The News

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

30 December 2011 Safety Review for 2011

This 16th annual review discusses 12 fatal airline crashes and 11 other significant events from 2011, a year with more fatal passenger airline crashes than 2010, but fewer significant events. Unlike last year, which saw no fatal passenger airliner crashes in North America or western Europe, there were two this year.

2011 saw two significant milestones for both aviation safety and aviation security. The security milestone was of course the tenth anniversary of the attacks of 9/11. The past decade has brought on a host of significant changes in attitudes about what is acceptable when it comes to risks, and the steps taken to reduce or eliminate those risks when it comes to sabotage, hijackings, and other intentional threats to the air transportation system. Since 9/11, there have been two bombing attempts, both unsuccessful, involving US airliners, the December 2001 shoe bomber event involving Richard Reid, and the 2009 underwear bomber event involving Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The other, less publicized milestone was the tenth anniversary of the last US crash involving a large passenger jet, the November 11, 2001 crash of an American Airlines A300 in New York. In the 10-year span since that A300 crash, there have been five fatal US passenger airliner crashes involving smaller aircraft, four turboprop aircraft, and a regional jet.

While there have been no fatal crashes involving large passenger jets in the last 10 years, there have been two fatal crashes involving large US cargo jets, a UPS 747 in Dubai in 2010 and a FedEx MD11 in Japan in 2009.'s primary focus is on plane crashes that kill passengers on large airliners, but this annual list of fatal and signifiant crashes includes fatal crashes of smaller airliners, airliner crashes without fatalities, and non-airline events. Among the 23 events from 2011, some of the more noteworthy included the following:
  • The first fatal crash of a large jet airliner in Canada in almost 13 years.
  • The sixth fatal crash of a wide-bodied cargo jet airliner in the last three years (three 747s and three MD11s since 2008)
  • Three fatal crashes with a sole survivor.
  • There were 19 events that involved passenger fatalities and there were no passenger survivors in eight of these events.
Fatal Airline Events in 2011
There were 12 events in 2011 that led to airline passengers fatalities, with half involving jet transports. The full list of fatal events is below:
  1. 1 January 2011; Kogalymavia (also known as Kolavia); Tu154M; RA-85588; flight 348; Surgut, Russia: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Surgut to Moscow, Russia. The aircraft caught fire while the aircraft was taxiing toward the runway. All eight crew members survived, and three of the 126 passengers were killed.
    Other Russian airliner crashes

  2. 9 January 2011; Iran Air 727-200; Flight 277; Urmia, Iran:
    The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Tehran to Urmia, Iran when it crashed near the destination airport.
    Ten of the 11 crew members and 67 of the 94 passengers were killed.
    Other crashes involving Iran Air

  3. 10 February 2011; Manx2 Swearingen Metro III; Flight 7100; Cork, Ireland:
    The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Belfast, Northern Ireland to Cork, Ireland when it crashed near the destination airport. There were low visibility conditions at the time of the crash. On the crew's third landing attempt, the aircraft crashed adjacent to a taxiway, came to rest upside down, and caught fire. Both crew members and four of the ten passengers were killed.

  4. 18 May 2011; Sol Líneas Aéreas Saab 340A; LV-CEJ; Flight 5428; near Prahuaniyeu, Argentina: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Neuquén near the Andes to Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina when it crashed about 25 kilometers (15 miles) southwest of the town of Los Menucos. The last contact with the aircraft occurred about 40 minutes after taking off from Neuquén. All three crew members and 19 passengers, including one child, were killed.
    Saab 340 plane crashes

  5. 20 June 2011; RusAir; Tu134A; RA-65691; flight 7R-243; Petrozavodsk, Russia: The aircraft was on a domestic flight from Moscow (Domodedovo)to Petrozavodsk, Russia. The aircraft crashed on a roadway about one kilometer from the destination airport. Eight of the nine crew members and 39 of the 43 passengers were killed.
    Crash details at
    Russian plane crashes

  6. 8 July 2011; Hewa Bora Airways 727; 9Q-COP; flight 952, Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo):

    The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Kinshasa to Kisangani, DR Congo when it crashed after missing the runway during a landing attempt. The aircraft came to rest about 300 meters from the runway. At the time, there was heavy rain, limited visibility, and thunderstorms in the area. According to a report about the crash in the Aviation Herald, the runway had no published instrument landing procedures. The aircraft was destroyed in the crash. Five of the seven crew members, and 72 of the 108 passengers were killed.
    Fatal 727 plane crashes

  7. 20 August 2011; First Air; 737-200; flight 6560; Resolute Bay, Canada: The aircraft (C-GNWN) was on a chartered domestic Canadian flight from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories to to Resolute Bay in Nunavut Territory. The aircraft crashed near the runway during a landing attempt and broke up.

    All four crew members and eight of the 11 passengers were killed. Among the three survivors was a seven-year-old girl. However, her six-year-old sister was killed in the crash.

    Prior to this fatal crash, the airline had two prior serious, though nonfatal, incidents involving of their 737 fleet. In 2001, a First Air 737 landed short of the runway Yellowknife and was seriously damaged. While the aircraft was too damaged to be repaired, none of the 98 passengers or six crew members were injured. In a 2004 landing incident in Edmonton, Alberta, the aircraft landed to the side of the runway and struck a number of lights and a sign before the crew was able to come to a stop on the runway. This aircraft returned to service, and was the same one involved in the fatal Resolute Bay crash.

  8. 6 September 2011; Aerocon; Metro III; CP-2548; flight 238; near Trinidad, Colombia: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Santa Cruz to Trinidad, Colombia, and crashed in the jungle during the approach to Trinidad. The crew was reportedly executing a non-precision approach. Both crew members and six of the seven passengers were killed. The sole survivor was found about a day after the crash.

  9. 7 September 2011; Yak Service Yak-42D; RA-42434; Yaroslavl, Russia: The aircraft was on a nonscheduled international flight from Yaroslavl, Russia to Minsk, Belarus when it crashed shortly after taking off from Yaroslavl Airport. The aircraft apparently ran off the runway took off several hundred meters beyond the end of the runway. After lifting off, the aircraft struck a radio mast about 450 meters from the end of the runway, and crashed at the edge of the Volga River. Seven of the eight crew members, and all 37 passengers were killed. Among the passengers were the coaching staff and players of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl professional hockey team. The team included several former NHL players as well as several members of the Russian national hockey team.

    This was the 23rd sole survivor airline crash since 1970, three of which occurred in 2011.
    Wikipedia entry on this crash
    Fatal crashes of airlines of the former Soviet Union
    Sole survivor plane crashes

  10. 20 September 2011; SALSA d'Haiti (Services Aeriens Latinosamericains, S.A. d'Haiti); Beech 99A; HH-APA; ;flight 112; Lorie, Haiti: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Port-au-Prince to Cap Haitien, Haiti, and crashed in a field near Lorie, Haiti, There was heavy rain in the area at the time of the crash. Both crew members and the single passenger were killed.

