US House Could Vote On FAA Bill Thursday

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events

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Reported from NASDAQ.com

By Josh Mitchell, Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. House was poised to vote as early as Thursday on a major aviation bill that would toughen restrictions on foreign ownership of U.S. air carriers and create more hurdles for international airline alliances.

Airlines and the European Union have resisted those measures.

The provisions are part of a bill to renew the taxing and spending authority of the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA would be authorized to spend $70 billion over four years on operations, construction and safety programs - including a down payment on long-held plans to modernize the nation’s air- traffic management system.

Funding for the programs would have to be approved in a separate step.

Airlines oppose a measure pushed by Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, that would break up within three years all airline alliances. Such groupings allow U.S. and foreign carriers to cooperate on scheduling and revenue sharing. Airlines would be able to seek new anti-trust exemptions to renew the alliances, but they argue the disruption would cost thousands of industry jobs.

Oberstar, who has said the alliances impede competition and take away U.S. jobs, said the intent is to give the U.S. government time to produce a study on the benefits of the partnerships.

The EU opposes a measure, also pushed by Oberstar, to toughen rules that require that 75% of a U.S. airline be owned and operated by U.S. citizens. Oberstar’s measure would spell out what activities must be controlled by U.S. citizens. Current law allows the federal government to determine the matter case by case.

The bill would also allow airports to charge higher fees to passengers to finance construction. The limit on the so-called passenger facility charge would increase to $7 from $4.50 per passenger, a change that lawmakers estimate would generate an additional $1.1 billion in annual revenue for airports.

The bill cleared the House Rules Committee Wednesday, and a vote by the full House could come as soon as Thursday. Support in the Senate is unclear.

-By Josh Mitchell, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-6637; joshua.mitchell@ dowjones.com

By Josh Mitchell

Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. House passed legislation Thursday to curtail international airline alliances, a move proponents said would increase competition, but which the industry warned would cost jobs.

The bill, approved on a 277-136 vote, would also boost spending on airport construction and airline safety. The Federal Aviation Administration would get $ 70 billion over four years to carry out the programs.

Senate support for the legislation is unclear.

Airlines strongly opposed a measure that would strip them of exemptions to anti-trust laws three years after enactment of the legislation. The exemptions allow airlines to join global alliances that coordinate schedules and share revenue.

Airlines would be able to apply for new exemptions after three years, but under possibly tougher standards.

Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he pushed the measure to prevent the industry from being dominated by several conglomerates that he said would have too much power to raise ticket prices.

But the Air Transport Association, representing major airlines, said the alliances improve efficiency and service and warned that eliminating them would cost up to 15,000 jobs.

The House legislation would also toughen rules that require that 75% of a U.S. airline be owned and operated by U.S. citizens. It spells out what activities must be controlled by U.S. citizens. Current law allows the federal government to determine the matter case by case.

Oberstar said the measure is designed to ensure that foreign investors don’t exert too much control over prices and schedules in the U.S. But the European Union said the provision runs counter to a landmark deal between the U.S. and EU to deregulate international air travel.

The House bill would also allow airports to charge higher fees to passengers to finance construction. The limit on the so-called passenger facility charge would increase to $7 from $4.50 per passenger, a change that lawmakers estimate would generate an additional $1.1 billion in annual revenue for airports.

http://www.nasdaq.com/aspx/stock-market-news-story.aspx?storyid=200905201827dowjonesdjonline001027&title=us-house-could-vote-on-faa-bill-thursday

Pinnacle Air Should Have Found Pilot Failures, Consultants Say

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events

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Reported from Bloomberg.com

By Mary Jane Credeur

May 15 (Bloomberg) — Pinnacle Airlines Corp.’s Colgan unit could have done more to find two failed flight tests that the pilot in a fatal New York crash didn’t disclose when he was hired, air safety consultants said.

Pilot Marvin Renslow, who was at the controls for the Feb. 12 accident that killed 50 people, revealed one failed test and omitted two others when he applied at the carrier in 2005, the airline said. Colgan should have pressed for more details on his record, said John Nance, who runs a Seattle aviation consulting firm under his name.

