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Asiana 777 postscript

How could the world’s safest plane, flown by one of the finest airlines, crash on a perfect summer’s day?
And how could so many passengers just walk away from such a disaster?
Till yesterday the Boeing 777 boasted an extraordinary record of no fatalities and only two hull losses in 18 years of airline service while in recent years Asiana Airlines has emerged as one of a new breed of airlines winning accolades for seven-star service and operations.
Landing the high tech 777 at San Francisco in fine weather should hold no fears for an experienced airline crew.
Crash investigators will zero in on the plane’s two black boxes, which have been recovered, as well as interviews with the pilots and should quickly establish the cause.
Initial focus will be on the plane’s instrument settings to try and understand why it was high on the approach glide slope.
And if, as has been suggested, the 777 was also unstable on the approach why didn’t the pilots abort?
The crash has similarities to the previous operational loss of a 777 in 2008.
In that incident a British Airways 777 landed short of a runway at London’s Heathrow Airport after its engines rolled back to idle due to a fuel blockage caused by ice.
The 777, also on a flight from Shanghai, came to rest on grass 300m short of the runway.
And all 156 passengers and crew walked away thanks to more rigorous seat construction.
And the same new standards are being credited with saving hundreds of lives in the Asiana 777 crash.
The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and the European agencies introduced much stricter crash impact standards for seats in 1988 from 9 to 16G.
It was found that many passengers killed in plane crashes died after being struck by seats that had ripped away from their mountings and catapulted through the cabin.
However initially only planes designed after 1988 had to comply with the new regulations but since 2009 all planes built must have the 16G seats.
Interestingly the 16G force was selected because the human body cannot survive a greater force.


Asiana Airlines crash – what is next?

Six key bodies will investigate Saturday’s crash of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 at San Francisco International Airport.
Lead body will be the US crash investigator the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and it will be assisted by the US Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Boeing Commercial Airplane Company, engine-maker Pratt & Whitney, Asiana Airlines and Korea’s Aviation and Railway Accidents Investigation Board.At an NTSB press conference the agency said that “everything is on the table,” meaning all agencies involved in the investigation will be looking at every possible aspect of the accident and every “probable cause” scenario from mechanical failure to human factors.
It then becomes a process of elimination, with each respective agency released when findings eliminate their area of interest.
For example, if it is determined that the engines were performing perfectly and are not a factor, then Pratt & Whitney will end their involvement.
Critical to the investigation are two pieces of mechanical equipment that did survive this crash intact. First is the DFDR, or Digital Flight Data Recorder – the proverbial “black box” (even though it is actually painted bright red-orange). This device records hundreds of parameters of data, and gives detailed evidence of control surface inputs and movement, power settings, and all changes in attitude, airspeed, and altitude. It provides a detailed three-dimensional “road map” of every second of the flight up to the moment of impact and until the aircraft comes to rest.
The second device is the CVR, or Cockpit Voice Recorder, which captures the final 30 minutes of conversation between the pilots onboard the airliner, as well as all Air Traffic Control personnel who communicated with the aircraft.
Additional valuable information is provided by listening to, and analyzing various sounds inside the cockpit, such as warning horns, and even the sequence of specific switches being activated on various control panels.
All that is known so far is that the Asiana Boeing 777-22ER experienced an abnormally high sink rate prior to striking the sea wall at the approach end of runway 28 Left.
Now it’s up to the experts to determine why.


Design of aircraft is rarely a crash factor

Loss of control in-flight and runway overruns, typically in bad weather –not aircraft design – continue to be the biggest factors in air crashes in the first six months of 2013.

While last year was the safest year ever for flying according to the International Air Transport Association with only 15 fatal airline accidents with 414 fatalities the aviation industry is working on programs to reduce the rate further.*

But this year –so far – is even safer with only 6 major accidents with 46 fatalities for airlines and charter operators.

Commenting on the figures Editor Geoffrey Thomas said that where once aircraft design was a factor this is rarely the case today.

“This safety report builds on our ‘Best and worst crash rates’ feature published on June 18, 2013,” said Mr Thomas.

