Author: Airlaw

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About Airlaw

For more than 40 years, The Wolk Law Firm has concentrated its practice in the area of aviation law, with Arthur personally generating verdicts and settlements of nearly $1 billion 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.

    Runway incursions still happening. FAA’s Latest Solution More Lights   The problem of runway incursions has been around for as long as there are runways.

    But at big airports, especially at night, the problem has been more frequent and more dangerous.

    Big airports have radar to tell the tower where airplanes are on the surface and many pilots now have GPS that tells them where they are, but runway incursions still happen.

    The FAA’s preferred solution is to throw money at the problem in the hope that it disappears. So the FAA has spent billions changing colors, adding colors, adding lights, changing lights but the problem persists.

    Let’s see why.

    All taxiways have yellow lines drawn down the centerline. Put your nose wheel on it and your good…well not really.

    Some taxiways have green lights imbedded on top of the yellow lines. Follow the green and you are good…well not exactly.

    Of course the taxiways are marked on each side by blue lights so stay between the blue lights and you are okay…well no.

     

    Then there are the big painted circles that are invisible at night with the runway number painted on them on the taxiway.

     

    And there are the flashing red/yellow lights at the end of the taxiway and entrance to the runway.

     

    Does that mean stop, caution, both or just another cool set of lights.

    Of course the lights for the taxiways are yellow with black letters and for the taxiway you are taxiing on the background is sort of yellow and black with black letters.

     

    Now the FAA has been adamant that all pilots be taught to follow ATC instructions. So adamant has the FAA been that instead of using English terms as required by International agreements, they have chosen to alter the language to throw in a little linguistic confusion. Traditionally, that means forever, the FAA said that “Position and Hold” meant enter the runway and stay put until “Cleared for Takeoff.”

    Every pilot on the planet knew this term.

    But, so everyone could be confused and eons of training and experience thrown to the wind, the FAA had the bright idea of changing the well-worn phrase to “Line Up and Wait.”

    Now, if there is no line this phrase makes no sense and there could be no line because only one aircraft is allowed on the runway at a time. But, we pilots have come to learn it and abide by it, senselessness or not.  Which brings me to the latest goofy FAA expenditure called “Runway Status Lighting Systems.”

    The FAA had the bright idea, bright red in fact, to add a new set of lights to the confusing array of lighting and painting color symbiology.

    On the taxiways adjacent to the active runway are red lights imbedded into the tarmac. If you are cleared onto the runway and the lights are red, you are to disregard your ATC clearance stay put and ask what’s up.

    Once you are cleared to Line Up and Wait, assuming the red lights are off or you have been instructed by ATC to disregard them, after you line up or are cleared for takeoff there are another set of imbedded lights on each side of the Runway Centerline. If they are lit you are not to takeoff, but to ask ATC whether it really means cleared for takeoff or something else. Meanwhile, other aircraft that may be landing on the same runway will no doubt be going around until this is all sorted out. If you are making an intersection takeoff, you will never see either set of status lights so you are doomed.

     

    Well done once again FAA. You have spent tens of millions of dollars to add more confusion to the process, guaranteed more runway incursions, and worse now told pilots to disregard ATC instructions when these lights are lit, which they may or may not see.

    Over and Lights Out!

    Arthur Alan Wolk

    5/30/19

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    The Last of a Breed ,a decade of piloting the last flying Grumman Panther.  As the founding partner of the Wolk Law Firm, which specializes in aviation law and in improving air safety, his two great passions are woven together.  He was recently profiled in The Warbird Watcher, a website dedicated to sharing Warbird news and veterans stories.

    Mr. Wolk’s involvement in the Warbird community began in 1984 with the purchase of a Korean War era Grumman F9F-2 Panther jet fighter.  He says, “I had been a pilot for many years and was interested in flying a Warbird…the Panther became available for sale due to the death of its owner and so I acquired (it)”.  At the time this was the only airworthy F9F Panther flying in the world. The aircraft was pieced together using airworthy parts from other F9F airframes in order to piece together one airworthy jet.

