Saturday, November 29, 2008

First Chinese-made Regional Jet Makes Maiden Flight in Shanghai

ARJ21-700The first Chinese-manufactured regional jet recently made its maiden flight at Shanghai. The aircraft, known as the ARJ21 (Advanced Regional Jet for the 21st Century), is produced by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd. (COMAC).

Making its maiden flight was the 90 seat ARJ21-700 model, according to a news report about the historic flight from China's Xinhua news agency:
The maiden flight began at 12:23 p.m. and lasted for about an hour at Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Factory, where the jet rolled out the general assembly line at the end of last year.

"The jet was normal and the flight was smooth," said Zhao Peng, one of the three pilots aboard the jet, at the end of the maiden flight.

The white 90-seat ARJ21-700 jet with three curved blue stripes on the fuselage, named "Xiang Feng" or "Flying Phoenix", is about 33 meters long and 27 meters in wing span.

Its maximum flight range is 3,700 kilometers and maximum altitude, 11,900 meters, said COMAC's General Manager Jin Zhuanglong.

But the jet flew at only 900 meters during the maiden flight.
Six ARJ21 aircraft already have rolled off the assembly line and are undergoing flight tests. The manufacturer expects to produce about 20 of these new regional jets per year. More than 200 ARJ21s are said to have been ordered so far, and it is the first Chinese airliner to be sold in Europe and America.

According to Xinhua, China's first home-grown regional jet is expected to sell for for about 27 million U.S. dollars, compared with 30 million U.S. dollars for a 90-seat Bombardier jet.

[Photo Source]

Friday, November 28, 2008

Air New Zealand identifies those lost in the A320 crash off the coast of France

Air New ZealandAir New Zealand has officially identified the five New Zealanders who are presumed to have lost their lives in the crash of an Airbus A320 off the coast of France, on November 27, 2008.

The aircraft, owned by Air New Zealand, had been leased to XL Airways Germany for the past two years, and was about to be returned to Air New Zealand. Immediately prior to yesterday's crash, the accident aircraft had been performing an acceptance flight (as Flight GXL 888T), and was about to be ferried to Frankfurt where it would be officially handed over to Air New Zealand.

According to information provided by the airline, the five New Zealanders on board were:
  • Capt. Brian Horrell, 52, Air New Zealand pilot from Auckland
  • Murray White, 37, Air New Zealand engineer from Auckland
  • Michael Gyles, 49, Air New Zealand engineer from Christchurch
  • Noel Marsh, 35, Air New Zealand engineer from Christchurch
  • Jeremy Cook, New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority inspector
The names of the two XL Airways crew members who were piloting the aircraft have not yet been made public.

The most recent media statement about the accident issued by Air New Zealand says, in part:
French authorities have now advised Air New Zealand that it should not expect there to be any survivors after its Airbus A320 that was on lease to XL Airways of Germany was lost in the Mediterranean yesterday.

Group General Manager International Airline Ed Sims says rescue authorities have told the airline it appears the aircraft broke up on impact and there was no realistic chance of survivors.

"This is devastating news for the families and all Air New Zealanders as we had all been clinging on to hope. Sadly, rescue authorities have told us that all evidence on site indicates that given the nature of the impact there is no chance of survivors. Debris is spread over a large area and it appears the aircraft is not in large pieces as originally indicated by those who saw the impact," Mr Sims says.
Earlier today, French search and rescue authorities advised Air New Zealand that they had identified locator signals from the two 'black box' flight recorders from accident aircraft. They are not expected to be recovered until tomorrow due to deteriorating weather conditions.

Condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of all seven individuals who were lost in this tragic accident.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Airbus A320 ferry flight ends in the Mediterranean Sea, off France

A320An Airbus A320 owned by Air New Zealand has been lost in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of France. The accident happened on November 27, 2008, at approximately 17:00 local time. The downed aircraft has been located a little over 3 nautical miles offshore, resting in about 30 meters of water, according to several news reports from France. There were seven people on board. At this writing, the remains of three have been recovered, while the fate of the others is not yet known.

The aircraft, which had been leased for the past two years to XL Airways Germany, had been undergoing maintenance by EAS Industries at Perpignan, France in preparation for its return to Air New Zealand. According to a media release issued a short time ago by Air New Zealand, the aircraft was being flown from Perpignan to Frankfurt "where it was due to be handed back to Air New Zealand for a ferry flight back to New Zealand."

One news article about the accident suggests that the crew may have been attempting to ditch, reporting, "The spokesman for XL said the plane tried to make an emergency landing on the sea."

Reports say that the aircraft was being flown by two XL Airways pilots. Also on board were a senior captain and three engineers from Air New Zealand, and an official of the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority. Names of those on board have not been released.

UPDATE Nov. 28, 2008: Today, Air New Zealand officially identified the five New Zealanders who were on board the accident aircraft. The names of the two XL Airways pilots have not yet been made public.

French authorities have identified locator signals from both the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) from the downed A320, but have not yet been able to retrieve them due to poor weather conditions at the accident sit.

UPDATE Dec. 1, 2008: The Air New Zealand Public Affairs Office reports that both the DFDR and the CVR have now been recovered from the sea, however they add that "it is now clear both it and the cockpit voice recorder have been badly damaged. These will be sent to manufacturer Honeywell in North America to determine what data can be extracted."

