Travel Risk: Engine Metal Fatigue

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD) that requires operators to inspect fan blades on certain CFM56-7B engines within 20 days.

The directive is based on a CFM International Service Bulletin issued today and on information gathered from the investigation of Tuesday’s Southwest Airlines engine failure. The inspection requirement applies to CFM56-7B engines.

Specifically, engines with more than 30,000 total cycles from new must complete inspections within 20 days.  The EAD becomes effective upon publication. The engine manufacturer estimates today’s corrective action affects 352 engines in the U.S. and 681 engines worldwide.

The engine fan blades are used on Boeing 737-600, 700, 800 and 900 jets.

The USA National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) believes one of the blades snapped on the Southwest flight 1380 on Tuesday 17 April 2018, flying at about 30,000 feet, hurling debris that broke a window.  The incident killed one passenger who was sucked part way out of the plane and injured seven others. The plane, a Boeing 737 bound from New York to Dallas with 149 people aboard, made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

NTSB investigators said one of the engine’s fan blades broke off from the hub during the flight. The broken edge of the blade showed crack lines consistent with metal fatigue.

NTSB QUESTION: Why didn’t the ring do its job?

NTSB investigators are taking the Southwest engine apart to understand what happened and will look at maintenance records for the engine. There’s a ring around the engine that’s meant to contain the engine pieces when this happens, and in this case it didn’t, which is the big focal point for the NTSB.

Engine failures occur from time to time as engines are being pushed to produce as much power as possible, many expert believe engines are right on the edge, and consequently sometimes engines fail, and that’s why the containment ring is there.

The engine failure was reminiscent of a similar event on a Southwest Boeing 737-700 jet in August 2016 as it flew from New Orleans to Orlando, Florida. Shrapnel from the engine left a 5-by-16-inch hole just above the wing. Passenger oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. Pilots landed the plane safely in Pensacola, Florida.

Reported by the USA Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).


Travel Risk at Airports: Birdstrikes and Wildlife Hazards

Mitigating the growing threat of wildlife hazards at airports.

The world’s increasingly busy airports face a growing threat of birdstrikes and wildlife hazards, partly due to expanding urban environments and bird populations, but also due to the global growth of airport traffic. Lee Pannett, Director at the Scarecrow Group, reveals how bio-acoustic technology can successfully mitigate the issue.

WildlifeCLEARING RUNWAYS: A Scarecrow Group vehicle in Prague

Regulations concerning airside bird control differ across the world in terms of what is mandatory and the extent to which practices are then governed by authorities. The International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), for example, has published a set of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and although not binding, the SARPs recommend that member countries establish a national procedure for aircraft and airport personnel to record birdstrikes.

Understanding the importance and the implications of birdstrikes and wildlife hazards remains a major challenge for all airports no matter their size, for ground staff, operations teams and management.

Reported by International Airport Review on 19 April 2018.

Travel Risk Managment: Bird Strikes at Airports

Robotic falcon takes to the sky above Southampton Airport

Robird, as it is called, is designed to strike fear into the hearts of a wide range of potential runway hazards, including ‘other’ birds of prey.

southamptonON PATROL: Robird is the first of its kind to be used on a regular, long-term basis at an airport

Birds of prey are a popular method of keeping the population of pest species down. Hawks have been unleashed on the Houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom to scare of resident pigeons and seaside resorts to manage seagulls. For years, airports have used various species but now, increasingly, they are considering a turn to ornithopters for their needs – and Southampton Airport has become the first in Europe to employ the technology on a long-term basis .

Robird, a drone designed and flown to mimic the actions of a bird of prey, has been trialled patrolling the skies above the Hampshire international airport.

Traditional bird scaring methods lose their impact over time and need to be backed up with lethal deterrents. The benefit of Robird is that all types of birds including corvids (crows), birds of prey, pigeons and gulls see the drone as a predator, and change their behaviour to keep well away. No harm comes to any bird through this method of bird control.