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    This is a letter that Arthur Alan Wolk sent today to Daniel Goren, Esq. Division of Aviation – Philadelphia International Airport and Bill Banks, Manager, FAA Airports District Office – Flight Standards District Offices

    Re: Northeast Philadelphia Airport (KPNE)

    Gentlemen,

    I am a tenant at The North Philadelphia Jet Center. I operate an Eclipse Jet. Other aircraft that regularly use the airport include all types of Gulfstream, Global Express and BBJ jets. These aircraft are heavier, land and takeoff faster and are bigger than many smaller air transport aircraft at KPHL including all models of the CRJ, Embraer Regional Jets and Embraer 175 aircraft, not to mention the Boeing 737 and MD-80s.

    I understand that KPNE is designated as a reliever airport for KPHL. Whether the latter is true, in an emergency, its 7000 by 150 foot runway is a perfect alternate landing site for any large aircraft in trouble or where the runways at Philadelphia are fouled. The approaches are clear, the ILS and GPS approaches perfect, the landing distance is adequate and the width is safe for virtually any emergency which might include a locked up brake, blown tire, ice on the runway or just a bad landing or takeoff.

    The condition of the runway was virtually perfect, and except for a slightly non-standard safety area off of Runway 24, it was within FAA runway specifications. I now understand that the entire length of Runway 24 is being dug up so its sub-structure can be brought up to current FAA specifications, but it is also to be narrowed by 50 feet because the FAA “won’t pay for restructuring the full existing width due to the aircraft that typically operate from there.” You’re kidding, right? April 9, 2019 Page 2

    The FAA will pay to rip up a 7000 foot runway to the dirt, put it out of service for nearly a year, to increase the strength of the sub-structure, which is only needed for heavy aircraft like 150,000 lbs. or more, but will narrow the very same runway to a dangerous width because airplanes of that weight don’t typically use the airport. If that doesn’t make sense to you, it doesn’t make sense to me either.

    I have spent my life litigating aircraft accidents because of the FAA’s inexplicable absent oversight. The FAA airports division’s failure to get runways at public airports to meet specification, including runway safety areas designated since 1975 as 500 by 1000 feet is legendary, but narrowing an existing runway is beyond incompetent and just dangerous!

    You will reap what you have sewn. A jet aircraft will go off the side of this narrow runway when it is icy or wet and the weather is down, at night likely when an approach might be flown at a higher landing speed with limited visibility.

    If a large aircraft is waiting for takeoff at the end of Runway 24, it will bend the localizer and the next aircraft will be 50 feet off centerline. If the GPS signal is being tested or altered due to Defense Department needs, the loss of accuracy will put an aircraft on that approach off centerline by fifty feet or more.

    As a taxpayer, I am angry that you would spend our money in such a frivolous fashion, and as a pilot I am appalled that you would compromise our safety in this reckless manner. I am asking my Senators and Congressmen to look into this, but if nothing is done I will file for an injunction with the federal court. The action taken is without factual support, is arbitrary, capricious and against the FAA’s own safety standards.

    Incredibly poor judgment by the City and the FAA both of which should know better. You already have small aircraft that make it off the side of the existing runway, how many lives will be lost when a large aircraft with a bunch of people cartwheels off the side because there is no longer adequate pavement. Then your thoughts and prayers will be too late!

    This decision must be reversed!

    Very truly yours,

    ARTHUR ALAN WOLK

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    The Wolk Law Firm has been hired as plaintiff’s counsel by the family of a passenger in the crash of Ethiopian Flight 302 and is under consideration by many others. The United Nation’s employee left a disabled husband and young child.

    What Boeing ought to do since according to its President it “owns this” is to engage the services of a mediator to settle all the cases promptly. Instead it will no doubt choose the “litigation to death” route while publicly claiming its sympathy for the families of the deceased.

    No worries, The Wolk Law Firm has been trial counsel in many airline crashes before and this one will be easier than all the others.

    Arthur Alan Wolk, Esq.

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    Boeing 737 software upgrade flight tests are bogus. The FAA and Boeing are running around trying to put the world-wide firestorm about the Boeing 737 Max certification and the two unnecessary crashes of the Max models overseas killing 346 people.

    Boeing claims to have developed a software fix that will solve the Max’ uncontrollable pitch down tendencies from a MCAS system that was necessitated due to its uncontrollable and uncertifiable pitch up tendencies. The only problem is that the test airplane for this miracle solution is a Boeing 737 Max 8 at all but a 737-7 which is not equipped with the 737 Max 8’s Leap engines which size and more forward position is the claimed reason for the pitch up tendencies in the first place.