UPDATE Jan. 12, 2009: is reporting today that investigators have succeeded in retrieving data from the aircraft's flight recorders. After the French Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA) was unable to access data from either device, they were sent to Honeywell, the manufacturer. Honeywell was able to recover data from both recorders, and the BEA are beginning analysis.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fatal AtlasJet crash in 2007 attributed to pilot error

AtlasJet logoThe investigation of a fatal aviation accident last year in Turkey concluded that pilot error caused the crash. AtlasJet Flight KK 4203 had originated in Istanbul shortly before 01:00 AM on November 30, 2007, and was approaching Süleyman Demirel Airport at Isparta, Turkey when it collided with terrain about seven miles from the Isparta airport, near a village called Keciborlu. All seven crew members and 50 passengers on board died in the accident.

A brief article on the Turkish news website Hürriyet quoted Turkey's Transport Minister, Binali Yildirim, who said that the pilots of the MD-83 aircraft "did not follow the rules during landing, which led to a collision accident."

According to a press statement issued by AtlasJet shortly after the crash, the accident aircraft was on lease to AtlasJet from World Focus Airlines, and the pilots, cabin crew chief, and a flight technician all were employees of World Focus. The other cabin crew were AtlasJet Staff.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Union election set for Ryan International Airlines flight attendants

Ryan International AirlinesEarlier this month, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) filed a petition with the U.S. National Mediation Board (NMB) seeking union representation for the flight attendants at Ryan International Airlines. Yesterday the AFA announced that the NMB had ascertained that the required number of Ryan International flight attendants are in support of the AFA becoming their collective bargaining representative. The NMB has set up a voting schedule for a representation election. Balloting instructions will be sent to Ryan flight attendants in upcoming weeks and voting will take place from December 11 to January 6, 2009.

"We are excited for Ryan International flight attendants to begin the New Year with collective bargaining rights and a strong voice at the table," said AFA-CWA International President Patricia Friend. "Ryan flight attendants need the strength and support of a union experienced in representing flight attendants. AFA-CWA is that union."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Investigation says 10 people to blame for 2007 TAM Airlines crash at São Paulo

Remember the TAM Flight JJ 3054 accident at São Paulo, Brazil's Congonhas Airport in July of 2007? The Airbus A320 aircraft, which was arriving in rainy weather from Porto Alegre, overran the runway, crossed a highway, crashed into buildings, and caught fire. The accident, said to be Brazil's worst aviation disaster, took the lives of all crew members and passengers on board, as well as a number of people on the ground.

Several days ago, an investigation of the TAM accident concluded that 10 government and airline officials were to blame for the accident. If the 10 individuals are formally charged and convicted, they could face prison terms of up to 6 years.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about TAM Flt 3054 on Aircrew Buzz.

Here is an Associated Press video report about the accident report.

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

Friday, November 21, 2008

Job Cuts Announced by Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand CEO Rob FyfeAir New Zealand has announced the elimination of 200 full-time jobs, in conjunction with a capacity reduction, to save costs. Citing a slump in long haul travel due to the deepening global recession, the airline's CEO, Rob Fyfe (pictured at right), told Radio New Zealand that more job cuts may be necessary.

Fyfe said, "I am not saying this is the end because I don't know where the end of this recession cycle is."

The 200 full-time jobs that are about to be eliminated will include 100 long haul cabin crew. Other work areas affected are recruitment, airline operations, and technical operations planning and management.

In a statement to the press, Fyfe said, "We have been working hard on a series of initiatives to minimise the need for redundancies. These include pilots taking leave without pay, giving staff on individual contracts the opportunity to work fewer hours, introducing part-time hours for cabin crew, not replacing non-safety sensitive roles, not renewing temporary contracts and a freeze on executive salaries.

"However, it has become clear that these measures will not fully address the excess staff levels we now have as a result of these capacity reductions, especially in the long haul business where capacity is being reduced by eight percent when compared with the last financial year."

[Photo Source]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Air Canada flight attendant praised after taking over for incapacitated co-pilot

Air Canada B767-300The bad news: Last January an Air Canada pilot, working as First Officer on a trans-Atlantic flight, had some sort of 'emotional breakdown' while on the flight deck. He was physically removed from the flight deck by other crew members and had to be restrained in the passenger cabin until the aircraft landed and he was taken to a hospital.

The good news: A Flight Attendant, who happened to be a licensed pilot, took over the First Officer's seat and assisted the Captain during descent, approach, and landing. The unnamed Flight Attendant was praised in the report of the official investigation of the incident.

The details: On January 28, 2008, an Air Canada Boeing 767-333 aircraft (registration C-FMXC), operating as Air Canada Flight AC848, was 36,000 ft above the Atlantic Ocean en route from Toronto to London when the First Officer began to behave in a peculiar manner. According to a report issued today by Ireland's Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU), the First Officer "became belligerent and uncooperative which convinced the Commander he was now dealing with a crewmember who was effectively incapacitated." After trying unsuccessfully to reason with the man, the Captain called the Incharge Flight Attendant to the flight deck, first as a witness to the First Officer's behavior, and ultimately asking the Incharge Flight Attendant to "secure the First Officer away from the flight controls, then with the help of other crew members, remove him from the cockpit."

The Flight Attendants managed to get the First Officer into a seat in the passenger cabin, where he was restrained for the rest of the flight. They recruited two passengers who were medical doctors to help look after the disoriented pilot.

Meanwhile, back on the flight deck, the Captain consulted with Air Canada dispatchers, and decided to divert to Shannon. Quoting from the AAIU report (re-paragraphed for easier reading):
After making a PAN (distress) call, Shannon ATC were informed that the medical emergency was due to a pilot incapacitation (the First Officer) and the flight was now a single pilot (Captain only) flight for descent, approach and landing.

Prior to descent, the Commander asked the Incharge Flight Attendant to go [through] the Passenger Information List (PIL) to see if there were any flight crew on board who might be available to assist on the Flight deck for the remainder of the flight.

