Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Japan Airlines cancels flights due to strike

JAL logoIn anticipation of a strike by three labor unions, Japan Airlines (JAL) has announced the cancellation of nearly a quarter of its domestic passenger flights for tomorrow, October 1, 2008. The strike, which is in response to a wage dispute, will affect about 14,000 passengers as JAL expects to cancel 152 flights within Japan.

The carrier says that no international flights will be disrupted by the strike. According to the Asia edition of the Wall Street Journal, those flights will be operated by non-union crews.

Three unions, including the JAL Japan Pilots Union and the JAL Cabin Crew Union, called the one-day strike to protest JAL's proposed to cut pay for crews and other employees by 5%, beginning in October. According to the Wall Street Journal, the pilots are considering extending the strike into a second day. If that happens, some international flights may have to be canceled.

UPDATE October 1, 2008: The strike by three unions against Japan Airlines has been canceled. Although there is no word on any new pay agreement between the carrier and its unions, JAL has announced, "Services on all flights, both domestic Japan and International, will operate as normal."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pilot fatally injured in Cape Air accident on Martha's Vineyard

On the evening of Friday, September 26, 2008, a Cessna 402C aircraft operated by Cape Air crashed shortly after takeoff from Martha's Vineyard Airport, Vineyard Haven, MA. According to the FAA preliminary report about the accident, the aircraft was destroyed, and the pilot was fatally injured. The pilot, who was the only person on board at the time of the accident, was identified by Massachusetts State Police as David D. Willey, 61, of Vineyard Haven.

The aircraft (registration N770CA), operating as Cape Air Flight 1055, took off shortly after 8PM local time from Martha's Vineyard, bound for Boston's Logan International Airport. It went down in West Tisbury, just a few miles from the Martha's Vineyard airport. A news article about the Cape Air crash in the Boston Globe quoted a State Police official who said that a nearby house was damaged by debris, but no one was injured on the ground.

An FAA spokesperson, quoted by the Boston Globe, said airport officials reported heavy rain and high winds around the time the plane took off. However, the Cape Cod Times reported that, although the weather had been rainy, "a weather window" emerged between rain squalls when Willey took off.

The Cape Cod Times has published an article outlining David Willey's long and varied career as a pilot. The article includes a photo of Mr. Willey, supplied by his family.

A Memorial Gathering for David Willey was held today. Condolences to David Willey's family, his colleagues at Cape Air, and his friends.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

United Airlines in Boeing 747 'wet lease' agreement with Fiji's Air Pacific

Air Pacific B747-400United Airlines is leasing a crewed Boeing 747-400 aircraft to Air Pacific for a period of two months. According to Air Pacific, the so-called 'wet lease' is intended to ensure "that schedule integrity is maintained" while one of the Fiji-based carrier's own B747-400 aircraft undergoes refurbishment in Singapore as part of a planned maintenance program during October and November, 2008.

Under terms of the all-inclusive lease agreement, the United aircraft will be flown by United pilots, and the passenger cabin will be staffed by United Airlines flight attendants, assisted by two Air Pacific cabin crew on each flight. Catering will be provided by United. In addition United will be responsible for all maintenance for the plane, as well as all insurance fees.

The aircraft is one of the six Boeing 747s that will be retired later this year as part United's capacity reduction plan. Service on behalf of Air Pacific, which began on September 28, 2008, will include two weekly flights between Los Angeles and Fiji, three weekly flights between Fiji and Sydney, and Saturday-only service between Fiji and Auckland. The current contract runs through November 23, 2008.

A second Air Pacific Boeing 747-400 is scheduled for refurbishment in February and March, 2009.

[Photo Source]

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Seeing Pink at Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines uniformOctober is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a project designed to build breast cancer awareness, share information and provide access to screening services.

In support of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, some flight attendants at Delta Air Lines will be wearing pink uniforms throughout October. According to Delta, the limited edition signature "Pink dress" is patterned after the Richard Tyler-designed Red dress worn by some female Delta flight attendants. Every Pink Dress worn by a Delta flight attendant represents a donation to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Flight attendants purchased the dresses, with the proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Delta says that the Pink uniform dress sold out just two days after it became available.

Delta also has a pink and white Boeing 757 aircraft that flies throughout the year to create awareness of breast cancer. According to Delta, since the Pink Plane first took flight in 2005, Delta has raised more than $1 million for Breast Cancer Research Foundations through donations from customers, employees and The Delta Foundation.

Learn about breast cancer and its treatment and prevention at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation website. Find out more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month by visiting the project's website at NBCAM.org.

[Photo Source]

Friday, September 26, 2008

FAA: Croatia does not comply with international aviation safety standards

FAA logoThe U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced yesterday that Croatia does not comply with international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Croatia's civil aviation authority was evaluated by the FAA in January of this year under the International Aviation Safety Assessments (IASA) Program. The FAA assessment rated Croatia as "Category 2." With the IASA Category 2 rating, Croatian air carriers cannot establish service to the United States.

The FAA explains:
A Category 1 rating means the country’s civil aviation authority complies with ICAO standards. Croatia’s Category 2 safety rating means that the country’s civil aviation authority does not comply with ICAO standards.

A Category 2 rating means a country either lacks laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with international standards, or that its civil aviation authority — equivalent to the FAA for aviation safety matters — is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, recordkeeping or inspection procedures.

As part of the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program, the agency assesses the civil aviation authorities of all countries with air carriers that operate or might be authorized to fly to the United States and makes that information available to the public. The assessments determine whether or not foreign civil aviation authorities are meeting ICAO safety standards, not FAA regulations.
The FAA notes that the government of Croatia has said that they are "working diligently to correct all areas of concern as they move to establish a safety oversight system that will be fully compliant with international standards and recommended practices."

Countries with air carriers that fly to the United States must adhere to the safety standards of ICAO, the United Nations’ technical agency for aviation that establishes international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance.

For information about the IASA program, visit: http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa/

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Evergreen International to fly new US-China cargo routes

Evergreen International B747The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced this week that it was proposing to award new US-China cargo routes to Oregon-based freight carrier Evergreen International Airlines. Once final authority is granted, Evergreen will operate six round-trip flights per week to Shanghai from New York with additional traffic stops in Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth and Columbus, OH.

The U.S.-China aviation agreement of May, 2007 permits the United States to name a new all-cargo carrier to begin service in the market on March 25, 2009. In addition to Evergreen, Kalitta Air and TradeWinds Airlines also applied for the 2009 all-cargo rights.

The DOT concluded that Evergreen’s proposal offered the best service for the shipping public because the carrier was in the best position to compete with current all-cargo airlines in the market. Evergreen would offer the first scheduled U.S.-carrier all-cargo service to China from both New York and Columbus, the DOT said, also noting that Evergreen was the only applicant that would use the entire capacity of its aircraft for China services. In addition, the Department cited Evergreen’s experience operating in the U.S.-Asia market, including its U.S.-China charter services.

Evergreen International Airlines, a unit of Evergreen International Aviation, Inc., operates Boeing 747-100F and 747-200F aircraft.

