Aviation News 2007

Baggage Ban on Batteries Begins
December 28, 2007

Beginning January 1, 2008, passengers will no longer be allowed to pack loose lithium batteries in checked baggage.  Airline passengers are still allowed to check bags with lithium batteries if the batteries are already installed in electronic devices, such as cell phones and laptops.  Passengers are otherwise limited to two lithium batteries per passenger in carry on bags as long as they are packed in a plastic bag. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has discovered that fire protection systems in the cargo hold cannot put out fires sparked by lithium batteries.

Southwest Airlines Jet has Close Call Near Springfield; Controller Error Blamed
December 21, 2007

A federal investigation will begin in January 2008 due to the large amount of close calls involving planes on runways at O’Hare International Airport and in the skies across the Midwest.  On December 19, 2007, a Southwest Airlines flight planning to land at Midway Airport was incorrectly directed to descend toward a private business turboprop.  The two planes came within 300 feet of each other.  The air traffic controller was a trainee with only three weeks of experience.  A collision was avoided when a veteran controller supervising the trainee ordered the Southwest pilots to speed up their descent to avert the business flight turboprop.  The collision avoidance system on the Southwest jet sounded in time to warn the pilots.    The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is classifying this close call as the second most serious on its severity scale.  If the two aircraft had collided, it would have been a T-bone crash.  This controller error was the second serious error in three days at Chicago Center and the facility’s sixth serious incident in just 11 weeks.

Air Traffic Controllers to City Hall
Staffing Shortage Contributes to Close Calls on Runways

December 19, 2007
Air traffic controllers will testify before a Los Angeles City Council committee that they believe a staffing shortage at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) has contributed to a record number of close calls between planes on the ground since 2001.  The Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee is holding the hearing.  Councilman Bill Rosendahl requested the presentation after the Government Accountability Office released their report on December 5, 2007 in which one of the conclusions determined that Los Angeles International Airport led the nation in close calls over the past eight years.

Search Called Off for Missing Alaska Helicopter
December 10, 2007

A LifeGuard medical helicopter has been missing since December 3, 2007, near the Spencer Glacier in Alaska.  On board were four people, including the pilot, a paramedic, flight nurse and patient.  Aircraft, boats and snowmachines have been searching for the remains and wreckage for the past week.  The Alaska Air National Guard also searched when the helicopter went missing, about 40 minutes into its flight.  The search has now been called off.  One body was found and some pieces of wreckage.

High Risk of Catastrophic Runway Collisions in U.S. Airports
December 5, 2007

There is a high risk of a catastrophic runway collision occurring in the United States.  In 2007, incidents spiked to 370 runway incursions per one million air traffic control operations.  An incursion is when any aircraft, vehicle or person goes where it shouldn’t be into the space that is reserved for take-off or landing.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative branch of Congress, stated in a newly released report that at this time, “no single office is taking charge of assessing the causes of runway safety or taking the steps needed to address those problems.”  The report makes it clear that the Bush administration is cutting corners and failing to put passenger safety first.  Senator Lautenberg stated, “The Federal Aviation Administration is taking too many chances and ignoring too many red flags.”  Sixty three people have died in six U.S. runway collisions since 1990.  There have been dramatic near misses this year.  On August 16, 2007, two jets came within 37 feet of colliding at Los Angeles International Airport.  On July 11, 2007, a Delta Airlines plane touched down in Florida and had to take off immediately to avoid impact with a United Airlines plane.  July 5, 2007, a Delta Airlines jet landing at New York’s LaGuardia airport narrowly missed a commuter jet that was mistakenly cleared to cross its runway.  The GAO urged the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to assume more responsibility for safety.

Fast Jets May Be Banned From Santa Monica Airport
November 29, 2007

Santa Monica City Council and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are in a feud over the city’s decision to ban jets such as the Gulfstream IV, Challenger and Citation X aircraft from using the Santa Monica Airport.  Nearby residents of the Southern California cities of Santa Monica and Mar Vista have complained for years that the lack of runway buffers and the airport’s location on a plateau creates the potential for a deadly accident or crash.  “Landings and takeoffs at the airport have been likened to aircraft operations on an aircraft carrier,” the report says. “There is little or no margin for error.”  The FAA has vowed to challenge the ban.  The ban is set for a second and final vote in January 2008.