In the event no line pilots were on board, but one of the Cabin attendants held a Commercial Pilot’s Licence, with a Multi-engine Rating, and a non-current Instrument Rating. The Commander requested that the Flight Attendant occupy the right-hand (First Officers) seat for the remainder of the flight to assist as necessary.

The Flight Attendant provided useful assistance to the Commander, who remarked in a statement to the Investigation that she was ‘not out of place’ while occupying the right-hand seat.

As the descent was commenced the Passengers were informed that an early descent was to be made and diversion to Shannon due to a medical emergency. The descent, approach and landing were uneventful. The aircraft landed at 07.19 hrs and parked on Stand 39 at Shannon at 07.23 hrs.
The AAIU report concluded that the Captain and the entire crew handled the incident very well. The Analysis section of the AAIU report ends with this paragraph:
Incapacitation of a member of flight crew is a serious incident. The onset of subtle incapacitation is sometimes difficult to detect, and then in all probability more difficult to deal with. The Commander realising he was faced with a difficult and serious situation used tact and understanding and kept control of the situation at all times. The situation was dealt with in a professional manner, employing the principles of Crew Resource Management (CRM). As such the Commander and Flight Attendants should be commended for their professionalism in the handling of this event.
Congratulations to the crew for their expert handling of what must have been a very stressful situation. Special applause to the Flight Attendant who temporarily took over the First Officer's position and apparently did a fine job.

I wonder if she got to officially add a little B767 time to her pilot logbook. I hope so.

Here is the link to the entire report: Serious Incident: Boeing 767-333, C-FMXC, Oceanic Reporting Point MALOT, 28 January 2008: Report No 2008-027 - AAIU (Ireland), Nov. 19, 2008 (5-page 'pdf' file)

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Update on the Allentown airport runway near-collision in September

ABE Rwy 6, Sep. 19, 2008, NTSB photoTh U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued an update on the near-collision between a regional jet and a small general aviation aircraft at Lehigh Valley International Airport, Allentown, PA, this past September. The update includes a time line of events, and a photo (at right) of the tire marks made by the jet as it swerved to avoid a collision with the smaller aircraft.

Readers will recall that on the evening of September 19, 2008, a Canadair CRJ-700 aircraft (registration N506MJ), operating as Mesa Air Shuttle Flight 7138, was preparing to depart Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE) for a scheduled passenger service to Chicago. The CRJ aborted take off from runway 6 at ABE due to what the NTSB has classified as a runway incursion. According to factual information provided by the NTSB, the CRJ rejected takeoff at a speed of about 120 knots (138 mph), skidding around a Cessna R172K (registration N736GV) that had just landed and was still taxiing on the runway. The crew of the CRJ estimated the distance between the two aircraft as 10 feet when they passed.

The CRJ had four crew members and 56 passengers on board; the Cessna was carrying a pilot and two passengers. No injuries were reported, and neither aircraft was damaged.

Today the NTSB released an advisory that included the following timeline of the near-collision incident:
7:29:28 - Cessna contacts Allentown tower while about 8 miles east of the airport.

7:33:30 - Cessna, in landing pattern for runway, is cleared to land on runway 6.

7:34:50 - Mesa Air regional jet contacts tower and reports ready for takeoff and holding short of runway 6. Controller instructs pilot to hold short of runway 6 for landing traffic.

7:36:15 - Cessna crosses threshold of runway 6 and lands.

7:36:27 - Mesa Air instructed by tower controller to taxi into position on runway 6 and hold.

7:36:36 - Tower controller asks pilot of Cessna where he intends to park. Following pilot response, controller provides taxi directions, instructing pilot to exit runway
at taxiway A4.

7:37:11 - Mesa Air cleared for takeoff.

7:37:18 to 7:37:32 - Controller turns attention to an inbound aircraft and issues landing instructions.

7:37:34 - Cessna pilot informs tower controller that he had missed the A4 taxiway and asks for permission to exit at taxiway B.

7:37:42 - Controller replies, " delay, turn immediately," which Cessna pilot acknowledges.

7:38:16 - Mesa Air radios tower controller: "We got it, tower - we're going to need to go back to the gate."

Following the incident, both aircraft taxied to parking. The Mesa Air crew elected to cancel the flight and have the aircraft inspected. The Cessna taxied to general aviation parking and concluded the flight.
Today's report included the photo above, showing tire marks created on the left side of the centerline by the Mesa Air regional jet as it veered around the Cessna.

NTSB investigators have interviewed the pilots involved in the incident, and the air traffic controllers on duty at the time of the incident as well as the FAA tower managers. To date, the NTSB has released factual information about the incident, but has not issued a final report that includes probable cause.

It should be noted that the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) issued a statement claiming that the control tower at ABE was staffed by unsupervised trainees at the time of this incident. NATCA suggests that at least part of the blame for this serious runway incursion incident lies with the control tower staffing policies of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

[Photo Source]

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pacific Coastal Airlines Grumman Goose crash in British Columbia

Pacific Coastal AirlinesSeven lives were lost yesterday, November 16, 2008, when a Grumman G-21 Goose aircraft operated by Canadian carrier Pacific Coastal Airlines crashed in British Columbia. Those who perished included the pilot and six passengers. A seventh passenger was injured but survived. He was rescued and transported to a hospital where he is being treated for burns and other injuries. The aircraft was completely destroyed.

