Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bird strike caused fatal crash of illegally chartered Cessna 500 in Oklahoma in 2008

NTSB logoIn March of 2008, a chartered Cessna 500 (registration N113SH) crashed two minutes after taking off from Oklahoma City's Wiley Post Airport (PWA), killing the two pilots and three passengers on board. The U.S. National Transportation Board (NTSB) has issued a report on the accident, citing "airplane wing-structure damage sustained during impact with one or more large birds (American white pelicans), which resulted in a loss of control of the airplane" as the probable cause. In addition, the Board notes that the aircraft was operating improperly as a charter, and that the pilots were not legally authorized to fly the aircraft for commercial purposes.

Regarding the accident, on March 4, 2008, at approximately 3:15 p.m. (CST), the aircraft departed PWA, bound for Mankato Regional Airport, Mankato, Minnesota. On board were two pilots and three passengers. Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft was impacted by several large birds, namely pelicans. The NTSB determined that the bird strike caused wing-structure damage resulting in a loss of control. The aircraft went into a steep descent and crashed. The aircraft was completely destroyed by the impact and post-crash fire, and all on board were killed.

The NTSB's investigation uncovered what the Board's Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker called "improper and noncompliant charter operations that should have been identified and discontinued by the FAA."

The aircraft was registered to Southwest Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Clinic PC of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. An IFR flight plan was filed under Part 91 rules, however it emerged that the aircraft was operating as a charter. As such, it should have been operating under Part 135 rules.

The flight originated from the ramp of Interstate Helicopters, a Part 135 on-demand helicopter operator at PWA. The NTSB accident report notes the following points about the operation and the pilots:
  • The accident pilot was certificated, trained, and qualified to fly the accident airplane in noncommercial operations as a single pilot.
  • The second pilot was not trained, qualified, or current to fly the accident airplane; however, because the pilot was authorized to fly the accident airplane as a single pilot, the second pilot could occupy a cockpit seat and assist the pilot as directed.
  • At the time of the accident, Interstate Helicopters was operating the accident airplane in commercial service contrary to its Federal Aviation Administration-issued 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 operating certificate, which, at the time, did not authorize operation of the accident airplane or any other fixed-wing aircraft.
  • Neither the pilot nor the second pilot were trained or qualified to fly the accident airplane in any 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 commercial charter operation, and the accident airplane was not maintained in accordance with Part 135 commercial maintenance requirements.
  • Interstate Helicopters repeatedly labeled invoices as “aircraft lease” and “sales demo” flights, effectively disguising the noncompliant charter flights and circumventing the terms of its operating certificate.
The NTSB goes to discuss in detail the risks to all concerned when operators "attempt to circumvent commercial charter operations." Among the Board's recommendations arising from the investigation of this accident is an item that suggests expanding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) truth-in-leasing regulations to include all turbine-powered airplanes. Specifically, the NTSB wants "Part 135 on-demand operators to provide their customers with a written document, correspondence, or ticket that expressly describes the terms of carriage, including the regulatory part under which the flight is operated."

The NTSB also recommends that FAA flight plans include "a block for the pilot to identify the operator and a block to specify the operating rules under which the flight is being conducted." The Board points out that a pilot "would be less likely to intentionally or inadvertently agree to fly an unauthorized commercial charter operation if the pilot, as the final authority for the operation of the aircraft, were required to identify on the flight plan the name of the operator and the regulation under which the flight is operating."

Also included in the NTSB recommendations are a number of items relating to bird-strike certification requirements for transport category aircraft; more stringent verification of airport wildlife hazard assessments; and reporting of wildlife strikes.

As a final note of particular interest to pilots, the aircraft was equipped with a cockpit voice recorder (CVR), which was retrieved from the wreckage. It was found to have been inoperative at the time of the accident, and in fact it probably had been inop for some time prior to the accident. It provided no data for the investigation.

The NTSB urges the FAA to require aircraft equipped with a CVR "to be functionally tested before the first flight of each day and to perform a periodic maintenance check of the CVR."

Here is the link to the Abstract of the NTSB's report about this accident: NTSB ID: AAR-09-05.

Here is the link to the NTSB Accident Docket, where you can find all of the documents in support of this accident investigation, as well as photos of the aircraft wreckage at the crash site.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Yikes! Airbus A380 hard landing at Oshkosh

The folks at produced this video of the arrival of the Airbus A380 at Oshkosh for the 2009 AirVenture event. The video was shot earlier today as the A380 crabbed its way onto the runway at Oshkosh. AVweb explains:
The Airbus A380, the world's largest airliner, made quite a dramatic arrival at Oshkosh on Tuesday. Dan Gryder, a Boeing 777 pilot, analyzes what went wrong.
The video includes a slow motion replay of the landing.

