All posts tagged 'ntsb' - Page 2

The Fight for Santa Monica Airport - A Timeline

"The Spirit of Santa Monica," was donated to the city by the Museum of Flying and was fully restored, and is on display at the Santa Monica Airport. The monument stands as a tribute to the legendary aircraft builder Donald Wills Douglas, Sr. and the company he founded, Douglas Aircraft Company – the city’s largest employer for 50 years. This photo can be found among many others at the Santa Monica Airport website.

Recent events regarding the future of the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) have played out across the news and websites of aviation organizations NBAA, AOPA and FAA. I went back in the archives of online news reports to build a timeline of events that have led to the recent federal court’s ruling.


June 2, 2011 - The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) today welcomed an announcement that City of Santa Monica officials would not contest a federal court's ruling that the city could not ban "Category C and D" aircraft from Santa Monica Airport (SMO). The council's announcement, made earlier this week, follows a January 21 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in favor of a decision by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the city's most recent attempt to ban the aircraft amounted to "unjust and unreasonable" discrimination and violated the terms of a grant agreement for accepting federal funds for the airport.

The controversy dates to 2008, when Santa Monica city officials adopted a ban against the Category C and D jets from serving SMO, on alleged safety grounds.The city's move was immediately challenged by the FAA, which ruled that the airport did not have the authority to impose the ban, and disallowed it from taking effect until the FAA could further consider the matter, with a decision from the agency being subject to a federal court appeal. Link to Details


May 7, 2013 - The Santa Monica City Council directed city staff to continue exploring options for the future of the Santa Monica Airport, including the possible impacts of a partial or complete closure. In a unanimous vote, council members voted to focus on finding ways to reduce airport noise, air pollution and safety risks through revised leasing policies, voluntary agreements and restrictions. City staff were also directed to continue to assess the potential risks and benefits of a full or partial closure of the airport.

Early on in the meeting, City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie outlined the city's legal options in the exploration of the future of the Santa Monica Airport. She said city staff met with representatives from the FAA to convey community sentiment about noise, safety and air quality, but did not reach a deal. Moutrie said the city owns the airport, but the city's choices are limited by federal law and several agreements, adding that the FAA has both legislative and judicial powers. The city believes its agreement with the FAA expires in 2015, while the FAA maintains the date is 2023. Link to Details


September 29, 2013 - A Cessna Citation CJ2 veered off the right side of Runway 21 after landing at Santa Monica (Calif.) Airport at 6:20 p.m. PDT. The twinjet struck a hangar and was destroyed by fire. The pilot of the plane that crashed at Santa Monica Airport, killing all four people aboard, reported no problems prior to the landing, and the plane's tires were fully inflated, despite early speculation that a blown tire may have sent the aircraft careening into a hangar, according to a preliminary report. The hangar collapsed onto the plane, which had taken off from Hailey, Idaho.

"Witnesses reported observing the airplane make a normal approach and landing," according to the NTSB report. "The airplane traveled down the right side of the runway, eventually veering off the runway, impacted the 1,000-foot runway distance remaining sign, continued to travel in a right-hand turn and impacted a hangar structural post with the right wing. The airplane came to rest inside the hangar and the damage to the hangar structure caused the roof to collapse onto the airplane. A post-accident fire quickly ensued.'' Link to Details


October 31, 2013 - In the wake of September's deadly jet crash, Santa Monica officials sued the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday to gain control of the city's embattled airport, which local groups want to turn into a park. Filed in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles, the lawsuit seeks a declaration that the city holds clear title to the 227 acres containing the oldest continuously operating airport in the county. It also challenges the constitutionality of a 1948 agreement between the city and federal authorities that requires the historic property and its 5,000-foot runway to remain an airport in perpetuity or be returned at the option of the FAA to the U.S. government.

If the city is successful, there is concern among aviation organizations that it might alter the status of former military airports around the nation and encourage attempts to close some of them.

FAA officials declined to comment, saying that as a matter of policy they do not discuss pending litigation. The agency's long-held position is that the city must operate the airport through 2023 under assurances it gave in exchange for federal airport improvement grants. The FAA also has asserted that Santa Monica is further obligated to keep the airport open well beyond 2023 because it acquired the much improved airfield after World War II under terms of the federal Surplus Property Act. FAA officials have said in the past that they are committed to preserving the federal investment and keeping the airport open. Link to Details


Feb. 10, 2014 – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) today joined in filing a brief of amicus curiae supporting a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) motion to dismiss the latest effort to close the historic airfield.

