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Aviation Human Factors Industry News

June 21, 2006

Vol. II, Issue 21.

First day of Midway accident hearing examines Southwest pilots' decision

Southwest Airlines 737 scheduled to land at Chicago Midway 9 min. prior to the 737-700 that overran the runway last December diverted after its crew determined that the wintry conditions were too unsafe for landing, the National Transportation Safety Board revealed yesterday. The NTSB started a two-day hearing on the Dec. 8 accident in which the Southwest aircraft overran a slushy runway, burst through a blast fence and continued through a perimeter fence and onto a roadway where it struck two cars, killing a six-year-old passenger.

The hearing focused on why the pilots of the aircraft decided to land even though part of the runway was in "poor" condition, why they were not informed that another Southwest plane had diverted less than 10 min. earlier, and the tight conditions at Midway, where no standard runway safety area--a 1,000-ft. buffer at the end of the runway--exists. A transcript of the cockpit voice recorder also was released. It included the first officer, in assessing the tough landing conditions, saying he had "picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue," a reference to the 1980 comedy movie Airplane that may prove embarrassing given the fatal incident that followed.

CAA to probe jet maintenance claims

An investigation has been launched into claims that a British Airways engineer got an unqualified friend to sign off maintenance work on grounded jets while he went on holiday.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) confirmed it was looking into allegations that the BA engineering manager gave his authorization stamp to an electrician colleague.

Airline bosses realized something was wrong last month when they spotted the maintenance controller's stamp on paperwork for a date when he was off hiking the West Highland Way, according to the Scottish Sun.

Alaska and ground contractor have improved safety since Dec. 26 incident

Alaska Airlines and its ground crew contractor, Menzies Aviation, have improved safety standards since the Dec. 26 incident in which an MD-80 returned to Seattle (SEA) with a decompression due to a punctured fuselage.

A 90-day self-review resulted in two additional safety supervisors at Seattle and twice-daily safety briefings for luggage workers. Also, there is more consistency in the rosters so that employees are working with the same people regularly. The move is supposed to encourage them to report all accidents, for which the company has a non-punitive policy.

Pilot error blamed for crash at Del. base

DOVER, Del.(AP) -- The military Tuesday blamed pilot error for the crash of a giant C-5 cargo plane in April at Dover Air Force Base.

The aircraft plowed into a field April 3 and broke into three sections, but all 17 people aboard escaped without serious injury. The crew of the C-5B Galaxy had reported an engine problem and tried to return to base, but the aircraft stalled.

Investigators said the cockpit crew made three critical errors after declaring an emergency: Crew members tried to throttle up an engine they had shut down, used flap settings that resulted in too much drag, and selected the wrong approach for the conditions.

The investigation board's report will be forwarded to the crew members'

commanders. Any punishment is outside the scope of the board, said Col. Ray Torres, head of the panel.

Two pilots were at the controls, a third was in a jump seat behind them, and two flight engineers were also part of the cockpit crew. Each of the five had more than 10,000 flying hours in the C-5, investigators said.

"This crew developed a lack of situational awareness and complacency,"

Torres said.

Education key to aviation safety

The aviation industry says further enforcement in the sector is not the solution to improving public safety.

The Civil Aviation Authority is promising to implement all the recommendations made in a Coroner's report on the fatal Air Adventures crash in June 2003, and in a separate Audit Office report.

Minister of Transport Annette King says enforcement in the sector has not been good enough in the past.

But Aviation Industry Association chief executive Irene King says there has been a 30% reduction in accidents in the past three years.

She says that was achieved through better education, instead of more rules and regulations.

Vietnam Airlines pilots oversleep during flight?

VietNamNet – Vietnam Airlines flight VN545 from Hanoi to Frankfurt lost contact for over one hour while flying in the airspace of three Eastern European countries.

The Czech Republic sounded the alarm, appointing two fighters to escort the Vietnam Airlines’ Boeing 777, demanding the aircraft land at a designated point.

The incident occurred on April 17, when the aircraft lost contact over Ukrainian airspace, but continued to fly over Poland and on to the Czech Republic. The Prague Air Traffic Control Station tried to make contact with the aircraft for 25 minutes and received no reply.

The Czech air force raised the alarm, dispatching two fighters to escort the Boeing 777, to force the aircraft to land. According to some sources, at that time, the two pilots on the aircraft woke up and open the communication system. They overslept and let the aircraft fly on automatic pilot for one hour and five minutes after losing contact. If the aircraft had not been flying at the correct height and within its flight corridor, the plane would have been shot down, ending the lives of more than 200 passengers.

The pilots said they lost contact as they failed to change frequencies when they flew into Czech Republic airspace. The Czech aviation authority have asked explanation from the Vietnam Airlines.

Officials of Vietnam Airlines said that the pilots couldn't oversleep because according to Vietnam Airlines' rules, airhostesses must enter cabin to serve pilots each 15 minutes.

Speaking to the press, Duong Van Thao, Head of the Air Traffic Security Standard Division of the Vietnam Civil Aviation Administration (VCAA), said on May 10, the

VCAA had sent a dispatch asking for an explanation from Vietnam Airlines.

Airliner Engine Breaks Apart, Defying Federal Repair Effort

Federal investigators say they are deeply concerned about an engine break-up that nearly destroyed a Boeing 767 on the ground in Los Angeles this month because the failure may indicate a recurrence of a problem they thought they had eliminated in 2003.

American Airlines mechanics were testing the engine on June 2 , after the crew of an earlier flight had reported it was not performing properly. During the test, an internal disk came apart, slicing open a fuel tank in the left wing; the fuel spilled onto the ground, where it caught fire. One piece of metal was thrown more than half a mile from the plane.

There were no injuries, and under the rules of the National Transportation Safety Board the event might not even qualify as an accident because there was no intention to fly the plane. But experts say that such "uncontained failures," so called because the engine cowling does not hold in the debris, resemble a roulette game.

"There's 360 degrees around, and it's really the luck of the draw which way the pieces come out," said John Goglia, a former member of the board and an aircraft maintenance expert. If the parts fly off in flight and hit the wing, where fuel is stored, or the fuselage, he said, "the results could be pretty devastating."

The first such engine explosion occurred in July 1989, during a flight of a United Airlines DC-10. That engine was mounted in the tail, and the debris disabled the plane's hydraulic system. The crew brought the aircraft down in a field at the airport in Sioux City, Iowa, maneuvering only by varying the thrust on the two surviving engines; 111 people were killed.

The explosion in Los Angeles is similar to one in September 2000 involving another Boeing 767, this one owned by US Airways, in Philadelphia. In both cases, mechanics were testing the engines by revving them toward full power when they broke up, leading to catastrophic fires.

In addition, an Air New Zealand 767 suffered an uncontained failure at 11,000 feet on a flight from Auckland, New Zealand, to Brisbane, Australia, in December 2002. That plane landed safely. But as a result, in March 2003, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered inspections of the part involved. The agency believed that would solve the problem.

The engine in all the cases was a variation of the popular General Electric CF6.

Rick Kennedy, a spokesman for General Electric, said that about 3,400 of the engines were in service and that two-thirds of them had been inspected, with no problems found. The engine involved in Los Angeles was not due for inspection, according to investigators.

The inspection interval is usually set at half the number of flights at which engineers think a problem will develop. The inspection limit now is 11,000 "cycles," or engine start-ups and shutdowns. Aviation experts said that one likely outcome was that the government would require inspections at shorter intervals.

Mr. Kennedy said the engines involved were built between 1982 and 2001; in 2001, the company switched to a stronger disk, he said. The engines are used on a variety of large airliners.

The F.A.A. is investigating the failure in Los Angeles, said a spokeswoman, Laura J. Brown.

A spokesman for American, Tim Smith, said the airline's insurance company had not yet determined whether the plane in Los Angeles had been damaged beyond repair. It suffered damage to both engines and the fuselage, he said.

Of greater concern, though, is how to prevent the problem altogether.

Mr. Goglia said, "I view these as warning shots. If we don't pay attention and figure out what went wrong, we're going to repeat it."

Air Canada Subsidiary Suspends Whistleblower Mechanics

Claim Carrier Lets Planes Fly With Known Problems One day after they raised serious questions about safety at Air Canada's low-cost subsidiary, Jazz... four mechanics have found themselves suspended with pay.

Dave Avella, Grant Anastas, Ron Anstey and Gianni Ballestrin are all now under investigation themselves, after telling the Toronto Star the company forces them to release planes that have known mechanical problems -- problems they say compromise flight safety.

All four worked at the Jazz maintenance facility in Toronto... and while they're currently out of work, their words may have reached the ears the four wanted to reach. Transport Canada says it'll launch an audit into the LCC's mechanical operations within the next 90-days.

A Jazz spokeswoman says the airline will also investigate the mechanics' allegations.

"The suspensions are so we can have some time to review the concerns raised in the article and why the mechanics chose to take that avenue when there are numerous internal options available to them," said Jazz spokesperson Debra Williams to the Star.

The answer to that may lie in what other Jazz workers have to say. Many of them tell reporters they've made complaints directly to Transport Canada -- and there's been no response.

Specifically, Avella and company accused Jazz of cutting corners on maintenance and repair procedures in order to avoid expensive flight delays.

They also say some mechanical work performed violates regulations.

According to the suspended mechanics, a Jazz flight takes off with a known defect once a week. And when a mechanic refuses to release a plane with such a mechanical problem, the four say supervisors simply find another mechanic willing to sign off on the aircraft.

Avella, Anastas... Anstey and Ballestrin weren't the only four to talk with reporters about these allegations. In fact... about a dozen others have been chatting it up with reporters over the past three months. Those four were the only ones who okayed the use of their names.

Canadian Judge Calls For Air Safety Investigation

Says SMS Would Compromise Safety

Worried about Transport Canada's plan to give the airlines responsibility to oversee their own safety, a retired judge from Alberta thinks government and industry are getting just a little too cozy.

Judge Virgil Moshansky (right) says it's time for another public inquiry into airline safety.

If you do a lot of flying in Canada, you might know of Judge Moshansky. He led a public inquiry into aviation safety two years ago. Back in 1989, the judge led an exhaustive investigation into the crash of an Air Ontario Fokker F-28 in Dryden. Twenty-five people died in that crash.

"I believe the government is moving away from more vigorous inspection and enforcement strictly as a cost-cutting measure, much as was done in the mid- and late-1980s preceding the Dryden crash," Moshansky told the Toronto Star.

The judge was also made a member of the Order of Canada in 2004 for his "singular dedication to enhancing aviation safety."

Moshansky isn't alone when it comes to voicing concerns about a loosening of Canadian air safety standards.

"I think a serious incident is looming," said Raymond Hall, a 33-year old flight deck veteran. "It's just a matter of who, where and what form it will take."

"There is going to be something that causes the public to take concern with the laissez-faire attitude of both the regulatory authority and airline management that mandates or tolerates the squeezing of resources and necessarily impinges on flight safety," Hall added.

Transport Canada has espoused its "safety management systems", or SMS, as a possible answer to maintain safety among that country's commercial airlines.

SMS is a form of industry self-regulation, and would require airlines to develop and maintain their own safety protocols.

The Star reports that under SMS, Transport Canada inspectors audit an airline's safety procedures and policies -- and not individual aircraft or pilots. That responsibility would fall to the respective airline.

The SMS concept has the support of several airlines, as well as the Air Line Pilots Association.

Working Nights & Parkinson’s Disease

People who work rotating shifts appear to have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The researchers evaluated data of 84,794 female nurses, who participated in the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study. They found that the risk of Parkinson’s disease was 50-percent lower among women who had at least 15 years of night shift work compared with those who never worked rotating night shifts. After accounting for differences in age and smoking status, the investigators found that longer sleep durations were associated with a higher risk of the disease. (Reuters, "Working nights may lower Parkinson’s disease risk" April 25, 2006)


How to Thrill People

Do you want people to like you right away? Of course you do. Even better: how would you like it if people felt happy and inspired soon after they meet you? That would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? You probably wouldn’t mind being able to play the piano brilliantly.

What does it take to achieve these lofty goals? Practice. Tons and tons of practice. Constant and consistent stretching, learning and awareness. Here’s a list of a few skills you need to practice to get people to be thrilled with your company:

Smile so that your inner feelings of joy and playfulness come through.

Moving your body smoothly and with casual control.

Using your eyes to softly connect with the people around you.

Sculpting the tones of your voice so that it is pleasing to listen to.

Telling stories with ease and flourish.

Listening with a crisp focus.

END with thanks to jetBlue