Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Alaska Airlines pilot mistakes taxiway for runway at Sea-Tac

An Alaska Airlines passenger jet landed on Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s central taxiway – not the runway – on Dec. 19, the fourth time a pilot has made the error in the history of the airport.
Nobody was hurt in the 8:33 a.m. incident, and the Boeing 737-990, Flight 27 from Chicago, brought all passengers to the terminal without issue.
“It landed safely and taxied to the gate,” said Port of Seattle spokesman Perry Cooper. “Most likely the passengers on board had no idea they landed on a taxiway.”
Both Alaska Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the incident, but neither spokesmen for the organizations would elaborate on what happened or whether any actions, if any, have been taken since.
Taxiways are essentially roads that pilots use to drive aircraft between the terminal and their points for takeoff and landing. Some Sea-Tac taxiways cross the runways, while others, such as the one taxiway where Flight 27 landed, run parallel to the runways.
Landing on a taxiway is dangerous. It could cause a collision with aircraft already on the taxiway or about to cross it.
The taxiway crossings have the equivalent of stop signs, and aircraft can’t proceed without an OK from air traffic controllers, but if a plane were already half-way across when another was coming in to land, it could result in a collision.
The Dec. 19 incident happened just days after workers finished paving Sea-Tac’s central runway, which may have led to the pilot's confusion.
The runway and taxiway are the same length – about 9,400 feet – and are only 600 feet apart. The newly paved center runway would not yet have accumulated the dark tire marks characteristic of a heavily used runway, and so the light-colored concrete may have looked similar on both.
The weather was clear on Dec. 19, so the pilot might have been using a visual approach as opposed to using instruments, Cooper said, but he was not sure that was the case.
Pilot mistakes over Sea-Tac's center taxiway, called “Tango” in aircraft control lingo, have caused years of debate between the National Transportation Safety Board, Sea-Tac officials and the FAA, according to a 2005 Seattle Times story.
“This is a pretty rare thing. These are very well marked,” Cooper said. “There’s a real distinction between taxiway and runway because of markings.”
But some of the complications are caused by the fact that pilots often approach from the north, which means that the surface can be obscured from sunlight from the south. In addition, when the runway is wet – as it often is in rainy Seattle – any runway markings can be hard to see.
The last time a jet actually landed on the taxiway– and the pilot didn't pull up just before landing after realizing his or her mistake – was in 2004, when a propeller-driven Dash 8, flown by Air Canada unit Jazz landed with 32 passengers on board. No one was injured, but the NTSB investigated and recommended the airport mark the taxiway with a giant "T" so pilots could see it when they came in for a landing.
Since then the airport has added a third runway, which changed the NTSB's assessment.
(Steve Wilhelm - Puget Sound Business Journal)

Gulfstream G-V (c/n 544) N383LS

Operated by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, this gorgeous "Gulfy" is captured rotating off and departing from Rwy 25R at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS/KLAS) on November 7, 2007.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, I hope you and your families had a fantastic day!
Thank you so much for making Aero Pacific Flightlines a part of your day.
Happy Holidays
Michael Carter  

Second Bell 525 joins test campaign with three following in 2016

Bell Helicopter’s initial 525 Relentless flying prototype now has a companion on its test and certification campaign with Flight Test Vehicle-2 (FTV-2) joining the programme last week, the airframer confirms.

The company says it remains on track to achieve certification of the 9.1t super-medium-class helicopter in 2017, with three more developmental 525s coming online in 2016.

The third example is already in the final stages of assembly at Bell’s plant in Amarillo, Texas, and programme vice-president Larry Thimmesch says in a statement to Flightglobal that he expects delivery in the first quarter of 2016.

Asset Image
FTV-2 prior to rotor blade installation.
(Bell Helicopter)
An ambitious project for the company, the GE Aviation CT7-powered 525 is the first commercial helicopter to leverage full fly-by-wire controls. Upwards of 70 letters of intent for the 525 have reportedly been signed and the first production delivery is planned for 2017.
FTV-1 took its maiden flight in July, and the second aircraft will fly soon.

“The flight test team has implemented the main rotor blade installation and motion and instrumentation calibration and has begun to conduct ground runs with first flight quickly following,” says Thimmesch.

The 525 recently reached its predicted not-to-exceed speed of 165kt (305km/h), and advertises a range of 500nm carrying up to two flightcrew and 16 passengers. The maximum capacity is 20 passengers, or that number can be trimmed to accommodate plush interiors, according to Bell.

Introduced in 2012, the rotorcraft is targeted at the commercial VIP, offshore oil and gas, and rescue segments and could also be offered for military missions.

Asset Image
FTV-1 in flight testing.
(Bell Helicopter)
(James Drew - Flightglobal News)

Second Sikorsky CH-53K ‘almost ready’ to join test campaign

Sikorsky CH-53K
(Photo - U.S. Marine Corps)

After a slow start, the Sikorsky CH-53K development project is gathering pace at West Palm Beach, Florida, with sixth test flights and counting since initial lift-off in late October and a second aircraft almost complete.

The US Marine Corps announced this week that one of its own pilots flew the King Stallion, taking over from Sikorsky’s test team for the first time.

Lt Col Jonathan Morel of USMC Air Test and Evaluation Squadron-21 took the first engineering and manufacturing development aircraft (EMD-1) on the 1.5h trial run to assess its mechanical stability and flight control responses in hover.

Col Hank Vanderborght, the service’s programme chief for heavy-lift helicopters, says in a statement that the second aircraft is almost ready to join the 2,000h flight test campaign, and the wider programme remains on track to achieve initial operational capability in 2019.

Built to replace the long-serving Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion, the K-model has three times the lifting capacity of its predecessor and is essentially a new aircraft with new engines, new fuselage structure, new rotor system, new avionics and fly-by-wire flight controls.

Sikorsky engineers have carried out extensive modelling and simulation of how the aircraft is supposed to handle, and Morel says it came “very close” to the mark during his flight, with “stable and predictable” handling qualities.

The development programme was initiated in 2005 and then delayed, but the service is now confident of hitting its revised initial readiness goal in 2019 and is intent on buying 200 total aircraft, as planned.

Congress reduced programme funding by $40 million in Fiscal 2016 to $592 million due to “programme execution,” probably to account for delays in achieving first flight this year.onics and fly-by-wire flight controls.

(James Drew - Flightglobal News)

Authorities Approve Bombardier CS100 Training Devices

Bombardier CSeries CS100 (BD-500-1A10) (c/n 50006) C-FFCO FTV6 visits Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on December 11, 2015.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Bombardier and training system manufactuer CAE announced qualification of a flight training device and interim Level-C qualification of a full-flight simulator by three regulatory authorities for the new CSeries CS100 narrowbody airliner.

Officials from Transport Canada, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency granted their respective qualifications following final inspection of the simulator and training device at Bombardier’s training center in MontrĂ©al, the manufacturer said on December 22.

Transport Canada granted type certification of the CS100 on December 18, clearing the way for its entry into service with Swiss International Airlines early next year.

Our teams have been working diligently to achieve the qualifications for the CS100 aircraft training devices and we are delighted that the three regulatory authorities approved [them] in quick succession,” said Todd Young, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft vice president and general manager of customer services.

Young added that 95 percent of technical publications for the CS100 are complete and available to operators through an online portal.

(Bill Carey - AINOnline News)

Piaggio Adds a Pair to Its Delivery Totals

Piaggio began deliveries of its $7.4 million third generation P.180 Avanti EVO in April.

Piaggio Aerospace has delivered two of its new Avanti Evo turboprops to a pair of European customers, the company announced today.

Germany’s WinAir and an undisclosed buyer were the recipients of the third-generation, twin-pusher P.180, which offers extended range, better climb performance and fuel economy than its predecessors and a service ceiling of 41,000 feet.

Both airplanes were delivered with the full options package, including luxury interiors featuring Iacobucci HF seats covered with Poltrona Frau leather. According to previously released totals, the recent deliveries make a total of three for the year for Piaggio, which was purchased in full by the UAE's Mubadala Development in September.

“The third generation of our business aviation turboprop has established itself as one of the most efficient, environmentally friendly, elegant and comfortable aircraft in its category,” said Francescomaria Tuccillo, the Italian airframer’s COO. “Further contracts and deliveries are expected soon in North America, Middle East and Africa.”

(Curt Epstein - AINOnline News)

Embraer Begins Legacy 450 Deliveries

Embraer’s Legacy 450 has entered service with the first delivery to Orlando, Fla.-based event technology specialist LMG, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer announced yesterday.

The delivery came a little less than four months after Embraer secured U.S. FAA approval for the Legacy 450. The “mid-light” business jet initially had received Brazilian ANAC certification in early August. Embraer began serialized production of the Legacy 450 shortly after certification, the company said.

We are excited to be the very first customer to take delivery of a Legacy 450, an incredible business jet that fulfills all of our needs,” said Les Goldberg, CEO of LMG, which provides video, audio, lighting and audiovisual support for events and has offices in Las Vegas, Nashville, Dallas and Detroit in addition to Orlando.

The $16.57 million Legacy 450, a shorter variant of the Legacy 500 that entered service a year ago, currently has a 2,575-nm range and a 3,825-foot takeoff distance. Sharing about 95 percent commonality with the 500, the 450 features a six-foot-tall flat-floor cabin. Also like its sibling, the 450 is equipped with digital flight controls and full fly-by-wire technology.

As deliveries begin, Embraer working toward extending the range of the 450 to 2,900 nm. The first 450 with the extended range is expected to be delivered in the third quarter of 2016. Embraer also next year is expected to begin deliveries of the 450 to fractional aircraft operator Flexjet.

