Friday, July 6, 2012

24/7 News PipeLine...

Air France Flight 447 Crash 'Didn't Have to Happen,' Expert Says

The Air France Flight 447 crash, considered one of the worst aviation disasters in history, could have been avoided, a top-ranking aviation safety expert said.
"Absolutely, this accident didn't have to happen," said William Voss, the president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation.
BEA, the French government's official accident investigators, conducted a three-year investigation into the crash, which killed all 228 people on board, including one married couple from Louisiana, when the Airbus A330 slammed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil in 2009.
PHOTOS: Air France Flight 447 Crash Wreckage Recovered
In the agency's final report, which was released today, investigators determined that a combination of technical failures and mistakes made by inadequately trained pilots was responsible for the crash. They recommended that pilots be better trained to manually fly commercial aircraft at high altitudes and called for stricter plane certification rules.
"Our investigation is a no-blame investigation. It is just a safety investigation," Jean-Paul Troadec, the director of BEA, told ABC News. "What appears in the crew behavior is that most probably, a different crew should have done the same action. So, we cannot blame this crew. What we can say is that most probably this crew and most crews were not prepared to face such an event."
But the report went on to say that there were at least 12 other instances where pilots encountered this issue and the flights continued normally without problems. Voss said the Air France pilots didn't seem prepared for the situation they found themselves in the night of the crash.
"[The pilots] seemed to have trouble looking past the automation they were accustomed to and not really able to continue with the old raw information that pilots used to depend on," he said. "Clearly the report shows that there was a lot of difficult communication on the flight deck, a lot of incomplete thoughts, a lot of confusion."
According to the report, a speed sensor on board the plane, called a pitot tube, stopped functioning after becoming clogged with ice at high-altitude while the plane was flying through a thunderstorm. This caused the auto-pilot to disengage and shift the controls back to the pilots. While flying in heavy turbulence, the pilots failed to properly diagnose the severity of the problem because the pitot tube, a critical piece of equipment to the aircraft, was sending inaccurate data to the cockpit, the report said. The pilots put the plane into a devastating stall and it fell rapidly from the sky, before pancake-ing into the ocean.
"Despite these persistent symptoms, the crew never understood that they were stalling and consequently never applied a recovery maneuver," the report said.
Investigators noted that there was no possibility of surviving the accident.
"The crew's failure to diagnose the stall situation and consequently a lack of inputs that would have made it possible to recover from [the accident]" was a contributing factor, it concluded.
Airbus said in a statement to ABC News that it has been working to improve the pitot tubes and is taking measures to avoid such accidents in the future. Air France also has stressed the equipment problems and insisted the pilots "acted in line with the information provided by the cockpit instruments and systems. .... The reading of the various data did not enable them to apply the appropriate action."

Air France Flight 447 from Rio to Paris

Air France Flight 447 was en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on May 31, 2009 on an overnight trip when it vanished. The plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of June 1, 2009 -- nearly four hours after take-off.
As "Nightline" previously reported, black box tapes recovered from the wreckage in April 2011 revealed that almost four hours into the flight, the plane was 800 miles off the coast of Brazil, and Captain Marc Dubois left the cockpit for a scheduled nap. At the time, the plane was about to fly into a thunderstorm, one that other flights that night had steered around.
According to the tapes, First Officer Cedric Bonin, a 32-year-old pilot who had fewer than 5,000 flight hours under his belt, was at the controls but had never been in this situation before at high-altitude. Bonin made the fatal mistake of pulling the plane's nose up, which caused it to go into a deep stall.
As Flight 447 went deeper into its catastrophic stall, the stall alarm cut in and out intermittently, the black box tapes revealed. Airbus had previously claimed the stall alarm on Flight 447 "was performing as designed," but critics charged the pilots would have been confused by the mixed signals.
It was not until the final three seconds before the plane hit the Atlantic that the pilots even realized they were going to crash, the black box tapes revealed.
VIDEO: What It Was Like in the Flight 447 Cockpit
About 180 victims' family members have sued Air France and Airbus over the crash. The family of one of the victims, Eithna Walls, has settled its lawsuit.
The A330, considered among the safest in the skies, has flown over 800 million passengers across the world and there are 865 planes in operation today, according to Airbus's website. But in modern aviation, large commercial jets almost fly themselves. Voss said that on any given flight, pilots are manually flying the plane for only three minutes -- one minute and 30 seconds each for take-off and landing.
"The fact is there aren't many opportunities for a pilot to hand fly the aircraft anymore," he said. "The truth is it's only a few minutes during each flight, maybe until they climb up to altitude. Many airplanes don't even allow the hand flying for that long."
At the heart of the heated debate over so-called "automation addiction," which is when pilots are overly dependent on computers to fly their planes, is the question of whether pilots are actually learning how to properly fly large commercial aircraft.
"Because of this sophistication and the ability of airplane to fly themselves, they don't have as many people to actually fly the airplane, to actually exercise their stick and rudder capabilities," Bill Bozin, the vice president of safety and technical affairs at Airbus, told "Nightline" in June.
In the wake of the Air France crash, Voss said "many airlines" were retraining their pilots on flying manually, but that much more needs to be done to overhaul pilot training programs around the world.