  11. 25 September 2011; Buddha Air Beechcraft 1900D; 9N-AEK; near near Kotdanda, Nepal:
    The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic sightseeing flight which was to start and end at Kathmandu, Nepal. The aircraft crashed during approach at the end of the flight and the crash location was several miles short of the runway. All three crew members and 16 passengers were killed.

  12. 13 October 2011; Airlines PNG Dash 8; P2-MCJ; Flight 1600; near Madang, Papua New Guinea: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Lae to Madang, Papua New Guinea, and crashed into a dense forest about 20 km south of Madang while on approach. All three crew members survived but 28 of the 29 passengers were killed. This is the second fatal passenger flight involving this airline. On 11 August 2009, both crew members and all 11 passengers were killed in the when a Twin Otter Airlines PNG aircraft crashed into a mountain near Kokoda Airport.

Other Significant Events
The following events included several that killed passengers, but did not could in the previous list either because they involved aircraft that are not used in airline service in North America or western Europe or because they did not fit other requirements for inclusion in the fatal airline events list. Other crashes that did not involve airline aircraft were included because they were noteworthy in other ways.
  • 14 February 2011; Central American Airways; Let 410; HR-AUQ; near Cerro de Hula, Honduras: The aircraft was on a domestic flight from San Pedro Sula to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and crashed into a forest while en route to its destination. Both crew members and all 12 passengers were killed.

  • 1 April 2011; Southwest Airlines 737-300; flight 812; near Yuma, AZ: The airline was on a scheduled flight from Phoenix, AZ to Sacramento, CA, when it experienced a rapid loss of cabin pressure after a rupture developed in the upper fuselage about 18 minutes after takeoff when the aircraft was climbing through 34,000 feet. After the loss of cabin pressure, the crew was able to divert to Yuma, AZ without further incident. There were no serious injuries among the 117 passengers and five crew members on board. The rupture was about five feet long and about a foot wide.
    The NTSB launched a major investigation of this event, and additional details about this investigation are available at Because no passengers were killed, this event was not counted as a fatal event as defined by
    Wikipedia entry on this event
    Other Southwest Airlines Events

    Dr. Curtis Interview on BBC's The World Today

    Audio: MP3 | Video: YouTube

  • 4 April 2011; Georgian Airways Canadair CRJ-100; 4L-GAE; flight 834; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DNC): The aircraft was on a domestic unscheduled flight from Kisangani to N'Djili airport in Kinshasa, and was attempting an instrument approach to runway 24 around 14:00L during heavy rain and under low visibility conditions. The aircraft missed the runway, broke up, and caught fire. , and crashed into a forest while en route to its destination. All four crew members and 28 of the 29 passengers were killed.

    At the time of the crash, the airplane operated on behalf of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). Because this was not a regular airline flight, this crash was not counted as a fatal event as defined by This was also one of those rare airliner crashes with a sole survivor.
    CRJ plane crashes

  • 7 May 2011; Merpati Nusantara Airlines Xian MA60; PK-MZK; near Kaimana, Indonesia: The aircraft was on a domestic scheduled flight from Sorong to Kaimana, Indonesia, and crashed into the sea about 600 meters short of the runway. The aircraft broke up and sank, and all 19 passengers and six crew members were killed.
    Xian MA60 background information

  • 11 July 2011; Angara Airlines Antonov 24RV; RA-47302; flight 5007; near Strezhevoy, Russia: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Tomsk to Surgut, Russia, and the crew executed an emergency landing in the Ob River near the town of Strezhevoy, Russia. The crew reported an engine fire while en route, about 90 minutes after takeoff. All four crew members survived, but six of the 33 passengers were killed.

  • 13 July 2011; NOAR Linhas Aéreas; Let 410; PR-NOB; ;flight NRA-4896; Recife, Brazil: The aircraft was on a domestic flight from Recife to Natal, Brazil, and crashed in a populated area about one minute after takeoff, narrowly missing several buildings. The aircraft was destroyed by the impact and post crash fire. Both crew members and all 14 passengers were killed.

  • 28 July 2011; Asiana Airlines; 747-400F; HL7604; flight 991; near Jeju, South Korea: The aircraft was on an international cargo flight from Seoul, South Korea, to Shanghai, China. About an hour after takeoff, the crew reported on onboard fire and diverted toward Jeju, South Korea. Both pilots were killed in the crash.

  • 29 September 2011; Nusantara Buana Air CASA-212; PK-TLF; near Bohorok, Indonesia: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Medan to Kutacane, Indonesia. Contact was lost with the aircraft a few minutes after departure, and had crashed into a forest while en route. All four crew members and 14 passengers were killed.

  • 1 November 2011; LOT 767-300; SP-LPC; flight 16; Warsaw, Poland: The aircraft was on scheduled international flight from Newark, NJ to Warsaw, a flight that was uneventful until shortly before landing when the crew was unable to lower the landing gear. The crew continued to fly and burn off fuel for about 90 minutes, giving emergency crews time to foam the runway, and allowing the authorities to dispatch a pair of F-16s to inspect the LOT aircraft. The crew executed a successful gear up landing that resulted in no injuries among the 220 passengers and 11 crew members.
    More information, including videos

  • 17 November 2011; Piper Cherokee; N7746W; near Perryville, AR: Oklahoma State University (OSU) women's basketball coach Kurt Budke, assistant women's basketball coach Miranda Serna, the pilot, and one other passenger were killed in a crash that took place about 40 miles northwest of Little Rock, AR. The coaches were heading to Little Rock on a recruiting trip at the time of the crash. While the aircraft was privately owned, the plane's pilot was a certified commercial pilot. Early reports indicate that the pilot, a former Oklahoma state senator, was an OSU alumnus and donor, but had not previously flown OSU coaches prior to the accident flight.

    This is not the first fatal crash involving OSU athletics. On 27 January 2001, two OSU basketball players, an OSU basketball executive and five staffers and broadcasters associated with the program were killed when their ; Beechcraft King Air crashed shortly after takeoff from the Jefferson County airport near Denver, CO. The two crew members were also killed. The chartered aircraft was bound for Stillwater, Oklahoma when it took off during snowy conditions.

    After the 2001 crash, OSU changed their travel policies for student athletes, including rules requiring two pilots to be on board for all OSU travel involving student athletes and aircraft to be powered by two or more turbine engines. However, these policy changes did not apply to recruiting trips involving only coaches.

