Monday, March 30, 2015

Air Canada, Airbus A320-200, C-FTJP, Flight AC-624: MacGillivray Law to file class action lawsuit • Second lawyer, Ray Wagner, says his firm is considering a class action lawsuit as well

A Nova Scotia law firm says it will be filing a class action lawsuit representing passengers on board Air Canada Flight 624 that crash-landed Sunday morning in Halifax and a second firm confirms they are meeting with a passenger Tuesday.

MacGillivray Injury and Insurance Law says it was instructed to file a lawsuit by an individual who is seeking damages for physical and psychological trauma. The firm says it has also been consulted by a number of other passengers on the flight.

Ray Wagner with Wagners - a Serious Injury Law Firm, confirmed Monday evening that he is meeting with a passenger from the flight Tuesday and has been in contact with another passenger.

He also said he is working with two law firms out of Toronto that have experience with lawsuits dealing with airline crashes. 

MacGillivray Law says their class action will likely be against Air Canada, Halifax International Airport Authority and Nav Canada.

MacGillivray Law says it believes Air Canada has already contacted some passengers with a compensation package, with more details expected about it later this week.

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Medical and Safety Experts Say They Lack Tools to Identify Suicidal Pilots • Experts say regulators and carriers don’t have dependable, scientifically tested methods to pinpoint suicide hazards

The Wall Street Journal
Updated March 30, 2015 9:17 p.m. ET

Pilot suicide has long been recognized as a potential danger in aviation, but medical and safety experts say they still lack reliable tools to identify or track aviators at greatest risk of hurting themselves or others.

To be hired, commercial pilots typically must pass psychological screening, personality tests and physical examinations. But once they start flying passengers, the experts say, neither regulators nor carriers have dependable, scientifically tested methods to pinpoint suicide hazards unless individual pilots come forward voluntarily or exhibit obvious signs of mental disorders picked up by supervisors or fellow employees.

As a general rule, “tests work to screen out people before they get the job, but the science isn’t there yet to predict” suicidal personalities after that, according to Terry von Thaden, chief executive of Illumia, an advisory firm that assesses the corporate culture of airlines and other companies. “There simply aren’t any good predictors.”

Investigators are examining the background, including mental-health issues, of Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who prosecutors believe intentionally flew an Airbus A320 into a French mountain range last week, killing himself and 149 others. Mr. Lubitz is suspected of withholding information from the airline about his mental condition and treatment. A German prosecutor Monday said he had undergone psychotherapy because of suicidal tendencies before obtaining his commercial-pilot license.

In the U.S., each time someone seeks a medical certificate to start or continue flying, he or she must answer questions from the Federal Aviation Administration about health conditions ranging from fainting spells to diabetes to epilepsy. The form also asks about “mental disorders of any sort,” and names depression, anxiety, substance dependence or abuse, and suicide attempts among other specific examples. In addition, pilots are required to list all health professionals they have seen for the past three years, by name, address, type of doctor and reason for the visit.

Once pilots are hired, however, experts say periodic medical checks often have only a cursory focus on mental health issues and therefore generally aren’t useful in predicting suicidal tendencies.

Guohua Li, director of Columbia University’s Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention, described current medical standards for airline pilots as “outdated, inadequate and inconsistent,” especially regarding mental health assessment. “These standards need to be updated, strengthened and made internationally compatible.”

One complication experts cite: changes in employee-management relations at U.S. carriers, which now make it harder for senior supervisory pilots to be aware of personal, financial or psychological stresses that may particularly affect specific aviators.

In the past, chief pilots at each employee base viewed a big part of their role helping to “manage, mentor and support their people,” according to John Marshall, another consultant who previously ran the safety organizations at Delta Air Lines Inc.

As a result, chief pilots sometimes could offer counseling or support. “That function has kind of evaporated,” Mr. Marshall said.

A full-scale psychiatric assessment of every airline pilot each year, however, would be time consuming and put most pilots under unnecessary stress. Extensive examinations needed to pick up suicidal tendencies could take several hours and “wouldn’t make sense for the airline industry as a whole,” said Rob Bor, a specialist in clinical aviation psychology in London.

