Saturday, March 10, 2018

Pakistan International Airlines flight attendant detained in Paris for possession of illegal drugs

ISLAMABAD: A flight attendant of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was detained in Paris, France after authorities seized contraband (illegal drugs) from his possession.

French authorities detained flight attendant Tanvir Gulzar after he was allegedly found in possession of contraband on the flagship carrier’s flight PK-749 in Paris which flew from Islamabad.

Following the incident, a spokesperson of the PIA confirmed that the attendant in question has been suspended from duty.

Expressing shock over how the attendant was able to carry the contraband despite security checks, the spokesperson said he was not sure whether the French authorities would penalise the attendant in their country or deport him.

The airline would dismiss the accused if charges levelled against him were proven, the spokesperson said.

He added that security checking was not the responsibility of the airline.

The authorities did not reveal the quantity of the narcotics discovered.

When asked whether PIA performs security clearances, the airline spokesperson said security inspection is not PIA’s responsibility.

Gulzar has been suspended for an indefinite period and an investigation in the incident is underway.

In case the allegations are proven, Gulzar may face termination.

Such an incident is not a novelty for PIA, which is already plagued by financial woes.

In May 2017, 20 kilogrammes of contraband was seized from a London-bound flight of the national carrier. The drugs were found by the PIA’s vigilance team concealed in the catering galley of PK-785.

Although the plane was cleared to fly to London, the smuggler remained unidentified.

Prior to that, heroin concealed in packets was seized from a PIA flight in an intelligence-based operation carried out by the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency at London’s Heathrow Airport.

Customs officials who investigated the discovery of narcotics, seized in London, believed the heroin was hidden in the plane while it was in Karachi.

Earlier this year, the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) seized 673kg narcotics valuing Rs 658.66 million in the international market, arrested 30 people, including two women, involved in drug smuggling and impounded eight vehicles in 22 counter-narcotics strikes across the country.

In a report the authority shared last year, the authority said to have conducted simultaneous operations in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi to bust the drug cartel, unearthing four major cases of drug trafficking in PIA planes.

The ANF made arrests at the airports, leading to information about airline industry’s staff being recruited and facilitated to transport the drug packages in and out of the airports.

During the course of investigation, different airport departments as well as stakeholders were approached, which included PIA, Civil Aviation Authority, Airport Security Force and other airport service providers.

More than 100 staff members were interviewed or interrogated, and thorough scanning of all available data was evaluated.

Original article can be found here ➤

More passengers and vacant seats flying to and from Aspen

Passenger counts are up while the percentage of occupied seats are down for commercial airline flights to and from Aspen this ski season.

"We have so much service right now that we need to be careful not to have too many seats, because we don't want to dilute the market," said Bill Tomcich, president of the central reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass.

In his role, Tomcich, an employee of Aspen Skiing Co., acts as a liaison between Aspen's tourism industry and commercial airlines.

The data mean a mixed blessing for Aspen's tourism trade.

The upside is that among American, Delta and United — the three carriers that serve Aspen through SkyWest Airlines — 128,116 seats were available in January and 111,794 in February, the most since the 1994-95 ski season.

The months of January and February in 2015, 2016 and 2017 offered anywhere from 85,913 seats to 98,744, according to data from Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.

The downside is that the airlines' load factors, a key metric for commercial carriers' profitability that reflect the percentage of seats occupied by passengers, fall short of national averages.

Domestic commercial flights in the U.S. neared 85 percent in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Aspen's commercial carriers combined for a 58.3 percent load factor in January, down from 70.9 percent in January 2017.

"Fifty-eight percent is very low for Aspen," Tomcich said. "I expect to see a correction in the number of seats offered next January."

February's load factor at Sardy Field was 63.6 percent, down from 70.5 percent yielded in February 2017.

December, which offered a significantly lower number of available seats, 83,040, than January and February, had a 67.6 percent load factor, down from 72.2 in December 2016, when 78,370 seats were available.

Among the three airlines, American, which flies to Aspen from Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Los Angeles and Phoenix, so far has the most impressive performance this winter — December, January and February — due to having 38 percent more passengers than the winter of 2016-17, as well as increasing its capacity by 61 percent, Tomcich noted.

Delta, which flies through Atlanta, Los Angeles, Minneapolis–Saint Paul and Salt Lake City, improved its capacity by 38 percent and had 21 percent more passengers during those same three months. United, Aspen's busiest airline with 20 to 25 daily flights through Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, has an increased capacity of 12 percent, but its passenger count is down 1.7 percent.

Two markets, Seattle and Toronto, are tops on Tomcich's wish list for future commercial service to Aspen. Seattle offers pent-up demand for Aspen service, while Toronto is one of Aspen Skiing Co.'s top international markets.

For the time being, however, Tomcich said he and Skico will crunch the numbers to see what flight services make the sense.

Original article can be found here ➤

Czech Sport Aircraft as Piper Sport, N422PS, registered to a private individual and operated by Excite Aircraft Inc doing business as US Sport Aircraft: Accident occurred March 10, 2018 at Addison Airport (KADS), Dallas County, Texas

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Irving, Texas
Rotech Flight Safety; British Columbia, Canada

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Addison, TX
Accident Number: CEN18LA119
Date & Time: 03/10/2018, 1646 CST
Registration: N422PS
Injuries: 2 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional 

On March 10, 2018, at 1646 central standard time, a Czech Sport Aircraft a.s. Piper Sport airplane, N422PS, impacted terrain after a loss of engine power at Addison Airport (ADS), Addison, Texas. The flight instructor and passenger sustained serious injuries and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by Excite Aircraft, Inc., doing business as US Sport Aircraft under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as an instructional flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan had been filed. The local flight departed ADS at 1644.