  • 28 December 2011; Kyrgyzstan Airlines Tu134A; EX-020; flight 16; Osh, Kyrgyzstan: The aircraft was on scheduled domestic flight from Bishkek to Osh, Kyrgyzstan. The airplane reportedly landed hard rolled over, broke up, and caught fire. The right wing was completely separated from the aircraft, and the aircraft came to rest inverted, but all of the occupants were able to escape. There were no fatalities among the 95 passengers and six crew members, but there were at least 31 injuries. At the time of the crash, airport conditions were foggy with reduced visibility.
    More information, including photos

Fatal and serious events by year
1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002,2003
2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Bonuses
Be sure to check out the latest free downloads from, including the new book, Baggage and Security Guide, the newly revised Parenting and the Internet, and The Podcasting Manual. These books are available as PDF files, MOBI files for your Kindle, or EPUB files for your iPad.

Also available is the Fear of Flying Resource Guide, with an overview of the symptoms of fear of flying, as well as recommended resources for managing or eliminating these fears.

28 December 2011

No deaths in Kyrgyzstan jet crash

28 December 2011; Kyrgyzstan Airlines Tu134A; EX-020; flight 16; Osh, Kyrgyzstan: The aircraft was on scheduled domestic flight from Bishkek to Osh, Kyrgyzstan. The airplane reportedly landed hard rolled over, broke up, and caught fire. The right wing was completely separated from the aircraft, and the aircraft came to rest inverted, but all of the occupants were able to escape. There were no fatalities among the 95 passengers and six crew members, but there were at least 31 injuries. At the time of the crash, airport conditions were foggy with reduced visibility.

23 December 2011

Holiday Air Travel Advice 2011

Once again, the holidays mark one of the busier travel times of the year, with much of it personal travel as family and friends take to the skies. As with every holiday season, many of the same issues come up again and again, but in the past few months has added a number of resources to help you deal with some of the uncertainty and stress.

The two biggest changes include the recent release of the Baggage and Security Guide, with dozens of articles on dealing with security, baggage, unaccompanied children, and other concerns. It is free and available as a PDF download, or as a MOBI or EPUB file that you can read in your Kindle, Nook, or iPad.

For those who are are a bit anxious about flying, has teamed up with the SOAR fear of flying organization to offer advice, information, and other resources for fearful flyers. Download's fear of flying resources guide for more information.

Much of the advice has for passengers traveling this time of year hasn't changed all that much, but below we have included some of the issues that many passengers are likely to face, from missed connections and lost baggage to having some of your carry on items confiscated by airport security. Please review the following pieces of advice, you may find something that will help you avoid problems, or help you deal with them should they happen to you.

Get to the Airport Early
Assume that getting to the airport, parking, going through check in, and going through security lines will take longer than usual. Arrive early, and do what you can to avoid delays. If you are only taking carry-on bags, print out your boarding pass before getting to the airport and go straight to the security gate.

Keep Track of Any Flight Changes
A day or two before your trip, check with your airline to see if your flight's schedule has changed. If you can, sign up for phone, email, or text messaging alerts from your airline to find out about any last minute changes to your schedule. Keep your cell phone with you and have the airline's customer service or reservations number handy just in case you run into problems and have to call the airline directly.


In the US, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires travelers over the age of 18 to have some sort of photo identification issued by a state, local, or national government agency. This would include driver's licenses, passports, and military ID cards but would not include student ID cards or employee ID badges.

If you do not have these kinds of IDs, you may be able to present alternative documentation to the TSA. Non-US/Canadian citizens are not required to carry their passports if they have documents issued by the U.S. government such as Permanent Resident Cards. Those who do not should carry their passports for domestic US travel.

For more identification advice, including more details on IDs the TSA finds acceptable, and what to do if you can't find your ID, download the Baggage and Security Guide.

Depending on the level of security in place when you are at the airport, the security agents may insist on searching every bag, package, and suitcase. Be prepared by arriving at the airport at least a half hour earlier than usual. One recent change in TSA is good news for many parents. Children under 12 are no longer required to remove their shoes to go through the screening area.

Flying with Holiday Food
During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, traveling with food is fairly common. You should be aware that some food items are banned from carry on baggage because they contain liquids or gels. While you can carry cakes, pastries, and pies with you in your carry on bag, but the following should either be in checked baggage or left at home:

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

Note on gels and liquids: There are exceptions for small amounts of gels, liquids, and aerosols, and more generous exceptions for medically related items, but for most items in containers over 3.4 oz. (100 ml), if you can pour it, pump it, squeeze it, spread it, smear it, spray it, or or spill it, you probably can't carry it in your carry on. Snow globes of any size are also not allowed in your carry on. Visit to find out what you are not allowed to take on an airplane.

Note on fruit cakes: In virtually all cases, fruit cakes (even those made with loving care by close relatives) should be dealt with long before you get to the airport. Some prefer giving them away, but discreetly tossing them out when no one is looking is often the preferred method.

Duty Free Items
If you are traveling to or from the US, you should make sure that you don't run into problems with duty free liquids like alcohol, perfume, and cosmetics. provides detailed advice on how to deal with these kinds of duty free items.

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

Baggage Issues
There are three baggage issues that become important during the holidays. The first is that most US airlines are charging you for every checked bag, so using carry-ons only will save you some money. Second, if you do check one or more bags, be prepared to deal with a lost, stolen, or damaged bag. That means if it is valuable to you and you can't deal with having it lost or stolen, keep it with you on your person or in your carry-on bag. That includes things like money, jewelry, medicine, passports, eyeglasses, and laptop computers.

The third potential problem is that if there is no space in the overhead bins, you may be forced to have your carry-on bag checked. If this happens, be prepared to take out any valuables from your carry on before a cabin crew member or a gate agent takes it away.

Unaccompanied Children
If you have a child who will be traveling alone, you should be aware of your airline's specific rules on this kind of travel. has detailed advice on travel by unaccompanied children, including having the child carry a copy of all contact information and if the child is old enough, a working cell phone. Brent, a flight attendant with a major US airline, wrote to and offered the following additional advice:

I liked that you suggest having the unaccompanied minor carry a copy of all contact information. One issue I run into is illegible handwriting on the form we use that stays with the child. This form is filled out by hand by the guardian of the child when they present the unaccompanied minor for the flight.

Although the agent who accepts the child and inputs the information in to the computer should check for legibility, this is often not done. Flight attendants don't have access to any information on the company's computer system while on board the aircraft, so we must try to make out poor hand writing in the event we must contact the adult listed. It seems like a minor issue. But when you are on board an aircraft we must be able to effectively utilize the few resources we have.

Also, as you mentioned, cell phones for unaccompanied minors are a very good idea. I don't have any problem contacting an adult for an unaccompanied minor from my cell phone in the event of a delay. However, this might be more than some flight attendants are willing to do. It also opens the flight attendant up to sharing personal phone contact information with a stranger that some flight attendants might not be comfortable with that.

