About David Learmount

Author Archive | David Learmount

Navigating through the ash

Dr Fred Prata is one of the boffins working with EasyJet and Airbus to test the feasibility of deploying passive infra-red sensor systems on aircraft to enable pilots to navigate safely through airspace contaminated with volcanic ash. In fact this passive IR ash detector system, called AVOID, was developed some years ago by the Climate and Atmosphere Department of […]

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The crash we’ll never understand

When the Cessna Citation 500 crashed into houses near Biggin Hill aerodrome on 30 March 2008, it mystified all the aviators I spoke to who tried to understand what had happened. Now the Air Accident Investigation Branch has released its final report and we are not much the wiser despite their painstaking work. There were […]

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Volcanic ash: who says it’s not safe to fly – Part 2

Atmospheric volcanic ash in serious quantities is new to Europe, and the learning curve on how to deal with it is steep. But it needs to get steeper, because it seems the number of differences in the way national aviation authorities are interpreting the internationally agreed guidelines  almost equals the number of authorities in the Eurocontrol […]

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Just culture: ‘we’ve been going the wrong way’

The tendency for national judicial systems almost automatically to bring criminal prosecutions in the event of commercial aircraft accidents is a growing global phenomenon, but it is not clear what is causing it. This issue was addressed at a Royal Aeronautical Society conference in London on 28 April, and the delegates – including some very experienced lawyers […]

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Afriqiyah crash: the circumstances

This Afriqiyah Airlines crash at Tripoli was not an ordinary approach accident. Ordinary approach accidents that involve an impact with flat terrain in the last kilometre before the runway threshhold do not usually smash the aeroplane into tiny pieces. They normally leave it crumpled but more or less complete, or otherwise the structure fractures into large but recognisable […]

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VIDEO: Pilot error (or anybody else’s error for that matter)

I’ve just been in Geneva attending the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition, and Bombardier’s amazing learning experience for aviators – the Safety Standdown – is now an embedded part of what’s on offer there: a learning experience par excellence among the gleaming, glamorous hardware that EBACE presents. When the study of human factors began in […]

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Volcanic ash: who says flying’s not safe?

The problems with decisionmaking about whether to fly – or not – in the volcanic-ash-affected skies over Europe is that so little is known about these circumstances. The situation is unique in that this ash cloud is affecting a large area of intense aviation activity.   The Met Office weather research Dornier 228 at work Vocanoes somewhere on the planet […]

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Volcanic ash: the day we learned what it can do

It was on 24 June 1982 that the world learned, in dramatic fashion for the first time, precisely what kind of damage tropopausal volcanic ash can do to an aircraft. Since then a network of volcanic ash advisory centres – nine of them worldwide – have been set up to monitor occurrences and track their […]

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The Polish accident: circumstances

As more information emerges about the accident flight, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand the justification for its planning and execution in the marginal weather that prevailed. On 10 April the Polish air force Tupolev Tu154M operating the presidential flight took off from Warsaw for the 800km journey to Smolensk Severny (Smolensk North). The latter is a former air […]

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Behind the toxic smokescreen

Following the world’s first court verdict establishing the previously missing legal acceptance that there is a connection between contaminated cabin air and crew/passenger health, it’s a good time to examine the law and politics behind the courtroom arguments. We’ll start with a comparable set of legal circumstances in another industry: tobacco. This comparison is useful only as a study of the way […]

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