A review of the ADS air traffic control (ATC) recording revealed that at 1642 the pilot called ATC for a departure clearance while holding short of runway 15. At 1643 ATC instructed the pilot to line up and wait on runway 15. At 1644 ATC cleared the airplane for takeoff. At 1646 the pilot stated to ATC "we're having vapor lock, we need to come back and land." There were no further communications from the pilot.

Several witnesses observed the accident airplane during the event and reported that the airplane was flying west over the southeast side of the airport. The airplane descended out of view behind several hangars and then climbed above the hangars while flying south. The airplane made a left climbing turn toward the runway and then descended again until it impacted terrain on the east side of runway 33 threshold.

A review of the airport surveillance video revealed that at 1646 the airplane was flying southeast above the end of runway 15. The airplane descended in a wings level attitude before it made sharp left turn and impacted the ground.

The airplane came to rest in the grass between taxiway A and runway 15/33 (figure 1).

Figure 1 – Accident airplane 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CZECH SPORT AIRCRAFT AS
Registration: N422PS
Model/Series: PIPER SPORT
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Excite Aircraft Inc
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Does Business As: US Sport Aircraft
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KADS, 644 ft msl
Observation Time: 1547 CST
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / 13°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 9 knots, 180°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.68 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Addison, TX (ADS)
Destination: Addison, TX (ADS) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Serious
Latitude, Longitude:  32.958889, -96.831667 (est)

ADDISON, Texas - A Fort Worth mother of four says what was supposed to be a magical experience with her husband turned into a nightmare that nearly killed her.

The small plane she was in crashed at Addison Airport during a demonstration ride in March while her husband looked on in shock. Miraculously, the two people on board survived.

And it's been a very difficult road to recovery for Sheema Shaik. Over the last three months, she has undergone six surgeries and still lives full-time in a rehab facility.

“Only thing I remember is just pain,” she recalled. “I was in pain.”

Shaik saw the inside of her own home recently for only the second time since the afternoon of March 10. She and her husband, Touseef Siddiqui, were excited for a small plane demonstration ride. She remembers the pilot lifting off their assent. It was captured on airport surveillance cameras.

“The last thing I remember, the plane was going down on the left side,” she recalled.

After that, Shaik’s memory goes blank. The plane in a heap on the ground was also captured on the airport cameras.

‘She took a U-turn and then went down,” Siddiqui recalled. “I thought they did some kind of maneuver that airplanes do, and I thought that was the case.”

Shaik's husband was waiting to take off behind her in with a pilot in another plane. He looked on horrified and in disbelief about what had happened to the mother of his four young children.

Witnesses said it appeared the plane did a nose dive from about 1,200 feet.

“I was praying and waiting for her to run towards me,” he recalled. “But in the meantime, they put her in a stretcher and the chopper was there. I started running towards her, but they stopped me and said I cannot come.”

The FAA says the sports cruiser had just departed southbound when the pilot attempted to turn around and land on the runway in the opposite direction.

“A lot of what the NTSB is looking at is the same as what my law firm is looking at. They have the exact same questions that I do,” said Ron McCallum, an aviation attorney. “I need to be able to connect for my client specifically what happened and why we had the partial power loss or the need for the emergency before the crash actually happened.”

Shaik says in addition to internal injuries, she numerous broken bones that required pins and a spinal fusion. She says the most painful thing is being away from her children, especially the little ones who can't understand.

“They were not even coming near me. They don't come to me,” she said. “It's a very bad feeling. Your two little ones, they don't come to you.”

It's still unclear when Shaik will be able to return home permanently.

Their attorney says the take-home message for anyone considering a demonstration flight is to be sure to ask about the experience level of instructor or pilot. He recommends sitting in the briefing room and watching them perform all pre-flight duties and even ask to see a copy of the insurance policy.

Story and video:

Two people are in the hospital after a small plane crashed in Addison.

It happened right after takeoff just before 5pm Saturday, still on airport property. Investigators say a single-engine Piper Sport with two people on board crashed nose first at the end of the runway at the Addison Airport.

“All of a sudden I looked up and he was nose diving at about 1,250 feet. Crashed right into the ground. I thought it sounded like an automobile accident but I rushed over there and the plane was down," said a witness.
The FAA says the Czech Piper Sport had just departed southbound when the pilot attempted to turn around and land on the runway in the opposite direction, and crashed.

One person was flown to the hospital by helicopter. The other taken by ambulance. Student pilot Nicolas Gallo says his flight instructor told him it was another flight instructor and student pilot at another school who crashed and it was the student's first flight. That is not confirmed by authorities.

"I often fly. Almost every day. And now I'm kind of nervous since I'm seeing that this can happen why can't it happen to me so I'm pretty afraid of that," said Gallo.

Pilot Mark Humphreys was inbound to Addison from Florida when he was diverted to land at Love Field because the airport shut down for several hours.

"This is not good. These guys got hurt bad," he said.

