Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fatal crash of East Coast Jets charter in Minnesota

aircraft accident sceneA chartered business jet (registration number N818MV) operating as East Coast Jets Flight ECJ 81, crashed this morning, July 31, 2008, near Degner Regional Airport, Owatonna, MN. On board the aircraft were two pilots and six passengers, all of whom died. The aircraft was completely destroyed.

Brad Cole, President of East Coast Jets, confirmed that the accident aircraft, a BAe 125 (AKA Hawker 800a) was operated by his company. He identified the two crew members as Clark Keefer of Bethlehem, PA and Dan D'Ambrosio of Hellertown, PA. News reports said that both pilots and five of the passengers perished at the scene of the accident. The sixth passenger died at a hospital a short time later.

In his statement, Mr. Cole said that the aircraft was chartered from East Coast Jets by Revel Entertainment to transport employees to Owatonna, MN from Atlantic City, NJ. According to Cole, the aircraft had departed from Lehigh Valley International Airport, Allentown, PA early this morning for a repositioning flight to Atlantic City International Airport before departing for Minnesota.

A news report about the accident in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune quoted witnesses who said that the aircraft "apparently landed on the 5,500-foot runway and either couldn't stop or tried to take off again." A witness on the ground said the plane tried to get airborne again before crashing wing first into a nearby cornfield.

Local media reports say that "severe storms" had passed through the Owatonna area earlier in the morning. MyFox Twin Cities said that wind gusts of 72 mph were reported in Owatonna around 8:35 a.m., but added that the severe weather seemed to "wrap up" shortly before 9AM.

"By the time it's believed the plane went down, the winds were down to 5 to 10 miles per hour out of the south," MyFox Twin Cities reported. The accident occurred between 09:30 and 10:00 local time.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) dispatched a team to the accident site. They arrived at the crash scene late this afternoon. Several news reports this evening mentioned that the cockpit voice recorder and a flight management system already had been recovered from the wreckage and sent to the NTSB lab in Washington, D.C.

The Star Tribune has published a collection of still photos of the accident scene.

Condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of Clark Keefer and Dan D'Ambrosio, and to the families and friends of the passengers who died in this accident.

[Photo Source]

United Airlines' shocking lawsuit against its own pilots

by B. N. Sullivan

Yesterday United Airlines made a shocking announcement: they have filed a lawsuit in federal court against their own pilots. The suit alleges that the pilots' union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), and certain individual pilots, deliberately organized "unlawful job actions that resulted in hundreds of flights being canceled and impacted thousands of customers and employees."

From the United Airlines press release about the suit:
The lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction against ALPA and four named pilots for organized sick leave abuse in opposition to the company’s plan to reduce its fleet size and furlough pilots and to pressure United into renegotiating terms of a collective bargaining agreement that remains in effect through 2009. The lawsuit also seeks an end to a public campaign of intimidation that discourages pilots from picking up additional flying, effectively engaging in a slowdown.
This lawsuit is beyond belief, and the press release announcing it is disgraceful.

Let's get this straight. There is a labor contract in force between United Airlines and its pilots, but the airline is bringing suit, complaining not that the pilots are in violation of their contract, but because they are working according to the rules of the contract. A refusal by some pilots to pick up additional flying -- that is, working on what had been scheduled as their contractually legal days off -- is construed as a slowdown? Nope, I don't buy it. It sounds to me like the problem is poor manpower planning.

Aside from what is apparent on the surface -- that the pilots are not obligated to pick up extra trips -- there are other factors at work here as well. In short, United Airlines has done little in recent years to inspire the confidence of its employees, or to motivate them to work above the requirements of their contracts out of the goodness of their hearts.

Here we have an airline which, during its bankruptcy, begged its pilots and other line employees to agree to huge concessions in pay and benefits. They agreed to the concessions in order to save the airline and their jobs. In addition to having their salaries greatly reduced, their company-funded retirement plans were sacrificed and replaced with paltry pensions administered by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Then, after emerging from bankruptcy, top company executives were (and continue to be) awarded huge bonuses, while line employees' pay concessions have not been restored.

It is well known that the airline is flying crews at, or close to, the maximum number of hours allowed by FAA rules, with allotted rest time -- particularly on multi-day trip layovers -- at or close to the legal minimum. Yet United Airlines is formally complaining that some pilots are refusing to pick up extra trips, i.e., flying on what should be their days off.

In fact, pilots and flight attendants alike say that they are tired all the time, and feel pressed to show up for work even when they don't feel well. To quote a buzz phrase I hear all the time, "Crews are sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Now United Airlines is preparing to furlough close to a thousand pilots in conjunction with retiring 100 aircraft as a capacity reduction move. ALPA has been negotiating with United Airlines since before the furlough announcements to try to lessen the impact of the capacity reduction on pilot livelihoods, but the talks yielded "meager progress," according to union officials.

To my knowledge, there is no provision for trading contractually accrued sick leave time for monetary compensation upon furlough. So who would be surprised if some pilots -- knowing that they are about to be furloughed -- are taking off some time that is due them by the terms of their contract? (Who knows: they may even be using some of their accrued sick days to search for a new job!)

United Airlines has launched an unfair publicity campaign against its pilots by publicizing the lawsuit it has filed, knowing full well that the pilots would not be able to publicly present an immediate rejoinder. It is apparent that most news media reports about the suit are relying solely on publicity supplied by the airline. Since the pilots' union is named as a party to the lawsuit, ALPA officials have had to refrain from commenting on the details of the suit pending a review of the legal case by the union's attorneys.

United's flight attendants, who are not a party to the suit, are not subject to these constraints. They have issued a public response, condemning the airline's lawsuit against its pilots. In a statement to the press, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing United Airlines flight attendants, accused airline management of "a very serious attack on employees by issuing an inaccurate and misleading media statement concerning the pilots at United Airlines."

Greg Davidowitch, President of AFA's United Airlines chapter said:
"This latest union-busting tactic is condemned for what it is: a corrupt attempt to distract workers and travelers of United Airlines from the failures of current executives. Their actions add nothing to the debate over the future of our airline, but instead serve to further inflame an already poisonous labor relations atmosphere.

"The notion that any frontline employee of United Airlines is responsible for the failures of United executives is laughable. Not content to destroy labor relations, and to destroy the passenger experience, the geniuses that run this airline have also destroyed shareholder value in the past year. With all the major metrics of corporate performance at an all-time low, current management has lost its reason to continue in charge of the airline."
Mr. Davidowitch called the United Airlines lawsuit against its pilots a "new low in labor relations." I certainly agree.

First flight of the new PiperJet

PiperJetPiper Aircraft's new prototype six-passenger single-engine turbo-fan aircraft, the PiperJet, has made its first flight. With Piper Test Pilots Dave Schwartz and Buddy Sessoms at the controls, the craft took off for the first time from Piper headquarters in Vero Beach, FL, late yesterday morning, July 30, 2008. The PiperJet is the first pure, jet-powered, turbofan design in the company’s 71-year history.

For its historic first flight, the plane remained aloft for an hour, reaching a maximum altitude of 10,000 feet and a speed of 160 KTAS as per the flight test plan. According to the manufacturer, the PiperJet is powered by a single Williams FJ44-3AP engine rated at 3,000 pounds of thrust. In the PiperJet application, the engine is de-rated to approximately 2,400 pounds of thrust.

