10 Dead as Turkish Plane Crashes Near Amsterdam

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events


Reprinted from The New York Times


PARIS — A Turkish Airlines jet carrying 135 people crashed into a field on its approach to Amsterdam’s international airport on Wednesday, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens, airport authorities and Turkish officials said.

Most of the passengers were Turkish, but there were four Americans, one Briton, and 33 Dutch on the plane as well, according to NTV television. One the Americans aboard the plane, a Boeing 737-800, was a Boeing official, NTV reported.

Television images showed the plane lying fractured into three parts after it slammed into the ground. The aircraft did not catch fire.

Witnesses said the plane’s engines broke off and landed about 100 yards from the fuselage in a plowed field.

Michel Bezuijen, the acting mayor of nearby Haarlemmermeer, told a news conference that there was no immediate word on the cause of the accident. The crash took place in calm weather with a light drizzle.

As of late Wednesday, there were conflicting reports about the number of dead and injured. A Turkish official said at least 10 people had been killed. But Mr. Bezuijen said that nine had died and more than 50 injured.

In a news conference broadcast late Wednesday, a Dutch medical official also said that nine people had been killed. He said that more than 80 passengers had been taken to hospitals with various injuries, including 11 in critical condition. Another official added that emergency workers at the scene could not yet remove the bodies of three crewmembers who died in the cockpit.

“We left them there because we primarily need to investigate the cockpit,” the official said.

In a statement, the Amsterdam airport authorities said the plane, Turkish Airlines Flight 1951, which left Istanbul at 8:22 a.m., made a crash landing along a highway near Schiphol Airport with 128 passengers and 7 crew members on board. The 737-800, part of Boeing’s “next generation” family of aircraft, was introduced in 1998 and is powered by CFM engines produced by General Electric and the French manufacturer Snecma.

One survivor, Tuncer Mutlucan, told the Turkish broadcaster NTV: “It was the back of the plane that hit the ground. We left the plane from the back. My colleague and I saw people stuck in between seats as we were trying to leave and we tried to help them.”

“It all happened in something like 10 seconds,” Mr. Mutlucan said

The chairman of Turkish Airlines, Candan Karlitekin, said most of the injured were seated at the back of the plane.

“There was nothing extraordinary about the weather conditions, vision capability was 4,500 meters,” he said. “Around 500 meters away from the landing strip, the plane landed in a field. The plane was broken into three parts, as you all saw in pictures.”

Temel Kotil, the airline’s chief executive, said that the pilot, Hasan Tahsin Ari, was one of the airline’s most experienced. The company was planning to fly relatives of the crash victims from Istanbul to Amsterdam. Flights to and from Schiphol were gradually being resumed, the airport said.

The International Air Transport Association, representing 230 airlines, said last week that the number of fatal air crashes increased to 23 in 2008 from 20 the year before. However, fatalities decreased to 502 from 692 in 2007.

Schiphol was the scene of a catastrophic air crash in 1992 when an El-Al cargo plane hit a high-rise building in the Amsterdam suburb of Bijlmermeer, unleashing an inferno in which 43 people died.

In more recent disasters, 50 people died two weeks ago when a Continental Connections flight operated by Colgan crashed into a house outside of to Buffalo, N.Y.

All passengers and crew escaped from a US Airways plane when the pilot ditched it in the Hudson River shortly after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport earlier year.

Caroline Brothers reported from Paris and Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul.


Commuter Hell

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events

Reprinted from Portfolio.com: Business Trave, Seat 2B The Washington Post
Written By Joe Brancatelli

Within minutes of Continental Connection Flight 3407’s fatal crash on the night of February 12, frequent fliers were emailing each other, cursing commuter airlines, and vowing never to board smaller commercial aircraft again.

“I HATE THOSE TINY OLD RJS,” one otherwise rational business traveler I know shouted in his email. “NOBODY SHOULD FLY THEM. THEY’RE NOT SAFE.”

No matter that the aircraft involved in Flight 3407’s fiery end six miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport was not an “RJ,” industry shorthand for regional jet. (It was a Q400, a twin-engine turboprop plane manufactured by Bombardier of Canada.) No matter that the 74-seat Q400 isn’t particularly tiny. (At 107 feet long with a 93-foot wingspan, it is about the size of several early versions of Boeing’s workhorse B737 jet and 20 feet longer than Bombardier’s 50-seat regional jet.) And no matter that the Q400 isn’t old. (The Q400 series didn’t enter service until 2000 and the plane that crashed in Buffalo was less than a year old.)

Safe? That is most definitely in the eye of the beholder — and most business travelers eye commuter airlines with extreme trepidation. They don’t like flying them. They don’t like that the commuter lines wrap themselves in the colors and livery of the major airlines. And they are convinced, rightly or wrongly, that commuter carriers simply aren’t as safe as the major airlines they mimic.

From a statistical point of view, flying in the United States is astonishingly safe. Roughly speaking, 5 billion people have flown on domestic commercial flights since 2002 and there have been just three fatal crashes. Unfortunately, all three involved commuter airliners: 19 died in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2003; 49 passengers died in Lexington, Kentucky, in 2006; and 50 people (including one on the ground) perished in Buffalo early this month. The circumstances and the aircraft were different in each case, but the fact that all three involved commuter airlines has spooked business travelers and even pilots.

