Author: Airlaw

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.

    Gus Fossum was a simple guy on a mission. Raised on a farm in Minnesota, he never attended high school – while still a teenager in 1924 he went to the city to study automobile engines. He wanted to become an Army pilot, but obeyed his father and instead moved to Los Angeles in 1927. He studied aircraft mechanics in 1929-30 while owning and operating an auto garage (1928-1942). He owned several planes and flew often, including over the 1932 Olympic Games. In 1943 he joined the Navy and spent the war in Hawaii preparing planes for battle. After WWII he spent the next 25 years working for aircraft companies, including Northrop and General Electric, as an inspector. Over the years he constantly was thinking of ways to improve on the things he knew. He wanted to forever end the dreaded killer of so many in aviation – carburetor ice.

    Carburetor ice has been a problem since airplanes were first invented, and even today is the most frequent cause of unexplained engine failure. It has been studied for generations, and some innovative fixes by some brilliant engineers have been proposed, but none implemented by General Aviation manufacturers. Teflon coating of the throttle plate and venturi was proposed by the Canadians after their tests showed virtually ice free operation. The Teflon simply won’t allow ice to stick. The cost to implement this was $1.50 per carburetor. It never happened. Others have proposed fuel additives to prevent ice formation, and still others have recommended that all carburetors be equipped with ice detectors so a pilot won’t have to guess if his loss of power is due to carburetor ice or some other cause.

    But only one invention, Gus Fossum’s invention, puts an end forever to carburetor ice and all the injuries and deaths that have come from it. Gus designed, built, and installed in his airplane a prototype small updraft carburetor, the kind that Marvel Schebler and now Precision have built since the 1940s. He carefully machined oil channels in the casting, throttle plate and throttle plate shaft so hot engine oil would constantly warm the carburetor and prevent the formation of any ice. At his own great expense of time and money, he obtained patents for the device in 1975 (3,916,859) and in 1979 (4,169,442). Manufacturing costs would have risen slightly, but in production this remarkable innovation would have resulted in a negligible increase in cost. Gus tested his amazing invention, and then tried desperately to sell the concept to aircraft and engine manufacturers. While none denied his invention was not the cure that Gus proudly proclaimed it to be, not one manufacturer would entertain the idea of using it. Gus Fossum’s invention is still not being manufactured for any aircraft – and carburetor ice deaths and injuries continue unabated.

    Gus Fossum died in 1999 before his dream of improving aviation safety by eliminating carburetor ice from the litany of causes of aircraft accidents was realized, but he should not be forgotten. It takes a courageous man to put his reputation and skill on the line, face off multi-billion dollar aircraft and engine manufacturers and show them the way to save lives and them from their own product liability exposure. They didn’t listen, but we should. The Gus Fossums of this world make it a better place. His widow Helen, now 94, and family savor the memory of the simple man who just wanted to help keep everyone safe in the aviation field he loved so much.

    Rest in peace, Gus.

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    There is only one level of safety. The problem is the experience level of the people who carry out that mission & the airplanes they must carry it out in.

    There is no substitute for years in the cockpit and hours in make and model to ensure safety. A pilot can’t be worried that he doesn’t make enough to eat, put gas in his car, get his uniform cleaned or pay the rent if you want him to be clear headed enough to perform optimally. The salaries are too low, the benefits non-existent, the airplanes less than fully capable for the mission and still these kids do a great job. They make more takeoffs and landings in the worst weather and work the worst hours for the worst pay. They are motivated, enthusiastic and do their best to be safe. They are however for the most part youngsters and far less experienced than their big airline brothers.

    Their airplanes still have outdated deicing systems but they are expected to fly in the worst icing. They commute to work because they can’t afford to live near their base and they are expected to perform at their highest level. Their dispatch is not to big airline standards and they are expected to deliver their passengers safely no matter what the delays, no matter what the weather and no matter how many legs they have flown in the soup.

    Why is there surprise when one of them crashes?

    What needs to happen is closer FAA oversight…heard that one before. They need a living wage and benefits. They need airplanes that are modern and safe in every respect i.e. no turboprops. They need the authority to cancel a flight without fear of retribution, read that getting fired, for doing so.

