Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Latest FAA fine: $1.45 million civil penalty against Northwest Airlines

by B. N. Sullivan

FAA logoThe U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed so many fines against carriers in the U.S. in recent weeks that I feel like I am writing the same story again and again. Last month American Eagle was fined for improper repairs; then earlier this month the FAA fined American Airlines for maintenance violations, and then followed up with a second round a week later.

But wait, there's more!

Yesterday the FAA proposed a $1.45 million civil penalty against Northwest Airlines for operating a number of Boeing B757 aircraft without proper windshield wiring inspections. Here's the story from the FAA:
A 1990 FAA airworthiness directive on Boeing 757s required inspections for the presence of undersized wires in the heating system for both the captain’s and first officer’s windows, and replacement if needed. Left uncorrected, the problem could cause overheating, smoking and possibly a fire.

Northwest wrote maintenance instructions for its mechanics in April 1990 that omitted the required inspection of the wires under the first officer’s window. As a result, 32 of the carrier’s 757s flew more than 90,000 passenger flights between December 1, 2005 and May 27, 2008, while not in compliance with the airworthiness directive.

“Safety is the number one priority for the Department of Transportation,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The FAA has airworthiness directives for a reason and carriers cannot pick and choose when they want to comply.”

On May 28, 2008, Northwest discovered it had not performed the proper inspections and revised its maintenance instructions. However, the instructions did not require the work be performed before further flight, but at the next planned overnight layover. As a result, 29 of the 32 aircraft flew 42 passenger-carrying flights while they were still out of compliance with the airworthiness directive.

“When an air carrier realizes that an airworthiness directive is not being followed the problem must be corrected immediately,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “Safety cannot wait for the next scheduled maintenance.”
Makes you wonder who's next?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Update on the Airnorth crash at Darwin

by B. N. Sullivan

Airnorth VH-ANBThere are some new developments regarding the Airnorth Embraer 120 Brasilia that crashed at Darwin, Australia earlier this week. The accident, which happened on the morning of March 22, 2010, claimed the lives of both pilots; there were no passengers on board.

A statement from Airnorth on March 22, 2010 described the accident flight as a "routine training flight." Airnorth said that both pilots were experienced flying this aircraft, and that it had "encountered difficulties on takeoff and crash landed at Darwin Airport."

The following day another media statement was released by Airnorth in which the airline's CEO, Michael Bridge, said, in part:
“What I can say is that the training that was being conducted is a mandated element of our recurrent training program for this type of aircraft.

“Airnorth has world’s best practice training procedures in place and we are always working to enhance them. Accordingly, when Australia’s first EMB 120 simulator came on line mid last year, we immediately began moving through the accreditation process with both the simulator operator and CASA. This is well underway.

“Simulator training allows manoeuvres to be practiced repeatedly and can enhance the training process. A significant amount of Airnorth training is already conducted using flight simulators. Even when Airnorth completes the simulator accreditation process some in-flight training will still be required.

“There is currently no full flight simulation training aid available anywhere in the world for this type of aircraft and as such there will always need to be a component of in-aircraft training."
Although he didn't say so directly, this part of Mr. Bridge's statement may have been in response to reports that the crew were practicing a simulated engine failure at takeoff (EFATO) when the accident occurred. Some in the aviation community believe that this kind of maneuver should be practiced only in a simulator rather than in actual flight. Airnorth reportedly does not train EMB 120 pilots in simulators.

An article on the Web site of the Northern Territory News quotes a man identified as a "senior transport and safety investigator" who said, ""When you're simulating the failure of engines and other parts, you obviously have a greater risk than in normal operations."

A short time ago the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released a statement to the press reporting that they had recovered the flight data and cockpit voice recorders from the wreckage of the accident aircraft. The devices have been transported to the ATSB's technical facilities in Canberra for analysis.

The ATSB also released several photos of the accident site, including the one shown on this page. Here is the link to the page on the ATSB's Web site where you can find official information about the Airnorth EMB 120 accident investigation; links to the photos that have been released are near the bottom of that page.

A preliminary factual report about this accident is expected to be issued by the ATSB in about 30 days.

