Saturday, January 31, 2009

Southwest Airlines Pilots: Tentative Agreement on New 5-year Contract

Southwest Airlines logoThe Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association (SWAPA) notified its membership yesterday that a tentative agreement (TA) for a new five year contract had been reached. Southwest pilots have been working under a contract that became amendable on August 31, 2006, and negotiations had been underway since September of 2006. The new contract, if approved by the membership, will run through August 31, 2011.

According to a message sent to the membership by the SWAPA leadership, the TA includes a retroactive pay raise, an increase in 401(k) matching, better scheduling and work rules language, and an improved disability program.

Also mentioned is a provision that prohibits code-shares on domestic routes, although restrictions regarding international code-shares were not disclosed.

A Southwest Airlines press release about the TA said:
The Company is pleased with this tentative agreement that delivers raises and increased retirement benefits for Southwest Pilots. This agreement once again demonstrates SWAPA's commitment to maintain Southwest's competitive position and financial strength during these challenging economic times.

The tentative agreement is still subject to finalizing language and approval by the SWAPA Board of Directors. If the SWAPA Board of Directors approves the tentative agreement, it will be presented to all members of SWAPA for review and a ratification vote.
Also this week, Southwest's mechanics, represented by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), voted to ratify their tentative agreement for a new four year contract. That TA was reached in December of 2008. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement between AMFA and Southwest is scheduled to be signed next week.

UPDATE June 3, 2009: Back to the bargaining table: Southwest Airlines pilots contract ratification vote fails

Friday, January 30, 2009

US Airways Flight 1549: View from a pilot who was a passenger on board

Trebor Banstetter, who writes the Sky Talk blog for, has posted A view of Flight 1549 from another pilot. It is an account of the US Airways A320 that ditched in the Hudson River earlier this month, written by a 'jumpseating' American Airlines B767 pilot who was seated in the passenger cabin on that flight.

The pilot says she heard "several loud thumps occurring roughly simultaneously along both sides of the aircraft." She described smoke and "the stench of burning bird" as the aircraft began a left turn. She thought they were returning to LaGuardia until she realized they were not maintaining altitude.

Then came the PA announcement from the flight deck to "Brace for impact."
Obviously we weren’t returning to LGA, and I could see enough out the window to realize we’d be landing in the river. The flight attendants began shouting their “brace” litanies and kept it up until touchdown. The descent seemed very controlled, and the sink rate reasonably low. I believed the impact would be violent but survivable, although I did consider the alternative. The passengers remained calm and almost completely quiet. As we approached the water, I braced by folding my arms against the seat back in front of me, then putting my head against my arms. There was a brief hard jolt, a rapid decel and we were stopped. It was much milder than I had anticipated. If the jolt had been turbulence, I would have described it as moderate. Thinking about it later on, I realized it was no worse than a carrier landing.
The pilot goes on to describe the evacuation, the rescue of passengers and crew by the boats, the scene on shore, and the aftermath. She praises the entire crew of US Airways Flight 1549, and especially Capt. Sullenberger for his leadership role throughout the flight, ditching, and evacuation, and continuing after everyone was ashore. She describes the assistance she received from US Airways staff and USAPA, and later, her own airline and union.

It's a fascinating read. Go have a look: here's the link.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about US Airways Flt 1549 on Aircrew Buzz.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

NTSB Blames NASCAR Aviation Dept. and Pilots for 2007 Plane Crash

NTSB logoIn July of 2007, a Cessna 310 crashed into a residential area near Orlando, FL. The crash and ensuing fire killed both pilots and three people on the ground, and injured a number of others. The aircraft and several houses were destroyed. It wasn't a commercial flight, but you may remember it just the same. The aircraft belonged to the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), so the accident got a lot of media coverage.

A report released yesterday by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable causes for the accident were "the actions and decisions by National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing’s corporate aviation division’s management and maintenance personnel to allow the accident airplane to be released for flight with a known and unresolved discrepancy, and the accident pilots’ decision to operate the airplane with that known discrepancy, a discrepancy that likely resulted in an in-flight fire."

According to the NTSB, another NASCAR pilot flew the accident aircraft the day before the accident, and reported a "burning smell" while in flight. The pilot turned off the weather radar and manually pulled the associated circuit breaker, after which the odor dissipated. He recorded this event in the aircraft's maintenance discrepancy binder and reported it to senior staff in the NASCAR corporate flight department.

Despite being aware of this unresolved issue involving the aircraft's electrical system, the flight department released the aircraft for flight, and the two pilots, one of whom was employed by NASCAR and was aware of the unresolved electrical problem, accepted the aircraft for their planned flight from Daytona Beach to Lakeland, FL.

At some point prior to or during the accident flight, says the NTSB report, it is likely that one of the pilots reset the circuit breaker that had been pulled on the previous flight, re-energizing related components in the electrical system, which likely led to the inflight fire.

While performing an emergency diversion to the Orlando Sanford International Airport after reporting an in-flight fire, the Cessna 310R, (N501N), part of the fleet operated by NASCAR's corporate aviation division, crashed into a residential area, destroying two homes, killing five people (including the two pilots), and injuring several others on the ground. The accident happened on the morning of July 10, 2007.

"This accident is especially tragic not only because lives were lost and people were grievously injured, but because it could have been so easily avoided," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker.

"From the time the plane landed the night before the accident with a known maintenance issue to the time it was airborne the next morning, there were numerous opportunities that should have been taken to stop the chain of events that led to this terrible loss," Rosenker continued.
Additionally, in its findings that the NASCAR flight department had inadequate policies and procedures to prevent an aircraft with a known maintenance issue to be released for flight, the Board determined that had a Safety Management System (SMS) been in place, which would have provided a formal system of risk management and internal oversight, the accident might have been avoided.
Rosenker remarked that "given how effective SMS would likely have been in this accident, those corporate flight departments without one should study the lessons of this accident and ask themselves how they can justify operating without the substantial safety improvements such a program provides."

The Board noted that because the accident flight was released for flight and operated with a known maintenance issue unaddressed, the aircraft was not in compliance with Federal regulations. In reference to a missing maintenance document, Rosenker said, "that the NASCAR flight department had no record of the maintenance form on which the electrical problem was reported by the pilot on the previous flight, is frankly, alarming."

As a result of the investigation, the Board issued five recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Here is the link to the synopsis of the NTSB report, including the probable cause and recommendations

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pilots walk away from ATR-42 accident in Lubbock

ATR-42 (N902FX)Early yesterday morning, January 27, 2009, an ATR-42 aircraft crashed and caught fire at Lubbock, Texas. Both crew members survived. Press reports said that the two pilots 'walked away' from the accident scene. They were treated at a hospital for undisclosed injuries, and later released. According to the FAA preliminary report about the accident, the aircraft was "destroyed."

