Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa Claus Needs a Mode S Transponder

Someone needs to tell the elves up at the North Pole to equip Santa's sleigh with a proper transponder before next Christmas rolls around. TCAS won't work unless he's squawking!

Santa  Claus

Happy Holidays to Aircrew Buzz readers around the world. For the New Year I wish all of you blue skies, smooth air, tailwinds, and happy landings.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Avantair Piaggio P.180 landing at Salt Lake City ends up in a snowbank

Piaggio P. 180 AvantiA Piaggio P. 180 Avanti aircraft, operating as Avantair Flight 145 (registration N145SL), slid off a runway and into a snowbank at Salt Lake City International Airport this past Friday night, December 19, 2008. The incident occurred at about 9:30 PM local time as the twin-engine turboprop aircraft was arriving at Salt Lake City in poor weather. According to the FAA, there were no injuries reported among the two crew members and six passengers on board.

A brief report about the incident on the Deseret News about the incident, the aircraft became stuck in heavy snow. An airport spokeswoman said that the incident did not disrupt the airport's operations.

Avantair is a fractional operator, headquartered in Clearwater, FL. Avantair recently took delivery of its 50th Piaggio Avanti P.180 aircraft.

[Photo Source]

United Airlines expected to furlough 250 more flight attendants in early 2009

United Airlines logoUnited Airlines management has notified its flight attendants' union that additional furloughs are expected in early 2009. The United Master Executive Council of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing United cabin crew, was told by the airline's management that 250 flight attendants may be laid off in this round of furloughs. Earlier this year, United reduced its flight attendant work force by 1,550.

Union officials were told that an acceleration of the TED aircraft reconfiguration, coupled with further reduction in capacity, is leading to schedule changes. Management is reviewing the aircraft schedule and has stated they will not make the final decision about flight attendant furloughs until January 9, 2009.

In accordance with the terms of the contract between the AFA and United, flight attendants will be offered voluntary furloughs first; involuntary furloughs will be imposed only if an insufficient number of flight attendants bid for voluntary furloughs. The earlier reduction of United's flight attendant work force was accomplished by voluntary furloughs and an 'Early Out' program offered to senior crew members, obviating the need for involuntary furloughs.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Update on the Continental Flight 1404 accident at Denver

About 36 hours have passed since Continental Flight 1404 veered off runway 34R during its takeoff roll at Denver International Airport. The Boeing 737-500 (registration N18611), which was departing for Houston, came to a rest in a ravine alongside the runway and caught fire. The accident occurred at 6:18 PM local time on December 20, 2008. All on board were evacuated using emergency slides. There were no fatalities, although 38 people were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

Damage to the aircraft was extensive. In addition to fire damage, the wings and fuselage cracked, the number one engine separated from the wing, and the landing gear sheared off. The fire appeared to have originated on the right side of the aircraft, and quickly spread to the interior of the passenger cabin.

First reports said that the plane had 112 people on board. That number has been raised to 115, counting lap children. The working crew was composed of two pilots and three flight attendants. Two deadheading crew members were said to be among the passengers.

This morning, runway 34R at Denver International Airport (DIA) remains closed while officials continue their on-scene investigation. Otherwise, all airport operations at DIA are described as "normal."

You may have seen news reports about a Twitter user who was on board Flight 1404 who sent live 'tweets' from the scene as events were unfolding. If you are interested, you can read the tweets posted by Twitter user 2drinksbehind, here.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board announced that both the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) have been recovered from the accident aircraft, and have been sent to NTSB headquarters in Washington, DC for analysis. The NTSB is planning to hold a press conference about the accident later today. If there is any significant news, I will post an update here.

There is a collection of photos of the Continental Flight 1404 crash scene on Rocky Mountain News.

[Photo Source]

UPDATE Jan. 4, 2009: The Denver Post reports that the wreckage of the Continental B737-500 has been removed from the crash scene at Denver International Airport and taken to a ramp area at DIA near Continental's hangar for further examination.

The website also has an incredible collection of close-up photos of the accident aircraft after it as moved to the ramp. Caution: Not for the faint of heart.