TSA to Take Over Aviation Worker Screening
November 28, 2007

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is taking over the job of checking background information on all pilots, flight attendants and technicians, 1.2 million aviation employees, in the United States.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has had this task since September 11, 2001.  Every licensed aviation worker will be checked against the FBI’s “watch list,” not only when applying for a job, but every time the list is updated, which is almost daily.   Raids conducted earlier this month at several warehouses around Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport resulted in the arrests of 24 illegal workers who were suspected of using fake security badges to work in restricted areas around the airport. In October a former Orlando-based Comair worker was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempting to smuggle guns and drugs on a Delta Connection/Comair flight to Puerto Rico in March.

Two Planes Come Within Seconds of Colliding Over Indiana
November 16, 2007

An air traffic controller error caused two aircraft to come within seconds of a mid-air collision over Indiana, according to the FAA.  A Midwest Airlines plane was traveling east from Milwaukee in the path of United Express jet heading west out of North Carolina.  The collision avoidance device in the Midwest plane’s cockpit sounded in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area and the pilots executed an emergency climb, according to an airline spokeswoman.

Seven die in Brazilian airplane crash
November 5, 2007

An executive Learjet 35 crashed nose first into a neighborhood in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  At least eight people were killed.  The plane is registered to an air taxi company.  The jet took off from the Campo de Marte airport which is used by executive jets and helicopters.  It was en route to Rio de Janeiro.  Investigators are sifting through the smoky rubble, trying to determine the cause.  There were no immediate indications that it was related to Brazil’s recent air traffic chaos.

Brazil aviation chief resigns in wake of July TAM airline crash
November 1, 2007

Milton Zuanazzi, director of Brazil’s civil Aviation agency has resigned.  He has been under criticism from the defense minister.  Zuanazzi presided over the agency during the two deadliest plane crashes: the air collision of a U.S. owned Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet and a Gol Boeing 737-800, killing 154 in September 2006; and the crash in July when a TAM Linhas Aereas SA Airbus crashed in Sao Paolo, killing 199.

SAS says to stop using Dash 8 Q400 after accidents
October 29, 2007

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) is pulling all Bombardier Q400 turboprops from its fleet after several crash landings due to landing gear malfunctions in the past two weeks.  The airline canceled about 50 flights today and Sunday after the latest emergency landing which occurred on Saturday.  SAS is demanding $78.25 million in compensation from Bombardier for costs and lost income.  Horizon Air, Frontier Airlines, Pinnacle Airlines and Continental Airlines, all in the United States, currently operate the Q400 and have orders pending for the aircraft.

NASA Sits on Air Safety Survey
October 22, 2007

A 1997 White House commission proposal to reduce fatal air crashes by 80% as of 2007, resulted in NASA hiring an aviation safety expert to conduct an unprecedented survey, officially known as the National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service, of pilots across the nation.  About 24,000 interviews with commercial and general aviation pilots were conducted over the past four years.  Among the questions they were  asked concerned engine failure, passenger disturbances, smoke or fire, inadequate tower communication and severe turbulence. Despite the government’s suppression of the survey results and their FOIA denial to the Associated Press, the AP obtained information and documents through an anonymous source which showed pilots reported more midair near-collisions, runway incursions and bird strikes than reported in other government monitoring systems.  Pilots also answered questions about last-minute changes in landing instructions, near midair collisions, near collisions with ground vehicles or buildings, overweight takeoffs or incidents of pilots leaving the cockpit. Known for playing down safety issues, NASA has decided to withhold the survey results from the public so as not to upset air passengers and to protect the profits of the airlines. One congressman discussing NASA’s decision not to release the information stated, “There is a faint odor about it all.”  Since the AP’s disclosure of the survey details, NASA is reconsidering how much of the survey findings will be made public.