Smaller Isn’t Better

In fact, it is the aircraft that are at the heart of most travelers’ antipathy toward commuter airlines. Many commuter lines still fly what frequent travelers despise the most — small prop planes like the 19-seat Beechcraft 1900 that crashed in Charlotte. They are cramped and noisy, more susceptible to turbulence and fly at lower altitudes than jets, which means they are more often buffeted by inclement weather. Even the Q400, one of the most sophisticated aircraft in the skies, cruises at 25,000 feet, far below the 35,000- to 40,000-foot range used by traditional jets.

The workhorse of the commuter airlines — 37- and 50-seat regional jets manufactured by Bombardier and Embraer of Brazil — are no match for Boeing and Airbus planes, either. Their smaller fuselages — the maximum cabin height of a 50-seat Bombardier CRJ is just 73 inches — make travelers feel crowded and uncomfortable. Because they are smaller, regional jets have some of the same “weight and balance” issues as earlier generations of commuter aircraft. And nothing makes a business traveler queasier — and feel less than “safe” — than being asked to change seats to help the pilot balance the aircraft.

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

All these essentially minor issues wouldn’t bother business travelers as much if they weren’t forced to fly commuter aircraft so frequently. Planes like the Q400 and the regional jets have a 1,300-mile range, so they pop up on many medium- and longer-haul routes that were once served by mainline carriers flying Boeing and Airbus jets. Although the numbers are in flux since the massive industry cutbacks after last Labor Day, about half of the flights operating from Chicago O’Hare and Washington/Dulles Airport lately have been regional jets or turboprops. More than a third of the flights at Atlanta Hartsfield are operated by commuter lines. And an astonishing 80 percent of the service in Cincinnati, a hub for Delta Air Lines, is flown by its commuter partners.

What’s in a Name?

Commuter airlines and their smaller aircraft wouldn’t be so omnipresent if it wasn’t for the parlous financial state of the major airlines, which have farmed out huge chunks of their domestic flying because the commuters pay crews less and operate flights at a much lower cost per mile. Some of that cost savings comes from the hidebound nature of airline-labor relations. Pilot pay scales are based on aircraft size — the bigger the plane, the higher the pay. A top-line pilot flying a widebody jet for a major carrier can earn around $150,000 a year. By contrast, commuter airlines pay new co-pilots as little as $25,000 a year.

The relationship between major jet airlines and their commuter carriers is much more complicated then it appears. Although most are independent airlines with separate licenses issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, the commuter airlines sign code-share and “capacity purchase” agreements with the big airlines. They paint their planes to look like the major carriers’ fleets, adopt variations on the big airlines’ names and logos, and operate with flight numbers and schedules assigned by the larger carrier. The commuters rely on the big airlines to sell the tickets and market the flights too.

Continental Connection Flight 3407, for example, was not operated by Continental Airlines at all. It was flown by an airline called Colgan, which itself is owned by Pinnacle Airlines. Colgan and Pinnacle also fly under the colors of US Airways Express (the commuter operation of US Airways) and United Express (the commuter carrier for United Airlines). It also runs commuter flights under the Northwest Airlink and Delta Connection names for Delta Air Lines, which recently merged with Northwest Airlines.

Cockpit Concerns

Financial relations between the independent commuter airlines and the major airline partners don’t always go smoothly, of course. (A large, financially troubled commuter called Mesa is currently embroiled in a convoluted lawsuit with Delta and a negative court decision could drive Mesa into bankruptcy.) From a business traveler’s standpoint, however, it is the commuter’s relationships with its own crews that leads to the safety fears.

As big airlines shifted routes to commuters, the commuter carriers were desperate for cockpit crews. Pilots with as little as 500 hours of flight experience were being recruited. (“When I got out of the Navy, I had 1,800 hours of experience before I even got into commercial aviation,” one recently retired pilot for a major carrier told me last weekend.) Although all commercial pilots are trained to the same federal standards regardless of the airline that employs them, experience does matter on the flight deck — a reality celebrated last month when 58-year-old Chesley Sullenberger, an Air Force vet with 29 years of commercial flying experience, guided US Airways Flight 1549 to a safe landing on the Hudson River. By contrast, the first officer of Continental Connection Flight 3407 was just 24 years old. The 47-year-old captain had more than 3,400 hours of flying experience, but he’d only been in command of a Q400 since last December.

“It’s the combination of things that worry me,” a business traveler based in Santa Barbara, California, told me last week. “I see children going into the cockpit of small planes run by airlines I’ve never heard of and I say to myself, ‘Do I really want to be on this flight?'”

Her answer, at least for the moment, is no. She’s stopped booking the regional jets operated by Skywest Airlines under the United Express banner for the 262-mile flight to San Francisco. Now she pilots her 2007 Honda SUV up the freeway to meet with her Bay Area clients.


FAA, NTSB feud over icing safety for turboprops

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events


WASHINGTON (AP) — On Halloween 1994, an American Eagle flight en route to Chicago in freezing rain went into a high-speed dive and crashed near Roselawn, Ind., killing all 68 people aboard.

The National Transportation Safety Board blamed the crash in part on ice accumulated on the plane’s wings and recommended in 1996 that testing requirements for flight certification of all turboprop planes be adjusted to include the specific kind of icing conditions in the Roselawn crash.

Further, the board said, once the testing requirements were in place, turboprop planes already in use should be retested and, if they failed the new requirements, redesigned. The planes are commonly used by commuter airlines.

More than 12 years later, the recommendations linger on the NTSB’s “most wanted” list, testament to the board’s inability to force action on safety improvements even when they are judged critical to saving lives.

