Posts Tagged 'airline safety'

US Airways Airbus Crashes in the Hudson River

US Airways flight 1549 on 15JAN2009 has crash landed in the icy Hudson River in New York City shortly after take-off from New York La Guardia airport. The Airbus A320 was heading to Charlotte, North Carolina with 155 people on board, including the 2 pilots and 3 flight attendants, of whom ALL escaped successfully after the water landing.

US Airways Airbus in the Hudson River in New York City - from

First reports claim, that the plane (registration: N106US, first flight in 1999) took off at 15:26 local time, and soon afterwards passengers heard some sort of an explosion and the plane started shaking. The FAA has disclosed that less than one minute after take-off, the pilot reported “a double bird strike” after colliding with a flock of birds. Soon after the explosion the plane started to turn around and asked for clearance for an emergency landing at La Guardia, just east of Manhattan in Queens which it was granted. Later the pilot chose to try to land at Teterboro which was closer, but couldn’t make it there, either – which resulted in the first controlled emergency landing on water of a US commercial aircraft in more than 50 years at 15:30 local time (less than 6 minutes after takeoff). He informed the passengers “to get ready for the impact” and landed in the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan, just across New Jersey. Passengers claim it simply felt like a car-accident. Witnesses reported that the plane landed very softly on the river, slowly touching down on the surface at around 48th street, without making a bounce (more about the dangers of such bounces in our earlier article: How to survive an Air Crash?)

Air temperature at the time was -6 Celsius, with the water being +6 C. Television images taken shortly after the accident showed that the aircraft appeared intact and just partially submerged, with local ferry boats quickly rushing to the scene and taking all passengers and crew onboard from the deployed slides/rafts, saving them from being chilled as the aircraft subsequently began to sink. Many were photographed standing on the wings. Passengers have reported that there was indeed some panic onboard after the landing, but the crew was professional in getting them all out of the aircraft through the doors, with women and children first. The 57 year old ex Air Force pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger was the last to leave the plane sweaping the center aisle twice to make sure nobody was left behind! He has been flying with US Airways since 1980 and just one day after the accident it regarded as a Hero (similar to the pilot of British Airways flight 038 last year).

US Airways Airbus in the Hudson River in New York City - c by NBC

There were widespread but unconfirmed reports of various injuries, including cuts, broken bones and hypothermia, but nothing life threatening. Victims were treated at local hospitals.

Our preliminary report is that everyone is off the plane and accounted for,” US Airways Chairman and CEO Doug Parker said, adding that it was “premature to speculate about the cause.” Such planes as the Airbus A320 can easily survive the strike of one bird in one of the engines, but hitting 4-5 birds at the same time can cause such an accident as this one.

Landing such an Airbus A320 airliner on water with such precision has never happened before and is claimed as a miracle by many. This type of aircraft typically lands at a speed of around 250 km/hour and hitting the water surface with such speed may make a lot of damage to the fuselage and could practically tear off the engines and the wings or even break the cabin apart – which would result in quick sinking. But luckily this hasn’t happened and the plane landed safely.

This was the second take-off accident in the US within a month that all passengers survived, as on December 20, 2008, a Continental Airlines Boeing slid off the runway in Denver. About a month and a half  ago on November 28, 2008, an Airbus A320 crashed in water on a test-flight, killing 7 people onboard.

by balint01


How To Use The Oxygen Mask?

On Monday on one of Ryanair’s flights from Bristol to Barcelona-Girona a sudden depressurization happened and oxygen masks were automatically dropped. Later passengers told the media that the oxygen masks had not worked. The airline refuses these claims and according to their first brief investigation process everything was fine with the masks. Finally the plane was diverted to Limoges in France and all passengers were disembarked safely.

This incident however drew our attention to the dilemma of how efficient those mandatory so called safety presentations are that remind us of a very untalented, stupid ballet of (hopefully) good-looking stewardesses. First let’s see what are the facts about oxygen masks and then let’s get back to our dilemma.

About the usage of oxygen masks

Misbelief: most people think that if oxygen masks drop, they should just breath the oxygen coming out from it and that the bag above the mask would be filled with air automatically.

Truth: once they drop, you have to grab the one nearest to you and pull it towards yourself with a sudden, strong pull. This pull turns on the flow of oxygen. But it is not like a vacuum-cleaner that oxygen is just flowing out of it. No. You have to put it on your face and breathe normally (if you can breath normally in such a situation). The vacuum of your breath will pull the oxygen out, while that small bag above the mask itself will get full once you blow the air out into that thing.

Efficiency of the safety presentation

Airline safety demonstration

Now that the usage of oxygen masks is clear, let’s get back to our dilemma. We have already written an article about how to survive an air crash. There are so many wrong ideas of an air crash. The safety demonstrations prepare us only for the usage of an oxygen mask (and apparently it is not efficient, either) and landing on water and using that emergency vest. Probably that is the least necessary thing for an air crash, because most planes that have to make an emergency landing on water, unfortunately break apart during landing. But even that instruction is not clear enough. I am almost sure that once it is needed, most of the people would pull that hanger and blow the vest up already inside the plane, although with a blown-up vest on the body, it is almost impossible to leave the plane through the emergency exits.

During safety demonstrations it is not mandatory to tell us about the emergency landing position, which might save your life, because if you manage not to break your legs, you can easier leave the plane in case of a fire and that might be very useful.

During safety demonstration they never tell us anything about smoke (for example that if you get down on your knees, there’s much less smoke down there and you have a bigger chance to get out of the plane) or emergency slides (that you should take off high-heel shoes and how to jump on it in order to defend your arms and legs) and so on.

Again I am asking IATA, ICAO and all other airline associations and forums: are you sure this is the right procedure? Shouldn’t you revise this regulation?

Update (30 august 2008): I talked to an engineer, who is working with Boeing 737-800s and he told me that checking oxygen masks is done regularly. Every plane type has a maintenance guide that gives exact instructions how frequently oxygen masks need to be checked. It is connected to flown hours, so this frequency differs in acse of each plane.

By Szafi

Blacklisted Airlines

We read a lot about accidents, especially in regions, where safety standards are low: South America, Africa and Middle Asia. But what can we do if we have to travel to these regions? Naturally a logical step is to take a look at the blacklist of airlines and try to avoid them.

But who are these blacklisted airlines? Who decides on these bans? How can they get on and off the list? Let’s take a closer look at the procedure.

FAA, EASA, ICAO, SAFA – who can see this mess through?

There are many different abbreviations when it comes to aviation safety. FAA, EASA, ICAO, SAFA – who can see this mess through? First of let’s make some order. There are levels in the hierarchy of authorities. The first level is always the National Aviation Authority in every country.

The National Civil Aviation Authorities work closest to those airlines registered in the countries. it is their responsibility to check these airlines. They know the most about them and they are the ones to give the most update and accurate information concerning their safety level. Their work is regulated by the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) standards.

The ICAO gives directives to be applied by all National Aviation Authorities of countries that signed the so called Chicage Convention. The directives of the ICAO concern the airlines, aircrafts, technical maintenance, training, crew, etc.

There are two organisations in the EU that incorporate the National Aviation Authorities. One them is older and includes countries that are not part of the EU. It is called JAA (Joint Aviation Authorities) and it is giving over all its functions now to EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency).

EASA was formed in 2003 and it works together closely with the European Commission and the European Parliament. The biggest difference between JAA and EASA is that EASA has a force of law, while JAA only harmonized the international agreements. EASA is the one that sets up the list of banned airlines from the EU, which is then published by the European Commission.

Besides this EU airlines set up a programme called SAFA (Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft) to control airlines registered outside the EU. SAFA carries out unexpected safety checks from time to time.

In the US the equivalent of EASA is FAA (Federal Aviation Agency). FAA is the part of the United States Department of Transportation. It is basically the National Aviation Authority of the US. However there is an interesting situation as in November 2001 (following the events of September 2001) another safety ornagisation was formed by president George Bush called TSA (Transportation Security Administration). TSA first belonged to the same US Department of Transportation, but was later moved under the Department of Homeland Security. TSA focuses more on security issues and not the safety standards of aviation.

So now that we made an order among all these abbreviations, let’s see the updated blacklist of airlines banned from the EU. It was updated and published on 11 April 2008 (yesterday).

There are 14 countries’ airlines on the list. 8 of them are African and 6 are Asian. Let’s see the top of the blacklist:

  1. Democratic Republic of Congo – 54 carriers
  2. Indonesia – 49 carriers
  3. Kyrgyz Republic – 24 carriers

I hope this will help you avoid flying unsafe airlines.

By Szafi

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