Wednesday, December 29, 2010

American Airlines Boeing 757-200 runway overrun at Jackson Hole, Wyoming

by B. N. Sullivan

Earlier today,  an American Airlines Boeing 757-200 (registration N668AA) overran runway 19 at Jackson Hole Airport (JAC), Jackson, Wyoming.   The aircraft, operating as American Airlines Flight 2253, had just landed at Jackson following a flight from Chicago O'Hare International Airport.  According to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), there were no injuries among the 181 passengers and crew on board.  No damage to the aircraft has been reported.

The NTSB, which has begun an investigation of the incident, said in a statement that the aircraft  "came to a rest in hard packed snow about 350 feet beyond the runway overrun area." 

There was no emergency evacuation.  Passengers deplaned using stairs.

The incident occurred at about 11:38 AM local time (18:38Z), December 29, 2010.  It was snowing at the time of the incident.


KJAC 291843Z 24010KT 1SM -SN BKN004 OVC019 M03/M06 A2913
KJAC 291751Z 22007KT 3/4SM -SN BKN004 OVC010 M04/M06 A2915

UPDATE: has published a number of photos related to this incident.  (Hat tip to @Heather_Poole for posting the link on Twitter.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

FAA-Approved Santa ready to line up and wait

Watch out for this guy if you're flying tonight.  Looks like he's at Max Takeoff Weight.  You can track Santa's progress around the globe with the NORAD Santa Tracker.

FAA approved Santa

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FAA fines Continental Airlines and American Eagle for maintenance issues

by B. N. Sullivan

FAA logoThe U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed civil penalties -- i.e., fines -- against both Continental Airlines and American Eagle Airlines for operating passenger aircraft that were not in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations.

A $275,000 fine is proposed against Continental for operating two non-compliant Boeing 737-900ER aircraft on 73 flights.
The FAA alleges Continental mechanics failed to follow the 737 Airplane Maintenance Manual when they installed incorrect main landing gear wheel-tire assemblies on two aircraft and released them for service on Nov. 7 and 19, 2009.

The manual contains specific instructions to mechanics not to use wheel-tire assemblies intended for the B-737-700, -800 and -900 on the heavier B-737-900ER.  The manual says using the incorrect assemblies on the heavier version of the B-737 might lead to damage to the aircraft or injury to people working on and around the aircraft.
A fine of $330,000 is proposed against American Eagle for operating a non-compliant Embraer 135 aircraft on 12 revenue passenger flights.
The FAA alleges American Eagle mechanics failed to note broken passenger seats and armrests on two aircraft during a Dec. 18, 2008 inspection and did not follow the approved maintenance manual instructions during those inspections.  FAA inspectors discovered seats on two aircraft that would not raise and stow into the upright and locked position for takeoffs and landings.  FAA inspectors also found damaged center arm rests that would not stow in the upright and locked position.

The FAA further alleges that American Eagle used one of the aircraft on 12 revenue passenger flights between the inspection and eventual repair of the seats and armrests.  The other aircraft did not fly again until the airline completed the required work.
The airlines have 30 days to respond to the FAA.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Two pilots perish in business jet crash in Switzerland

by B. N. Sullivan

Earlier today, a business jet operated by Windrose Air, a German charter company, crashed and burned at Bever, Switzerland.  Both pilots perished in the accident.  The crew were believed to be the only people on board.

The accident happened on December 19, 2010 at approximately 15:00 local time.  The aircraft, a Hawker Beechcraft [Raytheon] 390 Premier IA (registration D-IAYL) was on approach to St. Moritz-Samedan Airport (LSZS), arriving from Zagreb-Pleso (LDZA) in Croatia.  It crashed into an electrical power station near the town of Bever, Switzerland.  The aircraft caught fire and broke up.  Some news reports suggest that the crew may have been attempting a go-around, but this has not been officially confirmed.  Several news stories also mentioned that the aircraft may have hit power lines.

An article about the accident (in German) on the Swiss news website includes still photos and a video clip of the accident site.  Another article (also in German)  on the Swiss website has more photos and a map indicating where the plane crashed.

Condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of the pilots who lost their lives today.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tara Air DHC-6 Twin Otter crash in Nepal

by B. N. Sullivan

A Tara Air DHC-6 Twin Otter crashed in Nepal on December 15, 2010. At the time of the accident, the aircraft (registration 9N-AFX) was en route from Lamidanda, Nepal to Kathmandu. A crew of three and 19 passengers were on board.

According to press reports, radio contact with air traffic control was lost shortly after the aircraft took off from Lamidanda. A rescue helicopter crew reportedly discovered what is believed to be the wreckage of the Twin Otter on a forested hillside in eastern Nepal. The AFP news service quoted a local official who said, "The aircraft smashed into pieces on impact and there are unlikely to be any survivors."

Tara Air is a subsidiary of Yeti Air.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Tentative contract agreement for Air Transport International flight crews

by B. N. Sullivan

The pilots and flight engineers at Air Transport International (ATI) have reached a tentative contract agreement (TA) with the carrier's management.  The TA was reached after six years of contract negotiations, and is the first contract for ATI crew since they joined the Air line Pilots Association (ALPA) in 2009.  ALPA negotiators and ATI management had been meeting under the supervision of the National Mediation Board.

According to ALPA, the proposed four-year agreement "would include pay increases as well as improved work rules and quality-of-life enhancements for cockpit crewmembers."

A ratification vote will be held after details of the agreement are presented to the membership in a series of road shows at ATI crew hub and training centers. The road shows will begin in January, 2011.

“We will be pleased to present to our crewmembers an agreement that satisfies their needs,” said Capt. Tom Rogers, chairman of the ATI unit of ALPA. “What brought these negotiations to where they are today is the fact that ATI crewmembers take great pride in the service they provide to the Company and that they are dedicated to seeing ATI prosper. It’s been a long road, and I believe that our determination has finally paid off.”

Monday, December 06, 2010

Qantas Flight 32: Crew response to the emergency

by B. N. Sullivan

This is the third in a series of posts about Qantas Flight 32, an Airbus A380 (registration VH-OQA) that experienced an uncontained failure of one of its four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines during flight on November 4, 2010.  The information here is based on a preliminary report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), issued On December 3, 2010.

As mentioned in the previous post, there were five flight crew on board Qantas Flight 32: the Captain (PIC); a First Officer (FO), acting as co-pilot; a Second Officer (SO); a second Captain, who was training as a Check Captain (CC); and a Supervising Check Captain (SCC), who was training the CC.  This post details how they responded to the emergency following the uncontained engine failure that damaged the aircraft and a number of its systems.

Early in the emergency, given that the aircraft was controllable, the crew decided to hold their present altitude while they processed the plethora of ECAM messages that immediately followed the engine failure.  [See previous post.]  They contacted Singapore ATC and asked for an appropriate holding position, ultimately requesting "to remain within 30 NM (56 km) of Changi Airport in case they should need to land quickly."  ATC vectored the aircraft into a holding pattern east of the airport  at 7,400 ft.

As the crew went through procedures associated with the ECAM messages, the SO went into the cabin to try to visually assess the damage to No 2 engine.
As the SO moved through the cabin a passenger, who was also a pilot for the operator, brought the SO’s attention to a view of the aircraft from the vertical fin mounted camera that was displayed on the aircraft’s in-flight entertainment system.  That display appeared to show some form of fluid leak from the left wing.
The SO then went to the left side of the aircraft's lower deck and observed the wing damage and fuel leak.  He saw a fuel trail about 0.5 m wide that appeared to be coming from underneath the wing.