The power to implement aviation safety recommendations lies with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is facing new scrutiny in light of last week’s crash of a turboprop plane near Buffalo, N.Y., in icy conditions. Forty-nine people aboard and one on the ground were killed.

Present and past NTSB members have complained that the FAA has been slow to implement important safety recommendations involving flying turboprops in icy conditions that were made after the Roselawn accident and later accidents in Monroe, Mich., in 1997 and Pueblo, Colo., in 2005.

“I’m somewhat frustrated, along with my other colleagues on the board, that the process is taking so long,” NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said in an interview.

“What I would like to see is a reasonable pace in the regulatory process that gets you to a solution in a reasonable amount of time,” Rosenker said. “Clearly when we talk about a decade or more, that is not a reasonable amount of time — that is an unreasonable amount of time.”

The NTSB currently has about 400 “open” aviation-related recommendations, he said.

In 1998, the NTSB recommended that the FAA require that pilots not use the autopilot after they turn on their deicing equipment. The board says the autopilot can mask changes in the handling quality of the airplane that may be a precursor to a stall or loss of control due to ice accumulation.

The FAA agreed in part but declined to implement the recommendation, saying there are some circumstances — particularly when there are a lot of demands on a flight crew’s attention — in which using the autopilot in icy conditions is warranted. However, the board still felt strongly about the issue, circling back to it in 2006 with a similar recommendation, with an exception for busy work periods in the cockpit. To date, the FAA has not replied to the recommendation, except for a letter acknowledging its receipt.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency has issued guidance to airlines and pilots advising against use of the autopilot in icy conditions but doesn’t believe an order against its use is appropriate.

“It’s not an area where there is a single solution for every situation,” Brown said.

Far from ignoring safety recommendations, the FAA has been working hard on the issue of ice and turboprop planes, issuing more than 100 safety directives since 1994 requiring specific actions or procedures related to icing for existing aircraft, Brown said.

FAA officials long have complained that the safety board is free to make whatever safety recommendations it feels are best, whether those recommendations are practicable, economical or even technologically possible. The FAA, on the other hand, must make sure any rules it promulgates are feasible and reasonable.

A 2007 recommendation on NTSB’s most-wanted list urges turboprop pilots to turn on their deicing equipment when the plane enters icing conditions rather than waiting for ice to begin to accumulate. The board was concerned enough to issue a safety alert in December warning that “thin amounts of ice, as little as 1/4 inch, can be deadly.” The alert also urges pilots to turn off or limit the use of the autopilot “in order to better ‘feel’ changes in the handling qualities of the airplane.”

Among the unanswered questions from last week’s crash is whether the pilot of Continental Connection Flight 3407 should have been flying the plane manually. NTSB investigators said the autopilot was on until it was automatically knocked off just before the plane’s final 26-second plunge to the ground.

Former NTSB Chairman Jim Hall said the regulatory process was “certainly broken for the people who lost their lives in Buffalo.”

“Unfortunately, all you can think here is economic interests are trumping safety interests,” he said.

Brown noted that the FAA proposed a rule two years ago that would require airplane manufacturers to provide a means to detect ice and ensure deicing equipment is turned on right away. She said the rule is in its final stage of review.

“One criticism of the FAA is that they move at a glacial pace at everything they do, from modernizing air traffic control to giving due consideration to the NTSB’s recommendations,” said David Primo, a political science professor at the University of Rochester in New York who co-authored “The Plane Truth: Airline Crashes, the Media and Transportation Policy.” “We would be much better served as a country in terms of regulations if the FAA would simply make decisions.”


Anti-Ice Systems Apparently Working Prior to Turboprop Crash

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events


Reprinted from The Wall Street Journal

Written By: Andy Pasztor

Cockpit instruments apparently indicated that onboard anti-icing systems were operating normally on a Continental Connection turboprop shortly before it stalled and crashed near Buffalo, N.Y. Thursday night from what now appears to be deadly accumulation of ice on some critical flight surfaces, according to federal investigators.

The latest information released by the National Transportation Safety Board raises questions about the operation and design of the mechanical de-icing systems, or so-called rubber boots, that inflate to shed ice off the leading edges of the wings and some tail surfaces on the widely-used Bombardier Q400 aircraft. Steve Chealander, the safety board member serving as spokesman for the roughly 150 investigators, law enforcement officials and others sifting through the wreckage, told reporters earlier Saturday that the plane had “very sophisticated de-icing systems” that the pilots turned on.

Based on information gleaned from the cockpit-voice recorder, according to Mr. Chealander, there was no discussion of any kind before the crash indicating that the systems were not working properly. “We hear no indication thus far” that lights in the cockpit alerted the crew to problems with anti-icing equipment, Mr. Chealander said. Once turned on, the anti-icing systems are designed to cycle automatically until the pilots turn them off.

This image from television shows an aerial view of the crash site of Continental Connection Flight 3407 and the surrounding neighborhood on Feb. 13, 2009 in Clarence Center, N.Y.The findings are important because investigators Saturday described a sequence of events further buttressing preliminary indications the twin-engine turboprop lost its ability to fly due to severe icing.

In his press conference, for example, Mr. Chealander said a “cursory visual look” at the engines indicated they were operating before the impact. Investigators have said that so far they have found no indications of engine or flight-control system malfunctions.

Mr. Chealander also revealed that the plane’s cockpit-voice recorder and flight-data recorder indicate that stall warnings came on immediately before the crash, which would be consistent with ice build-up causing the plane to lose lift.

