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September 10, 2015

Investigators blame pilot error for deadly jet crash near Boston

Investigators blame pilot error for deadly jet crash near Boston

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

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The US federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday concluded a “series of errors” by flight crew caused a business jet crash near Boston, Massachusetts last year. Seven were killed when the Gulfstream IV overran a runway.

Cquote1.svg I can’t stop it Cquote2.svg

—Pilot de Vries, seconds from impact

The NTSB found the pilots failed to conduct preflight checks, mistakenly took off with flight control systems locked in position, and then failed to abort takeoff until too late. Manufacturer Gulfstream was criticised for an inadequate safety system; the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was accused of failing to properly check the system before certifying the aircraft.

On the evening of May 31 the passengers and crew were returning from Hanscom Field to Atlanta International Airport. Pilot Bauke “Mike” de Vries and co-pilot James McDowell each had thousands of hours’ experience, and had flown together for years. They skipped over preflight checks; the NTSB found this was routine for the pair.

The plane set off with the gust lock engaged. This system, which is intended to be disconnected before engine startup, locks various flight control surfaces in position on the ground. Unable to takeoff, it overshot the runway, crashing through airport equipment and a fence, before landing in a watery ravine and bursting into flames. Nobody survived.

A US Government Gulstream IV, from file.
Image: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

De Vries says several times “lock is on” on the voice recording, adding “I can’t stop it” moments before the crash. Gulfstream had installed a mechanism to prevent the throttle fully moving when gust lock was engaged, to give pilots a clear early warning something was amiss.

The NTSB found the throttle could still be pushed far enough to reach takeoff speed. The FAA had certified the system based on technical drawings. The NTSB said the FAA process was “inadequate” because there were no “engineering certification tests or analysis[…] to verify that the system had met its regulatory requirements.” Gulfstream say they are working with the FAA to rectify the issue.

The NTSB says it took ten seconds from noticing the problem before the crew began braking and another four seconds to power down the engines. The NTSB believes doing both within eleven seconds would have brought the flight to a halt on the runway.

The lock was applied upon landing six hours earlier. The flight was carrying four passengers, including entrepreneur and philanthropist Lewis Katz, back from a fundraiser. The seventh fatality was a flight attendant. Katz had co-engineered an $88 million takeover deal for the Philadelphia Inquirer four days earlier.

The Katz family later sold his stake in the paper to a business partner. Katz had hoped to boost the paper’s reputation.

“Complacency does not have a place in the cockpit of any aircraft”, NTSB Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr said. The probe found skipped checks on 98% of the prior 175 flights the pilots undertook together. “If you’re acting that way, you are just fooling yourself,” said NTSB member Robert Sumwalt, who has 32 years of commercial flight experience.


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Investigators blame pilot error for deadly jet crash in Boston

Investigators blame pilot error for deadly jet crash in Boston

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

The US federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday concluded a “series of errors” by flight crew caused a business jet crash near Boston, Massachusetts last year. Seven were killed when the Gulfstream IV overran a runway.

Cquote1.svg I can’t stop it Cquote2.svg

—Pilot de Vries, seconds from impact

The NTSB found the pilots failed to conduct preflight checks, mistakenly took off with flight control systems locked in position, and then failed to abort takeoff until too late. Manufacturer Gulfstream was criticised for an inadequate safety system; the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was accused of failing to properly check the system before certifying the aircraft.

On the evening of May 31 the passengers and crew were returning from Hanscom Field to Atlanta International Airport. Pilot Bauke “Mike” de Vries and co-pilot James McDowell each had thousands of hours’ experience, and had flown together for years. They skipped over preflight checks; the NTSB found this was routine for the pair.

The plane set off with the gust lock engaged. This system, which is intended to be disconnected before engine startup, locks various flight control surfaces in position on the ground. Unable to takeoff, it overshot the runway, crashing through airport equipment and a fence, before landing in a watery ravine and bursting into flames. Nobody survived.

A US Government Gulstream IV, from file.
Image: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

De Vries says several times “lock is on” on the voice recording, adding “I can’t stop it” moments before the crash. Gulfstream had installed a mechanism to prevent the throttle fully moving when gust lock was engaged, to give pilots a clear early warning something was amiss.

