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UK Study Slams Seat Spacing



From Airline Ratings

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By Geoffrey Thomas

As the US Federal Aviation Authority moves to examine spacing between airline seats, AirlineRatings.com has uncovered a 2001 UK study which warned about the safety consequences of shrinking airline seating.

The UK study “Anthropometric Study to Update Minimum Aircraft Seating Standards” was initiated by the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) under United Kingdom (UK) Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) funding and found that many economy-class passengers do not have enough space to assume the correct “brace” position for emergency landing. It also found the seats themselves are obstacles to quick emergency evacuation of the cabin.

The study’s findings into the distance between seats (seat pitch) adds significant weight to a US Court ruling forcing the US Federal Aviation Authority to look at minimum standards for seat pitch and width on commercial airliners.

The United States Court of Appeals For the District of Columbia, considered by some to be the second most influential court in the land, was responding to a petition by lobby group Flyers Rights.

The court said the consumer group contended narrower seats and closer spacing were “endangering the safety, health, and comfort of airline passengers.”

“This is the Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat,” wrote Judge Millett. “As many have no doubt noticed, aircraft seats and the spacing between them have been getting smaller and smaller, while American passengers have been growing in size.”

The fundamental rule the FAA uses before certifying an aircraft to carry passengers is the ability to evacuate all passengers within 90 seconds, in low visibility with half the exits blocked.

However, the UK study conducted by ICE Ergonomics Ltd found that cramped seating can trap and trip passengers during an emergency evacuation and it found that more space was needed for today’s overweight and taller passengers.

The study was safety-focused and did not comment on the comfort of passengers but it found that “economy-class passengers are so tightly packed together that they cannot assume a correct brace position for emergency landing”.

The study concluded that the minimum dimensions need to be expanded by at least 3 inches (7.62cm) in terms of seat pitch from about 28 inches to 31 inches. The report also said that “the current widths of typical economy class seats, and in particular the distances between the two armrests, are totally inadequate to accommodate larger bodied passengers.”

Most low-cost airlines have seat pitches between 28 and 30 inches, while traditional carriers typically offer 31 to 33 inches spacing.

Many low-cost airlines now offer extra spacing for a small cost – but find that thrifty passengers are reluctant to spend the extra required.

The CAA recommended increases in pitch and width but that went into limbo after the responsibility was taken over in September 2003 by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Airlines – and their passengers – have been squeezed by the constant demand for cheaper fares and the increased height and weight of the population.

In 2000, it was estimated by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that airlines in the US had to use an additional 300 million gallons of fuel to carry the increasing weight of passengers.

More than one-third (36.5 per cent) of U.S. adults are now classified as obese, something that prompted the FAA on August 12, 2005, to increase the weighting of passengers.

The FAA lifted the male passenger with carry-on weighing from 185 to 200lbs for summer and 190 to 205lbs for winter.

The averages for women – who are also weighing in heavier – increased from 145 to 179lbs in summer and 150 to 184lbs in winter.

But this is not just a US problem. Downunder, The Australian and New Zealand Obesity Society has shown that the image of the lean athletic bronzed Aussie is a myth, citing a 2014-15 Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showing that 63.4 per cent of Australian adults were overweight or obese (11.2 million people). This is a big jump from the 56.3 per cent in 1995.

Height is the other issue. According to R W Howard’s “Interrelating Broad Population Trends”, the world’s population has grown almost 3 inches (7cm) from 1945 to 2000 because of better nutrition and health.

According to research led by scientists from Imperial College London, the average human height has gone up in industrialized countries over the past 100 years ranging from the United Kingdom to the United States to Japan, with gains of up to 10 centimeters (4 inches).

But the gains are uneven.

The research found that South Korean women and Iranian men have the biggest increases in height over the past 100 years. Iranian men have increased by an average of 6.4 inches (16.5cm), and South Korean women by 7.95 inches (20.2cm).

The evacuation of aircraft has also come under close scrutiny for another reason – the insistence of passengers to take their carry-on baggage with them in an emergency.

Airfares would have to triple if aviation regulators were to re-certify aircraft to the reality of recent chaotic passenger evacuations that are taking up to 6 minutes – not 90 seconds.

Passengers are risking their lives, and those of fellow passengers, with the obsession of taking cabin baggage with them in an emergency.

If regulators, for instance, were to recertify the long-range Boeing 777 to the reality of what actually happens, the 550-exit limit aircraft would have to be recertified to just 183 passengers – half its typical load.

But for smaller aircraft such as the widely used A320 – and Boeing 737 – which has an exit limit of 195 and a typical configuration of 180 mostly economy passengers the impact would be devastating with a new limit of just 65.

That would mean a tripling of airfares to make the aircraft economically viable.

And authorities are already stirring. Last year, after a British Airways incident at Las Vegas the highly respected British Civil Aviation Authority issued a blunt warning to its airlines: Stop passengers taking their hand luggage off with them in an emergency evacuation.

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Ditching Pilot Charged With Fraud

From AOPA

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Texas pilot Theodore R. Wright III emerged from the Gulf of Mexico in 2012 with a story to tell.

By Jim Moore

He had ditched a Beechcraft Baron; filmed himself and his passenger treading water while awaiting rescue; and soon made the rounds on television with his video and harrowing tale of a cockpit fire, emergency descent, and water landing. Federal prosecutors say that was actually the first in a series of acts in a conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and arson by destroying two airplanes, a sports car, and a yacht.

Wright and his passenger from the 2012 Baron ditching, Raymond Fosdick, are among four men who now face decades in federal prison if convicted of all charges in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Tyler. Wright was arrested June 28, posted bond, then lost his freedom again July 5 when U.S. District Court Judge Ron Clark ordered Wright to be remanded to custody pending a trial scheduled to begin in October.

