Saturday, August 16, 2014

Jet Airways’ mid-air scare: Directorate General of Civil Aviation under fire

Nine near air misses were reported in the last eight months, which raised concerns over the country’s civil aviation and safety standards.Even as Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is gearing for US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) team for lifting safety downgrade on the Indian civil aviation sector, nine air misses involving India’s commercial airlines have already taken place this year. These nine incidents, which include the latest Jet Airways goof-up, will weaken India’s case for lifting the safety downgrade of the country’s civil aviation sector in January this year.

According to official sources, the goof-up involving Jet Airways Boeing 777-300 ER that suddenly descended 5,000 feet below its designated flight path over Turkey’s airspace will prove to be embarrassing as it was not immediately reported to the DGCA.

Strangely, the DGCA remained clueless about the incident and came to know after receiving an anonymous SMS five days after the incident.

A senior civil aviation ministry official said the US team is bound to raise the issue about incidents going unreported as the DGCA lacks a proper monitoring system.

A top government official said the Jet incident exposes how illequipped the DGCA is as it remained clueless for an entire week after the incident.   “The regulator must have its own internal intelligence network. If it fails to know of what is happening within the airline, the concept of having a regulator is lost,” the official explained. Though the DGCA has initiated action against Jet Airways for concealing the incident, sources said the damage has already been done.

The Jet incident could have proved dangerous as another plane could have been flying in the additional flight corridor created vertically below with an approximate separation of 3,000 feet on the Asia-Europe air route through Turkey’s airspace. A top DGCA official told Mail Today that most Indian carriers, barring Air India, do not have an adequate number of qualified instructors to train their pilots. After Jet, DGCA would also conduct a training audit of other Indian carriers to maintain better training standards as per the international norms.

“You cannot have a pilot with a laid back attitude. They must be sensitive enough and be adequately trained from time to time-which is not followed by most carriers as the cost of training is very high. We are also asking other airlines, besides Jet, to streamline their training of pilots. The airline will have to strictly enforce stringent training standards,” he added.

Another civil aviation ministry official disclosed that some airlines have been skipping periodical training programs for pilots during the winter and monsoon season. “We have been complaining about this for very long. Airlines have largely bunked the norms in this regard,” he said.

Flights connecting Europe and Asia are currently not flying over Ukraine where a Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane was shot down last month. Similarly, Iraq’s airspace has also turned into a war zone and is being avoided. This leaves only one path over Turkey’s airspace for the Europe-Asia sector, making it one of the busiest air routes in the world.
Meanwhile, the DGCA has set up a three-member team to review Jet Airways’ flight training programs and facilities following the incident.

One of the issues that led to the downgrade of India’s aviation sector by USFAA was lack of chief flight operation instructors. This issue is likely to crop up again as the DGCA has managed to appoint only 35 of 75 such instructors required by the US aviation regulator.

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Judge Upholds Airport in Case Against County: Martha's Vineyard (KMVY), Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts

A superior court judge has sided with the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission in its ongoing dispute with the Dukes County Commission over the legal independence of the airport. 

In a written opinion, the Hon. Richard Chin, an associate justice of the superior court, granted the airport commission a preliminary injunction that allows it to exclude the county manager as an ex officio nonvoting member of the airport commission. He also ordered that the county treasurer may not refuse to pay the airport legal bills and does not have the right to see privileged communications between the airport commission and its attorneys.

Judge Chin denied a request from the airport to dismiss a series of counterclaims by the county, but in all other matters the 11-page decision sides squarely with the airport commission on questions of control and authority over airport affairs.

A preliminary injunction is not a final ruling, and the case will now proceed to trial, but injunctions are granted to prevent the likely winner of a lawsuit from suffering irreparable harm while waiting for the final outcome.

The county commission is the appointing authority for the airport commission. The two commissions have sparred on and off for years over who ultimately controls the airport, which is owned by the county but financially independent from it. The county operates under a state charter while the airport operates under a different state act, enacted after the charter.

In 2005 a superior court case brought by former airport manager William Weibrecht confirmed the airport’s authority to set salaries and contracts for its employees.

In the latest lawsuit, filed in May, the airport seeks expanded recognition of its autonomy from the county. The complaint stems in part from a decision by the county commission earlier in the year to name the county manager to the airport commission as an ex-officio member. The airport commission has refused to allow county manager Martina Thornton to participate at meetings. There has also been disagreement and tension between the two commissions over how the county treasurer has been handling legal bills.

At a hearing in the Edgartown courthouse last month, Judge Chin heard arguments from attorneys for both sides on the motions by the airport for injunctive relief and dismissal of the counterclaims. Attorneys for the county argued that because the county appoints the airport commission, it has ultimate control. But attorneys for the airport said allowing the county to make organizational changes could jeopardize state and federal grant assurances which provide millions of dollars in funding for airport operations.

