FAA extends Boeing’s authority to self-certify aircraft

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Tuesday extended the authority of Boeing Commercial Airplanes to self-certify its aircraft and aircraft technologies. Under the agency’s new safety oversight model, Boeing manufacturing and engineering employees will perform delegated tasks for the FAA, including signing certificates approving new designs.

The new system extends further an already established in-house inspection system at the airplane maker, whereby much of Boeing’s inspection work is delegated to more than 400 company in-house inspectors. Though appointed by and accountable to the FAA, for the past decade those inspectors have reported their findings largely through an internal Boeing organization.

The new system increases the authority of the in-house inspectors directly managed by Boeing, allowing them to review new designs, oversee testing to ensure the products meet all applicable standards, and sign off on certification.

The FAA is setting up a new Boeing Aviation Safety Oversight Office that will monitor Boeing’s internal inspection organization through audits and review of written reports submitted by Boeing. That unit will initially have just eight staff, including two engineers, growing to nearly 30 staff as the new system is phased in.

Following completion of training and readiness reviews, Boeing will officially shift to the new certification system, known as Organization Designation Authorization, on Aug. 31.


Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

Horizon flight comes to stop off runway at Bellingham airport

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events
BELLINGHAM — A Horizon Air plane carrying 76 passengers went off the runway and 50 feet into the grass at Bellingham International Airport Sunday night, Aug. 16.

The incident happened shortly before midnight as the Bombardier Q400 was landing after a short flight from Seattle.

No one from Flight 2494 was injured, said Port of Bellingham Communications Manager Carolyn Casey. Passengers and four crew members were transported back to the airport after the plane had gone too far off the north end of the runway.

The aircraft remained in the grass until 8 a.m. Monday, causing Horizon to cancel its 5:30 a.m. flight to Seattle. Those passengers were bused to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Bellingham resident Maria Bakht, who was on the flight with several friends, said it was the most jarring landing she’d experienced.

“The minute we landed, we knew immediately something was wrong” said Bakht, 37. “It seemed to be coming in too fast. It just didn’t stop. You could tell the pilot was really trying to brake and stop.”

After the plane stopped, people were calm, Bakht said.

The pilot told everyone that readings on the plane’s control panel were normal and had not indicated any danger, she said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is conducting an investigation that will include extensive interviewing of the pilot and co-pilot, said FAA spokesman Mike Fergus. Investigators won’t know the cause of the incident until later in the month, he said.


Airplane air toxic?

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events
CNN’s Allan Chernoff takes a look at whether the air we breathe on airplanes could be toxic.
See complete story here:

Turbulence Slams Jet, Injuring 26

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events
MIAMI (Aug. 3) – Some passengers were snoozing while others snacked when the first turbulence rattled Continental Flight 128 over the Atlantic. Suddenly, the jetliner began to plunge and shake violently, hurling passengers over seatbacks and slamming them against luggage bins.
The Boeing 767 made an emergency landing in Miami early Monday so at least 26 injured, four seriously, could receive medical help. But the sudden turbulence that rocked the overnight flight from Rio de Janeiro was an all-too-real reminder of an Air France flight — also traveling from Rio — that crashed into the mid-Atlantic in June during thunderstorms, killing all 228 people on board.
“I immediately thought of the Air France flight, that we’re going to fall. We’re going to fall,” said Herman Oppenheimer of Rio, one of 179 people on the flight.
Said 20-year-old passenger Camila Machado, who was going to Las Vegas and was treated for a bruised cheek: “I felt like the airplane was going to crash. I felt like we were going to die. Like, the first thing I thought about was Air France.”
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen cautioned against drawing any parallels between the two flights and said the cause and severity of the turbulence in the Continental case was still being investigated.
“I wouldn’t draw any conclusions,” Bergen said.
Meteorologists differed on weather conditions at the time the Houston-bound plane encountered the turbulence just northwest of Puerto Rico.
Henri Agramonte, an assistant forecaster at the Dominican Republic national office of meteorology, said there were thunderstorms early Monday, which were caused by a tropical wave that could have generated strong winds off the country’s northern coast. But Brian Wimer, a meteorologist from the State College, Pa.-based Accuweather, said there were no thunderstorms in the area.
Wimer speculated that the plane may have encountered clear air turbulence, which occur at high altitudes in tranquil and cloudless conditions.
“There’s really no easy way to detect that,” said Wimer. “It can cause problems if it’s severe enough. Normally, if the pilots are aware of it, people sit down and belt in.”
Aviation officials say air turbulence is rarely more than a nuisance. Still, turbulence was responsible for 22 percent of all U.S. airline accidents and 49 percent of serious-injury accidents between 1996 and 2005, the National Transportation Safety Board reported in an annual safety review in March.
Unexpected turbulence is why pilots often tell passengers to keep their buckles fastened even if they have turned off the “seat belt” sign and the skies are clear.
“It was just so sudden you didn’t really have time to react,” said passenger Carolina Portella, 18, describing what happened on Flight 128.
“I grabbed the hand of the person next to me, and just held on,” she said. “I mean it was really frightening.”
Flight attendants in the aisle were thrown against the ceiling. Passengers who weren’t belted in went flying into the overhead compartments; one woman hit a luggage bin so hard that her head stuck there. Oxygen masks dropped. A child smacked his chest on a tray table and started bleeding.
“One lady, she just came out of her seat and flew over the middle row, hit her head on the wall and landed on her back,” said 13-year-old passenger Diego Saavedra, whose nose was bandaged as he spoke with reporters in the terminal of Miami International Airport.
“All of a sudden there were people coming up off their seats, people screaming, little kids crying, people saying please, ow, help please,” Saavedra said.
Photos taken by a passenger showed overhead lighting compartments that had been cracked by the impact of passengers’ heads; another photo showed the guts of an entire panel hanging down, the oxygen tanks inside exposed.
Aloiso Dias said he grabbed the seat in front of him and held on.
“I felt like I was on a roller coaster. I couldn’t even see what was going on with my wife,” Dias said.
Passengers said the terror lasted only a few seconds and the cabin quieted down fast when it was over. A doctor sitting in first class made the rounds through the aircraft and helped the injured, while the decision was made to land the plane in Miami so the injured passengers could be treated.
The plane landed in Miami at 5:30 a.m. Fourteen people were taken to Miami-area hospitals and were treated for their injuries; four were in serious condition. Other passengers were sent to Houston or reticketed on other Continental flights. Some had to stand in long lines for their new tickets, and during their wait, spoke with the media about their ordeal.
Machado was treated at the hospital for the injury to her cheek, while her mother, Glauria Machado, was seen for a gash in her head. Camila Machado cautioned anyone flying to wear their seatbelts — even when it is calm.
“Fasten your seatbelt. That’s why we’re here, to tell everybody,” she said. “Always fasten your seatbelt, because that’s what saved a lot of people. Everybody who had their seatbelt on, wasn’t injured.”
AP writers Suzette Laboy, Damian Grass and Tony Winton contributed from Miami and Jonathan M. Katz contributed from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

Turbulence injures 26; flight diverted to Miami

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events
MIAMI (AP) — A Continental Airlines jet carrying 179 people from Brazil to Texas hit severe turbulence over the Atlantic early Monday, injuring at least 26 — including four seriously — and forcing an emergency landing in Miami, officials said.

One passenger said he felt Continental Flight 128 drop without warning while flight attendants were in the aisles. Some were thrown against the roof.

Houston-based Continental said there were 168 people and 11 crew on the Boeing 767. The airline released a statement that said the fasten seat belt sign was illuminated at the time and that about 28 passengers were treated in Miami.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue spokesman Elkin Sierra said four people were seriously injured and an additional 22 had bumps and bruises. A total of 14 people were taken to hospitals.

The plane was on an overnight flight from Rio de Janeiro to Houston. Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the turbulence struck about halfway between Puerto Rico and Grand Turk island, north of the Dominican Republic.

The plane reported hitting severe turbulence at 4:30 a.m. and landed safely about an hour later at Miami International Airport, Bergen said.

Rio de Janeiro was also the departure airport for Air France Flight 447, which crashed amid thunderstorms June 1 in the mid-Atlantic more than 900 miles off Brazil’s northeastern coast, killing all 228 people on board.

The FAA’s Bergen cautioned against drawing any parallels and said the cause and severity of the turbulence in the Continental case was still being investigated. “I wouldn’t draw any conclusions and comparisons,” Bergen said.

Passenger Fabio Ottolini of Houston said it was about six hours into the flight when he felt the Continental aircraft suddenly drop.

“People didn’t have time to do anything,” he said.

Ottolini said flight attendants were serving items in the aisles when the turbulence hit. He said some flight attendants were thrown against the roof of the cabin and may have been among those injured.

Carolina Portella, 18, was on the flight and headed to college in San Francisco. She said the plane hit a little turbulence and then suddenly dropped severely. The oxygen masks popped out.

“The plane just dropped,” she said. “I just grabbed the hand of the person next to me and held on.”

The rest of the flight, she said, was smooth.

Airport officials say some passengers were going on to Houston on various Continental flights about midday. He did not know when the remaining passengers would be expected to arrive in Houston.