29 April 2010

New Tarmac Delay Rules Have Large Loopholes

As of today, new Department of Transportation rules require most airlines operating in the US to allow passengers the opportunity to get off an aircraft after three hours of a tarmac delay. Large airlines can be fined up to $27,500 for each violation. While this new rule will literally be a great relief for many delayed passengers, significant loopholes may keep some passengers from being helped by the new rules.

Basics of the new rules
According to the DOT, US airlines operating domestic flights may not permit an aircraft to remain on the tarmac at large and medium hub airports for more than three hours without deplaning passengers, with exceptions allowed only for safety or security reasons or if air traffic control advises the flight crew that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations.

US carriers operating international flights departing from or arriving in the United States must specify, in advance, their own time limits for deplaning passengers, with the same exceptions applicable. Non-US carriers operating a code share flight with a US carrier must comply with these rules (though other non-US carriers do not have to comply).

Carriers are required to provide adequate food and potable drinking water for passengers within two hours of the aircraft being delayed on the tarmac and to maintain operable lavatories and, if necessary, provide medical attention.

Loophole for smaller airports
The new rule leaves airlines quite a few opportunities to keep passengers on the tarmac for more than three hours. One of the loopholes is implied by the DOT specifying the the rule applies to "large and medium hub airports." Deep inside a DOT document about these new rules were both the definitions of a large and medium hub airport, and the fact that only 69 airports meet one of these definitions (see below). Given that there are about 450 airports in the US offering airline service, a significant fraction of passengers may be forced to stay on an aircraft well past the three hour mark.
  • Large hub airports: ATL, BOS, BWI, CLT, DCA, DEN, DFW, DTW, EWR, FLL, HNL, IAD, IAH, JFK, LAS, LAX, LGA, MCO, MIA, MSP, ORD, PHL, PHX, SAN, SEA, SFO, SLC and TPA

  • Medium hub airports: ABQ, ANC, AUS, BDL, BNA, BUF, BUR, CLE, CMH, CVG, DAL, HOU, IND, JAX, MCI, MDW, MEM, MHT, MKE, MSY, OAK, OGG, OKC, OMA, ONT, ORF, PBI, PDX, PIT, PVD, RDU, RNO, RSW, SAT, SDF, SJC, SJU, SMF, SNA, STL and TUS
The rule would not have helped these passengers
There was a recent extreme tarmac delay event were it appears that the passengers would not have been eligible for the benefits of this new rule. Last month, a Virgin America flight from Los Angeles to New York took about an extra 12 hours to complete, including about four hours waiting on the tarmac at Stewart International airport in Newburgh, NY airport. This airport (SWF) was definitely not in the list of large or medium hub airports.

Two lavatory loopholes
There are two separate loopholes concerning the availability of lavatories. First, the requirement to have access to a lavatory during a tarmac delay does not apply to aircraft that don't have a lavatory. Also, some aircraft with a single lavatory are allowed to fly in some circumstances without an operating lavatory. So long as the airline informs passengers before the flight, the airline would not be in violation of the new rules of that aircraft were involved in a tarmac delay of up to three hours. Review the DOT FAQ document for additional details.

What is adequate food and water?
Within that same DOT document of FAQs about these new rules was a discussion of what qualifies as adequate food and water. While the DOT does not expect airlines to provide full meal service, the document did say that a granola bar or an individual pack of snack food, along with a 12 ounce bottle of water, would be sufficient.

What should you do to prepare for a delay?
It spite of the new rules, it is clear that a passenger may still experience a tarmac delay where there is no access to a lavatory, food, or sufficient water. While a delay may be inconvenient, it does not have to be uncomfortable. Taking the following basic steps on every flight should keep your bad experience from turning into a terrible one:
  • Keep all prescription medicine and other essential medical supplies with you in your carry on bag.

  • Bring along a snack or a small meal in your carry on bag.

  • If you have a medical exemption that allows you to bring liquids through security, do so.

  • If you are traveling with an infant or small child, TSA will allow you to carry baby formula, breast milk, juice or water through security.

  • If you don't have a medical exemption, buy a bottle of water or juice after you go through security and before you get on the airplane.

  • Visit tsa.airsafe.org for a list of additional exemptions for liquids.
Additional resources
Airlines with 3+ hour delays 2008-2009
How to complain to your airline

Photo Credit: Matthew and Tracie

23 April 2010

Cessna and 737 Nearly Collide at Burbank Airport

The NTSB reports that on Monday April 19th, a Southwest Airlines 737-700 (N473WN) with 124 people on board nearly collided with a Cessna 172 at Burbank Airport in California. At the time of the incident, the aircraft were using intersecting runways at the airport. The 737, with 119 passengers and a crew of five, was landing, while the Cessna was taking off on an intersecting runway. They nearly hit each other at the intersection of the two runways. No one on either aircraft was injured and neither aircraft was damaged.

Overview of the near collision at Bob Hope Airport


At about 10:58 a.m. PDT on April 19, Southwest Airlines flight 649 was inbound from Oakland to the Burbank airport (also known as Bob Hope Airport) and was landing to the east on runway 8 while the Cessna 172 had just taken off to the south from runway 15, passing over the 737 at the intersection of the two runways. The Cessna had been executing a “touch and go” landing on runway 15.

In a touch and go landing, an aircraft lands on a runway and immediately initiates a takeoff without first coming to a complete stop. According to the FAA, the two aircraft came within 200 feet vertically and 10 feet laterally of each other at the runway intersection. The NTSB report doesn't state whether the touch and go landing was a planned maneuver on the part of the Cessna pilot, or if the maneuver was done in order to avoid hitting the 737. At the time of the event, skies were clear with 10 miles of visibility.

The NTSB is currently investigating this event, and AirSafeNews.com will publish the findings of this investigation, including any safety recommendations.

Collisions between airliners and small aircraft
AirSafe.com lists at least 16 fatal midair collision events since 1960 where at least one airline passenger was killed. Of those 16, four involved single engine private aircraft, and two of those four were also in southern California. In September 1978, a Pacific Southwest 727-200 collided with a Cessna 172 over San Diego, killing all 135 on the 727, the two occupants of the Cessna, and seven others on the ground. In August 1986, an Aeromexico DC9 collided with a Piper Archer aircraft over Cerritos, which is just south of Los Angeles. All six crew members and 58 passengers on the jet were killed. The three occupants of the Piper and 15 people on the ground were also killed.

Photo Credits: Google Earth, Airliners.net, Velozia.com

22 April 2010

Search for Air France Flight 447 Wreckage Hits Snag

The following is based on the article Runaway Sub Hampers Air France 447 Search from the blog Christine Negroni ON


About the crash of Air France flight 447
The A330-300 aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris, France. The aircraft departed late on 31 May 2009 from Rio, and crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in the early hours of 1 June 2009. The crash occurred about three hours and 45 minutes after takeoff, in an area of the Atlantic Ocean about 435 nautical miles north-northeast of Fernando de Noronha island. There were no emergency or distress messages sent by the crew, though there were numerous automatically generate maintenance messages that were sent by the aircraft back to Air France.

Debris from the aircraft was found near the estimated position of its last radio communication. There were 216 passengers and 12 crew members on board, representing 32 nationalities. A total of 50 bodies were recovered from the ocean, and the remaining passengers and crew are missing and presumed dead.


A runaway mini-sub temporarily halted progress on the French government’s search of the Atlantic for the black boxes from Air France Flight 447. The remote operated underwater vessel, the Remus, is part of a team of recovery watercraft hired by the French as they investigate last June's crash of an Airbus 330.