As a pilot, himself, he's concerned that the pilot who crashed tried to make a turn while having trouble, rather than land on a straightaway.

"Keep flying forward and find a place to land in front of you. That's going to be difficult because you're out of runway,” said Humphreys

FAA investigators made their way to the scene Saturday and the airport has since reopened.

The NTSB is leading the investigation.

Original article can be found here ➤

An investigation is underway after a small plane crash at the Addison Airport.

Reports indicate that rescue crews have transported two people to nearby hospitals. One was taken by ground ambulance, the other flown in a medical helicopter.

Investigators with the FAA say the plane had just taken off from the airport when the pilot attempted to turn around and land on the runway in the opposite direction. That's when the aircraft crashed nose first before reaching the runway.

Investigators with the FAA and NTSB will both be in Addison to investigate.

FAA Records show the plane is a Piper Sport and is registered to Michael Jackson in Cocoa Florida, however we do not know who was on-board the plane at the time of the crash.

Original article can be found here ➤

ADDISON (CBSDFW.COM) – Two people have been transported, one by ambulance and one air-lifted, after a small plane crashed at Addison Airport Saturday afternoon.

Crews and ambulances are at the scene after two passengers were transported to the hospital after a plane crash at around 4:45 p.m.

Edward Martell of the City of Addison said two people took off from the airport in a Piper Sport aircraft and that it was a training flight.

Martell said as soon as the plane took off from the ground, the two reported engine problems. As the plane made its way back to the ground, it crashed nose-first just short of the runway.

The Addison Fire Department responded immediately and cut the victims out of the wreckage of the plane.

The spokesperson said both people suffered serious injuries. Their names have not been released.

Original article can be found here ➤

In Brazil, Thieves Steal $5 Million From A Lufthansa Plane

Sao Paulo, Brazil:  A group of thieves stole $5 million in cash, which had been due to travel from Brazil to Switzerland aboard a Lufthansa jet, at a large freight airport near Sao Paulo, police said Monday.

The spectacular heist, which took place late Sunday, was completed in a matter of minutes, and authorities have yet to arrest a suspect.

The crooks entered Viracopos International Airport freight terminal using a pickup on which they had "placed stickers mimicking the runway security company's logo," federal police said in a statement.

Germany-based Lufthansa's plane had been traveling from Guarulhos airport in Sao Paulo and was making a stop at Viracopos Brazil's biggest freight terminal with Zurich as its final destination.

The stolen money had been held under the auspices of secure transport provider Brinks, according to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

The daily said five men had threatened security agents on the runway before taking off with the cargo, in barely six minutes.

There was no immediate sign of injuries, the airport said.

Cargo theft is on the rise in Brazil, where most targets are semi-trucks, especially those serving Rio de Janeiro.

Original article can be found here ➤

Volunteer pilots, donors gives hope wings: Charity helps people in Canada’s wilderness get to medical help

Sometimes you need angels on wings to get you the help you need.

The pilots at Hope Air may not be angels, but they have wings, and they use them to give non-emergency medical flights to those who need help in the far-flung locations of Canada.

While fundraising often pays for commercial flights so people can get to Canada’s cities and get the medical care they need, volunteer pilots often fly patients in their own planes.

Helping out with the cause is Dave McElroy, a Kelowna pilot who touched down briefly in Pitt Meadows Regional Airport, Friday.

McElroy had just returned home from a two-month, 20-country circumnavigation of Central and South America to raise awareness for his cause, Give Hope Wings, which fundraises for Hope Air.

So far, his and others’ efforts have raised $500,000 for Hope Air.

The tour involved two planes: Wings 1, a kit airplane known as a Vans RV-6, piloted by McElroy; and the other, Wings 2, a Vans RV9A, flown by Russ Airey and co-piloted by Harold Fast.

The aircraft left Canada Jan. 2 and spent more than two months in the southern hemisphere, flying 38,000 kilometres and wracking up 155 hours of flying time.

“It was wonderful,” said McElroy. “We were welcomed with open arms.” The pair even got to fly in an airshow beside the Brazilian aerobatics team.

McElroy was just making a quick stop in Pitt Meadows, his first stop in Canada before heading back to Kelowna Friday afternoon. However, there was no fuel at the airport, so he had to make a detour to Langley airport, to refuel before heading home.

Former Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar is the official patron of the Give Hope Wings project, which was tracked in real time via GPS on their website.

Another goal of Give Hope Wings was to raise the profile of aviation in Canada. “We share the belief that most people are limited only by their own imaginations, and that one of the biggest constraints on many lives is an unwillingness or inability to imagine a bigger and better future for ourselves,” says the Give Hope Wings website.

Story and video ➤

Extra EA-400, N14EX: Incident occurred March 10, 2018 near Rocky Mount–Wilson Regional Airport (KRWI), North Carolina

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Greensboro

Aircraft force landed gear up in a field.

Air Horse LLC:

Date: 10-MAR-18
Time: 19:44:00Z
Regis#: N14EX
Aircraft Model: EA 400
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
Operation: 91

SHARPSBURG — A pilot came out unscathed after his single-engine plane crash-landed in an open field at about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday off Williford Road in Wilson County, according to authorities.

Sgt. B.E. Pulliam of the N.C. Highway Patrol said Christopher Rowe, 50, of McLean, Va., suffered no injuries and was the only occupant in the plane. Pulliam said Rowe told authorities he was on his way from Fayetteville to Washington, D.C., when he noticed he suffered a loss of fuel pressure and had to make an emergency landing.

