Monday, March 31, 2008

Crew of Biggin Hill Cessna Citation crash identified

Yesterday, March 30, 2008, a Cessna Citation 500 aircraft crashed into a residential area shortly after takeoff from London Biggin Hill Airport (EGKB). The aircraft had just departed Biggin Hill en route to France when it reportedly experienced engine trouble. The crew declared a 'mayday' and attempted to return to Biggin Hill, but crashed 2.5 miles north of the airfield. There were no survivors among the two crew members and three passengers on board. No one on the ground was injured, but the crash caused a fire that did extensive damage to a home and its surroundings.

A press statement issued today by the London Biggin Hill Airport identified the pilot in command of the accident aircraft as Mike Roberts. The press statement said this about Mr. Roberts:
Mike Roberts, the Captain was a very experienced commercial pilot and a friend of many of us on the airport. His cool judgment in managing the aircraft emergency and minimizing loss of life on the ground is typical of such a remarkable man and he will be sorely missed.

His business partner of 15 years, Mike Wells said that Mike Roberts was an extremely experienced commercial pilot and a remarkable man.

“I have known Michael for 20 years and know that he would have done everything in his power to minimize the effects of this tragic incident on his colleagues, passengers and people on the ground. He will be missed by everyone in the flying community at Biggin Hill and by his many friends worldwide.”
The BBC News published an article profiling those whose lives were lost in yesterday's Citation crash. That article included a photo of Mike Roberts, above, and identified the other pilot as Michael Chapman, 57.

The UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is investigating the cause of the accident. Yesterday the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that it was dispatching a team to assist the AAIB in its investigation. According to the NTSB, an aviation systems technical specialist will accompany the U.S. Accredited Representative. The Federal Aviation Administration and the Cessna Aircraft Company are also sending investigators as part of the team.

Condolences to the families and friends of the deceased Citation crew and their passengers.

[Photo Source]

UPDATE April 2, 2008: Here is a link to a video and accompanying article about the Biggin Hill Citation accident on David Learmount, Operations and Safety editor of wrote the article and speaks in the video.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Aloha ʻoe - Aloha Airlines Shuts Down Passenger Operations

Aloha Airlines logoToday is a sad day in Hawaii. Aloha Airlines, which has been in business in the islands since 1946, announced that it is suspending all passenger operations as of March 31, 2008. The airline, which recently filed for bankruptcy, announced that all inter-island and trans-Pacific passenger services are slated to be shut down, a move that will affect about 1,900 employees.

On Friday, March 28, employees of Aloha Airlines staged a rally at the Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu [photos] urging lawmakers to do what they could to save the airline -- and their jobs. Indeed, legislation that would have provided loan guarantees and certain tax exemptions was introduced late last week, and was to be heard during the coming week. A Pacific Business News (PBN) article about the legislation said:
House Bill 509 is modeled on 1993 legislation that was intended to help Hawaiian Airlines, which was struggling with financial difficulties at the time.

The bill's first hearing is before the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

A Senate spokesman told PBN that, if passed by both chambers, HB 509 could be submitted for Gov. Linda Lingle's signature as early as April 9. The guarantee would take effect immediately.
PBN reported that language in the bill's draft says issuance of a loan guarantee is "in the public interest and for the public health, safety and general welfare of the state."

While well-intentioned, help from the Hawaii State Legislature apparently came too late. The airline said "Aloha ʻoe" [farewell] earlier today.

In an Aloha Airlines news release about the suspension of its passenger service, David Banmiller, the carrier's president and chief executive officer, said:
Despite the groundswell of support from the community and our elected officials, we simply ran out of time to find a qualified buyer or secure continued financing for our passenger business. We had no choice but to take this action.

“We deeply regret the impact this will have on our dedicated employees who have made Aloha one of the best operating airlines in the country. “Aloha Airlines was founded in 1946 to give Hawaii’s people a choice in inter-island air transportation.

Unfortunately, unfair competition has succeeded in driving us out of business, bringing to an end a 61-year-old company with a proud legacy of serving millions of travelers in the true spirit of Aloha. ”We realize that this comes as a devastating disappointment to our frequent flyers and our loyal business partners who have supported this company for many, many years.”
Aloha's recent filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection cited financial difficulties due to fierce competition, and record-high fuel prices. This was the second time that Aloha Airlines filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 in the past three years.

Aloha's air cargo and aviation services units will continue to operate while the U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeks bids from potential buyers. So far, one such bid has been announced. On March 27, 2008, Saltchuk Resources, Inc., announced its intention to buy Aloha’'s air cargo business. Saltchuk is the parent company of Young Brothers Ltd., an inter-island ocean freight shipping company in Hawaii.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Video: Possible scenario for pilot's accidental discharge of his firearm

By now, I'm sure that everyone has heard about the incident in which a US Airways pilot's firearm accidentally discharged during flight. The pilot, who was trained through the TSA's Federal Flight Deck Officer program, was authorized to have the sidearm in the cockpit. The question on everyone's mind is: How could this accidental firing of the weapon have happened?

A reader sent me the link to this interesting YouTube video that suggests one possible scenario. Produced by a man whose blog profile says he is a licensed private detective and former Chicago policeman, the video is a narrated demonstration of how the firearm incident might have happened.

Keeping in mind that the scenario in the video is conjecture, it does pose what appears to be a plausible explanation of what might have happened. I am wondering if this explanation makes logical sense to those who are actually familiar with this particular firearm. Comments are welcome.

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

Tip of the hat to the reader who sent me the link, and to Paul Huebl, who produced the video. Click here to visit Paul Huebl's website.

Friday, March 28, 2008

NTSB investigates separation of wing panel from US Airways Boeing 757

NTSB logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has announced that it will investigate the recent aircraft accident in which a panel from the wing of a US Airways Boeing 757-200 separated during flight. That's right, I said "aircraft accident," because that's what the NTSB is now calling it.

