October 20, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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The pilots of an Air Transat Airbus A330 that glided to a landing in the Azores in August 2001 responded incorrectly to a fuel leak over the Atlantic Ocean, according to the official report on the incident, released Monday. The pilots, reacting to what they thought was a fuel imbalance, fed fuel into the leak, and soon succeeded in inadvertently pumping all their fuel overboard, far from land. The report said the pilots acted from memory rather than utilizing a checklist, so they never saw a "Caution" note in the Fuel Imbalance checklist that might have caused them to consider that the real problem was not an imbalance but a fuel leak. "Although there were a number of other indications that a significant fuel loss was occurring, the crew did not conclude that a fuel leak situation existed -- not actioning the 'Fuel Leak' procedure was the key factor that led to the fuel exhaustion," according to the report. The fuel leak was the ultimate result of an improperly installed fuel line that fractured.
However, the report also found that there was not a "clear, unambiguous indication or warning that a critical fuel leak existed," and the pilots had never experienced such a situation during operations or training. The investigators also said that Capt. Robert Piché's skill in conducting the subsequent engines-out dead-stick landing saved the lives of the 306 passengers and crew on board. The glide began at about 18,000 feet, lasted 19 minutes, and traversed 65 nm. Air Transat CEO Allen Graham said, "Since the occurrence we have reviewed our training programs and enhanced our processes, in terms of both maintenance and flight operations. ... This event is unique in our history." Piché became famous in Canada after the flight. He was awarded a Medal of Honour by the Quebec government, he wrote a best-selling book about his career, and a TV movie was made about him. Reports that he had once served prison time for drug-running seemed to only enhance his legend. He continues to work for Air Transat and frequently spoke about his experience to the public. When the accident report was released, he issued a statement saying it "confirms that the August 24, 2001, occurrence was the result of a chain of events, and identifies the risk factors involved. ... I feel that with the release of this report, the final chapter of this story has come to a close, and I will make no more comments at this time."
Lawyer Glenn Grenier, of the Toronto law firm Goodman and Carr, has filed a $30 million class-action lawsuit against Air Transat, Rolls-Royce and Airbus on behalf of 193 of the passengers. "Up to the point in time when the engines flamed out, the pilots were in error and they were negligent in the operation of the aircraft," he said after the report was released, The Canadian Press reported on Tuesday. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union representing the pilots, saw things differently: "The report ... underscores the competence and professionalism exhibited by the two pilots in overcoming a host of misinformation and safely landing the aircraft and safeguarding the passengers under exceptional circumstances," ALPA said in a news release. The report also showed that the incident resulted from "a rare convergence of factors, including aircraft design, training, mechanical and performance issues," ALPA said. Although the Airbus landed safely, two passengers suffered serious injuries during the subsequent evacuation, and 14 other passengers and two crew members were slightly hurt, according to Air Transat. Grenier said that besides various injuries, the passengers suffered from stress.
The report recommends the mandatory installation of a new warning system for detecting fuel leaks, as recommended by Airbus to all operators in 2002. Other recommendations aim at improving maintenance and training processes. Also recommended is a review of checklists. The investigation was conducted by the Aviation Accidents Prevention and Investigation Department of Portugal. Other participants in the investigation included the Transportation Safety Board and Transport Canada (Canada), the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile and Direction Générale de l'Aviation Civile (France), the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (United Kingdom), Air Transat, Airbus, and Rolls-Royce.
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The FAA recently posted its revised "Flight Plan," an effort to direct its goals and priorities for the next year, and asked for input. It got a substantial critique from the folks at AOPA, who said the plan doesn't pay enough attention to general aviation. AOPA said the FAA needs to focus on improving GA airports and adding more instrument approaches. The FAA should stand up for GA when security agencies restrict airspace access, AOPA said. The FAA also could do a better job of providing advance notice of airspace restrictions. "I realize this may require reform of the system used to disseminate critical information, the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) system," AOPA President Phil Boyer said.
AOPA's annual three-day convention and trade show opens today in Long Beach, Calif. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey will address the first general session via live video from D.C., and astronaut Mike Melvill is today's live luncheon speaker. Tomorrow, Adm. David Stone, head of the Transportation Security Administration, will talk about GA security, and Saturday features an open forum with AOPA leaders. The Long Beach Convention Center hosts 500 exhibitors and a series of educational forums, and 70 aircraft are on static display at Long Beach Airport. AVweb staffers are already on site, so watch for their live coverage in Monday's AVflash and NewsWire.