“He was just trying to find an area to land the plane,” Pulliam said. “He found this open field and ended up landing it. He did a good job. After he landed it, the plane tilted over and there was some fuel spillage. The people with the emergency management services and the firemen were able to tilt the plane in position to keep it from leaking out. The plane had damage to the propeller and landing gear.”

Pulliam said authorities placed tape around the plane, so the Federal Aviation Administration can conduct its own investigation. Pulliam said the plane should be removed by Monday.

Rowe was treated on scene for precautionary reasons. The crash happened about two miles from the Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport, and the plane is expected to be towed to the airport for repairs, authorities said.

In addition to the Highway Patrol, the other agencies on scene were the Wilson County Emergency Medical Services, Sharpsburg Fire Department Station 11 and Wilson County Sheriff’s Office.

Original article ➤

SHARPSBURG, N.C. (WNCN) — A pilot issued a mayday call as his plane was going down and later crashed in a field in Nash County on Saturday afternoon, officials said.

The incident happened around 4:45 p.m. in Sharpsburg, according to Rocky Mount–Wilson Regional Airport Director Dion Viventi.

The plane had damage to the propeller and landing gear, Viventi said. No one was hurt.

The single-engine plane was headed to the Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport when the pilot put out a mayday and said that he could not make it, Viventi said.

Viventi was able to contact the pilot by cellphone and receive the coordinates of the crashed plane, which he then relayed to EMS and rescue crews.

The plane is expected to be towed to the Rocky Mount–Wilson Regional Airport for repairs.

There is no word on what caused the plane to go down.

Original article can be found here ➤

Popular airlines flagged for safety system non-compliance: Sunwing is one of several Canadian airlines federal inspectors found had widespread non-compliance with their internal safety monitoring

Famous for its radio jingle and all-inclusive resort packages, Sunwing has been cited by federal inspectors for not recording some “aircraft defects” discovered by flight crews.

The regulatory breach was uncovered by Transport Canada agents during a 2016 visit to the airline’s Etobicoke offices, where inspectors reviewing maintenance records also found planes had not received required work.

Sunwing is one of several popular commercial airlines that have been flagged for widespread non-compliance by Transport Canada, the details of which are contained in government surveillance reports that are not public and must be obtained through Access to Information legislation.

Some of the country’s most recognizable airlines are in court trying to prevent these kinds of reports on their own operations from being released.

The Star obtained surveillance reports for Sunwing and three other commercial airlines: Jazz, WestJet and its regional carrier, WestJet Encore. Together, these airlines are responsible for more than 1,400 flights each day.

Government inspectors found each airline was non-compliant in areas of “safety oversight” and “training, awareness and competence.”

In each of these reports, the government assessed the airlines’ internal safety management systems (SMS) — intended to flag risks before they become safety problems. The non-compliance found in the reports relates to the airlines’ own safety monitoring systems, not the safety of the planes themselves.

The reports contain little detail about the specific problems found by inspectors, which range from “minor” issues with record keeping to “major” findings, described by the government as system-wide failures that will take more time and effort to fix. Transport Canada says the country has one of the safest, most secure air transportation systems in the world. 

Still, the amount of non-compliance in the surveillance reports is “alarming,” said Virgil Moshansky, a retired judge whose inquiry into the 1989 plane crash near Dryden, Ont., led to sweeping changes of Canada’s aviation safety system.

“It should be concerning to everybody who flies on these planes.”

Sunwing and the other airlines said in statements that they are dedicated to safety and have corrected any problem identified during inspections.

“We have made changes to our operating procedures to prevent these omissions from reoccurring and have already shared this information with Transport Canada,” a Sunwing spokesperson said.

The reports for Sunwing, Jazz and Encore (WestJet’s regional carrier) are the most recent Transport Canada assessments of the airlines’ safety systems. The report for WestJet’s 2014 inspection has since been “superseded by a later audit in 2017, which we passed,” a company spokesperson said. Of the four airlines featured in the reports obtained the Star, Sunwing is the only one cited for “major” findings of non-compliance.

In 2005, Transport Canada became the first regulator in the world to require larger airlines to create these systems to internally monitor safety performance.

It was intended to be a complementary layer of oversight alongside government inspections. On top of inspecting the airline’s operations, the regulator would assess these internal systems.

But critics say Transport Canada has handed its regulatory responsibilities to the airlines, replacing boots-on-the-ground inspections with a flawed, industry-friendly model in which the inspector’s role is increasingly auditing paperwork provided by the airlines’ internal systems.

Safety management systems are “a good idea if implemented correctly, providing it be accompanied by strict regulatory oversight,” said Moshansky, who recommended the industry adopt the concept after the Dryden plane crash. “That has not occurred in Canada.”

Instead, the government is relying on airlines — which its own audits have found to be non-compliant — to “police themselves,” said Greg McConnell, national chair of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association, a labour union whose members include federal aviation inspectors.

“For the passengers, this is a clear indication of the cracks in the system,” said McConnell, who was an inspector with Transport Canada for 24 years.

The regulator’s dependence on companies’ own safety management systems is part of a larger “dismantling of aviation safety oversight in Canada,” he said.

He said the government inspectors tasked with making sure airlines’ internal oversight is working have not received sufficient training, a concern echoed by the federal auditor general in 2012. (In court filings, one airline warned the findings of these federal inspectors can be “inaccurate” or “misleading” because of inadequate training.)

Meanwhile, Transport Canada is watering down the depth of some inspections it does of “lowest-risk” airlines in order to complete the planned number of inspections targeted in its 2017/2018 oversight plan, according to an internal directive.

Last year, a parliamentary committee examining aviation safety recommended Transport Canada perform more “on-site safety inspections versus safety management system audits,” and that the government must make sure airlines’ internal safety systems are “accompanied by an effective, properly financed, adequately staffed system of regulatory oversight.”

Transport Canada is currently reviewing its aviation oversight program.

The regulator said assessments of airlines’ safety management systems are just one tool its “highly qualified inspectors” use to ensure airlines comply with safety rules. Transport Canada said it conducts 10,000 “oversight and certifications activities” each month, including unscheduled on-site inspections.

“Transport Canada is continuously looking for ways to make our transportation network better for Canadians,” a Transport Canada spokesperson said in a statement.

“Transport Canada’s strong oversight program also allows the department to prioritize its resources strategically to areas that provide the greatest safety benefit. The department continuously evaluates and modifies its oversight tools to ensure they continue to be effective.”

In reviewing the reports obtained by the Star, former inspector McConnell said it was difficult to conclude the exact nature of the violations because of the limited information about each finding. However, the records raise questions about industry’s ability to hold itself accountable, he said, adding that it appears some incidents were “downplayed.”

WestJet classified one incident as “‘extremely improbable,’ which by definition meant it would occur between once every 20 years and once every 100 years,” a 2014 report said. Inspectors found the same event had “occurred many times” in the two years they reviewed.

Transport Canada also found some WestJet maintenance workers “did not receive the required training,” and managers responsible for creating the plans to fix problems “did not receive training in root cause analysis and the development of corrective action plans.”

In a statement, WestJet said the report is four years old and the issues raised by inspectors have been resolved. The airline was audited again by Transport Canada last year and passed, a spokesperson said.

“WestJet’s highest priority is the safety of our guests and crew. Since 2005 we have been utilizing our comprehensive safety management system to manage safety risk throughout our operations,” the spokesperson said. “WestJet and WestJet Encore are dedicated to continuous improvement and ensuring that our more than 750 daily flights arrive safely at their destination.”

Without stronger oversight from the government, critics fear airlines won’t take the necessary actions to fix all the problems their internal safety systems identify.

At Jazz, which carried more than 10 million passengers last year, inspectors found some incidents identified as having “medium” risk did not get a “corrective or preventative action,” according to a 2015 report.

The regulator also found the airline had in some cases closed matters raised in internal audits “without addressing the root cause at a systemic level.”

A Jazz spokesperson said the Transport Canada assessment “resulted in a small number of minor and moderate findings” that were all addressed to the regulator’s satisfaction.

The regulator found the airline “non-compliant” with four of the six components of its safety management system, including “safety oversight.” A Jazz spokesperson said just one minor finding would make the airline flunk the entire section.

“Jazz has an excellent safety record — one that is recognized within our industry and around the world,” said the spokesperson, adding that last year the airline received an award for being among “Canada’s Safest Employers.”

At Sunwing, which has a fleet of more than 40 jets, the federal regulator found “the organization did not have a staff of investigators commensurate with its size and complexity.”

It was one of three “major” findings of non-compliance against the airline, a classification used for violations where “a system-wide failure is evident.” Fixing these problems, the report notes, “will typically require more rigorous and lengthy corrective action.”

In auditing the airline’s maintenance records, Transport Canada also found that “some aircraft defects discovered by flight crews were not recorded by the pilot in command,” as required. Sunwing would not answer questions about what the defects were.

Sunwing said Transport Canada has accepted its plan to correct problems identified in the audit. The regulator will continue to monitor Sunwing’s progress until “they conclude the proposed plan has in fact addressed all the findings,” a company spokesperson said.

The president of the association representing many commercial airlines warned that the findings included in these government surveillance reports can be minor, administrative issues.

“Obviously, there are going to be things in there that need tweaking but as a rule, we feel SMS has been a very, very good tool for our industry to instill a safety culture amongst all employees,” said John McKenna, president of the Air Transport Association of Canada.

There are also calls for Transport Canada to change what it’s looking for in audits of safety management systems. Kathy Fox, president of the Transportation Safety Board, said the regulator is at times simply checking to see if the airline has a safety management system — and not whether it’s effective.

Transport Canada is “missing basic non-compliances,” she said. “Even where they have identified those, they haven’t been effective at bringing companies back into compliance.”

Meanwhile, some of the country’s most recognizable airlines do not want the public to know if they have fallen out of compliance.

Air Transat, Air Canada and its low-cost subsidiary, Air Canada Rouge, are currently in federal court trying to prevent the government from releasing the audit reports of their safety management systems. An Air Transat spokesperson said the records contain competitive information and their disclosure could provide unfair insight into their operations.

In Air Canada’s court filings, the airline’s managing director of corporate safety, Samuel Elfassy, warned that the technical documents could be misconstrued without proper context, causing the airline’s reputation to be unfairly damaged.

Paying passengers should be able to see how the airlines they’re using have fared in recent inspections, said Edward McKeogh, president of Canadian Aviation Safety Consultants.