On April 9th, the Remus mini-sub surfaced and moved 62 miles before it could be recovered and returned to the search site.

The French aircraft accident investigation bureau the Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA) is almost three weeks into its latest effort to find the flight data and cockpit voice recorder from the jetliner that disappeared mysteriously on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris June 1, 2009. Two hundred and twenty eight people were killed.

The BEA reported last week that the team of two work ships, the 260 foot crane equipped Seabed Worker and the 230-foot supply and load-line vessel the Anne Candies, three remote-operated subs and a sonar tow has accomplished a search of 1800 square miles of the Atlantic.

In addition to the delay resulting from the runaway sub, the agency reported rain and stormy weather but good search conditions.

At the time the jetliner fell into the ocean, it was traveling at an altitude of 35,000 feet and was too far from land to use radio communications. A satellite system on the aircraft designed to report certain maintenance and aircraft information to dispatchers on the ground, sent several error messages.

Investigators seeking to discover what went wrong, have little to go on beyond these communications and some of the wreckage that has been found. Their eagerness to find the flight data recorder that documents the plane’s flight information and cockpit voice recorder detailing the crew conversations can be seen by the amount of time and money that has gone into the search of the Atlantic. Before this latest effort, an estimated $40 million had been spent by the governments of France, Brazil and the United States.

The crash has prompted calls for the use of new technology to keep airplanes in communication with the ground even on flights operating over remote areas. As Christine Negroni reported in an article in The New York Times, last month, European air safety agencies sent a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) asking that the international body mandate that commercial airliners regularly send basic flight information such as heading, altitude, speed and location to a receiving station off the airplane.

In an interview last month with AirDat, a company that equips airliners with satellite systems to transmit meteorological information, Jay Ladd the chief executive told me the kind of information useful for investigators of the Air France disaster could be obtained using weather reporting systems already deployed.

“If we had our typical sensor on the plane, as it encountered turbulence, we’d be getting a rapid stream of information and we’d know where the plane was, we’d have an exact position and altitude for that plane when it last recorded data.”

Ladd’s company is not the only one looking at ways to incorporate on airplanes, the kind of high tech solutions already in use by teenagers twittering about their every activity.

Mr. Ladd told me, “We would like to be pro active and start tracking airplanes, even without ICAO intervention.”

Related AirSafeNews.com Articles
Initial AirSafeNews.com article 3 June 2009
Air France Flight 447 Update 9 June 2009
Air France Flight 447 Update 10 June 2009
Air France Flight 447 Update 15 June 2009
Air France Flight 447 Update 19 June 2009
Air France Flight 447 Update 26 June 2009
Air France Flight 447 Update 18 December 2009
Todd Curtis BBC Interview about Air France Flight 447
FAA orders A330 pitot tube replacements


Initial Report on the Air France Accident

Audio: MP3 | VideoiPod/MP4 | WMV | YouTube



For more videos, visit the AirSafe.com YouTube channel.


About Christine Negroni
AirSafeNews.com is pleased to welcome Christine Negroni as a guest contributor. Her reporting appears in The New York Times and many other publications. She has worked as a network television correspondent for CBS News and CNN. She is also a published author. Her book, Deadly Departure, on the crash of TWA Flight 800, was a New York Times Notable Book. Her upcoming book The Crash Detectives goes in-depth into the world of transportation accident investigation.

Photo Credits: A330 Accident aircraft photo by Garret Lockhart / Houstonspotters.net

20 April 2010

Responses to Survey on Volcanic Ash Flight Rules

In yesterday's article on the desire of airlines to change volcanic ash flight restrictions, AirSafeNews.com conducted a poll to gauge readers' opinions about the proposed changes in airline procedures. In less than a day, 157 readers responded to the following questions:
  • Are current volcanic ash restrictions acceptable?

  • Should the rules be changed as soon as possible?

  • Have you been affected by the current situation?

  • Will you fly in or to Europe in the next month?

  • Is it safe to fly in or near volcanic ash?

A total of 157 people responded to at least part of the survey, and most were satisfied with the volcanic ash rules that were in effect before the recent eruption of the Icelandic volcano.

Of the 103 people who were satisfied with current volcanic ash flight restrictions, all but three of them thought that it was also unsafe to fly in or near volcanic ash. Of the 44 who didn't agree with current rules, all but 13 also agreed that it was unsafe to fly in or near ash.

While some airlines and airline groups are in favor of changing volcanic ash rules as soon as possible, only about a third, 57 out of 157 agreed with these airline industry leaders. Surprisingly, the proportion favoring change were not that different between those who have been affected by the current situation and those who have not. Of the 51 who have been affected by the current situation, 17 favored changing the rules. This compares with 105 who said they had not been affected, of whom 40 favored rule changes.

The story is a bit different for the 65 respondents who expect to fly to or within Europe in the next month, with 30 of them wanting the rules to change soon.

A number of the respondents also provided feedback to the survey request, Tell us what you think about this situation. Below, with some minor spelling and grammar corrections, are the responses:
  • Sure it is not safe to fly near volcanic ash, but the airlines may change their routes with the authority approval. I think the measures taken were too restrictive, it lack more analysis of the situation.

  • I have flown over 2 million miles to over 60 countries of the world in a variety of aircraft and weather situations. However, I would NEVER climb aboard an aircraft if I knew it was going to be flying into volcanic ash. Being a bioengineer, I know the ramifications of jet engines flying in that environment and what damage could result. I would not feel safe at all. I'm actually very surprised that seasoned pilots want to take their planes full of passengers through the ash clouds.

  • Don't take any risks at all

  • Just in the very few days since this started, there has been damage to some aircraft - which European airlines who choose profit over safety ignore. For engine manufacturers there is no acceptable level of ash ingestion. Why do LH and KL (Lufthansa and KLM) think they know better? Even if there are no short-term problems (which I would not bet on), not nearly enough is known about the long-term effects of ash on jet engines. It's incredible that airlines like LH or KL, which one used to trust, can assert that just because there is no visible damage to a few test aircraft, it's safe to send planes into a constantly-changing, unpredictable mix of clear air, fine ash and heavier ash.

    I would not like to be a passenger on a trans-oceanic ETOPS route 3 hours from the nearest airport on an aircraft that had regularly flown in today's conditions. Engine life will be much reduced. The replacement costs are unpredictable but potentially huge. And the insurance implications are frightening. If now or in the future a plane crashes because of ash exposure, despite all the warnings and the history, neither the airline nor its insurer would have a leg to stand on and might not survive the pay-out.

  • If the airlines deem it safe to fly in, around, above or below the ash I am willing to fly under those conditions. My wife & I are flying to Zurich the first of June and do NOT want to cancel or change plans.

  • As the spreading of the volcanic ash is unpredictable due to environmental factors, airline should has a plan to counter any foreseeable situation such as:

    1. All airports near to the area are to ensure all flight traffic are closely monitored;

    2. Extra manpower deploy to controller tower for emergency response and and ensure standby crews on alert;

    3. All pilots flying through the area must be trained to respond to emergency situations when encounter incident causes by volcanic ash;

    4. Pilots provide information to ground stations on visibility whenever flying through the area for data and information analysis, as well as to alert other airlines in case of anomaly;

    5. Airlines should consider taking longer route if needed to avoid the area.

  • My husband, baby and I flew back to Paris the day the Paris, Charles De Gaulle airport closed. Our flight, from Dallas, TX was extended 1 hour (in flight) due to the volcanic ash. Instead of flying in over the UK (and the North), we came in from the south, delaying our arrival. I was thankful we were rerouted and didn't go through the ash, even though at the time I didn't understand the risks. I think each airline should conduct tests to see if it is safe, before flying through the ash. Customer safety should be the priority. If they fly too soon, and there are crashes, or casualties, that will cost more than the money they're losing by delaying the flights.

