Saturday, April 21, 2012

Johns Hopkins study: Survival rate higher for trauma patients taken by helicopter than land transport

By David Rogers - Daily News 
Updated: 8:06 p.m. Saturday, April 21, 2012
Posted: 7:48 p.m. Saturday, April 21, 2012 

A large-scale Johns Hopkins Medicine study comparing survival rates of severely injured patients indicates those transported by helicopter are 15 percent to 16 percent more likely to survive than those transported by ground ambulance.

The study is the first study of its size to employ advanced statistical techniques including propensity score matching to ensure researchers were doing an “apples to apples” comparison, according to one of the study’s leaders, Dr. Adil H. Haider, co-director of the Center for Surgery Trials and Outcomes Research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

“It’s adjusted based on injury severity, vital signs, age and a host of other factors,” Haider said from Baltimore.

The study examined mortality rates to the point of hospital discharge among 223,475 patients older than 15 who had sustained blunt or penetrating trauma — from a car accident, electrocution, knife wound and other traumatic events — that required transport to a level 1 or level 2 trauma center.

The study analyzed 2007-2009 records from the American College of Surgeons National Trauma Data Bank, and included 61,909 patients transported by helicopter and 161,566 transported by ground ambulance. After adjusting for case severity and other factors, the study determined that the survival rate was 16 percent higher for patients transported by air to level 1 trauma centers and 15 percent for patients transported by air to level 2 trauma centers. Air transport has become an issue the past several years because of its higher cost, Haider said.

The ability of a helicopter to get to a trauma center more quickly than a ground ambulance is likely not the only factor influencing survival rates, Haider said.

“Helicopter crews come from the ground crews,” he said. “Usually they have extensive training, including training in intensive care units and in emergency rooms.”

Air flights also tend to have the latest medical technology, Haider said. “The helicopter is expensive so it usually has the most advanced technology,” he said.

The use of the helicopter also is a signal to a trauma center that a patient urgently needs a high level of care, he added.

Palm Beach County’s medical emergency air-transport program

Echoing Haider’s observations, William Crafa, an emergency medical technician and flight nurse for the county’s medical emergency air-transport system, said Trauma Hawk crews have a high level of experience.

His flight partner, Steve Wilson, has a substantial 28 years of experience as an EMT/paramedic, Crafa said. “Of the six EMTs that work here full time, he is the fifth most senior. The other guys have more experience,” Crafa said.

A nurse and a paramedic attend every Trauma Hawk flight. Onboard medical personnel are required by the county to have 4,100 hours of critical-care experience prior to joining the Trauma Hawk team, Crafa said.

Among the advanced technology aboard Trauma Hawk is a device that provides blood pressure readings every 2 seconds, Crafa said. That helps medical staff quickly determine if a patient is on medications that affect blood pressure. The Trauma Hawks also carry fluid warmers that allow medics to give critically injured patients 2 to 3 liters of intravenous fluid quickly, he said. Crafa said the two helicopters also carry advanced ventilators.

Those devices, the staff’s training and the copter’s ability to get to a trauma hospital quickly (St. Mary’s Medical Center or Delray Medical Center) can make the difference in life and death, he said.

Crafa and Wilson recently responded to a call to help a man who had been shot at close range to the chest. The man was dying in front of them, Crafa recalled.

“My partner and I recognized right away he needed to go. We loaded him into Trauma Hawk. We were able to intubate him — give him an advanced airway — and were able to control external bleeding from the chest wound,” Crafa said.

After the man was treated at St. Mary’s in the intensive care unit, he was sent to a lower-level care unit. “That was when I was able to speak to him. It was amazing that he actually survived. Without Trauma Hawk and the ground crew and the trauma team at St. Mary’s, he wouldn’t have survived,” Crafa said.

“If he had to go by ground ambulance, the transport time would have been too long.”

Established Trauma Hawk landing zones in Palm Beach include The Breakers’ golf course, the playing field south of the Palm Beach Day Academy and the Par 3 golf course in the South End.

The Johns Hopkins-led study was conducted in part because of the issue of cost-effectiveness, Haider said.

The Health Care District of Palm Beach County has, since 1991, paid for the hangar used to house the county’s two Trauma Hawk helicopters at the Palm Beach International Airport, paid for the copters’ maintenance and fuel, as well as pilots’ salaries and other expenses while contracting with the Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Department for the paramedics and nurses who staff the flights, said Robin Kish, Health Care District spokeswoman. In FY 2010-11, the system transported 720 patients via 704 flights, Kish said.

The annual cost of the air medical program is $5.5 million, Kish said.

On the issue of cost-effectiveness, Haider, the Johns Hopkins researcher, said there is always room for improvement. “What the study shows is the helicopter is very effective with the most critically injured patients. We need to improve our ability to ensure that we are going to pick the most severely injured patients,” he said.

‘Golden hour’

Dr. Michael West, a trauma surgeon at St. Mary’s, said the study supports the notion that speedy transport, combined with advanced lifesaving techniques, helps patients survive the critical “golden hour” following a traumatic injury.

“This study shows that on a large scale that there is a benefit and a statistical increase in survivability by using helicopter transport,” Brown said. “What occurs in that first 60 minutes will significantly play a role in how the patient does ultimately and in his or her survivability.”

Crafa, the flight nurse and paramedic, said it is difficult to put a price on a life.

“If you are the one being saved or the loved one of someone being saved, it’s an invaluable service,” he said.

Like Haider, Crafa said speedier transport to a trauma center, advanced care en route along with skilled intervention by a hospital’s trauma staff can minimize the long-term effects of a severe injury.

“If we get you to the hospital faster, there is less damage from the trauma or the cardiac event or stroke event you’ve had. That leads to shorter hospital times and less permanent damage and you get back to work, back to your family, back to your life quicker with less damage,” Crafa said. “On the front end it may be more expensive, but hopefully we can save you that on the back end.”

The report, “Association between helicopter vs. ground emergency medical services and survival for adults with major trauma,” was published Monday in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

New People Express Airlines hopes people remember name

People Express may fly again. Investors are seeking government approval for a new People Express Airlines that would carry the same name as the popular 1980s airline.

The original is considered to be the first no-frills carrier.

It quickly became one of the biggest airlines in the U.S. before it was folded into Continental.

“The brand is iconic, and what people know and remember about it is low fares, great service and high frequency into markets that didn’t have existing service,” says Mike Morisi, the start-up’s president and COO. “I think what we’ve identified is an opportunity to replicate that again.”

Morisi, who worked at the old People Express, emphasized that the airline will be a new company using the PEOPLExpress brand, not a re-start of the original airline

The goal for the start-up, which is based in Newport News, Va., is to launch service by the end of summer to several cities in the Northeast and Florida, including Pittsburgh, Providence and West Palm Beach, Fla.

But this won’t be your parent’s People Express.

Rather than repeat the fees and no-frills service that the first People Express pioneered and that other carriers have since copied, the new namesake plans to let fliers check their bags for free and get complimentary snacks on board.

But the new People Express is trying to take flight at a time that megamergers of the industry’s biggest carriers threaten to quash competition. It’s also a time many smaller carriers are struggling.

“It will be very difficult for them, but it’s very difficult for any airline to start up and succeed,” says Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst.

Paperwork first

People Express applied last month to the Transportation Department to become a commercial carrier. It also needs certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. And though People Express is backed by private investors, there likely will be a public offering to fuel future financing, says William Mayer, chairman of the budding airline’s board.

If approvals and funding fall into place, People Express thinks it can be more efficient than big airlines and fill a void left by carriers that have left some cities for more profitable routes. “I think the public is ready for the opportunity to get on a big comfortable jet at a fare that’s significantly lower than anything being offered today,” Morisi says.