“Passengers should be getting question marks in their heads when they see airlines are getting their backs up because the government wants to release important...relevant information about how activities are conducted,” McKeogh said.

If airlines know the results of the assessments will be readily available to the public, they may be more dilligent in properly following their safety management systems’ processes, he said.

“People have to know about these things. We’re talking about safety. You can’t sweep that under the rug,” he said.

Original article can be found here ➤

Fatal crashes prompt New Zealand agency to stop using Torrance-built Robinson helicopters permanently

A New Zealand government agency that suspended the use of Torrance-made Robinson helicopters in November 2016 in the wake of a crash that killed two of its employees has now made the move permanent, citing safety concerns over a high rate of fatal accidents.

The move comes after an extensive review over the past year, Department of Conservation Safety Director Harry Maher said in a statement.

“Having assessed the evidence, we’ve made a decision to err on the side of caution and permanently cease the use of Robinson helicopters to transport DOC employees,” he said. “Ensuring employee safety in Robinson helicopters relies heavily on pilots flying within strict operating limits at all times.

“We aren’t confident that we can rely on this consistently over time across the many varied conditions that DOC employees face when in helicopters,” he added.

The DOC noted the suspension followed several fatal “mast-bumping” incidents involving Robinson helicopters and the placing of Robinson helicopters on the nation’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission watch list.

Mast-bumping, which occurs when the helicopter’s main rotor blade “bumps” the drive shaft or mast, can cause catastrophic accidents. Robinson has blamed many accidents on a lack of pilot training, while critics have contended the helicopter has a design flaw.

Radio New Zealand said earlier this week that the nation had a significantly higher rate of mast-bumping accidents in some Robinson helicopter models than in other parts of the world; for example, it’s about about nine times higher than in the U.S., the outlet said, citing TAIC. Almost half of the fatal crashes in New Zealand involved Robinsons, although they make up only about 35 percent of the nation’s fleet, the outlet said

Company spokeswoman Loretta Conley said in a statement that Robinson was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision.

“Over the last several years, the accident rate for Robinson helicopters in New Zealand has significantly improved due to changes in training implemented by the Civil Aviation Authorities,” she said. “Robinson continues to work with the CAA and is meeting this month in New Zealand with various government agencies to discuss rescinding restrictions on government use of Robinson helicopters.”

Attorney Ilyas Akbari of Los Angeles-based Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, who is currently involved in several legal cases against Robinson Helicopter Co., said he wasn’t surprised by the move given the difficult conditions DOC helicopters encounter operating in remote areas.

“Flying a Robinson R-44 in conditions like we have in New Zealand and doing the types of things that the Department of Conservation would want to do seems like they’re just flirting with the end of the flight envelope,” Akbari said. “You’ve got a helicopter that doesn’t have much give or leeway; there’s a lot of opportunity for things to go wrong.”

At least three other New Zealand government agencies have stopped using Robinsons.

The move is a publicity nightmare for Robinson in an important export market where it is gaining an unwanted reputation, Akbari said. Robinson is one of Torrance’s largest private employers

“It’s highly publicized, there were these high-profile deaths,” he said. “My understanding from the media (there) is their sales are dwindling, people aren’t using them as much anymore. That said, globally their sales are still strong.”

Original article can be found here ➤

Greensboro links water contaminant to chemical foam used in Piedmont Triad International Airport (KGSO) area firefighting and training exercises (Video)

Greensboro officials seeking the source of a potentially harmful, drinking water contaminant are focused on a relatively small area that includes Piedmont Triad International Airport and its immediate surroundings.

Although months of additional study remain before they draw any final conclusions, water managers Steve Drew and Mike Borchers say that a major source of the pollutant PFOS appears to be training drills and actual emergencies at or near PTI during which firefighters deployed a highly effective, synthetic foam used to squelch fuel-based blazes.

“They are legacy sites that have been used for firefighting training over the decades,” said Drew, director of Greensboro’s department of water resources. “We don’t always know where they are ... I would say that predominantly our findings are pointing to years and years of firefighting training activities.”

Assistant director Borchers said the city has joined with airport officials, as well as with Guilford County emergency and public health agencies, to pinpoint places where past PFOS-based, fire retarding foam might have been left to evaporate or drain into the soil.

“It’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together, that’s the way I describe it,” said Borchers, who is supervising the search effort on behalf of city government.

In addition to training drills, instances where the foam might have accumulated in that area include crashes involving tanker trucks and long forgotten industrial fires or spills.

Meanwhile, the airport itself still could be contributing fresh sources of contamination: PTI conducts fire-training drills using firefighting foam once a year on its runway in the Greensboro watershed without cleaning up afterward, creating a possibility that additional PFOS is making its way into a nearby stream or ground water.

“We do not currently have a cleanup protocol, as this has not been a regulated chemical,” PTI executive director Kevin Baker said recently of the firefighting foam. “Obviously if the city's analysis shows that these tests are contributory in any more than a de minimis amount, and everyone believes it is necessary to clean, we will work with them to develop something if possible and practical.”

Margin of safety

The stakes potentially are high. Scientists differ about what constitutes a safe PFOS level in drinking water. But they generally agree too much might trigger certain forms of cancer, high cholesterol, thyroid disease and other injuries to human health.

