February 7, 2011

TSA to test new body scanning system

The Transportation Security Administration “is testing a new, more modest body scanning system at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.” (Las Vegas AP, 2/1). The new scanning system is an attempt at compromise for those passengers who take issue with the current scanners complainings that the full-body scans are overly intrusive.

TSA spokesman Dwayne Baird says “the software being unveiled Tuesday lets passengers see what its security screeners see, and it uses a more generic image.” Mr. Baird says that TSA is trying to improve privacy protections while maintaining high levels of security.

As a Chicago area personal injury lawyer, I am hopeful that the TSA will be able to find a balance between protecting privacy without sacrificing necessary security.

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December 12, 2010

JetBlue flight has close call on Boston Runway

As a personal injury lawyer in Chicago, I am thankful that the air traffic controller acted quickly in this near miss in Boston, but hopeful that similar close calls will be avoided in the future.

Thankfully, a “quick-thinking air traffic controller at Boston's Logan International Airport urgently told a JetBlue flight to "hold" just before it entered a runway where another plane was about to take off.” (Boston AP, 12/7). The Jet Blue flight arising from Austin, Texas landed safely, but came face to face with danger when the pilot accidentally took a right instead of a left. The mistaken turn nearly cause it to pull out in front of a plane going full speed to take off. Ground radar images show that the close call was nearly a tragedy.

While the air traffic controller is, and should be, praised, airport safety must be taken seriously, and we must avoid such close calls in the future.

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November 7, 2010

Hole found in plane that took off from Miami

This wee, a “1-foot-by-2-foot hole was found in the fuselage of a commercial airliner that suddenly lost cabin pressure shortly after taking off from Miami.” (AP Miami, 10/29). As a personal injury attorney in Chicago, I am hopeful that this situation will be studied quickly to avoid possible future incidents of greater magnitude. Thankfully, the National Transportation Board has already begun an investigation.

American Airlines Flight 1640, a Boeing 757 carrying 154 passengers and 6 crew members, was headed to Boston from Miami when the cabin suddenly lost pressure, sending passengers into hysterics. Passengers said the plane began descending quickly and loudly, lights were flashing, and oxygen masks were deployed.

An inspection of the plane” revealed a hole in the upper part of the fuselage near a cabin door toward the front of the plane.” American Airlines applauds the crew for acting quickly to declare an emergency and making a safe return to Miami. Although there were no injuries in this case, it was, needless to say, an extremely close call.

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July 20, 2010

Denver air crash probe focuses on crosswinds

The National Transportation Safety Board met recently to investigate and determine the cause of the December 20, 2009 accident at the Denver International Airport. (J. Lawy, AP Washington, 7/13). A Continental Airlines Boeing 737 swerved off a runway, across a field, and came to a stop when it crashed into a ditch and caught fire. Fortunately no fatalities resulted, but the plane was destroyed.

Strong crosswinds seem to be the focus of an investigation into why the airliner with 110 passengers aboard veered off the runway. Actions by the air traffic controller as well as the flight’s captain are being examined and questioned. According to Continental, an air traffic controller did not properly warn the pilots of the strong crosswinds recorded just prior to takeoff. The plane’s manufacturer further asserts that the captain did not adequately compensate for the high wind speeds.

As a personal injury attorney, I am hopeful that this investigation allows for safer travel in the future. Fortunately no one was killed in the accident, but lessons should be learned from such a close call.

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May 28, 2010

Sleeping woman left on plane in Philly for 4 hours

As a personal injury attorney, I hope all airlines take this incident seriously and take more care ensuring all passengers are off the plane in the future. After a sleeping passenger was left about a flight for four house after landing in Philadelphia, Airline officials are trying to figure out how the lapse occurred. (Philadelphia, AP, 5/26).

According to police and the Transportation Security Administration, “the passenger didn't wake up when her United Express flight from Dulles airport outside Washington landed shortly after midnight Tuesday. At about 4 a.m., a cleaning crew found her.”

United Airlines says, “they're working with a regional partner carrier to determine why the plane wasn't cleared upon landing.”

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April 4, 2010

FAA issues safety warning for kit- made planes

Federal officials issued a warning this week regarding “high-performance homemade planes like the one that killed a beach jogger last week in South Carolina are likely to stall at higher speeds and have been involved in a disproportionately large number of fatal accidents.” (J. Lowry, Washington AP, 3/25).

The FAA warning this week cautioned pilots that the Lancair, “which is built from kits, and others like it are apt to stall at speeds higher that 61 mph.” The agency also noted that the fact that amateurs build the planes increases the risk for fatal mistakes.

