All posts tagged 'pilots' - Page 4

UPS cargo plane crash in Dubai hits close to home for us

When a life is lost in a plane crash, we in the aviation community often take an added degree of concern compared to the general population. We understand acutely that the loss affects families and friends intertwined into our own social circles.

As members of this profession, we share a tight-knit group.

We, too, may have had an equipment issue in the cockpit or a close call on a landing before. We count our lucky stars that we walked away. Though these incidents are rare compared to the number of hours flown, we still take notice alertly when such mishaps occur. When lives are lost, the news still stings us with sadness.

No matter how much one prepares, things still can go wrong. When tragedy strikes, we lean upon each other and search for ways to prevent it from happening again.

Such events especially bring sorrow to our hearts when they happen close to home.

Last week’s crash of a UPS cargo plane that killed two in Dubai, though on the other side of the world, brings pain directly to the neighborhoods in which our coworkers live here in Louisville, Ky.

According to news reports, a Boeing-747 cargo plane turned back toward Dubai shortly after takeoff, reporting smoke in the cockpit. Soon after, the control tower there lost sight of the aircraft on radar and it went down.  

One of the two men at the controls, Doug Lampe, a 15-year veteran for UPS, called this city home. He attended Southeast Christian, the largest church in the community that counts among its members some of our fellow employees and their families. [more]

"It affects our whole community,” Dave Stone, senior minister at Southeast Christian, told The Courier-Journal, our local newspaper. “UPS is woven throughout the fabric of Louisville, so everybody hurts."

UPS is the largest private employer here, thus many fellow Louisvillians golfed, worked and worshipped with Lampe. Today, we too mourn with our city and our fellow aviators.

We extend condolences to the Lampe family, as well as the family of first officer Matthew Bell, of Sanford, Fla.

Additionally, as with all other crash investigations, we wish for answers to be found and potential problems to be resolved.

Company officials noted in a release that regular maintenance and a recent inspection shown no problems in the 2007 model aircraft. The company and the NTSB are sending inspectors to join investigative crews from the United Arab Emirates.

Though they cannot bring back these two accomplished pilots, we hope they can find resolution to help prevent us from losing others.

No pilot wants to be escorted by fighter jets: What to know about TFRs

Current TFR for Martha's Vineyard. Courtesy

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the level of security among aviation operations and presidential visits has increased sizably, and understandably so. In turn, the actions from time to time have affected the general aviation community.

Following the terror attacks that day, the FAA grounded all air traffic. Four hijacked commercial aircraft forever changed the way we look at our nation’s security and the way we regulate our sky.

These security measures sometimes present new problems for private pilots. Whereas a TFR was mostly a bowl of unknown alphabet soup to many who stayed close to home and flew VFR a decade ago, it now can lead to serious consequences in any corner of the country if you fly at the wrong place at the wrong time.

No pilot wants to end up in the same situation as Charles “Lee” Daily.

Daily piloted the Cessna 180 floatplane this week that entered a presidential TFR. NORAD scrambled a pair of F-15s from the 142nd Fighter Wing Division of the Oregon Air National Guard, near Portland, to respond the Seattle area, where President Obama was visiting. [more]

The two planes broke the sound barrier, and thousands of residents heard the resulting two loud booms that registered on the Richter scale in western Washington. Phone lines jammed as scores of concerned citizens called 911 dispatchers to report what sounded to them like an explosion.

Those who didn’t hear the sonic boom immediately were later treated to another sort of noise: Widespread coverage of the mishap on local news broadcasts, where the pilot called the incident “a simple, stupid mistake” on his part.

NORAD spokesman Lt. Desmond James said more than 3,000 jets responded to possible air threats in the continental United States since Sept. 11, 2001. Aircraft have flown more than 57,000 sorties supporting domestic defense initiatives during the same timeframe.

The commanding officer of the responding Air National Guard unit told local reporters that the sonic boom resulted as the F-15s flew over a less populated area, after the pilots received clearance for supersonic speed to deliver “the fastest response possible.”

As far as how or why the jets received clearance for a response that included supersonic speeds, James said NORAD cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. Some things that personnel consider when making such decisions include the type of aircraft voilating restricted airspace, the elevation, location, speed and direction of travel, and whether or not the pilot is in contact with aviation authorities.

So what is the best way to avoid being this situation? 

As of now, it is ultimately up to an individual pilot not to end up like the Seattle floatplane pilot, stuck unknowingly in the 10-mile no-fly zone for general aviation at the center of a TFR. The AOPA issued a statement this week noting the work amongst the GA community to ensure private pilots avoid such mishaps.

“This incident demonstrates how a careless mistake can have far-reaching consequences,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of operations and international affairs. “When one pilot makes the news for violating a TFR, it can set back progress we’ve made on improving access for the hundreds of thousands who haven’t.”

We, as well, do our best here at to provide the best information to aviators in the most accessible way possible.