Once all four accused conspirators had been arrested by late July, the court unsealed the 25-page indictment detailing accusations against the quartet, with much of that case focused on Wright. Fosdick, who was arrested in South Carolina July 21, and Shane Gordon, who was associated with Wright in a variety of business ventures, as well as a registered charity Wright created, are accused of conspiring in various ways. Alleged conspirator Edward Delima was taken into custody in Hawaii, where prosecutors say he insured a 1998 Hunter Passage yacht (which Wright had purchased for $50,150) for $195,000, a few months before it sank at the dock.

Fosdick stands accused of participating in the first act of fraud, the Gulf of Mexico ditching, though Wright alone is named in conjunction with each overt act alleged in the federal grand jury’s indictment. According to that indictment, signed about a month before Wright's arrest, Wright prepared himself to ditch the 1966 Baron, N265Q, attending “water-landing training” in Alabama on three occasions prior to the Baron’s final flight: in April 2012, August 2012, and September 2012.

On Sept. 20, 2012, Wright and Fosdick departed Baytown, Texas, bound for Bradenton, Florida, a flight that ended in the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico, from which the aircraft was never recovered. Wright had purchased the Baron in March 2012 for $46,000, insured it for $85,000 in April 2012, and collected an $84,000 insurance payout Oct. 3, 2012.

“Hopefully we never have to do that again,” Wright told AOPA in a telephone interview on Oct. 9, 2012, offering an account of the experience coping with a purported in-flight fire that had transformed him, if briefly, into a media celebrity. His version of events at the time contrasts sharply with the version put forward more recently by federal prosecutors. According to federal court documents, Fosdick went on to sue Wright for $1 million for injuries and damages sustained in the September ditching. Fosdick settled his claim against Wright's insurance company for $100,000 in December 2013, and the proceeds were eventually divided between the two men and their lawyers.

A month later, Wright bought a 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo with a salvage title for $76,000, insured it, and then drove it into a ditch full of water on March 9, 2014. Wright went on to collect $169,554.83 from the insurance company, a check deposited by Gordon.

Five days after the Lamborghini was flooded, Wright purchased a 1971 Cessna Citation for $190,000, and subsequently insured it for $440,000 through one of several companies Wright and Gordon were involved in as listed corporate officers. Prosecutors say Fosdick flew to Athens, Texas, to destroy the jet on Aug. 29, 2014. Excerpts from a text message conversation between Wright and Fosdick are included in the grand jury indictment:

“Just don’t look suspicious there,” Wright warned in an iMessage exchange. He offered advice to Fosdick, who reported trouble with engine start. Later, Fosdick advised he had company:

“Old man just showed up,” Fosdick wrote, drawing an expletive from Wright in reply.

Prosecutors say Fosdick left the Citation at the airport on Aug. 30, 2014, and returned Sept. 12, 2014, to finish the job. Wright offered advice on vehicle “switcheroos:”

“Do not get made in that car or it will sink us,” Wright wrote in a text conversation.

Prosecutors say Gordon communicated via phone and email with the fire marshal in Athens, making false representations about the ownership of the aircraft, along with an unmanned “co-conspirator” who came forward to claim ownership. Gordon would later file the insurance claim, and Wright and his alleged co-conspirators received a $440,000 insurance settlement for the destroyed Citation. The check was deposited Feb. 11, 2015, and endorsed by Gordon, prosecutors said. Gordon and Wright then purchased a Gates Learjet Model 35A, serial number 476, on Feb. 27, 2015.

Also in February 2015, the sailboat sank. Wright had purchased the 1998 Hunter Passage in October 2014, and, according to the indictment, “'loaned'” Delima $193,500 to buy the vessel. Delima insured it for $195,000, and Wright paid the premiums, according to court documents. On Feb. 20, 2015, “the vessel was extensively damaged due to partially sinking in a marina in Ko Olina, Hawaii,” the indictment states.

A week later, Delima and Wright had a Facebook chat, also recorded in the indictment, regarding the insurance claim for the sailboat:

“I think you and I should be on the phone together for the claim call, I pretend to be you and give them all the info, then you will hear everything so you know what to say later, and we will be on messenger if we need to communicate while we are on the phone with them,” Wright wrote.

Prosecutors say the insurance company (not named in the indictment) issued a check for $180,023.80 on July 3, 2015.

Federal prosecutors have sought the forfeiture of the Learjet and $938,554.80 in known proceeds from the various crimes. The indictment was signed May 17.

Wright has apparently deleted Facebook and Instagram accounts for which he developed a following, sharing photos and anecdotes of aeronautical exploits. The last remaining trace of the online life Wright presented to the world is a Facebook page for his purported charity, Around the World for Life, which he claimed to have created to inspire children to fly in the October 2012 telephone interview with AOPA. That interview followed appearances on Inside Edition and with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Wright said at the time that his sudden celebrity should be leveraged to help spread good words about general aviation.

“Let’s get what benefit we can out of this thing,” Wright said.

Wright’s attorney did not respond to an email seeking comment on behalf of his client, who, along with his alleged conspirators, faces a potential prison term of up to 90 years and up to $1 million in fines if convicted.

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Honeywell Launches Self-Diagnosing Sensors For Aircraft

From Aviation Voice

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Honeywell announced a new series of self-diagnosing sensors designed to improve the performance of aircraft systems and reduce maintenance costs associated with false readings.

Honeywell, a leading provider of aerospace sensors as well as propulsion engines, cockpit and cabin electronics, wireless connectivity services and logistics for the aerospace industry, is introducing Integral Health Monitoring (IHM) series proximity sensors that can detect when a sensor has been damaged or otherwise impacted.

The patented proximity sensors can be designed into a range of aircraft systems such as thrust reverser actuation systems, flight controls, aircraft doors, cargo loading systems, evacuation slide locks and landing gear.

“Aircraft operators who receive a sensor reading often cannot be sure if they have a system issue that needs to be addressed or if the sensor itself is malfunctioning,” said Graham Robinson, president of Honeywell’s Sensing and Internet of Things business, which produces more than 50,000 sensing products for a range of industries from aerospace to medical to oil and gas.

