Tuesday, December 22, 2009

American Airlines Boeing 737 crash in Jamaica

by B. N. Sullivan

American AirlinesA Boeing 737-800 aircraft (registration N977AN) operated by American Airlines has crashed in Jamaica. According to a statement from the airline, Flight AA 331 overran the runway on landing at Kingston, Jamaica's Norman Manley International Airport late on the evening of Tuesday, December 22, 2009. The flight had originated at Reagan/National Airport in Washington, DC, operating first to Miami International Airport, and then continuing on to Jamaica from Miami. On board were six crew members and 148 passengers.

News reports from Jamaica say that as many as 40 people may have been injured in the accident. A local official told the Jamaica Observer that the injured had been transported to Kingston Public Hospital.

Jamaican media are reporting that it was raining at the time of the accident.

More details to follow as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: News articles on several Web sites are quoting an American Airlines spokesman who says that the aircraft's fuselage was cracked, its number two engine separated from the wing, and the left main landing gear collapsed. It is unclear whether this damage occurred before or after the aircraft left the runway. Jamaican news sources report that the aircraft came to a rest against the airport perimeter fence.

UPDATE Dec. 23, 2009: In a statement issued early this morning, American Airlines confirmed that two passengers had been hospitalized for observation and treatment, while all other passengers that had been taken to local hospitals were treated and released. The statement did not mention any injuries to crew members.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has dispatched a team to assist the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority with the investigation of this accident. The NTSB team includes technical advisors from the Federal Aviation Administration, American Airlines, Boeing, GE Aircraft Engines, in addition to the NYSB's own aviation specialists.

A collection of still photos from the scene of the AA331 accident has been posted on CNN's iReport.

The video below, with raw footage of the accident scene last night, was posted on the Associated Press (AP) channel on YouTube.

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

Monday, December 21, 2009

French investigators release second interim report on the Air France Flight 447 accident

by B. N. Sullivan

Air FranceA second interim report about Air France Flight 447 has been released by the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA). Flight 447 was the Airbus A330-200 that was lost over the Atlantic on June 1 of this year while en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. The BEA had released its first interim report in July.

This most recent report describes the ongoing work of the investigators, focusing on:
  • the pieces of recovered wreckage
  • meteorological conditions at the time of the accident
  • maintenance messages transmitted by ACARS
  • the certification and the continuing airworthiness of the Pitot probes
  • speed inconsistencies during cruise
By its very nature as an 'interim' report, the document presents no conclusions about the cause of the accident, saying "At this stage, in the absence of any data from the flight recorders, the main parts of the airplane and any witness testimony on the flight, the precise circumstances of the accident, and therefore its causes, have still not been determined. The investigative work is continuing with this objective."

The new report (links below) includes many photographs of pieces of debris recovered from the ocean, with explanations, as well as a number of explanatory diagrams.

Regarding physical evidence from the aircraft passenger cabin, the report says, "The cabin crew’s seatbelts that were found (three out of eleven) were not in use at the moment of impact."

The report notes that recovered life jackets were still in their packages, and that examination of several of the recovered passenger oxygen containers "showed that they were in the closed position," i.e., had not deployed. "There had been no cabin depressurisation," says the report.

Regarding pieces of wing and control surface that had been recovered, the report notes deformations that "were the result of the bottom-upwards loads." Evidence such as this has led investigators to the belief that the aircraft hit the water largely intact and on its belly.

Several parts of the aircraft's flap extension mechanism fairing were found. Analysis and comparison with an identical aircraft "made it possible to determine that the flaps were in the 'retracted' position at the time of impact with the water."

The vertical stabilizer was recovered largely intact and "in generally good condition." According to the report, "The damage due to separation from the fuselage was essentially located at the root of the vertical stabiliser."
The vertical stabiliser’s side panels did not show signs of compression damage. The breaks seen at the level of the lateral load pick-up rods were the result of the backwards movement of the attachments and centre and aft frames. The
observations made on the vertical stabiliser are not consistent with a failure due to lateral loads in flight.
In regard to fuselage parts (remains of the skin, frames and web frames), the report says, "The fuselage was sheared along the frames and centre and aft attachment lugs by loads applied bottom-upwards."
The observations made on the debris (toilet doors, partitions, galleys, cabin crew rest module, spoiler, aileron, vertical stabiliser) evidenced high rates of compression resulting from a high rate of descent at the time of impact with the water.

