Feb 27, 2009

Pay As You Go?

Ryanair could make passengers pay for toilets on its aircraft

Fri, 2009-02-27 13:51.


DUBLIN - Is a bathroom an optional extra when you're at 30,000 feet? Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary seems to think so - as his no-frills airline contemplates charging customers to use toilets on its aircraft.

Rest of the article - click here.

Feb 25, 2009

Feb 24, 2009

Who's Flying the Plane?

Finally, regarding the inaccurate statements spread around the internet about Airbus aircraft and automation - I'll post this five-part video. While I take issue with a few of the statements and conclusions in this production I agree with the main point. Which is that pilots are the last line of defence against accidents and that pilots are responsible for properly understanding, respecting and utilizing the technology built into their aircraft. Sometimes that means trusting it implicitly. Other times, not!

Feb 16, 2009

More Huffin' and Puffin' - certification tests

Here are some tests a new engine model must survive before going into production:

NOTE: This video is incorrectly labeled. It actually shows the result of a fan failure containment test. A selected fan blade is "blown off" at it's root, producing an explosion of shrapnel that must be contained by the engine cowling. Furthermore the structure of the engine must deal with the resulting unbalance condtion. (Thanks to Luke for the correction!)...

For a more complete look at the certification tests of the Rolls Royce Trent engine, including the containment test:

Despite the best-layed attempts in certification to replicate life on the line, sometimes even one bird in the wrong place at the wrong time can produce engine problems (assuming this video is what it seems to be):

Huffin' and Puffin'

The hazards for ground personnel working near jet engines becomes obvious from watching these two videos:

Feb 15, 2009

Icing certification envelope

Every model of airliner has been tested and certified to fly into known icing conditions. But as with every other certification parameter, there are set limits and envelopes that the pilots are responsible to know and respect. This burden does not fall exclusively on the pilots.

The certification authorities are responsible to set realistic limits and ensure that the manufacturer's have adequately tested and demonstrated these limits. Manufacturers must properly design and fully test the capabilities of their aircraft, and publish clear limitations, guidelines and procedures for operators to follow. And airlines must properly pass these parameters on to their pilots through Standard Operating Procedures and appropriate training.

Here's an accident from 1994 that will certainly be considered by the accident investigators of Colgan Flight 3047:

American Eagle Flight 4184


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated that the probable cause of this crash was the flight into known icing conditions, with the aircraft being operated outside its "icing certification envelope". While the ATR's deicing boots were able to remove ice along the leading edge, it rapidly re-formed behind the boots as runback ice, where it could not be removed. This separated the airflow from the wing's surface and made the aileron control inadequate or non-existent. The ATR family of aircraft has had a history of known and reported control problems in icing conditions. For that reason, the NTSB also mentioned as contributing factors the "inadequate response" on part of the manufacturer and the French DGAC and United States' Federal Aviation Administration aviation authorities to these reports.

Here's a video explaining the limitations of wing de-icing systems and the problems that can occur from prolonged exposures to ice build up...

Feb 14, 2009

NASA Tail De-icing Study

Tail de-icing is one scenario that will be studied during the recent Colgan Accident. There are many other factors that will be looked at as well. A friend sent this video link which I pass on for the interest of non-aviators and as a review for pilots who operate in icing conditions. Be careful out there.

Feb 11, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

This chart, published by Boeing, should put to rest all claims that there is a significant difference in the safety record of the A320 family vs. the Boeing 737 family of aircraft:

It shows clearly that the A318/319/320/321 aircraft hull and fatality rates compare closely with those of the late model B737s - 300/400/500. Both of these aircraft types are safer than the earlier B737 - 100/200 and the B727. Overall the newer airliners are posting better safety records than earlier generation jets. Personally I attribute this to better instrumentation (crew awareness), better engineering and better Crew Resource Training. But that's just my guess.

The full report, plus some updates on the B737 rudder issues I referred to earlier are available at this link.

