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Indonesian Ministry of Transportation Plans to Publish Safety Ratings of all Scheduled Indonesian Airlines

Following a number of recent aviation tragedies in Southeast Asia, it is being reported that the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation plans to publish safety ratings of all scheduled Indonesian airlines perhaps as early as next month. It also is being reported that the Ministry of Transportation plans to encourage the entire airline industry to put safety as a priority, according to a statement by the transportation minister as reported by the Aviation Safety Network: http://news.aviation-safety.net/2015/01/29/indonesian-ministry-of-transportation-to-publish-airline-safety-ratings/ Indonesia's transport minister, Ignasius Jonan, reportedly said that airlines would be evaluated every three months and those that receive poor safety ratings would be punished, according to The Straits Times in a Jan. 27, 2014 story by Reuters. He did not elaborate on what the ratings systems or sanctions would be. The latest aviation disaster involved Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ 8501 that crashed into the Java Sea killing all 162 people on board Dec. 28, 2014. The transport minister has suspended AirAsia's Surabaya-Singapore license for operating flight QZ8501 on a Sunday, for which it did not have permission. The transport minister proposed a number of rule changes at a parliamentary hearing last week, including requiring daily health checks for flights crews and air traffic controllers. The odds of a person dying in a plane crash is about 1 in 11 million, three planes - two based in Malaysia and the third the AirAsia Flight that was an Indonesian affiliate of a Malaysia-based group - all have gone down with no apparent survivors. It has raised the serious question of whether flying in peninsular Southeast Asia is safe. A story released by Bloomberg News, "Why Air Disasters Keep Happening in Southeast Asia," by reporter Joshua Kurlantzick published on Dec. 29, 2014, examines this issue and concludes, "The air market in that region has embraced low-cost carriers, leading to a proliferation of flights throughout Southeast Asia, stretching air traffic controllers, and possibly allowing some airlines to expand too rapidly. Indonesian carriers, air traffic controllers, and Indonesian airspace in general have become notorious for weak safety regulations" To read the entire Bloomberg story, click here: http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-12-29/why-air-disasters-keep-happening-in-southeast-asia It awaits to be seen if the course of action announced by the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation will make a difference in that part of the world for those who fly.

MH370 Crash Declared "Accident"; Allows Families to Make Claims For Compensation

The Malaysian government officially declared the disappearance of Flight 370 an "accident", on Thursday,  Jan. 29, 2015, thus allowing the families of the victims on board to officially begin seeking compensation, according to the Chicago Tribune ("Malaysia Declares MH370 Crash An Accident To Clear Compensation," 1/29/2015). Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation released a statement that all 239 passengers aboard Flight 370 are now presumed to be dead, NBC News Reported ("Malaysia Airlines MH370 Declared An 'Accident,' Search for Survivors Ends," 1/30/2015). While the search for survivors has officially ceased, the underwater search for the wreckage will continue in the Southern Indian Ocean, according to NBC News. The Convention on International Civil Aviation, more commonly referred to as the "Chicago Convention," defines the term "accident" as encompassing planes that have gone missing, according to the Chicago Tribune. Further, an aircraft is considered "missing" under the Chicago Convention at the point when official searches have ceased without a location of a wreckage, NBC News reported. The declaration, which was jointly agreed to by the governments of Malaysia, China and Australia, enables the families to move forward and to seek compensation for their losses, the Chicago Tribune reported. Robert A. Clifford, founder and senior partner of Clifford Law Offices, was interviewed by John Cody of WBBM-AM, 780 radio, and spoke on this topic to the listeners of this top-rated all-news station in Chicago.