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen called the battle over SMO a "bellwether moment" in preserving other vital general aviation (GA) airfields across the country. "Santa Monica's latest attempt to close its community airport carries very serious ramifications for the continued viability of our nation's general aviation airports," he added. "It is imperative that the FAA maintain jurisdiction over SMO, and other essential airports that our Members rely upon for convenient access to communities across the United States."

The FAA countered last month that any questions over which entity holds the title to SMO must be settled under terms of the Quiet Title Act, which requires such lawsuits to be filed within 12 years following learning of the federal government’s interest in the property. That first occurred, the agency asserted, when both parties agreed in August 1948 to return control of the airfield to the city. Link to Details


Feb. 13, 2014 - A federal judge ruled in favor of the position advocated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), namely that the city’s challenge to the requirement that Santa Monica Airport (SMO) continue to be a publicly-accessible airport was untimely. Link to Details


Mar. 25, 2014 - Marsha Moutrie, City Attorney, and Martin Pastucha, Director of Public Works for the City of Santa Monica, prepared a report that offered several options to restrict operations at SMO. Recommended option included directing staff to begin positioning the City for possible closure of all or part of the Santa Monica Airport ("Airport") after July 1, 2015, including, for instance, by preparing a preliminary conceptual plan for a smaller airport that excludes the Airport's western parcel and by preparing preliminary work plans for environmental assessment. The CA City Council voted 6 to 0 to pursue further restrictions. Link to Report Details

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen replied, "It is clear that, despite a significant, recent legal setback, the council has voted to renew its efforts to restrict services at an important general aviation airport," Bolen said. "For decades, NBAA and others in the general aviation community have fought to preserve access to this airport, in the face of ongoing opposition by the city council. This is a battle we must and will continue to fight." Read the complete response from the NBAA at this Link to Details


For a more detailed overall history of the airport, check out their history page here.

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

NTSB No Longer "Bound By" FAA's Choice Of Sanction

As you may be aware, the Pilot's Bill of Rights mandated changes to the way FAA enforcement cases are handled by the NTSB. One of the significant changes to the conduct of hearings relates to the deference the administrative law judge ("ALJ") must give to the FAA's choice of sanction (e.g. suspension versus revocation). Before the Pilot's Bill of Rights, 49 U.S.C. 44703(d)(2) provided that the NTSB was

"bound by all validly adopted interpretations of laws and regulations the [FAA] administrator carries out and of written agency policy guidance available to the public related to sanctions to be imposed under this section unless the Board finds an interpretation is arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not according to law."

And prior to the Pilot's Bill of Rights the NTSB had, in fact, consistently held that it was bound by (1) the FAA's choice of sanction derived from the Sanction Guidance Table contained in FAA Order 2150.3B and (2) previous cases approving the FAA's choice of sanction for particular types of violations.

The Pilot's Bill of Rights expressly eliminated this "bound by" language. The NTSB is no longer required to simply accept the sanction proposed by the FAA in an enforcement case. Rather, the NTSB is permitted to select what it believes to be the appropriate sanction based upon the facts of the cases and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances. However, the Pilot's Bill of Rights did not address what impact this change in language might have on the Board's reliance upon prior case law and precedent. Fortunately, a recent Board decision addressed this issue.

In Administrator v. Jones, the Board was reviewing an ALJ's decision in an intentional falsification case in which the ALJ adopted the FAA's time-tested assertion that revocation of all airman certificates is the appropriate sanction in such cases. Consistent with the Pilot's Bill of Rights, the Board initially recognized that it was not bound by the FAA's choice of sanction. It then went on to state that "we are reluctant to engage in sanction comparison to cases decided prior to the enactment of the Pilot's Bill of Rights." Thus, rather than rely upon case law and precedent developed while the NTSB was still subject to the "bound by" requirement, the Board will now perform its own analysis to determine whether the sanction sought by the FAA in a particular case is reasonable and appropriate.