According to Pacific Coastal Airlines, the accident aircraft was operating as a charter flight for Peter Kiewit Sons Co. and Plutonic Power Corporation. At approximately 10:15 AM local time, the flight departed Vancouver South Terminal with seven passengers and one pilot on board, bound for the Toba Montrose run-of-river hydroelectric project, north of Powell River, British Columbia. The aircraft crashed into a hillside on Thormanby Island, off the coast of British Columbia, about 50 kms. northwest of Vancouver. The airline confirmed seven fatalities and one survivor, but did not release any names.

News reports say that the accident occurred shortly after 10:30 AM local time. The aircraft apparently broke up on impact. The survivor told rescuers that the wreckage burst into flames shortly after he escaped. Though injured, the survivor was able to make his way down the hillside to a beach, where he was rescued by a Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel.

The cause of the accident is unknown at this time. A team from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada reached the accident site this morning to begin their investigation.

An article about the crash on quoted Spencer Smith, a spokesman for Pacific Coastal Airlines, who said that they were grounding all sea planes until staff could be debriefed about the accident.
"This is a pretty emotional time for everybody right now and the trauma of this is pretty significant, so we want to make sure everyone is OK and in a comfortable position to get into an airplane again," he said.

Smith said the pilot was extremely experienced and while the weather was low visibility it wasn't considered unsafe to fly.
Condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of those who perished in this accident. Best wishes to the survivor for a full and speedy recovery.

UPDATE Nov. 19, 2008: The names of the pilot and passengers who were on board the Pacific Coastal Airlines Grumman Goose that crashed at Thormanby Island, BC, have been made public. The pilot has been identified as Peter McLeod, 54.

Pacific Coastal Airlines announced that float plane operations had resumed this morning. The carrier had voluntarily suspended float plane operations immediately after the accident.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pilots petition to form JetBlue's first union

JetBlue A320Pilots at JetBlue Airways have filed a petition with the National Mediation Board (NMB) seeking union representation. The JetBlue Pilots Association, organized as an independent union, wants to be recognized as the sole bargaining agent for the nearly 2,000 pilots of JetBlue. Until now, none of the work groups at JetBlue have been unionized.

JetBlue Pilots Association leaders Captains Michael Sorbie and William Evans said in a joint statement on the Association's website, "We have complete faith in our current company leadership and believe that this will be a cooperative effort. As our airline matures, we want to ensure that the career expectations of our pilots will remain intact regardless of organizational changes. We welcome the opportunity to communicate concerns through a voice that is supported by the lawful process of the Railway Labor Act. This process also provides a stability and cost certainty that will be beneficial to our company as we grow into the future."

JetBlue's management team is not thrilled at the prospect of a pilots' union. An article on business news website quoted a JetBlue spokesman who said JetBlue believes "a direct relationship with the company is in our pilots' best interest."

JetBlue Pilots Association leaders said that they provided advance notice of the intent to file the petition to both CEO David Barger and the JetBlue Board of Directors, indicating the type of relationship that exists today and confirming the type of direction that should be expected in the future.

"Our desire to seek formal recognition underscores our need to have a relationship based not only on the benevolence of a leadership team that could transition at any time, but on a relationship where there exists a means to resolve our private discourses under the support of legal process," Capt. Sorbie said.

The NMB soon will begin the steps toward a request for an election and representation authorization. JetBlue Pilots Association leaders are proposing an independent organization and are not seeking association with any third party national union.

[Photo Source]

Friday, November 14, 2008

Qantas Flight QF72 In-flight Upset: What happened inside the cabin

Qantas logoThe Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has issued a preliminary report about an accident last month involving a Qantas A330-300 aircraft in which a number of people were injured. The aircraft, operating as Qantas Flight QF72, was en route from Singapore to Perth, Australia with 10 crew and 303 passengers on board when it experienced two successive in-flight upsets. The aircraft diverted to Learmonth, Western Australia, where it made an emergency landing. One flight attendant and at least 13 passengers were seriously injured and many others experienced less serious injuries, according to the ATSB. Most of the injuries involved passengers who were seated without their seatbelts fastened.

While the newly released report focuses primarily on what happened on the flight deck, and the results of the ATSB's early examination of systems data from the accident aircraft, the report devotes several pages to what happened in the passenger cabin during the emergency, damage to the cabin, and injuries sustained by crew members and passengers.

The upset happened while the aircraft was cruising at 37,000 feet. In describing the sequence of events, the ATSB report notes that at the time the emergency began, the first officer (F/O) had just left the flight deck for a scheduled rest break. The captain and second officer (S/O) were on the flight deck when things began to go awry. The captain asked the S/O to call the F/O back to the flight deck, and while the S/O was on the interphone asking the flight attendant to send the F/O back to the flight deck, "the aircraft abruptly pitched nose-down."

The aircraft descended 650 ft. The crew described the movement as "very abrupt, but smooth. It did not have the characteristics of a typical turbulence-related event and the aircraft’s movement was solely in the pitching plane."

The seatbelt sign was then illuminated and the S/O made a public address for passengers and crew to return to their seats and fasten their seatbelts immediately. A few minutes after the first event, the aircraft commenced a second uncommanded pitch-down event. This time the aircraft descended about 400 ft.

The ATSB report says [pp. 2-4]:
The captain announced to the cabin for passengers and crew to remain seated with seatbelts fastened. The second officer made another call on the cabin interphone to get the first officer back to the flight deck. The first officer returned to the flight deck at 1248. After discussing the situation, the crew decided that they needed to land the aircraft as soon as possible. They were not confident that further pitch-down events would not occur. They were also aware that there had been some injuries in the cabin, but at that stage they were not aware of the extent of the injuries.

[The crew then made an] emergency broadcast to air traffic control, advising that they had experienced ‘flight control computer problems’ and that some people had been injured. They requested a clearance to divert to and track direct to Learmonth, WA. Clearance to divert and commence descent was received from air traffic control.