This high rate of compression can be seen all over the aircraft and symmetrically on the right- and left-hand sides.

High levels of loading would be required to cause the damage observed forward of the vertical stabiliser (compression failure of the forward attachment).

These observations are not compatible with a separation of the aft part of the fuselage in flight.
The patterns of deformation also led the investigators to conclude that "the aircraft had low bank and little sideslip on impact," and that the deformations "were not consistent with an aircraft nose-down attitude at the moment of impact.'

Commentary on the autopsies performed on human remains recovered also is included in this report.
The autopsies performed made it possible to identify fifty persons: forty-five passengers, four flight attendants, including an in-charge flight attendant, and the Captain.
Many of the observed injuries, including fractures to the pelvis, spine and thorax, were said to be "compatible with the effect, on a seated person, of high acceleration whose component in the axis of the spinal column is oriented upwards through the pelvis."

The report notes that "information from the autopsies does not make it possible to reach a conclusion as to the location of the Captain at the time of the accident."

To read the report for yourself, follow either of these links to the BEA's second interim report on the Air France Flight 447 accident investigation:
Note: If the BEA web site is busy or the documents fail to load, here is an alternative source for the English version of the second BEA Interim report.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about Air France Flt 447 on Aircrew Buzz.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tis the season... for de-icing

by B. N. Sullivan

A wicked snowstorm in the eastern United States caused the cancellation of many hundreds of flights today. Several airports closed while snow removal got underway, and at others, air traffic was greatly reduced.

'Tis the season for snow in the northern hemisphere. We all can bet that there's a lot more snow to follow before Spring returns.

Earlier this month I left Denver International Airport (DIA) in the middle of a snowstorm. The accumulation was not enough to cripple the airport, but early morning departures required de-icing. Fortunately DIA is used to snow, and well equipped to handle it. Here are a couple of photos I shot on the de-icing pad at DIA on the morning of December 8, 2009. I had a pretty good view from my exit row window seat on a United Airlines Boeing 767. [Click on the photos for a larger view.]

The first photo shows a United Airlines Boeing 757 being sprayed with de-icing fluid.


And then it was our turn.

De-icing at Denver International Airport

I wish all the readers of Aircrew Buzz a safe winter flying season. Stay warm!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The test pilots who flew Boeing's 787 Dreamliner on her maiden flight

by B.N. Sullivan

Mike CarrikerWhen the Boeing 787 Dreamliner made its long-awaited first flight earlier this week, Capt. Mike Carriker, pictured at right, was commanding the aircraft. Capt. Carriker is Boeing's chief pilot for the 787 program. In the Dreamliner cockpit's right hand seat was Capt. Randy Neville, pictured below.

An article about the 787's first flight on Wired.com's Autopia blog profiles the two pilots this way:
Boeing brought in two of its best for the 787’s first flight. Carriker is chief pilot on the 787 program and was a Navy pilot before joining Boeing in 1990. He’s made more than 300 carrier landings flying the A-7E Corsair and F/A-18 Hornet. In addition to flying the 787, Carriker was a chief test pilot on the 737 program and the assistant project pilot on the X-32 Joint Strike Fighter program when Boeing was competing for the contract. He also is checked out in the 1933 Boeing 247D, the company’s first all-metal airliner.

Air Force veteran Randy Neville flew in right seat for the first flight. Neville spent 20 years flying F-106 Delta Darts and F-16 Fighting Falcons. He is a graduate of the USAF Test Pilot school and went on to weapons testing in the F-4 and F-16. Neville also flew the F-22 Raptor while at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
About the flight

On December 15, 2009 at 10:27 local time, the new aircraft departed Paine Field in Everett, WA on its maiden flight. Carriker and Neville kept the aircraft aloft for about three hours, testing some of the Dreamliner's systems and structures, while on-board equipment recorded and transmitted real-time data to a flight-test team at Boeing Field. They took the aircraft to an altitude of 13,200 feet (4,023 meters) and an air speed of 180 knots, or about 207 miles (333 kilometers) per hour -- which Boeing says is customary on a first flight. At about 13:33 local time, the 787 landed for the time at Seattle's Boeing Field.

