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  • The investigation continues on the infamous helicopter crash that killed 10 people in Glasgow last year. Investigators are feverishly working to determine why both engines on the Airbus Helicopter EC135 T2+ flamed out with 167 pounds of fuel remaining in the main tank.
    A special bulletin released on February 14th by the United Kingdom Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) revealed that the pilot failed to successfully achieve an autorotative descent and flare. The pilot’s failure resulted in the helicopter crashing through the roof of the Clutha Vaults bar in central Glasgow.
    The AAIB bulletin also reported that investigators were unable to find any evidence of mechanical failure or exhaust blockage in either engine. Both of the fuel control units were tested and found to be 100% serviceable. Investigators were also able to determine that the engine fuel valve assemblies and engine control panel switches were in their correct positions.
    While this is all seemingly good news for the helicopter manufacturer, the investigators also determined that while the left tank contained fuel, the right tank was completely empty. The helicopter manufacturer said that the two supply tanks are supposed to be fed continuously by the main fuel tank. This means that the two supply tanks should remain full until the main tank is empty. When fuel drops between a certain level in the right and left tanks, fuel is supposed to be transferred from the main tank. This means that there shouldn’t have been a reason for either tank to be empty at the time of the crash since the main fuel tank had almost 200 pounds of fuel left in it.
    Raising even more eyebrows is the position of certain switches for the supply tanks. The No. 1 and 2 prime pump switches for the tanks (normally used for starting) were set to the ON position. The fore and aft transfer pump switches for the main tank, normally set to the ON position during flight, were set to the OFF position. Regardless of the fact that all pumps were tested and found to operate correctly, this is still something investigators are finding extremely questionable and something worthy of more attention.
    Something the AAIB says it also intends on investigating further is why the pilot did not make an emergency radio transmission prior to the crash. The Board is also planning on focusing on why the pilot failed to achieve an autorotative descent and flare recovery following the double engine failure. Thus far, it seems that there has been little discovery as to what the real cause of this horrible incident was.

  • Out of 1,050 helicopters and 2,100 sensors that make up the global EC135 fleet, Airbus helicopters said that it had received reports on 1,506 sensors on 753 aircrafts.
    The update released on February 20th stated that in total, 99 fuel probes registered outside of the tolerance level specified in an Alert Service Bulletin issued last December.
    The Bulletin was prompted after the discovery of supply-tank fuel gauging errors in EC135 helicopters operated by Bond Air Services, along with two other operators in Europe. The Bulletin attests that the EC135’s fuel content probes generate high signals if contamination with water occurs.
    Over half of these showed deviations of less than 3 kilograms. In many of these cases, a thorough cleaning and drying process was enough to restore the sensors to full functionality. Unfortunately, five sensors needed more than a cleaning and had to be replaced.
    Airbus Helicopters has also been running analysis on the main tank fuel sensors to make sure that there is not an issue that goes unseen. The results of these tests revealed that there were no issues with the main tank probes or with the fuel transfer system on the helicopters that have been tested thus far.

     

  • A potential vulnerability has been exposed at air traffic control towers during stormy weather, causing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to inspect hundreds of towers nationwide.
    FAA officials’ interest spiked when a lightening strike at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport injured an air traffic controller last September. It is suspected that the incident was due to faulty renovations completed in 1983. The FAA went on record to say that this was the first accident of its kind in FAA history but was bad enough for the Administration to want to reassess tower safety. Authorities went on to explain that they have allotted $400,000 to support these efforts.
    Air traffic control towers are built with lightning rods and wiring that directs the electrical current into the ground.   The FAA plans on assessing the condition of the lightning protection systems at the 440 air traffic control towers it is responsible for across the United States. The agency will pay extra special attention to 200 towers that were erected before 1978, which is when the FAA issued standards for the protection systems.
    Once the assessments are all completed, aviation experts expect a request for additional money to complete any necessary repairs.

  • Five police forces just lost a landmark age discrimination case and might have to fork out millions of pounds in compensation.
    The A19 regulation was used by Nottinghamshire, West Midlands, Devon and Cornwall, North Wales and South Wales police forces as a way to reach a percentage of savings set out by the government. The regulation forced over 250 officers below Chief Officer rank with 30 years’ service into retirement, in order to achieve savings of 20%.
    The Police Superintendents’ Association for England and Wales (PSAEW) lost an appeal last summer at the High Court where it was ruled the use of A19 was lawful. The PSAEW went on to argue that forcing retirement on aged workers wouldn’t actually contribute to any massive savings. It was at that point that the Association decided to press on with a case against the five forces.
    The most recent decision made at the London Central Employment Tribunal says that the forces involved have 42 days to appeal the decision. If not appealing, then the forces will be faced with compensation bills of millions.
    The PSAEW’s national secretary stated that while he was extremely pleased with the outcome nothing would be able to make up for the loss to the country of these experienced and dedicated officers.
    This doesn’t seem to be the light at the end of the tunnel, however. There is already a foreshadowing that the verdict will be challenged. The Nottinghamshire Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Constable of West Midlands Police already claimed that they will be “actively considering” an appeal. The argument is that the use of regulation A19 was necessary and a very difficult decision to make.

  • The Alaska Flight Services Information Area Group recently released a study on FAA Flight Service Contact and Aircraft Accident/Incident Risk Exposure. The study concluded that pilots that properly prepare for their flights in accordance with FAR 91.103 increase their probability of making a proper go/no go decision and thereby lower their exposure to suffering an aircraft incident.
    The aviation experts at the Alaska Flight Services analyzed information reported to the Federal Aviation Administration and found within 446 accident and incident reports.
    The Federal Aviation Regulations 91.103 preflight action requires the pilot to familiarize him or herself with certain available information concerning that particular flight. This information includes weather reports and forecasts, fuel requirements, alternatives available in the event that the planned flight cannot be completed and any known delays. Pilots must also be cognizant of runway lengths as well as certain takeoff and landing distance information that can be found within Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manuals.
    Aviation professionals also have access to services provided by Flight Service Stations (FSS). These include pilot briefings, flight plan handling, clearance delivery and more. According to the study, 326 of the 446 records did not make contact with an FSS and in 2011, of 11 accidents recorded only 1 made contact with an FSS.

    The study therefore concluded that “Proper preflight planning is an essential proactive measure to ensure a safe and successful mission”.

  • Is it considered “accepting” if you fail to opt out? This is the question that circled one case involving an arbitration agreement that was never signed, a dispute resolution program and one very angry employee.

    Cecilia Tillman worked for May Department Stores during the same time that the company merged with well-known department store, Macy’s. One affect of the merger was that Macy’s wanted to apply its dispute resolution program to May’s employees. The dispute resolution program included arbitration.
    Not only did Macy’s send a postcard that informed the “new” employees of the program, the company also sent a copy of the plan document that described the program in detail. In the plan document, it was explained that all employees were automatically included in the program, UNLESS they opted out of binding arbitration by returning an opt-out form by a designated due date. Following the postcard and document, Macy’s conducted a series of meetings to outline the program and address any questions.
    Macy’s sent a follow up letter to any employee that did not opt-out, including Tillman, to make them aware that they were now a part of the 97% of the employees who failed to do so. Another 6 months later, Macy’s sent out another letter giving Tillman an opportunity to opt out of the program in the event that some employees were possibly still wanting to do so. Tillman, once again, failed to sign and return any document.
    Two years later, Tillman was terminated and sued Macy’s for race discrimination. The employer said that Tillman was required to arbitrate her claim but Tillman argued that the steps taken by Macy’s were, “insufficient” to waive her right to have her claim decided by a court.   She asserted that she never received any letters and that Macy’s “breezed over” any details of the opt-out.
    The trial ruled in favor of Tillman finding it significant that Macy’s did not specifically require her to read the plan documents and that she didn’t sign an express waiver.  Additionally, it was decided that Tillman had received so much mail in response to the merger that she had innocently overlooked the letters about the dispute resolution program. Macy’s, not surprisingly, appealed the trial court’s ruling to the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
    The 6th Circuit reversed the court’s ruling and enforced the arbitration provision.   The court said that amongst other things, Tillman was present at meetings in which the program was discussed and she didn’t deny receiving a brochure at these meetings. Additionally posted mail is assumed to have been received so it can be presumed that Tillman received the dispute resolution program documents in the mail.
    Ultimately, in the event that you want to impose any kind of arbitration provision on an existing employee, experts explain that it would be best to provide a clear and reasonable notice of any changes.