Some airports are rolling out the welcome mat.

JoAnn Jenny, spokeswoman for the Allegheny County Airport Authority, which oversees Pittsburgh International, says it plans to enter into an agreement with People Express once the airline gets its FAA certification. Pittsburgh is no longer a hub for US Airways. While low-cost carriers such as JetBlue and Southwest have moved in, Jenny says, a need remains for flights to other cities.

Florida’s Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, which lies between Tampa and Orlando, is prepared to waive fees for two years if People Express will start flying from there, says airport director Gene Conrad.

It was the same package the airport offered Direct Air, a small public charter airline that started Lakeland’s first commercial air service in June. But in March, Direct Air stopped operating. Now, Conrad says, “we’re looking aggressively to get someone back in there.”

One thing Morisi says the new People Express won’t do is repeat mistakes that led to the demise of its predecessor.

The original People Express, launched in April 1981, was immensely popular. It charged for checked bags and 50 cents for a soft drink at a time other airlines offered them for free. Passengers paid for their tickets on board, after take-off.

“People Express pioneered what we now know as the no-frills airline,” says Harteveldt, who called the carrier the model for low-cost carriers such as Spirit and Allegiant.

People Express quickly became one of the biggest airlines. But it began losing money when it veered from its focus on cheap service to underserved cities.

“I believe had we stuck to the niche of serving secondary cities with efficient aircraft, People Express would still be flying today,” says Morisi. “So we’ve committed to staying focused on that niche.”

Low-cost carriers such as Frontier and Allegiant already target the type of underserved markets eyed by People Express.

What's in a name?

The People Express name may also hurt as much as it helps — if it matters much at all, he says.

“Any time you pick a name of a company that has gone out of business, you risk reviving the negatives as well as the positives associated with that brand,” Harteveldt says.

George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog, says passengers may want to see if People Express has staying power before buying a ticket. “I would be leery about booking on a new low-cost start-up,” he says.

But Conrad, of the Lakeland airport, is optimistic. “I know there’s been a lot of start-ups in the past, but it’s the aviation business, and you just have to keep pushing.”

Nato aircraft making Pakistani airspace unsafe

Javed Mirza 
Sunday, April 22, 2012 

KARACHI: The Nato aircraft changing their flying levels without taking orders from the traffic control department during the monsoon season, is creating issues for the other traffic flying on different levels and thus making the airspace near Afghan border area more vulnerable to any collision.

The Green 325 area in Balochistan has no radar coverage for 100 miles despite high air traffic frequency, while no data is available of flights taking off from Afghanistan due to telex problems between the aviation authorities of both the countries, sources said.

“Changing the flying levels by the Nato planes on their own in the monsoon season is the biggest issue CAA is facing currently, because this makes the country’s airspace vulnerable to any disaster in this highly sensitive zone of Pak-Afghan border areas,” sources said.

Sources in the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) informed that currently they were facing serious issues in Balochistan and near Afghanistan border areas where the frequency of air traffic was quite high.

“Due to the absence of radar coverage, we are not in a position to monitor the flying activities there and this is a very big security lapse,” sources said, adding that flights taking off from Afghanistan contacted the traffic control system of Pakistan CAA at the eleventh hour, which created complexities of routing the whole traffic and this could result in any untoward situation.

Aviation sources said that radar surveillance was required there to help CAA’s controllers judging the separation between aircraft coming from different many regions.

“Radar display has been improved but antennas are poor. The missing, doubling and jumping of targets is very common, and this has been for one year,” they added. A lot of air traffic consists of landing/departing of civil traffic, military operations, and allied forces aircraft operating to/from Afghanistan.

This is besides the 470 to 550 aircraft over flying the country’s space in 24 hours time.

Besides the radar surveillance issues, the CAA staff is provided with complex procedures, which add to the monitoring problems. “The procedures CAA provides to their traffic control departments are very confusing, and most of the time increases the workload instead of shedding. Procedures and air routes are developed by the officers sitting in the headquarters with the guess of having 70 to 100 aircraft over flying Pakistan air space in 24 hours, which has not been the case for years,” sources added.

The lack of surveillance is not only limited to Balochistan and Pak-Afghan border areas, as Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport (JIAP) is as vulnerable to any disasters as the mentioned areas of the West part of the country. “Brazil conducted a capacity assessment study of air controlling at Karachi’s JIAP from 8 to 14 January, 2010, in which they found that the Heavy Load Threshold (HLT) value for air traffic controllers is much time higher than international standards,” sources informed.

Sources further told that during that study, they found that there were 36 (with radar) and 323 (with no radar) occasions when all the sectors of air controlling were reaching and working beyond calculated capacity, so any disaster was not far from reality.

Coast Guard aviators say thank you

Mobile, Ala. (WALA) - On Saturday, some members of the Coast Guard took time out of their day to thank their supporters.

In a matter of moments, four American heroes lost their lives on a fateful Tuesday night in February , and their families were left with the burden. 

It has been about two months since then, but good Samaritans and organizations like the Coast Guard Foundation shared the load by giving monetary and emotional support to help them out.

The Coast Guard Foundation provides financial support and scholarships to families of Coast Guard heroes.

Galen Farris, a friend of the fallen Coast Guardsmen said, "It's all about saying 'thanks'."

A group of Coast Guard aviators held a benefit at The Shed Barbecue and Blues Joint. Bands volunteered to provide entertainment while Coast Guard service members sold T-shirts and took donations, all to benefit the Coast Guard Foundation.

Farris said the purpose of this event was "to thank them for what they did for us."

Across Mobile Bay, in Daphne, others were thinking the exact same thing.

The Lower Alabama Lacrosse League held a tournament with youth teams from around the Gulf Coast.

Organizers also sold t-shirts and took donations for the Coast Guard foundation .

Organizer John Mixon said, "It's a challenging time for us all, but we move forward, and that's what's called on us to do."

As this Coast Guard family looks ahead — the loss of four of their comrades still on their hearts — they're being sure to thank those who helped them through this tough ordeal.

Flashback 2010: Chaos returns as families swamp airport counters

By Shaheryar Mirza 
Published: April 22, 2012 

It was almost reminiscent of the day that Airblue Flight 202 crashed two years ago. Jinnah International Airport was home to chaos again, as the families of those that died in the Bhoja Air plane crash scrambled to get information on their loved ones and how to catch a flight to Islamabad.

A small counter at the airport run by about four Bhoja Air staff members was permanently swarmed by the victims’ families and the media. There appears to have been no lessons learned from the tragedy of 2010. The Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) Airport Manager Nasir Sheikh insists that there is an “emergency response plan” with standard operating procedures even though one would be hard pressed to find convincing evidence of this on the ground.

“We have an emergency response plan but it is true that there are so many people who come into the middle, the media etc and we can’t do much about that,” says Sheikh.

This plan includes setting up a counter for passengers and to compile information so people can verify if their family members boarded the flight. Sheikh says that there is a plan to accommodate relatives so that they can reach the disaster site.

“The CAA DG (Nadeem Khan Yousafzai) saw to it that a larger plane was arranged so that more passengers could be accommodated and taken to Islamabad,” says Sheikh, who added that a lot of decisions are made on the spot.

No attempts were made to cordon off an area for families or keep the media and other visitors at a distance. There was no security to manage the influx of people either.

It is CAA’s jurisdiction to maintain order at the airport.

Airline’s emergency response
The source said that Bhoja Air has an emergency preparedness plan for these situations and that they weren’t caught unprepared, emphasising that after the 2010 tragedy they were especially stringent about developing a “backup” plan.

The CAA and Bhoja Air maintain that no flight can be given “air worthiness” status without meeting international standards and that the planes travel to other countries whose requirements must be met.

