Air Asia 8501 – A Tragedy Already Seen?

Meanwhile Indonesian investigators are extracting information from the black boxes of Air Asia Flight 8501 to get the answer of the plunge into the Java Sea, killing all 162 aboard, senior government officials are suggesting the Airbus A320 stalled at high altitude. There are growing fears on the aviation industry that the crash will share troubling similarities with other recent aviation disasters, in other words, pilots who lost control of an otherwise flyable airplane.

Air-traffic-control readings, along with data gleaned from Flight 8501′s black box recorders, recovered by divers last week, suggest the Airbus A320 experienced an aerodynamic stall at high altitude. About 40 minutes into the flight from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore, the pilots requested permission to deviate from their route and climb from 32,000 feet to 38,000 feet to avoid an approaching storm. Their request wasn’t immediately granted, however. The plane’s radio transponder later showed the plane veered off course and began ascending rapidly before radio contact was lost.

“The plane may have climbed in the last minutes at a speed beyond normal limits. After that, it stalled. Why did it stall? I don’t know,” Indonesian Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said this week. Meantime, the Wall Street Journal, citing sources close to the investigation, said the A320′s stall-warning alarm could be heard on the cockpit voice recorder as the pilot and co-pilot struggled to regain control of their plane.

Aerodynamic stalls occur when the plane’s wings lose lift, usually because the aircraft is flying too slowly or climbing too steeply. It’s not unlike a waterskier who begins to sink once he or she stops moving. In order to resume flight, pilots need to point the nose of the aircraft down to regain airspeed and restore lift to the wings. However, as past accidents have shown, it can be difficult for pilots to recognize what’s happening—alarms shriek in the cockpit and the plane becomes difficult to control—and they may not always respond correctly. Such “loss of control” accidents have been blamed for causing more than half of all aviation fatalities in the past decade, marring an otherwise enviable industry safety record.

Of course, exactly what transpired aboard Flight 8501 aircraft won’t be known until investigators release their full report, although some preliminary details are expected to be made public next week. The pilots may have experienced severe turbulence or found themselves caught in violent updraft caused by the bad weather. There could have been mechanical problems with the instruments that rendered the plane un-flyable. The plane’s black box voice and data recorders should yield further clues, if they haven’t already.
What is known, however, is that, once the plane began to climb rapidly—reportedly faster than the A320 is designed to do—the pilots’ ability to manually control their airplane, if that’s indeed what they were trying to do at that point, would have become vastly more difficult. As the air becomes thinner and colder at higher altitudes, the speed at which a plane can experience an aerodynamic stall rises while the speed at which it hits the sound barrier falls. Fly too fast and the aircraft will experience buffeting, too slowly and it will fall from the sky. “Flying an airplane manually at those altitudes is like trying to balance a ruler on your fingertip,” says Sunjoo Advani, a Netherlands-based expert in flight simulation, who spent the past six years heading an international team that rewrote the rulebook on training pilots to deal with stall emergencies.

An eerily similar sequence of events led to the loss of Air France Flight 447 back in 2009. The Airbus A330 was a few hours into its overnight flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, when the pilots flew into a line of thunder clouds, common near the equator. The pilots lost their speed readings when the plane’s exterior sensors, called pitot tubes, iced over, the investigation later revealed. As the plane bounced through turbulence, the stricken pilots, inexplicably, put the plane into a climb, causing it to stall. Despite alarms sounding repeatedly in the cockpit, the pilots failed to recognize what had happened. They fought to regain control for three and a half harrowing minutes as the plane fell in total darkness. All 228 aboard died.

The shocking Air France disaster galvanized the industry, coming as it did on the heels of two other deadly stall accidents: the 2009 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 near Buffalo, N.Y., (50 dead) and the 2009 crash of Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 on approach to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport (nine dead, 54 injured). Advani was tapped to lead a team of global experts to investigate whether there were gaps in pilot training programs that needed to be fixed. They found that pilots receive most of their training about stalls and manual recovery techniques early in their career—it’s essentially Flying 101—but most of their ongoing training, usually performed in simulators, tended to be focused on managing the plane’s complex auto-pilot systems, which do most of the actual flying in a modern aircraft. In the case of an approaching stall, pilots were being trained to power up the engines and maintain altitude, which is fine if the aircraft is merely approaching its stall speed, but can actually make matters worse if the plane is on the cusp of the real thing or cruising at higher altitudes.