  • In this type of job market, younger workers have come up with a theory that older workers who refuse to retire are “stealing” jobs from younger workers. Well, whether you choose to believe this is truth or myth, one thing that is certain is that well-educated older workers aren’t finding it any easier to land jobs than their less educated and/or younger peers.
    Economic experts have come out to say that retirement-age Boomers that are staying in their jobs are not squeezing younger workers out of the job market. The recession left all Americans competing for fewer jobs, so it is highly debatable which citizens are actually having the hardest time regaining their footing.
    One report claims that there isn’t any amount of education that makes it easier for older out-of-work Americans to find employment. Another report isolates women between the ages of 40-60 as having a harder time finding jobs.  The AARP Public Policy Institute went so far as to call the end of 2013 employment figures “disappointing” for older Americans.
    While unemployment for workers ages 55 and older fell in November 2013, this number rose in December. It is this statistic released by the US Department of Labor statistics that has caused a huge debate among experts and non-experts alike who are trying to determine what socioeconomic dynamics might be behind this.
    Some human resources professionals feel as though certain people may take longer to find work because they are holding out for a certain standard of job that they feel they deserve. Other HR experts still maintain the thought that employers do in fact cling to stereotypes about older workers and that makes it difficult for them. Regardless of whether it is ethically or morally wrong to judge an applicant by their age over their skills, experts explain that realistically this does happen.
    Author of “How Education Pays Off for Older Americans”, Heidi Hartmann, said that historically it seems that the more educated an older worker is, the longer that person will stay in the workforce. One reason, Hartmann explains, is because occupations that require more brainpower require less physical power.
    Either way this data is looked at, it will be difficult for younger and older unemployed American’s to find jobs until the market returns to the economic playground it once was.

  • After a particularly rough year, Airbus Helicopters said issues with its EC225 and EC135 have “strengthened its determination in the area of safety.”
    The EC225 was official grounded from October 2012 to July 2013 and the EC135T2 was involved in a highly publicised crash in Glasgow, Scotland. Not only did these incidents have a huge adverse effect on public perception but the incidents were also responsible for the delay in new programmes and poor sales in early 2013.
    Airbus Helicopters CEO, Guillaume Faury, took over the company in May and didn’t wait very long to implement a plan of action which he says was designed to not only recover deliveries but also sales.
    The company has already seen a slight uptick in deliveries from 2012 to 2013. Unfortunately, the market isn’t what it used to be (circa 2008) but Faury is hopeful. He was satisfied with the sales performance of heavy aircraft production and is looking forward to the new AS365 being certified by the end of 2014.
    Overall, Faury claims that Airbus has captured almost 50% of the civil market. The company’s share of the military market, on the other hand, has dropped yet again from 18% in 2012 to 11% in 2013.
    Right now the company as a whole is focusing on major programmes, making these the priority. This includes the ramp-ups for both the NH90 and the Tiger attack helicopter. The certification process for its delayed EC175 medium twin has officially been completed and should be certified any day now.
    Whilst the future of the company’s X-programmes is less clear, Faury seems optimistic about the future and turnaround of the company in 2014.

  • New research revealed that four in ten graduate jobs go to those that have done internships.

    With tuition fees reaching well over £9,000 per year, students are sometimes thinking about their career path before even stepping foot into their first college class.

    One HR expert explained that just a decade ago many recruitment companies focused their efforts on students that were in the last six months of their three-year degree course.  Now, however, the recruitment process begins much earlier.

    With that said, competition has become much more fierce.  Applicants these days aren’t just required to submit a CV, but they have to undertake critical reasoning tests, practical exercises, multiple interviews and evidence of existing relevant work experiences…all before they even step foot into their university.

    Human resource experts also revealed that there is what seems like an underground internship bucket system of what are called “pipeline” interns and “referral” interns.

    Pipeline interns are recruited via programmes that aim to attract the best future employees.  Whereas referral interns are often found through unpaid schemes and word of mouth.

    Referral interns have a reputation of being at the right place at the right time or just plain knowing the right person.  Time and time again, the same old story is told of someone entering the workplace because they are so-and-so’s son or daughter.  While this is not always true, some companies have set rules against this type of procedure, outlawing it for the sake of workplace morale. 

    Regardless of the type of intern, experts warn that even interns sometimes need to put their foot down.  Companies with interns can be infamous for exploiting them to run errands that have nothing to do with the type of work they are there to do.   It is reported that this type of exploitation is seen the most in jobs focused in the media, advertising and marketing sectors.  It appears that it happens in these types of companies the most because there are so few openings and so many candidates vying for positions.

    If an intern feels exploited, experts say that it is okay to voice that opinion as long as it is done respectfully.   

  • A Tennessee Medical Examiner found that the Canadian pilot who crashed on the Nashville International Airport last October had a blood alcohol content level above both state and federal limits.

    Pilot Michael Callan was flying a club Cessna 172 with a blood alcohol level of 0.081%.  This is more than twice the legal limit deemed acceptable by the Federal Aviation Regulations.

    Callan cancelled his flight plan on October 29 and then flew undetected across the international border. He proceeded 500 miles south and circled Nashville before finally crashing on the airport.

    Since Callan was flying undetected, the crash went undiscovered for several hours until 2:45 am when the wreckage was found.  It was during a runway inspection at 6:00am that Callan’s aircraft and body were found. 

    Callan had a history with the law, with a criminal record that dated back to the 1990’s including violent bank robberies. 

    Probably the most bizarre piece of information obtained during the investigation is the fact that Callan listed pop star Taylor Swift as his next of kin.  Taylor’s publicist has openly said that she did not know Callan and that the two had no connection.

  • Pension markets of all kinds are seeing growing interest in defined contribution plans.  Unfortunately, with defined benefit plans coming to a close, the risks of retirement are slowly but surely transferring hands.  Instead of being in the hands of those who were unable to manage them, they are now in the hands of those who more than likely don’t understand them.

    Currently, United States retirement is ruled by the 401-K.  The US has seen low enrollment, inadequate contributions and poor investment choices among Americans.   These things all lead to two well known, but poor, behavioral characteristics found in Americans when it comes to their retirement planning: inertia and procrastination.  The Pension Protection Act of 2006 was supposed to help these issues by providing citizens with three innovations in plan design.  These include automatic enrollment, automatic rises in contribution rates over time and a selection of investment options.  Since this change, participants are less likely to opt out of the programs, but still very few understand all of their options.

    Average retirement contribution rates range between 6-8%, as opposed to the 17% that is seen with decent retirement nest eggs.

    From 2007 to 2012, the private sector has seen a 10% rise in the amount of employers offering a 401-K.

    While these numbers are promising, the Act has not solved all issues associated with retirement plans.  The “set it, forget it” mentality of the autopilot version creates the framework of desired behaviors at the onset.  The necessary behavioral changes need to be reinforced and sustained, though.

    Some human resource experts continue to feel that this revised 401-K model poses the employee as a planner; envisioning the employee with characteristics and behaviors that may not exist already.

    Regardless of changes in circumstances, it seems that plan members very rarely change their initial asset allocation. It is like the blind leading the blind among employees of a company, as very few workers understand what they are actually choosing.

    The autopilot kind of approach, while allowing employees to set it and forget it, does not take away long-term concerns on the behalf of workers.  Over 60% of plan members said they had a constant concern about their long-term financial future.  The resolution for this seemingly is beyond an autopilot approach.  The approach would involve more guidance in the form of asset managers, plan members, plan sponsors and financial advisers.

    HR experts feel that without a more holistic approach, DC plans are just as likely to fail as their predecessors.

  • Wal-Mart is in the news once again and this time, not for their good deeds. The discount giant has threatened to retaliate against some of their store employees in 13 states for going on strike…a huge human resources no, no.
    On January 14, The National Labor Relations Board filed a consolidated complaint alleging violations of the National Labor Relations Act at 72 stores. The complaint claims that managers at these 72 stores issued warnings to, or discharged, employees who went on strike in May and June 2013. The complaint targets more than 60 Wal-Mart supervisors and one corporate officer in total.
    Wal-Mart isn’t making their case any easier, either. The company announced a policy and interfered with employee rights to strike when managers nationwide read a corporate memo, which said:
    “It is very important for you to understand that the company does not agree that these hit-and-run work stoppages are protected, and now that it has done the legal thinking on the subject, it will not excuse them in the future. … Should you participate in further union-orchestrated intermittent work stoppages that are part of a common plan or design to disrupt and confuse the company’s business operations, you should expect that the company will treat any such absence as it would any other unexcused absence.”
    The Office of the General Counsel is alleging that Wal-Mart violated the National Labor Relations Act when the company unlawfully threatened workers with reprisal if they engaged in strikes and protests. Furthermore, stores in 13 states unlawfully threatened action against employees who legally engaged in strikes and protests. In addition to termination, some stores threatened surveillance and other forms of discipline.
    The Office of the General Counsel informed Wal-Mart that the complaints were, in fact authorized in November 2013, but were withheld in order to allot time for settlement discussions. This has yet to be successful. The company must respond to the complaint by January 28.

  • The NTSB have stated that the pilots of the Southwest flight that landed at the wrong airport a few weeks ago followed the wrong bright lights after choosing a visual approach.
    The pilots thought they were approaching Branson Airport in Missouri when, according to the board’s preliminary report, the crew was told they were 15 miles from the airport. The Branson tower told the pilots they were cleared for a visual approach for Runway 14, but the lights of Runway 12 at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport in Hollister were about six miles north of the final destination.
    These lights caught the eye of the pilots who confirmed that they utilized heavy braking to bring the aircraft to a stop. Once they were on the ground and realized they had landed at the wrong airport, the pilots advised Branson of their error.
    There were 124 passengers aboard the 737 flight and Branson was an interim stop with Dallas as the final destination. All passengers were transported by bus to Branson where another Southwest aircraft took the Dallas-bound passengers to their destination.
    The NTSB said that the Captain of the flight had never been into Branson and that the First Officer had only flown there once in daylight. Most aviation experts however would argue that this is no excuse. The pilots were initially suspended but their final outcome has not yet been released.