Monday, March 29, 2010

Aviation Accident & Incident Update for March 29, 2010

[Accidents & Incidents published by www.AVSIG.com are preliminary and not meant to reflect the complete or official record of aviation accidents/incidents and their causes.]

2010

March 29 - Both aboard a Piper Comanche were killed after crashing near Perth, Australia. Weather was reported as clear at the time of the crash.

March 28 - A JetBlue Airbus A-320 made a safe emergency return landing to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after being struck by hail shortly after takeoff. The crew reportedly initially believed the aircraft had struck a flock of birds.

March 28 - A Delta Air Lines MD-88 made a safe emergency return landing to Albuquerque after a cockpit warning light indicated a landing gear problem shortly after takeoff. The crew prepared passengers for a hard landing, but the aircraft extended and locked gear and landed without further incident.

March 28 - A helicopter ditched in the Atlantic Ocean off Key Biscayne, Florida after developing control trouble during a photo shoot on behalf of boatpics.com. Both aboard were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard in good condition.

March 28 - Both aboard a Piper Cherokee sustained serious injuries after crashing near Palermo, New York. The pilot radioed an emergency and was reportedly trying to land on a public road before the crash.

March 28 - The pilot of a single-engine plane was on life support after crashing near Regency Downs, Queensland, Australia. The aircraft reportedly crashed in a parking lot. No injuries were reported on the ground.

March 25 - An Air Arabia flight returned to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad, India after a cockpit warning light reportedly indicated a chemical reaction in the cargo hold. The aircraft landed without incident. Upon inspection, oil was reported to be found to be leaking from one freight consignment. (AVSIG Blog Discussion)

March 25 - A FlyBe de Havilland Dash 8-400 made a safe emergency return landing to Belfast City Airport in Ireland after smoke was seen billowing from one engine shortly after takeoff. The aircraft was evacuated without incident.

March 25 - A Thai Airways TG-318 made a safe emergency landing at Kolkata International Airport in Kolkata, India after the crew suspected a fuel leak.

March 25 - A Malaysian Airlines 737 made a safe emergency landing in Penang, India after the crew suspected an engine fire. The plane was inspected and no evidence of fire was found.

March 25 - A single-engine plane crash-landed in the South River near Edgewater, Maryland, but the pilot escaped the wreckage without serious injury. The crew of a civilian boat rescued the pilot before the plane's wreckage sank.

March 25 - The pilot of a Malaysian Air Force Pilatus PC-7 was killed after crashing during an air show in Kedah, Malaysia. Witnesses reported that the aircraft's engine appeared to explode before the crash.

March 25 - All three crew members aboard a medevac helicopter were killed after crashing near Brownsville, Tennessee. Thunderstorms were reported in the area at the time of the crash. (AVSIG Discussion)

Friday, March 26, 2010

More from Our Inferiority Complex Files

Our hand-wringing over the terse accident & incident entries we make on this blog continues.

Earlier this week we pointed out that the Russians were monetizing airliner incidents by selling train tickets via links in the text of air mishap stories. Today we're being shown-up by the Indians and the airline mishap-as-graphic novella.

After reporting on a cargo oil leak aboard an Air Arabia flight recently, the Ahmedabad Mirror recaps in toon ...



We just can't compete.

(For the conclusion of this week's cargo leak drama, please click here).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Next Time, Take the Train

From the Sure Signs the World Economy is Coming Back Dept: Seen while sorting through world aircraft accident and incident stories recently, a Russian site reporting on the emergency landing of a UTAir Air Company ATR-42. After detailing the airliner emergency, the enterprising Russians wrapped up their story with this missive:

"One of the best ways to travel Russia and see all its beauties is surely by train. The tickets for all Russian trains can be booked and bought on our site." (With link included).

Presumably there will be a reciprocal link to airline tickets on all the train mishap stories at this site.

And it's only a matter of time before news stories about earthquakes beget links to commercial space flight bookings.

Struggling world news sites could learn from the Russians ... or not. In any case, this kind of cheek makes all those in-your-face pop-ups that online news sites insist on assaulting even their subscribers with look downright quaint.

(In the spirit of the new Russian Aditorialepreneurship, if this blog entry bored you, we suggest you visit someone more bored than you).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Aviation Accident & Incident Update for March 22, 2010

[Accidents & Incidents published by www.AVSIG.com are preliminary and not meant to reflect the complete or official record of aviation accidents/incidents and their causes.]

2010

March 21 - A United Airlines 737 made an emergency return landing to Chicago O'Hare International Airport after developing pressurization problems shortly after takeoff.

March 21 - The pilot of a Marchetti SF 260 made a safe emergency landing in East Anglia, U.K. after losing the canopy on his aircraft in flight.

March 20 - The pilot of a Zenith 610 made a safe emergency landing near Cincinnati, Ohio after losing oil pressure.

March 20 - A WestJet flight bound for Hawaii from Vancouver made a safe emergency return landing to Vancouver after striking an unknown object shortly after takeoff.

March 20 - All three aboard two single-engine planes were killed after colliding in midair over Williston, Florida. Weather was reported clear at the time of the crash.

March 19 - A Cirrus SR22 registered to Washtucna Aviation LLC crashed near Morton, Washington, killing the pilot and critically injuring the passenger. The aircraft clipped trees before crashing into the front yard of a residence. No injuries were reported on the ground. (AVSIG Discussion)

March 19 - A Super Puma helicopter transporting Queen Sofia of Spain made a safe emergency landing in Toledo, Spain after struggling to gain altitude after takeoff.

March 19 - Five of 23 aboard a Russian Mi-8 helicopter were injured after crashlanding near Kamchatka, Russia. Heavy snow was reported at the time of the accident.

March 19 - A medevac helicopter operating out of Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Florida made a safe emergency landing in Land O'Lakes after the crew noticed an unusual vibration shortly after picking up a patient. The patient was transferred to another helicopter without further incident.

March 19 - A single-engine Cessna made an emergency landing on U.S. 40 near Brazil, Indiana. The pilot and passenger reportedly sustained minor injuries during the landing.

March 18 - An Exin Antonov An-26 operating as a cargo flight made a safe emergency landing on the frozen Lake Ulemiste near Tallinn, Estonia. The aircraft reportedly developed both engine and landing gear trouble during a flight from Finland. The aircraft broke through the ice shortly after the crew was evacuated. (AVSIG Discussion)

March 18 - A UTair Air Company ATR-42 made a safe emergency landing in Roshchino, Leningrad Oblast, Russia after the right engine failed.

March 18 - A single-engine plane crashed on takeoff from Huntsville, Arkansas, killing the pilot. The aircraft reportedly struggled to gain altitude before the crash. A witness reported seeing the aircraft at an extreme nose-up attitude before impact.

March 18 - The pilot of a Beechcraft Travel Air was killed after crashing shortly after takeoff from Sky Acres Airport in LaGrange, New York. (AVSIG Discussion)

March 18 - A float plane crashed into Lewisville Lake near The Colony, Texas, injuring one. Another occupant was reportedly missing after the crash.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Inventing the HOOYA Display

One summer's evening a few years back when everybody was pretending to have money, I witnessed a fellow in a Mercedes SLR make a grand entrance into a trendy local outdoor cafe. He first struck the opposite curb of the narrow drive with his half-million-dollar exotic, then gingerly backed up and tried a tighter turn, this time hanging his ground-bound silver missile up on the near curb and crushing the doorsill. A repair bill rivaling the cost of a semester at Princeton, to be sure.

In fairness, the alleyway was tight, and the SLR, with its Holmesian schnoz, clearly required two traffic lanes of initiating arc to accomplish the maneuver. Maybe a few 2 a.m. practice runs before trying to impress the beautiful people?

Just up the road, some tubby-ish 30-something guys in team logo uniforms riding matching carbon fiber race bikes huffed and puffed up a hill, a half-football-field back from a fit 50-something guy riding a steel bike straight out of the 70s. The old guy was wearing the team jersey of whatever cycle racing team wears plain white T-shirts.

These two road-going tales, when stretched every-which-way by your humble blogger to make a theme, reinforce the old adage that those of us who can't afford Mercedes SLRs and carbon fiber race bicycles like to bandy about: It's not about whether you own a Mercedes SLR or a carbon fiber race bike: it's all about not looking like a dork.

Good judgment, talent, competence, cannot be packaged in a machine of any price.

The National Transportation Safety Board recently reviewed the safety merits of advanced glass cockpits in general aviation aircraft and concluded that pilots of advanced computerized light planes live no safer lives in the skies than pilots of old-school analog aircraft.

Less safe lives, perhaps.

Of course, the Board's initial report on the safety of glass cockpits makes no presumption about pilots becoming over-confident in sophisticated machinery -- rather that interface standards differ from cockpit to cockpit, and pilot training on these new systems is inconsistent at best.

