The News

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

30 June 2009

Yemenia A310-300 Crashes near Comoros Islands

30 June 2009; Yemenia Airlines; A310-300; Flight 626; near Moroni, Comoros Islands: The aircraft was on a flight from Sana’a, Yemen to Moroni, Comoros Islands with 142 passengers and 11 crew on board. Early reports indicate that the aircraft crashed in the sea near the town of Mitsamiouli, which is on the main island of Grande Comore, in the early morning hours of June 30th. Some bodies have been spotted, as well as some wreckage of the plane located. One passenger, a twelve-year-old girl named Bahia Bakari, was rescued about 10 hours after the crash, and is the sole survivor of this plane crash, one of 13 sole survivor events since 1970 that have been identified by

About the Comoros Islands
The nation of the Comoros Islands is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa, between northern Madagascar and northeastern Mozambique. The last fatal plane crash in the Comoros Islands was the November 1996 crash of a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines 767.

About Yemenia Airlines

Yemenia Airlines has been in operation since 1961 and has no previous fatal plane crashes. Two previous serious incidents did not result in any serious injuries. On June 26, 2000, a 737 departed the side of the runway during a landing in Khartoum, Sudan, and the nose gear collapsed. On August 1, 2001, a Boeing 727 overran the runway at Asmara in Eritrea, and the main landing gear failed after the aircraft crashed into a large block of concrete.

With respect to meeting international standards, the two most prominent rating authorities are the FAA in the US and the European Commission. The FAA's International Aviation Safety Assessments (IASA) Program categorizes countries rather than airlines, but in their latest published summary from December 2008 did not rate Yemen, where Yemenia Airlines is based. Yemenia does not have any direct flights to or from the US. The European Commission restricts individual airlines or even individual aircraft, but their "blacklist" of airlines from April 2008 did not include Yemenia Airlines.

According to French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau, the aircraft involved in today's crash had been inspected by French authorities in 2007 and a number of unspecified issues were found during that inspection. The aircraft had not been flown to or from France since then. Also, in February 2009, the European Union had suspended permission for Yemenia to service EU-registered aircraft the airline had failed a set of audit inspections.

About the A310
The aircraft has been in service since 1978 and has been involved in seven previous plane crashes that involved passenger fatalities. The most recent one was a June 2008 crash of a Sudan Airways A310-300 in Khartoum, Sudan. According to, about 255 aircraft were produced, and about 190 remain in service. By far the largest current operator in world is FedEx, with about 62 aircraft in service.

29 June 2009

Infomercial Celebrity Billy Mays Dies After Flight

Television infomercial celebrity Billy Mays died in his sleep less than a day after he was involved in a landing incident where he was struck in the head by one or more falling objects. US Airways Flight 1241, a 737-400, departed from Philadelphia, PA just after noon on June 27, 2009 on a nonstop flight to Tampa, FL.

The aircraft experienced a hard landing, which ruptured the two nose wheel tires. The aircraft remained on the runway and the 138 passengers and five crew members, none of whom at the time appeared to be seriously injured, were taken to the terminal. Billy Mays was interviewed by a reporter from WTVT television in Tampa shortly after the incident and stated that he had been hit on the head by something falling from the ceiling.

Billy Mays had returned to Tampa on Saturday in order to undergo hip surgery the following Monday. According to his family, he had no other significant medical conditions at the time of his death. Tampa police reported that Mays wasn't feeling well the evening of the landing incident, and he went to bed at about 10 pm. He was found dead by his wife at about 7:45 the following morning.
Listen to the 911 Call from the Home of Billy Mays (2:25)
Source: Tampa Fire Rescue

So far, a direct connection between the head strike on Billy Mays during the hard landing and his subsequent death has been neither ruled in or ruled out by local authorities. Although Mays reported that he was struck in the head, neither he or the Tampa police could confirm that he was struck by luggage. Local authorities will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death, and the results may be available before the end of June.

If the authorities determine that Mays's death was not connected to the landing incident, then the incident will be considered minor and would likely not end up in the online incident and accident databases of the FAA or NTSB. If the death is determined to be associated with the hard landing, then this would be considered a fatal accident by the NTSB, but would not likely result in a major investigation.

