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Author Archive | David Learmount

The sleepy A319

Both pilots and all four cabin crew on this brand-new Germanwings Airbus A319 began feeling “sleepy and unwell” after only a few minutes of flight, according to the report from the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit. Donning oxygen masks provided almost instant relief from the symptoms. The purser, the first to act on her awareness of what […]

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The safest flightdeck?

Having voiced concerns about the effect on pilot competence of high levels of automation, I am about to sing the praises of even more automation that Airbus is testing for its A350XWB, which is due in service in 2013.  I was sitting with experimental test pilot Peter Chapman in a simulator which Airbus calls ”A350 aircraft minus […]

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Can Europe beat the ash next time?

Eyjafjallajokull is still there, temporarily dormant. So is its more powerful neighbour Katla. So the ash will be back. Surely, Europe has a plan this time? Well yes and no. Mainly no. A plan exists, but individual states have not signed up to it, so nobody really knows what will happen. There may be up […]

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The lonely airline pilot

How many pilots does it take to fly a commercial airliner? At the moment the regulators say two, but any aircraft could be flown by a single pilot. The most basic safety argument for requiring two is pilot incapacitation, but flightdecks are designed so that the one remaining fit pilot can bring the aircraft home […]

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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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