"The FADEC control on the Williams engine greatly reduces pilot workload, allowing greater focus on controlling and navigating the PiperJet," said Schwartz. "Pushing the single power level full forward for takeoff results in a smooth but rapid buildup of thrust and acceleration."

A company news release about the PiperJet's first flight says:
With completion of first flight, the PiperJet has begun a 50 hour initial flight test program to expand the envelope and further investigate the aerodynamic configuration and basic flight performance. Piper test pilots expect to retract the landing gear on the PiperJet’s next flight, after which they will make several more flights to expand the high-speed envelope, eventually reaching 360 KTAS. Envelope expansion will also include higher operating altitudes, up to a maximum of 35,000 feet.
Deliveries of the PiperJet are anticipated to begin in 2011. According to John Becker, Piper’s Vice President of Engineering, the company plans to have the aircraft certified in the Normal Category under FAA Part 23 and applicable foreign certification standards.

"It’s designed to be flown by a single pilot and will be RVSM Certified. Moreover, its innovative design includes ample baggage space and class-setting useful load," Becker said. "The PiperJet will be certified to a maximum operating altitude of 35,000 feet, well above the weather while combining performance with the latest safety technologies and features."

Piper plans a public unveiling of the PiperJet for existing and prospective customers and the news and aviation media in late August or early September at the Piper factory in Vero Beach, FL, during which Piper test pilots will demonstrate the PiperJet’s full flight capabilities.

Meanwhile, you can have a preview with this short video of the PiperJet's first flight, and you can visit the PiperJet website for more photos, and information about the new aircraft's specifications.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Air Canada Airbus A319 incident at Denver

Air CanadaThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued its preliminary report about an incident at Denver last week involving an Airbus A319 aircraft, operated by Air Canada. Judging from the description of events provided by the NTSB, it sounds as though the crew had one very frustrating afternoon.

The aircraft (registration number C-FYJP), operating as Air Canada Flight ACA1042, was departing Denver International Airport for a scheduled passenger flight to Toronto's Pearson International Airport on the afternoon of July 23, 2008. According to the NTSB report, the captain heard a "whistling noise" during the takeoff roll. Suspecting an unsecured window, he rejected the takeoff. The aircraft taxied back and a second takeoff was initiated.

Here's what happened next (quoting from the NTSB report):
Gear retraction, which was delayed to allow the brakes to cool as a result of the previous rejected takeoff, was normal.

When the flaps were retracted, an F-LOCKED message was received. An emergency was declared.

When the airplane was configured for landing, the following messages were illuminated: RIGHT UNLK ON PANEL; L/G DISAGREE; L/G NOT DOWN. A go-around was made and dispatch and maintenance were contacted.

It was later determined that the landing gear was down and locked, and a flaps 3 landing was made on runway 16R. There was a noticeable vibration on the right side of the airplane, and minimal braking was used to slow the airplane on the 16,000-foot runway. Inspection revealed the right inboard tire had failed.

After discussions with the cabin crew and some passengers, indications were that the tire failed at rotation on the second takeoff. Rubber fragments were found on the right side of the runway at the 6,000-foot mark.
There were no injuries reported among the two cockpit crew, three flight attendants, and 94 passengers on board at the time of the incident.

Sounds like that airplane just didn't want to leave Denver!

More information released about the Qantas B747 decompression incident

Qantas logoThe Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released new information regarding their investigation into the recent Qantas Boeing 747-400 depressurization accident. Readers will recall that the aircraft, operating as Qantas Flight QF30, experienced a rapid depressurization at 29,000 feet while en route from Hong Kong to Melbourne on July 25, 2008. The aircraft diverted to Manila where it made a safe emergency landing. No injuries were reported, however the aircraft was found to have a large hole in its fuselage.

First the good news. Today's ATSB news release stated that, "From the evidence gathered to date it appears that the flight crew have responded to and managed the emergency situation extremely well. It is apparent that they followed the procedures they have trained for in simulators, which ensured the best possible outcome for the aircraft, the passengers and crew."

Earlier this week the ATSB reported on the initial inspection of the damaged aircraft, noting (among other things) that one oxygen cylinder, which had been located near the site of the hull breach, was missing. Today the ATSB confirmed that pieces of the missing oxygen cylinder were found in the passenger cabin.
The ATSB can confirm that it appears that part of an oxygen cylinder and valve entered the passenger cabin and impacted the number 2 right door frame handle, thereby moving the handle part way towards the open position. However, the door handle mechanism has been sheared as it is designed to do if an attempt is made to open the door in flight, so the position of the door handle is not representative of the position of the door lock mechanism or the security of the door.
Thus, there seems to be little doubt that the oxygen cylinder exploded inside the cargo bay. The question is, how and why did that happen? And did the exploding oxygen cylinder cause the hull breach and subsequent depressurization, or was it incidental to another causal event?

Here is a rundown of other important points made public today by the ATSB:
  • Descent rate - Initial analysis of data from the Flight Data Recorder showed that that immediately following the decompression event at 29,000 feet, the aircraft descended to an altitude of 10,000 feet. The emergency descent took about five and a half minutes, with an average descent rate of about 4,000 fpm.
  • ILS - The ATSB confirmed that the aircraft's three Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) and the anti-skid system were not available for the arrival and landing at Manila. However, evidence to date indicates that all of the aircraft's main systems, including engines and hydraulics were functioning normally
  • Cabin Oxygen Masks - The team found that most of the oxygen masks had deployed correctly from the passenger modules and had been pulled to activate the flow of oxygen to the mask. In all, 484 masks had deployed. Of those, 418 had been activated by pulling on the mask to activate the flow of oxygen. Only a small number of masks appeared to have had the elastic retaining strap adjusted by the passengers. It also appears that a small number of masks did not deploy from the passenger modules.
Also relevant to the oxygen issue, the ATSB says they are in the process of establishing whether or not "the flow of oxygen was adequate for the five and a half minute descent to 10,000 feet, where the masks were no longer required." Some news reports had mentioned some passenger complaints about malfunctioning masks or sub-optimal oxygen flow.

The ATSB expects to issue a preliminary factual report about this accident within the next 30 days.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about Qantas Flt 30 on Aircrew Buzz.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Emirates Airbus A380 Cabin Interior and Special Luxury Features

Emirates Airbus A380Yesterday Emirates took delivery of its first Airbus A380 aircraft. The double-decker 'superjumbo' aircraft is the first of 58 that Emirates has ordered from Airbus. The first Emirates Airbus A380 will make its inaugural flight on August 1, 2008, from Dubai to New York.

The cabin features of the huge new A380 are like nothing we have seen before. The first photo on this page shows the economy cabin, with seating for 399 passengers. The cabin has straight walls, designed to give the impression of increased spaciousness. Emirates says that this feature, combined with the advanced mood lighting system and noticeably quieter cabin, works to combat the effects of jetlag.

Of its A380 Economy Class, the carrier says, "More generous seats, wider aisles, Gourmet chef-prepared meals and the Emirates' personal touch mean passengers could be mistaken for thinking they've settled in the wrong cabin class."

Emirates Airbus A380That is, unless they get a peek at the upper deck, which the airline bills as "a premium hotel in the sky," promising a level of comfort and space never seen before on a commercial airliner. The whole of the upper deck is dedicated to Premium Class passengers: 14 in First Class, and a 76 in Business Class.

The Business Class cabin, pictured at right, features "intelligent seating," designed to ensure all seats have aisle access. Emirates says, "There's a cleverly designed table that never gets in your way, a seat that slickly becomes a fully-flat bed, and laptop stowage..."

