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Aviation Human Factors Industry News

April 19, 2006

Vol. II, Issue 15.


FAA: Training at Fault for MU-2 Safety Woes

The FAA has completed its safety review of the MU-2B turboprop, prompted by the 11 fatal MU-2B accidents over the last two years, and found that the airplane itself is not to blame. Still, it is impossible to ignore the airplane's safety woes and a safety record more than twice as bad as comparable turboprops.

But the FAA found no issues with the airplane it certified some 40 years ago. Instead the agency pointed to the changed role the fast, complex turboprop has gone through in the fleet. While it was introduced as a corporate transport, over the past several years the airplane has become a mainstay among owner/operators and freight haulers, operations commonly conducted by less experienced pilots.

The FAA recommended that MU-2 pilots adhere to established training standards, a finding endorsed by Mitsubishi, which continues to support the airplane that it last built in 1986.

Japan Airlines Exhibits 1985 Wreckage

TOKYO (AP) — Plagued by a series of safety lapses, Japan Airlines is putting together an exhibition of wreckage from a 1985 plane crash in what top executives said was a big push to raise awareness about safety among its employees. (This is one way to definitely raise awareness at least for awhile)

The torn fuselage and gnarled collapsed seats from the Aug. 12, 1985, crash of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet that killed 520 people are part of the display at the Safety Development Center, opening April 24. The exhibition near Tokyo's Haneda airport was shown to reporters Wednesday.

Until now, JAL had refused to show the wreckage, citing the feelings of survivors and families of the victims.

But management decided to go ahead with the display, which cost 180 million yen (US$1.5 million; euro1.2 million), as a symbol of the carrier's determination to prevent a recurrence and maintain safety standards, they said.

The exhibit, which may seem like an odd, perhaps even exploitative, way to send a message about flight safety, will be shown to people outside the company upon request.

The crash _ the deadliest involving a single plane in aviation history _ happened when JAL Flight 123 smashed into a mountainside northwest of Tokyo after losing its vertical tail section on a flight from Tokyo to Osaka. A government investigation blamed improper repairs by Boeing Co. Four people survived.

The exhibit includes the flight data recorder in a glass case, sprawling segments of damaged aircraft, copies of Japanese newspapers and The New York Times with the news on their front pages, and color photographs of metal parts hanging eerily from trees.

Japan Airlines officials acknowledged some family members had mixed feelings about the exhibition.

JAL has had several safety problems since last year, including wheels falling off during a landing, an engine that burst into flames and a flight that took off with a faulty latch.

No one has been injured in the troubles, but the image of Japan Airlines _ once prized as the nation's flagship _ has been badly tarnished among Japanese travelers, who have switched in droves to rival All Nippon Airways.

"I felt that a strong consciousness about the importance of safety was not amply widespread among our ranks," JAL President Toshiyuki Shinmachi told reporters.

Shinmachi has been under pressure from board members to resign and announced last month he is stepping down in June.

The airline has repeatedly promised to beef up safety but has been sinking deeper into trouble, unable to wipe out safety problems. Last month, an airliner run by its subsidiary flying from Tokyo to Guam had to return when a cockpit window cracked.

For the fiscal year ending March 31, Japan Airlines is forecasting a 47 billion yen (US$399 million; euro325 million) loss at a time when soaring oil prices are expected to take an additional toll on all airlines earnings.

Japan Airlines hopes to return to the black in fiscal 2006, which began April 1.

Haruka Nishimatsu, tapped to replace Shinmachi, helped out in the recovery efforts after the 1985 crash and still remembers how heavy the coffins felt on his shoulders. Half of the workers now at JAL started their jobs after the tragedy.

"Seeing is believing," Nishimatsu said in English about the exhibit. "This is very meaningful."

A-I airbus suffers twin snags

NEW DELHI: Saturday was a day of technical snags at the IGI Airport. Around the time the flight from Singapore made an emergency landing following a hydraulic leak, passengers of another aircraft — a New York-bound Jumbo — that had also developed a snag on Friday morning were still waiting to take off.

Their flight was grounded by a cabin pressure problem. The alternate plane arranged by A-I left around 5 am on Saturday.

The twin snags come on the heels of an AI Jumbo suffering three tire-bursts in the space of 90 days while taking off — twice in Delhi and once in LA.

That plane has since been grounded. Meanwhile, an Air Deccan Airbus was also involved in a minor incident at IGI airport on Saturday.

"After passengers boarded the Bagdogra-bound aircraft, the ladder was being withdrawn when it hit the tail stabilizer and the plane had to be grounded.

Passengers were accommodated in another aircraft," said Capt Gopinath, managing director of the airline.

Fumes affect aircraft passengers

Passengers suffered eye and throat irritation when fumes and smoke got into the cockpit and cabin of their aircraft, an accident report said.

It happened on an easyJet flight from Newcastle to Budapest last December, carrying 128 passengers and five crew.

An Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) report said the fumes were from de-icing fluid entering an air inlet.

The report added that easyJet had agreed to remind those who de-ice aircraft to take more care.

At one point thick black smoke was seen in the cockpit of the Boeing 737 and pilots donned oxygen masks and the plane returned to Newcastle where some passengers were offered medical help.

The incident happened about six miles out from Newcastle on the evening of

28 December 2005.

Mishaps on ramps costly for airlines

Ramp accidents and incidents cost airlines far more than was originally estimated, according to the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF). The second phase of the FSF’s Ground Accident Prevention Programme (GAPP) has revealed that the FSF’s original "guesstimate" of $4 billion a year globally for repairs was close to the mark at $4.25 billion, but the cost of human casualties – not previously estimated – is about $5.8 billion, says Dr Earl Weener, who is leading the research process, writes David Learmount in Athens.

Since the GAPP began in its present form about two years ago, the FSF has improved its growing database by encouraging more reporting, Weener told last week’s FSF/European Regions Airline Association European Aviation Safety Seminar in Athens, Greece. But, he added, reporting globally on this kind of incident needs to be better. To aid this, the FSF has developed a GAPP reporting tool that enables airlines to enter data in a spreadsheet, which is compatible with its database, making analysis more effective.

So far the database reveals that the most common areas of damage, starting with the worst cases, are the aft cargo door, engines and wings, forward and aft fuselage, the forward cargo door, plus cases of damage that are unreported and causes unknown. The operations that cause damage most often are container loading and belt loading, catering and maintenance.

The ground equipment that causes most damage are high lift loaders and belt loaders. Inadvertent slide deployment is frequently caused by catering operations, Weener revealed.

The most unexpected discovery, said Weener, was the $5.8 billion annual global cost to airlines of human injury or death during ramp operations.  That is a lot of money that comes before profit and could pay for a lot of Safety training with money left over.

Flash Crash: Differences of opinion

The final report on the 2004 Flash Airlines Boeing 737-300 fatal accident published late last month concludes that the cause was uncertain, but it points to technical anomalies that might have started the accident sequence. This verdict of the Egyptian civil aviation authority investigation team, which led the probe, conflicts with analyses by the two other parties to the process.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and French accident investigator BEA – representing respectively the state of aircraft manufacture and the state from which the passengers originated – independently dismiss technical factors as causal and blame loss of control on the captain’s spatial disorientation.

A disagreement arose the last time the NTSB and Egyptian investigators worked together – on the investigation of the October 1999 Egyptair Boeing 767 crash into the sea off the US east coast.

That report was published in 2002, and the NTSB – the lead investigator – ruled out mechanical failure as a causal factor and blamed the pilot flying, while the Egyptian CAA cited the possibility of mechanical malfunction leading to human mistakes. An identical dispute occurred when Indonesian investigators reported on the December 1997 Silk Air 737-300 accident. Indonesia recorded an open verdict, but the NTSB insisted the cause was human factors.

In both the latter cases flightcrew actions were judged causal by the NTSB, with deliberate action by the pilot flying a potential explanation for the control inputs made. In the Silk Air case the cockit voice recorder and flight data recorder stopped operating shortly before the aircraft entered a steep dive.

In the Flash Airlines case, however, there is no suggestion that deliberate pilot action played any part.

Aircraft sustain $75 million in bird damage a year

Preventive measures at Dover range from dogs to air cannons

When a giant C-5 transport jet crashed near Dover Air Force Base early Monday, bird control expert Rebecca Ryan knew investigators would tag geese and gulls as early suspects -- even though most big migratory birds moved north weeks ago.

"You have half a million birds within five miles of the base for part of the year," said Ryan, owner of a North Carolina-based contracting business that keeps six trained bird-chasing border collies on duty at Dover year-round.

"Without an active control program, it would be catastrophic."

Dover and Pentagon officials said early Monday that the crash began with a report of an engine malfunction, and investigators would look at a bird strike as a possible cause.

Later, they said the pilots declared an emergency 10 minutes after takeoff and would describe it only as "a problem."

The military long ago coined a handy acronym for the problem: BASH, short for "Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard."

The bill just for bird damage to military aircraft alone comes to about $75 million a year, with millions more spent to repair civilian planes that suck birds into jet turbines.

"It's about $600 million a year and increasing," said Richard Dolbeer, a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee and chairman of Bird Strike Committee USA, a multi-agency working group.

"We've seen a remarkable recovery of bird species, particularly migratory species, over the last 30 years, and at the same time, we've got increased air traffic. These two factors are causing an increase in problems."

Virginia-based Partners in Flight estimated that only about 20 percent of accidents ever get reported. Even so, the Navy and Air Force together log about 3,000 bird mishaps each year.

Several planes based in Dover have smacked big birds with near-disastrous results over the years, triggering emergency landings and large repair bills.

Geese punctured the nose and dented engine cowlings of a big jet departing Dover for the Persian Gulf in 1990, and a large flock damaged three of a C-5's four engines in 1983. Repairs to one "goosed" C-5 in 2001 cost $798,000.

Last year, a flock of laughing gulls was sucked into two engines of a C-5 jet near a base that military safety officials would not identify. The encounter caused more than $1 million in damage.

Sea gulls have caused their share of grief for Dover's flying crews. At various times, military officials have tried a noise-making air cannon and shotgun-toting hunters to spook away flocks.

More recently, the military resorted to economic warfare, securing a $740,000 appropriation to buy up an Eastern Shore Environmental waste transfer station near Little Creek that officials felt was irresistible to gulls. Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control recently approved a permit for the relocation of the waste operation to land near Farmington.

A dispatcher at Eastern Shore who declined to be identified insisted that the operation had nothing but clear skies on Monday.

"In general, we have no birds here," the dispatcher said. "The birds are usually only out when they're plowing fields."

Job Stress

A large study investigating "sick building syndrome" discovered that job stress is more likely responsible for the syndrome’s symptoms than the environment. The symptoms the researchers were investigating were: headaches, itchy eyes, dry throats, dizziness and nausea. Researchers did not find much of a connection between the physical work environment and the symptoms. However, they did find a strong link between the symptoms and high stress at work, as well as a lack of support in the office. (Yvonne Lee, "Job Stress Rather Than the Environment Makes Workers Ill", All Headline News, March 23, 2006).

This study adds to the growing body of evidence that it pays for employers to invest in the well being of their employees by taking steps to reduce employee stress. This is especially true for employers of shiftworkers. Shiftworkers have turnover rates that are three times higher than daytime only workers. These higher turnover rates cost companies in the Unites States over $39 billion annually. By supporting shiftworkers with literature on how to best adapt to working nights, and by providing them with good work schedules, you can reduce employee stress and turnover rates. This will save your company money and create happier and healthier employees. (Amen to that)

END with our thanks to JetBlue