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

Check out AVweb's YouTube channel for more great aviation videos.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Aria Air IL-62 accident at Mashhad, Iran

by B. N. Sullivan

Aria Air Flight IRX1525An aircraft accident at Mashhad, Iran has claimed the lives of more than a dozen people, including several crew members. The aircraft, an Ilyushin IL-62m operated by Iranian carrier Aria Air as Flight IRX1525, is said to have overrun a runway after performing an emergency landing at Masshad-Shahid Hashemi Nejad airport. The accident happened shortly after 18:00 local time on July 24, 2009. The flight had originated at Tehran-Mehrabad Airport.

AFP, quoting the Mehr news agency, reported that "the plane crashed through the airport's perimeter wall before hitting power lines and coming to a halt in adjacent farmland." The forward section of the fuselage -- including the cockpit -- was completely smashed, killing the flight deck crew and a number of people in the passenger cabin. News photos seem to indicate that the aircraft came to a rest on its main landing gear in a tail-down attitude.

The exact number of injuries and fatalities is not clear at this time. Iranian news web site PressTV reports "at least 16" fatalities and 21 injured among 160 on board, and mentioned that "[e]arlier reports had put the number of deaths at 30 and the number of injured at 20."

Other news agencies, quoting Iran's news agency IRNA, report slightly different numbers.

UPDATE July 26, 2009: Reuters is reporting that 13 of the 16 fatalities on Aria Air Flt IRX1525 were crew and the three others were passengers, adding that there were 153 on board the aircraft.
"Nine of the crew members killed in the incident were citizens of Kazakhstan and the remaining four were Iranians," Reza Jafarzadeh, the spokesman of Iran's aviation organisation told the official IRNA news agency on Saturday.
State television in Iran said the flying license of Aria Aviation Company had been suspended until an investigation into the plane crash was completed.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

High Flight (...really high flight!)

Ride along on a Lockheed U-2 spyplane and check out the amazing view cruising at 70,000ft as the sky above turns black.

Thanks to Jill Rutan Hoffman for the tip about this video. Follow Jill on Twitter: @LookingSkyward.

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The crash of Continental Flight 1404: Part 2, Evacuation details

by B. N. Sullivan

This is the second in a two-part series about the post-crash conditions and evacuation of Continental Airlines Flight 1404, a Boeing 737-500 that crashed and burned following a runway excursion at Denver on December 20, 2008. Part 1, Post-crash conditions in the cabin, is here.

This narrative is based on summaries of interviews with individuals who were on board the accident aircraft, provided by the NTSB [link below]. Those individuals included two Continental Airlines pilots who were on board as passengers while dead-heading back to their base. In this narrative, the dead-heading captain is referred to as DHC, and the dead-heading first officer is referred to as DHFO. [Note: The NTSB has not released summaries of interviews with the flight attendants from CO Flt 1404.]

After the aircraft came to a stop in a ravine alongside runway 34R at Denver International Airport, both pilots on the flight deck were temporarily incapacitated by their injuries and shock. The flight attendants initiated an evacuation and hustled the passengers out of the burning plane, with the help of the dead-heading pilots.

This part of the story was told most compellingly and in great detail by the DHFO, who had been in seat 8D. He said an aft flight attendant tried to call the cockpit a couple of times but got no response. The flight attendants looked out the windows and made the decision to evacuate. They did not go out the right side of the aircraft because of the fire "and it was already melting."

The DHFO described panels falling and wires "coming from the ceiling." He used the words "panic and chaos" to describe the behavior of the passengers as they pushed and shoved toward the exits. He said because of the fire "it was the most extreme human behavior he had ever seen and frantic was not the word for it."

Quoting from the DHFO's interview summary:
He said the cabin was well illuminated because of the fire – the whole wing and wing root were on fire – which was most noticeable where he was sitting and over the wing exit. He said that forward of the bulkhead, he could see light coming into first class and also aft.

He unbuckled his seat belt, turned left and the male passenger sitting in the exit row had the door open “ASAP.” He knew what he was doing.

He said there was a tremendous confluence of passengers trying to exit through the over-wing exit. Five people were trying to get out for everyone one that got out. No one wanted to be second.

He could not say how extreme the panic was. He said that the windows were melting and popping. Passengers were screaming “we’re gonna burn” and “it’s gonna explode.”

He said lots of people were trying to get out at the same time. Passengers were climbing over seats. It seemed there were 30 people trying to get out of the hole at the same time.

He told people to calm down, the aircraft was not going to explode, get through and keep moving. He said there was too much panic and his instructions fell on deaf ears...

He looked forward and saw an empty airplane. He saw the first class flight attendant standing on one leg and [she] motioned for us to come forward. He said the aisles aft and forward were packed so he dove across seat tops and used the “army crawl.” He grabbed the last two ladies in the aisle and got them to the front to get out...
After helping the ladies evacuate, the DHFO re-entered the aircraft and saw that the two pilots were emerging from the flight deck, both obviously in pain. He helped them to exit through the L1 door, and then came back for the first class flight attendant to help her, since she had an injured ankle.