  • Current changes proposed are driven by $$$$$.

  • Lesson 101: Always - safety first. Never put a commercial aircraft - in any potentially dangerous situation, which can be avoided, This can be achieved by suspension of flights into known ash conditions. Europe does not have live satellite coverage, and ash does not show up on aircraft weather radar systems. Too dangerous to even contemplate, resumption of flights - as ash 'melts',at around 1100 degrees - engines run at about 1400 degrees. The ash plume is not static and 500 tons of ash a second are being propelled into the atmosphere by the volcano, and then distributed by prevailing winds in numerous directions, and intensities, at various flight levels. Far too many unknowns, to place any aircraft at risk - in fact - potentially a 'life or death' risk , when it is totally preventable.

    An accident waiting to happen, if airlines put commercial pressures first, and ignore the the significant safety risks indeed - 'life threatening' risks from the volcanic ash.

  • The only evidence we have is based upon aircraft that have had serious problems when encountering volcanic ash. The risk factor therefore has to be rated as high until we can prove that aircraft can safely pass near to the ash.

    Should at this time, any aircraft encounter problems that result in a loss of life the airlines stand to lose the confidence of the traveling public not to mention the ensuing lawsuits. therefore the airlines have to tread very carefully before reinstating flights.

  • The situation where an airline would be expected to assess the risk would create a classical conflict of interest, and it is a rule that such situations should be avoided (e.g. in scientific publication, where high level of reliability is required - a situation unexpectedly similar to passenger aircraft operation). I think this rule should be followed, and airline managers are not the best persons to assess the risk. Moreover, I don't like the situation when somebody would measure my safety in dollars.

    Eric Moody, captain of British Airways flight 9 on June 24, 1982, during which all four engines failed due to volcanic ash, speaking about the current situation said, "I don't know how thick this ash is, but I wouldn't go anywhere near it if it was me." (end of video at http://www.cnn.com/2010/TRAVEL/04/15/iceland.flights.pilot.story/index.html)

    I agree with Moody! It is best for the restrictions to continue for flights with passengers. Just because test flights so far have not had any problems does not mean there won't be any problems. All it takes is one flight having a problem for there to be a tragedy. What happens if a weather pattern pushes ash into an area where it was unexpected? What happens when a flight has an emergency not related to the ash, and it has no choice but to change altitude, perhaps flying into the ash?

    This would be a good time for airlines and governments to research the behavior of the ash. Perhaps ways can be developed to reliably predict the movement of the ash and ways for flights in the air to detect or be informed of and avoid unexpected movements of the ash. With good scientific data, there will be a better basis for assessing the risk. I don't think we know enough right now to assess the risk well enough. That being the case, the prudent course of action is not to fly.

    I would also like to know what kind of testing airplane and engine manufacturers do, if any, to determine how much ash airplanes can handle flying through. Have engine designs improved in recent years to better handle flying through debris such as ash?

    I don't think it's a good idea for airline management to be the ones to decide whether it is safe to fly with paying passengers. They are under too much pressure to make money to have good judgment. It could also easily lead to pilots being made to fly when they don't think it's safe enough. It is essential that regulators lead the way in making these decisions, and that the primary concern be the preservation of human life.

    I think it is hard for people to accept any delays in a world of instant gratification. Sometimes natural events like this happen, and patience is very much a virtue.

  • In my opinion, flights should not resume in the area of the volcanic ash, until the eruptions stop, and the ash dissipates. There is danger with ash getting sucked into jet engines and clogging them.

  • As always, the airlines put the almighty dollar--or Euro--ahead of public safety. Airlines that are pushing aircraft to fly into volcanic ash should be ashamed of themselves.

    The last question is not a simple as it is. It should not be up to government controllers to determine whether it is safe to fly or not. 99.9% of them don't have the slightest clue to flight. It should be up to the airlines, and ultimately the aircraft commander who decide if it is safe or not. If a passenger determines they don't want to go or not, that's up to them to board or not, but they shouldn't get a refund. Just like how people who don't board because of thunderstorms or something don't get reimbursed if a pilot in commander determines the conditions to be safe, same should apply here.

  • All experts should make cooperation and judge the situation, if it safe to fly or not.

  • Safety should be first.

  • "It is better be on the ground wishing to be airborne, than being up there with a total engine loss wishing to be safe on the ground". Now the pressure to change the rules will be a more economical influence than a safety initiative. This inverts the basic aviation philosophy.

  • Total overkill once again in order to serve the minds of the weak or uninitiated who will believe that any deviation from the normal has a dangerous and fatal effect to everybody on the planet. This event has provided us with a perfect opportunity to carry out tests in order to evaluate the real levels of danger and effects etc,so lets not pass it up,the gathering of knowledge is only obtained by tests and experiments.

  • The civil aviation authorities should have contour bands in and around the satellite images. Then allow flights in the outer most band and do detailed inspections. If everything goes well, then allows flights in the next band and so forth. When a given band raises concern, they should back off one band level and go with that forward since there are currently no set ash standards. That way aviation progresses and we real time establish practical limits until more research and knowledge can be gained. I think under no circumstances should aircraft be allowed to fly directly in or near the center of the actual emission plume.

  • I am in Europe trying to get home. I would like your opinion Dr. Curtis, what should I do? Hang out here, rent a boat. I don't care how much its going to cost the airline, if I am dead that is a much bigger problem, at least to me!!!!

  • Ask the insurance companies how they feel about planes loaded with passengers taking this risk. I suspect

  • I do believe that flying within an area very close to a erupting vulcan and entering in a high ashes contaminated area would be very dangerous. I do remember well the KLM flame out since I was still working for that airline, but that was a different story. Nowadays I believe that some kind of hidden speculation is behind the whole story.

  • I invite all of us to remember what happened in 1982, 24 June, to the flight BA 009 Boeing 747, en route from the United Kingdom (London) to New Zealand (Auckland), in its five-hour hop from Kuala Lumpur to Perth.

  • I agree with the BA position: Authorities must collect and distribute info about the ash location and concentrations. Airlines must remain responsible for staying safe and thus over flying where and when (not).

    Politicians and airline management should not have the right to over ride safety regulations
    No opinion on first two questions without a full knowledge of the current situation which can change every day. How can you evaluate properly the risks by only one day test flights? Volcanic ash density is the main issue. No doubt that the aircraft will face severe damage entering in a visible volcanic ash clouds, especially in the clouds or during night when there is no possibility for the pilot to detect the high concentration presence.

    The very fine particles below 1 micron in volcanic ash, (not visible) can create severe damage which can be discovered after longer exposure. Visible fouling effects on compressor's blades could be detected with lack of thrust by the pilots after many flights

  • Ashtam with area coordinates and flight level restrictions may open skies up to a 70% with new temporary corridors. Economy needs brave decisions

  • Now that ash no longer exists at aircraft cruising altitude, the exposure of an aircraft in a normal flight pattern is much reduced. Similarly, there must be some sort of diffusion of the ash taking place as it travels southwards from Iceland.

    It would be appropriate to make a decision to fly when the ash concentration reduces sufficiently - even if it doesn't go down to zero. I think cargo only flights should be restarted first, with passenger flights restarted at a lower ash concentration.