Here is an excerpt from the NTSB press advisory about the investigation, issued yesterday:
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating an aircraft accident in which a panel from the wing of a US Airways B-757, flight 1250 en route from Orlando, Florida, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, separated from the aircraft somewhere over Maryland. The aircraft landed in Philadelphia about 30 minutes after the separation occurred. None of the 174 passengers or 6 crew were injured.

On Saturday, March 22, 2008, at about 9:30 a.m. EDT, a composite panel, measuring about 4 feet by 5 feet, on the trailing edge of the upper side of the left wing, broke lose from the aircraft and struck several of the windows towards the rear of the aircraft. The impact caused the outer pane of one window to crack. The inner pane was undamaged and the pressurization of the aircraft was not compromised.

Because the loss of the wing panel adversely affected the flight characteristics of the aircraft, the event has been classified as an accident.
The errant wing panel is still missing. Investigators are at work trying to define a search area by "using a specialized computer program to perform a Ballistic Trajectory Analysis with data such as the aircraft ground track, speed, prevailing winds and other factors." Once the data have been modeled, the Board will notify local authorities in the vicinity where the panel is most likely to be found.

At present, the content of the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and the flight data recorder (FDR) are being evaluated at the NTSB's laboratory in Washington, DC.

The investigation team includes representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, US Airways, and the Air Line Pilots Association.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Final report issued on the crash of Adam Air Flight 574

Adam Air logoA final report on the crash of an Adam Air Boeing 737-400 (registration number PK-KKW) in January of 2007 has been issued by Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC), the agency responsible for aircraft accident investigations in that country. The NTSC report concluded that the pilots lost control of the airliner after becoming preoccupied with malfunctioning navigational equipment -- specifically, the aircraft's Inertial Reference System (IRS) . The aircraft plunged into the sea at a high rate of speed. All 102 people on board were killed, including 96 passengers, four cabin crew, and the two pilots.

Adam Air Flight DHI-574 disappeared from radar on New Year's Day, 2007, during the cruise phase of a scheduled domestic flight between Surabaya (SUB), on the island of Java, to Manado (MDC), on Sulawesi island. After an extensive search on land and at sea some debris from the aircraft was found nine days after the accident.

On January 21, 2007, signals from the downed jetliner's flight data recorder were detected by an American ship that had been assisting with the search. The aircraft's Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) finally were retrieved from the seabed in late August of 2007. Much of the NTSC's accident investigation centered on analysis of data from these recorders.

The Synopsis section of the NTSC's final report says the following:
The CVR revealed that both pilots were concerned about navigation problems and subsequently became engrossed with trouble shooting Inertial Reference System (IRS) anomalies for at least the last 13 minutes of the flight, with minimal regard to other flight requirements. This included identification and attempts at corrective actions.

The DFDR analysis showed that the aircraft was in cruise at FL 350 with the autopilot engaged. The autopilot was holding 5 degrees left aileron wheel in order to maintain wings level. Following the crew’s selection of the number-2 (right) IRS Mode Selector Unit to ATT (Attitude) mode, the autopilot disengaged. The control wheel (aileron) then centered and the aircraft began a slow roll to the right. The aural alert, BANK ANGLE, sounded as the aircraft passed 35 degrees right bank.

The DFDR data showed that roll rate was momentarily arrested several times, but there was only one significant attempt to arrest the roll. Positive and sustained roll attitude recovery was not achieved. Even after the aircraft had reached a bank angle of 100 degrees, with the pitch attitude approaching 60 degrees aircraft nose down, the pilot did not roll the aircraft’s wings level before attempting pitch recovery in accordance with standard operating procedures. The aircraft reached 3.5g, as the speed reached Mach 0.926 during sustained nose-up elevator control input while still in a right bank. The recorded airspeed exceeded Vdive (400 kcas), and reached a maximum of approximately 490 kcas just prior to the end of recording.

A thump, thump sound was evident on the CVR about 20 seconds from the end of the recorded data. Flight recorder data indicated that a significant structural failure occurred when the aircraft was at a speed of Mach 0.926 and the flight load suddenly and rapidly reversed from 3.5g to negative 2.8 g. This g force and airspeed are beyond the design limitations of the aircraft. At the time of the thump, thump sound, the aircraft was in a critically uncontrollable state. [NTSC Accident Investigation Report No. KNKT/07.01/08.01.36, Synopsis, pp. 1-2]
The report faulted the pilot in command for failure to manage crew task sharing, and for not following crew resource management practices. The report noted, "There was no evidence that the pilots were appropriately controlling the aircraft, even after the BANK ANGLE alert sounded as the aircraft’s roll exceeded 35 degrees right bank."
This accident resulted from a combination of factors, including the failure of the pilots to adequately monitor the flight instruments, particularly during the final 2 minutes of the flight. Preoccupation with a malfunction of the Inertial Reference System (IRS) diverted both pilots’ attention from the flight instruments and allowed the increasing descent and bank angle to go unnoticed. The pilots did not detect and appropriately arrest the descent soon enough to prevent loss of control. [NTSC Accident Investigation Report No. KNKT/07.01/08.01.36, Synopsis, p. 2]
Among the other factors that contributed to the cause of the accident, the report found that the carrier, privately owned Adam Air, "did not provide their pilots with IRS malfunction corrective action training in the simulator, nor did they provide aircraft upset recovery training in accordance with the Airplane Upset Recovery Training Aid developed by Boeing and Airbus." Adam Air management also was faulted for being unaware of the seriousness of "unresolved and recurring defects" related to the aircraft's Inertial Reference System, referring to the finding that maintenance records and pilots' reports showed that there were 154 such defects reported between October and December of 2006. As well, the report noted several failings by Indonesia's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to properly oversee Adam Air's fleet maintenance practices.

The entire report has been posted to the NTSC website. Here is the link:

NTSC Accident Investigation Report No. KNKT/07.01/08.01.36 - NTSC of Indonesia, March 25, 2008

This is a 98-page 'pdf' file, so it may take awhile to load.

A shorter summary is available as a part of a media release issued by the NTSC, announcing their report (4-page 'pdf' file).