...The flight crew spoke to a flight attendant by interphone to get further information on the extent of the injuries. The flight crew advised the cabin crew that, due to the nature of the situation, they did not want them to get out of their seats, but to use the cabin interphones to gather the information.
After the cabin crew advised the flight deck of several serious injuries, the crew declared a MAYDAY and made a emergency landing at Learmonth.


Quoting again from the ATSB report [p. 5]:
Initial information provided to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was that 14 people were taken by air ambulance to Perth. Injuries were considered serious, but not life threatening, and included concussion and broken bones. In addition, up to 30 other people attended hospital with possible concussion, minor lacerations and fractures, with up to a further 30 or so people with minor bruises and stiff necks who did not need to attend hospital.

Subsequent information indicates that one flight attendant and at least 13 passengers were admitted to hospital. The nature and extent of the injuries varied considerably, including injuries listed above and spinal injuries.

At the time of the first in-flight upset event, three flight attendants and the first officer were standing in the forward galley and one flight attendant had just left that galley. The first officer and two of the attendants received minor injuries and the other was uninjured. Four of the flight attendants were preparing to leave the crew rest area (four seats located near the Left 3 door), and all received minor injuries. A flight attendant standing in the rear galley received serious injuries.

Information has been obtained from over 10 per cent of the passengers to date. Based on this information, almost all of the passengers who were seated without seatbelts fastened received either serious or minor injuries during the first in-flight upset. Many of these passengers impacted the ceiling panels. Most of the passengers who had their seatbelts fastened were uninjured, although some received minor injuries. Passengers who were standing at the time of the first in-flight upset received either serious or minor injuries.

There was no structural damage to the aircraft, however the ATSB report had this to say about the passenger cabin [pp. 5-6]:
Inspection of the aircraft interior revealed damage mainly in the centre and rear sections of the passenger cabin. The level of damage varied significantly. Much of the damage was in the area of the personal service units above each passenger seat, and adjacent panels. The damage was typically consistent with that resulting from an impact by a person or object. There was evidence of damage above approximately 10 per cent of the seats in the centre section of the cabin, and above approximately 20 per cent of the seats in the rear section of the cabin. In addition, some ceiling panels above the cabin aisle-ways had evidence of impact damage, and many had been dislodged from their fixed position.

Oxygen masks had deployed from above nine of the seats where there had been damage to overhead personal service units or adjacent panels. Some of the cabin portable oxygen cylinders and some of the aircraft first aid kits had been deployed.
The report includes photos of damage to the ceiling panels above passenger seats, and in the aisle.

Here is the link to the entire document, which is worth reading: AO-2008-070: Preliminary Report - ATSB, Nov. 14, 2008 (43-page 'pdf' file)

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about Qantas Flt QF 72 on Aircrew Buzz.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

ATSB Preliminary Report on the In-Flight Upset of Qantas Flight QF72 in October

Qantas logoA Preliminary Report has just been released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) in regard to the in-flight upset of Qantas Flight QF72 on October 7, 2008. Readers will recall that on that date the Airbus A330-300 aircraft was en route from Singapore to Perth, Australia with 10 crew and 303 passengers on board, when it experienced two successive uncommanded pitch-down events. A number of individuals in the passenger cabin were seriously injured. The aircraft diverted to Learmonth, Western Australia, where it made an emergency landing.

About a week after the accident, the ATSB reported that early analysis of the accident aircraft's Flight Data Recorder data, Post Flight Report data and Built-in Test Equipment revealed that an Inertial Reference System fault had occurred within the Number-1 Air Data Inertial Reference Unit (ADIRU 1). Today's report elaborates further on that finding, and also reports on the overall progress of the investigation, which is ongoing.

A summary of important points is contained in a media release issued by the ATSB in conjunction with the publication of the Preliminary Report. Here is a part of that summary:
Examination of flight data recorder information indicates that, at the time the autopilot disconnected, there was a fault in a flight computer system component known as the air data inertial reference unit number 1 (ADIRU 1) which resulted in a number of spurious spikes in ADIRU parameter values. Further spurious parameter spikes continued to influence a number of system failure indications throughout the flight, resulting in frequent failure messages being provided to the crew. The crew completed required actions in response to the messages, but these actions were not effective in removing the spikes or failure indications. The investigation team is continuing to examine the influence of the spikes in ADIRU parameters on the performance of the flight controls.

Most components on modern aircraft, including ADIRUs, are highly reliable and there has only been a small number of occasions where ADIRUs of different types made by varying manufacturers have had some form of failure. It is extremely rare for any such failures to have an effect on an aircrafts flight controls. The ATSB has previously investigated an in-flight upset related to ADIRU failure from a different manufacturer in a Boeing 777 which occurred in 2005 and was traced to a software fault. While a software fault has not been ruled out in the current investigation, it seems unlikely that the two events are linked.
Still ongoing:
  • The three ADIRUs will be subject to comprehensive testing at the manufacturer's facilities in the US.
  • Review of the ADIRUs' data monitoring capability and management of anomolous ADIRU data, including flight deck indications.
  • Review of records of previous occurrences involving ADIRU failures (which did not result in in-flight upsets) and any occurrences where large numbers of spurious messages were generated.
  • Subject to the results of the ADIRU testing, examination of other aircraft components may be conducted such as the three flight control primary computers and their software in order to understand why the fault in the ADIRU was able to be translated to flight control movements.
The report goes on to say that, although this is unlikely, possible external sources of electromagnetic interference are being explored and assessed, "including from the Harold E. Holt very low frequency transmitter near Exmouth, WA and from portable electronic devices on board the aircraft."

