24 April 2015

The suprising chemicals that may be in your emergency oxygen system

A recent article in i09.com described a reality that may surprise some passengers. In short, the passenger emergency oxygen system used in some airliners may generate small amounts of toxic chemicals in addition to oxygen. While that may sound a bit scary, the risks to passenger is rather low.

Two types of systems
Passenger emergency oxygen systems provide oxygen from either a centralized oxygen supply system that supplies the oxygen to every passenger, or it is supplied by a chemical oxygen generator that provides oxygen for a small number of masks. Depending on the generator, it may contain a combination of chemicals, which may include sodium chlorate, potassium perchlorate, barium peroxide, or iron powder, that when activated give off oxygen as a byproduct of a chemical reaction.

Chemical oxygen generator hazards
The greatest risks from chemical oxygen generators is the heat that they may generate. However, airliners are designed to take this into account. The other basic risk is exposure to some of the byproducts from the chemical reaction. While the oxygen is filtered before reaching a passenger, is it possible that the trace amounts of chemical byproducts that remain may affect a passenger.

Hypoxia basics
Hypoxia is a condition where the human body is deprived of sufficient oxygen needed for normal bodily function. Hypoxia affects the central nervous system, and those effects may range from impaired judgment and decision making capability, to unconsciousness and death. In an aircraft that has lost cabin pressure while flying at high altitudes, the easiest way to prevent hypoxia is to breathe oxygen from the emergency oxygen system until the aircraft can descend to a lower altitude.

More on hypoxia
You can find an overview of hypoxia risks on AirSafe.com. If you are interested in the effects of hypoxia on pilots and passengers, you may want to check out this hypoxia overview from the FAA.

Resources
i09.com article about the chemicals in aircraft emergency oxygen systems
Hypoxia overview
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03 April 2015

Are people with a history of depression or suicide attempts allowed to fly? - Yes they are!

The unfolding investigation of March 2015 crash of Germanwings flight 9525 has revealed that it is very likely that the first officer locked the captain out of the cockpit, and proceeded to deliberately crash the aircraft into the French Alps. Reports by French and German authorities, as well as by Lufthansa, the parent organization of Germanwings, suggest that not only did the first officer have a history of depression, but that Lufthansa was aware of the first officer's condition. Reportedly, German investigators stated that the first officer had been recently treated for suicidal tendencies, but it was not clear if Lufthansa or Germanwings were aware of those recent treatments.

One basic question that many air travelers have is how can anyone with a documented mental illness have become a pilot for a major airline. While the answer in the case of the Germanwings crash may not be revealed until the investigation is complete, it is possible to address that question for US airlines.

The role of medical certificates
In the US, in order to fly, a person holding an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate, which is the type of certification that any US airline pilot must have, must possess an FAA medical certificate. The specific regulatory requirements regarding mental conditions for those holding an ATP certificate holder are spelled out in the US Code of Federal Regulations (Title 14, Part 67.107). The FAA allows physicians with specialized training to be an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME), who is responsible for evaluating a pilots medical fitness. If a pilot does not pass the examination, that pilot is not legally allowed to fly.

FAA Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners
The FAA provides AMEs with detailed guidance in a number of ways, including publications like the 2015 Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners, which had an update on 19 March 2015, just five days before the Germanwings crash. The document clearly states that a pilot has to respond to a detailed medical questionnaire, and must reveal a history of mental disorders, including depression or suicide attempts. While such a revelation would lead to further investigation, it would not automatically lead to a denial of a medical certificate.

The pilot who is suspected to have deliberately crashed Germanwings flight 9525 conducted part of his airline flight training in the United States several years ago, and would have been subject to FAA regulations during that period.

What do the airlines do?
While it is clear that the FAA allows people with a history of depression or suicide attempts to fly, it is unclear what the policy of individual airlines may be with regards to a pilot with this kind of medical history. What and airline knows about a pilot's medical history will depend on what that pilot would voluntarily reveal, as well as what the airline may legally be allowed to know. Because this would largely depend on where that airline is located, it is possible that what an airline in one country can know about their pilot's medical history may be radically different from what an airline in another country may know.

Resources FAA medical certificate questions and answers
Germanwings flight 9525 crash information
Lufthansa plane crashes
Other A320 crashes
Germanwings Wikipedia page
Flight 9525 Wikipedia entry

27 March 2015

At least seven deliberate crashes by airline pilots since 1980

24 March 2015; Germanwings A320-200; D-AIPX; flight 4U9525; near Barcelonnette, France: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Barcelona, Spain to Düsseldorf, Germany. About a half hour after takeoff, while at a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet, the aircraft began losing altitude, and crashed about ten minutes later. The investigative authorities suspect that the first officer deliberately crashed the aircraft. All six crew members and 144 passengers were killed.

A review of the cockpit voice recorder made the authorities suspect that the first officer locked the cockpit door while the captain was outside of the cockpit. The online flight tracking service FlightRadar24 reported than an analysis of their data showed that the autopilot was set to the minimum altitude of 100 feet, which is well below the ground level where the crash took place.

These recent revelations of the suspected cause of the Germanwings crash highlight the reality that despite all of the changes that the airline industry has made since 9/11 to prevent passengers or other outsiders from threatening aircraft, there is still a risk that crew members have the opportunity and the ability to deliberately crash airliners.

At least seven events since 1980
Since 1980, there have been at least seven occasions where an airline pilot is suspected to have deliberately crashed an airliner. One one occasion in 1994, a FedEx DC10 crew had to fight off an off duty pilot who had intended to crash the aircraft, and were barely able to survive the attack. For more details on these eight events, please visit http://t.co/XbqXIThVjB

Related information
Lufthansa plane crashes
A320 plane crashes
Airliners deliberately crashed by a flight crew member

24 March 2015

Germanwings A320 crashes in France with the loss of all on board

24 March 2015; Germanwings A320-200; D-AIPX; flight 4U9525; near Barcelonnette, France: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Barcelona, Spain to Düsseldorf, Germany. About a half hour after takeoff, while at a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet, the aircraft began losing altitude, and crashed about ten minutes later. All six crew members and 142 passengers were killed.