PFOS is scientific shorthand for “perfluorooctane sulfonate,” a distant and likely more harmful relative of the GenX chemical that has caused so much concern for drinking water safety to Greensboro’s southeast in the Cape Fear River basin.

After their commercial development about 70 years ago, PFOS and other so-called “perfluorinated compounds” became popular components in a variety of consumer goods where resistance to water, stains or grease was required, everything from carpeting to Teflon cooking surfaces, pizza cartons and microwave popcorn bags.

PFOS carved out a special niche in fire-retardant foams, making a soapy mixture with the capacity to both smother fuel-based fires and the toxic vapors that often emanate from exposed gasoline or similar flammable substances.

Foams are indispensable when firefighters confront, for example, a raging gasoline fire or an overturned tanker truck on Interstate 40, said Battalion Chief Jim Robinson of the Greensboro Fire Department.

The stuff works

The foam can snuff out in 10 minutes a fuel fire that otherwise might require several hours to stop, he said.

“The stuff does work, that’s why it’s so expensive,” Robinson said, noting that the cost runs about $35 a gallon for a liquid base that then is blended with 100 gallons of water to make the sudsy mixture.

But chemical manufacturers began phasing out domestic production of PFOS and its sister chemicals about 15 years ago after researchers built a solid case that these artificial substances could harm human health and that they had accumulated in the blood serum of 99 percent of the American populace.

Scientists have even found PFOS in the brain tissue of polar bears roaming the arctic reaches of East Greenland.

Today, PFOS is what environmental officials call an unregulated, emerging contaminant. In practical terms, that means no hard and fast limits prohibit its presence in drinking water, but it is deemed undesirable and generally acknowledged as a health threat.

A recent scientific study asserted that “civilian airports” nationwide are a significant source of contamination by the so-called PFAS class of chemicals that includes PFOS.

“Many civilian airports and military fire training areas have been contaminated by PFASs contained in aqueous film-forming foams that are widely used during firefighting training activities,” said the team of scientists that included researchers from Harvard University and the National Exposure Research Laboratory in Research Triangle Park.

The study noted that surface waters and groundwater near some of these sites have been contaminated by “concentrations that are 3-to-4 orders of magnitude higher than the U.S. EPA health advisory level for drinking water."

Location, location ...

The area around PTI plays a pivotal role in the local saga because — from a strictly environmental standpoint — it’s about the worst place an airport could be sited, let alone an airport bordered by one of the nation’s larger tank farms and a variety of other industry.

PTI and its industrial surroundings sit at the crest of the region’s watershed, a part of Guilford County where key feeder streams rise and begin their separate journeys to reservoirs miles apart that supply both Greensboro and High Point with drinking water.

Drew, Borchers and other Greensboro officials grew concerned about PFOS in the local water supply four years ago, after the organic acid was placed on a short list of emerging contaminants that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency instructed public utilities to include in their routine water-quality testing for a year.

Like other water systems across the nation, Greensboro normally did not monitor for PFOS.

Parts per trillion

But in the EPA-ordered testing during the last quarter of 2014, one sample at the Mitchell Water Treatment Plant contained PFOS and a sister chemical at the combined level of 90 parts per trillion in “finished” water leaving the plant for consumer faucets.

EPA’s current health-advisory level for PFOS is 70 ppt, either singly or in combination with the sister compound. The advisory level represents the point at which an unacceptable risk ensues for cancer or other significant harm to a person who consumes 2 quarts of that water daily over the course of a 70-year lifespan.

But in late 2014, the federal agency still was weighing fresh evidence calling PFOS’s safety into question, and the advisory standard at that time was 200 ppt — roughly three times the present advisory that took effect in mid-2016.

So no action was required of Drew and Borchers other than to alert state and federal regulators to their finding, which they did.

Two quarts a day

Both men emphasize that in their professional opinion, the PFOS content never made the city’s water unsafe to drink at any time.

For one thing, the health advisory is a static number, assuming that a person would drink water every day contaminated at the PFOS warning level.

In actuality, water from the Mitchell plant has fluctuated between PFOS levels considered insignificant and those that are more concerning, with higher readings likely to occur after a rainy spell when PFOS-tainted groundwater or runoff presumably flows into Horse Pen Creek and other tributaries of the Lake Brandt municipal reservoir.

PFOS levels at the city’s other water treatment plant on Lake Townsend have not been so problematic. And Drew and Borchers said that they’ve seen nothing close to the advisory limit in continued testing at the Mitchell plant since its 2014 spike.

The city’s most recent round of tests in November found that water from the plant contained PFOS at 43 ppt and its sister compound at 7.2 ppt.

“As long as we can show that the levels are below that level of 70 parts per trillion, the EPA feels that there is no adverse health impact for those compounds,” Drew said.

Searching the watershed

Even so, Drew said, PFOS is not a natural substance and does not belong in a water system’s output.

So the hunt began for the source of Greensboro’s PFOS problem shortly after the 2014 test at the Mitchell plant that found the alarming spike.

“Not too many months after that, we began regular testing throughout our lakes and watershed,” Drew said.

The city hired a consulting firm to help. State and federal regulators were brought into the loop so that Greensboro managers wouldn’t be making their decisions in a vacuum.

Drew said that water department officials also called on the “tribal knowledge” of others in city government.

“Somebody would say, ‘Oh yeah, we used to do firefighting foam drills at that site off West Market Street back in the 1960s,'” he said.

