About Airlaw

For more than 50 years, The Wolk Law Firm has concentrated its practice in the area of aviation law, with Arthur personally generating verdicts and settlements of more than a billion dollars during the last decade alone. He is known for obtaining and on appeal, holding, the largest verdicts for each type of air accident claim in recent aviation history.

    NEAR MISS AT NON-TOWER AIRPORT POINTS UP THE NEED FOR A BETTER GARMIN TCAS

    I thought I would share an experience I had Friday December 17th at the Macomb, Illinois airport. I have used that airport, an uncontrolled field, for the past 11 years enroute to California from Philly.
    It is in the open with no obstacles, a 5000 foot runway in good condition, two GPS approaches and reasonably priced fuel.

    I was approaching the airport with Chicago Center who advised me of an airplane maneuvering miles Southeast of the field which I saw on TCAS.(Traffic Collision Avoidance System). I gave a wide berth and joined the downwind announcing my position and intentions to land on Runway 09. I turned the base leg and announced that position. I then turned final and heard another pilot announce he was downwind which also was confirmed on the TCAS.

    I then cautioned that aircraft by radio that there was a HondaJet on final for runway 09. I made yet another broadcast that I was on short final. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an aircraft at my altitude crossing directly in front of me. We missed each other by feet!

    There was no TCAS warning and no avoidance maneuver (Resolution Advisory) suggested.
    I landed moments later and taxied to the fuel pump. I was met with a line serviceman who said, “I thought I was seeing a midair collision.” He confirmed he heard all my transmissions and pointed out the flight instructor and his student standing on the ramp who had obviously landed behind me while I was still on the runway.

    I walked up to the instructor and his student who were still standing by the airplane and the instructor said to me, “I guess I owe you an apology.” I gave him what for, like who has the right of way and what was he thinking and everything else I could think of that was as elegant as I could be without saying how I really felt about what he did. He admitted he heard all my transmissions. Okay, I’ll get over it. I admit that I was more pissed than shaken then but it brings up something that is worth articulating.

    No matter how careful you are. No matter how strictly you follow the rules. No matter how much you want to live and enjoy the good fortune that has blessed you, there will always be some moron who doesn’t give a crap. If he is a flight instructor, not a kid but an experienced adult, it is even more unforgivable.

    The near miss I had was one second and seventy-five feet from collision as confirmed by FlightAware. The reason I got no traffic advisory or resolution advisory was because I was already so low on final and the other aircraft was so close, it was literally beyond the capability of the system to generate either of those.
    So lessons learned is to not be complacent that the TCAS will end the risk of mid-air collision, it won’t. The other lesson is there is no substitute for your eyeballs and looking outside especially close in may be the difference between life and death.

    Now to be honest, this happened so fast I didn’t have time to react so even though I saw the other aircraft 1 second away there was nothing I could do except be astonished after he whizzed by.
    I am still processing all this and if I have any useful suggestions I’ll make them. I guess the only one that makes sense right now is no matter how comfortable you are that no one would be so reckless as to cut you off while you are almost at the threshold, such people do exist so don’t assume you’re safe until you’re on the ramp.

    • TCAS ‘TA’ – N420LH was below 2000′ AGL (on final approach) and the intruder aircraft closing rate provided less than 15 seconds of separation or intruder range is within 0.2 NM.
    • TCAS ‘RA’ – RA is not issued below 1000′ AGL
    • This can all be found in the Garmin Manual which specifies the limits of operation of the TCAS 1 and TCAS 2 systems.
    • Having said that, none of it means beans until it happens and then if you live, you get a chance to read it and you find out why what you thought should happen didn’t.
    • ‘TA’ means traffic advisory audible “Traffic, Traffic, Traffic”
    • ‘RA” means resolution advisory like “Climb”

    Airline pilots have the benefit of TCAS that will give traffic alerts and resolution advisories all the way to the ground. The Garmin system leaves a pilot vulnerable when he needs the protection most, in the traffic pattern close to the ground.