The DOT tentatively awarded backup authority to Kalitta in the event that Evergreen is unable to begin service.

Airlines currently operating U.S.-China all-cargo service are Federal Express, Northwest Airlines, Polar Air Cargo and United Parcel Service. All restrictions on scheduled U.S.-China all-cargo services will be lifted in March 2011.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Allentown runway incursion: Air traffic controllers cite tower understaffing

NATCAA press statement issued by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) claims that the control tower at Allentown, PA's Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE) was staffed by unsupervised trainees at the time of a serious runway incursion incident this past Friday, September 19, 2008. The incident resulted in a near collision between a Mesa Airlines regional jet and a Cessna 172. The Cessna had failed to vacate the runway before controllers cleared the Mesa CRJ-700 aircraft for takeoff. When they saw the Cessna still on the runway, the crew of the regional jet rejected takeoff at high speed, and had to swerve to avoid colliding with the smaller aircraft. Fortunately, no one was injured, but it was a very close call: the RJ crew estimated that they cleared the Cessna by about 10 feet.

Whenever there is a runway incursion, we all wonder how it could have happened. In this instance, NATCA assigns at least part of the blame to the control tower staffing policies of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Here is exactly what the NATCA press release about the Allentown runway incursion said:
A Mesa Airlines regional jet was forced to abort its takeoff and swerve on the runway to miss a Cessna on Friday evening at Lehigh Valley International Airport. There were two Federal Aviation Administration employees in the tower, both controller trainees.

The incident comes as the House Aviation Subcommittee prepares to hold a follow-up hearing this Thursday on runway safety. NATCA President Patrick Forrey will be testifying.

At approximately 7:35 p.m. EDT Friday, the Cessna landed on Runway 6. The Mesa Airlines regional jet (RJ), ASH7138 headed to Chicago O’Hare, was instructed to taxi into position and hold its position on the runway. The Cessna was told to exit the runway at Taxiway A4 and taxi to the ramp on the local control radio frequency.

The trainee working local control in the tower thought they saw the Cessna clear the runway and cleared the RJ for takeoff. But the Cessna missed its taxiway and was still on the runway as the RJ was picking up speed. The RJ saw the Cessna and aborted its takeoff but was close enough to the small plane that it had to swerve to the left to avoid a collision. The jet returned to the ramp and the flight to O’Hare was canceled.

Of the 31 on board in the tower and radar control room at this FAA facility, 11 are trainees. That is 35 percent, which NATCA believes is far too many trainees than a facility can safely train.

"This was a very serious incident that points out all of the problems with the ramifications of the FAA's understaffing issues nationwide and our concerns about allowing newly and partially certified controllers to work on their own," Forrey said. "The FAA is so desperate to staff its towers they are forced to work trainees by themselves without adequate numbers of experienced controllers there to work with them. This has exposed the inexperience of our new workforce. These new hires are paying a heavy price for the continued failures of this reckless FAA management team. It’s unfair to these trainees and should be unacceptable to the flying public."
Before you begin your next takeoff roll, perhaps you should ask the ATC giving you clearance if he or she is an unsupervised trainee.

Security concerns prompt airlines to suspend service to Pakistan and Bolivia

airlinerYesterday British Airways announced the cancellation of all flights from London to Islamabad, Pakistan for an indefinite period of time, due to security concerns. The suspension of BA's six weekly flights to Pakistan comes in the wake of the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad several days ago that killed more than 50 people and injured hundreds. Islamabad is the only destination city in Pakistan served by British Airways.

Then, on this side of the Atlantic, American Airlines confirmed today that it has suspended flights to and from Bolivia on security concerns due to the South American country's current political unrest. American Airlines runs the only daily nonstop air service between the U.S. and Bolivia. American says it hopes to resume flights between Bolivia and the U.S. in early October.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Near-collision between a Mesa Airlines regional jet and a Cessna 172

NTSB logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating a near-collision this past Friday, Sep. 19, 2008,  between a Mesa Airlines Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-700 carrying 60 people, and a Cessna 172 aircraft. The incident, classified by the NTSB as a runway incursion, occurred on the evening of September 19, 2008, on a runway at Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE), Allentown, PA. No one was injured, but it apparently was a very close call.

According to information supplied by the NTSB, a Cessna R172K (registration N736GV) was on a landing roll on runway 6 at the Lehigh Valley International Airport when the pilot was instructed to exit the runway at taxiway A4. Mesa Airlines flight 7138, a CRJ-700 (registration N506MJ), already instructed to position and hold on the same runway, was then given clearance by the same controller to take off.

During the takeoff roll, the Mesa crew heard the Cessna pilot say that he had missed the taxiway A4 turnoff and ask to exit at taxiway B. The Mesa crew saw the Cessna ahead of them on the runway and aborted the takeoff at about 120 knots, swerving around the Cessna. The Mesa crew estimated that they missed colliding with the Cessna by about 10 feet.

Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the incident.

Monday, September 22, 2008

American Airlines Boeing 757 runway excursion at Chicago O'Hare Airport

American Airlines B757Earlier today, Sep. 22, 2008, an American Airlines Boeing 757-200 aircraft diverted to Chicago after experiencing unspecified electrical problems. After landing safely at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the aircraft left the paved surface near the end of the runway. No one was injured.

American Airlines Flight AAL 268 was en route from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport when an electrical problem developed. At the time of the diversion to O'Hare, the aircraft's Instrument Landing System (ILS) receivers were reportedly inoperative. The crew made a visual landing on runway 22R at O'Hare at about 13:42 local time.

Several media reports say that the aircraft "overshot the runway," which definitely was not the case. Instead, it appears that after landing, the crew were unable to stop the aircraft before they ran out of pavement. Some news reports mentioned that one or more tires may have burst, but this has not been officially confirmed.

In a news photo of the incident posted on the KIROTV.com website, the aircraft appears to have departed the runway to the left, with the nose gear and possibly the main gear resting on the grass. There was no emergency evacuation. Passengers were deplaned via portable air stairs.

[Photo Source]

Sunday, September 21, 2008

China Airlines cabin crew injured in turbulence incident near Bali

China AirlinesA number of passengers and cabin crew were injured on Saturday, September 20, 2008, when a China Airlines Boeing 747-400 aircraft encountered severe turbulence while en route from Taipei to Denpasar, Bali. The aircraft, operating as China Airlines Flight CI 687, was in Malaysian airspace when clear air turbulence caused it to drop several thousand feet. The incident occurred about 30 minutes prior to landing, according to news reports.

At least 30 people among the 339 passengers and 19 crew on board were injured. The Taiwan News quoted a China Airlines spokesman who said that six people with serious injuries, including four cabin crew members, were admitted to a hospital in Bali for treatment. Although the extent of their injuries has not been confirmed, several news reports mentioned skeletal fractures and neck injuries.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Global Exec Aviation Learjet 60 crash at Columbia, SC

Lear 60 accident at CAEA chartered Learjet 60 operated by Global Exec Aviation, LLC, has crashed at Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE), West Columbia, South Carolina. Four of the six people on board, including both crew members, were killed in the accident. Two more passengers were seriously injured. The aircraft was completely destroyed.

