All posts tagged 'Plane Crash'

Is Your Co-Pilot Depressed?


Photo: NIMH

In light of the Germanwings Flight 9525 crash in which one of the pilots locked the other out of the cockpit and then intentionally flew an Airbus A320 into a mountain in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board, the issue of mental health in pilots has resurfaced.

After the captain of the aircraft got up to use the restroom mid-flight, 27-year-old co-pilot Andrews Lubitz locked him out and refused to allow him back in. Then he reportedly programmed the autopilot to descend from an altitude of 38,000 feet down to 100 feet with the intention of crashing into the side of a mountain along the way.

Investigators reportedly found an anti-depressant medication in the apartment of Lubitz, along with other evidence that suggested the Germanwings first offficer was seeing a doctor for depression.

Lubitz had not informed the airline of this most recent bout with depression, but people who knew him have come forward to say that he was suicidal at one point. And, according to an ex-girlfriend, he had a temper. But how could anyone have known that this person could commit such a heinous act?

CNN reported that Lubitz passed an aviation medical exam in 2014, which a Lufthansa official said didn't test mental health. But even if the exam did covered mental health issues in depth, what pilot would admit to depression or mood disorders knowing that he'd lose his job? For many pilots, flying is a life-long dream - a career that they've worked hard for - and to know that depression, suicidal thoughts or a more severe mood disorder would essentially disable them from flying professionally and perhaps even as a hobby, would be a tough pill to swallow. Because they'd lose their jobs, careers, and for many, their livelihood, most pilots who have experienced depression or other symptoms of a mood disorder or mental health issue, will, sadly, fail to report them.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that mental illness is common in the United States. In 2012, according to the NIMH website, about 18.6 percent of adults in the United States had some form of mental illness (not including those related to substance abuse.) Luckily for the traveling public, most of them are not suicidal.

We can probably assume that this statistic carries over to the pilot career profession, although statistics pertaining to pilots with a mental illness won't reflect this same trend due to the nature of the job. We rely on self-reporting procedures, and when a pilot's career is on the line, chances are good that he or she just won't report it.

Eighteen percent of adults in the United States have some sort of diagnosed mental illness. This could be anything from minor depression or social anxiety to bipolar disorder or suicidal behavior. To be more specific, the NIMH says that a Serious Mental Illness (SMI) occurs in about four percent of all adults. A serious mental illness is defined as one that interferes with normal life activities and results in "serious functional impairment."

So, according to these numbers, somewhere between four and 18 percent of people in general have some sort of mental illness. This means that if you're a pilot, up to one out of six pilots you fly with could be suffering from some sort of mental illness. Luckily, very few of these people are also suicidal, and flights continue to operate safely every day.

Germanwings Flight 9525 was, perhaps, a case that could have been prevented. But what's the fix for depression in pilots and the failure to self-report? Better mental health screening for pilots? Better working conditions? A mandate for two pilots in the cockpit at all times? (Most or all U.S. airlines already employ a strategy of this kind, by the way.) Take the human element out of the cockpit altogether?

While we need to do all we can to prevent another tragedy like this from occurring, how far will we go, or how far should we go, to save ourselves from… ourselves? "Better" mental health screening could lead to even less reporting by pilots. Two pilots in the cockpit will help, unless the second physically overtakes the first one. And can we really take the human element out of the equation altogether? Even RPAs - remotely piloted airplanes - are flown by humans on the ground. If one of these pilots were to be suicidal, they could still fly the airplane into a mountain.

Is there a solution to making certain that a suicide mission like Germanwings 9525 doesn't happen again? Or is there a certain element of risk - a low probability/high consequence risk like an aircraft suicide mission- that we must accept as human beings functioning in a world with other human beings? Or is there a happy medium? What are your thoughts?

Should We Keep 121.5 Alive?


Photo: CC BY-SA 3.0

Pilots are trained to use the radio frequency 121.5 in the event of an emergency. Emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) broadcast over 121.5 to notify search and rescue of a downed aircraft. FAA radio facilities, Civil Air Patrol, and often pilots monitor 121.5 as a way to receive distress signals. So why does the FCC, and subsequently the FAA and NTSB, want to ban something simple that could potentially save lives?

The answer lies in the advancement of modern technology – the increased use of the more accurate satellite-based 406 MHz ELT, and the decision of major search and rescue company COSPAS-SARSAT to cease monitoring 121.5 in 2009. But does the introduction of a more reliable system mean that everyone should be required to use it? And should we go so far as to ban the use of an emergency frequency so commonly known to help pilots?

