Radar tapes of planes’ collision over Everglades to be checked by investigators

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events




Air safety investigators will study radar tapes to determine why two small planes collided in sunny, clear conditions over the Everglades on Saturday, killing four.

Both planes had been on training missions and that could be a major factor in the accident, aviation experts said.

“Even in good visibility, pilots have to look out for one another,” Robert Breiling, an aviation accident analyst based in Boca Raton, said Monday.It was South Florida’s deadliest in-flight accident since June 2003, when five people died in a collision between two small planes over Deerfield Beach, and the fifth one in-flight in the past eight years.

The dead included flight instructor Stuart Brown, 25, of Pembroke Pines, and student Edson Jefferson, 30, of Miramar. They were in a Cessna 172 operated by Pelican Flight Training, a flight school at North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines.

Also killed were flight instructor Andrew Rossignol, 21, of Stuart, and student Bryan Sax, 37, of Aspen, Colo. They were flying a twin-engine Piper operated by ATP Flight School at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Eric Alleyne, a National Transportation Safety Board air safety investigator, said the two planes were found about 300 yards apart in a marshy area in far west Broward County. The bodies of the victims were found in the cockpits, he said.

On Monday, a salvage company hauled pieces of wreckage from the swamp to land via airboat.

Alleyne said investigators will examine all aspects of the accident, from the mechanical condition of the planes to the weather. The radar tapes likely will provide the most crucial evidence, as they should show the paths of the two planes before the accident. They also should reveal the specific angle they merged.

Both planes had taken off from their respective airports at about 3:30 p.m. and apparently headed toward a flight training area west of U.S. 27. The exact time of the accident wasn’t immediately known, Alleyne said.

Both aircraft were operating under visual flight rules, meaning it was the pilots’ responsibility to see and avoid each other. The visibility in that area that afternoon was “likely better than 10 miles,” said meteorologist Roberto Garcia of the National Weather Service in Miami.

Because planes were on training flights, it’s possible the pilots were distracted, Breiling said.

On board the Cessna 172, Brown was helping Jefferson prepare to take his instrument rating flight test. When students fly on instruments, they concentrate on the instrument panel and frequently wear a hood to prevent them from looking outside.

“Even if he’s not under the hood, even in clear weather, he’s looking at his instruments,” Breiling said. “That puts the burden on the flight instructor; the flight instructor should be looking out.”

The other plane was a more complex twin-engine aircraft, which requires attention inside the cockpit whenever pilots perform maneuvers, Breiling said.

Another possible factor: A late afternoon sun might have created vision problems.

“The glare could very well be a contributing in factor,” Breiling said. “When you look into sun, it can be very difficult to see another airplane.”

Yet another possible factor: The Cessna’s wing was above the cockpit while the Piper’s wing was below. That would make it difficult for the pilots to see each other if the Piper was above the Cessna.

Meg Fensome, vice president of Pelican Flight Training, said Brown, the flight instructor in the Cessna, was from Jamaica and hoped to fly for Air Jamaica.

“He was a very professional instructor and one of our favorite people,” she said.

Jefferson also was from Jamaica, Fensome said.

“He was just in the final steps of preparing for his check ride, which is when he gets together with an FAA-designated examiner,” she said.

Sax, the student in the Piper, was undergoing advance training and a business partner in a flight school, according to the Vail Daily. He also was a bartender in Aspen, the co-owner of Saxy’s Cafe in Basalt and Boulder and at one time was a national ski racing champion, the paper said.

Rossignol, the flight instructor in the Piper, had been flying since he was 17 years old and hoped to land an airline job, said his brother, Matt Rossignol, 23, of Biddeford, Maine. He said their father, Richard Rossignol, is a Continental Airlines pilot.

“He loved flying because my father’s a pilot,” Matt Rossignol said of his brother. “He wanted to become a commercial airline pilot and sit next to my dad, as co-pilot.”


Five Ways to Avoid Germs While Traveling

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events


By: Elizabeth Cohen

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — This week while you’re traveling, if you happen to spot a man applying hand sanitizer as he gets off an escalator, there’s a good chance it’s Dr. Mark Gendreau, a senior staff physician at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts. Travel season can be a germ fest. Make sure to keep your hands clean.

Gendreau studies germiness while traveling, and he knows just how infectious travel can be.

