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25 August 2010

Over 40 killed in airliner crash in China

24 August 2010; Henan Airlines ERJ-190; B-3130; flight VD8387; Yichun, China: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Harbin to Yichun, China. The aircraft broke up and caught fire after it overran the runway after landing. At the time of the crash, there was fog in the area and limited visibility. The aircraft carried five crew members and 91 passengers, and 43 of the occupants were killed. At least one flight crew member survived.

Embraer 190 Crash History
This was the first crash of an Embraer 190 that resulted in the death of at least one airline passenger. This is also the first fatal airliner crash involving any of the Embraer jet airliner models (ERJ 170/175 and ERJ 19-/195). According to, there are over 650 Embraer jets in service. This was also the first fatal plane crash involving an airline from China since 2004.

About Henan Airlines
Henan Airlines is operated by Shenzhen Airlines, and was formerly known as Kunpeng Airlinesbegan flight operations in October 2007, and prior to the crash had a fleet of about four ERJ-190 aircraft.

Related resources
Plane crashes involving airlines from the People's Republic of China
Follow up story about aviation safety in China from Blue Ocean Network

Photo: AFP
Map Graphic: BBC

24 August 2010

Agni Air crash kills all on board

24 August 2010; Agni Air; 9N-AHE; Dornier 228-200; near Shikharpur, Nepal: The aircraft was on a domestic flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, Nepal. Due to weather conditions at Lukla, the aircraft was returning to Kathmandu, but crashed near Shikharpur, Nepal, about 50 miles (80 km) from Kathmandu. All three crew members and 11 passengers were killed.

Dornier 228 Crash History
This was the 10th crash of a Dornier 228 that resulted in the death of at least one airline passenger. The most recent fatal Dornier 228 plane crash prior to the Agni Air event was the crash of Cabo Verde Airlines Dornier aircraft in August 1999.

About Agni Air
Agni Air began flight operations in March 2006, and prior to the crash had a fleet of about a half dozen Jetstream 41 and Dornier 228 aircraft.

Photo: Wikipedia
Map Graphic: BBC

16 August 2010

Aires Colombia 737 crash kills one passenger

16 August 2010; Aires Colombia; 737-700; HK-4682; San Andres Island, Colombia: The airliner was on a scheduled domestic flight from Bogota to San Andreas Island, Colombia. San Andreas Island lies off the east coast of Nicaragua. The aircraft took off from Bogota just after midnight and was attempting to land just before 2 a.m. local time during a storm.

The aircraft was reportedly struck by lightning just before touchdown. The airplane struck the runway and broke up into three large pieces. One of the 125 passengers was killed, and all six crew members survived.

Fatal Crash History of Aires Colombia
This was the third fatal crash involving Aires Colombia. Their two previous fatal crashes were in 1995 and 1985 and both involved Embraer Bandierante aircraft.

Fatal Plane Crash History of the 737
This was the 70th crash of a 737 that resulted in the death of at least one airline passenger. This is the sixth fatal plane crash involving one of the current production models of the 737 (737-600, 737-700, 737-800, and 737-900). All five previous fatal crashes involved the 737-800 model. The 737-700 had been involved in one previous fatal incident. In December 2005, a Southwest Airlines 737-700 ran off the runway at Midway Airport in Chicago and struck a car on a nearby road, which led to the death of one of the passengers in the car.

12 August 2010

Steven Slater: Why this flight attendant is no hero

This article is a bit of a departure for in that it more full of opinions rather than facts . I do hope that you take the time to read it and I look forward to your feedback. - Todd Curtis

By now the story of Steven Slater's dramatic exit from a JetBlue airplane at JFK airport in New York is well known to most of the traveling public. While only Mr. Slater knows why he allegedly chose to deploy an emergency slide, leave the aircraft, and abandon his duties as a flight attendant, it is quite clear that what he did put ramp workers at risk and cost JetBlue many thousands of dollars.

Normally, these kinds of antics rarely get noticed outside of the aviation press, but as is often the case with the airline business, things that happen in an important media market like New York can get way more than the average amount of attention. Overnight, Steven Slater when from anonymous flight attendant to getting Lady Gaga levels of attention. Some call him a modern working class hero for doing what he did. I however have a much different point of view.