Borchers’ team started collecting samples of raw water, particularly in lakes Higgins and Brandt that supply the Mitchell facility through a pipeline to the plant about 7 miles away, at the intersection of Battleground Avenue and Benjamin Parkway.

The Mitchell plant provides water to a section of the city that goes from downtown to Gate City Boulevard, much of Battleground Avenue, as far west as Westridge Road and eastward to the Latham Park area.
No smoking gun

Borchers said that in beginning their PFOS quest, water officials “tracked back” from the Mitchell Plant’s intake on Lake Brandt “to see where it was coming from by testing the tributaries.”

“Our focus has been on the western side of Greensboro because that is where these activities, what we call legacy activities, have occurred,” he said of past firefighting events.

Their focus was drawn to Horse Pen Creek that rises right next to the airport and flows northeasterly to become one of Lake Brandt’s tributaries. Water sampling proved their instincts correct; samples from that part of the lake averaged 181 ppt, they said.

As they searched, they were hoping perhaps to find an active industrial plant, an abandoned building or maybe an old landfill full of leaking drums holding a PFOS-containing substance.

But they came across nothing like that. So they also reached out to other professionals who might have a clue about PFOS sources, including county Emergency Management coordinator Don Campbell.

Campbell said his job “was just to historically help them identify past events that may have led to those readings,” but he wasn’t able to come up with much.

“While we would have loved to have found a smoking gun, I don’t know that we have any,” Campbell said.

Water soluble, fast moving

Campbell said he had heard rumors that firefighters from throughout the area used to train using firefighting foams in that part of the county.

“I also had heard stories of some large tanker truck fires on Market Street back in the 1990s,” Campbell said.

There also had been two, more recent industrial fires in the area where lots of firefighting foam had been used to protect lives and property — a 2010 blaze at the tank farm involving a massive Colonial Pipeline storage tank and a fire three years later in a D.H. Griffin scrap pile.

Both of those sites, however, were on the wrong side of a ridge line through that part of the county and they drained away from Greensboro toward High Point’s reservoir.

So the evidence to date “seems to be pointing toward the airport,” said Ken Carter, assistant director of the county Department of Public Health.

“But we really don’t have enough information yet to make a full assessment,” he said.

PFOS is challenging to trace because “it’s water soluble and capable of moving readily through the soil,” Carter said.

By asking around and checking official records, Borchers’ team identified a dozen spots at or near the airport where firefighters might have used PFOS-containing foam either in training or actual emergencies.

In addition to training sites, the list included reported sites of highway wrecks involving fuel tankers, other industrial fires and spills.

"Right now, we know an event occurred there, we don't know the magnitude," Borchers said of the sites.

In their next phase of study, the city officials plan to check the water quality in test wells that have been drilled in the area. They also will gather soil samples to test for PFOS contamination in the ground.

And in the coming months, the team will expand its search to the Reedy Fork watershed on the airport’s western perimeter and several other areas that they have yet to check out, he said.

Class B foam

The city fire department does not operate on airport grounds. And the Greensboro department has not run practice drills elsewhere using actual foam in recent years, partly because of the expense, Robinson said.

The city fire department still has foam containing PFOS, but it is gradually switching to an alternate blend that uses another foaming agent, he said.

Fire trucks are required to carry a certain amount of firefighting foam on board because it is so useful in “Class B” fires that involve fuel and other flammable liquids, Robinson said. But such fires are only one of several major types that city fire crews regularly confront, he said.

“The time we would use a Class B foam would be if a car caught on fire and gasoline was spilling everywhere,” Robinson said.

By contrast, PTI operates its own fire department that is required by the Federal Aviation Administration to regularly test its foam-spraying proficiency using the real thing, knowing that many emergencies at the airport might require foam to knock down or prevent a fire involving aviation fuel.

PTI director Baker said he and other airport officials “consider it very important to be protective of the natural environment around the airport.”

“If there are best practices that they recommend, then we would work with them provided that it doesn’t impact airport safety,” Baker said of the city’s water managers.

Borchers said he understands that PTI uses relatively small amounts of the foam in its annual, FAA-required runway drill. And he said the test site drains to Brush Creek, which flows into an arm of Lake Brandt where PFOS levels have been comparatively low.
Private contractors

Effective cleanup is possible. For example, when city fire crews use foam in an actual emergency, the fire department does its best to trap the filmy liquid nearby along with any remaining fuel residue, Robinson said.

Firefighters then leave the rest to an environmental cleanup crew, usually a private contractor who removes the remaining foam, fuel and other contaminants under the supervision of Guilford’s health department, he said.

“They want the environment put back the way it was prior to the incident,” Robinson said of health officials.

Drew and Borchers say they believe it will take about six months to complete their work, including sampling wells around the airport and adequately studying the Reedy Fork watershed.

They are testing water quality at a total of 19 sites in that part of the county, recently closing out six checkpoints to PTI’s eastern side so they can add that many on the western side.

It would be great if they could track down one or more sources for most or all of the PFOS and eliminate the problem right there, Drew said.

The other option is adding new equipment to the Mitchell plant that can screen out PFOS and a number of similar compounds, which could be costly.

City officials probably will pursue both strategies, Drew said.

“It’s likely we’ll budget for it,” he said of the additional filtration equipment. “I think we need to have that secondary safeguard in place.”

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