After helping the injured flight attendant off the plane, the DHFO returned inside one more time.
He saw the deadheading captain in the aisle and the male aft galley flight attendant. The plane started to fill with smoke.

They met in the middle over the wing and started looking for anyone else on the airplane because there were a lot of lap children on the flight. The male aft flight attendant said it was all clear in the back. The deadheading captain asked if he was sure, he said yes, and the captain told him to go back and check one more time.
By that time, the fire was coming up through the floor and they were concerned that the center fuel tank might blow. The DHC said in his interview that by the time they left the aircraft "the windows were starting to melt" and he feared there would soon be a breach. He "commanded that it was time to get off."

They left and got as far away from the aircraft as they could, stopping to again assist the injured forward flight attendant. In his interview, the DHFO told the NTSB:
[The first class flight attendant] was in a lot of pain and could not get up. He picked her up because the fire got bigger. He said the center tank gave way and a river of fuel ran north-south toward the nose and fire was coming behind it. It was starting to “really light off.” The entire cabin was on fire.
Later in the interview, the DHFO said that what stood out in his mind was the composure of the flight attendants. He said he was "humbled by what they did" to get everyone off the airplane. He said that the first class flight attendant was "stoic" -- despite being injured herself, she was very matter of fact and told passengers to drop everything and keep moving.

It was the same in the back, he said. The male aft flight attendant practically "walked through fire to save people" -- not literally, he clarified, but the fire was encroaching. He said the aft flight attendant "could have turned and run but he still searched every row and searched through pillows, blankets and luggage on the floor to make sure no one was there" disregarding his own safety.

He said "the flight attendants were real heroes."

Sounds to me like the flight attendants and the dead-heading pilots all were heroes. All of them deserve high praise for their exemplary performance during this emergency.

Here is the link to the NTSB Interview Summaries related to the crash of CO 1404 at Denver (91-page 'PDF' file).

Here is the link to the NTSB Docket listing all of the public documents related to this accident that have been released to date.

Here is a link to a collection of photos of Continental Flight 1404 wreckage, from web site.

[Photo Source]

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

The crash of Continental Flight 1404: Part 1, Post-crash conditions in the cabin

by B. N. Sullivan

On July 17, 2009 the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made public a slew of documentation related to their investigation of the Continental Airlines Flight 1404 disaster at Denver International Airport (DEN) late last year. The investigation is still underway, and no conclusions regarding probable cause have yet been presented, but the newly released materials provide a lot of new information about the accident.

N18611The accident happened on December 20, 2008 when the Boeing 737-500 aircraft (registration N18611) veered off the left side of runway 34R at DEN during its takeoff roll. The aircraft was destroyed by the runway excursion and post-crash fire. All on board survived, although 37 among the five crew and 110 passengers were hospitalized for injuries, some serious.

A number of news reports both inside and outside the aviation community have opined about the meaning embedded in the technical information newly released by the NTSB. I will leave it to the pilots and engineers who are qualified to do so to pore through and interpret the information that emerged from the Flight Data Recorder readouts and other systems information. I will leave it to the meteorologists to draw conclusions about the wintry weather and wind gusts on that evening. Otherwise, I will wait for the NTSB's final report to determine probable cause.

I would, however, like to bring forth what I think is important information arising from the NTSB's interviews of several individuals who were on the accident flight. That information has to do with the post-crash evacuation and related survivability issues. Curiously, this information has (so far) been overlooked in press reports about the newly released documents, but I judge it to be of great interest to the crew members who are the primary audience of Aircrew Buzz.

Among the documents related to the investigation of the Continental Flight 1404 accident, one of the lengthiest is a 91-page report summarizing the NTSB's interviews with 17 individuals [link below]. Among the interviewees were the two pilots who were operating the accident flight, and two other Continental pilots who were on board as passengers, dead-heading back to their base. Their statements give the clearest picture to date of the situation inside the aircraft immediately post-crash, and what happened during the subsequent evacuation.

From the interview summaries we learn that both pilots on the flight deck were injured, the captain seriously. We learn that both were stunned by the accident, and were unable to do anything operationally in the first couple of minutes after the aircraft came to a rest. Neither initiated the evacuation of the aircraft.

The captain was interviewed four days after the accident while still hospitalized with injuries that included spinal fractures. He stated that he "was either knocked out or dazed" immediately after the crash, and did not recall how he got out of the airplane.

Both pilots recalled that the flight deck was completely dark. The first officer said that he "could hear things going on in the cabin and he thought that he needed to make a PA" but he did not. His next thoughts, he said, were about getting himself and the captain out of the aircraft.

The first officer "confirmed that the cockpit door was closed for the entire evacuation" and that by the time he opened the door, everyone was off the aircraft except the dead-heading crew and a flight attendant.

Meanwhile, back in the passenger cabin, the damage inside the aircraft was considerable, and the situation was worsened by a fire that was quickly consuming the right side of the aircraft.