Predicting suicidal behavior becomes especially difficult if there are negative consequences for speaking up, such as airline pilots who almost certainly would be grounded if they acknowledged such thoughts, according to Dr. Matthew Nock, a Harvard University professor who studies this area.

Previous history of psychiatric diagnosis isn’t enough to judge current suicide risk, according to an FAA report on suicides by private pilots published last year. A pilot’s current physical and mental state—including sleep pattern, mood, energy level and concentration—needs to be considered, according to the report. But according to experts, regular medical checkups for U.S. airline pilots on average last about half an hour, and physicians performing those federally-mandated exam often aren’t trained and don’t feel competent to delve deeply into mental health issues.

Some large U.S. carriers, including Southwest Airlines Co., have contract provisions that allow the company to send pilots for additional physical or mental screenings if the situation warrants. And most airlines rely to some extent on the observations of other pilots and flight attendants about the stress level, flying performance or behavior of a pilot. Fellow aviators can make confidential safety reports, or, in the extreme, report the questionable behavior to their union safety officials or the company.

Before the current debate over mental health issues affecting cockpit crews, some experts already were devising enhanced techniques to help physicians spot pilots with depression, anxiety or other disorders. The Aerospace Medical Association developed more-detailed assessment tools and posted them on its website, part of a campaign to shed light on psychological hazards the organization says have received short shrift from for FAA-designated medical examiners.

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Bell 206L-1: Accident occurred March 30, 2015 in Saucier, Harrison County, Mississippi

Stephen Stein, an air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, speaks during a press conference on Tuesday, March 31, 2015, concerning the helicopter crash in Harrison County on Monday. Stein said his team arrived Tuesday morning to begin their on scene investigation and to gather perishable information.

A pilot from Blanchard, Okla., and a U.S. Forest Service worker from Wiggins were unable to get out of a crashed helicopter after it caught fire in the De Soto National Forest, but another forest worker managed to get out and survive, authorities said,

The pilot killed in Monday's crash in the Success community in north Harrison County has been identified as Brandon Ricks, 40, of Blanchard, Okla. The U.S. Forest Service worker killed was Steven W. Cobb, 55, of Wiggins.

Harrison County coroner Gary Hargrove said both were found inside the Bell 206 L1 helicopter after the crash was reported about a mile from Airey Town Road at 2:57 p.m.

Autopsies show Ricks died of smoke inhalation and Cobb of blunt force trauma, Hargrove said.

Authorities said the helicopter is owned by T&M Aviation of Oklahoma.

The details were released Tuesday in a press conference at the Mississippi Highway Patrol complex in Biloxi.

The survivor's name has not been released.

Hargrove said the man underwent surgery Monday night at the University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile. His condition was downgraded from critical to serious but authorities have not been able to talk with him yet.

The helicopter crashed along a 30-foot path and hit a number of trees, said Stephen Stein, air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board. The crash site is east of Mississippi 67 and U.S. 49.

The wreckage will likely be removed Wednesday outside the view of the media and the public.

Officials have said the pilot and forest workers had been monitoring a controlled burn of about 800 acres along the Harrison and Stone county lines.

Stein said the helicopter had taken off from the Wiggins Airport. It is unclear if the pilot was communicating with anyone before the crash.

A NTSB team arrived at the crash site Tuesday along with team members from the Federal Aviation Administration, inspectors, aircraft engineers and manufacturers' representatives, he said.

The team will gather and document the scene with photographs before turning over the wreckage to a secure facility for further investigation, Stein said.

Part of the initial investigation includes questioning witnesses. Stein said the Forest Service and Harrison County Fire Service have been helpful with that, as well as other aspects.

Anyone with information about the crash is asked to contact the NTSB at or (202) 314-6000.

"Once the wreckage has been recovered, we will begin to investigate the man, the machine and the environment," Stein said.

Investigators will compile information about the pilot, his training and flight proficiency, and they'll examine the aircraft, its component history and maintenance records. Stein said the probe also will consider lighting and weather conditions, environmental factors and archived radar data.

