Inflight news

What’s the Main Cause of Airline Deaths?

Posted on Sep 9, 2013 | Comments Off on What’s the Main Cause of Airline Deaths?

From Bloomberg, By Alan Levin – Sep 6, 2013 2:00 PM ET

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Pilots on an Asiana Airlines Inc. Boeing 777 that hit a seawall short of a San Francisco runway on July 6 said they had indications once they reached 500 feet altitude that they weren’t properly set up to land.

An Asian airline’s wide-body slams into a sea wall. A 737 with 150 people aboard hits the runway so hard its nose gear buckles. A cargo plane barely misses houses before plowing into a hillside short of the runway.

These recent accidents, marking the deadliest period for airlines in the U.S. since 2009, have something in common: had the pilots aborted their landings at the first sign of trouble – – a move known as a go-around — they might have avoided tragedy.

“They’d all be walking, talking and alive if they went around,” Patrick Veillette, a pilot who teaches and writes about aviation safety, said in an interview.

The three U.S. air crashes since July 6, which killed five people, spotlight the difficulty in getting pilots to abort touchdowns if they haven’t made safe approaches to the runway. It’s “the largest, lowest hanging piece of safety fruit” to make flying less hazardous, according to research sponsored by the Alexandria, Virginia-based Flight Safety Foundation.

Crashes that occur during approach or touchdown are the world’s leading category of aviation mishaps and deaths, according to data compiled by Chicago-based manufacturer Boeing Co. (BA) The biggest risk factor for such accidents is failing to approach a runway at the proper speed, altitude and heading, known as an unstabilized approach.

If safety regulators can persuade pilots to conduct more go-arounds, lives may be saved and costs to airlines in damaged equipment and liability may be lowered.

Non-Compliant Pilots

Computerized flight-track records and a survey of 2,340 pilots sponsored by the safety foundation found that crews have a long way to go to comply with airline requirements to abort landings if their approaches were unstable. Almost all pilots, or 97 percent, continued to land in spite of the rules that they climb away from the runway and circle around to try again, according to the research.

“That’s a risk factor that we really need to work on,” Rudy Quevedo, director of global programs at the foundation, said in an interview.

The issue isn’t simple or new, Quevedo and Veillette said.

“There isn’t a commercial pilot who can say, ‘Shame on you. You should have gone around,’” Veillette said. “We’ve all been in situations where in retrospect, we should have gone around and didn’t.”

In some cases, rules may be overly rigid, akin to imposing a highway speed limit that is so low drivers routinely exceed it, Quevedo said. Violating the rules has become so ingrained that airlines don’t enforce them and pilots don’t recognize when they are taking unnecessary risks, he said.

Safety Critical

Setting up a proper approach to a landing is critical to safety, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates the aviation industry, and the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization.

“It’s really all physics,” Quevedo said. “You want to be centered on the runway on the correct trajectory, the correct descent rate and the right speed.”

If that happens, a plane will almost always cross the start of the runway at a height of about 50 feet (15 meters), which is optimal for a safe landing, he said.

Airlines typically require that a plane be stabilized at 1,000 feet above the runway in poor visibility and at 500 feet in clear weather. Pilots must also have performed required checklists, extended landing gear and configured the plane for landing, according to the foundation.

“If not — GO AROUND!” an FAA advisory to pilots and airlines says.

Low, Slow

While the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board hasn’t said what caused the three recent crashes, information it has released shows evidence of the aircraft being unstable at points within a mile (1.6 kilometers) or two from the runway or of pilots perceiving they were off course.

Pilots on an Asiana Airlines Inc. (020560) Boeing 777 that hit a seawall short of a San Francisco runway on July 6 said they had indications once they reached 500 feet altitude that they weren’t properly set up to land, according to NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. The crash killed three passengers and injured dozens as the plane broke apart and slid to a stop.

One pilot told investigators the Asiana plane was below its optimal glide path at 500 feet, Hersman said July 9. Shortly after, the plane veered off the runway centerline, Hersman said.