The NTSB found the throttle could still be pushed far enough to reach takeoff speed. The FAA had certified the system based on technical drawings. The NTSB said the FAA process was “inadequate” because there were no “engineering certification tests or analysis[…] to verify that the system had met its regulatory requirements.” Gulfstream say they are working with the FAA to rectify the issue.

The NTSB says it took ten seconds from noticing the problem before the crew began braking and another four seconds to power down the engines. The NTSB believes doing both within eleven seconds would have brought the flight to a halt on the runway.

The lock was applied upon landing six hours earlier. The flight was carrying four passengers, including entrepreneur and philanthropist Lewis Katz, back from a fundraiser. The seventh fatality was a flight attendant. Katz had co-engineered an $88 million takeover deal for the Philadelphia Inquirer four days earlier.

The Katz family later sold his stake in the paper to a business partner. Katz had hoped to boost the paper’s reputation.

“Complacency does not have a place in the cockpit of any aircraft”, NTSB Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr said. The probe found skipped checks on 98% of the prior 175 flights the pilots undertook together. “If you’re acting that way, you are just fooling yourself,” said NTSB member Robert Sumwalt, who has 32 years of commercial flight experience.


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March 8, 2015

Delta Air Lines jetliner skids off New York airport\’s runway

Delta Air Lines jetliner skids off New York airport’s runway

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

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An emergency vehicle tends to the jet as passengers disembark.
Image: Leonard J. DeFrancisci.

A Delta Air Lines passenger jet skidded off the runway at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport in snowy weather on Thursday, causing a shutdown of the airport, according to officials. The jetliner was carrying 127 passengers and five crew.

The MD-88, operating as flight 1086, was flying in from Atlanta when it lost control after landing. There were a few minor injuries while the passengers were evacuated. The plane was significantly damaged and the airport was shut down. One of the runways reopened around 2 p.m., although an earlier Federal Aviation Administration statement had put reopening at 6:59 p.m.

The city fire department said five out of at least 28 passengers with minor injuries were hospitalized.

Pat Foye, executive director of the port authority, said the plane was two thirds of the way along the 7,000-foot runway when it began a leftward skid that nearly sent it into the water.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent an investigator for the flight data recorders. Delta stated they would work with authorities to investigate.



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February 26, 2015

Southwest Airlines grounds 128 uninspected planes

Southwest Airlines grounds 128 uninspected planes

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A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737–700. From file.
Image: Kevinboydston.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

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The US carrier Southwest Airlines, the world’s largest low-cost carrier, announced grounding 128 planes on Tuesday because the planes had not be adequately inspected.

Company spokesperson Brandy King explained backup hydraulic systems of 128 of the company’s Boeing 737-700s should have been inspected sooner. The systems overdue for inspection back up the main rudder control systems.

King said the the incident is inadvertent and emphasised the airline’s commitment to safety. The airline decided to ground the planes involved in the missed inspections and notified the authorities.

As of last year, Southwest Airlines’ fleet had around 665 Boeing 737s. The uninspected planes incident involves about twenty percent of its fleet, and caused the airline to cancel about 80 flights on Tuesday, with possibly another 19 cancellations yesterday.

Following the airline’s actions, the Federal Aviation Administration ruled grounding of the planes is not mandatory provided inspections are completed within five days.



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December 9, 2014

Small plane crashes near Maryland airport, killing six

Small plane crashes near Maryland airport, killing six

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

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Embraer Phenom 100, similar to the accident aircraft.

Image: WPPilot

A small jet has crashed in Gaithersburg, Maryland near Montgomery County Airpark yesterday at about 10:45 a.m. local time (1545 UTC), causing a house fire. Officials said six people were killed in the accident — three in the plane and three on the ground.

Montgomery County’s fire chief said all three people aboard the plane were killed in the crash. According to reports, the plane broke apart. In all, a total of three houses were damaged, according to the fire chief. There were some residents in the damaged house who were not accounted for until about 4:30 p.m. when emergency personnel confirmed that three people inside the house were also killed. Witnesses to the accident reported seeing the plane wobble a couple hundred feet above the ground and do a barrel roll.

The plane, identified as an Embraer EMB-500/Phenom 100, was apparently on approach to Montgomery County Airpark when it crashed. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the plane was in line with runway 14 at the airport. It was registered to an aviation company owned by one the victims, Michael Rosenberg — Sage Aviation LLC based out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina — according to authorities.