AVSIG folks who are currently discussing the report agree that unlike the advanced cockpits in airliners, which require weeks of intensive type-specific training for airline pilots, general aviation glass cockpits may be presented to pilots with little opportunity for familiarization, and even with extensive factory training on a given glass cockpit, transition to another can be problematic.

Think about the last time you had to navigate the menus on a new cell phone. It's hard not to agree.

But the forum braintrust points out another set of factors that work against general aviation pilots in glass cockpits, namely the tendency of those who have taken to the air in the computer age to look at computerized airplane primarily as a computer with wings, and worse, to associate state-of-the-art technology with state-of-the-art safety. One guy, whom we'll refer to as J. Wiley, commented on working with new pilots in glass environments. He compared their cockpit demeanor with that of the average cubicle dweller at-work, locked in trance-like gaze with the glowing computer screen.

No verifying that what's happening on the screen is happening out in the real world

No looking out the window. (This thing has a window too?).

Possibly forgetting that in this video game, he/she *is* the video game.

There is much to recommend in modern general aviation aircraft: collision avoidance, weather, and systems monitoring that far exceeds the onboard information available in decades past. But in any case where airmanship becomes an afterthought to flight technology, it's fair to say things won't go well when things, for lack of a better term, don't go well. And chances are that the many menus of tech in a modern airplane place the thought process for sheer survival many layers beyond the world of some modern winged computer jockeys.

More than a few Cirrus crashes have I've-got-a-State-of-the-Art-Plane-with-a-Parachute written all over them, including a number of chute-first-and-aviate-later incidents. One chartering company actually touts the capability of its weather radar-/parachute-equipped fleet by offering that passengers can "Travel on your schedule, where you want, and when you want" -- no mention of little killjoys like weather.

If the bad decisions that crash airplanes are increasingly no more sophisticated than the bad decisions that crash more mundane transportation, the future isn't looking bright.

Back here on the ground, after recently being rear-ended in a snowstorm by a kid checking his text messages, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the body shop. There were a lot of brand new smashed luxury cars there. The fresh kills, according to the shop manager, had a common story.

"When everybody started buying SUVs we'd get crashed SUVs after snowstorms, because these people thought they were invincible in the snow. Then people started buying high-end cars with traction control, roll control, anti-lock brakes, lane departure warning, and all this gee-whiz stuff, and now they're the first ones we see after a snow storm."

He pointed to an S-Class Mercedes sedan, whose three-pointed star had been fractured into a more terrestrial-looking mishmash of chrome twigs after its driver had run into a stopped semi-trailer on the freeway.

"The guy saw an ad for a Mercedes with a collision avoidance system on television," said the body shop man. "And he said he assumed if it was on the lower-end car in the commercial, it was sure to be on his car, which was brand new and cost twice as much."

Funny, no? Gets better.

Mr. Mercedes, said the dent man, saw he was in trouble on the snowy freeway but didn't even hit his brakes. He assumed the (non-existent) computer crash avoidance program in his car would do a better job.

"Instead of the Head-Up Display," said the man who spends his days correcting bad decisions with blowtorches and mallets, "they should have invented the The Head-Out of Your *** Display."

M.O.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Accident & Incident Update for March 15, 2010

[Accidents & Incidents published by www.AVSIG.com are preliminary and not meant to reflect the complete or official record of aviation accidents/incidents and their causes.]


2010

March 14 - The pilot of an ultralight was killed after crashing in Eklutna, Alaska. The crew of a passing freight train discovered the aircraft wreckage.

March 13 - A Nigerian Air Force G22 crashed at Port Harcourt International Airport in the Rivers State of Nigeria, injuring two of 30 reported aboard. The aircraft was reportedly participating in a mock disaster drill at the time of the crash.

March 13 - The pilot of a single-engine experimental aircraft made a safe emergency landing on a public road near San Marcos, California. The pilot reported that his engine quit before the landing.

March 12 - An AirTran Boeing 717 made a safe emergency landing in Chattanooga, Tennessee after being struck by lightning during a Washington D.C.-Atlanta flight.

March 12 - The pilot of a Beechcraft Bonanza was killed after crashing on approach to Boulder City, Nevada. The pilot had reportedly radioed being low on fuel prior to the crash.

March 12 - The pilot of a Yak-52 was killed after crashing into a van during a takeoff attempt from a private airstrip in Marsden Point, New Zealand. Three occupants of the van reportedly suffered minor injuries.

March 11 - A US Airways Airbus A-319 made a safe emergency return landing to Rochester International Airport after striking a flock of geese shortly after takeoff.

