Monday, November 30, 2009

New FAA rule prohibits takeoffs with 'polished frost'

by B.N. Sullivan

FAA logoThe U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a new rule that prohibits takeoffs with “polished frost” — frost buffed to make it smooth — on the wings, stabilizers and control surfaces of several classes of aircraft. The new rule applies to aircraft operated under 14 CFR Part 91 subpart F, and Parts 125 and 135, and makes those operations consistent with Part 121 with respect to its prohibition on operations with polished frost.

The FAA summarizes the new Final Rule this way:
This final rule removes language from part 91 subpart F, and parts 125 and 135, which permits aircraft to takeoff with frost that has been polished to make it smooth (“polished frost”) on critical surfaces. Under the final rule, operators will be required to remove any frost adhering to critical surfaces prior to takeoff.
Additionally, the rule restructures language in parts 91, 125, and 135 to clarify that aircraft must have functioning deicing or anti-icing equipment to fly under IFR into known or forecast light or moderate icing conditions, or under VFR into known light or moderate icing conditions.
The new rules become effective on January 30, 2010. According to the FAA, there are 57 operators flying 188 aircraft affected by the rule changes.

Today the FAA issued a press release in conjunction with announcement of the new rule, which said, in part:
Frost can affect the aerodynamics of wings and control surfaces, and the safest action is to completely remove it. Previous FAA guidance recommended removing all wing frost prior to takeoff, but allowed it to be polished smooth if the aircraft manufacturer’s recommended procedures were followed. But manufacturers never published standards of acceptable smoothness for polished frost, and the FAA has no data to determine exactly how to polish frost to satisfactory smoothness.
“The FAA has advised pilots not to take off with frost or ice contaminating their wings for years because it made good sense,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “Now, it’s the law.”

Here is the link to the full text of the new rule: Removal of Regulations Allowing for Polished Frost - 27-page 'PDF' file

UPDATE Dec. 3, 2009: A reader alerted me to the fact that the link to the new rule, displayed above, no longer works. Here is the link the FAA Press release about the new rule banning takeoffs with polished frost; the press release contains a brief summary of the rule. The link at the bottom of that press release is the same as the one I have posted above, and it does appear to be broken at this time. I'm hoping that is a temporary situation.

Meanwhile, here is a link to an alternate source for the new FAA rule. The text of the rule begins about halfway down the left hand column of this 7-page 'pdf' document.

Taxiway collision at Salt Lake City: Southwest Airlines B737 and FedEx DC-10

by B. N. Sullivan

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 (registration N925WN) and a FedEx DC-10 (registration N318FE) were involved in a taxiway collision at Salt Lake City International Airport yesterday afternoon, November 29, 2009. The Southwest plane was pushing back from a gate in preparation for departure to Albuquerque when its wingtip was struck by that of the FedEx aircraft, which was taxiing. Passengers were evacuated from the Southwest aircraft. There were no injuries.

According to preliminary reports posted to the FAA Web site this morning, both aircraft sustained what the agency described as "minor" damage. Photos taken at the scene show the Southwest aircraft's right wing missing its winglet. (See this article and video clip from in Albuquerque, and the one below, from in Salt Lake City.)

Video Courtesy of

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

Hat tip to the reader who alerted me to this accident.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Avient Aviation MD-11 freighter accident at Shanghai

by B.N. Sullivan

AvientAn MD-11 freighter operated by Avient Aviation crashed and burned at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport (PVG) this morning, November 28, 2009. At the time of the accident, the aircraft (registration Z-BAV) was departing Shanghai for Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, as Flight Z3-324. A statement on the Avient Aviation Web site confirms that there were seven crew members on board the flight. News reports say that three crew members perished as a result of the accident, and the remaining four are hospitalized with various injuries.

According to news media, the aircraft overran Pudong's runway 35R during its takeoff roll. It is unclear at this time whether the aircraft had rotated before crashing, or if the accident resulted from a rejected takeoff.

The accident MD-11F was said to have been recently acquired by Avient.

Condolences to the families and friends of the crew members who lost their lives in this accident. Best wishes to the injured crew members for complete and speedy recovery.

UPDATE Nov. 29, 2009: The Aviation Herald reports:  "A Shanghai based pilot witnessing the crash said, that the main gear left the ground just before the end of the runway, the airplane however did not climb more than 10 feet, impacted approach lights and antennas and fell back onto the ground."

The 'black boxes' have been recovered from the wreckage.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Northwest Flight 188 incident: ATC audio and transcripts released by FAA

by B. N. Sullivan

FAA logoYou may have read some news reports today about the FAA's release of air traffic control audio and transcripts related to the incident in October in which Northwest Airlines Flight 188 was NORDO for over an hour and overflew Minneapolis, its destination -- also known as the 'laptop pilots' incident. I'm on vacation this week, but thought I'd pop in to post the link to the FAA page where readers of Aircrew Buzz can find those audio files and the transcripts: FAA: Northwest Airlines Flight 188.

For a quick summary of the information contained in the recordings and transcripts, check out this article on

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gulfstream's new G650 business jet completes maiden flight

by B.N. Sullivan

Gulfstream Aerospace G650 maiden flightIt was an exciting day in Savannah: The new Gulfstream G650 completed its first flight. The the ultra-large-cabin, ultra-long-range Gulfstream G650, the newest and fastest business jet produced by Gulfstream Aerospace, took off from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport at 1:41 p.m. local time today, and landed 12 minutes later.

At the controls of the aircraft (N650GA) were Gulfstream experimental test pilot Jake Howard and senior experimental test pilot Tom Horne. Also on board was flight engineer Bill Osborne.

“We are pleased to announce that the G650 successfully completed its first flight today,” Pres Henne said in a statement to the press. Mr. Henne is senior vice president, Programs, Engineering and Test, at Gulfstream.

“Systems were fully operational. The aircraft achieved an altitude of 6,600 feet and a speed of 170 knots. Flight controls and characteristics performed as expected. We consider this flight a success and look forward to pursuing our full flight-test plan,” Henne said.

The crew reported "a slight vibration in a landing-gear door," so they cut the flight short from the original plan as a precautionary measure.

The Gulfstream G650 was formally rolled out of the hangar under its own power for the first time on September 29, 2009. (Here is a link to the video of the G650 rollout.)

According to information provided by Gulfstream:
The G650 offers the longest range at the fastest speed in its class. Powered by best-in-class Rolls-Royce BR725 engines, the business jet is capable of traveling 7,000 nautical miles at 0.85 Mach and has a maximum operating speed of 0.925 Mach.
Its 7,000-nautical-mile range means the G650 can fly nonstop from Dubai to Chicago.
With an initial cruise altitude of 41,000 feet at 0.85 Mach, the G650 can climb to a maximum altitude of 51,000 feet and avoid traffic and inclement weather.

With its all-new aerodynamically optimized wing, the G650 can meet the latest takeoff certification requirements. At maximum takeoff weight, the aircraft can depart from a 6,000-foot runway.
Additionally, notes Gulfstream, the G650 features the PlaneView™ II cockpit, the most advanced flight deck in business aviation, and an Advanced Health and Trend Monitoring System (AHTMS) to support aircraft maintenance planning and enhance availability.

Sounds like quite a cool airplane!

Here is a link to Gulfstream's G650 Web page where you can find several photos of the aircraft, and a video of its first flight.

[Photo Source]

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Australian Transport Safety Bureau issues interim reports on two Qantas accidents

by B. N. Sullivan

Qantas logoDuring the past week, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released interim updates on the investigations of two separate accidents involving aircraft operated by Qantas.

QF 30 depressurization, January 25, 2008

The ATSB issued an interim factual report on the investigation into the depressurization of a Qantas Boeing 747-400 aircraft, registration VH-OJK, on July 25, 2008. That aircraft, operating as Qantas Flight QF30, was en-route from Hong Kong to Melbourne; it diverted to Manila where it made a safe emergency landing. Once on the ground, a large hole in the fuselage was discovered. The ATSB concluded that the failure of an oxygen cylinder damaged the pressure hull and led the depressurization.

The newest report focused on a series of tests carried out on several oxygen cylinders from the same manufacturing lot as the failed cylinder, intended to replicate the failure. The ATSB reports that the "various tests have not been able to replicate the cylinder failure that initiated the accident." The ATSB says:
To date, all pressure tests of the cylinders met or exceeded the relevant safety specifications, with recorded rupture pressures being over twice the maximum working pressure of the cylinders.
The investigation continues, and a final report is expected in early 2010.

QF 72 in-flight upset, October 7, 2008

The ATSB also issued a second interim factual report on its investigation into an in-flight upset involving a Qantas Airbus A330-303, registration VH-QPA, on October 7, 2008. The aircraft, operating as Qantas Flight QF 72, was en route from Singapore to Perth when it experienced two uncommanded pitch-down events. The flight diverted to Learmonth, Western Australia, where it landed safely.