    So Boeing and the FAA Are testing a fix on an airplane that doesn’t have the problem rather than one of those Max 8’s that have been built and are not delivered.

    No fools, these pilots, they are doing these tests at an altitude three times higher than that when the troubles for the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines began.

    So same old same old. The FAA is incompetent, Boeing is still leading it around by the nose and the testing that should be done, on a real Max 8 hasn’t happened.

    Arthur Alan Wolk, Esq.

    April 3, 2019

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    It seems incomprehensible that American Airlines and Southwest Airlines can refuse to ground their B-737 Max 8’s while the rest of the world grounds theirs in the face of two accidents that have claimed the lives of nearly 350 people.

    There would not be enough money in the world to pay the punitive damages claims that either airline would have to pay in the event one of their Max 8’s dived into the ground because the MCAS failed again.

    Today Boeing announced a software fix that reduced the control authority of the MCAS so the elevators would still be able to allow the crew to pull out of a dive induced by runaway stabilizer trim and added a comparator so if either Angle of Attack sensor disagreed, the system wouldn’t work. This is a good first step but the airplane should never have been certified by the FAA without those features in place. It has a single point failure, one sensor operated the system at a time, and this emergency system alone created a worse emergency.

    Do American and Southwest’s Max 8’s already have the software or some version of it that the International carriers do not have? If so the culpability of Boeing would be worse, if that’s possible, but the FAA would also have to be complicit which would explain why it rushed to defend Boeing and the decision of American and Southwest not to ground their fleets. If American and Southwest have a revised MCAS and they remain silent about it, they are morally corrupt for remaining silent.

    There is no evidence that the U.S. carriers’ aircraft are any different than those sold overseas but something is driving this arrogance in the face of certain disaster.

    Arthur Alan Wolk

    3/12/19

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    Boeing has announced and the FAA has agreed to software changes to the MCAS system, the anti-stall system suspected in causing 300 deaths in the last 4 months on the Boeing 737 Max 8.

    The Boeing announcement says the enhancements include updates to “the MCAS flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training. The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.”

    Yet just yesterday the FAA issued a certification of continued airworthiness for the 737 Max 8 claiming to the world that in spite of the two recent accidents, the airplane is just fine. That’s funny, an Airworthiness Directive addresses safety of flight issues and one is already issued on an emergency basis and the software enhancements are included in the second to be issued in April. Other changes are likely to be mandated as well.

    So the B-737 Max 8 is so safe that over 300 people are dead and it needs to be changed to keep flying yet the FAA hasn’t grounded it until the “enhancements” are introduced.

    Other U.S. carriers who operate the Max refuse to take it out of service. What will the FAA say when another one goes down, this time in the U.S., “Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims’ families.”?

    This is politics as usual and the FAA is covering up its embarrassment for having certified an airplane with an emergency system that causes its own emergency. The 737 Max 8 will one day be fixed just like the 737 rudder was after six accidents years ago, but right now until it’s fixed it should remain on the ground.

    The FAA is useless!

    Arthur Alan Wolk

    3/12/19

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    Two crashes within a few short months of each other, hundreds dead, experienced crews aboard each and a known absent control redundancy? This airplane needs another look by embarrassed regulators.

    The Boeing 737 MAX is a further lengthened version of the most popular airliner ever conceived, the 737. But the differences in the MAX are more than just size. The MAX is so stretched that a control intervention system, The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, was included that figured into the crash of the LIONAIR JT 610 crash in Indonesia. In that crash, an angle of attack sensor malfunction was implicated as well as a failure by Boeing to provide adequate differences training materials (documents to advise flight crews how operating the MAX differs from other 737s).

    While LIONAIR maintenance and pilot error was charged by Boeing, as it always does after an accident, it turns out that normal emergency techniques for this control system malfunction do not work.

    It appears now that absent proof that foul play or a different mechanical malfunction brought this airplane down, this Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX accident must be a trigger for a Special Airworthiness Review to see if the regulations for certification were not given short shrift.