A child with a properly charged cell phone and contact information can be very helpful. This often helps to calm the nerves of the child's parent or guardian and the child because of the separation. A quick chat on the phone with a responsible adult representative of the airline who is on board the child's flight can make all the difference when it comes to peace of mind. I have heard the relief in many parents and grandparents voices.

General Baggage Issues
Carry-on Bag Issues
Travel by Unaccompanied Children
Top 10 Tips for Children Traveling Alone
What You Are Not Allowed to Take on an Airplane. Baggage and Security Guide's fear of flying resources guide

Photos: Eileen Mansoorian, TSA

11 December 2011

TSA officer in alleged sexual assault while in uniform

On November 20, 2011, Harold Glenn Rodman, a 52-year-old TSA employee who lives in Manassas, Virginia, was arrested and later charged with several felonies, including three sexual assault related charges (aggravated sexual battery, object sexual penetration, and forcible sodomy) and one kidnapping related charge (abduction with intent to defile). Details on these charges, which are based on a number of records from the Prince William County (Virginia) General District Court and the Prince William County (Virginia) Police Department, are available at

According to the Prince William County Police Department and several media reports, On November 20, 2011, at 3:25 am, police responded to a reported sexual assault of a 37-year-old woman in Manassas, Virginia. The victim and a friend were in a vehicle when they were allegedly approached by an unknown man, later identified as Rodman. The victim was allegedly assaulted after she stepped out of the car to talk with the suspect. The man was allegedly wearing a TSA uniform and displayed a badge before sexually assaulting the victim. Rodman allegedly fled the scene on foot, but was later arrested while coming out of his residence.

News report of the assault

These were serious charges, especially disturbing because it involves an alleged abuse of authority by an off-duty TSA security officer. The immediate TSA response indicated that the organization was addressing this recent situation appropriately. According to a TSA official, “This individual was immediately removed from security operations pending an investigation. The Privacy Act precludes the agency from disclosing additional information regarding personnel actions.” The official said that “TSA holds its personnel to the highest professional and ethical standards, and investigates all allegations of misconduct. TSA is working closely with local law enforcement on this matter...the disturbing allegations against this individual in no way reflect the work of the more than 50,000 security officers who every day ensure the security of the traveling public.”

This TSA response deals with the immediate situation with the one accused employee, but it does not address several key questions about what processes the TSA may have in place to prevent people with previous criminal convictions from entering the TSA workforce. In the case of the accused TSA employee Harold Rodman, his name did not come up in a search (conducted December 11, 2011) of either the Virginia State Police database of convicted sex offenders, or the US Department of Justice national database of sex offenders. However, for the other 50,000 TSA security officers, the Rodman situation brings up an issue previously discussed in a November 2010 AirSafeNews article, which asked whether the TSA was allowing convicted rapists to perform pat-down searches of airline passengers.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the parent organization of the TSA, hinted that potential employees with serious criminal convictions may have made it through TSA's employee screening process. In 2004, the DHS released a report that specified 28 kinds of felony convictions that would have disqualified an applicant for a TSA screener position, including rapes or crimes involving aggravated sexual abuse, but only if those convictions had occurred in the previous 10 years. The report implied that a person convicted of rape, attempted rape, child molestation, or similar crimes may not be required to report such convictions during their background check if those convictions were more than 10 years old, or if the convictions were less serious than a felony.

Are there sexual predators at the TSA?
The key issue, then and now, was whether the current TSA screening process would prevent the hiring of anyone who has been found guilty of any crime that involves rape or some similar criminal act, or if already an employee, if that employee would be kept away from direct contact with passengers. Most passengers may want to know if the TSA officer who could be conducting an intimate pat-down search or who may have access to images from advanced screening devices has a record of inappropriate, abusive, or illegal sexual conduct. The TSA's public statements on the screening process for TSA's employees don't indicate if this is something that is done for all employees. Also, the TSA doesn't make it clear what kind of conduct or convictions would either keep someone from being hired or would prevent them from having personal contact with passengers after they have been hired.

Is the TSA protecting the public from predators?
If the TSA could answer the following questions, questions taken directly from the November 2010 article, it would go a long way toward reducing the risk the public would face from sexual assault by TSA employees:
  • Are there any current TSA employees who are convicted sex offenders (either for a felony or lesser crime, either as an adult or juvenile), even if the conviction occurred more than 10 years before joining TSA?

  • If the answer to the first question is yes, are any of these employees acting as security screeners who have direct physical contact with the flying public?

  • If the answer to the first question is no, have all TSA employees, as part of their background check, been asked if they have been convicted of rape or some other sexually based crime, whether it were a felony or lesser crime, either as an adult or as a juvenile, even if the conviction occurred more than 10 years before joining TSA?

  • If the first question can't be answered for a TSA employee because of inadequate information, would this employee be restricted from working in a position that involves direct physical contact with the flying public?

  • Are TSA security screeners who are convicted of rape or another sexually based crime, no matter how minor, immediately removed from any position where they may have physical contact with the traveling public?
Share your ideas on making TSA better
Any screening process, no matter how rigorous, is perfect. Any organization as large as the TSA will have a few people who do not measure up to a reasonable standard of competence or excellence. However, that is no excuse for the current situation where the average passenger is unsure if the person wearing the uniform can be trusted. While the questions listed above are a good start, there is room for improvement. Please feel free to add your suggestions as to how this current TSA situation should be addressed.

Early responses
  • Full Federal & State record searches back to when the applicant reached majority. No 'sealed records' applicants need apply. Zero tolerance for any type of assault. I want to be safe, not assaulted. Slightly off-topic-yet-related... Perhaps the TSA should begin their focus on passengers as they arrive for booking / enter the terminal very similar to El-Al's approach. Look for someone acting suspicious instead of reacting to an out-of-date threat.

  • (Do) The same thing they do for convicted drug dealers.

  • (Do) Nothing, it's never been a problem.

  • What keeps someone from committing the first sexual assault ever as a TSA employee, just because someone does not have a record doesn't mean that some day they wont be arrested for sexual assault, it is tough if not impossible to screne.

  • The TSA should be closed and the security should be turned back over to the airlines.

  • Disband. If having naked pictures taken of you and/or being groped by a stranger aren't violations of the "unreasonable search and seizure" ban in the U.S. Constitution, then what is?!?!?!?!

27 November 2011

Passenger arrested for viewing child pornography in flight

On Saturday November 26th, a 47-year old man was arrested at Boston's Logan airport after he was allegedly seen viewing child pornography on a flight from Salt Lake City to Boston. The accused passenger, University of Utah chemistry professor Grant Smith, was sitting in first class when another passenger saw the pornographic images on a laptop and alerted the crew.

The accused passenger was charged with possession of child pornography and taken into custody and arrested. According to police, other passengers took a cellphone photo of the accused watching a suspected child porn video on his laptop.

According to prosecutors, a passenger seated behind Smith’s first class seat on the Delta flight on Saturday took a picture of what Smith was doing and sent a text message to his son with the picture, asking his son to contact Massachusetts police.