The drone has been trialled at Southampton Airport in partnership with NATS and the developers, Clear Flight Solutions. The successful trial means similar robot bird systems could take flight at other airports in the future.

Dan Townsend, Southampton Airport’s Airside Operations and Safety Manager, said: “At Southampton Airport, we invest every effort to make sure our airfield is as safe as possible. Robird is an innovative idea that we’ve found to be an effective and durable way to reduce bird strikes — so you could say this idea really has wings.”

Ian Rogers, UK & Ireland Director, Clear Flight Solutions, added: “Clear Flight Solutions and Southampton Airport worked together to establish a drone operation on a regular and on-going basis in a CTR for the first time in Europe. The effect of flying Robird at Southampton has been to remove bird hazards safely and controllably from safety critical areas. This will benefit the airport and its customers.”

Reported by International Airport Review on 18 April 2018.

Asbestos Exposure: Hidden Travel Risk!

Asbestos exposure, a hidden risk for budget tourists in Asia

Travelling cheaply through Asia may be a rite of passage but healthy young Australians may, in the process, expose ...

We are just beginning to realise that exposure to asbestos is a hidden travel risk in Asia, particularly for those on a low budget who stay in cheap deteriorating buildings or next to demolition sites.

It’s a small but real risk.

Asbestos is a popular building material in many parts of Asia and given that it only takes a few fibres to cause a fatal cancer, tourists may unknowingly be facing a health risk.

While there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, risk does increase with dose.

Australians who may be hyper-vigilant about exposure to asbestos at home, travel though Asia oblivious of the risks.

The longer and higher the level of exposure, the greater the dose. This explains why asbestos workers are at higher risk of developing disease. But others get it too and some are totally disbelieving when they get the diagnosis because they can’t recall ever being exposed.

Although asbestos may be locked into insulation, floor tiles and coating, walls and roofing material, as buildings decay fibres can be freed.

These fibres can be 1000 times thinner than a human hair and can be inhaled without detection.

Some travel blogs suggest opting for new hotels and avoiding construction or renovation sites where fibres may be in the air, the soil or on nearby surfaces.

Oblivious of danger

Professor Ken Takahashi of Asbestos Diseases Research Institute says Australia has a responsibility to raise awareness ...

Australians who may be hyper-vigilant about exposure to asbestos at home, travel though Asia oblivious of the risks.

Professor Ken Takahashi, director of the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) says the travel risks have not previously been considered by researchers.

“But in the case of travel, one can assume that the exposure level is low and the duration of exposure is short. Therefore, the risk would be small,” he says.

“A practical recommendation would thus be to avoid going near places where asbestos may be obviously present, the most typical of which is asbestos factories or mines.

Some travel blogs suggest opting for new hotels and avoiding construction or renovation sites where fibres may be in the ...

“Of course, presence of asbestos is not always obvious, such as in the case of exposure to buildings containing asbestos or exposure to asbestos-containing products.

“It then becomes a matter of practicality whether one should avoid travel in view of the small risk.

He strongly believes Australia has a responsibility to raise awareness of asbestos in Asia, provide education on protection against it and hopefully, help to get rid of it completely “for the sake of workers and residents of the country itself, much more than for the sake of travellers”.

He says more than 60 per cent of the world consumption of asbestos occurs in parts of Asia where commercial convenience and the need for development and housing outweigh public health concerns.

Asbestos is a popular building material in many parts of Asia and given that it only takes a few fibres to cause a fatal ...

Causing persistent damage

While Japan and South Korea have banned it, China, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are among the top 10 consumers in the world.

The small country of Laos has the highest per capita consumption of asbestos on the planet.

For almost 50 years, it has been known that inhaled asbestos fibres can cause cancer of the lungs or can pass through the lungs into a cell layer that surrounds all internal organs.

Asbestos remains a highly popular building material in many parts of Asia

This layer is called the called the mesothelium and where malignant mesothelioma forms.

While the asbestos itself is chemically harmless, its long-pointed fibres lodge in the body and cause a series of micro-injuries.