(Kerry Lynch - AINOnline News)

Honda Aircraft Begins HondaJet Deliveries

Honda Aircraft celebrated delivery of the first HondaJet on December 23.
(Honda Corporation)

Honda Aircraft Company today made the first delivery of its recently-certified HondaJet. The delivery to an undisclosed customer was made at the company’s Greensboro, N.C., headquarters, where the light jet is manufactured.

We are very excited to commence deliveries of the HondaJet, fulfilling Honda’s commitment to advancing human mobility through innovation,” commented Honda Aircraft president and CEO Michimasa Fujino.

“Honda Aircraft has now extended this commitment skyward with the delivery of our first aircraft, and I hope we soon will begin to see many HondaJets at airports around the world.”

Honda Aircraft has a network of dealers in 11 countries across North America, South America and Europe, which will provide customer support, supplementing Honda Aircraft's 90,000-sq-ft customer support facility in Greensboro.

Pilot training is being conducted with a full-motion Level D flight simulator at the FlightSafety Honda learning center co-located at the Greensboro campus.

(Charles Alcock - AINOnline News)

Embraer sets 25 February rollout for new E-Jet

Embraer has announced plans to reveal the first E190-E2 test aircraft to the public on 25 February 2016 in a ceremony staged at company’s final assembly complex in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil.
The ceremony comes roughly midway through the development program – or two and a half years after Embraer launched the program at the Paris air show and about two years before the scheduled entry into service in the first half of 2018.
First flight of the re-engined and re-winged E190 is on track for the second half of next year, says Paulo Cesar Sousa e Silva, president of Embraer commercial aircraft.
Flight control software is being evaluated at the company’s systems test rig in Eugenio de Melo, Brazil, he says. Meanwhile, the redesigned wings have been mated to the fuselage. The two Pratt & Whitney PW1900G geared turbofan engines are being installed on new wing pylons, he adds.
The E190-E2 will be followed into service by the stretched E195-E2 and the stretched E175-E2. The overall family has attracted 267 firm orders and 373 options and purchase rights so far. “We are quite happy with the number we have achieved,” Silva says.
Unlike the relatively straightforward re-engining projects ongoing for the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 Max, the E-Jet E2 family will feature a more radical departure from the baseline aircraft.
In addition to the new wings and engines, the new E190-E2 also features a full fly-by-wire flight control system.
A second E190-E2 test aircraft is now in final assembly. Major sections of the third prototype aircraft are now being built and will be shipped to Sao Jose dos Campos to enter final assembly “very soon”, Silva says.
The first flight for the first E190-E2 is scheduled for the second half of next year.
(Stephen Trimble - Flightglobal News)

"Gentlemen We Can Rebuild Her" Fire-damaged BA 777 to be repaired

British Airways is to repair and return to service the Boeing 777-236(ER) badly damaged during an engine fire in Las Vegas.
The aircraft is to undergo repairs at McCarran airport following the 8 September fire in the left-hand General Electric GE90 power-plant.
Boeing engineers have undertaken an inspection of the airframe and this examination has concluded that the damage was “limited” and “suitable for repair”, says the carrier.
“A team from Boeing will carry out the repair work, which will be certified to the same high standards as if the aircraft was brand new,” it adds.
BA has not given an estimate of the duration of the work. It says the twinjet “will resume flying once stringent checks have been completed.”
Its damaged engine has already been removed by the manufacturer and the powerplant will be replaced.
The aircraft G-VIIO (29320/182) is a 16-year old airframe.
Flight BA2276 had been bound for London Gatwick with 170 occupants. The aircraft was evacuated and none of those on board suffered serious injuries.
(David Kaminski-Morrow - Flightglobal News)

Qantas A330 take-off weight discrepancy spurs procedural changes

Qantas Airways has changed its loading procedures from Bangkok after an Airbus A330-303 aircraft departed with a 2,785kg load discrepancy owing to a miscommunication among ground staff.
The incident occurred on 23 July 2015 and involved the aircraft registered VH-QPJ (c/n 712) , says the Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) in a statement. The aircraft was operating flight QF24 on the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi-Sydney route.
A miscommunication during two phone calls between loading supervisor in Bangkok and Qanta’s load controller in Warsaw, Poland led to a container being mistakenly left aboard the aircraft in position 23P.
As a result, the data the crew used to calculate reference speeds for take-off, fuel consumption rates, and initial climb altitude were inaccurate. Nonetheless, the aircraft took off at midday and the crew noticed no abnormal flight characteristics, or received any warnings related to the A330s weight and balance.
After the aircraft had departed, the load controller realised the error, and contacted Qantas Integrated Operations Control, which alerted the crew 75 minutes after takeoff.
The crew amended the aircraft weight in the flight management computer and the flight proceeded without further event.
“As a result of the discrepancies, Qantas advised that the maximum taxi weight had been exceeded by 1,585 kg, and the maximum take-off weight by 2,085 kg,” says the ATSB. “The initial cruise altitude of 35,000 ft did not exceed the maximum altitude when the actual weight was subsequently entered into the aircraft flight management computer.”
Qantas reviewed the incident, and has made changes for all flights out of Bangkok. Namely that the aircraft’s loading supervisor must get a scanned copy of the aircraft’s final load instruction report before transmitting the final load sheet to the crew via the aircraft reporting and addressing system (ACARS).
In addition, it has undertaken training to improve communications between ground staff, and other administrative changes.
(Greg Waldron - FlightGlobal News)

Silver Airways mulls ‘a range of strategic alternatives’

Silver Airways is hiring advisors at Raymond James to “evaluate a range of strategic alternatives,” including a merger or “ownership transition,” strategic partnerships, or new investments from outside groups.