The new report describes tests carried out in an attempt to discover what caused anomalous behavior of the aircraft's No. 1 Air Data Inertial Reference Unit (ADIRU), which led to the upset. The tests were inconclusive. The ATSB says:
Despite extensive testing and analysis, the reason why the ADIRU started providing erroneous data (spikes) during the 7 October 2008 flight (or the 27 December 2008 flight) has not been identified to date. Nevertheless, the crew operational procedures that were provided by Airbus in October 2008 (and modified in December 2008 and January 2009) significantly reduced the chance of another in-flight upset by limiting the time that a faulty ADIRU could output angle of attack spikes. Airbus is also modifying the FCPC software used in the A330/A340 fleets to prevent angle of attack spikes leading to an in-flight upset.
The ATSB expects to release a final report into this accident in the second quarter of 2010.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about Qantas Flt 72 on Aircrew Buzz

Friday, November 20, 2009

ALPA to Congress: Tighter restrictions on lithium batteries, please

by B. N. Sullivan

Mark RogersEarlier this week, a representative of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials regarding the union's position on the shipment of lithium batteries aboard commercial aircraft. Mark Rogers, who is the director of ALPA’s Dangerous Goods Program, gave testimony in support of the Hazardous Material Transportation Act of 2009 (H.R. 4016), proposed legislation that would place tighter restrictions on the shipment of lithium batteries.

Rogers, who is a First Officer with United Airlines, told subcommittee members, “If lithium batteries shipped aboard airliners are damaged, defective, or improperly packaged, a fire may occur, leading to potentially catastrophic consequences. To mitigate this risk, it is necessary to remove the exceptions in place today and (fully) regulate lithium batteries as a hazardous material, including provisions for enhanced marking, labeling, testing, and packaging requirements.”

Rogers stressed that notification to the pilot in command also is essential. Responding to a question from a subcommittee member, Rogers described a scenario in which a shipment of lithium batteries could be placed next to flammable paint, which is fully regulated and classified as a dangerous good. The crew in this example would be notified about the location and quantity of the paint, but not the potential incendiary device sitting next to it.

“At least six additional fires involving lithium batteries aboard aircraft or in packages prepared for air transport have been documented since I testified before this subcommittee in May,” said Rogers. He also noted that nearly two years have passed since the NTSB issued recommendations to subcommittee to remove regulatory exceptions for lithium batteries.

Here are the links to the text of the oral testimony and written submission presented to Congress by Mark Rogers, on behalf of ALPA.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Court orders Cathay Pacific Airways to pay millions to wrongfully dismissed pilots

by B. N. Sullivan

Cathay Pacific AirwaysA Hong Kong High Court judge has ruled that Cathay Pacific Airways, Ltd. unfairly fired and defamed 18 pilots in 2001, and has ordered the carrier to pay the pilots HK$58.7 million -- an amount equivalent to nearly US$8 million. The pilots were among 49 who were fired by Cathay during a labor dispute. The fired pilots became known as the 49ers.

According to an article about the court ruling on BBC News, the pilots were fired when they started a work-to-rule campaign. The pilots told the court they were often made to fly longer than agreed hours, with not enough breaks between flights.

Although the airline claimed that the pilots were dismissed due to frequent sick days and a negative attitude toward management, the judge ruled that "the predominant reason for the plaintiffs' termination by Cathay was their perceived participation in union activities."

Hong Kong news Web site The Standard reported that Court of First Instance Judge Anselmo Reyes said:
"What I derive is that the 49ers were principally dismissed because management was unable to make headway in last-minute negotiations with the union.

"Cathay's intention was to show union members that management was prepared to take tough action against pilots who participated in MSS [Maximum Safety Strategy, a form of limited industrial action].

"The 49ers were singled out by the review panel as persons who by reason of their sickness records and ostensibly argumentative character were probably the most active supporters of the union cause.

"By dismissing them, Cathay hoped to send a strong signal to other union members to comply with management's line or else face a similar fate as the 49ers." reports that, of the 18 plaintiff pilots, 16 were awarded HK$3.3 million in damages for defamation and HK$150,000 for wrongful dismissal each. One pilot didn’t get awarded damages for defamation and one didn’t get damages for wrongful dismissal. The pilots also were awarded their legal costs.

