Sunday, April 17, 2016

Firefighters union says Worcester Regional Airport (KORH) staffing level is 'beyond dangerous'

WORCESTER - The Massport firefighters union has warned Worcester Fire Chief Geoffrey Gardell that current staffing "circumstances are beyond dangerous" at the Massport-run Worcester Regional Airport.

In an April 1 letter to Chief Gardell, Scott W. Dunlap, the lawyer for Massport Firefighters Local S-2, IAFF, whose members staff the firefighting apparatus at Logan Airport in Boston and the L.G. Hanscom Field in Bedford, advised Chief Gardell, "It now appears that the compliment of dual-role security/fire personnel employed at Worcester Airport is down to eight. Five of these eight employees have less than two years of experience."

He added, "In fact, several shifts in the last thirty days have been staffed with two employees having less than six months of experience."

Massport spokesman Matthew Brelis said Massport was aware that the letter was sent to Chief Gardell. Mr. Brelis emphasized that "Worcester Regional Airport is a very safe airport and it meets or exceeds Federal Aviation Administration requirements Part 139."

He added that, "Massport works to continually improve safety at its facilities. The firefighting staffing levels there now meet or exceed FAA requirements. The equipment exceeds FAA standards."

Mr. Brelis declined to comment further on the union lawyer's letter to Chief Gardell.

Unlike at most airports, firefighters at Worcester Regional Airport have multiple duties, including security roles. A top Massport official suggested in a 2014 memo to Massport CEO Thomas Glynn that that staffing model should be scrapped, in favor of employing firefighters whose role is singularly focused on fire services.

Edward Freni, the Massport aviation director, said in the memo, "One organizational model for safety and security enhances the respective public safety services through consistent staffing levels, training requirements, resulting in enhanced accountability, oversight, and expertise."

The staffing change was adopted at Massport's Hanscom Field after a fatal crash there. That airport is much busier than Worcester. However, no change was made in Worcester staffing roles. If implemented, the Freni recommendation would have made safety operations significantly more expensive at Worcester at a time when the Worcester field has limited commercial service from JetBlue.

Local S-2, Mr. Dunlap said, believes that "should an emergency occur, Massport would be entirely dependent upon the Worcester Fire Department for the primary response."

Although Mr. Dunlap noted the union's thanks for the "professional dedicated firefighters employed by the City of Worcester, and their willingness to assist," the union believes that "Massport has left the City of Worcester in an untenable position."

Meanwhile, still unanswered while a National Transportation Safety Board probe continues into a fatal crash Oct. 24 at Worcester Regional Airport, is why the dual-role firefighters arrived at the crash scene after Worcester firefighters. The city firefighters had to travel several miles to get to the crash scene, which was on airport property but several feet outside the runway perimeter fence. The Worcester Fire Department is responsible for incidents outside the fence.

After the October crash, there was evidence of a communications breakdown between airport personnel. A Worcester Fire Department incident report indicated that Massport personnel reported the crash "as a drill," not an emergency. In addition, the control tower operator repeated that she could not reach the airport firefighters and had called the Worcester Fire Department to respond to the crash in woods off Coppage Drive.

Worcester Fire Deputy Chief John F. Sullivan declined to comment on the Dunlap letter to Chief Gardell. He referred all questions to the office of City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. office. John Hill, spokesman for Mr. Augustus, referred questions to Massport.

Massport's Mr. Brelis on Friday suggested the Massport firefighters union was engaged in a public exercise to represent firefighters at the Worcester Airport.

"It is unfortunate that S-2 is going this route in an effort to win representation of the firefighters at Worcester Regional Airport. Massport does not conduct labor negotiations in the newspaper," Mr. Brelis said.

The union letter to the Worcester fire chief said S-2 "has again renewed its efforts to provide ARFF (Airport Rescue Firefighting) services at Worcester, and anticipates meeting with Massport ... in the near future."