March 11 - A helicopter operated by the Prince George's County, Maryland police department made an emergency landing on a football field near an elementary school in Washington D.C.. The school was reportedly evacuated as a precaution prior to the landing.

March 11 - A P-51 Mustang registered to Hirani Oil Arizona LLC crashed into a hangar at Stellar Airpark in Chandler, Arizona, killing the pilot. No injuries were reported on the ground in the residential air park. (AVSIG Discussion)

***

Copyright 2010 www.AVSIG.com


Monday, March 8, 2010

Accident & Incident Summary for March 8, 2010

[Accidents & Incidents published by www.AVSIG.com are preliminary and not meant to reflect the complete or official record of aviation accidents/incidents and their causes.]

2010

March 7 - A Skywest Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-700 made a safe emergency return landing to Sardy Field in Aspen, Colorado after the cabin filled with smoke shortly after takeoff. No injuries were reported.

March 7 - A twin-engine plane made a safe emergency landing on its right wing gear and nose gear at Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling, IL. The aircraft damaged its left gear after striking a deer on takeoff from Campbell Airport in nearby Graylakes.

March 6 - A WWII-era AT6-Texan crashed in the Gulf of Mexico off Miramar Beach, Florida, killing both aboard. The aircraft was reportedly flying in formation at the time of the crash. (AVSIG Discussion)

March 6 - A single-engine plane made a safe emergency landing in the Arkansas River in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One pilot reported that the aircraft lost power while attempting to land at Jones Riverside Airport. The aircraft was operating as an instruction flight at the time of the landing.

March 6 - A single-engine plane made a safe emergency landing on Interstate 25 near Los Lunas, New Mexico. The pilot reported engine trouble before the landing.

March 6 - A helicopter crashed on a private hunting reserve near Dilley, Texas, killing both aboard. The aircraft was reportedly engaged in aerial hog hunting at the time of the crash.

March 5 - Both aboard a single-engine plane were killed after crashing in a wooded area near Marysville, Ohio. The aircraft was reportedly on approach to Union County Airport at the time of the crash.

March 5 - Both aboard a Piper Seneca registered to Lois Aviation, LLC were seriously injured after crashing in a residential area in Vero Beach, Florida. No injuries were reported on the ground.

March 5 - A single-engine plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Hodges Airpark near Georgetown, Georgia, killing the pilot. The wreckage was found submerged in a lake off the runway end.

March 5 - A United Airlines flight bound for Chicago from Rochester, New York made a safe emergency landing in Buffalo after a fire broke out in a lavatory. Preliminary investigation suggested the fire was caused by a malfunctioning water pump.

March 4 - The pilot of a Cessna T303 Crusader was killed after crashing into a house near Louisa, Virginia. The aircraft had reportedly just refueled at Cessna T303 Crusader before the crash. No injuries were reported on the ground. (AVSIG Discussion)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Child's Play at JFK

Plenty of discussion on the Sig about that cute air traffic control kid this week. You know: the one overheard teasingly instructing a Bolivian airline crew to preface their fuel emergency with, "Simon Says ..."

Or not quite.

Anyone who's heard the recordings can hear that the kid who handled a few flights at JFK in mid February did just fine. He gave a few "cleared for takeoff" instructions.

This 'drome & farm blogger's gut reaction? Yeah, I'd let my kid do that too, if I thought I could get away with it. No harm, no foul.

But aviation is not a no-harm, no-foul world, and the point is reinforced by commentary on AVSIG.

Many "No big deal" responses peppered with "Yeah, but somebody's gonna get a little vacation" and one resolute and paraphrased "That man should be fired ... end of story."

These varied views are very much a collision between people from different workplace rules backgrounds. Private industry tends to tolerate workplace anomalies until a bad quarterly report or lawsuit trend develops, whereas government workplace protocol is more often than not some version of U.S. Postal Service rules-accretion mayhem.

One of our members compared JFK Kiddie Kontrol to the Aeroflot Airbus A310 flight that was turned into Take your Son to Work Day by a crew member on March 23, 1994. Investigation concluded that the 15-year-old boy inadvertently disconnected autopilot authority from some flight controls as he sat in the cockpit of the Airbus, sending the plane into a dive that Dad & Co. could not recover. The airliner crashed into a hillside in Kemerovo Oblast, killing all 75 aboard.

On its face, the Kids in the Tower incidents (two siblings on consecutive days) don't compare to letting a teenager fly an airliner full of passengers, but in an imperfect world, if just one crew on the ground at JFK got distracted by workplace fun & games in the control tower, something horrific very well may have happened, and we wouldn't be light-heartedly blogging about this right now.