“The airline is going to be turning that person loose on its passengers,” said Nance, a retired Air Force and commercial airline pilot with 40 years of flying. “The records are available, you just have to track them down.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is examining whether the plane’s crew responded improperly to a stall warning before the crash of a Continental Airlines Inc. flight operated by Pinnacle’s Colgan. Three days of hearings ended yesterday, and Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, urged the Federal Aviation Administration to reevaluate pilot training.

Renslow, 47, would have been “immediately dismissed” had supervisors known his application was falsified, Colgan Vice President Mary Finnigan said May 13 at a hearing of the NTSB in Washington. While employed at Colgan, Renslow had two more failures during routine tests.

In 2007, the FAA told airlines they could ask general aviation pilots for waivers to obtain prior flight-check records, so Colgan had an opportunity to go back to check applicants before the accident, NTSB member Kitty Higgins said May 13 at a hearing on the crash.

‘Professional Responsibility’

“Consistent with standard practice in the airline industry, Colgan did not attempt to access information on prior general aviation check-ride failures by its applicants,” Joe F. Williams, a spokesman for Colgan, said in an e-mail.

Pilots take tests, called check rides, every six months and they require about six hours, with half the time used for an oral exam and the rest in a simulator or airplane, said Frank Ayers, chairman of the flight training department at Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, Florida, who has flown for 36 years.

“You sort of establish a rhythm, and you’re expected to pass your check ride,” Ayers said. “It’s your professional responsibility.”

Commuter airlines should use all tools at their disposal to investigate the background of their pilot candidates, he said.

“Like any employer, they need to know who they’re hiring,” Ayers said. “If you see a pattern of check-ride failures, that should raise a red flag.”

The results of check rides are maintained by individual airlines or flight schools.

‘Discrepancies’ in Records

Colgan follows the FAA’s Pilot Records Improvement Act protocols and re-checked “the records for all pilots,” Williams said. He didn’t say when the review occurred.

The company “did find some discrepancies but nothing that we determined to warrant dismissal,” he said. Williams said he didn’t have more detail on how many pilot records had discrepancies, and he didn’t describe them.

Renslow didn’t have a history of airline flights before applying at Colgan in August 2005. Before joining Colgan, Renslow’s first pilot position listed on his job application was a training program at Gulfstream Academy of Aeronautics, which is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the NTSB said. He had 3,379 flight hours at the time of the crash.

Supermarket Stock Clerk

Renslow’s previous jobs included work as a stock clerk at Publix Inc. supermarkets from January 2004 to August 2005, according to NTSB reports. He had also been a sales representative for Verizon Communications Inc. and a business travel specialist at American Express Co., the records show.

The FAA act improving pilot records requires that a hiring carrier obtain and evaluate information about pilot training and safety background from previous employer airlines.

The act covers records maintained by the FAA such as pilot certification on specific types of aircraft, though not prior failures in tests.

Carriers have been able to get check-ride results for general aviation pilots since 1996 with a privacy waiver from the pilot, said Les Dorr, a spokesman for the FAA. The advisory the agency sent in 2007 was a reminder, he said.

Only “one, maybe two” carriers called to ask questions about the reminder, John Ryan, an FAA executive, testified yesterday at the NTSB hearing.

Vetting Pilot Candidates

The Pinnacle situation shows the need for the industry to develop “a reasonable background-check system,” so that airlines will seek out all information available, Robert Clifford, a Chicago aviation attorney who represents relatives of victims aboard the flight, said in an interview.

“There is no standard on this issue,” said Clifford. “It is left exclusively to each airline to make the judgment about how deeply they will vet someone.”

Schumer said improved pilot training may help. He said in a statement accompanying his letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that “while it is impossible to eliminate all human error, proper training can help to minimize the risk.”

In addition to Renslow’s check-flight records, the NTSB panel is looking into hiring and training practices at Colgan, unauthorized chatter among the pilots and whether fatigue played a role. The flight’s copilot, Rebecca Shaw, 24, commuted across country all night to her job. Renslow and Shaw both died in the crash.