A preliminary report with initial findings will be available on the NTSB website within five to 10 business days.

Stein said it could take up to 12 months to complete the investigation. About 60 days later, the NTSB board will release a brief report and probable-cause report.

"During the course of the investigation, if we find any systematic deficiencies at all concerning the man, the machine or the environment, the board will move to issue a safety recommendation … designed to prevent future similar accidents," Stein said. "Safety is our primary mission."

He said the helicopter was built in 1980.

"On behalf of the NTSB, I'd like to offer deepest sympathies and most sincere condolences to the families and friends of those involved in the accident," Stein said.

Mario Rossilli, Forest Service public affairs spokesman, said members of the state agency feel the loss.

"It has hit a lot of us really right here," he said, placing his hand over his heart. "We're coping."

Greta Boley, Forest Service national director for Mississippi, said the agency appreciates a show of concern and prayers from across the nation and in South Mississippi

"We are hurting right now," Boley said.

Read more here: - The News for South Mississippi

 HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - We now know the names of the victims in that fatal helicopter crash that claimed two lives in Harrison County Monday.

Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove said the pilot, Brandon Ricks, 40, of Oklahoma died of smoke inhalation. The other man killed in the crash, Steven W. Cobb, 55, of Wiggins died of multiple blunt force trauma. 

Hargrove said Cobb worked for the U.S. Forest Service and Ricks worked for T & M Aviation out of Oklahoma. 

Members of the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and representatives from the helicopter company that crashed in the Desoto National Forest are all in Harrison County. They're digging through the wreckage, learning as much as they can about the Monday afternoon helicopter crash that killed two people.

Harrison County Fire Marshal Pat Sullivan is assisting the investigators with their initial assessments. "It's a thorough, long-term investigation to look at all factors and interview everybody who may have information," Chief Sullivan told WLOX News.

The helicopter was assisting with a prescribed burn near the Harrison County/Stone County line when it suddenly crashed into a wooded area off Highway 67. Nearby witnesses said right before the crash, they heard the helicopter overhead, and it sounded like it was having engine troubles.

Rescue crews rushed one victim to an ambulance, and then to a Life Flight helicopter. At last check, that person was in serious condition at USA Medical Center in Mobile, Alabama.

SAUCIER -- Two people are dead and one is severely injured after a U.S. Forest Service helicopter crashed Monday near the intersection of Airey Tower and Martha Redmond roads.

Harrison County Fire Chief Pat Sullivan confirmed two of the helicopter's occupants died in the crash, and authorities are still working to remove their bodies from the wreckage.

"We received a call at 2:57, I believe," Harrison County Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said. "And the call that we received of course was that a helicopter was down."

The crash site is roughly a mile southwest of Airey Tower and Martha Redmond roads.

Sullivan said he believes the aircraft was a contract helicopter being used by forestry personnel to monitor a control burn in the area.

"There were crews on the scene immediately," he said. "These guys who work forestry are professionals. They train in first aid, they train for eventualities like this, so from that standpoint, that's an asset to the person that was injured."

He said the sole survivor of the crash suffered severe trauma and was taken by helicopter to the University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile.

Eddie Baggett, prescribed fire specialist for the Forest Service, said the three on the helicopter were contract workers.

"We lost radio contact and somebody called me on the radio and said we may have an incident," Baggett said. "Usually, I'm talking to them all the time. We've got an ambulance on the way."

Baggett lost contact with the crew shortly before 3 p.m.

A LifeFlight medevac helicopter arrived near the scene about 4 p.m. and landed in a clearing just off Martha Redmond Road. EMT units with American Medical Response were seen transporting one of the victims into the helicopter.

The National Transportation Safety Board will be leading the investigation, Sullivan said.

The controlled burn today involved 800 acres right at the Harrison and Stone county lines.

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Horry County airports finding ways to increase revenue

Horry County Council members are exploring more competitive airplane fuel prices, a more aggressive approach to leasing land owned by Horry County and improving facilities at the county’s four airports as talks of selling three of its airports have subsided.