    This must be fixed!

    Arthur Alan Wolk

    December 29th, 2021

     

     

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    ANOTHER JET CIRCLE TO LAND ACCIDENT-THEY SHOULD BE PROHIBITED AT NIGHT AND UNDER IFR CONDITIONS

    A Lear 35A ambulance air flight crashed in the dark and in very marginal VFR conditions at Gillespie Field San Diego, Ca. when the crew attempted a circle to land approach. Control was lost at a base to final turn for runway 27.

    The aircraft performed the GPS instrument approach to the only runway into the wind with an instrument approach, Runway 17, but then after being cleared to land, elected to land VFR (Visual Flight Rules) on Runway 27, a much longer runway at the airport but with no instrument approach.

    There is also a GPS approach to Runway 9L but both approaches terminate at about 1000 feet AGL.

    That resulted in the crew cancelling the IFR clearance and making the circling approach VFR as you must be VFR to legally make such an approach. The approach is supposed to be made at or close to minimums for the IFR approach just completed and within a mile of the runway.

    It is a very difficult and demanding maneuver under ideal conditions. At night and in bad weather it is just plain risky. Airlines stopped doing them for that reason.

    It is understandable for the crew to request Runway 27 because it is much longer and Runway 17, especially when wet is marginal for a Learjet.

    Further investigation will be required and a determination made if any mechanical issue intervened to make the approach unsuccessful.

    The FAA requires demonstration of a circling approach during the annual 61.58 ride all jet pilots must pass. But every time I do that maneuver for the check ride, I often wonder why anyone would do such a maneuver in real life let alone at night and in not ideal weather.

    A medivac flight is a special animal and pilots often are called upon to do what others may neither have to do or want to do but in this instance perhaps another of the many airports available would have been a better choice. As soon as a jet is taken off the stabilized approach, as a circling approach is not, the risk factors go up exponentially.

    Their intentions were the best but sadly the outcome was tragic. May their lives be a blessing.

    Arthur

    12/28/21

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    THE FAA AND THE FCC BOTH NEGLECT THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES TO AVOID 5G INTERFERENCE WITH AIRCRAFT SAFETY SYSTEMS

    The FAA, the agency of Government responsible to ensure aviation safety has been caught flat-footed once again by failing to ensure that frequencies used by 5 G networks do not interfere with aircraft avionics like radar altimeters that provide critical altitude information to aircraft crews performing instrument approaches to airports.

    The FAA and FCC had years to work with industry and the authority to tell industry to use slightly different frequencies for their 5G or reduce frequency strength near airports to avoid this. But naturally the Gov’ment being the Gov’ment, it did nothing.

    The FAA just issued Airworthiness Directives to airlines warning that interference could occur which is a dangerous condition. The FCC has done nothing about it, the FAA has done nothing about it, and they both have eroded aviation safety by their collective inaction, ineptitude and ignorance.

    Sophisticated modern airplanes use radar altimeters to perform Instrument Landing System approaches. The radar altimeter tells the flight crews how high they are above the ground starting at 2500 feet going all the way down to 10 feet above the surface. The safety benefit is enormous but in really bad weather operating radar altimeters are FAA required for Category II Instrument approaches.

    So, because it was asleep at the switch the potential exists for a dangerous condition to exist in bad weather so somebody like your youngster can play with their cell phones all day instead of interacting like a human being with their friends and parents.

    Maybe the FCC should ban 5 G from cell phones instead of causing interference that may endanger tens of millions of airplane passengers.

    Now the good news is that in other countries where 5G has been used for a year or more no airplane interference has been documented. But we have to take seriously the safety warning and assume that while it is only in the imaginary, Illusory and figment of one’s doomsday scenario, and may never materialize, it is nonetheless unforgiveable, but not surprising, that the FAA and FCC who apparently don’t speak to each other on their 5G phones much, didn’t fix this before creating a crisis.