Keeping Records

The “vast majority” of pilots have only one or two failed checks in an entire career, and they typically occur early in training, said Nance, adding that he’s never failed any of about 70 checks he’s had. If Colgan had known that Renslow had failed three test flights instead of one, it might not have hired him or might have required further training, Nance said.

“The fact that he didn’t disclose them, though, does not bode well,” Nance said. “A wise airline hiring department, if they see a series of busts, will consider who this person is that they’re about to hire.”

Pinnacle, based in Memphis, Tennessee, operates regional flights with small jets and turboprops for other carriers including Continental, US Airways Group Inc., UAL Corp.’s United Airlines and Delta Air Lines Inc.

Roger Cohen, executive director of the Regional Airline Association in Washington, which represents regional carriers, said he hadn’t heard whether members will re-check pilot records.

Pilot Certification

“Each airline, each certificate holder keeps a record” of their own employees, he said. “All of the pilots at every airline have the exact same certificate” to be able to carry passengers.

Continental expects its partners to “adhere to the highest levels of operational safety standards” and hasn’t changed its existing agreement with Colgan for regional flying, said Julie King, a spokeswoman for the Houston-based carrier.

US Airways relies on Colgan for 32, or 1 percent, of its daily flights and hasn’t made any changes to its accord with the regional carrier, said Morgan Durrant, a spokesman for the Tempe, Arizona-based carrier.

Megan McCarthy, a United spokeswoman, said the company’s relationship with Colgan remains the same. Betsy Talton, a Delta spokeswoman, said her carrier’s dealings with Pinnacle haven’t changed.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=akXZbOU70Y4k&refer=us

Demystifying No Fault Found

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events

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By Michael D. Lam/Overhaul & Maintenance

This article appeared in Overhaul & Maintenance’s May 2009 issue.

We start, appropriately enough for a mystery, with a riddle:

Q: What do you get when you cross Murphy’s Law (”Whatever can go wrong, will”) with Lance’s Law (”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”)?

A: You get No Fault Found, something that seems broke but isn’t–or is&sometimes–or was, but not any more and no one knows why.

This might be funny if No Fault Found (NFF), more properly defined as a reported fault that can’t be reproduced or confirmed in a line or shop environment, or one for which no cause can be found, were not so common or so costly.

NFF afflicts many industries: automotive, consumer electronics, mobile telephony and others. But perhaps none is as persistently “plagued” as aviation, says Mitch Klink, newly elected chairman of the AMC (formerly the Avionics Maintenance Conference). NFF is a “complex issue,” according to Klink, who also is a member of the ARINC working group that wrote Report 672 (”Guidelines for the Reduction of No Fault Found”). The elusive error is one that “easily costs the world’s airlines tens of millions of dollars every year.”

While some peg the prevailing rate for NFFs at closer to 30%, Klink says avionics, which account for three-quarters of the industry’s NFFs, register an average rate of 50%–odds no better than a coin flip–with some components as low as 10-20% and others as high as 80-90%. If so, then aviation’s overall NFF rate has not changed in 20 years.

Why no progress? Klink and others blame the collision of an irresistible force–the ever-increasing sophistication and complexity of aircraft technology (the dense workings of the components themselves, the size and intricacy of the software programs that govern them, and the proliferating interrelationships among various systems and sub-systems)–with an immovable object: the commercial pressures that cap the time available to line maintenance technicians for troubleshooting.

The upshot is that the aviation industry, like Alice of Wonderland fame, finds itself running hard but getting nowhere fast. Is there some answer to No Fault Found? Or is the industry forced to follow the Red Queen’s advice to Alice: “If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Hold Your Applause, or What is the Sound of One Hand Clapping?

“Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

–Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1893)

As pesky and puzzling as any particular NFF might be, the general phenomenon is even more peculiar. After all, an NFF arises from the absence of evidence. How does a no-thing give rise to a some-thing? As Donald Rumsfeld once correctly pointed out, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. What’s more, the non-occurrence of an expected event is evidence, possibly highly revelatory proof, that something is amiss. Witness the Great Detective’s take on the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. However, the meaning of No Fault Found, which amounts to what statisticians call confirmation of the null hypothesis, although highly suggestive, proves nothing. The meaning of No Fault Found, at least at first, is not at all clear.

A No Fault Found can be divided into two parts. The first is a surface problem, namely a discrepancy between a positive report of a fault and a negative attempt to verify the fault. The other is the underlying cause of the discrepancy. Put another way, a determination of No Fault Found is a mixed message: an indication of a possible fault plus the revelation of a real error.

The error can arise anywhere along two related causal chains, the one that culminates in the positive report and the other that concludes with the negative test. This means the source of the error lies somewhere within at least one of three domains: (i) the report or reporter, (ii) the implicated component, relevant system, sub-system and software, or some interaction among these and the operating environment, or (iii) the test, test equipment or tester.

Until the source of the error is identified–and the NFF unraveled–there are several ways to interpret the ambiguity. Either something is indeed wrong with the implicated unit, or it is okay. If it turns out to be in acceptable working order, there may still be a fault somewhere–or there may be none, which means the report of the fault is at fault.

Pity the poor AMT. Given these uncertainties, the initial maintenance action entails a potentially fateful trade-off. If he takes the reasonable precaution of pulling the suspected line replaceable unit (LRU), he may not only be occupying himself unproductively by handling a healthy item and incurring the associated extra costs, he also may (unwittingly) neglect to replace some other component that is more likely to fail. But should he err on the side of parsimony and decide against removing any part–after all, no fault was validated–he may be raising the aircraft’s operational risk.

The Sign of 672

When tests designed to uncover a malfunction in a modern aircraft don’t do their job, increasing confusion instead of imparting clarity, the alternative explanations available to an investigator would overwhelm the contemplative capabilities of a chess grandmaster. Consider the case of a recurring autopilot malfunction AMC’s Klink once dealt with.

The mechanism controlling the activity worked, he says, like “a big logic gate,” with 16 inputs. All had to be “good” in order for the aircraft “to achieve a dual land.” Each of these inputs emerged from a tangle of sub-systems and subcomponents, “any one of which might be having intermittent problems,” Klink said. An attempt to exhaustively sketch the fault tree for this one problem–generated by a single autopilot function, just one of many–would quickly ramify, Klink agrees, in “layer upon layer,” creating a proliferation of branches approaching the size of a giant redwood.

Clearly, a complete enumeration of all the conceivable sources of all varieties of No Fault Found remains a practical impossibility. So when ARINC and AMC researched and wrote Report 672, they did the next best thing. They elevated the level of analysis from particulars to kinds, producing two related 20-cell matrices, each the result of the intersection of four domains (design/production, flight operations, line operations and shop operations) and five categories (system/components, testing, training, communication and documentation), one for types of sources/causes (64 in total), the other for the corresponding recommended remedies (79 in all).

Although Report 672, officially released last June, carries the word “guidelines” in its title, it is less a manual for mechanics seeking immediate help with an NFF than a blueprint or logic map for identifying and locating the roots of No Fault Found, and taking the appropriate remedial or preventive steps to minimize it. The report is aimed at organizations, not individuals, and is intended to be applied company-wide.

Ideally, Klink says, efforts to implement Report 672 should be “spearheaded at a very high level.” Only then can all responsible parties, especially reliability departments, be energetically engaged. Everyone, he says, should “read the document, get a general understanding, then drill down through the categories and domains to isolate the main sources of No Fault Found.” This means comprehensively scouring and honestly evaluating every aspect of operations the Report highlights. Finally, he says, organizations need to collectively “develop a corrective action plan” to address the significant shortcomings that have been revealed.

Klink insists that Report 672 be thoroughly but flexibly adopted: “We try to stress examining all the variables to come up with your best chance for a deliverable solution.” But, he added, “You’re going to have to take what we suggest and tailor it for your operation to get it to work.”