NTSB Releases Long-Awaited Recommendations to Help Find Accident Sites and Quickly Recover Flight Data

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday (Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015) released a number of recommendations, some of which it has been asked to consider for decades, calling for improvements in locating downed aircraft and to obtain flight data more quickly and without the need for underwater retrieval. Many of these recommendations, which were issued to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for action, have been demanded by families who have lost loved ones in recent commercial airline crash cases.  In its recommendations, the NTSB pointed to the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447 where it took nearly two years and $40 million to recover the flight data recorders.  The NTSB also pointed out that investigators still are searching for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 that has involved 26 countries and 84 vessels. Among the NTSB recommendations to the FAA is one to equip airliners with a tamper-resistant method to broadcast to a ground station sufficient information to establish the impact location within six nautical miles of the last transmission.  Another is to equip airliners with a means to recover recorded flight data without having to go underwater to locate the wreckage or retrieve the recorders - one means of accomplishing this is by requiring them to be equipped with a deployable flight recorder such as those made by DRS and installed on military airplanes for the past 50 years.  The NTSB has resisted recommending deployable recorders for about 15 years because of staff concerns about cost and reliability, something that has finally been overtaken by the positive facts of their 50 year service history and the overwhelming need to do more to prevent the recent recurrence of weeks, months, and years of families suffering through the agony of lost airplanes and lack of recorded data to explain the loss of loved ones. The NTSB also repeated its 15-year-old recommendation for a crash-protected image recording system that would record the cockpit environment.  Video recordings of the cockpit are something that has been technically feasible and badly needed for several decades to improve the quality and accuracy of accident investigations and thus aviation safety.  However, despite government privacy protections for such image recordings and the technical opinions of its own accident investigation and engineering staff, the US Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) has successfully lobbied against requiring image recorders on airliners throughout those decades and may do so again as  these recommendations now move to the FAA for approval and implementation.  These new NTSB recommendations indicate its disagreement with ALPA's opposition and is urging the FAA to act, and hopefully also be ready to fight on Capitol Hill and in the media for airline cockpit image recording. "Hopefully, these recommendations will awaken the world to the modern global needs of aviation accident investigation and safety," said Robert A. Clifford, founder and senior partner at Clifford Law Offices, which has been a consistent proponent of these measures through its aviation work and the aviation experts it has hired in litigating these claims on behalf of family members who lost loved ones in aviation crashes around the world.  "The grief of the family members as they watch and wait for what can amount to years is so heart-wrenching, it is indescribable.  Now the FAA must take action to put these recommendations into action." Clifford has pointed out in several 2014 op-ed articles in the San Francisco Chronicle as well as in a recent blog item posted on this website just last month that these safety measures are very do-able and are affordable.  In March of 2014, after the Malaysia Flight 370 accident, Clifford wrote "First, deployable recorders that jettison upon impact, float, and transmit their position to satellites world-wide, would assure location of the recorder with flight data and cockpit voice recordings within hours of a crash anywhere in the world, including remote ocean locations. Deployable recorders such as those made by DRS Technologies have been installed on military airplanes, including variants of commercial airplanes such as the Boeing 707 and 737, for over 50 years. And since the 9/11 terrorist tragedy, Congress has been funding various deployable recorder studies and demonstrations that show deployable recorders are ready to go for commercial airliners. Second, satellite asset tracking devices, some of which cost less than $100 to purchase and less than $150 per year in tracking service fees per asset/airplane, would allow authorities and owners to track airliners anywhere in the world on Google Maps from a smart phone, laptop, or desktop computer. These devices, such as the SPOT Trace from Globalstar, can be hidden inside airliners to prevent tampering, operate off battery power for weeks after losing airplane power, and work anywhere in the world. SPOT satellite tracking devices have been in use for tracking boats, cars, people, private airplanes, and other assets for many years."   The eight NTSB recommendations and supporting language can be found at http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-recs/recletters/A-15-001-008.pdf . Members of the aviation team at Clifford Law Offices are available to speak to the press further regarding these important recommendations.  312-899-9090. Pamela Sakowicz Menaker, Communications Partner at Clifford Law Offices' cell phone: 847-721-0909