The accident happened as the cargo aircraft, operating as Empire Airlines Flight 8284, was arriving at Lubbock's Preston Smith International Airport from Fort Worth-Alliance Airport. According to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the aircraft crashed 300 feet short of the threshold while on an Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach to Runway 17. The runway was temporarily shut down after the accident.

The NTSB said that weather at the time of the accident was reported as overcast ceiling at 500 feet above ground level, visibility 2 miles with light freezing drizzle and mist, and wind 020 degrees at 11 knots.

This morning the NTSB announced that it had dispatched a team of investigators to Lubbock. The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder will be removed from the wreckage and shipped to the NTSB's laboratories in Washington, D.C.

The accident aircraft (registration N902FX) was owned by FedEx and operated by Empire Airlines.

[Photo Source]

UPDATE: The KCBD News 11 website has video footage of the ATR-42 accident scene (and related videos - look for more links on the page).

UPDATE Jan. 31, 2009: Leah Yeager, the NTSB's lead investigator for the FedEx/Empire Airlines ATR-42 accident in Lubbock, Texas held a press conference about the preliminary stages of the investigation. KCBD News 11 has posted a video of that press conference.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Spirit Airlines -- At war with its crews?

by B. N. Sullivan

Spirit Airlines A321The management at Spirit Airlines has managed to tick off both its pilots and its flight attendants this week -- badly enough that the unions representing both groups have come out publicly in their defense. Yesterday the pilots' union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), announced their rejection of the airline's latest contract proposal, which they say demands "harsh concessions" in pay, benefits and work rules. Then earlier today, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), representing Spirit's cabin crew, issued a scathing statement accusing the airline's management of offensive advertising practices that demean and degrade flight attendants.

The Pilots

Many pilots at Spirit Airlines believe their contract already is the worst in the U.S. airline industry, but the latest tipping point comes in the wake of the airline's recently announced plans plans to expand service in the Caribbean and U.S. The pilots are incensed that, at the same time the company plans to spend millions on expansion, the latest contract proposal offered to the pilots calls for $5.8 million in concessions, "with additional concessions imposed if dramatic cuts to benefits are taken into account."

"The company has repeatedly asked the pilot group to fund their blunders and now they want us to finance their expansions," said Captain Sean Creed, chairman of ALPA's Spirit Airlines unit. "We want this company to succeed and grow, but not at the cost of our families and our careers."

In addition, says ALPA, the new proposal states that pilots who are injured while on duty would be ineligible for worker’s compensation unless they can show that they are incapable of performing any job at the company "from secretary to janitor." Captain upgrades would also "be based on management’s subjective assessment of the pilot’s personality." If this is so, who can blame the pilots for losing their patience?

The Flight Attendants

The flight attendants -- whose contract negotiations recently resumed after many months of stagnation -- are insulted and angry that they are being asked to become "walking billboards" by wearing inflight aprons bearing the logos of alcoholic beverages. I see their point:
"Turning flight attendants into walking billboards is unacceptable," said Deborah Crowley, AFA-CWA Spirit President. "The proposed aprons diminish the primary and federally mandated role of flight attendants as safety professionals and our role as first responders onboard."

Flight attendants have a statutory obligation to enforce Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations regarding intoxicated passengers. Inflight aprons that prominently display a logo from an alcoholic beverage company send the wrong signal to passengers and diminish the ability of flight attendants to enforce vital safety and security regulations and procedures onboard.
The flight attendants also take issue with recent advertising that they see as degrading and demeaning. (I have seen the sleazy, sophomoric ads, and believe me, the flight attendants are not imagining things!)
"I feel as though I have entered a time warp and am reliving the battles for respect and justice for women that we fought for 40 years ago," said Patricia Friend, AFA-CWA International President. "Several promotional fare ads, with their not very subtle innuendos, are demeaning not to just the hardworking flight attendants at Spirit Airlines but to all of America's professional flight attendants. They offend not just the female population of this country but the male members of humanity who admire and respect women."
The flight attendants' union has formally requested that Spirit management withdraw the demeaning advertising campaigns and "replace them with professional and respectful messaging."

Spirit Airlines, which bills itself as an Ultra Low Cost Carrier, has long been at odds with its crews, who have been complaining of contract violations at least since mid-2007. The mutual disrespect between Spirit management and the pilots continued through 2008, culminating (we thought) with the pilots filing suit against the airline in September of 2008. That suit claimed multiple violations of the Railway Labor Act, the law that governs labor relations in the airline industry.

I smell a strike in the offing if labor relations at Spirit Airlines don't improve very soon.

[Photo Source]

Monday, January 26, 2009

Japan Airlines cuts back on pilot training to save money

JAL logoNews from Japan this week says that the country's national flag carrier, Japan Airlines (JAL), is cutting back on aspects of pilot training as a cost cutting measure. Specifically, the carrier is "suspending part of its pilot training programs," including "those in which trainees accompany other pilots at the cockpit aboard actual commercial flights to become familiar with regular air routes, those for gaining promotion to the rank of chief or deputy chief pilots and those for becoming familiar with newly introduced aircraft models," according to an article on the Japan Today website.

The article continues:
A JAL official said the suspensions, which will last until the end of March, "are provisional steps to improve our profitability, so we will continue to provide the training necessary to enable pilots to maintain their maneuvering skills and pertaining to the safety of our flights." While the transport ministry has accepted the step as there is nothing legally wrong with it, some JAL pilots have criticized the suspensions as a move that could undermine safety standards at the airline.
Not surprisingly, JAL pilots do not look kindly upon this move.

"Providing only minimum levels of training is not appropriate to ensure the safety of flights," one JAL pilot said. Another pilot added, "If training is suspended, it will place greater burdens on us when it is resumed."

Apparently part of the cost-cutting focus is not on training per se, but on the cost of accommodation and transportation costs for the pilots and trainers involved.

Separately, Bloomberg News reported late last week that JAL is asking pilots, cabin crew, and ground workers to volunteer for two months of unpaid leave, beginning next month. The Bloomberg article quoted a JAL spokesman who said the airline is anticipating decline in travel during February and March, particularly on its international routes.

Video: When a large bird hits a jet engine...

Here is what the blurb for this video, called Wide Body, Blade-Out Jet Engine Test, says:
Short video showing what happens when a foreign objectsuch as a large bird is ingested in a jet engine. You don't want to be onboard!!!!

The joke during training was that you could ingest a 5 lb. bird at 250 kts.......... or a 250 lb bird at 5 kts. They actually have a "chicken gun" they use to fire the chickens into the engines for these tests.
Is there anyone out there who can identify what engine this is?