One of the 18 plaintiff pilots died in 2002. The Standard says that the deceased pilot's family "will not be compensated for defamation, but like the others will receive HK$150,000 for wrongful dismissal in addition to a month's pay."

The other 31 pilots who were fired at the same time also sued, but according to BBC News, they settled with the carrier at an earlier date.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kingfisher Airlines ATR-72 runway overrun at Mumbai

by B. N. Sullivan

An ATR-72 aircraft (registration VT-KAC) operated by India's Kingfisher Airlines appears to have been substantially damaged when it overran a runway while landing at Mumbai. The accident happened on November 10, 2009 at about 16:40 local time in Mumbai. No one among the four crew and 42 passengers on board was injured. The aircraft's nose gear, left main gear, left wing and left propeller are said to have been damaged as a result of the excursion.

According to various news reports, the aircraft, operating as Kingfisher Flight IT 4124, was arriving at Mumbai after a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Bhavnagar. The aircraft apparently landed long on runway 27A and was unable to come to a halt before overrunning the end of the runway and becoming mired in mud. It should be noted that runway 27A is temporarily shortened due to displacement of the threshold while repairs are underway. At the time of the accident, the weather was said to have been cloudy with light rain and reduced visibility.

India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has opened an investigation of the accident. The two pilots have been stood down pending the outcome of the investigation.

Here is a video clip of Times Now television news coverage of the accident:

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

UPDATE Nov. 12, 2009: reports today that as a result of the Kingfisher ATR runway overrun, India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued new guidelines for airlines operating at Mumbai airport. Specifically, the DGCA says "no operations will be allowed on the runway if the surface is wet, and assisted take-offs and landings are not allowed."

The news DGCA guidelines also require that one of the two pilots operating aircraft on the runway must be a training captain and the other must have a minimum of 300 hours' flying experience, it adds. A de-briefing report must be filed after each flight.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

NetJets to lay off 495 pilots in the U.S.

by B.N. Sullivan

NetJetsFractional jet operator NetJets, Inc. has announced plans to cut 495 pilot jobs in the U.S. The layoffs will become effective on January 15, 2010.

Earlier this year NetJets had offered pilots early retirements and voluntary unpaid leaves of absence in an effort to downsize without having to resort to involuntary furloughs. Apparently those measures were not sufficient to relieve overstaffing.

NetJets pilots are represented by the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP), an independent union. Today NJASAP President Capt. Mark Luthi said, "After several months of continuous efforts to mitigate a pilot furlough, we have reached a point at which the economic realities that challenge our employer can no longer be offset by the ground-breaking initiatives implemented earlier this year."

From a news release issued by the NJASP Executive Board:
Recognizing the seriousness of the economic crisis early on, Association leaders sought to supplement its furlough mitigation efforts by forming the NJASAP Furlough Working Group, which was tasked with preparing a robust pilot assistance initiative should a reduction in force take place.

"Hoping a working group's efforts prove unnecessary is hardly an appropriate mindset for a responsible leadership group; however, I freely admit the Board and I would have preferred the group's year-long preparations been for naught," Luthi said.

Almost one year of planning has positioned the Association to offer immediate access to information and resources designed to assist each furloughed crewmember and his or her family. In addition to a series of informational teleconferences, the Union has launched a web-based Furloughed Pilot Resource Center and has prepared a comprehensive resource guide that outlines financial, unemployment, and worker retraining benefits as well as alternate insurance options and various assistance grants.

The Executive Board has also approved a seven-month dues refund and the immediate cessation of dues collected from affected pilots and has purchased a year-long subscription to two aviation job sites for each pilot. Additionally, the FWG is finalizing an outreach program that will keep furloughed pilots in touch with their peers by paring them with active pilots.
In a statement to the press, NetJets CEO David Sokol said, "This difficult decision resulted from a comprehensive analysis of current and projected flight demand. As we move forward, we will continue to adjust our operations to meet customers’ needs and act in a fiscally responsible manner."

Union leader Capt. Luthi says that the NJASP "remains willing to engage in mutually beneficial talks intended to hasten our pilots' return to the flight line."

Job cuts in the works for bmibaby pilots and cabin crew

by B. N. Sullivan

bmibaby.comBMI Group, which operates the UK-based low fare airline bmibaby, is planning a restructuring that will cut flights on certain bmibaby routes, and reduce the carrier's fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft by five in 2010. In conjunction with the downsizing, 54 pilots and 82 cabin crew stand to lose their jobs. BMI managing director Crawford Rix indicated that 22 management and support positions are "at risk for redundancy" as well.

