American Airlines Flight 587 encountered wake turbulence. The pilot countered with rudder inputs. The rudder inputs were excessive, the tail assembly failed, and the aircraft crashed, killing 265 people.

The NTSB determined that the Airbus’ rudder controls are unduly sensitive and make it easy for a pilot to overstress the aircraft’s structure, causing a catastrophic failure.  Now

Why doesn’t the FAA do a better job of promoting aviation safety?

1. The FAA’s Inherent Conflict of Interest.  When the FAA was created, it was charged with bothFAA regulating aviation and promoting it. But most aviation regulations don’t promote aviation — they constrain it. The FAA’s inherent conflict of interest explains why the

In 2008, a safety inspector determined that nearly half of the nation’s EMS helicopter fleet–about 300 aircraft–have improperly installed night vision systems. As installed, the systems are a hazard to the air ambulance crews and the patients they carry. The inspector felt the aircraft should be grounded until they were fixed. The FAA initially

Operators have begun using LSAs — particularly "trikes" — to give air tours over the Hawaiian islands.  LSAs fly low and slow, just like helicopters, and are much cheaper to run.  But they have a terrible safety record.  And it’s illegal to use LSAs for commercial tours.

If it is illegal to use LSAs for commercial

There’s not a lot of air traffic at night. So some air traffic control towers close altogether.  Any landing aircraft is on its own.  Other air traffic control towers are staffed with just one controller.  Not surprisingly, lone controllers working the night shift tend to doze off. 

That little secret is now out. That led

The FAA has issued a new rule requiring that charter airlines and helicopter operators train their employees in “crew resource management,” or cockpit teamwork, just as the major airlines do.

The FAA estimates that complying with the rule over the next 10 years will cost the charter industry $12 million. But it also expects

Many think that, after it completes an investigation, the NTSB can order a stop to the dangerous practice that it determined was the cause of the aviation accident.  Not so.  The NTSB has no regulatory power at all. The only thing the NTSB can do after an investigation is make a safety recommendation and hope that the FAA

Only modifications that carry a Supplemental Type Certificate may be legally installed on an aircraft. The Supplemental Type Certificate guarantees that the FAA has thoroughly tested and reviewed the modification. And it’s the Supplemental Type CertificCessna Floatplane(Photo by TailspinT)ate that insures that the modification is safe and compatible with the particular model aircraft on which it’s being installed. Right?

Maybe not. Owners really shouldn’t place too much stock in an STC. Or so says one former NTSB accident investigator. The investigator, now retired, explained to me that most owners might be surprised by how little work the FAA does before issuing an STC. Sure, the STC process is a huge paperwork shuffle for the modification’s manufacturer. But it’s little more than that. The process seldom entails any real independent engineering cross-check on the FAA’s part.

"Give me an example", I asked. "OK,’ he said. "Let’s talk tip tanks."

A popular modification for many models of Cessna single-engine aircraft are wingtip extensions thatContinue Reading The Trouble With Tip Tanks

In 1994, the FAA — hoping to reduce the number of helicopter tour crashes in Hawaii — promulgated a controversial rule that set minimum altitudes for Hawaiian sight seeing flights.

According to an article appearing this spring in Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, after the rule went into effect the overall number of helicopter crashes in Hawaii decreased