The dead-heading captain (DHC) was seated in 1B, right at the bulkhead in first class. As soon as the aircraft came to a stop, he unbuckled his seat belt and although injured, assisted with the evacuation that was already underway. He gave a description of the conditions inside the cabin.

The DHC said the panels in the middle of the row "had swung down and were still swinging." He tried to keep them out of the way as people went by because he knew "they would get hurt because they swung so fast." Although people were bumping him as they passed by in the aisle, he finally got the panels up and locked into place. He then went toward the back and got three more panels locked up.

Later in his interview the DHC clarified that the overhead panels in the center aisle had fallen.
He said they hinge on the aircraft right in the aisle and they were down and swinging back and forth. He pushed it back and that was how he got hit. He said he was 6’ 3” and was holding it back and people holding babies hit him a couple of times. He jumped on the other side and pushed the panel up, got hit by another passenger and fortunately locked it back in place. He said the panels did not malfunction but just came undone.
As the fire grew more intense, the DHC could see a breach in the cabin just aft of the exit row. He saw the emergency lights on but could not see past the breach because it was dark in the back. He saw flames from the first class windows to the over-wing exit. He said he did not feel any heat initially.

The DHC then looked toward the cockpit. He saw "the forward flight attendant was standing on one leg holding herself up. The cockpit door was closed."

After assisting with the evacuation of passengers, he and the dead-heading first officer (DHFO) went to the cockpit door and it opened. The captain "was out of his seat between the pedestal and cockpit door and was in excruciating pain." The DHC said he could see that "both pilots were very injured" and that "they looked dazed from the impact." The two dead-heading pilots got the flight deck crew out of the cockpit and helped them through the L1 door.

The fire was on the right side of the aircraft. All on board evacuated through the doors on the left side of the aircraft.

All slides deployed properly, however since the landing gear had been sheared off, the door sills were not very far above the ground level. In that position, the DHFO remarked, the slides were more like a “padded walkway” than slides.

The DHFO also commented that the gray-colored slides might have been easier to see if they were bright yellow or fluorescent orange. He also said "two exits are better than one and a bigger one is better than a smaller one."

Next: Part 2, Evacuation details

Here is the link to the NTSB Interview Summaries related to the crash of CO 1404 at Denver (91-page 'PDF' file).

Here is the link to the NTSB Docket listing all of the public documents related to this accident.

[Photo Source]

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

Monday, July 20, 2009

Video: How to remodel the passenger cabin of a Boeing 747

This video was produced earlier this year by United Airlines. In a time lapse sequence, it shows the remodeling of "the first and business class cabins on its Boeing 747, adding new lie-flat beds and 15-inch personal TV screens that have more than 150 hours of entertainment."

(I don't know why I love stuff like this, but I do...)

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

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Alternative to the crash pad: Crews living in LAX parking lot

by B. N. Sullivan

LAXI have to admit I was taken aback for a moment when I read a story in today's Los Angeles Times about some airline employees -- including pilots, flight attendants and mechanics -- who are living part-time in a parking lot at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Instead of opting for the usual crash pads, about 100 crew members from assorted carriers have chosen to park their RVs in a particular parking lot at LAX to use them as a home away from home.

They have formed something of a crew colony there, and they even have an unofficial 'mayor'. This is not done on the sly, but in a very organized way, sanctioned by the airport authority

According to the L. A. Times article:
For several years, clusters of RVs were scattered around the airport's parking lots until LAX officials decided to consolidate them in Lot B. Now operating as an organized camp overseen by the airport, it has an unofficial mayor, a code of conduct and residency requirements, including background checks, regular vehicle inspections and proof of employment at an air carrier.

"There might be a few other places like this nationally, but I think this is rather unique," said Michael Biagi, who heads the land-use division at Los Angeles World Airports.

Today, the colony has more than 100 residents -- mostly men -- from around the country, including captains, first officers, mechanics, flight attendants, support staff and employees of air cargo companies. There are at least two married couples, who work as flight attendants. About 10 people are on a waiting list.
Apparently the RVs used by these airline employees as parking lot crash pads range from relatively cushy motor homes to bare-bones campers on the backs of pick-up trucks.

This idea is a new one on me, but hey -- whatever works! (I'll give them extra points for being inventive, too.)

Here's a slide show about the LAX parking lot residents. Does anyone know of any similar RV camps near other airports?

[Photo Source]

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kellner to leave Continental Airlines, Smisek to become Chairman/CEO

Continental Airlines logoContinental Airlines announced in a press release earlier today that the company's chairman and chief executive officer, Larry Kellner, will step down at the end of this year. Jeff Smisek, currently Continental's president and chief operating officer, will succeed Kellner as chairman and CEO. Smisek will take over as Chairman and CEO on January 1, 2010.