Later, the SCC and SO returned to the cabin "on numerous occasions to visually assess the damage on the left side of the aircraft, and to inspect the right side of the aircraft, and to provide feedback to the cabin crew and passengers."

Meanwhile, up on the flight deck:
The flight crew reported that, during their assessment of subsequent multiple fuel system ECAM messages, they elected not to initiate further fuel transfer in response to a number of those messages, as they were unsure of the integrity of the fuel system.  In addition, the crew could not jettison fuel due to the ECAM fuel jettison fault and they were aware that there was fuel leaking from the left wing.  The crew also recalled an indication that the aircraft’s satellite communications system had failed.  They also received an aircraft communications and automatic reporting system (ACARS)message from the aircraft operator that indicated that multiple failure messages had been received by the operator from the aircraft.
It took about 50 minutes for the crew to complete procedures associated with the many ECAM messages.
They then assessed the aircraft systems to determine those that had been damaged, or that were operating in a degraded mode.  They considered that the status of each system had the potential to affect the calculation of the required parameters for the approach and landing.  The crew also believed that the failure may have damaged the No 1 engine, and they discussed a number of concerns in relation to the lateral and longitudinal fuel imbalances that had been indicated by the ECAM.
The FO and the SCC performed several calculations to determine the landing distance required for their overweight landing.  They determined that landing on Changi's runway 20C  "was feasible, with 100 m of runway remaining," and advised ATC to that effect.

Approach and Landing

Prior to leaving the holding pattern, the crew carried out a number of manual handling checks at holding speed to assess the controllability of the aircraft.
As the crew started to reconfigure the aircraft for the approach by lowering flaps, they conducted further controllability checks at the approach speed and decided that the aircraft remained controllable.  As a result of the landing gear-related ECAM messages, the landing gear was lowered using the emergency extension procedure and a further controllability check was conducted.

The landing performance application indicated a required approach speed of 166 kts.  The flight crew reported being aware that: reverse thrust was only available from the No 3 engine, no leading edge slats were available, there was limited aileron and spoiler control, anti-skid braking was restricted to the body landing gear only, there was limited nosewheel steering and that the nose was likely to pitch up on touchdown.  An ECAM message indicated that they could not apply maximum braking until the nosewheel was on the runway.  The wing flaps were extended to the No 3 position.

Singapore ATC vectored the aircraft to a position 20 NM (37 km) from the threshold of runway 20C and provided for a progressive descent to 4,000 ft.  The PIC was aware that accurate speed control on final would be important to avoid either an aerodynamic stall condition, or a runway overrun. Consequently, the PIC set the thrust levers for Nos 1 and 4 engines to provide symmetric thrust, and controlled the aircraft’s speed with the thrust from No 3 engine.

The autopilot disconnected a couple of times during the early part of the approach as the speed reduced to 1 kt below the approach speed.  The PIC initially acted to reconnect the autopilot but, when it disconnected again at about 1,000 ft, he elected to leave it disconnected and to fly the aircraft manually for the remainder of the approach.  Due to the limited landing margin available, the CC reminded the PIC that the landing would have to be conducted with no flare and that there would be a slightly higher nose attitude on touchdown.
Cabin crew were briefed to prepare the cabin for a possible runway overrun and emergency evacuation.

The aircraft touched down, the PIC applied maximum braking and selected reverse thrust on the No 3 engine.  The aircraft came to a stop with about 150 meters of runway remaining.

After Landing

The crew shut down the remaining engines, however the No 1 engine continued to run.  The crew recycled the engine master switch to OFF, but the engine still did not shut down.  The crew then tried using the emergency shutoff and fire extinguisher bottles to shut down No 1 engine, but to no avail.  Activating a series of circuit breakers in the aircraft's equipment bay, and efforts to starve the No 1 engine of fuel also were unsuccessful.  Ultimately, "the decision was taken to drown the engine with fire-fighting foam from the emergency services fire vehicles," but this did not happen until about 2 hours and 7 minutes after the aircraft landed!

Meanwhile, passengers disembarked on the right side of the aircraft via stairs.
The crew elected to use a single door so that the passengers could be accounted for as they left the aircraft and because they wanted the remainder of the right side of the aircraft to be kept clear in case of the need to deploy the escape slides. They also decided to have the other doors remain armed, with crew members in their positions at those doors ready to activate the escape slides if necessary, until all of the passengers were off the aircraft.
It took about an hour for all passengers and crew to leave the aircraft. There were no injuries reported among the five flight crew, 24 cabin crew and 440 passengers on board Qantas Flight 32.

[Photo Source]

Click here to view all posts about Qantas Flight 32 on Aircrew Buzz.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Qantas Flight 32: Uncontained engine failure and damage to the aircraft

by B. N. Sullivan

This is the second in a series of posts about the events on board Qantas Flight 32, an Airbus A380 (registration VH-OQA) that experienced an uncontained failure of one of its four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines during flight on November 4, 2010.  The information here is based on a preliminary report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), issued On December 3, 2010.

There were five flight crew on board Qantas Flight 32: the Captain (PIC); a First Officer (FO), acting as co-pilot; a Second Officer (SO); a second Captain, who was training as a Check Captain (CC); and a Supervising Check Captain (SCC), who was training the CC.

In a media briefing on the day the preliminary report was released, ATSB Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan praised the crew of Qantas Flight 32, stating that the A380 "would not have arrived safely in Singapore" were it not for the actions of the flight crew.   Reading through the ATSB report, it is clear that the entire crew really had their hands full.

Engine Failure

The ATSB report says that the first sign of trouble came during the climb out of Singapore when the crew heard two "almost coincident" loud bangs.  The PIC immediately selected altitude and heading hold on the autopilot control panel, and the aircraft leveled off, however the autothrust system did not reduce power to the engines as expected.  When it became clear that the autothrust system was no longer active, the PIC manually retarded the thrust levels to control the aircraft's speed.

The Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor (ECAM) system displayed an "overheat" warning message for the No 2 engine.  Then all hell broke loose on the flight deck.

Within seconds, the overheat warning changed to a fire for the No 2 engine.  The crew decided to shut down No 2 engine, and "after they had selected the ENG 2 master switch OFF, the ECAM displayed a message indicating that the No 2 engine had failed."

The crew discharged one of the engine's two fire extinguisher bottles, but did not receive a confirmation that it had discharged.  They repeated the procedure and again did not receive the expected confirmation.  They attempted to discharged the second bottle; again they did not receive confirmation that the second bottle had discharged.
The crew reported that they then elected to continue the engine failure procedure, which included initiating an automated process of fuel transfer from the aircraft’s outer wing tanks to the inner tanks.

The crew also noticed that the engine display for the No 2 engine had changed to a failed mode, and that the engine display for Nos 1 and 4 engines had reverted to a degraded mode.  The display for the No 3 engine indicated that the engine was operating in an alternate mode as a result of the crew actioning an ECAM procedure.