The upper deck of the new Emirates A380 also has an Onboard Lounge. Located in the Business Class cabin for use by First and Business Class passengers, the Lounge "is designed to make passengers feel like they are in their own executive club." Another First Class social area and bar is located at the front of the upper deck.

In the forward section of the upper deck are 14 flat-bed, massage-equipped Private Suites for First Class passengers. The suites include remote controlled doors, a work desk, an electrically controlled mini-bar and the most advanced in-flight entertainment system available.

Emirates Airbus A380The First Class feature on the Emirates A380 that is getting the most media attention is the On Board Shower Spa -- two fully equipped bathrooms in its First Class cabins, including shower facilities. Emirates promised some special surprises with its A380 and this certainly is one of them. The airline refers to their A380's First Class Shower Spa as "the jewel in the aircraft's crown."

The Emirates A380 flights will be staffed by 24 Cabin Crew, dressed in their newly updated uniforms. All will have undergone intensive training on the aircraft at the new Emirates Crew Training College in Dubai.

There's a new twist, too. There will be additional staff on board whose job it is to keep things tidy on the huge A380. For the first time, Emirates has hired and trained "Cabin Service Assistants" for keeping the cabin -- including the Shower Spas -- immaculate. The presence of the Cabin Service Assistants will free the regular Cabin Crew to focus on cabin safety, and serving passengers. Now that is a revolutionary feature!

[Photo Source]

Emirates' first Airbus A380 has arrived in Dubai

Emirates A380 and cabin crewEarlier today, the first A380 in the Emirates fleet arrived at its home base in Dubai. An article on the UAE news website Xpress described the huge aircraft's historic arrival at Dubai International Airport: "The four-engine bird appeared magically from an overcast haze around 5:35pm and flew a graceful fly-past before banking to the east toward Sharjah. Eleven minutes later, the 469-seat aircraft landed, dwarfing other parked aircraft."

Yesterday Emirates took delivery of its first Airbus A-380 'superjumbo' aircraft in Hamburg, Germany. This aircraft is the first A380 among a total of 58 ordered from Airbus by Emirates.

The luxurious double-decker passenger cabin of the first Emirates A380 is configured in three classes, including a 14-seat First Class, and a 76-seat Business Class on the upper deck, with a 399-seat Economy Class below. This first aircraft will be deployed on the Dubai-New York route, the first commercial A380 service between the UAE and US. The inaugural flight is set to take place on August 1, 2008.

Emirates has also ordered two other versions of the A380. One will have a three-class, 517-seat configuration for medium range flights. The other, also intended for medium range service, will have 604 seat in two classes.

The Emirates A380s will be powered by Engine Alliance GP7200 engines, enabling the carrier to save 500,000 litres of fuel per aircraft per year over any other engine alternative currently available. The company says that this aircraft "will offer fuel economy as low as 3.1 litres per 100 passenger kms, better than that of Toyota’s acclaimed Prius hybrid passenger vehicle (which uses 4.4 litres per 100 vehicle kms). It also comfortably meets the current EU Stage Three and proposed Stage Four noise level standards."

According to an Emirates news release about the A380 delivery:
The aircraft was received by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman & Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group, at an official handover ceremony attended by President of Emirates Airline Tim Clark; Airbus CEO Tom Enders; former Engine Alliance President, Bruce Hughes; Jürgen Thomas, the “founding father” of the A380; the 2,000 Hamburg Airbus staff directly involved in the production of the A380; 58 Emirates cabin crew, representing the number of A380s the Dubai based carrier has on firm order; international media, VIPs and other guests.

HH Sheikh Ahmed noted that while Emirates may not have been the first airline to receive the new generation aircraft, it was the first to place a firm order for it eight years ago.
Since Emirates is by far the biggest customer of the A380, the aircraft will eventually be available on most of the airline's international routes. The carrier notes that, in time, if a person is traveling on an A380 chances will be about one-in-four that they will be flying Emirates.

Emirates’ inaugural A380 commercial flight will depart Dubai International Airport at 11:00 local time on Friday, August 1, 2008. It will arrive at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport at 17:00 local time. According to Emirates, the fully booked flight will take between 12.5 and 13 hours, compared to 14 hours on a Boeing 777.

[Photo Source]

Monday, July 28, 2008

New FAA Rule Extends Term of Pilot Medical Certificates

FAA logoOver a year ago, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed extending the duration of pilot medical certificates, particularly for pilots under the age of 40. This rule change was proposed, in part, in order to bring U.S. rules in line with those of the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), which requires only annual medical certification for airline transport and commercial pilots in multi-crew settings.

The FAA has just announced that the new rule extending the terms of first- and third-class medical certificates has been released. The rule took effect July 24, 2008.

The FAA says:
The purpose of the new ruling is to improve the efficiency of the medical certification program and process. It will also advance the services provided to medical certificate applicants.

Third-class medical certificates for pilots under the age of 40 were previously required to be renewed every 36 months. Those pilots now have 60 months, or five years, to review their certificates.

First-class medical certificates previously lasted six months. Under the new rule, they now have to be renewed every 12 months.

There is no change in the terms for medical certificates for pilots over the age of 40.
Here is the link to the full text of the final rule: Modification of Certain Medical Standards and Procedures and Duration of Certain Medical Certificates - Federal Register, July 24, 2008 (8 page 'pdf' file)

ATSB update on Qantas Flight QF30 accident investigation

Australian Transport Safety Bureau logoAs often happens following a widely publicized aircraft accident or safety incident involving a major international carrier, there are a lot of rumors and speculation surrounding the July 25, 2008 depressurization in flight of Qantas Flight QF30. With this in mind, I thought it would be useful to post some official (though preliminary) information released today by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), the agency leading the investigation regarding this event.

Here is the text of today's ATSB Media Release:
The ATSB was advised on Friday 25 July of a serious occurrence involving a Qantas aircraft.

The aircraft, a Boeing 747-400 was operating a scheduled passenger service from Hong Kong to Melbourne Australia. At approximately 29,000 feet, the crew were forced to conduct an emergency descent after a section of the fuselage separated and resulted in a rapid decompression of the cabin. The crew descended the aircraft to 10,000 feet in accordance with established procedures and diverted the aircraft to Manila where a safe landing was carried out. The aircraft taxied to the terminal unassisted, where the passengers and crew disembarked. There were no reported injuries.

The ATSB is leading this safety investigation with the assistance of a number of other organisations and agencies, including the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration of the USA, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia and Qantas and Boeing.

The ongoing investigation has confirmed that there is one unaccounted for oxygen cylinder from the bank of cylinders that are located in the area of the breech. There are 13 oxygen cylinders in the bank that are responsible for supplying oxygen to the passenger masks and cabin crew.

Also recovered are a number of parts of components including part of a valve in the vicinity of the breech. However, it is yet to be determined whether these components are part of the aircraft system.

A number of passengers have reported that some of the oxygen masks appeared not to function correctly when they deployed from the overhead modules. The ATSB intends to examine the oxygen system including the oxygen masks.

The ATSB is also intending to interview the aircraft crew including the cabin crew and make contact with all passengers on the flight. All passengers will be surveyed, while those that had reported problems with mask deployment will be interviewed.

The passenger survey should be available in about two weeks.

The ATSB would like to request that any passengers that experienced issues during the flight, or those who photographed or videoed the incident contacts us via email at atsbinfo@atsb.gov.au.

