Saturday, May 29, 2010

NTSB final report on US Airways Flight 1549 Hudson River accident

NTSB logoThe US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its final report on the now-famous ditching of a US Airways Airbus A320 in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009.  Readers will recall that US Airways Flight 1549 lost power in both engines due to a multiple bird strike while climbing out from New York's La Guardia Airport.  All 155 crew and passengers on board survived.

If you are interested in having a look at the final report, here is the link: NTSB Report AAR10-03.  Warning: this is a hefty document in the form of a 213 page 'pdf' file, so it may take quite awhile to download.

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

Friday, May 28, 2010

Near midair collision between US Airways A319 and Cargolux B747 at Anchorage

by B. N. Sullivan

NTSB logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced today that it has begun an investigation into a near midair collision between a commercial airliner and a widebody cargo plane at Anchorage a week ago. The incident involved an Airbus A319-100 operated by US Airways, and a Boeing B747-400 freighter operated by Cargolux. The A319 had 138 people on board; the freighter had a crew of two. No one was injured.

According to the NTSB, the incident occurred shortly after midnight on May 21, 2010. US Airways flight USA140 was arriving at Anchorage International Airport (ANC) from Phoenix, and Cargolux Airlines International flight CLX658 was departing ANC for Chicago-O'Hare. The US Airways plane was on approach to runway 14 at ANC when the crew executed a go-around. The Cargolux freighter was departing runway 25R. The NTSB says the two aircraft "came within an estimated 100 feet vertically and a .33 mile lateral separation."

From the NTSB statement announcing the investigation of the incident:
According to the TCAS report from the A319 crew, that aircraft was approaching ANC when, because of the effects of tailwinds on the aircraft's approach path, the crew initiated a missed approach and requested new instructions from air traffic control. The tower controller instructed the A319 to turn right heading 300 and report the departing B747 in sight.

After the A319 crew reported the B747 in sight, the controller instructed the A319 to maintain visual separation from the B747, climb to 3000 feet, and turn right heading 320. The A319 crew refused the right turn because the turn would have put their flight in direct conflict with the B747.

The A319 crew then received a resolution advisory to "monitor vertical speed" and the crew complied with the descent command. During the descent, the A319 crew lost sight of the B747. At about 1700 feet above ground level, the A319 crew received a "clear of conflict" aural command.
The NTSB notes that the incident occurred in night visual meteorological conditions with 10 miles of visibility.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

UPS pilot furloughs begin, despite union efforts to save jobs

by B. N. Sullivan

UPSToday, 54 UPS pilots were furloughed -- the first of at least 300 pilots slated to be laid off by the carrier in coming months. The furloughs were announced in February of this year, and are the first ever for UPS.

"At a time when the number one issue for most Americans is creating jobs, UPS is creating unemployment," said Captain Robert Thrush, President of the Independent Pilots Association (IPA).

The IPA, which represents the 2,800 UPS pilots, had worked with the company during the past year to save $117 million via a Voluntary Jobs Protection Program. According to the union, the UPS pilots were able to generate cost savings for UPS by: taking reductions in flight pay guarantees; taking unpaid leaves of absence; participating in job sharing; taking military leave; contributing unused sick bank time; and taking early retirement. The IPA said in a press release that the savings created by the program should have been "enough to keep these 300 pilots employed well into 2011."

Captain Thrush said, "This all came to a crashing halt on January 11 when UPS pulled a bait and switch. They told us that they now needed $244 million in savings through 2015, and that its preference was for 'compulsory savings' – UPS speak for furlough.

"While we were taken back by UPS almost doubling its original request and tacking on an additional four years, our pilots didn’t flinch. They were more than willing to step-up, extend and expand the Voluntary Jobs Protection Program to cover UPS's demands, and keep the 300 employed," Thrush continued.

Nevertheless, in February UPS told the IPA that the company was unwilling to continue the voluntary savings program or anything similar. Instead, the coming furloughs were announced.