Germanwings is owned by Lufthansa, and this crash was the fourth Lufthansa or Lufthansa-related crash since 1970

Related information
A320 plane crashes
Flight 4U9525 Wikipedia entry

Below is the flight track of flight 4U9525 showing the flight track ending in southeastern France


Source: FlightAware.com

13 March 2015

Recent interviews about Harrison Ford's plane crash and the MH370 one year anniversary

Recent interviews featuring Todd Curtis of AirSafe.com included:

  • An interview with the BBC about claims that some airlines in the Middle East are receiving unfair subsidies,
  • Several interviews discussing Harrison Ford's latest plane crash,
  • Several discussions about the one year anniversary of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, and
  • Dissecting the preliminary information from the latest landing incident at La Guarida.

You can find all of these AirSafe.com interviews, and past interviews, at:

Free fear of flying information from AirSafe.com
If you have fear or anxieties around flying, or know someone who does, you may want to check out one of these resources from AirSafe.com:

Have other anxiety issues?
If you have fear or anxieties around flying, or know someone who does, you may want to check out the resources available at Panic Away.

23 February 2015

Recent interviews on drones, drug use at Boeing, and more

Recent interviews featuring Todd Curtis of AirSafe.com included:

  • An interview on the Rudy Maxa show on proposed FAA drone regulations,
  • A CJOB radio interview about last month's fatal crash of a Greek F-16,
  • Several interviews about the crash of a TransAsia ATR-72 in Taiwan, and
  • A KING TV report on Boeing factory workers fired for selling and using drugs on the job.

You can find all of these AirSafe.com interviews, and past interviews, at:

Free fear of flying information from AirSafe.com
If you have fear or anxieties around flying, or know someone who does, you may want to check out one of these resources from AirSafe.com:

04 February 2015

TransAsia Airways has second fatal crash in less than a year

4 February 2015; TransAsia Airways ATR 72-600; B-22816; flight GE232; near Magong, Taiwan: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight between Taipei and Kinmen Island, Taiwan. The airplane crashed into a river shortly after takeoff from Songshan Airport in Taipei. The aircraft hit a bridge, as well as a vehicle on that bridge, before plunging into the Keelung River. Shortly before hitting the bridge, the aircraft rolled sharply to the left.

There were 53 passengers and five crew members on board, and at least 18 occupants were killed. At least five people on the ground were also injured. There was heavy rain in the area at the time of the crash.
Other TransAsia Airways crashes
ATR 72 plane crashes
Flight GE235 Wikipedia entry

Airlines with more than one crash within one year
This TransAsia crash is the second time in less than a year that the airline has had a crash that resulted in passenger deaths. The previous crash was on 24 July 2014 and involved another ATR 72, this time on a domestic flight between Kaohsiung and Magong, Taiwan. All four crew members and 44 of the 54 passengers were killed.

Below is a partial list of airlines since 1970 that have had multiple fatal plane crashes separated by less than one year. Each item represents a sequence of at least two plane crashes or other events that led to the death of one or more passengers. For each sequence, there is a gap of less than one year between events. These sequences, which are listed in reverse chronological order, may include the airline or one of its subsidiaries.

  1. TransAsia Airways 2014-2015
  2. Malaysia Airlines 2014
  3. American Airliners 2001 (3)
  4. United Airliners 2001
  5. Cubana 1999
  6. TAM 1996-1997
  7. ADC (Nigeria 1996-1997
  8. Delta Air Lines 1995-1997 (3)
  9. American Airliners 1994-1995 (4)
  10. USAir 1994
  11. China Eastern 1993
  12. USAir 1991-1992 (3)
  13. Nordeste (Brazil) 1991-1992
  14. Aeroflot 1990-1991 (3)
  15. Avianca 1989-1990
  16. United Airliners 1989
  17. Korean Air Lines 1989
  18. Continental Airlines 1987-1988
  19. Philippine Air Lines 1987
  20. Northwest Airlines 1987
  21. TWA 1985-1986
  22. TAM 1983-1984
  23. CAAC 1982-1983 (3)
  24. Pan Am 1982
  25. VASP 1982
  26. Aeromexico 1981
  27. Saudia 1980
  28. THY 1979-1980
  29. Indian Airlines 1979-1980
  30. Air New Zealand 1979
  31. Air Rhodesia 1978-1979
  32. THY 1974-1975 (3)
  33. Eastern Air Lines 1974-1975
  34. TWA 1974
  35. Pan Am 1973-1974 (3)
  36. Japan Air Lines 1972
  37. Indian Airlines 1971-1973 (3)

The above list may not include every airline with two or more fatal crashes within a year. If you know of any others, please contact AirSafe.com.


Various videos and photos of the TransAsia Airways crash


Source: YouTube MrOutofcontrolvideos


Source: YouTube FSXninja


Source: LiveLeak

Final Moments of flight (Photo: APA):
Final Moments of flight (Photo: APA)

The wreckage almost submerged in the Keelung River:
The wreckage almost submerged in the Keelung River

Overview of wreckage in Keelung River (Photo: APA):
Overview of wreckage in Keelung River (Photo: APA)

Detail Map (Graphics: AVH/Google Earth):
Detail Map (Graphics: AVH/Google Earth)

Map (Graphics: AVH/Google Earth):
Map (Graphics: AVH/Google Earth)

Speed and altitudes (FlightRadar24):
Speed and altitudes (FlightRadar24)