Aviation, Safety, Technology, Travel FAR's & Humor!

Air France 447 – Weather . . .

Here’s a link to a very thorough analysis of the weather in the area at the time Air France 447 was transiting.
This is exceptional, in that there’s very good technical information presented, yet speculation is ‘trimmed’ out.

Well worth a look for professional aviators, meteorologists, and aviation buffs alike.

June 6th, 2009 Posted by | Aviation Safety | no comments

ALPA Warns Pilots about New Low-Viz Rules in Canada

On April 10, the Association issued ALPA Operations Bulletin 2009-02, “Low/Reduced Visibility Operations at Canadian Airports,” to alert members about new rules governing restrictions on airport surface movements in low-visibility conditions that went into effect at Canadian airports on March 12, 2009. Transport Canada will enforce these rules, which may affect the way you operate.Canadian airports are now required to publish the level of service they are capable of providing for each runway. Flight crews must ensure that the visibility conditions are at or above the advertised level of service before taxiing.

Air Traffic Services (ATS) personnel will issue a taxi clearance even if conditions are below the required visibility for taxiing. This clearance does not permit taxiing except in accordance with the low- or reduced-visibility airport operations plan. Thus, it is now possible for flight crews to accept a taxi clearance to or from a gate and illegally taxi on the airport surface because of the new regulations.

Pilots who operate on the surface below the advertised visibility service level will be subject to enforcement action.

(For more on this important safety and enforcement issue, click here.)

April 18th, 2009 Posted by | Aviation Safety | no comments

Crash on the Hudson… my thoughts.

I received this computer animation of the US Airways crash on the Hudson River from a friend. It’s going around the internet like crazy right now.  Graphics . . . not bad – a little hokey, and certainly more time crunched.  It’s 2:07 long, starts with the initial call from Cactus to the NY TRACON departure controller and ends with people standing on the wing and sitting in the life rafts. While this happened incredibly fast, it didn’t happen THAT fast!  Give it a look here, and continue below with three main observations I have about the ever-so-brief conversation this pilot and controller had.

US Airways 1549 Hudson River Computer Animation

Three things were noteworthy to me on this tape. Two are about the NY Departure Controller.

1. After the initial call from Cactus, the TRACON immediately got on the land line with LGA tower and TOLD him – hold all departures – you’ve got an emergency returning. Decisive. No hesitation, no delay, and informative – including answering tower’s somewhat inane question about which engine. (It DOESN’T MATTER which engine(s)!)  Not saying that to ‘cast asparigus’ on the tower controller either… he was not in the loop and was just trying to get more information.

2. The controller was also VERY helpful with the suggestion of Teterboro.  That was almost a viable option, (and with even a little thrust might have been doable). Don’t know whether the flight crew considered TEB before that or not, but it was helpful, succinct, timely, and offered a glimmer of, if only fleeting, hope other than an icy swim. Reminds me of an ORD controller after a Piedmont 737 lost an engine on Takeoff in January of ’89. Looking for the recording now, but I remember thinking at the time that I’ve never heard someone (ORD Tower Controller) say so much, so fast, and so effectively!

Bottom line: A professional controller kept it together and is probably due a little more recognition!

3. The F/O really held it together incredibly well. Another fine example of saying it, keeping cool and professional, and not allowing himself to be overcome by events. I listened to the tape about 3 or 4 times and only on ‘re-listening’ was I able to detect stress in the F/O’s voice.  I’d like to think my voice would be that cool in a situation half that tense!  In all my years in Aviation Safety, I’ve had occasion to either interview, or listen to interviews with several mishap pilots.  The common thread I’ve noticed is that there was a ‘never give up’ attitude, and concurrently, at least one of the pilots never doubted their ability to survive intact.  While I’ve not heard the official post-crash interviews with these gents, it’s clear they held it together and believed they were going to survive this chosen path.

That’s my 2¢ !

March 6th, 2009 Posted by | Aviation Safety | one comment

Turn on Mode C when Taxiing

The FAA has asked pilots of all aircraft taxiing on runways and taxiways at 17 busy U.S. airports keep their transponders turned on and transmitting Mode C.