    For example, the Federal Aviation Regulations require control system redundancy so no single failure can cause a crash. In the new MAX design, there are two angle of attack sensors but only one supplies the needed critical information to the flight control computer at any one time. That may be a violation of the redundancy requirement and both systems operating properly with a comparator of the health of the two should have been required.

    But there appears to be an ugly side to this aircraft. The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System in the MAX pitches the nose down when the a system senses an angle of attack higher than required for normal flight or one that would result in an aerodynamic stall. Since the system is a required control system for dispatch, by making only one angle of attack sensor required and indeed used at a time, Boeing hedged on the likely failure of two AOA’s at the same time and got it certified.

    Now the FAA, the agency that certified the aircraft will fall all over itself to deny that the MAX doesn’t meet the regulations but it said the same thing when three B-737s crashed from a rudder control problem that the FAA denied existed. More than 600 people lost their lives while the FAA defended its actions and stood in Boeing’s shadow until the NTSB reluctantly and due in part to the work of Arthur Alan Wolk required a reliably redundant rudder control system.

    Until the cause of this latest crash is determined, the MAX should be grounded and a bottom up review made to see how this new band aid system fails, how its failure can be annunciated to the flight crew and how it can be stopped once it runs away.

    It is no coincidence that both aircraft crews lost control close to the ground and unless something else is quickly identified as the cause, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System must be a suspect. Something about the MAX’s design required this unheard of mechanical intervention in the normal control of the Boeing 737, literally taking control away from the crew so the airplane doesn’t crash. The fact that it is known that this supposedly lifesaving system may itself cause a crash makes a careful re-examination of it appropriate before 600 people are lost instead of the more than 300 dead already.

    Arthur Alan Wolk 3/10/2019

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    No lawyer in the world has as much experience with the Boeing G 737 Control System malfunctions as Arthur Alan Wolk of THE WOLK LAW FIRM. The crash of Lion Air Flight JT 610 is beyond a tragedy for the 189 souls aboard. It is a disgrace.

    The Boeing 737 MAX is equipped with a flight control system designed to prevent the crew from
    accidentally stalling the airplane. It’s called the “Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System” In
    this instance stall means aerodynamic stall or the airplane quits flying not engine failure. The incidence of airliner crews accidentally stalling their airplanes is almost non-existent except when in the unlikely
    event the flight control system malfunctions and misleads the flight deck crew into mis-handling the emergency. This occurred over the Atlantic during an Air France Flight to Paris from Buenos Aires some
    years ago. All aboard were killed so every aircraft manufacturer was on notice that the systems were getting too complex and confusing even for experienced flight crews to master.

    Boeing airplanes have traditionally avoided the use of computer interventions which take control of the
    aircraft away from the flight deck crew and the Boeing 737 MAX is the first time Boeing has departed
    from that control system design philosophy in the Boeing 737 type. The MAX system literally uses two
    Angle of Attack sensors which feeds information to a horizontal stabilizer trim system that will force the nose of the aircraft down if the angle of attack (the angle between a line down the middle of the
    fuselage and the air it is flying through) gets too steep. This system inexplicably uses only one of the two angle of attack sensors so it has a built in single point failure in the event that the one it is using fails.
    The computer senses that at that angle even if incorrectly measured due to a malfunctioning angle of attack sensor, the airplane is approaching or will approach stall and trims the stabilizer nose down to prevent the aircraft from stalling. The problem is that the system won’t allow the crew to disable it in a timely way if at all and it will take control away from the crew all the way into the ground or ocean. In fact since the system only works when the airplane is in manual flaps up condition, lowering the flaps
    would have disabled it but nobody in the cockpit knew that because Boeing didn’t tell them.

    In the instance of the Boeing 737 MAX, there was nothing in the FAA Approved Flight manual to advise
    the crew of this anomaly or how to deal with it and nothing in the differences training (the training of flight deck crews in one type of B-737 to know what’s new or different about the MAX) to cover it.
    Therefore the Lion Air crew was stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place trying to figure out what was wrong and what to do about it.

    There is no question that Boeing knew about the issue and the potential failure mode because it designed and built the system. It was obligated to create a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis so the various potential failures could be addressed. It also knew it had a responsibility under the Federal
    Aviation Regulations to design the system so it could be flown by pilots of ordinary piloting skills, without the use of excessive strength and the system must be able to be overridden by the crew using
    ordinary strength and easily disabled it if it malfunctions.