    Continental Flight 3407 is an example of what’s wrong not with just commuters but with commercial aviation. They flew an airplane with boots that everyone knows do not work safely in many icing conditions and certainly those in existence that night. They were tired. They were not fully trained to understand the limitations of their aircraft, the limitations of its certification to fly in ice and what cues they would receive that the airplane was failing them and what to do about it. Maybe they should also have been told that if anything happens their company, the manufacturer, other pilots and the Government will turn on them and blame them for something for which they were blameless.

    The problem with commuters isn’t their pilots, it’s the people who regulate them, run them and build the airplanes flown by them.

    – Arthur Alan Wolk

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    Tuning the other radio to approach while monitoring the advisory frequency can save your life. These few words mean so much and are so misunderstood.

    When Air Traffic Control utters these words while a pilot is conducting an instrument approach to an uncontrolled airport or one where the tower is closed what it means is that it’s okay for the pilot to change to the airport advisory frequency to announce his intentions to land and to caution other aircraft that might be in the traffic pattern or waiting to take off that an aircraft is on the instrument approach.

    The idea behind this phrase is great. In this fashion other aircraft that might be operating under visual flight rules (VFR) should be on the lookout for an aircraft emerging from the clouds on final and give way. They might also announce their presence on the frequency so the pilot on the instrument approach will be aware of their presence and look carefully to avoid them when and if he breaks out of the clouds during the approach.

    Therein lies the rub. It is possible that the pilot on the approach will fly his aircraft to minimums, like 200 feet above the ground before he looks out to see the runway environment. At that point it’s too late to see and avoid the other aircraft and the hazard of a collision with an airplane operating under technically legal VFR is possible.

    But that isn’t the only risk and this one is the worst. Often when the controller approves a change to advisory frequency, all too often the pilot switches his primary radio to the advisory frequency without tuning in approach control on the second radio and turning up the volume so he can listen on both radios. Why does this happen so often? Because the pilot is concerned that he won’t be able to hear aircraft on the advisory frequency responding to his call in the blind or that he will not hear their calls in the blind confused instead by the chatter on the approach control frequency.

    What some pilots don’t understand is that approach control radars have a low altitude alerting feature that is customized to instrument approaches at that airport. In short, it flashes the data block and sounds an aural alarm to the controller should the aircraft on the approach deviate from the establish approach parameters of safety. This occurs even after the frequency change and until the instrument flight plan is closed. The controller is then obligated to give a low altitude alert that goes something like: “November (AIRCRAFT NUMBER) low altitude alert, check your altitude immediately!” Now this is one great safety feature because if the pilot is concentrating on the approach and perhaps misses an “off” flag on his instruments, follows a false glideslope, has a sticking or lagging altimeter, or just loses his concentration, that nagging controllers’ voice can be a wake-up call that saves lives. If given timely, the proper response is to check ones’ descent, execute a missed approach if necessary and sort things out instead of crashing into the terrain below.

    The pilot can’t do this if he has either failed to insert approach control’s frequency in his second radio or doesn’t have the volume up loud enough to hear the alert. This simple oversight has prevented the avoidance of many accidents.

    When on an instrument approach lots of stuff is going on. With the advent of GPS, WAAS and who knows what next, the pilot workload has been increased not decreased. This alert feature which has been around for years and ignored too often by controllers and missed by pilots can make a huge difference. In most accidents we have investigated, the controller gives the low altitude alert and only talks to himself because the frequency has already been changed in the primary radio by the pilot. Sometimes the alert is given too late because controllers ignore them due to too many false alerts. The result is often a crash. Everyone makes mistakes so tuning the other radio to approach while monitoring the advisory frequency can save your life. DO IT !!!!!

    – Arthur Alan Wolk

    Note: The term VFR means the operation of an aircraft under “visual flight rules” ie. the FAR’s. Some time ago the FAA began to use the acronym VMC, “visual flight conditions” to describe what we pilots knew for an eternity as VFR. Those of us pilots old enough know that VMC is the FAA’s acronym for “velocity minimum control” and has to do with the velocity below which a twin engine aircraft will no longer maintain directional control if the critical engine fails on takeoff. The constant changing of well known acronyms by the FAA brings to mind one that most pilots would like to have implemented with regard to the FAA’s continued existence. Its known as DOA.

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    Dark, snowy, limited visibility, slick runway, short runway, inadequate safety areas, all ingredients for a disaster. The data must be analyzed but based on our litigating these accidents before here is what must be carefully looked at.

    This is an old airplane with lots of time on it. The aircraft swerved after making a normal landing. Although it came out of a recent inspection crew write ups on thrust reversers and engine spool up times need to be examined for differences between the left and right engines. The auto-braking system and antiskid must likewise be examined.

    Why, because a similar accident occurred with an American Airlines MD-80 in a thunderstorm.

    In the American crash, when the crew deployed thrust reversers the buckets did not deploy symmetrically. The engines spooled up 11 seconds apart so as the power came up the airplane skidded sideways. Sound familiar?

    In addition the brakes were also problematic so the airplane went sideways down the runway until the crew could straighten out the airplane before it left the runway. The wing spoilers did not deploy even though armed. Ten were killed.

    If the braking is not symmetric, i.e. equal left and right the airplane can skid sideways New Crash Likely Old Problem
    Delta Airlines crash at La Guardia Could Have Been a Lot Worse

    Dark, snowy, limited visibility, slick runway, short runway, inadequate safety areas, all ingredients for a disaster. The data must be analyzed but based on our litigating these accidents before here is what must be carefully looked at.

    This is an old airplane with lots of time on it. The aircraft swerved after making a normal landing. Although it came out of a recent inspection crew write ups on thrust reversers and engine spool up times need to be examined for differences between the left and right engines. The auto-braking system and antiskid must likewise be examined.

    Why, because a similar accident occurred with an American Airlines MD-80 in a thunderstorm.

    In the American crash, when the crew deployed thrust reversers the buckets did not deploy symmetrically. The engines spooled up 11 seconds apart so as the power came up the airplane skidded sideways. Sound familiar?

    In addition the brakes were also problematic so the airplane went sideways down the runway until the crew could straighten out the airplane before it left the runway. The wing spoilers did not deploy even though armed. Ten were killed.

    If the braking is not symmetric, i.e. equal left and right the airplane can skid sideways on a slick runway. if the reverse buckets don’t deploy symmetrically the airplane can skid sideways on a slick runway, if the engines do not spool up symmetrically ( and they rarely do) the airplane can skid sideways on a slick runway. Before blaming the Delta flight deck crew, which no doubt will happen, the NTSB needs to look at these issues and also check to see if there were any prior complaints by other crews of anomalies with these systems on this aircraft. A careful check of approach airspeeds and deployment of the spoilers on the wings after touchdown must also be verified. The spoilers on an MD-80, necessary to put weight on the wheels for more effective braking, must be armed by the flight deck crew for them to deploy. The pre-landing checklist must be verified on the Cockpit Voice Recorder. There is a distinctive clunk sound arming that system makes.

    La Guardia can be challenging, especially at night in a snowstorm. Plowing is useful but in the midst of a very heavy snowstorm may not be enough. The runways are short, there is water everywhere but thankfully no one was seriously hurt and other than embarrassment life will go on.

    Arthur Alan Wolk

    March 6, 2015

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    The Wolk Law Firm has received a demand letter from NTSB General Counsel that it clarify comments made about the NTSB’s role in investigating the fiery crash of a Gulfstream IV at Bedford, Massachusetts.

    Earlier commentaries focused on the elevator controls as the likely cause of that tragedy. In fact another GIV suffered a similar yet not fatal incident in 2006 at Palm Beach International and yet another just occurred at Eagle, Colorado. At Eagle the flight crew pulled back on the elevator control and got nothing. They aborted the takeoff and stopped within feet of the end of the runway which was longer than the runway at Bedford.

    Since those commentaries were published on this site others have also contacted the Wolk Law Firm.