[Photo Source]

Monday, March 22, 2010

Aviastar-TU Tupolev Tu-204 crashes on approach to Moscow, eight crew injured

by B. N. Sullivan

A Tupolev TU-204-100 passenger aircraft operated by Russian carrier Aviastar-TU crashed early today while on approach to Moscow Domodedovo Airport, destroying the aircraft. All eight crew members who were on board the ferry flight from Hurghada, Egypt have survived, although all were said to be injured.

The accident occurred on Mar. 22, 2010 at about 02:35 AM local time. At the time of the accident, the aircraft (registration RA-64011) was on approach to Runway 14R at Domodedovo when it "disappeared from radar."

According to a article about the accident, the aircraft "came down about 1km from the runway, while attempting to land at night in fog and poor visibility."

Flight also reported that the cloud base was down to 60m and runway visibility was variable, at 450-700m, but the runway lighting was functioning normally.

There was no post-crash fire. The flight data recorders have been recovered and turned over to MAK, the Russian accident investigation committee, for analysis. Russian aviation authorities have banned Aviastar-TU from carrying out passenger operations while the investigation is underway.

RussiaToday posted this video of the crash site on YouTube:

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

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fatal training accident fot Australia's Airnorth

by B. N. Sullivan

Airnorth E120An Embraer 120 Brasilia aircraft (registration VH-ANB) operated by Australian regional carrier Airnorth has crashed at Darwin. According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), the accident occurred at Darwin Airport, Northern Territory, at 10:10 CST on March 22, 2010. There were no passengers on board the aircraft, but both pilots perished in the accident.

According to an article about the accident published on the Web site of the Northern Territory News:
Police assistant commissioner Mark Payne said the pilots were on a training flight and crashed shortly after take off from the main runway at Darwin airport, which is used by domestic and international flights.

Mr Payne said the two people killed were believed to be experienced pilots who were undergoing routine ongoing training at the time of the crash.
Airnorth operates both scheduled and charter services, and is based in Darwin.

The ATSB is investigating the crash, and will conduct a briefing on known factual aspects of the accident on Mar. 23, 2010.

Condolences to the families and friends of the two crew members who lost their lives in this accident.

[Photo Source]

RELATED: Update on the Airnorth crash at Darwin - Mar. 23, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

American Airlines: Another day, another fine for another maintenance violation

by B. N. Sullivan

American AirlinesJust a week ago, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed fines against American Airlines (AA) totaling $787,500 for three separate maintenance violations. Yesterday the FAA came down on AA with another fine -- $300,000 this time -- for yet another maintenance violation. That's more than a million dollars worth of proposed civil penalties in the space of a week for AA, not to mention another $2.9 million in February against American Eagle, the regional carrier owned by AA's parent, AMR Corp.

What is going on? Have AMR's airlines really been falling down on the maintenance job, or have they 'merely' been unlucky in being caught out?

Here are the most recent allegations by the FAA:
The FAA alleges that on Feb. 2, 2009, American Airlines mechanics deferred maintenance on a McDonnell Douglas MD-82 under the airline’s DC-9 Minimum Equipment List (MEL) by noting that the “pitot/stall heater light off” light on the aircraft’s annunciator panel was inoperative.

However, maintenance personnel determined the next day that the inoperative part was actually the captain’s pitot probe heater. Pitot probes are mounted on the exterior surfaces of an airplane and are used in measuring airspeed. Because they can be affected by a build-up of ice, these devices are equipped with heaters. The airplane’s MEL allows for maintenance on the pitot probe heater to be deferred, but it restricts flights to daytime only, in Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC). It prohibits flights into known or forecast icing or visible moisture.

Because mechanics logged the discrepancy as an inoperative panel light, the flight crew was unaware that the daytime, VMC restrictions applied to further flights. The aircraft was operated on five passenger revenue flights, in violation of Federal Aviation Regulations.
In a press release announcing this most recent proposed civil penalty against American Airlines, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said, "We expect full compliance with all of our maintenance standards. Safety is our top concern. Maintenance personnel must pay attention to every detail when they are working on an aircraft."