And here's a link to other airliner safety statistics.

I'll write more about the specific issues raised in the Habsheim Airbus A320 accident in the next post.

Feb 10, 2009

Slander Bus!

I recently received a forwarded email in which supposedly knowledgeable pilots try to blame the Hudson River Ditching on Airbus technology. The email descends into a lot of paranoia and slander against a fine aircraft and I'm surprised that some of these myths fables and lies are still bouncing around in email junk land.

So, I have to take a few paragraphs to respond to some of this mis-information:


I got this from ... a buddy of mine, a retired SouthWest Airlines pilot.

Don't be surprised if the Airbus fly by wire computers didn't put
a perfectly good airplane in the water. In an older generation airplane
ike the 727 or 737-300/400, the throttles are hooked to the fuel controllers
on the engine by a steel throttle cable just like a TBM or a Comanche.

All it would take is for bird guts to
plug a pressure sensor or knock the pitot probe off or plug it and the
mputers would roll the engines back to idle thinking they were over
ng because the computers were getting bad data.

First, it is unprofessional in the extreme to be speculating about the exact sequence of the engine failures before any data has been released by the NTSB.

Second, older generation engines are also controlled by a (mainly) analogue computer called a Fuel Control Unit (FCU). The FCU input signals from the pilot are transmitted by long steel cables passing through pulleys and convaluted raceways. There are hundreds of documented cases where these mechanical systems have failed for one reason and another. One that comes to mind involved water leaking from the galley which formed into ice on a pulley resulting in loss of control of the engine thrust.

Third, all newer generation turbo-fan engines are more suseptible to bird strikes because of the large fan inlet area. This is true of American Pratt & Whitney engines as well as the CFM engines. The A320 uses both types and I don't know which were installed on Captain Sulley's airplane. The engines don't "care" which airframe they are tied to, although there is some evidence which suggests that fuselage-mounted engines are less likely to encounter birds in the first place.

And Fourth - even the older generation jet engines will shut down if a key sensor is plugged or damaged and sending bad "data" to the FCU.

No pilot, no matter how hard he tries, can turn an A-320 upside down.
It just won't do it. ... I can turn the B777 upside down.

First - no pilot in his right mind would turn an airliner full of passengers on its back! I challenge anyone to cite me a single airliner incident where this would have done anything but make a bad situation worse. In fact more accidents are caused by disoriented pilots than by aircraft failures.

Second - that statement is just plain wrong. The A320 simulator rolls very nicely - I have no intention of duplicating that in an actual aircraft. Any Airbus pilot knows exactly how to over-ride the flight envelope protection. Which makes me wonder about the credentials of the writer.

Google the Airbus A320 Crash at the Paris Airshow in 1998.
Watch the video of an airbus A320 crash into a

forest because the computers wouldn't allow a power increase following a
ow pass. The computers wouldn't allow a power increase because they
mined that the airspeed was too low for the increase requested so the
uters didn't give them any.

This is total misinformation (sometimes known as a lie).

First, the engines of that aircraft had slowed down to what is called "Ground Idle" due to the extremely low altitude to which this pilot descended - with a full load of passengers on board! A criminal act of poor airmanship in the first place. Any jet engine, when spooled down to this low idle setting will require several seconds to return to full thrust when the thrust levers are advanced. These engines did respond within the certified time frame, but by then the aircraft was in the trees.

Second, the fact that only two passengers were killed in that accident is largely attributable to the Airbus flight envelope protection system that kept the wings level and the airspeed at the point of maximum lift/ minimum speed as it plowed to a stop. The true information of that accident is probably available online for anyone who cares to find out more.

Please BEWARE of those who would advance their political and economic agendas at the expense of truth.

7 - Forty! -7

Feb 6, 2009

Safety Demonstration Announcements

I've seen creative attempts by flight attendants to get the passengers attention for the safety demonstration. But now most flights use a pre-recorded video. Maybe this will work: