Articles Posted in Aviation

Operating in violation of both the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), ATP Infrastructure Partners LP (ATP-IP) has agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty to settle a federal lawsuit over illegal discharges of oil and chemicals from an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

The lawsuit, instituted by the United States, was resolved by way of joint judicial enforcement action involving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), and the Justice Department.

In its complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the United States alleged that ATP-IP “violated Section 311(b)(3) of the CWA when oil and other pollutants were discharged into the Gulf of Mexico from the ATP Innovator.” Violation of this provision in the CWA opened up ATP-IP to possible civil penalties. The United States also urged that ATP-IP was liable for injunctive relief under OCSLA, “as the owner of the ATP Innovator … [for] hidden piping configuration [that] was being used to inject a chemical dispersant into the facility’s wastewater discharge outfall pipe to mask excess amounts of oil being discharged into the ocean.”

Reduction of traffic accidents—particularly fatal traffic accidents—has long been at the center of public debate and the ambition of state and federal policymakers. The 1960s proved a watershed decade for transformation of traffic safety. With traffic fatalities on the rise in the 1960s, spiking at 49,000 traffic fatalities in 1965, public concern over traffic safety began to dominate the national discussion. Culminating with the 1965 publication of Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe at Any Speed”—a book that issued scathing criticisms of vehicle manufacturers for their willfully rejecting the addition of safety features into their automobiles—policymakers reacted. By calling on states to erect highway safety measures, the Highway Safety Act passed by Congress in 1966 was the first of many concentrated efforts to reduce this increasing problem. One important feature of this legislation was that it created the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, which primarily operates as a safety administrator, promulgating rules designed to increase safety on highways, but also to increase safety of the vehicles themselves by imposing regulations on manufacturers.

With the bulk of this debate happening from the 1960s forward, traffic safety has long been on the minds of citizens and policymakers. Improving safety based on readily observable causes—prohibiting intoxicated driving, reducing speed limits, requiring operating traffic signals, etc.—is one thing, but as a recent study reveals, sometimes the causal or correlative connection between a phenomenon and traffic safety is more mysterious.

A recent study by University of Colorado-Boulder PhD candidate Austin Smith revealed a curious correlation between daylight savings time and increased traffic fatalities. This study reviewed data on fatal vehicle accidents from 2002 to 2011 and compared the number of fatal accidents that occur just before and after daylight savings time changes took effect.

A recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention study reveals that oil and gas industry workers are seven times more likely to be killed while working than all other workers in the United Sates. Offshore fatalities from 2003-2010 were used in the study, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Industries.

Transportation accidents were noted as the cause for a high percentage of deaths. Over half of the accidents from 2003-2010 were transportation related. All transportation accidents occurred in the Gulf of Mexico and 49 were helicopter accidents.

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A private plane collided into an SUV driving on an airport’s service road in Roanoke, Texas during the pilot’s first solo landing. Both the plane’s pilot and the vehicle’s driver and passenger suffered no life-threatening injuries.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the cause of the accident. This accident is the fourth accident of its kind near the Roanoke airport in the last three months. Two of the prior three accidents tragically resulted in fatalities.

Travelling in a private plane tends to be far more dangerous than commercial flying. All too often, pilot inexperience causes private plane accidents. Commercial pilots undergo advanced training and receive the preparation needed to operate planes in extreme weather and in emergency situations. In contrast, private pilots undergo less training and often lack the experience to handle unexpected changes in weather, equipment failure or emergencies.

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A helicopter carrying 19 men to an oil rig in the North Sea was forced to ditch when mechanical issues were reported by the pilot. The investigation of the ditching is ongoing, but a failed gear-box is believed to be a factor.

A nearby tanker and helicopter offered assistance and all 19 passengers made it safely out of the helicopter. This accident mirrors a 2009 ditching also caused by failed mechanical gear components. That 2009 incident was also in the North Sea and resulted in the death of 16 individuals.

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A single-engine plane crashed in Iberia parish, injuring the pilot. No other passengers were on board. According to witnesses, the plane crashed while the pilot was practicing landings and takeoffs in an open field. Authorities suspect the pilot collided with a power line.

In the past 10 years, there has been a 20 percent increase in private plane crashes in the U.S. Industry studies suggest that the cause of these accidents include pilot error, inadequate training, overloading planes, relaxed maintenance standards and sudden changes in weather. Mechanical failure is also more common in private planes than commercial aircrafts.

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A small private plane crashed in the Gulf of Mexico last week, tragically killing the pilot, the sole person on board. While in flight, the pilot became unresponsive to air traffic control. The plane soon began to fly erratically in circles before crashing into the Gulf of Mexico. Investigators are still searching to determine the cause of the accident.

Statistics reveal that private planes are far more dangerous than commercial airlines. Private planes undergo less government regulation than commercial airlines, which can lead to a lack of routine maintenance and mechanical failures. In addition, private plane pilots also undergo less training than commercial pilots. With less training, private pilots are often unable to handle emergency situations and to respond to sudden changes in the weather.

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November has been a tragic month for air travel. Three separate private planes have already been in the headlines this month. The first plane crash, killed two Oklahoma State University coaches and all passengers on board. The second plane crashed in Arizona, tragically killing an entire family. The third plane crashed in Georgia, killing a married couple and their 24-year-old son. Federal investigators continue to search for the cause of these devastating crashes.

Private air planes pose unique aviation safety concerns. Compared to commercial pilots, private pilots often undergo less training. With less training, these pilots may lack the experience needed to adequately react to emergency situations in transit, such as unexpected extreme weather, wind gusts or a mechanical malfunction.

Another common problem that arises with private planes is mechanical failure or negligent plane maintenance. At times, mechanics and private plane manufacturers cut corners when it comes to ensuring that private planes are suitable for flight because these planes are not common carriers and typically carry less people than commercial airlines.

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After fatal plane crashes at two different air shows within a 24-hour-period, critics are now questioning air show safety in the United States. The first plane crashed in Reno at the National Championship Air Races, killing nine people, including its 74-year-old pilot, and seriously injuring 69 bystanders. Just one day after this accident, another plane crashed at an air show in West Virginia, killing the pilot.

Investigators believe a mechanical error caused the missile-like impact of the Reno crash. Bystanders at the Reno air race reported hearing an unusual gurgling engine noise before the plane plunged into the crowd. The cause of the West Virginia plane crash remains unknown. The pilot attempted to begin an air routine but the plane crashed prior to his completion of the maneuver. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators are now at the scene to determine the cause of the accident.

Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a substantial role in ensuring spectator safety at U.S. air shows. Prior to an air show, the FAA reviews the show’s plans and inspects participants’ planes and courses to ensure spectator safety in the event of a crash. The FAA also requires pilots to obtain medical certificates prior to participating in an air show and to prove that they are competent to participate in the show.

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