American Airlines has a 30 day period in which to respond to the new allegations.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jetstar A320 incident: Substantial loss of power in one engine during climb

by B. N. Sullivan

JetstarOn the evening of Mar. 15, 2010 an Airbus A320-232 aircraft (registration VH-VQO) operated by Australian airline Jetstar experienced a "substantial loss of power" in one engine shortly after departing Adelaide. The incident happened as Jetstar Flight JQ-670, which was bound for Darwin, was still climbing out. The aircraft returned to Adelaide where it landed safely; no one was injured. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has opened an investigation.

Although several news reports about the incident reported an engine fire (or worse), it is not clear exactly what happened. An initial report on the ATSB Web site classified the event as a "serious incident" and included this descriptive statement:
During the climb passing FL120, the aircraft experienced substantial power loss to the right engine. The crew secured the engine and returned to Adelaide.
A Northern Territory News article about the incident, which bore the blazing headline Wing on fire, emergency landing for Darwin flight, was subsequently quoted and elaborated upon by several other news outlets. The Northern Territory News piece quoted passengers from the flight who said that shortly after the seat belt sign went off they heard a loud bang, the cabin shook, and "Passengers on the right side of the plane were saying a big flame came from the right engine then all the lights on the right wing stopped working."

No mention of a wing on fire, except in the title of the article. In fact, the same article quoted a Jetstar spokesman who denied the plane was on fire, but said, "I can confirm some sparks may have been seen by some passengers."

Um, there's a big difference between "wing on fire" and "some sparks."

Another version of the story comes from the Aviation Herald, which, I should note, usually is a reliable source of information about aircraft accidents and safety incidents. According to the Aviation Herald, the trouble began about 12 minutes into the flight, when...
...a loud bang was heard, the airplane shuddered and streaks of flames were seen out of the right hand engine (V2527). The crew radioed "PAN PAN, PAN PAN, PAN PAN, Jetstar 670, Jetstar 670, engine fire". The crew shut the right hand engine down and set course back to Adelaide reporting, they did have no engine fire indication however fire was observed from the right hand engine. The fire had been extinguished, [and] a normal standby response for the landing rather than an emergency response was sufficient. The airplane returned to Adelaide for a safe landing on runway 23 about 30 minutes after takeoff. Emergency services reported after roll out, that no fire or smoke was visible. The airplane taxied to the apron with the emergency services in attendance.
Was it a surge? Compressor stall? Something ingested by the engine? Until we hear something further from the ATSB, let's just say the number two engine experienced a loss of power and was shut down, and the crew made an engine-out return to the departure airport for a safe landing. Presumably the passengers' heart rates had returned to normal by the time they continued on to Darwin the next day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Northwest pilots who overflew destination settle with the FAA over license revocation

by B. N. Sullivan

laptopThe two Northwest Airlines A320 pilots who famously overflew their intended destination this past October have settled with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding the agency's revocation of the pilots' licenses. In short, the pilots have dropped their appeal of the revocation. They will be permitted to re-apply for their licenses near the end of August, 2010.

For the benefit of readers who may have been living on a remote desert island for the past five months and who are thus unaware of the details of this drama, here is a synopsis of the story.

On October 21, 2009 Northwest Airlines Flight 188 was en route from San Diego to Minneapolis when radio contact with the aircraft, an Airbus A320, was lost. The aircraft, which was at cruise altitude, was a NORDO (no radio communications) for well over an hour, during which time it overflew its intended destination by more than 100 miles.

At some point, a flight attendant on board contacted the flight deck on an intercom regarding arrival time. According to an early National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report about the incident, neither pilot was aware of the aircraft's position at that time. When the flight attendant called, the pilots looked at their primary flight display and realized that they had passed Minneapolis, and were flying over Wisconsin. The pilots then made contact with Air Traffic Control and were vectored back to Minneapolis where they made a safe, albeit late, landing.