National Transportation Safety Board Preliminary Report
October 19, 2007

Before a Cessna 208 Grand Caravan crashed on October 7, 2007, killing all 10 aboard, it flew into clouds and rainy weather over the Cascades in Washington.  According to FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), who is assisting the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) in the investigation, there is no record of the pilot receiving a weather briefing, though he could have listened to a broadcast or logged onto a weather site before take-off.  AIRMETs (Airmen’s Meteorological Information) had been issued for icing, low level turbulence, and mountain obscuration. Even though it is optional, no flight plan was filed.  The aircraft traveling from Star, Idaho to Shelton, Washington, crashed at 4,300 feet in the Cascade range, traveling at about 70 mph when it crashed nose first into a mountain.

Most Fake Bombs Missed by Screeners
October 18, 2007

Security screeners at Los Angeles International Airport missed about 75% of simulated explosives and parts of bombs according to a classified report. Chicago’s O’Hare’s screeners missed about 60%, while security screeners at San Francisco International Airport missed about 20%. TSA (Transportation Security Administration) testers hid the fake bombs under their clothes. Approximately 70 tests were run at LAX, 145 at SFO and 75 at O’Hare. The screeners at the San Francisco airport performed better because they work for a private company and are more suspicious because they are constantly tested. Terrorists assembling bombs once aboard airliners is a top aviation concern.

Authorities Refile Manslaughter Case in Lake Plane Crash
October 17, 2007

Manslaughter charges were refiled today against an unlicensed pilot of a small plane which crashed into an Oklahoma lake in 2006. The pilot swam away from the sinking plane while three others died.  The pilot, Thomas Brent Caldwell, was charged with first degree manslaughter within a month of the December 16, 2006 crash of a Bellanca 17-30A.  The charges were, however, dropped in May 2007 after the district judge ruled there was no evidence as to why the engine had stalled and there was no evidence Caldwell did anything to make the engine stall.  When the engine lost power it crashed into Grand Lake with the nose partially underwater and upside down.  Caldwell swam to shore, but the three passengers died.  Caldwell did not have a pilot’s license and had not logged a flight in five months.  Also, according to the NTSB report, authorities at the crash site reportedly detected a “strong” smell of alcohol on Caldwell’s breath and noted his speech was slurred.  He will surrender to authorities.

Feds Bust JFK Drug Trafficking Scheme, Charge 18 Airline Employees
October 16, 2007

Feds busted a major drug trafficking ring today at JFK International Airport. Eighteen airline workers were arrested, including seven  Delta Air Lines  employees  and  an American Airlines worker.  Airport workers in the Dominican Republic concealed the drugs in luggage flying to New York. A second group of workers at JFK Airport would then retrieve the packages and get them to a safe area before the bags were inspected.

Radar Shows Plane Circled Before Crash in Cascades
October 14, 2007

Radar images of the Cessna Caravan 208 which crashed on October 7, 2007 in Washington’s Cascades, show that the plane circled, lost altitude, recovered, then fell rapidly killing all 10 aboard.  The aircraft made a tight 360 degree turn before losing 1,400 feet in 12 seconds, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.  The last radar ping from the plane was recorded at 8,900 feet.  It crashed at 4,300 feet.  A man hunting in the crash area said the plane was flying low and the engine was whining loudly, then it was silent.  The investigation continues.

FDA Issued Warning for Skydivers’ Plane 
October 10, 2007

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a directive in 2006 that aircraft operators need to post placards in the cockpits of the Cessna Caravan 208 (the same model that recently crashed in Washington, killing nine skydivers and their pilot) warning pilots that “continued flight after encountering moderate or greater icing conditions is prohibited.” In June, the directive was updated stating that Cessna had added an icing equipment supplement to the flight manual and had also developed an airspeed awareness system for flying in or into icy conditions. National Transportation Safety Board records show that this Cessna model has been involved in 58 crashes in the United States since 2000. Thirteen of these crashes were fatal and in at least one, ice accumulation attributed to the cause.