The investigation of cabin safety issues related to this accident also is still underway. This includes interviews with the cabin crew and seriously injured passengers, and responses to questionnaires "seeking passenger observations during the upset events and asking questions in relation to the use of seatbelts, injuries and the use of personal electronic devices."

The ATSB also noted that a number of important safety actions have already been implemented arising from the investigation to date.

Here is the link to the entire document: AO-2008-070: Preliminary Report - ATSB, Nov. 14, 2008 (43-page 'pdf' file)

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about Qantas Flt QF 72 on Aircrew Buzz.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Northwest Airlines Flight Attendants to Testify on Delta-Northwest Merger Effects

Delta-NorthwestTomorrow, November 13, 2008, Northwest Airlines flight attendants will testify before the Metropolitan Affairs Committee for the State of Minnesota and Representative Debra Hilstom.  The Committee is investigating how the merger of Northwest Airlines with Delta Air Lines will impact the contracts the state has with the carrier.  The Northwest flight attendants, represented by he Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), will testify at the hearing alongside union representatives of other work groups at Northwest.

Northwest Airlines flight attendants have been concerned about the loss of union representation ever since the plans to merge Northwest and Delta were first announced.  In a statement about the upcoming hearings in Minnesota, Patricia Friend, AFA-CWA International President, said, "We applaud the state of Minnesota on their continued commitment to evaluating the potential consequences of the merger on the state and citizens of the state.  This merger has the potential to break the long standing commitments with Minnesota that has enabled Northwest Airlines to become a viable and successful merger partner, and it also threatens to break Northwest flight attendants’ contract and eliminate the union and destroy over 60 years of collective bargaining rights."

Delta Air Lines flight attendants have never had union representation.  Now that the merger is official, the combined the Delta-Northwest flight attendant group must vote to become members of AFA-CWA. According to the rules of the National Mediation Board (NMB), which oversees such representational elections, if less than 50 percent of Delta and Northwest flight attendants participate in the election, the NMB will declare that vote invalid and Northwest flight attendants will lose their contract.

UPDATE Nov. 14, 2008:  The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) issued a media release about Northwest flight attendants testimony before the State of Minnesota Metropolitan Affairs Committee yesterday.

“We are very concerned that this merger can be used as an opportunity to break Northwest flight attendants’ contract, eliminate our union and destroy our collective bargaining rights,” said Rene Foss, an AFA-CWA Northwest flight attendant. “Without the protections of our collective bargaining rights, it is likely that management will drive down wages, benefits, work rules and eliminate jobs altogether.”

Due to archaic National Mediation Board (NMB) guidelines, because Delta flight attendants are not represented, the combined work group must vote to become members of AFA-CWA. If less than 50 percent of Delta and Northwest flight attendants participate in the election, the NMB will declare that vote invalid and Northwest flight attendants will lose their contract.

“As Delta and Northwest flight attendants prepare for an AFA-CWA representation vote, it is imperative that Delta management remain neutral in this election. If they are successful in keeping the ‘new Delta’ non union, we could see this merger as the beginning of the end of good jobs in the airline industry, the state of Minnesota and our country as a whole,” said Foss.

Delta management recently began their campaign to pit the flight attendants at both carriers against each other by informing non-union Delta flight attendants that they would be receiving a raise unlike their Northwest colleagues. AFA-CWA leadership quickly responded to the announcement by informing Delta management that the Northwest flight attendant contract does not exclude raises and encouraged management to meet with AFA-CWA leaders.

Turkish carrier Inter Airlines folds

Inter AirlinesTurkish carrier Inter Airlines, based in Antalya, has become the latest small airline to fold. According to an article today on Flight International, Inter Airlines has ceased operations, and plans to return the three Airbus A321s in its fleet. The article went on to say that the airline laid off 49 workers last month, and continued yesterday with 90 pilots, cabin crew and technicians.

Just last month, the Turkish publication Today's Zaman ran an interesting article about the outlook for Turkey's aviation industry. In what now seems a prophetic statement in light of today's news, the article quoted Inter Airlines CEO, Ömer Torosluoğlu, who predicted that up to half of Turkey's 16 private airlines might fail, saying, "Only those companies that can find additional financing will survive. The fast loss of value in the Turkish lira against the dollar might also cause big losses on domestic lines."

Inter Airlines had operated domestic passenger service within Turkey, as well as international service to a number of destinations in Belgium, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands.

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pilots at Air Transport International vote unanimously to strike

Air Transport International DC8-62F (N799AL)Air Transport International (ATI) pilots are fed up with what they refer to as "stagnant contract negotiations." The pilots, who are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 747, have voted unanimously to strike if and when they are released by the National Mediation Board.

Strike ballots were counted and certified by the union this past Friday, November 7, 2008. IBT says that the ATI crew members voted "100 percent in favor of a strike job action."

ATI pilots have been in contract negotiations with management since June 2004. Negotiations have been held under the auspices of a mediator from the National Mediation Board since October 2006.

In a press release issued yesterday by the IBT, Capt. Tom Rogers, chairman of the ATI Executive Council, said, "We have willingly worked with ATI management throughout the negotiations process--it is past time for them to reciprocate. Not only are they unwilling to negotiate in good faith, but they continue to chip away at the few remaining benefits on which our crew members depend, such as home-basing."

IBT Local 747 President E.E. Sowell added, "The unanimous support for a strike by the ATI crew members, especially during an economic downturn within the airline industry, sends an unrivaled message to the management of ATI. The work ethic and productivity of this pilot group continues to be a core cause of ATI's profitability. Management's persistent unwillingness to recognize that sizable contribution will directly result in a loss for ATI and its shareholders."

