Aviation Safety, Transport Canada side-stepping safety

Aviation Safety News is a project of Transport Action Canada and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Public Interest Advocacy Centre monitors aviation legislation. PIAC has standing before the Canadian Transportation Agency and the courts. Transport Action Canada is represented on the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council. The Aviation Safety News readers’ group includes top aviation safety authorities, industry and civil service professionals.

This issue covers reports by journalists on Cougar Helicopters Flight 491 Sikorsky S-92A helicopters, Continental Connection Flight 3407, Swissair Flight 111  aircraft wiring and Air France Flight 447 pilots made a series of mistakes.  The issue includes calls on Transport Canada by the Transportation Safety Board for action on long-standing safety initiatives and a report on Transport Canada's legal strategy of last minute out-of-court settlements in liability cases.

Anniversary of Nationair plane crash: Worst Canadian-registered plane crash

"The lives of all 261 on board the ill-fated Nationair plane, including 14 Canadian crew members, were lost on July 11, 1991 when the plane crashed down in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia," The Canadian Press reported on Jul. 10, 2011.

"Two tires of Flight 2120, chartered by Nigeria Airways to transport Muslims to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage, ignited upon takeoff. Shreds of burning rubber were kicked up into the wheel well, quickly spreading flames throughout the fuselage. A third tire exploded just after the DC-8-61's landing gear retracted, knocking out the craft's electrical and hydraulic systems. Subsequent media reports revealed that the carrier regularly flew aircraft that were not airworthy -- and that Transport Canada was aware of the practice," The Canadian Press reported.

Postmedia News: Air-safety progress 'troubling'

The head of Canada's Transportation Safety Board chastised the federal government Thursday for the "troubling" lack of progress in improving aviation safety. … "We've seen some moderate progress on marine and rail safety issues. However, the lack of progress in aviation is what I would call troubling," board chairwoman Wendy Tadros said. They include unfulfilled recommendations to reduce the risk of landing accidents and aircraft overruns at Canada's major airports, to improve data and voice recorders on aircraft, and to require smaller aircraft to install special equipment to help prevent collisions with land or water while under crew control.
Sarah Schmidt, Postmedia News, July, 8, 2011

Buffalo News: Study finds 20 percent of airline pilots commute long distances

A fifth of the nation's airline pilots live more than 750 miles from their work stations -- just like the pilot and co-pilot of Continental Connection Flight 3407, the plane that crashed in Clarence Center in February 2009. A National Research Council report released Wednesday reached that central conclusion. While highlighting the issue of pilot commuting, the report disappointed families of those killed on Flight 3407 with its lack of further detail and stronger recommendations. The report, mandated by Congress in a measure pushed into law by the families last August, also found that 6 percent of pilots live at least 1,500 miles from their work stations. The study was based on the home addresses and work stations of 25,000 pilots.
Jerry Zremski, Buffalo News, July 6, 2011

Transport Canada, duty to protect, kapton burns

In August 1999 Transport Action (Transport 2000 at the time) was the first watchdog group to identify kapton insulation as the likely cause of the Swissair 111 tragedy. Kapton burns. This week Postmedia New's Ian MacLeod reported: "Thirteen years after faulty wiring downed Swissair Flight 111 off Nova Scotia, the risk remains because the federal government still does not require aircraft wiring to be tested under realistic operating conditions, the Transportation Safety Board charges."

"Now, after a decade of pressing unsuccessfully for the change, the independent federal transportation safety agency has issued a statement alleging the "risk remains" because Transport Canada has so far failed to act," Postmedia News reported on June 20, 2011.

Transport Canada, duty to protect, Sikorsky S-92A helicopter can't fly for 30 minutes without oil

"For helicopters certified in the future, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Transport Canada (TC) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have all agreed to review the certification rules. "But it is going to take more than promises to solve the safety problems we found," said TSB Chair, Wendy Tadros.  … Tadros was clear, "For those who rely on these helicopters today and in the future, the TSB needs a firm commitment that they will all be capable of flying for at least 30 minutes following a massive loss of main gearbox oil," The Transportation Safety Board of Canada reported on June 23.