The small, privately owned Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based carrier made the announcement on Dec. 19, suggesting it may need outside help so it can aggressively pursue new routes in Cuba and elsewhere.

Silver said it plans to fly scheduled service to Cuba as soon as 2016, saying it will apply to “serve most, if not all,” of the 10 approved Cuban destinations, including Havana. It did not say from where it would fly, but it has hubs in Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa.

It could be some time before carriers will be able to restart commercial service, and with most larger airlines wanting to serve Cuba, especially Havana, competition for key routes could be intense.

Under the terms of an agreement reached on Dec. 16, it is thought that 20 flights per day will be allowed between the US and Havana for both passenger and cargo service, and a further 10 flights will be allowed between the US and other Cuban cities.

Silver—with a fleet of 27 Saab 340B Plus turboprops—said it is also considering adding capacity elsewhere, though it plans to remain focused on Florida and warm-weather islands just south of the US.

Silver’s only current international destination is the Bahamas, with seven destinations on the islands. However, if it succeeds in raising new funds or reshaping the company, the airline might be able to grow further into the Caribbean.

The goal in hiring Raymond James is to, “enhance Silver’s ability to capitalize on these attractive growth opportunities,” the company said in a release. “The board is now considering several opportunities that will accelerate growth and geographic expansion, including the opening of the Cuban market.”

(Brian Sumers - ATWOnline News)

AirBridgeCargo to increase US-Asia connections

Russia’s AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC) will focus on US-Asia connections in 2016. ABC intends to increase connectivity options via its Moscow hub to all US destinations from Asia. According to a carrier statement, ABC will expand and enhance its expansion by introducing additional frequencies in major markets. Also, the airline will continue investing in expanding its fleet.

In 2015, ABC has taken delivery of two new Boeing 747-8Fs, which were delivered under a memorandum of understanding signed at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget. The airline’s fleet now includes eight 747-8Fs.

From January-November, ABC’s cargo volume reached 439,000 tons, up 20% year-over-year. The airline’s growth in 2015 has been supported by the addition of more prime cargo routes and connectivity across the network, as well as the introduction of additional frequencies on existing routes.

In the Asia-Pacific, new services to and from Singapore and Hanoi have extended ABC’s network in the region to nine online stations. In Europe, ABC launched services to Helsinki, while its coverage in North America has been enhanced by adding Los Angeles and Atlanta service. ABC now provides more than 600 weekly connections with 48-hour delivery time for any published scheduled hub connection.

“In 2015, ABC continued following its growth strategy, which is based on a combination of operating a highly efficient fleet, network expansion to the points of production and consumption, developing niche destinations with limited belly capacity but stable cargo flows,” ABC executive president Denis Ilin said.

(Polina Montag-Girmes - ATWOnline News)

Gulf Air reaps benefits of restructuring

Gulf Air Airbus A340-313 (c/n 554) A9C-LI taxies at London-Heathrow (LHR/EGLL) on September 24, 2011.
(Photo by James Mepsted) 

Gulf Air’s efforts to restructure are bearing fruit among passengers, the carrier said Dec. 24.

The Bahrain-based airline initiated a major reorganization in December 2012 to cut crippling losses, reduce aircraft and staff, upgrade its Airbus A330 long-haul fleet and focus on high-frequency, point-to-point travel on its core Middle East routes.

Restructuring of its operations is continuing, following an 85% reduction in losses over the past three years, it said. The carrier turned in a loss of BD62.7 million ($166 million) for 2014, but nevertheless hailed the deficit as its best result for a decade—an indication of how severe its financial problems had been over recent years.

The airline said the results of its latest quarterly passenger survey until the end of September 2015 showed a 31% rise in positive comments from passengers and a 6% drop in complaints compared to the same period in 2014.

“Significantly, the passenger feedback reflected the positive impact made by Gulf Air’s cabin crew performance including appearance, responsiveness and availability … while also revealing an increase in popularity and positive feedback on the airline’s [frequent flyer] Falconflyer Program.”

The most significant reasons behind passengers choosing Gulf Air were: most convenient departure/arrival time (49%), nonstop flights (31%), lower fares (31%) and good value for money (26%).

The carrier added that, over the past year, it had increased the number of flights operated by around 1,000, despite having a significantly smaller fleet than three years ago. Its focus on connectivity means it now operates double daily (or more frequent) flights to 10 regional cities, as well as services to the Indian sub-continent and Europe.