However, it is important to understand that this does not change the deference the Board must give an administrative agency's interpretation of its regulations and proposed sanctions for violation of those regulations. If the agency's interpretation and choice of sanction is reasonable and not otherwise arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the regulation, the Board must still defer to that position. But, at least the NTSB is no longer required to simply "rubber stamp" the FAA's choice of sanction without performing some analysis as to whether it is reasonable. And that is good news for airmen.

NTSB Determines Fatal Missouri Helicopter Accident Was Caused By Fuel Exhaustion, Poor Decision Making And Inability To Perform Critical Flight Maneuver

WASHINGTON -- A pilot’s decision to depart on a mission despite a critically low fuel level as well as his inability to perform a crucial flight maneuver following the engine flameout from fuel exhaustion was the probable cause of an emergency medical services helicopter accident that killed four in Missouri, the National Transportation Safety Board said today.

“This accident, like so many others we’ve investigated, comes down to one of the most crucial and time-honored aspects of safe flight: good decision making,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman.

On August 26, 2011, at about 6:41 pm CDT, a Eurocopter AS350 B2 helicopter operated by Air Methods on an EMS mission crashed following a loss of engine power as a result of fuel exhaustion a mile from an airport in Mosby, Missouri. The pilot, flight nurse, flight paramedic and patient were killed, and the helicopter was substantially damaged.

At about 5:20 pm, the EMS operator, located in St. Joseph, Mo., accepted a mission to transport a patient from a hospital in Bethany, Mo., to a hospital 62 miles away in Liberty, Mo. The helicopter departed its base less than 10 minutes later to pick up the patient at the first hospital. Shortly after departing, the pilot reported back to the company that he had two hours’ worth of fuel onboard.

After reaching the first hospital, the pilot called the company’s communication center and indicated that he actually had only about half the amount of fuel (Jet-A) that he had reported earlier, and that he would need to obtain fuel in order to complete the next flight leg to the destination hospital.

Even though the helicopter had only about 30 minutes of fuel remaining and the closest fueling station along the route of flight was at an airport about 30 minutes away, the pilot elected to continue the mission. He departed the first hospital with crew members and a patient in an attempt to reach the airport to refuel.

The helicopter ran out of fuel and the engine lost power within sight of the airport. The helicopter crashed after the pilot failed to make the flight control inputs necessary to enter an autorotation, an emergency flight maneuver that must be performed within about two seconds of the loss of engine power in order to execute a safe emergency landing. The investigation found that the autorotation training the pilot received was not representative of an actual engine failure at cruise speed, which likely contributed to his failure to successfully execute the maneuver.

Further, a review of helicopter training resources suggested that the accident pilot may not have been aware of the specific control inputs needed to successfully enter an autorotation at cruise speed. The NTSB concluded that because of a lack of specific guidance in Federal Aviation Administration training materials, many other helicopter pilots may also be unaware of the specific actions required within seconds of losing engine power and recommended that FAA revise its training materials to convey this information.

An examination of cell phone records showed that the pilot had made and received multiple personal calls and text messages throughout the afternoon while the helicopter was being inspected and prepared for flight, during the flight to the first hospital, while he was on the helipad at the hospital making mission-critical decisions about continuing or delaying the flight due to the fuel situation, and during the accident flight.

While there was no evidence that the pilot was using his cell phone when the flameout occurred, the NTSB said that the texting and calls, including those that occurred before and between flights, were a source of distraction that likely contributed to errors and poor decision-making.

“This investigation highlighted what is a growing concern across transportation – distraction and the myth of multi-tasking,” said Hersman. “When operating heavy machinery, whether it’s a personal vehicle or an emergency medical services helicopter, the focus must be on the task at hand: safe transportation.”

The NTSB cited four factors as contributing to the accident: distracted attention due to texting, fatigue, the operator’s lack of policy requiring that a flight operations specialist be notified of abnormal fuel situations, and the lack of realistic training for entering an autorotation at cruise airspeed.

The NTSB made a nine safety recommendations to the FAA and Air Methods Corporation and reiterated three previously issued recommendations to the FAA.

A synopsis of the NTSB report, including the probable cause, findings and a complete list of the safety recommendations, is available at https://go.usa.gov/TxYT. The full report will be available on the website in several weeks.

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

(202) 314-6100
Peter Knudson
peter.knudson@ntsb.gov

Experimental Helicopter Purchaser Receives Suspension For Registration And Airworthiness Violations


In a recent opinion issued by the National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB"), the Board affirmed the findings of violations issued by an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). The case, Administrator v. Haddock arose following the crash of an experimental helicopter operated by an airman shortly after his purchase of the helicopter. After investigating the accident, the FAA issued an order alleging that the airman had not properly registered the helicopter and, at the time of the accident, the helicopter did not comply with its experimental operating limitations because it did not have a current condition inspection. According to the order, the airman's operation of the helicopter violated FARs 91.403(a) (owner or operator responsible for maintaining aircraft in an airworthy condition), 91.13(a) (prohibiting operation of an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner), and 47.3(b) (prohibiting operation of an aircraft unless registered or using temporary registration). The airman appealed the order to the NTSB and requested a hearing before an ALJ.

After a hearing, the ALJ determined that the prior owner of the helicopter had used the wrong language to indicate he had completed the required condition inspection and thus the ALJ found that the helicopter was not airworthy at the time of the accident. However, the ALJ did not make a specific finding as to whether the airman had relied upon the prior owner's verbal statements to him regarding the condition inspection and the airworthiness of the helicopter. The ALJ also found that the airman hadn't produced any documentation to show that the aircraft registration had actually been submitted to the FAA Registry prior to the accident flight. But the ALJ did reduce the sanction from 90 days to 60 days based upon evidence that the airman had apparently made a “substantial attempt” to register the aircraft.

The airman appealed the ALJ's decision and the Board remanded the case back to the ALJ for more detailed findings on certain issues. The ALJ obliged, and issued an order again affirming the findings of violations, but providing further explanation regarding most of the issues with which the Board was concerned. The airman then appealed the ALJ's order on remand back to the Board.

On appeal, the airman argued that the ALJ erred in determining the helicopter was not properly registered at the time of the accident. He also contended that the ALJ improperly concluded he was responsible for operating the helicopter when it was in an unairworthy condition because the prior owner had, in fact, completed a condition inspection before the accident and he had reasonably relied upon the prior owner's verbal statements to that effect.

With respect to the registration issue, the Board first noted that the ALJ had not addressed its question concerning the paperwork required to register an aircraft pursuant to FAR 47.3(b). However, rather than remanding to the ALJ a second time, the Board relied upon the ALJ's credibility finding in favor of the two FAA inspectors who testified at the hearing to support the Board's own conclusion regarding the documentation required under FAR 47.3(b).

Since one of the inspectors opined the helicopter was not registered to the airman until he sent the registration to the FAA, sometime after the accident, the Board considered that opinion to be an interpretation of FAR 47.3(b) to which it must defer. When it combined that interpretation with the inspector's testimony, which the ALJ found more credible and to which the Board also had to defer, the Board agreed that the pink copy of the application for registration needed to be present in the aircraft on the date of the accident in order for the airman to have complied with the requirements of FAR 47.3(b). As a result, based upon the inspector's testimony that the pink slip was not in the cockpit at the time of the accident, the Board concluded that the helicopter had not been properly registered.

With respect to the airworthiness issue, the Board rejected the airman's defense based upon the doctrine of reasonable reliance. Since the prior owner was neither the airman's copilot nor crew member, as required by that defense, the airman, as owner and operator of the helicopter, had a duty to ensure that the helicopter complied with its type certificate and was in a safe condition for operation.

The Board found that the airman could have "reviewed the maintenance log and compared it with the requirements of the experimental operating limitations applicable to the aircraft, which explicitly provide the language necessary to indicate the aircraft underwent a satisfactory condition inspection." If he had done so, the Board reasoned, he would have discovered that the prior owner had not used the language to properly document a condition inspection. The Board concluded that the airman's reliance upon the prior owner's statements that the helicopter was airworthy was not reasonable under the circumstances and did not excuse his violations of FARs 91.403(a) and 91.13(a).

Conclusion

This decision highlights the responsibility pilots have for confirming the airworthiness of their aircraft before they fly. If pilots, or aircraft buyers, are going to trust representations by others, as the airman did in this case, they will also need to take reasonable steps to confirm those representations. Similarly, aircraft owners need to comply with the requirements of the aircraft registration regulations on a timely basis to ensure proper registration of their aircraft while they are flying. Although the requirements are simple and straightforward, they need to be met to avoid the consequences suffered by the airman in this case.

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