UPDATE Jan. 7, 2009: The U.S. National Transportation Board (NTSB) has issued a factual update on this accident.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about Continental Flt 1404 on Aircrew Buzz.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Colgan Air pilots choose the Air Line Pilots Association as their union

Colgan Air pilotsPilots at Colgan Air, Inc. have voted overwhelmingly to become members of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). The U.S. National Mediation Board (NMB), which oversees union representation elections, announced earlier this week that 313 of 449 eligible voters cast a ballot in support of representation by ALPA, well above the threshold required for certification. Prior to the election, the Colgan pilots were unrepresented by a union.

Capt. Mark Segaloff, one of the leaders of the Colgan Air Pilots ALPA Organizing Committee, said, "We thank all of our pilots who took the time to find out more about ALPA and to cast their vote in the election. Thanks as well to the many ALPA pilot volunteers who gave their efforts to the campaign. It is now our duty as Colgan pilots to take the unity we have built, along with ALPA’s vast resources, and transfer that into negotiating a contract that we deserve."

ALPA president, Capt. John Prater, said that ALPA looks forward to working with the Colgan pilots to improve their careers.

Colgan Air operates as Continental Connection, United Express, and US Airways Express from numerous bases in the Northeast and Texas. Approximately 450 pilots fly the Bombardier Q400, Saab 340, and Beech 1900 for Colgan.

[Photo Source]

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Continental Airlines Boeing 737 accident at Denver

Continental Airlines logoEarlier this evening a Continental Airlines Boeing 737-500 aircraft, operating as Flight COA 1404, departed runway 34 R at Denver International Airport. According to a brief press statement released by Continental Airlines, the aircraft was departing Denver for Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport with five crew members and 107 passengers on board. At this time there are no reports of fatalities. Thirty-eight people, including both pilots, were taken to area hospitals for treatment of injuries described as non-life threatening.

Everyone on board evacuated the aircraft via emergency slides. A passenger interviewed on a local TV station in Denver said that the flight attendants blocked passengers from using emergency exits on the right side of the aircraft, where the wing was on fire. He said the flight attendants directed passenger evacuation using their flashlights and bullhorns.

By chance, I happen to be in Denver, and I am monitoring live coverage of the accident on local TV. In a press conference a short time ago, an airport official named Kim Day confirmed that the accident occurred at 6:18 PM local time. She said that the aircraft "veered off runway 34 right, near the WC taxiway into a small ravine."

At the same press conference, Patrick Hynes of the Denver Fire Department said that when firefighters reached the scene, "The entire right side of the airplane was on fire." He said that the fire spread to the interior of the aircraft cabin, and was so intense that the luggage compartments above the seats melted.

Mr. Hynes said that the fire had since been extinguished, but fuel was still leaking from the aircraft's damaged wings, and fire crews were "applying fire suppressant foam."

The aircraft was said to have traveled about 2,000 feet down the runway, but it is unclear whether it had rotated. Asked if the plane had left the ground, officials speaking at the press conference said they did not know.

An official said that there was "a significant amount of debris on the runway." He also said, "The wheels sheared off the airplane. I know that."

The entire west side of Denver International Airport is shut down, but the rest of the airport is operating.

Personnel from the National Transportation Safety Board are said to be on the scene.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about Continental Flt 1404 on Aircrew Buzz.

Friday, December 19, 2008

NTSB Safety Alert on Operating Aircraft in Icing Conditions

NTSB logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a Safety Alert, directed to pilots, about operating aircraft in icing conditions. The Safety Alert is intended to increase the visibility of airplane icing issues and "address procedures taught regarding the accumulation of ice before activating deice boots," according to NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker.

Some of the highlights of the newly issued Safety Alert, which was approved by all five Board Members, are:
  • noting that as little as 1/4 inch of ice can be deadly;
  • as little as 1/4 inch of leading edge ice can increase the stall speed 25 to 40 knots; and
  • early activation of the deice boots limits the effects of leading-edge ice and improves the operating safety margin.
The Safety Alert states that leading-edge deice boots should be activated as soon as icing is encountered, unless the aircraft flight manual or the pilot's operating handbook specifically directs not to activate them.

In the Alert, pilots are instructed to maintain extremely careful vigilance of airspeed and any unusual handling qualities if the aircraft manual or the pilot's operating handbook allows for an accumulation of ice before activating the deice boots, and to turn off or limit the use of the autopilot in order to better "feel" changes in the handling qualities of the airplane.

Here is the link to the Safety Alert: Aircraft Ground Icing - NTSB, 2-page 'pdf' file

American Airlines and flight attendant union ask for mediation of contract talks

APFA logoAmerican Airlines and its flight attendants' union have jointly filed a request for mediation of their contract talks by the U.S. National Mediation Board (NMB). The flight attendants, represented by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (AFPA), have been in negotiations with the airline since May of this year. So far, the talks have yielded progress only on minor issues.

The flight attendants are seeking to recover pay and benefit cuts they agreed to in 2003 to help American avoid bankruptcy. According to the union, pay and benefits for American's flight attendants have been reduced by 25 percent and their workload has increased by 47 percent (the most of any airline), meaning less time with their families.

Union officials say that APFA decided to file for mediation when it was reported the final contract offer on the table from AMR, the American Airlines parent company, to the Transport Workers Union (TWU) -- the union representing ground workers at American -- had no guaranteed structural pay raises, substantial increases for contributions for retiree health benefits and the elimination of virtually all retirement benefits for new hires. TWU filed for NMB mediation earlier this week, separately from the flight attendants. Federally mediated contract talks between American and its piolots, union also are underway

In a statement to the press, APFA President Laura Glading said, "There is no way Flight Attendants will agree to a contract with no significant pay raises for almost 10 years, and at the same time that AMR’s top executives continue to reward themselves with huge bonuses -- $336 million over the past three years. This is just not acceptable. Flight Attendants have made difficult sacrifices to keep this airline flying and deserve a fair and just contract. We will not consider further concessions.

"We recognize the impact the economic downturn has had on the airline industry, just as we recognize the positive effect of falling jet fuel prices," Glading continued. "The company is refusing to recognize the commitment, dedication, and sacrifices Flight Attendants have made for this airline."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Bird in Town: FAA Certifies Embraer's Phenom 100 Executive Jet

Embraer Phenom 100Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer (Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica S.A.) announced that its new Phenom 100 executive jet was certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) on December 12, 2008. Embraer began delivering the aircraft this week.

The FAA granted a U.S. Type Certificate based upon Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency’s (Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil – ANAC) Type Certificate issued on December 9, 2008. EASA certification is expected for the second quarter of 2009.

According to information porovided by Embraer, the Phenom 100’s maximum range, originally projected to be 1,160 nautical miles (2,148 kilometers or 1,335 miles), has been extended to 1,178 nautical miles (2,182 kilometers or 1,356 miles) with four occupants and NBAA IFR reserves.

An optional enhanced take-off performance package was included in the aircraft certification, resulting in a 3,125 feet takeoff field length at maximum take-off weight. The standard take-off field length is 3,400 feet as initially specified. For departures from airports with restrictions due to high temperatures or high elevations, or both, take-off climb performance has also surpassed the design target, providing up to 300 nautical miles extra range.

Another performance improvement was achieved with the landing distance, verified to be only 2,699 feet at maximum landing weight, 301 feet shorter than initially specified.

Powered by two fuel-efficient Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F-E engines, the Phenom 100’s fuel consumption is confirmed to be better than originally estimated, saving as much as 3.6% on longer trips.

The flight test campaign also validated the Phenom 100’s top speed of 390 knots (true air speed), 10 knots faster than initially projected. The aircraft is capable of climbing directly to its maximum cruise altitude of 41,000 feet, even at maximum take-off weight.

Certified without restrictions, the Phenom 100 is able to fly under Visual and Instrument Flight Rules conditions, day or night, and into known or forecasted icing conditions.

The aircraft also operates well within Stage IV external noise requirements, established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), having been certified with a cumulative margin of 33 EPNdB.

Embraer says that the highly intuitive Phenom 100 man-machine interface, based on a “quiet and dark” cockpit philosophy that offers full situational awareness and automation for a low workload, enabled the certification for single-pilot operation. The Phenom 100’s Prodigy® flight deck, based on the acclaimed Garmin G1000 avionics suite, was also certified.

The Prodigy® flight deck features three interchangeable 12-inch displays – two Primary Flight Displays (PFD) and one Multi-Function Display (MFD). The system integrates all primary flight, navigation, communication, terrain, traffic, weather, engine instrumentation, and crew-alert data, and presents the composite information on these three brilliant, sunlight-readable color high definition screens.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Big week for Azul Linhas Aereas, Brazil's newest airline

Azul Embraer 195Last Friday Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras S.A., Brazil's newest airline, took delivery of its first Embraer 195 jet aircraft. Three days later, on Dec. 15, 2008, the fledgling domestic carrier inaugurated service with flights between three cities: Campinas (Viracopos Airport), Salvador de Bahia, and Porto Alegre. Azul is the fourth airline founded by former JetBlue chairman David Neeleman.

