Monthly Archives: August 2008

About Aviation Safety: what’s the safest seat?

Each time a mishap occurs in the World of aviation, one of the side effects is that people ask me if flying is dangerous (or more dangerous than before). I think that I have explained my point of view many times before. Just talking about Italy, 152 lost their lives on the roads during the four August’s weekends: I feel more comfortable when seated inside the fuselage of an aircraft (either military or civilian) than driving a few miles with my car.

A far more interesting question was asked by some friends who read an article about the safety of commercial aircraft’ seats. Obviously, all this kind of articles on Aviation Safety are published after major emergencies and accidents occur. According to that article, the Greenwich University has determined that the most safe seats on a burning aircraft are those in the forward part of the fuselage, and those within 5 rows from an emergency exit. Basing on 105 crashes and 2000 witnesses, the passengers sitting next to the nose have 65% probability to escape, compared to the 53% of those in the back. Then, aisle seats are better then windows ones, 64% vs 58%.

That said, I think that is quite obvious that the nearer you are to an emergency exit, the better; I think that the study adds not so much to what a normal people could autonomously guess.
Adding something more, I could affirm that the seat that guarantees the 100% possibility to escape a burning aircraft is….the one on another aircraft (or your room’s couch)….

Anyway, that study deals with one particular emergency (fire). If the aircraft experiences another kind of catastrophic event, maybe (but I don’t really know), that standing elsewhere (inside the aircraft obviously), could be better than sitting in the first class next to the exits.

In order to understand my attitude towards seat arrangements just think that the only thing I tell to my wife (that is the most important thing of my life) when she flies without me is: “keep your seat belt always fastened”.

But, when I fly with her I struggle to:

  1. reserve two seats next to the emergency exit
  2. give her the aisle seat

Why? Am I scared of something?
No, I just want to enjoy the flight from my window seat taking as much picture as possible with my digital camera and:

  1. reserve two seats next to the emergency exit = so she can rest better and stretch her legs without complaining each time because the airplanes are uncomfortable and long haul flights (the ones that I like the most) are boring
  2. give her the aisle seat = because if she takes the windows’ one she would wake me up each time she needs to go to the rest rooms

BTW: the most detailed guide to the seats arrangements on board any airline is provided by SeatGuru

Many happy landings.


Italian F-16s get new tail markings!

On Aug. 27, Vincenzo Smriglio went to Trapani-Birgi airbase, home of the 37° Stormo where he discovered that the F-16s of the locally-based 10° and 18° Gruppo are receiving new tail markings. Since the two Squadrons share the aircraft that are actually owned by the 937° GEA (Gruppo Efficienza Aeromobili), all the Vipers of the 37° Stormo are being painted with the 10° Gruppo badge on one side of the tail and the 18° Gruppo one on the other side. As Vincenzo has witnessed, there’s no rule: even if MM7260 depicted in his pictures has the Francesco Baracca’s rearing horse of the 10° Gruppo on the left side, other aircraft have the 18° Gruppo badge on that one.

So far the following aircraft were noted (Serial LH | RH):

MM7260 10 Gr | 18 Gr
MM7242 18 Gr | 10 Gr
MM7261 18 Gr | 10 Gr
MM7253 10 Gr | 18 Gr
MM7266 10 Gr | 18 Gr

An Air France B747-400 skids off Montreal runway

On Aug. 26, at 17.47LT, an Air France B747-400 flying from Paris as AF346, with 508 people on board (480 passengers and 18 crew members), skidded off runway 24R in Montreal. The aircraft (according to the first reports serialled F-GITC), slid off the runway after landing but there were no injured passengers and there was no there was no apparent damage to the aircraft, that had the nose landing wheels on the grass off the runway.