At that time, UPS Airlines President Bob Lekites said in a press release, "This is a painful decision for our people, but one that is right for the on-going health of our business."

Then Lekites went on to say, "Companywide, we will continue to evaluate all opportunities and make adjustments as necessary to ensure our company is well-positioned to emerge stronger than ever as the economy continues to recover. We applaud our pilots for the way they've joined with UPS in trying to tackle this problem and hope we can identify a mutually beneficial outcome."

Those statements did not sit well with the pilots' union.

Says Captain Thrush, "What I find the most galling are the disingenuous statements in the UPS press release. They mockingly hold out hope that the furloughs may be mitigated, averted, or eliminated; and shamefully attempt to place blame on the pilots for somehow failing to act.

"At a time when unions are being excoriated, and blamed for a litany of economic ills it's important to remember that one union covered the cost to save 300 jobs – instead UPS chose to create unemployment and add to local, county, state and federal unemployment and social services rolls."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

ATSB: Preliminary report on the Airnorth Embraer 120 crash at Darwin

by B. N. Sullivan

AirnorthThe Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has issued a preliminary factual report concerning the crash of an Airnorth EMB-120ER at Darwin, Australia earlier this year. The accident happened as the aircraft (registration VH-ANB) was departing from runway 29 at the Darwin Airport on the morning of March 22, 2010. Both pilots were killed; there were no passengers on board.

The new ATSB report confirms that the accident flight was a training flight. Quoting from the report's abstract:
The training captain advised the aerodrome controller that the departure would incorporate asymmetric flight (simulated engine failure) and was approved by the controller to perform the manoeuvre.

After becoming airborne, witnesses reported seeing the aircraft roll and diverge left from its take-off path. They watched as the aircraft continued rolling left, and entered a steep nose-down attitude. It disappeared into trees south of the runway threshold from where a column of black smoke was seen shortly afterwards.

Aerodrome rescue and fire fighting services were in attendance very shortly thereafter and extinguished the fire. Both pilots were fatally injured and the aircraft was seriously damaged due to impact forces and an intense post-impact fire.
The report says that both the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) were located in the aircraft's tail section, and had sustained minor damage.

The CVR's 30-minute recording "covered cockpit preparation, engine start, taxiing and the flight. Prior to departure the crew's conversation included briefing for the simulated engine failure exercise and subsequent training manoeuvre." The FDR "contained 25 hours of aircraft operation covering the accident flight and 15 previous flights."
The CVR and FDR information showed that a simulated left engine failure exercise was conducted during the accident flight. The simulated left engine failure commenced about 1 second after the aircraft became airborne.
Analysis of the CVR and FDR data is ongoing.

The ATSB report noted that the crew consisted of a supervisory pilot/training captain and another captain who was undergoing a check for the renewal of his command instrument rating (CIR). Planned for the training flight were "a number of emergency training manoeuvres, including a simulated engine failure at takeoff, known as a 'V1-cut'."

As a result of the investigation, to date, the ATSB has identified safety issues that "should be addressed by the relevant organisations," including fleet inspection and "the use of aircraft simulators for asymmetric and other high risk training."

Here is the link to the report: ATSB Preliminary - VH-ANB (7-page 'pdf' file)

Earlier posts on about this accident:
[Photo Source]

Friday, May 21, 2010

Air India Express Boeing 737-800 accident at Mangalore

by B. N. Sullivan

Air India ExpressAn Air India Express Boeing 737-800 aircraft (registration VT-AXV) has crashed at Mangalore, India. The aircraft, operating as Air India Express flight IX812, was arriving at Mangalore (IXE) from Dubai (DXB) at the time of the accident. Early reports say the aircraft overran the runway after landing. The aircraft was completely destroyed, and there was a post-crash fire. The accident happened on May 22,2010 shortly at approximately 06:30 AM local time.

News reports from India say there were more than 160 people on board. Media reports also say that up to eight survivors may have been rescued from the crash site and taken to hospitals. Their condition is unknown at this time.