Troubleshooting Troubleshooting

“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

–Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of the Four (1890)

Technologies, techniques, practices and policies for reducing No Fault Found are plentiful but particularized. Report 672 was written in full recognition of the fact that there is no simple answer or algorithm, no single solution and no general method for mitigating No Fault Found beyond, perhaps, constant vigilance. There are, however, topics that warrant wider discussion. One is troubleshooting, the valiant efforts made by aviation’s frontline NFF-fighters.

There may not be a comprehensive response to No Fault Found, but there is one Big Idea. In his own way, Kevin Gulliver, president of Florida-based Nida Corp., a provider of computer-based training curriculum and equipment for troubleshooting, helps convey that idea in a practical, hands-on way something of the philosophy that informs Report 672: holism. It sounds New Age, but “holism” here just means keeping the big picture in mind.

Gulliver said, “We used to teach down at the component level,” but not anymore. “We’re right down the street from Rockwell Collins&When you look inside some of the boxes they make, they’re jam-packed with miniature components. Nobody’s going to unsolder that in the field. So what we’re seeing is more systems training, teaching students to get an understanding of how systems fit together.”

The aim is to teach AMTs to be better diagnosticians. The aviation industry cannot afford technicians who are merely what Gulliver calls “black box changers”–mainly, as he said, “because there are so many black boxes on board.” Instead, “what we’re trying to get them to do is to understand that sometimes what appears to be the fault, isn’t.” This amounts to acquiring an accurate fault model, a mental picture of what can go wrong, implicit or explicit, that maps reality and so guides one to make the right inference, grab the right component, run the right tests.

Technicians cannot rely on automated test equipment to do their thinking for them. As the NFF rate shows, they’re not sufficiently reliable. The best corrective is a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms and their interconnections.

Take an example from medicine. The human body, like an airplane, is a system of systems, hence complex. Without a detailed understanding of human physiology, who would guess that acute pain near the left shoulder tip indicates, about one-fourth of the time, a ruptured spleen? This heuristic, called Kehr’s sign, is entirely unintuitive, a classic example of what is called “referred pain,” which is felt at a different place than the injured body part. (The connection here is the phrenic nerve, which runs from the diaphragm, near the spleen, on one end and cervical spinal nerves C3, C4, and C5, which serve the shoulder, on the other.) Similarly, what chance does an AMT have of successfully troubleshooting a fault if he doesn’t know enough about the plane’s “nervous system” to see the link between its symptoms and their source?

If the aviation industry is to limit NFFs, big-picture systems thinking–an understanding of far more than the immediate object or task at hand–needs to be everyones job. AMTs, for instance, need more complete information from pilots and crew. Klink says he’s “spent a lot of time trying to coach pilots into giving more detailed squawks.” Simple things, such as phase of flight and time of day, would be useful clues for time-limited troubleshooters. Surely, “on climb out, the autopilot disconnected” is more to work with and not much more demanding than what Klink calls, “the old ‘autopilot inop.’” And, who knows, it might make the difference between solving a No Fault Found or not.

Localized Medicine

Another approach, not new but gaining popularity, is a tactic borrowed from epidemiology: the quarantine. Also known as save-on-shelf or ship-or-shelve, quarantine programs (discussed in Report 672, Appendix E) are proven, Klink says, “to reduce the negative impact of a No Fault Found.” The purpose of quarantine, like troubleshooting, is fault isolation. But each goes about it in a different way, at a different level and a different pace.

How does quarantine work? Take Klink’s example of an autopilot disconnect on climb-out. The pilot writes up his squawk, leading the AMT to remove the flight control computer. Immediate tests fail to confirm the reported complaint, thus: a condition of No Fault Found. The flight control computer is taken to a designated quarantine area, where it sits while the subsequent performance of the aircraft is carefully observed.

