Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Schweizer 269C, G-LINX: Family of helicopter pilot launch lawsuit - Accident occurred September 22, 2009 in Blackpool, United Kingdom

The family of a Merseyside pilot killed in a helicopter crash have launched an £800,000 battle for justice.

Steven Lewis, 38, from Rainhill, died when his chopper crashed near Blackpool in September, 2009.

Philip Gray, 46, from the West Lancs village of Mawdesley, who also died, was taking flying lessons with Mr Lewis in the two-seater Schweizer helicopter.

Representatives of both men have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the US against the aircraft maker and 10 other defendants.

They are seeking a total of at least $1.25m – £770,000 – for loss of earnings and mental anguish, claiming negligence and product liability.

They allege faulty engine parts, a fuel injector and part of the ignition system directly led to Mr Lewis losing power over the Lancashire coastline. The last transmission from Mr Lewis, just 20 minutes after take-off, was a single word: “Failure.”

Steven’s brother, Adrian, said on behalf of the family: “Steven was a fantastic brother and a superb pilot. His tragic and untimely death is still so difficult to comprehend.

“The key thing in our battle for justice for Steven is ensuring that the helicopter manufacturers are thoroughly investigated and no stone is left unturned to get to the bottom of what went wrong.” The families last week overcame the first hurdle in the mammoth compensation case after a judge ruled that the case should be heard in the USA.

New York-based Schweizer Aircraft and 10 other defendants, including engine and parts makers, attempted to have the lawsuit kicked out, claiming it should be heard in the UK. A Federal judge ruled the legal action should proceed in the USA, where the helicopter wreckage is held. Mr Lewis said: “It is clear that to get to the bottom of what went wrong the investigation needs to proceed in the country where a judge has access to all the evidence and witnesses to hand – the United States.

“We hope the case will progress quickly so we can find the answers as to why Steven was taken from us.”

An inquest into the deaths of Mr Lewis and Mr Gray concluded with the jury delivering a narrative verdict, saying “they could not clearly state what the sequence of events were that caused the loss of usable engine power”.

The inquest had heard how the men had been practicing auto-rotation manoeuvres, where the power is cut to the engine by closing the throttle, and the blades of the helicopter continue to rotate.

The jury were told the flight had been normal up until the point of the Mayday call, when the engine was not producing useful power.

Lewis family lawyer Jim Morris, from Irwin Mitchell solicitors, said the legal bid may take years.

He said: “What we are focusing on is what went wrong with this helicopter.

“Hopefully, as a result of this process, investigation and expert reports, we will identify what actually happened and from that see what lessons can be learned for future Schweizer operations.”


NTSB Identification: CEN09WA598
14 CFR Non-U.S., Non-Commercial
Accident occurred Tuesday, September 22, 2009 in Blackpool, United Kingdom
Aircraft: SCHWEIZER 269C, registration: G-LINX
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On September 22, 2009, at 1104 universal coordinated time, a Schweizer 269C helicopter, United Kingdom registered G-LINX, registered to Heli-Lynx Limited, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near Blackpool, Lancashire, England. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The accident flight originated from Blackpool.

The accident investigation is under the jurisdiction and control of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). This report is for informational purposes only and contains only information released by or obtained from the government of the United Kingdom. Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Air Accidents Investigation Branch
Department for Transport
Farnborough House
Berkshire Copse Road
Aldershot, Hampshire
GU11 2HH, United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 1252 510300

Antonov 72-100, UP-72859: Accident occurred December 25, 2012 in Kazakhstan


The general prosecution of Kazakhstan has announced the results of investigation into the Antonov An-72 plane crash on December 25th. Additionally, they have presented fragments of information recorded by the flight data recorder and the scheme of the crash. 

The scheme presents the last seconds before the collision of the plane. At that moment the Antonov An-72 had already begun landing in the normal mode, extending its landing gear. The crew did not know that there was an obstacle ahead because of the zero visibility due to the foggy conditions. In addition, most of the instruments either gave incorrect information or did not work at all.