Crew members at risk for losing their jobs are currently based at Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff. At the same time, though, another ten pilots and 15 cabin crew will be needed at East Midlands due to the restructuring. At this point, it is unclear if some of the crew members at risk for redundancy would be repositioned to East Midlands.

Reuters, quoting a statement from the Unite union, says that Unite "would be working to stop compulsory redundancies at the airline." BBC News also reported that "discussions had been started with staff and union representatives with a view to minimising job losses where possible."

The BBC quoted Brian Boyd, Unite's national officer for aviation, who said: "Today's announcement casts further doubt over the whole bmi group as its new owners Lufthansa search for cost savings.

"Unite members are once again caught at the sharp end of business restructuring," Boyd commented.

BMI Group, the parent of bmibaby, is in turn owned by Lufthansa.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Video: US Airways Flight 1549 flight attendants recall Hudson River ditching

by B .N. Sullivan

Donna Dent and Sheila Dail -- two of the three flight attendants who evacuated US Airways Flight 1549 after it was ditched in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 -- were interviewed recently by David Learmount, operations and safety editor of Flight International. The occasion was the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators annual awards banquet on October 29, 2009, which took place in England at the Guildhall in the City of London. (The third flight attendant from Flight 1549, Doreen Welsh, was unable to attend the banquet.)

In the interview, the flight attendants recount their impressions of the water landing and the subsequent evacuation of the aircraft. Here is a video clip of that interview, first posted on Mr. Learmount's blog, Operationally Speaking.

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

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Final flight for Midwest Airlines Boeing 717 aircraft and crews

by B. N. Sullivan

Midwest Airlines Boeing 717The arrival of a Midwest Airlines Boeing 717-200 aircraft at Milwaukee last evening, November 2, 2009, marked what Midwest employees are calling the end of an era. Midwest flight MEP210, from Boston's Logan International Airport to Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport was the final flight for the aircraft and its crew, and the final flight of Midwest Airlines as an independent entity. [Click here to listen to a podcast of an interview with Capt. Dan Norden, commander of the final Midwest flight, on 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News"]

Republic Airways Holdings announced plans to acquire Midwest in June of this year, and closed the deal the following month. Beginning today, November 3, Republic will operate all flights on Midwest's routes, using crews and aircraft from its other subsidiaries. Midwest's Boeing 717 aircraft are reportedly scheduled to be returned to the manufacturer, and the remaining Midwest pilots will no longer fly any Midwest aircraft.

Capt. Anthony Freitas, chairman of the Midwest Airlines group of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), said in a statement:
"While there will still be airplanes flying with ‘Midwest’ written on them, there will no longer be any of the pilots who truly provided ‘The Best Care in the Air’ operating them. All of the original Midwest flight crews are being outsourced in the final phase of dismantling our airline.

"Midwest’s new owner hopes that if they keep the same paint scheme and cookies, no one will notice that the crews who helped build our airline’s well-deserved reputation for award-winning customer service are gone. Clearly, the replacement of highly experienced Midwest pilots with lower-cost labor will be devastating for our pilots and their families. But the traveling public will also be affected because they will lose the high experience levels and the extraordinary dedication to service that the real Midwest pilots have always taken great pride in providing."
Over the past year, more than 400 flight attendants also have lost their jobs due to outsourcing of flight attendant positions to another carrier, and the eventual sale of Midwest to Republic Holdings, according to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), which represents Midwest's flight attendants.

Toni Higgins, president of AFA's Midwest unit, points out that following yesterday's final Boeing 717 flight,Midwest Airlines "will exist in name only."
"Management has succeeded in creating a virtual airline that no longer employs Midwest flight attendants or pilots. Over 400 flight attendants, many of whom have dedicated over 20 years to our hometown airline, find themselves jobless, facing the uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring. However, management continues to benefit from destroying our once great airline under the protections of their golden parachutes," said Higgins.
Both ALPA and AFA are currently engaged in negotiations aimed at integrating the seniority lists of Midwest Airlines with those of Republic's other subsidiaries in the hope of restoring the jobs of as many Midwest crew members as possible.

AFA also has a pending grievance against Republic Airlines for violating the Midwest collective bargaining agreement. In this grievance, the flight attendants' union "is challenging Republic's right to replace Midwest flight attendants with Republic flight attendants and, in doing so, furlough Midwest flight attendants."