“Leveraging Honeywell’s technical expertise in the aerospace industry, we innovated a circuit that can detect whether a sensor reading is correct or the result of damage or some other problem with the sensor itself.“

The proximity sensors are configurable, non-contact devices designed to sense the presence or absence of a target in harsh-duty aircraft applications such as determining when a thrust reverser is not fully closed. The sensors can detect most internal failures and display a fault output to a pilot or maintenance worker in order to help reduce aircraft downtime and maintenance costs.

“With our health monitoring capabilities, proximity sensors can notify engineers or operators of potential issues with a system before or after the component fails,” said Robinson. “The sensor fault-detection provides mechanics on the ground with the information they need to perform inspections and repairs without a long and costly troubleshooting process.”

For example, proximity sensors in aircraft landing gear systems provide a pilot with a fault alert on landing approach to warn if the landing gear is not completely deployed. With Honeywell’s health-monitoring feature, the IHM proximity sensors can indicate if the error message was caused by the sensor itself rather than an issue with the landing gear.

Honeywell also introduced Linear Variable Differential Transformers (LVDT), which are used in engine mechanisms, pilot controls and nose-wheel steering applications, and provide next-generation aircraft with continuous position monitoring and are designed for use in harsh environments. The LVDT sensors are already being incorporated into Honeywell-manufactured aircraft systems and can support other component and system manufacturers.

For both new sensors, Honeywell offers design engineering support and a standard design platform in which the engineering work is performed upfront to provide an off-the-shelf solution to speed up customer design cycle times.

Honeywell sensors and switches have been used on commercial, business and military aircraft for more than 30 years and can be found in a range of applications such as engines, fuel pumps, exit doors, landing gear, cargo doors, cabin controls and auxiliary power units.

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Would You Take a Pilotless Flight?

From Travel Pulse

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Pilotless planes may be the ultimate catch-22.

By Patrick Clark

According to new research from UBS, a transition to pilotless commercial flights could save the aviation industry billions of dollars. However, it turns out that only a fraction of travelers would be willing to board an automated flight.

The new UBS report determined that the airline industry could save as much as $35 billion per year by doing away with traditional human pilots. It also found that only 54 percent of people would agree to take a pilotless flight, including just 17 percent of travelers from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Australia.

"The technologies in development today will enable the aircraft to assist and back up the pilot in all the flight phases, removing the pilot from manual control and systems operations in all types of situations," said the UBS report, according to CNN.

Though the technology necessary to enable pilotless flights is still years away, there are numerous hurdles the industry would have to clear in order to make it happen.

Remote-controlled planes could exist by 2025, but automated commercial flights likely aren't possible until beyond 2030. Additionally, the industry would likely face significant backlash from pilot unions and have to overcome strict air traffic laws.

Currently, pilots spend only a few minutes manually flying aircraft. However, they are constantly monitoring and adjusting the aircraft's systems while on autopilot.

Even if the savings of cutting out pilots were passed down directly to passengers, it's unlikely they would be significant enough to sway disconcerted travelers to board a pilotless flight. According to CNN, airfare would be 11 percent cheaper in the U.S.

Nonetheless, if there's a potential driving force behind pilotless flights, it's the daunting number of new pilots needed to operate new aircraft as well as fill the void left by soon-to-be retiring pilots.

CNN Money reported commercial and cargo airlines around the world will need 637,000 new pilots between 2017 and 2036. U.S. pilot retirements are also expected to spike in the next decade, increasing demand for human pilots in the event that automated flights don't become reality.

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Air Canada Flight Misses By Four Feet

From AvWeb

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By Geoff Rapoport

New flight recorder data says Air Canada flight 759 (ACA759), an Airbus A320, descended as low as 59 feet above ground level and the 55-foot tall 787 on taxiway C before beginning to climb out on its go-around—coming potentially as close as 4 feet from a collision. At four minutes to midnight on July 7, ACA759, which had been cleared to land on Runway 28R at San Francisco International, instead lined up on taxiway C, on which three aircraft were holding for takeoff. After prompting by the one of the pilots of United flight 1 (UA1), the first in line for takeoff on taxiway C, who was well positioned to see that ACA759 was not headed towards a runway, the tower controller instructed ACA759 to go-around. After advancing the thrust levers at 85 feet above ground level, the aircraft continued to sink to a minimum altitude of 59 feet, before overflying at least two more aircraft. Altitude figures in the NTSB report are likely based on the A320’s radar altimeter, according to an A320 pilot who spoke with AVweb about the incident. The extent to which the accuracy of the radar altimeter may have been influenced by extremely close proximity to aircraft underneath has not yet been reported by the NTSB.


According to initial interviews with the flight crew, the both pilots appear to have been confused by the absence of lighting on runway 28L, which had been closed for construction. Its lights were turned off at the time of the incident, and a 20.5-foot wide flashing X had been placed near the threshold. The Air Canada pilots reporting believing that runway 28R was actually 28L and they therefore believed that taxiway C was runway 28R. According to the NTSB, the pilots “did not recall seeing aircraft on taxiway C but that something did not look right to them.” At 0.7 miles from the runway, the Airbus crew had asked the tower to confirm there were no aircraft on 28R and that they were cleared to land. The NTSB only learned of the incident two days after the fact, at which point the cockpit voice recorder had been over-written by subsequent flights.

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Plane Nearly Ran Out Of Fuel After Pilots Forgot To Bring Up Landing Gear

From The Telegraph

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By Hugh Morris

Two pilots have been suspended from duty after their aircraft, carrying 99 passengers, nearly ran out of fuel because they forgot to retract the landing gear after take-off.

Air India Flight AI676 was en route to Mumbai from Kolkata on July 22 but was forced to divert to Nagpur when the crew became alarmed by the speed at which the aircraft was losing fuel thanks to the additional drag created by the extended wheels.