Randy NevilleUpon landing, the pair of pilots participated in a news conference about the first 787 flight. Both seemed enthusiastic about the aircraft and the experience of flying it (and who wouldn't?!).

Carriker, replying to a question, said, "Is it a relief? Yes. Would I like to go get another 20,000 pounds of gas and good weather and go again? You bet I would. Make that about 80,000 pounds of gas."

Neville said, "The airplane flew great. There were no surprises and the airplane did exactly as we were expecting -- and that's goodness from the pilot viewpoint."

Neville talked about the progression of the flight: "We took off with flaps 20, the normal take off setting and we stayed there for quite a ways. We were at flaps 20 for the bulk of the mission, that was with the gear down. We ultimately got to flaps 30, we cycled the landing gear, that was a big point we wanted to do. We brought the gear up then we both breathed a big sigh of relief when we put it back down and it came down properly."

In addition to the aircraft itself, a highlight for Carriker turned out to be the scenery from his 'office window': "We popped out of the top of the clouds at about 7,000 feet and there was the snow-capped Olympics, the Straits of San Juan, all framed in the front left window of a 787 at 10,000 feet. That image will be in my mind for the rest of my life."

By the way, they greased the landing at Boeing field, and rolled out straight down the runway's center line.

According to Boeing, the 787's first flight marks the beginning of a flight-test program that will see six airplanes "flying nearly around the clock and around the globe," with the first 787 scheduled for delivery in the fourth-quarter 2010. Like the first aircraft, three more of the 787s in the test program will be powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines,while two will be powered by General Electric GEnx engines.

Congratulations to Mike Carriker, Randy Neville, and all the folks at Boeing for the successful first flight of the beautiful new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

UPDATE Jan. 4, 2010: Michael Carriker, the pilot in command of the first flight of the Boeing 787, was interviewed recently for EAA Radio. He talked about "the 787, test flying, belonging to EAA, and if it's possible to put a Hatz biplane on floats." In case you missed it on the EAA Web site, here is the link to the MP3 audio file of the EAA interview with Michael Carriker.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Scotland's FlyGlobespan goes bust, strands crews and passengers

by B. N. Sullivan

Flyglobespan B737-800Scottish low-fare and charter airline Flyglobespan has ceased operations, leaving some 800 staff suddenly jobless, and reportedly stranding at least 5,000 passengers abroad. An article about the debacle on the Scottish news Web site The Sun mentioned that flight crews were "understood to be stranded" as well.

The carrier's parent, Globespan Group, entered administration after "having suffered liquidity issues," according to a terse message posted on the Flyglobespan.com Web site. That message went on to say, "Unfortunately, the Joint Administrators have been unable to continue trading the companies and therefore all flights operated by The Globespan Group plc or Globespan Airlines Ltd have been cancelled and the aircraft grounded."

According to several news articles, the majority of Flyglobespan's staff, including crew members, will lose their jobs immediately. A small number of employees will be retained temporarily to help wind down the company's operations.

The Sun reported:
Last month the company staved off collapsed with a last-ditch cash injection. And only a day before going bust, Flyglobespan had been talking about a bright future. On Monday, founder Tom Dalrymple predicted "good news" over a funding deal.
Apparently Mr. Dalrymple was overly optimistic?

Many crew members and other Flyglobespan staff said that they received no official notification of the airline's demise from the company. Sadly, they learned they had lost their jobs when they read news stories or heard about the company's collapse on television.

Rumor has it that crew members down route were told to find their own way home. This wouldn't be the first time the failure of an airline has left crew stranded all over the map and having to pay their own way home, but it is despicable just the same. Talk about adding insult to injury!