Proceeding from recoding of pilots’ conversations, barometric devices they used were always showing a different height. However, there were no reports about equipment failure. Moreover, the commander didn’t follow the instruction of a flight operator to set the pressure level of the Shymkent airport in the barometer. As a result, the Antonov An-72 collided with a slope gully at 18:54 Astana time. Nobody survived the plane crash. Criminal investigation of the crash of the aircraft is still underway. The General Prosecutor’s Office sent an international investigating commission to Ukraine, where renovations of the aircraft took place prior to the crash. So far, the prosecution believes that the sum total of three factors have become the reason for a plane crash.


- The first factor is the breakdown of the airborne equipment, including failure of the automatic pilot system and radioaltimeter and failures in the barometric height measurement devices. The second factor is a mistake of a crew chief during the aircraft’s operation. He hadn’t switched on the low-range early warning system while landing, unlawfully transferred the airplane control to the co-pilot and failed to set the pressure level of the Shymkent airport in the barometer. And the third factor was bad weather, snow and rain, freezing fog, low visibility and heavy icing.

Story and Video:

Air Force blames wrong airport landing on fatigue, human error: Boeing C-17A Globemaster III at Peter O Knight Airport (KTPF), Tampa on July 20, 2012

Boeing C-17A Globemaster III 


TAMPA -- The crew of a military cargo jet landed at the wrong airport in Tampa in July, in part, because of fatigue, complacency and a lack of flight discipline, an Air Force investigation has found. 

It wasn't until the cargo jet was halfway down the runway at Peter O. Knight Airport, a small flight center on Davis Islands, that the crew realized it had missed the intended landing site, 4.6 miles to the southwest at MacDill Air Force Base, according to an 11-page "Hazardous Air Traffic Report."

The report, obtained by the Tribune under the federal Freedom of Information Act, does not address why the C-17A Globemaster III was flying from Italy to MacDill, nor does it identify who was calling the shots.

But in an e-mail to the Tribune on Tuesday, the head of U.S. Central Command at MacDill, Marine Gen. James Mattis, acknowledged he was on the plane.

Mattis, whose responsibilities include running the war in Afghanistan, also said he sought leniency for the crew.

"It was just human error," Mattis wrote. "I've made a lot of mistakes in my time, and some were real doozies (worse than landing at the wrong airstrip). The Marine Corps kept their sense of humor throughout my checkered career and allowed me to move onward and upward."

The report does not say whether disciplinary action was taken against the crew, part of the 305th Air Mobility Wing based at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

Officials at MacDill had no comment on the report.

The flight July 20 originally was bound for Kabul, Afghanistan, the report says, but the destination was changed to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, then changed to MacDill — an hour before takeoff — by the unidentified aircraft "user."

One potential source of confusion for pilots flying over South Tampa is the figure 22 painted in big white numbers on one of the runways at Peter O. Knight, a reference to the strip's compass direction.

MacDill also has a runway 22, so the two are in direct alignment with each other.

At least one previous military flight bound for MacDill landed at Peter O. Knight in the past decade, the report says, and at least two civilian flights bound for Peter O. Knight landed at MacDill during the past five years.

In addition, several confused pilots have pulled up when they realized they were approaching the wrong runway, the report says.

Despite the "frequency of errors and confusion at this pair of airfields," the report says, the MacDill tower "has no preventative measures in place" to address the confusion. Nor is the potential for confusion cited in materials provided MacDill pilots.

Still, the report says, the runways' alignment was not a factor in the Globemaster landing at the wrong airport.

* * * * *

The days before the flight to Tampa had been "stressful and busy" for the crew, according to the report. They "flew into complex airfields, dealt with multiple mission changes and flew long mission legs with several stops each day."