Kellner has been with Continental since 1995, and has been CEO since December 2004. After leaving Continental, he will head Emerald Creek Group, LLC, a new private investment firm based in Houston.

Jeff Smisek Bio

Jeff Smisek is president and chief operating officer of Continental Airlines and a member of the Board of Directors. He is responsible for airline operations, including flight operations, inflight, airports, catering, cargo, maintenance and technical operations, and also human resources and labor relations, global real estate, security and environmental affairs, corporate communications, federal affairs, and international, state and local affairs. Over the course of his tenure at Continental, he has also overseen sales and marketing, technology and legal affairs.

Smisek joined the airline in March 1995 as senior vice president and general counsel, and has since held positions of increasing responsibility. He became president in December 2004 and president and chief operating officer in September 2008. Prior to joining Continental, Smisek was a partner at Vinson & Elkins LLP, where he specialized in corporate finance and securities law.

Smisek graduated from Princeton University, A.B. summa cum laude in economics, in 1976, and Harvard Law School, J.D. magna cum laude, in 1982. He also serves on the board of directors of National Oilwell Varco, Inc. Smisek and his wife reside in Houston and are long-time supporters of numerous charitable and civic organizations.

NTSB Photos: Damaged section of Southwest Airlines B737-300

by B. N. Sullivan

NTSB photoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has just released two photos from their investigation of the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 cabin depressurization incident on July 13, 2009. The aircraft (registration N387SW), which had been en route from Nashville to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, diverted to Charleston, WV where it made a safe emergency landing. A hole in the crown of the fuselage apparently led to the depressurization.

The two photos released by the NTSB today show "the compromised section of the area of the fuselage that failed in flight."

The first photo (top of this page) shows the section of fuselage skin facing inside the aircraft. The second photo shows the section of fuselage skin on exterior of aircraft.

NTSB photoThe press release accompanying the release of the photos said, in part:
The damaged aircraft skin section was visually examined in the NTSB's Materials Laboratory. The damage left a hole measuring approximately 17 inches by 8 inches. The skin in this area of the fuselage is 0.032 inches thick with an additional 0.032 inch thick layer bonded to the interior surface in selected areas.

[ NTSB Acting Chairman] Rosenker said that the initial visual examination found the fractures in good condition and suitable for further analysis. No significant corrosion or obvious pre-existing mechanical damage was noted. A detailed metallurgical examination of the skin section and the fracture surfaces will be accomplished by the Safety Board in the coming days.

Southwest Airlines is now in the process of repairing the aircraft at Yeager Airport, Charleston, West Virginia.
You can click on either of the photos to obtain a larger copy from the NTSB web site.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Caspian Airlines TU-154 accident in Iran; no survivors

by B. N. Sullivan

Caspian AirlinesA passenger aircraft operated by Caspian Airlines has crashed in Iran. The aircraft, a Tupolev Tu-154M (registration number EP-CPG), operating as Caspian Airlines flight RV7908, was en route from Tehran, Iran to Yerevan, Armenia at the time of the accident. There were no survivors among the 168 people on board.

The accident happened on July 15, 2009, at about 11:33 AM local time. The aircraft had departed from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport just 16 minutes before the accident occurred. Some news reports say that the crew reported a fire in the No. 1 engine just prior to the crash. The aircraft is said to have impacted the ground in an agricultural field near the village of Jannatabad, in Qazvin province, about 120 km northwest of Tehran. The aircraft was completely destroyed by the crash and a fire, with wreckage reportedly covering an area of about 200 square meters.

The complete passenger manifest for Flight RV7908 has been published on the Caspian Airlines web site. The official manifest lists 12 crew members and 156 passengers.

According to Caspian Airlines, the names of the crew members, all of whom perished on Flight RV7908, are as follows:
Condolences to the families, flying partners and friends of the crew and passengers who lost their lives in this accident.

Here are links to several news videos about this accident that have been posted to YouTube: AlJazeera / Associated Press / MediaNewsChannel.

A photo of the aircraft (taken long before the crash) can be found here on

UPDATE: Iranian news web site PressTV is reporting that two 'black boxes' have been recovered from the wreckage of Caspian Airlines Flight RV7908, but they are damaged. PressTV quoted Ahmad Majidi, Head of the Crisis Working Group of Iran's Road and Transportation Ministry, who said the boxes were "heavily damaged but experts are trying to retrieve data from them."

"If efforts to retrieve data from the boxes fail, they will be sent back to the country that has produced them so that they could be repaired in order to find the reason behind the crash," Majidi said.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Southwest Airlines B737 with hole in fuselage lands safely at Charleston, WV

by B. N. Sullivan

Southwest Airlines logoA Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 aircraft made an emergency landing at Yeager Airport, Charleston, WV today after a hole in the fuselage caused a loss of cabin pressure. The aircraft, operating as Southwest Flight SWA 2294, was en route from Nashville International Airport to Baltimore-Washington International Airport at the time of the incident. The crew diverted to to Charleston, where the plane landed at about 6PM local time. There were no reports of injuries among the five crew members and 126 passengers on board.