An unidentified source told the Times of India that the “brand new Airbus A320”, one of the most fuel efficient aircraft in existence, had struggled to climb after take-off, prompting the pilots to settle on an altitude of 24,000 feet as opposed to a usual cruising height of 35,000 feet. The source, who made a point of saying that both pilots were women, said it flew like this at 230 knots - as opposed to around 500 knots - for about an hour-and-a-half, while the extended landing gear dragged heavily on the aircraft.

At this point, 90 minutes into a two-and-a-half-hour flight, the crew requested permission to divert to Nagpur as their fuel would have run out before reaching Mumbai.

“When preparing to land, they decided to lower the landing gear. At this point they realised that the wheels had been out all the while from Kolkata,” said the source.

A playback of the flight from FlightRadar24.com shows it failing to reach an altitude higher than 24,000 feet but put the aircraft’s speed at just over 300 knots.

A spokesperson for Air India told the Times of India the pilots have been “de-rostered” and the airline is investigating.

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Singapore Jet Twice Breached Minimum Altitude Rules Near Canberra

From Airline Ratings

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Computer entry removed minimum altitude protection on one sector.

By Steve Creedy

A  Singapore Airlines plane approaching Canberra in February twice breached minimum altitude requirements and at one point was 700ft below the lowest height at which it was safely allowed to fly.

High terrain around Canberra meant the Boeing 777-200 with 13 flight crew and 235 passengers was supposed to fly no lower than 5300ft on a sector between two waypoints known as SCBSG and SCBSI but the plane descended to 4600ft.

This was after it had previously breached a minimum altitude of 7500ft on another sector, according to a report released Thursday by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

The incident on February 22 this year came after air traffic control surprised the crew by instructing them to conduct a different arrival to the one they expected.

The aircraft was operating Singapore’s Capital Express service to the Australian Capital and its New Zealand counterpart, Wellington, in good visual conditions.

The new approach used ground-based VHF transmitters but the crew wanted to continue using GPS waypoints and needed to reprogram the flight management computer to accommodate this.

When they manually entered the SCBSI waypoint, they erased SCBSG and removed a 7500ft minimum sector altitude constraint.  The captain manually re-entered the missing waypoint but did not notice the altitude constraint was missing.

This saw the aircraft descend to about 7000ft as it headed towards SCBSG without the crew noticing. A warning from air traffic control prompted them to disconnect the autopilot and climb back to 7500ft.

Prior to passing SCBSI, the crew elected to conduct a visual approach but did not tell air traffic control, as required by standard operating procedures.

The first officer was manually flying the aircraft as it descended below the 5300ft minimum safe altitude.

The captain noticed the approach profile was low at about same time a  controller warned the plane was below the minimum safe altitude and the first officer levelled off at about 4600ft.

“The flight crew advised the controller that they had the runway and terrain in sight,’’ the report said.

 “The controller then cleared the flight to conduct a visual approach. After being cleared for a visual approach, the first officer commenced a climb to about 5,000 ft and re-established the aircraft on the desired approach profile.”

The ATSB noted there had been a number of incidents in Australia involving foreign flight crew diverting from flight paths.

These included incidents involving Thai Airways, AirAsia X and Garuda Indonesia.

It said the Singapore incident highlighted the importance of preparation and communication before starting a phase of flight.

“Requesting a preferred clearance early allows ATC to ensure that a clearance can be provided, or if not available, allows the flight crew time to prepare for a different clearance,’’ it said.

The incident also underlined the importance of adhering to standard operating procedures, something from which the Singapore crew deviated when the manually entered the waypoint, investigators said.

The ATSB  had identified numerous accidents worldwide that were the result of human errors in data calculation or entry with the consequences ranging from rejected take-offs to crashes.

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Boeing forecasts need for 2.1 million new airline personnel by 2036

From Air Transport World

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By Mark Nensel

Boeing projects the world’s commercial aviation industry will require at least 2.1 million new operational personnel—pilots, technicians and cabin crew—by 2036.

As detailed in its 2017 Pilot and Technician Outlook released July 25, Boeing estimates the global airline industry by 2036 will need 637,000 new commercial airline pilots, 648,000 new commercial airline maintenance technicians and 839,000 new cabin crew members. To meet this demand, airlines will have to hire approximately 106,200 personnel annually.

The report was produced by the newly launched Boeing Global Services, a business unit formed from customer services groups within Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes and Defense, Space & Security units.

Overall, Boeing’s total 20-year personnel forecast differs marginally (up 0.7%) from its forecast last year. Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region will require the greatest number of new personnel in all categories (817,000 total, including 308,000 cabin crew; 256,000 technicians; and 253,000 pilots). Twenty-year personnel estimates for Middle Eastern carriers grew 4.2% since last year’s forecast, the largest of the regions, as demand for new pilots increased 8.6% to 63,000, new cabin crew personnel estimates increased 4.3% to 96,000, and new technician personnel estimates remained the same at 66,000.

Forecast 20-year demand for pilots is up 3.2% from 2016. “Regional markets that have relied heavily on recruiting pilots from outside their home locations are increasingly seeking to recruit, train and develop locally sourced pilots,” Boeing said in its analysis. “New market opportunities are creating an increased demand for qualified, skilled and experienced pilots.”

For technicians, Boeing’s new forecast shows a 4.6% year-over-year (YOY) decrease, primarily driven, Boeing said, by “the reduction in maintenance hours required on the 737 MAX … newer generation airplanes will help moderate the demand somewhat by allowing longer intervals between maintenance checks, fewer non-routine tasks, and improved airplane reliability … advances in airplane technology will drive an increased need for technicians skilled in avionics, composites, and digital troubleshooting.”

Cabin crews estimates increased 3.1% YOY, “as airlines continue to expand flight routes, grow their fleets, and transition to airplanes with higher seat capacity … many regional markets have also updated regulations to require a greater number of cabin crew per aircraft,” Boeing said.

A breakdown of Boeing’s 20-year projections (2017-2036) for new pilots, technicians and cabin crew, based on global regions, is detailed here.

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Initial Canadian report on San Francisco taxiway mix-up shows it was a close call.