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

Hat tip to YouTube user dknric for posting the video.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Layoffs for 345 more Air Canada flight attendants

Air Canada Boeing 777Air Canada has announced to its staff that it will reduce its flight attendant work force by 345 in early March of this year. The layoffs are a result of the carrier's plans to use one less flight attendant in its business-class cabins on transatlantic flights. Canada's largest airline also is reducing the frequency of flights on certain routes, and using smaller aircraft on other routes. Air Canada currently employs some 5,700 flight attendants.

Several officials of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents Air Canada flight attendants, spoke to the media regarding yesterday's announced job cuts, saying they were unexpected.

Cidalia Ribeiro, president of CUPE Local 4092, told, "They're just saying it's a cost reduction exercise and they're cutting back service on some of our overseas flights."

Ribeiro said at least half of the affected flight attendants are based at Toronto. Air Canada reportedly told its employees that the layoffs are expected to be temporary, and that some might be recalled as early as April.

An article in the Montreal Gazette about the proposed job cuts quoted Paul Moist, national president of the CUPE, who said the loss of hundreds of additional flight attendant jobs means "more pain, and we’re extremely concerned."

Moist also expressed concern that reducing the number of flight attendants on flights on the trans-Atlantic route could have a negative effect on service, and could potentially compromise safety as well.

Air Canada reduced its work force by 2,000 employees in the summer of 2008. Among those laid off were about 600 flight attendants.

[Photo Source]

Saturday, January 24, 2009

NTSB issues second update on US Airways Flight 1549 accident

NTSB logoA short time ago, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a second factual update on the investigation into the ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 in New York's Hudson River. The accident happened on January 15, 2009. Most of the information in today's update centered on the A320's number one engine, which separated from the aircraft at the time of the water landing. The engine was recovered from the Hudson River late yesterday, January 23, 2009.

According to the NTSB, "The initial external examination of the engine revealed dents on both the spinner and inlet lip of the engine cowling. Five booster inlet guide vanes are fractured and eight outlet guide vanes are missing. A visual examination of the engine did not reveal evidence of organic material; there was evidence of soft body impact damage."

The just-released NTSB update also said:
Both of the engines will be boxed and shipped to the manufacturer in Cincinnati where NTSB investigators will oversee a complete tear-down of each engine. Advanced technology will be employed to detect any organic material not apparent during the initial visual examination.

Several NTSB investigators remain on-scene and are supervising Airbus technicians as the aircraft wreckage is prepared for long-term storage. This process includes removing the wings and the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. The aircraft wreckage will be shipped to a secure storage facility where it will remain available to the NTSB throughout the course of the investigation.
The first factual update on US Airways Flight 1549 was issued by the NTSB on January 21, 2009. That update reported on damage to the number two engine, which remained attached to the aircraft after the accident. The preliminary examination of that engine also revealed evidence of soft body impact damage.

The NTSB investigation will continue for some time.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about US Airways Flt 1549 on Aircrew Buzz.

Friday, January 23, 2009

US Airways A320 engine recovered from Hudson River

US Airways A320 engineLate today, the number one engine from the US Airways A320 that ditched in the Hudson River last week was recovered. The engine separated from the aircraft during the emergency water landing on January 15, 2009. The number two engine had remained attached to the aircraft.

Earlier this week, an object believed to be the engine was located through the use of sonar. Divers then confirmed that the object discovered on the riverbed was indeed the A320's missing engine.

An AFP article about the engine recovery quoted a US Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman who said, "The engine has been lifted, put on a barge and is going to the place in New Jersey where the rest of the plane is."

The AFP article went on to say:
Investigators have reported finding "soft body" impacts in the jet's other engine.

The evidence, also including a feather stuck on a wing, appeared to support the belief that the Airbus hit a dense flock of birds before losing power in both engines and crash-landing in New York's Hudson River on January 15.

The rest of the plane was pulled out over the weekend, allowing recovery of the black box flight recorders, which strengthened evidence of a bird-plane collision.
[Photo Source]

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about US Airways Flt 1549 on Aircrew Buzz.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Turbulence injures Northwest flight attendant and several passengers

Northwest Airlines A330Eight passengers and one flight attendant were injured aboard a Northwest Airlines A330-300 aircraft that encountered turbulence above the Pacific Ocean, near Midway Island, earlier today. Four of the injured required medical treatment, including the flight attendant, who was hospitalized.

The incident occurred while Northwest Flight 22 was en route from Tokyo-Narita International Airport to Honolulu. When the aircraft arrived at Honolulu International Airport just after 08:00 AM local time this morning, January 22, 2009, a flight attendant who had suffered head and neck injuries was taken to a hospital, where she remains. Her condition is described as serious but stable, according to spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, quoted in media reports from Honolulu.

One passenger with a hip injury and another with arm and neck injuries were taken to a Honolulu hospital for treatment. A third passenger's injuries were treated at the airport. Five more passengers sustained minor injuries, such as bumps and bruises, that did not require medical attention.

[Photo Source]

Video: Passengers on US Airways Flight 1549 Evacuate

From CBS News: "Caught On Tape: Newly released surveillance camera video from the ConEd building on the Hudson shows the crash landing of U.S. Airways Flight 1549. Obtained by CBS News' Pat Milton."

Watch CBS Videos Online

Hat tip to @AmandaSena and @usairwaysgirl for posting the link on Twitter.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about US Airways Flt 1549 on Aircrew Buzz.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

US Airways Flight 1549 Ditching: NTSB Factual Update

NTSB logoEarlier today, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a factual update on the investigation of US Airways Flight 1549 accident, that is, the A320 that ditched in the Hudson River in New York on the afternoon of January 15, 2009. Information released today focused primarily on the aircraft's engines.

The number one (left) engine, which separated from the aircraft's wing, has been located in about 50 feet of water near the area of the Hudson River where the aircraft ditched, according to the NTSB. Work is underway to recover the engine.

The number two (right) engine has undergone a preliminary external examination. The NTSB says:
An examination of the first stage fan blades revealed evidence of soft body impact damage. Three of the variable guide vanes are fractured and two are missing. The engine's electronic control unit is missing and numerous internal components of the engine were significantly damaged.

What appears to be organic material was found in the right engine and on the wings and fuselage. Samples of the material have been provided to the United States Department of Agriculture for a complete DNA analysis. A single feather was found attached to a flap track on the wing. It is being sent to bird identification experts at the Smithsonian.
Readers will recall that a multiple bird strike during climb-out is widely believed to have started the sequence of events that resulted in the ditching.

The NTSB also confirmed that on January 13, 2009 -- two days before the accident flight -- the aircraft's number two engine "experienced a surge during a flight" and that "subsequent maintenance actions included the replacement of a temperature probe."