Related: Click here to view all posts about Adam Air Flt 574 on Aircrew Buzz.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Delta Air Lines opposes flight attendant unionization

Delta Air Lines logoAs I wrote here last month, Delta flight attendants are seeking union representation. In that article I wrote:
Up to now, Delta flight attendants have not been unionized. Although there has been growing dissatisfaction with pay and work rules among the rank and file, it seems that the tipping point came as Delta began engaging in merger talks with other carriers. Now a growing number of Delta's flight attendants are acknowledging the potential value of representation by a formal collective bargaining unit such as the AFA [the Association of Flight Attendants].
On February 14, 2008, a majority of Delta flight attendants did indeed submit signature cards to the National Mediation Board (NMB), formally requesting union representation. Yesterday, the NMB officially announced that the flight attendants' request for election of a union had been authorized. In its letter to Delta Air Lines and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the NMB indicated that "the election will be conducted by Telephone Electronic Voting and Internet Voting."
The Notice and Sample Instruction will be sent out on April 16, 2008. The Voting Instructions will be mailed to the employees on April 23, 2008. The voting period will be from 12:01 a.m., ET, April 23, 2008, through June 3, 2008. The tally will take place at the Board's offices on June 3, 2008, at 2 p.m. ET.
Yesterday, Delta's response to this news was to issue a press release with a very lengthy title:

Delta Flight Attendants to Decide on Union Representation; Company Says Direct Relationship with Management Best for Flight Attendants

That title, folks, is the story in a nutshell. But there is a longer version. The press release, referenced above, included the text of a statement from Joanne Smith, senior vice president – In-Flight Service and Global Product Development, as follows:
“Delta flight attendants will make one of the most important decisions of their careers over the coming months as they choose between a direct relationship with Delta’s management team or the cost and risk of a third-party representative,” Smith said. “Our flight attendants have long been successful at speaking for themselves and we continually demonstrate our willingness to respond quickly and directly to their individual and collective feedback. I’m asking all of our flight attendants to make an educated choice, based on fact.

“The facts are: Delta flight attendants have it better than what the Association of Flight Attendants’ has been able to deliver at other airlines, and those airlines’ contracts are not open to changes for several years to come – years in which Delta flight attendants will continue to enjoy higher rates of pay, a better profit sharing program and a better performance rewards program.

“In contrast, the AFA’s track record at other network carriers is not a good one. The AFA has demonstrated that its members have not been protected from pay cuts, job loss, pension termination or any other changes affecting the airline industry. And flight attendants at those other airlines also must pay hundreds of dollars per year in union dues.

“Delta has good momentum thanks to the hard work of all Delta people and we look forward to the ability to continue working on their behalf and responding to their feedback,” Smith continued.
A Forbes article about the upcoming union election quoted Corey Caldwell, an AFA-CWA spokeswoman, who said Smith's statement is "typical, anti-union rhetoric that companies use."
"The truth is when there is a union on property, there's just as much communication with management as there was before," Caldwell said. "The only thing that changes is this time the flight attendants get to determine the issues and policies that affect them as a group instead of being dependent on the company to make decisions for them."
For further insight about what rank-and-file Delta flight attendants are thinking about the unionization issue, visit the Delta Voices page of the website opened by AFA to support the campaign by Delta flight attendants for unionization. There, dozens of Delta flight attendants have come forward publicly to share with their flying partners their reasons for supporting the move to unionize.

Should Delta's flight attendants succeed in their bid to unionize, they will be airline's the second major work group to have union representation. At the present time, only Delta's pilots are represented by a union; they are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cabin fire aboard Etihad Airways A330

Etihad AirwaysNews media in the Middle East are reporting that a fire erupted aboard an Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 aircraft while it was in flight. According to the Gulf News, the incident happened on March 13, 2008 during the cruise phase of a flight between Dhaka, Bangladesh and Abu Dhabi, UAE. Cabin crew were able to extinguish the fire, and no injuries were reported amongst the 231 passengers, two pilots and 11 cabin crew on board the flight. The flight continued to Abu Dhabi, where it landed safely.

The Gulf News article about the incident quoted Iain Burns, vice-president of corporate communications for Etihad Airways, who explained that a passenger had lit a cigarette inside one of the aircraft's lavatories, and that the cigarette then ignited some toilet paper. The lavatory's smoke detector alarm activated, and the cabin crew responded. Mr. Burns said that "the flames were swiftly extinguished by our alert, calm and expertly-trained cabin crew."

In their story about the in-flight fire, the Khaleej Times noted that the passenger who started the fire "was not arrested on arrival at the Abu Dhabi International Airport but has been banned by Etihad from further travel with it." The passenger was not named.

Congratulations to the Etihad cabin crew for a job well done.

Monday, March 24, 2008

US Airways Boeing 757-200 loses a wing panel in flight

US Airways Boeing 757-200A US Airways Boeing 757-200 aircraft (registration number N921UW) lost a panel from the upper surface of its left wing during flight on Saturday, March 22, 2008. After it separated from the wing, the panel struck and cracked a window of the aircraft's passenger cabin, according to a preliminary report about the incident posted today on the FAA website. No one was injured.

The aircraft, operating as US Airways Flight USA1250, was en route from Orlando to Philadelphia when the incident occurred. The aircraft was believed to be somewhere over Maryland when the wing panel separated. The flight continued to its destination, where it landed safely. According to various news reports, the aircraft was carrying 174 passengers and a crew of six.

A news story about the incident on the MyFox Washington, DC website said:
Anne Arundel County Fire department Division Chief Michael Cox says a fax from US Airways' security office indicated that the 17.5 square-inch piece of a wing cover might have fallen somewhere in Prince George's or Anne Arundel counties or near Kent Island.
The same news story included a photo of the damaged wing. The photo was taken through a window from inside the cabin.

March 22, 2008 was not a good day for US Airways. On the same day as the wing incident, a US Airways pilot's firearm accidentally discharged aboard an Airbus A-319 while the aircraft was in flight. The pilot is a member of the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

TSA: US Airways pilot's firearm discharges in flight

TSA logoThe U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a brief statement today about the discharge of a firearm on board a US Airways flight. According to the TSA news release, the weapon belonged to a pilot who is a member of the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program. The gun was said to have been fired "accidentally," although no further details were provided.