From Airline Ratings

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By Steve Greedy

Initial Canadian report on San Francisco taxiway mix-up shows it was a close call.

An Air Canada Airbus A320 which lined up to land on a busy taxiway in San Francisco on July 7 is estimated to have flown just 100 ft (30m) above two of the aircraft as it aborted a landing and narrowly escaped disaster.

The plane carrying 135 passengers from Toronto avoided catastrophe when it was ordered to go around as it lined up on San Francisco International Airport’s taxiway C instead of a runway parallel to the taxiway, 28R.

An audio recording has the Air Canada pilot telling a controller that he sees lights on the runway and a controller replying there are no other planes on 28R and repeating the clearance to land.

A voice from a flight crew member of another airline is heard saying “Where’s this guy going, he’s on the taxiway” before the controller tells the Air Canada pilot to go around and the instruction is acknowledged.

A United Airline pilot tells air traffic control: “Air Canada flew directly over us.’’ The controller says: “Yeah I saw that guys’’.

There were four aircraft on the taxiway at the time and a preliminary report released late last week by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says the Air Canada flight flew just 100ft above two of the planes as the pilots aborted the landing.

The A320 skimmed over the third at 200ft and the fourth at 300ft before returning to land safely on the runway.

According to the preliminary report, the A230 was on a visual approach and 0.6 nautical miles (3650 ft) from the runway threshold when the crew asked air traffic control to confirm their landing clearance.

It had overflown the taxiway for about a quarter of a mile when a controller responded to the query from the other airline and told ACA759 to go-round.

“The closest lateral proximity between ACA759 and one of the four aircraft on Taxiway C was 29 feet,’’ the report said.

US authorities are also investigating the incident, which has been described by one industry expert as an error that could have led to the greatest aviation disaster in history.

The deadliest accident in aviation history occurred on March 27, 1977,  when two Boeing 747 jets collided on a  runway at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, killing 583 people.

US authorities are investigating the San Francisco incident.

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Circular runway plan poses questions

From Airline Ratings

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Researcher investigates radical redesign of airports.

Analysis: Jerome Greer Chandler

A BBC video is taking YouTube by storm, chronicling one man’s vision of circular runways that could revolutionize the way the world travels.

Researcher Henk Hesselink is working with Netherlands Aerospace Centre to test the idea but questions remain about the idea.

Hesselink tells the BBC:  “My big idea is a circular runway. Aircraft can take off and land at points on the circle to make certain that they have no crosswind. He was inspired by watching scary crosswind landings on YouTube.

His team is using simulators to test the concept, one that could allow up to three aircraft to takeoff and land simultaneously on a 3.5-kilometre runway. The runway’s sides would be banked, like those of an automobile racetrack.

 “Upon landing, because of the centrifugal force an airplane would automatically go slower and go towards the center of the runway,’’ Hesselink says. “Passengers will not feel like they’re on a roller coaster. They will [only] use part of the circle,” as well as avoiding tricky landings."

“There’s the possibility of less fuel burn in the area around the airfields,” he adds. “We can also try procedures to make certain that the environment is experiencing less noise.

“Because we now have the possibility to fly in from any direction, towards any direction we can make the decision where to fly and where to avoid flying.

“We can also decide that anyone living around the airport has a similar amount of noise.”

The plan could boost airport capacity, allowing one circular runway to perform the work of four conventional airstrips.

Hesselink’s vision is bold, flying in the face of the straight line, point-of-the-compass based configuration of virtually every airport on the planet.

 Before circular commercial runways are built, however, some basic questions need to be answered, all of them concerned with safety:

*  Hesselink says one of the advantages of his idea is that it would do away with the need to take off and land into potentially dangerous crosswinds. Since his idea means the airport proper would be in a shallow bowl bounded by one runway knowing the effect of winds on arriving and departing aircraft is critical. A commercial jet in its landing “flare,” or one that’s just left the ground, is in a very vulnerable condition. Having to do so with one wing tip canted up, and the other down could pose a problem.


*  Another obstacle might be managing traffic at commercial airports where large widebody “heavy” jets are mixed with smaller aircraft, such as regional jets. The wingtips of heavy jets—such as an A380 or even 777-300—produce wingtip vortices. These tiny horizontal tornados can flip a smaller jet over. That’s why air traffic control is careful to space aircraft and wait until the vortices have had a chance to dissipate or blow off the runway. Might a banked bowl change the dynamics of vortex dissipation?;


*  Centrifugal force on landing will keep an aircraft glued to the runway. Researchers are going to have to determine if the current crop of commercial jets possess landing gear that can withstand repeated heavy “side-loading” or have to be beefed up to handle the forces. This could involve a basic re-design of an aircraft’s undercarriage—and perhaps additional weight. That’s something aircraft manufacturers are loathe to add. It means less payload can be carried;


*  Finally, there’s the matter of what happens should there be an accident upon landing or takeoff. The terminals are located at the center of the circle. Might an aircraft more readily careen into the terminal complex?

None of this is to say there might not be circular runways in your future—just that there’s a lot of research yet to be done.

The European Commission has funded some testing already. But apart from military trials in the mid-1960s, a commercial circular runway has never been constructed.

 

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Qantas high-speed wi-fi trial proving popular with passengers

From Airline Ratings

Qantas High Speed_717By Steve Creedy

Airline aims for a broader rollout in September.

A second Qantas plane has been equipped with the airline’s new on-board wi-fi and up to eight more are being fitted out as encouraging trial results suggest a broader rollout in late September.

The airline currently has a single Boeing 737, VH-XZB, trialing the ViaSat system and says about 3500 people a week have been giving the free service a go.

The verdict so far, according a blog on the airline’s website, is good.

Just under a third of passengers are logging on at some stage during the flight, significantly higher than 5 per cent response the airline got when it tested a slower system on the A380 in 2012.

Qantas is expecting to far exceed the industry standard participation rate of about 10 per cent and see about 30 to 50 per cent of passengers log on because the system is free.