The pilots told investigators they failed to notice other warning signs, including that their speed had slowed so much that the wings were in danger of losing lift. When they recognized what was happening, they attempted a go-around, adding power too late to avoid the accident, Hersman said.

Crash Landing

Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) plane landed nose-first at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on July 22, breaking the landing gear and skidding across the runway.

The NTSB hasn’t said whether the Boeing 737-700 was on a stable approach. The captain took control of the plane from the first officer below 400 feet altitude, according to the NTSB. In previous NTSB cases, such shifts in control occurred after an emergency or because the captain thought the approach needed correcting.

Nine people suffered minor injuries, according to the NTSB.

The pilots of a United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) freighter that crashed in Birmingham, Alabama, on Aug. 14 received a cockpit warning that they were descending too rapidly 7 seconds before they hit trees, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said last month.

Whether the pilots also knew they were too low for their approach, which should have triggered a go-around, hasn’t been released. The Airbus SAS A300-600F hit a dark hillside before dawn and broke apart, killing both pilots.

Dulled Sense

The NTSB has investigated at least 21 cases since 1999 in which pilots could have prevented accidents or incidents if they had aborted landings that ran afoul of airline rules, according to the agency’s case files.

In an attempt to discover why such accidents continue to occur, the Flight Safety Foundation hired Martin Smith, a former pilot and psychologist who operates Presage Group Inc. in Mississauga, Canada. Smith oversaw the survey of pilots that found many weren’t following airline rules.

The pilots who didn’t go-around after an unstable approach tended to have a dulled sense of the risks and didn’t communicate as much with fellow crew members, Smith said the survey showed. They also believed they wouldn’t be reprimanded for attempting to land in those cases. A similar survey of airline managers is under way to determine why the rule is so widely overlooked, he said.

Unrealistic Criteria

At the same time, some pilots said the criteria for a stabilized approach weren’t realistic, Smith said in an interview.

Researchers are attempting to design new standards that require aborting landings only in dangerous situations, improving safety without unnecessarily boosting go-arounds, which can create their own dangers, Quevedo said.

“We should expect that if we have a policy, the people should follow the policy,” he said. “But that being said, we need to make sure that the policy is good before we make people follow it. I don’t think we’re there yet.”


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Accor’s Pullman to manage more Qantas lounges across Australia

Posted on Sep 5, 2013 | Comments Off on Accor’s Pullman to manage more Qantas lounges across Australia


Accor has managed Qantas’ First/Business Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne airports for more than five years. It will now take over the operations of the majority of Qantas domestic lounges in Sydney and Melbourne plus Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Perth, with a roll-out from November this year. They will be will be run under Accor’s upscale Pullman brand.

Earlier this year, Qantas relaunched its newly refurbished lounge in Singapore, also managed by Accor.

Simon McGrath, Accor’s COO Australia and New Zealand, said the deal brings together the two biggest names in tourism and hospitality in Australia to provide the best possible service to Qantas Frequent Flyers.

Accor’s involvement in the Qantas lounges extends to providing staff training, lounge management and food and beverage services.

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What pilots won’t tell passengers

Posted on Aug 30, 2013 | Comments Off on What pilots won’t tell passengers

What pilots won't tell passengers


Aug 28, 2013

Reader’s Digest and Good Morning America from ABC news in the United States have conducted a survey on 13 issues pilots won’t tell.

Here is the result:

“I’m constantly under pressure to carry less fuel than I’m comfortable with. Airlines are always looking at the bottom line, and you burn fuel carrying fuel. Sometimes if you carry just enough fuel and you hit thunderstorms or delays, then suddenly you’re running out of gas, and you have to go to an alternate airport.” – Captain at a major airline

“Sometimes the airline won’t give us lunch breaks or even time to eat. We have to delay flights just so we can get food.” – First officer on a regional carrier

“We tell passengers what they need to know. We don’t tell them things that are going to scare the pants off them. So you’ll never hear me say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we just had an engine failure,’ even if that’s true.” – Jim Tilmon, retired American Airlines pilot, Phoenix

“The Department of Transportation has put such an emphasis on on-time performance that we pretty much aren’t allowed to delay a flight anymore, even if there are 20 people on a connecting flight that’s coming in just a little late.” – Commercial pilot, Charlotte, N.C.

“The truth is, we’re exhausted. Our work rules allow us to be on duty 16 hours without a break. That’s many more hours than a truck driver. And unlike a truck driver, who can pull over at the next rest stop, we can’t pull over at the next cloud.” – Captain at a major airline

What we want you to know

“Some FAA rules don’t make sense to us either. Like the fact that when we’re at 39,000 feet going 400 miles an hour, in a plane that could hit turbulence at any minute, [flight attendants] can walk around and serve hot coffee and Chateaubriand. But when we’re on the ground on a flat piece of asphalt going five to ten miles an hour, they’ve got to be buckled in like they’re at NASCAR.” – Jack Stephan, US Airways captain based in Annapolis, Maryland, who has been flying since 1984

“The two worst airports for us: Reagan National in Washington, DC, and John Wayne in Orange County, California. You’re flying by the seat of your pants trying to get in and out of those airports. John Wayne is especially bad because the rich folks who live near the airport don’t like jet noise, so they have this noise abatement procedure where you basically have to turn the plane into a ballistic missile as soon as you’re airborne.” – Pilot, South Carolina

“At some airports with really short runways, you’re not going to have a smooth landing no matter how good we are: John Wayne Airport; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Chicago Midway; and Reagan National.” – Joe D’Eon, a pilot at a major airline who produces a podcast at

“I may be in uniform, but that doesn’t mean I’m the best person to ask for directions in the airport. We’re in so many airports that we usually have no idea.” – Pilot for a regional carrier, Charlotte, North Carolina

“This happens all the time: We’ll be in Pittsburgh going to Philly, and there will be a weather delay. The weather in Pittsburgh is beautiful. Then I’ll hear passengers saying, ‘You know, I just called my friend in Philly, and it’s beautiful there, too,’ like there’s some kind of conspiracy or something. But in the airspace between Pittsburgh and Philly there’s a huge thunderstorm.” – Jack Stephan

“You may go to an airline website and buy a ticket, pull up to its desk at the curb, and get onto an airplane that has a similar name painted on it, but half the time, you’re really on a regional airline. The regionals aren’t held to the same safety standards as the majors: Their pilots aren’t required to have as much training and experience, and the public doesn’t know that.” – Captain at a major airline

“Most of the time, how you land is a good indicator of a pilot’s skill. So if you want to say something nice to a pilot as you’re getting off the plane, say ‘Nice landing.’ We do appreciate that.” – Joe D’Eon

“No, it’s not your imagination: Airlines really have adjusted their flight arrival times so they can have a better record of on-time arrivals. So they might say a flight takes two hours when it really takes an hour and 45 minutes.” – AirTran Airways captain, Atlanta

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Don’t Fly For Me Argentina?

Posted on Aug 25, 2013 | Comments Off on Don’t Fly For Me Argentina?


Aerolineas Argentinas vs LAN Argentina

Aug 24, 2013

The latest setback for South Americas largest airline is part of what LATAM considers a campaign by Argentina’s government to undermine the company’s competitive advantages against money-losing state-owned Aerolineas Argentinas. That effort reached a critical stage Tuesday night with an eviction notice giving LATAM’s subsidiary, LAN Argentina, until month’s end to vacate its hangar at the downtown Buenos Aires airport.

“We understand that this isn’t an isolated action, but yet another in a growing number of actions taken against our company aimed at damaging our operations in Argentina,” LATAM Vice President Enrique Cueto said in a letter to Chile’s securities regulator. He called the eviction notice “illegitimate” and said the company would pursue every available legal action in Argentina to re-establish its contract. Also this week, LATAM announced a quarterly loss of $330 million due largely to currency fluctuations in Brazil, and it was fined $1 million by Canada in a price-fixing case involving South American cargo shipments.

“This has been a perfect storm because it’s all coming together to give the company poor results,” EuroAmerica brokerage analyst Jorge Sepulveda said Thursday. LATAM shares plunged 10 percent before recovering some lost ground Thursday, but they still have lost more than half their value in the year since Chile’s LAN Airlines and Brazil’s TAM airlines merged. The company’s investment-grade debt ratings were lowered after the LAN takeover, taking away much of the robust financial position the company had before the merger, Sepulveda said.

Chile’s government plans to forcefully protest the eviction notice from Argentina’s airports regulator at a Cabinet-level meeting between the two governments in Chile’s capital Friday, Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno said. It’s a sore point for Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, a billionaire investor who was LAN’s chief executive before selling off his stake in the company to avoid conflicts of interest while in the presidency. His relationship with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez is cordial, but her government’s efforts to centrally control the Argentine economy has increasingly led to clashes with Chilean business interests.

As a private company, LATAM has proven a tough competitor for state-owned Aerolineas and its short-hopping subsidiary, Austral, in the years since Fernandez’s late husband and predecessor as president, Nestor Kirchner, invited LAN Argentina to establish a significant presence at the downtown airport and provide service to underserved cities around Argentina. LAN now has 10 planes serving 14 Argentine cities. It says it will have to stop flying domestically in Argentina without the maintenance hangar.’

The company pays $20,000 a month in rent on the building under a contract that doesn’t expire for another decade. Aerolineas also has expanded its service, but continues to bleed money despite government subsidies that keep most of its ticket prices below what LAN charges.

Many passengers prefer LAN because it has a better on-time record and suffers fewer delays due to strikes and other labor problems. Argentina’s airports regulator has pressured the company to move its domestic flights from the downtown airport to the international airport in the Buenos Aires suburb of Ezeiza. That would not only be costly but put LAN Argentina at a disadvantage, since the commute through Buenos Aires traffic would add hours to any round-trip flight for many passengers.

At least 1,500 LAN employees would lose their jobs if the eviction goes through, prompting their unions to complain the government is trying to give Aerolineas Argentinas an unfair advantage. Aerolineas denied this Thursday. But said it makes sense to give the country’s flagship airline the most space at the capital’s downtown airport.

Any sovereign country would do this, the state-owned company said, because “Aerolineas Argentinas flies more frequently to more destinations (35 in the country, to which 21 aren’t reached by the competition) and thus needs a larger infrastructure.” The Association of Airplane Pilots said all its members will strike if LAN employees are fired.

“We’re talking about a general strike that will halt the country’s aviation for an indefinite time, until we’re guaranteed that we’ll be able to peacefully work in our country,” union head Pablo Biro told radio Continental.

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Virgin Atlantic- welcome to, um Gander, Canada

Posted on Aug 20, 2013 | Comments Off on Virgin Atlantic- welcome to, um Gander, Canada


A Virgin Atlantic flight between Heathrow and New York had to land in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada on Saturday after an incident on the Airbus A330-300 variously described as a technical fault or low fuel – now given as a suspected fuel leak. Another aircraft came in to pick up the passengers but, in the absence of sufficient local accommodation, passengers slept on the airport floor. The eight hour flight became a 27-hour ordeal.

iTT wonders how many passengers knew, or cared, that they had a chance to drop in on a piece of international travel history. Soon after it opened in 1938 Gander was the largest airport in the world – a vital refuelling stop for flights between Europe and America – and, as Virgin Atlantic would appreciate, had the biggest landing field. Then came the big mistake. In the late 1950s, at a time when stars like Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were regular visitors, Canada decided to create a large modern terminal to cater to them. In 1959 it was opened by Queen Elizabeth II – Prince Phillip was invited to kiss a cod. Almost to the minute, aircraft evolved so trans-Atlantic flights could span the whole distance between New York and London – and Gander became irrelevant. True, the Beatles first touched down in North America at Gander but they may have been among the last to visit until it was packed again in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, when air traffic over US airspace was shut down.

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These days, Gander township (pop. 9650) is served by small Air Canada turbo-prop aircraft. Everyone who chances upon this out-of-the-way accidental design museum (the chairs were by Eames, the benches by Robin Bush and the terrazzo floor looks like a painting by Mondrian). And all of it has hardly been used in 50 years.

iTT hopes at least one passenger with an interest in design (or aviation history) couldn’t believe their luck when they got to spend most of a day in Gander?


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The World’s Best Airlines 2013

Posted on Jun 18, 2013 | Comments Off on The World’s Best Airlines 2013


According to the Skytrax World Airline Awards, the world’s largest survey of air passengers spanning 160 countries with over 18 million respondents, the world’s best airlines are:

Top 10 airlines in the world

1. Emirates
2. Qatar Airways
3. Singapore Airlines
4. ANA All Nippon Airways
5. Asiana Airlines
6. Cathay Pacific Airways
7. Etihad Airways
8. Garuda Indonesia
9. Turkish Airlines
10.Qantas Airways

Winners in other categories

World’s best premium economy class: Air New Zealand
World’s best low-cost airline: AirAsia
World’s best aircraft cabin cleanliness: ANA
World’s best economy class onboard catering: Asiana Airlines
World’s best cabin staff: Cathay Pacific Airways
World’s best regional airline: Dragonair
World’s best first class: Etihad Airways
World’s best economy class: Garuda Indonesia
Best low-cost airline in Australia / Pacific: Jetstar Airways
World’s best first class lounge: Lufthansa
World’s best airline signature dish: Malaysia Airlines
Best airline Australia / Pacific: Qantas Airways
World’s best business class: Qatar Airways
Best staff service in Australia / Pacific: Virgin Australia

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Want to relax before your next LAX flight? Cuddle up with a dog

Posted on May 16, 2013 | Comments Off on Want to relax before your next LAX flight? Cuddle up with a dog

PUPs at Los Angeles International AirportGabriella Ortiz and her son, Osvaldo, greet CC at Los Angeles International Airport. (Brad Graverson / Los Angeles International Airport / April 11, 2013
By Mary ForgioneLos Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal bloggerApril 16, 2013, 8:30 a.m.

What worried fliers may need to calm themselves is a golden kiss — a golden retriever kiss, that is.Therapy dogs will be spreading the love at boarding gates, baggage claim and ticketing areas at Los Angeles International Airport to put fliers at ease with a cuddle and wag of the tail. It’s part of a new program called PUPs, Pets Unstressing Passengers.

“Being able to see a dog makes everybody feel good and takes their stress level down,” said Heidi Huebner, director of airport volunteers who oversees PUPs. Mixed mutts, Dobermans, bijon frises and other types of dogs wearing red “Pet Me!” vests will visit all airport terminals.

Pets are mood enhancers, according to WebMD’s pets website. Interact with a dog and it suppresses a stress-making hormone called cortisol and lowers your blood pressure too. And that’s exactly the point, Huebner said.

The program started Monday and is modeled on a similar program at Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport.Miami International Airport also has a therapy dog that interacts with passengers.

In the L.A. program, volunteers and their pets must undergo training and be registered and certified by Therapy Dogs Inc.After that, volunteers undergo four hours of training with Huebner to learn about the airport and the program. Currently there are 30 volunteers in PUPs. The program costs the airport about $5,000 for vests (for dogs and their owners) as well as training.

What about those who don’t like dogs or are allergic? Huebner says owners are trained to make sure passengers want to play with their dog, and to steer clear of anyone who indicates that they aren’t interested.

To volunteer or find out more about the program, go to LAX’s volunteer page,, or call (424) 646-8471.

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