According to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the aircraft (registration N999LJ) crashed on take-off at 11:53 p.m. EDT on Friday, September 19, 2008. News reports say that the aircraft overran Runway 11 at Columbia Metropolitan Airport, crossed the airport perimeter and came to rest on an embankment along Highway 302. At the time of the accident, the aircraft was departing Columbia for Van Nuys, CA. An airport official who was quoted by local news website TheState.com said that the weather was "cool, dry and clear" when the accident occurred.

All six people who were on board have been identified. A news article about the accident published by television station WIS News 10 reports:
Lexington County Coroner Harry Harman identified all four victims from California. Harman says the pilot, Sarah Lemmon, 31, of Anaheim Hills, co-pilot James Bland, 52, of Carlsbad, Chris Baker, 29, of Studio City and Charles Still, 25, of Los Angeles all perished in the crash.

The two survivors, 32-year-old Travis Barker, former drummer of the band Blink-182, and 35-year-old Adam Goldstein, aka DJ AM, are currently at the Augusta Burn Center.
The airport has been temporarily closed to enable the investigation team to examine evidence on the runway.

WIS News 10 has published a collection of still photos of the crash site.

TheState.com has made an online condolences book available.

Condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of the pilots and passengers who perished in this accident. Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to the two men who were injured.

UPDATE Sep. 22, 2008: Yesterday Debbie Hersman, an NTSB official, indicated that there was evidence that a tire had burst during the takeoff roll of the Learjet 60 that crashed at Columbia, SC. At a meeting with the press, Hersman said that, based on a preliminary review of the aircraft's Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), "The crew reacted to a sound that was consistent with a tire blowout," and apparently initiated a rejected takeoff. Tire debris was found on the runway, about 2,800 ft. past the point where the aircraft had begun its takeoff roll. The runway is approximately 8,600 ft. long.

Today the Associated Press, quoting the chief deputy coroner for Lexington County, reported that the two crew members died from smoke inhalation and burns. Both "were burned on their entire bodies and died within minutes" of the crash. The two passengers who perished are believed to have died on impact, since no evidence of smoke was found in their lungs.

The two surviving passengers suffered second- and third-degree burns, but are expected to recover fully.

[Photo Source]

Friday, September 19, 2008

Qantas takes delivery of its first Airbus A380

Airbus A380In a ceremony at the Airbus facility in Toulouse, France, on September 19, 2008, Australian airline Qantas took delivery of its first Airbus A380 'superjumbo' aircraft. The new aircraft (registration number VH-OQA) will become the Qantas flagship.

The new Qantas double-decker A380, which is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, is configured with 450 seats. On the main deck are 14 first class suites, and 332 economy seats. The upper deck has 72 business class seats, plus 32 premium economy seats.

According to Qantas, features of the new A380 include:
  • 14 single private suites in First Class featuring a 17 inch LCD wide screen video monitor, a unique touch screen control unit, and a seat (manufactured by B/E Aerospaces's VIP jet group) that swivels into a comfortable armchair and a fully flat, extra long and wide bed
  • the next generation of Qantas' award-winning sleeper seat Skybed in Business Class, which now offers an extra long and fully flat bed with ergonomically enhanced cushioning, a larger in-arm entertainment screen, additional storage options and more privacy
  • a private lounge area in the upper deck Business Class cabin featuring leather sofas, a self-service bar, large video monitor with laptop connectivity and a feature display cabinet
  • Premium Economy seats by Recaro, with fully adjustable, in-arm, digital wide screen television monitors, and a self service bar dedicated to the upper deck Premium Economy cabin
  • Recaro seats in Economy Class featuring a sliding base that moves with the seat back to create a more comfortable, ergonomically tested position to aid sleep and eliminate pressure points and a foot net to stop sliding during sleep
  • four self-service bars in Economy Class
  • state-of-the-art Panasonic inflight entertainment system with more than 100 on demand movies, 350 television selections, 500 audio CDs, 30 PC style games, and a selection of audio books, language tutorials, destination information, business education and radio channels
  • in-seat laptop power and connectivity in every class allowing passengers to send and receive emails directly from their personal webmail and hotmail accounts via laptop or seat monitor
The first Qantas A380, named after Australian pioneer aviatrix Nancy-Bird Walton, aged 92, was scheduled to depart Toulouse at 23:55 and operate via Singapore to touch down in Sydney at 09:00 (AEST) on Sunday, September 21, 2008.

Nancy-Bird Walton will attend the official naming ceremony for the aircraft in Sydney on 30 September.

The new Qantas A380 will enter commercial service in October with an inaugural flight to Los Angeles.

In a Qantas news release about the delivery of the aircraft, the airline's Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Geoff Dixon, said the A380 symbolized a new era of travel for Qantas.

"No other airline has flown as far as Qantas for as long as Qantas, so we know very well the value of a well designed inflight product for long haul flights," said Dixon. "The A380, with its extra space, new materials and advanced technology, has given us the ideal platform to reinvent the inflight experience."

Qantas is the third airline to take delivery of an A380 for commercial passenger service. Singapore Airlines flew the first commercial A380 flight last October. In July of this year, Dubai-based Emirates Airline took delivery of its first A380, which made its inaugural flight on August 1.

[Photo Source]

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Update on the Air Tahoma Convair 580 crash in Ohio

Air TahomaThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its preliminary report on the September 1, 2008 crash of a Convair 580 freighter owned and operated by Air Tahoma, Inc. The aircraft was completely destroyed when it impacted terrain as it was attempting to return to the Rickenbacker International Airport (LCK), Columbus, Ohio shortly after departing LCK for Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport (MFD), Mansfield, Ohio. All three crew members on board -- the captain, first officer, and a company pilot sitting in the observer seat -- were killed in the accident.

According to the NTSB's preliminary report, the aircraft (registration number N587X) was operating under 14 CFR Part 91 rules (non-revenue) at the time of the accident. An instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed. According to the NTSB, visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.

Here is how the NTSB report describes the initial findings regarding the Air Tahoma Convair accident (re-pragraphed for easier reading):
The accident flight was the first flight following a maintenance "C" check, which included flight control cable rigging as part of the check. The flight was also intended to be a training flight for the first officer and the company pilot seated in the observer seat.

The flight contacted the LCK air traffic control (ATC) at 1139 for its IFR clearance. At 1147, the flight was cleared to taxi. At 1200, the flight received its takeoff clearance, and the airplane started its takeoff roll about 1203. About one minute later, at 1204, the flight contacted ATC and stated that it needed to return to LCK, and it was cleared to land on runway 5L. ATC asked the flight if it needed equipment and the flight responded, "Negative." About 1206, the airplane impacted a cornfield about one mile southwest of the approach end of runway 5L.

The inspection of the wreckage revealed that the airplane had impacted the terrain on a southerly heading. The cut through the high corn that was produced by the airplane's landing gear, fuselage, and wings indicated that it was in a slight right wing down attitude on a glide path of about 10 degrees at impact. The initial contact with the corn revealed three parallel cuts through the corn that were consistent with the landing gear being in the down position.