Reporting on the incident, the Charleston Gazette quoted a passenger from the flight:
"We heard a loud pop, and one of the panels [on the ceiling] was sucked up tight against the ceiling. You could definitely tell there was a hole there."

Oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling, and passengers put them on. "The flight attendants did a wonderful job, walking back and forth and keeping everyone calm," he said.

The plane remained in the air for 20 to 30 minutes, [passenger] Hall estimated, before landing at Yeager. "It felt like a long time," he said.
The passenger described the hole as "about the size of a football," and said that a "piece of the roof was kind of peeled back."

A brief article about the incident on the web site included a photo of the hole, taken from inside the aircraft by a passenger. It definitely looks as though the hull was breached -- you can see daylight through the hole in the photo!

At this point, no one seems to know what caused the damage. Should more information become available, I will post an update here on Aircrew Buzz.

UPDATE: Another photo has emerged, via Twitter user @cjmcguinness. He says this photo was taken by his sister-in-law, who was a passenger on the flight.

A representative of Southwest Airlines has posted the following statement on

Scheduled Nashville-Baltimore Flight Diverts to West Virginia

DALLAS, TX—July 13, 2009--Southwest Airlines confirms its flight 2294, the 4:05 pm Eastern scheduled departure from Nashville to Baltimore/Washington diverted into Yeager Airport in Charleston, W. Va at approximately 6:10 pm Eastern today after a cabin depressurization. All 126 passengers and crew of five onboard landed safely and are awaiting a replacement aircraft in Charleston that will take them to Baltimore Washington International Airport later this evening.

The aircraft cabin depressurized approximately 30 minutes into the flight, activating the passengers’ onboard oxygen masks throughout the cabin. Medical personnel in Charleston assessed passengers and no injuries are reported. Southwest is sending its maintenance personnel to Charleston to assess the aircraft, and the airline will work with the NTSB to determine the cause of the depressurization. According to initial crew reports, the depressurization appears to be related to a small hole located approximately mid-cabin, near the top of the aircraft.
Thanks to Twitter user @danwebbage for providing the link to this statement.

UPDATE July 14, 2009: This morning the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an advisory announcing the dispatch of a team to investigate the Southwest Flight 2294 decompression incident. In that advisory, the NTSB identified the aircraft as N387SW. The FAA Registry data for that registration number lists the aircraft model as a Boeing 737-3H4, serial no. 26602, manufactured in 1994.

A new photo published by The Charleston Gazette shows an individual described as an FAA Inspector peering at the damage to the fuselage from outside the aircraft. In that photo, the damaged area appears to be at the crown of the hull, just forward of the empennage.

The track log for the accident flight on, which is based on an FAA data feed, suggests that the aircraft was above FL340 ad climbing at about the time of the decompression, traveling at a ground speed of about 450 kts.

UPDATE July 16, 2009: The NTSB has released two photos of the damaged section of the fuselage of the Boeing 737-300.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Canadian Air Charters identifies pilots killed in Piper Navajo crash at Vancouver

pilotsOn July 9, 2009, a Piper Navajo operated by Canadian Air Charters crashed while on approach to Vancouver International Airport, claiming the lives of the two pilots on board. The pilots have been identified by the company as Mathew Douglas Pedersen, 23, and Jeremy Ryan Sunderland, 28. Their names were made public by Darcy Coonfer, chief pilot of Canadian Air Charters, on behalf of the pilots' families.

The aircraft impacted the ground near a shopping center, about four kilometers short of the Vancouver runway. The aircraft was destroyed by the crash and a post crash fire. No one on the ground was injured.

An article about the two pilots on the web site said that Sunderland had been working for Canadian Air Charters for three years, while Pedersen had been at the firm for over a year.

"They will be missed greatly," said Mark Wilcox, an operations manager with Canadian Air Charters.

At the time of the accident, the aircraft was en route from Victoria, BC to Vancouver, BC. According to news reports, Canadian Blood Services had chartered the cargo plane and it was carrying 143 units of donated blood.

Canada's Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the accident.

[Photo Source]

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Final report issued for Kalitta Air Boeing 747 freighter accident at Brussels

by B. N. Sullivan

Kalitta B747 Brussels, AAIU photoThe Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) of Belgium's Federal Public Service Mobility and Transport agency has released its final report on the 2008 Kalitta Air freighter accident at Brussels, Belgium. On May 25, 2008, the Boeing 747-200 aircraft (registration N704CK) overran runway 20 of Brussels Zaventem Airport (EBBR) after a rejected takeoff. The aircraft came to a stop 300 meters beyond the end of the runway, where it broke into three parts. The four crew members and one passenger suffered minor injuries.