  • Sure it's safe to fly in the ash ... until there is an accident. It's probably cheaper for the airlines and transport companies to pay compensation to survivors and next of kin than it is to not be flying at all until the ash cloud dissipates. That's how it worked with the Ford Pinto, right?

  • We are told that the large major eruption of this mountain lasted for two years, but this was before aviation. If this happens again and the present excessive curbs continue, aviation as we know it will cease, and those of us with families in the Americas, Australia etc, will only be able to see them on webcam. Aircraft sometimes fly through flocks of birds, surely more dangerous that minute particles of ash. Surely, with the deep blue skies we have seen regularly over the UK, the amount of ash must be negligible or non-existent

  • It is very strange that there are no measurements of the volcanic ash in the different air layers. At the moment there is a cloud and no one knows the concentration. I could imagine that in certain countries more knowledge is available about concentration and risks for certain airplanes. I wonder if this could be used in Europe to deal with the problem.

    Again, if you know nothing a precautionary principle is the right one. It is better to say afterwards we were stupid, than that somethings dreadful happens. And as always, be careful for economic reasons.

  • the great risk is if one aircraft's engines shut down and they fail to land safely. Every one's view will change again. If the met office can show rainfall why cannot its radars be tweaked to show volcanic ash?

  • Safety first!

  • In all of my years crossing the North Atlantic as BA Crew I always found the normal wind flow was from west to east. The latest graphic on this page clearly shows the ash heading West! I can't explain this but on the basis of the weather forecasts the the UK Met office issue I wouldn't believe anything they say about the ash.

  • While there are strong reasons to change the rules, please take necessary steps and research, and especially time to ensure safety.

    Bottom line of safety - no injury, no loss of life, both actual and potential, for now and consequentially.

    Lets not let the idea of not losing money results in lives lost.

    If these criteria are met, please go ahead and change rules.

  • Think Willie Walsh (head of British Airways) is correct - airlines are in the best position to asses risks in conjunction with customers (who may or may not like to fly)

  • Despite the obvious number of incidences involving volcanic ash world-wide, airlines & aviation regulators etc should have devised an acceptable procedure or at least been involved in some debate regarding this matter. - We all know airlines do not want to publicly discuss aviation risks as it might lose them customers but surely this debacle has done more damage to the industry. -Furthermore the EU & governments in Europe have been caught off-guard & i fear in the aftermath (I speculate) some might exaggerate the risk so as to justify the blanket ban.

  • Airlines will likely to downplay the safety argument because of commercial reasons. A few test flights are not sufficient to establish any evidence and to measure the risk.

  • It is shocking to see airlines openly rate safety as NOT their first priority. The single reason for this is deregulation and full business activity / competition in the air.

    I am not a communist or marxist (quite the contrary), but flying masses of people in the air, if it is to be done safely, is just not an activity appropriate for profit making, i.e. for business.

    Only national (or national caliber) carriers, in an internationally regulated regime, could afford to place safety over financial considerations (i.e. politically and socially afford being just viable, financially).
    Another issue which brightly displays today's aviation business ethics, is RyanAir's proposals to allow standing passengers in flights, or reduce the number of aircraft toilets and establish toilet fees for passengers.

    The concept of making money in the air as a key aim of those concerned, is inherently contradictory to safety.

  • Passenger safety is the key. Any ash concentration no matter how low this may be can cause malfunctions in on board equipment. One fragment in a pitot head can can cause havoc.

  • On board detection of volcanic ash e.g. by VDL4 linked satellite data (similar to WX-link) or novel instrumentation (like WX-radar) needs to be developed to solve the problem.

  • More effort need be put into determining the hazard level and areas...

    Low level flight for part of the flight should be utilized where appropriate....to avoid know hi level ash...

    It is 2010. Surely a better job can be done including the co-operation of many countries who are not affected making all airports available ( including military ) and setting up alternate routes to temporarily assist travel getting closer to home.

    IATA should temporarily abandon all those international rules of who can fly where and when.
    Surely a little co-operation would have gone a long way ?

  • The survey on airplanes and volcanic ash is poorly written. What have the governments agreed to and the reasons behind the agreement on the volcanic ash restrictions. How many people in this survey have read the restrictions. Thus the first question should be whether or not people have read and understood the restrictions as it relates to volcanic ash. Likewise do people understand the 'makeup' of volcanic ash and all the possible problems that it could cause for an airplane flying near or thru such ash? Then, have they read and understood the applicable rules. Finally, why was the choice 'No opinion' omitted from the last question (Is it safe to fly in or near volcanic ash?) I don't know the answer to that yet readers were asked to select yes or no.

    I am not an expert on volcanic ash nor am I an expert on airplanes and the mechanics behind airplanes. However, the survey wants readers to provide a (potential) uneducated opinion about flying in or near volcanic ash. I'd look for alternative ways, albeit inconvenient and potentially costly, to return home.

    I disagree with AirSafe.com that the traveling public is in the best position to determine if flying in an area with volcanic ash is safe. The traveling public is self serving whereby most only want to get to their destination. I don't think that the majority of the traveling public understand the dangers of volcanic ash, engines, airplanes and the sciences that come into play. Will this litigious society be willing to forgo lawsuits against the airline industry should the airline industry lobbyists be able convince governments to allow them to fly and then an airplane crashes as a result of the volcanic ash? I don't think society will.

  • I would hope that more testing would be done to determine what a safe level of ash is. Right now it seems like we are at two extreme's. One is a level of no ash at all and the other is a rather hazy determination of 'some' ask is ok. Too many lives are at stake.

  • European Community urgently need to meet with IATA and Civil Aviation experts, Environment,crisis management and Climate experts to apply pertinent solutions.

  • Safety first, I would not trust the airline to make the decision

  • I think the profit driven airlines will push the envelope as far and as fast as they can until multiple collisions occur. they can do this with impunity because of the international limitations on liability for death of passengers. there needs to be scientific studies performed in a controlled environment (a lab). why has no one put a jet engine in a lab and bubbled volcanic ash in until the engine chokes up and stops ?

  • Hard to say because obviously there are different opinions on this...
    The airlines are losing millions of dollars by being shut down--that is bad but there is never a reason to run an unnecessary risk to human life either;
    Both yay and nay sides have ulterior motives so to speak but human life should win each and every time;
    I guess the issues dilemma would be lessened if we had some very contemporary tests done by a neutral agency;

  • I am in S.A and want to get home to England but I will never take a chance if it is not safe!!!!!!! How can Louis Walsh put peoples lives at risk to save himself money!! Better safe than sorry I say!

  • The Commercial airlines that flew 'Test the Air' flights reported no damage but, at least two military jets flew around the same time and did report damage and it was there for all to see. The commercial operators' motives are heavily influenced by financial pressure and would probably be prepared to accept a low level risk as reasonable. Thank heavens the Air Traffic Services have executives bold enough to uphold the safety of passengers as paramount to the industry.

  • NO DEAL WITH SAFETY

  • There are many factors involved ,mostly money!! I think air companies must think better about this matter.

  • Is scary because I was at Vegas last week and thought it would affect our flight was grounded.

  • It's to risky.

  • Very difficult situation. However we dare not leave the decision to airlines who have a financial incentive to risk flying into ash.

  • I'm still outside of country UK, I have to wait and wait

  • Strictly no flights to be performed. Flights to be resumed when the volcanic ash is completely eliminated.
    Also, all aircraft grounded within affected airports must carry out an engine detailed inspection and the fuselage for any signs of "hot" spots damages.