Technicians have been using the trail to fine tune the system and reliability is now sitting at about 98 per cent with fewer dropouts.

Download speeds have been routinely above 12 megabits per second, a result that has improved as the trail continues, which is more than enough to use streaming services such as Stan, Netflix and Spotify.

About 60 per cent of customers are using one or more services or apps and are visiting multiple websites.

“Overall customer satisfaction has been positive, with the latest survey figures showing 88 per cent of customers gave their Wi-Fi experience the thumbs up,’’ the airline said. “We hope to increase this as we keep making tweaks to the system.’’

Qantas expects is hoping to move from the trial phase to broader rollout in late September, once the system has been thoroughly tested.

The plan is to have 80 Boeing 737s and Airbus A330s fitted by late 2018, offering it to 15 million passengers a year.

Qantas has opted for a newer, high-capacity Ka system offered by ViaSat through nbn’s Sky Muster satellite. It offers speeds that are 10 times faster than conventional wi-fi.

Virgin Australia is also introducing on-board wi-fi but is using a rival system offered by in-flight connectivity specialist Gogo’s 2Ku technology connected through five Optus geostationary satellites, while

This battle between the two systems is already underway in the US where Gogo, used by Virgin partner Delta Air Lines, is the market leader and ViaSat the up and coming challenger.

Ku and Ka refer to wavelength classifications for the signals the technologies are using to communicate with the satellites. Ku uses longer wavelengths and a lower frequency and is an older technology.

Ku satellites historically have not had the bandwidth capacity of their Ka counterparts and the earlier Ku wi-fi system was relatively slow.

However,  Gogo boosted speeds by introducing a dual antenna — one for upload and one for download — with 2Ku and has claimed peak speeds of up to 100 megabits per second.

 

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Jet2 flight from Manchester to Tenerife 'bursts wheels on landing'

From The Independent

badday_617By Will Worley

A Jet2 flight from Manchester to Tenerife has burst its wheels on landing.

The airline confirmed the news to The Independent. No injuries have been reported.

Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido announced the news on his Twitter account.

Aviation website Flight Radar 24 showed some other flights to Tenerife Airport arrival were delayed or diverted.

Photos posted to social media purportedly showed the damage. The images have not yet been verified by The Independent.

Passengers said there were delays in the airport caused by the flight.

A Jet2 spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Flight LS917 from Manchester to Tenerife experienced tyre damage upon landing at Tenerife South Airport on Tuesday 27th June.

"All customers disembarked via the steps as normal and have been transferred to the terminal.

"We apologise to all customers affected today. The safety and comfort of our customers and crew is our number one priority at all times.”

There was no further information on how the damage came about.

 

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Boeing: Days Of Jumbo Airliner Winding Up

From AvWeb

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By Geoff Rapoport

Boeing told attendees at the Paris Air Show that it doesn’t expect to sell any more 747s for commercial air travel. Although the aircraft continues to sell slowly as a freighter and VIP transport, Boeing has only two remaining orders for the passenger version 747-8—not counting those sold to the bankrupt Russian carrier Transero, which surely will not be taking delivery of its jets. “We don’t see much demand for really big airplanes,” says Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s vice president of marketing. “We find it hard to believe Airbus will be able to deliver the rest of their A380s in backlog.” Boeing has produced over 1,500 of the distinctive jets since its introduction in 1968.

Airbus, for its part, remains bullish on the very large aircraft market, but has been dragging its heels on committing to plans for an upgraded A380 without purchase commitments from airlines to buy new airplanes. Emirates, the largest operator of the A380, has been lukewarm on the proposed upgrades. The Middle Eastern carrier operates almost half of the world’s A380 superjumbos, and is very interested in ensuring Airbus can support a robust global resale market for the used market for the double-deckers in the Emirates fleet before committing to buying more. Tim Clark, Emirates president, was unequivocal about what he wants to see: “They need to put the A380s into other airlines.”

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Airbus To Introduce Deployable Black Boxes

From RunwayGirl Network

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By John Walton

In a bold move towards improving the survivability of aircraft flight recorders for commercial aircraft worldwide, Airbus is working in partnership with L3 Technologies and DRS Leonardo to combine and duplicate audio and data recorders, together with a automatically jettisoned recorder for use in longhaul and extensive overwater flight operations.

To start, the partnership is combining the flight data recorder with the cockpit voice recorder in one smaller device, the cockpit voice and data recorder (CFDR). The reduced size enables an Airbus A320 family aircraft to carry two of the fixed, crash-protected, combined recorders instead of one of each of the separate black boxes, increasing redundancy and the likelihood of readable information surviving a crash.

The data storage of the CFDRs will also increase, enabling a total of 25 hours of voice recording, and increasing the amount of data that is available to investigators, pursuant to aircraft tracking standard requirements from UN body ICAO and European safety regulator EASA. Current recorders are only required to contain two hours of voice recording.

For longhaul aircraft or those with significant overwater missions — including the A321LR, A330, A350 XWB and A380 — the partnership has designed the automatic deployable flight recorder (AFDR) as a separate jettisonable and float-capable unit automatically deployed in the event of water contact or what Airbus calls “significant structural deformation”. This would not, for example, include a hard landing, collision with catering truck, or similar mishap, the partnership confirmed in a press conference at the Paris Air Show.

The deployable AFDR will also contain 25 hours of cockpit voice recording alongside flight data recorder information, plus an emergency locator transmitter to aid the rescue and recovery effort. “The deployment mechanism for the recorder is a spring that’s preloaded,” Martin Munro, VP and general manager of DRS Leonardo’s Canadian facility confirmed.

“When a series of ball bearings are released, the shaft comes up and causes the recorder — the beacon airfoil unit, as we call it — to release from its  tray. There are two mechanisms for triggering the deployment of the recorder. One is a loop in the aircraft that detects the structural deformation of the aircraft, and that triggers the deployment. There’s also a hydrostatic switch built into this unit, and as the unit goes down below two meters in the water it will automatically trigger the release.”

