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24 August 2009

Update: Loose Screws on a Jat Airways 737

Late last week, News relayed a story from the Blic newspaper of Serbia about Jat Airways Flight JU 5245, which flew from Greece to Serbia on 14 August 2009 with several visibly loose and missing screws in the area of the left engine.

Shortly after Blic published several stories about the loose screws, including detailed photographs, Jat Airways addressed the issue and did their best to address the public's concerns. The airline performed a special inspection of their fleet and reported that the problems were corrected.

It may be difficult to know all the details of the aircraft that got the most attention, a 737-300 with tail number YU-AON. According to Blic, the airline stated that the aircraft was last inspected on August 5th, and that the airline discovered the problem with the screws as a result of Blic's newspaper reports. Another passenger reported to the newspaper that another Jat Airways 737 flight, possibly involving the same aircraft, had a similar problem almost two weeks earlier on August 1st, and other passengers reported similar problems with other Jat Airways aircraft. The newspaper did not publish these other photos, but it did share with News a picture of the repaired area of aircraft YU-AON. The previous News article has several photos of the problem screws.

This incident, although it involved a rather small airline in Serbia, resulted in more comments than any other story previously posted by the News. The general sentiment was that these loose and missing screws was not only an unsafe condition, but it may indicate that the airline may have other, more serious problems, both seen and unseen.

The two most important programs that evaluate the safety of airlines and national civil aviation authorities have different findings on the safety of Serbian civil aviation. The most recent European Commission list of airlines not allowed to fly in EU countries (dated 14 July 2009) does not include Jat Airways or any other airline from Serbia, but the FAA's International Aviation Safety Assessments (IASA) Program does not evaluate airlines, but rather the ability of a national civil aviation authority to provide safety oversight of airline operators in accordance with the minimum safety oversight standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). In the FAA's most recent report from 18 December 2008, Serbia did not comply with ICAO standards, and as a result, Jat Airways would not be allowed to fly its aircraft to or from the US.

Given these mixed reviews, the average passenger may think twice before flying on this airline. would be very interested in what you think about this situation, so please feel free to leave your comments about this article.

21 August 2009

If you see loose screws on your jet, should you worry?

What would you do if you were flying on a plane, looked outside your window, and saw a bunch of missing or loose screws? If you were a passenger with a convenient window seat on Jat Airways Flight JU 5245 on 14 August 2009, you would have done the right thing by bringing it to the attention of the airline and the news media.

According to a report in the Serbian newspaper Blic, this particular aircraft, a 737, was on a flight from the Greek islands to Belgrade, and the flight took off in spite of having a panel on the left engine strut with at least five loose screws and one screw that was completely missing.

One of the editors from the Blic newspaper provided with a number of photos, one of which clearly shows the missing and loose screws in the foreground, and the Greek city of Heraklion, on the island of Crete, in the background. The aircraft, which arrived safety in Belgrade after its charter flight from Greece, was apparently a 737-300 aircraft with the tail number JU-AON. According to, the aircraft is almost 22 years old, and was previously operated by at least two other airlines, Transbrasil and Region Air.

According to Blic, Jat airways told both the passengers and the newspapers that it was a small problem that would not have affected the safety of that aircraft. No one at has specific experience or expertise when it comes to general 737 aircraft maintenance procedures, or the particular maintenance procedures and flight operations rules at Jat Airwarys. However, it would be safe to assume that for most passengers, allowing an airliner to fly with loose and missing screws are an obvious cause for concern. Most passengers would hope that if the maintenance crew or flight crew were aware of such a condition, that the condition should either be corrected, or the proper procedures be followed to address the issue before allowing the aircraft to fly.

Given the location of the loose and missing screws, it is possible that if the the panel or other structure associated with the screws came loose in flight, that it could fly off and strike other parts of the aircraft. Also, a failure in one part of the aircraft skin or structure, for example a panel peeling off in flight, could cause damage to adjacent areas of the aircraft.

After being contacted by the Blic newspaper, suggested that the newspaper should attempt to contact Jat Airways and to ask and answer the following questions:

- Were the flight crews or maintenance crews aware of the loose and missing screws before the flight?

- Did the maintenance and flight crew follow Jat Airways procedures with respect to the missing and loose screws?

- Are the airline's procedures consistent with Boeing's recommended procedures for the 737-300?

- Are the airline's procedures consistent with the regulations and laws of the Serbian civil aviation authorities?

- How many flights did this aircraft make before the condition was corrected?

- Are missing screws a common occurrence with aircraft in the Jat Airways fleet?

While Blic investigates this incident, the News would like to ask its readers for feedback, especially from pilots, maintenance technicians, and airline safety professionals, about this particular issue. Feel free to leave comments on this blog posting, or to contact directly.

08 August 2009

Midair Collision over the Hudson

8 August 2009; Eurocopter and Piper Saratoga, Hudson River, near New York City: A single-engine aircraft and a sightseeing helicopter collided at about noon over the Hudson River near Manhattan. Three people were aboard the single-engine Piper PA-32R-300 (N71MC), and the flight plan indicated the aircraft was heading from Teterboro Airport in Teaneck, New Jersey to Ocean City, New Jersey. The Saratoga took off from Teterboro shortly before noon local time.

On board were a pilot and two passengers, including one teenager. The Liberty Harbor Sightseeing Tours helicopter, a Eurocopter AS350 (N401LH), took off from Pier 30 in Manhattan, near West 30th Street, and reportedly had one pilot and five Italian tourists on board. Two of those tourists were also teenagers.

According to eyewitnesses, the collision occurred over the Hudson, in the area between the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. The right wing was sheared off the Cherokee, and it corkscrewed into the Hudson. The helicopter was also seen falling into the Hudson, shedding debris, including helicopter blades on the way down. Some of the debris landed in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Both aircraft sank immediately after hitting the water near the New Jersey side of the Hudson near Hoboken. This is an area east of where West 14th Street in Manhattan meets the Hudson.

One body was found floating in the river, and several others were found in a piece of wreckage. No survivors have been found from either aircraft. The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a Go Team to investigate the midair collision.

Fatal Midair Events Involving Airliners

NTSB Database
Fatal Eurocopter AS350 Events
Fatal Piper Saratoga Events (PA-32R-300)

03 August 2009

At Least 14 Injured in Suspected Continental Turbulence Event

Continental Airlines Flight 128, a 767 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Houston, diverted to Miami after apparently experiencing a turbulence event. Unrestrained light attendants and passengers were thrown against the ceiling and into the overhead compartments. One woman reportedly hit a luggage bin so hard that her head stuck there. After landing, 14 people were taken to Miami-area hospitals and were treated for their injuries; four were in serious condition.

This is the fourth 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. In June of this year a Continental 777 captain died during a transatlantic flight en route from Brussels to Newark.

In its annual safety review released by the NTSB in March 2009 indicated that turbulence was associated with 22 percent of all U.S. airline accidents and 49 percent of serious injury accidents between 1996 and 2005.

While this is suspected to be a turbulence event, further investigation may reveal the ultimate cause of this event. For example, last year, a Qantas A330 was involved in what was first thought to be a turbulence event, but the Australian authorities found that it was not the case.

Plane Crashes and Significant Events for Continental
Plane Crashes and Significant Events for the 767
Fatal Turbulence Events Since 1980
Turbulence Resources for Passengers