What unfolds is something like a natural experiment. If the aircraft is trouble-free for an interval of, say, five days or five flight legs, the quarantined item looks increasingly culpable. So, “even though you couldn’t reproduce [the fault] in a test environment,” Klink said, “you feel like you’ve successfully isolated the issue.”

If, however, the problem recurs, removal of the unit evidently failed to fix it. Either its replacement also is flawed or, more likely, neither unit is responsible. When completely exonerated, the suspect unit is returned to serviceable status and moves back to the stockroom as usable inventory. The quarantine has spared it the duress of needlessly entering the repair cycle. A host of other expenses are dodged as well, as Klink says: “In addition to reducing the No Fault Found service order, by not clogging the repair cycle with LRUs that aren’t broken, you don’t have to buy as many spares to cover your fleet.” Klink says he’s “aware of a quarantine program in use at a top-tier airline that was able to reduce its overall shop No Fault Found rate from 58% to 38%…at an annual savings of over $2 million per year–just for not having to process NFF components through the repair process.”

Watching the Detectives

According to ARINC Report 672, “complete elimination of NFF is not a realistic expectation.” There always will be a certain degree of residual statistical error due to random fluctuations in the measurement apparatus or regime. This kind of error is simply the cost of being in the game. But that leaves systematic, non-random error–difficult but not impossible to remove. Realistically, though, “if we could get all of our LRUs down into the 20% and 30% No Fault Found range, we’d be happy,” Klink says.

Because there are so many potential contributing causes set in so many different scenarios, the struggle against No Fault Found is now and probably always will be a multi-front war of attrition. Klink affirms what others have said: “There is no silver bullet.”

But the absence of silver ammo may be a silver lining for some. Klink is philosophical:

“I’ve been in the business 23 years and every day I learn something new. I enjoy what I do.”

People think of aviation maintenance as routine, and much of it is. “Months of tedium punctuated by moments of terror” is the way war has long been described. Aviation maintenance is more like detective work. You could call it forensic engineering; both take a routine approach to the unusual. As Klink said, “It’s challenging. I get exposure to things that I hadn’t been exposed to before. To me, that’s rewarding.”

The public’s fascination with forensics has led to a proliferation of TV shows, including CSI: New York, CSI: Miami, and CSI: Las Vegas. What’s next? Could it be CSI: MRO?

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/jsp_includes/articlePrint.jsp?storyID=news/om509cvr.xml&headLine=The%20Curious%20Case%20of%20the%20Irreproducible%20Result

Buffalo crash: Pilots acted ‘just opposite’ of normal practices

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events
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By Alan Levin
Reprinted from USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — As the turboprop droned toward Buffalo in darkness, the pilots did the inexplicable.

 

The turboprop had gotten too slow for safe flight and a warning system known as a “stick shaker” began vigorously vibrating the control column. Pilots are trained to react to such warnings by speeding up and lowering a plane’s nose.

But Capt. Marvin Renslow did the opposite, according to a dramatic video animation and thousands of pages of documents released Tuesday by federal crash investigators. Renslow yanked the nose up and slowed the plane even more.

The actions by Renslow, 47, and co-pilot Rebecca Shaw, 24, are baffling, according to veteran accident investigators and a senior manager at their airline, Colgan Air.

“It’s just opposite of what any pilot would do,” said Michael Barr, an aviation safety instructor at the University of Southern California’s Aviation Safety and Security Program.

“I did not see that the crew performed … correctly,” said John Erwin Barrett, Colgan’s director of flight standards, who testified in the first day of a three-day hearing into safety issues raised by the New York crash.

The crash Feb. 12 near Buffalo killed all 49 people aboard the Bombardier Q400 and one man on the ground. The flight from Newark to Buffalo was being operated by Colgan under contract with Continental Connection.

The reasons for Renslow’s and Shaw’s actions may never be known for sure, but the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) data at least begin to shed light on what might have led to their actions. The documents highlight numerous safety issues being examined by investigators.

According to NTSB documents:

• Both pilots may not have gotten adequate rest before the flight. Shaw had taken an overnight flight from Seattle before reporting to work and told Renslow she was feeling sick. Renslow logged into an airline computer system at 3 a.m. on the morning of the crash.