The incident happened on Saturday, March 22, 2008 aboard an Airbus A-319 aircraft, operating as US Airways Flight USA1536, en route from Denver to Charlotte, NC. The flight, which the TSA claims "was never in danger," landed safely in Charlotte.

According to the TSA, the pilot was authorized to carry the gun aboard the aircraft under provisions of the FFDO program. The FFDO program trains civilian flight deck crew on the use of firearms, use of force, legal issues, defensive tactics, the psychology of survival and program standard operating procedures. The pilot whose gun discharged in flight was said to have last re-qualified as an FFDO on Nov. 7, 2007.

Airline pilots probably can expect to be hearing about the details of this incident during recurrent training. Pilots who also are FFDOs will most certainly see the incident addressed during their next re-qualification.

Here is a link to information about the Federal Flight Deck Officer program on the TSA website.

UPDATE March 29, 2008:
Video: Possible scenario for pilot's accidental discharge of his firearm.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Arbitrator says Pinnacle Airlines violated pilots' contractual rights

Pinnacle Airlines logoScore one for the pilots' side, in the continuing saga of acrimonious negotiations between the management of Pinnacle Airlines and its pilots' union. Yesterday, an arbitrator ruled that the pilots’ contractual rights were violated when management refused to meet and discuss labor protection issues with them, following the acquisition of Colgan Air in early 2007.

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union representing Pinnacle pilots, issued a news release announcing the arbitration ruling, saying:
The arbitrator ruled that Pinnacle’s “consistent failure to distinguish between the two corporate entities provides persuasive evidence that Pinnacle Airlines Corp. and Pinnacle Airlines, Inc. were alter egos functioning as a single employer at the time of the acquisition of Colgan by PNCL,” and concluded, “… because PNCL and PAI were alter egos functioning as a single employer when PNCL acquired Colgan …” the company violated the labor protection section of the collective bargaining agreement with the pilots.
The chairman of Pinnacle unit of ALPA, Capt. Scott Erickson, called it "a major victory for us."

“We are very pleased with the arbitrator’s recognition that Pinnacle violated our contract when they refused to negotiate with us after buying Colgan Air,” Erickson said. “We hope this ruling puts an end to managements’ continued quest to deny us our contractual rights, prompting it to negotiate a contract that adequately compensates us for our dedication and sacrifice to this airline.”

For more than three years, Pinnacle pilots and management have been in contract negotiations, which have often been characterized as "contentious." They are currently working under a contract that became amendable in May of 2005. A mediator assigned by the National Mediation Board has been involved in the negotiating process since fall 2006.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Delta flight diverts due to smoke in the cabin

Delta Boeing 767A Boeing 767-300 aircraft operated by Delta Air Lines made an emergency landing yesterday at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) in South Carolina due to smoke in the aircraft cabin. No one was seriously injured, although several news reports about the incident said that one passenger suffered minor burns.

The smoke incident happened during the cruise phase of a scheduled flight between Raleigh-Durham, NC and Atlanta. Delta Flight DAL 1819, with more than 250 passengers and crew on board, was diverted to GSP. The aircraft landed safely and taxied unassisted to a gate, where passengers deplaned. Passengers were later transferred to Atlanta by bus.

A preliminary report about the March 19, 2008 incident has been posted to the FAA website. It says:
While in flight, a heating duct imploded, spraying insulation throughout the cabin. Aircraft diverted to Greenville/Spartanburg Airport, Greer, SC.
A news story and accompanying video clip about Flight DAL 1819 on WYFF4 in Greenville quoted passengers who said that the smoke appeared to come up through the floor in the back of the cabin. Passengers described seeing smoke and "ashes," and feeling heat. They reported hearing "the sound of grinding metal from the cargo area."

Flight attendants reportedly moved passengers away from the smoky area to the front of the plane, and prepared the cabin for the emergency landing. Although the FAA preliminary report did not mention a fire, several news reports said that fire extinguishers were deployed in the cabin before the plane landed.

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Indonesia's Adam Air operations halted

Adam Air logoIt looks like financial difficulties and safety concerns have led to the demise of Indonesian low-cost carrier Adam Air. Budhi Mulyawan Suyitno, director general for air transportation in Indonesia, has announced that Adam Air's Air Operator Certificate (AOC) has been suspended, and all of the carrier's aircraft have been grounded.

An AFP news article reports:
Suyitno said the decision to remove the beleaguered airline's permission to fly was based on the results of a quarterly safety evaluation, which found it made "violations that could put passengers' safety at risk."

The airline would be grounded until it was evaluated again in another three months, and would have its air operator certificate -- a separate safety certification -- permanently removed if no improvements were found. This would therefore move the company a step closer to permanent closure.
Privately owned Adam Air, which was founded in 2003, has been experiencing financial difficulties for some time. Adam Air defaulted on aircraft leases and insurance payments, resulting in the loss of half its fleet of planes. The carrier's financial woes came to a head last week when a major investor, Bhakti Investama, withdrew as a shareholder.

Bhakti Investama's decision to sell its 50% stake in Adam Air followed the airline's most recent accident, on March 10, 2008. That afternoon a Boeing 737-400 aircraft operated by Adam Air ran off the runway at Hang Nadim Airport in Batam, Indonesia. The accident happened as Flight KI292 landed at Batam after a scheduled flight from Jakarta with more than 170 people on board. Although there were no fatalities, five people injured in the accident were hospitalized.

The March 10 event was the latest of several serious accidents involving aircraft operated by Adam Air. On New Year's Day, 2007, Adam Air Flight 574 disappeared during a domestic flight between Surabaya and Manado. All 96 passengers and six crew members aboard the Boeing 737-400 were presumed to have died.

In February of 2007, Indonesia's Directorate General of Air Communications (DGAC) grounded all seven of Adam Air's B737-300 aircraft. The order followed a 'hard landing' at Surabaya that resulted in cracking and buckling of the aircraft's fuselage.

