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TIRE FAILURE DAMAGES JETSTAR DREAMLINER WING

From Airline Ratings

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By Steve Creedy

A Jetstar Boeing 787 was forced to return to Singapore’s Changi Airport after debris from a shredded tyre damaged a wing and caused flaps to malfunction.

The plane was headed to Melbourne with 231 passengers and 11 crew on board when the pilots received an alert that the wing flaps were not retracting evenly.

Flaps are moveable flight surfaces on the wing designed to increase lift at lower speeds during landing and take-off. The forces affecting an aircraft become unbalanced if the flaps on both wings do not deploy and retract together.

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau report into the May 13, 2017 incident found the left wing flaps were unable to move due to damage to a “torque tube” broken when debris from the tyre smashed through a panel on the underside of the wing.

The damage caused a misalignment with the right wing flaps, prompting the aircraft to shut down the flap drive system and generate a fault message.

The pilots notified air traffic control, put the jet into a holding pattern at 6000ft and decided to return to Singapore, opting not to dump fuel because of the proximity of other aircraft.

This was in accordance with procedures the Jetstar crew were following to land the aircraft safely.

“While the crew did not know about the tyre damage, the aircraft protective systems and crew actions allowed for a safe return and landing, despite the aircraft being overweight and at a higher than normal landing speed,’’ the report said.

TIRE DELAMINATION

The ATSB found the flap problem was a result of the delamination of the number 6 wheel tyre, likely at the southern end of runway 20C when the wheel was at high speed.

This gave the debris sufficient energy to penetrate the underwing panel, break the torque tube and interrupt the flap drive system.

The incident occurred before the tyre reached its expected service limit and the manufacturer concluded it had operated on an “aggressive” surface such as a grooved runway. It found the tyre experienced wear on the shoulder which led to cracking and undercutting of the tread.

The tyres had been certified as inspected according to the manufacturer’s requirements ahead of departure but no faults were recorded.

Nonetheless, Investigators said it was possible the tread was already damaged before departure.

“The arrival inspection likely occurred during daylight hours, but the aircraft may have been parked with the tyre tread positioned such that the initiation site was not visible to the inspector,’’ the report said “However, this was not confirmed by the ATSB.”

Jetstar has told its pilots and engineers to pay particular attention to the shoulder area of B787 tyres during inspections. 

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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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