Both left and right propeller gearboxes separated from the engines and were found near the initial impact point. All four blades from both propeller hubs were separated from the hubs and were found throughout the wreckage path. Both propeller hubs were located about 1,250 feet from the initial impact point, the furthest wreckage found in the debris field.

The debris field stretched from about 665 feet from the initial point of impact to an abandoned set of railroad tracks within a tree line. The main wreckage was found about 160 feet south of the railroad tracks, or about 825 feet from the initial impact point.

Approximately 10 feet of the forward portion of the airplane, which included the cockpit, separated from the fuselage at impact. The portion was lying on its right side (as viewed looking forward) and was consumed by fire.

The fuselage was partially consumed by fire just forward of the vertical stabilizer between about Fuselage Station (FS) 623.00 and FS 798.

The left wing had separated from the fuselage and was about 50 feet from the fuselage. It was partially consumed by fire and pieces of the wing were found in the debris field.

The right wing had separated from the fuselage, and a part of the wing was consumed by fire lying under the cockpit section next to the fuselage. Sections of the lower right wing were found in the debris field.

Both engines had separated from the wings and were found in the main wreckage. A ground fire had consumed a swath of corn along the debris field. [NTSB ID: CHI08MA270]
The NTSB reports that both Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and Flight Data Recorder (FDR) were retrieved from the tail section of the wreckage and were sent to the National Transportation Safety Board's Vehicle Recorder Division for inspection. The investigation is ongoing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pilots voice concerns over American Airlines joint venture plans

Allied Pilots Association logoLast month, American Airlines, British Airways, and Iberia announced a new joint business agreement on flights between Europe and North America. In a related move, the carriers also announced that they would file for worldwide antitrust immunity from the U.S. Department of Transportation and would notify the appropriate regulatory authorities in the European Union. Finnair and Royal Jordanian also are included in the antitrust immunity application. The Allied Pilots Association (APA), the union representing American Airlines pilots, immediately expressed concerns regarding the impact the business agreement could have on job security for the airline's 12,000 pilots. Now the pilots are asking the federal government to defer any ruling on American Airlines’ application for antitrust exemption to allow for a full examination of related national security, competitiveness and outsourcing issues.

In a statement issued earlier today by the union, APA President, Capt. Lloyd Hill said, "Given the complexity of these proposed agreements, the many unknowns associated with them and other important considerations, we strongly recommend that any decision be deferred until a thorough analysis can be conducted.

"APA has major job-security concerns relative to what American Airlines is attempting to do, while other interested parties have voiced meaningful opposition to reduced competition among carriers. There simply isn’t time for the federal government to conduct an appropriately thorough investigation in a matter of weeks, as American Airlines management has advocated."

Security Considerations

Hill also pointed out that the government depends upon U.S. airlines to carry troops and supplies in wartime as the nation’s Civil Reserve Air Fleet.

"APA questions the wisdom of permitting national strategic-interest companies such as airlines to engage in what amounts to a virtual merger with foreign counterparts," Hill said. "I do not believe anyone fully understands the potential national-security ramifications of such a step."

Contractual Issues

According to APA, the union's current collective bargaining agreement precludes any joint business agreement between American Airlines and another carrier:
The contract’s "Scope" clause explicitly states that "All flying performed by or on behalf of the Company or an Affiliate shall be performed by pilots on the American Airlines Pilots Seniority List."

The clause does contain a series of exceptions for code-sharing agreements, commuter affiliate operations and other situations, but does not include any exception for a joint business agreement.

"Thus far American Airlines management has not negotiated any agreement with APA that would permit the airline to enter into a joint venture with British Airways and Iberia, which we firmly believe is a prerequisite," Hill said.
In a letter this week to the CEOs of British Airways and Iberia, Hill questioned the advisability of entering into a joint business agreement with American Airlines at this juncture. He emphasized to the executives that APA has been rebuffed in its efforts to work with American Airlines management to address the airline’s widely reported operational shortfalls.

He also noted that management has permitted pilot staffing levels at American Airlines to fall below a specific contractual benchmark, triggering a provision that will soon enable APA to terminate the Scope exception that allows the company to utilize commuter air carriers in their system. In addition, Hill noted the absence of any contractual language permitting management to proceed with the joint business agreement.

American Airlines, flight attendants open contract negotiations

APFA logoContract negotiations are underway between American Airlines and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), the union representing the airline's flight attendants. The union is calling for improved working conditions, the restoration of lost wages and benefits, and an end to CEO bonuses. An APFA press release about the commencement of contract negotiations explains:
"Flight Attendants have seen the value of their real wages shrink by 25 percent and many are struggling," said Laura Glading, president of APFA, representing nearly 19,000 flight attendants. "At the same time, senior executives of this airline repeatedly and brazenly reneged on their promise to share the pain," awarding themselves big bonuses this year, essentially "claiming credit for accomplishment that are entirely attributable to the contribution of American’s rank and file employees," she said.

APFA opened Immediate Relief Negotiations with the carrier this summer to seek a temporary fix for the most pressing issues confronting Flight Attendants, including overhauling the Flight Attendants scheduling system, but those talks failed. The Union believes an agreement is in the best interest of both APFA and the company, particularly with the recent fall in the price of oil.

"With oil falling by more than $35 per barrel, American is paying approximately $2.5 billion less for fuel. A single dollar reduction in the cost of a barrel of oil could fund a 10 percent increase in Flight Attendant’s wages," said Glading. "These will not be easy negotiations, but we must work together to fix the many problems that exist and make our airline the best it can be," Glading continued.
APFA, the nation's largest independent flight attendant union, represents only American Airlines flight attendants.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hawaiian Airlines pilots seek mediation of stalled contract talks

Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767-300ERHawaiian Airlines (HAL) pilots are seeking mediation of their contract negotiations by the National Mediation Board (NMB). Contract negotiations, which have been underway between Hawaiian Airlines and its pilots for more than 18 months, have stalled. The pilots' union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), filed a request for mediation today, September 16, 2008, the day ALPA and the airline had agreed they could seek federal mediation if previous bargaining talks had failed.

"It has become clear Hawaiian is in no hurry to reach a fair and reasonable agreement. Instead, management is refusing to grant reasonable raises as a hedge against future economic uncertainty," said Captain Eric Sampson, Chairman of ALPA’s Hawaiian Airlines Master Executive Council. "After coming very close to an agreement during private mediation in June, progress at the table has reached a standstill since then. It is time for us to move to mediation with the NMB in hopes of reaching the fair agreement that our pilots have earned and deserve."

The pilots' union points out that over the past year, Hawaiian pilots have repeatedly assisted management by allowing non-ALPA pilots to ferry HAL widebody jets undergoing heavy maintenance, agreeing to be paid under existing rates when the airline acquires newer, longer-range aircraft, as well as sacrificing time off to fly extra hours when two of HAL’s prime competitors, Aloha and ATA Airlines, unexpectedly shut down in April.

"The company is now reporting significant profits and has achieved excellent operating results," Sampson said. "We recognize it’s a tough environment for airlines, but our proposals at the bargaining table have reflected that. Our request is modest and the company can certainly afford it, but Hawaiian apparently prefers to expand on the backs of its labor force. We cannot continue like this."