Here is a list of previous Aircrew Buzz articles about Adam Air:

Monday, March 17, 2008

Continental pilots' Unification Rally in New York Financial District

Pilots Unification March - March 12, 2008On March 12, 2008, more than 500 pilots from Continental and other airlines participated in a Unification Rally in the New York City Financial District and Battery Park. A number of pilots from Alaska, Delta, ExpressJet, and United Airlines joined the Continental pilots to deliver a message: management must deal with pilots to build successful airlines.

The march was organized by the Continental MEC of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). An ALPA news release about the Unification Rally explained:
Continental pilots gave up more than $200 million annually in concessions in their last contract as a “loan” to help their airline overcome the threat of bankruptcy and help management achieve success. Continental is now one of the most prosperous airline carriers, achieving a 2007 pre-tax profit of $566M. Continental pilots believe the time for repayment of their “loan” is now due and they should share in the rewards and profits made possible by their sacrifices that are now being enjoyed by management. Continental pilots are preparing for the start of negotiations for the economic items of their contract which becomes amendable Dec. 31, 2008.
Speakers included Continental MEC chairman, Capt. Jay Pierce, local union representative Capt. Al Brandano, and ALPA president, Capt. John Prater.

[Photo Source]

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Air New Zealand's Chinese cabin crew pay scandal

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-200ERAir New Zealand's Shanghai based cabin crew, who are Chinese nationals, are underpaid. In fact, that's an understatement. They are paid roughly one-quarter the salary of their Kiwi counterparts -- an amount that is less than the minimum wage in New Zealand. Why should Chinese cabin crew doing the same work, on the same aircraft, on the same route as New Zealanders, be paid less?

In addition to their salary, cabin crew are paid per diem allowances for time spent away from their home base. Air New Zealand's Chinese cabin crew earn a per diem allowance that is only one-third that paid to New Zealand nationals. Why are the Chinese cabin crew assumed to need less than New Zealanders to cover their meals and other expenses when they are overseas?

Keeping in mind that the Chinese cabin crew work alongside New Zealand crew members, doing identical work, this pay disparity is discrimination of the worst kind: Clearly, it is exploitation. New Zealand's government owns the majority of shares in its national carrier, making this situation even more scandalous to my mind.

Recent news stories about this situation, including one published today by the New Zealand Herald, recount further details.
NZ flight attendants have a starting base salary of at least $24,000 a year.

A source said crew also got $170 for each day they spent overseas, plus other flight allowances, which could add up to $15,000 a year.

The Chinese have an annual wage starting at $6240 and a daily away allowance of $55.

One Chinese air stewardess said her monthly base salary was $520 and she got an extra $4.30 for every hour of flight time. This totals much less than New Zealand's legal minimum wage of $11.25 an hour.
The carrier has attempted to excuse itself from responsibility by pointing out that the Chinese cabin crew are not direct employees of Air New Zealand; rather, they are employed through a Chinese staffing agency. Nevertheless, each reportedly has a New Zealand work permit, listing Air New Zealand as the employer. So then, why are they not paid according to the standard set for New Zealand employees?

Air New Zealand is not the only international air carrier engaging in this type of exploitation of Asian cabin crew members. For example, earlier this month I wrote about a trial, scheduled to begin this coming week in Copenhagen, in which Scandinavian airline SAS is accused of having paid sub-standard wages to the 34 Chinese and 31 Japanese cabin crew hired since 2005. Those flight attendants were hired by SAS without Danish work permits, allowing the carrier to avoid paying them according to Danish standards. The feeble defense put forth by SAS, quoted in news articles, was that "the women were only in Danish air space for the few minutes it took to fly over the small Scandinavian country," and therefore were exempt from needing Danish work permits.

Rubbish. All of these kinds of cases boil down to carriers attempting to cut costs at the expense of their employees' welfare and dignity. We all know that, with fuel prices and other material costs soaring, these are tough times for the aviation industry, but any temporary economic advantage these companies gain by paying grossly substandard wages to certain employees based on their nationality is greatly overshadowed by human rights issues.

Since when is blatant exploitation good corporate policy? What has happened to the concept of equal pay for equal work?

[Photo Source]

Friday, March 14, 2008

The case of the traveling skull...?

No, more like the skull in the traveling case.

It was a dark and stormy night at Munich airport. Two women with a suitcase approached the security screening station. As the case passed through the X-ray machine, a skeleton appeared...

Okay, I'm hamming it up with the "dark and stormy night" part, but in fact security screeners in Munich did come across a skull and bones in a traveler's suitcase recently, and they did turn out to be human remains.

According to an item on the Reuters website, the skeletal remains were those of a man who had died in Brazil 11 years ago. His sister was transporting his bones in her luggage, from São Paulo Brazil to Naples -- via a stopover in Munich. She told the surprised officials at the airport that it had been her brother's wish to be buried in Italy.
"We questioned the women and they produced a valid death certificate showing he had died 11 years ago of natural causes. As they were not violating any German laws they were allowed to continue their journey to Italy," said [police spokesman Christian] Maier.
Just as well this happened in March, and not around Halloween.

[Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on]

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Aircrew Buzz: Crew-centered news and commentary

Happy Birthday balloonsAircrew Buzz [the blog you are reading] recently had its third birthday. To mark that milestone, I decided to depart from posting the usual fare, to talk about the blog itself, and to publicly answer some readers' questions.

Among the questions I am asked most frequently by readers:
  • Are you a pilot?
  • What airline do you work for?
  • How do you decide what stories to write about?
  • Where do you get your information?
No, I'm not a pilot, nor do I work for an airline, a union, or a government agency. I'm an independent research psychologist who has spent quite a number of years learning everything I can about people who work in the civilian aviation industry, and especially those who fly for a living, i.e., pilots and cabin crew. Along the way, I became an aviation news junkie.

I am interested in aviation news mostly in regard to its impact on the lives of the crew members I have come to know. Thus, I choose to write stories in Aircrew Buzz about topics that I think will be interesting to crew members themselves. I focus on aspects of aviation news stories that are about crew, or that will affect them, thus the blog's subtitle: Crew-centered news and commentary.

