Book Review: The Crash Detectives

 

Crash DetectivesJuly 5, 2016, © Leeham Co.: The Crash Detectives, by Christine Negroni, © 2016. Penguin Books. Available on Amazon.com.

As an avid follower of The Smithsonian Channel’s “Air Disaster” series and The Weather Channel’s “Why Planes Crash,” as well as knowing Christine Negroni, I was anxious to read her new book, The Crash Detectives. (Negroni is also the author of Deadly Departure, about TWA Flight 800.)

Negroni is no wanna-be aviation disaster geek. Her resume qualifies her to understand aviation accidents and speak and write with knowledge about them.

Negroni writes about dozens of aviation accidents and mysteries. Some of these are well known (the de Havilland Comet I accidents, for example). Some were miraculous outcomes (United Airlines 232, US Airways 1549, Qantas Airways 32). Some are ancient history (pre-World War II, including the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.)

Among the most interesting are the accidents in which hypoxia of the pilots are involved. These make fascinating reading. And it is hypoxia that is the leading cause of Negroni’s theory of one of commercial aviation’s most infamous mystery.

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Bjorn’s Corner: Asia-Pacific Air Traffic Management

By Bjorn FehrmJune 24 2016, ©. Leeham Co: Having covered the Air Traffic Management challenges in North America, Europe and Middle East we will now finish the series by looking at some specific problems affecting the Asia-Pacific region.

Asia-Pacific is the world region with the strongest growth in air traffic. IATA calculates that within 20 years half of the world’s air travel will originate or terminate within the region. Figure 1 shows that air traffic has several hot spots in Asia-Pacific, but also that there are areas with rather moderate traffic.

ATM in Asia Pacific 2016.06.23

Figure 1. Air traffic’s main routes in the world. Asia-Pacific is an area with large differences in air traffic intensity. Source: Rockwell Collins

The region has its unique set of Air Traffic Management problems. We will now cover those that must be solved, should the region’s Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) be able to manage the forecasted growth in air travel in a safe way. Read more

Inexpensive real-time FDR system developed by California firm

Thompson Flt Test

The flight test pattern of a Thompson Aerospace real-time data transmission on a Boeing airplane. Click on image to enlarge.

June 14, 2016, © Leeham Co.: Egyptair Flight MS804 disappeared from radar May 19 and there is very little known about the last minutes of the flight at this writing.

A French ship two weeks ago reported hearing pings on the same frequency as the flight’s black boxes. As yet, the pinging hasn’t been confirmed as being from those boxes (remember the false alarm on the Malaysia Airlines MH370 search). The main wreckage and these boxes have yet to be discovered.

With the designed 30-day battery life of the pinger expiring just days away, this is yet another example of why real-time transmission of flight data from the airplane to the ground is needed.

As with MH370, followed by Air Asia Flight 8501 (whose boxes and wreckage were eventually discovered and recovered), the mystery surrounding MS804 spur new calls for action to provide real-time data streaming of a flight’s important information about the performance of the airplane and any anomalies.

Airbus officials aid during their Innovation Days presentations last week they are studying real-time data streaming. ICAO, the international organization the sets rules and requirements for the world’s airlines, has moved slowly since MH370 but now appears ready by year-end to establish requirements and deadlines for real-time data streaming.

Cost and bandwidth have been cited as principal obstacles to overcome.

But a small company in California says the technology is here today at an affordable cost, and it is fully compliant with ICAO standards.

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Pontifications: ICAO continues to drag feet on real-time data transmission

Hamilton KING5_2

By Scott Hamilton

May 23, 2016, © Leeham Co.: Malaysia Airlines MH370. Air Asia 8501. Egyptair 804.

Three passenger flights lost over the oceans. One, MH370, remains undiscovered to this day. Air Asia took a couple of weeks to locate. Egyptair debris took about 36 hours. The black boxes are still  missing from MH370. Once the Air Asia wreckage was discovered, the boxes were recovered fairly quickly. According to media reports, the black boxes of 804 have been “generally” located, but Egypt has dispatched a submarine to more precisely locate them.

The absence of real-time data transmission from the Flight Data Recorders contributed to the mysteries of what happened to these aircraft and spurred wild theories and conspiracies. ACARS, which does transmit data from airborne aircraft, does so at intervals–not real-time. Real-time data streaming from on board transmissions could provide immediate answers to what happened to an airliner.

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Areas of inquiry in Egyptair 804 crash

May 19, 2016: (c) Leeham Co.: Investigators will look into many areas of interest, all a

An Airbus A320 like this one operated by Egyptair disappeared last night in what is already suspected terrorism. Photo via Google images.

matter of routine, into the disappearance and crash of Egyptair 804.