Steven Slater as a modern Johnny Paycheck
Those of you who were around in the late 1970s probably remember the Johnny Paycheck song, 'Take This Job and Shove It,' a huge hit about a working man fed up with his lot in life. The song struck a chord with anyone who had had to deal with a frustrating job situation and dreamed of one day having the courage to stand up and tell the boss what he or she could do with their job.

There is little doubt in most passengers' minds that air travel isn't as much fun as it used to be. The stress for airline employees is probably much higher as well, with prospects for future pay raises, pensions, or decent benefits dimmer than ever. Any employee who gets to the point where he or she would rather quit the job and take a chance on the open market than to continue with their daily routine, has a rare kind of courage that should be applauded, even if they give the boss the finger on the way out the door.

However, Steven Slater alleged acts shouldn't be commended, they should be condemned. Leaving your flight attendant job for the last time by allegedly opening an emergency chute when there is no emergency put ramp workers at risk. The money and resources spent to repack that slide and put the aircraft back in operation have to come from somewhere, most likely from his follow JetBlue employees who may have fewer pay and benefits, or future JetBlue passengers who may have to pay a bit more for their next flight.

The difference between fake heroes and real ones
By coincidence, the same week that some in the media are spending time 'reporting' about how some members of the public consider Mr. Stater to be a hero, there is a group of individuals who are far more deserving of the title of hero who are getting much less media, but who are about to receive some well deserved thanks from the public. In San Antonio, the nonprofit group Alamo Honor Flight, which is part of the Honor Flight Network, provides World War II veterans with trips to Washington, DC, giving these veterans an opportunity to visit many of the area's memorials and also as a way of thanking them for their service. Tomorrow (August 13, 2010), a group of these veterans from the San Antonio area are heading off to Washington on the latest Honor Flight trip.

No doubt, many of them faced stress and frustrations while they did their duty. Some faced enemy fire, while others served their country in spite of not having full rights as citizens. In the decades after the war, they continued to serve their communities and their nation in spite of all the obstacles that life may have thrown at them. I'm fortunate to know one of them very well. You can read more about my father the former Marine at You can also look at the videos below to find out more about the Honor Flight program.

Honor Flight Background

Honor Flight Departure Ceremony in San Antonio

After reading this story and finding out more about the Honor Flight veterans, you may want to ask a question that I asked myself. Knowing what I know about Steven Slater and about these Honor Flight veterans, who would you want in the airplane with you if there was an emergency? Whose judgment would your trust in a tight situation with lives on the line? Even if those veterans were confined to a wheelchair or barely able to walk? Personally, I would choose any one of them over Slater any day of the week. If you had a similar response, then you know why I think Steve Slater is no hero.

Related Resources
Wikipedia entry on Steven Slater incident

11 August 2010

Former US Senator Killed in plane crash that also Injured former NASA head

9 August 2010; de Havilland DHC-3T Otter; near Dillingham, AK: Former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was one of five people killed when an turbine engine, float equipped Otter crashed into steep terrain during a flight from nearby Lake Nerka to a fishing lodge in the Dillingham, Alaska area. The pilot and four passengers, including Stevens, were killed, and four other passengers were injured. One of the survivors was former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe.

This was not the first fatal plane crash in Alaska involving Senator Stevens. In December 1978, the Senator was one of two survivors of a fatal crash of a Learjet in Anchorage, Alaska. Both pilots and three other passengers, including the Senator's first wife, were killed in the crash.

US Politicians and Plane Crashes
Prior to the crash that killed Senator Stevens, the most well known Alaska plane crash involving US politicians was an October 1972 crash that killed US congressman and house majority leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana, and Alaska Congressman Nick Begich . Congressman Begich was the father of current Alaska Senator Mark Begich and Boggs was the father of author and journalist Cokie Roberts.