Since 1973, the FAA has required almost all aircraft to have an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) on board. ELTs are small transmitters that emit a signal and provide a way for search and rescue (SAR) to locate a downed airplane, increasing the survival odds for a pilot and passengers. They can transmit on either 121. MHz or 406.025 MHz. It’s commonly known that the 406 MHz ELTs are much more accurate, but a good portion of the general aviation fleet still uses 121.5 MHz ELTs.

121.5 ELTs
Many ELTs commonly used in aviation are designed to transmit an analog signal over the frequency 121.5 when activated, allowing anyone that is monitoring the frequency to hear the distress signal and notify appropriate search and rescue teams. These 121.5 ELTs are inexpensive and simple to use, but they aren’t without their problems.

If an ELT is in the ‘armed’ mode, it will become activated during a crash and transmit a noisy alarm over the frequency 121.5. But sometimes a hard landing will set it off, or it can be accidentally activated during ground operations. More often than not, ELTs are activated in non-emergency situations, and ATC and operators spend a lot of time tracking down false ELT signals. In addition, finding the signal requires homing in to the strength of the signal – a difficult and inaccurate task when the signal accuracy is only limited to about 10 miles.

406 MHz
A 406 MHz ELT transmit a digital signal, which allows for a code to be transmitted along with the distress signal. This code has details about the aircraft, including its registration number and a point of contact.

406 MHz ELTs are more accurate, pinpointing the location of a downed aircraft to within one to three miles, decreasing the potential search area drastically from the of a 121.5 transmitter. And false alerts are less of a problem with 406 MHz ELTs, too, meaning authorities can act immediately upon receipt of a distress signal, instead of spending their time trying to determine if it’s a fake signal or not.

Why Ban 121.5?
It’s easy to see why the 406 MHz ELT is better. What’s less obvious is why we should ban the use of 121.5

The NTSB thinks that the use or 406 MHz ELTs should be mandated. In a 2007 Safety Recommendation letter, the NTSB described the downfall of 121.5 emergency locator transmitters and recommended that the FAA mandate the installation and use of 406 MHz transmitters in all aircraft before major search and rescue organizations COSPAS-SARSAT ceased its monitoring. They NTSB believes that without a mandate, pilots will refuse to upgrade to the 406 MHz units, making it more difficult on search and rescue and possibly creating undue risk.

The FAA agrees, but finds it more difficult to mandate. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has stood strong against the 121.5 ban, saying that it’s too costly for the approximately 200,000 general aviation pilots to upgrade, and that the decision regarding which ELT to use should rest with the pilots themselves.

In the meantime, the FCC is also considering a ban on 121.5 ELTs. In 2013, they opened up a comment period regarding the banning of 121.5 ELTs, and again AOPA opposed in this letter, stating that the FCC needs to leave aviation safety matters to the FAA. It remains to be known if the ban will come into play, but pilots should expect it to happen eventually, and more importantly, for their own safety, pilots should probably just upgrade to the 406 MHz ELT of they haven’t already.

Could - or should - the ban of 121.5 ELTs mean the death of the 121.5 frequency altogether? After all, the frequency is used for more than just ELTs. It’s an emergency frequency in which a pilot can declare an emergency, and it’s still monitiored by FAA facilities, Flight service stations and the civil air patrol. And many pilots still monitor it, which can be helpful to other pilots and ATC if they do hear something on that frequency. And pilots are taught to switch to 121.5 if they’re intercepted for some reason, such as inadvertent flight through a prohibited area.

What do you think? Should we just accept that new technology is better than the old and move on? Or should we fight to keep 121.5 alive?

NTSB To Assist Afghan Authorities With Investigation Into Bagram Cargo Plane Crash

WASHINGTON - The National Transportation Safety Board will lead a team to assist the Afghanistan Ministry of Transportation and Commercial Aviation in the investigation of a cargo plane crash at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator Tim LeBaron will be the U.S. accredited representative. He will lead a team of three additional investigators from the NTSB as well as representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and The Boeing Company.

The private cargo plane, a Boeing 747-400 operated by National Air Cargo, crashed just after takeoff from the U.S.-operated air base at 11:20 a.m. local time Monday. All seven crewmembers onboard were killed and the airplane destroyed. The seven crew members were all American citizens. The accident site is within the perimeter of Bagram Air Base.

The international cargo flight was destined for Dubai World Central - Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The Afghanistan Ministry of Transportation and Commercial Aviation is leading the investigation and will be the sole source of information regarding the investigation. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, they can be reached at (873) 68 2341450 / 49 or by fax at (873) 68 1280784.