Shortly afterward, a flood of ECAM messages began to display.  Quoting from the ATSB report:
The flight crew recalled the following system warnings on the ECAM after the failure of No. 2 engine.
  • engines No 1 and 4 operating in a degraded mode
  • GREEN hydraulic system -- low system pressure and low fluid level
  • YELLOW hydraulic system -- engine No. 4 pump errors
  • failure of the alternating current (AC) electrical No. 1 and 2 bus systems
  • flight controls operating in alternate law
  • wing slats inoperative
  • flight controls -- ailerons partial control only
  • flight controls -- reduced spoiler control
  • landing gear control and indicator warnings
  • multiple brake system messages
  • engine anti-ice and air data sensor messages
  • multiple fuel system messages, including a fuel jettison fault
  • center of gravity messages
  • autothrust and autoland inoperative
  • No. 1 engine generator drive disconnected
  • left wing pneumatic bleed leaks
  • avionics system overheat
Damage to the Aircraft

Unbeknown to the crew at that time, the No 2 engine's intermediate pressure (IP) turbine had failed.  The turbine disc, blade and nozzle guide vanes separated, ruptured the surrounding casing, and damaged the engine's thrust reverser.  A number of components were ejected, which struck the aircraft.

The leading edge of the left wing was penetrated, resulting in "damage to the leading edge structure, the front wing spar and the upper surface of the wing."

The left wing-to-fuselage fairing also was penetrated, "resulting in damage to numerous system components, the fuselage structure and elements of the aircraft's electrical wiring."

Damaged were "elements of the aircraft's electrical wiring that affected the operation of the hydraulic system, landing gear and flight controls; a number of fuel system components; and the leading edge slat system."

The left wing's lower surface was impacted, "resulting in a fuel leak from the Number 2 engine fuel feed tank and the left wing inner fuel tank."

[Photo Source]

Click here to view all posts about Qantas Flight 32 on Aircrew Buzz.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Qantas Airbus A380 uncontained engine failure: ATSB preliminary report

by B. N. Sullivan

Airbus A380The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released its preliminary report regarding its investigation of the November 4, 2010 uncontained failure of a Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine on a Qantas Airbus A380 aircraft over Batam Island, Indonesia.  The aircraft (registration VH-OQA), operating as Qantas Flight QF32, was en route from Changi Airport, Singapore to Sydney with five flight crew, 24 cabin crew and 440 passengers on board.  No one on board was injured, but the aircraft sustained substantial damage.  Two people on the ground sustained minor injuries due to falling debris.

The abstract of the ATSB report provides this brief summary of what happened:
Following a normal takeoff, the crew retracted the landing gear and flaps.  The crew reported that, while maintaining 250 kts in the climb and passing 7,000 ft above mean sea level, they heard two almost coincident ‘loud bangs’, followed shortly after by indications of a failure of the No 2 engine.

The crew advised Singapore Air Traffic Control of the situation and were provided with radar vectors to a holding pattern.  The crew undertook a series of actions before returning the aircraft to land at Singapore.  There were no reported injuries to the crew or passengers on the aircraft.  There were reports of minor injuries to two persons on Batam Island, Indonesia.

A subsequent examination of the aircraft indicated that the No 2 engine had sustained an uncontained failure of the Intermediate Pressure (IP) turbine disc.  Sections of the liberated disc penetrated the left wing and the left wing-to-fuselage fairing, resulting in structural and systems damage to the aircraft.

As a result of this occurrence, a number of safety actions were immediately undertaken by Qantas, Airbus, Rolls-Royce plc and the European Aviation Safety Agency.  On 1 December 2010, the ATSB issued a safety recommendation to Rolls-Royce plc in respect of the Trent 900 series engine high pressure/intermediate pressure bearing structure oil feed stub pipes.  In addition, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority issued a Regulation 38 maintenance direction that addressed the immediate safety of flight concerns in respect of Qantas A380 operations with the Trent 900 series engine.  On 2 December 2010, Qantas advised that the requirements of Rolls-Royce plc Service Bulletin RB211 72 G595 would take place within the next 24 hours on engines in place on A380 aircraft currently in service, and before further flight on engines on aircraft not yet returned to service.
The ATSB report, which was issued today, is lengthy and detailed.  I will present some of the details of particular interest to crew members in the next two posts on Aircrew Buzz.  Stay tuned for that.

Meanwhile, here is the link to the landing page on the ATSB website where you can find links to the full text reports; photos; and safety recommendations pertaining to this accident: ATSB Investigation Number:AO-2010-089

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Horizon Air pilots approve new five-year contract

by B. N. Sullivan

The pilots at Horizon Air have approved a new five-year collective bargaining agreement.  Their union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters APA Local 1224, announced today that the tentative agreement  reached in September of this year  was ratified by the membership.  Ballots were tallied yesterday and the vote passed the membership by 60 percent, according to the union.

A press statement by Teamsters Local 1224 offered these details:
The new contract includes dramatic improvements in work conditions where the pilots will be writing their own schedules and trips.  Also, a progressive scheduling process was agreed to whereby pilots can trade and manage their schedules among each other to accommodate their personal wishes, with improved pay protections for Horizon pilots.  Significant ratification bonuses also were included in the agreement.  The pay rates will be submitted in two separate 'baseball style' arbitrations; a method agreed upon to avoid an impasse on the subject.

Most notable of these is, perhaps, the scheduling improvements in this agreement which demonstrate that Horizon has entrusted the pilot group to build safe, cost-efficient schedules.
"We look forward to implementing this new contract, especially the scheduling portion," says Captain Trevor Bulger. "The scheduling section in and of itself is a major industry improvement in that our pilots now have the ability to essentially build their own schedules. We envision this will provide for a vast improvement in our quality of life."

The new agreement was reached following more than four years of negotiations, and months of federal mediation.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

American Airlines Boeing 737-800 runway excursion at Montréal

by B. N. Sullivan

American AirlinesOn Tuesday evening, November 30, 2010, an American Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft went off the runway at Montréal-Trudeau Airport.  The aircraft, operating as American Airlines Flight AA802, had just arrived at Montréal after a scheduled passenger flight from Dallas-Fort Worth.  No one was injured.

WFAA-TV quoted an American Airlines spokesman, who said that after landing, the plane went off the runway into the grass.  He said only the nose wheel tires went off the runway into the grass and mud.

The American Airlines spokesman said there were six crew members and 105 passengers on board.  They deplaned using stairs.

It was raining at Montréal at the time of the incident.

UPDATE Dec 2, 2010:  The Aviation Herald, quoting NAV Canada, reports that "the airplane exited the runway at a speed of about 70 knots and came to a stop between taxiways E and B2 with all gear off the southern edge of the paved surface. At the time of occurrence there was heavy rain and winds from the south at 15 knots gusting 20 knots."

The incident aircraft's registration number is N901AN.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ilyushin IL-76 freighter crash at Karachi

by B. N. Sullivan

An Ilyushin IL-76 freighter has crashed shortly after takeoff from Karachi, Pakistan.   The aircraft, operating as Sun Way  flight MGC-4412, had just departed Karachi, bound for Khartoum, Sudan.  It crashed into a residential area and burned. Local authorities say that there were no survivors among the eight crew members on board.  Fatalities and injuries on the ground also have been reported, although the number of casualties has not been determined.

The accident happened just before 02:00 AM local time, on November 28, 2010.  Eyewitness reports suggest an engine may have been on fire prior to the crash, and that the aircraft may have been attempting to return to the airport.   The engine fire has not been confirmed by official sources.

Geo News reports that the accident site is "near Dalmia area in Gulistan-e-Johar locality."  News media say that the aircraft crashed into a building that was under construction, near residential apartments housing Pakistani Navy officers.  The crash sparked what has been described as a massive blaze.