The ATSB would also like to encourage passengers to write down their recollection of events that occurred. This will aid them with the completion of the passenger survey.

The aircraft flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder have arrived in Australia. The ATSB will download the recorders at its Canberra facilities over the next few days.

The ATSB will also be examining maintenance records for the aircraft. This will include any airworthiness directives or alert bulletins that may have been issued by the regulators or the manufacturers.
Additional factual information about Qantas Flight QF30 and the investigation into the cause of the accident will be posted here on Aircrew Buzz as it becomes available.

UPDATE July 29, 2008: Today the ATSB released another statement, indicating that the accident aircraft had been moved to a hangar, and that the "remainder of the freight on the aircraft has been progressively examined and removed from around the area of the rupture."

The team has removed the outer panels around the ruptured area and they are examining the interior of the cabin including the onboard oxygen system, the passenger masks and portable crew oxygen cylinders.

The aircraft's flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) have been removed and sent to Canberra for analysis. The two hour CVR recording was found to commence after the descent and diversion into Manila. The FDR, which nominally records 25 hours of data, is being downloaded at the ATSB facilities. Interviews with both flight crew and cabin crew are being conducted today in Melbourne.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about Qantas Flt 30 on Aircrew Buzz.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Four Star Air Cargo DC-3 engine fire at St. Thomas

DC-3On Wednesday, July 23, 2008, a DC-3 cargo aircraft operated by Four Star Air Cargo experienced an engine fire while taxiing at King Airport, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. No one was injured.

A preliminary report about the incident on the FAA website said that on landing, the aircraft exited to the ramp at the departure end of the runway and reported a left engine on fire. According to a news report about the incident in the Virgin Islands Daily News, the fire was quickly extinguished by airport firefighters.

The extent of the damage to the DC-3 (registration number N131FS), which was manufactured in 1944, was listed as "unknown" in the FAA preliminary report.

With so few of these venerable old planes still flying regularly, one can only hope that the damage can be repaired and that the airplane can return to service. Four Star Air Cargo uses several DC-3 aircraft to fly freight between destinations in the Caribbean.

[Photo Source]

Friday, July 25, 2008

Qantas Flight QF30 -- Sudden decompression in flight

QF30 - July 25, 2008A Qantas Boeing 747-400 made an emergency landing at Manila today, July 25, 2008, after experiencing a sudden decompression in flight. Qantas Flight QF30 had been en route from Hong Kong to Melbourne. A Qantas press release about the incident said that "all 346 passengers and 19 crew disembarked normally and there were no reports of any injuries to passengers or crew."

The aircraft was said to be at an altitude of about 29,000 ft when the crew reportedly heard a loud bang, followed by a rapid depressurization of the cabin. Oxygen masks deployed in the passenger cabin, and various news reports quoted passengers who said a "wind" passed through the cabin carrying with it loose papers and bits of debris. The crew immediately executed an emergency descent to 10,000 ft and diverted to Manila where the aircraft landed safely at about 11:15 AM local time.

Upon landing, a large hole in the fuselage was discovered, just forward of the starboard wing. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is sending a team to assist with the accident investigation, said in an advisory that the aircraft has a 5 foot hole in the cargo area forward of the right wing leading edge and there is also some wing damage.

News photos taken of the aircraft after it was parked on the ramp at Manila, such as this one from Reuters, show that a panel of the fairing between the wing and the body had separated, revealing substantial structural damage inside. A piece of the aircraft's pressure hull is missing, as well as sections of the fuselage frame. What appears to be baggage or cargo is visible through the gaping hole. In all, not a very pretty sight!

The accident investigation team will include representatives of the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau (ATSB); Qantas Airways; the U.S. NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); Boeing; and possibly others.

In a second Qantas press release, the airline's CEO, Geoff Dixon, praised the pilots and cabin crew for the way they handled the incident. I would like to join in extending congratulations to the entire crew of Flight QF30 for a job well done.

[Photo Source]

Related:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Near mid-air collision at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport

NTSB logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced yesterday that an investigation has been initiated regarding a near mid-air collision at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD) earlier this week. The incident occurred on Monday, July 21, 2008, at 12:47 CDT, when a regional jet operated by American Eagle, and a privately owned Learjet LR60 came in close proximity to one another while aloft. There were no reports of injuries, and no damage to either aircraft.

According to information in today's NTSB Advisory about the incident, an Embraer ERJ-145 aircraft, operating as American Eagle Flight EGF298, was departing ORD runway 32L, and the Learjet was landing on runway 9R. The local assistant/monitor for the local air traffic controller observed the converging paths of the two airplanes and advised the local controller to instruct the Learjet to go around. The American Eagle ERJ-145 was instructed to stay low on departure. The NTSB says that analysis of radar replays revealed that the Learjet passed 325 feet above and slightly behind the departing ERJ-145.

The NTSB states that as a result of this incident, new procedures have been implemented for arrivals to runway 9R requiring specific coordination between approach control and the tower regarding whether 9R is in use.

American Eagle Flight EGF298 was departing on a scheduled passenger flight to Greater Peoria Regional Airport (PIA). The Learjet (registration N252RP) was operating under 14 CFR Part 91 as a corporate flight. FAA records indicate that the Learjet is owned by Electrolux Home Products, Inc. of Augusta, GA.

According to the NTSB, a preliminary report on the incident is expected to be published later this week on the Board's website.

This near collision comes close on the heels of another midair incident earlier this month at New York's JFK Airport. In that incident, the path of a LAN Chile Boeing 767-300 that was departing JFK's runway 13R intersected with that of a Cayman Airways Boeing 737-300, which had performed a go-around while on approach to JFK runway 22L. Air traffic controllers at New York TRACON estimated their closest proximity at 100 feet.

UPDATE: Mar. 3, 2009: The NTSB recently issued a report about this incident, concluding that the 'probable cause' was: "The LC-10 [Local Control] controller's failure to ensure the appropriate separation between two airplanes operating on runways where flight paths intersect."

For more details, see: Chicago-O'Hare air traffic controller blamed for near mid-air collision

Garuda pilot goes on trial for 2007 crash at Yogyakarta

Garuda Pilot Marwoto KomarThe trial of Marwoto Komar began today in Indonesia. The former Garuda Indonesia captain is being tried as a criminal for allegedly causing a plane crash in which 21 people died. He could be sentenced to life in prison if he is convicted. The trial is expected to run for several months.

Marwoto Komar is believed to be first pilot to face criminal charges arising from an aircraft accident in Indonesia. He is charged with three counts of negligence and one count of deliberately destroying or damaging an aircraft, and causing death.

The Reuters news agency reported that in the course of the first day of the trial's proceedings in Sleman, on the island of Java, Prosecutor Mudim Aristo told a five-judge panel, "The defendant deliberately and against the law caused an accident, destroyed and damaged a plane which led to deaths."

Marwoto Komar has reportedly refused to accept the charges. His defense attorney, Muhammad Assegaf, maintains that Komar should not be tried under the Indonesian Criminal Code. Instead he should be subject to discipline under aviation laws. Many in the worldwide aviation community support this view, and are in fact appalled that criminal proceedings are being pursued in this case.

Background

Marwoto Komar was the pilot in command of Garuda Indonesia Flight GA200, a Boeing 737-400 that overran a runway at Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 2007, and burst into flames, killing 21 of the people on board. An investigation of the accident by Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) concluded, in essence, that the crash occurred due to pilot error. (See the NTSC's English Language Media Release about the GA 200 accident investigation for descriptive details.)

