Monthly Archives: March 2009

Montana Crash May Mirror Buffalo Crash

Just yesterday investigators suspected 14 family members stuffed in an 10-seat single engine turboprop may have led to a crash killing all aboard, but now a new theory is emerging.

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Since half the passengers were small children, NTSB investigators say the plane may not have been overloaded after all.  Instead, they are changing their focus to Butte, Montana weather at the time of the crash.

Reports say icing conditions were present as the craft descended through 1500-feet.  The new focus is eerily similar to the leading theory of what brought down the Continental commuter turboprop which crashed near Buffalo recently.  Both aircraft are turboprops with similar de-icing systems.

In the latest incident, witnesses say the Swiss-made PC-12 suddenly nose-dived into a cemetery just short of the landing strip.  The investigation is significantly hampered because there were no distress calls, and the private aircraft was not equipped with flight data recorders known as “black boxes.”

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FedEx Crashes on Landing

A FedEx MD-11 crash near Tokyo is raising fresh questions about unstable landing characteristics associated with the big jet, but this may be a secondary concern in my opinion.

After what appears to be a hard landing, the aircraft bounced airborne and then hit a second time before rolling over and exploding.  Early speculation suggests a sudden wind gust may have caused the crash, but some experts are questioning the design of the aircraft, in light of previous incidents suggesting it  has a tendency to rollover.

But watching the video, my eye was drawn to the initial touchdown.

In this instance, it appears the main gear touched down followed almost immediately by the nosegear, suggesting a hard touchdown.  If a pilot sees this developing, he may pull up hard just before touchdown to soften the blow, and frequently the aircraft will hit and skip back into the air; just like what happened in the video.  If airspeed is allowed to bleed off, the second touchdown will be even harder.

In this case, the aircraft appeared to hit nose first the second time and violently pitch up again – only this time the plane rolled left the left wing struck the ground and caught fire.

The question in my mind turns to what caused the first hard touchdown, which led to everything subsequent.  It could have been windshear, but it may also have been too little power on the approach.  Black boxes along with local wind reports should tell the story.

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Flying Car Positions for Takeoff

Hold on hybrids and electrics; there’s an entirely new direction in the race for the car of the future:

UP!

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The Terrafugia Company of Massachussetts is unveiling the “Transition”; a flying car which drives on roads like any other car, but also flies above it all at 115 mph!

For trips around town, the vehicle features front wheel drive and folding wings, making it small enough to fit in the garage.  But for longer trips, the wings are locked into position within 30-seconds, and the “car” is ready to take off from most any airstrip!  The craft uses regular gasoline and is expected to sell for less than $200 thousand.

Check out the maiden flight at:

http://www.terrafugia.com/First_Flight_A.html

Additional details and corporate information are available on the Terrafugia website:

http://www.terrafugia.com

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Administration Moves to Disarm Pilots

A Newsmax.com article is reporting the Obama administration is quietly killing the anti-terror guns-in-airliners program  reluctantly implemented by the Bush administration following 9-11.

By any account, the program has been extremely successful.  With more than 12,000 pilots already certified, such pilots have become one of the largest quasi law enforcement agencies around for very little cost to the taxpayers.  There have been no incidents of highjackings or misuse by pilots since the program began, so what can be the logic to end the program?

Read the article and decide for yourself:

http://www.newsmax.com/insidecover/obama_airline_pilots/2009/03/18/193314.html

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FAA Reveals Latest Anti-Bird Technology

In the wake of the Hudson River incident, the FAA is ordering new anti-bird technology for all airliners:

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Faulty Altimeter in Dutch Crash

Dutch investigators are saying a faulty altimeter may have contributed to the crash of the Turkish Airliner that crashed in Amsterdam last week.

You may recall, the Boeing 737 crashed without warning on approach in an open field less than a mile from the end of the runway.  Out of 135 passengers and crew, nine died.

But there has to be much more to the story…

Airliners are equipped with multiple altimeters, so a bad altimeter alone is insufficient reason for an airliner to crash.  In most cases there are three, even four independent altitude readouts available to pilots.  First, the captain’s and first officer’s altimeters operate  independently to measure and report the altitude, and there is often a third “standby” altimeter should the first two fail.

However, because these systems rely on atmospheric conditions and pilot awareness to function properly, jetliners are also equipped with radio altimeters.  Like a police radar gun, these “fourth” altimeters aim a radar beam directly at the earth below, precisely reading the aircraft’s height above the ground.  The autopilot and certain terrain warning systems typically rely on this system and even GPS in some instances to ensure safe approaches.

On instrument approaches, prudent pilots also cross-check position and altitude against expected altitudes published on approach charts.

With all this safety built into the system, I find it inconceivable to think the failure of one altimeter is the sole reason for this crash.

I predict instead, this is one of many yet-to-be-determined factors to explain what brought this airliner down.

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Southwest Fined $7.5 Million

Remember a year ago when the FAA came under fire after suddenly forcing American Airlines to ground dozens of Super 80s for faulty wiring harnesses?  It caused widespread flight cancellations and stranded passengers coast to coast.

Then in March of last year, the agency came under fire once again after a House committee charged that Southwest Airlines had not properly inspected its 737 fleet for fatigue cracks.  The FAA was embarrassed because they had failed to ground the uninspected planes.

Now, according to Aviation Week & Space Technology, the agency is fining Southwest $7.5 million in a final settlement over the debacle, and reviewing its own enforcement procedures.

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