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Aviation Human Factors Industry News

April 10, 2006

Vol. II, Issue 14.

2 Charged in Faking Jet's Maintenance

Air ambulance owner also faces bank fraud and conspiracy counts

Years of experience and training for the 52-year-old pilot of a Gates Learjet 25B couldn't overcome a faulty instrument his employer failed to repair.

He and his co-pilot were using instruments to land in dense fog at Bush Intercontinental Airport on Jan. 13, 1998, when they crashed into 80-foot trees.

The crash killed pilot William H. Brooks of Houston and co-pilot Julia J. Earl, 38, of Pearland.

Investigators found that the aircraft's owners had been notified of a problem with the glidescope on the jet, part of a fleet used by a company operated by Roy Gerherd Horridge of Houston.

The company was required to fix the problem within 10 days but deferred maintenance for 60 days, according to a National Safety Transportation Board report.

More than five years later, two complaints alleging that Horridge's Houston-based Air Ambulance by B&C Flight Management Inc. falsified maintenance log books led to a Federal Aviation Administration investigation of the company, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said.

Horridge, 72, and his chief mechanic, William Michael Sexton, 65, of Scottsdale, Ariz., faced charges in federal court Thursday under a law enacted the year after the fatal Learjet crash.

The 12-count indictment unsealed Thursday charges Horridge and Sexton with making false entries in maintenance logs "knowing such maintenance was critical to the safe operation of the aircraft and placed at risk prospective pilots, crew and passengers aboard the air ambulances."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy told Horridge he is charged with nine counts of aircraft parts fraud, and one count each of conspiracy, bank fraud and forfeiture.

Shuttle Bus Clips Airplane Wing At Metro Airport

Three People Suffer Minor Injuries

An employee shuttle bus clipped the wing of an airplane at Detroit Metropolitan Airport Friday afternoon, according to airport officials.

The wing of a Northwest Airlines DC-9 was hit during the boarding process at the MacNamara Terminal, but it was unknown if the aircraft moved, according to airport representative Mike Conway.

One person who was on the plane suffered minor injuries, and two people who were in the shuttle suffered minor injuries, Conway said.

The employee shuttle drives on Zipper Road on the ramp, according to Conway.

The bus drops off employees at various points along the terminal.

Conway said there are a lot of vehicles outside the terminal, but the aircraft always has the right of way.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Reports: Mexican airline suspended

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- Mexican aviation officials have suspended operations at Aerocalifornia after determining that the low-cost carrier failed to meet safety standards, Mexican news media reported Monday.

The Civil Aviation Department announced the closure Sunday, Mexican television stations and newspapers reported, saying the agency "has determined that this airline no longer guarantees that operations meet safety standards."

Department and airline spokesman were not immediately available for comment.

The suspension follows several inspections by federal authorities beginning more than a year ago, when the airline was instructed to make a series of changes to improve operations.

One of the inspections showed that the airline had one-third of its fleet grounded and was taking parts from decommissioned airplanes to keep others operating, the department said, according to the reports.

The federal agency reportedly has given the airline an unspecified amount of time to correct problems to restart operations.

Aerocalifornia, based in La Paz, Baja California Sur, was one of several low-cost airlines to emerge in recent years, offering passengers cheaper alternatives to the country's dominant Aeromexico and Mexicana carriers.

Chunk of jet engine plummets into field

OTWELL, Arkansas (AP) -- A large chunk of an engine from a cargo jet operated by FedEx crashed into a farmer's field on Tuesday, officials said.

A 5- or 6-foot portion of the rear section of the MD-10 engine plummeted from the sky and partially buried itself in the soil, officials said. It landed near Otwell, about 70 miles northwest of Tennessee's Memphis International Airport.

"We got a call from the person, who said, 'You are not going to believe this,'" said State Police Lt. Robert Speer.

The engine section came from a plane that had left the Memphis airport on its way to Seattle, according to company officials and emergency personnel at the scene.

They said the flight was about 50 miles into the journey when pilots notified air traffic controllers of an in-flight emergency, and then told the Memphis tower that the No. 3 engine on Flight 597 was lost.

Sandra Munoz, a spokeswoman for Memphis-based FedEx, said that the plane returned safely to the Memphis airport about 4:30 p.m. and that no injuries were reported.

Air Transat scare prompts call for more rudder checks

Canadian safety board wants improved inspection after A310 in-flight separation

A better system for checking the structural integrity of composite rudders on Airbus aircraft is needed "urgently", says Canadaís Transportation Safety Board (TSB). The agency is still investigating the March 2005 loss of most of the rudder from an Air Transat A310-300.

In-service inspections of Airbus rudders have revealed previously undetected delamination, which has prompted the agency to issue safety recommendations.

"Information from post-occurrence fleet inspections suggests that the current inspection programme for Airbus composite rudders might not ensure the timely detection of defects," says the TSB.

Airbus confirms that "one of our customers found some delamination on a composite rudder, the propagation of which was faster because of hydraulic fluid penetration."

The TSB is recommending "that the [US] Department of Transport and the European Aviation Safety Agency, in co-ordination with other involved regulatory authorities and industry, urgently develop and implement an inspection programme that will allow early and consistent detection of damage to the rudder assembly of aircraft equipped with this type of rudder". That applies to all Airbus aircraft except A300B2/B4s and the earliest A300-600s and A310s.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has made a similar recommendation to the Federal Aviation Administration, revealing that composite rudder damage has been found during inspection of a FedEx A300-600. The agency adds: "If this urgent recommendation is acted upon quickly it will go a long way to prevent a catastrophic failure of the rudder."

The Air Transat A310, en route at 35,000ft (10,700m) from Varadero, Cuba to Quebec, Canada with nine crew and 262 passengers on board, suffered separation of almost all its rudder. The crew reported hearing a bang and the aircraft entered a Dutch roll "which decreased as the aircraft altitude reduced", according to the TSB. The aircraft returned and landed safely at Varadero.

Pilots' errors led to fatal air-show crash: report

CBC News - Mistakes made by two American pilots led to a fatal mid-air collision at the Moose Jaw air show last summer, a Transportation Safety Board of Canada report says.

Bobby Younkin and Jimmy Franklin, part of a team that called itself the Masters of Disaster, were flying biplanes simulating a First World War dogfight.

They collided in view of thousands of horrified spectators during a manoeuvre called a "dairy turn," which was supposed to create the illusion of a near collision.

According to an investigator's report made public Thursday, the pilots changed the stunt a few weeks before the crash.

TSB regional manager Peter Hildebrand said the change made the manoeuvre more exciting for the crowd, but also more dangerous for the pilots.

"When it was modified, the one aircraft crosses the path of the other on two occasions. And what that does is it means you'd better be there before the other aircraft is or there's going to be a collision," he said.

"Unfortunately, the timing was lost and [both] the air show performers took action to break off the manoeuvre, by the appearance of it."

Hildebrand said the collision occurred because both pilots abandoned the stunt. That shouldn't have happened, he said, because stunt pilots are supposed to work out in advance that only one of them will break off a pattern.

All in-air stunts are approved in advance by Transport Canada.

Hildebrand said the paperwork submitted for this stunt was not sufficient to judge whether it was safe.

The Moose Jaw air show isn't being held this year and its future is in doubt.

Right On Target: NTSB's Rosenker Reiterates Importance Of Training

The Acting Chairman of the NTSB, Mark V. Rosenker, recently emphasized the importance of airline industry training.

"The safety of this industry is critical, and there is work to be done,"

said Acting Chairman Rosenker, at the 2006 World and Regional Airline Training Conference.

"The government and industry must remain vigilant of the importance of good training in accident prevention."

In his speech, he stated that there have been numerous tragic major airline accidents throughout the years in which inadequate training in the areas of operations and maintenance was causal or contributory. Fortunately, major aviation accidents involving fatalities are becoming a rare event in the United States, but there is still much work to be done, both in this country and throughout the world.

Through its accident investigations, the Safety Board has become more aware that we are in an age when aircraft are getting larger, aircraft systems are getting more complex, and flight crews have been reduced by one-third.

A fundamental tenant of any training program must be to ensure that flight crews master all normal, abnormal, and emergency aspects of flight operations.

Rosenker noted that advances in technologies have created new challenges.

While advanced flight management systems training appears to take a bigger slice out of minimum training requirements, teaching and training basic airmanship skills must remain a core competency of the training curriculum.

"We need to always seek ways to make the aviation industry safer, whether through improvements in training curriculum or maintenance training devices, and by embracing new technology in the aviation training industry.