    The NTSB has refused to allow representatives of the families to bring competent experts to examine the wreckage of the Bedford aircraft and in particular the elevator control servo and associated hardware. The NTSB has declined to allow the families’ representatives to listen to the Cockpit Voice Recorder or see a transcript and has also declined to publish the results of the Flight Data Recorder tracings. This is true even though the NTSB had had this information within hours of the accident. Rumor has it that the Eagle, Colorado aircraft was taken to a Gulfstream facility for examination and testing.

    In its preliminary report of the Bedford accident, issued after the NTSB listened to the Cockpit Voice Recorder, and looked at the Flight Data Recorder which revealed the flight deck crew in Bedford is said to have referred to “aircraft control” before they attempted to abort the take-off. In the Eagle, Colorado incident, the flight deck crew uttered similar words as well. Such excited utterances are common when the cause of the emergency is related to the controllability of an aircraft.

    Since those words were apparently uttered at a time when back pressure on the yoke and hence the elevators was being applied, the aircraft control referred to is the elevators.

    If they do not work, the aircraft will not rotate for takeoff just as in Palm Beach, just as in Eagle, and just as in Bedford.

    The Gulfstream has a dual elevator control servo which combines two hydraulic systems into one unit to provide system redundancy in the event of a single hydraulic system failure.

    It consist of two pistons that oppose each other and they are connected to a common linkage. There is also a manual back-up that is supposed to allow elevator movement even in the event of a dual hydraulic system failure. For reasons that are not now apparent, the cable back-up has proved inadequate. That control system was designed in the 1960’s by the same company responsible for the B-737 rudder control servo. The Wolk Law Firm’s nine year effort at proving the defect in the B-737 servo in the face of industry denials is well known.

    It has been our firm’s experience that design philosophies that result in unaccounted for failure modes usually pervade the product line. We are investigating whether the dual redundant design in the GIV is in fact truly dual redundant, or whether it is just redundant enough to satisfy certification authorities. There is only a single elevator servo in the GIV just like there was only a single servo in the B-737 rudder.

    After the Eagle incident The Wolk Law Firm published another commentary referring to a document production made by the NTSB as well as making comment on the flight deck crew’s reported utterances in the Bedford incident. The NTSB hasn’t yet published the docket and no documents were produced further to two separate FOIA requests. The Wolk law Firm assembled documents on its own and the NTSB has been stonewalling document production even though The Wolk law firm is entitled to them under The Freedom of Information Act. The families that The Wolk Law firm represent are also entitled to the documents up to now assembled by the NTSB under the Family Assistance Act, but the NTSB has ignored the mandates of that Act as well. The NTSB is concerned that it would appear that we were permitted to hear the CVR or read a transcript, but that was neither said nor implied by the commentary. The NTSB also is miffed at the suggestion that based on some forty years of investigating aircraft accidents that were unduly influenced by manufacturers’ participation, this Bedford investigation would likewise be compromised. The fact that manufacturers’ investigators report to their legal departments and hence their insurers doesn’t seem to bother the NTSB. The fact that

    a study called The Rand Report issued years ago brought into question the cozy relationship between the NTSB and the manufacturers it invites to participate in investigations to the exclusion of representatives of the victims still doesn’t trouble the NTSB. Nothing has changed.

    So to address the concerns of the NTSB directly, nothing was intended to imply that the NTSB released its docket on this accident to The Wolk Law Firm. Nothing was intended to imply that the NTSB released a transcript or allowed The Wolk law Firm to hear the CVR or see tracings from the FDR. Only the manufacturer of the aircraft and its safety/accident/legal/defense investigators were allowed to do that. In fact the NTSB continues to stonewall production of any documents concerning the Bedford accident.

    The NTSB is also concerned that The Wolk Law Firm referred to the NTSB reluctantly releasing documents. These documents which took a lawsuit to get released related to five other accidents and not the Bedford accident where the NTSB continues to refuse to release documents.

    The Wolk Law Firm sued the NTSB for collaborating with aircraft manufacturers to keep documents and suspect parts from it until after the statute of limitations has run on lawsuits for the deaths of aircraft occupants. This has happened a number of times, not to mention the number of suspect parts that have been lost or damaged by the NTSB or destroyed to the point that no useful information can be further gleaned from them.

    The FOIA request for the docket and the filing of that lawsuit were close in time and the amicable settlement of that lawsuit also occurred round the time the documents on Bedford were requested. The Wolk law Firm declines to speculate on the motivations of the NTSB but its experience is that the NTSB does not timely honor Freedom of Information Act requests and even asks manufacturers whether they can release certain documents before doing so. Allowing manufacturers to write

    narratives of accidents, reviewing accident reports before they are released to the public, examining their own parts in their own facilities to determine whether they are defective is also routine for the NTSB.

    Comments made by The Wolk Law Firm were based on their knowledge, experience, reports by others and reports by the NTSB following the Bedford accident, study of the aircraft systems and thousands of hours spent studying and uncovering flaws in aircraft control systems that baffled NTSB investigators. For example, the elevator control servo and its mechanisms was not thoroughly examined at the scene before the aircraft was moved from Bedford to its storage facility in spite of the flight crew referring to aircraft control prior to the crash. The failure to carefully examine it, remove it, laboratory test it and metallurgically analyze it before the aircraft was moved is inexplicable and indefensible.

    In our opinion the cause of the Bedford crash is and always will be a failure of the elevator control system, just like it was at Palm Beach, just like it was at Eagle and just like it was elsewhere. Getting demand letters from the NTSB won’t change anything, won’t solve anything, and don’t mean anything. I trust this clarifies concerns the NTSB had that it had reluctantly produced documents that might help The Wolk law firm assist the grieving families of those killed in this tragedy. No chance of that.

    Arthur Alan Wolk, Esq.

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    The Wolk Law Firm has received a demand letter from NTSB General Counsel that it clarify comments made about the NTSB’s role in investigating the fiery crash of a Gulfstream IV at Bedford, Massachusetts.

    Earlier commentaries focused on the elevator controls as the likely cause of that tragedy. In fact another GIV suffered a similar yet not fatal incident in 2006 at Palm Beach International and yet another just occurred at Eagle, Colorado. At Eagle the flight crew pulled back on the elevator control and got nothing. They aborted the takeoff and stopped within feet of the end of the runway which was longer than the runway at Bedford.

    Since those commentaries were published on this site others have also contacted the Wolk Law Firm.

    The NTSB has refused to allow representatives of the families to bring competent experts to examine the wreckage of the Bedford aircraft and in particular the elevator control servo and associated hardware. The NTSB has declined to allow the families’ representatives to listen to the Cockpit Voice Recorder or see a transcript and has also declined to publish the results of the Flight Data Recorder tracings. This is true even though the NTSB had had this information within hours of the accident. Rumor has it that the Eagle, Colorado aircraft was taken to a Gulfstream facility for examination and testing.

    In its preliminary report of the Bedford accident, issued after the NTSB listened to the Cockpit Voice Recorder, and looked at the Flight Data Recorder which revealed the flight deck crew in Bedford is said to have referred to “aircraft control” before they attempted to abort the take-off. In the Eagle, Colorado incident, the flight deck crew uttered similar words as well. Such excited utterances are common when the cause of the emergency is related to the controllability of an aircraft.

    Since those words were apparently uttered at a time when back pressure on the yoke and hence the elevators was being applied, the aircraft control referred to is the elevators.

    If they do not work, the aircraft will not rotate for takeoff just as in Palm Beach, just as in Eagle, and just as in Bedford.

    The Gulfstream has a dual elevator control servo which combines two hydraulic systems into one unit to provide system redundancy in the event of a single hydraulic system failure.

    It consist of two pistons that oppose each other and they are connected to a common linkage. There is also a manual back-up that is supposed to allow elevator movement even in the event of a dual hydraulic system failure. For reasons that are not now apparent, the cable back-up has proved inadequate. That control system was designed in the 1960’s by the same company responsible for the B-737 rudder control servo. The Wolk Law Firm’s nine year effort at proving the defect in the B-737 servo in the face of industry denials is well known.

    It has been our firm’s experience that design philosophies that result in unaccounted for failure modes usually pervade the product line. We are investigating whether the dual redundant design in the GIV is in fact truly dual redundant, or whether it is just redundant enough to satisfy certification authorities. There is only a single elevator servo in the GIV just like there was only a single servo in the B-737 rudder.

    After the Eagle incident The Wolk Law Firm published another commentary referring to a document production made by the NTSB as well as making comment on the flight deck crew’s reported utterances in the Bedford incident. The NTSB hasn’t yet published the docket and no documents were produced further to two separate FOIA requests. The Wolk law Firm assembled documents on its own and the NTSB has been stonewalling document production even though The Wolk law firm is entitled to them under The Freedom of Information Act. The families that The Wolk Law firm represent are also entitled to the documents up to now assembled by the NTSB under the Family Assistance Act, but the NTSB has ignored the mandates of that Act as well. The NTSB is concerned that it would appear that we were permitted to hear the CVR or read a transcript, but that was neither said nor implied by the commentary. The NTSB also is miffed at the suggestion that based on some forty years of investigating aircraft accidents that were unduly influenced by manufacturers’ participation, this Bedford investigation would likewise be compromised. The fact that manufacturers’ investigators report to their legal departments and hence their insurers doesn’t seem to bother the NTSB. The fact that

    a study called The Rand Report issued years ago brought into question the cozy relationship between the NTSB and the manufacturers it invites to participate in investigations to the exclusion of representatives of the victims still doesn’t trouble the NTSB. Nothing has changed.

    So to address the concerns of the NTSB directly, nothing was intended to imply that the NTSB released its docket on this accident to The Wolk Law Firm. Nothing was intended to imply that the NTSB released a transcript or allowed The Wolk law Firm to hear the CVR or see tracings from the FDR. Only the manufacturer of the aircraft and its safety/accident/legal/defense investigators were allowed to do that. In fact the NTSB continues to stonewall production of any documents concerning the Bedford accident.

    The NTSB is also concerned that The Wolk Law Firm referred to the NTSB reluctantly releasing  documents. These documents which took a lawsuit to get released related to five other accidents and not the Bedford accident where the NTSB continues to refuse to release documents.

    The Wolk Law Firm sued the NTSB for collaborating with aircraft manufacturers to keep documents and suspect parts from it until after the statute of limitations has run on lawsuits for the deaths of aircraft occupants. This has happened a number of times, not to mention the number of suspect parts that have been lost or damaged by the NTSB or destroyed to the point that no useful information can be further gleaned from them.

    The FOIA request for the docket and the filing of that lawsuit were close in time and the amicable settlement of that lawsuit also occurred round the time the documents on Bedford were requested. The Wolk law Firm declines to speculate on the motivations of the NTSB but its experience is that the NTSB does not timely honor Freedom of Information Act requests and even asks manufacturers whether they can release certain documents before doing so. Allowing manufacturers to write

    narratives of accidents, reviewing accident reports before they are released to the public, examining their own parts in their own facilities to determine whether they are defective is also routine for the NTSB.

    Comments made by The Wolk Law Firm were based on their knowledge, experience, reports by others and reports by the NTSB following the Bedford accident, study of the aircraft systems and thousands of hours spent studying and uncovering flaws in aircraft control systems that baffled NTSB investigators. For example, the elevator control servo and its mechanisms was not thoroughly examined at the scene before the aircraft was moved from Bedford to its storage facility in spite of the flight crew referring to aircraft control prior to the crash. The failure to carefully examine it, remove it, laboratory test it and metallurgically  analyze it before the aircraft was moved is inexplicable and indefensible.

    In our opinion the cause of the Bedford crash is and always will be a failure of the elevator control system, just like it was at Palm Beach, just like it was at Eagle and just like it was elsewhere. Getting demand letters from the NTSB won’t change anything, won’t solve anything, and don’t mean anything. I trust this clarifies concerns the NTSB had that it had reluctantly produced documents that might help The Wolk law firm assist the grieving families of those killed in this tragedy. No chance of that.

    Arthur Alan Wolk, Esq.

     

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    MADRID MD-82 CRASH, DÉJÀ VU
    The flight path of both the Northwest and Spanair aircraft are eerily similar…

    Two decades ago in Detroit Michigan, Northwest Airlines Flight 255, an MD-82, crashed on takeoff, killing all aboard except for a toddler. The crew had failed to extend the wing flaps and the takeoff configuration warning was disabled due to lack of electrical power to the device, so no warning was sounded.

    Now it appears that first witness reports about an engine explosion on Spanair MD-82 upon its takeoff in Madrid, Spain on August 20 were in error. Instead, investigators have found that the plane did not have its wing flaps deployed when it stalled and crashed to the runway killing 153 of its 175 passengers and crew. Once again, it appears that the crew failed to extend the wing flaps, thus ignoring that item on the pre-takeoff check list. The cockpit voice recorder should confirm or deny whether the crew announced the need to set flaps for takeoff.

    Typically, takeoff configuration warnings do not sound because they have been disabled due to frequent false warnings. A warning system is useless if it frequently malfunctions because flight crews will just ignore the warnings as unreliable. On the other hand, pre-takeoff check lists, which include challenge and response by the flight crew working together, should have resulted in proper flap extension. It has not yet been determined why the takeoff warning on the Spanair aircraft didn’t work and it was never determined why it didn’t work on the Northwest aircraft more than 20 years ago.

    The flight path of both the Northwest and Spanair aircraft are eerily similar, with the nose seen coming up to takeoff altitude, followed by an aerodynamic stall resulting in a rapid descent to the ground with a large loss of life.

    The fact that Spanish investigators heard no takeoff configuration warning on the cockpit voice recorder is just a “same-old, same-old” repeat of the well-known adage that aircraft always telegraph their intention to fail long before an accident. This problem has been around for at least 20 years and obviously a fix has not been ordered by the FAA, the agency responsible for ensuring aircraft safety.

    It is hideous that the manufacturer hasn’t fixed this known fatal flaw that has now taken hundreds of lives.

    – Arthur Alan Wolk

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    The National Transportation Safety Board has asked the FAA to help in coming up with mandatory technology to be installed in aircraft so their location can be pinpointed within 6 miles of the crash.

    These two technology challenged agencies of Government will no doubt, meet for years, establish a task force, contract with industry to come up with suggestions and after spending 100 million dollars or so will come up with the simple answer. It’s called GPS. Instead of wasting taxpayer money, someone at the NTSB should pick up the telephone and call UPS and Fedex. Those two companies know where everything they own is at all times. They can even track your packages so you know where what you entrusted to them is at all times. In other words, this is not rocket science, or even science, it is applied technology that already exists.

    Another simple and inexpensive method is to modify the maintenance tracking software that already exists on many commercial aircraft such that it discloses position as well as the health of the aircraft.

    That data is already transmitted by satellite to airline maintenance departments and some manufacturers. Adding a line of data would be almost costless.

    What will now happen is these two sleepy agencies will convene a seminar at great cost. A paper will no doubt be written and awards given for unique achievements in the field of aviation. A dinner will be held to acknowledge this achievement and ten years from now simple changes that could have been installed yesterday will finally be mandated but only for new airplanes not for the ones that are already flying.

    This of course is after a Notice of Proposed Rule Making is issued. A lengthy comment period will follow. Industry will complain that changes aren’t necessary because so few airplanes crash and most don’t crash into the sea never to be found. Complaints will be made about the cost and each comment will be investigated. The rule will become final anyway unless politicians get involved and weigh in on behalf of the airlines and manufacturers. If that happens, then the entire matter will be reopened and studied some more. This is the reason nothing gets timely done to improve aviation safety.

    Arthur Alan Wolk

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    Fourteen people killed in an aircraft that can only carry 10 has the stench of carelessness all over it. Most PC-12s can safely hold only six to nine passengers and one or two pilots. Why were there so many aboard and where were they seated? These youngsters and adults were going skiing. Where was the baggage and where was it stowed? How much did it weigh? Why did the aircraft divert? What were the qualifications and experience of the pilot? Was there a second pilot aboard?

    These preliminary answers are needed to explain why this aircraft fell out of the sky nose down before several eyewitnesses. Did it aerodynamically stall because it got too slow on final approach? Did it accumulate ice when flying at altitude and suffer a tail stall when the final flaps were selected? The weather at the accident site looked good but there was an area of significant icing en route. Did the engine quit as it has a number of other times in PC-12s, dooming the aircraft to a crash short of the airport?

