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Aviation Human Factors Industry News

January 16, 2005

Vol. II, Issue 3.

Landing gear problem prompts return of Alaska Airlines jet

An Alaska Airlines jet bound for Burbank, Calif., had to return to Sea-Tac Airport after a landing gear door failed to close.

The door created a vibration as it remained open after the gear had been retracted. No one was injured during the precautionary emergency landing Wednesday, the airline said.

A mechanic who had helped change a landing light on the plane’s front landing gear apparently failed to reconnect the door to its retraction mechanism, Alaska said.

The incident was the latest in a series of problems the airline has experienced at Sea-Tac since the day after Christmas.

JAL MD-90 lands with safety pin locking thrust reverser

A JAL MD-90-30 (JA8004) landed at Kagoshima (KOJ) with the nr.1 engine thrust reverser locked. Flight 3913 from Osaka-Itami (ITM) landed without problems, but the company was given a verbal warning by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. It appeared that a mechanic forgot to remove the safety pin locking the engine thrust reverser during maintenance operations. JAL had a similar maintenance problem last July. (Kyodo, NHK)

AAIB releases report on Trislander prop de-icer boot separation

The UK AAIB released the report of their investigation into the July 2004 accident involving a BN-2A Trislander at Guernsey. During take-off a de-icer boot from the left propeller separated, entering the cabin. The de-icer boot separated due to peel stresses generated by forces on the propeller. The peel stresses arose because of physical or contamination damage to the adhesive bond which occurred because the required filler material was not used at the root of the de-icer boot. (AAIB) Report No: 1/2006

Taxiway work seen as factor in JFK runway incursion

The crew of an Israel Boeing 767 that were involved in a runway incursion in a rainstorm at New York-JFK International Airport last July apparently did not know that one of the taxiways was closed for reconstruction, according to an Israeli investigator. The crew had to turn left at the second taxiway, Bravo, but ended up on the active runway 22R because the lights of taxiway Alpha were out because of work in progress. A DC-8 cargo plane had to climb away fast and missed the 767 by 100 feet. (The New York Times)

Second Lawsuit Filed In Chalk's Accident

"It Isn't About The Money"

Relatives of three victims in the December 19 downing of a seaplane have secured representation to go after Flying Boat Incorporated -- the operators of Chalk's Ocean Airways -- as well as anyone who might have had a hand in maintaining the aircraft.

The group will not settle for a class-action lawsuit against the airline's assets (such as they are) and insurance policies, according to attorney Manuel Von Ribbeck of The Nolan Law Group. They will also go after the insurance policies of everyone connected to the airline’s operations, as well as maintenance workers and any components manufacturers that potentially played a part in the operation of the aircraft.

That list could number in the dozens -- or more.

"Those additional defendants I am sure are also insured, and I’m sure they have assets that could be used to benefit or compensate for the damages that the families have suffered," Mr. Von Ribbeck said in a Tuesday press conference, according to The Bahama Journal.

Except for the broad-swath approach to seeking compensation from almost anyone who ever touched the Turbo Mallard, the lawsuit is otherwise similar to one filed January 5th on behalf of six families who lost relatives in the accident.

That lawsuit claimed lax maintenance procedures and failure to properly inspect the aircraft for corrosion led to the separation of the Grumman G-73T's right wing shortly after takeoff from Miami Beach last month. NTSB investigators have found evidence of cracks in the main wing spar of the aircraft.

The Nolan Law Group, which is based in Chicago, is representing the families of Genevieve Ellis, Salome Rolle, and Niesha Fox in the latest suit. Most recently, the law firm represented families in a similar lawsuit following the 2004 downing of a Flash Airlines 737 in the Red Sea.

According to the Journal, the group plans to use a series of reconstruction exercises intended to give its investigators better insight into what caused the accident -- similar to those the NTSB is conducting as part of their official investigation.

In fact, former NTSB chairman James Hall is now part of the group, according to Von Ribbeck.

Despite the potential payoff, the oldest son of crash victim Genevieve Ellis told the Journal he only wants to know why the accident happened.

"I just want to find out the truth and get to the bottom of this before it gets too late and they take all the papers and disappear with [them] and the family wouldn’t know what happened," said Jeff Charlton. "It isn’t about the money. I just want to find justice and the truth about what’s [going] on."

Alaska Airlines Faces $500,000 Fine For Flying W/O Emergency Lights

Latest In Series Of Fines Against Carrier

As their contracted Sea-Tac ground crews receive additional training on the importance of telling someone when you accidentally hit an aircraft with your luggage cart, the FAA has proposed a half-million dollar fine against Alaska Airlines for flying an aircraft for two weeks without required emergency lighting -- and then going an additional two weeks with the wrong parts.

According to the Seattle Times, the 737-200 in question flew 478 flights between December 2004 and mid-February 2005 without required emergency-exit identifier lights at the plane's two front doors. According to regulations, commercial airliners are not airworthy without such lighting.

The FAA alleged Goodrich Aviation Technical Services -- one of three companies contracted to perform heavy maintenance work for the carrier after Alaska shut down its own facility in September 2004 -- signed off on the aircraft in December 2004 after performing "C" and "D" checks on the airliner, without verifying the lighting was operational.

Alaska discovered the problem in early February -- after the aircraft had undergone about 40 routine checks, the FAA noted -- and while the airline replaced the needed components... it used the wrong parts.

An FAA inspector noticed the improper parts during a February check, according to the Times, although Alaska did not fix the problem for good until nearly a week later.

While "safety was not adversely affected" for the two weeks the 737-200 (one of seven "combi" models Alaska has in its fleet, photo above) was operating with the incorrect parts, said the FAA, the agency chided the airline, and Goodrich, for their "repeated failures to follow Alaska's [maintenance program], both during the original maintenance and in the 40 inspections that failed to detect the unairworthy condition."

An Alaska spokeswoman told the Seattle Times the FAA's proposal is not final, and that company officials are scheduled to meet with the agency January 18 to discuss the matter.

"Alaska Airlines and the FAA continue to be engaged in legal discussions on this matter," said Amanda Tobin.

News of the fine comes as Alaska fights the perception the company's reliance on outside contractors has perhaps compromised safety -- and two problems in recent weeks involving ramp mishaps at Seattle-Tacoma International haven't helped bolster confidence.

Both incidents -- one of which led to an MD-80 losing cabin pressure at 26,000 feet -- were caused by employees of Menzies Aviation, which Alaska hired last May to replace unionized ground crews at the airport.

If the latest fine holds, it would be second-largest levied against the airline since 1998. In 2000, the FAA fined the airline nearly $1 million based on a safety audit conducted after the downing of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 in January of that year. Most recently, the airline was fined $211,000 for operating an MD-80 on 47 flights with landing gear damage in 2001.

2005 Aviation Accident Summary

Number of passengers killed in accidents involving revenue passenger flights rose substantially to 913 last year from 347 in 2004, according to Airclaims. There were eight fatal accidents involving Western-built jets in 2005, which accounted for 718 passenger deaths. This was up from three fatal accidents in which 211 passengers were killed the previous year. Airclaims noted that "despite these gloomy statistics and the spate of accidents last summer, the number of fatal accidents in 2005 matches the exact number forecast by long-term trends. 2005 concluded as the fourth safest year since 1946." Western-built turboprops experienced 20 total losses in 2005 compared with 32 in 2004. Three Eastern-built jets were lost with no fatalities among revenue passengers but 25 non-revenue passenger and crew fatalities. Eastern-built turboprops had their worst year, however, with 20 known total losses, Airclaims stated.