The aviation industry is constantly pushing the envelope of technology, and we must make sure that we update our training requirements and approaches to keep up with the technology," Rosenker said.

Many call it aviationís "get out of jail free" card. Itís the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS).

Administered by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the ASRS is best known to pilots as the form we carry to report something that goes wrong on a flight before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) might initiate "certificate action," or a possible suspension of our pilot certificates. The "get out of jail free" aspect of ASRS, however, is not the programís end goalóitís the incentive we have as pilots (and mechanics, controllers and other aviation professionals) to provide input to NASAís safety database.

Purpose of the ASRS is to "lessen the likelihood of aviation accidents" by:

Identifying deficiencies and discrepancies in the National Airspace System

(NAS) so they can be remedied;

Supporting policy planning and NAS improvements; and Strengthening the foundation of aviation human factors research.

ASRS seeks to include safety data in research from incidents that do not make it into the database otherwise (via a National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] accident report). Immunity from penalties is our incentive to voluntarily submit information. The FAA has "committed itself not to use ASRS information against [submitters] in enforcement actions. NASA "de-identifies" submissions, i.e., removes all personal identification from reports, before entering them into the safety database.

Claiming Immunity

FAR 91.25 "prohibits the use of any reports submitted... under the ASRS (or information derived there from) in any disciplinary action, except information concerning criminal offenses or accidents..." This is generally interpreted to mean no civil penalty (fine or certificate suspension) will be levied in the case of an inadvertent transgression that did not result in an accident. An "altitude bust," a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) transgression or a near-midair collision would be examples of cases where filing an ASRS report might prevent penalties.

Aero-tip of the day: See FAA Advisory Circular 00-46D for much more about the ASRS.

Sunglasses put jet lag in shade

Scientists discover wearing sunglasses can help beat jet lag Passengers on long-haul flights are being urged to wear sunglasses in a bid to reduce the effects of jet lag.

Scientists in Edinburgh have found that people can adjust their body clocks when traveling to different time zones by altering their light patterns.

Jet lag, which causes feelings of sleepiness and muscle inefficiency, is affected by the biological clock.

The study, conducted by Edinburgh Sleep Centre for British Airways, monitored more than 1,000 passengers.

Dr Chris Idzikowski, director of The Edinburgh Sleep Centre, said that without using sunglasses it took a day to recover for every hour traveled westwards.

It takes five days to recover from a five hour flight to New York from Britain and 50 per cent longer when flying eastwards

Dr Chris Idzikowski

Edinburgh Sleep Centre

He said: "The biological clock is 20,000 nerve cells in the brain, it is a physical thing and not made up like many people think.

"It takes five days to recover from a five hour flight to New York from Britain and 50% longer when flying eastwards.

"When passengers are traveling west its like a long day for the biological clock but when flying east, the clock tries to go into reverse which is obviously harder."

Dr Idzikowski has drawn up a jet lag checker for passengers, which tailors the amount of time and when passengers are to wear sunglasses, on the internet at www.ba.com/jetlag.

He added: "The internal body clock steps up at dawn which is when we can manipulate exposure to light, it's a way of fooling the biological clock.

"I have used this technique on a flight but you have to be aware of immigration officials as they can ask you to take them off, which weakens the outcome."

Caffeine Heart Risk

According to a new study how your body metabolizes caffeine could affect your likelihood of having a heart attack. Among the 4,000 study participants, about half were found to be "slow caffeine metabolizers" and were at least 36% more likely to have a nonfatal heart attack that those who drank little of no coffee. On the flip-side, coffee for those who rapidly broke down caffeine was shown to reduce heart-attack risk. The study helps explain the mixed results that occurred in previous studies on caffeineís link to the heart. The spokesperson for the study is quick to add that the study does not mean that you should stop drinking caffeine. (Associated Press, "Caffeine Poses Greater Heart Risk to Certain People" The Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2006)

With an estimated 85% of Americans drinking coffee or caffeinated beverages on a regular basis, this study may alarm some people. This is especially true for shiftworkers who on average consume more caffeine than their daytime counterparts. Like most things in life, moderation is key. If you think you have been relying too heavily on coffee or caffeine try cutting down a little bit. And if you think caffeine is the key to alertness, you would be mistaken. Because nothing beats several hours of uninterrupted sleep when it comes to making people feel alert and rested.

END compliments of jetBlue