Naseem Ahmed of the CAA Safety Investigation Board claims that “Pakistan’s professionals, procedures and standards are up to par with international standards,” but in the same breath he says, “So many people have been through the CAA that they have failed to formulate a final policy and that is a collective failure.”

Ahmed added that no one at the CAA is in charge of tracking airline accidents, and if asked to provide an accident rate, the authority would take three months and still not be able to give a number. “We probably have the worst accident rate in the world, if not the worst, at least it is in the top three,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2012.

Civil Aviation Authority reluctant to cancel Bhoja Air license

Shakil Shaikh 
Sunday, April 22, 2012 

ISLAMABAD: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) seems reluctant to cancel the Regular Public Transport (RPT) license of Bhoja Air despite a shortage of aircraft in its fleet and Friday’s horrifying crash which killed all 127 persons on board.

DG CAA Captain Nadim Yousufzai, according to an expert in the aviation industry, ‘was economical with the truth’ in his press conference held on Friday, a day after the Boeing 737-200 crash over Hussainabad on the outskirts of Islamabad. Experts said there had been no political pressure, and that the DG CAA should have announced the cancellation of the Bhoja RPT license.

According to reports, 80 percent of Bhoja shares are owned by one Arshad Jalil while 20 percent of the shares are owned by Farooq Bhoja.

"The ill-fated Boeing 737-200 remained grounded at Karachi Airport for well over 10 years before it was issued an Air Operator's Certificate by the DG CAA as a political favor," said a senior official of the CAA who is privy to the affairs in the CAA which regulates, oversees and monitors the aviation sector in Pakistan.

The crashed aircraft was with Bhoja when it began operating flights in Pakistan in 1992 through 1994. In 1994, Shaheen Air inducted this aircraft into its fleet after the cancellation of Bhoja's RPT license.

Informed circles say that in 2002 the aircraft was grounded until now and some weeks back it was issued a license by the DG CAA following the application of some political pressure.

The present MD Bhoja Air, Arshad Jalil, left Shaheen Air earlier this year allegedly after developing differences over the maintenance of aircraft, as Jalil owned the maintenance firm which looked after the Shaheen Air fleet, said the source.

Jalil bought 80 percent shares in Bhoja thus becoming a virtual master of the airline with only three aircraft, plus one standby DC-9 at Dubai, though this DC-9 (never even brought to Pakistan for inspection) belonged to Star Aviation. However, he still somehow managed to obtain the RPT from the then DG CAA Air Marshal (retd) Khalid Chaudhry.

When the present DG CAA Yousafzai said that no political pressure was exerted on the CAA to issue the RPT, he simply told a lie that it was not under his tenure that the RPT was issued to Bhoja Air.

With Pakistan aviation facing all types of hardships with almost all the private airlines in default of huge amounts of money and the national flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines facing around Rs120 billion in losses, many experts suggest a "surgical operation" to revive the aviation sector in Pakistan.

"You would be surprised to know that Arshad Jalil's company was carrying out maintenance of the Bhoja Air fleet with the CAA overseeing it, though the CAA lags behind in this endeavour," said an aviation expert, who lamented that Defence Minister Ch Ahmed Mukhtar was trying to mislead the people of Pakistan by saying that the CAA was not responsible for the maintenance of aircraft in the private sector. "Mukhtar was intentionally telling a lie to avoid the wrath of the masses," said one CAA official.

Many people say that PIA has already been warned in Europe about the maintenance of its aircraft, though all private and public sector aviators and their aircraft are inspected, overseen by the CAA inspectors. Sometimes CAA inspectors even travelled on these aircraft to see the performance of the flying machine and the pilot.

"The issuance of an RPT license to Bhoja was a result of the fraud and the constitution of an inquiry commission is nothing but a farce to hide facts from the people," said a former top official of a private airlines, before adding, "Private airlines are bringing obsolete aircraft from the international junk market to Pakistan and that is the dilemma."

Bhoja maintenance operations, one senior official said, were a complete fraud with the people, as what happens is a different story with buying of Number-2 spares, saving on exercise duty, inexperienced flight dispatch officers (FDOs), poor maintenance of the flying bird, saving fuel, and offering lower tariffs to attract travellers on these private airliners, so much so that independent investigations should be called in to dig out the facts as to who gave the AOC to the ill-fated aircraft and the pilot Noorullah Afridi to fly that bird.

Afridi remained out of job after leaving Shaheen and his joining Bhoja, as there is clear-cut policy that if a pilot changes his airline he must complete 50 hours flying as observatory period before he operates commercial flights of his new employers, a pilot told The News.

There is a saying in the aviation industry that only two percent of the people attached with maintenance, engineering and on other jobs are capable and are professionals, while the rest of the ninety-eight percent are either non-professionals or those who do their work after taking help from others with most of them not even completing their work before the scheduled take-off of an aircraft.

Nobody cares as CAA is manned by unprofessional with political backing and that is a key reason of national aviation sector having a noose-drive similar to ill-fated Bhoja aircraft on Friday.
The ill-fated Bhoja Being 737-200 was fitted with obsolete equipment and old technology, though modern aircraft with state-of-the-art technology are often having a blind landing on European strips without any problem.

The CAA has never made a genuine bid to force these public and private sector operators to have equipped their aircraft with latest technology only for the purpose of safe-flights with confidence of the people.

Information gathered from concerned officials reveals that the ill-fated aircraft pilot was informed that weather was 230-20 meaning that wind was blowing at 230 degrees at a speed of 20 knotts with visibility reported at 4 kilometres at 6:00p.m on Friday, though the Tower Observation showed 10 km visibility.

The Instrument Landing System (ILS) reported dangerous CB clouds over Hussainabad as the pilot starting descending, slowly reducing the speed of the aircraft when the micro burst took place. The aircraft, unable to sustain the first blow of the furious micro burst, started coming down. Had the pilot been fully aware of this phenomena he should have speeded up the aircraft with its noose up to find an escape before rerouting and making an alternate landing in Lahore. By that time, of course, it was too late to recover and the ICAO-24, code 760763, was reported as the plane crashed over Hussainabad. And with it the entire political leadership, the defence ministry, CAA and the Bhoja owners were left to face ensuing wrath of the victims' families, with the people of Pakistan seeing the constitution of run-on-the-mill inquiries ordered to find the "Truth." Friday's tragedy left behind souls crying and weeping for their bereaved fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters, newlyweds and what not.

Silverdale teen's first solo flight a rite of passage - Bremerton National Airport (KPWT), Washington

— At 16 years old, Karl Watson hasn't driven a car by himself — he doesn't even have a learner's permit — but he has piloted a Cessna 152 around the Bremerton National Airport without anyone by his side.

Five days after his monumental first solo flight, the articulate Central Kitsap High School sophomore sat on the leather couch in the Avian Flight Center lobby and tried to explain what it was like to be in the air without the safety net of his flight instructor sitting co-pilot.

After giving it some thought, he couldn't come up with any comparisons.

"You just have to be there," he said.

Watson's first time in a private airplane came two years earlier. That was for his discovery flight, or as he explained it: "When you see if your stomach can handle it."

He had already completed his ground school training — where you learn how to fly a plane before taking to the sky — and passed the grueling Federal Aviation Administration written test, which he prepared for by pouring over a 200-page study manual.

He took the ground school classes with his father, Robert Watson, who signed up the two for the program to bring them closer together. Like his son, Robert Watson wants to learn to fly, but after the Navy retiree learned the GI Bill wouldn't cover his flight education until after he obtained a private license — which requires lessons — he put his plans on hold to pay for his son's flight training.