They arrived in Rome about two days before the flight to Tampa and spent the first day touring the historic city. That night, the pilot lost his cellphone in a taxi; then he lost sleep trying to find it and more sleep worrying about it.

The night before the flight, the crew had an "uneventful dinner" and went to bed to "in order to get rest for the mission the next day."

Still, several crewmembers said that although they had the opportunity to sleep eight hours before taking off, time zone changes prevented them from "getting a good night's rest."

In addition, the co-pilot felt some pressure to make the flight for fear that declining would make their command look bad, the report says. This perceived pressure, the report says, was not a factor in the landing mistake.

Both the pilot and co-pilot told investigators they were "feeling tired" but believed they could function properly as they landed at MacDill.

That's not what an evaluation found afterward.

The two were acting at reduced cognitive capacity, according to the report, with the pilot at 79 percent effectiveness and the co-pilot at 89 percent. The report says 70 percent effectiveness is the same level of impairment induced by a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent.

By comparison, that's the level of intoxication at which Florida considers a driver impaired.

* * * * *

The crew originally was supposed to fly from Rome to Kabul, then to Germany. But those plans were changed in what is called a "crew alert." The report does not indicate when that took place.

The plans were changed again about an hour before the flight. Instead of going to Andrews, per the initial crew alert, the crew was told to fly to MacDill. The flight was expected to take about 10½ hours.

The crew was relieved to be flying to the United States, "where they expected the approach and landing to be less dangerous than any of the other approaches" on the mission, the report says.

But the late changes, combined with "non-existent mission planning facilities" in Rome and a hotel printer that was not working forced the crew to use personal iPads to review mission materials.

In addition, because of the changes in destination, the crew was unable to review the physical layout of MacDill during a preflight briefing, something Air Force rules recommend be done as often as possible.

The review was conducted during the flight.

Still, the report says, the flight changes were not a factor in choosing the wrong airport.

* * * * *

The flight taxied and took off from Rome with no problems at 12:20 a.m. Tampa time.

Much of the report focuses on the actions of the pilot, co-pilot and an additional crew member who was certified as a Globemaster pilot.

Because of the length of the flight, a midair refueling was required, a challenging maneuver requiring intense concentration.

The co-pilot said he "did not feel well-enough rested" to perform the task, so he turned it over to the additional crew member. The crew member reported that the refueling "went smoothly" but he "felt shot" after onloading 95,000 pounds of fuel from the tanker.

The co-pilot received a landing briefing, which included a warning: "Use extreme caution PETER O KNIGHT arpt 4 NM NE OF MACDILL AFB."

At 12:06 p.m. Tampa time, the crew was informed it was 11.5 miles from final approach and cleared to descend to 1,600 feet and pick up the signal from MacDill.

A short time later, the pilot reported seeing an airfield, saying it was MacDill. The co-pilot and additional crew member corrected him, saying it was Peter O. Knight.

All three crew members turned out to be wrong.

The airport they had first sighted was Tampa Executive Airport, near Interstate 75 and north of Interstate 4. Believing that Tampa Executive was Peter O. Knight, the crew concluded the next airfield would be MacDill.

At 12:07 p.m., the crew contacted the MacDill tower, saying it was on the tower's signal and had landing gear down. The tower cleared the Globemaster to land.

The crew visually observed runway 22 at Peter O. Knight, mistaking it for runway 22 at MacDill. The co-pilot began to descend as the additional crew member performed a final safety check.

* * * * *

Several mistakes were made at this point, according to the report.

"Multiple visual clues" led the crew to believe it was approaching MacDill, and the plane's low altitude meant the crew could not discern the difference in runway lengths between the two fields.

At the same time, the co-pilot failed to heed several onboard displays that would have shown the plane's true position.

In addition, C-17 pilots routinely turn off a digital navigation page showing their course so they can display a screen showing whether the plane is properly prepared for landing.