Among those killed in were Rosenberg, president and CEO of clinical research firm Health Decisions; 36-year-old Marie Gemmell; and her two sons, Cole and Devon. Rosenberg has been identified as the pilot in a different crash in March 2010, but the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are still investigating the cause of yesterday’s incident.



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November 26, 2014

FAA: NextGen Upgrade for Washington, D.C. metro area in place for holiday travel this week

FAA: NextGen Upgrade for Washington, D.C. metro area in place for holiday travel this week

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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FAA Seal

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Sunday that a NextGen airspace upgrade for the Washington, D.C. metro area would be in place in time for the holiday travel week. The FAA said this will improve the efficiency of air travel in this area.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said this upgrade highlights the difference the federal government is making in air travel. He also said this upgrade will improve on-time performance and reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta said with the busy holiday travel season approaching, it is important to get travelers to their destination safely and on time.

The D.C. metroplex now includes three Optimized Profile Descents (OPDs) that allow aircraft to descend smoothly to the airport, as opposed to a staircase-style decent. This reduces fuel burn during decent because every time an aircraft levels off, it needs to burn more fuel for each step in the descent. The FAA said it will benefit three major airports in the area: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Baltimore–Washington International Airport (BWI).

In a video describing the OPDs in D.C., Brian Townsend, a tech pilot and captain for American Airlines, said this gliding down approach will be more environmentally friendly than the traditional approach.

This initiative at the D.C. metroplex involves collaboration by United, Southwest, and American Airlines and some labor unions, and is also an effort to improve efficiency for aircraft arriving and taking off from surrounding airports such as Joint Base Andrews, Richmond International Airport, and other small airports in this region.

The agency announced yesterday it has finished the work for the NextGen system in D.C. NextGen is a replacement for the ground-radar-based system that has been in operation since World War Two. They also completed a NextGen metroplex project in North Texas last week. The NextGen system is expected to cost billions of dollars to implement and the FAA funding is expected to expire in late 2015. Lawmakers, however, are holding hearings to possibly extend the funding window next year.

NASA is also conducting studies of the NextGen System. Researchers are using a brand new laboratory to test NextGen’s operations with simulated flights. They plan also to put unmanned aerial vehicles into the National Airspace System.

According to the National Weather Service, a storm system originating over the Gulf of Mexico flowing to the Northeast region of the U.S. may affect travel this week, bringing heavy snow, rain, and winds.



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November 20, 2014

FAA: Metroplex NextGen project in place in north Texas

FAA: Metroplex NextGen project in place in north Texas

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

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FAA Seal

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced yesterday that the North Texas Metroplex NextGen project has been successfully put into place, promising more efficiency in the U.S. airspace.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, this system will save fuel and reduce the emissions from aircraft, thereby benefiting the environment. The FAA said this system could reduce distances flown by one million nautical miles annually and could save tens of thousands of metric tons of carbon emissions annually.

To date, the North Texas Metroplex NextGen Project is amongst the largest in the country. A similar project has been underway in Houston since May and more projects are proposed in major cities such as Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Georgia; and Charlotte, North Carolina. A metroplex is a large multi-airport urban area where air operations can be inefficient because of air traffic congestion and environmental concerns.

These initiatives are very expensive to put in place and the deadline to have the entire NextGen system put into place — originally to be by the year 2020 — is approaching, but FAA Administrator Michael Huerta expressed hope this Metroplex system would go into place at airports around the country.

NextGen is a system the FAA claims would allow aircraft to fly shorter routes and save millions of gallons of fuel each year and cut carbon emissions. It uses satellite-based technology as opposed to older ground-radar-based technology to allow air traffic controllers to pinpoint aircraft with greater precision and give pilots more accurate information.


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September 26, 2014

Chicago air traffic facility evacuated for basement fire

Chicago air traffic facility evacuated for basement fire

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Friday, September 26, 2014

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A Chicago, Illinois air traffic facility was evacuated early this morning due to a fire. The fire occurred in a telecommunications room in the basement. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all metropolitan Chicago flights and transferred airspace responsibilities to nearby facilities to accommodate affected air traffic.

FAA Seal.

Authorities, including a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said they suspected an FAA contractor set the basement on fire, but did not believe him to be a terrorist. He was later hospitalized for a self-inflicted wound. Another employee was treated for smoke inhalation.

Flights already en-route to the Chicago metropolitan area were still allowed to either continue more slowly or divert to another unaffected airport. The FAA said passengers in the area and surrounding airports and possibly airports around the region, might experience flight delays or cancellations, causing long lines at airports, and encouraged them to check flight information with their carriers.

The incident is being investigated by the FAA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Aurora Police and Fire departments.



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January 13, 2013

FAA orders review of Boeing 787 Dreamliners following week of incidents

FAA orders review of Boeing 787 Dreamliners following week of incidents

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

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A Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner sits idle on the tarmac at Boston’s Logan International Airport following a electrical fire on board.
Image: Patrick Mannion.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered a review Friday into the design and manufacture of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, following five incidents in five days involving the aircraft and two Japanese airlines.

On Monday, an electrical fire broke out aboard a Japan Airlines 787 at Boston’s Logan International Airport, when a battery pack which powers the auxiliary power unit, for when the plane is on the ground, caught fire. The fire was discovered by maintenance workers after passengers and crew disembarked following their flight from Tokyo’s Narita Airport.

The next day, a separate Japan Airlines 787, also at Logan International Airport, heading to Tokyo, suffered a fuel leak that spilled around 40 gallons, which was spotted by the crew of the aircraft taxiing behind them. “That Japan Air may know it, but they’ve got fuel or something spilling out the outboard left wing. Quite a bit,” said the pilot of aircraft behind them on local air traffic control frequencies.

Wednesday, in Japan, an All Nippon Airways 787, the launch customer for the aircraft, cancelled a flight after a brake problem was reported.

Earlier Friday, two All Nippon Airways suffered separate incidents in Japan. An oil leak was noticed in the engine after one aircraft had landed in Miyazaki, coming from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Another flight, flying between Haneda Airport and Matsuyama said the pilot’s side window in the cockpit suffered a crack.

The FAA in a statement said “In light of a series of recent events, the FAA will conduct a comprehensive review of the Boeing 787 critical systems, including the design, manufacture and assembly.” Further adding, “The purpose of the review is to validate the work conducted during the certification process and further ensure that the aircraft meets the FAA’s high level of safety.”

According to the statement, “The review will also examine how the electrical and mechanical systems interact with each other.” The Boeing 787 relies more on electrical, as opposed to mechanical, systems than past aircraft from the manufacturer including having electronics operate hydraulic pumps and using electric brakes. Large portions of the plane’s structure use lightweight carbon fiber composite instead of more traditional metal airframe.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “The safety of the traveling public is our top priority […] This review will help us look at the root causes and do everything we can to safeguard against similar events in the future.”

“We are confident that the aircraft is safe. But we need to have a complete understanding of what is happening,” said newly sworn-in FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta. “We are conducting the review to further ensure that the aircraft meets our high safety standards.”

Boeing released a statement saying, “[The company] is confident in the design and performance of the 787. It is a safe and efficient airplane. The airplane has logged 50,000 hours of flight and there are more than 150 flights occurring daily.”



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February 6, 2011

Investigation launched after two military aircraft nearly collide with passenger airliner

Investigation launched after two military aircraft nearly collide with passenger airliner

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

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An American Airlines Boeing 777.
Image: Adrian Pingstone.

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III.
Image: U.S. Air Force.

New safety procedures are to be implemented after an American Airlines Boeing 777 came close to colliding with two U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft off the coast of New York, United States, last month. Radar data indicates the aircraft came within 1 miles (2 km) of each other before the flight crew of the Boeing 777 took evasive action as an alarm sounded in the cockpit of the jet.

An aviation official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the traffic collision avoidance system alarm which sounded in the cockpit of the passenger jet, which had 259 people aboard, “may be what saved the day,” since C-17 cargo aircraft are not highly manoeuvrable. Investigators have reportedly found the aircraft would have collided head-on.

The National Transportation Safety Board has launched a “major investigation” into the incident, and confirmed there were no injuries in the incident. The Federal Aviation Administration, the government department responsible for aviation in the U.S., said in a statement air traffic controllers are “reviewing a variety of procedures including the handling of formation flights, aircraft near sector boundaries.”



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