The passenger also alerted a flight attendant who confronted Smith and ordered him to shut off his computer, which happened to be the property of the University of Utah. After being contacted by the flight attendant, Smith allegedly tried to erase images from his computer. The images were mostly of girls between six and ten years old, naked or nearly naked, engaging in simulated sex acts.

Smith's employer, the University of Utah, has placed him on administrative leave and says it will permanently dismiss him if the child porn allegations are proven to be true.

In the recently published Baggage and Security Guide, the issue of what passengers can or should be able to do with their laptop or other personal electronic device was discussed in some detail. There are two issues from that Guide that this recent incident in Boston brings up, the limitations of free speech and common sense limitations on the use of personal electronic devices in an aircraft cabin.

The First Amendment and personal electronic devices
In the US, the First Amendment of the Constitution forms the basis of laws and traditions when it comes to freedom of speech, which includes the right of adults to possess or view most, but not all, forms of sexually oriented material. One of the few limitations on speech is in the area of obscene material, specifically material that has been legally determined to be sexually explicit, offensive to conventional standards of decency, and lacking in serious literary, scientific, artistic, or political value.

While it may be difficult for the average person to identify obscene material, one type that is very easy to spot is child pornography, which is any kind of visual depiction of a person under the age of 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The conduct does not have to involve either sexual acts or nudity, though in this alleged incident, the images contained both nudity and simulated sexual activity. This kind of material is illegal for anyone in the United States to view, possess, or publish.

What to do if you see child porn in flight
If you are on an airplane and you see what appears to be images or videos depicting child pornography, bring it to the attention of a cabin crew member immediately. This appears to be exactly what passengers did during the recent incident on the Delta flight to Boston. If this is not possible, and you are arriving at a US airport, contact a law enforcement representative after you land. If you are landing at a non-US airport, use your best judgment as to whether you should report what you saw.

Passenger behavior and electronic devices
Airline policies, and especially the cabin crew on your flight, usually are quite clear about when portable electronic devices can and cannot be used on an aircraft. What is not quite as clear is what is an acceptable use of these devices. Federal laws may affect when you can use a personal electronic device, but airline policies and social conventions may limit how you can use your device. Avoiding the potential embarrassment of having a flight attendant asking you to turn off your device, or avoiding the wrath of your fellow passengers, is easy if you follow these common sense suggestions for appropriate behavior involving portable electronic devices:
  • Avoid making excessive noise - When playing music or videos, use headphones or earphones. For other devices that don't have a headphone jack, turn off the audio. If that is not possible, don't use the device. If you are on the phone, there's no need to speak loudly enough to be heard across the cabin. If you want to use some kind of voice recording device during the flight is within the rules, exercise some judgment and don't do it loudly or for long periods.

  • Avoid displaying inappropriate images - These kinds of images generally include depictions of sexual activity, sexually suggestive nudity, material depicting extreme acts of violence, or other images that could be upsetting to other passengers. In the US, with very few exceptions, violent, disturbing, or sexually explicit material is legal to own. The problems come when one person's freedom to watch almost anything imaginable runs counter to an airline’s desire to provide an acceptable environment for all of its passengers. The inside of an airliner is not a private space where passengers are free to watch what they please. Most flight attendants would likely take a common sense approach and won't do anything about what people are viewing unless it is disturbing other passengers.

  • Don't photograph people without their permission - Inside an aircraft, there is a certain expectation of privacy. While it may be tempting to shoot a funny picture or video of that snoring passenger across the aisle, don't do it without asking first.

  • Don’t photograph unaccompanied children - It is customary to get a parent or guardian's permission before photographing a child, but that is not possible with a child traveling alone. Furthermore, to other passengers and to the crew, a person taking pictures or shooting a video of an unaccompanied child may look either creepy or suspicious.
Your personal privacy and electronic devices
When flying domestically in the US, TSA may inspect computers and other electronic devices for explosives and other hazardous or banned items, but they will not confiscate them, scan them, or even turn them on as part of their normal duties. Should anyone at a TSA checkpoint attempt to confiscate your electronic device or gain your passwords or other information, please to see a supervisor or screening manager immediately.

When entering or leaving the US, Customs and Border Enforcement officers are responsible for ensuring compliance with customs, immigration, and other federal laws, and may examine or even confiscate computers, digital storage devices, and other electronic devices. This can happen even if they don't have any evidence that you are breaking the law.

Photo: ShaneRobinson

21 November 2011

Revised Baggage and Security Guide Published

A revised and greatly expanded version of one of's most popular downloads, the Baggage and Security Guide, has just been released. Bringing together some of the most popular content from the network of web sites, podcasts, and published articles, this book provides airline passengers with advice on how to deal with many common problems they may face when it comes to dealing with baggage problems, airport security issues, fear of flying, and travel with children.

Multiple versions available
The original download was available only as a PDF file. The revised version is available as a PDF as well, but also in MOBI format (used on Kindles), and EPUB format (used with iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Nook). If you want to use different formats on different devices, please feel to download different versions of this book at You can put different formats on different devices so you can try them out to find out what works best for you.

Download MOBI
Download EPUB
Download PDF

Since 1996, has provided the public with insights and advice about a wide range of airline topics on its web sites, blogs, podcasts, and downloadable documents, and many of the most popular topics are included in this ebook.
This ebook puts a lot of useful information in one convenient place. Combining information from the network of web sites, this book covers the following areas:
  • Things you should not bring on board
  • Advice for checked and carry-on baggage
  • Dealing with lost or delayed luggage
  • Travel with children or pets
  • Security and identification requirements
  • Advice for special travel situations
  • How to complain about your treatment
  • Fear of flying information and solutions

Getting the ebook version of this Guide

Get a Kindle reader for your computer or smartphone
If you don’t have a Kindle, but want to download and use the Kindle version of the Baggage and Security Guide, please visit to find out that describes how to read Kindle books without buying a Kindle.

09 November 2011

How to Fly with a Sex Toy

Last month, writer and attorney Jill Filipovic was on an international flight from Newark, NJ to Dublin, Ireland, and upon arrival found in her checked bag a printed advisory from the TSA stating that her bag had been opened and inspected by the TSA. In the margin of the note, a TSA screener added an extra message saying "Get your freak on girl." The checked bag had contained a sex toy, and presumably the message was related to the presence of that device.

The extra inspection of a checked bag was a normal TSA procedure. The additional comments were not part of a normal procedure, and TSA representative Kawika Riley later apologized for that screener's behavior and described it as "highly inappropriate and unprofessional." That TSA screener was later fired.

Issues brought up by this incident
This incident brings up two important issues for passengers. First, the legal rights passengers have when it comes to traveling with sex toys, and second, how passengers can travel safely travel with these items.