Air Transport International, a subsidiary of Air Transport Services Group, Inc, is a U.S. certified air carrier offering air transportation services throughout the world for the United States Air Mobility Command (USAF AMC) and commercial customers such as BAX Global Inc and AMX Cargo.

[Photo Source]

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ryanair Flight FR4102 Emergency at Rome-Ciampino: Multiple Bird Strikes

Ryanair B737-800, Rome-Ciampino, Nov. 11, 2008 - Reuters PhotoEarly this morning, Nov. 10, 2008, a Boeing 737-800 aircraft (registration EI-DYG) operated by Ryanair suffered a multiple bird strike, ingesting birds into both engines, while on approach to Rome-Ciampino Airport. Ryanair Flight FR4102 made an emergency landing at Ciampino, during which "the left-hand main landing-gear suffered substantial damage," according to the airline. The aircraft was arriving from Frankfurt-Hahn with six crew members and 166 passengers on board. Passengers were evacuated from the aircraft via slides onto the runway. There were no reports of serious injuries, although two cabin crew members and eight passengers were reportedly taken to a hospital for medical attention.

News photos of the accident site show the left main landing gear collapsed, and the number one engine nacelle resting on the runway. The "multiple bird strike" phrase may be an understatement, judging from the large number of blood splotches on the radome and wing slats!

Ciampino Airport closed after the accident, and inbound flights were diverted to Rome's Fiumicino Airport.

I will follow up with more details as they become available.

UPDATE Nov. 11, 2008: The Agenzia Nazionale per la Sicurezza del Volo (ANSV), the Italian flight safety agency, issued a brief statement regarding the Ryanair accident at Rome-Ciampino. The statement confirms what was already known: that a large flock of birds struck the aircraft's wing surfaces and engines as it was landing. (For what it's worth, the statement identified the birds as starlings.) The statement mentioned "extensive damage" to the aircraft's left wing, landing gear, and fuselage.

The so-called "black boxes," i.e., the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, have been retrieved from the accident aircraft and are undergoing data analysis. ANSV is interviewing the crew.

That's all that the ANSV says so far.

Unofficial buzz that I am hearing says that the sequence of events went something like this: the aircraft was on short finals when an engine flamed out due to bird strike; crew initiated a go-around, but at about the same time, the second engine flamed out as well -- so they landed, albeit a little hard. Okay, maybe really hard.

Based on everything I've heard and read, the crew did a fantastic job. They had an enormous amount on their plate very suddenly -- and at just a couple hundred feet above the ground they had to make a split-second decision, with virtually no time to ponder what to do or consult manuals, checklists, or what have you. They landed the plane, and they brought it to a halt on the runway. The airframe suffered some major dings, but there were no fatalities or major injuries to the passengers and crew. I say, "Well done!"

[Photo Source]

Friday, November 07, 2008

JetBlue Embraer E190 sets a world performance record

JetBlue E190Yesterday USA Today's Ben Mutzabaugh wrote a brief article in his Today in the Sky Blog about the final flight of the McCain-Palin campaign plane chartered from JetBlue. The plane is an Embraer E190 like the one in the photo at right -- except that it bore a McCain-Palin logo on its fuselage for the duration of its charter.

The aircraft was used to shuttle Sarah Palin around to 29 different states during the recent election campaign. Its last official mission was to return Gov. Palin and her family to Anchorage on the day after the election. Then yesterday, the crew ferried the aircraft from Anchorage back to JetBlue's home base in New York, with a stop in Buffalo.

As I read that last bit, I remember thinking, "Anchorage to Buffalo nonstop? Hmm, that sounds like quite a long flight for an E190."

It was. In fact, the flight made aviation history.

Today Ben Mutzabaugh did a follow-up story about the JetBlue E190 flight in USA Today. Here is an excerpt:
In a message to employees on the company's intranet, JetBlue says "aircraft 239, the McCain-Palin charter jet, set a new record by jetting from Anchorage, to Buffalo nonstop. At 2,694 nautical miles, this was the longest E190 flight ever operated by any airline on the planet!"

"Flight 4500 took off from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport at 11:23 a.m. (Alaska time) and landed some 6 hours and 11 minutes later, at 9:34 p.m. (ET), at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. This ultra-long segment was the first leg of the aircraft's return to JFK and its eventual return to scheduled service in the coming days," JetBlue adds on its intranet.
I checked the JetBlue website for a press release about this feat: nothing.

I checked the Embraer website for performance information about the E190. It said that the E190 "has a range of 2,400 nm (4,445 km) and a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.82," but that was computed for a long range cruise payload of 98 passengers @ 220lb (100kg). Yesterday's record flight was a ferry flight, of course, so it had no such payload. Mutzabaugh's article mentioned that JetBlue credited "a strong tailwind" and the fact that plane was not weighed down by passengers and luggage.

Still, the duration and distance of JetBlue Flight 4500 was impressive, don't you think? Kudos to the unnamed crew members who flew that E190 into the aviation record books on November 6, 2008.

Next week the aircraft will have its McCain-Palin logo removed and replaced with the standard JetBlue logo and livery, after which it will be returned to regular service.

[Photo Source]

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Ryan International Airlines flight attendants ready to join union

Ryan International AirlinesFlight attendants at Illinois-based charter carrier, Ryan International Airlines, are preparing for a representational election. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), the world's largest flight attendant union, collected the required signature cards from among the Ryan International flight attendant work force and filed a petition on their behalf with the U.S. National Mediation Board (NMB) earlier this week. The NMB is the federal agency that oversees union representation elections in the airline industry.