“The risk of contracting a contagious illness is heightened when we travel within any enclosed space, especially during the winter months, when most of the respiratory viruses thrive,” Gendreau said.

Studies show that germs can travel easily on an airplane, where people are packed together like sardines.

For example, a woman on a 1994 flight from Chicago to Honolulu transmitted drug-resistant tuberculosis to at least six of her fellow passengers, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study.

In 2003, 22 people came down with SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, from a single fellow passenger who had SARS but didn’t have any symptoms, according to another New England journal study.

But the airplane isn’t the only place along your travel route where germs thrive. Here are five ways to avoid germs while traveling.

1. Sit toward the front of the airplane

“Pick a seat near the front, since ventilation systems on most commercial aircraft provide better air flow in the front of the aircraft,” Gendreau advised. If you can afford it, sit in first class, where people aren’t so squished together.

2. Don’t drink coffee or tea on an airplane

Monitoring by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that water in airplanes’ water tanks isn’t always clean — and coffee and tea are usually made from that water, not from bottled water, according to Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for the Air Transport Association.

The EPA advises anyone with a suppressed immune system or anyone who’s “concerned” about bacteria to refrain from drinking coffee or tea on an airplane.

“While boiling water for one minute will remove pathogens from drinking water, the water used to prepare coffee and tea aboard a plane is not generally brought to a sufficiently high temperature to guarantee that pathogens are killed,” according to the EPA’s Web site.

According to the EPA, out of 7,812 water samples taken from 2,316 aircraft, 2.8 percent were positive for coliform bacteria. Although that sounds like a small number, this means 222 samples contained coliform bacteria.

3. Sanitize your hands after leaving an airplane bathroom

A toilet on an airplane “is among the germiest that you will encounter almost anywhere,” said Charles Gerba, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona who’s also known as “Dr. Germ.”

“You have 50 people per toilet, unless you are flying a discount airline; then it is 75,” Gerba said. “We always find E. coli on surfaces in airplane restrooms.”

You should wash your hands after using the restroom, but because the water itself might have harmful bacteria (see No. 2 above) and because the door handle on your way out has been touched by all those who went before you, Gendreau also advises sanitizing your hands when you return to your seat.

4. Wash or sanitize your hands after getting off an escalator

Gendreau says tests show that escalators in airports are full of germs.

To confirm these tests, here’s a fun activity while you wait for your flight this Thanksgiving: Look at your watch, and count how many people get an escalator in a five-minute time period. Multiply that by 12, and you have how many people are on that escalator every hour.

High-volume handrails are why Gendreau sanitizes his hands as soon as he can after he exits an escalator.

5. Wash or sanitize your hands after using an ATM

Gendreau says ATMs, especially in busy places like airports, are full of germs. As with escalators, he sanitizes ASAP after using one.

Gendreau says that keeping healthy while traveling can be summed up in six words: “hand hygiene, hand hygiene, hand hygiene.”

Keeping your hands clean is crucial, he says, when you’re spending the day touching surfaces that have been touched by hundreds or thousands of people before you.



Officials: 2 people killed in military jet crash

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events


(CNN) — Two people were killed in Monday’s crash of a military jet into a neighborhood in San Diego, California, Fire Department officials said.

The pilot safely ejected before the F/A-18 jet crashed into the neighborhood shortly before noon PT, the Marine Corps said in a news release.

Two homes were destroyed, said Maurice Luque of the San Diego Fire Department, according to CNN affiliate KGTV.

Details about who was killed weren’t immediately available. The pilot — the two-seat jet’s only occupant — was taken to a hospital, the Marine Corps said.

The crash happened as the jet was returning to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar after performing landing training on a Navy aircraft carrier, the Marine Corps said in a news release. The cause of the crash is under investigation, it said.

The crash site is about two miles from the airfield, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Firefighters aimed jets of water from high-pressure hoses at the smoldering rubble of what appeared to be at least one house. Smoke continued to rise in clouds from the site nearly an hour after the crash.

Authorities cordoned off the area. Residents told reporters they had been informed by police that chemicals were in the air and they should stay away.

One resident interviewed by CNN affiliate KFMB said he saw a fighter jet at a very low altitude, and “it just spiraled, right out of ‘Top Gun.’ ”

The movie “Top Gun” was based on the Navy fighter pilot training program at the Miramar facility.

The resident said he saw a flier from the aircraft on the ground after parachuting from the plane. He said the pilot was dazed but able to move on his own.

Bank worker Scott Bloom told KGTV he was on his way to visit clients when he saw someone eject from the plane. He said the plane was silent in the moments before it went down.

“I thought I was dreaming,” Bloom told KGTV. “It was so surreal.”

The principal of a high school about three blocks from the crash site said students had just finished lunch when staffers heard “two large pops or two large booms.” The school and its students were not directly affected by the crash, but the school was put into lock-down mode for students’ safety, Principal Mike Price said.

The pilot was in communication with military air traffic controllers before the jet crashed, the FAA said.


Costello takes lead role in aviation issues

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events


By: Steve Whitworth


U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello wants to help make the skies friendlier – and safer – for the nation’s fliers.

The Belleville Democrat has played a big role in that effort through his chairmanship of the U.S. House Aviation Subcommittee, a part of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Costello has served as chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee in the 110th Congress that currently is drawing to a close, and he said in an interview last week that he hopes to continue that role in the upcoming 111th Congress.

“We will reorganize the committees sometime in January, after the new members (of Congress) are sworn in Jan. 3,” he said. “The only action we have taken so far is we have elected the chairmen of the full committees. The subcommittee chairs will be elected when we reorganize.”

Costello said he again would seek the chairmanship of the Aviation Subcommittee, and “I totally expect my colleagues will re-elect me.”

The Aviation Subcommittee has jurisdiction over all aspects of civil aviation, including safety, infrastructure, labor and international issues. This jurisdiction covers all Federal Aviation Administration programs, except for research activities, which are within the jurisdiction of the House Committee on Science, of which Costello also is a senior member. The Aviation Subcommittee also shares jurisdiction over the National Transportation Safety Board.

In the past year, Costello has chaired hearings in the Aviation Subcommittee on such legislation as the Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace Act (HANG UP), House Resolution 5788, which would ban the in-flight use of cell phones on planes; the Aviation Safety Enhancement Act of 2008, H.R. 6493, which addressed issues raised by FAA whistleblowers; and the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007, H.R. 2881.

The subcommittee also has held hearings on fatigue and low morale among the nation’s air traffic controllers, the merger between Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, and consumer aviation issues.

The latter issue is among his highest priorities, the 10-term congressman said.

“I strongly support a consumer protection provision within the FAA reauthorization bill that will give consumers unprecedented protections,” he said. “It would force airlines to make sure anytime there is a delay and passengers are held on a plane, that they are provided sanitary conditions, food, water, and that they make sure they are able to disembark as soon as possible.”

Costello said the provision also would require the FAA to establish a toll-free 800 telephone number to take consumer complaints. It also includes several penalties for airlines that violate consumer protection provisions.

“It’s similar to a passenger bill of rights,” he said. “It’s long overdue.

“The airlines oppose it, because they believe they can regulate themselves. I don’t believe they can. They have been given opportunity after opportunity to comply. It’s time to put it in the law.”

The FAA Reauthorization Act passed by a wide margin in the House but never got called up for a vote in the U.S. Senate, Costello explained.

“But with the new (Democratic) majority in the Senate, I expect it will have a more friendly administration (of incoming President Barack Obama) and Senate to deal with,” he said.

Costello said he hoped next year’s version of the legislation would include the HANG UP provisions on cell phone usage, the passenger bill of rights and other safety provisions.


Small plane crashes east of PR capital

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events


By Danica Coto

RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico (AP) — Search teams slogged up a muddy, densely-wooded mountainside on Wednesday to locate a small plane with three people on board — including two American tourists — that crashed into a fog-shrouded forest east of Puerto Rico’s capital.

The twin-engine plane slammed into the side of El Yunque mountain and was “totally destroyed,” said Puerto Rican Police Agent Carmen Quinones. “I don’t think there are any survivors.”

A team of machete-wielding rescuers, whose progress was slowed by rain, fog, dense woods and soggy underbrush, had to turn back after a five-hour hike because a steep mountain blocked their passage. Search teams said they found bits of scattered wreckage — but no survivors.

“We saw pieces of wing and other plane parts,” said Jose Escobar of the Rio Grande civil defense force. He said rescuers called out for survivors in the wet forest — but no answers came.

A police spokeswoman, Marilyn Calo, identified the pilot as Ken Webster, of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Police and federal investigators did not have confirmed information about the two U.S. tourists aboard the aircraft.

The plane took off from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and was heading to San Juan, said Jose Daniel Echevarria, a spokesman for Puerto Rico’s Department of Emergency Management.

The Rockwell International 690B was about 13 miles east of San Juan, over the El Yunque National Forest, when authorities lost track of it, said Kathleen Bergen, a regional spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Below the mountain, ambulances and other vehicles lined a muddy road where scores of people waited for word on those aboard the aircraft. As evening fell, a second team of emergency workers began struggling through the steady rain and densely forested terrain to reach the remote crash site from a different angle.

“It’s not easy,” said Filomeno Correa, a coordinator with Puerto Rico’s disaster management office, as rescuers crowded around a map trying to figure out the best way to the area. “You take two steps forward and twenty steps back.”

Jose Saldana, a restaurant owner near the foothills of the Puerto Rican mountains, said he heard two explosions around noon Wednesday after a low-flying plane passed overhead.

“First it was an impact like when somebody slams the door of a car, and then I heard another boom,” Saldana said.

On Wednesday night, the missing pilot’s family and friends huddled together inside a hangar at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in St. Croix as they awaited news on his fate.

Toxic fumes on planes ‘threaten thousands of passengers each year’

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Fumes



Two official investigations are being opened into alarming leaks of poison into commercial airliners in flight. They follow scientific research showing that fumes have rendered pilots incapable of flying their aircraft safely and have put hundreds of thousands of British passengers at risk.

The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology is about to examine the threat as part of an investigation into air travel and health. And the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told The Independent on Sunday that the Government is to fit equipment in at least one plane in the hope of studying a leak when it takes place.

Next week a new pressure group, the Aerotoxic Association, will be launched to campaign on the issue – and will start by publishing the Aviation Contaminated Air Reference Manual, which includes details of more than 1,050 incidents in Britain alone.

Air travel has been made possible over the past 60 years by a technique called “bleed air pressurisation”, which takes hot air out of the engine, cools it down and then feeds it – without first filtering it – into the plane’s cabin and cockpit.

Sometimes, however, this becomes contaminated with engine oils containing many different chemicals, which are wafted into the plane to be inhaled by passengers and crew alike. Campaigners are particularly concerned about a neurotoxin called tricresyl phosphate (TCP).

No one knows how frequently an event of this kind takes place because no commercial airliners are fitted with monitors to detect it. But Professor Chris van Netten, an expert on the problem at the University of British Columbia, said he found TCP in every aircraft he examined.

A survey by the British Airline Pilots Association found that less than 4 per cent of contaminated air incidents experienced by its members were reported to the CAA. Sarah Mackenzie Ross, a consultant clinical neuropsychologist and chartered clinical psychologist at University College London, estimated in a recently published paper that on that basis 197,000 passengers on nearly 2,000 UK flights were exposed in 2004 alone.

She has also examined 27 affected pilots for another official investigation being conducted by the Committee on Toxicity, which advises government departments.

She found that all but one of the pilots suffered “chronic health problems, including fatigue, sleep difficulties, fluctuating gastrointestinal problems, numbness and tingling in fingers and toes, memory loss and word-finding difficulties”.

Some, she added, reported “alarming cognitive failures”, including: “being unable to retain, or confusing, numerical data and information provided by air traffic control regarding altitude and speed; completing tasks in the incorrect sequence; setting the wrong cleared level for the aircraft to climb or descend; and being unable to recall important matters such as whether the undercarriage has been raised or lowered.”

Some have had to stop flying altogether, including Tristan Loraine, who is publishing a novel based on his experiences next week. A superfit pilot with 20 years’ experience, he competed in the Ironman Triathlon in August 2005, but had become so ill within a year that he was grounded.

He says the fumes made him feel as if “I had been hit across the head with a baseball bat”; even a trip to Paris as a passenger last Wednesday made him ill again.

“This shows how quickly your life can be turned round, what the exposure can do to you even if you are really fit,” he says.

The CAA says that leaks are decreasing, and that the onboard test – to be run by the Department of Transport – will start “very shortly”. But campaigners are sceptical of both official inquiries and aim to step up the pressure on ministers.