The airports involved are ATL, BDL, CLT, DTW, FLL, HOU, IAD, JFK, LAX, MCO, MKE, ORD, PHX, PVD, SDF, SEA, and STL.

Each of these airports has Airport Surface Detection Equipment—Model X (ASDE-X), the most up-to-date ground surveillance radar system, which improves air traffic controllers’ situational awareness of aircraft and vehicles on the airport movement area to help prevent runway incursions.

The FAA has determined that operating with the transponder on does not interfere with the latest generation of airport terminal radar. The agency expects to publish changes to the Aeronautical Information Manual regarding use of Mode C at many airports later this year.

Some airlines are incorporating the information in flightcrew checklists. As always, pilots should comply with their airline’s procedures.

April 19th, 2008 Posted by | Aviation Safety | no comments

Tell Controller Early about Need for Extra Time on Runway

ATC providers remind all airline pilots that whenever they need extra time on the runway to comply with airline or aircraft procedures, they should advise the air traffic controller as soon as possible during taxi. An early request will give controllers more time to increase spacing between a landing aircraft on final approach and the runway threshold to accommodate your need for additional time on the runway.

During busy traffic periods, air traffic controllers, to maximize airport capacity, often use the minimum allowable spacing between aircraft on final approach. A key assumption on their part is that the pilots of the departing aircraft will be able to begin their takeoff roll as soon as the arriving flight clears the runway.

Pilots who need additional time on the runway to perform certain procedures—for example, aligning navigation systems, conducting power runups to shed engine ice, or taking a long time to set maximum thrust for takeoff—complicate controllers’ planning. Because these procedures can take 30 seconds or longer to complete, if you delay your request for extended runway time until the controller clears you onto the runway, the pilots of the landing aircraft may have to go around.

April 19th, 2008 Posted by | Aviation Safety | no comments

It’s Time For Some FAA Ass-Kicking. Look Out, America!

Boxav8r has watched in amazement over the course of the last week as American Airlines was taken to the wood-shed and beaten like rented mule. This latest round of chaos was neither necessary nor acceptable in its implementation from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It was truly reminiscent of the first time Boxav8r’s eldest was left to watch his younger sister, and all hell broke loose when she failed to offer immediate and 100% compliance with his new-found authority. There was going to be hell to pay and he was going to be judge, jury and executioner. It was also reminiscent of the early days of The Department of Homeland Security & TSA; growing pains. Remember that – when some bureaucrat discovered he had the power to recall flights for security infractions? On one occasion a USAir flight from Pittsburgh to Florida was well south of Raleigh when some unforgivable security breach was discovered. The flight was immediately ordered to return to Pittsburgh; never mind that had security been the real item on the top of the agenda, the flight would have been ordered grounded at the nearest suitable airport.

How many tens of thousands, ney, HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars were lost by the airlines and inconvenienced passengers so that someone with no real concept of the harm inflicted could flex their bureaucratic muscles? Who missed births, weddings, cruises, funerals, deathbed companionship, and other untold once-in-a-lifetime events, all in the name of security? While it would appear that some sensibility has crept back into Homeland Security’s handling of these situations, the FAA has stepped in to fill their shoes on the harassment and inconvenience front. The last estimates heard on a cable news outlet were upwards of 250,000 people stranded and disrupted while AA was forced to ground their fleet of MD-80’s for the second time in as many weeks to comply with an Airworthiness Directive (A/D) that was thought to have been completed the week before.

This time it was in the name of safety. And who isn’t FOR safety? That’s one of those issues that’s right up there behind baseball, apple pie and Mom! In fact if it’s as the FAA claims, “Safety First”, then Mom is going to have to take a back seat. And this week she and hundreds of thousands of others surely did. Boxav8r knows firsthand the horrors of aircraft crashes. Walking through sites where friends and colleagues have been killed and maimed looking for clues and forensically analyzing the post-mortem of a crash site quickly sets one’s mind right about the importance of safety. There’s no truer adage than Flight Manuals and Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) are usually there for a very good reason; and more often than not have been written in blood.