In February of this year, Marwoto Komar was arrested and charged with manslaughter. At that time, the Federation of Indonesian Pilots (FPI) immediately protested the arrest, and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA), an advocacy group representing more than 100,000 pilots in more than 95 countries worldwide, issued a statement in which they expressed concern about the criminalization of individuals involved in aviation accidents and incidents. Both the FPI and IFALPA contend that the criminal prosecution of Marwoto Komar and other pilots in such circumstances does little to promote air safety, and instead "may well foreclose further investigation for safety purposes."

Citing Attachment E of ICAO Annex 13, IFALPA "strongly insisted" that the principles "which hold that there should be no criminal liability without intent to do harm, be the standard to which the crew is held." This point of view is widely shared within the aviation community.

Criminalization of Accidents

The criminal proceedings against Marwoto Komar set a dangerous precedent. Clearly, if pilots believe they will face criminal prosecution over an accident, why would they ever cooperate with an investigation of the accident? The purpose of such trials as the present one seems to be to assign blame and exact punishment, a strategy which, at the end of the day, is seen as counterproductive to aviation safety.

Earlier this year, the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) sponsored a panel discussion about criminal prosecutions in the wake of aircraft accidents at the European Aviation Safety Seminar in Bucharest, Romania. A press release announcing the event included the following statement:
"We are very concerned about recent attempts by prosecutors to turn accidents into crime scenes and to prosecute aviation professionals based on tragic mistakes, often using information and data that are provided voluntarily to improve aviation safety," said FSF President and CEO William R. Voss. "The safety of the traveling public depends on encouraging a climate of openness and cooperation following accidents. Overzealous prosecutions threaten to dry up vital sources of information and jeopardize safety."
Aircrew Buzz will continue to report new developments in this case as they occur.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about Garuda Flt 200 on Aircrew Buzz.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Court orders Philippine Airlines to reinstate 1,400 cabin crew jobs, with back wages

Philippine AirlinesEarlier this week, the Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines ordered national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) to reinstate about 1,400 cabin crew who were illegally laid off by the carrier in 1998. The cabin crew jobs were eliminated during the Asian financial crisis, a period when Philippine Airlines was undergoing financial difficulties and labor disputes that led the carrier to temporarily shut down operations. The court decision is seen as a clear victory for the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (Fasap), which had filed suit against the carrier on behalf of the dismissed cabin crew.

According to an article about the court decision in the Manila Sun-Star, the Supreme Court "granted the petition filed by the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (Fasap) seeking a reversal of the Court of Appeals (CA) decision upholding PAL's retrenchment program."
The SC sustained the findings of the labor arbiter that found PAL guilty of illegal dismissal and ordered the reinstatement of the dismissed employees, saying the airline failed to comply with certain standards established under the law.

The high court said PAL failed to justify that the retrenchment is necessary and likely to prevent business losses; that the dismissal was done in good faith; and that it used reasonable criteria in ascertaining who would be dismissed and who would be retained among the employees, such as status, efficiency, seniority, physical fitness, age, and financial hardship for certain workers.

According to the SC, PAL initially decided to cut its fleet size to only 14 or "Plan 14," based on which plan, it retrenched more than 1,400 of its cabin crew personnel. However, PAL changed its mind and decided to retain 22 units of aircraft or "Plan 22" but has already retrenched more than what was necessary.

Such move, the court said, is "capricious and arbitrary" and in bad faith considering that more than 1,000 employees who had been working long with PAL lost their jobs, only to be recalled but assigned to lower positions.
The court ruled that PAL acted illegally "because it failed to take into account each cabin attendant's respective service record, thereby disregarding seniority and loyalty in the evaluation of overall employee performance."

The Sun-Star reported that, under the terms of the court decision, PAL is "directed to pay the dismissed employees their full back wages, inclusive of allowances and other benefits computed from the time of their separation up to the time of the actual reinstatement. When reinstatement is no longer feasible, the court ordered PAL to pay the back wages, in lieu of the reinstatement, and separation pay equal to one month's pay for every year of service."

Cabin pressure loss on Continental Boeing 737, with 7 Congressmen aboard

Ron PaulOn Tuesday, July 22, 2008, a Continental Airlines Boeing 737-700 aircraft experienced a loss of cabin pressure while en route from Houston to Washington, DC. The aircraft diverted to New Orleans. No one was injured.

Among the passengers on board Continental Flight COA458 were seven Congressmen from Texas, including Rep. Ron Paul (pictured at right), formerly a candidate for the U.S. Presidency. The other Congressmen on the flight were Reps. John Carter, Henry Cuellar, Nick Lampson, Solomon P. Ortiz, Ted Poe, and Ciro Rodriguez.

The aircraft had departed from Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport and was en route to Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. when the incident occurred. According to various news reports, the aircraft cabin lost pressure, and oxygen masks deployed in the passenger cabin. The aircraft made an emergency descent and diverted to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, where it landed safely.

Rep. Lampson released a statement in which he said, "Continental Airline’s personnel and staff were exceptional, executing what seemed to me a textbook performance in emergency procedures. I was very impressed with the level of professionalism and care the crew exercised in mitigating this situation and ensuring the safety of all the passengers."

There is a strange footnote to this tale. The seven lawmakers were returning to Washington to cast their votes on an aviation safety bill. H.R. 6493: Aviation Safety Enhancement Act of 2008, was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday, by a vote of 392-0, with 42 not voting.

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sterling Airlines Boeing 737 ends up on its tail at Málaga

A strange incident in Spain turned a Boeing 737 aircraft into a tail dragger several days ago. The aircraft, operated by Copenhagen-based Sterling Airlines A/S, ended up perched on its tail on the ramp at Málaga, Spain after an unusual encounter with a jetbridge. The incident occurred on July 20, 2008, shortly after the aircraft arrived at Málaga. Details of exactly what happened are sketchy, but several news reports, including one on the Spanish language website 20minutos.es, say that after the jetbridge was attached to the aircraft at the gate, it somehow managed to lift the forward section of the aircraft completely off the ground, leaving it balanced on its tail. No one was injured, and passengers deplaned through an aft door. An investigation is underway to determine if the cause was human error or some mechanical fault.

Here is a YouTube video showing the precariously perched B737 on the ramp at Málaga:



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

Monday, July 21, 2008

ASA flight attendants ratify new three-year contract

ASA flight attendantFlight attendants at Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) have a new contract. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing ASA's flight attendants, announced today that the flight attendants had overwhelmingly ratified a three year agreement.

According to the union, the new contract contains economic gains, as well as significant work rule improvements that will improve the lives of the hardworking flight attendants at ASA. In addition, the new contract will serve as a good building block for the next round of contract negotiations that will begin in three years.

“We are very pleased that this agreement ratified,” said Jeannie Babb, AFA-CWA Master Executive Council President. “It represents almost five years of hard work which could not have been accomplished without the commitment of the negotiating committee and the support of the flight attendants at ASA. We would like to also acknowledge the assistance that the National Mediation Board provided during the negotiations.”

[Photo Source]

Operations suspended at Thai carrier One-Two-Go Airlines

One-Two-Go MD-82Thailand-based low-fare carrier One-Two-Go Airlines, a subsidiary of the Orient Thai Airline Co., is grounding its planes from July 22, 2008 to September 15, 2008. According to an article on Bloomberg News, the suspension is the result of fuel costs, which have more than doubled in the past year. But other media sources suggest there may be more to this move than financial restructuring: suspension of the airline's Air Operator Certificate, for instance.