Despite early speculation that the pilots may have been napping, they told the NTSB that they had "lost situational awareness" because they were discussing a new crew scheduling system, and were going over the details on their personal laptop computers. They both said they "lost track of time." Shortly after that admission, the FAA summarily revoked both pilots' licenses. In December of 2009, the pilots announced that they would appeal the revocation, denying that they had "intentionally or willfully" violated any federal aviation regulations.

Yesterday the settlement between the pilots and the FAA was announced. The pilots' suspension by Delta Air Lines (which now owns Northwest Airlines) remains in force while the airline continues its own internal investigation of the incident.

Opinions about this incident among those in the aviation community have run the gamut. Many believe the pilots were unfairly vilified, saying that if the news media had not got hold of the story and sensationalized it, these pilots would have received a slap on the wrist and would still be flying -- especially since no one was hurt or killed, and no airplanes were damaged. At the other end of the spectrum are the less forgiving who believe that this was a serious and irresponsible violation, and that the pilots should never fly again.

Regardless, this slip-up by a pair of high-time, accomplished pilots due to distraction and inattention has cost them a lot -- financially and otherwise. Whether they are able to resume their airline piloting careers or not, the incident has changed their lives forever. If nothing else, it is a cautionary tale.

For the record, here are all of the articles I wrote about this incident here on Aircrew Buzz as events unfolded over time:UPDATE Mar. 18, 2010: Today the NTSB released its probable cause findings for the Northwest Flight 188 incident, along with corresponding safety recommendations arising from the investigation. Linkage:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gulfstream III cabin window pane separates in flight

by B. N. Sullivan

The crew of a Gulfstream III aircraft (Gulfstream G1159A) operated by Northeastern Aviation had a weird experience last week. The outer pane of a cabin window separated from the aircraft and was ingested by an engine. Fortunately the crew were able to land the aircraft safely and none of the three crew members and two passengers on board were injured.

The strange incident happened on March 10, 2010 shortly before 1PM EST. The aircraft (registration N155MM) was en route to Stuart, FL from Republic Airport (FRG), Farmingdale, NY. According to a Preliminary Report on the Web site of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):
The PIC stated that while passing through 35,000 feet msl, the crew heard a sound similar to a compressor stall, followed by a loss of power on the right engine. He immediately declared an emergency with air traffic control (ATC) and initiated the checklist for engine shut down in flight.

The cabin service representative came to the cockpit and informed him that the No. 4 outer window pane on the right side of the airplane had separated. The flight crew assumed the window pane had been ingested into the right engine.

The PIC then contacted ATC requested and received clearance to return to FRG. The crew made a visual approach to FRG, landing at 1318, and taxied to the ramp without further incident.
The aircraft is being examined by an FAA inspector, and debris from the cabin window is being sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for further analysis.

Northeastern Aviation Corp., a Part 135 charter operator and aircraft management company, is based in Farmingdale, NY.

Monday, March 15, 2010

NTSB update on ACE Air Cargo Beech 1900C accident in Alaska

by B. N. Sullivan

ACE Air CargoThe U. S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released preliminary findings from their investigation of the crash of an ACE Air Cargo Beech 1900C in Alaska. The accident occurred on January 21, 2010 shortly after the aircraft (registration N112AX) took off from Runway 31 at Sand Point, Alaska en route to Anchorage. The aircraft crashed into the sea, and both pilots on board lost their lives.

According to the NTSB Preliminary Report, the aircraft took off from Sand Point at about 23:40 local time in visual meteorological conditions. An instrument flight plan to Anchorage had been filed.

The NTSB notes that a METAR at 23:56 from the weather station at Sand Point Airport reported, in part: Wind, 330 degrees (true) at 19 knots with gusts to 26 knots; visibility, 8 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, 2,000 feet broken, 2,800 feet overcast; temperature, 23 degrees F; dew point, 18 degrees F; altimeter, 29.91 inHg.

Quoting from the NTSB report:
A postaccident review of the radio communication recordings maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), revealed that the captain contacted the Anchorage air route traffic control center (ARTCC), about 2336, to request an instrument flight rules (IFR) clearance for the flight from Sand Point to Anchorage. His request was granted, and he was instructed to contact ARTCC after departure from Sand Point. According to ARTCC specialist on duty, no further radio communications were received from the accident airplane.