    My calculations show that to stay within the gross weight limits, the pilot could only have put about 160 gallons of fuel aboard, less than what is required for a two and one-half hour flight plus reserves. The payload of a PC-12 is about 3,900 pounds. Seven adults weigh a minimum of 1,300 pounds. Seven children weigh about 500 pounds minimum. Baggage is figured at about 1,000 pounds total which includes skis, boots, poles, clothes, etc. Together, that comes to 2,800 pounds, leaving about 1,100 pounds available for fuel or about 160 gallons.

    The flight plan was for two and one-half hours en route which, together with required reserves, would have left very little useable fuel at the time of arrival and would have explained the diversion to a closer airport. Essentially the National Transportation Safety Board needs to look at whether the fuel was managed properly, or whether the engine quit on a short final approach with the fire coming from unusable fuel that misted or perhaps there was more unusable fuel than certified.

    Other questions must also be answered. Some of the equipment on board may have had a nonvolatile memory chip that could be helpful but the fire and impact may have destroyed that forever.

    The PC-12 like so many other turboprops has deicing boots that inflate to remove accumulated ice. These boots have proved inadequate in many other turboprops and if runback ice accumulated on the tail or on the wings at altitude and could not be shed, the extension of flaps might have shifted the center of lift aft and caused a tail stall which would have pitched the nose down sharply as described by witnesses. Coming on the heels of Continental flight 3407 at Buffalo for similar reasons, it is long overdue that turboprops be prohibited from flying in icing conditions until they all are retrofitted with anti-ice instead of deice equipment. That way ice is not permitted to accumulate at all on aircraft that have proved time and time again their inability to fly in icing conditions safely.

    This crash like most will be found to have been preventable and unnecessary. How horrible for these parents and their families!

    – Arthur Alan Wolk

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    TWA 800 STILL AN EXPLODING FUEL TANK ACCIDENT

    (06/26/2013) Seventeen years after the crash of TWA 800, some of the crash investigators have disavowed the findings of the NTSB that an explosion of the center fuel tank caused this tragedy. They claim that a missile, not the same kind of explosion that blew the sister ship to this one out of the sky in Spain years earlier, was the cause.

    One serial number away, that 747, originally also a TWA airplane but sold to the Iranian Air Force, blew up on approach to Madrid. Eighteen other Boeing airplanes have suffered similar center fuel tank explosions.

    These investigators contend that TWA 800, an airplane that was on its last revenue flight because it was used up, did not blow up after sitting on the ramp for three hours with its air conditioning packs running under the center fuel tank with very little fuel in it. Temperatures inside the tank above the remaining fuel exceeded 125 degrees F, above the explosive limit for that fuel vapor, and a fuel scavenge pump at the bottom of that tank was turned on with too little fuel left to cool it. These investigators most of whom worked for TWA or its pilots’ say today it was a missile and not a repeat of the exploding center fuel tank problem. What is troubling is a soon to be released documentary will redirect the public and authorities’ attention to what didn’t happen which impacts the chances of getting the problem fixed once and for all. Inerting the air above the fuel in fuel tanks with nitrogenhas proved to be an effective means to prevent fuel tank explosions in aircraft. We have waited seventeen years for this fix and it still hasn’t happened. With this unsupported claim, the fix for existing aircraft will likely never happen.

    No claim by any terrorist group was ever made following this accident. Moreover if a missile, a MANPAD, was in fact used by a terrorist, it would have been at the limit of its effective altitude, some 13,000 feet and invisible to radar. Since all the MANPADS at that time used heat seekers for terminal guidance, it is fatal to this missile theory that no missile damage was ever found on the engines, the only source of heat for the purported missile’s heat seekers to lock onto and no missile fragments were ever found among the wreckage.

    The cause of the explosion is portrayed in an animation The Wolk Law Firm prepared after the crash. It illustrates just what happened and why. Open it and you will understand why this tragedy occurred and how easily it could have been prevented. These investigators although wrong may be well intended but these erroneous revelations will stymie the already stymied process to fix the exploding fuel tank problem and increase the risk for everyone.

    -Arthur Alan Wolk

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