Azul began its operations this week with a fleet of three Embraer 195 and two Embraer 190 aircraft (with 118 and 106 seats, respectively). Another three airplanes will be added next month.

According to information provided by Azul, the carrier has a total of 78 Embraer jets on order. Azul will grow in 2009 to serve 25 cities throughout Brazil with 16 aircraft. The airline will continue to receive an additional jet every month for three years to operate 36 aircraft by the end of 2011.

"Having been born in Brazil, it's so exciting to be able to start a new airline in my other home," Mr. Neeleman said. "Brazil is the second largest economy in the Americas -- and 10th in the world -- but only about 5 percent of Brazilians currently fly given the high cost of domestic travel."

"There is tremendous unsatisfied leisure demand for airline seats because fares are too high. As a result, 150 million people travel by long distance bus," he added. "And business travelers suffer circuitous routings and lack of frequency. With only 40 percent fewer seats per aircraft, we can provide more frequent and direct service in markets that our competition can't economically serve."

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ramp Crew Blamed for Northwest Airlines DC-9 Cabin Decompression Accident

Northwest Airlines DC-9The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined that contract ramp personnel from Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation at Syracuse Hancock Airport were to blame for damaging the fuselage of a Northwest Airlines DC-9 aircraft in May of 2007, and that the damage to the aircraft in turn caused the cabin of a the DC-9 to depressurize in flight.

The probable cause report [NTSB ID: NYC07LA121] says:
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

The senior ground agent's failure to follow written procedures and directives.
Accident Details

On May 18, 2007, the aircraft, operating as Northwest Flight 1411, was climbing after departure from Syracuse (SYR) when the cabin depressurized. The aircraft (registration N1799U), which had been en route to Detroit, was diverted to Buffalo where it made a safe emergency landing. There were no injuries among the four crew members and 95 passengers on board, but significant damage to the aircraft was discovered after landing.

According to the NTSB:
Postflight inspection of the accident airplane by an FAA inspector revealed a 12-inch by 5-inch fuselage skin tear, approximately 6 feet forward of the forward cargo door on the right side of the airplane. Further inspection revealed that a crease in the skin of the fuselage existed forward of the tear, consistent with the skin being damaged by a foreign object.
So, how did this happen?

The NTSB report explains:
According to the NWA station manager and AWAC ground agents, at some point during the aircraft luggage off-loading or loading process in SYR, the engine of the belt loader quit operating. Three of the contractor’s ground agents attempted to manually push the belt loader away from the aircraft but were unable to do so. The senior of the three decided to use a luggage tug to push the belt loader away from the airplane by entering the “Safety Diamond/Zone” with the luggage tug from the front right-hand side of the airplane, close to, and parallel with the fuselage. The front left bumper of the tug was then positioned on the right front corner of the belt loader, and at some point during or immediately after pushing the belt loader away from the airplane, the upper right-hand side of the tug’s cab contacted the fuselage. The senior ground agent then advised “don’t say anything” to one of the other ground agents who was working the flight with him.
The NTSB report dryly notes that "the senior ground agent’s actions were contrary to published guidance in the company’s training handbook and operation manual."

Good grief! Letting that aircraft depart without a careful inspection after being hit by the tug was irresponsible, bordering on criminal. This thoughtless instance of CYA clearly put the lives of 99 people in jeopardy -- an unconscionable act, in my humble opinion.

If you would like to read the NTSB probable cause report for this accident, here are the links: NTSB Identification: NYC07LA121 - Summary and Full Narrative

[Photo Source]

Monday, December 15, 2008

Air Wisconsin regional jet incident at Philadelphia

Air WisconsinOn the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008, an Air Wisconsin Bombardier CL-600 aircraft (registration N407AW) made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport with the left main landing gear retracted. According to the FAA preliminary report about the incident, the aircraft sustained minor damage. No one was injured.

At the time of the incident, the aircraft, operating as Flight AWI3918, was repositioning from Norfolk to Philadelphia with a crew of two pilots and one flight attendant on board. The crew were unable to extend the left main gear. A news report about the incident on NBC Philadelphia quoted an Air Wisconsin spokesperson who said that sparks could be seen flying from the left wing of the aircraft as it skidded down the runway to a stop. Emergency crews applied fire retardant as the crew evacuated the aircraft.

The airport was closed for several hours following the incident. All departing and arriving flights were delayed, according to airport officials. The airport reopened at about 6:30PM local time.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Northwest Boeing 747-400 sports new Delta Air Lines livery

Boeing 747-400Delta Air Lines has introduced the first Boeing 747-400 in new Delta livery. An item on the Delta Air Lines Blog, which included the photo at right, said, "Ship 6305 is the first of 16 747-400s operated by Northwest Airlines, now a part of Delta, to be rolled out of a hangar in Victorville, CA in the new paint scheme."

Although anti-trust regulators at the U.S. Department of Justice approved the Delta-Northwest merger in late October of this year, the two carriers continue to operate under two separate FAA operating certificates. Until such time as a single operating certificate is granted for the combined airlines -- anticipated some time in 2009 -- this aircraft and others from the Northwest fleet will continue to be flown by Northwest crews under Northwest operating procedures, regardless of livery.

According to Steve Smith (Delta Fleet Captain, Boeing 747 Fleet), "’ll be able to tell what is operated under the Northwest certificate by a label affixed to the side of the plane that reads, 'Operated by Northwest Airlines, Inc.' Air Traffic Controllers will also tell us apart when we’re taxiing around airports worldwide with our new FAA call sign that distinguishes Northwest planes 'in Delta colors'."

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

American Airlines pilots want decision on carrier's anti-trust immunity postponed

by B. N. Sullivan

Allied Pilots Association logoIn August of this year, American Airlines (AA), British Airways, and Iberia signed a joint business agreement on flights between Europe and North America in a plan "to expand their global cooperation." The carriers are asking for worldwide antitrust immunity from the U.S. Department of Transportation, and regulatory authorities in the European Union. Finnair and Royal Jordanian are included in the antitrust immunity application. The Allied Pilots Association (APA), the union representing pilots at American Airlines, expressed concerns regarding the impact the business agreement could have on job security, among other issues. Today the pilots reiterated their job security concerns, particularly in light of the ongoing economic downturn, asking U.S. officials to defer a decision on AA's business deals with foreign carriers.

In a statement to the press, APA President Captain Lloyd Hill said, "Because of the potential for further job losses in the nation’s airline industry, we urge Congress and the outgoing Bush Administration to withhold judgment on American Airlines’ application for worldwide antitrust immunity and related joint business agreement until a thorough assessment can be conducted."

"Just last week the U.S. suffered the biggest monthly job loss in 34 years," Hill went on. "Right now there is understandable concern about the many jobs that would be lost if one of our nation’s automakers were to fail.

"The last thing our nation’s economy needs is even more layoffs in the airline industry. Accordingly, APA urges the federal government to proceed with caution," he said.

The union's primary concern is that that if American Airlines' deals are approved, the carrier’s employees face the prospect of having their jobs outsourced to overseas workers.

Hill described last week’s announcement that British Airways is seeking to acquire Australian airline Qantas as a "further wrinkle" in an already complex and unprecedented web of international deal-making. The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, Australia’s daily newspaper, reported that a merger between British Airways and Qantas could generate savings by "cutting jobs, and duplication of routes and services," illustrating the impact on workers and flight schedules when former competitors join forces.

"We believe the best course of action right now for policymakers is to ‘do no harm’ by postponing any decision on these deals until a thorough assessment is conducted," said Capt. Hill. "It is our sincere hope that before reaching any decision on American Airlines' plans, policymakers clearly understand where these deals could lead."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Cathay Pacific's cabin crew union urges members to reject unpaid leave

Cathay PacificLast week Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways offered its flight attendants unpaid leave of between two weeks and 12 months, beginning January 1, 2009, "as a result of the reduction in planned passenger capacity growth." The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union (CPAFAU), which represents the majority of the airline's 7,000 cabin crew, is urging members not to accept unpaid leave. The union claims that the company has not negotiated "reasonable terms" with CPFAU regarding unpaid leave at this time.

In a circular titled "10 reasons why you should not take unpaid leave," CPAFAU warned its members that flight attendants' bonuses, retirement funds and other entitlements would be adversely affected if they took unpaid leave. "If there really is a surplus of crew or the company is going to reduce flight frequencies, we will all get more time off on full pay if we don't take unpaid leave," the circular said.