A dramatic photo of the crash site has been posted to the Photo Blog.  Geo TV aired live streaming video of the burning accident site, some of which was also broadcast by CNNRTVCHD posted this video on YouTube:

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

Friday, November 26, 2010

Strike ballot scheduled for Evergreen International Airlines crews

by B. N. Sullivan

Evergreen International B747Frustrated after six years of contract negotiations, the pilots and flight engineers at Evergreen International Airlines (EIA) have scheduled a strike authorization ballot, to begin on December 1, 2010.  Their union, the Air line Pilots Association (ALPA), says that they are conducting a strike ballot of the membership "to be prepared for all possible contingencies should negotiations fail."

This past April, ALPA reached a tentative contract agreement (TA) with management, but it was voted down by the crews in August.  At that time, ALPA reported that 92% of eligible Evergreen crew members participated in the ratification balloting, and 96% of those voted against accepting the TA.

According to ALPA, Evergreen crew members overwhelmingly turned down the TA in August because it fell substantially short of their goals.
The failed agreement was largely a renewal of the current collective bargaining agreement, which has been in place since 1999.  The crew members concluded that the tentative agreement was not acceptable after more than 10 years without improvements in some areas of working conditions, six years without a pay raise, and no per diem increase since the late ’90s.  After months of waiting to come back to the negotiating table since the crew members voted down a tentative agreement in August, the MEC is taking the necessary measures to secure a fair contract, including sending the ballot to authorize a strike.  The strike ballot will open on December 1 and close January 7.  If it passes, it would authorize the EIA MEC to declare a strike once the pilot group is given permission to do so by the National Mediation Board (NMB).
William Fink, MEC chairman of the Evergreen ALPA unit, said, “We certainly want a contract, not a strike.  That has been our goal since day one more than six years ago — but the new agreement must provide our members with industry-standard wages, work rules, and benefits.  We deserve no less.  This strike authorization vote will give us the means to take all legal actions to attain the goal of a fair contract.”

The union can ask the U.S. National Mediation Board (NMB) for arbitration at any time.  If the NMB issues a proffer of arbitration, either party can reject it.  Should that happen, a 30-day cooling-off period would begin, after which the Evergreen crews would be legally free to call the first-ever pilot strike against the carrier.

Monday, November 22, 2010

ATSB Final Report: July 2008 Qantas Boeing 747 depressurization accident

by B. N. Sullivan

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has issued a final report on the sudden decompression in flight of a Qantas Boeing 747-400 on July 25, 2008.  The accident happened during the cruise phase of Qantas Flight QF30, which was en route from Hong Kong to Melbourne.  The flight diverted to Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila where it landed safely.  There were no serious serious injuries to those on board, however the aircraft's fuselage ruptured over an area measuring approximately 2 x 1.5 m (6.6 x 4.9 ft).

The ATSB investigation determined that the fuselage rupture "had been induced by the forceful bursting of one of a bank of seven oxygen cylinders located along the right side of the cargo hold," of the oxygen cylinders that provide the emergency supplementary oxygen supply for passengers.
An analysis of the damage produced by the ruptured cylinder showed that the force of the failure had projected the cylinder vertically upward into the aircraft's cabin, where it had impacted the R2 door frame, handle and the overhead panelling and structure, before presumably falling to the cabin floor and being swept out of the aircraft during the depressurisation. No part of the cylinder body was located within the aircraft, despite a thorough search.
The ATSB investigation "was unable to identify any particular factor or factors that could, with any degree of probability, be associated with the cylinder failure event."
Despite the inconclusive outcome of the investigation as to contributing factors, the associated engineering study did confirm that the cylinder type was fit-for-purpose.  There was no individual or broad characteristic of the cylinders that was felt to be a threat to the safety or airworthiness of the design.  Similarly, there was no aspect of the batch of cylinders produced with the failed item, which deviated from the type specification, or provided any indication of the increased potential for the existence of an injurious flaw or defect within that particular production lot.
In other words, in the opinion of the ATSB investigators, the rupture of the oxygen cylinder on Qantas Flight 30 was "a unique event and highly unlikely to happen again."

Here is the link to the full report: ATSB: Oxygen cylinder failure and depressurisation - 475 km north-west of Manila, Philippines, 25 July 2008, Boeing 747-438, VH-OJK

The report includes a number of photos showing the extent of the damage to the aircraft.

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

AirTran crew contracts: One down, still one to go

by B. N. Sullivan

AirTran Airways logoAirTran Airways pilots and flight attendants have been negotiating for years with the airline's management, hoping to achieve agreements for work contracts.  After nearly six years of negotiations, the pilots have a new labor agreement in hand, however contract talks between AirTran and its flight attendants seem to be going nowhere.


The pilots at AirTran Airways have ratified the tentative contract agreement reached last month with the airline's management.  The pilots' union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), announced the results of the ratification vote today, noting that 86.93 percent of those who cast ballots voted in favor of the agreement.  ALPA said 93.28 percent of eligible AirTran pilots participated in the ratification vote. 

According to a statement issued by ALPA, the new pilot contract enhances pay rates, quality of life, and career protections.  Most elements of the contract will take effect on December 1, 2010.

“By approving this contract, our members have signaled that they are focused on the future and ready to close a contentious chapter in our airline’s history,” said Linden Hillman, chairman of the AirTran chapter of ALPA.  “This deal will provide real improvements in our members’ lives and allow us to concentrate on the important work of merging two great companies.”

Flight Attendants

Last month -- around the same time that the pilots announced their tentative contract agreement -- AirTran's flight attendants filed for mediation of their contract talks by the National Mediation Board (NMB).  The flight attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), commenced collective bargaining for a new contract in December of 2007.

AFA-CWA says that shortly after Southwest Airlines announced in September that it would acquire AirTran, AirTran management approached the union requesting an abbreviated list of the flight attendants' greatest concerns in order to expedite negotiations.

AFA-CWA explains:
When presented with the union's "short list" proposal, company management responded with a counterproposal consisting mostly of existing contract language and minimal pay increases.  In addition, they failed to address the most basic work, duty and rest provisions.  AFA-CWA rejected management's proposal and filed for mediation services from the National Mediation Board the following day.
Despite AirTran's acquisition by Southwest, AirTran flight attendants will continue to work under the AirTran contract for at least another two years.  AFA-CWA points out that under the Railway Labor Act, "this future change in ownership does not negate the carrier's obligation to negotiate now with its flight attendants in good faith."

"It is incomprehensible that our flight attendants are subjected to the worst work rules of any major airline, while it is those same flight attendants' hard work that has earned AirTran numerous awards and accolades," said Alison Head, AFA-CWA AirTran President.

"Management has worked with its pilots to negotiate an acceptable contract to work under through the Southwest merger process - but refuses to offer some of the same fair work rules to its flight attendants., Ms. Head continued.  "Why would you extend fair work rules to one group of safety professionals and not to the other?"

In order to publicly demonstrate their frustrations over the stalled contract negotiations, AirTran flight attendants plan to picket outside Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this coming Wednesday, November 24, 2010.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crew fatigue cited in Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 taxiway landing at Atlanta

by B. N. Sullivan

A final report has been issued by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding its investigation of a 2009 incident in which a Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-332ER aircraft landed on a taxiway at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL).  According to the report, crew fatigue was a major cause of the incident.