    Maybe the FAA was just too busy explaining its way out of why it certified an airliner and missed critical flight system flaws that killed 346 innocent people. Or perhaps it was hiding documents so FAA employees wouldn’t be jailed for looking the other way purposely.

    The system is corrupt, inept, dangerous and broken.

    Arthur Alan Wolk

    December 23rd, 2021.

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    BOYNE MICHIGAN KING AIR CRASH-FIVE BLADED PROPELLER CONVERSION COULD BE TROUBLE

    The BEECHCRAFT E-90 was originally produced with 3 bladed propellers. An engine failure results in a rapid build-up of drag as the propeller windmills. Once it is feathered to be streamlined with the wind the drag is reduced and the airplane can under the best conditions continue to be flown to a landing.

    This airplane was converted to Garrett turbine engines from the Pratt and Whitney PT-6 engines it originally was built with and five bladed propellers which increase climb and are quieter than the original propellers.

    The only problem with this conversion is if there is an engine failure these five bladed propellers are like a barn door and the drag which occurs almost instantly may make continued control of the airplane impossible.

    Normally a Supplemental Type Certificate of this magnitude would require very intensive testing to make sure that the original flying characteristics of the airplane were not materially compromised but testing is different than the real world of airplane flying.

    A five bladed propeller is also very complicated and if it should go to feather or flat pitch it is possible that continued flight is impossible.

    The E-90 King Air is a very easy airplane to fly unless an engine failure occurs but no doubt is a handful with a five bladed propeller on top of it.

    If the Wolk Law Firm was investigating this accident, the propeller and the testing further to getting the Supplemental Type Certificate would be the first place to look.

    This crash like all of them is a very sad occurrence. Two lives lost to their families is a tragedy.

    May their memories be a blessing.

    Arthur Alan Wolk

    November 17, 2021

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    BEAVER ISLAND MICHIGAN COMMUTER CRASH-OLD AIRPLANE, TURBULENT FLYING CONDITIONS

    The tragic crash of a Brittan Norman Islander twin engine aircraft killing four persons is one reason why flying in old reciprocating powered propeller airplanes is a recipe for disaster.

    Long ago I represented Wings Airways, a commuter airline that operated the back then old Britten Norman Islander aircraft. While they were reliable, they were old, noisy and had basic old airplane systems that while they rarely failed were in constant need of repair.

    That’s just one of the problems with old airplanes, they break down a lot and usually without much notice.

    The other problem with the Islander is that when you load them up, if an engine fails it is not easy to fly.

    They have fixed landing gear and struts on the wings so there is a lot of drag.

    The winds that day were modest about 15 knots with gusts to 25 miles per hour before and after the accident time. Gusty winds can be challenging especially in the upper Peninsula of Michigan where they vary all over the compass.

    At the time of the accident the winds were not unusual but there was likely low-level turbulence and wind shear. I have flown there and with partly cloudy skies it would have been a bumpy ride below the clouds.

    For some reason, the aircraft went to Beaver Island, didn’t land and returned about an hour later.

    Perhaps the winds and turbulence were too challenging for the pilot who was part-time.

    A look at the propellers will be telling to see if both engines were making power but if they prove to be operating normally, I would look at the weight of the passengers and cargo and what the surface conditions were at the time of the crash. The Islander can carry a lot but in gusty bumpy conditions, it can be a challenge. The airplane built in 1970 has carbureted engines which can be a problem since carburetion has long been dispensed with as a less than reliable means of providing a stochiometric fuel air mixture to aircraft engines. That’s a big word but in short means a mixture of fuel and air that will burn properly.

    Island Airways will be liable for the loss of those aboard and the injuries suffered by Laney but a very careful review of the simple Islander systems will have to be made to see if anything else contributed to this crash.

    May the memories of those killed be a blessing to their families.

    Arthur Alan Wolk

    November 15th, 2021

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    GLEN DEVRIES ACCIDENT MAKES NO SENSE ABSENT AN ENGINE FAILURE

    Glen Devries and his instructor were no novices in aviation. Devries was an instrument rated private pilot and his instructor an experienced flight instructor.