Even with a generous scholarship from the Bremerton Pilots Association to help defray the costs of his son's lessons, paying for two people to learn to fly was more than the Silverdale family of four could afford right now, Robert Watson said.

"I still want to do it one day, but maybe after both kids are done with college," he said.

Instead he's had to live vicariously through his oldest child, driving him to lessons and standing by as he made his three solo passes around the Bremerton airport on Easter Sunday.

Before signing up for flight lessons, Robert Watson spent a lot of time attending 10-year-old daughter Liese's competitive gymnastics events. The shared interest in flying was a way for the father to divide his time a little more evenly.

"It's been a really fun journey," Robert Watson said. "I'm kind of envious, but I'm super proud of him."

The day Karl Watson flew by himself wasn't the first time the solo flight had been scheduled — originally they'd tried to do it in February for his 16th birthday, the legal age to fly solo, but poor weather prohibited the flight. The same scenario played out a few more times before April 8, which was a beautiful spring day.

Karl Watson went up in the Cessna 152 his family rents for lessons with his flight instructor Clint Edwards and ran through a normal lesson. He's been the lead pilot since his fifth time in the air, so he wasn't nervous about being behind the controls. Edwards had the aspiring pilot run through various maneuvers, including power-on and power-off stalls — to learn how to react to a stalled plane — a slow flight and three landings; if he wasn't straight on center of the runway when he came down he had to cancel his approach.

The wind was picking up by the end of the lesson, leaving Karl Watson unsure if he would get the green light to fly solo — if he had his way, he wouldn't fly in anything over 12 knots, he said.

Thinking the lesson was over, Karl Watson landed the plane. The radio controller gave the command to bring it in for the day, but Edwards surprised the teen and his father when he said, "No, Karl has a solo flight to do."

The pair came in and filled out the appropriate paperwork, then it was Karl Watson's turn to show what nine months of flight lessons taught him.

"I had already gone through the nervousness," he said. "I was pretty tranquil about it."

That tranquillity translated to a smooth solo flight, even when he had to divert from his original route for an incoming plane on his third pass. When he landed he was greeted by Edwards and other pilots on the ground, who baptized the right of passage with a healthy dousing of water.

"I've been doing this since 2007, and it's the first time I've soloed with a 16-year-old," Edwards said. "Normally, people wait. It's like a dream and later in life they have the finances to do it. It's not common for a 16-year-old to do a solo flight."

At least one other Central Kitsap High School student, Nick Woods, 17, achieved his first solo flight this year. Woods, a senior, flew his solo in February.

Karl Watson doesn't know why flying has grabbed his interest — ever since he was a kid he's loved the "thrust feeling" at take off — but he knows it's something he wants to pursue. He's already talking about enrolling in Central Washington University's avionics program to get his commercial pilot's license (he's not sure if he wants to fly cargo or people) and plans to have his private pilot's license once he turns 17.

"I definitely want to fly bigger airplanes," he said. "I enjoy it. The best thing you can have is a job you enjoy."

Enjoy the Finest Craft Beers on Your Next Flight to Costa Rica

As the first-ever Costa Rica Craft Beer Festival is underway in Avenida Escazu, more good news for beer lovers just arrived: Passengers flying from Denver or St. Louis to our Juan Santamaria and Daniel Oduber international airports will be able to enjoy Colorado’s finest offerings on their next flight. 

The latest press release from Denver-based Frontier Airlines announced:

“This brew is on you! Today, Frontier Airlines announced it will begin featuring additional Colorado beers onboard that will rotate every other month and will let its fans choose what’s in the cooler. Voting takes place on the Denver-based carrier’s Facebook page and ends May 15 with the first winning beer appearing onboard June 1.”

In a previous article in The CostaRica Star, we answered a reader’s general questions regarding air travel in Costa Rica, and we mentioned Frontier Airlines as one of the budget airlines that passengers in cities near the American Midwest can take advantage of when flying into our country. This neat initiative by Frontier Airlines to allow passengers to vote on their favorite beers from the Colorado brewery scene is a great incentive to fly.

According to Dan Krause, Frontier’s vice president of marketing and customer experience:

“As Colorado’s only hometown carrier we want to partner with other great businesses born and bred in our home state. With so many top of the line Colorado breweries we’ve decided it will be far too difficult to pick just one, so we will look to feature a new Colorado brew every other month as voted on by our fans.”

The current beers offered aboard Frontier flights are Fat Tire Amber Ale (pictured above), Blue Moon Belgian White, and Coors Light -all brewed in Colorado. The beers currently available for voting are from micro and regional breweries:
  • Colorado Native Lager
  • Crabtree Oatmeal Stout
  • Dale’s Pale Ale
  • Upslope Pale Ale
We can only hope that in the future Frontier Airlines also opts to include a beer from the burgeoning Costa Rica microbrewery scene in their lineup.

Source: Business Wire

Bolivian Senator dies in plane crash

Apr 22, 2012 01:38 Moscow Time

An opposition Bolivian Senator Geraldo Ortiz died when his twin-engine plane went down on Saturday outside  the eastern city of Santa Cruz.

The Senator’s father, who piloted the plane, and a mechanic were also killed. His son miraculously survived the crash and is in critical condition in hospital.

According to preliminary reports, the aircraft developed a mechanical failure shortly after takeoff. The pilot decided to return to the airport but the plane went down and caught fire.

Augusta Plane Pull raises money for Ronald McDonald House

It seemed even a team including Batman, Spider-Man and Captain America could not win on muscle alone at the fourth annual Plane Pull to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta on Saturday.

“We dress up because it’s fun,” said Mary Lewis, the captain of the Healthcare Heroes team from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon. “This is an event for the kids.”

The heroes were one of 27 teams who helped raise more than $27,000 for the charity, bringing the total up to nearly $100,000 since the event began, according to Ronald McDonald House president and CEO Betts Murdison.

“It’s getting bigger and better every year,” she said. “We are so excited about this event. We don’t ever want it to stop.”

The teams pulled a 150,000-pound FedEx Boeing 727 jet 12 feet with a rope, competing for the fastest time. The Healthcare Heros, although they did not win with a time of 7.022 seconds, were also competing for best dressed, an honor they took last year when they came as the “Tacky Ducks.”

For onlookers Tonya and Wesley Beights, the event was personal.

After 15 years of trying to have a child, Beights found out she was pregnant. When she came down to Augusta to see her husband graduate from advanced individual training at Fort Gordon just 26 weeks later, she went into labor.

Dani Lyn entered the world weighing 1 pound, 10 ounces and was just 12 inches long. At first she was fine, but then she stopped breathing and had two brain bleeds. She was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

While Tonya Beights’ husband was stationed in the barracks at Fort Gordon, the Arkansas native had nowhere to live. For five and a half months, Beights lived in the Ronald McDonald House while she visited her daughter every day at the Medical College of Georgia Children’s Medical Center.

“People don’t really understand how much stress it is just to go to the hospital every day to visit your child,” she said. “It’s expensive and exhausting.”

As Dani Lyn, now 2, walked around their feet in a little walker, the Beights shone with pride. Their three adopted daughters, 6, 7, and 10, played behind them in a bounce house set up for the event.

The Beights come to the Plane Pull every year to show support to the organization that helped them when they needed it most.

“We do whatever we can to say thanks.” Tonya Beights said. “We will forever be thankful for the Ronald McDonald House and everyone behind the scenes.”

Murray hired as Alva Regional Airport (KAVK) manager

At a special board meeting, Tuesday, April 17, the Alva Airport Commission hired Greg Murray of Aline, Okla., to replace Tyson Tucker who resigned earlier this month. Four members of the board, Bob Baker, Mary Strickland, Gary Lehl and Paul Kinzie, were in attendance. Garret Steggs missed the meeting. Also in attendance was Joe Don Dunham, city business manager.

After opening the meeting and moving into executive session for thirty minutes, the board invited Murray into the closed session. After about 20 minutes, the meeting was once again opened to the public.

Greg Murray was hired by a unanimous vote at a salary of $38,295 with full City of Alva benefits. He is a probationary employee for the first 90 days. His starting work day is May 1, 2012. Murray wants to give his present employer of five years, Plane Plastics, proper notice. He has a degree from OU in Aviation Management. He worked several years as a flight-line mechanic at Vance Air Force Base in Enid. Other work experience includes truck driving, work at a concrete company, and also in the oil field.

He has earned a private pilot license and has accumulated about 70 hours of flight time. His wife's name is DeAnna. The pair has three grown children who are out on their own.

Frequent flyers to Delhi upset as Air India cuts down flights

TNN | Apr 22, 2012, 03.53AM IST

SURAT: Frequent flyers, especially business travellers from textile, diamond, chemical and industrial units based in Hazira, are unhappy that Air India has decided to operate its Delhi-Surat-Delhi flight for only three days a week.

Air India was the first to begin flight service between Surat and Delhi in May 2007 immediately after a new airport was inaugurated here by the civil aviation department. It has been six years since Air India has been operating flight services for six days a week.

Sources said reduction in flight operations by Air India is being seen as a negative development by many in the city, especially those connected with trade and commerce. The decision would force other flight operators planning to start their operations from Surat to think twice.

Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SGhas taken up the issue with civil aviation minister Ajit Singh and has urged him to restore the six-day flight service between Surat and Delhi.

"Many airline companies are looking at Surat in a big way after the success of SpiceJet services connecting Surat with Delhi, Mumbai, Mangalore, Bangalore, Goa, etc. But the Air India's decision to reduce its flights will have a negative impact on the future of Surat's airport development," said Paresh Patel, vice-president, SGCCI.

Patel said a strong representation has been made to the civil aviation ministry and Air India management in this regard.

Nilesh Mandlewala, former president of SGCCI, said, "SpiceJet is operating successfully on Surat-Delhi-Mumbai and other routes. Air India should continue its six-day flight operations from Surat."

Opinion/Letter: Use Allentown Queen City Municipal Airport (KXLL) expansion to benefit region - Pennsylvania

April 21, 2012 

The possibility that Queen City Airport might receive a federal grant to expand could be used as part of expanding the airport's economic influence in the area. After all, people who fly in and out of the airport probably bring money, hunger, thirst and interest in the Lehigh Valley along with them. With this thought in mind, could the airport authority include a new restaurant in the expansion? Or possibly a ground shuttle service to downtown Allentown or Bethlehem restaurants and destinations like Dorney Park, the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, SteelStacks or IronPigs games? How about encouraging a small, short-hop airline to provide service to other smaller regional airports?

I think if the smart folks who run the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority put their heads together and think creatively, they could foster the unique benefits of having a private-plane airport in the third largest city in the state, which could bring long-lasting economic benefits to the area.

Craig Krivin

Lower Milford Township


Story and comments:

Jamestown Regional (KJMS), North Dakota: Fire department called to airport, plane lands without incident

The Jamestown Fire Department was paged at approximately 1:15 p.m. Saturday to stand by at Jamestown Regional Airport, said JFD Chief Jim Reuther.

A plane due to land was having some kind of mechanical problem, but it landed without incident, with three city fire units and the airport's fire and rescue truck standing by.

Editorial: Another airline crash - Bhoja Air Boeing 737-200, AP-BKC, Flight B4-213, Islamabad, Pakistan

Published: April 22, 2012 

The first thought, when confronted with a tragedy of the magnitude of the Bhoja Air crash that killed everyone on board, is to mourn the unnecessary loss of life and offer condolences to the friends and families of all the victims. As appropriate an emotion as grief is at this moment, it is also accompanied by anger. This is the second plane to have crashed in the vicinity of Islamabad in less than two years with bad weather initially assumed to have played a role in both crashes. There is no reason why Islamabad should become a new Bermuda Triangle, which is why we need answers as quickly as possible. This time there should be no scapegoating, no obfuscation, no delays and no cover-ups. What we want — actually what we need — is the unfiltered truth if we are ever to feel safe in the skies again.

The first obvious target in the investigation into the crash will be Bhoja Air itself. The airline had only resumed operations last month after a decade-long hiatus. It needs to be ascertained if this airplane should have been in the skies in the first place. Media reports indicate that it was over 40 years old and knowing as we do the shortcuts that are taken in this industry — indeed the country as a whole — there can be no guarantee that the aircraft was properly maintained. The age and experience of the pilot, too, needs to be investigated. Stormy weather can always be a major risk for an aircraft but experienced pilots have the ability to skilfully navigate treacherous conditions. At the same time, each and every aircraft in Bhoja Air’s fleet needs to be thoroughly checked to see if they meet safety standards. Until then, it would be best to suspend the airline’s operations. Any financial losses Bhoja Air suffers pale in comparison to the risk those airplanes may pose to the flying public. Putting Farooq Bhoja, the head of Bhoja Air, on the exit control list and conducting an investigation that is thorough and far-reaching would be a start but the government must show that this is not a mere public relations exercise.

The next obvious avenue of investigation is the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). As the main regulatory body of the industry, it is the CAA’s job to carry out an impartial investigation. We hope that this will be the case, but the CAA’s role does not stop with simply dealing with the aftermath of a plane crash. It is the job of the regulatory body to ensure safety on all aircraft to minimise the chances of such crashes in the first place. There is reason to believe that the CAA may have failed on this account. For one, it is mainly staffed by former employees of the airlines themselves, creating an undeniable conflict of interest. Then, the performance of the CAA in investigating the Airblue crash two years ago was also not up to the standards one expects from a regulator. That crash was blamed entirely on pilot error, in a report so shoddy and erroneous, that the Peshawar High Court rejected it and had to demand a new report that used impartial international experts only.

This time around, more information needs to be shared with the public about the circumstances of the crash. With the Airblue crash, we were never allowed access to the full transcript of the cockpit voice recorder and the digital flight data recorder. Since both the airlines and the regulatory authority are trusted by no one, such transparency is essential to ensure an investigation that has the confidence of the public.

Ultimately, the Courts too will have to get involved. Justice needs to be done at both the emotional level, by providing families of the crash victims’ closure through an impartial investigation, as well as the financial level, to compensate those who lost bread-earners and loved ones. After its crash, Airblue only gave compensation to those who promised not to pursue further legal action against the airline. The Courts cannot allow similar agreements now. In the end, it may be up to the judiciary to ensure that we get answers and not another cover-up.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2012.

All safety checks were compromised: Experts - Bhoja Air Boeing 737-200, AP-BKC, Flight B4-213, Islamabad, Pakistan

22 April 2012

Startling new revelations about Bhoja Air came to light on Saturday as to how the airline allegedly used political pressure to get license to operate after a lapse of some 10 years despite being a defaulter to the tune of Rs6.9 million as well as the health of aircraft Boeing 737-200 that crashed near Islamabad on Friday killing at least 127 people on board.

After contacting people associated with the aviation industry this scribe learnt that the airline operations were allowed allegedly due to “immense political pressure” on Pakistan’s aviation watchdog Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) currently managed by friends and cronies of the highest authorities of the country as well as the Ministry of Defence.

According to the experts in the CAA, the 28-year-old plane stood idle for the last 10 years after being dumped by another private airline, Shaheen Air, due to safety reasons and was recently acquired by Bhoja Air from British Airways, South Africa, on a dry lease.