Avoid TFRs by frequently checking this link to get up-to-date listings from the FAA. Also search for local airport information and check current NOTAMs by clicking on the appropriate tab in our Airport Resource Center.

Those in the Martha’s Vineyard area of the Massachusetts peninsula currently are under a TFR, as the president and his family vacation there this week. Last year marked the first presidential vacation in the area since Sept. 11, 2001. Some aviation businesses, such as that of a scenic biplane tour operator, expected large economic losses during that period last year. Strengthening security by restricting airspace can sometimes leave unhappy people at smaller airports.

Throughout the past three decades, TFRs generally have become more frequent and, certainly in the last decade, more restrictive. Yet it is something with which we all must comply. In order not to see that fighter jet on your wing, we highly recommend looking out for TFRs well before completing your pre-flight checklist.

Presidential TFRs, for the sake of security, ofen do not get posted until 24 to 48 hours before they take affect.  

Let us know what you thought of the situation in Seattle. What do you think can be done better to ensure every private pilot is aware of what is going on around his or her home airport? At what point in the flight-planning process do you check for TFRs? Weigh in by posting a comment below.

Will Congress Ever Pass the FAA Reauthorization Bill?

Congress is still not getting the job done with the FAA Reauthorization bill.

In previous posts  on Plane Conversations I have discussed the issues surrounding all of the different provisions of the bill and why it still hasnt passed into law.

I still don’t know why Congress has to pile in all these controversial provisions that deal with Unionization of FedEx and landing slots at a couple airports into a major funding bill that has been in a stall for years.

The only reason I can think of is good old fashioned politics and game playing on the hill, and in the mean time issues with safety, upgrade of a severely outdated air traffic control infrastructure and long term funding to run the FAA gets postponed again.   

If those of us who run businesses and make payroll every week ran our business like these guys do business on “The Hill” we would have been out of business a long time ago.

Reporting from the Los Angeles Times by Julia Love, Tribune Washington Bureau in a July 30 article:

 Responding to the deaths of 50 people in the crash last year of a Continental Airlines flight near Buffalo, N.Y., Congress passed legislation Friday requiring increased training and experience for regional airline pilots.
The House passed the measure, which also extends Federal Aviation Administration funding, on a voice vote just before midnight Thursday, and the Senate approved identical legislation Friday morning. No member of either chamber objected.
The legislation requires all airline pilots to log at least 1,500 hours of flight time before flying passengers, up from the current 250-hour minimum for newly hired copilots. The bill also boosts training, mandates the creation of a national database of pilot records and aims to reduce pilot fatigue by directing the FAA to update rules on pilot duty hours.

So under political pressure from the families who suffered loss from the crash in Buffalo congress has passed a special bill dealing with pilot requirements and training for airlines.

 The target for the FAA long term funding reauthorization is now set for September 30.

 Any bets on whether they get it done before election time in November?

The Statistical Analysis of 'Old and Bold Pilots'

A morbid and unwanted world record is the one that which is awarded to an aviation disaster, based upon the number of people that were killed as victims of this event. Tenerife Airport, in the Canary Islands is still the unfortunate holder of this record. I won't go into the gory details other than to remind you that two tourist-loaded B747's collided on a fogbound runway in 1977. Five hundred and eighty-three perished. It can be argued that the World Trade Centre attacks constitute the largest aviation disaster where more than 4,500 unfortunate souls perished on September 11th, 2001.


It has been said by several accident investigators, that it takes between 6 and 9 separate breakdowns, failures, lapses, mistakes, etc to all coincide (i.e. To all occur to together) before disaster can strike (excluding Terrorism.) I have always been intrigued by this number, and therefore thought that we could explore this claim, together both as a reader, and as a writer, therefore here goes:


It appeared to me that the very best place to get these statistics was from the National Transportation Safety Boards’ own website, at their “query” page for the ‘Accident Database & Synopsis’ archive. Go to the following site:


Once there, I only concentrated on ‘Fatal’ accidents that have been investigated, and concluded by the issuance of a ‘Final Report.’ My search was limited to 2009, therefore all of the following are separate ‘Fatal’ aircraft accidents that include my count of causal factors:


December 2009 fatal accident involving an Aztec: Low time pilot, no weather briefing, night time, low ceilings, reduced visibility, uncontrolled airport, gusty winds, no instrument approach, and no runway lights. = 9 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


Another in December: an A36 Bonanza: Elderly pilot, early AM before dawn, low ceilings, fog, poor runway markers, off- course on a Gnav approach.

= 6 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


November accident involving a Moore Skybolt: Low time pilot, showing off to friends, low altitude, slow speed, high bank angle, high nose up attitude.

= 6 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


October accident involving a restored Aeronca: pilot with heart condition (stint installed), sunset-sun in eyes, low level, low speed, and abrupt maneuvering.

= 6 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


Another October accident involved a Robinson R22: Low time pilot, early AM/dark, fatigue, prescription medicine, history of alcoholism, and falsification of records.