The latest details released by the safety board shot down earlier speculation that some kind of mechanical problem delayed the plane’s takeoff from Newark, N.J. the board determined that takeoff was delayed due to high winds.

In a surprise from what investigators may have expected to find, analysis of the wreckage shows that the 74-seat turboprop didn’t smash into a house at a steep angle. Mr, Chealander said “all four corners” of the plane were in their proper position, indicating that instead of hitting nose first the plane struck the ground at a relatively flat angle.

Adding further support to the notion that icing brought down the plane, the safety board said the pilots had been flying using the autopilot during an earlier part of the descent toward the airport, when they noticed significant ice build-up on parts of the cockpit windshield and windshield wipers. The flight-data recorder indicates the plane went out of control almost immediately after the pilots disconnected the autopilot and started extending the wing flaps.

In a classic icing accident, such actions suddenly put a plane into a stall. The Q400 has anti-icing devices on the leading edge of its wings as well as parts of its tail, including the horizontal stabilizer. As a result, the investigators are expected to look at the impact of ice buildup in both areas, according to safety officials. A gradual loss of speed points to possible icing on the tail, portions of the wings and other aircraft parts, which would reduce lift and increase the weight of a plane.


Curbing Foreign Airline Emissions in Europe

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events


Reprinted from the New York Times

Written by: James Kanter

All airlines using European airports are going to be regulated under the European Emissions Trading System from January 2012. That means even American carriers will eventually have to buy some carbon permits to comply with European Union law.

United States government officials have said in the past that the initiative is probably illegal under the convention governing international civil aviation. The main group representing the world’s airlines, the International Air Transport Association, has complained bitterly about the cost of the system.

On Wednesday, the European Commission published a list of carriers that may need to buy permits — and they include big United States carriers like American Airlines and United Airlines.

One reason that the Europeans have acted so confidently to cap airline emissions is that both candidates for the American presidency said last year that they would support the establishment of an emissions trading system in the United States similar to the one operating in Europe. Many European Union officials thought that it stood to reason that the United States would extend that system to cover aviation, thus relieving the current trans-Atlantic tension.

European Union officials said Wednesday that they did not yet have a clear idea whether the Obama administration had taken a position different from the Bush administration on the European system to cap emissions from foreign operators and carriers.

Under the European system, each European Union country will be responsible for selling permits to individual airlines that use that country’s airports most frequently. The idea is to reduce the administrative burden, but it also potentially means big revenues for countries with busy airports.

The list published on Wednesday does not say how much money countries stand to reap, nor how much it would cost airlines. But Britain looks set to benefit most from the system because so many foreign, as well as domestic, carriers use its airports.

Britain would oversee about 780 carriers and operators, including American Airlines, United Airlines, Wal-Mart Stores and Bechtel. Britain also would oversee other large commercial carriers like Qantas Airways of Australia, Emirates of the United Arab Emirates, and Cathay Pacific of China.

France would oversee about 470 carriers and operators including Air Algérie, Air France, All Nippon Airways, Coca-Cola and United Technologies.

Tiny Latvia, by contrast, will oversee five carriers and operators including Air Baltic, a national carrier. Poland will oversee about 45 carriers and operators including Lot, a national carrier.

Under European Union law, airlines will have to buy 15 percent of their quota of permits in 2012 based on past emissions.

At the moment there is no set price for those permits. But European Union officials said on Wednesday that the price would probably be partly set by the European carbon market (where a ton of carbon currently trades at 9.30 euros, or $12) and partly by member states under rules that still need to be finalized.

The list was compiled by the European Commission with the help of Eurocontrol, an organization responsible for air traffic management in Europe, and based on “best available information of flight movements within the E.U.”

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said companies like Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola are included in the list because they operate private flights that meet the criteria for inclusion in the emissions control system, according to the preliminary assessment by Eurocontrol.

The commission said it could publish a revised list in coming months based on feedback from the industry. The list then would be updated annually to take account of new carriers and operators.


24 bodies pulled from plane wreck in Brazil river

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events


Reprinted from Reuters

Written by: Raymond Colitt and Alberto Alerigi

BRASILIA, Feb 8 – Rescue workers recovered 24 bodies on Sunday from the bottom of a river in the Amazon jungle after a plane crashed in bad weather, airline officials and rescue workers said.

Divers pulled the bodies out of the wreckage in the murky waters of the Manacapuru River some 100 km (62.5 miles) southwest of Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state.

“In total there were 28 people on board, including eight small children and two crew members,” Paulo Roberto Pereira, a spokesman for regional charter airline Manaus Aero Taxi, told Reuters.

“Four people survived the crash,” said Pereira, who had said on Saturday that a total of 24 people were on board.

The plane hit the crown of a tree before plunging into the river, Roberto Rocha, undersecretary of Civil Defense, told local media. One passenger managed to open a door before the plane sank and escaped with three others, Rocha said.

The official passenger list showed only 20 people on board, an Air Force spokesman told Reuters on Sunday.

The bodies were taken to the morgue in Manaus and had been identified by family members, Pereira said.

Detective Roberto Almeida of the police in Manacapuru municipality said there were seven dead children.

The EMB-110 Bandeirante turboprop plane made by Brazil’s Embraer (EMBR3.SA)(ERJ.N) had left the city of Coari, some 400 km (250 miles) southwest of Manaus. The pilot told air traffic controllers he wanted to return because of bad weather but crashed around 2 p.m. local time on Saturday, Pereira said.

One of the four survivors told local media that one of the plane’s engines failed during flight.