Airbus expects to receive certification and launch the system in 2019, initially on the A350, Airbus’ commercial EVP of engineering Charles Champion confirmed.

However, and surprisingly, Champion told Runway Girl Network that this work is going on in parallel — rather than integrated with — work to transmit the information written to the recorders over inflight connectivity in the event of the detection of abnormal flight.

“Connectivity is managed in a different manner,” Champion said. “This is only storage, passive in a way. In parallel we are working with Rockwell Collins in order to be able to transmit data. This is a solution that is not on all aircraft — it depends a lot on what is the connectivity solution chosen by the airline. The challenge is to have full connectivity coverage in order to transmit the data. I think they are complimentary. We are discussing also and working currently in terms of transmitting data, but not associated with this. They are two separate avenues.”

While Kris Ganase, President of L3 Aviation Products Sector, noted that “right now we are just talking to Airbus” regarding the technology, Champion confirmed that Airbus does not intend to keep the technological advances in recorder type and audio quantity to itself: “We have no patent on that, and as it is an improvement of safety, this is free for L3 to discuss with other manufacturers if they wish to introduce it on their aircraft.”

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Iran Airtour and Zagros Airlines Sign MoU for 73 Airbus Aircraft

From AviationIran.com

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By Amin Chini

Two of Iran’s domestic mid-size air carriers have signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning a total of 73 new aircraft, Airbus today announced. Iran Airtour and Zagros Airlines’ commitments were disclosed at the Paris Airshow where the world’s major aircraft manufacturers have announced new orders and commitments during the past days.

Zagros Airlines, one of Iran’s prominent domestic airlines with a steadily growing fleet, signed a MoU with Airbus for the acquisition of 28 new aircraft, covering 20 A320neo and 8 A330neo. The commitment was signed today between the Iranian airlines’ CEO Seyed Abdolreza Mousavi and Airbus’ COO and President Commercial Aircraft Fabrice Brégier. Nearly half of the airline’s current 18-aircraft fleet consists of Airbus aircraft; 7 A320, 2 A321 and 1 A319. The rest of the fleet is composed of 5 MD82 and 3 MD83 aircraft. The A330neo would become the airline’s very first addition of a widebody aircraft, most likely indicating an international expansion. While Zagros Airlines currently operates a number of international flights a day to countries such as Turkey, Georgia and Georgia, the majority of the airline’s capacity is spread out on domestic routes.

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Qatar Airways seeks up to 10% stake in American Airlines

From Air Transprt World

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By Karen Walker

Qatar Airways has made an unsolicited bid to take up to a 10% stake—an investment of at least $808 million—in American Airlines, an SEC filing American submitted Thursday revealed.

According to the June 22 filing, Qatar Airways would buy the stake on the open market. If that happens, it would make the Doha-based carrier one of American’s largest investors. Dallas/Fort Worth-based American stresses that the proposal was not solicited and says it “would in no way change the company’s board composition, governance, management or strategic direction.”

For now, it is unclear if or how the deal will proceed. In its filing, American states that its certificate of incorporation prohibits anyone from acquiring 4.75% or more of the company’s outstanding stock without advance approval from the board following a written request. The company’s board did not receive any written request from Qatar Airways, American says. American also notes that foreign ownership laws limit the total percentage of foreign voting interest in a US company to 24.9%.

In a statement, Qatar Airways said it sees a strong investment opportunity in American, but seemed keen to stress that it was not looking to interfere with the company's management or operations.

"Qatar Airways believes in American Airlines’ fundamentals and intends to build a passive position in the company with no involvement in management, operations or governance," Qatar Airways said. "Qatar Airways has long considered American Airlines to be a good oneworld alliance partner and looks forward to continuing this relationship. Qatar Airways plans to make an initial investment of up to 4.75%. Qatar Airways will not exceed 4.75% without prior consent of the American Airlines board. Qatar Airways will make all necessary regulatory filings at the appropriate time."

Both airlines are oneworld global alliance members, but they are also rivals on either side of the fractious US Open Skies dispute. American is one of the three US major carriers campaigning against what they allege to be unfair, government subsidized practices by Doha-based Qatar Airways and UAE-based Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways. The US has Open Skies agreements with Qatar and the UAE, which has allowed the Gulf carriers to expand services to the US.

In its filing, American makes clear Qatar Airways’ bid does not change its viewpoint on this issue, stating, it “does not alter American Airlines’ conviction on the need to enforce the Open Skies agreements with the UAE and the nation of Qatar and ensure fair competition with Gulf carriers, including Qatar Airways. American Airlines continues to believe that the President and his administration will stand up to foreign governments to end massive carrier subsidies that threaten the US aviation industry and that threaten American jobs.

Qatar Airways has been on an airline investment spree. Late last year it acquired a 10% stake in LATAM Airlines Group, another oneworld member, and it has also increased its stake in IAG—parent of British Airways—to 20%.

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Boeing Plans Tests For Autonomous Airliner

From AvWeb

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By Mary Grady

Boeing plans to start flight tests next year of an artificial-intelligence system that would be capable of flying a commercial jet, Mike Sinnett, vice president of product development at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said at a recent press briefing. Sinnett said his team will fly a simulator later this year with the AI system making some of the piloting decisions, and they will test-fly it next year on a real airplane. “There’s going to be a transition from the requirement to have a skilled aviator operate the airplane to having a system that operates the vehicle autonomously, if we can do that with the same level of safety,” Sinnett said, according to the Seattle Times. “That’s a really big if,” he added.

The standards that airplanes must meet are much higher than for cars, where fatality rates are high. Autonomous cars can easily improve on the accident rate compared to human drivers. Yet U.S. airlines have not had a fatal accident since 2009. That means the accident rate of autonomous airplanes will need “to be as good as zero,” Sinnett said. Sinnett said Boeing’s interest in autonomous flight is driven by a concern that the supply of qualified pilots may not be adequate to meet the needs of airlines. In the next two decades, Boeing forecasts sales of about 40,000 new commercial jets. “Where will the experienced pilots come from?” Sinnett asked. Sinnett plans to talk more about the autonomy project next week at the Paris Air Show, according to the Times.