    The airplane was a later model Cessna 172 with a glass cockpit with up to date avionics.

    A training flight in such an airplane doesn’t include anything dangerous and the Cessna 172 has no history of in-flight break-ups or anything else other than seat slips on takeoff and engine failures that have been fatal.

    This part of the flight, a descent to an airport should have been a non-event.

    Close up pictures of the airplane’s propeller have not yet been published but it may give the first hint of loss of power.

    This loss like all the others from airplane crashes are a sad reality in aviation but it will take lawyers and not the NTSB to find out why this airplane crashed.

    No doubt that the NTSB will send its “go-team” to investigate this crash because of who perished but so long as it invites Cessna and the engine manufacturer to “help” chances of finding out what really happened are nil.

    The Wolk Law Firm extends its condolences to the families of these fine men.

    If we are engaged, we will find out why this accident happened like we do in all the others.

    Arthur Alan Wolk

    November 15th, 2021

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    SOUTH CAROLINA FATAL CRASH KILLS YOUNG WOMAN AND INJURES HER AIR FORCE PILOT FATHER

    The crash of a Piper PA-32R-300 after the pilot, an Air Force Wing Commander, reported engine trouble is made doubly tragic by the jackals on the internet who criticize the airport selection for this emergency landing. Having suffered an engine problem in a jet fighter myself that resulted in a crash many years ago, I can speak with authority on the mindless commentaries that followed.

    Let’s be blunt. Next to an inflight break-up, an engine failure is a pilot’s worst nightmare come true. It means that somewhere an emergency landing must be made, most often not on an airport. This pilot was on approach to the airport but the airplane crashed into trees that resulted in its destruction. It is a miracle that anyone survived and tragically the pilot’s daughter did not. The devastating physical and emotional impact of this tragedy cannot be overstated.

    A look at the photograph of the wreckage reveals much. The propeller blades are straight and that means no power to the propeller. It confirms loss of engine power or engine failure as the cause of this accident.

    south-carolina-fatal-crash-kills-young-woman-injures-air-force-pilot-fatherSource:  Live 5 News WCSC

    This accident will be investigated by the NTSB which will dutifully be “assisted” by the maker of the aircraft, Piper, and the maker of the engine, Lycoming.

    Chances of them coming up with the actual cause of power loss are nil.

    Once the NTSB finishes with the wreckage it will be the job of air crash litigators, like The Wolk Law Firm, if engaged by the families of the victims, to find the real cause of this power loss.

    Our condolences to the family of Madaline Thomey, along with our hope that her father, Colonel Deane Thomey, makes a rapid and full recovery. May her memory be a blessing.

    Arthur Alan Wolk

    October 26, 2021

    The Wolk Law Firm

    arthurwolk@airlaw.com

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    CESSNA 340A CRASHES UPON ARRIVAL AT MONTGOMERY-GIBBS EXECUTIVE AIRPORT SAN DIEGO-CHALLENGING ATC INSTRUCTIONS, ANOTHER POSSIBLE ENGINE FAILURE AND ANOTHER CRASH BECAUSE OF LAX FAA CERTIFICATION

    The Cessna 340A was Cessna’s first attempt at a cabin-class twin. It was derived from the earlier successful non-cabin class Cessna 310. The critical difference was that the 340A was much bigger and had the same turbocharged Continental engines.

    The Wolk Law Firm has litigated against Continental Motors for years from accidents related to catastrophic failure of these engines. Continental, now owned by the Chinese Communist Government, always denies responsibility for these engine failures but the history of them cannot be denied.

    I remember fifty years ago at Wing’s Field every Continental powered aircraft on the field including mine had a major problem. Cracked crankcases, blown cylinders, failed rocker arm bosses, broken rings, failed crankshafts, burnt valves, swallowed valves, seized bearings and oil starvation are just a few of the many problems, some of which resulted in accidents, but all of which required engine replacement or major repairs.