What is a sex toy?
A sex toy is an object or device that is primarily used to enhance or facilitate sexual pleasure. Sex toys include things like dildos and vibrators, and can be made from a variety of materials, including glass, wood, plastic, silicone, or latex. While some sex toys are designed to resemble male or female human genitals, many are not. Also, while many other common items may have a secondary use as a sex toy, this article is focused on those items that have been designed to be used primarily as a sex toy.

What are the laws or rules concerning air travel with sex toys?
The laws, rules, and regulations concerning travel with sex toys depend on where you travel. In general, when you travel domestically within a country, you should observe the appropriate laws and regulations of that country. When you travel between countries, you have to consider the laws of the country you are traveling from, the country you are traveling to, and any country you may be passing through on the way to your destination.

In the US, when it comes to flying on airliners or going through TSA security, the only limits that matter are the normal limits on hazardous or banned items. While there may be local or state laws restricting the possession of sex toys, there are no federal restrictions on ownership. If you review's page on prohibited and restricted items, you will see that the TSA would likely not have a reason to ban most sex toys.

Tips for traveling with sex toys
There are a number of common sense things that you can do to protect your sex toys and to limit the likelihood that the TSA will cause you any embarrassment or excessive delays:
  • Tell the truth: If a TSA screener asks you what is in your baggage just say what it is.
  • Remove batteries: This suggestion applies to any battery-powered item in your baggage that won't be used in flight.

  • Put your items in separate clear plastic bags: Keeping items in Ziploc type bags keeps them from being contaminated by handling by TSA screeners.

  • Don't pack banned items: Most sharp items, and liquid filled or gel filled items are typically banned from carry on baggage, but can be packed in checked luggage.
Complaining about your treatment
Although traveling with sex toys is completely legal in the US, you may still encounter TSA officials whose conduct toward you may be rude or unprofessional. If this happens at a security screening area, you should immediately request to see a supervisor to discuss the matter. You also have several options for submitting a formal complaint. You could email the TSA’s Contact Center at:, or if you believe you have been the target of discriminatory conduct you contact the TSA Office of Civil Rights and Liberties.

For detailed advice on how to complain about your treatment, you may want to review's complaint resources at

Listen to the podcast episode
Get the Baggage and Security Guide

03 November 2011

767 Lands with Gear Up in Warsaw

1 November 2011; LOT 767-300; SP-LPC; flight 16; Warsaw, Poland: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Newark, NJ to Warsaw, a flight that was uneventful until shortly before landing when the crew was unable to lower the landing gear. The crew continued to fly and burn off fuel for about 90 minutes, giving emergency crews time to foam the runway, and allowing the authorities to dispatch a pair of F-16s to inspect the LOT aircraft. The crew executed a successful gear up landing that resulted in no injuries among the 220 passengers and 11 crew members.

Gear up landings, while spectacular, typically end as this event did, with the aircraft largely intact and no one injured. What is unusual is that it landed with all of the gear up. More typical is what happened on October 18, 2011 when the crew of an IranAir 727 on a flight from Moscow to Tehran had to land with its landing gear, in this case the nose landing gear, still retracted. As was the case with the LOT 767 landing, because of the skill of the crew, this event was spectacular, but not tragic. There were no injuries among the 94 passengers and 19 crew members.

Gear up landings in Warsaw and Tehran

Audio: MP3 | Video: YouTube | Download M4V

Related Videos

10 October 2011

Ditching and large commercial airliners

7 October 2011, Cessna 310, near Hawaii: Last week, the US Coast Guard rescued a pilot who was forced to ditch his small twin engined aircraft near Hawaii. The pilot, who was flying solo from Monterey, CA, contacted the FAA when he was about 500 miles from Hawaii, estimating that he would run out of fuel about 100 miles short of the island chain. The FAA contacted the Coast Guard, which dispatched an two aircraft and a ship to help guide the pilot to a successful ditching. The 65-year-old pilot was not seriously injured. Below is a dramatic video, provided by Coast Guard of the ditching and rescue.

Video highlights of the ditching and rescue

While aircraft ditchings happen many times each year, typically it only involves small private aircraft or military aircraft. Ditchings involving commercial airliners are by contrast very rare, defines ditching as an event where the flight crew intentionally lands an aircraft in some body of water such as a lake, a river, or the open ocean, and the water is so deep that if the aircraft sinks, at least some of the occupants have to evacuate the aircraft to avoid drowning.

Since 1960, has identified just four events involving commercial jet airliners that met this definition. The latest, and by far the most famous, was the "Miracle on the Hudson" ditching involving a US Airways A320 in 2009. While just about every modern airliner has life vests and other emergency equipment to deal with an emergency water landing, it is very, very unlikely that any passenger will every experience an intentional ditching.

Jet airliner ditching events ditching definition

21 August 2011

Single passenger survives 737 crash in Canadian Arctic

20 August 2011; First Air; 737-200; flight 6560; Resolute Bay, Canada: The aircraft (C-GNWN) was on a chartered domestic Canadian flight from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories to to Resolute Bay in Nunavut Territory. The aircraft crashed near the runway during a landing attempt and broke up.

There were four crew members and 11 passengers on board. While both fight attendants survived, both pilots were killed, and only one passenger, a seven-year-old girl, survived. Her six-year-old sister was among the 10 passengers who did not survive.

This was the 71st time that airline passengers were killed on a 737. The previous fatal crash was in August 2010 in South America. This crash is also the first fatal accident in North America involving a jet airliner since a 2006 crash of a Delta Connection CRJ-100 in Lexington, KY.

Prior to this fatal crash, the airline had two prior serious, though nonfatal, incidents involving of their 737 fleet. In 2001, a First Air 737 landed short of the runway Yellowknife and was seriously damaged. While the aircraft was too damaged to be repaired, none of the 98 passengers or six crew members were injured. In a 2004 landing incident in Edmonton, Alberta, the aircraft landed to the side of the runway and struck a number of lights and a sign before the crew was able to come to a stop on the runway. This aircraft returned to service, and was the same one involved in the fatal Resolute Bay crash.

Additional Resources
Fatal 737 plane crashes
Fatal airliner crash rates by model

CBC news report on the crash

30 July 2011

Caribbean Airlines 737-800 crashes in Guyana

30 July 2011; Caribbean Airlines; 737-800; flight BW523; Georgetown, Guyana: The aircraft (9Y-PBM) was on a scheduled international flight from Port of Spain, Trinidad, arriving at about 1:25 a.m. local time at Georgetown, Guyana. The flight had originated at New York's JFK airport.

After landing, the aircraft departed the runway and broke into two large sections. While there were several serious injuries among the 156 passengers and six crew members, no one was killed in this crash. Reportedly, the aircraft narrowly missed rolling into 200-foot deep ravine.

Caribbean Airlines, which began operations in 2007, is based in Trinidad and was the successor airline to BWIA West Indies Airways after that airline shut down in 2006. This is the first serious incident or accident for this airline.

According to, Caribbean Airlines currently has a fleet of about 15 aircraft, including ten 737-800 aircraft.

Previous 737-800 crashes
There were eight previous accidents involving a 737-800, including five crashes involving passenger fatalities. The first crash was a September 2006 midair collision involving a Gol Linhas Aéreas 737-800 in Brazil that killed all six crew members and 148 passengers, and the most recent was a May 2010 crash of an Air India Express airliner in India that killed all 152 of the 160 passengers and all six crew members.
  1. 29 September 2006; Gol Linhas Aéreas 737-800; Flight 1907; near Peixoto de Azevedo, Brazil: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Manaus to Brasilia when it had a midair collision in the area of São Félix do Xingu with an Embraer ERJ135 Legacy 600 executive jet operated by ExcelAire. The ExcelAire Legacy 600 jet had been on a flight from São José dos Campos to Manaus. After the collision, which damaged the left wing, left stabilizer, and left elevator of the executive jet, the crew of the damaged ExcelAire aircraft was able to land at a nearby military airfield at Cachimbo, Brazil. The 737 subsequently experienced an inflight breakup and crashed about 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of the Peixoto de Azevedo municipality.

    The Legacy 600 was on the first leg of a delivery flight to the US The 737 aircraft was also relatively new, having come into service with the airline less than three weeks before the crash. All six crew members and 148 passengers on the 737 were killed. The two crew members and five passengers on the Legacy 600 were not injured.

  2. 5 May 2007; Kenya Airways 737-800; Flight 507; near Douala, Cameroon: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Douala, Cameroon to Nairobi, Kenya. The aircraft crashed into a swampy area near the airport less than one minute after takeoff. The aircraft departed just after midnight local time and the aircraft sent at least one communication to the control tower prior to the crash. All nine crew members and 105 passengers were killed.

  3. 20 August 2007; China Airlines 737-800; Flight 120; Naha, Japan: Shortly after landing at Naha on the island of Okinawa, the left engine caught fire and the crew initiated an emergency evacuation. Although the aircraft was destroyed by fire, all 157 passengers (including two toddlers) and eight crew members survived.

  4. 10 November 2008; Ryanair 737-800; Flight 4102; Rome, Italy: The aircraft, on a scheduled international flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Rome, Italy encountered a flock of birds during approach to Rome, sustaining damage to both engines, the wings, and the nose. The crew was able to land on the runway, but aircraft had a collapsed landing gear and serious damage to the rear of the fuselage. All six crew members, and 166 passengers survived.

  5. 25 February 2009; Turkish Airlines 737-800; Flight 1951; Amsterdam, Netherlands: The aircraft, on a scheduled international flight from Istanbul, Turkey, to Amsterdam, Netherlands crashed in a field about a mile (1.6 km) short of the runway. Four crew members, including both pilots, were killed, as were at five of the 128 passengers.

  6. 22 December 2009; American Airlines 737-800 (N977AN); Flight 331; Kingston, Jamaica: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Miami, FL to Kingston, Jamaica. The aircraft landed during a rainstorm, and was unable to stop on the runway. After departing the runway, the aircraft went beyond the airport fence, and crossed a road before coming to rest on a beach. The landing gear collapsed, both engines separated from the wings, and there were two major breaks in the fuselage, but all 148 passengers and six crew members survived. The landing was carried out with a slight tail wind.

  7. 25 January 2010; Ethiopian Airlines 737-800 (ET-ANB); Flight 409; near Beirut, LebanonThe aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Beirut, Lebanon to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and crashed into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after takeoff. There were 82 passengers and eight crew members on board, all of whom were killed in the crash.

  8. 22 May 2010; Air India Express; 737-800; flight 812; Mangalore, India: The aircraft (VT-AXV) was on a scheduled international flight from Dubai, UAE, to Mangalore, India, arriving just after 6 a.m. local time. The aircraft landed on one of the runways at Mangalore airport, but was unable to stop on the runway. There were six crew members and 160 passengers and on board, including four infants. All six crew members, and 152 of the 160 passengers were killed.

Additional Resources
Wikipedia page about the Caribbean Airlines crash
Fatal 737 plane crashes
Fatal airliner crash rates by model
Do plane crashes happen in threes?

Local news report on crash

13 July 2011

Plane crash in Brazil kills all 16 on board

13 July 2011; NOAR Linhas Aéreas; Let 410; PR-NOB; flight NRA-4896; Recife, Brazil: The aircraft was on a domestic flight from Recife to Natal, Brazil, and crashed in a populated area about one minute after takeoff, narrowly missing several buildings. The aircraft was destroyed by the impact and post crash fire. Both crew members and all 14 passengers were killed.

While this airliner accident resulted in fatalities, it is not counted as a fatal event as defined by

Initial News Reports (in Portuguese):

Video #1 (5:47), Video #2 (0:44)

20 June 2011

Plane Crash in Russia Kills 43

20 June 2011; RusAir; Tu134A; RA-65691; flight 7R-243; Petrozavodsk, Russia: The aircraft was on a domestic flight from Moscow (Domodedovo)to Petrozavodsk, Russia. The aircraft crashed on a roadway about one kilometer from the destination airport. Of the 43 passengers and nine crew members, 44 were killed and eight survived.

Related Information
Aviation Herald article with airport approach information
BBC article
Russian plane crashes

Videos from Russia Today and MSNBC

17 June 2011 Approches 15th Anniversary

Believe it or not, next month marks 15 years of It is very unlikely that anyone involved with in 1996 could have predicted either the current state of the Internet or the current state of aviation safety and security. One thing that we may all agree on is that without the Internet, the relationship that the general public has with issues of airline safety and security would be very different.

Since its inception, the goals of have been to provide the aviation safety community and the general public with factual and timely information on issues and events that concern airline passengers and airline professionals. By leaving your comments and suggestions, you can help to continue to accomplish its mission for years to come.

Feel free to comment on one or more of the following topics:

- How the Internet changed airline safety

- The first time you turned to the Internet for airline related information

- The most important airline safety or airline security change you want to see

- How you first found out about

- What you would change about or any of its related sites

Please to leave any other comment or suggestion that comes to mind. These comments (but not your email address) will be published in an upcoming article. Below are some of the most important online efforts of that you may want to talk about: snapshots from
The Conversation at (podcast) YouTube Channel on Twitter Facebook Group

13 June 2011

Two new plane crash and aircraft safety videos

The site has two new postings this past week. The first is about a September 2009 crash of an Ilyushin 76 during an air show in Teheran, Iran. All seven crew members were killed after the aircraft broke up in flight and crashed.

The newest event was not a crash, but came very, very close to being a disaster for both the crew on the aircraft and several bystanders on the ground. Apparently, the pilot of an Argentinian Air Force trainer flew the aircraft directly at a group of people on the ground, getting down to about three feet (one meter) off the ground. There were two videos, one from the aircraft, which included data from the head up display, and a second video taken from the ground. The still picture below, taken from one of the videos, shows just close this aircraft came to the crashing.

Submit a video
Do you know of a video that should be added to is always open to ideas. The best kinds of videos to send have most of the following characteristics:
  • Available on a video sharing site like YouTube, or available online as a MP4, M4V, MOV, or WMV file

  • Deals with a single event

  • Is associated with some kind of formal accident or incident report

  • Deals with a plane crash, some other serious accident or incident, or a situation with the potential to be a crash

  • Involves any kind of flying activity, including aircraft, helicopters, ultralights, skydiving, or space flight

  • Has some kind of educational value to the public

For examples of what kind of videos we like, look at some of the postings at Not all of the videos involved crashes, and in the case of private aircraft accident in Palo Alto, CA, did not have a video associated with it. However, it did have two very dramatic audio recordings of the actual crash.

02 June 2011

FAA creates new and harsher rules concerning lasers

On 1 June 2011 the FAA announced that it will now use a rule originally used against someone on board the aircraft who interfered with a flight crew, and apply it to people on the ground who deliberately point lasers at aircraft. With this change, someone who points a laser at an aircraft can be fined up to $11,000.

While this threat to aircraft has not resulted in a major accident, flashing a laser at an aircraft could compromise aviation safety by distracting or incapacitating pilots during critical phases of flight. The FAA published a 2003 study that the effects of laser exposure may be serious for some pilots. Two years later, in 2005, the FAA published an Advisory Circular (AC-70-2) that provided guidance to air crews for reporting laser incidents.

Since 2005, the number of reported incidents has grown from 300 in 2005 to over 2,800 in 2010. Many of these events last year were reported near major airports, with almost 100 near Chicago's O'Hare airport, and nearly 200 around the four biggest airports in the Los Angeles area.

Even with this FAA change in interpreting regulations, pointing a laser at an aircraft will still be a civil rather than a criminal offense, and the FAA will still only have the power to impose fines and won't be able to put perpetrators in prison. It remains to be seen if this change will reduce the risks faced by flight crews and passengers.

BBC Interview with Dr. Todd Curtis of
The program The World Today from the BBC interviewed Dr. Curtis about some the issues associated with pointing lasers at pilots (5:02).

Report laser incidents to the FAA

29 May 2011

Air France BEA investigation update from 27 May 2011

The latest BEA update on the Air France Flight 447 investigation, which was released on 27 May 2011, is based primarily on data recovered from the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder. This update is not a full or final report on the investigation, and only provides a small amount of the data that was contained in the black boxes.

The update indicates that the aircraft experienced a stall at high altitude, and remained in a stall condition until the aircraft struck the surface of the ocean. While the update implies that combination of pilot inputs and faulty flight data may have played a role in the crash, no probable causes or contributing causes were given.

Below is a summary of the events in the latest update:

- Three pilots were on board, (two-pilot cockpit)

- Captain takes rest break about two hours after takeoff

- About eight minutes later at 2:08:07, flight crew adjusts heading to avoid area of turbulence

- Starting at about 2:10:05, the autopilot and autothrust disengaged, and the crew took over manual control of the aircraft. Shortly thereafter, the airspeed indicated in the cockpit dropped from 275 knots to 60 knots and the stall warning sounded twice. Note that the flight data recorder only recored some of the airspeed indicators in the cockpit, not all of them.

- At 2:10:16, one of the pilots stated that airspeed indication had been lost, and that the flight control system was in a condition where it would no longer automatically prevent the aircraft from going beyond an angle of attack limit. This limit prevents the aircraft from losing aerodynamic lift and entering a stall condition. The A330 would however still provide stall warnings. Note that there is no angle of attack indicator available to the pilots. Angle of attack is the angle between the airflow and the longitudinal axis (an imaginary line running through the middle of the fuselage).

Angle of Attack
The angle of attack is the angle at which relative wind meets an airfoil. The angle is formed by the chord line of the airfoil and the the direction of the relative wind over that airfoil. The angle of attack changes during a flight as the pilot changes the direction of the aircraft. Increasing the angle of attack increases lift up to a point. Too high an angle of attack results in a loss of lift, and can cause an aircraft to stall.

- Aircraft pitched up and climbed from about 35,000 feet to about 37,500 feet

- At about 2:10:50, one of the pilots attempted to call the Captain back to the cockpit, and about a second later the stall warning sounded again. The engines were at a high thrust setting, and the pilot flying maintained a nose-up flight control inputs and the recorded angle of attack continued to increase, with altitude increasing to about 38,000 feet and angle of attack increasing to 16 degrees at about 2:11:06.

- At about this same time, the speed recorded on a standby instrument system increased to 185 knots, and was now consistent with the speed recorded on the primary flight display.

- The Captain entered the cockpit at around 2:11:40 (about 90 seconds after the autopilot disengaged), and in the following seconds, all of the recorded speeds became invalid and the stall warning stopped. This may not indicate that the plane exited the stall condition since the flight control system considers the angle of attack value to be invalid when measured speeds are below 60 knots. Also, speed values become invalid below 30 knots.

- The aircraft rapidly lost altitude, dropping to about 35,000 feet with a vertical descent rate of -10,000 feet per minute.

- The recordings stopped at 2:14:28. The last recorded values were a vertical speed of -10,912 feet per minute, a ground speed of 107 kt, a pitch attitude of 16.2 degrees nose-up,and a roll angle of 5.3 degrees left.

- The descent lasted about three and a half minutes, during which time the airplane remained in a stalled condition, with the angle of attack increasing to and remaining above 35 degrees.

Join the Discussion on Air France flight 447 has started a new LinkedIn discussion group on the crash of Air France flight 447. Whether you are a LinkedIn member or not, feel free to add your comments to the discussion.

Related and articles

Initial Reports on This Event (4:10)
Audio: MP3 | VideoiPod/MP4 | WMV | YouTube

Additional Resources Flight 447 page
Synopsis of second BEA interim report (English)
Complete second BEA interim report (English)
Complete second BEA interim report (French)
First BEA Interim Report (English)
First BEA interim report (French)
Other Air France Plane Crashes
Other Airbus A330 Plane Crashes
BEA Flight 447 page
Wikipedia Flight 447 page

Most Recent Articles
Air France AF447 Flight Data Recorder Recovered - 1 May 2011 article from 4 April 2011 about first sightings of wreckage

Other Articles
Initial 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
Todd Curtis BBC Interview about Air France Flight 447 - 9 July 2009
FAA orders A330 pitot tube replacements - 3 September 2009
Article on Second Interim Report from the BEA - 18 December 2009