At the time of the incident, on October 19, 2009, the aircraft (registration N185DN) was arriving at Atlanta.  The aircraft was operating as Delta Flight 60, a scheduled passenger service from Rio de Janeiro (GIG) to ATL.  The NTSB report summary gives this account of what happened:
During the flight one of the three required flight deck crew members became ill and was considered to be incapacitated.  The remaining two crew members conducted the entire night flight without the benefit of a customary break period.  Throughout the flight the crew made comments indicating that they were fatigued and identified fatigue as their highest threat for the approach, but did not discuss strategies to mitigate the consequences of fatigue.  At the time of the incident, the crew had been on duty for about 12 hours and the captain had been awake for over 22 hours, while the first officer had been awake for at least 14 hours.

During the descent and approach, the flight crew was assigned a number of runway changes; the last of which occurred near the final approach fix for runway 27L While the flight was on final approach, the crew was offered and accepted a clearance to sidestep to runway 27R for landing.  Although the flight crew had previously conducted an approach briefing for two different runways, they had not briefed the approach for runway 27R and were not aware that the approach light system and the instrument landing system (ILS) were not available to aid in identifying that runway.  When the crew accepted the sidestep to runway 27R, the captain, who was the flying pilot, saw the precision approach path indicator and lined the airplane up on what he said were the brightest set of lights he could see.  During the final approach, the first officer was preoccupied with attempting to tune and identify the ILS frequency for runway 27R.  Just prior to the airplane touching down, the captain realized they were landing on a taxiway.  The airplane landed on taxiway M, 200 feet north of, and parallel to, runway 27R.

Postincident flight evaluations of the airport lighting indicated that there were a number of visual cues that could have misguided the captain to align with taxiway M instead of runway 27R while on final approach.  These cues included numerous taxiways signs along the sides of taxiway M which, from the air, appeared to be white and could be perceived as runway edge lights.  In addition, the blue light emitting diode (LED) lights used on the eastern end of taxiway M were perceived to be brighter than the adjacent incandescent lights on the airfield and the alternating yellow and green lights in the ILS critical area provided the appearance of a runway centerline.  The postincident flight evaluations indicated that when the approach lights or the ILS for runway 27R were available and used, it was clearly evident when the airplane was not aligned with the runway.
The NTSB determined the probable cause of this incident to be, "The flight crew’s failure to identify the correct landing surface due to fatigue."

Contributing causes were:
  • the flight crew’s decision to accept a late runway change,
  • the unavailability of the approach light system and the instrument landing system for the runway of intended landing,
  • the combination of numerous taxiway signs and intermixing of light technologies on the taxiway.
No one was injured in the incident.

Here are the links to the NTSB's final report:
RELATED:  NTSB investigating Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 taxiway landing at Atlanta -, Oct 21, 2009

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bombardier CRJ1000 NextGen gets European and Canadian Aircraft Type Certificates

by B. N. Sullivan

Bombardier Aerospace announced today that its new aircraft, the CRJ1000 NextGen regional jet, has been awarded Aircraft Type Certificates by both Transport Canada and the European Aviation Safety Agency. The 100-seat aircraft is the largest in Bombardier's CRJ Series of regional jets.

According to a press statement issued by Bombardier:
The CRJ1000 NextGen aircraft’s flight test program was conducted from the Bombardier Flight Test Centre in Wichita, Kansas, and the flight test aircraft accumulated approximately 1,400 flight hours in 470 test missions. The prototype CRJ1000 NextGen aircraft, serial number 19991, successfully made its inaugural flight from Bombardier’s facility in Mirabel, Québec on September 3, 2008.
“I do not think anyone 20 years ago would have envisaged how the regional jet would transform the airline industry all over the world,” said Gary R. Scott, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.

“We are proud to have introduced the regional jet and we are proud of our ability to read the market and have larger and more cost-effective regional jets as the market required them. This ability has culminated in the production of the magnificent CRJ1000 NextGen regional jet.”

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Flight crew's unprofessional behavior caused PSA Airlines CRJ-200 runway overrun at Charleston, WV

by B. N. Sullivan

accident sceneThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued its final report on the PSA Airlines CRJ-200 runway overrun at Charleston, WV, in January of this year.  The aircraft (registration N246PS) overran a runway at Yeager Airport (CRW), Charleston, WV, following a rejected takeoff.  The NTSB report attributes the incident to the flight crew's "unprofessional behavior."

The incident flight, operating as US Airways Express Flight 2495, was departing Charleston for Charlotte Douglas International Airport, NC.  After noticing that the flaps were incorrectly configured for takeoff, the crew rejected takeoff at high speed -- well above V1.  The aircraft overran the end of the runway and came to a stop in the engineered materials arresting system (EMAS) in the runway end safety area.

There were no injuries among the three crew members and 31 passengers on board.  The aircraft's flaps, landing gear, and landing gear doors "received minor damage," according to the NTSB.

The NTSB's statement of probable cause is as follows:
(1) The flight crewmembers’ unprofessional behavior, including their nonadherence to sterile cockpit procedures by engaging in nonpertinent conversation, which distracted them from their primary flight-related duties and led to their failure to correctly set and verify the flaps;

(2) the captain’s decision to reconfigure the flaps during the takeoff roll instead of rejecting the takeoff when he first identified the misconfiguration, which resulted in the rejected takeoff beginning when the airplane was about 13 knots above the takeoff decision speed and the subsequent runway overrun; and

(3) the flight crewmembers’ lack of checklist discipline, which contributed to their failure to detect the incorrect flap setting before initiating the takeoff roll.

Contributing to the survivability of this incident was the presence of an engineered materials arresting system beyond the runway end.
Here are the links to the NTSB's final report:

RELATED: PSA Airlines CRJ-200 runway overrun at Charleston, WV -, Jan 19, 2010

[Photo Source]

Monday, November 08, 2010

US Airways recalling furloughees, possibly hiring new crew for 2011

by B. N. Sullivan

US Airways A320US Airways has announced plans to add 500 crew members to its active work force in 2011.  The carrier will expand its flight attendant work group by 420, and will add 80 pilots to its ranks.

The expansion will begin with the recall of furloughees.  If the positions are not filled by those currently on furlough, US Airways plans to recruit new crew members.

Following the recall, US Airways expects to have no more flight attendants on furlough.  Up to 100 pilots may remain on furlough.

In a statement to the press, US Airways President Scott Kirby said, "This is great news for our workforce and the communities we serve.  We look forward to welcoming our colleagues back to US Airways, and bringing new crew members onto the team."

US Airways plans to have both the new hires and those who are recalled flying the line by July of 2011.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Music video: 'Ooo I wanna get you out of Teterboro...'

by B. N. Sullivan

A pilot in my family turned me on to this terrific music video -- written, performed and produced by his friend,  Mike Wagner.  The catchy lyrics are set to an old Beach Boys song, and the video is very entertaining.
Out in New Jersey(s)
There’s a place called Teterboro
That’s where everybody goes
To be a part of it all

Lots of jets on the ramp
Loaded up waiting to start engines
They’ll be there for an hour
Before they even have the chance
Down in Teterboro
You can find the rest of the Teterboro lyrics on Mike's blog, and you can find a link to download an audio-only version there, too.

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

Kudos to Mike Wagner for doing such a great job with the video, and thanks to Pat Sullivan for sending it to me.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Flight attendant union calls on TSA to fully implement CrewPASS

by B. N. Sullivan

AFA-CWA logoThe Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) has once again called upon the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to fully implement CrewPASS, an identification credential for aviation workers that promotes expedited screening of those who most frequently pass through airport security.

In a press statement issued yesterday, Patricia Friend, AFA-CWA International President, said, “TSA has devoted many resources to enhancing aviation security but, as recently announced screening procedures take effect, it is flight attendants who are adversely affected by lengthy airport security lines.