According to media reports, debris and bodies have been found in the Mediterranean Sea. The Airbus A320 disappeared on a flight from Paris to Cairo. There have been several media reports of in-flight fire observed in the sky and maneuvers of the aircraft. Russian officials and others say terrorism is likely.

LNC urges caution in drawing conclusions, however.

The following are areas of investigation:

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Top 10 Stories in 2015

  • HOLIDAY SCHEDULE: Unless there is major, breaking news, Leeham News and Comment is taking the Christmas-New Year’s holidays off. We resume our normal publishing scheduled Jan. 4, 2016.
  • So what do we have? Mitsubishi holding an MRJ briefing on Christmas Eve, Tokyo time. There’s no webcast or dial-in number but we’ll look for the stories coming out of this briefing and post something just for the record.

Here are the Top 10 stories on Leeham News and Comment for 2015:

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MH370: Caution, no quick resolution

July 29, 2015: By now the world knows a piece of an airplane wing consistent with a Boeing 777 has been found on an island near Africa, thousands of miles from the search areas of the West Coast of Australia.

As this is written, while news reports indicate Boeing says that from photos the part appears consistent with a 777 wing part (and, of course, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is the only missing 777), confirmation hasn’t been achieved.

Even if this part proves to be from the missing 777, don’t expect any resolution soon.

Computers may be able to calculate ocean currents, time and distances to trace back a reasonable point of origin–if possible, this will take time–and then deep sea searching must start all over again.

Caution should be exercised over this discovery. No quick resolution is going to be forthcoming if this part is from the missing airliner.

This mystery is far from over.

Malaysia Airlines fleet restructuring

April 30, 2015: Malaysia Airlines is offering for sale or lease all six of its Airbus A380s, its two Boeing 747-400Fs and four Airbus A330-200Fs and four Boeing 777-200ERs as it seeks to restructure following a disastrous 2014.

MAS lost two 777s last year: MH370, the flight that disappeared and still hasn’t been found; and MH17, the flight that was shot down over Ukraine.

Elimination of the freighters wipes out MASCargo.

MAS, the passenger operation, has six A380s, 15 A330-300s, 57 Boeing 737-800s with 14 on order and 10 options and 13 777-200ERs, according to Wikipedia. Read more

Pontifications: Remote control of airliners a bad idea

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

March 30, 2015: In the aftermath of what a French prosecutor said was the apparent suicide-mass murder of 150 people on Germanwings 9525, there have been some calls for and questions of creating a system of allowing ground controllers to assume command of airborne airliners in the event rogue pilot situation develops.

This is a bad idea. Read more

Update (3), Germanwings: Authorities confirms co-pilot deliberately crashed aircraft.

Update March 26, 2015: The Marseilles prosecutor Brice Robin has confirmed that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz 28, from Montabaur Germany, put the autopilot on descent and was alive at the impact with ground, the accident is now turning from an involuntary to voluntary manslaughter investigation says the prosecutor.

He further revealed that the co-pilots breath can be heard on the tape as can the calls from ATC and the Captains efforts to enter the cockpit. The autopilots “Pull Up, Pull Up” can also be heard as the ground proximity warning triggered. Passengers screaming just before impact can also be heard. The co-pilot did not say anything but his breath is heard until impact. Research has failed to show any terrorist connections for Andreas Lubitz says Robin.

French news is now analyzing possible reasons for this act by the co-pilot pictured here in front of Golden Gate bridge:

Copilot 4U9525 2015-03-26 14.06.33

Flightradar24 has a private receiver network for the aircraft’s intelligent transponder of type ADS-B. They now confirm that the aircraft’s autopilot was manually changed from 38,000 to 96 ft at 09:30:55 UTC.

March 25, 2015: In a breathtaking, stunning revelation, the New York Times reported today that an investigator of the Germanwings accident says the Cockpit Voice Recorder indicates one pilot was out of the cockpit and was unable to get back in.

The pilot can be heard initially knocking on the door to gain reentry, then pounding on the door and yelling to the other pilot. No response.

The scene is horrific to contemplate: the passengers must have heard the locked-out pilot and became increasingly alarmed as the plane descended from 38,000 ft to impact at around 6,000 ft.

This scenario immediately raises two possibilities: an intentional act by the pilot remaining in the cockpit; or an incapacitating medical emergency occurred.

We spoke with John Cox of Safety Operating Systems and a former Airbus A320 captain to discuss this latest news. Cox is also a safety analyst for the NBC network in the US.

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