The Bangkok Post reports that Thailand's Civil Aviation Department (CAD) has ordered One-Two-Go "to halt operations for 30 days due to substandard operations and revoked or suspended the flying licences of nine of its pilots." Quoting Chaisak Angsuwan, director-general of the Thai CAD, the Bangkok Post says:
The department had found shortcomings in the airline's aviation operations, flight schedules and maintenance, along with a lack of quality assurance.

The low-cost airline had violated aviation safety regulations and lacked proper airline management.

The flying licences of seven of the airline's foreign pilots were revoked, six Indonesians and a Venezuelan, and the licences of two Thai pilots suspended.

The department found the pilots on the airline's MD80 series aircraft had submitted documents misstating their level of expertise.
The Bangkok Post article mentioned that Udom Tantiprasongchai, the president of One-Two-Go Airlines, said the nine pilots "were sacked on July 8." However, Mr. Chaisak also said that the CAD expects to file charges criminal against the airline and its pilots in two weeks.

The CAD's decision to suspend One-Two-Go's Air Operator Certificate apparently arose from their investigation of the crash of One-Two-Go Flight OG269 at Phuket in September of last year, which killed 89 people and injured dozens more. The families of a number of that accident's victims are suing the airline, claiming that the crash was due to safety deficiencies.

In any case, One-Two-Go Airlines is grounded -- at least for now. A message on the One-Two-Go website says simply:
Dear Valued Passengers

We would like to inform you that during 22 July 2008 – 15 September 2008 we are operating a reduced schedule.

We apologize for any inconvenience to your travel plan and thank you for your kind understanding.

One-Two-Go Airlines.
[Photo Source]

Sunday, July 20, 2008

First Flight for the Boeing 777 Freighter

Boeing 777 FreighterLast week, the first Boeing 777 Freighter made its maiden flight, taking off and landing again at Paine Field in Everett, WA. The flight, which lasted more than three and a half hours, was under the command of 777 Chief Pilot Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann, with 777 Deputy Chief Pilot Van Chaney in the right seat. They took the airplane to an altitude of 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) and an air speed of 270 knots, or about 311 miles (500 kilometers).

A Boeing media release about the B-777 Freighter's first flight said that the aircraft performed well, and quoted Capt. Darcy-Hennemann who said, "The airplane handled perfectly."

"The 777 Freighter completed the scheduled three-hour inaugural flight with no airplane performance-related issues," said Dennis O'Donoghue, vice president of Flight Operations, Test & Validation. "The only issue was a data-communication problem between the airplane and the telemetry room at Boeing Field."

Boeing will identify and fix the problem to resume the flight test program as soon as possible. Following approximately 270 flight hours and more than 450 ground test hours, Boeing hopes to earn certification for the 'Triple-7' Freighter from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Europe's Joint Aviation Authority during the fourth quarter.

According to Boeing, the 777 Freighter, the sixth member of the 777 airplane family, will be capable of flying 4,885 nautical miles (9,047 km) with a full payload, making it the world's longest-range twin-engine freighter. The airplane's range capability will translate into significant savings for cargo operators: fewer stops and associated landing feeds, less congestion at transfer hubs, lower cargo handling costs and shorter cargo delivery times.

So far there are 78 firm orders from 11 customers for the Boeing 777 Freighter. Boeing hopes to deliver the first B777 Freighter to its launch customer, Air France, soon after certification.

[Photo Source]

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mexicana Airbus A320 runway overrun at Chicago-O'hare Airport

Mexicana Airlines logoA Mexicana Airlines Airbus A320 aircraft overran a runway at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD) on July 18, 2008, just after 7PM local time. According to the airline, the aircraft, operating as Mexicana Flight MXA802 from Mexico City, had 138 passengers and 7 crew members on board. News reports say that one flight attendant was injured and was taken to the hospital. The flight attendant's injuries are said to be "not life-threatening."

Many news reports have stated that the aircraft "overshot the runway," but, technically speaking, this is not true. The aircraft apparently landed on ORD runway 22L, but then overran the end of the runway and was stopped by the runway's arrestor bed. At the time of the overrun incident, the weather was reported to be rainy, with strong and gusty crosswinds. It is not known at this time if the weather played a causal role in the incident.

Passengers evacuated through an aft door of the aircraft, and descended to the runway via a stair truck. They were transferred from the runway to the terminal by bus.

This incident illustrates the value of arrestor beds at the end of runways. Arrestor beds have been installed just recently at both Chicago Midway Airport and O'Hare International Airport. The arrestor beds, officially known as Engineered Material Arresting Systems (EMAS), are areas of crushable material -- usually a mixture of water, foam and concrete -- beyond the threshold of a runway. The material is designed to crush under the weight of an aircraft, absorbing energy and gradually reducing the airplane's forward momentum until it stops, similar in concept to runaway truck ramps.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Qantas to reduce work force by 1,500 worldwide

Qantas logoAustralian airline Qantas has just announced plans to let go 1,500 employees worldwide by December of this year. As a part of the work force reduction, the airline's call centers in Tucson, AZ, and London will be closed. The Jetstar crew base at Adelaide also will be shut down. (Jetstar is the low-fare subsidiary of Qantas.)

In a statement to the press, Chief Executive Officer of Qantas Airways Ltd, Geoff Dixon, said that in addition to the job cuts, Qantas would not implement its budgeted growth in flying in the 2008/09 financial year and would cancel plans to hire a further 1,200 people for that growth. Citing sustained high oil prices and changing economic conditions, Qantas also announced plans to retire 22 aircraft.

Mr Dixon said every effort would be made to achieve the job cuts through voluntary redundancy, early retirements, leave without pay, an accelerated leave program and converting positions from full-time to part time.
"However, some compulsory redundancies will be necessary, which we regret.

"The jobs to be cut will be principally concentrated in non-operational areas, although operational positions will also go."

"Over 20 per cent of our management and head office support jobs will be cut," he said.
Mr. Dixon maintained the job cuts and capacity reduction are necessary to "protect our competitive position, protect the great majority of over 36,000 jobs and enable us to grow profitably when conditions improve."

According to today's announcement, Qantas plans to:
  • maintain a recruitment and executive pay freeze for the foreseeable future
  • reduce forecast capacity growth in 2008/09 from eight per cent to nil growth
  • retire up to 22 older aircraft from its fleet of 228 (including announcements previously made)
  • close its long-running call centres in Tucson, Arizona and London at a cost of 99 jobs, and concentrate all its call centre activity in Australia and New Zealand
  • suspend Jetstar's recruitment program until the end of the year, including its recruitment of pilots under the 457 visa program
  • close Jetstar's cabin crew and pilot base in Adelaide by the end of August, with Jetstar's 37 return weekly Adelaide flights to remain and be serviced by aircraft and staff based in Darwin and Sydney
  • proceed with its major fleet re-equipment program of new and more fuel efficient aircraft such as the A380 and B787
  • proceed with its customer-focused product and service initiatives such as domestic Business class lounges, terminal facilities and opening the new Qantas Customer Service Centre of Excellence
Mr. Dixon noted that agreements reached earlier this week with the unions representing the airline's engineers and pilots "provided greater flexibility for Qantas and its pilots and its engineers, certainty at a volatile and difficult time and maintenance of a sustainable wages policy."