The pilot group also announced it would reactivate its Strategic Preparedness Committee and seek support from ALPA’s National Strategic Preparedness and Strike Committee. The Hawaiian Master Executive Council named Craig Kahauolopua to chair the Strategic Preparedness Committee, which is responsible for organizing activities before and during a strike. Capt. Kahauolopua is a Boeing 767 captain who also chairs the pilot group’s Security Committee.

The Hawaiian pilots’ contract became amendable on June 30, 2007. If the National Mediation Board accepts the pilots’ request for mediation, the Board will appoint a mediator who will contact the parties and establish a mediation schedule. Talks will continue either until the pilots reach a contract, or until the NMB releases the pilots into a 30-day cooling off period, the expiration of which could be followed by a lawful pilot strike.

"We certainly hope we are able to reach an amicable agreement with Hawaiian management," added Sampson, "but in case an agreement is not reached, we will be ready to pursue our other legal options."

[Photo Source]

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pilots concerned over Alaska Airlines plan to lay off up to 1,000 line employees

Alaska Airlines logoIn conjunction with a capacity reduction of 8%, Alaska Airlines has announced plans for a work force reduction. In a statement issued late last week, the carrier's parent, Alaska Air Group, Inc., said that it will eliminate 850 to 1,000 "operational" positions at Alaska Airlines, including pilots, flight attendants, aircraft technicians, and reservations, customer service and ramp agents. The press release said, in part:
In response to the current environment, the company has undertaken a variety of initiatives to improve profitability and protect its cash balance. These measures include raising fares, increasing fees and instituting a charge for a second checked bag, taking steps to reduce fuel consumption, and deferring or eliminating numerous projects and capital spending.

"These steps, when combined with the recently completed transition to an all-Boeing 737 fleet, improve our viability, but are not enough to eliminate the need to reduce the number of our employees," [chairman and CEO of Alaska Air Group] Ayer said.

Alaska Airlines is working with the unions representing operational employees to offer early-out programs and six-month to two-year leaves of absence to minimize the number of involuntary furloughs. Affected employees will leave the company starting in November and continuing through early 2009.
Furloughs for 190 pilots are among the anticipated job cuts at Alaska Airlines -- a move that the pilots' union worries will limit the airline's ability to respond to market opportunities. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union that represents Alaska's 1,500 pilots, issued the following statement in response to the carrier's furlough announcement:
“We are concerned that, particularly as oil prices continue to plummet, Alaska Airlines will reduce its pilot ranks so severely that our management will create a situation in which our carrier will be unable to take advantage of its strong cash position and respond to opportunities to grow as other airlines cut routes and capacity,” said Capt. Bill Shivers, chairman of the Alaska Airlines Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association.

“Following 9/11, Alaska Airlines strategically used its strong financial position to grow our airline and expand into new markets. When conditions again improve to the point that would allow financially strong carriers to grow, we are concerned that competitors such as Southwest, Virgin America or Jet Blue will be in a position to capitalize on opportunities that our company has denied itself the ability to take advantage of. Returning pilots to the line after a furlough is a time consuming process, and if management follows through on announced plans to reduce pilot ranks so severely, they create a scenario where we are no longer a nimble carrier able to quickly respond to emerging opportunities.

“We’ve already worked with Alaska’s management to create early out retirement and extended leave of absence programs, designed to mitigate the furlough and are continuing to look at ways to prevent the furlough as required by our Collective Bargaining Agreement. We will continue to support and represent all of our pilots, including any who management may choose to furlough.”
Alaska Air Group, Inc., also announced coming capacity and work force reductions for its other airline, Horizon Air. Management expects to reduce Horizon Air capacity in the fourth quarter by about 20 percent compared to the same period last year. The work force reduction at Horizon Air will include elimination of 94 pilot positions "through attrition, early-out packages and leaves, and a furlough of about 40 pilots this November."

In other work groups at Horizon Air, furloughs are being minimized through early-out programs, unpaid leaves and attrition, the company said.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

All 88 on board perish in Aeroflot-Nord Boeing 737 accident in Russia

Aeroflot-Nord B737-500The Russian airline Aeroflot confirmed today that a Boeing 737-500 aircraft operated by Russian domestic regional carrier, Aeroflot-Nord, crashed at Perm in eastern Russia. The accident occurred on September 14, 2008 at approximately 5:10 a.m. local time as Aeroflot Flight SU-821, which had originated at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, was on approach to Perm. The aircraft (Bermuda registration number VP-BKO) was destroyed, and there were no survivors among the 82 passengers and six crew members on board. The crew members who perished were based at Archangelsk.

A message posted on the Aeroflot website said, in part, "Radio contact with flight SU821 was lost at 1,100 metres as the plane was descending for its landing at Perm; at the same time the plane’s signal was lost on air traffic controllers’ displays. Wreckage of the plane has been found within the boundaries of the city of Perm. The plane was totally destroyed and had caught fire."

Several news reports say that the accident happened as the aircraft was attempting to land at Perm for the second time, after a go-around. Some media reports said that at least one of the aircraft's engines may have been on fire, according to witnesses, but this has not been confirmed. [Note: According to investigators, there was no engine fire prior to the crash. See Sep. 18, 2008 update below.] The aircraft was equipped with CFM56 engines. Russian officials quoted by the news media said that both the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) had been recovered from the wreckage.

The aircraft crashed on or near the tracks of the Trans-Siberian Railway, causing railroad service to be temporarily suspended. No one on the ground was said to be injured.

A list of the names of the Aeroflot Flight SU-821 passengers and crew has been posted on the Aeroflot website (Russian language). Names of the six crew members are as follows:
  1. Командир - Медведев Родион Михайлович
  2. 2-ой пилот - Аллабердин Рустам Рафаилович
  3. Широкова А.Д.
  4. Норицина Т.В.
  5. Яковлева А.Ю.
  6. Кучма О.В.
Condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of those who lost their lives in this accident.

UPDATE Sep. 15, 2008: Flight International, quoting officials of Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK), is reporting that both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder from the Aeroflot-Nord B737 accident at Perm have been badly damaged. MAK officials said that, given the damage, decoding the data will require "additional work using special equipment."

According to today's Flight International article, MAK says the investigative commission will include US and French participants, representing the manufacturing states of the airframe and engines. A representative from the UK will also take part because the aircraft was Bermuda-registered.

UPDATE Sep. 18, 2008: New information posted today on the website of Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) about the Aeroflot-Nord B737 accident says that both of the aircraft's engines were operating normally prior to the crash, neither engine was on fire, and the aircraft did not break up before impact. This determination was made through examination of fragments of aircraft engines at the scene, and interpretation of data obtained from the aircraft's Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR).

You can follow the progress of the investigation on this page of the MAK website (Russian language). If you cannot read Russian, I suggest using Google Translate for assistance.