A brief video of the Air India Express crash site has been posted on the BBC News website.

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

More to follow as additional information becomes available.

UPDATE: At a press conference, an Air India official confirmed that there were six crew members and 160 passengers on board Air India Express flight IX812. He confirmed that eight survivors had been rescued.

UPDATE May 22, 2010: An Air India official, quoted in several press reports, said that all passengers on Air India Express Flight IX812 were Indian nationals.

Also today: The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced it is sending a team to assist India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) with its investigation of this accident. The NTSB team will include a flight operations specialist, an aircraft systems specialist, and technical advisors from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

FedEx subject to $1.55 Million fine for violation of FAA regulations

by B. N. Sullivan

FedExToday the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it has proposed a $1.55 million civil penalty against Federal Express (FedEx). The FAA alleges that FedEx failed to revise its Continuous Airworthiness Maintenance Program in accordance with FAA regulations.

Specifically, the FAA alleges that FedEx "failed to ensure that the air carrier used approved standards, inspections, and time limitations for 14 cargo Unit Load Devices (ULDs) used on the company’s airplanes beginning in early 2008."

In its announcement of the proposed fine, the FAA explained:
During a routine surveillance from March 14-20, 2008, FAA inspectors determined that Federal Express had failed to incorporate Technical Standard Orders (TSOs) into its Continued Airworthiness Maintenance Program for 14 cargo ULDs. The TSOs contain specific maintenance instructions for the ULD smoke detector, power distribution feed, and batteries. Federal Express could not ensure that it used approved maintenance standards for the 14 newly installed ULDs because the company failed to make the necessary revisions to its program for overhauling and inspecting the devices.

On March 20, 2008, Federal Express was notified of the problem by the FAA but did not make the necessary revisions to its Continuous Airworthiness Maintenance Program until April 17, 2008.
The FAA says that the civil penalty addresses 124 flights from March 20 to April 17, 2008.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said, “When it comes to maintenance, it’s unacceptable for any air carrier not to meet the FAA’s standards.”

FedEx has 30 days to respond to the FAA.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fire in the cockpit causes United Airlines Boeing 757 diversion

by B. N. Sullivan

United Airlines B757Last night, May 16, 2010, United Airlines flight UAL 27 from New York-JFK to Los Angeles diverted to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) after a fire broke out in the cockpit. According to press reports, the fire may have originated in a windshield heater on the Boeing 757-200 aircraft (registration N510UA). The incident began about 30 minutes into the flight. The aircraft diverted to IAD where it landed safely. No injuries were reported.

In its account of the incident, reports that the pilots "noted the faint smell of smoke before hearing a 'sizzle' and seeing flames coming from a phenolic block that holds wires that carry power to the windshield heaters."
After donning oxygen masks, the crew extinguished the fire with a halon fire extinguisher, declared an emergency and diverted to Dulles.

Inbound to Dulles at approximately 500ft altitude on the final approach to Runway 19L, the Boeing 757's left front windshield apparently shattered with a "boom", according to a report from the crew. Despite the disruption, the pilots landed the aircraft without incident as fire and rescue crews looked on.
A preliminary report posted this morning on the FAA website said only that the aircraft diverted to IAD after reporting fire in the cockpit. No further details about the incident were provided.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened an investigation.

UPDATE May 21, 2010: In a press release today, the NTSB provided the following factual information about this incident:
On Sunday, May 16, 2010, about 9:17 pm (EDT) the pilots on United Airlines flight 27, a Boeing 757, N510UA, noted a strong acrid smell and observed smoke from the Captain's lower front windshield. The incident occurred about 30 minutes into the flight while the aircraft was level at 36,000 feet MSL. On board the aircraft were 7 crew members and 105 passengers.