During on-scene interviews by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on January 27, two witnesses that were standing outside a home situated along the shoreline, about 1 mile north of the Sand Point Airport, reported hearing what they believed was the accident airplane as it departed. Both witnesses reported that as the airplane’s takeoff progressed, the engine noise suddenly changed, followed by a very loud sound of impact, and then silence. One of the witnesses said that just before hearing the impact, he momentarily saw the lights of the airplane descend into the ocean. The witnesses called 911 to report the accident. Both witnesses said that winds at the time were very strong out of the north, estimated between 50 and 60 knots.

The U.S. Coast Guard's Air Station Kodiak was notified that an airplane had crashed in the water just north of the departure end of Runway 31. The Coast Guard initiated an emergency response and immediately dispatched an HH-60J rescue helicopter from Air Station Kodiak. Volunteer search personnel located floating debris, including the first officer’s flight bag in the area north of the airport, but no survivors.
The report goes on to say that on January 24, wreckage from the aircraft was located in the water about one mile north of the departure end of Runway 31. The bodies of both pilots were recovered that day.

On January 24 and 25 fragmented wreckage was recovered by divers and recovery crews and transported to Sand Point, and examination of the wreckage began on January 26. Both of the aircraft's Pratt and Whitney PT6A-65B turboshaft engines were recovered. The propeller on the aircraft's number one engine was found in the "feathered" position at recovery.

Two FAA air safety inspectors from the Anchorage Flight Standards District Office; air safety investigators from Hawker Beechcraft and Pratt and Whitney; and representatives from Alaska Central Express (ACE), Inc. joined the NTSB IIC as members of the investigating team. The investigation is ongoing, and probable cause has not yet been determined.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reviewing the NTSB's 'Most Wanted List' for aviation safety improvements

by B. N. Sullivan

NTSB logoWe all know that the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) publishes a 'Most Wanted List' of desired transportation safety improvements, but when was the last time you had a look at that list? I admit, I hadn't reviewed the Most Wanted List in well over a year, so I recently visited the NTSB's Web site to have a look at the current version.

For your edification, here are the items on the current (2009-2010) NTSB Most Wanted List for Aviation:
Improve Oversight of Pilot Proficiency
  • Evaluate prior flight check failures for pilot applicants before hiring.
  • Provide training and additional oversight that considers full performance histories for flight crewmembers demonstrating performance deficiencies.
Require Image Recorders
  • Install crash-protected image recorders in cockpits to give investigators more information to solve complex accidents.
Improve the Safety of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Flights
  • Conduct all flights with medical personnel on board in accordance with stricter commuter aircraft regulations.
  • Develop and implement flight risk evaluation programs for EMS operators.
  • Require formalized dispatch and flight-following procedures including up-to-date weather information.
  • Install terrain awareness and warning systems (TAWS) on aircraft used for EMS operations.
Improve Runway Safety
  • Give immediate warnings of probable collisions/incursions directly to flight crews in the cockpit.
  • Require specific air traffic control (ATC) clearance for each runway crossing.
  • Require operators to install cockpit moving map displays or an automatic system that alerts pilots when a takeoff is attempted on a taxiway or a runway other than the one intended.
  • Require a landing distance assessment with an adequate safety margin for every landing.
Reduce Dangers to Aircraft Flying in Icing Conditions
  • Use current research on freezing rain and large water droplets to revise the way aircraft are designed and approved for flight in icing conditions.
  • Apply revised icing requirements to currently certificated aircraft.
  • Require that airplanes with pneumatic deice boots activate the boots as soon as the airplane enters icing conditions.
Improve Crew Resource Management
  • Require commuter and on-demand air taxi flight crews to receive crew resource management training.
Reduce Accidents and Incidents Caused by Human Fatigue in the Aviation Industry
  • Set working hour limits for flight crews, aviation mechanics, and air traffic controllers based on fatigue research, circadian rhythms, and sleep and rest requirements.
  • Develop a fatigue awareness and countermeasures training program for controllers and those who schedule them for duty.
  • Develop guidance for operators to establish fatigue management systems, including a methodology that will continually assess the effectiveness of these systems.
The NTSB has the notation "Acceptable response,progressing slowly," on the runway safety and crew resource management (CRM) items. On all the other items is the notation "Unacceptable response," even though some of these requests have populated the Most Wanted List for quite a number of years. For example, the Runway Safety item has been on the list continuously since the list's inception in 1990 (although it was titled 'Runway Incursions' until November of 2007). CRM for Part 135 operators has been on the list since November of 2006.