The group suggested a revised approach in late 2012. It re-emphasizes the importance of manual flying skills and, where possible, makes use of small aerobatic airplanes in addition to simulators. The idea is to better train pilots to recognize what a stall looks and feels like, and how to avoid dangerous situations that could lead to them. It also teaches pilots how to react more decisively when faced with a stall emergency: Point the plane’s nose downward until the wings regain lift. While the new approach might initially run counter to a pilot’s basics instincts—the last thing anyone wants to see when falling out of the sky is the ground hurtling toward him—Advani says it’s necessary to re-train pilots’ brains, since pitching the nose forward to pick up speed, as if on a roller coaster, may represent their only chance for survival. ”It is a significant change to how we train pilots, in that it encourages manual flying, rather than always relying on the automation,” Advani says.

The new training regime has already been adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization and has been signed into law in the United States, although it won’t actually be implemented there until 2019. In Europe, meanwhile, regulators plan to publish new rules on upset prevention and recovery training this spring. In 2013, Transport Canada sent an advisory circular to airlines that instructed pilots to focus on reducing the plane’s angle of attack (point the nose down) if faced with an aerodynamic stall.

Some airlines aren’t waiting to be told what to do. South African Airways, for one, spent more than a year retooling its training program and retraining its instructors, with the costs being offset by the airline’s insurer. It began retraining its pilots this month. “The release of the accident reports regarding Air France, Colgan and Turkish Airlines made us realize that we need to address the shortcomings of advanced automation—a decrease in manual flying skills by the average airline pilot,” says Brad Bennetts, the program’s project manager. He adds that, so far, the South African Airways pilots who have undergone the new training sessions claim the sessions have “greatly improved their confidence to fly the aircraft” in both normal flight conditions and when things get hectic—which, it should go without saying, is when a pilot’s steady hand is needed most.

Capt. Ivan

NASA – Large Commercial Jets, Single Pilot Operation Research.

This subject has been overflying for a while. In the era of automation, the airlines are specially concerned about the lack of experienced pilots. Now, in an effort to solve the problem, NASA is looking into whether single pilots can fly large commercial jets so that the shortage of trained airline pilots can be resolved.

The study is conducted by NASA and Rockwell Collins Inc. – a major defence contractor specialising in avionics for jet aircraft – it will focus if co-pilots can assist pilots from the ground, the Wall Street Journal reported.

All large commercial jets are now flown by a two-man flightcrew.

The study will include simulations, determining where technology can teplace human intervetion and even realize real-time flight trials.

The team will analyse changes in technology and operations that could make the concept feasible by at least 2030.

The topic of reducing the size of cockpit crews for big cargo or passenger planes has been discussed for several years.

The NASA initiative is significant because it raises the concept’s profile, and signals that NASA officials are convinced the general notion is not too far-fetched to merit further research.

The researchers will study if co-pilots on the ground could be assigned to assist solo pilots on multiple flights, virtually co-piloting during the busiest times through crowded airspace, approach-and-landing manoeuvers, or if something goes wrong.

NASA awarded the $4 million, four-year contract to Rockwell earlier this year for the study.

Capt. Ivan

Drones – An Rising Threat

With the increased, unregulated, drone activity we are coming up to the point that is not about “how”, is about “when” an accident will happen.


This year, there was a near-miss with an unidentified drone when it came close to hit an Airbus 320 at Heathrow airport, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has confirmed.
The Airbus A320 pilot reported seeing a helicopter-style drone at 700 feet AGL during its approach to the runway at 1416 GMT on 22 July.

The CAA has not disclosed the airline or how close the drone came to the aircraft.
The CAA has given the incident an “A” rating, meaning a “serious risk of collision”.
Investigators were unable to identify the drone, which did not appear on air traffic control radar and disappeared after the encounter.

In another incident, on May, the pilot of an ATR 72 reported seeing a helicopter drone only 80 feet away as he approached Southend airport at a height of 1,500 feet.
These incidents have prompted a warning from the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) that the rapid increase in the number of drones operated by amateur enthusiasts now poses “a real risk” to commercial aircraft.