[Photo Source]

Saturday, September 13, 2008

American Eagle pilots' union announces tentative contract agreement

American Eagle CRJ-700The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union representing more than 2,800 pilots at American Eagle Airlines, announced that its negotiators have reached a tentative agreement with management to amend the pilots' labor contract. According to a statement issued by ALPA, the agreement contains improvements to work rules and quality of life provisions, while avoiding contractual concessions to any part of the contract. ALPA says, "These goals were attained with minimal increase to American Eagle’s operating cost in these challenging economic times."

"With our industry confronting historically high fuel prices, pilot furloughs, capacity reductions, consolidation and liquidations, our negotiators did a remarkable job in achieving the best possible solution for the Eagle pilot group," said Herb Mark, chairman of the American Eagle pilots’ unit of ALPA. "Our negotiators were asked to bring us an agreement that increases quality of life wherever possible but includes no concessions. This tentative agreement accomplishes that mission, while providing many improvements in ways that add real dollars to pilots’ pockets."

As a next step, the agreement will be presented for ratification to the American Eagle Master Executive Council, the governing body of the American Eagle pilot unit within ALPA. When ratified, the agreement will complete the final amendment round in the pilots’ unprecedented 16-year contract. When the contract expires at the end of 2012, the pilots will return to the traditional method of contract negotiations, which is governed by Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act.

American Eagle Airlines, Inc. is a regional airline network owned by AMR Corporation and is based in Fort Worth, Texas.

[Photo Source]

Friday, September 12, 2008

XL Leisure Group goes bust and XL Airways UK ceases operations

XL Airways B737-900ERRumors have been circulating for days about the impending bankruptcy of the UK's third largest tour operator, XL Leisure Group. Now it's official, according to a notice just posted on the XL.com website, and XL Airways UK, a unit of XL Leisure Group, has ceased flying due to the financial collapse of its parent.

The announcement says, in part:
On 12 September 2008, Alastair Beveridge, Nick Cropper, Simon Appell and Stuart Mackellar were appointed as Joint Administrators of the Companies by the Court.

The Companies entered into Administration having suffered as a result of volatile fuel prices, the economic downturn, and were unable to obtain further funding.

The Joint Administrators cannot continue trading the business and therefore all flights operated by the Companies have been immediately cancelled and the aircraft grounded. Going forward, the Joint Administrators are unlikely to be able to trade the business or operate the aircraft.
News media in the UK report that XL Leisure Group employs about 2,500 people. It is unclear exactly how many of those work for XL Airways UK. The airline has hubs at London Gatwick, Manchester, and Glasgow.

XL Airways France and XL Airways Germany are said to be unaffected at this time.

[Photo Source]

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Flight Attendants and 9/11 - Nothing Will Ever Be the Same

by B. N. Sullivan

Never Forget 9/11Seven years have passed since September 11, 2001, yet the tragic events and their aftermath are burned indelibly into the minds of everyone who was working in commercial aviation on that day. Crew members, in particular, were acutely pained by 9/11. They realized immediately that the crew members on the hijacked aircraft were among the very first to be murdered by the terrorists. They understood that -- but for fortune -- they could have been working on one of the hijacked flights that morning.

When the U.S. airspace re-opened several days after the attack, most crews returned to work. No one knew what was going to happen, and no one could guarantee their safety, yet flight attendants and pilots courageously put on their uniforms, boarded the planes, and carried on.

In the weeks following 9/11, much media attention and well-deserved praise was focused on the firefighters and other first responders who rescued victims and put their lives on the line in New York and Washington. At the same time, though, little attention or recognition was given to the airline crews and their role on 9/11 and during its aftermath.

Then, as the airline industry suffered a huge economic downturn after 9/11, many crew members were furloughed, or lost their jobs outright. Most of those who remained employed did so by agreeing to huge cuts in pay and benefits, including the loss of their pensions.

To this day, the pervasive emotional and economic effects of 9/11 and its aftermath on airline crews remain largely under-reported by the media and ignored by much of the flying public. In fact, nothing has been the same in the aviation industry since 9/11.

As a researcher who has spent years studying the health and well-being of people who fly for a living, I can say that no event in recent history was more acutely stressful to more people in aviation than 9/11. Awhile back, I set out to document some of the experiences of airline flight attendants working in the United States at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I collected their stories by means of focus groups, structured interviews with individuals, and responses to an on-line survey.

In 2005 I wrote a paper based on these personal narratives. The paper was presented at a meeting of the British Association for American Studies, held at Cambridge University, England. Here is the link to the text of my oral presentation: "Nothing will ever be the same again." - How flight attendants in the US coped with '9/11.'

I want to assure the crew members in the United States and around the world who experienced 9/11 so personally, and who still grieve, that some people do indeed notice you, do admire your courage, and do appreciate all you have done and continue to do for all of us.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Emirates A380 grounded in Dubai

Emirates A380In late July, Emirates Airline took delivery of its first Airbus A-380 'superjumbo' aircraft, and immediately put it into service on the Dubai - New York route. The inaugural flight of the Emirates A380 took place on August 1, 2008. Now, just weeks after its launch, the huge double-decker passenger aircraft has been grounded by the Dubai-based carrier for at least a week.

Late last week, an article in the Arabian Business said that Emirates removed the plane from service because "scheduled engineering on the airline’s only operating A380 is taking longer than expected." Today an article about the grounding of the Emirates A380 on Flight International mentioned "unspecified electrical issues." More from Flight International:
The Dubai-based airline is not expecting to return the aircraft to flight operations until at least 12 September.

Engineers are working on an "electrical issue", says a spokesperson for the carrier, which was "noticed at the end of a training mission when the aircraft was parked in front of the hangars". The aircraft remains parked in Dubai.
Emirates is using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on the Dubai-JFK route until the issues with the A380 are resolved.

[Photo Source]

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Air Canada Jazz flight attendants leave Teamsters, start independent union

Air Canada JazzFlight attendants at Canada's largest regional airline, Air Canada Jazz, have formed a new independent union. The new union, called the Canadian Flight Attendants Union (CAFU), will replace Teamsters Canada Local 938, as the flight attendants' collective bargaining unit.

An article about the new union in the Toronto Star quoted Joslyn Dicks, president of the CAFU, who said that Air Canada Jazz flight attendants had been unhappy with their representation by the Teamsters ever since contract negotiations in 2004 that had resulted in wage cuts.
The wage cuts mean as many as 300 of the union's newer flight attendants make only $19,000 a year, Dicks said. She said flight attendants also wanted to split with the Teamsters because the larger union left some decisions to union officials rather than the workers themselves.
The formation of the new union comes after two prior attempts failed. This time 460 workers voted in favor of the new union in a mail-in vote, which closed Sept. 2, versus 178 who voted to stay with the Teamsters, according to the Toronto Star.
Dicks said the new union, which is effective immediately, will give decision-making power to its members and start fighting Jazz's two-tiered pay system, under which new employees have a lower pay scale.

"We understand the issues," she said. "We want to build a good relationship with the company."
The new union's president, who has been flying for 20 years, said that although the CFAU was formed specifically for Jazz, she hopes it could one day represent flight attendants at other carriers as well.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Vintage TWA Commercial: Those were the days!