Mr. Dunlap, in his letter to Chief Gardell, said Local S-2 had hoped when Massport purchased the Worcester Airport that its members would staff the airport firefighting service. He added that when JetBlue began daily flights to and from Worcester, Local S-2 expressed concern "about the inadequacy of fire protection/response capabilities."

But in the meantime, Mr. Dunlap advised Chief Gardell, "please be aware and prepared in the event of an emergency, and understand that Local S-2 will make every effort to persuade Massport that full time ARFF personnel are required to provide the safest environment for the travelling public."

Copied on the letter were Arthur Miner, president of Local S-2; John Dwyer, president of Local 1009, Worcester Firefighters IAFF; Mr. Augustus, the city manager; and Worcester Deputy Fire Chiefs Sullivan, Michael LaVoie and Donal Smith.

Original article can be found here:

Dr. Gary L. Weller

NTSB Identification: ERA16FA023 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, October 24, 2015 in Worchester, MA
Aircraft: MOONEY M20M, registration: N243CW
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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 either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On October 24, 2015, at 0753 eastern daylight time, a Mooney M20M, N243CW, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain shortly after taking off from Worchester Regional Airport (ORH), Worchester, Massachusetts. The airline transport pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The airplane was not operating on flight plan for the local personal flight, which was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Airport security cameras captured partial segments of the flight. The airplane took off from runway 11. One camera showed the airplane in flight, climbing over the intersection of runway 15, or about 1,500 feet from the departure end of the 7,000-foot takeoff runway. Using the height of the airplane's tail as a reference, the airplane was about 80 to 90 feet above the runway surface at that point, still climbing in a slight right turn.

The airplane then flew out of view, reappearing about 16 seconds later, headed in the roughly the opposite direction of takeoff. There was no radar coverage of the area, but based on the approximate height of the control tower, the airplane appeared to be about 200 feet above the ground, in a shallow, climbing right turn. The airplane's nose then began descending, and the right turn intensified. The airplane continued the right, almost nose down turn as it descended into a stand of trees.

The accident site was located in flat, wooded terrain in the vicinity of 42 degrees, 15.68 minutes north latitude, 071 degrees, 52.15 minutes west longitude at an elevation of about 975 feet. The wreckage was confined to an area extending about 100 feet. There was no wreckage path, but there was evidence of the airplane coming almost straight down through the trees. There was no evidence of smoke or fire, either in flight or at the accident site.

The three-bladed propeller and spinner were found together, but separated from the main wreckage and mostly buried in the ground. When removed, the spinner exhibited fore-to-aft crushing, and none of the three propeller blades exhibited evidence typical of engine power at impact.

All flight control surfaces were accounted for at the accident site. The left wing was found separated from the fuselage about 4 feet from the wing root, while the right wing was mostly still attached. The left horizontal stabilizer was also separated from the airplane, while the right horizontal stabilizer remained attached. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the broken flight surfaces to the cockpit.

The engine had remained attached to the airframe, but was subsequently separated from it and taken to a maintenance garage for further examination. The starter ring did not exhibit any evidence of powered rotation at impact. The crankshaft was rotated by hand at the flange, but could only be rotated a few revolutions before it jammed, and could not be rotated in either direction.

The oil suction screen was removed and found to be contaminated with metal fragments. The accessory case housing was removed, and the No. 5 main bearing was found to be partially extruded out through the crankshaft gear. Holes were also noted in internal portions of the crankcase halves, and the No. 6 connecting rod was observed to be broken.

The engine was subsequently disassembled, and the crankshaft was found to be fractured between the No. 5 and No. 6 cheeks. The camshaft was also broken in the vicinity of the crankshaft fracture, and the interior of the case halves were gouged rotationally, consistent with the damage having occurred awhile the engine was still operating.

The crankshaft, camshaft, connecting rods, and bearings were retained for further laboratory examination.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Windsor Locks FSDO-63

Paul Cox, a National Transportation Safety Board senior air safety investigator, speaks at the scene of the fatal plane crash near Worcester Regional Airport (KORH).

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