    Boeing was required to supply the FAA with a Flight Manual, that only the FAA can approve, which gives the crew all the necessary information to deal with emergencies and abnormal conditions and under no circumstances is one emergency allowed to create an even wors emergency. Clearly the FAA didn’t read it, didn’t understand it, didn’t flight test it and just rubber stamped it.

    This Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System was malfunctioning on four flights before the
    accident flight. The flight deck crews reported the malfunctions and Lion Air maintenance people claiming they used the manuals that Boeing supplied, troubleshot the squawk and claim they fixed the system as instructed. The problem is that this malfunction could not be effectively troubleshot on the ground as the angle of attack sensors typically fail in the air. That’s why each succeeding flight deck crew had the problem again. In addition the system cannot be effectively troubleshot by the methods the maintenance personnel were given in continuing airworthiness manuals that Boeing was required under the Federal Aviation Regulations to provide with all means necessary to maintain the aircraft safe for flight.

    Many other types of jet aircraft have a single switch that will allow the crew to disconnect the entire
    trim system. But because this was a stall protection system, often the means to disable it is more complicated so the protection is not lost. Clearly the crew of Lion Air JT610 was unable to disconnect or disable the system and the nose was pitched down in ever increasing amounts such that even tugging as hard as they could the crew could not overcome the dive to eventual oblivion. The very fact that the crew could not disable or override the system makes the system itself a violation of the same Federal
    Aviation Regulations.

    Arthur Alan Wolk litigated the Boeing 737 rudder malfunction accidents, United 525 in Colorado Springs,
    Co. and USAIR 427 in Aliquippa Pa., for nine years successfully settling the cases of the many passengers he represented after proving, in spite of Boeing’s denials, that the rudder control system was flawed. It
    has since been redesigned. Wolk proved the rudder control system defective not only to the NTSB which was mesmerized for years by Boeing’s denials but to Boeing and its insurers as well.

    The rudder in the Boeing 737 also had a single point failure and there was no mention of a procedure to counter it in the FAA approved Flight Manual. The regulators don’t regulate and the manufacturers do not comply with the regulatory requirements.

    No one is more qualified to litigate Lion Air JT 610 than Arthur Alan Wolk and The Wolk Law Firm.


    Arthur Alan Wolk can be reached at the office 215-545-4220 or on his cell 610-733-4220.

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    I have recently reviewed a number of discount fuel contracts, usually for jet aircraft, and imbedded in them is a surprise about which most owners and their pilots are completely unaware.

    Every one of the contracts I read require the aircraft owner to release, indemnify and hold harmless not only the discount fuel company but also the FBO who supplies the fuel from everything, whether negligence or not and regardless of the consequences.

    So if an FBO mis-fuels your aircraft or puts fuel full of contaminants in your airplane and you crash, you will be surprised, no doubt posthumously, that you have voided your insurance coverage by agreeing to relieve the FBO of any responsibility and on top of that have no remedy against either the FBO or discount fuel company.

    What’s worse is the hold harmless provisions also make you liable for the FBO or discount fuel company’s attorneys’ fees. That could run into the millions of dollars and that won’t be covered either.

    Oh, and in case you haven’t thought of it, the release, indemnity and hold harmless also means that when the fuel truck takes your right wing off on the ramp, you have agreed to release, indemnify and hold harmless the discount fuel company and FBO for that too.

    When your insurance company gets wind of the contract you signed, without asking whether it wished to assume the release, indemnity and hold harmless you agreed to, the first notice you get will be a declination of coverage.

    I brought this to the attention of a certain aircraft owners and pilots group who were touting the benefits of the discount fuel deal and all of them hadn’t ever read the contract they signed nor had they sent it to their insurance companies to incorporate into their policy as contractual liability. None of them cancelled the contract either. Be assured that when the sad event occurs, they will be the first to complain.

    Aircraft insurance is not like the one on your car. It has lots of provisions that can trap an aircraft owner into no coverage. This one is easy. No contract to save a few cents on a fuel purchase is worth the loss of coverage.

    Arthur Alan Wolk

    December 3, 2018

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