    The Cessna 340A is a nice airplane, large inside, pressurized for comfort, pretty looking on the ramp. But it has a problem that is nearly always deadly. If one of these problem engines fails, the effects on the airplane make it a handful to fly and frequently, all too frequently, there is a crash killing all aboard.

    The second problem is called VMC. VMC is the speed below which a failure of the critical engine with the propeller windmilling will cause the aircraft to lose directional control and roll right over on its back suddenly, as in a second or two. Once the airplane starts to roll, it increases its roll rate until it’s impossible to stop.

    Pilots are trained to recognize and deal with loss of an engine. In theory, when the engine fails you Identify, Verify, and then Feather the propeller on the failed engine. You accelerate to VMC and roll 3-5 degrees into the operating engine. Unfortunately, by that time you are already dead.

    When these airplanes were certified, the manufacturer determined the VMC speed and the FAA bought into it. In truth, only a test pilot who knows he is going to simulate a failed engine can maintain aircraft control at VMC.

    For the rest of us, engine failure is a sudden emergency that has pilots swimming in glue until it’s too late. The Cessna 340A doesn’t have auto-feather that helps other aircraft somewhat by moving the dead engine’s propeller blades to a more streamlined position. When an engine fails in a twin, the airplane loses more than fifty percent of its power due to drag and the fact it is now flying sideways. The Cessna 340A is no exception.

    A Cessna 340A doesn’t crash like this absent an engine failure and the NTSB and FAA need to look at the engines and then in a mirror because the FAA never should have certified an airplane to be able to suffer an engine failure and still fly when it won’t.

    The pilot, a cardiologist who had flown into this airport frequently in this airplane, was on an ILS Approach to Runway 28R, an instrument approach I have flown many times. He was working SOCAL Approach and as usual was getting very crisp, rapid instructions to descend and intercept the final approach course. The last instruction appears to be to descend to 2800 feet and fly heading 250 degrees to intercept the localizer. Typical for SOCAL approach, the pilot didn’t get an approach clearance until later because of his altitude, position and heading for the localizer upon which he was not yet established. The pilot actually asked for the clearance as I have had to do many times as well.

    As is not infrequent, the rapid descent required, turn to a new heading and high airspeed causes the airplane to blow right through the localizer. The pilot was cautioned that he was not flying the localizer course to the runway. He also got a low altitude alert from the Controller making the pilot’s workload even higher.

    When I listened to the ATC communications, I heard the Controller give the pilot a descent to 2800 feet. That is 1000 feet lower than the normal approach clearance of 3800 feet until established on the approach and no doubt contributed to the pilot’s overload and confusion. I have flown that very approach many times and I have never been given a descent to 2800 feet at that point.

    Once the approach was mishandled, the pilot was given a climb to 5000 feet for new vectors for the approach and he acknowledged the new clearance after which control was lost and the crash occurred.

    While it would appear that pilot overload may have contributed to this accident, a missed approach would have been a piece of cake if everything was working alright. The fact that the airplane didn’t climb and control was lost may mean that at a very inopportune time one of the engines lost power and a VMC roll ensued. The pilot had adequate experience and ratings for this flight and was familiar with the terrain and procedures to be flown. Something else killed him and an innocent UPS driver on the ground.

    The Wolk Law Firm is saddened by yet another Cessna cabin class twin crash and another possible engine failure that may have contributed to it.  I must also say that the vectors and altitudes given by ATC on both instrument approaches to Runway 28 Right at KMYF are often challenging.

    May the memories of those killed be a blessing.

    Arthur Alan Wolk, October 11, 2021

     

    Air Traffic Control audio can be downloaded from LiveATC.net:

    https://forums.liveatc.net/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=16360.0;attach=11017

    Arthur Alan Wolk

    The Wolk Law Firm

    1710-12 Locust Street

    Philadelphia, PA  19103

    p: (215) 545-4220

    c: (610) 733-4220

    f: (215) 545-5252

    arthurwolk@airlaw.com

     

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    Midair Collision – No Excuse

    FAA Order 7110.65, better known as the “Point 65,” sets forth the procedures and phraseology for use by air traffic controllers.  Right up front, this order makes clear that “[t]he primary purpose of the ATC system is to prevent a collision involving aircraft operating in the system.”  Pretty hard to get around that one when a midair collision occurs.  If your very existence is premised on keeping aircraft from running into one another, and they do, well, you get the point. 