It is also learnt that the original inaugural flight from Karachi to Islamabad was scheduled couple of days back but the airline had to delay it till the fateful Friday owing to alleged fitness problems of the doomed Boeing 737-200.

Incidentally all 737-200 series aircraft that first rolled out of the Boeing Assembly lines in 1967 are not allowed to operate  in Europe although a few perhaps are operational in African countries.

The aviation insiders also claim that the ill-fated aircraft was allowed to commence flights from April 20 without taking proper procedures and professional checks and in total haste ignoring all the safety aspect of the plane already consigned to the junkyard by another carrier. It is also reported here that the two engines of the aircraft had different thrust levels which is not allowed at any cost.

Financial bankruptcy and lack of aircraft — previously it had old Russian-built planes in its fleet — left the airline with no option but to stop its operations in 2001 although it maintained a fully functional headquarter office in Karachi as well as an operation and ramp office at Karachi Airport.

All flight safety rules were compromised by the CAA officials for Bhoja Air to operate its flights in Pakistan on different domestic sectors following a decade of non-operation allegedly under pressure from political cronies of the present government.

RAW VIDEO: Coastguard pilot suspended for using helicopter to pick up steaks from Orkney butcher

The pilot of a coastguard helicopter has been suspended after flying to an island at the end of a training exercise to collect fillet steaks from his favourite butcher. 

Caught red-handed: A video uploaded to YouTube has revealed a British coastguard pilot who flew to the island of Orkney to pick up a steak from his favourite butcher. Picture: BBC/YouTube Supplied

The crew of the Shetland Coastguard aircraft flew 85 miles from their base to pick up £400 worth of prime cuts on the unscheduled shopping trip to Orkney.

The incident came to light after a video of the helicopter landing in a field was posted on YouTube.

Mobile phone footage, since removed from the site, showed two crewmen collecting a bag of beef from several butchers who were there to see the landing.

 The aircraft touched down in a field near ER & T Craigie, a butcher based at Tankerness on the east mainland of Orkney.

 CHC Helicopter, the operator of the aircraft, has launched an inquiry and confirmed that the pilot had been suspended.

 A spokesman said the training exercise had been completed before the landing, and any costs incurred would be met by the company, not the taxpayer.

She added: "We expect high standards of professionalism from all our employees and if we find these have not been met, we will take the appropriate action.

"While the aircraft was previously engaged in a training exercise, it was operating a non-revenue flight at the time of the incident in question."

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it had asked CHC to investigate as a matter of urgency and regarded any misuse of its assets as "completely unacceptable".

Meanwhile, Thorfinn Craigie, 38, the butcher at the centre of the incident, said he was horrified to learn that the pilot had been suspended, and pointed out that the aircraft had been "in the area" at the time.

He also revealed that it was the second time a helicopter had landed to collect premium meat.

He added: "They normally land about two miles away at Kirkwall Airport and they wanted us to meet them at the airfield. But I told them that since I own the land behind the butchery shed, they could land there.

"One of the crew said that would be great because they have to train to do drops in rough areas.

"So they did it last month and did it again on Monday. They love our meat and came back for more. It was all good cuts. Fillet steaks and roasting joints of silverside."

Mary Scanlon, the Highlands and islands Conservative MSP, said Orkney meat was world famous for its quality, adding: "The Shetland Coastguard are obviously aware of this, but next time they fancy some of it they should consider vacuum-packed mail order, and not use life-saving training time for a shopping trip."

EMS chopper arrives in Regina - Canada: Airport-based service to begin April 30

An emergency medical helicopter has landed in Regina in preparation for the launch of a new air ambulance service for southern Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan already has a fleet of airplanes that perform medical transports.

The new service, operated by a company called STARS, the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society, adds a helicopter with a dedicated nurse and specialized EMS crew to attend to emergency calls and critical patient transports.

The Regina-based service is set to launch daytime operations on April 30. Full-time service will start a few months later as soon as various regulatory requirements are met.

Jacques Poirier will be one of nine pilots flying the helicopter.

"We can get to an area where, if it might take two hours to get there by road to Regina, we can do that in about half the time," said Poirier, the STARS Regina base commander.

According to a spokeswoman for STARS, the helicopters have a range of 250 kilometres without the need to refuel. They can go further if there is a place to stop and refuel.

A new hangar has been built at the Regina airport for the aircraft and crew. When emergency medical transports are done, a ground ambulance will be used to move patients from the airport to the Regina General Hospital.

A second STARS helicopter will begin service out of Saskatoon in the fall.

Training to take place in Estevan


The Regina helicopter and crew is set to travel 200 kilometres southeast to Estevan, Sask., on Sunday for a day of training with local EMS crews and volunteers.

The Estevan exercises will deal with landing zone protocols.

"Landing zone training prepares emergency personnel and volunteers to prepare a safe landing area for the aircraft and how to safely approach the helicopter," STARS officials said in a news release about the Sunday event. "They'll also have the opportunity to become familiar with the medically-equipped interior of the BK117 helicopter."

Each STARS flight will have on board two pilots and a specially-trained paramedic and a nurse.
"There's plenty of room in there," Poirier said, when asked the crew size. "It looks like a small helicopter, but there's definitely room in there."

The Regina operation already has six pilots ready to go, Poirier said, and three more will be joining the service shortly.

"We're actually a health-care provider with helicopters as our means of doing the job," he said, referring to the level of care people can expect when they arrive on the scene.

SilkAir to launch flight to central China's Wuhan

BEIJING, April 21 (Xinhua) --SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines, has announced plans to increase services across China.

From April 24, SilkAir will launch the first flight from Singapore to Wuhan in central China, which will be operated thrice weekly. It will be SilkAir's seventh destination in China.

Flights between Singapore and Changsha will be increased to four times a week from three flights. Two weekly flights will be added to the Singapore-Chongqing route, making it a daily service.

As a full-service premium airline, SilkAir currently flies to 38 destinations across 11 countries.

Rescue operation ends; no more body parts found - Bhoja Air Boeing 737-200, AP-BKC, Flight B4-213, Islamabad, Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The rescue workers of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) on Saturday winded up the rescue and search operation at the crash site of Bhoja airliner in Islamabad locality.

“The CDA rescue teams have ended the search operation for body parts of 127 people aboard the crashed plane as they could no more find the same there,” Chairman Prime Minister Task Force on Islamabad Faisal Sakhi Butt told APP.

He said the bodies of all 127 people have been shifted to the hospital as majority of those have also been handed over to the affected families.

Butt said the rescue teams have left the crash site, adding six rescue workers would visit the crash site on Sunday to assist the teams of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA.)

He said the Task Force has already established a camp at PIMS for the affected families where they were also being supplied food.

Butt also visited the hospital and graveyard to help resolve issues related to the DNA tests and burial of the dead bodies respectively.

He said with the collaboration of Islamabad traders, some of the dead bodies have also been shifted to cold storages in sector I- 9.

Chairman CDA Farkhand Iqbal told APP that the Authority has extended full support to the victim families for digging of graves as well as transportation of dead bodies.

Both Faisal Butt and Farkhand Iqbal also visited the graveyard where they laid wreath on the graves of the plane crash victims.

They also visited an unfortunate family in sector F-8/1 where the funeral prayer of six members of a Karachi-based family was offered.

Airplane Crash Drill Goes Smoothly

Numerous federal, state and local agencies, including Long Beach police, fire and the department of public works, took part in an emergency training exercise at Long Beach Airport Friday.

The exercise was a simulation of two aircrafts colliding, an AC-130 and a smaller twin engine plane, and was conducted to test the response capabilities of emergency service personnel in a mutli-agency setting. 