And I suppose if there is no money available to buy tickets home for crews it is too much to hope that the crews and ground staff might (eventually) receive their final paychecks.

An article about the company's collapse on the BBC news Web site quoted the Secretary of State for Scotland, Jim Murphy, who said, "The news that Flyglobespan has gone into administration is a real blow for Scotland and first and foremost for the hundreds of employees who now face redundancy a week before Christmas."

Another unnamed Scottish government spokesman said, "We recognise that this will be an anxious time for employees and their families, particularly at this time of year."


[Photo Source]

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Big day for Boeing: The B787 Dreamliner flies!

by B. N. Sullivan

Today, December 15, 2009, was historic. I don't know about you, but I spent hours watching TV and live webcasts earlier today as the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner took off for the very first time. While the world watched, the Dreamliner began its takeoff roll at Paine Field in Everett, WA. I have to admit that I got a bit choked up as Boeing's newest commercial aircraft rotated and lifted off the runway for the first time. The time was 10:27 AM local time.

The weather was not the best -- drizzly and overcast -- but the graceful looking aircraft climbed out as if it were a sunny day, carried out its long-anticipated maiden flight, and returned to earth for a picture perfect landing at Seattle's Boeing Field at 13:33 local time.

From the Boeing press release about the event:
787 Chief Pilot Mike Carriker and Capt. Randy Neville tested some of the airplane's systems and structures, as on-board equipment recorded and transmitted real-time data to a flight-test team at Boeing Field.

After takeoff from Everett, the airplane followed a route over the east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Capts. Carriker and Neville took the airplane to an altitude of 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and an air speed of 180 knots, or about 207 miles (333 kilometers) per hour, customary on a first flight.
According to Boeing, the first Boeing 787, which is powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, will be joined in the flight test program in the coming weeks and months by five other 787s, including two that will be powered by General Electric GEnx engines.

Congratulations to Boeing and all those involved with the 787 Dreamliner program on the successful first flight of this beautiful new airplane.

In case you missed the live event, here is a video of the Boeing 787's first takeoff from Paine Field (video provided by AirlineReporter):

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


Friday, December 11, 2009

Pilots at North American Airlines join ALPA

by B.N. Sullivan

North American AirlinesThe pilots at North American Airlines (NAA) have chosen the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) to be their collective bargaining representative. The U.S. National Mediation Board (NMB) recently announced that ALPA received an "overwhelming majority" of the votes in a recent union election. The NAA pilots formerly were represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT.

“NAA pilots chose ALPA because of the many benefits such as aeromedical services and the access to worldwide support through ALPA and its affiliation with the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA),” said Capt. Al Gallo, Temporary Master Executive Council chairman of the NAA unit of ALPA. “Those benefits extend to the ALPA staff whose vast experience and expertise will be invaluable in our efforts to protect our rights and advance our careers under our collective bargaining agreement. We did not have the resources under the IBT that we have now with ALPA, and we plan to take full advantage of this opportunity.”

Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president, said that the union was “extremely pleased that the NAA pilots have joined the ALPA family.”

The pilots of NAA fly Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft for passenger, military, and cargo operations around the world.

[Photo Source]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Northwest Flight 188 incident: Pilots' appeal documents

by B. N. Sullivan

FAA logoAre you ready for another update on the Northwest Flight 188 incident? Readers will recall that shortly after the incident (in which the pilots of the Airbus A320 were out of radio contact with air traffic control for an extended period of time and overflew their destination while working on their laptop computers) the FAA revoked the licenses of both pilots. The pilots have since filed appeals seeking to have the license revocations rescinded.

Today a reader forwarded to me an email pass-around that included facsimile copies of the appeal documents as an attachment. Given that I have not seen the original documents, and considering that I received the copies via an email pass-around, I cannot guarantee that the copies are authentic, however they appear to be credible. I have uploaded them to my Web site, and anyone who is interested in having a look at them can access them there: NW Flight 188 Pilot Appeals (13-page 'pdf' file)

Highlights: The pilots deny that they "intentionally or willfully" violated any federal aviation regulations.

