Aircraft Accidents - Page 6 Aviation Articles

Sleep Apnea and Flying - A Summary of the Situation

In a recent FAA newsletter, Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Frederick Tilton reported the FAA "will be releasing shortly" a policy requiring that pilots with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater, and a neck size of 17 inches or greater, undergo screening for sleep apnea prior to receiving a medical certificate. Tilton’s newsletter commentary adds that, over time, additional pilots would be required to submit to OSA screening, as the agency lowers the BMI threshold.

Here’s a link to the newsletter:

AOPA and EAA reacted to the announced policy with strongly worded letters "demanding" that it be suspended. They argued that the policy addresses a problem that exceeds the Federal Flight Surgeon’s mandate, could add a financial burden to the pilot community, and hasn’t been proven to exist. AOPA Thursday expressed its support for the House’s legislation and added some choice words. AOPA president Mark Baker said, "The policy change is arbitrary and capricious and doesn’t make sense given the data." AOPA says that a review of ten years of general aviation accident data "found no cases in which sleep apnea was a causal or contributing factor."

Less than a week ago, U.S. House of Representatives aviation subcommittee chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-2 NJ) introduced H.R. 3578 – legislation that would compel the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) "to ensure that any new or revised requirement providing for the screening, testing, or treatment of an airman or an air traffic controller for a sleep disorder is adopted pursuant to a rulemaking proceeding, and for other purposes." "We thank Representative LoBiondo and other House lawmakers for recognizing that a policy of this magnitude must be vetted through the established rulemaking process, which has proven to be effective so many times in the past," NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said. "It is imperative that any new burden on aviators, in this case pilots, be thoroughly analyzed in consultation with stakeholders." LoBiondo’s measure has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Where do you stand on this? If you suffer from sleep apnea, does it impact your performance as a pilot?

UPDATE 12-5-13: The NBAA welcomes the House Committee passage of H.R. 3578 here.

UPDATE 12-9-13: Advanced Aircrew Academy has an excellent blog posting regarding obtaining the special issuance of an FAA Medical with sleep apnea here.

UPDATE 12-10-13: The Civil Aviation Medical Association (CAMA), the professional organization for Aviation Medical Examiners who provide medical certification exams to the nation's pilots, has joined the consensus against the FAA's new sleep apnea policy announced last month. More information on the EAA's website here.

UPDATE 12-11-13: Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Sam Graves (R-MO) introduced a bill in the U.S. House today that seeks to abolish the third-class medical certificate for many pilots who fly recreationally. The General Aviation Pilot Protection Act of 2013, co-sponsored by Reps. Bill Flores (R-TX), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Collin Peterson (D-MN), and Richard Hanna (R-NY), would require pilots who fly recreationally to hold a valid driver's license in lieu of a third-class medical certificate and operate under specific limitations.

UPDATE 12-13-13: During a Dec. 12 webinar presentation to discuss the agency's controversial new OSA-screening proposal with industry stakeholders, Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Frederick Tilton appeared determined to push ahead with the requirements. "If Congress passes a law [forcing industry consultation], we’ll be compliant with it," Tilton said during the webinar. "Until they do so, we will move forward with this." For more on this new development, plus the NBAA's reaction, she their press release here.

UPDATE 12-20-13: The FAA will delay implementation of its new sleep apnea policy planned for next month in order to gather additional input from the aviation and medical community. For more information, as well as the EAA's reaction, click here.

UPDATE 3-6-14: The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) joined a coalition of aviation groups this week in calling for swift passage of U.S. Senate legislation aimed at bringing transparency to any decision by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to implement mandatory testing of pilots and air traffic controllers for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) before receiving a medical certificate.

"As aviation community stakeholders, we are writing to express our support for S.1941, commonsense bipartisan legislation to address the sweeping [FAA] proposal to change the policy on sleep apnea for pilots and air traffic controllers without the benefit of a rulemaking process," reads the March 4 letter to senators. "Further, we wish to express our collective hope that passing this important bill in a timely fashion will be a priority for the U.S. Senate in the coming weeks." Read the coalition's letter in its entirety here.

Preliminary details of UPS crash in Birmingham

David W. Thornton

Yesterday United Parcel Service Flight 1354 crashed while on approach to runway 18 in Birmingham, Al. The crash occurred at approximately 4:45 a.m. Central Time (9:45 Zulu). Both crewmembers died in the crash. The flight originated at the UPS hub in Louisville, KY.

The hourly weather report taken shortly after the crash at 4:53 a.m. (0953Z) indicated few clouds at 1,100 feet with a broken ceiling layer at 3,500 feet. There was an overcast layer at 7,500 feet. Rain was not reported. The wind was reported from 340 degrees at four knots. This would have meant a slight tailwind for a landing on runway 18, but would have likely been within acceptable limits.