Federal government not meeting air-safety recommendations: Analysis

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events



OTTAWA – The federal government has failed to fully implement half the recommendations in the last decade from the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) to fix safety gaps in Canada’s air transportation system, according to an analysis by Canwest News Service.

Transport Canada has fully satisfied the board in 26 of the 53 recommendations. In the remaining cases, the government has not taken adequate action to “substantially reduce or eliminate the safety deficiency” for air travellers.

Of the 27 delinquent files, the board has determined Transport Canada’s response to be “unsatisfactory” in two cases, because the board has received “inadequate explanations to convince it that the risks are not worth pursuing.” Both are in response to recommendations related to the Swiss Air crash off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1998 that killed 229 people.

In 10 cases, Transport Canada has committed to fix the safety deficiencies flagged by the board as far back as March 1999, but has yet to do so. On average, the board warned the government of these deficiencies 76 months ago.

The remaining 15 files remain deficient, because the steps Transport Canada has taken to date will improve safety, but not substantially reduce or eliminate the safety deficiency. The board provided the department with these recommendations, on average, 70 months ago.

The analysis does not include any recommendations made since August 2006, because Transport Canada’s responses are not yet publicly available, but some address a long-standing problem previously flagged by the TSB.

Post-impact fires involving small aircraft in otherwise survivable accidents are a “well-known safety concern,” the board noted in a safety-issues report dated Aug. 29. 2006, but a “cost-benefit analysis negated the proposed safety measures.”

Canwest’s analysis of Transport Canada’s responses to air-safety recommendations comes as investigators probe two crashes in the span of seven days.

Board investigators were sent Sunday to northern Manitoba after a fire in the cockpit of a small commuter aircraft forced a crash landing. The crew and three passengers on the medevac escaped before the plane exploded.

The board is also investigating a fatal crash off B.C.’s Sunshine Coast on Nov. 16. The crash of a charter aircraft operated by Pacific Coastal Airlines killed the pilot and six passengers when the vintage, amphibious Grumman Goose carrying workers to a hydroelectric project crashed on a small island; one passenger survived.

It was the second crash fatal crash this year for the Vancouver-based airline. On Aug. 3, another Grumman Goose crashed into a mountainside on Vancouver Island, killing the pilot and four passengers; there were two survivors.

The most recent Pacific Coastal crash came just a week after the B.C. coroner’s office highlighted Transport Canada’s failure to implement a key safety recommendation of the board dating back years.

The B.C. coroner’s office probed the deaths of a pilot and two passengers, including a three-year-old boy, after a single-engine Cessna commercial aircraft operated by Sonicblue Airways lost power on a flight from Tofino to Vancouver on Jan. 21, 2006, and crashed near a logging road near Port Alberni. Five passengers survived.

The coroner’s report noted that regulations in the United States would not have allowed the aircraft to fly in this area unless it was equipped with a terrain-awareness and warning system. Canada had no such requirement, even though the report noted the safety board had previously recommended the installation of those systems.

Transport Canada approved these equipment requirements in 2005, “however, implementation and compliance have been delayed,” the coroner’s report stated.

In its January 2008 report, the TSB determined that the lack of equipment enabling the pilot to locate and identify high terrain was one of the contributing factors to the Sonicblue crash.

Department spokesman Patrick Charette said Monday a new terrain-awareness proposal will be ready for industry to review next spring, and, once the new rules come into force, aircraft will have two years to comply.

In cases where files are stalled, Charette said some of the TSB recommendations refer to areas of jurisdiction not exclusive to Transport Canada. And others require changes to aircraft design, which cannot be done without further study, he said.

None of this washes well with Jonathan Huggett, whose 25-year-old son, Edward, died in the pilot’s chair of the Sonicblue aircraft.

“Had my son had the terrain-awareness and warning system, it would have said, ‘You’re too close to the ground, you’ve got to get out of here.’ Had he all the right gear, it was probably a survivable incident,” Huggett said in an interview.

Kirsten Stevens points to other examples of unfulfilled safety recommendations.

Her husband, David, was one of five occupants who survived impact and escaped from their float plane, but later died after it crashed on waters near , on Feb. 28, 2005.