As a personal injury lawyer, I am weary of kit-made planes as the risk of error in assembly or operation by amateur is astronomical. I strongly encourage consumers not to take on such a grave risk without the proper knowledge for safely undertaking flight.

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February 21, 2010

Although there were fewer plane crashes in 2009, death toll higher

Joan Lowy reports, although, “fewer airline crashes occurred around the world in 2009 than during the previous year… deaths were up” (Washington AP, 2/18). 2009 saw five fewer airline fatal accidents than 2008 with 18 and 23, respectively, according to the International Air Transportation Association. However, of the 18 incidents in 2009, 685 fatalities resulted compared with 502 in 2009.

The 2009 accident rate landed at “0.7 accidents per million flights,” which was the second lowest ever reported. This may be surprising to many who recall several major plane crashes that received substantial media attention, however, three accidents accounted for most of the death toll: a June Air France flight, a June Yemeni Airways flight, and a July Russia to Armenia flight.

The most promising news “is that the current accident rate is only about half what it was in the 1990s, thanks in part to technology advancements, said Jim Burin, director of technical programs at the Flight Safety Foundation, an international aviation safety organization in Alexandria, Va.”

As a personal injury lawyer in Chicago, I am hopeful that continued technological innovations will continue to make flying even safer in the years to come.

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November 8, 2009

FAA grounds wayward Northwest Airlines pilots

Recent events surrounding the two Northwest Airlines pilots who overshot their Minneapolis destination by 16 minutes and 150 miles, has raised questions about pilot responsibility in the cockpit (Lowy, AP for FindLaw, 10/28). Fortunately, the FAA acted swiftly in grounding the pilots indefinitely and revoking their licenses for a year.

The pilots told investigators that they lost track of time and location during flight because they were on their personal laptops while the flight was out of communication with air traffic control for 91 minutes. Air traffic control in two states tried a total of eight times to contact the pilots, and even suspected the plane was hijacked.

As a attorney who strives to compensate those whose lives have been harmed by the negligence of others, I am concerned about the careless pilot conduct that came to light in this story. Although I am hopeful that it was an isolated incident, the FAA should take steps to ensure the other pilots are not engaging in similar careless behavior, and should articulate standards for when a suspected hijacking should be reported to Washington.

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September 14, 2009

FAA orders replacement of Airbus airspeed sensors


Joan Lowy reports, “federal safety officials are ordering the replacement of Airbus airspeed sensors” (AP for FindLaw, 9/3). These sensors are the kind suspected of causing the fatal crashes of Air France Flight 447 and all 228 on the plane in June.

The Federal Aviation Administration published a notice Thursday stating “U.S. airlines operating Airbus A330s and A430s must replace at least two or the three sensors on the plane.” European electronics company Thales Corporation made the old parts, and the replacements are a product of North Carolina-based Goodrich Corporation.
In the notice the FAA said that the old sensors could become blocked and defective at high altitudes by ice crystals, which was the suspected cause of the June Air France crash. Furthermore, the European aviation safety agency finalized a similar order at the end of August.

As a personal injury lawyer, I am pleased to see the steps taken by both the European and American aviation safety agencies to prevent further airline-related deaths. This is an important step after a season of more than usual airline incident.

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June 12, 2009

Pilots involved in regional crashes had failed skills tests

USA Today (6/8, Levin) reported, "In nearly every serious regional airline accident during the past 10 years, at least one of the pilots had failed tests of his or her skills multiple times, according to an analysis of federal accident records." As both a Chicago personal injury lawyer and a regular airline passenger, I find this information disconcerting.

In eight of the nine serious regional airline accidents during that past ten years, pilots had a history of failing two or more "check rides," which are tests by federal or airline inspectors of pilots' ability to fly and respond to emergencies. In the one case in which pilots didn't have multiple failures since becoming licensed, the co-pilot was fired after the non-fatal crash for falsifying his job application. Bill Voss, president of the independent Flight Safety Foundation, said, "this is a symptom of a larger problem in selection and certification."

Pilot qualifications on regional carriers was at the center of an NTSB hearing last month into the February crash of a turboprop near Buffalo that killed 50 people. The pilot in control of the Buffalo flight at the time when the plane plunged had failed five “check rides”, according to records revealed at the hearing.

The Wall Street Journal (6/10, Carey, Pasztor) reports, "Facing escalating congressional criticism, the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday it ordered immediate inspections of pilot-training programs at smaller carriers." As a result, "Randy Babbitt, the FAA administrator, said, his goal 'is to make sure that the entire industry-from large commercial carriers to smaller, regional operators-is meeting our safety standard.'"

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