Qantas already had undertaken several moves to restructure in the past few months, including cutting unprofitable routes, and raising fares, and closing a Jetstar crew base in Cairns.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

TSA launches expedited security screening for flight deck crews

TSA logoI received the following press release from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today -- reporoduced here for your information:
WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today launched crewPASS, a test program designed to evaluate expedited access to secure areas of airports for properly credentialed commercial flight deck crew members. The program is a mandate of the 9/11 bill and will be evaluated at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Pittsburgh International Airport and Columbia (S.C.) Metropolitan Airport.

Eligible flight deck crew members will enter the secure area of these checkpoints via the exit lane of the security checkpoint after presenting their airline-issued identification and another form of ID to transportation security officers (TSOs). TSOs will check these credentials via a secure, real-time flight deck crew member database that includes a picture and other information to verify the individual's identity. Flight deck crew members who utilize this program will be subject to random screening, observation by behavior detection officers and other layers of security.

"We are very interested in developing ways to increase security through enhanced identity verification," said John Sammon, assistant administrator, TSA. "We are also interested in evaluating this program's ability to increase security by decreasing the number of people being screened, which allows our behavior detection officers to focus on individuals that exhibit suspicious behavior."

This test, which is being conducted in cooperation with the Air Line Pilots Association, will be limited to flight deck crew members in uniform and is scheduled to conclude after 60 days, at which time a full evaluation will be made.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New FAA rule aims to prevent catastrophic fuel tank explosions in planes

FAA logoA new rule, titled Reduction of Fuel Tank Flammability in Transport Category Airplanes, has been has been issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation and incorporated into the regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The rule requires "operators and manufacturers of transport category airplanes to take steps that, in combination with other required actions, should greatly reduce the chances of a catastrophic fuel tank explosion."

The new FAA rule, hailed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as an important step in aviation safety that will save lives, arose in part from the NTSB's findings regarding the TWA Flight 800 accident in 1996. TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747 en route from New York to Paris, exploded minutes after taking off from JFK Airport, killing 230 people. The NTSB investigation determined that the probable cause of the TWA Flight 800 crash was "an explosion of the center wing fuel tank, resulting from ignition of the flammable fuel/air mixture in the tank."

The NTSB subsequently called upon the FAA to require design or operational changes that would preclude the operation of large airplanes with explosive fuel-air mixtures in the fuel tank. In NTSB Safety Recommendation A-96-174, published in December of 1996, the Board recommended that the FAA give significant consideration to the development of airplane design modifications, such as nitrogen-inerting systems, and to apply such modifications to newly certificated airplanes and, where feasible, to existing airplanes. The new FAA rule is in response to that recommendation.

The new fuel tank flammability reduction requirements specify that new aircraft must have the technology built in, and that older aircraft be retrofitted with the system. Boeing and Airbus passenger aircraft with heated center wing tanks and manufactured before 2009 now must be retrofitted with a flammability reduction means, such as a fuel tank inerting system, or with ignition mitigation means, such as polyurethane foam. A fuel tank inerting system fills air space inside the tank with an inert (i.e., non-flammable) gas such as nitrogen.

The retrofit requirement excludes cargo aircraft. The rule will apply to both Boeing and Airbus passenger and cargo aircraft manufactured after 2009.

If you are interested in all the fine details of the new rule, here is the link to the full text: Reduction of Fuel Tank Flammability in Transport Category Airplanes - U.S. Dept. of Transportation (233 page 'pdf file)

American Airlines wants to eliminate 200 pilot jobs

American AirlinesEver since May, when American Airlines announced its capacity reduction plans, the specter of furloughs has been looming on the horizon. Earlier this month, American announced that it would cut 900 flight attendants from its workforce in the fall. Now it's the pilots' turn. According to the Allied Pilots Association (APA), the union representing American Airlines pilots, the airline is seeking to eliminate 200 pilot jobs.

A hotline message on the APA website informed the pilot membership yesterday of the possibility of up to 200 pilot furloughs starting in October 2008. American Airlines management indicated to the pilots' union that they would be sending a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) letter to APA by July 31.

Management has presented the pilots' union with a proposal for what they labeled a “Furlough Mitigation Severance Program,” or FMSP, which the union leadership is now studying. Under the terms of the FMSP, pilots would receive a severance incentive equal to the amount of furlough pay a pilot would receive, to a maximum of four and a half months. Under the proposal, the “target number of furloughs” would be reduced one for one by pilots accepting the program.

The APA hotline message says:
The proposal calls for a total of 200 captains to be offered the severance incentive as follows: 40 B777 captains, 20 B767 captains, 60 A300 captains, 80 MD80 captains and no B737 captains. Management confirmed to our negotiators that those captains who accept the offer would waive the right to set their own retirement date and be terminated with no ability to lock in their B-Plan unit value.
Under the terms of the proposal the pilots' monthly maximum would be increased up to 82 hours. In addition, it would enable management to increase the monthly maximum up to 95 hours "in the event the Company experiences greater than forecast attrition beyond the number of pilots who accept the FMSP."

In the hotline message to the American Airlines pilots, APA Communications Committee member Captain Kevin Cornwell wrote, "In light of the ongoing reliability problems our airline is experiencing, it’s clear that we continue to suffer from insufficient staffing. Although the prospect of pilot furloughs is not a complete surprise given the previously announced flight attendant furloughs, it’s difficult to understand the logic behind any pilot furloughs from an operational standpoint. It would also be hard to make sense of the decision to recall pilots in June if management proceeds to furlough those same pilots again four months later."

APA negotiators are considering the details of the proposal in order to prepare their response.

Separately, AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines, announced its second quarter results today, reporting a net loss of $1.4 billion. In the press release accompanying the quarterly earnings report, AMR gave details of its plans to reduce its fleet:
... AMR has decided to retire all 34 of its A300 aircraft by the end of 2009, compared to the previous retirement schedule that extended through 2012. In 2008, AMR will retire 30 MD-80s, 10 A300s and 26 Saab turbo-prop aircraft, and will retire or remove from service 37 regional jets. The remaining A300s will be retired in 2009, which is expected to result in capacity reductions next year. As it begins to replace its MD-80 fleet, the Company continues to expect to take delivery of 70 more-fuel-efficient Boeing 737-800 aircraft in 2009 and 2010.
The company also said that it had "decided to place on hold its planned divestiture of American Eagle."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

NTSB investigating two runway incursions at Teterboro Airport

NTSB logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has launched an investigation into two recent runway incursion incidents at New Jersey's Teterboro Airport (TEB). The first of the two incidents occurred on June 25, 2008, when a JetRide Learjet 45 flew over two airport workers at a height of 150 ft. and landed on a closed runway. The second incident occurred on July 9, 2008, when a Cessna 172 taxied across the hold line for a runway on which a Falcon 200 had just been cleared for take-off. No one was injured in either incident.

Here are details of the Learjet incident, from the NTSB Preliminary Incident Report (re-paragraphed for easier reading):
On June 25, 2008, at 5:34 am eastern daylight time, a runway incursion occurred at Teterboro Airport (TEB), Teterboro, New Jersey involving Windrider (WDR) flight 988, a Learjet 45, occurred during the midnight shift when there was one controller scheduled to be in the tower.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported that runway 1/19 had been closed by Airport Operations and confirmed by the controller. The controller placed two runway incursion devices (RID) at the local control position but did not inform approach control of the closure.

A lighted X had been placed on the runway at the departure end of runway 19.