  • Possible over-reaction and also no real tests conducted early on before the blanket ban was imposed. It cannot go on like this and I believe the airlines should be free to make their own decisions

  • I think the situation is terrible and I understand why passengers are frustrated! However, I would prefer to lose money on extra nights in a hotel than lose my life! Therefore, I think it is preferable to err on the side of caution and continue the flight restrictions. I am not currently affected by the flight restrictions, but have a flight to Switzerland booked for the end of May and I realize that I may be affected if the volcano continues erupting. However, I would rather postpone my flight than fly in unsafe conditions.

  • The best probable answer to safety of flight in or near volcanic ash is not yes or no. Like many other safety issues, it's a maybe. It all depends on the density of the ash cloud. I have knowledge of cases where planes flew through ash clouds, having their cockpits windshield and sliding windows sanded opaque. After a post-flight engine borescope, both engines were confirmed unaffected and remained installed for continuous service. Consequently, it takes a higher density to affect the engines (ref BA 9 or similar events). The objective of the authorities should be to establish a methodology to locate the higher density clouds that would be a safety threat to the aircraft. The airlines will not blindly fly into clouds of ash as the post flight inspections will disrupt operations not to mention the extremely high cost in case of engine damage.

  • To be safe is better than to be sorry.

  • People don't think, it's all about money. Sure!!! I'm sorry for the people who are stranded in another country, I understand they want to go home. I would!

    Again it's all about money..millions. What about safety???

  • No one can predict with certainty what is safe but commercial losses should not change authority's cautious approach.

  • I think that any steps that can be taken to prevent anyone from crashing into the ocean should be taken. Please no repeats of the horrific Air France crash last year.

  • Hi Dr Todd. I've been " sandpapered" in an Alitalia 747 landing in Khartoum (Sudan), On fire on the way to Genoa . In free fall in a tropical storm in Rio de Janeiro . So many hairy landings at Kai Tak Hong Kong . Thus far I have avoided the volcanic ash threat , but I guess there is still time.


  • $$$ is what's putting the pressure on authorities. One crash or near miss will be unacceptable.

19 April 2010

Airlines Want to Fly Even if There Is Ash in the Air

Ash clouds from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland continue to affect flights to and from Europe, canceling over 60,000 flights and affecting nearly seven million passengers. Many European airports, including most of the major ones, remain closed or open with very limited traffic. With many airspace and airport restrictions continuing until at least Tuesday, and perhaps for quite a bit longer, airlines are eager to renew flight operations, even though there is still ash present in the air above Europe.

No accepted safe levels of ash
Current European regulations prohibit commercial aircraft from flying in areas containing volcanic ash, no matter how low the concentration. In other words, there are no defined safe limits for flights through volcanic ash. This is reflected in the standard procedures followed by airlines when it comes to volcanic ash - avoid it if possible, and carefully exit the area if the aircraft inadvertently encounters ash.

Balancing risk and safety
Airlines and civil aviation regulatory bodies are faced with the dilemma of balancing risk and safety. By closing airspace and grounding flights, the aviation community has very effectively avoided any risks related with volcanic ask encounters, including aircraft damage and the potential for aircraft accidents. At the same time, the airlines can't avoid the financial risk of lost revenue from both airline passengers and companies that rely on air cargo services.

Volcanic ash is very hazardous to aircraft, but the hazard faced by aircraft is very dependent on the weather. Currently, the ash cloud extends over most of northern and central Europe, and in the coming days may even spread eastward toward Greenland and Canada. Also, the ash is not spread evenly at all levels of the atmosphere, and it is possible that aircraft could fly through an area with volcanic ash, but at an altitude that is clear or nearly clear of ash.



Test flights over Europe
In recent days, aircraft from British Airways, Air France, and KLM have conducted numerous test flights with no passengers on board, and none have experienced any damage or any other problem due to ash. Lufthansa also plans to fly about 50 aircraft back to Europe on Monday and Tuesday, with about 15,000 passengers on board.

Pressure to fly in areas of ash
Because the volcanic eruption may continue to go on for some time, and because it appears that aircraft may fly in the volcanic ash areas and avoid damage, several groups, led by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), are calling on European governments to figure out a way to resume flying and to do so safely in spite of the presence of volcanic ash, and in spite of the current industry practice of avoiding all flights in such areas.

IATA is not alone. One of the more outspoken airline executives is British Airways head Willie Walsh, who, according to the Telegraph newspaper of London, said "The analysis we have done so far, alongside that from other airlines' trial flights, provides fresh evidence that the current blanket restrictions on airspace are unnecessary." He also went on to say that "We believe airlines are best positioned to assess all available information and determine what, if any, risk exists to aircraft, crew and passengers."

Risk vs. safety - you be the judge
Earlier in this article, the two risks that were mentioned were the possibility of aircraft damage due to a volcanic ash encounter, and the certainty of airline revenue losses because of canceled flights and closed airports. Unlike risks, which can be measured and defined in an objective way, safety is more like beauty in that it is in the eye of the beholder. It can't be measured with any kind of objective scale, and one person's idea of safety may be quite different from another's.

The head of British Airways believes that is is in the best position to determine what risks exists. AirSafe.com believes that the traveling public is in the best position to determine whether flying in an area with volcanic ash is safe. Please feel free to respond to the survey below. Results will be posted in the coming days.

Update: The survey is now closed. The survey asked the following questions::
  • Should the rules be changed as soon as possible?

  • Have you been affected by the current situation?

  • Will you fly in or to Europe in the next month?

  • Is it safe to fly in or near volcanic ash?

  • Will you fly in or to Europe in the next month?

  • Tell us what you think about this situation
The results of the survey are available here.

17 April 2010

Early Findings in the Investigation of the Polish President's Plane Crash

While the investigation into the crash is in its early stages, some facts about the circumstances around the crash are coming into focus.

Number of Victims
Early media reports gave the number of people on board the aircraft as either 96 or 97. It looks like the confusion was due to the passenger list from Polish authorities that listed 89 passengers. Apparently one passenger did not make the flight.

Crash details
The aircraft, a Polish Air Force Tupolev TU-154M, had been on a nonstop flight from Warsaw, Poland to Smolensk North Airport (a military installation) near Smolensk, Russia. At the time of the crash, there was dense fog in the area. Reportedly, Russia's Prime Minister Putin was briefed by local officials and told that the required horizontal visibility for the approach to the airbase would have been 1000 meters, with actual visibility of only 400 meters at the time of the crash.

Unlike many large international airports, this airport did not have an instrument landing system designed for poor visibility conditions, but rather a less sophisticated system using a non-directional beacon.

Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) is the organization responsible for investigating this accident. According to a 1998 memorandum of understanding between the US and Russian governments, this would be the same organization that would be responsible for investigating any accidents involving US registered aircraft in Russian territory. AirSafe.com is unaware if the Polish government has a similar memorandum of understanding.

According to the IAC, preliminary analysis of the flight data and cockpit voice recorders indicated that the airplane impacted trees 1050 meters short of the runway threshold and about 40 to 45 meters to the left of the extended runway centerline. The airplane continued for another 200 meters before the left wing impacted another tree and the airplane broke up. The airplane came to rest about 350-500 meters short of the runway threshold and about 150 meters left of the extended runway centerline. The debris field was about about 210 meters long.

Some early media reports stated that the aircraft had made several landing attempts prior to the crash, however Polish officials confirmed that the airplane was on its first approach to the airbase, when it impacted the trees. Three flights were to land at the airbase in that period of time: the first was a Yakovlev YAK-40 carrying journalists accompanying Poland's president, which made a safe landing. The second was a Russian Ilyushin IL-76, which diverted after two unsuccessful approaches. The third was the presidential Tupolev TU-154M.