Contact Information
Office of Public Affairs
490 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20594

Eric M. Weiss
(202) 314-6100
eric.weiss@ntsb.gov

Singer, Reality Television Star Jenni Rivera Dies in Plane Crash, Brother Says


(CNN)
-- Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera died when the small plane she was traveling in with at least five others crashed in the mountains of northern Mexico, her brother told CNN. [Globalair.com has since discovered that Ms. Rivera was traveling in a Learjet 25.]

Authorities notified the family there were no survivors, Gustavo Rivera said late Sunday. He planned to fly to Mexico early Monday to identify his sister's remains.

There were conflicting reports about the number of people aboard the plane, which took off early Sunday from Monterrey, Mexico, and lost contact with air traffic controllers a short time later.

Rivera said there were six people aboard: his sister, her publicist, her lawyer, a family friend and two pilots. The Civil Aviation Authority of Mexico said there were up to seven people on the plane, though it did not identify those believed to be on board.

The news from Rivera's brother confirmed what authorities would only publicly say they suspected earlier in the day.

"The aircraft was destroyed, totally fragmented," Alejandro Argudin, director general of civil aviation, told CNN affiliate Televisa. He said he believed no one survived the crash.

Rivera was known to fans as "La Diva de la Banda," or The Diva of Banda Music, establishing herself initially as a regional Mexican musical powerhouse with her banda and corridos, or traditional ballad, performances.

In recent years, Rivera had been working to crack the U.S. market and was reportedly on the verge of a crossover with an English-language show inspired by the success of "I Love Jenni," a Spanish-language reality TV show on Telemundo's mun2 network.

"We lost an awesome woman, mother, sister, friend and artist," said her business partner and manager Pete Salgado.

Rivera was beloved by fans as much for her music as her over-the-top lifestyle that was chronicled in "I Love Jenni" on Telemundo.

Born in Long Beach, California, to Mexican immigrant parents, Rivera, 43, released her debut album in 1999, according to her website.

She followed that up with two more albums, including the 2003 album "Farewell to Selena" -- a tribute to slain Tejano star Selena Quintanilla -- that increased her popularity.

Her father, Pedro, and two of her brothers also are well-known performers in Mexico and portions of the Southwestern United States.

Rivera sold 15 million records, according to Billboard. She recently won two Billboard music awards, including favorite Mexican music female artist. She also was nominated for Latin Grammy Awards in 2002, 2008 and 2011.

In October, People en Espanol named Rivera to its list of the 25 most powerful women.

Famous for her music, she is also known for her tumultuous personal life. The singer was a single mom at the age of 15 and is the mother of five, her website said.

In 2009, she made headlines when she was detained at the Mexico City airport with tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

A year later, she made headlines again with the marriage to former baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza, who played for the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In October, she announced she was filing for divorce after less than two years of marriage. It was her third marriage.

"I Love Jenni," which began airing on mun2 last year, featured her life on the road, balancing the duties of motherhood and stardom as she toured Mexico and the United States.

She also was a judge on the popular TV show, "The Voice, Mexico," which was scheduled to air Sunday night. In its place, Televisa said it would air a special report about the singer.

A fellow judge on the show took to Twitter after news of Rivera's disappearance.

"My heart is devastated," wrote Beto Cuevas. "All my prayers are with you, Jenni, and your family."

Rivera had a concert in Monterrey on Saturday night before boarding the Learjet early Sunday.

In those final hours after the concert, Rivera opened up to reporters about her divorce and the inner strength she found, thanks to her family.

"I'm so happy. So many strong things have happened in my life. I can't get up in the negative, which destroys you," she said.

"I have brothers. I have children. I have nephews. And they keep me from focusing on the negative."

Her plane took off from Monterrey at 3:15 a.m., according to a statement from the Transportation Ministry. Its destination was the airport in Toluca, near Mexico City. Air traffic controllers lost contact with it about 60 miles into the flight, the ministry said.

Two helicopters assisting in the search for the plane spotted the wreckage in Mexico's Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range, the ministry said.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, and the ministry is investigating.

Fans and celebrities took to social media to mourn the singer and television star who was known as much for her music as she was sometimes for her over-the-top antics.

"Spent some time with Jenni Rivera recently. What an amazing lady ... Cool, smart, funny & talented. Such a travesty ... God Bless her family," actor Mario Lopez tweeted.

Mexican singing sensation Paulina Rubio was inconsolable on Twitter.

"My friend! Why? There is no consolation. God, please help me!" she tweeted.

Article brought to you by - www.cnn.com

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