Some of the fatigue-related items have been on the Most Wanted List since May, 1995, although air traffic controller fatigue was not specifically mentioned until November, 2007.

The newest item on the Most Wanted List for aviation, Improve Oversight of Pilot Proficiency, was just added in February of this year.

Since the NTSB has no regulatory power, it can only request these safety measures. It is up to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to act upon the advice of the NTSB and create new regulations that would result in improvements to aviation safety.

Visit this page on the NTSB's Web site for more information about the Most Wanted List (including Highway, Marine and Rail issues, as well as Aviation).

Friday, March 12, 2010

FAA proposes fines totaling $787,500 against American Airlines

by B. N. Sullivan

wingletRelations between the AMR Corporation and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have not been so good so far this year. Last month the FAA proposed a multi-million dollar fine for improper repairs on American Eagle, AMR's regional airline. Today the FAA announced civil penalties totaling $787,500 against AMR's mainline carrier, American Airlines.

Today's announcement cited three separate maintenance violations by American Airlines. Quoting from the FAA press release about the proposed fines:
In the first case, which occurred in April 2008, the FAA alleges American Airlines mechanics diagnosed problems with one of two Central Air Data Computers (CADCs) on a McDonnell Douglas MD-82 jetliner. Instead of replacing the computer, mechanics improperly deferred this maintenance under the airline’s DC-9 Minimum Equipment List (MEL) by noting that the auto-throttles were inoperative. The MEL, however, does not allow deferral of an inoperative CADC.

The airline subsequently flew the plane on 10 passenger flights before the computer was replaced. During this time, flight crews were led to believe that both computers were working properly.

The FAA proposes a civil penalty of $625,000 in this case.

In the second case, the FAA found that in March 2008, American failed to correctly follow an Airworthiness Directive involving the inspection of rudder components on certain Boeing 757 aircraft. As a result, four 757s operated by American Airlines did not comply with the requirements of the Airworthiness Directive.

The FAA alleges that after American was advised of the situation, the company said it would cease flying the planes until they were repaired. However, during the following two days, the airline flew two of the planes on a total of three passenger flights. The FAA is seeking a penalty of $75,000 in this case.

In the final case, the FAA alleges that in May 2009, American’s mechanics returned an MD-82 aircraft to service, even though several steps of a scheduled B-check maintenance visit had not been checked off as completed. The airline also replaced a landing gear door without noting it in the aircraft’s logbook.

The aircraft was operated on two passenger flights with the logbook error. An FAA inspection of the aircraft revealed several discrepancies in the tail section, including loose screws, a missing nut plate and a right hand elevator torque tube binding and making noise. As a result of these discrepancies, the FAA proposes a civil penalty of $87,500.
As is usually the case, American Airlines has 30 days to respond to the FAA.

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Air Jamaica to transfer operations to Caribbean Airlines

by B. N. Sullivan

Air JamaicaAir Jamaica has publicly announced that its operations will be transferred to Caribbean Airlines on April 12 of this year, although details of the deal have yet to be concluded. Apparently Caribbean Airlines, which is based in Trinidad and Tobago, intends to acquire Air Jamaica's "profitable routes" but will not assume any of Air Jamaica's debts. Caribbean Airlines will not purchase Air Jamaica's fleet; instead some Air Jamaica aircraft will be wet-leased to Caribbean Airlines for at least a year.