Her husband’s body was the only one found; autopsy results showed he died of drowning and suffered from extreme hypothermia.

While the TSB did not investigate this crash, the board’s analysis of another fatal float plane crash seven months later involving a drowning death highlighted a recommendation in 1994 to require occupants to wear life-jackets while taking off or landing, but noted Transport Canada believed this “provides no tangible and quantifiable safety improvement.”

The Nov. 11, 2006, report also cited an aviation safety advisory to Transport Canada dated March 2000, “regarding its concerns regarding the apparent lack of progress among seaplane operators to address the issue of underwater escape.”

Another Transport Canada float-plane safety review launched after a series of crashes in 2005 resulted in more recommendations in 2006, but they have not been enacted. The review was “inconclusive,” according to internal Transport Canada correspondence dated May 23, 2008.

And senior managers in the civil aviation unit “agreed that, in the absence of a clear way forward, this file would be put on hold in deference to other civil aviation priorities,” states the document, released to Stevens under Access to Information.

“There are so many recommendations and they’re not acted on, and people are still dying,” said Stevens.

But Charette pointed to fully implemented recommendations, including a new requirement for cockpit voice recorders to have a capacity of at least two hours, up from 30 minutes, and new rules governing runway approaches in poor visibility.

The investigation system

The Transportation Safety Board does not investigate all accidents, but, when it does, Transport Canada must respond within 90 days to any recommendations. The board uses four categories to assess the department’s responses – fully satisfactory, satisfactory intent, satisfactory in part and unsatisfactory.

Fully satisfactory: if action taken by Transport Canada will “substantially reduce or eliminate the safety deficiency.”

Satisfactory intent: if the planned action when fully implemented will substantially reduce or eliminate the safety deficiency. “However, for the present, the action has not been sufficiently advanced to reduce the risks to transportation safety.”

Satisfactory in part: if the planned action or the action taken to date will reduce, but not substantially reduce or eliminate, the deficiency. In these cases, the board continues to follow up to review options to further mitigate risks.

Unsatisfactory: if no action has been taken or proposed that will reduce or eliminate the deficiency. “In the board’s view, the safety deficiency will continue to put persons, property or the environment at risk.”

In most cases, there is a back-and-forth between the TSB and Transport Canada until the board is either satisfied or concludes the department has no intention of fully implementing the recommendation. In both cases, the file then becomes inactive. Other cases remain active files with a “deficiency” label.


Pilot in crash charged with flying under the influence

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events



|Tribune reporte

An intoxicated pilot clipped a house and crashed his single-engine plane into a neighboring yard as he was approaching a private air strip near Downers Grove late Saturday, authorities said.

Sean Oskvarek of Woodridge is charged with operating an aircraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to the DuPage County Sheriff’s Department. He remained in jail in lieu of $100,000 bail Sunday.

Authorities would not discuss Oskvarek’s alleged drug or alcohol consumption before the ill-fated flight, but Illinois law prohibits pilots from flying when their blood-alcohol level is 0.04 or more, half the legal limit for vehicle drivers.

Pilots also face steeper penalties for flying drunk. While a drunken motorist most likely would receive a misdemeanor charge for a first-time offense, Oskvarek, 45, has been charged with a Class 3 felony and could face 2 to 5 years in prison.

“Obviously, it’s much more serious to fly while you’re impaired,” DuPage County State’s Atty. Joe Birkett said. “But it’s very rare. Pilots take public safety very seriously.”

Like Illinois law, Federal Aviation Administration regulations consider a pilot impaired when his blood-alcohol level reaches or exceeds 0.04. FAA rules also state that the last drink can be consumed no less than eight hours before flying.

Oskvarek, who has a valid pilot’s license, was the only person aboard the Cessna 182 at the time of the crash, authorities said. The aircraft is registered to his mother, Evangeline, who lives along the private air strip, about a half-mile from the accident site.

The plane was headed west toward a Brookeridge Air Park runway just after 11 p.m. Saturday when it clipped the roof of a house in the 8400 block of Kentwood Court, slightly damaging the home and a nearby car. The plane then flew into tall evergreen trees and flipped, coming to rest upside-down in a grassy area just east of the landing strip.

Oskvarek’s sister picked him up at the scene before emergency crews arrived, his mother said. Authorities later found Oskvarek at a home in Woodridge and took him to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, where he was treated for minor injuries and arrested upon his release.