Comparisons to the Ron Brown Crash of 1996
There are some similarities between the 2010 crash of the Polish President's aircraft, and the 1996 crash that killed US Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. In both cases, the crash involved a military flight crew using an approach with a non-directional beacon. In an article on the site of The New Republic, Jonathan Kay describes his experience analyzing the Ron Brown accident report, and concluding that the accident had more to do with the mindset of the flight crew than about technology or flight procedures. It will be interesting to see if the IAC report implies that something similar happened with the Polish President's crash.

General view of crash site area



Closeup view of crash site with debris



Photo Credits: AvHerald.com, European Pressphoto Agency, Google Earth


Free Downloads from AirSafe.com
AirSafe.com offers a variety of of free information about airline safety and other topics. Feel free to make copies of these downloads and distribute them. You can also place links to these downloads on your web site or blog.

List of AirSafe.com web sites, blogs, podcasts, and other resources
http://www.airsafe.com/airsafe-resources.pdf

AirSafe.com Baggage and Security Guide
Includes extensive information on what is allowed or prohibited on board aircraft, as well as advice on how to reduce your risk of theft or damage to items in checked baggage.
http://www.airsafe.com/issues/baggage/airsafe-baggage-and-security-guide.pdf

Parenting and the Internet
Written by AirSafe.com founder Dr. Todd Curtis, this book is a practical how-to manual for providing children's guidance for using the Internet. PDF download available at http://www.airsafe.com/downloads/pati.pdf, and other ebook options at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/12280.

16 April 2010

How the Volcano Eruption in Iceland May Affect You

Ash clouds from the ongoing eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland continue to affect flights to and from Europe, with a number of major airports closed to all traffic. While steps taken by airlines will keep passengers away from any physical danger, it will disrupt travel today, and possibly through the weekend.

Who is affected by the volcanic ash cloud?
If you are scheduled to fly to or from any city in Europe in the next few days, or if your plane will make a stop in Europe, your flight may be delayed or canceled. Even if you are not traveling to or through these areas, your flight may be affected if your airline has many flights in Europe since these volcanic ash delays may be difficult for the airline to schedule aircraft for their other flights.

Among the non-European airlines with extensive European operations include United, American, Air Canada, Delta, and Continental. US airlines operate over 300 flights a day to and from Europe, and over half have been canceled today because of the volcano. If you are flying on any of these airlines in the next few days, even if your flight doesn't involve travel to or from Europe, you should check with your airline to see if your flight will be affected.

London, Amsterdam, and Paris are also major hub airports that are used by dozens of carriers from around the world, so many smaller carriers that use these airports will be affected.

What if your flight is canceled or delayed?
If your flight is affected, your airline will likely try to accommodate you on another flight. Also, most airlines will waive their usual change fees and penalties and will give you the option to change your flight without penalty, or to cancel it and get a full refund. Check with your airline for details.

In most cases, the airline will not provide you with meals, lodging, or other compensation for these volcanic ash delays. If you have not left for the airport, contact your airline to find out if your flight has been affected. Visit AirSafe.com for more details on your compensation rights as a passenger.

Volcanic ash basics
Volcanic ash consists of jagged particles of rock and natural glass blasted into the air by a volcano. While most ash may fall back to the ground near the site of a volcanic eruption, the tiniest particles can remain suspended in the atmosphere for days or weeks, sometimes traveling thousand of miles each day. Although an ash cloud will disperse over time, even a very light volcanic ash cloud can cause significant damage to a plane that flies through that cloud.

What can ash do to an airplane?
Volcanic ash contains particles with melting point is below that of an engine's internal temperature. During flight, these particles will melt if they go through a jet engine. As the particles go through a jet turbine, the material can rapidly cool down, stick on the turbine vanes, and disturb the flow of high pressure combustion gases. This can cause the engine to lose some of its thrust or completely shut down. Volcanic ash is also quite abrasive, and can damage cockpit windows and can reduce or even eliminate forward visibility.

A brief history of volcanic ash and airliners
There were two near disasters in the 1980s that have received the most media attention over the years. In 1982, a British Airways 747 unexpectedly encountered a volcanic ash cloud from an Indonesian volcano and the damage caused by the ash shut down all of its engines. The crew was able to restart the engines and land safely in Jakarta. In 1989, a KLM 747 lost thrust on all of its engines after encountering an ash cloud over Alaska. The crew was able to restart the engines and land in Anchorage.

These were not the only significant volcanic ash encounters. According to Boeing, nearly 100 commercial jet airliners have suffered damage as a result of encountering volcanic ash in flight. Two airliners experienced damage after encountering the ash cloud from Mt. St. Helens in 1980. Over 20 aircraft were damaged by the ash from Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991; and in 1997 and 1998, several aircraft were damaged by ash from an erupting volcano near Mexico City.

As a result of the knowledge gained from these many incidents, the airline industry has developed procedures to avoid these kinds of events, primarily by reducing or eliminating flights in areas where volcanic ash encounters are likely. The steps taken by the airlines this week will likely mean that no airliner or airline passenger will have to deal with any volcanic ash emergencies.

Areas affected by ash
The ash cloud is covering large areas of western and central Europe, and closing or partially closing the airspace over the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and several other countries. Oddly enough, flights to and from Iceland are largely unaffected.



Satellite view from 15 April 2010


How do you pronounce the volcano's name?




Photo Credits: New York Times, BBC, USGS, NOAA


Free Downloads from AirSafe.com
AirSafe.com offers a variety of of free information about airline safety and other topics. Feel free to make copies of these downloads and distribute them. You can also place links to these downloads on your web site or blog.

List of AirSafe.com web sites, blogs, podcasts, and other resources
http://www.airsafe.com/airsafe-resources.pdf

AirSafe.com Baggage and Security Guide
Includes extensive information on what is allowed or prohibited on board aircraft, as well as advice on how to reduce your risk of theft or damage to items in checked baggage.
http://www.airsafe.com/issues/baggage/airsafe-baggage-and-security-guide.pdf

Parenting and the Internet
Written by AirSafe.com founder Dr. Todd Curtis, this book is a practical how-to manual for providing children's guidance for using the Internet. PDF download available at http://www.airsafe.com/downloads/pati.pdf, and other ebook options at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/12280.

14 April 2010

Cathay Pacific A330 Has Close Call and A300 Cargo Jet Crashes

Yesterday saw both a serious incident and a fatal crash involving two wide-bodied jets. While everyone escaped with their lives in the first event in Hong Kong, all on board plus at least one on the ground lost their lives in Mexico.

Cathay Pacific A330 almost loses both engines
In the first event, Cathay Pacific flight CX780, an A330, was approaching Hong Kong, China after a flight from Surabaya, Indonesia when the crew noted problems with the left engine. After shutting down the left engine, the right engine experienced several uncontrolled increases and decreases in thrust (Correction: FlightGlobal reports that the right engine was at idle thrust throughout the approach, and the left engine was stuck at 70% thrust, leading to a high speed landing at an incorrect flap setting).

The crew declared an emergency and landed about 25 minutes later. All four tires on the left landing gear and two of the four on the right main landing gear deflated after the landing, and the 309 passengers and 14 crew members evacuated. Eight passengers were injured, with one sent to a local hospital for at least an overnight stay. It is unclear if the injuries occurred before, during, or after the evacuation.

Flightglobal.com reports that as a result of this event, Cathay Pacific temporarily suspended refueling at Surabaya.

Typically, US airlines offer little if any compensation to passengers after an incident like this. Unlike most US airlines, Cathay Pacific offered full refunds to all the passengers on this flight.

Recent A330 historyThis is the fourth accident or serious incident involving the A330 in the last two years, including the only fatal A330 crash while in passenger service:
  • 7 October 2008; Qantas A330-300; Flight 72; near Learmonth, Australia: The aircraft was in cruise on a scheduled international flight from Singapore to Perth when the aircraft experienced several sudden and unexpected altitude changes. About 36 passengers and crew members were injured, with over a dozen severe injuries.

  • 1 June 2009; Air France A330-200; Flight 447; Atlantic Ocean: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris, France when it crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off the northeast coast of Brazil. All 216 passengers and 12 crew members were killed.

  • 25 December 2009; Northwest Airlines A330-300; Flight 253; near Detroit, MI: A passenger on a Northwest Airlines A330-300(N820NW) attempted to detonate an explosive device while the aircraft was approaching Detroit after a flight from Amsterdam. None of the other 277 passengers or 11 crew members were killed.


Cargo jet crashes in Mexico and kills at least six

Also on Tuesday, an A300 jet, operated by AeroUnion of Mexico, crashed during its approach to the Monterrey, Mexico airport. The A300 had departed earlier that evening from Mexico City and crashed just outside the airport in an area adjacent to a number of hotels. All five crew members, plus at least one person in a car hit by the aircraft, were killed.

13 April 2010

Survey Results on the Use of Full Body Scanners

In the January 2010 article reviewing security measures taken in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt on Northwest flight 253, AirSafeNews.com conducted a poll about the US government's intention to increase the use of full body scanners. It was the most popular poll ever on AirSafeNews.com, with 103 responses. The questions were as follows:
  • Do you approve of full body scans at US airports?

  • Should children be scanned in this way?

  • Have you flown on an airliner at least once in the past 12 months?

  • What do you think about the increased security?

Those who responded were overwhelmingly in favor of the scanners. Of the 103 responding, 80 were in favor of using the scanners, and 75 of the 80 were in favor of using them on children. Of the 90 respondents who had flown during 2009, 70 approved of the scanners and 63 of them were in favor of using them on children.

Perhaps more revealing were the 59 people who wrote responses to the last question, What do you think about the increased security? Below, with some minor spelling and grammar corrections, are the responses:
  1. It works to a point. More emphasis on racial profiling as we all know who the real culprits are. What is done currently punishes the normal traveler at the expense of being politically correct.

  2. Good start. I was thinking about the shoe bomb guy We all had to take off our shoes and now the underwear bomb guy... would we all have to take off our underwear? LOL The big question would you rather have some probably bored TSA guy look at your private parts in a scanner or get on that plane and never return home? I don't think its a hard question.

  3. I'm all for it. We should do all we can do to ensure safety of the traveling public. I've traveled world-wide for 35 years to over 60 countries. Passenger and airplane safety MUST be the top priority for the future. The people who want to kill Americans are not going to go away.

  4. It will never be enough and most security measures are now for window dressing. Let us close all shopping centres in the airports and all food outlets. The airports will become safer. But an airport is not a military base and can never be 100 percent protected.

  5. Considering the threat level, I think it´s acceptable.

  6. Just part of flying.

  7. The odds of a successful bomb on an airline are infinitesimal. As long as we live in fear, terrorism is working. What is needed is an information campaign to show how terrorism is NOT working, given that the chance of being on board a jet about to be blown up is zero, for all practical purposes.

  8. Hogwash!

  9. Better that than being blown out of the sky.

  10. I think they should use anything to make flying safe. Would you prefer being dead over scanning?

  11. Necessary in all airports that fly in & out of the US. Additional face to face interview with anyone who buys one-way ticket with cash & offers no personal background information. These are all red flags.

  12. ALL available measures should be taken, including interviews of certain travelers, as the Israeli's do.

  13. If it keeps us safe, I think the extra security is great and cannot understand why some people object to it.

  14. WHATEVER IT TAKES IS OK.

  15. By all means. Profile folks too!

  16. Some parts are plain stupid, e.g. not going to the toilet an hour before landing will not stop anything. If they stopped me i would urinate in my seat if i really had to.

  17. It is not worth the hassle, using screening lists is a better procedure.

  18. Not enough.

  19. Fine by me. Whatever it takes to minimize the risk of a person or persons coming on board with weapons or bombs.

  20. Waste of time.

  21. No matter what the governments do the terrorists can always find a way around the security. Either by waiting until security guards get relaxed or by moving to smaller airports or by using more sophisticated methods. Security can never ever be 100% successful all of the time. The terrorists only have to be successful once.

  22. I am not worried about the increase at all, I would rather be safe than sorry.

  23. It is scaring and makes Air travel worrying. We hope this will be fully utilized without any reservations ,airline crew must also be subjected to this type of screening .

  24. I think that there should be more profiling. Concentrate on potential risk persons, even if this leads to accusations of racism or nationalism. Maybe passengers should be given clearance levels, similar to the classification system for national secrets. There could then be a group of low risk passengers who would go through the normal security procedures. Others might have to go though extra procedures.

  25. I don't like it - but is very much a necessary evil.

  26. Even though full body scan imaging is inarguably helpful in detecting threats and prohibited items, the TSA's use of this technology is a full attack on passengers' privacy. The TSA has proven over and over that it misrepresents and abuses full body scan technology. At many airports where the technology is in use, there is little or no hint that this method of screening is optional. For example, at BUR (Burbank, CA), the incoming stream of passengers gets randomly split between a regular metal detector and a millimeter wave machine. Here, the TSA gives no indication that the purpose of the machine is to view nude images of travelers, and only a small sign with tiny fine print indicates that passengers may request a traditional screening method instead.

    The intended purpose of forcing the technology on the unknowing public appears to be to allow the TSA to turn it into a primary screening method in the future with reduced public outcry. While US Customs have strong legal footing to invade passengers' privacy prior to admitting them into the country, the TSA has absolutely no legal footing whatsoever to peek underneath the clothes of US citizens and lawful residents.

    Every couple of weeks, there is a new story like that of the lady who was put into a TSA restricted hallway and forced to walk like a duck to see if something falls out of her private area; or one of my friends who was put into a concrete room without camera or supervision and a TSOP stuck their hand into his underwear trying to fish for nonexistent contraband. Even if the technology is automated such that prohibited items can be detected without a TSOP viewing nude images of passengers, it is still not the government's business what people have below their clothes or in their underwear. Other than explosives, this amounts to an unreasonable search which is prohibited by law, whether the passengers are carrying an implanted medical device, drugs, medication, or whatever they wish to carry.

    Technology may get better and better, but there must be a set limit how far the government can use it. Maybe one day technology will be advanced enough to detect the chemical composition of the blood flowing in passengers' veins from hundreds of feet away. The existence of the technology doesn't imply that the TSA or Customs or any law enforcement organization has a right to make use of that information or harass innocent people.

  27. It is a real nuisance to the traveler but I suppose it is for the good of all of us.

  28. Lame

  29. I think our government needs to do what ever steps are necessary to protect the passengers and flight crew. I feel our government needs to get more experienced TSA employees. Why not hire our soldiers and give them a good job once they have fulfilled their tour of duty rather than go back to some other jobs they might have had before they went in.

  30. Not enough

  31. Waste of time and money

  32. Too many irrelevant procedures. Security personnel, while performing assigned tasks, appear to lose sight of their goal. It would be good for the public to know what the increased procedures are yielding, this would bolster public support.