Picture by David Boily, AFP (source:

I’ve already talked about the safety of the B747-400 in the article Another B747-400 in-flight problem: is this aircraft still safe? and I’ve not changed my mind since this last is almost a non event (maybe it was caused by a steering problem or by a brake failure) that would have never made the news without the crash of the Spanair 5022 and the following video of the fire coming from the left landing gear bay of the Air Dolomiti ATR72 departing from Munchen to Bologna on Aug.24

What’s interesting is that it is not the first time an Air France wide-body fails to stop after landing in a Canadian airport. On Aug. 2 2005, an Airbus A340 flying from Paris to Toronto as AF358 flight, skidded off the runway 24L/06R at Pearson International Airport at 16.01LT. The aircraft plunged into a nearby shallow ravine, coming to rest and bursting into flames approximately 300 metres past the end of the runway. The AF358 flight had 309 people on board (297 passengers and 12 crew members), all of whom survived.

Italian Eurofighters visiting Germany

Twice during the last month, two Italian Air Force F-2000s (it must be remembered that according to the Mission Design Series, the Italian single seat Typhoon is designated F-2000A while the dual seat is TF-2000A) belonging to the 4° Stormo visited the German base of Neuburg during a week-end cross country.
On Aug. 8 the Typhoons involved were an F-2000A of the 9° Gruppo serialled MM7286 “4-2” and a TF-2000A of the 20° Gruppo serialled MM55130 “4-33” while, on Aug. 22, the flight was composed by MM7287 “4-3” (a single seat of the 9° Gruppo) and again the MM55130 “4-33”.

Dietmar Fenners, sent me the following interesting pictures of the aircraft arriving in Neuburg on both 08.08.08 and 22.08.08.

Friday Aug. 8

Friday Aug. 22

Spanair 5022: latest update

In the last couple of days, new details about the Spanair 5022 surfaced, each one pointing to a different cause of the crash or possible description of the catastrophic chain of events that led to the accident.
The first one was reported by the Spanish newspaper El Pais and was confirmed by a mail by a German friend who sent me a picture he found on the Internet showing one of the engines with a deployed Thrust Reverse. The TR is a system composed by moving surfaces used to divert the engine’s exhaust so that the thrust produced is directed forward, rather than aft. The TR are used only to slow down the aircraft speed after touch down and to reduce the landing roll. It looks like the right engine had the TR in the deployed position. There have been 4 cases in aviation in which TR failures or uncommanded deployments during take-off contributed to the crashes of some aircraft. The famous video recorded by an internal camera at Barajas (not released) should shed some light on the possible deployment of the TR. If the TR deployed during the climb, just after rotation and not due to the impact upon crashing, the plane would have yawed to the right (coherently with the crasj location).

The second is a transcription of broadcasted by an Argentinian TV that reconstructed the possible cockpit talks between the Cdr and the F/O during the last seconds of the flight. According to this supposed transcription, one of the pilots said (in Spanish) more or less the following sentences: “left engine fire”….. “ok, I keep it, rotate the same”…..”positive climb, oh my God”…. “it’s departing, give me more rudder”.
If confirmed (it would be interesting to understand how an Argentinian television got the CVR so fast), the transcription would point to an engine fire, even if it was excluded by the footage recorded by the airport’s internal camera and by the latest news reports. According to the conversation in the cockpit, the pilots experienced the loss of thrust before the rotation (even though it is not possible to affirm the loss occurred after or before V1). The Cdr decided to rotate with a single engine and to apply the rudder to compensate the asymmetric thrust. “Give me more rudder” would mean they didn’t initially apply the required yaw correction but why did the aircraft crash right of the runway? If the Cdr requested more rudder it probably because the plane was yawing to the left, towards the damaged engine. Did they apply too much rudder forcing the aircraft to roll to the right or maybe they applied the wrong correction with a left rudder instead of a right one?
In the meanwhile, what is sure is that the Spanair flight from Madrid to Gran Canaria will never fly again as JK5022. From Aug. 22 it flies as JK5024 (on Aug. 21, the day after the crash, it was still 5022).