The approach controller called the tower controller 27 minutes later to request a visual approach to runway 19 for WDR988. The tower controller approved the request. On the initial transmission, the tower controller cleared WDR988 to land on runway 19.

The airplane flew over two employees who were working north of the displaced threshold of runway 19, between taxiways L/A and B and landed on the runway. The displaced threshold is 770 feet from the approach end of runway 19. Closest estimated proximity was 150 feet vertical.

The controller was working the local control position for 7 hours and 21 minutes when the incident occurred. At the time of the incident it was daylight, the wind was calm, sky clear, with 10 statute miles visibility.

The initial review of data indicated that the controller sounded engaged and alert in his communications with aircraft and vehicles operating on the airfield. The controller was scheduled to work the midnight shifts each night from June 23 through June 26. The week before this event, the controller worked evening shifts (3:00 pm to 11:00 pm). The controller's statement reads in its entirety, "While performing required non-control duties WDR 988 landed on runway 19".

The automatic terminal information service (ATIS) information H did not mention the closed runway. [NTSB ID: OPS08IA009]
Here is what the NTSB had to say in a news release about the Cessna/Falcon incident:
On July 9, 2008, at 10:10 a.m. (EDT), a Cessna 172 (N316AS) and, a Dassault Falcon 200 (N277QS) were also involved in a runway incursion at Teterboro Airport.

The Cessna landed on runway 19 and requested a back taxi to the approach end of runway 19 for departure. The ground controller instructed the pilot to taxi to runway 19 via taxiway L and to hold short of runway 19. However, the pilot was not instructed to hold short of runway 24, which intersected runway 19.

The airplane had crossed the hold line for runway 24 but not over the runway edge when the tower controller cleared the Falcon for takeoff on runway 24. The tower cancelled the Falcon's clearance once it was determined that the Cessna was across the runway hold line. The FAA reported the two airplanes were 1,200 feet apart.

The incident occurred during the day shift with a front line manager and two air traffic control specialists on position.
Here are the NTSB Preliminary Incident reports about the second incident: NTSB ID: OPS08IA010A; NTSB ID: OPS08IA010B

NTSB Air Traffic Control Investigator Daniel Bartlett has been designated Investigator-in-charge for both incidents.

All Cathay Pacific cabin crew may now work until age 55

Cathay Pacific AirwaysEffective immediately, all flight attendants at Cathay Pacific Airways will be able to continue working at the airline until they reach the age of 55. Until now, cabin crew who began working for Cathay Pacific after 1993 faced mandatory retirement at age 45. Those hired before 1993 were allowed to work until they became 55. Under the new rule, the same retirement age will apply for all, regardless of hire date. The rule applies to both male and female cabin crew.

The change reflects recent negotiations between the Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants' Union and the airline's management. The rule change will affect the 5,000 cabin crew currently based in Hong Kong, and also will be applied to the 1,500 or so new-hires that Cathay Pacific intends to add to its work force by the end of this year.

Monday, July 14, 2008

FAA will install new Runway Status Lights at major airports across the U.S.

FAA logoThe U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that Runway Status Lights soon will be installed at major airports across the country. The lights, which warn pilots when it is unsafe to cross or enter a runway, are currently being tested at Dallas Ft. Worth and San Diego International Airports.

The FAA expects to award a contract this fall to install the Runway Status Lights at: Atlanta, Baltimore Washington International, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Dulles, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston Intercontinental, John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Newark, O’Hare, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, and Seattle airports. The installation will be accomplished over the next three years.

In a statement about the new system, acting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Robert Sturgell said, "Severe runway incursions are down, and, we’re putting technology and procedures in place to keep it that way. We’re making changes on the runway and in the cockpit that are going to make a significant difference."

And there's more:
Sturgell also announced that the FAA will provide up to $5 million to test in-cockpit displays that increase runway safety. The funding will cover technology that includes either an aural runway alerting system that lets pilots know where they are on the runways they are entering, crossing, or departing; or an electronic flight bag, which is an electronic display system that gives pilots information about a variety of aviation data. Most electronic flight bags incorporate a feature called airport moving map that shows aircraft positions on the airfield.

In return for the funding, aircraft owners are expected to equip their aircraft to participate in a test bed program that will evaluate operational and safety data. The in-cockpit displays have the potential to help reduce pilot errors, which are now the cause of most runway incursions.

The FAA is also soliciting industry proposals to acquire and install low-cost ground surveillance systems at airports that are not scheduled to receive Airport Surface Detection Equipment (either ASDE-3 or ASDE-X) under current FAA programs. The goal is to increase surface situational awareness and safety margins at selected airports by making basic ground surveillance technology available. The FAA has evaluated two such systems at an airport in Spokane, Washington. This new procurement will support a pilot project deployment to six additional airports during 2009. More airports will be added after a final investment decision is approved. The FAA expects to make initial awards for the pilot project by the end of August 2008.
Sturgell said that improving runway safety and reducing the risk of runway incursions are two of the FAA’s top priorities.

Crew of British Airways Flight 038 receive medals

Senior crew of British Airways Flight 038The crew members of British Airways Flight 038, the Boeing 777 that crash landed at London's Heathrow International Airport (LHR) on January 17, 2008 were given British Airways' highest accolade for their professionalism on the day of the accident. Pictured here, in a photo taken the day after the accident, are the senior crew members from BA Flight 038. Left to right, they are senior First Officer John Coward, who was the pilot flying at the time of the emergency; Captain Peter Burkill, pilot in command; and Cabin Service Director Sharron Eaton-Mercer, the senior cabin crew member on the flight.

All three pilots and 13 cabin crew members who were working on BA Flight 038 at the time of the accident were awarded the BA Safety Medal by BA chief executive Willie Walsh "for their remarkable skill and courage." The BA Safety Medal has been awarded only three times before.

In a statement about the award issued by British Airways, Willie Walsh said: "The crew demonstrated incredible professionalism, first in landing the aircraft safely and then evacuating all the passengers with only a few minor injuries sustained. The whole of British Airways is extremely proud of them."

Captain Peter Burkill said: "It is a great privilege for us to receive the BA Safety Medal. We are extremely honoured to be added to the list of the very few people who have received this award.

"The training we undergo at British Airways is second to none. During the events of the 17 January these skills kicked in, as we did everything we could to ensure the safety of our passengers."

Congratulations to all the crew of BA Flight 038 for a job well done.

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

[Photo Source]

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Republic Airways to eliminate 500 jobs

Republic AirwaysRepublic Airways Holdings -- the parent company of regional air carriers Chautauqua Airlines, Republic Airlines and Shuttle America -- announced late last week that it will reduce its work force by 10%, or about 500 employees. According to Republic Airways, the company currently employs approximately 5,000 people. The staff reductions will be implemented over the next several months.

“These reductions reflect our response to the actions our network partners are taking to reduce the size of their domestic hub operations in light of sustained, high fuel prices. The combined impacts of fewer aircraft flying and lower utilization rates on our smaller jet aircraft are leaving us with no choice but to adjust our business to current market conditions,” said Bryan Bedford, Chairman, president and CEO of Republic Airways. “We regret having to make this difficult decision and we will continue working hard to grow our business with larger capacity aircraft and get our people back to work as soon as possible.”

Republic's 227 regional jets operate under contract as American Connection, Continental Express, Delta Connection, United Express and US Airways Express flights. Earlier this month, United Airlines notified Republic that it plans to terminate its contract with Chautauqua at the end of next year. United also has a contract with Shuttle America.