“Relating to that report it is important to clarify that an aircraft’s crash rate has almost nothing to do with the design or quality of the aircraft.”

“Intending passengers should look more at the operator’s safety rating and then how and where they operate the aircraft – not necessarily the aircraft itself,” said Mr Thomas 

“Take aircraft such as the twin-engine LET410 and Twin Otter turboprop which have been involved in some accidents over recent years but none were related to the design of the aircraft. In fact the L410 has not been involved in any incidents or accidents this year,” said Mr Thomas.

“In fact the latest models the rugged LET410 UVP-E20 and L420, being in production since 1990 have an excellent safety record and have been certified by many authorities including those in Australia, the US and Europe.

“These aircraft [LET410] have made a name for themselves on the continent of Africa with their remarkable “hot and high” performance, excellent Short Take-off and Landing capabilities, durable structure and their ability to operate under extreme climatic conditions,” said Mr. Thomas.

“Crash rates for aircraft must be treated with extreme caution as aircraft such as the LET410 and Twin Otter operate where most aircraft cannot and provide critical lifelines to communities in rugged mountainous regions and jungles almost always onto grass or gravel runways.”

It is also important to look carefully at the model of the aircraft. For instance the airline industry differentiates when major upgrades occur such as with the 737 and DC-9 designs that date to the 1960s.

Early models of the Boeing 737 and DC-9 have a higher crash rates than later versions which have had extensive systems upgrades as technology improves and industry wide safety lessons are learnt.

According to Boeing data the earliest 737 series has a crash rate of .88 per one million departures, while the next series upgraded models have a rate of .26, while the latest series the 737NG has a rate of just .15.

“It is the same with the LET410 series,” said Mr Thomas

“The latest models are not to be compared with earlier versions from the 1970s and the manufacturer Czech based Aircraft Industries is now developing the new LET410NG which features a glass cockpit and General Electric H80 engines.

*IATA’s data is based on twin-engine turbine aircraft above 5,700kg for turboprops and 15,000kg for jets. adopts the same standards.


Air New Zealand reveals 787-9

Air New Zealand is to operate the revolutionary Boeing 787 with economy sleeper seats to Shanghai and Tokyo from mid next year as it strives to offer a seamless international passenger product.

Other destinations such as Perth and Honolulu will follow.

The airline, which has won numerous awards for its seat designs, is the launch customer for the larger 787-9, the first of which will roll off the Boeing production line next month.

The 787-9 carries 40 more passengers than the standard 787-8 and has longer range.

Air New Zealand’s 787-9s will have Business Premier lie-flat bed, a new Premium Economy seat with a 41 inch seat pitch, the economy sleeper seats dubbed the Sky Couch and standard economy seats.

The airline’s Sky Couch is a set of three economy seats that converts into a bed and is ideal for a parent with two children or a couple.

Currently the Sky Couch seats are only available on the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER services from Auckland to Los Angeles and London.

Boeing has now returned all 787s to service after the lifting of the grounding related to a problem with its lithium ion batteries.

There are now 60 787s in operation and Boeing has orders for 920.

Boeing ‘s VP 787 Development Mark Jenks told that the 787 – the battery issue notwithstanding – is performing well.

“And we are getting really positive feedback from passengers” said Mr Jenks.

After years of delays related to production problems Mr Jenks said that Boeing has overcome all the delays and the 787-9 is to running to the – revised – schedule.

Airlines are clamoring for deliveries of the 787 because of its passenger appeal.

Last year All Nippon Airways polled its passengers on the 787 and found that over 90 per cent said the plane met or exceeded expectations.

Key to the glowing feedback is the strength and non-corrosive properties of the 787’s reinforced carbon-fiber fuselage which has enabled designers to eliminate some of the significant factors which cause jet lag.

The 787 has a pressurization altitude of just 6000ft instead of the typical 8,000ft where passengers may experience mild altitude sickness with headaches and swelling of the extremities.

Boeing is also able to increase the humidity on the 787 reducing dehydration.