“We won’t know the cause for sure until they lift the plane and authorities finish their report,” Pereira said.

Brazil had two major plane crashes in 2006 and 2007, raising concerns about the safety of air travel in Latin America’s largest country.


Three killed in Catalina plane crash

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events
Reprinted from the Los Angeles Times
Written by:Tony Barboza
As rescue crews on Friday discovered the bodies of three people in the wreckage of an Orange County-based tour airplane that crashed in the rain on a remote Catalina Island hilltop, questions emerged about the pilot’s qualifications to handle charter flights.

A search-and-rescue team found the burned bodies after a helicopter spotted the downed plane on a hilltop area near Mt. Orizaba, southwest of Catalina’s Airport in the Sky, said Sgt. John Hudson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Avalon Station.

Although the victims have not been officially identified, they are believed to be pilot Mark Hogland, 48, president of a Dana Point charter flight company, and two passengers, according to U.S. Coast Guard officials. The passengers apparently were tourists, authorities said.

“There were no survivors,” Hudson said.

Hogland flew the fixed-wing Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft out of Orange County’s John Wayne Airport at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

He took off from the island at 4:50 p.m. that day and was expected to return to John Wayne at 5:10 p.m.

The Coast Guard and law enforcement officials began searching Catalina and nearby waters with patrol boats and aircraft after Hogland’s fiancee reported that she had not heard from him.

The passengers, a man and a woman, were out-of-state visitors staying at the Ritz-Carlton resort in Dana Point, but their identities had not been released pending family notification, said Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jim Amormino.

It was raining and cloudy when the plane took off from the island, making weather and poor visibility probable factors in the crash.

Catalina’s tiny airport is a narrow, single landing strip on a remote hilltop with precipitous drop-offs; some pilots compare it to landing on an aircraft carrier.

In the last decade, 20 people have died in eight plane crashes coming in or out of Airport in the Sky, including the three killed in Thursday’s incident. Before that wreck, the most recent was just over three months ago, when three people were killed in a crash off the end of the runway.

Aviation experts said they did not consider the airfield a safety problem because few of the accidents over the years have occurred close to the runway, and many have taken place over water.

“It’s not a lot of accidents,” said Chris Dancy, spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. “You’re looking at fewer than one fatal accident per year at an airport that sees more than 10,000 flights every year.”

Fred Fourcher, president of the Orange County Pilots Assn., of which Hogland was a member, said he has flown in and out of the airport many times, adding that “I haven’t found anything that tells me that Catalina is a dangerous airport.” Still, he said the runway’s hilltop location can be “optically intimidating.”

As details about the crash were released, questions emerged about the pilot’s qualifications to fly a charter flight.

According to the SkyBlue USA website Hogland’s company offers sightseeing tours along “Southern California’s beautiful coastline, Catalina Island and other scenic locations.” But he was not licensed to conduct charter flights, Federal Aviation Administration records show.

He earned his private pilot’s license Sept. 7, 2001, but that did not qualify him for commercial flights such as sightseeing tours.

On Aug. 20, Hogland obtained his instrument rating, FAA records show, allowing him to fly during bad weather by navigating with just instruments rather than visually.

The 1983 fixed-wing, single-engine plane was the company’s only aircraft, according to FAA records, and had been used for charter flights.

Hogland left for Catalina with the two passengers aboard, though it is unclear whether they paid for the trip, sheriff’s officials said.

“We believe that it’s a charter flight and that they were tourists, but we can’t know that for a fact,” Hudson said. “The man who was flying the plane was in the business of doing that.”

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor declined to comment on the crash specifically but said, “Looking at pilot qualifications [is] a part of every FAA active investigation.”

Sheriff’s officials were investigating the crash with the National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA and the L.A. County coroner’s office, which is working to identify the victims.


Boeing issues warning to 777 operators

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events

Reprinted from the Seattle P-I

Written by: James Wallace

A Delta Airlines 777-200ER was flying from Shanghai, China, to Atlanta last November when its right engine suddenly lost thrust while the plane was cruising at 39,000 feet over Montana.

The pilots followed flight manual procedures and descended to 31,000 feet, where the Rolls-Royce engine recovered and responded normally. The flight, with 15 crew members and 232 passengers, continued to Atlanta and landed safely.

That incident would likely not have gotten much attention had the same kind of Boeing jet, with Rolls-Royce engines, not lost all power in both engines just before landing at London’s Heathrow earlier in the year. The British Airways 777 crash-landed short of the runway. Several passengers were injured, but none seriously.

Safety experts eventually decided that the British Airways jet, also on a flight from China, had flown through unusually cold weather at cruise altitude and ice apparently formed in part of the engine and blocked the fuel flow.

On Thursday, Boeing sent a notice to all operators of its 777s with Trent engines made by Rolls-Royce, advising them that it now believes the Delta and British Airways incidents appear to have been caused by the same thing – ice blocking the fuel path.

A Boeing spokesman said Tuesday the “all operators” notice contains a series of precautionary measures that pilots should take during flight to lessen the chance ice could cause a sudden loss of engine power.

Eventually, the spokesman said, the FAA can be expected to order a “permanent fix.” That would likely mean a redesign of part of the Trent 777 engine.

Boeing would not release a copy of the letter it sent last week. The spokesman said it is not a public document. But the industry magazine Flight International obtained a copy and said the Boeing letter describes the Delta and British Airways incidents as likely being caused by “similar factors.”