Among the points stressed in the Air Jamaica announcement about the transfer of operations to Caribbean Airlines:
  • Air Jamaica aircraft will continue to be utilized during the transition period.
  • Current Air Jamaica pilots, flight crews and ground staff will operate the aircraft for the schedule already published.
However, according to, Air Jamaica's CEO Bruce Nobles "has advised employees that the carrier's staff will be made redundant when the deal is completed," but that some staff could be re-hired as contract workers for some period of time during the transition. It is unclear how many contract jobs would be offered to Air Jamaica staff.

An article published by Radio Jamaica late last week quoted the Works and Transport Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Colm Imbert, who said that what happens to the Air Jamaica staff as a result of the transaction will be the responsibility of the Jamaican government.

"The company [Caribbean Airlines] is not going to saddle itself with inefficient work practices, cumbersome agreement and obsolete aircraft," Imbert said.

Regarding the proposed wet-lease arrangement, Nobles told Aviation Week in a telephone interview, "We will be using our fleet, our AOC [air operator certificate], and our bilateral agreements. We will be operating under the Air Jamaica code, issuing the same tickets, and taking bookings through Air Jamaica’s reservation systems."

The Jamaica Airline Pilots Association (JALPA) had proposed to buy the airline, claiming it would be in the interest of Jamaica to keep the airline in the country. JALPA's bid for the airline was not accepted.

[Photo Source]

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Pilots die attempting a barrel roll in a Cessna 550B Citation Bravo

by B. N. Sullivan

BFULast month I wrote about a Cessna 550B Citation Bravo (registration OK-ACH) that crashed in Germany. The aircraft, operating as Time Air Flight TIE039C, was en route from Prague to Karlstad, Sweden at the time of the accident. Both crew members on board were killed.

A reader has passed along a link to a press release about the accident investigation from the Bundesstelle für Flugunfalluntersuchung (BFU), i.e., the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation. Apparently the accident followed an aerobatic maneuver -- specifically, a barrel roll -- from which the aircraft did not recover.

Here is the full text of the BFU press resease:
Air accident on 14 February 2010 near Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna (Saxony)

The twin-jet Cessna 550 B, departed Prague (Czech Republic) at 20:08 hrs (MEZ), for a ferry flight to Karlstad, Sweden. Aboard were two crew members. At 20:19 hrs, the aircraft's radar signal vanished from the monitors of the Air Traffic Service Provider. The crash site was found during the night close to the village Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna in the area of the mountain Großen Zschirnstein, Saxony.

In the following few days rescue work was under way during which the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) were recovered. Analysis of the Cockpit Voice Recorder showed evidence that shortly before the crash an aerobatics manoeuvre (barrel roll) was initiated.

The aircraft was neither designed nor approved for such manoeuvres.

The BFU issued the following Safety Recommendations:

Recommendation No.: 10/2010

The CAA-CZ responsible for air operators within the Czech Republic should arrange for an inspection of the involved air operator's aircraft in regard to structural overload.

Recommendation No.: 11/2010

The CAA-CZ should determine actions for the improvement of the air operator's Quality Management System and the Safety Culture

The investigation into the accident by the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU) is still in progress.
This sad tale reminded me of that old saying, “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots -- but there are no old, bold pilots.”

Sully retires from US Airways

by B. N. Sullivan

Captain Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III, the US Airways pilot who successfully ditched an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, has retired after 30 years service with the airline. He flew his last commercial leg yesterday: US Airways Flight 1167 from Fort Lauderdale to Charlotte. In the right seat was First Officer Jeffrey Skiles, who had also been Sully's co-pilot on US Airways Flight 1549. The aircraft was greeted at Charlotte Douglas International Airport by a spray-over from four water cannons.

In a statement to the press about his retirement, Captain Sullenberger said, "I have been fortunate to have followed my passion for most of my life, working in a profession I dearly love, side by side with thousands of wonderful colleagues, including the man flying my final flight with me, Jeff Skiles."

Sully says he plans to continue to serve as an advocate for aviation safety, and for the airline piloting profession. We all wish him well.