The Horry County Department of Airports saw a $152,000 loss last year operating its three smaller airports — Grand Strand Regional in North Myrtle Beach, Conway and Loris. The department also runs the area’s largest airport, Myrtle Beach International, which is the only one that operates at a profit.

“With the exception of Myrtle Beach, they’re all losing money,” said Council Chairman Mark Lazarus at the council’s spring budget retreat last week. “The decision has got to be made at some point, do we really want to keep Conway? Is it a necessary component? Or do we want to give the opportunity there for private developers? We’re building T-hangars there now, so you’re going to see some incomes come up there.

“We’re going to have to figure out the right model for Loris, if we continue, or do we sell Loris? We may look at selling Loris and Conway and operate with all of our forces into the two other ones.”

But a report from Pat Apone, director of the Department of Airports, changed the tone of the conversation as she outlined the department’s recent strides to get the smaller airports making a profit.

Councilman Al Allen, who is also a pilot, said he has seen the changes at Conway airport, including an adjustment to make fuel prices more competitive with Columbus County (N.C.) Municipal Airport, which is known for its low airplane fuel prices.

“They have done an excellent job at the Conway airport and I’ve seen a lot of changes compared to our past leadership in the airports,” Allen said. “They are starting to attract some of that traffic away from the [Columbus County] airport and they are folks who are flying, looking for the cheaper fuel when they come there that see there is so much more to offer when they come to Conway airport than in Whiteville (N.C.) They don’t have a maintenance facility, they don’t have any hangars available and we have all of that.”

In North Myrtle Beach, the airport was built during World War II by the Air Force, and was first known as the “Wampee Flight Strip.” It was closed after World War II and turned over for local government use by the War Assets Administration, according to the city of North Myrtle Beach.

Aviation company Ramp 66 had run the 427-acre airport since 1978. In 2013, the county signed off on a plan to buy back the last seven years of the lease on the airport and took back management. Money used to buy out the contract came from $2 million the airport received from a sale of land. The move came after Ramp 66 was not able to find a private buyer. So, the county stepped in and used existing fuel and hangar contracts to obtain lower costs with the Grand Strand Airport. It also plans to see reduced liability insurance offered to governments by the state.

Shortly after acquiring the Grand Strand Airport, it began the North Ramp Apron reconstruction project and installed LEED lighting on the hangars to enhance safety and security.

Councilman Harold Worley said the county knew what would face when it took over control of Grand Strand.

“We chose to move forward with those renovations to bring those levels of services up and not necessarily to make money, but to give the highest level of services to try to bring in more business and economic development partners,” Worley said.

Apone said a recent uptick in military fueling sales has traditionally helped two of its airports.

“Both of these airports, [Myrtle Beach International] and Grand Strand, both have a history of making money off of military sales,” she said.

The county’s airport department has a tract of land near Barefoot Resort in North Myrtle Beach and an 80-acre piece of land in front of the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. Lazarus said he’d be interested in hearing what the airport could do with it.

“Come back to us with a plan,” Lazarus said. “I think we’ll be very receptive to it. You’ve got a lot of properties to deal with. You’re also taking the initiative of looking at leasing versus selling property in North Myrtle Beach, which would give us a continual revenue stream to help support the North Myrtle Beach airport, which I think is a good thing. We’re getting a lot of interest in that.”

“This administration is taking much better initiative, to me, than our prior administration has and I appreciate that,” he said.

Apone took over the department in September 2013 after the contract of Mike LaPiere, former director, was not renewed.

Lazarus said he was pleased with the direction the airport was going.

“I think the consensus is not to seek private industry to come in and operate, but maybe look at the private industry to build their own hangars and maybe lease some space,” Lazarus said. “I think they’re in the right direction.”

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Amazon Hires Pilot-Union Executive for Drone Program • Sean Cassidy, former member of a TSA aviation-security advisory committee, to join Amazon

The Wall Street Journal
March 30, 2015 8:34 p.m. ET

In the latest sign of the importance of its drone program, Inc. has hired the former number-two executive at the Air Line Pilots Association to help with the project.

Sean Cassidy, an Alaska Air Group Inc. pilot and former member of a Transportation Security Administration aviation-security advisory committee, is joining Amazon to oversee “partner relationships,” according to his LinkedIn page.