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China Eastern A332 at Sydney on Jun 11th 2017, engine shut down in flight

From The Aviation Herald

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By Simon Hradecky

A China Eastern Airbus A330-200, registration B-6099 performing flight MU-736 from Sydney,NS (Australia) to Shanghai Pudong (China), was in the initial climb out of Sydney's runway 34L when the crew reported an left hand engine (Trent 772) fault and requested to maintain runway heading. The aircraft levelled off at 5000 feet, the crew shut the engine down. The crew subsequently reported it appeared the left hand engine's cowling was damaged and requested a runway inspection, the engine suffered the damage about one second after takeoff rotation. ATC informed the crew that a runway inspection did not find any debris on the runway. The aircraft returned to Sydney for a safe landing on runway 34L about 40 minutes after departure. A large hole was visible at the inboard side of the left hand engine's intake.

A seemingly similiar incident also involving a Trent 772 engine happened about 4 weeks ago, see Incident: Egypt A332 at Cairo on May 15th 2017, rejected takeoff due to engine failure.

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Passengers Demanding On-Ground Wi-Fi Experience In The Air

From Air Transport World

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By Aaron Karp

Whether airlines can re-create the on-ground Wi-Fi connectivity experience for passengers is debatable, but whether passengers want and expect that level of connectivity is not, according to a panel of players in the infight connectivity field.

When passengers board a commercial aircraft that is Wi-Fi enabled, they expect to be able to stream videos and do everything they can do on laptops and personal electronic devices on the ground—and will complain when they cannot, sometimes to a global audience via social media, United Airlines IT director Jon Merritt said.

 

“When we say we’re never going to be what we are on the ground, I get that. I get it, but I still don’t agree with it. I want what I want and I think that’s the consumer perspective,” Merritt said during a panel discussion at the Global Connected Aircraft Summit in Arlington, Virginia. “Domestically here in the US, [reliable onboard Wi-Fi] is an expectation. It’s not a luxury anymore. People fly aircraft based on how reliable the connectivity is … No longer do everyday passengers expect to have a quiet, unplugged two-hour trip. They want to be connected. They want to be on email.”

Airbus VP-connected fleet Mark Rich added, “Today, you still don’t enjoy the same terrestrial experience in the air. Customers really want that. How do we replicate these services? I think that’s the big push in the next few years.”

Panasonic Avionics senior director-corporate sales and marketing Jon Norris cautioned that it is an “unrealistic goal” to duplicate the on-ground Wi-Fi experience inflight. “It’s always going to better on the ground,” he said.

But ViaSat senior director-business development for commercial mobile systems Meherwan Polad said airlines and inflight connectivity providers do not have a choice and must aim to replicate the on-ground connectivity experience. “We have a network that’s been built to compete with terrestrial service on the ground,” he explained. “That same network we can bring into the air … That’s what JetBlue [Airways] is doing [with its free, gate-to-gate high-speed internet service introduced on aircraft this year]. The profile of what people are doing online on the aircraft is exactly the same as people on the ground. You see 45% of them video-streaming on the ground and in the air. People aren’t just going to accept” inflight Wi-Fi service disruptions.

He added that passengers are also unlikely to be willing to pay much longer for inflight connectivity and instead will expect it to be available for no additional fees. Passengers are “not going to be willing to pay for it,” he said. “The days of on an airline charging $30 for connectivity when the passenger already paid hundreds for a ticket is just not sustainable. JetBlue’s service is free and full to everybody and lots of airlines are talking about doing that.”

The panelists agreed that inflight Wi-Fi will become nearly universal globally within the next 5-10 years, and the original Wi-Fi connectivity technology installed on aircraft will not cut it. “The first generation of inflight internet is being taken off of airplanes,” Gogo regional president-North America David Bijur said. “It’s far too slow.”

United’s Merritt added, “We’ve got to be able to move quickly to next-generation technology.”

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Stratolaunch: The Next Evolution of Consumer Space Travel

From NYC Aviation

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By Stephanie Gehman

Founded by Paul G. Allen in 2011, Stratolaunch is the latest endeavor that aims to make space travel a possibility for consumers.  With an eye on Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Stratolaunch seeks to enable advancements in science, technology and research from space. Stratolaunch was designed by Burt Rutan and built by Scaled Composites.

The aircraft is the largest in the world, with a wider wingspan that that of Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose.  The 6-engined Stratolaunch’s size and statistics are staggering, the official press release notes it has a, “…wingspan, measuring 385 ft. – by comparison, a professional football field spans only 360 ft. The aircraft is 238 ft. from nose to tail and stands 50 ft. tall from the ground to the top of the vertical tail.” The massive wingspan is nearly 50% wider than the Airbus A380.

The carrier craft is notably powered by 6 engines.  According to Wikipedia, “the carrier plane will be powered by six Pratt & Whitney PW4000, 205–296 kN (46,000–66,500 lbf) thrust-range jet engines, sourced from two used 747-400s that were cannibalized for engines, avionics, flight deck, landing gear and other proven systems to reduce initial development costs. The carrier is designed to have a range of 2,200 km (1,200 nmi) when flying an air launch mission.”

Stratolaunch reached a new milestone on May 31, 2017. Rolling out of the hangar, it exited the aircraft construction phase to begin the first steps in testing the new aircraft. First up will be testing of the fueling system. Enthusiasts were able to watch feeds from several news sources as the craft was revealed to the public.  

The plan for the coming months is many rounds of ground and flight testing. These tests will be based at Mojave Air & Space Port, Stratolaunch’s home airport.  The ultimate goal of testing is to ensure the safety of crew and future passengers. Stratolaunch Systems Corporation’s goal is to send their first launch into LEO in 2019.

Image courtesy Stratolaunch Systems Corp

 

 

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