"I think there's a training gap that still exists," he said. "There have been hundreds of incremental changes to the way we fly aircraft but there haven't been any changes in the training program that reflect that."
"The fact is aircraft are going to become more automated," Voss added. "There's no way to even tell how many lives have been saved by the automation that are in aircraft. So it's a good thing and it's going to continue to progress. What we have to continue to do is keep the human side up to speed with what the automation is doing."

Tugboat massacre...

Tugboat massacre

The "Tugboat massacre" is the name given by Cuban-Americans, exiles, and dissidents, to a July 13, 1994, incident where 41 Cubans who attempted to leave the island of Cuba on a hijacked tugboat drowned at sea.[1][2] The Cuban archive project, a New York City based organization which promotes human rights in Cuba, has alleged that the Cuban coast guard deliberately sank the commandeered vessel and then refused to rescue some of the passengers.[3] For their part, the Cuban government has denied responsibility, and stated that the boat was sunk by accident.[1]


On July 13, 1994, at approximately three in the morning, around seventy men, women, and children boarded the tugboat "13 de Marzo" (13th of March). With all vessels in Cuba owned by the state, it would have been illegal to acquire such a boat.[3] It is alleged that around seven miles northeast of Havana harbor, Cuban coast guard vessels rammed the tugboat causing it to sink.
According to survivor María Victoria García, who resettled in the United States in 1999 thanks to a visa obtained for her by the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation,[1] the government vessels refused to provide assistance to some of the distressed passengers. As a result only 31 survivors were pulled from the water.[3]
Ms. García, whose ten-year old son, husband, and other close family members died in the incident, has stated:[3]
"After nearly an hour of battling in the open sea, the boat circled round the survivors, creating a whirlpool so that we would drown. Many disappeared into the seas... We asked them to save us, but they just laughed, they then told us to jam random object up our noses."
International leaders, including the Pope, made statements about the incident and expressed condolences to the victims.[3]

See also


2 ex-Argentine dictators convicted in baby thefts

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla was convicted and sentenced to 50 years Thursday for a systematic program to steal babies from prisoners who were kidnapped, tortured and killed during the military junta's war on leftist dissidents three decades ago.
Argentina's last dictator, Reynaldo Bignone, also was convicted and got 15 years. Both men already were in prison for other human rights abuses.
"This is an historic day. Today legal justice has been made real — never again the justice of one's own hands, which the repressors were known for," prominent rights activist Tati Almeida said outside the courthouse, where a jubilant crowd watched on a big screen and cheered each sentence.
The baby thefts set Argentina's 1976-1983 regime apart from all the other juntas that ruled in Latin America at the time. Videla other military and police officials were determined to remove any trace of the armed leftist guerrilla movement they said threatened the country's future.
The "dirty war" eventually claimed 13,000 victims according to official records. Many were pregnant women who were "disappeared" shortly after giving birth in clandestine maternity wards.
Videla denied in his testimony that there was any systematic plan to remove the babies, and said prisoners used their unborn children as "human shields" in their fight against the state.
Nine others, mostly former military and police officials, also were accused in the trial, which focused on 34 baby thefts. Seven were convicted and two were found not guilty.
Witnesses included former U.S. diplomat Elliot Abrams. He was called to testify after a long-classified memo describing his secret meeting with Argentina's ambassador was made public at the request of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group whose evidence-gathering efforts were key to the trial.
Abrams testified from Washington that he secretly urged that Bignone reveal the stolen babies' identities as a way to smooth Argentina's return to democracy.
"We knew that it wasn't just one or two children," Abrams testified, suggesting that there must have been some sort of directive from a high level official — "a plan, because there were many people who were being murdered or jailed."
No reconciliation effort was made. Instead, Bignone ordered the military to destroy evidence of "dirty war" activities, and the junta denied any knowledge of baby thefts, let alone responsibility for the disappearances of political prisoners.
The U.S. government also revealed little of what it knew as the junta's death squads were eliminating opponents.
The Grandmothers group has since used DNA evidence to help 106 people who were stolen from prisoners as babies recover their true identities, and 26 of these cases were part of this trial. Many were raised by military officials or their allies, who falsified their birth names, trying to remove any hint of their leftist origins.
The rights group estimates as many as 500 babies could have been stolen in all, but the destruction of documents and passage of time make it impossible to know for sure.
The trial featured gut-wrenching testimony from grandmothers and other relatives who searched inconsolably for their missing relatives, and from people who learned as young adults that they were raised by the very people involved in the disappearance of their birth parents.
Prosecutors had asked for 50 years for Videla and four others. Almeida, the rights activist, said that "in some cases we would have preferred longer sentences, but since they're such old men now, it's almost like a perpetual sentence."
Videla, 86, received the maximum sentence as the man criminally responsible for 20 of the thefts.
He and Bignone, 84, already have life sentences for other crimes against humanity, and are serving time behind bars despite an Argentine law that usually permits criminals over 70 to stay at home.
Seven others were convicted and sentenced by the three-judge panel on Thursday: former Adm. Antonio Vanek, 40 years; former marine Jorge "Tigre" Acosta, 30; former Gen. Santiago Omar Riveros, 20; former navy prefect Juan Antonio Azic, 14; and Dr. Jorge Magnacco, who witnesses said handled some of the births, 10.
Former Capt. Victor Gallo and his ex-wife Susana Colombo, were sentenced to 15 and five years in jail, respectively. Their adopted son, Francisco Madariaga, testified against them and said he hoped their sentences would set an example.
Retired Adm. Ruben Omar Franco and a former intelligence agent, Eduardo Ruffo, were absolved.
According to Argentine judicial procedure, the basis for the convictions and sentences won't be revealed until Sept. 17, said the president of the judicial tribunal, Maria del Carmen Roqueta.

Draft McDonnell? This could be first election in 80 years with no military service on either ticket

Bob McDonnell as a major in the Army Reserves in the 1980s.
The last time a presidential election was held in which neither ticket included a former military service member, the Chicago Cubs had just played in the World Series, Al Capone was furnishing his prison cell, and a gallon of gas cost a dime.
For the first time in decades, it could happen again. (And we're not talking about a winning season for the Cubbies.) Of those rumored to be on Mitt Romney's short list for vice president, only one, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, has served in the military. McDonnell attended Notre Dame University on an Army ROTC scholarship and served on active duty in Grafenwohr, Germany, and Newport News, Va., until 1981. McDonnell remained in the Army Reserves, and retired as a Lt. Colonel 16 years later.
Since 1944, at least one of the presidential candidates for a major party has spent time in the military. Neither President Barack Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden were eligible for the draft during the Vietnam War . Obama was 8 years old when the lottery was reinstated in 1969, and Biden was 28, making him too old. Romney was eligible, but received four deferments, first as a student and then for his mission work in France for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of course, all could have enlisted in the service voluntarily at some point in their lives if they wanted to.
To find a time when military experience wasn't provided by a vice presidential candidate, you have to go back to 1932, when John Nance Garner joined Franklin D. Roosevelt's campaign against Herbert Hoover and Charles Curtis. (Roosevelt did serve as Secretary of the Navy, a civilian position, during the McKinley administration.)
Most of those campaigning in recent years for the job of commander-in-chief had military experience: John McCain attended the U.S. Naval Academy and was held prisoner while fighting in Vietnam. John Kerry fought in Vietnam and George W. Bush served in the Air National Guard. Al Gore was a specialist in the Army, and both Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush fought in World War II. Walter Mondale was an Army corporal from 1951-53; Ronald Reagan was an Army captain and Jimmy Carter spent time as a lieutenant in the Navy.
The New York Times this week unveiled a helpful infographic that charts the careers of eight possible contenders for the Republican vice presidential slot that includes McDonnell, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. For most, their years before their first election were spent as private attorneys, lobbyists and businessmen.
Not included in the Times piece were female possibilities, including New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. None of these women served either, although Ayotte and McMorris Rodgers are both married to retired servicemen.