• Renslow had failed four Federal Aviation Administration check flights to determine whether he was qualified to fly. He also failed an airline check. He was able to pass each of the checks after retaking the tests and the airline issued a statement saying his skills were adequate.

• Investigators found that most pilots at Colgan had not been trained how to use a second safety device that attempted to save their plane as they went out of control. Known as a “stick pusher,” it automatically pushes a plane’s nose down to pick up speed when the aircraft gets dangerously slow. When it activated, Renslow overrode it, keeping the nose pointed skyward.

• In the minutes before the crash, the pilots engaged in several minutes of conversation that was not relevant to the flight, according to a transcript of their conversation. Such discussions are forbidden while flights are below 10,000 feet under federal law.

• The airline showed its pilots a video of an unusual type of icing that prompts planes to nose-dive into the ground even though the Q400 is not susceptible to the problem. That could help explain why Renslow pulled the plane’s nose upward, even though investigators have found no evidence that icing played a role in the accident.

The union for the pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association, said it would be wrong to simply blame the pilots without looking at broader issues of training.

For example, pilots are trained repeatedly on how to react when their plane gets too slow, as occurred in the Buffalo crash. But the training does not accurately reflect the real-world distractions that occur in actual flight, said Capt. Paul Rice, the union’s vice president.

“It’s not realistic,” Rice said.

Colgan spokesman Joe Williams defended the airline’s training, saying it had been approved by federal aviation regulators.

Even though the NTSB records offer clues about why the accident occurred, it will take many months of analysis and additional investigation to determine the cause of the crash, Barr said.

“Is it training? Is it stress?” he said. “It could be almost anything.”

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-05-12-buffalo-crash-side_N.htm

Delta airplane takes plunge near Salt Lake airport

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events, Turbulence

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Reprinted from ksl.com
May 11th, 2009 @ 10:03pm
By Nicole Gonzales

SALT LAKE CITY — Passengers on a Delta flight from Los Angeles to Salt Lake had some tense moments Sunday when the pilot sent the plane into a steep plunge to avoid another plane.

One couple on board the plane described in detail the dramatic plunge the airplane took as it was coming into Salt Lake International Airport.

The couple, who asked us not to identify them, took a red-eye from Hawaii to Los Angeles Saturday night then hopped on Delta flight 1172 from LAX to Salt Lake on Sunday morning. Their flight was about 10 minutes away from its destination, and flight attendants had already told passengers to prepare for landing, when the unexpected happened.

“All of a sudden, we just felt like we were dropping, like falling from the sky,” the woman said.

Described like the ride from the top of a roller coaster, the husband says it was an out-of-body experience. “I left my soul kind of thing. I left my spirit. My body was dropping and my spirit was up here,” he said.

The passengers say the captain came on the intercom after the plane had stabilized and explained what happened. “There was an aircraft that wasn’t changing its course, and so he had to maneuver the plane so we wouldn’t crash into it,” the woman explained.

Federal Aviation Administration officials say: “The FAA has not received a report from the pilot or air traffic control regarding a near miss on Delta flight number 1172 from Los Angeles to Salt Lake. That, however, does not mean it didn’t happen.”

In such cases, reports aren’t always filed immediately.

Now the couple, along with other passengers, wants more information, like what type of small aircraft was it? And why didn’t it get out of the way?

“I’m very thankful that we had the pilot that we had, because he did the best that he could,” the woman said.

After a nice trip to Hawaii, they say it’s nice to be back safely.

The FAA says it gives pilots more time to file reports because workers there are so busy. Delta said it is waiting to hear back from their flight operations center about the incident.

 

http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=6457833

UPDATE ON NTSB PUBLIC HEARING ON THE COLGAN AIR ACCIDENT

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events

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National Transportation Safety Board

Washington, DC 20594

May 8, 2009

The National Transportation Safety Board today released

additional information about the Board’s scheduled public

hearing on the crash of the Colgan Air Dash-8 near Buffalo,

New York. 