Earlier this week, Cathay Pacific Airways announced that it is cutting back its earlier projection of 6% to 7% growth in capacity in 2009 to less than 1% to reflect the anticipated decline in demand.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Lufthansa acquiring Austrian Airlines, despite union opposition

Austian Airlines-LufthansaIt's official: Lufthansa is acquiring Austrian Airlines. The Austrian government, which is the major stakeholder in Austrian Airlines, officially approved the sale today. Peter Michaelis, CEO of the Austrian state holding company ÖIAG, and Lufthansa CEO Wolfgang Mayrhuber (pictured at right) signed a contract which transferred ÖIAG's 41.6% stake in Austrian to Lufthansa for EUR 366,268.75. Lufthansa also intends to acquire all the remaining shares of Austrian Airlines. The total price is expected to reach about EUR 377, according to news reports.

A statement to the press about the deal says that Austrian Airlines will be managed as a profit center in the Lufthansa Group, but will remain a "broadly independent" airline with its head office in Austria, its own brand, fleet and crew.

Mr. Mayrhuber said there are no plans at present to cut jobs at Austrian, however it should be noted that union groups at Austrian opposed this deal. Agence France-Presse reported that the labor representatives on ÖIAG's supervisory board all voted against approving the acquisition.

"The circumstances surrounding the sale process, the offer that Lufthansa has put on the table, and the many open questions about it are the main reasons why the labour representatives on the board voted against the sale," union representative Leopold Abraham told AFP.

Terms of the deal still must be approved by the European Commission.

[Photo Source]

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sun Country Airlines Restores Back Pay to Employees

Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737-800Back in October, Sun Country Airlines CEO Stan Gadek announced that all employees would have to take a 50% "pay deferral." The announcement, which came after some planned-for short term financing for the airline fell through, included plans to pay back the "deferred" wages to employees, with interest, when the company got back on solid ground financially.

People were skeptical about that last bit -- and who could blame them? Just days after announcing the drastic pay cuts, Sun Country filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, although the carrier continued to operate.

Now it looks like Gadek's promise to employees was more than empty words or wishful thinking. Yesterday a bankruptcy court authorized a credit line for the carrier's operating expenses, and Sun Country's CEO announced today that employees' wages would be restored immediately to pre-bankruptcy levels. Moreover, an additional wage increase will occur on January 1, 2009 to reflect the expiration of voluntary pay cuts taken in early 2008.

In a statement to the media, CEO Stan Gadek said, "Yesterday's ruling is great news for Sun Country, its customers and employees. With access to capital, the support of our aircraft lessors and lower fuel prices, we now have the ability to continue operating through our peak winter season and beyond...

"I am proud of and grateful to our 850 dedicated employees, from maintenance and baggage handling, to our airport and flight crews who have continued to display their dedication to this airline. Regardless of the challenge, our employees have continued to serve our passengers by providing them with the best customer service in the industry," Gadek added.

This news should leave Sun Country crews believing that there is a Santa Claus after all!

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Emirates A380 pilots complain about 'too quiet' crew rest area

Emirates A380Pilots at Emirates Airline who fly the Dubai-based carrier's Airbus A380 are complaining that the aircraft's crew-rest area is too quiet to afford them proper rest. The crew-rest area is located in the aft section of the aircraft's all-economy main deck, and the pilots claim that noises from the passenger cabin -- ranging from crying babies to flushing vacuum toilets -- can be heard very clearly, interrupting their sleep.

One of the features about the A380 touted by Airbus is that engine noise is barely perceptible inside the aircraft cabin. Ironically, this is exactly what the problem is. Usually, engine noise works like 'white noise' to muffle more intermittent sounds. With no engine thrum to mask other sounds, every noise inside the cabin is heard rather clearly and acutely. Even though they wear earplugs, the pilots' sleep is repeatedly interrupted.

According to Flight International, which broke this story, the problem extends beyond noise, per se. Due to the location of the crew-rest area, passengers also mistake the rest area for a lavatory, and pull the door handle.

The Flight International article says:
Emirates is the only A380 operator so far to have situated the crew-rest areas at the rear of the main deck. It did not opt for Airbus' standard option of locating the pilots' compartment behind the cockpit as it would have compromised the design of the airline's upper deck first-class cabin, while the alternative location of the cargo hold was rejected as it thought crew would find it "claustrophobic".
I am wondering if, in addition, there may be safety implications for locating the crew-rest area in the aft section of the main deck, so far away from the flight deck. One can imagine an emergency arising that would urgently require the presence of a crew member who was on rest break. Imagine the poor pilot who has to make his or her way as quickly as possible from the crew-rest in the aft of the main deck, through the length of the 'super-jumbo' aircraft (possibly having to navigate around passengers, cabin crew, serving carts, and what have you), then  (eventually!) into the flight deck. Now add the not inconceivable dimension of an aircraft that, in said emergency, might not be flying along smoothly in level cruise. Good luck!

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Furloughs Coming with Delta Air Lines 2009 Capacity Reduction?

Delta Air Lines logoEarlier today Delta Air Lines management announced plans to decrease systemwide capacity, for both Delta and Northwest, during 2009. The global economic recession and weaker demand for air travel were cited as reasons.

Plans call for domestic capacity to be reduced 8-10%, along with a 3-5 % reduction in international capacity. Delta's systemwide capacity in 2009 will be down by 6-8%, year over year.

So said a memo to Delta's more than 75,000 employees from CEO Richard Anderson and President Edward H. Bastian. The memo also said:
We are taking these actions to secure your careers and return us to sustained profitability. In the meantime, we are analyzing the impact on staffing as it pertains to these capacity reductions and, as in the past, we will offer voluntary programs to adjust staffing needs. We will continue to make decisions that are in the long-term interest of our colleagues, customers, shareholders and the communities we serve.
No word (yet) on what might happen if those 'voluntary programs' do not result in the required number of staff reductions. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 01, 2008

US Airways Express/Piedmont Turboprop Nose-gear Up Landing at Philadelphia

Dash-8The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has published a preliminary report regarding a Dash 8-300 (DHC-8-311) aircraft that made a nose-gear up landing at Philadelphia in mid-November. According to the NTSB report, the aircraft (registration N326EN) sustained minor damage to the aircraft skin and nose gear door. There were no injuries among the three crew members and 35 passengers on board.

Details: On the morning of November 16, 2008, the Piedmont Airlines aircraft , operating as US Airways Express Flight PDT4551, departed Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE) at Allentown, PA en route to Philadelphia International Airport. The crew told investigators that they had heard a "creaking and groaning noise" while taxiing to the runway at ABE, but did not think at the time that it was anything abnormal. While on initial climbout the nose gear took about "three to four seconds longer to retract than the main landing gear."

The entire flight was uneventful until the base leg of the approach to runway 35 at Philadelphia. Quoting from the NTSB report:
The first officer asked for the gear to be extended, the main landing gear extended and were locked, the flight crew received a yellow door light and a red unsafe nose gear light. The flight crew then performed a go-around maneuver, not retracting the gear, and departed the airspace to perform checklist. The flight crew performed the alternate landing gear extension; however the nose gear remained in the wheel well.

The flight crew then flew the airplane by the air traffic control tower (ATCT) in order for the ATCT personnel to attempt and see the nose gear. The ATCT personnel reported that the nose gear doors were open but the landing gear was not visible.

The flight crew stated that they then proceeded to run further checklist to try and extend the nose gear but were unsuccessful. After several attempts to extend the gear by the alternate gear extension checklist and conferring with the airlines maintenance personnel they elected to return to the airport and perform a nose gear-up landing on runway 27L. The airport rescue and fire fighters responded to the intended runway for landing and applied a foam agent.

The airplane's main landing gear touched down and according to witnesses it appeared the flight crew attempted to delay the nose from touching down until the slowest speed possible. The nose of the airplane made contact with the runway and skidded along the runway for about 525 feet and came to a stop. There was no fire reported and the passengers exited the airplane and were taken to the terminal by an airport bus.

The airplane's cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) were removed and secured by the FAA inspector on-scene. Airport personnel and mechanics then utilized air bags to lift the nose of the airplane off the runway surface.

The FAA inspector then looked into the nose wheel well and found the nose gear canted at an angle wedging it in the nose wheel well, using a pry bar, the nose wheel was moved to a normal position and extended freely and locked in the down position. The airplane was then towed to a maintenance hangar and examined. The links on top of the steering column were found to have been broken and pushed upward and the nose wheel over steering pin was still intact.
The recorders and associated parts of the nose gear have been retained by the National Transportation Safety Board for further examination.

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