In the last 40 years, over a dozen prominent US politicians have been killed in plane crashes:
  • 26 October 2002; Beech King Air A100; near Eveleth, MN : Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, five other passengers, and two crew members were all killed when their aircraft, crashed just outside the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport, about 175 miles north of Minneapolis. At the time of the crash, light snow and freezing rain was reported in the area. Both the NTSB and the FBI investigated the event. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the flight crew’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed, which led to an aerodynamic stall from which they did not recover.
    NTSB accident summary
    NTSB accident report

  • 16 October 2000; Cessna 335; near St. Louis, Missouri: The governor of Missouri, Mel Carnahan, along with two others were killed in the crash of a small private plane about 25 miles (40 km) south of St. Louis. The aircraft had departed from the St. Louis area about 7 p.m. local time and was transporting the governor to a campaign stop in New Madrid, Missouri. The accident occurred at about 7:30 p.m., shortly after the pilot had reported a problem with one of the aircraft's instruments. The accident occurred at night and there was rain and fog in the area.
    NTSB accident summary
    NTSB accident report
    CNN report of the accident

  • 2 April 1996; U.S. Air Force 737-T43; near Dubrovnik, Croatia: The aircraft struck mountainous terrain while attempting to land at the airport under conditions of reduced visibility. The flight crew was using an unapproved approach. All six crew members and 29 passengers were killed. Among the passengers were a number of U.S. corporate executives and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown. The aircraft is a military version of the 737 that was used to transport military and civilian VIPs.
    737 fatal passenger events

  • 19 April 1993; Mitsubishi MU-2B;near Dubuque, IA: South Dakota Gov. George Mickelson and seven other occupants were en route from Cincinnati, OH to Sioux Falls, SD, when the propeller on one of the engines had a major failure. The crew was attempting to land the aircraft at the Dubuque, IA airport, but the aircraft crashed several miles short of the aiport, killing all on board.
    Accident summary from the Flight Safety Foundation

  • 5 April 1991; Atlantic Southeast Airlines; Embraer Brasila; near Brunswick, GA: Former Senator John Tower, of Texas, was killed along with his daughter, 18 other passengers, and three crew members. Also killed in the crash was NASA astronaut Sonny Carter.

  • 4 April 1991; Piper Aerostar PA-60; Lower Merion Township, PA: Senator John Heinz, of Pennsylvania, was killed when
    his chartered aircraft, which was on a flight from Williamsport, PA to Philadelphia, PA, collided with a Bell 412 helicopter near Philadelphia, PA. The two crew members in Heinz's aircraft and the two crew members on the helicopter were also killed. Wreckage from the collision rained down on an elementary school, killing two children who were on the playground during noon recess.
    NTSB accident report

  • 13 August 1989, Cessna 177RG; near Janice, MS: Representative Larkin Smith of Mississippi and his pilot were killed when their aircraft crashed in the DeSoto National Forest in Mississippi while on a flight from Hattiesburg to Gulfport.
    NTSB Accident Summary

  • 7 August 1989; de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter; near Gambella, Ethiopia: Representative Mickey Leland of Texas was killed when his aircraft struck a mountain during a nonscheduled domestic flight from Addis Ababa, Eithiopia to a refugee camp. Leland, the 12 other passengers, and all three crew members were all killed.
    Wikipedia entry about this event

  • 17 August 1988; Pakistan Air Force Lockheed C130; near Bahawalpur: US ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel was killed when the his aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff. Also on board were the president of Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq, 15 other passengers, and 13 crew members.

  • 1 September 1983; Korean Air Lines 747-200; near Sakhalin Island, Soviet Union: Representative Larry McDonald of Georgia was killed along with the 29 crew members and the other 239 passengers after the airliner was shot down by one or more missiles fired from military aircraft from the Soviet Union after the 747 had strayed into Soviet airspace.
    Wikipedia entry about this event

  • 3 August 1976; Beech 58, near Chillicothe, MO: Representative Jerry Litton of Missouri was killed along with his wife and two children when his plane crashed shortly after takeoff following a power loss on one engine. Litton had just won a primary election for a Senate seat from Missouri, and was on his way to a victory celebration in Kansas City, MO. The pilot and one other passenger was also killed in the crash.
    NTSB accident summary

  • 14 February 1975; near Beaumont, CA: Congressman Jerry Pettis of California was killed when his single-engine plane crashed into a mountain.
    NTSB accident summary

  • 8 December 1972; United Airlines 737-200; Midway Airport, Chicago: Representative George W. Collins of Illinois, three of the six crew members, and 39 of the 54 other passengers were killed when the aircraft crashed during approach.
    NTSB accident summary

  • 16 October 1972; Alaska - House Majority Leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana and Representative Nick Begich of Alaska were lost over Alaska. The two congressmen, the pilot, and the aircraft were never found, and they are presumed to be dead.
    NTSB accident summary

Additional aviation related deaths of US state and local politicians are listed at The Political Graveyard.