But was it really safety this time that the FAA was interested in? What should have happened? Wire bundles were inspected and secured using nylon ties on the MD-80s. While the A/D apparently called for the ties to be placed at 3/4″ intervals, AA’s were placed at 1″ intervals. After such a thorough inspection the week prior, one would think the ‘reasonable man theory’ would apply here. As in many A/Ds – the fix could have been ordered to take place within a certain number of flight days, or at the next regularly scheduled maintenance cycle. But clearly someone at the FAA had a point to prove and another bureaucratic muscle got flexed. (Boxav8r suspects it was a quadricep, resulting in the knee-jerk to which we were all witness.)

Why did it happen? In the wake of Inspectors turning a blind-eye to South West’s lax maintenance procedures, FAA inspectors are understandably on edge. What apparently went on there was in every sense of the word, CRIMINAL! And while Boxav8r hesitates to ostensibly open this blog by calling for firing squads, the foreseeable consequences of such negligence and corruption are clear reason for considering such dire consequences. One can only hope these inspectors will be fired and lose all pension and benefits. But does that mean those without guilt should be so nervous? When another pilot really screws something up, most other pilots don’t think, “I hope that doesn’t happen to me”. The vast majority take pride in knowing they’re trying to do it right every time they strap an airplane on. And while many will reflect on
their procedures in similar circumstances most don’t implement radical changes in a sense of guilt without regard to unintended and far-reaching consequences.

Another theory heard is that congressional oversight has stepped up. Bureaucrats LOVE regulations – it’s what they do. More regs = more power; more unintended consequences. It has been Boxav8r’s experience that the more incompetent the individual, the more rule-book oriented they become; unable to adjust to the real world. Are these bureaucrats so afraid to stand up in congressional hearings and speak the truth? And what is it about Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Oberstar (D-Mn)
that they have pushed the FAA so hard into micro-managing such situations? Do they not understand that letting the experts handle things and holding them accountable gets far more accomplished than continuously fiddling with something which they lack complete and thorough understanding? Their good intentions aside, it results again in unintended consequences. In the end – Boxav8r sees most people blaming American Airlines; from the news media to the passengers. Is AA blameless? Absolutely not!  Does the FAA bear the brunt of responsibility for this debacle? Positively!

While enhanced oversight may be called for in these times of questionable practices at FAA, it’s time to stop the knee-jerk reactions. Concurrent with Newton’s second law of physics, when a knee jerks, a foot rapidly moves. And when a Federal Regulatory knee jerks, it’s usually the American citizens who wind up getting kicked in the ass!

April 15th, 2008 Posted by | Aviation Safety | one comment

NEW Phraseology – Canadian ATC

Effective April 10, 2008, Canadian ATC is changing their Taxi Phraseology. They are adopting the ICAO recommended phraseology for instructing an aircraft to enter the runway intended for takeoff.

Currently the controllers use “TAXI TO POSITION” or “TAXI TO POSITION AND WAIT” when instructing an aircraft to enter the departure runway.

Beginning April 10th, the controllers will use “LINE UP” or “LINE UP AND WAIT” in accordance with the ICAO recommendation and international best practices.

Crews are urged to remain alert to the different phraseologies that may be encountered when operating near runway thresholds in various locations, international and domestic. If at any time the ATC instructions are not understood, it is imperative to call upon ATC to clarify the discrepancy before taxiing or at any time while taxiing.

April 9th, 2008 Posted by | Aviation Safety | no comments

1000 Knots of Closure…

In days gone by – passing another aircraft on an airway was an event that may or may not have brought it relatively close.  In these days of GPS accuracy being within feet of stated position, it’s not uncommon to see other aircraft directly overhead or below.

This is UPS 88 just west of OMLOK intersection in Western Canada – 6 April 2008.

There was approximately 1000 knots of closure here. Total time from being able to recognize another aircraft in the area to passage is about 35 seconds.  We knew he was there a good bit longer thanks to TCAS – Traffic Collision Avoidance System.

 UPS 747 Passing Overhead

April 8th, 2008 Posted by | Aviation Safety, Technology | no comments