The crew failed to visually identify the airfield correctly before the pilot turned off the navigation device. Afterward, the co-pilot failed to monitor the "mission line," a reference to observing the instruments on his side of the plane that would have confirmed whether the plane was landing where it was supposed to.

Four minutes later, the plane touched down at Peter O. Knight.

About halfway down the runway, the crew realized it was at the wrong airport and the co-pilot applied "maximum effort braking" on the smaller runway.

Once the plane came to a halt, the crew radioed MacDill tower that the Globemaster had landed at a different airfield.

Nearly 60 yards long, with a wingspan just as wide, and powered by four giant jet engines, the military gray plane drew a crowd of onlookers once it landed at the small airport near the tip of Davis Islands.

Eight hours later, it took off for the short final leg of its transoceanic flight.

Story, videos, photo:

Crane salvages aircraft

The seaplane is hauled from the bay at Geelong. 
Photo: Simon O'Dwyer 

Salvage crews begin lifting the crashed seaplane from Corio Bay at Cunningham Pier.

A crane was brought in last night to lift the crashed seaplane out of Corio Bay. 

 About 200 people gathered to watch Coast Guard volunteers begin the salvage of the sunken Bay City Seaplanes aircraft.

Two divers spent about 25 minutes in the water adjacent to Cunningham Pier before the plane's damaged nose and wings were raised above the waterline about 6.45pm.

The pier was cleared of people to allow the crane to remove the plane.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority will investigate the accident.

Buried Spitfires is a tall story, says RAF veteran

Former RAF Flying Officer Pat Woodward has vivid memories of his time in Burma after end of the Second World War.

They were endless days of boredom in an oppressive heat broken only by tremendous monsoon storms, as he waited for word that he could return to Blighty.

But one thing the veteran pilot does not recall is Spitfires being buried at RAF Mingaladon in the capital Rangoon.

That is, he says, because it simply did not happen.

Mr Woodward, 87, says: “I still have a very good memory. I really have for a man of my age. I flew in and out of there for eight months and I remember nothing of the sort.”

The retired chartered surveyor of Durham City spoke as a Lincolnshire farmer and aviation enthusiast’s search for the planes at the site ended this week in recriminations.

For 16 years Mr Cundall, 62, has been convinced that dozens of Spitfires were buried in their shipping crates, including 36 at Mingaladon - now Rangoon International Airport.

In the last week, however, his archaeologists and the delegation sent by a multi-millionaire backer who had helped fund his search, were reported to be heading home, privately accepting there are no Spitfires.

After site excavations and scouring hundreds of 1940s documents, the archaeologists suggest Mr Cundall may have been swayed by servicemen’s rumors.

Mr Woodward says: “I could have told them from the start.

“When news of the expedition first came through I was chatting to a friend of mine, John Bell, who was at Burma at the same time as me and worked  in the accounts department at RAF Mingaladon.

“We were saying how far-fetched it all was.

“I just knew it was a tall story and told everybody. But because it was in the newspapers and on television people assumed that I didn’t know what I was talking about. It’s the old story.”

Mr Woodward saw action at the tail end of the Second World War, flying American Thunderbolt P-47s with 113 Squadron.

After the war the “Yanks wanted their aircraft back” and he converted briefly onto Spitfires, before being posted to the Burma Communications Flight at RAF Mingaladon, in January 1946.

He says: “I was there until August 1946, when I got the boat to come home. I was flying continuously during that period, going up and down that runway.

“I never saw anybody digging any holes. In fact it would have been quite dangerous for them to dig holes there.

“What intrigues me is where he got the story from.

“I mean who would start a story like that? You need a jolly big hole to fit a Spitfire in when you think about it.

“And there were no hole digging machines in those days. If you wanted to dig a hole that size you had to dig it by hand which would have taken lots of people to do.

“They are talking about dozens of Spitfires. If it was happening anywhere near the runway we would have been warned about it. It would have been on the hazard list.”

He adds: “It is an interesting story. But it is outrageous that people would be burying Spitfires.