The drill is an incredible training vehicle for all the agencies involved, said aid Kerry Gerot, public information officer with the city of Long Beach. During the exercise, which took place on the north side of the tarmac, the airport continued its normal daily operations during the two hour drill that started at 11 a.m.

Gerot said maintaining a sense of realism was very important. Several observers, such as personnel from the United States Marshall Service, Transportation Security Administration and various other agencies, viewed the mass casualty drill while taking notes.

More than 130 citizen volunteers, who played the victims of the mock crash, also participated.

Stacey Tudor, 23, a nursing student at American University, played one of the victims aboard the AC-130 and wore makeup on her back and arms that resembled burn wounds.

“I was in the plane [the AC-130] and my role was to scream for help,” she said.

Long Beach police officer Gregory Woodruff said the exercise is important because it gives the agencies involved a skeleton toward mutual agency cooperation should a similar event occur.

Both the Long Beach police and fire had a mock command post set up and were given high praise by organizers during concluding evaluations.

Long Beach police Sgt. Diana Hohman of the Emergency Operations Division was given a round of applause by the many participants, including members of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Transportation Security Authority, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office and numerous others.

Student journalists also played along during a mock media news conference held by the city of Long Beach and fire departments, getting a chance to test their reporting prowess.

Steven Carcano, 23, a photojournalism student from Long Beach, said while smiling that the event is going to be great for stock photos. It was good learning experience overall, he said.
Original article:

Culture of accountability - Boeing 737-236, Bhoja Air, AP-BKC, Islamabad, Pakistan

By: Saad Rasool 

The one that we lack

Rubble of the Bhoja plane that crashed is still being sifted through. Rescue workers and security personnel, along with family and friends of the deceased are combing the wreckage for some clue or cause of the accident, or some memory of loved ones. Aviation experts, eyewitnesses from the locality, and governmental agencies are giving their (different) speculative versions of what might have happened to cause the crash. Regardless of which version is accurate, it is clear that someone – either the pilot, or those who commissioned an obsolete plane into service, or the aviation authorities guiding the aircraft through bad weather – was at fault for the accident. But despite statements from government officials and private experts, no one has come forth to be accountable.

Change of scene: armed militants stormed the jail in Bannu, and freed several hundred convicts (including militants convicted for terrorism and murder), while the jail officials, intelligence securities and police personnel stood impotent. No fight or resistance was put up from any quarter. This security lapse, resulting in the freeing of militants, has endangered people’s lives and amounts to a crime against the public. And the only response from the government has been to ‘transfer’ some mid-level police officials. No one, from the higher echelons of police and administrative authority, has stepped forth to be accountable for the security failure.

Accountability, it seems, is an idea missing from our cultural philosophy.

Let’s bifurcate this further. From a schematic perspective, accountability in our administrative and public domain, exists at three institutional levels. One, each governmental department has some process of internal accountability of its activities and personnel (for example, a complaint can be made against one employee to his or her superior). Two, independent agencies exist with the sole mandate of investigating and holding accountable those who may have abused or not fulfilled their responsibilities (for example the Federal Investigation Agency and the National Accountability Bureau). Three, judicial review of public authority or, for that matter, judicial determination of public disputes serves as a final layer of accountability.

These three tiers of accountability, while having their own deficiencies, add up to a reasonably well-functioning apparatus. And most of the developed nations, where the accountability process is effective and transparent, employ a similar tiered system. What then, it must be asked, is the reason for such abhorrent standard of accountability in Pakistan?

The answer, unfortunately, is not a legal or systematic one. The reason is that Pakistan simply lacks a culture of accountability, especially among those who are in positions of power.

Just a few days back, Bangladesh’s railways minister resigned from his post in the cabinet on allegation (not conviction) of corruption. In his statement, Mr Suranjit Sengupta was quoted as saying that his reason for resignation was “to allow an impartial investigation” into the matter. In Pakistan, on the other hand, Railways has come to a virtual standstill, PIA is barely functional, and national institutions such as the Steel Mill are facing bankruptcy, but no individual who is in-charge of these institutions has stepped forth to be held accountable. And while the superior courts and investigative agencies may continue to pursue these causes, the underlying problem remains: we are a not a culture of accountability.

This spirit seeps through our entire democratic machinery. Until prosecuted and publicly embarrassed, no one seems interested in taking a higher responsibility for the work done under their supervision. The Bannu prison break did not result in the top cadre of police and jail officials tendering their resignations. Some were ‘transferred’, in a face-saving exercise, only to be re-posted at some other place of responsibility. The plane-crash of 2010, despite discovery of its black-box, has had no person or institution held accountable. The death of patients from poisonous medicines at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology did not result in the concerned secretary and (chief) minister owning responsibility for lack of procedural checks in the pharmaceutical industry. DG Rangers Karachi, after the killing of an innocent boy by personnel under his command, did not step forth to be held accountable (and was later promoted to Lt General and given the command of V Corps). The intelligence chiefs, despite all hue and cry in local and international media (as well as the establishment of Abbottabad Commission under orders of the Supreme Court) were not shamed into resigning their posts after the ‘discovery’ and killing of Osama Bin Laden.

This is an issue of culture and conscience. And as such, it cannot be fully corrected through the accountability machinery that has been put in place. The point of having systematic accountability checks – at all levels – is only to discover who should be held accountable, when it is not already clear from the public facts. Ideally, such machinery should be used only sparingly and in extenuating circumstances. And for the most part, those in positions of responsibility should hold themselves accountable before the law does.

For our democratic society to fulfill its promise, accountability must be an inherent virtue of power, not an enforced responsibility. And no systematic check can make all exercise of power accountable. This can only be resolved once a culture of accountability, among those who are in positions of influence, is established without a gun to their head.

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has a Masters in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. 

Analysis: More crashes but no lessons learnt - Bhoja Air Boeing 737-200, AP-BKC, Flight B 213, Islamabad, Pakistan

Bhoja Air flight B 213 crashed about 4 nautical miles (roughly 8 kilometers) from Islamabad’s runway 30. The plane crashed near Hussainabad in the vicinity of land belonging to Bahria Town, located towards east of Chaklala Airport. The aircraft should have been 3,900 feet at 9 nautical miles on an ILS approach for Runway 30. At 4 NM – where the aircraft crashed, this aircraft should have been between 1,500 and 1,800 feet. The aircraft that went down was a Boeing 737-200, amongst the first generation of aircraft of the Boeing 737 series. The first test flight of this class of aircraft was conducted on August 8, 1967 and the first aircraft with seating capacity of 100 was delivered to United Airlines in December 1967, while the advanced Boeing 737-200 with improved aerodynamics was produced in 1971. This series of Boeing 737-200 ceased production in 1988.

The captain of the aircraft, Captain Noorullah Afridi, was a retired air force pilot who belonged to the 60 GDP batch. He had started his commercial aviation career with Shaheen Airlines and had an airline experience of over 12 years.

Pilots of budget airlines are under tremendous pressure to land at their destinations, because of high cost of fuel, which consumes almost 50% to 60% of their operating expenditures. Aged aircraft with fuselages that have weakened either due to corrosion or metal fatigue require modifications to strengthen them.

It is reported that this aircraft had a defect and must have been cleared by CAA to operate this flight. This particular aircraft had a fuselage whose hull life had expired and should have undergone exhaustive maintenance and modifications recommended by manufacturers Boeing before it was cleared to resume commercial flight operations by CAA Pakistan.

At the time of crash which was around 6.40PM there was heavy rain, with thunderstorm and lightning. The cumulonimbus cloud, also known as “CB cloud” can form alone, in clusters, or along a cold front in a squall line. They can create lightning and other dangerous weather. Cumulonimbus clouds form from cumulus clouds (namely from cumulus congestus) and can further develop into a “supercell”, a severe thunderstorm with special features.