The Captain and First Officer reported that they donned their oxygen masks and smoke goggles immediately after observing the smoke and fire. The Captain then gave control of the airplane to the First Officer and discharged a halon fire extinguisher. The smoke and fire dissipated but then re-ignited. The Captain obtained a second bottle from the Purser. The fire remained extinguished after this second bottle was discharged. At approximately 500 feet MSL on final approach to Runway19L at IAD, the Captain’s windshield cracked. The landing was uneventful. The airplane cleared the runway, after which ARFF (Aircraft Rescue Firefighting) entered the aircraft to check for residual heat and fire. None was found and the airplane was towed to the gate for deplaning. There were no evacuation and no injuries to the flight crew or passengers.

Preliminary examination of the cockpit area revealed that the inner pane of the Captain’s windshield had cracked. One of the five terminal blocks attached to the inside of the lower left windshield was consumed by fire and the portion of the wire harness associated with this terminal block was significantly damaged by fire. There was significant sooting and paint peeling to the left hand side of the windshield air frame support.

The Captain’s windshield was moved and will be examined by Board investigators at the manufacturer.

Two previous windshield fire events on B757-200 aircraft prompted the NTSB to issue Safety Recommendation A-07-50 The Safety Board investigators will look closely at the recovered hardware to determine if this latest event is related.
[Photo Source]

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Atlas Air fined by the FAA for several alleged safety violations

by B. N. Sullivan

Atlas Air IncEarlier this month, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed $572,150 in civil penalties against air cargo carrier Atlas Air, Inc. for alleged violations of the Federal Aviation Regulations.

According to a press release about the proposed fine, issued by the FAA on May 5, 2010:
The FAA alleges that Atlas Air incorrectly installed a replacement cockpit window on a Boeing 747F, and then operated the aircraft on 49 flights between April 4 and April 27, 2009, when it was not in compliance with those regulations.

The FAA said Atlas Air replaced one of the windows at the first officer’s position, but failed to use the methods, techniques and practices specified in the manufacturer’s maintenance manual or alternate procedures accepted by the FAA for the B-747F. The airline then approved the aircraft for return to service. As a result, the replacement window suffered pressurization leaks while in flight according to multiple reports made by crews operating or maintaining the aircraft. The FAA has proposed a penalty of $506,150 for those violations.

In a second instance, the FAA alleges that on May 14 and 15, 2009, Atlas Air operated a Boeing 747 on international flights from Huntsville, AL, to Glasgow, Scotland, Luxembourg City and back to Huntsville without a required outboard engine pylon access panel door. The FAA said Atlas Air improperly fabricated a panel cover from aluminum sheet metal and affixed it with speed tape over the access door opening. On each of these flights, the panel came off the aircraft enroute and a new panel was fabricated and installed in the same manner at each subsequent stop. The FAA has proposed a civil penalty of $66,000 for those violations.
Atlas Air has 30 days to respond to the FAA.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Continental Airlines maintenance lapse earns $325,000 FAA fine

by B. N. Sullivan

Continental Airlines B737-900ERThe alleged mishandling of a maintenance issue on a Continental Airlines Boeing 737 aircraft has resulted in the imposition of a hefty fine by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The agency announced earlier this week that it was proposing a $325,000 civil penalty against the carrier "for operating an aircraft on at least a dozen commercial flights without properly maintaining its right main landing gear."

Here is how the FAA press release about the fine explained the alleged safety violation:
The FAA alleges that on December 20, 2008, the crew of a Continental Boeing 737 saw a warning light on the right main landing gear indicator after the gear retracted on a flight from Houston to Los Angeles. After discussing the situation with Continental maintenance control, the crew elected to continue the flight.

However, the flight diverted to Phoenix after the crew noticed the aircraft was burning an excessive amount of fuel. On the ground, Continental maintenance workers inspected the landing gear but did not make a required entry in the aircraft’s maintenance log or any other maintenance record about the abnormal landing gear indication.

The FAA alleges the airline operated the aircraft on at least 12 additional passenger flights before the abnormal gear indication was addressed by mechanics, in violation of Federal Aviation Regulations.
The FAA announcement also quoted FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, who said, “Air carriers cannot let maintenance issues lapse. When a problem is discovered, it needs to be corrected immediately.”

