Category: Commentaries

Few outside the air crash litigation world know how the party system at the NTSB works. When an airplane crash happens, it isn’t just the NTSB investigator-in-charge who goes to the scene to investigate. Under NTSB rules, manufacturers’ accident investigators are invited as parties to the investigation.

Thanks to former NTSB Chairman Jim Hall, a Rand Report indicted this procedure as allowing aircraft manufacturers who had litigation in mind to be the fox guarding the henhouse by influencing the accident investigation away from failures in their components. This is the reason that pilot error is virtually always the cause assigned by the NTSB for an accident.

Well, in spite of good public money having been spent on the Rand study and the lessons that were supposed to be learned from it, the NTSB has taken the justly criticized party system a step further. The NTSB now permits the manufacturers of aircraft, whose accidents it investigates, to pass on promotions of NTSB air safety investigators to senior air safety investigator status. That’s right, in order to get a promotion at the NTSB, to advance in one’s career and receive more money and stature, the promotion hinges on approval from the people investigated. Put another way, if an investigator regularly finds a defect caused an aircraft accident instead of pilot error, he has essentially no chance of promotion.

This has caused a furor among air safety investigators at the NTSB, some of whom who refuse to play ball with the manufacturers’ attempts to place the blame for every accident on the dead pilot. Unfortunately, what these guys don’t know is that the system is fixed against them. Compared to the aircraft manufacturers the air safety investigators are powerless.

Not to worry! Nobody in the air crash litigation profession relies on the NTSB reports. We do our own investigation, which is more thorough and we know more about these airplanes and why they crash than anyone at the NTSB, so good does triumph over evil most of the time.

What is sad, however, is that the good guys who want to do the “independent” air crash investigation work that the “Independent Safety Board Act” was designed by Congress to accomplish are frustrated that their zeal to be independent is frustrated by a good ole boy network of Government and industry that stacks the deck against them.

So much for the promised return to integrity in Government!

– Arthur Alan Wolk


Aircraft wings and tails have forever been the collectors of enough ice to make them quit working like wings and tails. All it really takes is visible moisture, a cloud for example, and temperatures that approach freezing. The movement of the metal surfaces through the air is often enough to lower the temperature below freezing so even outside air temperatures above freezing will allow enough ice to form to give plenty of aerodynamic trouble.

Aircraft manufacturers have historically used de-ice devices to deal with ice, at least enough of it to satisfy the FAA’s paltry requirements to certify an aircraft for flight into “known icing conditions”. De-ice devices concede that the manufacturer will allow the aircraft to accumulate ice before activation is supposed to shed the ice, hence the term de-ice.

De-icing devices are typically rubber boots that inflate to break the ice off. The inflation pressures are supplied by an engine driven vacuum pump, bleed air taken from the compressor section of turbine engines or separate pumps electrically driven. Engine driven vacuum pumps have proven to be prone to failure just when they are needed most because of heat, sudden demands that fail their internal carbon blades, general deterioration or contamination just to name a few of the many reasons for un-annunciated sudden failure. Bleed air drawn from the compressors of little turbine engines is often not enough to completely inflate the boots, the air can often becomes contaminated with moisture and causes ice to form in the inflation tubes, and bleed air drawn from the compressor means less air for the engine to develop the necessary power to climb out of icing conditions or even to provide cabin heat.

Electrically driven air pumps is clearly the better idea because the pumps are single purpose and can supply full inflation pressures regardless of aircraft altitude, cabin heat requirements or moisture.

All of these systems share the same problem. They are designed to remove ice allowed to accumulate rather than preventing its accumulation. It is the accumulation of ice that has proven to be the undoing of many pilots and their aircraft because the manufacturers have hidden a very important fact. They don’t work effectively in the icing conditions that these airplanes regularly fly in and that most pilots think are safe to fly in. None of the federal agencies have taken strong action but there has been talk for decades about the problem. Nonetheless people continue to die each icing season.