The accident aircraft was departing Brussels for Bahrain at the time of the accident. A bird, later identified as a European kestrel, was ingested by the number three engine during the takeoff roll. According to the AAIU report, the bird strike caused "a momentary loss of power, accompanied by a loud bang, heard by the crew and external witnesses, and by flames, seen from the control tower."

The bang and the loss of power occurred four seconds after the V1 speed call-out.
Two seconds after the bang, all four engines were brought back to idle, and braking action was initiated. The aircraft reached a first embankment, dropping from a height of 4 m, and broke in three parts. The aircraft came to a stop just above the top of the railroad embankment.
There was no post crash fire.

Although the captain stated he applied maximum braking power during the stop run, the thrust reversers were not deployed. The captain stated he applied speed brakes, however "the speed brake lever was found in the retract position in the cockpit, while the speed brakes themselves seemed in a stowed / retract position."

The AAIU has determined that this accident "was caused by the decision to Reject the Take-Off 12 knots after passing V1 speed."

The report lists the following contributing factors:
  • Engine Nr 3 experienced a bird strike, causing it to stall. This phenomenon was accompanied by a loud bang, noticed by the crew.
  • The aircraft line up at the B1 intersection although the take-off parameters were computed with the full length of the runway.
  • The situational awareness of the crew,
  • Less than maximum use of deceleration devices.
  • Although the RESA [runway end safety area] conforms to the minimum ICAO requirement, it does not conform to the ICAO recommendation for length.
Several safety recommendations are included in the report, including this one regarding Kalitta’s training program:
We recommend to modify the training program of the flight crew (initial and recurrent), and related documentation, to highlight the risks involved in rejecting TO around V1, as well as the importance of respecting procedures.

The training program of Kalitta was amended and an in-house DVD training video was developed, that demonstrates proper and improper reject procedures that is modeled after rwy 20 in BRU. The content of the DVD was reviewed by both Boeing and FAA.

This revised training program is currently in place.
The AAIU Final report, in English, is available for download here: Ref. AAIU-2008-13, July 10, 2009 (66-page 'PDF'file)

Alternate source for the same document.

[Photo Source]

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Downdrafts cited by NTSB as probable cause of Steve Fossett's fatal crash

by B. N. Sullivan

Steve FossettThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has completed its investigation of the aircraft accident that claimed the life of legendary aviator Steve Fossett. The NTSB's final report on the accident cites as probable cause: The pilot's inadvertent encounter with downdrafts that exceeded the climb capability of the airplane. Contributing to the accident were the downdrafts, high density altitude, and mountainous terrain.

The NTSB found no evidence of engine malfunction or airframe failure that would have contributed to the accident.

Mr. Fossett, flying a borrowed Bellanca 8KCAB-180 Super Decathlon (registration N240R), disappeared on September 3, 2007. Early that morning, he took off from a private airstrip at the Flying M Ranch near Yerington, Nevada. He never returned.

An extensive and lengthy search for the aircraft and Mr. Fossett was unfruitful. According to the NTSB report, no emergency radio transmissions were received from the airplane, nor were any Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) transmissions received.

About a year later, on October 1, 2008, a hiker notified the Madera County Sheriff's Department (California) that he had found personal effects, including a pilot certificate and another identification card belonging to Mr. Fossett near Minaret Summit in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This prompted a new search of that area.

The wreckage of the aircraft was found about a half mile from where the hiker came across some of Fossett's personal effects. The crash site was located in steep mountainous terrain at an elevation of approximately 10,000 feet. The severely fragmented wreckage had been burned by "a severe post crash fire."

The NTSB reports that after the wreckage was located, "a review of radar data from September 3, 2007, revealed a track that ended about 1 mile northwest of the accident site. This 20-minute track showed the airplane flying south along the crest of a mountain range with elevations greater than 13,000 feet."

Quoting from the synopsis of the NTSB accident report:
Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane was on a northerly heading at impact, indicating that the pilot had executed a 180-degree turn after radar contact was lost.

Ground scars and distribution of the heavily fragmented wreckage indicated that the airplane was traveling at a high speed when it impacted in a right wing low, near level pitch attitude.

A postimpact fire consumed the fuselage, with the exception of its steel frame. The wings were fragmented into numerous pieces. The ELT was destroyed.

Damage signatures on the propeller blades and the engine crankshaft indicated that the engine was operating at impact. Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of any malfunctions or failures that would have prevented normal operation.

Visual meteorological conditions existed in the accident area at the time of the accident.

Mean winds at 10,000 feet were from 220 degrees at 15 to 20 knots; some gusts of 25 to 30 knots may have occurred. Moderate turbulence and downdrafts of at least 400 feet per minute probably occurred at the time and in the area of the accident. The magnitude of the downdrafts likely exceeded the climb capability of the airplane, which, at a density altitude of 13,000 feet, was about 300 feet per minute.
According to the Medical and Pathological Information section of the NTSB report, Steve Fossett is believed to have died as a result of "multiple traumatic injuries":
On October 29, 2008, law enforcement personnel returned to the area where the pilot's personal effects were found to search for human remains and evidence as to the identity of any remains. They found skeletal fragments, a pair of tennis shoes, clothing, credit cards and the pilot's driver's license.