It is my practice to consult multiple sources of information before I write most stories. I get some of that information from mainstream news media, and even more from established aviation news outlets, but much of what I write about is based on information that becomes available from government agencies such as the FAA and the NTSB, and their counterparts in other countries. When I write about aircraft accidents and safety incidents, for example, I often include factual information from official accident investigation reports.

My background as a research scientist influences my writing habits. I always document my sources. I try my best to stay away from hearsay, or in any case, to identify it as hearsay when that is what it is. I give as many details as I can, but I avoid sensationalizing and speculating. The non-aviation press does enough of that!

I also follow news releases and other information provided by unions, airlines, aircraft manufacturers and other businesses related to aviation. These often are good sources of news about labor issues, contract negotiations, regulatory issues, and technological developments of interest to crew members.

I'm based in the U.S., but aviation is a global business, and Aircrew Buzz has a global audience. (According to the traffic statistics, Aircrew Buzz was read by people in 145 different countries during the past month, for example.) Thus, I feature aviation news from around the world, not just North America.

I have said that my primary target audience is the crew members themselves. That's who I have in mind when I choose which topics to write about, and what to say. If I have a slant or a bias, it is to adopt the perspective of crew members. At the same time, it has become apparent that the readership of Aircrew Buzz is much broader now than it used to be.

A telling factor is that, during its early days, most visitors to Aircrew Buzz arrived as 'direct' traffic -- that is, they typed the URL directly into their browsers, or clicked through from their bookmarks. The rest of the traffic used to come from click-throughs on links in directories and other websites, plus a small number from search. Nowadays, well over two-thirds of the traffic to Aircrew Buzz comes from search, consistently.

The number of Aircrew Buzz readers has grown tremendously over the past three years. Back in early 2005 when the blog was launched, it drew an audience of a couple hundred per month. In three years' time, that readership has steadily grown to many thousands per month, and that's just those who come to the blog itself.

Since about this time last year, Aircrew Buzz has been syndicated by two agencies that distribute the content to other websites. Content from Aircrew Buzz now appears regularly on the Commercial Aviation page of McGraw Hill's Aviation Week, and individual articles are distributed through syndication to Reuters, the Chicago Sun-Times, LexisNexis, EBSCO and others. As a result, the total readership for a given article is very often in the tens of thousands, and on occasion, over 100,000.

In sum, in its three years of existence, Aircrew Buzz has become a nice little success story. It has spawned two companion news blogs, Professional Pilot News and Cabin Crew News, which are doing nearly as well as Aircrew Buzz. These spin-offs are syndicated now, as well.

I believe the success and growth of all three has hinged on the support of a solid core of loyal readers who visit regularly and stay in touch with me. They give me valuable feedback, and they tell their flying partners about my aviation news blogs. To them I say, "Thank you so much!"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Passengers injured after seatbelts fail on Southwest plane

Southwest Airlines logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently issued a preliminary report about an instance of severe turbulence during which one flight attendant and five passengers on a Southwest Airlines flight were injured. The report states that "two of the five injured passengers were occupying seats where the seatbelt fittings failed and separated."


The incident happened on the afternoon of February 24, 2008, when the Boeing 737-300 aircraft, operating as Southwest Airlines Flight SWA 2809, encountered severe turbulence during descent for landing at McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, NV. The scheduled flight, which had five crew members and 137 passengers on board, had originated at Ontario, CA.

More details, quoted from the NTSB report:
According to information provided by Southwest Airlines, the flight was descending into Las Vegas at an altitude of 11,400 feet above mean sea level (msl) when it encountered severe turbulence. The captain communicated with Southwest Operations to arrange for paramedics to meet the airplane at the gate in Las Vegas. The flight continued and landed without further incident. Medical personnel met the airplane as requested, and the treated the injured passengers and flight attendant, classifying their injuries as minor.

A preliminary review of the flight recorder data provided by Southwest Airlines disclosed that the airplane experienced a vertical acceleration minimum of approximately -0.761 G, followed 2 seconds later by a positive peak of approximately +1.762 G. [NTSB ID: LAX08IA065]
That must have been quite a ride, and it's good to know that the injuries were considered to be minor. In all the years I have been following accident and incident reports from the NTSB, I believe this is the first time I have seen a mention of seatbelt failure contributing to passenger injury during turbulence. Anyone recall any other instances in recent memory?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Skybus Airlines pilots want a union

Skybus logoPilots at low-fare carrier Skybus Airlines appear to be on the verge of unionizing. A Columbus Dispatch article on the subject reports that more than 80 percent of Skybus pilots are in favor of voting to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT).

Quoting from the Columbus Dispatch article:
Skybus, which was notified late last week of the action, said in a statement that the company is surprised to be facing a "union organizing effort when the airline industry is dealing with a slowing economy and oil prices" that are nearly $108 a barrel.

"We believe that a majority of our pilots will understand that we are better served focusing on building a start-up airline in a very competitive environment than we are going down a path that for other airlines has led to contentious labor-management issues," the statement said.

The starting salary for a Skybus captain is $65,000, while a less-senior first officer makes $30,000 to start. Pilots say those amounts are as much as 50 percent below industry standards, and Skybus pilots say the airline is not offering second-year pay increases. Still, Skybus has been able to attract experienced pilots with stock options and the opportunity to be home every night, because all planes return to either Columbus or the second base of Greensboro, N.C.
The article goes on to say that a spokeswoman for the airline division of the Teamsters "confirmed that the union has collected more than the required number of cards from Skybus pilots to proceed." More than 100 of the 120 Skybus pilots who are eligible to vote are said to have submitted cards favoring union membership. The next step would be a formal vote, supervised by the National Mediation Board. A simple majority vote in favor of joining the union would be required in order for the measure to be passed.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bird strike damages radome on Delta Air Lines MD-88

Delta Airline MD88On the afternoon of February 18, 2008, a Delta Air Lines MD-88 aircraft was damaged when it struck a large bird while on approach to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (Austin, TX). The aircraft, operating as Delta Flight DAL1877, was in the descent phase of a scheduled flight to Austin from Atlanta when the incident happened. There were no injuries to the five crew members and 135 passengers on board.