“These results are further testimony to our continuous efforts towards improving our customer service across all fronts,” said acting Gulf Air’s acting CCO Ahmed Janahi. “We have embarked on an aggressive revamping of our products and services over the past year that has received excellent feedback from customers.”

Having heavily pruned its route map as part of its rationalization, it is now adding back destinations and in September was reported to be in talks with Airbus over a major re-fleeting exercise.

(Alan Dron - ATWOnline News)

Asian carriers ramp up Hawaii flights

Jin Air Boeing 777-2B5(ER) (34208/584) HL7743 operated the carriers inaugural flight between Seoul-Incheon International (ICN/RKSI) and Honolulu International (HNL/PHNL) on December 19, 2015.
(Photo Courtesy of HNL RareBirds)

South Korean low-cost carrier (LCC) Jin Air has begun a new 5X-weekly schedule from Seoul’s Incheon International Airport to Honolulu, Hawaii. The service will use Boeing 777-200 aircraft, and is initially planned for operation over the peak holiday period, from December through March 2016.

Honolulu has seen a spate of recent route announcements from operators—including Filipino LCC Cebu Pacific, Korea’s Air Busan and Kuala Lumpur-based AirAsia X. All have mooted plans to fly to Hawaii from Southeast Asia, and have applied the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for permits earlier this year.

Cebu CEO Lance Gokongwei recently announced the carrier’s first flights to the US with a Manila-Guam service, which will launch in March next year. He said the service would be the first step on “an expansion path across the Pacific.”

Air Busan applied to the US DOT for a US flight permit earlier this year, citing both West Coast and Hawaii as potential destinations. Additionally, AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes tweeted in February that the group was looking to expand its long-haul schedules, saying it was “closing in on European routes … and also application process [to] Hawaii.” As yet, neither carrier has given firm dates for services to begin.

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTO) said that the opportunities in Hawaii for southeast Asian tourism were “huge,” and added it has specifically targeted Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand as key markets.

“For eight consecutive months [to October 2015], visitor arrivals [saw] an increase of 4.2% over the same period last year,” said HTO CEO, George D. Szigeti, adding that the HTO was involved in ongoing talks with international marketing partners  “to monitor … their respective regions.”

(Jeremy Torr - ATWOnline News)

United pilots’ union leadership votes to approve 2-year contract extension

United Airlines is one step closer to placing an order for new small narrowbody aircraft, after a key union committee voted on Dec. 22 to approve a proposed two-year contract extension.

United’s Master Executive Council (MEC) voted 13-7 to approve the deal, a source told ATW’s sister publication Aviation Daily. All pilots will begin voting on it in January, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said. The spokesman said the MEC vote was “just the latest step in the process,” calling the vote by the full pilot group, “the most important step.” A United spokeswoman declined to comment.
Both sides have a great deal to gain in the proposal, which the union and airline reached in late November, after fewer than 30 days spent negotiating. United would get labor peace much earlier than many expected. The current labor deal is not amendable until Jan. 1, 2017—and before United asked the union to meet for early discussions, the sides were not even scheduled to start talking again until at least May 2016.
New Aircraft
Pilots, meanwhile, would get new aircraft to fly. When United first broached the idea of an early extension in an Oct. 2 letter, the airline promised pilots that any deal “will also include a firm order of [new small narrowbodies] on the United mainline property flown by United pilots.”
Under United’s definition, small narrowbodies denote aircraft with about 100 seats—smaller than the Airbus A319s and Boeing 737-700s the airline already flies. The Embraer 190 and Bombardier CS100 are believed to be strong contenders. United has not said how many aircraft it would order, or whether they would be new or used.
Pilots would also see pay increases and more-favorable work rules under the deal. In a summary of the deal, ALPA estimated pilots would receive more than $1.1 billion in pay increases in 2016, 2017 and 2018 over what they would get under their current agreement.
The deal also includes a “snap up” that would provide more pay, “if the average annual percentage increase of a new Delta agreement exceeds… .” United’s deal. For the “snap up” to kick in, Delta must have a deal by Jan. 1, 2018, the summary shows.
The summary gave the example of a 12-year captain on the Boeing 747, 777, 787 and 767-400.
Under the current deal, that captain would earn $278.36 per hour in 2017. With the new deal, the captain would make $314.56 in 2017, and $320.86 in 2018.
As part of the negotiations, the sides agreed to talk about only a handful of issues, leaving others as they are in the current contract. In an October note to pilots, Jay Heppner, the chairman of United’s MEC, called the decision to streamline negotiations a “paradigm shift.”
“In the past, the way we’ve traditionally negotiated has taken years,” he said. “The question today distills down to: Do we fix a few items in the current contract with a short extension, or do we go about fixing lots of items sometime in the future? It is up to the MEC to make that decision on behalf of the pilots they represent.”
(Brian Sumers - ATWOnline News)

MRJ’s first delivery to ANA delayed by another year

Mitsubishi Regional Jet
(Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp.)

Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. has announced another major delay to the service introduction of its Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ).

At a Dec. 24 press conference in Nagoya, Japan, Mitsubishi Aircraft and its largest stakeholder, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, said first delivery to launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) would move from the 2017 second quarter to “approximately one year later.”
This is the third major delay of first delivery. The original program schedule called for first flight in the second quarter of 2012 and first delivery in the first quarter of 2014. First flight, delayed multiple times, actually occurred only last month.
As recently as last month, Mitsubishi Aircraft president Hiromichi Morimoto said first delivery to ANA was on track for the 2017 second quarter. ANA called the latest delay “disappointing,” but added that it remains “confident of the benefits the MRJ will bring to the ANA fleet.”
“The first flight and the subsequent flight tests have confirmed the basic characteristics to be satisfactory,” Mitsubishi Aircraft said in a Dec. 24 statement. “However, we also have recognized several issues as we attempt to accelerate our development. In order to tackle these issues … we have reviewed and revised our overall schedule.”
The precise nature of the issues was not revealed. However, as a result of static tests, strengthening of the airframe and upgrading the aircraft’s software are already underway.
“Specifically, in the progress of our engineering work together with experts in the United States, we have made additions to and revisions of test items in order to complete a better-integrated aircraft,” Mitsubishi Aircraft said.
“These have been reflected in the new delivery schedule. In addition, we have undertaken an overall review with our partners, and reflected this in our development schedule.”
A diagram released at the press conference showed considerably extended flight-test periods in both Japan and the US, where four of the five flight test aircraft are slated to move after initial flying in Japan.
All five flight test aircraft are MRJ90s. Testing in the US, initially slated to start in the 2016 second quarter, has now been delayed until roughly the end of 2016.
“Looking ahead, we will be managing our milestones, and increasing the precision of our schedule as we progress,” Mitsubishi Aircraft said.
“We will also carry out the flight test campaign in North America as soon as feasible and assign the roles and responsibilities of the three engineering bases (Mitsubishi Aircraft Headquarters, Seattle Engineering Center and Moses-Lake [Washington state] Test Center) for prompt execution in all fields.
We remain firmly committed to providing our customers with better-integrated aircraft with higher levels of safety and reliability, as well as high-quality services.”
(Alan Dron - ATWOnline News)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Frontier Airbus A320-214 (c/n 6838) N232FR "Sammy the Squirrel"

Prepares to taxi towards Rwy 20R for a morning departure to Denver, Colorado (DEN/KDEN) on December 14, 2015.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream G300 (G-IV) (c/n 1510) N349K

Operated by Elk Mountain Adventures LLC, this lovely "Gulfy" is caught rolling for takeoff on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on December 23, 2015 bound Kona International Airport (KOA/PHKO) on the Big Island of Hawaii.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5099) CS-DKF

Operated by Netjets Europe, the aircraft is caught rolling for takeoff on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on a soggy/gloomy day bound for Manchester International (Ringway) (MAN/EGCC) on December 22, 2015.
Photos by Michael Carter)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Bedford and the Normalization of Deviance

I came across this account of a Gulfstream G-IV crash back in 2014 and found it to be very interesting. I hope you enjoy it and find it as interesting as I did.
Michael Carter - Editor and Chief / Aero Pacific Flightlines   

Like many pilots, I read accident reports all the time. This may seem morbid to people outside “the biz”, but those of us on the inside know that learning what went wrong is an important step in avoiding the fate suffered by those aviators. And after fifteen years in the flying business, the NTSB’s recently-released report on the 2014 Gulfstream IV crash in Bedford, Massachusetts is one of the most disturbing I’ve ever laid eyes on.

If you’re not familiar with the accident, it’s quite simple to explain: the highly experienced crew of a Gulfstream IV-SP attempted to takeoff with the gust lock (often referred to as a “control lock”) engaged. The aircraft exited the end of the runway and broke apart when it encountered a steep culvert. The ensuing fire killed all aboard.

Sounds pretty open-and shut, doesn’t it? There have been dozens of accidents caused by the flight crew’s failure to remove the gust/control lock prior to flight. Professional test pilots have done it on multiple occasions, ranging from the prototype B-17 bomber in 1935 to the DHC-4 Caribou in 1992.

But in this case, the NTSB report details a long series of actions and habitual behaviors which are so far beyond the pale that they defy the standard description of “pilot error”.

