Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Federal Investigators Find Oversight Lacking in Air Ambulances

Air Methods helicopter prior to crash that killed 4 in 2011
The attention of the flying public may be riveted to events like Malaysia 370 and Germanwings Flight 9525 but when it comes to hazards, helicopter ambulances are second only to combat flying. In other words, orders of magnitude riskier than traveling in an airliner.

The fine levied against America's largest operator of emergency medical helicopters exposes once again the gap between what the air ambulance industry promises and what it delivers. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Germanwings "No Right to Rule Out Other Hypotheses"

BEA's chief Remi Jouty
As if awaking from a stunned stupor, (incapacitation with breathing perhaps?) the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses, the French air safety investigatory authority, has suddenly spoken. After six days in which French law enforcement has all but wrapped up the case of the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, the spokeswoman for the BEA has told The New York Times, her agency's ire was focused on the shocking leak of the content of the cockpit voice recorder, but had no statement about the appropriateness of concluding the cause of the accident without recovering crucial pieces of evidence.

That wise disclaimer was left for Jean-Pierre Michel an official with the judicial police who, in one of the only moderate statements to emerge from this fiasco told the Times, “we have no right today to rule out other hypotheses including the mechanical hypotheses, as long as we haven’t proved that the plane had no problems.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

Attending the Flight School of Andreas Lubitz

Note this post has been updated with new information. 

Astute readers of Flying Lessons may remember that in the fall of 2010, I published here a series of posts about the week I spent as a student at the Airline Training Center of Arizona, the flight school owned and operated by Lufthansa. (I also wrote about it for The New York Times.) This was the same flight school where Andreas Lubitz first learned to fly powered aircraft though he was at the school two years before I arrived.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

You Call this an Investigation? Germanwings So Far Anything But Conclusive

The news coming from French prosecutor Brice Robin regarding Monday's crash of Germanwings Flight 9295 is shocking, but on what is it based? Surely Mr. Robin knows something he's not sharing with the rest of us, or how could he possibly come to the conclusion that "the co pilot wanted to destroy the aircraft"? And yet that is what he is saying based on facts that still suggest other possibilities. 

The evidence so far shows first officer Andreas Lubitz deliberately flew the plane to a lower altitude winding up flying the plane into a mountain, the question Mr. Robin has not answered is how he knows the pilot had that end in mind.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why Listening to Germanwings CVR is Not So Simple


CVR as recovered from Germanwings flight BEA photo
Investigators looking to discover why Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 flew into a mountain in the French Alps yesterday were handed one very good clue when the cockpit voice recorder was located and brought to the headquarters of the French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses. 

At a news conference in Paris today, Remi Jouty explained "We just succeeded in getting an audio file which contains usable sounds and voices. We have not yet fully understood and worked on it to say 'It starts at this point and ends at this point' and 'We hear this person saying that etcetera.' It is ongoing work we hope to have rough idea in a matter of days, and having a full understanding of it will take weeks and even months."