A preliminary incident report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says:
According to the captain, the airplane was at an altitude of 2,500, and at an airspeed of 210 knots, when he and the first officer saw two large birds in front of the airplane. Moments later one of the birds struck the bottom right side of the radome.

The impact resulted in airframe vibrations; however, both engine indications remained normal. The first officer then declared an emergency and the captain informed the passengers about what had happened since it was "obvious we had collided with something."

The airplane landed uneventfully, and once clear of the runway, the captain asked the airport's rescue and fire fighting (ARFF) personnel to assess the damage. They reported the impact area was "quite large with the bird imbedded into the radome."

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety inspectors performed an on-scene examination of the airplane. According to an inspector, the bird struck the lower right hand corner of the radome (as viewed from the cockpit). As a result, the glide slope antenna mount, the lower nose-web, and outer fuselage skin was damaged. In addition, the forward bulkhead (non-pressurized) fuselage rib was torn. Blood was also observed on the right engine's nacelle; however, an inspection of the first and second stage blades revealed no damage. [NTSB ID: DFW08IA073]
For more photos of the aircraft, and a statement from a passenger who was on board the flight, visit this article on the Flightstory Aviation Blog.

Tip of the hat to Michael at Flightstory for posting the photos there.

[Photo Source]

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Five perish in Cessna Citation crash in Oklahoma

Pilot Tim HartmanOn March 4th, 2008 at approximately 3:15 PM, a chartered Cessna Citation I (500 Model) with two crew members and three passengers on board crashed into a wooded area northwest of Oklahoma City. All five on board were killed, and the aircraft was completely destroyed. The two pilots have been identified in news reports as Tim Hartman (pictured at right) and Rick Sandoval. The passengers were businessmen from the Oklahoma City area.

The aircraft took off from Wiley Post Airport, Oklahoma City, OK, just minutes before the accident. The flight was bound for Mankato, MN. The FAA's initial report on the accident states that the aircraft "crashed under unknown circumstances," four miles from Wiley Post Airport. Witnesses to the accident, who were interviewed by various news media, claimed that they saw the plane fly through a flock of birds shortly before it crashed. NTSB investigators are expected to release a preliminary statement about the accident later this week.

According to FAA records, the aircraft, registration number N113SH, was owned by Southwest Orthopedic Sports Medicine Clinic in Oklahoma City. The plane was based at Wiley Post Airport.

Messages of condolence to the families and friends of those whose lives were lost in this accident can be entered online in a Guest Book, sponsored by Oklahoma City newspaper The Oklahoman.

[Photo Source]

UPDATE March 13, 2008: A preliminary report regarding the March 4 Citation crash in Oklahoma has been posted to the NTSB website: NTSB ID: DFW08FA076

The report includes information obtained from at least 10 witnesses to the accident. Most interesting was an account from a witness who had served 20-years as an Air Force Crew Chief. He reported hearing a sound that resembled an "engine compressor stall," after which he observed the aircraft descending at a 60 to 70 degree nose down attitude, and trailing smoke. He also reported seeing pieces of a white-colored bird falling from the sky.

Other highlights from the NTSB preliminary report:

A security camera at a power company facility near the accident site was found to have recorded the aircraft's descent to the ground "in a near vertical position."

The report notes that there were no reported radio distress calls from the flight crew.

Residue from the horizontal and vertical stabilizers was sent to the Smithsonian Institution for analysis by an ornithologist [bird specialist].

The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) was retrieved and sent to the NTSB lab in Washington, DC for analysis, but the report says "examination revealed that the CVR was not operating during the accident flight."

UPDATE July 29, 2009: Bird strike caused fatal crash of illegally chartered Cessna 500 in Oklahoma in 2008

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Video: Dassault Falcon 7X tri-jet business aircraft

French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Falcon's newest business jet is the Falcon 7X. The 7X is the largest Falcon tri-jet business aircraft produced, and is the first business jet with a fly-by-wire interface. Configured to carry eight passengers and four crew (three pilots and a flight attendant), the Falcon 7X is capable of cruising at a speed of mach .9, and has a range of 5,950 nautical miles.

The Falcon 7X went into service in June of 2007. As of the end of 2007, over 200 of the new aircraft type had been sold. The price tag? A mere $40 million. If you're not ready to commit that kind of money to a Falcon 7X of your own, you can book a flight on one through NetJets Europe.

Here's a video about the Dassault Falcon 7X, presented by on YouTube:

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

Friday, March 07, 2008

Cabin features on Delta's new Boeing 777-200LR

Last week, Delta Air Lines took delivery of a new Boeing 777-200LR, the first of its type delivered to a U.S.-based carrier. The aircraft will be known as "The Delta Spirit."

Delta B777-200LR cabinThe new aircraft will be the flagship aircraft for Delta’s new BusinessElite® global product, according to a Delta news release. The BusinessElite® cabin (see photo at right) includes the following features:
  • Reclining seats that adjust to multiple comfortable positions, including a completely flat 6-foot 3-inch bed
  • Privacy screens incorporating pull-out meal table, fold-out 10.6-inch personal video screen, integrated footrest and personal stowage compartment for bags, shoes or blankets
  • Immediate access to the aisle so customers do not have to disturb another passenger when exiting their seat
  • USB ports offering charging ability for personal MP3 players
The airline plans to have similar sleeper suites installed on all of the B-777 aircraft in its fleet by 2010.

Economy passengers flying on the new B777-200LR aircraft will enjoy comfortable new all leather slim-line seats, manufactured by Weber Aircraft LP. The Weber seats have ergonomically designed cushions, and provide additional under-seat storage. Each seat has on-demand music, movies, games and television on individual 9-inch video monitors.

The aircraft is set to begin scheduled service tomorrow (March 8, 2008) with a flight between Atlanta and Los Angeles. The first international run for Delta's new B777-200LR, will be on March 9 when it flies from Atlanta to Tokyo.