  33. I approve of the full body scanners, but my concern is two fold. Why was the TSA not using them more before December 2009, and why are we still not accepting that "threat profiling" (I did not say racial or ethnic) is the way to go! Since all of the 9-11 attackers were male, arabic, in ages of 20-40 years old, that should be a dead giveaway to profile. We were not attacked by young "italian nuns" or "young Brazilian tourists", but by 19 young men of arabic descent or origin. I believe it would be far more effective and cost beneficial to start doing this "threat profiling" on anyone that fits that description, instead of this "charade" of doing a "computer random" sampling, which means we waste our efforts on a 79-year-old Irish nun, or a 62-year-old auto worker from Michigan.

  34. Good. Questionary (Asking questions) like El Al would be good.

  35. Complete waste of time and money. Current systems are adequate for the task.

  36. It's a must.

  37. Negligible

  38. Some of the rules are ridiculous like no getting up during the last hour of the flight and no carryons for flights heading to the U.S. Those wouldn't have prevented the Northwest bombing attempt.

  39. It was hurry-up and wait, it could be a smoother process if we would adopt the Israeli security practices, (especially their predictive profiling and security questioning).

  40. Keep us safe.

  41. Happy to spend a few extra hours to help reduce the probability of NOT arriving at my destination.

  42. Only stands to reason nowadays.

  43. I am writing my Dissertation on Commercial Aviation Security to complete me Doctorate in Business Administration. Dr. Andrew Thomas is one of my committee members; I enjoy his guidance and conversations. I believe that we are in big trouble and politics is getting in the way of real security. The people in charge are clueless to direct the security, most of the TSA leadership does not have a aviation background and the average person does not understand that it is the leadership causing the system to be flawed.

  44. Extra care is needed.

  45. The first question is not well formed; the question should include how the full body scanners are used; if they were used as a secondary screening of those people of interest or for suspicion, I would approve. Second, the thing that saddens and amuses me is that all the measures the TSA is pushing in response to the December 2009 attack are imposed at US airports on mostly US passengers. If such screening were carried out at airports to foreign airports for flights destined for the US, I'd believe in their positive efficacy. Lastly, the reports or requirements to turn off electronic equipment and remain seated during an extended period before landing, keeping laps clear of items such as blankets for large portions of the flight, and additional restrictions on when the lavatories (can be used) seems absolutely ridiculous. This is sort of like closing the barn door after the horses ran out. What this means is that the potential terrorist will start their actions a little earlier than planned but literally millions of passengers will be unnecessarily bored,and scared senseless, with no chance of increasing safety.

  46. It is the right thing to do.

  47. Increase it more.

  48. Body scanner will help overcoming some fundamental deficiencies when it comes to passenger screening. However, it will require screeners to be able to 'interpret' devices, items or substances identified by these systems. Again, technology is not the only means and there is no single 100% cure for aviation security.

  49. I am still uneasy about flying. How do the TSA know who to screen and who not to, what if a terrorist does not get a full body scan? I would much rather take the risks of driving than flying at this point.

  50. Necessary evil.

  51. Every reasonable method must be used to stop would be terrorists. Full body scanner fall within the realm of reasonable. Better ticket counter 'tip off', and identification and alerts for secondary screening should be implemented ASAP. Hidden CCTV cameras should be installed at each ticket counter so that positive ID can be made for those deemed suspicious (no luggage, cash ticket, nervous behavior, etc.) by the ticket agent so that secondary screening can be conducted by TSA and foreign airports with flights to US. Use Israeli screening methods at secondary screening points.

  52. Cero

  53. What is needed for air safety must be done. Safety before privacy when you want to fly.

  54. While I do not object to more security procedures, I do believe the airports should be profiling people. We have had proven data that young males of middle eastern nationality are prime suspects. Subjecting children under say the age of 10, elderly people in wheelchairs, and medal of honor recipients to screening and searching is NOT the answer to better security. Body scans would help, but since not all airports would be having the equipment, that leaves holes in the process

  55. If somebody shows abnormal behavior, it is possible for him/her. But it must not be for everybody.

  56. FUD

  57. A joke. Implement it ASAP regardless of who complains, especially the ACLU (all criminals love us).

  58. Security definitely needs to improve and be strong enough to prevent future hijackings. I don't want any terrorist attacks happening ever again.

  59. It really is pointless, I personally can think of a few major holes in the security procedures which still have not been discovered and could easily bring down a plane. What's more, they aren't even difficult to do. My point being you will never truly make a flight totally safe as was said here. Arm the Pilots and Crew and you might be safe though.


Photo: gregoryjameswalsh

10 April 2010

Polish President and 95 Others Killed in Plane Crash in Russia

The president of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, was killed, along with his wife and numerous Polish officials, when their aircraft, a Polish Air Force Tupolev 154M, crashed near Smolensk, Russia. The flight, took off from Warsaw with 88 passengers and eight crew members when it crashed at around 10:50 a.m. local time on the outskirts of the town of Pechorsk, during its approach to Smolensk air base. All on board were killed.

This official delegation, included the president, his wife, former president in exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, the head of the national security bureau, the head of the Polish Olympic committee, the president of the national bank, the chief of staff of the armed forces, several members of parliament, and numerous other government officials. This group had been traveling to Katyn, Russia to commemorate the anniversary of a World War II massacre of about 21,000 Polish prisoners of war by the Soviet Union. After the crash, Bronisław Komorowski assumed the duties of president.

About the Tupolev 154
The Tupolev 154 was designed in the former Soviet Union in the 1960s, and saw wide service in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe, and countries with close ties to the former Soviet Union. There have been about 1000 produced, and about 250 remain in service, and the aircraft is still in limited production.

This is the 22nd fatal crash involving the Tupolev 154 since 1990, with 20 of them involving civilian airliners. The most recent fatal crash was a Caspian Airlines crash in July 2009 in Iran.

World leaders killed in plane crashes
This is not the first time that a head of state or other world leader has been killed in a plane crash. Since 1943, at least eight others have been killed as a result of an accident or by some deliberate action:

Poland 1943 - Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski was killed on 13 April 1943 nine other passengers and members in the crash of a Liberator bomber shortly after takeoff from Gibralter. The pilot was the only survivor. Sikorski was the head of the Polish government in exile from 1939 until his death.

United Nations 1961 - Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld was killed on 18 September 1961 along with 10 other passengers and five crew members in the crash of a DC6 near Ndola, Zambia.

Ecuador 1981 - President Jaime Roldós Aguilera was killed on 24 May 1981 along with his wife, the defense minister, and seven others in the crash of a Ecuadorean Air Force Avro aircraft while on a domestic flight between Quito and Zapotillo.

Panama 1981 - Panamanian leader Omar Torrijoswas killed on 31 July 1981 along with five others in the crash of a Panamanian Air Force Twin Otter while on a domestic flight between the towns of Pemonome and Coclesito.

Pakistan 1988 - President Zia-ul-Haq was killed on 17 August 1988 along with 31 others, were killed when his C130 aircraft crashed just after taking off from Bahawalpur, Pakistan.

Rwanda and Burudni 1994 - President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and President Cyprien Ntarymira of Burundi were both killed on 6 April 1994 when their plane was reportedly shot down by two surface to air missiles as their Falcon 50 approached the Kigali, Rwanda airport. Three crew members and seven other passengers were also killed.

Macedonia - 2004: President Boris Trajkovski was killed when his King Air crashed near Rotmilja, Bosnia and Herzegovina. There were two crew members and six other passengers on board.



Additional information
CIA World Factbook profile of Poland
Wikipedia profile of Lech Kaczynski
Wikipedia page about the crash
Fatal events for airlines of the former Soviet Union