= 6 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


A September accident of a Cessna 182 involved fog, a low ceiling, special VFR clearance, rapidly deteriorating weather conditions and prescription medicine.

= 6 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


Another September accident involved two aircraft in a midair collision, a Cessna 152 and a Piper Cherokee 180: Simulated instrument practice with a student look out, foreign language/poor English, busy training area, and poor radio procedures.

= 4 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


In August a Boeing E75 Bi-plane crashed under the following circumstances: the weather conditions were very hot, and the terrain was high above sea level; the pilot was lost (attempting to map read) and had his head in the

 cockpit rather than outside watching for high-terrain, the engine was not producing enough power to clear terrain and a subsequent wing stall.

= 5 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


A post independence day accident in July involving a Czech built ex military jet trainer/attack L-29 crashed during a formation sortie with similar aircraft. The fatal parameters involved were as follows: Low altitude and prescription medicines.

= 2 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


In May an Aero Commander 500 was lost after dual engine failure, caused by the following factors: a faulty fuel indication system, fuel exhaustion, and the decision to turn back to the runway after the engines failed.

= 3 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


A crash of a Cessna 421 Golden Eagle was caused by several preventable factors, which were: Agitation of the pilot, inaccurate and sloppy addition of engine oil to the RH engine, and loose/worn exhaust flange mounts. The RH engine caught fire on climb out. The pilot was 80 years old and suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning due to the in-flight fire. = 4 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


In March a Grumman American AA1B hit terrain in a mountainous region because of: a low time pilot, consumption of alcohol, heavy rain and heavy snow fall, failure to obtain a weather briefing, and inadvertent flight into IMC in darkness.

= 6 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


February brought the industry the controversial issue of flight experience averages of pilots employed within the commuter airline business when a Colgan Air DHC-8 crashed in Buffalo, New York. Even though many readers are very familiar with the circumstances of this accident, it is still worth reviewing what they were, along with how many were involved to culminate in this tragedy: Crew experience, fatigue, night IFR, failure to respond to stall stick shaker alarm, inappropriate flap use, and low speed flight at low altitude. = 7 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


Finally (no pun whatsoever is intended here), we examine the January accident that involved a corporate-2 crew flown 690 Aero Commander: Heavy icing conditions, over gross take-off weight, and out of balance c of g.

= 3 Breakdowns/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes


After collating the Breakdown/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes numbers, the following pattern emerges:


14 separate ‘Case-Closed’ events chosen (unfortunately there are many more listed at the NTSB Website.)


The total number of Breakdown/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes equaled 73.


Therefore 73/14 = 5.2; or…


For every Fatal Aircraft Accident, here in the U.S.A., on average it takes five (5) Breakdown/Failures/Lapses/Mistakes for the accident to occur.


Don’t let this lull you into a false sense of security, because in some of the older cases that I read, it only took one (1) Breakdown, Failure, Lapse or Mistake for the accident to happen.


Physiologically for me, it was quite harrowing, I must say, to have read about all of these horrific reports detailing ‘death and destruction’ in an aircraft. I hope that your sleeping improves over-time after visiting the NTSB site.


As an unknown pilot once stated: “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots but there are no old, bold pilots.”

Aviation News Rundown: India crash update, near-miss incidents scrutinized further


The Associated Press reports this morning that Saturday’s Air India crash at an airport in Mangalore may have been caused by pilot error. A Boeing 737 overran a runway and slid into a ravine, killing 158 of 166 crewmembers and passengers.

The NTSB sent a team of investigators to cooperate in determining the cause of the India crash, deadliest in that country in more than a decade. A report from an Indian news agency says ‘nothing was wrong’ with the airport, which has a tabletop runway. Airport officials said pilots certified to fly into Mangalore are well aware of its conditions. Weather reportedly was clear and calm.

The Wall Street Journal reports that federal regulators are stepping up investigation efforts following a recent spike of near misses. The FAA has looked into more than a half-dozen incidents in the past half year, according to the WSJ article.

Could this become the Hyundai or Kia of the sky?  Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) expects to complete its first KC-100 light piston aircraft by the end of the year with deliveries beginning in 2013. The company hopes to receive certification in the U.S. and Europe for the four-seater.

Finally, it was a rough weekend for two pilots in two parts of the country in separate incidents.

Police arrested an Arkansas pilot after landing on a beach near Savanna, Ga. What began as a pleasure trip for Mark Jensen and his mother ended with his arrest. He now faces charges of reckless conduct and operating a motorized craft on the beach.

In Centennial, Colo., pilot Richard Steinmeir could not get the engine on his Cessna 182 started, so he attempted to start the prop manually. It fired up sure enough. The Skylane became a runaway plane on the airfield. Steinmeir suffered minor injuries attempting to stop it. The Cessna flipped over after traveling about 1,000 feet. The aircraft was a total loss.    

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