[Photo Source]

Thursday, March 06, 2008

NTSB concerned about defects in GE engines for regional jets

NTSB logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transport Canada regarding safety concerns arising from engine failures on two separate Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-200 aircraft. According to an NTSB news release issued yesterday, the NTSB has concluded that "a flaw during the manufacturing process for fan blades led to the two engine failures, and the Board wants procedures set up to remove these blades before another incident occurs."

Regarding the incidents which prompted the current recommendations, the NTSB says:
In both instances - a July 27, 2006 engine failure on an Air Nostrum CRJ shortly after takeoff from Barcelona, Spain, and a May 24, 2007 engine failure on an Atlantic Southeast airlines CRJ while in cruise flight from Syracuse to Atlanta - a fan blade on a General Electric CF34-3B1 turbofan engine fractured, causing a loud bang, severe vibration and in one case an engine fire. Both flight crews declared emergencies and landed safely with no injuries.

Examination of the blades showed that they failed due to a material defect introduced during the manufacturing process. The fan blades were manufactured by Teleflex Aerospace Manufacturing Group, located in Mexico. Teleflex has manufactured more than 28,000 of these blades.

"We are issuing this recommendation because we consider the safety risk associated with this condition to be unacceptably high," NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said.
The ASA fan blade failed very early in its service life -- after only 4,717 cycles and 5,845 hours. Among its recommendations, the NTSB has asked the FAA to require the following of GE Aviation, the manufacturer of the engines:
  • to define a reasonable maximum time frame below 4,717 cycles since new for these Teleflex fan blades and require that the blades be removed from service before that limit is exceeded
  • to include additional testing in the manufacturing process for those blades
  • to make modifications in its CF34-1/-3 engine design to ensure that high engine vibrations (such as can happen when a fan blade fractures) will not cause the engine to catch fire
In its recommendations to Transport Canada, the NTSB requested that Bombardier, the manufacturer of the CRJ-200 aircraft, be required "to redesign the retention feature of the CRJ 100/-200 engine throttle gearbox to ensure that it can withstand the loads generated by a fan blade separation or similar event."

Here are links to the full-text versions of the NTSB's recommendations regarding GE engines for regional jets:

NTSB Safety Recommendations to the FAA, A-08-04 through -09 - March 5, 2008 (7-page 'pdf' file)

NTSB Safety Recommendation to Transport Canada, A-08-03 - March 5, 2008 (3-page 'pdf file)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Scandinavian airline SAS on trial over Asian cabin crew

SAS logoAn article on, the business news website, reports that "Scandinavian airline SAS went on trial in Copenhagen for allegedly hiring Chinese and Japanese flight attendants without Danish work permits." The airline is said to have paid sub-standard wages to the 34 Chinese and 31 Japanese cabin crew hired since 2005.

The news article says:
The prosecution is calling for SAS to pay a fine of 2 mln dkr and for an additional 5 mln dkr it says the airline saved by paying the flight attendants sub-standard wages, to be confiscated from the company.

Following pressure from the unions, the Danish Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs decided in 2006 to file suit against SAS, which is partially state-owned, for violating Danish labour laws.

SAS explained at the time that it needed the Asian air hostesses to attend to the needs of passengers flying between Europe and Asia, insisting that the women were only in Danish air space for the few minutes it took to fly over the small Scandinavian country.
I think the claim that the women were only briefly in Danish airspace is only a cover for the true issue: money. This sounds like just one more instance of a two-tiered pay scheme in which work is outsourced to 'foreign nationals' who are paid a lesser amount to do the same work as citizens of the carrier's home country. Last I knew, this was called exploitation.

The final day of the trial is scheduled for March 17, with a verdict expected about a week later, a judicial source told the news media.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Delta takes delivery of first Boeing 777-200LR

Delta B777-200LRDelta Air Lines recently took delivery of a Boeing 777-200LR (longer range) aircraft -- the first of its type delivered to a U.S.-based carrier. The official delivery ceremony took place at Boeing Field on February 29, 2008, with 150 Delta employees in attendance.

According to a Boeing news release, this is the first of eight aircraft of this type ordered by Delta.
In tribute to employees and to the original "Spirit of Delta" - a Boeing 767-200 given to the airline in 1982 by employees, retirees and friends - the new Boeing 777-200LR, Ship 7101, will be called "The Delta Spirit" in gratitude to the many accomplishments of Delta's employees worldwide. The aircraft will be officially dedicated to Delta employees in a celebration March 6 in Atlanta.
A Delta Airlines news release about the new aircraft designates the new Boeing 777-200LR as "the flagship aircraft for Delta’s new global product, including fully horizontal personal sleeper suites in BusinessElite®, next-generation, more comfortable seats in coach, and Delta’s on-demand entertainment system on larger screens at every seat."

It was announced that the aircraft is scheduled to enter scheduled service March 8 flying between Atlanta and Los Angeles, and will fly on March 9 from Atlanta to Tokyo.

[Photo Source]

Monday, March 03, 2008

Video: Lufthansa Airbus A320 in dramatic crosswind landing attempt

You may have seen this video, or stills captured from it, on a news broadcast. Shot by an amateur at Hamburg, Germany, the video shows a dramatic landing attempt on Fuhlsbuettel Airport's Runway 23 in strong and gusty crosswinds. (Various news reports about the incident mentioned gusts with windspeeds of up to approximately 150 mph.)

At one point the tip of the left wing of the Lufthansa Airlines A320 briefly touches the ground, just before the crew initiates a go-around. According to various news reports, the aircraft later landed safely, but minus one winglet. A story about the incident on quoted a Lufhthansa spokesman who said that the plane "is already back in service."

The incident happened on Saturday (March 1, 2008) as the aircraft was arriving on a scheduled flight from Munich with more than 130 people on board. The weather conditions were caused by a powerful winter storm that swept across Europe over the past weekend. The weather disrupted air traffic at Hamburg, and several other locations, causing many flight delays, and several diversions.

(If the video does not display or play properly above, you can view it here on