Passenger interviews by the NTSB's Survival Factors group are still underway, concerning "the events surrounding the ditching and the emergency evacuation and rescue." In addition, US Airways flight operations training personnel are being interviewed by the NTSB's Operations and Human Performance group.

The NTSB expects that the on-scene documentation of the airplane will be completed by the end of the week. Preparations are underway to move the aircraft to a more permanent storage location so that more detailed documentation of the damage can be performed at a later date.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about US Airways Flt 1549 on Aircrew Buzz.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

US Airways Captain Sullenberger Honored by the Seaplane Pilots Association

Seaplane Pilots AssociationThe Seaplane Pilots Association (SPA) is honoring US Airways Captain Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger, the pilot in command of the A320 that was successfully ditched in New York's Hudson River last week, by awarding him a lifetime membership in the Association. The SPA lifetime membership was awarded to Sully "in recognition for his extraordinary airmanship, seamanship, and decision-making, saving hundreds of lives in his emergency landing."

In addition to his ATPL, Capt. Sullenberger is an experienced glider pilot, and also flew fighters in the U.S. Air Force during his early career. Now he will have an opportunity to qualify as seaplane pilot as well. Jack Brown's Seaplane Base, in Winter Haven, FL, has offered Capt. Sullenberger a complimentary seaplane rating course. Jon Brown promised Capt. Sullenberger that he would enjoy his future water landings much more than his first!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Air Tahoma's Air Operator Certificate Revoked by FAA

Air TahomaAviation news website is reporting that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has revoked the Air Operator Certificate of Ohio-based freight carrier Air Tahoma. The move comes in the wake of an FAA audit that followed the Sep. 1, 2008 accident involving an Air Tahoma Convair 580 aircraft. The accident flight was the aircraft's first flight following a maintenance "C" check. All three crew members on board lost their lives in the accident.

Quoting Paul Turk, a senior public affairs official with the FAA, reports that Air Tahoma has been charged by the FAA with "30 safety-related violations... which were 'systemic throughout the company' and 'not tied to a single pilot, aircraft or incident'." Turk reportedly told that the FAA audit "found problems in most areas" of the company's operations, including lack of proper emergency equipment, and failure to properly document maintenance processes and parts swaps between aircraft.

A 96-page letter outlining the charges was delivered to the Air Tahoma earlier this week. No word on whether Air Tahoma will file an appeal.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lithuanian carrier flyLAL ceases operations

flyLAL Boeing 737-500Lithuanian carrier flyLAL will cease operations today, January 17, 2009, according to a message posted in the airline's website. The airline's management says the move came after a deal to sell the flyLAL's assets to an outside investor, identified by the airline as Swiss investment fund SCH Swiss Capital Holding AG, fell through.

In a prepared statement, Vytautas Kaikaris, CEO of flyLAL, said, "We decided that ceasing operations of flyLAL – Lithuanian Airlines is the only possible decision in the current circumstances. This decision is triggered by intention not to increase damages and worsen conditions of the airline’s creditors."

Kaikaris blamed unfair market conditions, record-high oil prices and low demand for winter season flights as the main reasons for airline’s business downturn. Another major factor, he said, was "the current fleet, which did not correspond to the new market conditions – the load factor did not reach the targets, therefore flight operations only increased airline’s loss."

flyLAL – Lithuanian Airlines will file for bankruptcy "if no proposals for future airline development are received in the nearest days,"according to the CEO's statement.

Meanwhile, a report by the AFP news agency suggests that the decision to shut down flyLAL's operations actually occurred after a court froze the airline's assets at its creditors' request, and the airline's operating license was suspended. The AFP article quoted Lithuanian Transport Minister Eligijus Masiulis, who said, "Civil aviation operations are heavily regulated and supervised. FlyLAL is not meeting the requirements due to its difficult situation."

AFP also reported that while flyLAL was ordered to halt all scheduled flights as of January 17, 2009, its charter arm, would remain in service. In any case, the last scheduled flight operated by flyLAL reportedly departed from Amsterdam on January 16, 2009 19:30 local time.

Headquartered in Vilnius, Lithuania, the airline had 360 employees.

"We sincerely regret that the current situation has led to this painful decision and no other solution was found," said Kaikaris.

[Photo Source]

Friday, January 16, 2009

US Airways identifies the crew of Flight 1549

US Airways logoA short time ago, US Airways officially identified members of the crew of Flight 1549, the A320 that ditched in New York's Hudson River on January 15, 2009. The water landing was successful, and all 155 on board were immediately evacuated and rescued. There were no fatalities or life-threatening injuries.

They crew members of US Airways Flight 1549 were:
  • Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger, III - Age 58, joined US Airways (PSA Airlines) in 1980. He has a total of 19,663 flights hours.
  • First officer Jeffrey B. Skiles - Age 49, joined US Airways (USAir) in 1986. He has a total of 15,643 flight hours.
  • Flight attendant, Shelia Dail - Age 57, joined US Airways (Piedmont Airlines) in 1980 and has more than 28 years experience with the airline.
  • Flight attendant, Doreen Welsh - Age 58, joined US Airways (Allegheny Airlines) in 1970 and has more than 38 years experience with the airline.
  • Flight attendant, Donna Dent - Age 51, joined US Airways (Piedmont Airlines) in 1982 and has more than 26 years experience with the airline.
In a press conference earlier today, US Airways Chairman and CEO Doug Parker said, "I, like the rest of you, am extremely proud of our crew for their quick and heroic actions. Today they are safe and doing well, and along with so many other members of our team, are assisting with the official investigation. In the meantime, our continued focus and support will be on our passengers, their families and our crew."

I would like to add my own small voice to those congratulating the entire crew, and commending them for their exemplary professionalism. They have made all of us in the aviation community very proud indeed.

UPDATE Jan. 19, 2009:
Joint Statement from the US Airline Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants Concerning the Crew of US Airways Flight 1549:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – January 19, 2009 – Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, First Officer Jeff Skiles and Flight Attendants Sheila Dail, Doreen Welsh and Donna Dent wish to offer their sincere thanks and appreciation for the overwhelming support, praise and well wishes they have received from the public around the world since the events of last Thursday.

The entire crew recognizes the media’s interest in speaking with them as soon as possible, and they are willing to share their experiences when the time is right. However, as the NTSB investigation is ongoing, they ask that the media respect their desire to refrain from participating in interviews until further notice.
RELATED: Click here to view all posts about US Airways Flt 1549 on Aircrew Buzz.