In the ruling dated August 12, Judge Chin agreed with the airport on the matter of grant assurances and said adding the county manager to the airport board as an ex-officio member could be construed as a reorganization of the board. The county charter provides for the appointment, raising the broader question of whether the county charter trumps the airport act.

Referring back to the 2005 Weibrecht case, Judge Chin said it does not.

“The county commission argues that the Weibrecht decision is narrow in scope, addressing only the power to set salaries for the airport manager and assistant manager, and is consequently irrelevant to the issues before the court in this case. The court disagrees,” he wrote. “The court agrees . . . that the charter, a broad enabling statute, does not supersede the narrowly tailored airport act even thought it was enacted afterwards.”

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Hon. Richard Chin

Cessna T206H Turbo Stationair, N1229M: Accident occurred August 14, 2014 in Wiggins, Stone County, Mississippi

NTSB Identification: ERA14LA389
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, August 14, 2014 in Wiggins, MS
Aircraft: CESSNA T206H, registration: N1229M
Injuries: 1 Serious, 2 Minor.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August 14, 2014, about 1807 central daylight time, a Cessna T206H, N1229M, was substantially damaged following a partial loss of engine power and forced landing near Wiggins, Mississippi. The private pilot received serious injuries, while two passengers received minor injuries. The airplane was operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91, and no flight plan was filed. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed for business flight that originated at Denison, Texas (GYI) and was destined for Daytona Beach, Florida (DAB). 

According to the pilot, the flight was in the vicinity of Hattiesburg, Mississippi when he elected to change his landing destination to Mobile, Alabama (MOB) to refuel and have dinner. After descending to 2,500 feet above mean sea level (MSL), he leveled the airplane and advanced the throttle, but observed no response from the engine. He could not recover engine power, although the propeller continued to spin. The throttle "felt very loose." He maneuvered the airplane toward the nearest airport; however, there was not sufficient altitude to reach the airport. The airplane collided with trees before coming to rest in a farm field.

An inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration responded to the accident site and examined the wreckage. He confirmed substantial damage to both wings and extensive damage to the fuselage. The engine was broken free from its mounts during the impact sequence.

Flight Standards District Office: FAA Jackson FSDO-31


STONE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - What began as a probe into a plane crash in Stone County is now a narcotics investigation. A Cessna 206 went down Thursday evening. By Friday, one person who was on board that plane was facing a drug charge.

As bad as the wreckage looked, some Stone County residents were amazed to find out no one was seriously hurt. Many people came to get a closer look at the plane that snapped tree limbs and power lines before crash landing on the side of Oilwell Road.

A pilot and two passengers were on the plane when it went down. Law enforcement officials said the stories the men told investigators prompted them to take a closer look at the crash site.

"Based on the information from the pilot and the individuals that were in the plane, it didn't seem to be the normal routine for a normal flight," said Capt. Jay Green, with the Stone County/Wiggins Narcotics Task Force. "They were coming from Texas headed over to Mobile, and with their indicators and their statements, we asked for a canine to come check the plane. We had a positive alert with the canine."

After getting a hit from the dog, investigators from the Stone County/Wiggins Narcotics Task Force went through the luggage on the plane.

"There was pills in the plane, in the luggage. There was a few capsules on the ground that had pills in it," said Green.

Investigators charged Jeff Franklin, 34, of Sherman, TX, with possession of a controlled substance hydrocodone. Franklin was a passenger in plane.

Authorities said Franklin does not have a prescription for hydrocodone and the pills were found in a container for an antacid, which is illegal.

Narcotics investigators said they also found thousands of dollars in cash in the form of $100 bills. The pilot and the other passenger are still in the hospital with what authorities said are non-life threatening injuries. Officials said the investigation into who owns the pills continues.

Meanwhile, the FAA was also at the crash scene on Friday. Stone County Sheriff's deputies said the wreckage will be taken to an airport hangar on Saturday so investigators can take a closer look at the plane. However, FAA officials said while they investigate to see if any federal regulations were violated, it will be the National Transportation Safety Board that makes the determination on what caused the accident.

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Jeff Franklin.
 (Image source: Stone County Sheriff's Department.) 

Narcotics investigators said they also found thousands of dollars in cash in the form of 100 dollar bills on the plane. 
(Image source: Stone County Sheriff's Department.) 

"There was pills in the plane, in the luggage. There was a few capsules on the ground that had pills in it," said Green. 
(Image source: WLOX News.) 

  Cessna T206H Turbo Stationair, N1229M