“Flight attendants are subject to extensive background checks so there is no reasonable explanation why this highly vetted group of aviation employees continues to be exposed to lengthy airport security lines which may affect their ability to report to the aircraft on time.  AFA-CWA supports a multi-layered aviation security system and we urge the TSA to continue work on improving airport security screening effectiveness.”

For years, AFA-CWA has been urging TSA to devote serious resources to the appropriate development and full implementation of an aviation workers’ identification credential that will promote expedited screening of those who most frequently must pass through airport security.  This credential could employ biometrics, such as fingerprints, to quickly screen flight attendants and others.  This would ultimately allow TSA to focus on more effective screening of the hundreds of airport vendors and thousands of aircraft passengers who daily pass through the screening checkpoints.


Monday, November 01, 2010

Pilots at Air Wisconsin begin contract negotiations

by B. N. Sullivan

Contract negotiations have begun between the Air Wisconsin pilots' union and the management of Air Wisconsin Airlines Company (AWAC).  Air Wisconsin pilots are represented by the Air line pilots Association (ALPA).

According to ALPA:
After more than two years of meticulous planning that included the development of a comprehensive strategic plan and a multifaceted communications program, the Air Wisconsin pilots exchanged openers with management as outlined in the Railway Labor Act (RLA)—the federal statute that governs contract negotiations in the airline industry. The RLA sets the rules for collective bargaining, representation, and grievance processing in the airline and railroad industries. Section 6 is the provision of the RLA that defines how airline management and the union can start and continue collective bargaining to amend applicable working conditions.

“Our opener is very extensive and includes improvements to nearly every section of the contract,” said Capt. Mark Lockwood, chairman of the Air Wisconsin pilots’ Negotiating Committee. “We have surveyed the pilot group twice and spent countless hours speaking with our fellow pilots. The overwhelming sentiment that we have heard is that the pilots want more of Air Wisconsin’s earnings, not less.” As a result, the Master Executive Council recently launched the “MORE” campaign to kick off the start of negotiations.
“We are very optimistic about achieving a quality contract that compensates our pilots for the high level of productivity that has supported Air Wisconsin’s growth,” said Capt. Joe Ellis, chairman of the Air Wisconsin pilots’ chapter of ALPA.

ALPA notes that despite the recession and current economic climate, AWAC continues to make money, has recalled furloughed pilots, and has begun hiring new pilots.

“Air Wisconsin has long been the ‘go-to’ airline, the airline of choice, and the airline that set the bar for our sector of the industry,” said Capt. Ellis. “It’s no secret that even though our pilots provided deep concessions nearly eight years ago, through the subsequent mismanagement of our airline, Air Wisconsin’s reputation has plummeted. Our pilots have made a clear statement that they expect real change—change that will restore our company as a place where employees are proud to answer the question, ‘Who do you fly for?’”

Friday, October 29, 2010

AirTran flight attendants file for mediation of contract negotiations

by B. N. Sullivan

AirTran Airways logoThe flight attendants at AirTran Airways have filed with the National Mediation Board (NMB) for mediation of contract negotiations. After more than three years of talks, the flight attendants' union believes that their  negotiations with AirTran management have reached an impasse.  AirTran flight attendants are represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA).

A press statement issued by the AFA explains:
Southwest Airlines recently announced its intention to acquire AirTran.  Although the ownership of AirTran is about to change, this does not negate the carrier’s obligation to negotiate with its flight attendants in good faith.

“It is an interesting marriage,” said Alison Head, AFA-CWA AirTran President.  “I was surprised by all the characterizations of AirTran as ‘employee-centric’ because we have certainly not witnessed that.  For over three years, AFA-CWA has tried to work with management on negotiating a contract that adequately reflects the work and dedication we continue to provide to this airline.”

Following the announcement of the acquisition by Southwest, AirTran management approached AFA-CWA requesting an abbreviated list of the flight attendants’ greatest concerns in order to expedite negotiations.  When presented with the union’s “short list” proposal, the company responded with a counterproposal consisting mostly of existing contract language and minimal pay increases.   In addition, they failed to address the most basic work, duty and rest provisions.

“Management’s failure to effectively manage resources and respect the quality-of-life issues are at the heart of our contract demands,” stated Head.   “Just last Friday, Mr. Fornaro asserted that he ‘would like to enter into the relationship with Southwest with everything buttoned up.’  Obviously, the company is not committed to getting an agreement with its flight attendants.  AirTran flight attendants want a contract and will not sit idly by watching management drag this process on any longer.  The flight attendants’ contribution to the success of this airline cannot be ignored.”
Meanwhile, AirTran pilots announced several days ago that they had reached a tentative contract agreement with the airline's management.  A ratification vote on the pilot contract is expected to take place next month.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

American Airlines Boeing 757 with hole in fuselage lands safely at Miami

by B. N. Sullivan

American AirlinesEarlier this week, an American Airlines Boeing 757-200 aircraft made an emergency landing at Miami International Airport after experiencing a rapid decompression.  The incident occurred late on the evening of October 26, 2010 not long after the aircraft had departed Miami en route to Boston.  After the aircraft landed safely, it was discovered to have a hole in the fuselage. No one was injured.

The Aviation Herald published this brief description of the incident:
An American Airlines Boeing 757-200, registration N626AA performing flight AA-1640 from Miami,FL to Boston,MA (USA) with 154 passengers and 6 crew, had been cleared to climb to FL310 when the airplane suffered a rapid decompression.  The crew donned their oxygen masks and initiated an emergency descent, the passenger oxygen masks were deployed.  After reaching 10,000 feet the crew requested even lower and descended further to 8000 feet and returned to Miami for a safe landing on Miami's runway 08R about 40 minutes after departure.

A post flight inspection revealed a hole of about 1 foot by 2 feet (33 by 66cm) just above and aft of the L1 door and just above the "A" of the American Airlines Logo.
Visit the Aviation Herald to view photos of the damaged aircraft. Pretty sobering stuff!

If you are thinking this incident sounds vaguely familiar, you are not alone.  When I heard about it, the first thing that came to mind was a similar incident in 2009 involving a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300.  In that case, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the probably cause to be: "Fuselage skin failure due to pre-existing fatigue at a chemically milled step."

To refresh your memory, you can click here to read about the Southwest B737 incident.

Allegiant Air flight attendants file for union representation election

by B. N. Sullivan

Allegiant Air flight attendants have filed a petition with the U.S. National Mediation Board (NMB) to hold a union representation election.  The flight attendants are seeking representation by the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU).

The TWU Allegiant Air organizers said about the NMB filing:
We are one step closer to having a level playing field, a seat at the negotiating table, and a collective bargaining agreement with management that takes away our status as “at-will” employees.
If the representation election is successful, the flight attendants will be the first work group at Allegiant to be unionized.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Continental Airlines flight attendants reject tentative contract agreement

 by B. N. Sullivan

Continental Airlines flight attendants have rejected a temporary contract agreement (TA), which was reached in September.  Their union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) announced the results of the ratification vote earlier today: 61% of the membership participated, and of those, 45% voted to accept the TA and 55% voted to reject it.

In a statement about the failed ratification vote, the IAM said:
In meetings held with the membership at all bases it became clear the Flight Attendants prefer a complete agreement that provides full recovery of items sacrificed in the previous round of concessionary bargaining, such as sick leave, vacation and 401K Match instead of an interim agreement.