An Amazon spokeswoman confirmed the hiring but declined to comment further.

Mr. Cassidy adds heft to the drone project, known at Prime Air. Amazon hopes to use drones to make unmanned deliveries within about 10 miles of a warehouse.

The Federal Aviation Administration this year issued proposed rules that would bar Amazon and other companies from testing drones beyond their line of sight, a setback to commercial applications.

The FAA recently approved an Amazon request to test drones outdoors in the U.S., but Amazon says the permission applies to an antiquated drone model.

To push for more open skies in the U.S., Amazon has threatened to move more of its drone operations overseas. Amazon recently let the Guardian newspaper visit its testing site in Canada, where regulations are more lax, and has been adding staff in the U.K.

Mr. Cassidy will be based in Washington, D.C., according to a copy of a letter he sent to colleagues from his union email account, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

As an executive of the pilots union, Mr. Cassidy was sometimes critical of drones. In February 2014, he told Politico, “We have to do everything possible to battle the idea that this is no different than flying a paper airplane in your backyard.”

Mr. Cassidy didn't respond to an email seeking comment. His hiring was previously reported by Politico.

Original article can be found here:

Team Aerodynamix: Van's RV-6, N722DK and Van's RV-8, N8JL: Accident occurred March 29, 2015 at Tuscaloosa Regional Airport (KTCL), Alabama

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA172A
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, March 29, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, AL
Aircraft: MERIAN RICHARD F RV 8, registration: N8JL
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA172B 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, March 29, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, AL
Aircraft: KIGHT DANIEL H RV 6, registration: N722DK
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

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 March 29, 2015, about 1330 central daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Vans RV-8, N8JL, and an experimental amateur-built Vans RV-6, N722DK, collided in midair while maneuvering over the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport (TCL), Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The RV-8 was substantially damaged and the RV-6 sustained minor damage. Both airplanes subsequently landed without further incident. The airline transport pilot of the RV-8 and the commercial pilot of the RV-6 were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed no flight plan had been filed for the local demonstration flight.

Both airplanes were part of "Team Aerodynamix" an air show team that was participating in the Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show.

According to initial information, at the time of the accident, two other airplanes were flying in formation at an altitude of 500 feet above runway 04/22, while the pilot of the RV-8 intended to circle around the two airplanes from behind. An additional group of team airplanes were flying in the opposite direction. While circling in a counter-clockwise direction, the RV-8 converged on the two airplanes flying in formation, and the propeller of the RV-6, which was flying on the right side of the formation, and the right elevator and horizontal stabilizer of the RV-8 made contact.

The pilot of the RV-6 reported that he was flying straight and level and focused on the airplane flying in formation on his left side, when the airplane began to experience a sudden severe vibration. Postaccident inspection of the airplane revealed that portions of the propeller were missing.

The pilot of the RV-8 reported that the maneuver had been practiced many times previously. He began rolling to the left while positioned about 4 to 5 airplane lengths behind the two airplanes. During his third roll, his airplane had overtaken the airplanes flying in formation during the final one-fourth to one-half of the roll. He observed one of the airplanes pass off his left and heard a "bang" at that time. Postaccident inspection of the RV-8 revealed that the outboard one-third of the right horizontal stabilizer, and the outboard two-thirds of the right elevator were separated.

The pilot of the RV-8 reported 4,000 hours total flight experience in single-engine airplanes, which included 2,000 hours in the same make and model as the accident airplane. The pilot of the RV-6 reported about 750 hours of total flight experience, which included about 150 hours in make and model.



Tuscaloosa County, AL (WBRC) -   The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating an accident that occurred at the Tuscaloosa Air Show on Sunday.

Officials say two aerobatic aircraft, an RV8 and RV6, touched during a performance. Both aircraft landed safely.

One of the stunt planes lost part of its propeller after the mid-air collision, Lt. Andy Norris with the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post. 

No injuries or fatalities were reported. Deidre Stalnaker, a Tuscaloosa City spokesperson, says the accident happened around 1:20 p.m.

The event went through a brief delay after the accident.

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