Just the Facts

Let me summarize the ten most pertinent errors and omissions of this incident for you:
  1. There are five checklists which must be run prior to flying. The pilots ran none of them. CVR data and pilot interviews revealed that checklists simply were not used. This was not an anomaly, it was standard operating procedure for them.
  2. Obviously the gust lock was not removed prior to flying. This is a very big, very visible, bright red handle which sticks up vertically right between the throttles and the flap handle. As the Simon & Chabris selective attention test demonstrates, it’s not necessarily hard to miss the gust lock handle protruding six inches above the rest of the center pedestal. But it’s also the precise reason we have checklists and procedures in the first place.
  3. Flight control checks were not performed on this flight, nor were they ever performed. Hundreds of flights worth of data from the FDR and pilot interviews confirm it.
  4. The crew received a Rudder Limit message indicating that the rudder’s load limiter had activated. This is abnormal. The crew saw the alert. We know this because it was verbalized. Action taken? None.
  5. The Pilot Flying (PF) was unable to push the power levers far enough forward to achieve takeoff thrust. Worse, he actually verbalized that he wasn’t able to get full power, yet continued the takeoff anyway.
  6. The Pilot Not Flying (PNF) was supposed to monitor the engines and verbally call out when takeoff power was set. He failed to perform this task.
  7. Aerodynamics naturally move the elevator up (and therefore the control column aft) as the airplane accelerates. Gulfstream pilots are trained to look for this. It didn’t happen, and it wasn’t caught by either pilot.
  8. The Pilot Flying realized the gust lock was engaged, and said so verbally several times. At this point, the aircraft was traveling 128 knots had used 3,100 feet of runway; about 5,000 feet remained. In other words, they had plenty of time to abort the takeoff. They chose to continue anyway.
  9. One of the pilots pulled the flight power shutoff handle to remove hydraulic pressure from the flight controls in an attempt to release the gust lock while accelerating down the runway. The FPSOV was not designed for this purpose, and you won’t find any G-IV manual advocating this procedure.  Because it doesn’t work.
  10. By the time they realized it wouldn’t work and began the abort attempt, it was too late. The aircraft was traveling at 162 knots (186 mph!) and only about 2,700 feet of pavement remained. The hydraulically-actuated ground spoilers — which greatly aid in stopping the aircraft by placing most of its weight back on the wheels to increase rolling resistance and braking efficiency — were no longer available because the crew had removed hydraulic power to the flight controls.
Industry Response

Gulfstream has been sued by the victim’s families. Attorneys claim that the gust lock was defective, and that this is the primary reason for the crash. False. The gust lock is designed to prevent damage to the flight controls from wind gusts. It does that job admirably. It also prevents application of full takeoff power, but the fact that the pilot was able to physically push the power levers so far forward simply illustrates that anything can be broken if you put enough muscle into it.

The throttle portion of the gust lock may have failed to meet a technical certification requirement, but it was not the cause of the accident.  The responsibility for ensuring the gust lock is disengaged prior to takeoff lies with the pilots, not the manufacturer of the airplane.

Gulfstream pilot and Code7700 author James Albright calls the crash involuntary manslaughter. I agree. This wasn’t a normal accident chain. The pilots knew what was wrong while there was still plenty of time to stop it. They had all the facts you and I have today. They chose to continue anyway.
It’s the most inexplicable thing I’ve yet seen a professional pilot do, and I’ve seen a lot of crazy things. If locked flight controls don’t prompt a takeoff abort, nothing will.

Albright’s analysis is outstanding: direct and factual. I predict there will be no shortage of articles and opinions on this accident. It will be pointed to and discussed for years as a bright, shining example of how not to operate an aircraft.

In response to the crash, former NTSB member John Goglia has called for video cameras in the cockpit, with footage to be regularly reviewed to ensure pilots are completing checklists.

 Despite the good intentions, this proposal would not achieve the desired end.  Pilots are already work in the presence of cockpit voice recorders, flight data recorders, ATC communication recording, radar data recording, and more. 

If a pilot needs to be videotaped too, I’d respectfully suggest that this person should be relieved of duty.  No, the problem here is not going to be solved by hauling Big Brother further into the cockpit.

A better model would be that of the FOQA program, where information from flight data recorders is downloaded and analyzed periodically in a no-hazard environment.

The pilots, the company, and the FAA each get something valuable.  It’s less stick, more carrot.  I would also add that this sort of program is in keeping with the Fed’s recent emphasis on compliance over enforcement action.

The Normalization of Deviance

What I, and probably you, are most interested in is determining how well-respected, experienced, and accomplished pilots who’ve been through the best training the industry has to offer reached the point where their performance is so bad that a CFI wouldn’t accept it from a primary student on their very first flight.

After reading through the litany of errors and malfeasance present in this accident report, it’s tempting to brush the whole thing off and say “this could never happen to me”.  I sincerely believe doing so would be a grave mistake. It absolutely can happen to any of us, just as it has to plenty of well-trained, experienced, intelligent pilots. Test pilots. People who are much better than you or I will ever be.

But how? Clearly the Bedford pilots were capable of following proper procedures, and did so at carefully selected times: at recurrent training events, during IS-BAO audits, on checkrides, and various other occasions.