The association’s general secretary, Jim McAuslan said; “The risk of a 10 kilogram object hitting a plane is a real one that pilots are very concerned about”.
“A small drone could be a risky distraction for a pilot coming into land and cause serious damage if they hit one.”

Sales of drones have increased rapidly, with UK sales running at a rate of between 1,000 and 2,000 every month.

They are expected to be very popular as Christmas presents.

They cost as little as £35 for a smaller model – more advanced drones capable of carrying a high definition camera and travelling at 45 miles per hour cost almost £3,000.
Only a very small minority of people operating drones have attended training courses in how to fly them.

A spokesman for the CAA said it had to depend on people using their common sense when they operated drones.

He said the current level of risk should be “kept in perspective” but warned that breaking laws governing the use of drones could potentially threaten commercial aircraft.
“People using unmanned aircraft need to think, use common sense and take responsibility for them”, he said.

“There are rules which have the force of law and have to be followed.”

Drones may not be flown higher than 400 feet or further than 500 metres from the operator, and they must not go within 50 metres of people, vehicles or buildings.

There are exclusion zones around airports and the approaches to them for drones weighing more than seven kilograms.

Mr McAuslan said there was an urgent need for rules to be tightened before much larger unmanned cargo planes – potentially the size of a Boeing 737 – took to the skies.

Capt. Ivan

Asiana Flights between ICN and SFO Banned.

Asiana Airlines, South Korea’s second-largest carrier, was ordered to halt its daily flights to San Francisco after the crash while landing at the city’s airport in July last year killed three passengers.

The airline won’t be allowed to fly to the city for 45 days from Seoul- Incheon airport, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said today. Investigations by the US National Transportation Safety Board found pilot error, inadequate training on automation system of the B777 aircraft led to the fatal accident.

Asiana strengthened pilot training, appointed a new chief executive officer and hired an official to oversee safety after Flight 214 struck a seawall short of the San Francisco airport on July 6 last year. The carrier violated US law by not promptly helping victims and family members immediately after the crash, which also injured 49 people, the Department of Transportation said in February.

“The government plans to implement additional measures to ensure proper pilot training at Asiana,” the ministry said.

The government reduced the penalty from the maximum of 90 days because of the crew’s efforts to evacuate passengers, the ministry said in the statement. Asiana has six months to comply with the ruling. The order will be finalized if the airline doesn’t object within the next 15 days.

Asiana will consider legal steps against the government’s decision, the Seoul-based airline said in an e-mailed statement after the government pronounced its verdict. The carrier’s shares gained 3.4% to 4,630 won as of 2.21pm in the city.

IATA’s support
Since the San Francisco crash, the South Korean government has stepped up regulations to improve airline safety standards, including steeper penalties for accidents involving casualties.

The International Air Transport Association had sent a letter to the South Korean transport ministry last month that the airline shouldn’t be sanctioned over the crash. A carrier already suffers significant financial loss from life and equipment, legal liability and damage to image, the group said.

The pilots on Flight 214 mismanaged their approach to the airport, failed to
notice the deteriorating speed and lights near the runway showing they were too low, and then didn’t abort the touchdown, which they were trained to do, according to the NTSB. The two pilots also didn’t communicate as they each made changes to the cockpit automation, the board found.

Source: Bloomberg News
Photo: Reuters

NTSB: Virgin SpaceShip Two Sole Survivor Was Thrown Away From the Craft.

Meanwhile Peter Siebold, the sole survivor of the SpaceShip Two accident is still recovering at the hospital from a surgery on his shoulder, he was able to declare to NTSB investigators that he was thrown away from the vehicle when it disintegrated, he added that at some point during his free fall he unbuckled from his seat and the parachute deployed automatically.

The NTSB has evidence that the craft deployed its shuttlecock-like wings just as it approached Mach .1, the system is not suposed to be unlocked until the craft reaches M 1.4, however copilot Mike Alsbury could be seen on an inflight video unlocking the wings before the vehicle reached Mach 1, apparently at the wrong moment. Two seconds later the vehicle exploded.

Not blaming completely to Alsbury, the NTSB says that the wings could have deployed because of aerodynamic forces, the agency continues its investigation on the forces that act on the vehicle during flight.

Still there will be several months of investigation ahead for the National Transportation Safety Board to decipher the causes of SpaceShipTwo’s fatal crash in the Mojave desert last Friday.