Although we acknowledged from the outset that the Tentative Interim Agreement did not contain everything the membership - or the committee – wanted, in light of the merger with United Airlines it would have been irresponsible of the committee not to allow the Flight Attendants an opportunity to view and vote on the wages, fence agreement and no furlough clause we had achieved in the company’s last proposal.  As the Negotiating Committee indicated before voting began, we would be guided by the membership’s direction, and that direction is clear.

Merger or no merger Continental has a legal obligation to negotiate.  We have notified Continental that we are prepared to immediately resume bargaining which will address the comprehensive agreement that fulfills goals the membership expressed.
Sounds like it's back to the bargaining table for the IAM and Continental management. 

CommutAir pilots protest proposed 9% pay cut

by B. N. Sullivan

Pilots for CommutAir, a Continental Connection carrier, picketed at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport yesterday to protest proposed pay cuts they say would make them the lowest-paid pilots for their aircraft type in the airline industry.

CommutAir pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).  In a statement to the press, the union said:
Coming at a time when experts agree the regional airline sector needs improvement, the pilots warned that CommutAir management’s plan to lower their wages is a direct assault on efforts to raise standards among regional carriers.

“No one wins in a race to the bottom,” said Colgan Air Capt. Mark Segaloff, who was recently elected to represent the CommutAir group as an executive vice-president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l. (ALPA).  The CMT pilots joined the Association in 2008 and are negotiating their first union contract.

“Under CommutAir’s most recent contract offer, a new-hire pilot would make less than $20,000 a year,” Segaloff continued.  “Every airline pilot has a stake in what’s happening at this small airline, because if CommutAir is successful in cutting pay when the industry is coming out of its slump, they will lower the bar for regional pilots across the country.”

The 134 pilots of CommutAir, based in North Olmsted, OH, began negotiations 20 months ago.  In September the company unveiled its economic proposal: a 9 percent pay cut.  ALPA’s economic proposal requests pay increases to bring the low-paying airline into parity with pilots flying similar turboprop aircraft.

“All the CommutAir pilots are asking for is an industry-standard wage.  My airline, Mesaba, American Eagle, ExpressJet, and others have all weathered the same financial storms CommutAir has, and they set the market rate,” said Comair Capt. Mark Cirksena, who traveled from Cincinnati to support the CommutAir picketers.  “The pilots at CommutAir need a living wage with a reasonable quality of life.”
Joining the CommutAir pilots on the picket line were ALPA members from 13 other carriers, including Continental, Delta, AirTran, ExpressJet, Colgan, Comair, Spirit, Mesaba, Air Wisconsin, Mesa, North American, Atlantic Southeast, and Trans States.

[Photo Source]

Monday, October 25, 2010

AirTran pilots and management reach a tentative contract agreement

by B. N. Sullivan

AirTran Airways logoAfter more than five years of negotiations, the pilots at AirTran Airways have reached a tentative contract agreement with the airline's management.  The deal was announced late last week by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which has represented AirTran's pilots since 2009.

Details of the tentative agreement (TA) have not been disclosed, pending approval by the AirTran Master Executive Council (MEC) and ratification by the pilot membership.  However Linden Hillman, chairman of ALPA's AirTran unit said, “We believe that this contract provides significant improvements in pay, quality of life, and other important benefits that our pilots have earned and deserve.”

If the MEC representatives give their approval, the TA will be put to the membership for a ratification vote next month.

In September of this year, AirTran Airways agreed to be acquired by Southwest Airlines.  The acquisition is awaiting regulatory and shareholder approval.

“After our pilots get to vote on our new contract, we will be able to focus completely on the upcoming transition and merger with the Southwest pilot group,” said Hillman. “Our professional pilots with similar cultures and work ethic will combine to form an industry-leading workforce.”

Southwest's pilots are represented by the Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association (SWAPA), an independent union not affiliated with ALPA.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Spirit Airlines recruiting pilots

by B. N. Sullivan

Spirit AirlinesSpirit Airlines is actively recruiting pilots to become First Officers on its Airbus A320 fleet.  According to a job notice on the Careers section of the Spirit Airlines Web site, the minimum requirements are:
  • 4,000 hours total time in fixed wing aircraft.
  • 1,000 hours in multi-engine aircraft (at least 50 hours flown within the last 12 months).
  • Current FAA First Class Medical Certificate.
  • Current Airline Transport Pilot License.
  • Valid passport/documents with the ability to travel in and out of the USA and all cities/countries served by Spirit Airlines now and in the future.
Among the preferred qualificationss:
  • A320 Type Rating
  • Undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university.
  • Experience in 121 airlines or turbojet aircraft.
  • Experience in aircraft equipped with EFIS and/or FMS.
Follow this link to apply online.

Good Luck!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Plane crash attributed to escaped crocodile on board: True or not?

by B. N. Sullivan

According to a story that has popped up on several news Web sites, a crocodile may have been instrumental in causing the fatal crash of a Let L-410 turboprop aircraft earlier this year.  The gist of the story is as follows:
  • a passenger smuggled a crocodile on board in hand baggage
  • the crocodile escaped from the bag as the aircraft was descending
  • frightened at the sight of the reptile, the flight attendant and passengers rushed forward
  • this altered the aircraft's center of gravity
  • the crew lost control of the aircraft and it crashed
To be candid, I have some doubts about the veracity of these reports -- but then again, while the tale about the crocodile's role in the disaster seems far-fetched, I suppose it is not impossible.

What is certain is that the aircraft, operated by Filair, went down near Bandundu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on August 25, 2010, killing 19 people, including the crew.  There was one survivor.  Some time later he, too, was reported to have died of his injuries, but not before he was able to give a statement about the accident to investigating authorities.

Within days of the accident, the Aviation Herald reported this account:
On Aug 27th Filair said the only survivor of the crash was able to provide testimony to investigators.  According to this statement the crew had been told to land on a "reserve strip" alongside the main runway.  The passengers noticed that the airplane was not heading for the runway 11/29 (1380 meters/4530 feet long) and began shouting, then rushed to the cockpit unbalancing the aircraft to a point, where control was lost.  Fuel exhaustion was not the problem, 150 liters of fuel were recovered from the wreckage.  The black boxes were recovered from the wreckage by the Civil Aviation Authority and are being analysed.
No mention of crocodiles at that time.

Here are links to two of the news stories featuring the crocodile version on and

So, what do you think?  Does the crocodile story sound plausible?  Or do you think this is a rumor turned legend-in-the-making?

[Image Source]

RELATED:  Fatal crash of Filair Let L-410 at Bandundu, DR Congo

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fatal L-100 Hercules cargo plane crash in Afghanistan

by B. N. Sullivan

An L-100 Hercules cargo aircraft has crashed in the mountains of Afghanistan near Kabul, killing all on board. The aircraft, owned by Transafrik International and operating as a charter for National Air Cargo as Flight MUA-662, was en route from Bagram Air Base (BPM) to Kabul (KBL) at the time of the accident.  The accident occurred on October 12, 2010 at about 19:30 local time.

News reports about the accident vary as to whether there were seven, eight or nine people on board.  In any case, all on board are reported to have perished in the accident.

Few details are available, but Afghan news website quoted an eyewitness who said the plane "burst into flames after crashing into mountains in the Mahipar pass."  The Mahipar pass is situated along the highway between Kabul and Jalalabad.

An AFP article about the accident quoted a police official from the area near the accident site who said the fire was still burning two hours after the crash.