Many of our members pointed out that all aspects of aviation have become zero-tolerance affairs, a factor that weighs into the reaction from the spoilsport side of the floor.

A rubber-gloved gauntlet to run before entering airline terminals.

Play Doh confiscated.

Recently, authorities at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport were called to the scene of a roll of toilet paper by airline personnel who were cleaning a plane that had just arrived from Toledo. Situation: White powder found on toilet paper. Investigatory Conclusion: White toilet paper dust generated by white toilet paper.

Like it or not, the Zero Tolerance crowd is onto something.

We're about a century past barnstorming, and about a decade past demonstrating any emotion exceeding stone-faced in the presence of an Official Anybody prior to boarding (and once aboard) an airliner.

If there's a silver lining in the swift death of Take Your Child to Work Day at the ATC tower, it's in the prospect of explaining to future generations of children who will be denied this work experience day that there is no room for distraction or error in mommy or daddy's job directing airplanes -- that the job is just *that* important.

It's in explaining to children that there are some job disciplines that simply don't permit an environment of good-natured goofing off ... some jobs that require all the attention, all the time, of at least one trained adult.

It's in reminding your kids of exactly what they proceeded to do the first time they found themselves playing with two toy airplanes at once.

M.O.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lessons Un-Learned

If the crash headlines have been thankfully scarce for U.S. airlines recently, the regulatory news does not inspire.

Southwest, US Airways, and American Eagle have recently received formal FAA attention for flying planes with unresolved maintenance issues, brazenly in the case of Southwest, which is statistically among the safest carriers in the world.

The Airline that Herb Built reportedly flew 46 737s on 59,000+ flights without mandatory fuselage inspections, and when informed of the oversight promptly flew the planes on 1,451 additional flights.

The FAA fined Southwest $7.5 million, an impressive figure, but less so if we estimate revenue at $350 million on these "maintenance oversight flights."

When there's a mere two-percent haircut waiting for an airline that repeatedly ignores mandatory maintenance items (and then often only after many zero-dollar warnings) there's little incentive to keep the books current.

The incentive is less yet when some passengers shrug their shoulders at nagging rules that pull an airplane out of service for "theoretical" safety issues, especially if that airplane is supposed to get them somewhere soon.

We've been on the other side of the "should we really take this stuff seriously?" question on past occasions ... say, after a crash ... when the question is rephrased to "why didn't anybody take this stuff seriously?"

If you're reading this blog we believe you do take this stuff seriously. We're pretty sure that you know that aviation safety isn't a business expense in aviation, but that aviation safety is the business of aviation.

Beginning in May we'll begin publishing U.S. airline safety evaluations on AVSIG, and we will be giving our members the opportunity to weigh-in. You can be sure that we'll consider more than just hull loss records in looking at each airline's operational safety merits.

We are approaching this project with the attitude that U.S. airline travel is as safe as air travel gets, but that it can always be safer -- especially when the back-page regulatory headlines belie the absence of front-page smoking holes.

M.O.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Aviation Accident & Incident Update for March 1, 2010

[Accidents & Incidents published by www.AVSIG.com are preliminary and not meant to reflect the complete or official record of aviation accidents/incidents and their causes.]

2010

February 28 - Both aboard a single-engine plane were killed after crashing on approach to Jones Memorial Airport in Bristow, Oklahoma. The aircraft reportedly clipped utility lines before the crash.

February 28 - A Cessna 150 crashed west of Vienna, Austria killing both aboard. The pilots were reportedly student and instructor.

February 28 - A Sibir Airlines Airbus A-319 made a safe emergency landing in Rostov-on-Don, Russia after an unspecified cockpit warning light was activated.

February 27 - A single-engine plane crashed near Gatesville, Texas, killing the pilot. Witnesses said the aircraft appeared to struggle to maintain altitude before the crash.

February 27 - A single-engine plane crashed on approach to Lee Airport in Edgewater, Maryland, killing the pilot.

February 25 - An aircraft operated by Nazca Airlines crashed near El Mirador killing all seven aboard. The aircraft was operating as a sightseeing flight at the time of the crash.

February 25 - A single-engine plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Winter Haven, Florida, killing the pilot and injuring a passenger and a dog. Witnesses reported that the aircraft appeared to struggle to gain altitude before the crash.

February 25 - A Chautauqua Airlines Embraer ERJ-145 operating on behalf of Delta Airlines returned to the gate at LaGuardia International Airport after smoke was detected in the cabin. No injuries were reported.