Most deicing boots cover less of the airfoil than is required to remove dangerous accumulations of ice. Most deicing boots are impacted by the lack of adequate inflation pressure especially at altitude or with cabin heat on, and many deicing boots will accumulate moisture that will affect the amount of inflation. Couple this with some very unforgiving airfoils that have sharp stall characteristics and the use of deicing boots for known icing certification can be disastrous.

Federal authorities have been uniform in blaming pilots for icing accidents. Clearly these blame merchants are either not pilots, or have never flown in the clouds in the winter. Icing is unpredictable and even when forecast occurs only forty percent of the time. To blame a pilot for a crash because he didn’t predict weather even the National Weather Service can’t get right seems unfair since for the most part pilots are unaware of the limitations of their deicing equipment as manufacturers have not been honest about the limitations.

Other Than Trace To Light Icing, Deicing Equipment In Most General Aviation Airplanes Doesn’t Work.

Neither the testing nor the equipment was ever designed to permit continuous flight in moderate icing conditions. The regulations require it but the manufacturers do not test for it and the aircraft will not handle it. Not a believer, look at the accident reports. They are replete with pilots who cannot believe their multimillion dollar aircraft can’t handle continuous moderate icing, a question they no doubt carry to their deaths.

Even the manufacturers can’t agree with either each other or the Government about when to de-ice. Some say wait until three quarters to one inch of rime ice accumulates before activating the boots. Others say, no, activate boots at the first sign of ice. Some say wait for less clear ice to accumulate before activation and others say activate the boots when such ice is anticipated. Some say don’t activate the boots on approach because it will slow the aircraft by ten knots or so and other say use the boots continuously. Some say ice bridging occurs if you use the boots too soon and too frequently and others say that’s an old pilot’s tale, dead old pilot no doubt.

Some NACA five digit airfoils, widely used in general aviation and some smaller turboprop commuter aircraft grow ice aft of the boots just because of their angle of attack in flight. Some will accumulate ice aft of the boots at the highest point of lift at twelve percent cord and others will react violently especially when the ice accumulates on the horizontal tail. Some airplanes will suffer an ice-induced tail stall for which recovery virtually no pilots have been trained. It is opposite normal stall recovery and may not be recoverable at all.

The manufacturers of big airplanes, transport category airplanes, have long recognized that the use of deicing boots is not a safe solution for the demands of air carriers who may have to fly in ice for a long time. Years ago they abandoned de-icing boots in favor of anti-ice systems. As one famous aeronautical engineer from a well known manufacturer has said: “You could not expect de-icing boots to effectively remove ice from an aircraft that had to fly from Paris to New York much of it in icing conditions so we heated the leading edges of the surfaces instead so ice wouldn’t accumulate.”

Anti-ice as it is called is the only safe way to keep modern aircraft safe in icing conditions. Heating the leading edges of the aerodynamic surfaces is the best way. In turbine aircraft, bleed air from the compressor of the engine is routed though the leading edges. It heats stainless steel strips and they will not allow the accumulation of ice. This requires lots of bleed air and that robs the engines of power and increases fuel consumption. It requires much more power than is necessary for the flight itself and typically is found in larger more powerful aircraft although it is also used in regional jets and many executive jet aircraft but sadly not all. Requiring more power means more expense to buy, greater expense to operate but greater safety is the prize. Other anti-icing options include, weeping wings which bleed glycol or other anti-icing fluids through tiny holes in a mesh leading edge, and electrically heated leading edge devices. The electrically heated leading edge devices will become more and more prolific once low weight high power electrical generators are introduced currently being developed for the newest transport category airliners.

Fortunately for jet operators, much of their flying time is above the weather including icing conditions but as many of the very light jets compete for scarce airspace and air traffic delays due to bad weather become more common, these low powered mostly de-icing equipped jets will suffer from accidents due to the limitations of this equipment. The propeller driven piston powered airplanes are simply doomed to suffer accidents in icing conditions because “certified for flight into known icing conditions” is a cruel hoax for which they are clearly ill-equipped. Small turbine propeller driven aircraft are equally hexed because their tiny engines just don’t have sufficient bleed air to do the job to inflate the boots under the most demanding of flight conditions.