What the NTSB hasn’t been able to begin to answer, however, is the question of how pilot Peter Siebold was able to escape the explosion. How did he stay conscious without an oxygen mask or spacesuit in the freezing cold, dangerously airless upper atmosphere, or how did he survive what appears to be a 40,000 feet free fall before deploying his parachute at around 20,000 feet above the ground.

Capt. Ivan
Photo: Reuters

SpaceShip Two Pilot Survival – ….a Miracle.

Scattered parts of SpaceShip Two on the Mojave Desert

Scattered parts of SpaceShip Two on the Mojave Desert

“It’s a great miracle that he did survive and survive in relatively good shape”, Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides said.

How SpaceShip Two pilot Peter Siebold survived the fall from extreme altitude a week ago while co-pilot Mike Alsbury died is not yet clear.

SpaceShipTwo did not have ejection seats, but there was an evacuation procedure.

Typically, the pilot would stay with the controls and the co-pilot would depressurise the cabin and then they would both unbuckle and bail out with parachutes, said Brian Binnie, a former test pilot for Scaled Composites, which designed and built the craft for Virgin.

It’s sounds simple, but not in an aircraft that is tearing apart violently, the biggest challenge is surviving a wind blast of 800 km/hr that could blow off eyelids, tear off limbs and snap vertebrae, says Dr John Ogle, an air force flight surgeon who has investigated plane ejections and crashes.

Ogle suspects Siebold probably stayed with some of the wreckage, such as his seat, which would have slowed his fall.

Siebold would have faced the triple threat of lack of oxygen, extreme cold and
intense air pressure as he fell at a rate of about 480km/h, he said.

As the doomed flight rocketed past the speed of sound about 13 kilometres high and then shattered seconds later, the chances of survival were slim.

Remarkably, as sections of the cockpit, fuselage, a wing and motor rained down over the Mojave Desert and pieces of the lightweight craft tiny enough to travel 56 kilometres were picked up by the winds, a single parachute was seen in the sky.

Bill Weaver has been telling a similar story for decades.

The former Lockheed test pilot was torn from the seat of an SR-71 Blackbird 24km above New Mexico on January 25, 1966. The plane was going more than triple the speed of sound.

As Weaver banked into a turn, a malfunction caused one engine to lose thrust. He lost control of the jet and knew he was in trouble as the plane began to pitch and break up.
He didn’t have time to be scared.

‘I knew we were going to just be along for the ride,’ he said.

Weaver tried to radio to the reconnaissance and navigations officer in the back seat that there was no way to safely bail out, so they should stick with the plane and eject when it got lower.

But the severe gravitational forces made his speech unintelligible and then he blacked out.
The whole event to that point took two to three seconds.

When Weaver regained consciousness, he first thought he was dreaming. With the face plate on his helmet iced over from temperatures as cold as minus 48C, he could only see a hazy white light and in a detached sense of euphoria, he thought he was dead.

He was relieved when he realised he was alive and plunging toward Earth.

‘I had no idea how I got out of the airplane,’ he said.

‘I had no idea how long I had been free falling. Had no idea how high I was or low I was.’
How Siebold got out of SpaceShipTwo is also unknown, according to National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Christopher Hart, who said the pilot hadn’t been interviewed because he’s recovering from injuries originally characterised as moderate to major.

Initial findings show the Virgin Galactic plane designed to take tourists for $A270,500 joy rides beyond the edge of Earth’s atmosphere, broke apart after the craft’s re-entry braking system prematurely activated during its rocket blast, Hart said.

Capt. Ivan


Thai VietJet Approaching Departure.

Thai VietJet Air (TVJA), the Thai parent company of Vietnam’s low-cost airline VietJet Air, is scheduled to take off next month.

The airline is owned by Thailand’s Kannithi Aviation (51%) and VietJet Air (49%) is expected to obtain its air operator’s certificate (AOC) from the Civil Aviation Department within the following weeks.

TVJA conducted a successful proving flight, the last part of the assessment by authorities before issuing an AOC, on Oct 25 with a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and back.

Somphong Sooksanguan, president of Kannithi Aviation, said that TVJA’s launch is now imminent after a number of postponements this year. As a warm-up to regular flights, the airline will start a series of charter flights from the Thai capital to Vietnam and India on Nov 15.

Parent VietJet Air has already made available an Airbus 320-200 jet to support the launch of TVJA. The narrow-body jet, now parked at U-Tapao airport in Rayong, features a Thai flag below the cockpit’s side windows and the word Thailand below the VietJetAir logo on the tail. A second but brand-new Airbus is expected to be delivered soon after.

Pilot’s Recruitment here.
Flight Cabin Crew Recruitment here.

Capt. Ivan.

Eastern Airlines Re-launch: Now looking for Flight Attendants.

The relaunch of the once a legend Eastern Air Lines is approaching and is planned early next year, now is on the lookout for flight attendants.

The Miami-based airline will hold a recruiting session the weekend of Nov. 22. Those interested in applying must first fill out a form online, which can be found here.

Applicants must be at least 21; have a high school diploma or equivalent; be able to swim without assistance; speak, read and understand English and Spanish and have a valid passport or equivalent travel documents.

Eastern, which will initially operate as a charter airline, is awaiting certification by the Federal Aviation Administration. The airline said it plans to start operating in early 2015 with Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Eastern Air Lines was one of the “Big Four” airlines (along with United, Delta and American that dominated the passenger airline business in the United States for nearly 50 years. It started flying officially as Eastern from 1930 (after its predecessor company was founded in 1927) and operated until 1991, when it ceased operations during the first Gulf War.

Capt. Ivan

FAA Issues a New Icing Certification Rule

The Federal Aviation Administration issued last Wesnesday a new rule amending the airworthiness standards aplicable to certain transport category aircraft certified for flight into known icing conditions.

The FAA adopted this rule to improve the safety standards of those transport category airplanes operating in areas where supercooled large droplets – SLD are present. The new rule requires to achieve certain flying characteristics and performance during an icing encounter, also expand the engine installation certification and some component certification regulations like, angle of attack, airspeed indication, etc.

See the new rule here

Propeller Blade Smashes Through a Window on a Jazz Q400 Emergency Landing.

Jazz de Havilland Dash 8-400, flight QK-8481.

Jazz de Havilland Dash 8-400, flight QK-8481.

A Jazz de Havilland Dash 8-400, flight QK-8481 from Calgary,AB to Grande Prairie,AB (Canada) with 71 passengers and 4 crew, was climbing out of Calgary when the crew stopped the climb at 4000 feet due to a blown tyre after departure from Calgary. The crew decided to divert to Edmonton and positioned for a landing on Edmonton’s runway 02, during touchdown the right hand main gear collapsed, the aircraft came to a stop off the right hand side of the runway resting on its nose gear, left main gear and the right hand wing tip, the right hand propeller contacted ground with all blades separating, at least one impacting the fuselage. Three passengers received minor injuries, the aircraft sustained substantial damage.

One of the passengers had a close call when a propeller blade came through the window next to her.

Luckily the propeller didn’t hit her, but the whole inside wall of the plane blew out so she had fibreglass and everything all embedded in her skin.

Spokeswoman Genevieve Corbin confirmed a portion of the right propeller blade was partially lodged into the fuselage of the aircraft.

Passenger Ron Prochner said he knew something was wrong when he heard an explosion on takeoff.
“There was a loud explosion and then we took off and it was like bump, bump, bump,” said Prochner, adding that people calmed down until the pilot started his approach into Edmonton International Airport.

As the plane descended to the runway passengers and crews braced for impact. When it touched down, he said the landing gear on one side of the plane collapsed.
As the plane skidded across the runway something started to smash into the fuselage, Prochner said.

Jazz Aviation LP said in a statement that four passengers on Flight 8481 were sent to hospital for treatment. Three were later released but one person remained in hospital Friday for observation.

Transportation Safety Board spokesman Chris Krepski said investigators would be interviewing the flight crew and air traffic controllers Friday.

“Our investigators are continuing to work on it and gather information, interview witnesses, examine the aircraft,” he said from Gatineau, Que.

Jazz said an extra flight was sent in late Thursday evening to take most of the passengers on to Grande Prairie, while those who remained in Edmonton overnight were expected to complete their trip Friday.

The airline said it’s “very grateful” there were no severe injuries and that it’s co-operating with the investigation.


Capt. Ivan
Photo: CP

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