An aircraft flying below adverse weather conditions experiences heavy down drafts, which can cause these aircraft to lose height, which seems to be the case in this instance, because the ill-fated aircraft was on its approach path.

The type of debris suggests that the aircraft in most probability crashed on impact. It is also possible that an engine might have flamed out, or a fuel tank ruptured, or impairment of flight controls occurred due to hydraulic failure and even a major damage to its fuselage.

The role of an effective regulatory body, which should have the expertise and competence of highly qualified inspectors with rich experience on type of aircraft that they are assigned to inspect and certify, becomes all the more important when low cost budget airlines – hard pressed to cut costs – are allowed to operate.

Unfortunately the Civil Aviation Authority, which comes under the Ministry of Defence, has become a welfare organization for retired officers. CAA, which is a profitable corporation, acts on behalf of ICAO to regulate all commercial airline operators, their aircraft as well as the proficiency of flight and maintenance crew. ICAO requires that all executives of regulatory body and their inspectors should have no affiliations or get any emoluments or benefits from airlines that they inspect. CAA can only perform this task if it hires the best and most qualified of aviation personnel who do not have any conflict of interests with airlines under their regulatory control. The true facts and causes will only be revealed if an investigation is carried out by an independent, qualified and experienced team of accident investigators, which unfortunately is missing and is a major reason why a credible and exhaustive investigation report has never been issued for accidents involving commercial aircraft within Pakistan airspace.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2012.

ISLAMABAD: Below is the list issued by Bhoja Air of the Passengers who were on board the ill-fated Flight 213.

The Captain of the Flight was, Captain Noorullah Afridi, First Officer Javed Malik, Purser Ghazala Malik, Air Hostess Princes Flavia, Air Hostess Sanam Farid.

The Passengers on board this flight were:
1. Abbas Ali
2. Abida Javed Malik
3. Adeel Chughtai
4. Aiman Ikram
5. Altamash Khan
6. Anisa Akbar
7. Anum Hussain
8. Asif Aftab
9. Asmaa Ahmad
10. Ataur Rehman
11. Azizur Rehman
12. Baqir Mehdi
13. Bibi Hameeda
14. Chand Baboo
15. Chd Faiq
16. Dilshad Kamaal
17. Dr Abdul Qadir
18. Dr Asadullah
19. Fahira Laiq
20. Farah Sajid
21. Fatima
22. Fehmeeda Zubair
23. Ghulam Farooq Qasmi
24. Ghulam Rehman
25. Gul
26. Gul Faraz
27. Gul Sharif Jana
28. Gul Zaman
29. Habibur Rehman
30. Hafeezur Rehman
31. Hafsa Chughtai
32. Hafsa Shahid
33. Haleema Sadia
34. Hamida Khadima Baloch
35. Haris Haris
36. Husun Nisa
37. Imran Waheed
38. Irfan Ali
39. Javed Akhtar Malik
40. Javed Iqbal
41. Kalo Abbasi
42. Khwaja Raziuddin
43. Liauqat Ali
44. Masooda Begum
45. Mishir Jan
46. Mohammad Atiq Khan
47. Mrs Mohammad Latif
48. Mohammad Latif
49. Moiz Sadiq
50. Mrs Khalida
51. Ms Yumna
52. Muhammad Abdul Hafeez
53. Muhamad Anwar Khan
54. Muhammad Ashfaq Khan
55. Muhammad Farooq
56. Muhammad Irfan
57. Muhammad Irfan
58. Muhammad Qasim
59. Muhammad Shahnawaz
60. Muhammad Sohail
61. Muhammad Younus
62. Muhammada Abdullah
63. Mujtaba Siyal
64. Mukhan Jan
65. Munawar Sultana
66. Musarrat Shaheen
67. Nadir Khan Fazaldad
68. Nasreen
69. Nazmeen
70. Nighat Mehdi
71. Nihaluddin Alvi
72. Nisar Ahmed
73. Nuzhat
74. Qamar Aftab
75. Qari Muhammad Abdul Rahman
76. Rakh Shanda
77. Rakhshanda
78. Rashida Rehman
79. Raza Ali Khan Feroz
80. Ree Han
81. SM Saud Ishaq
82. Saba Amber
83. Sadaf Baloch
84.Sadaf Tanveer
85. Saeed Khan
86. Saeeda Akhtar
87. Sania Abbas
88. Sarah Chughtai
89. Sardar Shah
90. Sarwat Mumtaz
91. Shabbir Ahmad Awan
92. Shahid Iqbal
93. Shamima Abdullah
94. Shazia Baloch
95. Sobia Ubaid
96. Suleiman Chughtai
97. Sumaiyah Chughtai
98. Syed Muhammad Amjad
99. Syed Muhammad Rizwan
100. Syed Omar Ali
101. Syed Sajjad Ali Rizvi
102. Syeda Amjad Shaheen
103. Syeda Rizwan Sufia
104. Tabbasum Sarwat
105. Tabia Rehman
106. Talat Mahmood Qureshi
107. Tanveer Jan
108. Tariq Mehmood
109. Tasadouq Mahmood
110. Tasneem Begum
111. Tuba Shewar
112. Usman Rahim
113. Usman Rasheed
114. Uzma Inam
115. Wajat Abbasi
116. Waji Ha
117. Yasmin Muhammad Sultan
118. Zaheer Shah
119. Zahida Aziz
120. Zaibun Nisa
121. Zuhra Begum
Passenger break up : Adults 110, Children 6, Infants 5.

Boeing 737-200 banned in several countries 
LAHORE – The Bhoja Airlines plane that crashed near Chaklala Airbase, killing all the passengers on-board, was a more than 40 years old version of the Boeing.The ‘obsolete’ version Boeing 737-200 has either been banned or phased out in many countries of the world.It includes the United States, while the EU has banned many airlines from Africa and Asia, which still use this aircraft.

The real cause of the tragedy could only be established after analysing the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), said an aviation expert on Friday. He said it would be premature to say something about the cause of incident before decoding the FDR and CVR.He was of the view that through the CVR recordings, experts could examine the last 30-minute conversation between the pilot and the Air Traffic Control (ATC), which help establishing the reason behind the crash.

Apparently, there could be two reasons behind the crash. Firstly, it might be pilot’s error who all of the sudden enter into active weather due to which plane fell on ground within no time. Secondly, lightening could also have struck the plane due to which it caught fire and later crashed, as possibility seconded by some eyewitnesses, who said they saw the plane on fire in the air.Some circles in the CAA were of the view that it could be a human error but a PIA pilot seeking anonymity said Chief Pilot Noor Afridi was experienced and had also served in the PAF and Shaheen Airlines also.

Some others said although the Bhoja Airlines received the licence from the CAA to operate these old planes, but the reasoning behind the move was unknown reasons.The airline is based in Karachi and operates on a small domestic network. It ceased operations in 2000 due to financial difficulties and succumbed to numerous debts. It was re-launched in 2011, while the first flight operated on March 6 this year.

As of this month, its fleet consisted of four Boeing 737-200, including AP-BKC, AP-BKD, ZS-NNH re-registered as AP-BKE and AP-BKF. On November 07, 1993, the Bhoja Air started operations on domestic routes between Karachi, Lahore and Quetta with a leased Boeing 737-20.It was registered in Pakistan making Bhoja the first private airline in the country to operate a Western-manufactured aircraft. On January 24, 1998 Bhoja Air commenced international flights from Karachi to Dubai. Later, it operated flights to the UAE from all major cities of Pakistan. However due to financial difficulties Bhoja Air suspended its operations in 2000, although its licence remained valid and it maintained a fully functional head office in Karachi.

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