FAA Issues Rule Requiring Airlines to Utilize Safety Management Systems

On Tuesday (Jan. 6, 2014), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a final rule requiring most U.S. airlines to implement Safety Management Systems (SMS) by 2018, according to an FAA press release. SMS is a formal, organization-wide approach that assists in managing safety risks by providing airlines a set of business procedures to compile data from everyday operations, the FAA press release explained. With this data, airlines are able to isolate trends that may be precursors to accidents and may thus be in a better position to mitigate those dangers at early stages, according to the Aviation Safety Network. In short, SMS describes "what" is expected of airlines and their employees, rather than "how," which is left to airlines themselves, the Aviation Safety Network reported. The rule stipulates that commercial airlines must submit their plans for implementing their SMS within six months, according to the FAA press release. Further, the rule requires each commercial airline to appoint a single, accountable executive to oversee its SMS, the Aviation Safety Network reported. Many commercial airlines already have an SMS in place voluntarily, which has contributed to an 83 percent reduction in fatality risks in the United States for commercial air travel between 1998 and 2008, according to the FAA press release. This new rule will reportedly cost commercial airlines approximately $224.3 million over the next 10 years, but will benefit those airlines ranging from $205 million to $472.3 million over that time period, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

AIRASIA FLIGHT 8501 - RISKY ENVIRONMENT AND YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF NEED FOR DEPLOYABLE RECORDERS AND SATELLITE TRACKING SYSTEMS FOR AIRLINERS

By: Robert A. Clifford AirAsia Flight 8501 was cruising at high altitude in an area of the world that has a reputation not only for high accident rates (3 times that of North America), but also for severe thunderstorm activity at altitudes that can exceed the ceilings of any airliner.  Air traffic control (ATC) voice recordings reportedly show the pilots had asked for diversion around a storm cell but ATC denied that request.  Minutes later, the airplane disappeared from radar screens and remained lost for 2 days until today's discovery of floating wreckage and bodies. Flight at high altitudes in thunderstorms poses dangerous system, flight control, and structural overload risks for airliners.  The most prudent course of action is to avoid these weather cells entirely by changing course, if possible.  However, some pilots try to climb over them, adding to the risk of an accident due to decreased safety margins and pilot inexperience in upset recovery at high altitudes and high speeds.  Airplane systems can also malfunction, especially in severe weather environments, and Airbus models including this one have had their share including recent events that prompted mandatory Airworthiness Directives from safety regulators just this month. While the cause of the crash of AirAsia Flight 8501 remains undetermined it is once again clear that there are two existing technologies that would help prevent such airliner disappearance - albeit only 2 days of disappearance in this case - and that they should be required as soon as possible on all airliners world-wide.  The world is growing tired of watching families cry and wait for word from airlines and governments regarding the whereabouts of the large jet airplane their loved ones were flying on. First, deployable recorders that jettison upon impact, float, and transmit their position to satellites world-wide, would assure location of the recorder with flight data and cockpit voice recordings within hours of a crash anywhere in the world, including remote ocean locations.  Deployable recorders such as those made by DRS Technologies have been installed on military airplanes, including variants of commercial airplanes such as the Boeing 707 and 737, for over 50 years.  And since the 9/11 terrorist tragedy, Congress has been funding various deployable recorder studies and demonstrations that show deployable recorders are ready to go for commercial airliners. The commercial aviation industry and relevant government agencies have completed the required technical standards for deployable recorders for commercial airliners.  So now we just need the NTSB to recommend the use of deployable recorders to the FAA and for FAA to require them on all US airliners.  And ICAO should make them a recommended practice for airliners of all signatory nations. Second, satellite asset tracking devices, some of which cost less than $100 to purchase and less than $150 per year in tracking service fees per asset/airplane, would allow authorities and owners to track airliners anywhere in the world on Google Maps from a smart phone, laptop, or desktop computer.  These devices, such as the SPOT Trace from Globalstar, can be hidden inside airliners to prevent tampering, operate off battery power for weeks after losing airplane power, and work anywhere in the world.  SPOT satellite tracking devices have been in use for tracking boats, cars, people, private airplanes, and other assets for many years. So with a SPOT Trace on AirAsia Flight 8501, AirAsia and government authorities would have known its flight path from takeoff to the end in almost real-time.  And while FAA certification and standards development will add time and cost to these systems, the need and usefulness are obvious and justify the effort.  So as with deployable recorders, we now just need the NTSB to recommend their use to the FAA and for FAA to require them on all US airliners.  And ICAO should make them a recommended practice for airliners of all signatory nations. (Robert A. Clifford, a senior partner at Clifford Law Offices, in Chicago, has handled and led litigation on behalf of aviation crash victims nationally and internationally for three decades.)  

Air Asia Flight Goes Missing, Wreckage Found Early Tuesday

An Airbus AIR.PA A320-200 operated by Indonesia AirAsia disappeared on Sunday morning on course from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore, Reuters reported. As the plane was traveling over the Java Sea, it reportedly encountered a string of violent thunderstorms and massive clouds, at which point the pilot requested to ascend some 6,000 feet to circumvent a cloud, according to the Washington Post.  However, Indonesian dispatchers denied the request, and the plane disappeared within minutes with no distress call reported, according to the Washington Post. On Tuesday, the Daily Beast reported that teams who were searching for the missing aircraft found more than 40 bodies as well as debris from the missing aircraft floating in the Java Sea near Borneo. AirAsia has reportedly confirmed that the debris is in fact from QZ8501, according to the Daily Beast. Military aircrafts searching for the missing aircraft spotted the plane's emergency door, emergency slide, and square metal objects earlier this morning, leading to the eventual discovery, the Daily Beast reported. This latest accident is one in a string of horrific plane incidents that have cast serious doubts about the propriety of the aviation industry in Indonesia, the Washington Post reported. Many officials from Indonesia and around the globe have warned that while the aviation industry in this region has rapidly expanded in demand, companies who operate the aircrafts have been left behind in their supply of aviation experts, regulatory oversight, and equipment, according to the Washington Post. Major issues with the industry are abound, including problems with music stations and phone calls interfering with air traffic control frequencies and a central airport that handled more than three times its intended capacity for passengers in 2013, the Washington Post reported.

Clifford Law Offices Aviation Attorneys Available to Speak on Maryland Plane Crash; Black Box Data Indicates Plane Stalled and Pilot Failed to Recover

Clifford Law Offices has dealt with many cases involving aircraft that have crashed due to the stalling of one or more engines and a pilot's failure to recover from the upset. After a press conference today held by officials of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), it was revealed that the initial cause of the plane crash that left six people dead, including two small children, Monday in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was due to just such a failure. The NTSB continues to have investigators on the scene and recovered the black box earlier today (Dec. 9, 2014) from the Embraer twin-engine jet that contained the critical cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder.  Later today, officials there revealed that upon trying to land, the jet carrying three people stalled at 88 knots followed by 20 seconds of stall warning and then the aircraft pitched and rolled until it crashed. Parts of the plane crashed into a house that killed three people, a mother and her two young children, and other debris went flying into two adjacent houses on a cul-de-sac street in the suburb of Washington, D.C., setting them ablaze. Those pieces are being gathered as further evidence. Airplane systems issues and other factors such as ice accretion on the wings can often contribute to pilots failing to maintain airspeed and losing control, and the NTSB investigation of this accident should eventually generate conclusions in those areas. Clifford Law Offices has had extensive experience in handling executive jet crashes and other types of aircraft that resulted in similar tragedies. Stalling of aircraft occurred in the Colgan jet crash that was headed to Buffalo, New York, in 2009 where Clifford Law Offices represented four families. The crash of Asiana Airlines, of which the firm serves as local counsel to several families, also involved the stalling of a commercial aircraft. Attorneys at the firm are available to speak on how this can occur and how it can be prevented to avoid future tragedies like what occurred in Maryland yesterday.  To contact one of the aviation attorneys at Clifford Law Offices, please call the firm's Communications Partner Pamela Sakowicz Menaker at 847-721-0909 (cell) or the firm at 312-899-9090. www.CliffordLaw.com

Small Jet Plane Crashes into Maryland Home: 6 Reported Dead

A small jet plane crashed on Monday morning (December 8th, 2014) into a home located in a residential neighborhood of Gaithersburg, Maryland. ABC News reported that the impact of the plane in the Washington D.C. suburb resulted in a fire that spread to several nearby houses. It was also reported by the Associated Press that the death toll has now reached six - three people who were inside a house that was hit were killed in addition to the three inside the plane that crashed.