Nine Skydivers and Pilot Killed in Cessna Caravan 208 Crash
October 8, 2007 

Nine skydivers and their pilot were killed when their Cessna Caravan 208 crashed on October 7, 2007.  The aircraft was flying from a skydiving meet in Idaho and was headed back to Shelton, Washington when it disappeared.  The wreckage was located later that day at 4,300 feet near the Goat Rocks Wilderness area in Washington’s Cascades.  There were adverse weather conditions in the area at the time as a cold front had just passed through.  The wreckage and bodies were found within 200 yards of the plane’s radar ping.

Brazil Aviation Official Rebuffs Claim
October 7, 2007

The president of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers, Marc Baumgartner, stated that it was only a “question of time” before a new air disaster occurs in Brazil. Brazil’s top aviation official defended the air traffic control system by saying Baumgartner’s statement was politically motivated. Baumgartner also criticized the Brazilian Air Force for the excessive time they spent trying to arrest, punish and prosecute their own controllers for the Gol crash, but no time was spent in trying to fix the air traffic control system. The Gol crash, which killed 154 people, was Brazil’s worst air disaster until July, when a TAM Linhas Aereas SA Airbus crashed in Sao Paulo, killing 199 people.

Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800 Crash in Amazon Jungle of Brazil
October 7, 2007

Military prosecutors in Brazil have been investigating the Sept. 29, 2006 Gol Boeing 737-800 crash and discussing whether to indict five Brazilian air traffic controllers. It was decided on October 2, 2007 that they will not be indicted. These proceedings were separate from the civilian court proceedings initiated in June against four other controllers and the two U.S. pilots of the Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet owned by ExcelAire.

SWA Overrun Caused by Pilot Error, Use of Poor Data
October 4, 2007

On December 8, 2005, a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 overran a runway and crashed through a fence at Chicago Midway Airport.  One person was killed and 22 were injured.  The Boeing aircraft traveled approximately 500 feet past the end of the runway coming to rest in a roadway where it crashed into a car.  On October 3, 2007, National Transportation Safety Board officials ruled that the pilots failed to use the thrust reversers in time, as the primary cause of the accident.  An additional cause was the pilots’  lack of familiarity with the automatic braking system.  National Transportation Safety Board officials came to these conclusions by listening to the flight data recorders.

Airline Delays Worsen, Complaints Rise — Nearly 30 Percent of Flights Were Delayed in August, Industry’s Worst Air Travel Year Persists
October 4, 2007

Close to 30% of domestic airline flights were delayed in the month of August. The FAA and airline industry are blaming the delays on air traffic control technology that is outdated,;an increase in passenger traffic and bad weather. An increase in business travelers and the use of smaller planes by commercial airlines also increased runway and air congestion. Also of concern, are the 159 flights that were kept on the runway for more than three hours before taking off.  Airlines have stated they and the FAA are asking for a new satellite based air traffic control system.  That system will cost close to $15 billion.  It is projected that airline travel will double by 2025.

Alaska plane crash kills 2 Ontario brothers
October 3, 2007

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a fatal float plane crash in Anchorage Alaska which occurred on October 1, 2007. Three passengers and the pilot were killed. The pilot radioed the lodge and said the group was four to five minutes upon arrival. The four men were on their way back to the Royal Wolf Lodge from a fishing expedition. The aircraft went down near Nonvianuk Lake.

Thailand to hold air safety meeting in wake of Phuket crash
September 24, 2007

The black boxes from the airliner crash on September 16, 2007 in Phuket, Thailand, are now being analyzed by the NTSB, Thai officials and the country’s airport operators.  Most of the passengers’ bodies have been identified, however, there are 10 that are still awaiting identification.  The One-Two-Go budget carrier crashed in heavy rains killing 89 passengers.

Fired engineer calls 787’s plastic fuselage unsafe
September 18, 2007

Vince Weldon, a former senior aerospace engineer at Boeing’s Phantom Works, went public this week regarding his concerns for the new 787 Dreamliner.  He stated that in an accident, crash landing or fire, the plastic material burning would create “highly toxic smoke and tiny carbon slivers that would kill or seriously injure passengers.”  Boeing denies this and states that they have to demonstrate to the FAA the crashworthiness of their planes.  They also stated they wouldn’t create something that isn’t safe for the flying public.


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