More than 700 Boeing 777s, a widebody jet that typically carries from 300 to 360 passengers, depending on the model, are in service with airlines around the world. About 30 percent have Trent engines.

General Electric and Pratt & Whitney also make engines for the 777, but those have a different design than the Trent engine from Rolls-Royce and are not thought to be susceptible to the ice problem. The newest 777s built by Boeing, the best-selling 777-300ER and the ultra-long-range 777-200LR, are only powered with GE engines.

In September, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a formal airworthiness directive that required changes in the way ground crews prepare 777s with Trent engines and how pilots fly them in extreme cold weather in response to what investigators found in studying the British Airways crash in January. Shortly before the FAA issued its warning, Boeing had sent out an “all operators” notice with a series of recommendations developed to prevent a similar problem on its 777s with Trent engines.

Boeing recommended, for example, that pilots rev their engines when the fuel temperature falls to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. That would conceivably dislodge any ice that might be in the fuel line.

Another procedure recommended by Boeing, and ordered by the FAA, called for the crew to advance the engine throttles to maximum thrust for 10 seconds before descending on flights that have maintained the same altitude for at least three hours, if the fuel temperature is below 14 degrees.

Those procedures have been revised in the Boeing bulletin sent last week, following the Delta incident.

Boeing now recommends that pilots advance engine throttles to maximum thrust before descending on flights that have maintained the same altitude for two hours, not three.
Also in its latest notice, Boeing recommends that pilots, during the descent for landing, reduce engine power to full idle for at least 30 seconds. By reducing fuel flow, engine oil heat can melt any ice that may have accumulated.

The FAA, as it did in September, is likely to make Boeing’s latest recommendations mandatory.

The 777 has never had a fatal crash since it entered service with United Airlines in 1995. But the Delta and British Airways incidents have given safety experts cause for concern, in large part because they are apparently dealing with a previously unknown phenomenon.

The British Airways crash occurred Jan. 17, 2008, as the 777-200ER, with 152 passengers and crew members, approached Heathrow after a flight from Beijing. Both engines failed to respond to autopilot commands for thrust as the plane approached the airport.

It turned into one of the most puzzling aviation accidents in modern times. The plane was badly damaged but was mostly intact, so investigators had all the physical evidence in hand to look for clues. But one thing was missing – the ice. The key piece of evidence had literally melted away.

Investigators now believe the problem is with the fuel-oil heat exchanger system on the Trent 777 engine.

Boeing engineers, according to Flight International, have determined by working in the laboratory that the heat generated by the Rolls-Royce fuel-oil heat exchanger is not adequate to prevent moisture in the fuel from freezing. When that happens, ice can form that blocks fuel to the exchanger, “starving the engines,” according to the magazine.

The General Electric and Pratt engines on the 777 have a different fuel system architecture.

“Based on our knowledge of the system configurations, scenario studies and laboratory test results, we do not believe that immediate action is necessary or warranted for 777s powered by other engine types or non-777 airframes regardless of engine type,” the Boeing letter sent to 777 operators last week states, according to Flight International.


50 Killed in Plane Crash Near Buffalo

Author: admin  |  Category: Other Events

Reprinted from the New York Times


Federal investigators have retrieved both “black boxes” from a Continental Airlines plane that crashed late Thursday night near Buffalo, killing 50 people. The boxes — the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder — were found in good condition and should reach the laboratories of the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington this afternoon for analysis, officials said.

The plane, which crashed in the hamlet of Clarence Center, N.Y., carried 44 passengers, a crew of 4 and an off-duty airline employee on a flight from Newark to Buffalo, officials said. Everyone aboard the plane and one person in a house destroyed by the plane was killed, said Chris Collins, the Erie County executive.

Two others in the house, a 57-year-old woman and her 22-year-old daughter, suffered minor injuries and were taken to a nearby hospital, where they were treated and released, officials said.

Among those on the flight was Alison L. Des Forges, a historian and human rights advocate who documented the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and investigated related issues in Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to Emma Daly, communications director of Human Rights Watch in New York City.

Also on the flight was Beverly Eckert, the widow of Sean Rooney, a Buffalo native who died at the World Trade Center in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Ms. Eckert was on her way to Buffalo for a weekend celebration of what would have been her husband’s 58th birthday, and had planned to take part in the presentation of a scholarship award at Canisius High School that she had established in his honor, The Buffalo News reported.

Ms. Eckert met President Obama last week at the White House, along with other relatives of people killed in the 2001 attacks or the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.

Speaking at the White House late Friday morning, Mr. Obama said that Ms. Eckert “was an inspiration to me and to so many others, and I pray that her family finds peace and comfort in the hard days ahead.”

He said that the crash reminds the nation of the fragility of life and the value of each day.

Continental Airlines said the pilot of the flight, Continental Connection Flight 3407, was Capt. Marvin Renslow; the first officer was Rebecca Shaw; flight attendants were Matilda Quintero and Donna Prisco; and the off-duty employee traveling on the flight was Capt. Joseph Zuffoletto. The flight was operated by Colgan Air under contract to Continental.

Maddy Loftus, 24, from Parsippany, N.J., was on the flight traveling to a reunion of the women’s ice hockey team at Buffalo State University, said Jeff Ventura, the sports information director at the school. Ms. Loftus played forward for Buffalo State from 2002 to 2004 and transferred to St. Mary’s University in Minnesota where she finished her college career.

After the crash, other pilots flying in the area reported icing on their planes, and there was some speculation in the news media that the weather at the time of the crash may have played a role. The airplane that crashed was certified for flying into icing conditions, and the crews of such planes are trained to deal with ice.