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The FAA has settled a lawsuit in which a white male worker at the agency's William J. Hughes Technical Center, in Atlantic City, N.J., alleged that he was repeatedly passed over for promotion during his 28-year career while the positions he applied for were given to less-qualified minority and female applicants. Michael Ryan will be given a promotion with back pay, and the FAA has agreed to review its hiring and promotion policies, according to Hanan Isaacs, Ryan's lawyer. FAA spokesman Greg Martin told AVweb yesterday, "With the assistance of the court, we reached a settlement we believe is fair to both parties and upholds the FAA's ongoing commitment to ensure a workplace free of unlawful discrimination in any form." Meanwhile, an administrative judge ruled last week that at least three FAA managers manipulated personnel records in order to artificially meet diversity goals, and violated federal civil-rights laws. Some of the managers also lied under oath, according to a report at GovExec.com. An FAA spokeswoman declined to comment, GovExec said, saying that the case "is still in litigation."
During 12 1/2 years with Ballistic Recovery Systems (BRS), CEO Mark Thomas led the company's evolution from a strapped-for-cash operation that lost money on every transaction to a fast-growing, profitable industry player with a product that at last count had saved 176 lives. Last week, Thomas announced that he's ready to move on. "It's a very amicable breakup," he told AVweb on Tuesday. "It's been one heck of a run. It's been fun. ... But it's just the right time for me." Robert Nelson, chairman of the board, has been named interim CEO while the company searches for Thomas's replacement. "I'm working with the company on a transition plan, and BRS is poised and ready to grow," Thomas said. Thomas said he plans to take some time off and recharge his batteries, but then expects to be working on new projects. "My non-compete agreement limits my options for working in general aviation for two years," he said. "But I'm definitely not ready to retire." BRS, based in South St. Paul, Minn., designs, manufactures and distributes whole-aircraft emergency parachute systems for general aviation and recreational aircraft. Since the early 1980s, BRS has delivered over 19,000 parachute systems to aircraft owners around the world, including over 1,500 systems on certified aircraft such as those built by Cirrus Design. "Mark has done a great job in seeing our company through some significant growth," Nelson said in a news release. "We wish him the best."
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The FAA presented Cessna with full Type Certification for the Model 525B Citation CJ3 in Wichita last Friday. The newly certified Citation completed 150 hours of function and reliability testing on Oct. 9. Cessna plans to deliver the first Citation CJ3 later this year. The CJ3 has a longer cabin than the CJ2, new Williams International FJ44-3A engines and a fully integrated Collins avionics system. The jet is certified for single-pilot operation and has a maximum cruise speed of 417 knots at 33,000 feet, according to Cessna. Service ceiling is 45,000 feet and the maximum gross takeoff weight is 13,870 pounds. The CJ3's certification comes two years after the program was announced at the 2002 NBAA Convention. Cessna says it has received over 100 orders for the CJ3.
Somebody must be getting a free ride, because the business-aviation folks have now declared they too -- like their big brothers, the airlines -- pay more than their fair share of the cost of the national airspace system. The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) hired an economics firm to study the issue, and found that bizav paid $188 million in federal excise taxes in 2001, which was $4 million more than its share of aviation costs for that year (the latest year they could get data). "This study refutes recent suggestions that the general and business aviation community does not pay its fair share of the costs of operating the nation's air traffic control system," said NBAA CEO Ed Bolen. The NBAA said claims by the FAA that general aviation underpays are based on faulty analysis. Noting that the debate about cost responsibility has dragged on for decades, the study urged action by Congress to reapportion aviation funding.
LONG FLIGHTS FEEL SHORTER WITH A COMFORTABLE SEAT
Starting this week, the government of Brazil joins Colombia in empowering its air force to shoot down suspected drug planes. The policy is meant to staunch a growing commerce in cocaine using airstrips hidden in the vast Amazon forest. The Aviation Crime Prevention Institute (ACPI), based in Ormond Beach, Fla., warned last week that the policy could increase aircraft thefts, because drug smugglers will seek to replace any lost aircraft. So far this year, nine single-engine Cessnas have been reported stolen, four of those in Baja, Mexico, the ACPI said. Authorities in Brazil said they have careful procedures in place to ensure that no innocent flyers are shot down. Planning a trip? Brazil's government distributed 100,000 pamphlets and 10,000 posters at airports and fueling stations to inform pilots about what to do if they are intercepted, and also is broadcasting warnings by radio. Opponents to the policy say it is equivalent to the death penalty, which is banned in Brazil. Peru reversed its policy of armed attacks after two innocent people died in a missionary aircraft shot down in 2001.
Liberty Aerospace, of Melbourne, Fla., announced yesterday that Kuwait Finance House - Bahrain has signed an agreement to acquire 75 percent of the stock of Liberty's parent company, through a combination of stock purchases from stockholders and a working capital investment. Liberty's management and staff will remain unchanged. Liberty manufactures the FAA-certified two-seat Liberty XL2 aircraft. KFH Bahrain is a multibillion-dollar company and is also an investor in Millennium Aircraft Leasing, which owns and leases commercial airliners. "We have known for some time that we have an outstanding two-seat aircraft, but we now have both the financial capability to properly support it, and the flexibility to develop the world's best light aircraft brand," said Liberty's co-founder and president, Anthony Tiarks, in a news release. "By securing KFH Bahrain as an investor it assures present and future customers that we will be there for them in the long term." Abdulhakeem Alkhayyat, general manager of KFH Bahrain, said, "Liberty's healthy order book and their step-by-step fulfillment of their business plan convinced us that Liberty represents the right investment for KFH Bahrain and its investors," according to Liberty's news release.