Photo credit: jkero, Photobucket

09 August 2010

How FAA's downgrade of Mexico's safety rating affects you

Late last month, the FAA downgraded one of their key safety ratings for Mexico. This downgrade puts limits on flights to the US by Mexican air carriers, and also puts limits on what US airlines can do with Mexican airlines. However, if you currently have a reservation to fly to or from Mexico, you will probably not be affected.

FAA and the IASA program
The recent downgrade happened through the FAA's International Aviation Safety Assessments (IASA) program. This program looks at a country's ability to make sure that the airlines in that country meet international standards for airline safety. These are standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is part of the United Nations.

The FAA puts countries into one of two categories. Category 1 is for countries that meet international standards, and Category 2 is for countries that don't meet the standard. Mexico was downgraded from Category 1 to Category 2.

The IASA program is very limited. The program doesn't look at the airlines of a country, it looks at the part of a country's government that oversees civil aviation. It also only looks at that country's ability to oversee international aviation.

How this change affects your travel plans
If you currently have a reservation with an airline from Mexico, this IASA situation will not affect you. Mexican airlines that currently fly to and from US can still do so, they just can't add any additional service. US airlines that currently fly to Mexico are also unaffected.

The FAA ruling doesn't affect international flights between Mexico and other countries, but often other countries follow the FAA's lead, so check with your airline just to be sure.

If you are flying on a domestic flight on a Mexican airline, the FAA ruling doesn't affect your flight at all.

Another effect of the FAA's ruling is that US airlines can't have code share flights with airlines from Mexico. A code share flight is one where you buy a ticket with one airline, but one or more segments of your flight are with another airline. For example, before the ruling, if bought a ticket through Delta, and your flight included a segment on a Mexican airline, your reservation would have shown a Delta flight number for that segment. The new ruling forces Delta to rebook the ticket so it would show the flight number for that Mexican airline. In other words, the paperwork changes but your flight doesn't.

The current Mexicana Airlines situation
Mexicana airlines is currently undergoing labor and financial difficulties that have caused the airline to suspend some of its flights, including flights to and from the US and other international destinations. This situation is separate from the IASA situation, and there are currently no serious safety issues associated with Mexicana.

Mexican airlines with international flights
This is a partial list of Mexican airlines with international flights to US:

04 August 2010

Seven Puppies Die after American Airlines Flight

3 August 2010; Chicago, IL: Seven puppies that had arrived from Tulsa, OK died while they were waiting for a connecting flight from Chicago. American Airlines is investigating why the puppies died, and it is unclear what role weather at Tulsa and Chicago may have played. American Airlines flight 851 left Tulsa Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. and arrived in Chicago at 8:54 a.m. The temperature in Tulsa was about 86 degrees Fahrenheit at 7 a.m. and 87 degrees at 8 a.m. It was cooler in Chicago, with a temperature of about 70 when the flight landed. It did not reach 80 degrees in Chicago until about 1 p.m.

There were 14 puppies of an unknown breed on the flight, and a spokesperson for American Airlines stated that the puppies were alive when the flight arrived, and were taken to an American facility at O'Hare while they waited for their connecting flight.

Previous Incidents
Since May 2005, the US Department of Transportation has required airlines to report deaths of animals during transport. From May 2005 to May 2010, 122 dogs have died in flight or while in the airline's control on the ground. Of these 122 dogs, 16 were of mixed or unknown breeds.

Temperature Limits for Animals
Airlines can't accept dogs and cats for shipment if the airline cannot prevent exposure of the animal to temperatures less than 45 degrees F (7.2 C) or more than 85 degrees F (29.5 C) for more than 45 minutes when the animal is transferred between the terminal and the plane, or for more than four hours when the animal is in a holding facility. It is unclear of the high temperature limits were exceeded either in Tulsa or Chicago.

Additional Information provides extensive advice for traveling by air with your pet, including guidelines on what pets are allowed in the passenger cabin, rules on service animals in the cabin, and common airline restrictions for transporting animals in the cabin or in the cargo compartment.

Photo credit: jmatthew3

Note: The pugs in the photo were not the puppies on the flight, but short-snouted breeds like pugs represented about half the purebred dogs in the DOT list of dogs that died in the airline's custody.