“If a Spitfire was flyable you flew it out. It was a very valuable piece of machinery.

“Why go to all that trouble when there were pilots like me hanging about doing nothing. I would have been prepared to fly a Spitfire out of Burma if necessary There is no logic it.

“We never buried any other planes because we were frightened they would end up in enemy hands.

“You would only bury things if you want to dig them up at a later date. But we were all getting out as quickly as possible.”

Mr Woodward says the irony is that, before he joined the RAF in 1942, he had worked for a company that made chicken coops – then started making crates for shipping Spitfires.

Several crates were made a day, flat-packed and sent away, he says.

Mr Woodward adds: “Aircraft, such as Spitfires, were regularly sent overseas in crates, but they were offloaded in India and they were put together there and test flown, before they were distributed further by ferry pilots.

“You couldn’t have Spitfires put together all over the place. There had to be a certain place for it to be done.”

Mr Cundall remains defiant in his belief that the Mark XIV Spitfires were buried in the country in 1945 and 1946.

Speaking to a national newspaper he said: “I will prove to the world that there are Spitfires down there. I am more convinced now than I have ever been.”

The dig at the international airport was suddenly cancelled last Thursday after the team had probed a few feet below the surface and found live cables and functioning equipment connected to the airport.

Mr Cundall said: “We had to stop the dig because, while we have equipment to detect Spitfires at 20ft, we don’t have the equipment to detect cables at 5ft.”

The treasure hunt will now move to a second location at Myitkyina, 900 miles to the north, where a submerged crate has already been discovered - though it only contained muddy water.

Mr Woodward is convinced it remains a quixotic venture and is all a waste of time. 


NEW JERSEY: Mercer County Freeholders to hire engineer for Trenton-Mercer Airport terminal reconfiguration

County officials are poised to hire an engineering firm to help them decide what kind of improvements to make at the Trenton-Mercer Airport terminal to accommodate the rapid expansion of Frontier Airlines.

“We are doing everything we can to be proactive about all of this,” Aaron T. Watson, director of the county Department of Transportation, said. “We look at this as all very good news moving forward.”

Frontier began offering commercial passenger service from the Ewing airport in November and recently announced it intends to make Trenton-Mercer its hub for flights from the East Coast. The airline has plans for dozens of flights out of the airport by the springtime.

At tonight's meeting, Watson urged the county freeholders to approve a resolution to hire an engineering firm when it comes before them this week. The firm would develop ideas for making the best use of the small passenger terminal and the area around it.

If the freeholders approve the contract, Syracuse, N.Y.-based C&S Engineering would be paid up to $151,443 to outline the deficiencies of the airport and provide recommendations. The company has worked on a number of other projects at the airport in the recent past, including the installation of safety systems at the end of each runway.

Watson said that with Frontier’s 138-seat aircraft expected to make approximately 36 flights per week, passenger crowding inside the airport terminal is likely to become a problem.

When the airport’s restaurant closed at the beginning of the year, county officials saw an opportunity to reconfigure the airport terminal to avoid the crowding.

Watson said that while the airport will likely need to offer food service to passengers, it may be possible that a portion of the old restaurant space can be used as a smaller “grab and go” food counter with some seating so that the remainder of the area can be used for passenger space.

The restaurant, The Runway, closed after the lease holders could no longer make timely rent payments to the county. The leaseholders told the county that they had insufficient business to pay the full amount.

Since Frontier announced its plans to fly multiple flights from Trenton-Mercer daily, Watson has received phone calls from a number of restaurateurs who are interested in opening something inside the terminal, he said.

The engineering report would also include recommendations for the airport’s parking and the best way to use the open space surrounding the terminal.

The county has already begun construction of a supplemental parking lot at the terminal.

Watson said the study of the airport would only address short-term capacity issues.

In 2006 the county received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to double the size of the airport terminal, but no expansion was carried out.