The most recent significant safety event for US Airways was the ditching of an A320 in the Hudson River last January. The last fatal crash for US Airways involved a regional aircraft in Charlotte, NC in January 2003. That crash killed both pilots and all 19 passengers. The most recent fatal event involving a 737-400 was a Garuda Indonesia Airways crash in 2007.

Dangers from falling luggage have long been recognized by the airline industry. In 1998, the Flight Safety Foundation published the results of a study that estimated that worldwide, there were about 10,000 injuries every year involving falling baggage. The same study looked at 397 cases at a major US airline where a person was struck by falling luggage, and 30 percent of those strikes resulted in bruises or lacerations.

For more information on how to protect yourself from threats from falling luggage due to hard landings and in-flight turbulence, please visit

Listen to the Podcast About This Event (3:00)
Plane Crashes and Significant Events for US Airways
Plane Crashes and Significant Events for the 737

Update 29 June 2009
Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Vernard Adams stated that preliminary results from the autopsy of Billy Mays indicates that he had hypertensive heart disease. He also said that Mays was taking the prescription painkillers Tramadol and hydrocodone for hip pain, and that pill counts indicate that Mays had been taking the correct amount of the drugs. Initial tests showed no evidence of head trauma. Hillsborough County includes the city of Tampa.

26 June 2009

Air France Flight 447 Update for 26 June 2009

Brazilian authorities have found the remains of a 51st victim. Fourteen of these 51 victims have been positively identified, including the captain and one flight attendant. No victims were sighted on between Tuesday June 23rd and Thursday June 25th.

Recently, the amount of effort being spent on the search for victims and aircraft wreckage has also been scaled back. On June 23rd, air search activities coordinated by authorities in Senegal were halted.

The search for wreckage on the sea floor, especially the black boxes, continues without success. The underwater locator beacons on the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, if they are still operational, will only have power for about another week. After that, finding either recorder will be significantly more difficult.

Recent A330 Incidents Investigated
The NTSB is investigating two events involving the airspeed measuring systems of the A330. On 21 May 2009, TAM Airlines flight from Miami to São Paulo, Brazil, experienced a loss of primary speed and altitude information during cruise. Reportedly, the flight crew noted an drop in the outside air temperature reading, disconnection of the autopilot and autothrust system, and a loss of speed and altitude information. The flight crew used backup instruments, and airspeed and altitude data was restored after about five minutes. The aircraft continued to its destination of São Paulo.

The second incident involved a Northwest Airlines flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo this past Tuesday (23 June 2009). The NTSB stated that the aircraft experienced some kind of problem with its air pressure sensors while over the South China Sea, but they did not provide further details. In both cases the planes landed safely and no one was injured.

The failure of these kinds of external air pressure sensors can occur with any airliner, and crews typically have several alternative procedures to work around these kinds of problems. However, these failures may lead to a crash if a flight crew doesn't respond properly.

Replacement of A330 Pitot Tubes
The replacement of airspeed sensors by A330 operators continues. Indian authorities report that the sensors on all A330s operated by airlines in India have been replaced. So far, nothing from the investigation of Flight 447 suggests that jet's pitot tubes were linked to the crash.

Additional Accident Information
Other Air France Plane Crashes
Other Airbus A330 Plane Crashes Audio and Video Podcast About the Accident

19 June 2009

Air France Flight 447 Update for 19 June 2009

There have been no significant developments since the last update on 15 June 2009. So far, the only wreckage that has been located or collected has been floating on the surface of the ocean. The whereabouts of the cockpit voice recorder, the flight data recorder, and the majority of the aircraft wreckage is still unknown.

Fifty of the occupants have been found, with the most recent find being a single victim on June 16th, About 400 articles have been found, with some of the larger items being portions of at least one of the aircraft's galley areas. The search, involving over a thousand Brazilian military personnel as well as civilian and military aircraft and ships from several countries, continues with no end date set by the Brazilian authorities.

Additional Accident Information
Other Air France Plane Crashes
Other Airbus A330 Plane Crashes Audio and Video Podcast About the Accident

18 June 2009

Continental Airlines Captain Dies During Transatlantic Flight

The captain of Continental Airlines Flight 61, a 777 en route from Brussels to Newark, died while the aircraft was in flight over the Atlantic. The captain was replaced by a reserve first officer and the crew declared an emergency. The aircraft landed without further incident. There were 247 passengers on board, and there were no other injuries to passengers or crew.