The Lockheed L-100 is the civilian equivalent of the military C-130.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

American Airlines to recall 250 furloughed pilots and 545 flight attendants

by B. N. Sullivan

American AirlinesAmerican Airlines (AA) is recalling 250 furloughed pilots and 545 flight attendants, according to Gerard Arpey, CEO of AMR Corporation, the parent of AA.  During a press conference in London, Mr. Arpey announced the recalls in conjunction with the initiation of new international routes arising from AA's joint business agreement with Iberia and British Airways .

Recalls will take place incrementally  Pilot recalls will begin in November 2010 when 25 pilots will be brought back to work; then, beginning in December, another 30 pilots will be recalled each month.  American currently has nearly 2,000 pilots on furlough.

Flight attendants are expected to be recalled in two groups.  The first 225 will be asked to return to to AA later this month, and the remaining 320 should receive recall notices before the end of this year.  The majority of flight attendants set to be recalled are former TWA crew, many of whom were laid off nearly a decade ago.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Air Transat pilots ratify new contract

by B. N. Sullivan

Pilots at Air Transat have ratified their new contract.  The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents Air Transat pilots, says that 87% of eligible pilots cast ballots, and 75% of those were in favor of ratifying the agreement.

“We are really pleased with the results,” said Capt. Sylvain Aubin, chairman of the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC).  “With these strong numbers, our pilots have once again demonstrated their unity as they have done throughout the entire collective bargaining process.”  The successful ratification by Air Transat pilots represents over 13 months of strategic planning by members of Air Transat’s MEC and Negotiating Committee.

According to ALPA, the new agreement provides employment protection for long-term job stability, improvements to pay rate, and lifestyle considerations that incorporate fatigue-mitigation factors.

The pilots of Air Transat and Transat A.T. management now begin the process of implementing the new collective agreement.  “Our pilots have spoken with a unified voice,” said Capt. Aubin.  “We anticipate management to deal responsibly and expeditiously with the implementation of the new agreement.”

Friday, October 01, 2010

Cebu Pacific: How to get passengers to pay attention to the safety briefing

by B. N. Sullivan

Cebu Pacific Air flight attendants demonstrate a novel way to get passengers to pay attention to the safety briefing:

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

RELATED: Southwest Airlines' rapping flight attendant

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Captain Peter Burkill to resume flying for British Airways

by B. N. Sullivan

Captain Peter Burkill, who was the commander of the British Airways Boeing 777-236ER that crash landed at London's Heathrow International Airport in January of 2008 will soon return to work as a pilot for the airline.  The aircraft, operating as British Airways Flight 038, was arriving at Heathrow from Beijing when itt experienced an uncommanded loss of thrust in both engines.  The aircraft (registration G-YMMM) landed short of Heathrow's runway 27L.  The plane was damaged beyond repair, but all 16 crew members and 136 passengers survived.

After a lengthy investigation, the UK's Air Accidents Investigations Branch (AAIB) determined that ice had formed within the fuel system and had obstructed fuel flow to the engines during the approach to Heathrow, causing the dual engine rollback and subsequent failure to respond to throttle inputs.

The actions of the crew in the face of such an unprecedented emergency saved the lives of all on board.  The AAIB report concluded that it was Capt. Burkill's split-second decision to reduce the flap setting that had allowed the aircraft to avoid colliding with an ILS antenna and to land as near to the runway threshold as it did.  All of the flight's three pilots and 13 cabin crew were awarded the British Airways Safety Medal for their actions that day.

Nevertheless, several months after the accident, Capt. Burkill took voluntary redundancy and left the British Airways.  Unfortunately, he was unable to find an appropriate position elsewhere.  Capt. Burkill and his wife told the tale of the events surrounding the accident and its aftermath, and the effects on their lives in a book called "Thirty Seconds to Impact," published earlier this year.

Now, nearly three years after the accident, Capt. Burkill is preparing to return to work at British Airways.  Yesterday he posted a message on his blog, which said in part:
I am delighted that the discussions with British Airways, have come to a mutually, happy conclusion. In my opinion British Airways is the pinnacle of any pilots' career and it is my honour and privilege to be returning to an airline that I joined as a young man.
He also expressed "thanks for all the support we have been given over the past couple of years, from family, friends, colleagues and strangers. We are looking forward to resuming a 'normal' life and anonymity once again!"

Godspeed, Peter Burkill.

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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Evergreen International fined $4.855 million by FAA over pilot training

by B. N. Sullivan

Evergreen International Airlines faces a $4.855 fine, proposed by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)  "for allegedly using pilots on 232 revenue flights who had not bee trained in accordance with an FAA-approved training program."

In 2009, Evergreen aircraft were equipped with a new Flight Management System (FMS).  The FAA says the new FMS was different enough from the prior system that it required pilots to be specifically trained on it.  According to the FAA, Evergreen "did not complete its FAA-approved training for pilots before assigning them to fly revenue trips using the new FMS."

In a press release announcing the proposed civil penalty, the FAA explains:
The FAA alleges Evergreen line pilots received ground training and a check ride on the new FMS, but that the company did not provide required familiarization flights supervised by the company’s check pilots despite being told to do so by the FAA.  The familiarization flights are part of the FAA-approved training program for Evergreen aircraft equipped with the FMS.  Evergreen also failed to distribute copies of the required system manual to crews who would be using the FMS.

Subsequent to these improperly conducted flights, Evergreen has ensured that its pilots are trained in accordance with its FAA-approved training program and continues to operate under an FAA-approved training program.
The flights in question took place between February 19, 2009 and July 9, 2009.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said, “Even though Evergreen now complies with its training program, this penalty is appropriate because requiring operators to complete required, approved training is the only way to make sure crews are fully qualified to operate the equipment and systems to manage flights safely.”

Evergreen has 30 days to respond to the FAA regarding the allegations.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Southwest Airlines to acquire AirTran Airways, will hire hundreds of new pilots and flight attendants

by B. N. Sullivan

Southwest Airlines logoIn a move that surprised just about everyone, Southwest Airlines announced today that it will acquire AirTran Airways. Once the two carriers' operations are combined (pending regulatory approval), the merged airline will operate under the Southwest name.

According to the initial press release about the transaction, the combined company will have its headquarters at Dallas.  The acquisition will include AirTran's entire fleet of aircraft, including its Boeing 717s:
Based on current operations, the combined organization would have nearly 43,000 Employees and serve more than 100 million Customers annually from more than 100 different airports in the U.S. and near-international destinations.  In addition, the combined carriers’ all-Boeing fleet consisting of 685 active aircraft would include 401 Boeing 737-700s, 173 Boeing 737-300s, 25 Boeing 737-500s, and 86 Boeing 717s, with an average age of approximately 10 years, one of the youngest fleets in the industry.   Southwest Airlines also announced, previously, that it is evaluating the opportunity to introduce the Boeing 737-800 into its domestic network to complement its current fleet, providing opportunities for longer-haul flying and service to high-demand, slot-controlled, or gate-restricted markets.  This acquisition supports Southwest Airlines’ evaluation of the Boeing 737-800.
No word yet on seniority integration plans for crews, although I'm sure the respective unions are brainstorming already.

The very good news is that no crew furloughs are expected in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, word is out that Southwest is planning to hire 150-200 new pilots, and 250-300 flight attendants very soon.  Michael Van de Ven, Southwest's Chief Operating Officer, said today that training classes for both pilots and flight attendants were anticipated to begin in early 2011.

Here is the link to the Southwest-AirTran merger website: