Aircraft Accidents and Legitimizing Loadmasters

More than two years after the disaster of the National Airlines B747 crash in Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, the FAA is finally moving into a solution that holds water. A team is looking into a Certification of “Special” Loadmasters, the people responsible for the restraining of cargo on charter flights on cargo airliners.
Having myself worked Loadmaster duty, I know the cargo airlines have mostly been ignored, especially by the NTSB, who during the years I worked for them were largely unconcerned with cargo accidents because the of the low body count, e.g. Emery 17, 2000. But in light of the National Airlines tragedy and the fact that its last moments were so dramatically caught on video, the FAA and NTSB have taken a strong stand to increase the safety of these airliners. Even with the terrific crash of Fine Air flight 101 in 1997, the focus should have been directed at these airlines. I offered my services to the Board, having worked for a cargo airline for 20 years, but was ignored largely because of the lack of attention these airline accidents incur.
These Loadmaster positions are fluid; changes to the types of cargo being flown becomes increasingly difficult, especially for the military charters. Civil cargo airliners fly everything from helicopters to heavy trucks, but the training doesn’t shadow; some of these loadmasters are behind the curve, especially when they are contractors, who are expected to stay up to speed.
It’s about time the FAA got behind increasing Loadmaster training. Maybe, tragically, National Airlines was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Aircraft Accidents and Political Confusion

Well it has been a jaw-dropping week in the land of political confusion. It just proves that political appointees and political elect-ees just don’t get simple concepts like safety.
The first nominee for the ‘What-Did-He/She-Say’ award is FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, who told the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) that he was, “Sorry we’re [the FAA] so slow.” This political appointee then revealed his boss, aka President Obama, who uses drones to fight ISIS, “doesn’t get’ drones and that trillions of dollars were being lost in revenue and we were falling behind the international market. What he failed to remember was that reconciling drones to an aviation network (America’s) that is more complex and saturated with every aircraft from commercial, GA, Experimental, helicopter, etc. than many of these international markets put together may be causing the slow-down in rulemaking. Or that in the name of safety, AUVSI is failing to keep their amateur members in line while the rulemaking wheels slowly turn. It’s apparent he does not know how his own rulemaking process works.
Then there is John Goglia, who, while speaking to students at Vaughn Aeronautical College’s International Drone Day, said things that go against his position as an influential aviation public figure. Now Vaughn is my alma mater (although it was called the Academy of Aeronautics in those days) and I fully support the drone study program they have; it is THE future. However, former Member Goglia’s comments were irresponsible in so many ways, I don’t know where to start:
But I will say this: using the example of an airliner’s engine, whose fan is rotating at about 3600 rotations per minute (60 rotations per second), ingesting a drone made from metal and hard plastic cannot be compared to the same engine ingesting a goose or other bird made of raw meat, feathers and hollow bones. For Goglia to suggest that the aviation industry’s airliners are prepared for the possibility of drone engine ingestion over a major metropolitan area is absurd and downright dangerous.
And this blog topic wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Congress, those silly troupe of lawmaking nominees – whose combined understanding of the airline industry couldn’t be measured in a teaspoon – again made the news with pleas to airlines to stop charging baggage fees. We’re being attacked by ISIS, our economy is in the toilet, and the dangers to our power grids keep mounting, but … hold those thoughts because the baggage fees are killing us? This stunt, aimed at pandering for votes, does not mean the elected officials have suddenly begun to care about the little people paying bag fees; let’s be honest, they couldn’t give a flying leap through a rolling donut what you pay as long as the taxes come in. And what makes it more ludicrous is the fact the Congress has nothing to do with bag fees, the size of seats, airline routes, or even if you get a soda with those peanuts; that’s all within the airlines’ purview and Congress is ab-so-lute-ly impotent in these matters. They, through the DoT, guarantee safety, not cost fixing.
And the award goes to … any fool who buys this slop.

Aircraft Accidents and Useful Data

Interesting article by one John Goglia yesterday. I’ve known John for fifteen years now and he is forever on the front line in bringing necessary aviation discussions to our attention.
But John is kind of like my older brother, who was always quicker on the draw to getting my father’s attention and perpetually stealing my thunder. If I got a ‘B’, he got an ‘A’; if I hit a single, my brother always rounded the bases. But with John, if I come up with a topic to discuss in my blog, John hits the idea first in a nationally recognized aviation website. Oh well, Deja vu all over again.
One of the fine points of the article is that the FAA should listen to ALL aviation people: ramp personnel, flight attendants, even (gasp) … pilots. This point can’t be emphasized enough; I can’t bold, italicize, underline or highlight this thought to a level required without having to rewrite the programming for WORD ©.
But there is one argument that should be stressed harder. The FAA needs to be listening to contract employees; they are a fact of the industry whose very purpose many people disagree on. Between contract maintenance, contract loaders and contract de-icers, etc. contractors are here to stay.
Several years ago I investigated an accident where contractors played a large part. It should be understood that while mainline airlines get passes from the FAA for disclosed problems, their contracted workers don’t enjoy that same safety net. As a result: punctured pressure vessels from belt loaders; incorrect parts installed; or a rudder strike while de-icing. Many events like these go unreported because a contractor fears for his/her job.
So, is the FAA paying adequate attention to their concerns? How about what they don’t say? And for that matter, are the air operators paying attention as well?