Here is a slide show of Flight 1167's arrival at CLT, from Below is a news video about the event, from

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

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

No deal: Contract talks end between American Airlines and flight attendants

by B .N. Sullivan

APFA logoContract negotiations between American Airlines and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) ended this evening. The two parties did not reach an agreement. Officers of the APFA, which represents American Airlines flight attendants, now say they will contact the National Mediation Board (NMB) "to schedule a meeting to request a release into a thirty-day cooling off period, at the end of which, APFA can choose to engage in a strike or other forms of self-help."

According to the union:
At 6:30 pm ET, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) gave the company a realistic proposal that addressed the Flight Attendants' needs and the company's concerns. Rather than take any time to consider this offer, the Company exited the room informing APFA that it would not be in position to make a counter-proposal this evening.
But the company said:
APFA's current proposal would cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of their proposed six and a half - year contract, which would keep our labor costs at an uncompetitive level in relation to other carriers. This is an economic reality the company has asked APFA to recognize so both sides can work out an agreement that will allow the airline to compete successfully and provide competitive pay and benefits and a good career for its employees.
In their dueling statements to the press, each side expressed a willingness to continue to negotiate, however no new dates for talks were mentioned.

“APFA remains prepared to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement, but it is clear, now more than ever, that the company does not share the same interest,” APFA President Laura Glading said. “Delay only serves the company. Each day without a new agreement equals another million dollars in the pocket of American.

“The company’s actions speak loudly. When the bargaining party that sits across the table does not want to reach an agreement, that leaves the other party with no recourse other than to move to the next step,” Glading continued. “We have exhausted all of our options and will now meet with our Board this weekend to move forward with the balloting of the membership for a strike vote.”

Meanwhile, American Airlines did post a new counter-offer on the Web site this evening: Company Counter Comprehensive Package Proposal – Flight Attendants Version 4.0 (9-page 'pdf' file).

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Take your kid to work day -- on a live radio at an ATC tower??

by B. N. Sullivan

I'm not big on writing about scandals, but this item really bothers me. Boston's Fox 25 ran an article today about a child communicating instructions to aircraft over an air traffic control frequency at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Think I'm joking? Check out this audio clip:

Yes, it's authentic. Fox 25 reports:
The FAA is certainly taking the matter seriously.

They have confirmed for FOX 25 that the recording we have with a child directing airplanes is an authentic recording from the JFK tower and an investigation is now underway.
The Fox 25 piece points out that the child appears to be supervised (!!) and that "the pilots respond enthusiastically" to him. Indeed, the kid does sound cute and precocious, but it's just not funny.

At one point in the audio, an adult voice is heard to say, "That's what you get guys when the kids are out of school. (laugh)"

Um, no. Just because the pilots on the other side of the conversation were good-natured about it doesn't make it right.

Fox 25 published this statement from the FAA:
Pending the outcome of our investigation, the employees involved in this incident are not controlling air traffic. This behavior is not acceptable and does not demonstrate the kind of professionalism expected from all FAA employees.
And this one from 'the union that represents air traffic controllers' [presumably NATCA]:
We do not condone this type of behavior in any way, and it is not indicative of the highest professional standards that controllers set for themselves and exceed each and every day in the advancement of aviation safety.
Taking your kid to work is one thing. Letting your kid pose as an air traffic controller, even briefly, is quite another. I have a feeling that we may be hearing a lot more more about this incident.

UPDATE Mar. 3, 2010: The FAA addressed this incident this morning with the following statement, issued as a press release:
The Federal Aviation Administration announced today that two employees at John F. Kennedy Airport Tower are on administrative leave following an incident last month when a child was permitted to talk with pilots on an air traffic control frequency.

“This lapse in judgment not only violated FAA’s own policies, but common sense standards for professional conduct. These kinds of distractions are totally unacceptable,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “We have an incredible team of professionals who safely control our nation’s skies every single day. This kind of behavior does not reflect the true caliber of our workforce.”

The two JFK Tower employees, a supervisor and an air traffic controller, are on administrative leave pending the outcome of an official FAA investigation into the incident which is already underway.

In addition, all unofficial visits to FAA air traffic control operational areas, such as towers and radar rooms, will be suspended during the investigation. The FAA Administrator has directed a team to conduct a full-scale review of air traffic control policies and procedures related to facility visitors.