Once the NMB verifies that enough signed union representation cards have been collected by AFA-CWA, a secret ballot election will be called to determine who will represent Ryan flight attendants.

"This is exactly the right move by these flight attendants, at the right time," said AFA-CWA International President Patricia Friend. "Ryan flight attendants need the strength and support of a union experienced in representing flight attendants. AFA-CWA is that union," she added.

Ryan International provides aircraft charters to tour operators and sports teams, as well as to several U.S. government agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Justice, Energy, and Homeland Security. They also provide crewed aircraft to other airlines under so-called 'wet lease' contracts.

Best wishes to the flight attendants at Ryan International Airlines for success with their upcoming representational election.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Fatal Learjet Accident in Mexico City

A Learjet 45 carrying Mexican government officials crashed onto a Mexico City thoroughfare early last evening, November 4, 2008, killing all on board as well as a number of people on the ground. News media say that at least 40 people on the ground also suffered non-fatal injuries as a result of the crash and the fire that followed.

News reports about what happened are quite varied, but here is what Flight International had to say about the Mexico City crash:
The aircraft (XA-VMC) departed San Luis Potosi in the north at around 17:00 local time on 4 November and headed for Mexico City with eight people on board. At 18:42, when it was 5km (2.7nm) short of the airport, the aircraft came down shortly after the pilots had acknowledged a radio frequency change. The crash site is 5km short of the airport, with the aircraft heading for runway 23L or 23R. It crashed into one of the city's main thoroughfares, Reforma Avenue.
Flight International also mentioned that "early reports from unofficial air traffic control sources say the Learjet was following a Boeing 767 at less than the safe wake vortex separation distance."

Among those who perished were Juan Camilo Mouriño, 37, Mexico's interior minister, and José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, a security advisor to Mexico's president, and former deputy attorney general. Both were prominently involved in the Mexican government's anti-drug campaign, thus their deaths immediately sparked rumors of possible sabotage.

At a news conference earlier today, Mexico's Communication and Transportation Minister Luis Tellez said that the aircraft's flight data recorder had been recovered from the accident site. According to a Bloomberg article about the news conference, Tellez said, "We have no evidence that allows us to formulate a hypothesis that this isn't an accident. We will investigate all possibilities, though."

A short time ago the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that a team was being dispatched to assist Mexico with the accident investigation. The NTSB says the U.S. team will also include technical advisors from the NTSB, FAA, Learjet, and Honeywell International.

Here is an Associated Press video of the Learjet crash scene in Mexico City.

If the video does not play or display properly above, click here to view it on YouTube. Tip of the hat to the Associated Press for posting the video on their YouTube channel.

UPDATE Nov. 6, 2008: Flight International published a new article today about the Learjet accident in Mexico City. It is worth taking a look at, since it includes some interesting graphics, as well as a link to audio of the last 4 minutes of radio contact between the Learjet crew and the Mexico City approach controller: PICTURES & AUDIO: Mexican government Learjet 45 crashes in Mexico City - Flight International, Nov. 6, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Little Northwest Airlines Nostalgia

The anticipated merger between Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines became a fact late last week. Integration of the two carriers into the 'new Delta' will be a complex process, but it is already underway. Eventually all of Northwest's crews will wear Delta uniforms, and Northwest aircraft will sport Delta livery, signaling the end of one era, and the beginning of the next.

Best wishes to everyone at both airlines during the transition period and beyond. Here is a video tribute that provides a nostalgic look at Northwest Airlines and its aircraft.

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

Tip of the hat to kicker943 for posting the video to YouTube for all of us to enjoy.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Air Pacific eliminates compulsory retirement age for cabin crew

Air PacificCabin crew at Fiji-based Air Pacific will no longer be forced to retire at age 45. The airline management and the Transport Workers Union "have settled the matter and the compulsory retirement age for staff at all levels will be removed from the collective agreements," according to an article on Compulsory retirement age had been an issue of contention in a legal case the Transport Workers Union filed against Air Pacific.

Although the compulsory retirement age complaint has been settled, the Transport Workers Union still wants the Fiji Court of Appeal to address other matters of disagreement between the union and the airline, including issues such as working hours and crew complement. Finally, the union has asked the Appeals Court to rule as well on Air Pacific's practice of suspending cabin crew who are overweight or have blemishes. The Union contends that these practices are "unconstitutional" under the collective bargaining agreement.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Delta-Northwest Merger is a Done Deal

Delta-NorthwestDelta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines announced their merger plans last April, and several days ago anti-trust regulators at the U.S. Department of Justice signed off on the deal. With that, Northwest Airlines is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta. The merged airline, called Delta and headquartered in Atlanta, has approximately 75,000 employees worldwide. According to a Delta press release about the merger, the company "will distribute an equity stake to substantially all U.S.-based employees with international employees participating through cash payments in lieu of stock."

Delta's management has promised "that no frontline employees will be involuntarily furloughed as a result of the merger and that no hubs will be closed," and that they have "implemented a seniority protection policy that ensures that frontline employees of both airlines will be provided seniority protection through a fair-and-equitable process."

The two pilot groups have a single collective bargaining agreement with Delta. It remains to be seen whether or not the 21,000 flight attendants of the merged airline will ultimately have union representation. Northwest's flight attendants are unionized, while Delta's have not had a union.

Integrating the two work forces is already underway. I understand that Northwest crews are being fitted for their Delta uniforms, and that pilots, flight attendants, and customer service agents will begin wearing them on March 30, 2009.

Best wishes to everyone at the new Delta as they go through the process of integrating their operations. Here is a video tribute to the Delta-Northwest merger.

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

Tip of the hat to stejensen for posting the video to YouTube for all of us to enjoy.