Goglia, Albright, the NTSB, and others are focusing on “complacency” as a root cause, but I believe there might be a more detailed explanation.  The true accident chain on this crash formed over a long, long period of time — decades, most likely — through a process known as the normalization of deviance.
Social normalization of deviance means that people within the organization become so much accustomed to a deviant behavior that they don’t consider it as deviant, despite the fact that they far exceed their own rules for the elementary safety. People grow more accustomed to the deviant behavior the more it occurs. To people outside of the organization, the activities seem deviant; however, people within the organization do not recognize the deviance because it is seen as a normal occurrence. In hindsight, people within the organization realize that their seemingly normal behavior was deviant.
This concept was developed by sociologist and Columbia University professor Diane Vaughan after the Challenger explosion. NASA fell victim to it in 1986, and then got hit again when the Columbia disaster occurred in 2003. If they couldn’t escape its clutches, you might wonder what hope we have.

Well, for one thing, spaceflight in general and the shuttle program in particular are  specialized, experimental types of flying.  They demand acceptance of a far higher risk profile than corporate, charter, and private aviation.

I believe the first step in avoiding “normalization of deviance” is awareness, just as admitting you have a problem is the first step in recovery from substance addiction.  After all, if you can’t detect the presence of a problem, how can you possibly fix it?

There are several factors which tend to sprout normalization of deviance:
  • First and foremost is the attitude that rules are stupid and/or inefficient. Pilots, who tend to be independent Type A personalities anyway, often develop shortcuts or workarounds when the checklist, regulation, training, or professional standard seems inefficient. Example: the boss in on board and we can’t sit here for several minutes running checklists; I did a cockpit flow, so let’s just get going!
  • Sometimes pilots learn a deviation without realizing it. Formalized training only covers part of what an aviator needs to know to fly in the real world. The rest comes from senior pilots, training captains, and tribal knowledge. What’s taught is not always correct.
  • Often, the internal justification for cognizant rule breaking includes the “good” of the company or customer, often where the rule or standard is perceived as counterproductive. In the case of corporate or charter flying, it’s the argument that the passenger shouldn’t have to (or doesn’t want to) wait. I’ve seen examples of pilots starting engines while the passengers are still boarding, or while the copilot is still loading luggage. Are we at war? Under threat of physical attack? Is there some reason a 2 minute delay is going to cause the world to stop turning?
  • The last step in the process is silence. Co-workers are afraid to speak up, and understandably so. The cockpit is already a small place. It gets a lot smaller when disagreements start to brew between crew members. In the case of contract pilots, it may result in the loss of a regular customer.  Unfortunately, the likelihood that rule violations will become normalized increases if those who see them refuse to intervene.
The normalization of deviance can be stopped, but doing so is neither easy or comfortable. It requires a willingness to confront such deviance when it is seen, lest it metastasize to the point we read about in the Bedford NTSB report.

It also requires buy-in from pilots on the procedures and training they receive.  When those things are viewed as “checking a box” rather than bona fide safety elements, it becomes natural to downplay their importance.

Many of you know I am not exactly a fan of the Part 121 airline scene, but it’s hard to argue with the success airlines have had in this area.

When I flew for Dynamic Aviation’s California Medfly operation here in Southern California, procedures and checklists were followed with that level of precision and dedication.  As a result, the CMF program has logged several decades of safe operation despite the high-risk nature of the job.

Whether you’re flying friends & family, pallets of cargo, or the general public, we all have the same basic goal, to aviate without ending up in an embarrassing NTSB report whose facts leave no doubt about how badly we screwed up.

The normalization of deviance is like corrosion: an insidious, ever-present, naturally-occurring enemy which will weaken and eventually destroy us.  If we let it.

(Ron Rapp - The House of Rapp)

Gulfstream G-IV (c/n 1093) N770KS

Caught on short final to and then touch down on Rwy 25L at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS/KLAS) on December 19, 2015.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

American Airlines Boeing 737-823 (33227/4322) N915NN / 3KA

Touchdown no. 1.

Touchdown no. 2.
Arrives at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS/KLAS) from Chicago-O'Hare International Airport (ORD/KORD) on December 18, 2015. The crew performed a fantastic landing but for some reason following the first touchdown became slightly airborne again coming back down smoking the mains on Rwy 25L a second time. I am not complaining as I enjoyed the chance to get two smokin' shots.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5018) N111AM

This gorgeous G550 operated by Marnell Gaming Management LLC is captured arriving at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS/KLAS) on December 17, 2015.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Boeing 787-9 (34530/345) JA874A "Star Wars R2-D2" livery


Climbs from Rwy 25L at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) as "ANA1977" bound for London-Gatwick (LGW/EGKK) at 15:09 on December 15, 2015. Star Wars cast and crew were on board as they headed across the pond for the movies London premier.
(Photos by Michael Carter) 

Monday, December 14, 2015

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Boeing 787-9 (34530/345) JA873A


All Nippon Airways (ANA) Boeing 787-9 (34530/345) JA873A sporting the special "Star Wars - R2-D2" livery arrives this afternoon at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) from Tokyo-Haneda International (HND/RJTT) as "ANA9410" at 14:20 pst.
(Photos by Michael Carter)