737 Pilots Ignoring Cockpit Pressure Alarm

The August 2005 Helios Airways plane crash north of Athens, Greece, killing 121 passengers and crew, was a direct result of the pilots experiencing hypoxia, a lack of oxygen resulting in loss of consciousness .  The pilots ignored the warning system in the Boeing 737-31S of cockpit pressure failure and the tragic results followed.

 

Pilots are trained and understand the dangers of hypoxia which makes one curious to understand why a highly trained, capable pilot responsible for human lives would chose to ignore a basic safety system.  The first reason is that the popular passenger 737 aircraft warning horn is confusing to pilots.  The warning system serves two purposes.  It warns the pilots that there is a problem with the configuration of the aircraft before the take off.  After the pilot trouble shoots the pre- takeoff problem, they assume there are no more issues and dismiss the warnings, when in reality, potential problems of pressurization can occur in flight.

 

Other problems that pilots deal with are false alarms.  Faulty pressurization equipment cause alarms to sound when they shouldn't be. A publication sited that 25% of the 100 warning horns cited in the Aviation Safety Reporting System over the past 10 years were either alarms sounding when they shouldn't be or visa versa.  Because of the false positive altitude and pressure warnings, pilots have been known to ignore the safety signals.

 

The FAA has been investigating numerous reports of pressurized problems in the aircrafts.  They have recommended a warning light to accompany the warning horn, and have also focused on after take-off procedures to include safety checks of the pressurization switches.  The latest safety action happened last month when the agency mandated that briefings to instruct pilots to heed the altitude horns be implemented.

 

Boeing, the manufacturing of the aircrafts, have built a new and improved altitude warning system in their new aircrafts and are retrofitting older crafts with a improved safety altitude warning systems.  More effective warning systems of pressure problems in flight may lead to less pilot hypoxia-related aircraft accidents.

 

The documented pilot errors and dismissal of warning systems have led to investigations and litigation.  In the case of the August 2005 Helios Airways plane crash north of Athens, Greece, Helios executives were charged with man-slaughter.  In additions, U.S. and Cyprus attorneys filed lawsuits in 2006 on behalf of the crash victims.

 

The FAA acknowledged the problems of the warning horn problems and issued an airworthiness directive July 2006.  Even so, there has been at least 3 more reports of horn confusion.  The most recent FAA directive comes in March of this year that requires before the first flight of the day and following any change is flight crew members, Being 737 crews must be reminded to acknowledge the safety horns and take appropriate actions.


New Branson Airport Opens May 11th

Construction on the new Branson Missouri airport began in July 2007, and to date, 11 million cubic yards of dirt have been moved in order to construct the terminal and runway. The Branson Airport's 7,140-foot runway, created by cutting the top off a mountain, is designed for midsized commercial type aircraft such as the Boeing 737 and 757, but can handle planes as large as the 767. This will enable the airport to receive non-stop air service from anywhere in the continental United States. The 4 gates will share a welcoming, spacious holding area.  Official Site.

 

The recent press release also states that the facility will offer all the amenities of a full-service airport, with one critical difference. The Branson Airport will be the first airport in the country to put customer service first, by providing "concierge-level" service to all departing and arriving travelers.

Although the services listed are not that far off to what a traditional airport offers, screening, baggage claim, curbside service, concessions, shops and restaurants; the big difference is the that the employees work for the airport, not the airlines. Some unique differences notes are the welcome center, concierge service and the ability to check in to one counter for all airline services. Rental cars will also be available at the airport.

Total project cost is $155 million (includes private equity and bonds) and not one tax dollar was used in the development. The airport will expand the scope of the project to meet additional demand in the future.  On the positive economic note, the community recognized $209 million in new revenues to the Branson Lakes regional economy, $77.5 million in payroll earnings and 3,299 jobs supported.

 

The Branson Airport is touting a better traveling experience where the employees are motivated to make the travelers experience better. As a profit-driven operation, Branson Airport has more incentive to treat its customers better.  According the Branson Airport web site, "The arrival and departure experience will be infused with warmth, hospitality and concierge-like customer service. For example, associates will be on site to help arriving passengers customize their Branson experience. Travelers returning rental cars never even touch their bags. They step out of their cars, a porter picks up their luggage, hands them their boarding pass and they walk directly into the terminal".

 

Designed to handle and process 700,000 deplaning passengers every year, the Branson Airport will significantly increase the number of new visitors from around the United States who will now be able to enjoy the wonderful Branson experience!


Virgin America Offers Carbon Footprint Offsets

carbon offset footpringVirgin America has partnered with Carbonfund.org to allow passengers to purchase Carbon offset credits using their in-flight entertainment system. Travelers can also purchase these credits online from the Virgin America ticketing confirmation web page.

This is part of a continuing effort to implement environmental sustainability practices. Carbonfund.org is the nation's leading nonprofit carbon offset provider, allowing travelers to help offset the environmental impact of their flight. Virgin's sustainability statement can be found here: http://www.virginamerica.com/va/html/sustainability.pdf

The airline and Carbonfund.org have selected offset projects that focus on emissions reductions, renewable energy and energy efficiency. The operation of all the supported projects are independently verified.

Virgin America was launched last year with the goal of building an airline from the ground up that makes environmentally sustainable practices an important part of its business model. They operate a fleet of aircraft that is up to 30% more carbon and fuel than the average US airline.

The airline employs aggressive steps to reduce its carbon footprint, such as single engine taxiing, and regulating cruising speeds to reduce fuel burn.