“This is a tragic day in the history of New York,” New York Gov. David A. Paterson said at a news conference. “This is a difficult hour for the families.”

Governor Paterson described his discussions with families of the victims. “I saw a woman whose fiancé was killed in the plane crash, she has three little daughters,” he said. “A woman a native in China, a researcher living in Buffalo and a doctor, she doesn’t have any family members here. She lost her husband.”

Referring to Ms. Eckert, he said: “Now she and her husband, Sean, have been lost in different tragedies, one in an attack on our country.”

He said he saw the family of Ms. Des Forges, whom he described as “a noted writer, a foremost expert on Rwanda, a great human being and a human services coordinator.” And he said he spoke with a state trooper who lost a cousin.

An intense fire at the site of the crash, fueled by a natural gas leak, initially made it difficult for the investigators to retrieve the black boxes, according to Steven Chealander, a member of the safety board who is acting as spokesman for the crash investigation. Fourteen investigators from the board are at work seeking the cause of the crash, he said in a news conference Friday morning.

The airplane is a relatively new model, a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 with two turboprop engines and room for 74 passengers. Colgan has been operating that type of plane since February 2008. Its flight data recorder should have captured hundreds of data points each second about the performance of the airplane and its condition, which can aid investigators in reconstructing the accident. While there apparently was no sign of trouble in the communications between the crew and ground controllers during the flight, the cockpit voice recorder could provide information from conversations among the crew, as well as other sounds that their microphones may have picked up.

Tony Tatro, who lives near the crash site, told CNN that he was driving home when the plane passed about 75 feet overhead, with its nose pitched lower than normal and its wings tilted. The plane struck the ground moments later, he said.

The plane crashed about 10:20 p.m. Eastern time, five minutes before it was due to land. David Bissonette, the emergency coordinator for Erie County, told reporters around 4 a.m. that the plane had made “a direct hit” on the house at 6038 Long Street in Clarence Center, part of the Town of Clarence northeast of Buffalo. The site is about five miles from the airport.

“It’s remarkable that it only took one house,” he said. “It could have easily taken the whole neighborhood.”

Mr. Bissonnette said the only piece of the plane that remained recognizable was the tail. The investigation, he said, would be “painstaking” because of the amount of damage to the plane and the house.

Mr. Collins said that about 12 nearby houses were evacuated after the crash and that a limited state of emergency had been declared.

Sandra Baker, who lives on Railroad Street, two blocks from the site of the crash on Thursday, said: “It was just like a huge great big crash, a boom.”

Both of her sons, volunteer firefighters, went to the scene.

“There was this banging sound” before the crash, she said. It was followed by a boom, then a dark cloud and flames and the smell of fuel and fire.

Another woman who lives nearby described the sound before the crash as “a loud roar over my house.”

“It was like the whole house shook,” said the woman, Jennifer Clark, who also lives on Railroad Street. “Then there was silence.”

Ms. Clark said she looked out of her window and saw a ball of flames rising into the sky.

She woke up her husband and said, “I think a plane just crashed.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I feel bad for the people on the plane and their families. I feel bad for the firemen who have to recover the remains of those poor people.”

Ms. Baker described the town as “small-town U.S.A.,” a place that will reel from what she was sure would be the biggest tragedy the town has ever seen.

The crash will be investigated jointly by the New York State Police, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority as well as the federal officials from the safety board, who will take the lead.

At a command center where officials gathered after the accident, Chris Kausner told CNN that his sister was on the flight. He said she was connecting from Jacksonville, Fla., where she was a law student. When a reporter asked Mr. Kausner how his family was taking the news, he said: “I heard my mother make a sound into the phone that I had never heard before. So, not good.”

In the neighborhood where the crash occurred, flames rose high above the bare trees and neat houses overnight. Neighbors rushed from their homes to the carnage, through a swell of emergency lights and sirens.

Brendan Biddlecom, who lives a few blocks from the crash, made his way with other neighbors.

“I didn’t get too close,” Mr. Biddlecom said. “I didn’t want to get too close. It was clear what was going on.”

By 2:30 a.m., the police had set up checkpoints around the neighborhood and had cleared the immediate vicinity of the crash. The smell of burning fuel and rubber was still thick in the air.

Scott Bylewski, the Clarence town supervisor, said he heard the crash from his home about a half-mile away. “I took a look from my house and the sky was red,” Mr. Bylewski said at the 4 a.m. news conference. “I know when I go home, I’m going to give my wife and kids a kiss.”

Colgan, the operator of the plane, also flies feeder routes for US Airways and United Airlines. Colgan’s Web site said the airline operates about 50 aircraft, including 15 of the Q400 model, and recently reached an agreement with Continental to add 15 more aircraft. Colgan, which has flown for Continental since 1997, is owned by Pinnacle Airlines Corporation, based in Memphis. Pinnacle has about 6,000 employees around North America, 1,800 of them in Memphis.

The last fatal crash involving a scheduled carrier in the United States was a ComAir regional jet in Lexington, Ky., in August 2006. The crew attempted to take off from a runway that was too short; 47 passengers and 2 of the 3 crew members were killed.

During the day on Thursday, Continental posted a notice on its Web site that its operations would be affected by the winter storm on the East Coast, including the Buffalo and New York City areas.

The storm caused delays of up to five hours on arrivals at Newark Liberty International Airport on Thursday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. That was unusual even for that airport, which routinely has some of the worst delays of any destination in the country.