US Airways Flight 1549 Flight Attendants Successfully Evacuate All 150 Passengers

by B. N. Sullivan

US Airways Flight 1549 evacuationYesterday a US Airways A320 aircraft ditched in the icy waters of the Hudson River minutes after taking off from New York's LaGuardia Airport. The aircraft, operating as US Airways Flight 1549, had been en route to Charlotte, NC. The accident happened after bird strikes resulted in a loss of power to both of the aircraft's engines. There were no fatalities or life-threatening injuries among the five crew members and 150 passengers on board.

Much attention has been focused on the flight deck crew, and particularly the captain (and rightly so) for what appears to have been a truly remarkable water landing. However, the three flight attendants who immediately carried out the evacuation of all 150 passengers on board also deserve an enormous amount of credit for the excellent outcome of this accident. The flight attendants safely evacuated all on board in less than 90 seconds, after having virtually no warning that the aircraft was about to ditch in the river. Congratulations and praise are definitely in order for these flight attendants who made all of us so very proud!

"The flight attendants performed their safety duties in textbook fashion," said Mike Flores, President of the US Airways flight attendants' union. "Their years of experience and training made all the difference once the aircraft was in the water."

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), the union that represents the flight attendants of US Airways, will play an official role in the investigation of US Airways Flight 1549 headed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). AFA-CWA will assist federal investigators in gathering information related to the policies and procedures followed during yesterday's emergency evacuation. AFA-CWA will support the NTSB to help determine what happened and identify potential safety improvements to better ensure accident survivability.

"As the representative of more than 55,000 aviation safety and security professionals, AFA-CWA has played an important role in NTSB investigations for decades," said AFA-CWA International President Patricia Friend. "We once again applaud the professionalism of our US Airways colleagues who demonstrated to the world the essential role flight attendants serve on the aircraft."

[Photo Source]

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about US Airways Flt 1549 on Aircrew Buzz.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

To the Captain of US Airways Flight 1549: Way to go, Sully!

Chesley B. 'Sully' Sullenberger, IIIMeet Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III, reported to have been the captain who successfully ditched a US Airways A320 in the Hudson River earlier today, Jan. 15, 2009. The aircraft apparently remained intact, and all 155 souls on board survived and were rescued.

The aircraft, operating as US Airways Flight 1549, had just departed New York 's LaGuardia airport en route to Charlotte, NC, when it was said to have suffered multiple bird strikes. The aircraft subsequently lost power to both engines, and the captain elected to ditch the aircraft, landing on the surface of the Hudson River.

Normally I do not identify crew members involved in aircraft accidents or safety incidents unless and until they are first officially identified either by their employers, government officials, or family members. In this case, I have not yet seen Capt. Sullenberger officially identified by either US Airways or any official agency, however several news reports, including this one on MSNBC, quote his wife, confirming that he was indeed the pilot in command of US Airways Flight 1549.

While we all will have to wait for the NTSB report before we know the details about how that A320 ended up in the Hudson River today, I doubt anyone will dispute the fact that putting it down there safely, with no loss of life and very few injuries to those on board, entailed a superb piece of airmanship on the part of Capt. Sullenberger and his (as yet un-named) co-pilot. * [EDIT: see update below.]

Way to go, Sully!! All of us in the aviation community are very proud of you and your entire crew.

Apparently Capt. Sullenberger has had a rich career. In addition to flying for US Airways, he also has a consulting business called Safety Reliability Methods, Inc. (SRM). The company website offers this profile of his credentials:
Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III is a captain for a major U.S. airline with over 40 years of flying experience. A former U.S. Air Force (USAF) fighter pilot, he has served as an instructor and Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) safety chairman, accident investigator and national technical committee member. He has participated in several USAF and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident investigations. His ALPA safety work led to the development of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Advisory Circular. Working with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists, he coauthored a paper on error inducing contexts in aviation. He was instrumental in the development and implementation of the Crew Resource Management (CRM) course used at his airline and has taught the course to hundreds of his colleagues.

Sully is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy (B.S.), Purdue University (M.S.) and the University of Northern Colorado (M.A.). He was a speaker on two panels at the High Reliability Organizations (HRO) 2007 International Conference in Deauville, France May 29-31, 2007. He has just been named a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.
If this overview doesn't satisfy your curiosity, this expanded version is posted on the SRM website: Sullenberger Profile - 3-page 'Word' file

UPDATE Jan. 16, 2009: The first officer on US Airways Flight 1549 has been identified by his family as Jeffrey Skiles, 49. read about him here: Wis. co-pilot on crashed plane OK - Chicago Tribune, Jan. 16, 2009

[Photo Source]

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about US Airways Flt 1549 on Aircrew Buzz.

Breaking News: US Airways A320 ditches in New York's Hudson River

US Airways accidentA US Airways Airbus A320 aircraft has ditched in the Hudson River in New York City after reportedly losing power in both engines shortly after takeoff from New York's LaGuardia airport. Early news reports say that all on board have survived and have been rescued.

US Airways has confirmed that its "Flight 1549, an Airbus A320 en route to Charlotte from LaGuardia, has been involved in an accident in New York at approximately 3:03 pm Eastern Time."

Some news reports are saying that the aircraft suffered multiple bird strikes, causing loss of power to both engines. Several news media, quoting an FAA official, said that the aircraft landed in the river near 48th Street in midtown Manhattan. Local watercraft, including at least one ferryboat, hurried to the scene to pick up survivors and take them to shore. A passenger on the ferryboat took a photo of the scene with an iPhone.

Updates will follow here as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that it is sending a 20-member 'Go Team' to investigate today's crash of a US Airways Airbus A-320 (N106US) into the Hudson River in New York City.

UPDATE from US Airways:
In a press release issued a short time ago, US Airways confirms 150 passengers and five crew (two pilots and three flight attendants) on board Flight 1549.

Flight 1549 was originally scheduled for departure from LGA at 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time. The flight’s actual time of departure was 3:03 p.m. Eastern Time.

In a statement to the press made shortly before departing for New York, US Airways CEO Doug Parker said "Our preliminary report is that everyone is off the plane."

UPDATE Jan. 16, 2009: It's official. The FAA Preliminary Report about yesterday's accident mentions bird strikes:
[Photo Source]


Click here to view all posts about US Airways Flt 1549 on Aircrew Buzz, or choose from the list below.

Air Austral orders two single-class Airbus A380 aircraft

Air AustralAir Austral, an airline most people in the world have never heard of, is set to offer something most other airlines would not consider. The airline, which is based in the middle of the Indian Ocean on the island called La Réunion, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Airbus for the purchase of two A380s in a single-class configuration. That's right -- they are ordering two all-economy class A380 aircraft.

From an Airbus press release about the deal:
In a single-class configuration the aircraft will seat around 840 passengers in the widest economy class seats and the service proven quietest cabin in the sky. Air Austral plans to operate the A380 through one of its subsidiaries on its high-density route from La Réunion to Paris, France. No engine choice has been made at this stage.
This is the first time a carrier has ordered an A380 in a single-class configuration.

