wreckage. They don't specify whether that is a Flight Data Recorder or a Cockpit Voice Recorder, but in any case let's hope that some useful information can be retrieved from the device.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Garuda Indonesia B737 accident in Yogyakarta

GarudaA Boeing B737-400 aircraft operated by Garuda Indonesia, overran a runway and burst into flames after landing at Yogyakarta. The plane, which had just arrived on a scheduled flight from Jakarta, was said to be carrying 133 passengers and 7 crew. Reuters says that 49 people were killed.

BBC News
is reporting that at least 93 have been accounted for. The BBC article also says that the plane was carrying Indonesian public figures and Australian government officials and journalists on their way to a meeting with the Australian foreign minister who is visiting Indonesia this week. Up to 10 Australians were aboard, "and not all of those have been accounted for."

More from the BBC:
The operations chief at Yogyakarta airport said the front wheel of the plane was on fire as it landed, causing it to veer off the runway and hit a boundary fence.

He said an engine had then broken away from the plane and the fuselage burst into flames. The aircraft came to rest in the middle of paddy field.
CNN reports that a survivor described seeing flames outside the plane's window after it hit the ground and stopped suddenly:
"Things started to fall down [from the overhead bins] ... the smoke started to get in the plane. People were really panicked," Ruth Bamggadan told CNN.

But the emergency door opened, and "quite a lot of people were able to get out of the plane," she said, calling the evacuation fairly orderly with passengers helping elderly women.

People sitting in the front of the plane were the last to get out, Bamggadan said, adding, "I think the emergency door was in the middle."
The CNN article has photos of the burned aircraft and a link to video footage of the accident site.

UPDATE: An Indonesian blogger, N. Firstavina, has posted the names of the crew who were aboard the Garuda Indonesia flight that crashed in Yogyakarta. She says:
The crews (based on Garuda's official) are Capt Marwoto Komar (Pilot) and Capt Gagam Syuman Rohmana (Co-pilot), Wiranto Wuryono (navigator?), Irawati (Senior Cabin Crew), Maryati (Senior Cabin Crew), Imam Arif Iskandar (Senior Cabin Crew), and Ratna Budiyanti (Junior Cabin Crew). It was not known how many crew survived the crash, but there are two bodies found in the pilot and co pilot seat, died with severe injury on their abdomen, they were suspected to have already died few moments after the plane hit the land.
Click here to read the rest of the post about the accident on her blog, called Live and Learn.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Caravan icing problems under control?

For years, icing has been a problem for Cessna Caravan 208/208B aircraft, but the single-engine turboprop is "on course to end this winter without an icing accident." So says an article on AMTonline.com, which attributes the greatly improved accident record to a mandatory re-training program for Caravan pilots that teaches them how to fly the aircraft safely in icing conditions.

The FAA-approved course, offered by Cessna, can be taken online. Cessna also offered it in a series of seminars around the country. Nearly 900 pilots have taken the course so far.

The training course was developed as part of an effort to eliminate Caravan accidents due to icing. AMTonline explains:
As the winter of 2005-06 turned into spring, federal regulators wanted to ground the Caravan, which is now heavily used as a cargo plane, during most winter flying conditions because of a series of accidents attributed to icy conditions. There were fatal accidents in Canada and in Russia. In the winter of 2004-05, there were nine accidents attributed to an ice build-up on the aircraft.

Instead, aircraft operators, represented by the Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA), met with Cessna and the FAA to find a way to keep the planes in the air. The end result is the proposed Airworthiness Directive – comment closes on the measure on March 5. (Click here to read the AD and the comments.)

This winter to date, there has been one accident involving a Caravan and ice was not a factor, says Stan Bernstein, RACCA's executive director.

"I am very, very cautious," he says. "I will feel a lot better when May comes around and there haven't been any accidents."
Pilot training is just one part of the new program. A new piece of hardware for the plane -- a low airspeed awareness system -- alerts the pilot anytime the air speed falls below 120 knots. The FAA also wants deicing boots installed on the Caravans' forward baggage pods.

If you fly (or intend to fly) Caravans, you should have a look at the whole article on AMTonline.com.

[Photo Source]

Sunday, March 04, 2007

EU bans most Pakistan International Airlines planes

The European Union has barred 35 of Pakistan International Airlines' (PIA) fleet of 45 aircraft from flying in the region because of safety concerns. The only PIA aircraft not affected by the ban are seven B-777s.

According to BBC News, the EU said it based its ruling on safety concerns surrounding the condition of PIA's fleet of B747s and A310s. Last week, PIA management strongly opposed the ban, and published a statement on their website to that effect.

A PIA official told Reuters that the airline would have to cut 15% to 20% of the European operations due to the ban. Some of  PIA's most lucrative routes will be affected, including flights to London, Paris, Rome and Amsterdam.

Last year the Pakistani government grounded the airline's Fokker fleet after a crash that killed 45 people in July.

UPDATE Mar. 6, 2007: Business Week is reporting that PIA has cut its flights to Europe by about 50%., saying "Services to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Milan and Chicago have been stopped altogether. Flights to destinations including Manchester, New York, Istanbul and Paris will continue, but with reduced frequency."

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Preliminary report: Shuttle America ERJ-170 runway overrun at Cleveland

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has published a preliminary report about a runway overrun by an ERJ-170 at Cleveland last month. The accident happened on the afternoon of February 18, 2007 at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE). The aircraft was operated by Shuttle America, a unit of Republic Airways, as a Delta Connection flight.

After landing, the aircraft overran the end of runway 28 by 150 feet, hitting a localizer antenna and a fence before it came to rest. The flight, which had originated in Atlanta, had a crew of four and 70 passengers aboard. No one was injured.