The 787 is also fitted with High Efficiency Particulate Filters (HEPA) to eliminate airborne particles known as volatile organic compounds which are alcohol, perfume and hair spray vapors.

The new filtration system also removes allergens, bacteria and viruses.


Is running an airline a game?

In just a few days KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, will launch the KLM Game, an online 3D strategic game.

You can experience the complexity of running an airline: choose your destinations, invest in aircraft and design your airports as times and technologies change.

While you might make a mess of running the airline you are sure to do a far better job of designing an airport than many that we have to endure.

According to the game, “Aviation Empire” is quite robust for a free game.

“The game will give any frequent flyer the opportunity to toy with the inner workings of the airline industry and, using social media as a launch pad, it will host a community of ‘airline CEOs’ trying to fly high in the competitive industry.

“Players can run their virtual airline, themed after the Royal Dutch fleet, on both iOS and Android mobile devices,” said Jaunted. 

The game launches or should we say takes off on June 27th but you can register now.

There is a teaser video that, while giving nothing away, will have you intrigued.

Register here;

Missile may have caused TWA crash

A documentary set to air next month on the 17th anniversary of the crash that killed 230 people will “prove that the officially proposed fuel-air explosion did not cause the crash,” the filmmaker said in a statement.

The six “also provide radar and forensic evidence proving that one or more ordnance explosions outside the aircraft caused the crash. They do not speculate about the source or sources of the ordnance explosions.”

Numerous witnesses had reported seeing a streak of light and a fireball when the plane exploded, leading some to fear the aircraft had been struck by a rocket or missile before it came down over Long Island shortly after takeoff from John F Kennedy airport.

The National Transportation Safety Board ruled out terrorism and said the crash probably resulted from an explosion in the plane’s centre fuel tank due to an electrical short circuit in a fuel gauge wire aboard the Boeing 747.

The former investigators “were not allowed to speak to the public or refute any comments made by their superiors and/or NTSB and FBI officials about their work at the time of the official investigation,” the filmmaker said.

“They waited until after retirement to reveal how the official conclusion by the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) was falsified and lay out their case in a new original documentary film.”

The six are also filing a petition with the NTSB to reopen the probe.

The NTSB said in a statement it was aware of the documentary and would consider the request.

Samoa Air introduces XL seats

Samoa Air the first airline to charge passengers by weight is to introduce what it terms “executive row”, with extra space and no armrests, to seat its largest passengers.

The airline, with a motto of “a kilo is a kilo is a kilo” hit the news last year when it announced its pay-by-weight policy.

Chief executive Chris Langton told ABC News in Australia that the airline was “in the process of changing the space between the seats. What we’ve done is create what we call the executive row, where they’ve got an extra 14 inches (35cm) between the seats. There’s also a ramp so people have easier access. They’ve got added space as there’s no [arm] rest between the seats. It’s basically like a two- or three-person sofa.”

Passenger fares range from $1a kg for the weight of traveller and baggage on Air Samoa’s shortest route, to about $4 a kg on the longest to American Samoa.

The growing size of passengers is causing headaches for airlines.

In 2000, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine estimated that the increasing weight of passengers was costing US airlines $275 million for the additional 300 million gallons of fuel required to lift the extra pounds.

With fuel costing four times as much today that figure could be over $1 billion.

But it’s not just a US or Samoan problem the World Heath Organization says that today more people – 2 billion – are overfed than malnourished.

In 2005 the US regulator the Federal Aviation Authority average male passenger weight figures for payload calculations were adjusted upwards from 185lbs to 200lbs. Female weights also climbed from 145 to 179lbs.

And the problem is ending up in the courts. In 2002, Virgin Atlantic Airways paid out $20,000 to a female passenger after she alleged that she suffered serious medical complications including a blood clot after sitting next to an overweight passenger. 

And downunder the bronze Aussie is turning into a myth with over 50 per cent of women and 70 per cent of men overweight or obese. Those numbers have doubled in the past 20 years.

Compounding the problem the population is getting taller. According to R. W. Howard’s “Interrelating Broad Population Trends,” the world’s population grew 7 cm. from 1945 to 2000. understands that the only airline, apart from Samoa Air, with a clear policy on “passengers of size” is Southwest Airlines in the US. Its policy, which has been tested in court, states that if a passenger does not fit into a 17 inch wide seat two seats must be purchased. However if the plane is not full the passenger gets a refund.

In 2002 that policy drew some unfortunate publicity on US late night television with comedians suggesting that at least the passenger would get two meals.


Flight lands safely after poisoning scare

United seeks 10,000 pilots


An FBI spokesman says the man stood up during the flight Monday to make the claim but that there is no indication that any passengers were poisoned. United Airlines says Flight 116 continued as scheduled after the man made the statement.

A passenger from another plane at the terminal says a heavy police contingent greeted the flight’s arrival at Newark Liberty Airport.

University of San Francisco student Merrill Amos tells The Associated Press than more than a couple dozen police and emergency vehicles were on the tarmac. She says she saw a staircase pulled up to the plane and an ambulance nearby.

“He wasn’t passed-out limp, but he looked very sluggish,” Ms Amos said.

Safest aircraft revealed, the world’s first airline safety and product rating website has found that the numerous aircraft can boast a perfect safety record. which rates 425 airlines for both safety and product has completed a comprehensive analysis of the crash records of 55 different aircraft in active service.

Editor Geoffrey Thomas said that had only looked at the records for the last ten years as they were relevant to today’s travelers.

“Aircraft such as the 777, A380, A340, 717 and 787 have never had a fatality,” said Mr Thomas

“We have used the Boeing database which is an industry standard and supplemented that with our own records and those of and Ascend,” he said. 

Statistics 2003-2012


Best safety record

Boeing 777                                0

Boeing 717                                0

Airbus A380                               0

Airbus A340                               0

Boeing 787                                0

Boeing 767/757                          0

Embraer 135/145                        0    

CRJ 700/1000                            0

Airbus’ answer to the Boeing 787 takes to the air

Like the 787 the twin-engine A350 is of all composite construction which enables the manufacturer to make significant improvements to passenger comfort.

Typically aircraft are pressurized to an altitude of 2800m which gives some passengers mild altitude sickness with impacts such as mild headaches.

However, because the 787 and A350 are made of composite structure which is stronger than aluminium the pressurization can be increased to the equivalent of a 2000m altitude removing the impact of altitude sickness.

And composite structure does not corrode so the humidity can be increased thus reducing the impact of dehydration.

The A350 can fly up to 15,000km.

There are three models with capacity between 270 in a three-class international configuration for the A350-800 to 550 in the largest model the -1000 with an all economy layout.

First deliveries will be to Qatar Airways in 2014.

Airbus has sold 615 A350s, while Boeing has sold almost 900 787s.

The A350 opens a new chapter in Airbus’ 43 year history.

Equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent XWB turbofans, the A350 XWB first flight took place over south western France.

An international crew of six was on board, comprising two Flight Test Pilots, one Test Flight Engineer and three Flight Test Engineers.

At the controls of the A350 XWB’s first flight are Peter Chandler, Airbus’ Chief Test Pilot, and Guy Magrin, Project Pilot for the A350 XWB.

Accompanying them in the cockpit is Pascal Verneau, the A350 XWB Project Test Flight Engineer.

At their flight test stations in the main aircraft cabin and monitoring the progress of the flight via an extensive array of flight test instrumentation are the three flight test engineers: Fernando Alonso, Head of Airbus Flight & Integration Test Centre; Patrick du Ché, Head of Development Flight Tests; and Emanuele Costanzo, lead Flight Test Engineer for the Trent XWB engine.

This first flight marks the beginning of a test campaign totaling around 2,500 flight hours with a fleet of five development aircraft.

The rigorous flight testing will lead to the certification of the A350-900 variant by the European EASA and US FAA airworthiness authorities, prior to entry into service in the second half of 2014 with first operator Qatar Airways.


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