GlobalAir.com’s airport directory reports that runway 18 is 7,099 feet long. There are two instrument approaches to runway 18, a GPS approach and a localizer approach. Both approaches would have taken the airplane to a minimum altitude of 600 feet above the ground, which would have been sufficient to clear the lowest cloud layer.

For more information, check out David Thornton’s complete article.

Multi-Agency Effort to Glean Facts on Asiana 777

Today at 2:30 EST, Debbie Hersman, Chairperson of the NTSB conducted an update of the Asiana 777 flight crash at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The crash of the Boeing 777 resulted in two deaths 181 injured people. Forty-nine patients are at area hospitals after surviving the crash. Some of the important points that she made:

• The investigating parties along with the NTSB will be the FAA, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, the Korean Aviation & Rail Association, and Asiana Airlines. Their focus will be on the operations of the aircraft, as well as human performance. The FBI has already provided GPS-based documentation and aerial photos to assist.

• All four pilots on board will be questioned; the Captain that was flying (training to receive his 777 rating), the Training Captain, and the relief Captain and First Officer (standard procedure for long international flights)

• There is no evidence of distress calls or problem reports prior to impact. The flight was vectored in to a 17 mile approach, cleared for both visual approach and landing.

• The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) is a mixture of both English and Korean. It’s important to note that, despite the reports from some news agencies, there was no call for permission for a go-around – it was mentioned on the CVR only.

• The crash site has lower portions of the aircraft in the sea wall, with a significant portion of the tail in the water, and debris is visible at low tide. Seawall debris has been found several yards up the runway as well.

• Despite initial reports of one the fatalities being caused by an emergency vehicle, the coroner has not rendered an official cause of death.

• The airspeed required for landing is 137 kts, and Flight Data Recorder shows that the aircraft had already dropped to 118 kts by 200 ft (about 16 seconds from impact). At 125 ft (8 seconds to impact), the throttles were moving forward. At 3 seconds to impact, the engines were back up to 50% power, with an airspeed of 103 kts. At impact, the airspeed has only climbed to 106 kts.

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: Pilot Action, Icing Led To NJ Plane Crash

Article By: David Porter
FMI: bigstory.ap.org

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A pilot's inability or reluctance to fly quickly enough out of icing conditions led to a fiery plane crash on a New Jersey highway median that killed all five people aboard, a federal report published Thursday concluded.

The December 2011 crash claimed the lives of pilot Jeffrey Buckalew, an investment banker; his wife and two children, and Rakesh Chawla, a colleague at New York's Greenhill & Co. Buckalew was the registered owner of the single-engine Socata TBM 700 and had more than 1,400 hours of flight time, according to the report.

The plane had just departed Teterboro Airport en route to Georgia when it began spiraling out of control at about 17,000 feet and crashed on a wooded median on Interstate 287 near Morristown. No one on the ground was injured. Wreckage was scattered over a half-mile area, forcing the closure of the busy roadway for several hours.

The National Transportation Safety Board report concluded that while Buckalew had asked air traffic controllers to fly higher and out of the icing conditions, he may have been reluctant to exercise his own authority to do so, or may have been unaware of the severity of the conditions.

The NTSB attributed the cause of the accident to "the airplane's encounter with unforecasted severe icing conditions that were characterized by high ice accretion rates and the pilot's failure to use his command authority to depart the icing conditions in an expeditious manner, which resulted in a loss of airplane control."

According to the report, an air traffic controller advised Buckalew of moderate icing from 15,000 to 17,000 feet, at which point Buckalew responded, "we'll let you know what happens when we get in there and if we could go straight through, it's no problem for us." The controller then directed him to climb to 17,000 feet.

When the plane reached 16,800 feet Buckalew reported light icing and said "a higher altitude would be great." Seventeen seconds later, he said the plane was experiencing "a little rattle" and asked to be cleared to go to a higher altitude "as soon as possible please."

The controller coordinated with a controller in an adjacent sector and, 25 seconds later, directed Buckalew to climb higher. Within about a minute the plane had reached 17,800 feet and then began an uncontrolled descent.

Ice can form on airplanes when temperatures are near freezing and there is visible moisture, such as clouds or rain. The ice adds weight to an aircraft, and rough accumulations known as rime interrupt the flow of air over wings.

Numerous pilots had reported icing conditions in the area around the time of the accident, including at least three flight crews that characterized the icing as severe, according to the report. One pilot told NTSB investigators his wing anti-icing system "couldn't keep up" with ice accumulation of as much as 4 inches that had developed over a span of five minutes.

Pilots are required to fly under the direction of air traffic controllers but federal regulations allow for some deviation in emergency situations. The NTSB report quotes a part of the Federal Aviation Regulations that reads, "in an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency."

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