DNA testing performed by a California Department of Justice laboratory on two of the recovered skeletal fragments determined that they were from the pilot.

A postmortem examination of the skeletal fragments was performed under the auspices of the Madera County Sheriff's Department. The cause of death was determined to be multiple traumatic injuries.
Here are the links to the NTSB synopsis and full narrative report on the investigation of this accident.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Propeller separates in flight from Great Barrier Airlines Britten-Norman Trislander

TrislanderNew Zealand's Transport Accident Investigation Commission has opened an inquiry into an incident in which a Britten-Norman Trislander aircraft, operated by Great Barrier Airlines, lost a propeller while in flight shortly before noon on July 5, 2009. The aircraft had just departed Claris Airport, Great Barrier Island, en route to Auckland when the propeller separated from the starboard engine and impacted the fuselage. The pilot returned to Claris immediately and made a safe emergency landing.

News reports from New Zealand say the impact of the errant propeller smashed a window and tore off a door on the starboard side of the aircraft. There was no one seated beside that door. According to a report in The New Zealand Herald, two passengers among the 10 on board "needed medical treatment to remove debris from their eyes."

More photos from The New Zealand Herald.

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Emily Howell Warner -- Legend of Aviation

Emily Howell Warner, the first woman to become an airline pilot in the United States, tells her story:

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

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Interim report on the crash of Air France Flight 447 released by French BEA

by B. N. Sullivan

BEA image:AF447 flight pathThe French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA) released an interim report today concerning the crash of Air France Flight 447. The Airbus A330-200 (registraion F-GZCP) was lost over the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009 while en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. There were three pilots, nine cabin crew, and 216 passengers on board. All perished in the accident.

Perhaps the most striking detail among the initial findings presented in this report was the statement that "visual examination showed that the airplane was not destroyed in flight; it appears to have struck the surface of the sea in a straight line with high vertical acceleration."

Prior to the release of today's report, there had been wide speculation that the aircraft broke up while still aloft.

Here is the summary of initial findings, quoted directly from the English language version of the report (pp. 68-69). [See below for links to the report.]
On the basis of the first factual elements gathered in the course of the investigation, the following facts have been established:
  • The crew possessed the licenses and ratings required to undertake the flight
  • The airplane possessed a valid Certificate of Airworthiness, and had been maintained in accordance with the regulations,
  • the airplane had taken off from Rio de Janeiro without any known technical problems, except on one of the three radio handling panels,
  • no problems were indicated by the crew to Air France or during contacts with the Brazilian controllers,
  • no distress messages were received by the control centres or by other airplanes,
  • there were no satellite telephone communications between the airplane and the ground,
  • the last radio exchange between the crew and Brazilian ATC occurred at 1 h 35 min 15 s. The airplane arrived at the edge of radar range of the Brazilian control centres,
  • at 2 h 01, the crew tried, without success for the third time, to connect to the Dakar ATC ADS-C system,
  • up to the last automatic position point, received at 2 h 10 min 35 s, the flight had followed the route indicated in the flight plan,
  • the meteorological situation was typical of that encountered in the month of June in the inter-tropical convergence zone,
  • there were powerful cumulonimbus clusters on the route of AF447. Some of them could have been the centre of some notable turbulence,
  • several airplanes that were flying before and after AF 447, at about the same altitude, altered their routes in order to avoid cloud masses,
  • twenty-four automatic maintenance messages were received between 2 h 10 and 2 h 15 via the ACARS system. These messages show inconsistency between the measured speeds as well as the associated consequences,
  • before 2 h 10, no maintenance messages had been received from AF 447, with the exception of two messages relating to the configuration of the toilets,
  • the operator’s and the manufacturer’s procedures mention actions to be undertaken by the crew when they have doubts as to the speed indications,
  • the last ACARS message was received towards 2 h 14 min 28 s,
  • the flight was not transferred between the Brazilian and Senegalese control centres,
  • between 8 h and 8 h 30, the first emergency alert messages were sent by the Madrid and Brest control centres,
  • the first bodies and airplane parts were found on 6 June,
  • the elements identified came from all areas of the airplane,
  • visual examination showed that the airplane was not destroyed in flight ; it appears to have struck the surface of the sea in a straight line with high vertical acceleration.
The BEA notes that some of the points covered "may evolve with time," and that the contents of the Interim report should not "be interpreted as an indication of the orientation or conclusions of the investigation" of this accident.

The aircraft's Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder have not been recovered, but efforts to find them are still underway. The investigation is expected to continue for quite some time.

Here are the links to the BEA Interim Report on Air France 447:
Note: If the BEA web site is busy or the documents fail to load, here is an alternative source for both the French and English versions of the BEA Interim report.

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