"While the immediate cause of the crash off Newfoundland has been resolved with the replacement of the titanium studs, today's S-92As can still only fly for 11 minutes in the event of a total loss of oil. "That is why the Board is seeking prompt clarification from the FAA on whether it will require improvements to the S-92A's main gearbox," adds Tadros.

New York Times, Qantas Settles With Rolls-Royce Over Engine Explosion

Qantas said Wednesday that it had reached a $100 million settlement with the engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce over the disruption caused by a mid-air engine explosion that forced the Australian carrier to ground its fleet of Airbus A380 aircraft late last year.
New York Times, Bettina Wassener, June 22, 2011

Courier-Islander, Airport crash/fire protection standard questioned

Airport fire fighting/rescue measures have been reduced by the city at the same time Campbell River was spending millions to extend the runway to attract larger aircraft and more business, says the city fire fighters' union. "I just don't get it. Where's the common sense?" Reid Wharton, president of International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 1668 told the Courier-Islander. "The city spends millions of dollars to lengthen the runway, presumably to attract larger aircraft, and then they pull crash/fire rescue services."
Dan MacLennan, Courier-Islander,  June 8, 2011

The Canadian Press, Widow of Cougar Flight 491 victim calls on Transport Canada to act on gearbox

The widow of a passenger who died in a chopper crash off Newfoundland two years ago says she is frustrated by Ottawa's plans to consult foreign regulators before requiring changes to the gearbox that was a cause of the disaster. Lori Chynn, whose husband John Pelley was aboard Cougar Flight 491, said the time has come for Transport Canada to order improvements on the crucial component instead of setting up more focus groups and meetings. "There's been enough discussion," she said in a telephone interview from her home in Deer Lake, N.L
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press, June 7, 2011

Vancouver Sun, Screener arrests raise questions about Canadian airport security

They’re entrusted with keeping travellers safe in the skies. But the recent arrest of two Vancouver International Airport security screeners for conspiring to export drugs has once again raised the question: Who’s screening the screeners at Canada’s major airports? Sen. Colin Kenny, former chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, said the infiltration of organized crime in Canada’s airports is pervasive, but background checks of airport workers and the screening of employees when they enter or leave restricted areas are woefully inadequate.Vancouver Sun, Douglas Quan,  June 4, 2011

Wall Street Journal, FAA Steps Up Legal Fight Against Lasers Shined Into Cockpits

U.S. aviation regulators, devising a new legal strategy to protect pilots from lasers, on Wednesday are expected to announce they will start levying civil fines against anyone on the ground caught using such portable devices to target airliners, according to people familiar with the details. Under the stepped-up enforcement policy, these people said, the Federal Aviation Administration will file its own administrative claims and seek to collect civil penalties from alleged violators. Until now, the agency primarily relied on local or federal law-enforcement agencies using criminal statutes to enforce bans against shining lasers into cockpits. Portable lasers can temporarily blind or incapacitate pilots, and even cause permanent eye damage, especially when planes are descending to land. Wall Street Journal, Andy Pasztor, May 31, 2011

USA Today, Air France crash calls for better pilot training, experts say

As Air France Flight 447 plunged in the darkness two years ago, its pilots had ample opportunities to save the jet. Instead, as has happened repeatedly on airliners around the world, they exacerbated the problem, according to preliminary information released by French investigators. The Air France disaster, which killed 228 people on their way from Brazil to France on June 1, 2009, is the latest example — and one of the most deadly — of the biggest killer in aviation: a plane going out of control.   The latest information in the Air France case, released Friday by French investigators, is spurring renewed calls for better pilot training and other measures…. The Air France jet's 7-mile plunge into the Atlantic Ocean began suddenly when the jet's instruments went haywire. Ice had blocked the jet's speed sensors; the pilots could not tell how fast they were going. Warnings and alerts sounded almost simultaneously.

