How can they lose an airplane?

The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 resumed this week with three ships combing a remote region of the Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia. Meanwhile, the NTSB – National Transportation Safety Board gathered in Washington with aviation experts from around the world to discuss ways of improving how planes are tracked while in the air and how they are located when they crash.

Malaysia Flight 370 has now been missing for seven months after dramatically changing course and vanishing without a trace approximately eight hours later. The flight left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8. Early in the flight, the plane’s transponder signal and radio went silent. Some speculate that the communications were switched off in the cockpit and remained off as the plane flew for as long as it had fuel to do so. Satellite data were used to piece together a rough flight path, but the plane and its passengers have yet to be found.

“When a flight cannot be located, an incredulous public asks: ‘How can they possibly lose a plane?’ ” NTSB’s acting chairman Christopher Hart said at the conference.

Aircrafts that crash on land can be quickly located by ELT – Emergency Locator signals. Finding an aircraft that ditch in the ocean is more difficult. Boeing estimates that ocean crashes have been occurring roughly once every year over the past 30 years. Two tragedies in recent years emphasize how challenging these crashes can be to find. In addition to Malaysian 370, Air France 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. It took two years for investigators to locate the French plane’s black boxes on the ocean floor.

The potential solutions that the NTSB is considering address the challenges faced in locating ocean crash sites. The Malaysian craft used automatic dependent surveillance — broadcast, or ADS-B, which allows a plane’s movement to be monitored by land-based radio towers. The system is expected to soon allow tracking by satellite too, which increases coverage into open ocean waters.

Other options under consideration involve live streaming of cockpit and flight recorder data as a plane proceeds along its route. Current recorders capture either the most recent one or two hours of data, and officials say this can be increased to up to 20 hours. Black box pinger batteries may be improved to last 90 days instead of the standard 30. Finally, the kind of black box used in some military aircraft, ones that detach from a ditching plane and float on their own, could be repurposed for commercial use.

“This system could be deployed today,” said Richard Hayden, whose company builds the devices.

Source: Daily Digest News.

FAA – UPS Crash, as Usual the Pilots are To Blame.

FAA accident investigators determined that a series of pilot’s errors and violations of safety procedures as the primary cause of the UPS Airbus A300-600 crash at Birmingham, AL (USA) on Aug 14th 2013. Both pilots died in the pre-dawn accident when the aircraft crashed a short distance from the Birmingham runway.

“Yes, the pilots flew the airplane into the ground, there’s no question,” said National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt, a former airline pilot.
Although the NTSB did not blame UPS on its report, Sumwalt said the cargo operator also failed to take actions that could have prevented the crash.

The NTSB mentioned a series of pilot’s errors on its report:
– The captain failed to correctly program an aircraft computer, failed to monitor the plane’s altitude, didn’t relay important information to his co-pilot, and failed to abort the landing when it became apparent the plane was in trouble.
– The captain did not have a stabilized approach — meaning the plane’s speed, direction and descent were not within established standards
– The first officer, meanwhile, failed to communicate altitudes to the pilot as the plane approached Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. In a conversation captured on the plane’s cockpit voice recorder, the co-pilot also confessed to being fatigued, evidently after failing to use her off-duty time to get appropriate rest.

Sumwalt also blamed the global cargo operator for not updating a software on a ground proximity warning system, which could have given the crew an earlier indication they were too close to the ground, he said.
“Based on the rate of descent of this particular aircraft, it would be impossible to determine whether a software upgrade would have made a difference,” Capt. Houston Mills, UPS director of airline safety, noted that the NTSB does not cite the software in its official finding.

Sumwalt said the cargo carrier also did not provide all of the available weather information to the pilots. As a result, the pilots likely expected to see the airport after descending below clouds at 1,000 feet, but didn’t clear the clouds until 350 feet.

“Everything UPS does is about efficiency. They have guys running around with clipboards and stopwatches to make sure if an airplane is a minute late, someone will be held accountable for it. But the sad thing here — this (technology) could have possibly prevented this accident.”
“If you’re interested in efficiency, I can guarantee you on August 14 of last year, those packages on the airplanes did not get delivered by 10:30 in the morning,” Sumwalt said.
UPS’ Mills acknowleged that known information about the cloud ceiling was not relayed to the pilots. But, he said, the pilots had been given a forecast that included a variable cloud ceiling, giving the pilots enough to plan and execute their approach.

The U.S. aviation industry has closely watched the UPS crash investigation largely because it highlights different FAA standards for commercial and cargo aircraft. In January of this year, the FAA required additional rest hours for commercial pilots, but it exempted cargo pilots.

Cargo pilots say rest rules should be uniform, regardless of the type of aircraft flown.
Wednesday, the NTSB concluded the pilots of Flight 1354 had been given an adequate opportunity to rest, even under the rule that applies to commercial pilots. The rule did not make a difference in this case, the board said.
UPS pilots complained of fatigue before fatal crash

Asked if the UPS culture encourages pilots to call in fatigued when they are tired, 91% “strongly disagreed” or “somewhat disagreed,” according to a survey conducted in March by the Independent Pilots Association, a union that represents UPS pilots.

“You probably have some bias in here as it was issued by a (union),” Sumwalt said. “But when you have 2,202 people responding to that, they are trying to tell you something.”
UPS spokesman Malcolm Berkley said the union was “politicizing” the investigation in an effort to change pilot work hours. UPS pilots typically work 70 hours a month — 30 in the air, Berkley said, less than the 55 hours the typical commercial pilot flies.

The safety board approved more than 20 recommendations, including one that board member Mark Rosekind called “ground-breaking” that would require warnings about flying fatigued during pre-flight briefings on overnight flights.

Capt. Ivan

Asiana Flight 214 Crash – NTSB Animation

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the flight crew’s mismanagement of the airplane’s descent during the visual approach, the pilot flying’s unintended deactivation of automatic airspeed control, the flight crew’s inadequate monitoring of airspeed, and the flight crew’s delayed execution of a go-around after they became aware that the airplane was below acceptable glidepath and airspeed tolerances. Contributing to the accident were; (1) the complexities of the autothrottle and autopilot flight director systems that were inadequately described in Boeing’s documentation and Asiana’s pilot training, which increased the likelihood of mode error; (2) the flight crew’s nonstandard communication and coordination regarding the use of the autothrottle and autopilot flight director systems; (3) the pilot flying’s inadequate training on the planning and executing of visual approaches; (4) the pilot monitoring/instructor pilot’s inadequate supervision of the pilot flying; and (5) flight crew fatigue which likely degraded their performance.

On July 6, 2013, about 1128 Pacific daylight time, a Boeing 777-200ER, Korean registration HL7742, operating as Asiana Airlines flight 214, was on approach to runway 28L when it struck a seawall at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), San Francisco, California. Three of the 291 passengers were fatally injured; 40 passengers, 8 of the 12 flight attendants, and 1 of the 4 flight crewmembers received serious injuries. The other 248 passengers, 4 flight attendants, and 3 flight crewmembers received minor injuries or were not injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a postcrash fire. Flight 214 was a regularly scheduled international passenger flight from Incheon International Airport, Seoul, Korea, operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 129. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed.

The flight was vectored for a visual approach to runway 28L and intercepted the final approach course about 14 nautical miles (nm) from the threshold at an altitude slightly above the desired 3° glidepath. This set the flight crew up for a straight-in visual approach; however, after the flight crew accepted an air traffic control instruction to maintain 180 knots to 5 nm from the runway, the flight crew mismanaged the airplane’s descent, which resulted in the airplane being well above the desired 3° glidepath when it reached the 5 nm point. The flight crew’s difficulty in managing the airplane’s descent continued as the approach continued. In an attempt to increase the airplane’s descent rate and capture the desired glidepath, the pilot flying (PF) selected an autopilot (A/P) mode (flight level change speed [FLCH SPD]) that instead resulted in the autoflight system initiating a climb because the airplane was below the selected altitude. The PF disconnected the A/P and moved the thrust levers to idle, which caused the autothrottle (A/T) to change to the HOLD mode, a mode in which the A/T does not control airspeed. The PF then pitched the airplane down and increased the descent rate. Neither the PF, the pilot monitoring (PM), nor the observer noted the change in A/T mode to HOLD.

As the airplane reached 500 ft above airport elevation, the point at which Asiana’s procedures dictated that the approach must be stabilized, the precision approach path indicator (PAPI) would have shown the flight crew that the airplane was slightly above the desired glidepath. Also, the airspeed, which had been decreasing rapidly, had just reached the proper approach speed of 137 knots. However, the thrust levers were still at idle, and the descent rate was about 1,200 ft per minute, well above the descent rate of about 700 fpm needed to maintain the desired glidepath; these were two indications that the approach was not stabilized. Based on these two indications, the flight crew should have determined that the approach was unstabilized and initiated a go-around, but they did not do so. As the approach continued, it became increasingly unstabilized as the airplane descended below the desired glidepath; the PAPI displayed three and then four red lights, indicating the continuing descent below the glidepath. The decreasing trend in airspeed continued, and about 200 ft, the flight crew became aware of the low airspeed and low path conditions but did not initiate a go-around until the airplane was below 100 ft, at which point the airplane did not have the performance capability to accomplish a go-around. The flight crew’s insufficient monitoring of airspeed indications during the approach resulted from expectancy, increased workload, fatigue, and automation reliance.

Public information from NTSB Docket DCA13MA120

Asiana Crash Response to Families Triggers Review by U.S. Agency

Asiana Airlines is under review by the U.S. Transportation Department on whether the South Korean carrier met its legal obligation to assist passengers’ families after a July crash in San Francisco.

The review, prompted by the National Transportation Safety Board, is the first time the board has raised concerns with the department over an airline’s assistance, said Keith Holloway, an NTSB spokesman. A 1996 law requires airlines to provide aid such as posting toll-free numbers and providing lodging and transportation for family members after an accident.

“We didn’t feel that Asiana was providing that information in a timely fashion to the families as they should have, so we notified the DOT about that,” Holloway said in a telephone interview yesterday. Bill Mosley, a DOT spokesman, confirmed that the department is conducting a review.

The July 6 crash occurred when one of Seoul-based Asiana’s planes, carrying 291 passengers and 16 crew members, struck a seawall short of the San Francisco airport, resulting in three deaths and dozens of injuries. The pilots’ manual flying skills and cockpit teamwork are part of an NTSB investigation into the cause of crash, which has prompted the carrier to increase pilot training and begin an outside review of safety standards.

Kiwon Suh, an Asiana spokesman in South Korea, didn’t respond to a call and an e-mail outside regular business hours seeking comment about the U.S. review.

The NTSB raised its concerns with the department immediately after the crash, Holloway said. Asiana’s aid plan, filed with the Transportation Department, was last updated in 2004, he said.

Source:  AP

NTSB: UPS Pilots received rate of descent warnings before impact

A flight recorder revealed that pilots of a UPS cargo jet that crashed short of a runway at Birmingham’s airport received warnings about their rate of descent seconds before impact, investigators said Friday.

National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt told reporters during a briefing that a recorder captured the first of two audible warnings in the cockpit 16 seconds before the sound of an impact, either with trees or the ground.

The warnings indicated the A300 cargo plane was descending at a rate outside normal parameters given its altitude, Sumwalt said, but investigators haven’t made any determination on the actual cause of the crash into an Alabama hillside.

“We haven’t ruled anything in, haven’t ruled anything out,” he said.

The aircraft went down less than a mile from the end of Runway 18 at Birmingham’s airport before dawn Wednesday. UPS has identified the victims of the crash as Capt. Cerea Beal, Jr., 58, of Matthews, N.C., and First Officer Shanda Fanning, 37, of Lynchburg, Tenn.

Landing on the runway can be tricky for pilots, an expert said, particularly those flying big jets like the twin-engine UPS cargo carrier. Sumwalt said the plane was being flown by the captain — who had 8,600 hours of flight experience, including 3,200 hours in an A300 — but investigators don’t know whether Beal or Fanning had ever before landed on Runway 18.

“We’re going to do our best to find out,” he said.

Sumwalt said investigators will analyze the airplane’s weight to determine whether it should have attempted a landing on the runway, the shorter of two runways at Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport.

With a large hill and trees at one end, the runway lacks the electronics for a full instrument landing. That forces pilots to make key judgments about altitude while aiming a descending aircraft at a runway that’s 5,000 feet shorter than the airport’s main runway, which was closed for maintenance work at the time of the crash.

Some pilots simply avoid landing on Runway 18 when possible, said veteran commercial pilot Ross Aimer.

“When I heard they were using Runway 18 it caught my attention because of that hill,” said Aimer. “It’s sad, but it didn’t surprise me.”

Aimer, a retired United Airlines captain, is now chief executive of Aero Consulting Experts, a firm based in Los Angeles.

The NTSB previously said a preliminary investigation didn’t reveal any evidence of engine failure before the plane struck trees about one mile away from the end of the runway. It crashed into the bottom of a hill less than a quarter mile after hitting the trees.

The A300, which weighs about 172,700 pounds when empty, was at the end of a 45-minute flight from Louisville, Ky., to Birmingham when it went down. A flight summary from flightaware.com, which tracks airplanes, shows the aircraft made a descent in steps, which Aimer said is a “dive and drive” method common on runways with the same navigational guidance as Runway 18.

Sumwalt said the aircraft went down during its first landing attempt. Sumwalt said investigators have not found any problems with the runway’s lights or navigation system, which typically provides pilots with information about their lateral position but not about their altitude, unlike those on runways where pilots can land using only instruments.

National Weather Service records from the morning of the crash show the plane would have descended through overcast conditions to only a few clouds at 1,100 feet. Within seconds after the plane hit a tree and at least one turbine sucked in wood, the twin-engine plane crashed.

It hit the base of that large hill mentioned by Aimer, who said he had landed on Runway 18 about a half-dozen times, including on some flights as a cargo pilot.

Located near the southern tip of the Appalachian foothills, Birmingham’s airport is nestled in a low spot between Red Mountain to the south and hills that lie at the northern end of Runway 18, which is 7,000 feet long. The main runway is 12,000 feet long and runs east and west, meaning pilots don’t have to negotiate the rough terrain.

The NTSB said the longer runway was closed for maintenance work on its lights early Wednesday, leaving the shorter runway as the only path to the ground. Runway 18 is an approved runway with a valid approach, Aimer said.

“It is definitely legal, but it I had a choice I’d use another runway first,” he said.

A key task for investigators will be determining why the UPS jet was low enough to hit trees. The impact sheared off pieces of the aircraft and sent them crashing onto two homes along with large pieces of limbs.

Keenen Brown, 17, said he witnessed the crash while getting ready for work before dawn. Brown, who lives with relatives across the street from the crash site, said it was unusual to see such a large aircraft attempting to land on the runway.

“I saw the sky turn orange and I looked up and I saw it in the air on fire,” Brown said. “I watched it hit the ground and dirt flew up. This whole area just shook.”

Aimer said the flames could have been shooting from the plane after it struck the trees.

Member Robert Sumwalt briefs media on UPS flight 1354 crash in Birmingham, Alabama.

Sources:  NTSB, Fox

Korean Pilots Unions criticize the handling of the investigation by the NTSB

The Asiana B777 accident last July 6 at San Francisco airport continues making noise in the worldwide aviation community. 

This time the Korean’s Pilots Unions, representing the flight crew of Asiana 214, issued an statement criticizing the handling of the accident investigation by the NTSB.

The Asiana Pilots Association and the Airline Pilots Association of Korea expressed their concern that the final result of the investigation will not reflect accurately the several factors involved in the accident, since the NTSB has slipped publicly its position on pilot error as the main cause of the accident.

“We have conveyed our concerns about the possibility of inaccurately identifying the cause of the accident, due to NTSB’s press conferences which only give prominence to the possibility of a pilot error and unprecedented speed in disclosure of related materials to the public,” the unions said in a statement.

In several media briefings, the NTSB released information to the public obtained from FDR’s – Flight Data Recorders, meanwhile while the serious fact that one of the victims of the accident survived the same and was hit by one of the fire trucks, is kept concealed.

The autopsy determined that Ye Meng Yuan died crushed by at least one of the rescue vehicles meanwhile she was lying on the runway covered by firefighting foam.

The crash resulted in the deaths of three teenagers, Liu Yipeng died at hospital six days after the accident, meanwhile Wang Linjia died on impact with the seawall of runway 28L at San Francisco Airport.  The three girls were on a group of 34 students travelling to USA.

Asiana 214 Victims

Capt. Ivan

 

NTSB urges FAA to review existing separation procedures

The NTSB – National Transportation Safety Bureau, has issued a safety recommendation to the FAA – Federal Aviation Administration to review all existing separation standards and operating procedures.

This recommendation comes after the NTSB has reviewed a series of recent events in which air carrier aircraft that were executing a go around came within hazardous proximity to other landing or departing aircraft.

These events occurred at airports controlled by the FAA in which ATC procedures permit takeoff and landing operations on non-intersecting runways with intersecting arrivals or departure paths and have resulted in flight crews having to execute evasive maneuvers at low altitude to avoid collisions.

Figure 1

Figure 1

The NTSB manifests its concern that actual FAA separation procedures are inadequate to prevent such events

 Recent Events

Dotcom Flight 2374 and Spirit Airlines Flight 511, Las Vegas, Nevada

On July 30, 2012, about 1944 coordinated universal time (UTC), two airplanes came within hazardous proximity of one another at Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport (LAS), Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS is one example of an airport that has runway layout and procedures that facilitate independent converging runway operations), when Spirit Airlines flight 511, an Airbus Industries A319, was executing a go-around from runway 19L and Dotcom flight 2374, a Cessna Citation 510, was landing on runway 7R (see figure 2). Runways 19 L/R and 7L intersect and may not be operated independently of one another. Runway 7R is located approximately 1,000 feet south of runway7L and does not intersect any other landing surface, permitting controllers to conduct arrival and departure operations independently of all other runways; however, the flight path of runway 19L intersects the flight path of runway 7R. The airplanes were being controlled by separate LAS ATC tower controllers operating on different frequencies. The pilot of Spirit Airlines flight 511 announced that the airplane was “on the go,” and the air traffic controller immediately responded with “traffic ahead and to your right landing 7R is a Citation out of 2600 off your right.”

The transmission was not acknowledged, and the controller instructed Spirit Airlines flight 511 to “expedite your climb.” The pilot of Spirit Airlines flight 511 never reported Dotcom flight 2374 in sight. When the controller responsible for Dotcom flight 2374 recognized that Spirit Airlines flight511 was executing a go-around, he notified the Dotcom flight 2374 pilot of the position of Spirit Airlines flight 511 but did not provide any control instructions to ensure that the airplanes avoided one another. According to recorded radar data, the pilot of Dotcom flight 2374 turned the airplane off of the final approach course to the left to pass behind Spirit Airlines flight 511, then turned back to the runway and landed on runway 7R. Spirit Airlines flight 511 passed in front of and slightly above Dotcom flight 2374 on short final. The reported closest proximity was 0.21 nautical miles (nm) laterally and 100feet vertically. There were no injuries reported to passengers or flight crew and no damage reported to either airplane.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 2. Spirit Airlines flight 511 (red dots) executed a go-around while attempting to land on runway 19L. Dotcom flight 2374 (blue dots) was simultaneously landing on runway 7R.

Read NTSB Safety Recommendation A-13-024

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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