Early on Friday, the F.A.A.’s Web site showed delays at Newark of three hours and 50 minutes.


When the Airlines Make the Rules

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events


Reprinted from the Wall Street Journal

Written by: Scott McCartney

Frequent-traveler Mitchel Friedman always carries his small rolling bag onto flights. So when an American Airlines gate agent in Dallas insisted he check his bag because he was flying home to New York on standby, he asked why.

That’s the policy, the agent insisted. When he refused, noting that the flight wasn’t full and he already had an assigned seat, the agent said he wouldn’t be allowed to board the flight.

“I had never run into that before and I was just blown away,” said the real-estate executive, who splits his time between New York and Austin, Texas. “It was really upsetting to me because I try, like many others, never to check a bag.”

Perhaps no other consumer-service business is so rule-bound as the airline industry. Travelers confront an ever-changing, extensive array of rules and policies, many dictated by federal statutes, safety, crowd control or just the rush to keep planes moving. And for fliers, rules can often feel a bit random: Policies at check-in lobbies, security checkpoints and airport gates can be inconsistently enforced or seemingly created on the spot by airline or TSA workers.

The result: bewildered and angry fliers. Many travelers have learned to live with, and perhaps even understand the necessity for, many rules of the sky. Yet some policies, at least in the eyes of frequent travelers, defy logic or exist only for the benefit of airlines. Even experienced road warriors fly smack into airline policies that leave them scratching their heads.

Mr. Friedman, for one, relented after a supervisor backed up the agent. Then he saw ample empty overhead bin space when he boarded. “They’ve got all the powers,” he said. “Everything in travel today is inconsistent.

AMR Corp.’s American says it doesn’t have a policy requiring standby customers to check their larger carry-on bags, but the airline has changed some practices that give gate agents more leeway.

“Some of our stations have adopted practices, when they feel it is necessary, to mitigate the impact of possibly running out of carry-on space at the last minute — which can lead to departure delays,” said Tim Smith, a spokesman for American. Airport staff can decide to take pre-emptive action to “ensure an on-time departure, especially on flights where we know we have higher than average passenger-to-carry-on-bag ratios,” he said.

Many airline rules are buried within each airline’s so-called Contract of Carriage, a voluminous document that covers everything the airline can foresee, from whether to refund for jury service to rules on carrying infants, making stopovers or receiving accommodations after flight cancellations.

At UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, the contract of carriage is 49 pages long — 21,241 words that, if printed in this newspaper, would fill several pages. On top of that, the “fare rules” that apply to a typical non-refundable ticket add another 3,300 words. Delta Air Lines Inc. is even wordier. For domestic tickets, Delta’s General Rules Tariff, last modified Jan. 26, is 58 pages long: 24,934 words, plus fare rules that run 1,805 words on a typical advance-purchase coach ticket.

And those are just the published rules. In employee manuals and directives, airlines fly by all kinds of other rules that travelers never hear about until they run into a snag.

Increasingly there’s money at stake for the airline in rules enforcement. Now that most carriers charge passengers for checking bags, closely enforcing baggage limits can make airlines extra cash.

Rules on refunds and compensation can leave travelers fuming, too. Carolyn Simpson paid $1,075 for a first-class seat on Continental Airlines for a trip last summer from Columbus, Ohio, to Houston and back instead of buying a $400 coach seat. But her Aug. 21 flight was canceled and she was rebooked to coach the next day because, Continental said, no first-class seats were available. On the spot, the airline gave her a refund for what it considered the price difference between coach and first class: $90.

Her husband says he complained, figuring they were owed about $300 — the price difference between half of the first-class ticket ($500) and half of the coach ticket ($200).

But Continental says Mrs. Simpson’s flight was canceled because of bad weather, and so the airline’s policy when a customer gets downgraded is to refund the difference between what was paid for first class and the lowest coach fare available for the new flight — generally a one-way, full-priced ticket, as if the customer bought a new ticket at the last minute to get on the new flight.

“Because it was weather, it’s an event out of the airline’s control,” a spokeswoman said.

That didn’t seem fair to the Simpsons. “I feel ripped off and I wonder if I will ever pay to upgrade again if the airline can keep most of the money paid to upgrade without actually providing the promised first-class seat,” Robert Simpson said.

Many travelers say they don’t understand why airlines don’t refund baggage fees they collect when they don’t deliver bags to travelers with their flight. Should you have to pay for the service if the airline loses your bag?

With a restaurant, plumber or electrician, you don’t pay if the service doesn’t get done, notes Ray Hawk of Phoenix. “If you have to pay for the service, you should get that particular service,” he said.

To many travelers, it’s a question of fairness. Rules often seem to work against them, not airlines. Travelers often end up paying a penalty if they miss a flight because they don’t show up on time, for example, but if the airline doesn’t get their baggage delivered on time, there’s no penalty for the airline other than the cost of delivering it to you later.

Airlines say the baggage fee is actually a “handling charge,” and unlike some package shipping companies, they don’t guarantee their service. Most bags that don’t get delivered on time eventually are delivered to owners. And some carriers say customers who have paid baggage fees may get a little more in compensation if they complain about a lost bag — a slightly larger voucher toward future travel, for example. “The fee is taken into account when we compensate our guest for the disservice,” said a United spokeswoman.

Most airlines do say that if the bag never gets delivered and the airline has to reimburse the customer for the value of the contents, the fee will be accounted for, too. But there’s no rule specifying that.