The answer is straightforward. First, the Federal authorities must get their acts together and make a sensible realistic definition of “known icing conditions”. Second, the Federal authorities must ensure that manufacturers comply not only with the letter of the law but also the spirit of the law. If a manufacturer anticipates as it should that a “known icing” certified aircraft will be flown in lots of different icing conditions then it must ensure the aircraft will do it safely. Today that is not so. Third, the Federal authorities must mandate that all aircraft with a “known icing” certification be equipped with anti-icing equipment sufficient to prevent the accumulation of ice and that all power plants have sufficient reserve power to effectively operate this equipment. Fourth, the Federal authorities must carefully review prior known icing certifications and monitor new ones to ensure not that the aircraft meets the letter of the law but that it will be safe to fly in all reasonably anticipatable icing conditions. Under no circumstances should Federal authorities be allowing manufacturers to rewrite their flight manuals after certification to accommodate the reality of accidents in airplanes that never met the requirements in the first place.

Safe flight in icing conditions can’t be the luck of the draw, it must be totally predictable, repeatable and without chance. The only thing manufacturers have control over is to design and build in the capability of an aircraft to safely fly in icing conditions. A higher authority has control over the existence of and the severity of icing conditions that are likely to be experienced. Given man’s control over the former and his lack of control over the latter it is incumbent upon him, and well within the technology, to ensure that emergence safely from the latter is guaranteed.

– Arthur Alan Wolk


In a bizarre twist the NTSB, never at a loss for confusing the causes of accidents with how much it can do for aircraft manufacturers, has suggested that pilot training needs improvement to handle double engine failures at altitude.

First, double engine failures on multi-engine airplanes are illegal if a common cause can result in failure of more than one engine. In short, the airplane should never have been certified as airworthy if this could happen.

It turns out that some jet engines at high altitude, high power settings and cold temperatures can lock up and refuse to restart. This is not only a violation of the certification regulations for the engines, but also of the airplane if both of them in a two engine airplane can do the same thing at the same time.

Instead of coming down like it should have on the manufacturers of the engines and airplanes, the NTSB has instead recommended that a multi-disciplinary panel of experts be convened to discuss improving pilot training. That training already exists! It’s called glider training because when two engines quit in a two engine airplane, the pilots are flying a glider!

What airplanes and engines are the NTSB referring to? The regional jets that increasingly carry more passengers to their destinations than the “real airplanes” that we used to fly in.

This NTSB recommendation, which ignores the seriousness of this life threatening problem and does not address its cause, is irresponsible.

My recommendation is that when both engines quit and you can’t restart, the crew should thank the NTSB and the FAA for failing to exercise their legal obligations to protect those who fly in aircraft.

– Arthur Alan Wolk


Uncompleted modification leaves lots of questions and too few answers

At 35,000 feet, the Airbus A330, the Air France 447 plane that crashed, is only about 25 knots between cruise speed and aerodynamic stall. Thus, if wind shear and turbulence are sufficiently violent, the aircraft can stall and the air data computers will take the autopilot offline because the equipment senses an anomaly. The airplane will be thrown around like a feather and composite structures will fail because they have never been tested to ultimate load. That stall can also result in the aircraft becoming unrecoverable while it breaks up on its way to lower altitudes.

With all the computing power in an A330, sources outside of the aircraft should be used to supplement radar so that the computer can determine when it’s time to turn back.

It’s also time for certifying authorities to rethink how to test composite aircraft structures. It is no surprise that that the big thing found floating in the Atlantic Ocean was the composite vertical stabilizer separated from the rest of the airplane. Speculation is that the Pitot Tubes, which were unmodified as recommended for better ice resistance, permitted erroneous speed readings. I believe this is possible but unlikely. However, if the risk was so high, the modification should have been required before further flight was permissible.

Why isn’t anyone talking about the tail fuel tank modification that was designed to prevent explosions caused by lightning? Did the airline comply with that directive? There are a lot of questions…too few answers.

– Arthur Alan Wolk


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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