These days it's getting more and more difficult to remember what flying used to be like -- for passengers and crew alike. Have a look at this vintage TWA commercial and you'll see what I mean.

(If the video does not play or display properly above, click here to view it on YouTube.)

For more old airline commercials, have a look at this feature on the Travel & Leisure website.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Pilots' union files suit against Spirit Airlines

Spirit AirlinesYesterday, Spirit Airlines was sued by its pilots' union. The pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, claiming multiple violations of the Railway Labor Act, the law that governs labor relations in the airline industry.

According to an ALPA news release about the suit against Spirit Airlines, the legal filing alleges that the company has engaged in a pattern of unlawful behavior by:
  • negotiating in bad faith with ALPA
  • unilaterally imposing a series of changes in rates of pay, rules, and working conditions through bad-faith application of the contract
  • attempting to coerce and intimidate pilots by undermining their union
  • and seeking to circumvent the collective bargaining process as a whole
ALPA, which represents more than 500 Spirit pilots, says:
In May, Spirit Airlines announced furloughs of 30 percent of the active pilots; 45 on August 1 and 70 on September 1. Despite this reduction in staff, the company made no attempt to make a commensurate reduction in flights. Instead, the company has repeatedly violated the contract in an effort to compensate for its poor decision making and self-inflicted pilot shortage. By unilaterally changing and ignoring clear contractual rules and long-standing work practices, as well as commitments made in bargaining, the company has tried to run roughshod over the pilots, their contract, and the collective bargaining process.
"Enough is enough," said Capt. John Prater, president of ALPA. "Over the last few months, Spirit pilots have withstood every contract violation and every form of harassment that this management could throw at them. Since the company refuses to honor the contract, we are asking a court to force them to, and treat these pilots and our union with the respect we deserve."

Spirit Airlines management says that the recent changes to work rules other 'initiatives' were developed in response to unprecedented economic and airline industry conditions. In a statement to the press, Spirit Airlines President and CEO Ben Baldanza said:
"Each of the changes is permitted under the existing collective bargaining agreement. We understand that some of our pilots are unhappy about the changes but, in our view, the work rule adjustments are critically necessary in these challenging times for the well being of the company and our employees. Each issue is being negotiated in already scheduled arbitrations or in our ongoing collective bargaining under supervision of a Federal mediator.

"As everyone knows, the economics of our industry have changed dramatically, as the result of a doubling in fuel prices over the past year and the recession in the United States," added Baldanza. "Our decision to discontinue certain less efficient practices within the bounds of our existing agreement is just one part of a company-wide range of initiatives aimed at improving revenues and reducing costs. These changes help to ensure the company's continued ability to compete, grow, and protect our employees' jobs."
Spirit Airlines pilots disagree with Baldanza's view. They have been claiming for more than a year that the carrier has been violating the terms of their contract. More recently, Spirit Airlines management tried to blame its pilots for flight cancellations, while the pilots contend that the heart of the airline's problems are the service, planning, and staffing failures for which management alone is responsible.

"Spirit pilots are working harder than ever to meet the demands of this airline," said Capt. Sean Creed, chair of the Spirit unit of ALPA. "It’s unfortunate that the actions of a misguided management team have forced us to take this step to protect our profession, our contract, and our airline."

Thursday, September 04, 2008

AAIB Interim Report on the Jan. 2008 British Airways Accident at Heathrow

AAIBThe United Kingdom's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has issued an Interim Report on the progress of the investigation of the accident involving a British Airways Boeing 777-236ER (registration number G-YMMM) at London's Heathrow International Airport (LHR) earlier this year. Readers will recall that on January 17, 2008, British Airways Flight BA 038 landed short of runway runway 27L at LHR after both of the aircraft's engines failed to respond to throttle inputs while the aircraft was on final approach. The aircraft was arriving at Heathrow on a scheduled flight from Beijing. There were no fatalities or serious injuries among the 136 passengers and 16 crew members on board.

The AAIB's newly released report describes in detail the research done by the investigation team using data obtained from the accident aircraft and its systems, as well as from similar aircraft in the British Airways fleet. The report also includes several safety recommendations directed toward civilian aviation agencies in the United States and Europe.

The new report indicates that both of the Rolls‑Royce RB211 Trent 895‑17 turbofan engines on the accident aircraft are believed to have lost power in the final minute of flight because the fuel flow to each engine was restricted, probably due to an accumulation of water ice crystals within the engine fuel feed system. Excerpt from the Interim Report's Summary:
The investigation has shown that the fuel flow to both engines was restricted; most probably due to ice within the fuel feed system. The ice is likely to have formed from water that occurred naturally in the fuel whilst the aircraft operated for a long period, with low fuel flows, in an unusually cold environment; although, G-YMMM was operated within the certified operational envelope at all times.[AAIB: G-YMMM Interim Report, p. 19]
The AAIB report is careful to note that all aviation fuel contains water that cannot be completely removed, and that "if the fuel temperature drops below the freezing point of the water, it will form ice. The majority of flights have bulk fuel temperatures below the freezing point of water and so there will always be a certain amount of ice in the fuel." Addressing this problem, the AAIB report says:
To prevent the ice causing a restriction requires either: the fuel system must be designed in such a way that the ice in the fuel does not pose a risk of causing an interruption of the fuel supply to the engine or; prevention of the water from becoming ice in the first instance. Changes to the fuel system design could make the system more tolerant, but would take time to implement and would certainly not be available within the near term. Therefore, to reduce the risk of recurrence interim measures need to be adopted until such design changes to the fuel system are available.

One option would be to prevent the water from becoming ice, such as through the use of FSII. Alternatively, operational changes to reduce the risk of ice formation causing a restricted fuel flow at critical stages of flight could be introduced. Such changes could be implemented quickly, but must not compromise the safe operation of the aircraft.[AAIB: G-YMMM Interim Report, p. 20]
"FSII" refers to "Fuel System Icing Inhibitor," a fuel additive used in military jets in the U.S. and the U.K., and in some small civilian jet aircraft. FSII is not commonly used in large public transport category aircraft at the present time, however the AAIB report notes that it is approved for use in the Boeing 777.

The AAIB report states that since it has been proven that ice could cause a restriction in the fuel feed system, the risk of recurrence needs to be addressed in the short term, even though the investigation into this accident is still underway. Therefore the AAIB's Interim Report includes the following safety recommendations:
  • Safety Recommendation 2008-047: It is recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency, in conjunction with Boeing and Rolls-Royce, introduce interim measures for the Boeing 777, powered by Trent 800 engines, to reduce the risk of ice formed from water in aviation turbine fuel causing a restriction in the fuel feed system.
  • Safety Recommendation 2008-048: It is recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency should take immediate action to consider the implications of the findings of this investigation on other certificated airframe / engine combinations.
  • Safety Recommendation 2008-049: It is recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency review the current certification requirements to ensure that aircraft and engine fuel systems are tolerant to the potential build up and sudden release of ice in the fuel feed system.
Here is the link to the full text of the AAIB report: G-YMMM Interim Report - AAIB, Sep. 2008, (21-page 'pdf' file)

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about British Airways Flt 038 on Aircrew Buzz.

    Wednesday, September 03, 2008

    Bombardier CRJ1000 NextGen aircraft makes inaugural flight

    Bombardier CRJ1000Bombardier Aerospace announced today that the prototype CRJ1000 NextGen jetliner, serial number 19991, made its successful inaugural flight from the Bombardier facility at Mirabel, Québec. The aircraft took off at 10:02 a.m. EDT and flight lasted three hours and 25 minutes. According to Bombardier, it reached an altitude of 30,000 feet (9,144 m) and a maximum speed of 260 knots (481 km/h).

    On board the CRJ1000 were pilots Jacques Thibaudeau and Chuck Ellis and flight test engineer Eugene Lardizabal.

    “We put the gear up, operated the flaps and slats and exercised our new ‘Fly-by-Wire’ rudder,” said Mr. Thibaudeau. “ All systems worked as they were designed to do. The aircraft handled similarly to the smaller CRJ900 airliner so flight crews will have no problem in transitioning to the 100-seat CRJ1000 NextGen aircraft.”

    According to Bombardier, the prototype CRJ1000 NextGen jet will be flown to the Bombardier Flight Test Center in Wichita, Kansas after a few more flights from Mirabel. Next year, it will be joined in Wichita by the first production CRJ1000 NextGen aircraft to prepare for entry into service and review by the Flight Operations Evaluation Board composed of pilots from Transport Canada, the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

    Bombardier says that the CRJ1000 NextGen aircraft program has attracted a total of 63 firm orders, conditional orders and options, from four airlines. Brit Air (a subsidiary of Air France) has ordered eight aircraft and holds options on an additional eight. Myair.com in Italy ordered 15 aircraft, converting an earlier order for 15 CRJ900 jets to the CRJ1000 NextGen aircraft. Adria Airways of Slovenia has ordered one aircraft, and also holds one option. An undisclosed customer has ordered 15 CRJ1000 NextGen aircraft, with a conditional order for 15.

    [Photo Source]

    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

    Crew killed in Air Tahoma Convair 580 crash in Ohio

    Air TahomaA Convair 580 freighter operated by Air Tahoma has crashed in an agricultural field outside of Lockbourne, Ohio killing all three crew members on board. The accident happened just after noon on September 1, 2008, shortly after the aircraft (registration number N587X) had departed from Rickenbacker International Airport (LCK), south of Columbus, Ohio, en route to Mansfield, Ohio. The FAA's preliminary report about the Air Tahoma accident indicates that it was a training flight.

    News reports about the accident say that minutes after takeoff, the crew had communicated via radio that they intended to return to LCK, where the aircraft was based, but did not request any emergency equipment to stand by. Shortly afterward, the aircraft struck a row of trees and crashed into a cornfield located in Pickaway County near the town of Lockbourne, where it caught fire. The aircraft was completely destroyed. An eyewitness quoted by the Columbus Dispatch said she saw no fire or smoke coming from the aircraft before it crashed.

    The Columbus Dispatch, quoting the State Highway Patrol, identified the crew members who perished in the crash as Urs Anderegg, 58, and Sean Gardiner, 41, both of Miami, FL, and James Monahan, 57, of Plantation, FL. Condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of these men.

    Fatal crash of Neptune Aviation Services P2V fire fighting aircraft near Reno

    Neptune Aviation P2VOn Monday, September 1, 2008, a Lockheed P2V Neptune aircraft operated by Neptune Aviation Services crashed off the departure end of the runway at Reno Stead Airport in Nevada. According to a preliminary report released today by the FAA, the aircraft was destroyed and all three crew members on board were killed in the accident.

    News reports say the accident happened shortly after 18:00 local time, just after the aircraft took off. The Reno Gazette-Journal quoted an FAA spokesman who said that "reports from witnesses suggest the tanker lost a piece of its engine or a wing before it caught fire and went down." The Gazette-Journal also reported that crash debris was scattered over five acres, and the fire from the crash burned about two acres.

    The aircraft (registration number N4235T) belonged to Neptune Aviation Services of Missoula, MT. It was operating under contract to the U.S. Forest Service. Earlier in the day, it had participated in firefighting activities in the Sierra Nevada, dropping fire retardant on a wildfire south of Lake Tahoe. News reports say that the aircraft had been fueled just before the accident, and was carrying a full load of fire retardant intended for a second fire.

    UPDATE Sep. 4, 2008: The Washoe County Coroner’s Office in Nevada has identified the crew members who perished in the Neptune Aviation Services accident as Calvin Gene Wahlstrom, 61, of Huntsville, UT; Gregory Jess Gonsioroski, 41, of Baker,MT; and Zachary Jake Vander-Griend, 25, Missoula, MT. Condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of these men.

    UPDATE Sep. 8, 2008: A preliminary factual report about the Neptune accident has been released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Here is an excerpt from the NTSB report:
    An air tanker base employee who witnessed the accident reported observing the airplane taxi to Runway 32 "...and everything appeared normal." The witness reported watching the airplane takeoff, and at an elevation estimated to be between 100 to 300 feet above the ground, he observed the left jet engine emitting flames, followed by the left wing being engulfed in flames. The witness further reported that about 2 seconds later the airplane entered a left wing down attitude before impacting terrain and bursting into flames.

    The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC), accompanied by representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the United States Department of Forestry, and representatives from Neptune Aviation Services, Inc., responded to the accident site on September 2, 2008. The initial onsite examination revealed that about 500 feet from the departure end of Runway 32, several identifiable pieces of the airplane's left jet engine were located.

    It was also revealed that prior to impacting terrain the airplane had collided with a set of powerlines, estimated to be about 50 feet high. An initial ground impact scar was observed about 25 feet west of the powerlines, followed by the airplane's energy path proceeding in a westerly direction, covering a measured distance of about 755 feet on a magnetic heading of 250 degrees. The damage assessment also revealed that the airplane had sustained significant fragmentation and thermal damage throughout the debris path. [NTSB ID: SEA08GA194]
    The NTSB says that the airplane will be recovered to a secure location for further examination.

    [Image Source]

    Monday, September 01, 2008

    Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737 in runway overrun at Jambi, Indonesia

    Sriwijaya AirOn the afternoon of August 27, 2008, a Boeing 737-200 passenger aircraft operated by Indonesian carrier Sriwijaya Air overran the end of the runway on which it had just landed at Jambi, on the island of Sumatra. The aircraft, operating as Sriwijaya Flight SJ-062, was arriving from Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, at the time of the accident. News reports from Indonesia say that several of the 125 passengers and six crew members on board the flight were injured, as well as two or three people on the ground. The injured, including two flight attendants, were taken to Jambi's Asia Medika Hospital for treatment.

    The aircraft (registration number PK-CJG) landed at Jambi's Sultan Thaha Airport (DJB) but failed to stop, departing the end of the runway. The aircraft reportedly hit a house before coming to rest in a field several hundred meters beyond the end of the runway. According to news reports, the weather had been rainy prior to the accident, and the runway may have been wet.

    Indonesia's National Flight Safety Commission (KNKT) is investigating the cause of the accident.