"Our vision is to provide a low cost-high quality service on the heavy traffic route between La Réunion and Paris and the A380 allows us to make this vision a reality," said Gerard Etheve, President of Air Austral. "The A380 has the lowest cost per seat and is the most environment-friendly aircraft flying today while at the same time providing a high level of passenger comfort. This will enable Air Austral to better connect La Reunion to France at a lower fare," he added.

Sounds optimistic and very ambitious, especially given the current state of the global economy, when most airlines are reducing capacity. Nevertheless, I certainly wish Air Austral success with this bold move. All of us in the aviation community certainly will be watching.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

EasyJet incident: Boeing 737-700 'violent pitch down'

easyJet Boeing 737-700If this doesn't take your breath away, I don't know what will: On the afternoon of January 12, 2009, a Boeing 737-700 aircraft operated by British carrier easyJet experienced a 'violent pitch down' during which it exceeded Vmo (maximum operating speed) by 100 knots, and dropped 10,000 feet. No one was injured, and the aircraft subsequently landed safely.

This startling information is set forth in a brief Preliminary Incident Report issued by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is assisting the U.K.'s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) with its probe into the cause of the incident.

According to the NTSB, easyJet Boeing 737-73V, registered in the United Kingdom as G-EZJK, was operating as a non-revenue flight with four flight crew members on board.

An article about the incident on the aviation news website quotes from a statement issued by easyJet that says:
EasyJet can confirm that we are working with the AAIB regarding an occurrence over the North Sea involving EasyJet test flight, EZY8010 from Southend to Stansted - which diverted to Southend, on the afternoon of 12 January 2009.

We can also confirm that the only people onboard the aircraft were the Captain, the First Officer and two observers. The Boeing 737-700 was being tested as part of the hand-back procedure to its leasing company.

Unfortunately, at this stage we can not provide any additional details on the occurrence as we are collaborating with the AAIB”. The AAIB has not yet responded to questions on the event.
I'm certain that we will be hearing more about this dramatic incident in the not too distant future.

[Photo Source]

Related: Preliminary factual report on the easyJet B737-700 upset incident - Mar. 5, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Air France-KLM Acquiring 25% of Alitalia

The management of Air France-KLM announced yesterdaay that they had reached an agreement to acquire a 25% minority share in Italian carrier Alitalia. Calling the move a "new strategic partnership," Air France-KLM says the deal will allow it to have greater access to the Italian market through Alitalia, while strengthening Alitalia's position in both the domestic Italian market, and international markets.

According to Air France-KLM, the airline partnership will pursue a multi-hub strategy in Europe, which will put Rome-Fiumicino and Milan-Malpensa airports "on an equal basis" with Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam-Schiphol. (In addition to Rome and Milan, Alitalia now has domestic hubs at Venice, Turin, Naples and Catania.)

As a part of the €323 million deal, Air France-KLM will hold three of the 19 seats on the Alitalia board, and will have two of nine seats on Executive Committee of the Governing Council.

The agreement still must be aproved by the shareholders of Alitalia, as well as by the European Union's regulatory authorities. The parties hope that such approvals will be accomplished before the end of the first quarter of 2009.

[Photo Source]

Monday, January 12, 2009

How to Paint a Boeing 747-400 in Three Minutes

Last month we all got an initial glimpse the first Boeing 747-400 in Delta Air Lines livery. The aircraft had been a part of the Northwest Airlines fleet, prior to that airline's merger with Delta.

Now Delta Air Lines has released a terrific time-lapse video showing the process of converting the aircraft's Northwest livery to Delta colors -- going from primer to pre-departure in just three minutes. Here it is:

If the video does not display or play properly above, click here to view it on YouTube. The video also is posted on the Delta Air Lines blog, which was where I first saw it.

NOTAM: FAA Flight Restrictions for the U.S. Presidential Inauguration

FAA logoThe U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued flight restrictions to coincide with events of the U.S. Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009. The FAA at the request of the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense as part of the airspace security measures will be modifying the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and Washington Metropolitan Flight Restriction Zone (FRZ) with additional flight restrictions between the hours of 10:00-18:00 local time.

According to a Public Advisory issued by the FAA, the following restrictions will apply:
Washington DC ADIZ Restrictions: The DC ADIZ is that area of airspace over the surface of the earth where the ready identification, location, and control of aircraft is required in the interests of national security. Specifically, the DC ADIZ is that airspace, from the surface to but not including FL180, within a 30-mile radius of 385134N/0770211W or the DCA VOR/DME.
  1. Only authorized DOD and Law Enforcement/Air Ambulance operations are permitted within the ADIZ with prior coordination and approval from the Air Security Operations Center (ASOC) at 866-598-9524.
  2. General Aviation aircraft on an active IFR flight Plan arriving and/or departing Dulles International Airport (IAD), Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) and Manassas Regional Airport (HEF) are authorized.
  3. Only authorized CFR Part 121 and CFR Part 129 regularly scheduled commercial passenger and all-cargo flights that MEET OR EXCEED the Transportation Security Administration approved Aircraft Operator Standard Security Program (AOSSP), Full All-Cargo Aircraft Operator Standard Security Program (FACAOSSP), Domestic Security Integration Program (DSIP), Twelve-Five Standard Security Program (TFSSP) All Cargo, or All-Cargo International Security Procedure (ACISP) and DOS Foreign Aircraft issued a diplomatic clearance are authorized to operate within the ADIZ.
  4. No General Aviation IFR/VFR flights will be authorized to transit through the DC ADIZ.
  5. The provisions of FDC NOTAM 8/9459, VFR traffic pattern operations at certain airports and egress procedures for the following airports:
    A. Barnes (MD47)
    B. Flying M Farms (MD77)
    C. Mountain Road (MD43)
    D. Robinson (MD14)
    E. Skyview (51VA)
    F. Vint Hill Farms Station (04VA)
    are temporarily suspended during the time of this NOTAM.
  6. The provisions of FDC NOTAM 8/9460, ingress/egress procedures for Leesburg (JYO) in Virginia are temporarily suspended during the time of this NOTAM.
Washington DC FRZ Restrictions: From the surface up to but not including FL180 beginning at the Washington /DCA/ VOR/DME 311 degree radial at 15NM 385931N/0771830W, thence clockwise along the DCA 15NM arc to the DCA 002 degree radial at 15NM 390628N/0770432W, thence southeast via a line drawn to the DCA 049 degree radial at 14NM 390218N/0765038W, thence south via a line drawn to the DCA 064 degree radial at 13NM 385901N/0764832W, thence clockwise along the 13NM arc to the DCA 276 degree radial at 13NM 385053N/0771848W, thence north to the point of beginning, excluding the airspace within a 1NM radius of Freeway Airport /W00/ Mitchellville, MD. The FRZ
is within and part of the Washington ADIZ.
  1. Only authorized DOD and Law Enforcement/ Air Ambulance operations are permitted within the FRZ with prior coordination and approval from the Air Security Operations Center (ASOC) at 866-598-9524.
  2. ALL aircraft MUST coordinate with and receive approval from the Air Security Operations Center (ASOC) at 866-598-9524 prior to arriving and/or departing from Andrews AFB (ADW) or Davison Army Airfield (DAA). A PPR does not authorize entry into the FRZ.
  3. Only authorized CFR Part 121 and PART 129 regularly scheduled commercial passenger carriers operating into and out of Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) under one of the following Transportation Security Administration approved standard security programs/procedures: Aircraft Operator Standard Security Program (AOSSP), Domestic Security Integration Program (DSIP) are authorized to operate in the DC FRZ.
  4. Foreign aircraft issued a Department of State diplomatic clearance are authorized to operate into and out of Andrews AFB (KADW) ONLY.
  5. The provisions of FDC NOTAM 8/9461, pertaining to the Maryland 3 airports known as Washington Executive Airport/Hyde Field (W32), Potomac Airfield (VKX) and College Park Airport (CGS), are temporarily suspended during the time of this NOTAM.
In Addition, Aircraft Receiving Authorization to Operate within the ADIZ/FRZ shall be required to:
  1. Be on an active IFR flight plan.
  2. Have a discrete transponder code assigned by ATC.
  3. Remain in continuous two-way communications with ATC.
Aircraft Entering/Operating within the ADIZ/FRZ Without Authorization may be Intercepted and diverted to:
  • Easton, MD (ESN), Stafford, VA (RMN) or Carroll County, MD (DMW) Airports for questioning by Federal Law Enforcement Officers.
Special Flights or Operations not authorized ANYWHERE within the ADIZ/FRZ: Flight training, practice instrument approaches, aerobatic flight, glider operations, parachute operations, ultralight, hang gliding, lighter than air operations, balloon/moored balloon operations, agriculture/crop dusting, animal population control flight operations, banner towing operations, utility line/pipeline inspection flights, part 101 operations, model aircraft operations, model rocketry and unmanned aerial systems.

