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Airbus Plane Crash in the Alps Presumably Kills all 150 Aboard

A world mourns another tragic plane crash in France, killing all 150 people aboard including two babies, 16 students and two teachers from a German high school. Germanwings Flight 9525, an Airbus, reportedly was "obliterated" when it plunged from 14,000 feet in eight minutes into the foothills of the French Alps in southeastern France where it is very difficult to reach, according to rescuers. It is being reported that 144 passengers and six crew members were on board. European officials are reporting that the majority of those on the plane were of German, Spanish and Turkish descent. The captain of the plane reportedly had 10 years of experience as a pilot, including more than 6,000 flight hours on that particular Airbus model. Germanwings became a wholly owned subsidiary of Lufthansa in 2009. The plane left Barcelona, Spain, early Tuesday morning at 10:01 a.m. (March 24, 2015) local time - a half hour late - heading to Dusseldorf, Germany. There are conflicting stories as to if there was a distress call from the cockpit prior to the crash. No piece of the debris is larger than a small car and there is no sign of life, according to CNN reporters, and helicopters have been unable to land in the area. The terrain also is so difficult it is unable to be reached by a vehicle. Apparently search and rescue workers have locate at least one of the black boxes that will help to tell the story of what occurred. To learn more about the crash, go to CNN at: http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/24/europe/france-plane-crash/index.html

Tracking Airplanes - Can We Do Better?

It's been one year since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished, taking the lives of 239 passengers and crew who have never been seen again. It is one of aviation's greatest mysteries, despite the touting of some state-of-the-art technology to help prevent such disasters. The Boeing 777-200ER weighed about 656,000 pounds and was the length of six school buses. How did it just vanish into thin air? How could air traffic control not keep in touch with its whereabouts? How could experts not be able to find it after contact was lost? It is hard to imagine when the move of a simple package can be tracked nearly hour by hour, but a plane loaded with people still can't be found. Live satellite tracking apparently wasn't turned on in that plane and its route was to be mostly over land where ground-based radar stations could track it. On the news, over and over again, various scenarios played out that probably was not the case. More than a week after its disappearance, experts determined that the Malaysian Airlines plane most likely went down in the Indian Ocean, some 1,100 miles west of Australia. Now, aviation experts and regulators are trying to move forward with a plan that by the end of next year would mean that they would know a jet's position every 15 minutes. In 15 minutes, a jet can travel more than 150 miles. Perhaps this would not solve every tragedy, but it would narrow a search to a more limited area. A formal vote on the new rules is expected by November by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which is part of the United Nations. If accepted, each participant country's air traffic regulator would have to accept and implement this change. The second part of the changes to the proposed rules is that any plane with 19 seats or more and built after 2020 would be required to automatically transmit its location every minutes if the plane deviated from its route, made an unusual move such as a sudden drop or climb, or if a fire was detected on board the aircraft. Pilots would not be allowed to disable the system. A world awaits what will happen to these proposals but already Malaysia, Australia and Indonesia announced plans to be among the first nations willing to test such tracking. Every day, there are some 90,000 daily flights around the world. Tracking the move of each one every minute would be quite costly. But saying that to anyone who lost a loved one on Flight 370 is not possible. It's problematic that oftentimes that's just what businesses, including the business of flying airplanes, do - a cost/benefit analysis to determine if it's worth the price. Airline executives examine if it is worth it to invest in tracking devices or cockpit upgrading versus the likelihood of needing the device should such a tragedy happen. Industry experts predict that the 15-minute tracking plan would add about $2 per person to the cost of a long-distance flight. Streaming live data on exactly where the plane is at all times would cost $7 to $13 per minute, depending upon how much data is sent. A world awaits on how the International Civil Aviation Organization will vote because every live counts.

Delta Jet Veers Off Runway After Landing

A Delta flight reportedly skidded off of a snow-filled runway at New York's LaGuardia Airport Thursday, according to a report by USA Today. ("Delta Flight Veers Off Runway In Landing At LaGuardia", March 5, 2015). The plane, which was heading to New York from Atlanta and carrying a total of 127 passengers, exited the runway before it plowed through a fence coming to rest just feet from the Flushing Bay, USA Today reported. The incident, which injured 6, but had the potential to be much worse had the plane actually made it to the bay, raised harsh criticism as to why the LaGuardia runway was open with snow and ice accumulation in the first place, according to Fox News. ("Crane Lifts Delta Jet That Slid Off Runway At LaGuardia Airport; Flight Delays Reported," March 5, 2015). The New York times reported that 28 passengers suffered minor injuries, while 5 were taken to the hospital While there is no hard rule for when a runway must be ordered closed due to snow and ice accumulation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates that airports conduct proper testing to ensure that planes can safely apply their brakes, Fox News reported. According to that same report, this particular runway at LaGuardia had been plowed just minutes before the Delta flight landed, and two previous pilots who landed before the Delta flight reported good braking conditions. However, safety parachutes designed to slow the planes progress failed to deploy, USA Today reported. The National Transportation Safety Board announced that it will be obtaining the plane's flight data and cockpit recordings through one of their investigators, according to Fox News. Yesterday's incident comes 23 years to the month after a USAir jet crashed into the bay after sliding off of the runway during takeoff, killing 27, according to USA Today. In 2006, nationally renown personal injury attorney Robert A. Clifford and Clifford Law Offices were hired by the family of six-year-old Joshua Woods for his death when a Southwest Airlines plane slid off a runway at Midway Airport and killed him in his family's car.

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

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