Continental Airlines has 30 days to respond to the FAA’s civil penalty letter.

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330-200 crashes in Libya

by B. N. Sullivan

Afriqiyah A330-200An Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330-200 passenger aircraft has crashed in Libya. According to a statement issued by the Libyan carrier, the accident occurred as the aircraft (registration 5A-ONG) was landing at Tripoli International airport, at 04:00 UTC (06:00 AM Tripoli time) on Wednesday May 12, 2010. The aircraft, operating as Afriqiyah Flight 8U-771, was arriving at Tripoli from Johannesburg, South Africa. The airline states that there were 11 crew members and 93 passengers on board.

Early news reports say that more than 100 may have perished in the accident, but this has not been officially confirmed. More to follow as reliable information becomes available.

UPDATE May 12, 2010: Afriqiyah Airways officially confirmed today that 103 passengers and crew on board Flight 8U-771 perished in the crash. There was only one survivor -- a Dutch child.

Airbus, the manufacturer of the accident aircraft, also released a statement, which said in part:
The aircraft involved in the accident, registered as 5A-ONG, was MSN (Manufacturer Serial Number) 1024, delivered from the production line in September 2009. The aircraft had accumulated approximately 1600 flight hours in some 420 flights. It was powered by General Electric CF6-80E1 engines. At this time no further factual information is available.

Preliminary reports indicate that the aircraft crashed short of the runway threshold during approach. According to available information there were 93 passengers and 11 crew on board.

In line with ICAO Annex 13 international convention Airbus is dispatching a team of technical advisors to support the investigation authorities and the Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA) as accredited representative.
Condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of all those who lost their lives in this terrible accident.

[Photo Source]

Video of the accident site, showing a debris field and what appears to be a flight data recorder:

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

Monday, May 03, 2010

United-Continental merger plans announced

by B. N. Sullivan

United Airlines B787This morning United Airlines and Continental Airlines officially announced their plans to merge. The announcement, which came as no surprise, confirmed rumors that had been circulating for some time. The companies' announcement billed the transaction as "a merger of equals" rather than as a takeover of one airline by the other.

Jeff Smisek, the current CEO of Continental, will run the merged operation. Glenn Tilton, the current president and CEO of UAL Corp., United's parent, will serve as non-executive chairman of the new company's Board of Directors for a period of about two years.

The new mega-carrier, which will serve 370 destinations around the world, will carry the United name, but with aircraft dressed in Continental livery. The holding company for the operation will be called United Continental Holdings, Inc.

The corporate headquarters for the new company will be located in Chicago, but also will have offices in Houston, where Continental is presently headquartered. Houston also will be the new airline's largest hub.

Quoting from the press statement that announced the merger:
The combination of United and Continental brings together the two most complementary networks of any U.S. carriers, with minimal domestic and no international route overlaps. The combined company will offer enhanced service to Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East from well-placed hubs on the East Coast, West Coast, and Southern and Midwestern regions of the United States. The combined company will have 10 hubs, including hubs in the four largest cities in the United States, and will provide enhanced service to underserved small- and medium-sized communities. The combined carrier will continue to serve all the communities each carrier currently serves. Together, Continental and United serve more than 144 million passengers per year as they fly to 370 destinations in 59 countries.

Employees will benefit from improved long-term career opportunities and enhanced job stability by being part of a larger, financially stronger and more geographically diverse carrier that is better able to compete successfully in the global marketplace. The companies believe the effect of the merger on front-line employees will be minimal, with reductions coming principally from retirements, attrition and voluntary programs. The company will provide employees with performance-based incentive compensation programs focused on achieving common goals. The combined company will be focused on creating cooperative labor relations, including negotiating contracts with collective bargaining units that are fair to the company and fair to the employee.
The carriers intend to close the deal by the end of this year, subject to approval by their respective shareholders and regulatory authorities.

For more information, visit

[Photo Source]