They appear to assign blame for the incident to air traffic control, stating:
The air traffic controller(s) did not comply with the requirements of the air traffic control manual and other relevant orders, rules, procedures, policies and practices with respect to Northwest Flight 188, nor coordinate effectively with Northwest dispatch, and such failure was a causal or contributing factor in the incident referenced in the Administrator's Complaint. Respondent asserts that he had a right to rely, and did rely, that the controllers would comply with all relevant orders, rules, procedures, policies and practices. Such reliance justifies a reduction, mitigation, or waiver of sanction.
The appeal goes on to claim that the sanction against them is "not in compliance with Board precedent and policy."

The pilots also claim that there were "mitigating facts and circumstances that caused or contributed to the incident, including but not limited to aircraft systems design and human factors, justifying a reduction, mitigation, or waiver of sanction."

Presumably both pilots will be able to present their case(s) in person at a hearing before the NTSB in the near future.

Monday, December 07, 2009

South African Airlink regional jet runway overrun on landing at George, South Africa

by B. N. Sullivan

SA Airlink ERJ-135An Embraer ERJ-135 aircraft operated by South African Airlink overran a runway at George (South Africa) this morning. The accident happened as the aircraft, operating as Flight SA8625, was arriving at George Airport after a scheduled flight from Capetown. No injuries were reported among the three crew members and 30 passengers on board, however a statement issued by the South African Civil Aviation (SACAA) said that "two crew members and three passengers have been sent to hospital for observation." The aircraft suffered substantial damage.

In a statement to the press, SA Airlink said that the aircraft (registration ZS SJX) "aquaplaned off the end of the wet runway. The incident occurred at 11h06 local time" on December 7, 2009. The company statement also said, "Weather at the time is reported as being overcast with rain. The aircraft appears to be damaged the extent of which is unknown at this stage."

News reports say that after leaving the runway, the aircraft crashed through the airport perimeter fence and came to rest on a nearby roadway. Several photos of the accident scene have been posted to the South Africa's Eyewitness News Web site.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Wiggins Airways Cessna Caravan pilot praised after forced landing near Rome, NY

by B.N. Sullivan

Wiggins AirwaysThe pilot of a Cessna 208 Caravan escaped injury yesterday when he made a forced landing in a field outside Rome, NY, following an engine failure. The aircraft, operating as Wiggins Airways flight WIG 8409 on behalf of FedEx, was on a scheduled air cargo flight between Syracuse Hancock International Airport and Plattsburgh International Airport (New York) when it lost power. According to preliminary data posted on the Web site of the FAA, the pilot, who was the sole occupant of the aircraft, was uninjured; the airplane was not damaged.

A news report about the incident on Syracuse.com quoted an Oneida County official who said the aircraft lost power at about 7:45 a.m. December 3, 2009, at an altitude of about 7,500 feet. The aircraft was about 15 miles away from the airport at the former Griffiss Air Force Base. The pilot radioed a MAYDAY to air traffic control and attempted to divert to Griffiss (KRME), but the aircraft "rapidly lost altitude and air speed."

The pilot was identified by the company and the news media as Captain Peter May, who has more than 8,000 flight hours in this aircraft type. He has flown for Wiggins Airways since 1994.

From Syracuse.com:
Upon dropping out of the clouds at about 1,000 feet, May decided to either crash land in Lake Delta just north of Rome or a less populated area west of the lake. May chose to land in the hayfield of the Von Matt farm.

"He had the good wisdom to drop the flaps,which gave him lift," said Vernon May, commissioner of aviation in Oneida County. "He did everything right."
The Utica Observer-Dispatch quoted Wiggins Senior Vice President Andy Day, who said, “We’re very lucky to have Peter. When things like this happen, you hope to have people like Captain May at the controls. He did a very good job and did exactly what we train to do in the circumstance.”

The article about the incident on the Observer-Dispatch Web site includes a photo of the aircraft in the field where it landed.

According to Syracuse.com, "The aircraft will be partially disassembled and trucked to Griffiss, where the FAA will attempt to determine the cause of the engine failure."