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)

01 January 2015

2014 airline safety review

This is the 19th annual review since AirSafe.com was launched in 1996. From 1996 to 2013, the number of fatal events in a year have ranged from a low of five in 2013 to a high of 19 in 1997

This review includes all plane crashes that resulted in a fatal event, specifically events involving passenger fatalities in aircraft which have the capacity to seat at least 10 passengers where those models are used in regular airline service in North America, western Europe, Australia, or Japan. Also included are plane crashes and other significant events that did not qualify as a fatal event, but that either had high media interest or that had noteworthy aviation safety or security implications.

Only the numbered plane crashes listed below qualified as a fatal event. Details on how events are categorized are available at the AirSafe.com definitions page.

Quick summary of 2014
While this past year saw massive amounts of media attention for the two events involving Malaysia Airlines, and the crash of an AirAsia A320 in the last week of December, 2014 saw seven numbered fatal events on AirSafe.com, which is on the low end for the number of annual fatal events. Six of those events involved Asian airlines, and the seventh involved an airline in Africa. Of the four significant events, only one involved an airliner.

  1. 16 February 2014; Nepal Airlines DHC-6 Twin Otter 300; 9N-ABB; flight 183; en route between Pokhara and Jumla, Nepal: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Pokhara to Jumla, Nepal. Radio contact was lost about 30 minutes after takeoff. The crashed aircraft was found the next day, and all three crew members and 15 passengers had been killed.
    Flight 183 Wikipedia entry

  2. 8 March 2014; Malaysia Airlines 777-200; 9M-MRO; flight MH370; unknown location: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Beijing, China and went missing while en route. The current status and location of the aircraft, along with that of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board, is currently unknown. While it is believed that one or more military radar systems in Malaysia detected the aircraft heading back in the direction of Malaysia, there was no corroborating information such as communications from the pilot or information from the aircraft's transponder associated with that radar data.

    Visit the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 page for additional information, including links to articles and interviews of Dr. Todd Curtis of AirSafe.com

  3. 24 June 2014; Pakistan International Airlines (PIA); A310-300; AP-BGN; flight PK756; Peshawar, Pakistan The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Peshawar, Pakistan, when it was struck by several bullets shortly before landing. Two cabin crew members and one passenger were hit, and the passenger died of her injuries. There were no other injuries among the 10 other crew members or 177 other passengers.
    Fatal PIA Events

  4. 17 July 2014; Malaysia Airlines 777-200ER; 9M-MRD; flight MH17; near Grabovo, Ukraine: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight between Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The aircraft in cruise at about 33,000 feet when it experienced a catastrophic in flight breakup. All 283 passengers and 15 crew members were killed.

    Visit the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 page for additional information, including links to articles and interviews of Dr. Todd Curtis of AirSafe.com

  5. 23 July 2014; TransAsia Airways ATR 72-500; B-22810; flight GE222; near Magong, Taiwan: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight between Kaohsiung and Magong, Taiwan. The airplane crashed into a residential area near the airport during a go around following an attempted landing at Magong, Taiwan, which is on Penghu island. Of the four crew members and 54 passengers, at least 48 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.
    ATR 72 plane crashes
    Flight GE222 Wikipedia entry

  6. 24 July 2014; Air Algerie MD83; EC-LTV; flight AH5017; near Gossi, Mali: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and Algiers, Algeria. The airplane contacted air traffic control about 50 minutes after takeoff, requesting a course change due to weather conditions. The aircraft crashed in the area of Gossi, Mali. All six crew members and 110 passengers were killed.
    MD80 series plane crashes
    Flight AH5017 Wikipedia entry

    10 August 2014; Sepahan Airlines HESA IrAn 140; EP-GPA; flight 217; near Nardaran, Azerbaijan: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Tehran to Tabas, Iran. The aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff, resulting in 39 fatalities among the eight crew members and 40 passengers. All five crew members and18 passengers were killed.
    This is a not a numbered event as defined by AirSafe.com because of the aircraft type used.
    Flight 217 Wikipedia entry

    13 August 2014; AF Andrade Empreendimentos e Participações Cessna 560XLS+ Citation Excel; PR-AFA; Guarujá, Brazil: The aircraft was approaching Guarujá Airport after a charter flight from Santos Dumont Airport in Rio de Janeiro, and crashed into a residential area about 4.3 km fro the runway. Both pilot and all five passengers were killed. Among the passengers were a candidate for president of Brazil, Eduardo Campos, his wife, and one of their five children. This event also raises policy issues for democracies.

    7 October 2014; California Dept of Forestry and Fire Protection; Marsh S-2F3AT Turbo Tracker; N449DF; near Foresta, CA: The fire-fighting aircraft, which was based at Hollister Air Attack Base, CA impacted a forested hillside during a fire suppression operation near the Yosemite National Forest, California. The pilot, and sole crew member, was killed.

    31 October 2014; Scaled Composites; Model 339 (SpaceShipTwo); N339SS; near Cantil, CA: The vehicle, which is designed to fly into the lower reaches of space (above 100 km above Earth) was on its first powered test flight with a new engine fuel and oxidizer combination (nylon and nitrous oxide). SpaceShipTwo was dropped from its carrier vehicle at about 45,000 feet, and ignited its engine.

    Roughly two minutes after release, the vehicle experienced an inflight breakup. One of the two crew members was killed, and the other was able to bail out of the vehicle and was injured.

    Prior to the accident flight, there had been the 54 test flights of SpaceShipTwo, of which 34 involved a release from the carrier aircraft, including three powered flights.

    Scaled Composites, which conducted the flight test, is a partner of Virgin Galactic, which had planned on using SpaceShipTwo to take passengers on suborbital trips into space in the near future.
    Review of NTSB accident investigation findings
    Space flight related deaths
    Fatal events involving NASA astronauts

  7. 28 December 2014; AirAsia A320-216; PK-AXC; flight QZ8501; Java Sea: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight between Surabaya, Indonesia and Singapore, and contact was lost while the airliner was en route. Shortly before contact was lost, the crew requested an altitude change and a deviation from their planned route in order to avoid weather. There were no survivors from among the 155 passengers and seven crew members.
    Other A320 crashes
    AirAsia crashes

04 December 2014

Holiday air travel advice 2014

Between now and the beginning of next year, untold millions of passengers, some of them flying for the first time in a while, and even many first time flyers, will be taking to the skies for the holidays, and AirSafe.com wants to do its part to help you avoid any serious travel issues. AirSafe.com has a variety of resources, including online resources and downloadable ebooks that will help you work through many of the most common issues:

AirSafe.com web site resources

Downloadable ebooks

Traveling with gifts
If you carry gifts, either in checked or carry-on baggage, remember that the TSA has to be able to inspect any package and may have to unwrap your gift to do so. You can partially unwrap them for easier access, ship wrapped gifts ahead of time, or wait until you arrive at your destination to wrap them.

Flying with holiday food
You should be aware that some food items are banned from carry on baggage because they contain liquids or gels. While you can carry cakes, pastries, and pies with you in your carry on bag, but the following should either be in checked baggage or left at home:

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
  • Gravy
  • Jams, jellies, and syrup
  • Oils and vinegars
  • Salad dressing
  • Salsa
  • Sauces
  • Soups
  • Wine, liquor and beer
  • Gift baskets with one or more of the above items

Take our food survey
Help up understand what kind of food issues you may be having during your holiday travel by taking this short survey, which should last no more than three minutes. It will help AirSafe.com develop better advice around holiday travel and food.

Things you should know
There are several new trends and rules to look out for this year, some of them are pleasant surprises, and some of them no so pleasant:

  • Who can leave their shoes on: In the US, TSA allows children 12 and under, adults age 75 and older, and uniformed members of the armed forces who have a valid military ID can leave their shoes or footwear on.
  • Military members and TSA screening: Members of the military, including service academy cadets, are eligible for expedited screening at over 100 US airports if they use their military ID number when making a reservation. Visit TSA for more information on this program.
  • Marijuana and air travel: Starting in 2014, two US states, Colorado and Washington, allowed adults to legally purchase and consume recreational marijuana. However, marijuana is not allowed on airliners in the US, or at most US airports, and flying with it can get you arrested. For more information, visit AirSafe.com's section on air travel and marijuana at marijuana.airsafe.com.

