Friday, February 13, 2009

Investigating Continental 3047

Sadly, America's run of over two years without a domestic airline fatality has come to an end. In looking at what happened over Buffalo, what is amazing is that anyone with access to the internet can be an accident investigator, as I have shown.

FlightAware is an incredible tool that will show the flight path of any airplane flying on an instrument, or IFR flight plan. This includes many private aircraft and all commercial flights. I frequently use it to track flights of family and friends arriving in Denver as it is far more accurate than the airline's guestimated arrival times. When tradjedy strikes, it can also be used by the public to try to understand what happened.

In the case of Continental 3047, here is what Flight Aware is showing today:

From this page alone, we instantly know far more than the news anchors are able to grasp. The flight was on a Bombardier (DeHavilland) Q400 operated by Colgan airlines. The Q400 is a highly advanced version of the Dash 7, a type that has been operating since 1983.

Lets zoom in at the weather at the crash site:
You can see that redish patch that the flight passed through shortly after disappearing from radar. Every viewer of the local news "weather center" knows that it indicates an area of maximum intensity of precipitation. Every pilot knows that icing is so dangerous that even large jetliners must exit heavy icing conditions as soon as possible.

I am not the accident investigator, and I am not drawing any conclusions. That said, if I were the accident investigator, icing would be the first thing I would look at.

Update: Former CNN science and aviation correspondent, Miles O'Brien has a great post on the same subject in his blog. Miles is an active general aviation pilot, and his dismissal from CNN is another reason that they stink, especially when covering aviation stories like this.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Atlanta Calls Delta's Bluff

A couple of weeks ago, Delta, the world's largest carrier, told Atlanta's airport, "lower your fees or we will reduce service".

Today, rumor has it that my new favorite airline, Southwest, the largest domestic airline, is speaking with the Atlanta people about taking some of the gate space there.

I am sure Delta will complain a little less in the future.

For me, Southwest service to Atlanta would be a dream come true. As an Atlanta Refugee, I fly there several times a year.. As Southwest currently serves almost all major cities not named "Atlanta," this is indeed a welcome development.