In response, the pilots made a series of mistakes, according to the French Bureau d'EnquĂȘtes et d'Analyses, the agency that investigates aviation accidents. Instead of flying level while they diagnosed the problem, one of the pilots climbed steeply, which caused a loss of speed. Then the aggressive nose-up pitch of the plane and the slower speed caused air to stop flowing smoothly over the wings, triggering a loss of lift and a rapid descent.
Alan Levin, USA Today
May 30, 2011

The Province, Wake turbulence caused '09 crash

Wake turbulence caused the deadly twin-engined Piper Chieftain airplane crash in Richmond two years ago, according to the federal Transportation Safety Board. The airplane crash on July 9, 2009, in a Richmond industrial area claimed the life of captain Jeremy Ryan Sunderland, 28, and first officer Mathew Douglas Pedersen, 23. In a report released Friday, investigators note the air- cargo plane was arriving at 10 p.m. in darkness at Vancouver International Airport, using visual flight rules, and was 1.5 nautical miles behind and 700 feet below the flight path of an Air Canada Airbus A321. Despite the distance, the report concludes the turbulence by the much larger plane caused "an upset and loss of control at an altitude that precluded recovery."
John Colebourn, The Province, May 29, 2011

Ottawa Citizen, Canadian runway safety proposal falls short of top aviation standard

Six years after an Air France airliner barrelled off a rain-slick Toronto runway and caught fire, Transport Canada is close to toughening runway safety with longer overrun zones. The proposed move follows a warning last year from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) that runway "excursions" and other landing safety issues pose one of the country's greatest transportation risks and need urgent government and industry action. The rate of overruns per million landings by large transport aircraft in Canada is almost twice the world average, and three times that of the United States. The figure jumps to four times the global average when the runway is wet.
Ottawa Citizen, Ian MacLeod, May 13, 2011

Globe and Mail, Transport Canada makes out-of-court deal in pilot’s death

Last week, the B.C. Supreme Court was to examine whether a federal regulatory agency should be held responsible for the deaths. In a civil suit brought by Mr. Honour’s widow and his three children, Transport Canada was accused of breaking its own rules by licensing a helicopter service company “with an extensive history of unsafe practises.” But at the last minute, the agency avoided potentially embarrassing questions about its air safety operations, agreeing to a confidential out-of-court settlement just before the trial started. As is usual in such cases, how much Ottawa paid out to the Honour family was not disclosed and Transport Canada admitted no liability. Art Comeault, the owner of the service company, did not settle out of court, but after a brief two-day hearing in Vancouver last week, the judge found him liable and ordered him to pay $645,000 in damages. Had the suit gone ahead, it would have been a rare test of how much accountability can be demanded of government agencies, as well as raising issues about the oversight of air transportation safety in Canada.
Globe and Mail, Julian Sher, May 10, 2011

Cranbrook Daily Townsman, Experts tell inquest: aviation regulations must change

It was the second day of a coroners inquest into the death of four men in a helicopter crash in residential Cranbrook on May 13, 2008. "I think the regulations need to be tightened up and made less ambiguous. They need to be clarified," said Damien Lawson, the lead investigator into the crash for the Transportation Safety Board. "It is not just a one-way problem with the regulations being incomprehensible for people using them, but the regulators themselves find it confusing."
Cranbrook Daily Townsman, Sally MacDonald, Apr. 28

Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa airport radar crashes 'minor incidents'

The failure of the Ottawa airport's radar six times over the past 15 months did not compromise safety, aviation experts say. The system, called secondary surveillance radar (SSR), is a chief navigational aid used by tower controllers handling arriving and departing aircraft. Navigational radar for planes at cruising altitudes is handled by Nav Canada's Montreal Area Control Centre (ACC). At 1: 10 p.m. on March 14, the tower's SSR crashed for 11 minutes. Two departing planes were held on the ground, including a small private craft at Gatineau airport, for a maximum of 10 minutes. Radar was restored at 1: 20. It happened again 10 days later on March 24 at 5: 53 a.m., when there was no Ottawa tower traffic. It came back up three minutes later. The causes remain undetermined, though officials suspect some sort of electrical interference. "These things were pretty minor incidents," says Ron Singer, spokesman for Nav Canada, the country's civilian air navigation service. "Safety is never compromised. Ottawa Citizen, Ian MacLeod, Apr, 15

Vancouver Sun, Technology prevented mid-air collision near airport last year

Technology helped prevent a collision last year between an Air Canada Jazz aircraft and a private amphibious Cessna off Vancouver International Airport. The twin-engined de Havilland DHC-8-300 aircraft was flying May 5 at 3,000 feet en route to Vancouver from Nanaimo with 34 passengers and three crew. While over the Strait of Georgia northwest of Vancouver airport, the Jazz's traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) notified the crew that the Cessna 185E was approaching head-on at "400 feet below and climbing," according to a federal summary report of the incident.
Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun, March 22, 201

Vancouver Sun, Passengers on all commercial float planes in Canada should be required to wear life jackets

Passengers on all commercial float planes in Canada should be required to wear life jackets, while the planes themselves should be fitted with easily opened emergency exits such as popout windows that allow passengers to escape quickly after a crash in water. Those are the long-awaited recommendations of a federal transportation safety board investigation into the 4 p.m. crash on Nov. 29, 2009 of a Seair Seaplanes Beaver float plane in which six passengers died in Lyall Harbour off Saturna Island. Two of the four exit doors jammed. The pilot and another passenger survived with injuries.
Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun, March 18, 2011

Globe and Mail, Union warns of Air Canada maintenance outsourcing

Union leaders are warning that Air Canada is on a course to divert aircraft maintenance work to lower-cost plants in the United States and El Salvador. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers says hundreds of Canadian jobs are at risk of being transferred to foreign aircraft repair companies over a 10-year period, if Air Canada’s heavy maintenance contract is allowed to expire in mid-2013.
Globe and Mail, Brent Jang, Mar. 09, 2011

Wall Street Journal, Agencies Spar Over Air Safety Data

The Federal Aviation Administration is locked in a dispute with accident investigators over a sensitive safety issue: Who should have access to data that airlines voluntarily provide to the government? The clash stems from a recent National Transportation Safety Board effort to obtain data from the FAA about safety lapses over the years by various U.S. airlines, according to government and airline industry officials.
Andy Pasztor, Wall Street Journal, Feb 28, 2011

Postmedia News, Families of N.L. helicopter crash victims question aircraft's certification

The families of 15 passengers who died in a March 2009 helicopter crash off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador — and the lone survivor — want the federal transport minister to investigate the certification of the aircraft model involved. In a letter to Chuck Strahl, lawyers for the group say they believe fundamental issues related to the Sikorsky S-92 certification by Transport Canada were not addressed in this month's final Transportation Safety Board report on the crash, which claimed 17.
Ken Meaney, Postmedia News, Feb. 24, 2011

CBC News, N.L. chopper crash recordings detail tense moments

CBC News has obtained recordings of the last minutes of Cougar Flight 491, with the tape detailing a dramatic exchange with air traffic controllers before the chopper crashed east of St. John's in 2009 killing 17 people. The last conversations between air traffic controllers and the Sikorsky's pilots, Capt. Matt Davis, 34, of St. John's, and First Officer Tim Lanouette, 48, Comox, B.C., were released by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. The Cougar Helicopters Ltd chopper, a Sikorsky S92, left St. John's to bring offshore workers to oil platforms hundreds of kilometres east of St. John's on March 12, 2009.
Mark Quinn CBC News, February 11, 2011

CN, TSB Uses Cougar Report to Push for Improved Helicopter Safety
Pushing a series of four key reforms to improve helicopter safety, the Transportation Safety Board today released its final report into the fatal 2009 crash of Cougar Flight 91 off the coast of Newfoundland. The report which highlights a complex web of 16 factors, states that Flight 91 ran into trouble when titanium studs broke on the main gearbox filter bowl. This led to a total loss of oil, which 11 minutes later ultimately brought the helicopter down. Although upgrades have since been made to all S-92A's worldwide, Tadros said the Board's final report goes further, citing specific concerns about certification standards, and whether helicopters should be able to operate longer following a massive loss of oil."All S-92A helicopters should be able to 'run-dry' for at least 30 minutes. That's key. In addition, we want the FAA to look at today's operating environments—Hibernia, the Arctic, the North Sea, any of these extreme locations—and decide whether even 30 minutes is enough time." CNW, Feb 9, 2011

TSB Cougar Helicopter REPORT A09A0016

The February 7, 2011 edition covers duty of care, CATSA review,  fewer airplanes are crashing, laser attacks increasing, snag sheets,  safety regulator should be separate and independent.