Spaceship Crashes in California Desert, Killing One and Severely Injury Another

A Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two rocket plane exploded and crashed during a test flight Friday, Oct. 31, killing one crew member and seriously injuring another, according to authorities. The fiery crash was captured on video and played on media outlets across the world as the plane dropped away from its carrier airplane and fired up its hybrid rocket engine. The blast scattered debris across a two-mile area of the desert north of Mojave outside of Los Angeles, according to NBC News. One pilot was killed at the scene and the other was able to parachute to the ground and was transferred to Antelope Valley Hospital, according to Kern County Deputy Fire Chief Michael Cody. Both pilots reportedly worked for Mojave-based Scaled Composites, according to reports by NBC News. The test flight was important because Virgin Galactic had planned to use this SpaceShip Two to fly passengers on suborbital trips to the edge of space as early as next year, according to media reports, which also have indicated that a nearly identical rocket is already under construction with more than 700 customers, including celebrities Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber having paid as much as $250,000 to take a ride. The pilots on the plane from which the SpaceShip dropped away from called White Knight Two were able to land safely. A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) team has been at the crash site over the weekend to determine the probable cause of the incident. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also reportedly is investigating the crash. The fatal flight on Halloween was part of SpaceShip Two's years-long test program by Virgin Galactic, a company founded by billionaire Richard Branson who it is said was hoping to be on the first commercial flight next year. He told the media that "'We are determined to find out what went wrong.'" He reportedly flew to the crash site and said that he still "'would like to see the dream living on,'" according to NBC News. Branson said that anyone who wants their money back for a future flight will get a refund, NBC News reported. Friday's crash was the second disaster in less than a week suffered by a private space company. Last Tuesday (Oct. 28) an Antares rocket built and launched by Orbital Sciences Corp. Exploded after liftoff from Wallops Island, Virginia, destroying a cargo ship full of supplies bound for the International Space Station.

Commemorating the Crash of American Eagle Flight 4184 with a Public Forum

The 68 people who died in the crash of American Eagle Flight 4184 on Oct. 31, 1994, will never be forgotten. To commemorate the tragedy, family members, loved ones and the community touched by the crash 20 years ago have announced a public forum on Oct. 30 entitled: "Public Forum: The Legacy of American Eagle Flight 4184." Guest speakers at this public forum to be held in Merrillville, Indiana, include Greg Feith, Aviation Safety and Security expert and former National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator who served as the investigator in charge of the crash of Flight 4184; Charley Pereira, transportation safety and security consultant and former NTSB investigator as well as Flight 4184 Airplane Performance and Icing Group Chairman and co-author of the NTSB's Final Report and Safety Recommendations; Ray Chambers, Director, Newton County EMA, and Fire Chief of the Lincoln Township Fire Department as well as Deputy Coroner and first responder on the scene of the crash of Flight 4184; Paul Sledzik, Director of the Transportation Disaster Assistance Division of the NTSB. America grieved when it learned of the Halloween night crash of that ATR-72 turboprop plane that was en route from Indianapolis to Chicago when it encountered severe icing conditions and crashed into a field near Roselawn, Indiana. The lessons learned and improvements made in aviation safety, emergency response and the coordination of support services of survivors and family members following commercial transportation disasters will be discussed at this important public forum. Clifford Law Offices represented 16 families who lost loved ones in the tragic crash of Flight 4184.  In the process of preparing for trial, lawyers at the firm took 110 depositions to get to the bottom of what occurred.  Robert Clifford sat on the Plaintiff's' Discovery Committee.  The firm obtained a $110 million settlement on the eve of trial in federal court in Chicago for 28 families who had brought suit in a consolidated action. The public forum will be held Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville, Indiana, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. CDT. Inquiries can be made at info4184@gmail.com. For more information about American Eagle Flight 4184, please visit www.americaneagleflight4184.com and www.facebook.com/flight4184. Contact in Indiana: Jennifer Stansberry Miller: 317-354-7208 Contact in Chicago area: Terri Henry Severin: 847-354-0949

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