    On Friday, October 1, 2021, a Piper Archer airplane and a Robinson R22 helicopter collided in the traffic pattern at Chandler Municipal Airport in Arizona.  While the Piper was able to land safely, tragically, the instructor and student in the R22 perished.  Chandler has an air traffic control tower, but it’s not operated by the FAA.  The tower at Chandler is one of more than 250 “contract towers” operated under national contracts awarded to Midwest Air Traffic Control Services, Serco Management Services Inc., and Robinson Aviation (RVA) Inc.  Regardless, the same rules apply.  In this case, the weather was VFR (visual flight rules), which begs the question, how is it possible for two aircraft to collide while flying in the traffic pattern at a controlled airport in visual conditions?  Unfortunately, many people (pilots included) think air traffic controllers are using radar to keep VFR airplanes “separated” at airports like Chandler.  Not so.  While tower controllers may have a radar display available, when the weather is VFR, they will generally be looking out the window and using their eyes (possibly aided by binoculars) to provide proper sequencing/spacing to arriving pilots.  Sounds archaic, and it is.  What’s more, there is no separation criteria like that when aircraft are operating under instrument flight rules (IFR).  So, at a busy airport, with a lot of flight training, is it really surprising to see two aircraft vying for the same airspace while talking to air traffic control?  Another question is whether the Piper and/or the R22 had ADS-B “traffic” information available in the cockpit.  Either way, there is still no excuse for allowing two aircraft to run into one another. 

    Alan D. Mattioni

    10/11/2021

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    HIGHLY MODIFIED SILVER EAGLE CESSNA P-210 CRASH AT DEKALB PEACHTREE AIRPORT KILLS 4- MAYBE TOO HIGHLY MODIFIED.

    A Cessna P-210 was the last iteration of the Cessna Pressurized Centurion airplane model, at least Cessna thought so.

    The Pressurized Cessna P-210 was equipped with a Continental TSIO-520 piston engine and a three bladed propeller. It cruised at mid-altitudes and a little faster than the standard 210.

    Then someone got the idea to change the engine and install an Allison, now Rolls Royce, turbine engine instead.

    The propeller was changed as well and the STC was sold to a number of P-210 owners.

    It was faster, flew higher, and had a higher rate of climb than the factory airplanes.

    But it seems that good is never good enough so a new STC was developed, not by Cessna, that installed an MT, German built light weight five-bladed scimitar shaped propeller on this turbine conversion.

    The one thing that seems to have escaped the thinking of designers and modifiers is that a five bladed propeller creates much more drag in the event of loss of engine power than either a four or three bladed propeller, in fact so much drag that the airplane wants to stop in mid-air right now in the event of loss of power.

    Now it isn’t clear yet whether this crash was caused by the engine or propeller or both but surveillance video clearly shows the airplane climbing out and then suddenly rolling over on one wing as if it stalled suddenly.

    With a properly operating engine and propeller, it is virtually impossible to stall a converted Silver Eagle  P-210 in this manner.

    One problem with an airplane with a lot of after-market STC’s (Supplemental Type Certificates) is that the certification requirements are not as stringent and the testing not as rigorous as a factory-built airplane that is certified as an entire airplane.

    So, given that a few MT propeller equipped airplanes have recently crashed, a TBM 700 in Ohio and this one at the least recently, a very careful look has to be taken of this propeller and its aerodynamics and functionality, especially if there is a loss of power for any reason.

    The Wolk Law Firm extends its condolences to the families who are suffering so much from their losses.

    May the memories of those who have passed be a blessing.

    Arthur Alan Wolk

    10/10/2021

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