Early reports indicate that the captain, who apparently died of natural causes, was removed from the cockpit and placed in the crew rest area. The airline stated that the crew of this flight included the captain and two first officers, this extra flight crew member is required by the FAA for longer flights such as this one.

The airline reported that the captain was 60 years old and had been with the airline for 32 years. Coincidentally the FAA changed the rules in December 2007 to raise the mandatory retirement age from 60 to 65 to fly large passenger aircraft. This rule change was consistent with a 2006 ICAO regulation change that also changed the mandatory retirement age to 65.

This is the third safety related event in the last 12 months for Continental. In December 2008, Continental Flight 1404 crashed in on takeoff in Denver and was destroyed by fire. None of the passengers or crew were seriously injured. In February 2009, Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo during approach, killing all 49 passengers and crew members, as well as one person on the ground. The last significant safety event for the 777 was a January 2008 crash of British Airways Flight 38 in London. None of the 16 crew members or 136 passengers were killed.

Flight crew members dying or becoming incapacitated in flight are rare events. One recent incident of note was another transatlantic flight, this one a January 2008 Air Canada 767 flight from Toronto to London where the first officer had to be physically removed from the aircraft due to erratic behavior.

Note: An earlier version of this post mistakenly identified the incapacitated Air Canada flight crew member as the captain.

Plane Crashes and Significant Events for Continental
Plane Crashes and Significant Events for the 777

15 June 2009

Air France Flight 447 Update for 15 June 2009

As the investigation into the crash enters its third week, ships, planes, and submarines continue to search the Atlantic Ocean for wreckage, for the bodies of the victims, and especially the black boxes. Ships, planes, and submarines from Brazil, France, the US, and other countries have searched for clues to the crash in a large area of the Atlantic ocean between Brazil and Africa. So far, a wide variety of wreckage, and the remains of about 50 of the 228 occupants, have been recovered. At least two ships with detection equipment from the US Navy are on their way to the search area, as is a French submarine. Smaller French submersibles will be used to explore the bottom of the ocean once wreckage from the aircraft is located.

Evidence Points to In-flight Breakup
Initial evaluation of 16 of the recovered bodies by the Brazilian authorities suggests that the aircraft had some sort of catastrophic event while in flight. Bodies were recovered in two areas of the ocean about 50 miles (80 km) apart. Given the amount of time that the bodies were in the water, it is unlikely that this distance was due to the actions sea currents and winds. Also, there was no indication of burns, inhaled smoke, or the effects of an explosion on the examined bodies. No water was found in the lungs, which suggests that none these 16 victims drowned, and there were extensive fractures in many of the bodies. These findings are consistent with the bodies experiencing the kind of trauma associated with impacting water at high speed.

Previous Air France Airbus Incidents

According to a report in the Times of London, there were six previous Air France incidents on Airbus aircraft since 2008 that involved “a rather incoherent cocktail of alarms” and “severe breakdowns”. These appear to have originated with malfunctioning pitot tubes in stormy weather.

In one reported incident, the crew on a flight between Paris and Tokyo issued a mayday call in turbulent weather after a loss of speed indication information resulted in the disengagement of the automatic pilot and set off several alarms. In these previous six incidents, the pilots regained control of the aircraft.

Insurance Costs
Le Monde newspaper of France estimates that the estimated insurance related costs of the accident will range between $330 and $750 million. The estimated value of the aircraft was 67.4 million euros ($94.4 million).

Other News
In a bizarre and tragic turn of events, the ANSA news agency reported that a married couple from Italy who missed the accident flight after arriving late to the airport were involved in a car accident in Austria, killing the wife and seriously injuring the husband.

Additional Accident Information
Other Air France Plane Crashes
Other Airbus A330 Plane Crashes Audio and Video Podcast About the Accident

10 June 2009

Air France Flight 447 Update for 10 June 2009

Update for 10 June 2009: The number of bodies recovered has increased to 41, and Brazilian authorities have begun the process of identifying bodies. The Brazilian Air Force has also incorporated the recommended change of the pitot system in the presidential aircraft, an A319. Air France has accelerated its effort to replace pitot tubes on its A330 and A340 Airbus fleet after members of one pilots union threatened to refuse to fly the unmodified airplanes. The airline also estimates that all the affected pitot tubes will be replaced by the end of July.

The vertical stabilizer is the largest piece of the aircraft that has been recovered. It shows no outward sign of fire or explosion, and a closer examination of the damage on that stabilizer will provide clues about whether it separated from the rest of the fuselage on impact with the water or while in flight. will continue to provide updates to the accident investigation as more information becomes available.

Latest Accident Updates
Other Air France Plane Crashes
Other Airbus A330 Plane Crashes
Accident Analysis from 7 June 2009 Issue of the Times (UK)

09 June 2009

Air France Flight 447 Update for 9 June 2009

By Tuesday June 9th, the number of bodies recovered increased to 28, and a substantial amount of wreckage has been recovered, including the vertical stabilizer. The bodies and wreckage were recovered about 400 miles (640 kilometers) northeast of the Fernando de Noronha islands off Brazil's northeastern coast, and about 45 miles (70 kilometers) from where the jet was last estimated position. Equipment for locating the beacons attached to the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder is not yet in place, but will be in the next few days.

Naval forces from Brazil, France, and the US will all be actively involved in this search. In other developments, Air France revealed that their entire A330 fleet had been scheduled to have part of their airspeed measuring system replaced, specifically a device called a pitot tube. While some Air France A330 aircraft had the replacement done, the accident aircraft had not. There is no indication that the this device was related to the sequence of events that led to this crash. will continue to provide updates to the accident investigation as more information becomes available.

Initial Reports on This Event (4:10)

Audio: MP3 | VideoiPod/MP4 | WMV | YouTube

Additional Resources
Accident Investigation Updates and Resources
Fatal Events for Airlines from Europe
Fatal Air France Plane Crashes
Other A330 Crash Events
Air France Wikipedia Page
Flight 447 Accident Wikipedia Page

03 June 2009

Air France Flight 447 Debris Spotted

1 June 2009; Air France A330-200; Atlantic Ocean:: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris, France. The aircraft crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in an area roughly 390 miles (650 kilometers) northeast of Brazil's Fernando de Noronha islands, which are about 220 miles (354 kilometers) off the northeast coast of Brazil. Debris from the aircraft was found near the estimated position of its last radio communication. All 216 passengers and 12 crew members, together representing over 32 nationalities, are missing and presumed dead.

Recovery Efforts
Brazilian military aircraft have spotted several areas of suspected debris, and ships from Brazil and elsewhere are converging on these areas to recover any floating debris and the bodies of any crash victims. What isn't yet known is the location of any wreckage, including either of the black boxes (cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder). Each recorder is equipped with an underwater locator beacon, also called a "pinger," which is activated when the recorder is immersed in water. It transmits an acoustical signal that can be detected with a special receiver at depths of up to 14,000 feet (over four kilometers).

Investigation and Possible Causes
The investigation is headed by the French Bureau d'EnquĂȘtes et d'Analyses (BEA), the equivalent of the NTSB in the US or the AAIB in the UK, and the BEA will be assisted by a variety of other nations, including Brazil and the US. So far, the most direct evidence of the cause of the accident is the presence of aircraft debris on the ocean surface and a series of automatically generated maintenance messages that were transmitted from the plane shortly before the crash. According to Air France officials, these messages indicated that there were several problems with the aircraft, including some unspecified problems with the electrical system and cabin pressurization system.

While there were severe thunderstorms in the area of the crash, and some suspicion that the aircraft was hit by lightning or encountered severe turbulence, there is no direct indication that this occurred. The presence of the debris field on the ocean surface also does not imply that the aircraft broke up in flight. will update crash information as it becomes available.

Podcast About this Event (4:10)
Fatal Events for Airlines from Europe
Fatal Air France Plane Crashes
Other A330 Crash Events
Air France Wikipedia Page
Flight 447 Accident Wikipedia Page

Credits: A330 Accident photo by Garret Lockhart /