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A twin-engine turboprop carrying two crew members and 13 passengers crashed Tuesday night in Kirksville, Mo. The British Aerospace Jetstream 32, operating as American Connection Flight 5966, hit trees while making a visual approach to the Kirksville Regional Airport at about 7:45 p.m. local time, crashed, and burned on impact. The aircraft's wings apparently were broken off by contact with the trees, NBC News reported last night. The flight originated in St. Louis. Yesterday, NTSB investigators reported two survivors. Both of the airplane's data recorders were also found. The FAA said the crew was last heard from several minutes before the crash, and gave no indication of trouble. Also yesterday, the NTSB released additional details from its investigation into the Pinnacle Airlines crash that killed two crewmen last Thursday. While examining the engines, the NTSB noted there was some thermal damage to the No. 2 engine; that will be further looked at during a teardown in Lynn, Mass. Since the accident, Pinnacle Airlines has placed a new company altitude restriction on the flight ceiling for their CL600-2B19s of 37,000 feet. In Tuesday's accident at Kirksville, weather at the time was reported as light rain with some thunderstorms in the area. The aircraft was owned and operated by Corporate Airlines of Smyrna, Tenn.
The NTSB on Monday dedicated its training academy in Ashburn, Va., to the victims of transportation accidents and their families...
Loose change left behind from pockets emptied at airport security gates totaled $321,329.48 last year. The money went into the U.S. federal general fund...
EAA's Young Eagles to participate Saturday in national "Make A Difference Day" to promote volunteerism...
Congress last week told the Department of Homeland Security to report on its progress in restoring GA access to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) and other airports in the region affected by security shutdowns...
The FAA's application form for Light-Sport Designated Pilot Examiner candidates is now available online...
O'Hare International Airport to restrict unscheduled arrivals; reservations will be required, starting Nov. 1... A TV in Oregon was found to be transmitting a distress signal on 121.5 ... was it the campaign ads, or the reality shows?
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The Cessna, The Sky ... and the Cartoonist: Chapters Four and Five
John Ewing continues flight training with chapters on climbs, descents, and turns. But things are never easy when going "back to school" in the retired years of life, and our writer/cartoonist is flummoxed by more technical vocabulary and high-g-force turns. But he's looking forward to the time he can move into the right seat of the plane where the "real" pilots sit.
What's New -- Products and Services
This month AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you aircraft airbags, amphibious GlaStars, large flat panel displays, lightweight headsets and much more.
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked how important it is to attend aviation conventions. Most of you (49% of respondents) place a high value on aviation shows, saying you'd like to go if at all possible. 17% of readers acknowledge the importance of news and product announcements at these shows but say the real reason for going is to interact with other pilots and airplane buffs while another 16% say that they'd like to attend more shows, but the conventions' popularity makes them difficult to go to. 11% of you told us you'd like to go to the shows, but it's more practical to stay home and read about it on AVweb (and maybe in other publications). The final 7% told us they go to shows to see specific products or manufacturers, but otherwise they stay home.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
Controllers. Pilots. Safety.
Given an above-average pilot or an above-average controller, who do you think is more important?
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Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
"Picture of the Week" celebrates another first today! As we were reviewing the top ten finalists, we discovered that our #1 and #2 selections were from two people with the same last name and the same address! How could we pass up the opportunity to name our first double winner?* Congratulations go to the Pullanos of Mays Landing, New Jersey matching hats are on the way!
* Especially knowing that we could sneak an extra picture into the mix by having two Number Ones! Given the large number of great photos we received this week, we're glad to welcome a little wiggle room on our strict self-imposed rules.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
"Does It Get
Jennifer M. Pullano and
Frank Pullano Jr. of Mays Landing, New
are our first dual "POTW" winners. Frank tells us the photo on the
right was taken on the Fourth of July in Atlantic City.
Click either image for a large-sized version
AVweb continues to receive a large number of excellent images for our POTW contest. Here are some of the runners-up. Click on the links below to view larger versions.
Ron Harway of Windsor, Ontario (Canada)
caught these two Decathlons in repose at the Chatham Scale Fly-In.
The 1/4-size model is "beautifully scaled," writes Ron, "except for the pilots!"
Used with permission of John Crusco
"Traffic? What Traffic?"
John Crusco of Dover, Delaware
sent us this "aerial" shot of the busy skies inside
the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
And a special bonus:
Used with permission of Ken Zeff
The title says it all in this shot from
Ken Zeff of Carmichael, California.
To enter next week's contest, click here.
A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or send us an e-mail.
AVflash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service. http://www.avweb.com
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