Bob Siegfried, president of the air park’s board of directors, said he saw no signs of alcohol or drugs inside the aircraft when he looked over the plane with an FAA inspector Sunday.


Not Again! Airline Passengers Held For Nine Hours On Tarmac

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events



Wed, 03 Dec ’08

Some holiday “traditions” refuse to go away. On Monday, 191 airline passengers were stranded on the ramp at Ontario International Airport in Southern California for over nine hours, begging to be let off the plane and provided only water and crackers.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports TACA Airlines Flight 670 diverted to Ontario at around 11:50 pm PST Sunday night, due to fog at Los Angeles International. Airport spokeswoman Maria Tesoro-Fermin said the Airbus A321 took off for its original destination at 8:50 am Monday; over the nine hours in between, passengers were not allowed to deplane due to wrangling over customs issues.

According to the Associated Press, “El Salvador-based Taca [Airlines] released a statement saying local authorities did not give permission for passengers to go through customs and enter the country. However, US Customs and Border Protection spokesman Mike Fleming said the airline did not ask for permission to let the passengers disembark.”

The incident strikes too close to home for Kate Hanni, founder and spokesperson for the Coalition for an Airline Passengers Bill of Rights and FlyersRights.org.

“It’s been two years since my family was held on a tarmac for over nine hours in Austin, Texas by American Airlines. What will it take for our government to enact protections?” Hanni asked.

Monday’s was just the latest in a series of international flight tarmac strandings. In August 2007, an estimated 20,000 passengers sat on the tarmac for several hours due to a computer system failure. At BWI in July 2007, passengers staged a revolt after five hours and were eventually escorted off the plane by police and guard dogs.

Hanni, who is also a member of a federal task force for addressing long tarmac delays, said, “Unfortunately, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) is not considering any regulations that would stop yesterday’s event from occurring in the future. Foreign airlines like Taca wouldn’t be subject to any US requirement to have plans for tarmac strandings, and neither the federal Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency nor the airport authority can require that passengers be deplaned if the airline doesn’t request it.”

According to tarmac task force documents, CBP would allow airports to create “sterile” rooms that would be able to temporarily accept passengers from diverted international flights. “The problem with the task force report is that there is still no regulation to impel the airlines to make use of the improved cooperation, and no coordination between the DOT, domestic or international airlines, and airports.”

CAPBOR has 24,000 members and is the largest non-profit airline passengers rights Coalition. The group’s allies include Consumer’s Union, Public Citizen, Consumer Federation of America, USPirg, NSL, ACAP, IAM AND NATCA.


President-elect will face a multitude of airline sector woes

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events




The troubles and dysfunction of the nation’s airlines should barely register on the radar of a new president dealing with two wars and an economy in steep decline.

But President-elect Barack Obama inherits a crumbling air traffic system, financially ailing carriers falling well behind overseas rivals and an unprecedented number of airline contract talks that threaten to foster widespread labor unrest in the year ahead.

“It doesn’t get any more broke than this,” said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, which represents corporate travel purchasers.

These issues are stunningly complex, complicated by the lack of a consistent national aviation policy for more than a decade, analysts say. They will test the new president’s pragmatism as well as his liberal ideals of protecting U.S. workers and promoting a better standard of living for middle-class Americans.

“It is the American dream that we have seen come apart, especially in our industry,” said Capt. John Prater, national president of the Air Line Pilots Association, the largest pilots union.

On the stump, Obama preached of the need to rebuild the nation’s battered transportation infrastructure.

His resolve to do so will be tested barely two months into the new administration, when temporary funding for the Federal Aviation Administration will lapse. The FAA hasn’t been fully funded since 2007, as Congress and the Bush administration battled over how to pay for a new air traffic management system and contracts for air traffic controllers.

Globalization is another pressing issue. Obama opposes allowing overseas investors to have greater control over U.S airlines. But if the U.S. hasn’t loosened foreign ownership rules by November 2010, European nations will be free to unwind recent trade agreements that gave U.S. airlines greater access to their markets.

Obama’s present course could trigger a trade war, warned Brian Havel, director of DePaul University‘s International Aviation Law Institute.

“One would hope the sharper edges of that rhetoric might be softened,” Havel said