All flight waivers to operate within the ADIZ/FRZ are temporarily suspended during the time of this NOTAM, except waivers beginning with ELO, GOV or SPO.
The NOTAMs discussed in this advisory may change with little or no notice. Pilots are advised to check NOTAMs frequently for possible changes prior to
operations in the area. Pilots are strongly advised to contact a Flight Service Station at 1-800-WX-BRIEF (1-800-992-7433) prior to flight to check for all current NOTAMS.

For questions or further details, please contact FAA Air Traffic Systems Operations Security at 866-598-9522.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

FAA Certifies Embraer Lineage 1000 Executive Jet

Embraer Lineage 1000Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer announced that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Type Certificate (TC) and a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for the company's ultra-large Lineage 1000 executive jet. The FAA certification follows type certification by Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency (Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil – ANAC) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in December 2008.

The STC is for the aircraft’s interior, which was designed, manufactured and installed by PATS Aircraft Completions, a subsidiary of DeCrane Aerospace, located in the United States.

According to information provided by Embraer, the maximum range of the Lineage 1000, originally projected to be 4,200 nautical miles (7,778 km or 4,833 miles) with eight passengers, or 4,350 nautical miles (8,056 km or 5,005 miles) with four passengers, has been extended to 4,400 nautical miles (8,149 km or 5,063 miles) with eight passengers, or 4,500 nautical miles (8,344 km or 5,179 miles) with four passengers, both with NBAA IFR reserves.

The aircraft is powered by two General Electric CF34-10E7-B engines, delivering 18,500 pounds of thrust each. It flies at a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.82, and is capable of flying at an altitude of 41,000 feet (12,497 meters).

The Lineage 1000 comes with an integrated Honeywell Primus Epic® avionics suite with five Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) multifunction control screens, Cursor Control Device (CCD), auto throttle, weather radar with turbulence detection, fly-by-wire, and other cutting-edge technologies. Besides the optional Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), there are such optional amenities as Wi-Fi technology and Internet access, plus other features.

Embraer notes that the Lineage 1000 can be configured to accommodate up to 19 passengers. Embraer offers a broad range of interior layouts for five different cabin zones, where passengers may enjoy privacy for meetings, resting, and meals. There is also a private suite with a shower. The cabin has three distinct temperature zones and a maximum altitude rating of 7,000 feet (2,134 meters).

The Lineage 1000, which is the largest business jet manufactured by Embraer, is based on the Embraer 190 commercial jet.

[Photo Source]

Friday, January 09, 2009

Bad News and Some Good News for Atlantic Southeast Airlines Pilots

SkyWest - Delta Connection CRJ900Pilots at Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) received some bad news and some good news this week. The bad news: 80 of ASA's 1,700 pilots will be furloughed as of Feb. 9, 2009. On the more positive side, ASA soon will be flying 10 new CRJ-900 regional jet aircraft.


The furloughs resulted, in part, from planned capacity reductions for the coming year by Delta Air Lines. As a Delta Connection operator, ASA is directly affected by Delta's reduction in flying.

An article about the ASA pilot furloughs in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted David Nieuwenhuis, chairman of the ASA group of the Air Line Pilots Association union, who said the pilot furloughs may last for at least a year, though that could change.
The ASA pilots union is working with the union’s national office to help find jobs for furloughed pilots, such as at other carriers, charter operations or overseas operations, Nieuwenhuis said.

The pilots’ contract protects pilots from furlough if they were hired by the date it was signed in November 2007, Nieuwenhuis said.
All of ASA's pilots are domiciled in Atlanta.

Fleet Re-shuffle

Yesterday, SkyWest, Inc. announced that 10 CRJ-900 regional jet aircraft previously ordered by Delta will be flown by ASA. ASA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SkyWest.

ASA currently operates 110 CRJ-200s and 39 CRJ-700s. Several months from now, when the new CRJ-900s begin flying, 20 of the CRJ-200s will be removed from Delta Connection service. SkyWest says that the CRJ-200s are scheduled for removal from contract service between April 2010 and August 2010, which is earlier than the existing scheduled termination dates as contained in the Delta Connection Agreement.

In a statement to the press, SkyWest said, "ASA will evaluate how it will redeploy the CRJ-200s based on market conditions at the time of removal from Delta contract operations. Options may include, but are not limited to, subleasing the aircraft and operating certain aircraft in pro-rate operations."

Bradford R. Rich, SkyWest Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, said, “This transaction represents a good faith effort by SkyWest, Inc. to help Delta right-size its fleet through the replacement of 50-seat CRJ-200s with the larger, more efficient 76-seat CRJ-900s. Additionally, we expect the deal to solidify ASA as Delta’s primary regional carrier in Atlanta through the addition of the CRJ-900 aircraft to its fleet portfolio.”

Last year ASA retired 12 ATR-72 turboprops from its fleet.

[Photo Source]

Thursday, January 08, 2009

United Airlines Flight Attendants: No New Furloughs After All

United Airlines logoThere was some good news this week for flight attendants at United Airlines. The United Master Executive Council of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing United cabin crew, sent a message to its membership yesterday to tell them that discussions between the Company and the Union have eliminated the need to furlough additional flight attendants as previously planned.

The message from the union to the flight attendants explained:
Instead of furloughing additional Flight Attendants and conducting a complete furlough rebid, the Company will increase staffing on certain international flights and maintain discretionary time off such as daily and 30-day ANP. This will provide some additional international flying opportunities while maintaining a level of schedule flexibility.
Greg Davidowitch, President of the United Master Executive Council, said, "We are encouraged by the resolution to this potential furlough and appreciate the efforts of [United Senior Vice President - Onboard Service] Alex Marren and United senior management in working with us on the issue. We have avoided the need for additional Flight Attendant furloughs and a rebid of the current furlough that would have potentially disrupted the lives of Members. We believe this resolution will also help to address the lack of flying reserves experienced in the fall through the staffing additions and opportunities for discretionary time off."

United Airlines reduced its flight attendant work force by 1,550 last year, through voluntary furloughs and an 'Early Out' Program for senior crew members.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Continental Flight 1404 Accident at Denver: NTSB Factual Update

NTSB logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has just issued a factual update on the runway excursion and crash of Continental Airlines Flight 1404 at Denver International Airport last month. Readers will recall that the aircraft, a Boeing 737-500 (registration N18611), departed the left side of runway 34R during its take-off roll, ultimately crashing into a ravine and catching fire. There were no fatalities, although 38 of those on board were injured. The entire right side of the aircraft was severely damaged by fire.

The accident happened on Dec. 20, 2008 at 6:18PM local time. The aircraft had been departing Denver for George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston, Texas.

The NTSB Update issued today presents factual information about the accident gathered thus far. Here are the highlights:

Inspection of the runway following the accident revealed that it was bare and dry and free of debris. The first tire marks were found about 1,900 feet from the runway threshold.

The aircraft exited the runway at about 2,650 feet from the runway threshold, continued across a snow-covered grassy drainage basin area, and crossed a taxiway and a service road before coming to rest about 2,300 feet from the point at which it departed the runway.

On the night of the accident, the majority of air traffic was arriving at the airport from the south and departing from the airport to the north.
Both pilots were aware of the crosswind conditions, having been advised by Air Traffic Control (ATC) that winds were 270 degrees at 27 knots just prior to takeoff.

The weather observation (METAR) in effect for Denver International Airport nearest the time of the accident was reported to be winds at 290 degrees and 24 knots with gusts to 32 knots, visibility of 10 miles, a few clouds at 4000 feet and scattered clouds at 10,000 feet. The temperature was reported as -4 degrees Celsius.

Wind data has been obtained from the airport's low-level wind shear alert system (LLWAS), consisting of 32 sensors located around the field, which record wind speed and direction every 10 seconds. This information will be used to determine a better estimate of the actual crosswind component at the time of the accident.
Crew Interviews
Both members of the flight crew have been interviewed.

The accident flight was their first flight on the fourth day of a four-day trip.

The Captain, the pilot flying, had accumulated a total of about 13,000 hours, with about 5,000 in the 737. The First Officer had flown about 7,500 hours in his career with about 1,500 hours in the 737; he was the pilot monitoring.

Both pilots remarked that all appeared normal until the aircraft began to deviate from the runway centerline. The Captain noted that the airplane suddenly diverged to the left, and attempts to correct the deviation with the rudder were unsuccessful. He stated that he briefly attempted to return the aircraft to the centerline by using the tiller to manipulate the steering of the nose gear but was unable to keep the aircraft on the runway.

Two Continental pilots who had flown the aircraft into Denver on the previous flight were passengers on the accident flight. Neither of the pilots was aware of any anomalies on the inbound flight and reported that all the aircraft's systems had operated normally.
Data Recorders
Bumping and rattling sounds audible on the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) have been time-correlated with the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and were found to have occurred as the airplane exited the runway and travelled through the grassy areas adjacent to the runway.

The aircraft reached a maximum speed of 119 knots, and it was traveling at 89 knots when the CVR and FDR stopped recording.

The airplane's Quick Access Recorder (QAR) and other electronics were retrieved and sent to the NTSB laboratory in Washington. The QAR, which records aircraft data, often has more parameters or information of higher fidelity than the Flight Data Recorder (FDR). Additional items, such as flight control and nosewheel steering actuators, were also removed from the airplane for testing and evaluation.

Physical inspection of the engines and information from the FDR has not indicated any evidence of pre-impact malfunctions with either engine. The FDR data shows that number one engine power was reduced before that of the number two engine during the accident sequence, and examination of the engine indicates that this reduction is consistent with snow and earth ingestion as the airplane departed the runway.

The FDR data also shows that both engines were commanded into reverse thrust following rejection of the takeoff by the flight crew, which occurred after the aircraft had already left the runway.
Landing Gear and Controls
A preliminary examination of the rudder system revealed no abnormalities or malfunctions.

The main landing gear and brakes, which had separated from the aircraft during the accident sequence, were found in good condition by visual examination. There were no signs of hydraulic leaking or flat spots on the tires.

The flight deck controls and corresponding control surfaces were found to be in the takeoff configuration.
Aircraft Cabin
There was no obvious damage to the passenger seats, which were found secured on their tracks. The safety belts all appeared intact although some showed evidence of fire damage.

Some components of the crew seats and restraint systems have been removed for further examination.
Evacuation Details
The three flight attendants indicated that there were no problems with the escape slides and that the emergency exit lights were brightly illuminated.

All occupants exited the airplane via the left side doors and overwing exits. The
flight attendants reported that the passenger who opened the overwing exit did so very quickly and easily. After a bottleneck of people developed by the left overwing exit, a Continental Airlines pilot, who was a passenger on the flight, directed passengers out via the doors.
The aircraft wreckage has been moved from the accident site to a secure area on the ramp, where the NTSB is continuing its examination.

...or click here to view all posts about Continental Flt 1404 on Aircrew Buzz.