06 November 2014

Rethinking space related risk in the wake of SpaceShipTwo

'This Week in Airline Safety' for 7 November 2014 discusses how the SpaceShipTwo mishap led to a rethinking of how AirSafe.com will look at space related safety and risk.

Last month's mishap that led to a loss of SpaceShipTwo, the vehicle designed and built by Scaled Composites that Virgin Galactic plans to use to provide anyone with the right combination of desire, adventure, and money a chance to go into space on a suborbital flight. While some in the media, most notably Wired Magazine have questioned the value of what Virgin Galactic is trying to do (referring to SpaceShipTwo as the "world's most expensive roller coaster"), there can be no question that the accident, and the ongoing NTSB investigation, has led to a new examination, both within the aerospace community and by the general public, of the value of space travel.

At AirSafe.com, that examination led to a rethinking of how to look at the history of space from the perspective of risk. As has been the case with airline safety and security, the goal of AirSafe.com is to provide useful information about risk, safety, and security. To that end, there were several changes made to the site, to put the risk of current and future human spaceflight activities into a broader, and perhaps more appropriate, context. The key changes to the site include the following:

Expanding the range of noteworthy events
A revamped and expanded page on space related mishaps will now include mishaps involving any vehicle capable of traveling above the internationally recognized boundary of space (the Karman Line, which is at 100 km above the Earth), where at least one occupant was serious injured or killed, or where the vehicle was lost or destroyed. In the mishaps listed on this page, the vehicle was engaged in a flight, a ground test, or a training session.

Including additional space programs
The pages listing space related mishaps and deaths associated with US space programs now has additional government sponsored or privately sponsored space programs, including the Manned Orbiting Laboratory and X-15 programs that were run by the US government and which both ended in the 1960s, and the current civilian program run by Virgin Galactic.

Expanding the definition of US space program
This page will include deaths of any astronaut or astronaut candidate in any space program sponsored by the US government, or of any person killed while associated with a private or corporate space travel project. The first category would include professional astronauts who were full time astronauts or astronaut trainees and who were killed accidentally whether on duty or off duty.

The second category would include anyone who was killed in a flight, ground test, or training session involving a vehicle capable of traveling into space. This latter category would include people such as NASA payload specialist Ilan Ramon, who was killed in the inflight breakup of Space Shuttle Columbia, and Michael Alsbury, who was killed in the SpaceShipTwo mishap.

This expanded definition of US space program deaths was not possible to do for all the world's space programs, because of the lack of independently verifiable information on space related training deaths in programs previously run by the government of the former Soviet Union, and programs currently being run by the government of the People's Republic of China.

Interesting observations from the updated pages
The newly updated and expanded pages on space related events led to some new observations about the safety history of the world's space programs:

  • There have been 14 events involving fatalities in US space programs, killing a total of 29 people, with 16 of the deaths occurring in a vehicle capable of traveling into space.

  • Two people have survived a mishap that resulted in the loss of a space vehicle. The first was Virgil (Gus) Grissom in the 1961 flight of Mercury 4, and the second was Peter Siebold in last month's mishap involving SpaceShipTwo.

  • Siebold is also the first person to survive a fatal mishap involving a space vehicle.

  • Grissom is the only person to have been involved in more than one mishap. He survived Mercury 4, but died in a fire aboard Apollo 1.

  • While there have been 10 serious mishaps involving a space vehicle, only seven involved a vehicle that had traveled, or was intending to travel, into space, and only one event (the 1971 flight of Soyuz 11) involved fatalities that occurred in space.

  • Based on the internationally recognized boundary of space, the first person to fly into space twice was X-15 pilot Joe Walker, who twice flew above 100 km in 1963.

Additional resources
SpaceShipTwo accident investigation
Space flight related mishaps
Deaths associated with US space programs

04 November 2014

NTSB provides timeline of SpaceShipTwo mishap

The following is an overview of the preliminary findings presented by the NTSB on the third day of their investigation.

During the fourth media briefing on the third day of the on site portion of the NTSB investigation of the crash of SpaceShipTwo, the most significant information provided by acting NTSB chair Christopher A. Hart was a general timeline of the events between the release of SpaceShipTwo from its mothership WhiteKnightTwo, and the loss of telemetry from SpaceShipTwo. In that roughly fifteen second span, a number of events occurred inside SpaceShipTwo:

  • SpaceShipTwo released from mothership WhiteKnightTwo at 10:07:19 PDT (17:07:19 UTC)
  • The rocket engine was ignited about two seconds later.
  • About eight seconds later, and 10 seconds after release, SpaceShipTwo was traveling at about Mach 0.94
  • Sometime during the next two seconds, the feather lock handle was moved from the locked to the unlock position by the person sitting in the right seat.
  • At about 12 seconds after release, the vehicle was traveling at Mach 1.02
  • The feathers began to deploy at about 13 seconds after release.
  • Telemetry and video data was lost about two seconds later, roughly 15 seconds after release.

In addition to the timeline, the NTSB stated that lightweight debris was recovered about 30-35 miles northeast of the main wreckage area, and it was not clear what role wind may have played in the distribution of that wreckage. Also, while there was clear evidence that the pilot in the right seat moved the feather lock handle, during the media briefing, Hart was not clear if it was the pilot or the copilot who did so.

Shortly after the media briefing, NTSB clarified its position on Twitter, stating that the copilot, who did not survive the mishap, was the person in the right seat who moved the lock/unlock handle into the unlocked position.

Additional resources
Initial NTSB SpaceShipTwo accident investigation
Review of first two NTSB briefings on 1 November 2014
Review of third NTSB briefing on 2 November 2014
Review of fourth NTSB briefing on 3 November 2014

03 November 2014

NTSB hints that SpaceShipTwo breakup was not related to an engine failure

The following is an overview of the factual data presented by the NTSB on the second day of their investigation.

During the media briefing on the second day of the NTSB investigation of the crash of SpaceShipTwo, acting NTSB chair Christopher A. Hart, reported on some of their early findings that implied that there was no fire, explosion, or other kind of breach or failure involving the engine, fuel tank, or oxidizer tank. Early evidence instead points to an un uncommanded deployment of the feathering system just prior to the loss of telemetry from SpaceShipTwo.

The feathering system on SpaceShipTwo allows the twin booms on the vehicle, referred to as the feathers, to rotate upward in order to provide more aerodynamic drag on reentry. They are intended to be deployed after the engine has shut down and prior to reentry. According the information provided at the briefing, deploying the feathers takes two actions from the flight crew. The feathering system has to first be unlocked before they can be deployed by moving the feather handle into the feathered position.

There is a feathering handle that moves the feathers into the feathered position. Based on video evidence from inside SpaceShipTwo, the copilot unlocked the system, but the system deployed without any crew input.

Model of SpaceShipTwo in unfeathered position

Model of SpaceShipTwo in feathered position

The sequence of events was roughly as follows:

  • After being released from its carrier aircraft, the crew of SpaceShipTwo ignited the rocket engine.
  • About nine seconds after engine ignition, telemetry data showed that the feather parameters changed from locked to unlocked.
  • Video from the cockpit showed that the copilot had unlocked the feathering system, and is consistent with the telemetry data.
  • About two seconds later, the feathers moved toward the deployed position even though the feather handle had not been moved into the feather position.
  • The feather deployment occurred at a speed just above Mach 1.
  • Shortly after feathering occurred, video data and telemetry data terminated.
  • The engine burn was normal prior to the deployment of the feathers.
  • Normal procedures would have had the crew unlocking the feathering system at a speed of about Mach 1.4.
  • Unlocking the feathering system alone should not have allowed the feathers to deploy.
  • The inflight breakup of the vehicle began sometime after telemetry ceased.
  • The NTSB has not determined if the inflight breakup was caused by aerodynamic forces or from some other cause.
  • The rocket engine, fuel tank, or oxidizer tank showed no evidence of a breach or burn through consistent with some sort of fire, explosion or structural failure affecting those components.

The NTSB emphasized that their statements were statements of fact rather than a determination of a cause of the mishap. Below is a video of the third media briefing.

Additional resources
Initial NTSB SpaceShipTwo accident investigation
Review of first two NTSB briefings on 1 November 2014
Review of third NTSB briefing on 2 November 2014

Note: An earlier version of this story inadvertently stated that there was evidence of a breach or burn on some components.