The three-day hearing will convene at 9:00 a.m. on May 12,

2009 at the NTSB’s Board Room and Conference Center, 429

L’Enfant Plaza, S.W., Washington, D.C.  The room is lighted

for television and a mult box is provided for sound.  

On February 12, 2009, about 10:17 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

(EST), a Colgan Air Inc., Bombardier Dash 8-Q400, N200WQ,

d.b.a. Continental Connection flight 3407, crashed during an

instrument approach to runway 23 at the Buffalo-Niagara

International Airport (BUF), Buffalo, New York.  All 49 persons on

board were fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed by

impact forces and post crash fire.  There was one ground

fatality. 

 

The Safety Board will also open the public docket at the

start of the hearing.  The public may view and download the

docket contents on the web under the “FOIA Reading Room” at

http://www.ntsb.gov/Info/foia_fri-dockets.htm at that time.

 

The information being released is factual in nature and does

not provide analysis or the probable cause of the accident.

The docket will include investigative group factual reports,

interview transcripts, Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR)

transcripts, Flight Data Recorder (FDR) data and other

documents from the investigation. In addition, docket items

that will be used as exhibits during the public hearing will

be available on the website under “Public Hearings”

 The hearing, which is part of the Safety Board’s efforts to

develop all appropriate facts for the investigation, will

cover a wide range of safety issues including: 

 

*     Icing effect on the airplane’s performance

*     Cold weather operations

*     Sterile cockpit rules,

*     Crew experience, fatigue management

*     Stall recovery training  

Newly opened database shows airplane bird strikes not rare

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events

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Reprinted from CNN.com

Written by: Unknown

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s run-in with a flock of Canada geese may be the most famous man-versus-nature story in recent months. But a federal database opened to the public Friday reveals just how commonplace airplanes’ encounters with wildlife are.

At New York’s LaGuardia Airport, where Sullenberger’s US Airways flight originated, planes hit birds nearly once a week on average, according to the records. But the number has grown from 16 hits in 1990 to 86 in 2008, according to the database.

Nationwide, there were 98,328 reports of aircraft striking birds or other wildlife since January of 1990, although the actual numbers probably are far higher. The Federal Aviation Administration said only 20 percent of incidents are reported under the voluntary system of data collection.

The database shows strikes resulted in “substantial damage” to aircraft on about 3,000 occasions. Eleven people died in incidents relating to bird strikes.

The FAA initially fought to keep its database closed, saying publication of the details might discourage the industry from reporting information.

After it was made public, an airline industry organization was quick to say the data could wrongly lead some people to believe flying is unsafe.

“While bird strikes have attracted a lot of attention, they are, of course, rare events. The vast majority of cases result in little or no aircraft damage,” said the Air Transport Association of America.

A top pilots union — the Air Line Pilots Association — also had argued to keep the database closed.

But the National Transportation Safety Board recommended opening up the data to the public. It also says reporting wildlife strikes should be mandatory.

“If you strike a bird you really don’t have to report this to the FAA, which means we’re really not getting the full picture,” said Mark Rosenker, acting chairman of the safety board.

The database includes information on more than 2,000 airports and 500 airlines and aircraft companies. When possible, it identifies the types of wildlife involved, chronicling the misadventures of 460 species.

While bird strikes account for the majority of the mishaps, the database contains numerous aircraft encounters with deer, moose, caribou and even fish.

According to the records, a fish hit a US Airways aircraft landing in Warwick, Rhode Island, in May of 2000. The fish had been dropped by an osprey.

The FAA opted to make the database public after being pelted with criticism from passengers, media organizations and the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates crashes.

Interest in aviation bird strikes has been heightened by several recent incidents in addition to Sullenberger’s flight — the January 15 ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 in New York’s Hudson River. All on board survived.

The transportation safety board says a bird strike may have preceded the crash of a Sikorsky helicopter near Morgan City, Louisiana, just 11 days earlier. The crash killed eight of the nine people aboard.