The NTSB report says that instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and the flight was operating on an instrument flight plan. The glideslope for the ILS runway 28 approach was unusable at the time of the accident due to the snow. The crew stated they were made aware of this by air traffic control when they were cleared for the approach to runway 28.

Here is how the accident developed:
The first officer was flying the airplane at the time of the accident. The captain reported they were cleared for the ILS runway 24R approach. He stated that approximately 10 minutes prior to landing, air traffic control changed the landing runway to runway 28.

The captain stated they were informed that the runway visual range (RVR) was 6,000 feet and that the braking action was fair. He reported that after passing the final approach fix, they were informed that the RVR had decreased to 2,000 feet.

The captain stated he had the approach lights in sight and at 50 feet above the ground, he had the runway in sight. He stated the first officer then turned off the autopilot to land.

The captain stated that at 30 feet above the ground he momentarily lost sight of the runway. He stated he then regained sight of the runway and the airplane was landed. He stated they encountered strong gusty winds during the landing flare and after touchdown they could barely see the runway lights and taxiway turn-offs.

The captain reported that despite the use of full reverse and braking, the airplane did not seem to slow down. The airplane traveled off the runway and into the snow covered grass where the nose gear collapsed and the airplane came to rest.

The crew and passengers deplaned using a ladder with assistance from the fire department. [NTSB Report: CHI07MA072]
The NTSB report also notes that there was heavy snow, with visibility of less than a quarter mile at CLE at the time of the accident.

An  article about the accident, published on the CBS News website, quoted a Delta Air Lines spokeswoman who said that the aircraft's engines "were partially buried in snow and the tip of the plane's nose was resting on a roadway the airport uses to get to perimeter buildings."

Friday, March 02, 2007

US Airways pilots sue for unified contract

Tired of waiting and waiting, and then waiting some more, pilots at US Airways have filed suit to stop the company from integrating the operations of its predecessor companies -- the 'old' US Airways, and America West Airlines -- until a single, fair, unified contract is negotiated for its two pilot unions. A new contract would cover wages, seniority and work rules.

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) filed the suit in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia earlier this week. The union contends that it is illegal to merge the airlines until a single contract is reached between both pilot groups, as is required under the Railway Labor Act and an agreement reached by the parties in September 2005.

An ALPA news release about this matter says:
US Airways plans this weekend to eliminate America West's HP designator code from reservation systems, which means that all flights will be listed as a US Airways flight. The code elimination is in violation of the Transition Agreement negotiated with the two pilot groups that promised that the two airlines would remain separated until a single pilot collective bargaining agreement is reached.

The parties have been negotiating for a year and a half, but US Airways management is continuing to pass bankruptcy-era proposals that ignore the investment that the pilots made in order to keep their airline viable after 9/11. Until a single agreement is reached, the company must operate both airlines separately. Instead, management apparently is trying to reap the benefits of the merger without fulfilling their promise to first get a single, fair pilot contract.

ALPA contends that US Airways is violating their obligation to negotiate a single agreement and asks that the status quo be maintained until then.

"US Airways wants desperately for our pilots to look like, dress like, and act like they work for a merged airline. However, the only road to a real merged airline is through a single contract," said US Airways Master Executive Council Chairman Captain Jack Stephan. "Our pilot group will not tolerate management attaining synergies they haven't paid for or negotiated. Like our passengers, we are frustrated dealing with management’s empty promises and their reluctance to properly merge our airline."

"US Airways continues to drag the merger process on and on, to the detriment of our passengers and our employees," said America West Master Executive Council Chairman Captain John McIlvenna. "Instead of focusing on productive negotiations, management is trying to grab operational efficiencies they can't legally have. Until the America West and US Airways pilots have a fair, single contract, we are far from being one airline."
A Reuters article about the lawsuit, published on CNN Money, quotes US Airways officials who said that the change [in designator code] "was for marketing purposes only but would have no effect on operations - old America West crews would continue to work old America West aircraft and old US Airways crews would fly old US Airways planes."

Wow! Does that statement totally miss the point, or what?!

UPDATE Mar. 3, 2007: A U.S. District Court judge threw out the pilots' complaint at a hearing yesterday, saying that it was "a minor dispute that should be addressed in binding arbitration, not in court." [CNN Money]

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Cracked windshields at DIA caused by very fine FOD?

Denver International AirportRemember the mysterious event last month when the windshields of more than a dozen aircraft cracked on the same stormy day in Denver? At the time, airport officials said that the cause was "baffling." Now an article in the Denver Post says that 'fine particles' cracked those windshields.

The damaged aircraft belonged to SkyWest, Frontier, and Great Lakes airlines. Six of the planes developed cracks in their windshields during takeoff. One windshield cracked after landing, and two more happened during taxi. Three parked aircraft sustained windshield cracks as well, and one windshield cracked during pushback. One aircraft developed the problem in flight, at 19,000 feet.

It was cold, snowy, and very windy that day. Winds were gusting up to 48mph during the three-hour period when the windshields cracked. NTSB investigator Jennifer Kaiser said that "The only commonality across aircraft type, operator, location, time and phase of flight was the wind and weather."

The Denver Post says:
Cracked windshields on 14 planes at Denver International Airport were caused by "foreign object debris," air safety investigators said Tuesday.

Microscopic analysis of the 21 front and side windshields cracked during a storm revealed fine particles causing pitting that in turn caused cracking, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Jennifer Kaiser said. Only the outer layer of the triple-layer windshields cracked and none of the planes declared emergencies.
Flying sand? Ice pellets? We still don't know. The exact nature of the debris was unable to be determined by investigators.