As the body is unable to clear these fibres, they remain stuck and cause persistent damage to the tissue.

About 30 years ago, scientists observed that a single dose of asbestos fibres damages the mesothelium tissue.

It was proposed that persistent injury led to chronic inflammation and that cell proliferation somehow paved the way for fatal mesothelioma.

Asbestos can also cause asbestosis, a non-malignant disease that results in irreversible lung damage, difficulty breathing, a cough and, in severe cases, an enlarged heart.

Australia should ‘share knowledge’

Professor Takahashi says Australia is the only country in the world that has a dedicated federal agency to deal with the legacy of the asbestos industry.

While Japan and South Korea have banned it, China, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are among the top 10 asbestos ...

In other countries, if it is managed at all, it is done so within health, labour or environmental ministries.

“Australia should be taking a lead in the global effort to ban asbestos in developing countries that continue to use it at a very high level because it is cheap, widely available and has many advantageous characteristics.”

He says Australia should share its knowledge and technology about substitutes for asbestos within the Asian neighbourhood.

“These countries are hesitant to make the transition because they prioritise economy over health and added to that is the fact that there are many pro-asbestos lobbies trying to maintain the global trade.

“And there is corruption among officials of ministries of developing countries, so they are not fully motivated to make the transition.

“I believe Australia should assist these counties in developing their own expertise to detect the disease and also develop systems so that workers and consumers are not exposed to asbestos while they are using it.

“Until these countries stop the manufacture and export of products containing asbestos, Australia will have to deal with illegal imports for a long time.”

Occupational exposure

Asbestos can also cause asbestosis, a non-malignant disease that results in irreversible lung damage, difficulty ...

Professor Takahashi says this as the epidemic of asbestos-related disease in Australia has begun peaking.

Although Australia implemented a complete asbestos ban in 2003, classic asbestos cancer – mesothelioma – can take up to 40 years to develop, which means new cases will continue to occur and people will be dying from it for many years to come.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Australia had the world’s highest per capita rate of asbestos consumption. Today it has among the highest rates of mesothelioma.

In 2016, about 700 people – the great majority male – were newly diagnosed with this fatal disease.

Apart from those involved in mining or manufacturing asbestos, many more people have been affected because vast numbers of houses built before 1990 had materials containing asbestos.

Tradesmen, such as plumbers and electricians, working in such residential properties had a high degree of occupational exposure.

Mesothelioma has been characterised by nihilism in the past but an international research effort is making some inroads into the disease.

Last month, Swiss researchers unmasked an underlying mechanism that helps explain why asbestos causes cancer.

Dr Yuen Cheng, a molecular biologist at Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, says Swiss research has taken the science ...

Detecting disease earlier

They say that until now, this cancer was “a black box” and they are hopeful their discovery may lead to detecting the disease much earlier in its development.

This may then lead to a means of slowing it.

They say over time the immune system can’t cope with the changes induced by the presence of the fibres.

“The immune system goes out of balance and is no longer strong enough to combat tumour formation,” said lead researcher Dr Emanuela Felley-Bosco, of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Published in the journal Oncogene, the study proposes that immunotherapy, a treatment that triggers the body’s own immune system to fight disease, may work in this cancer.

Using mice, the researchers showed that micro-injuries caused by asbestos triggered an immune reaction.

Tissue-repair pathways were activated that promote cell proliferation and favoured the growth of tumours

Professor Takahashi says Australia should share its knowledge and technology about substitutes for asbestos within the ...

The team also found an accumulation of mutations in RNA (a kind of working copy of DNA), which they thought weakened the tissue-repair immune response.

As a result, tumour formation was no longer effectively combated and cancer developed.

Immune imbalance

An analysis of data from a human gene bank revealed that human mesothelioma tumours also produce large amounts of the enzyme that causes the mutations in the RNA.

It’s hoped this will be useful in recognising early signs of inflammation and in developing a specific immunotherapy against mesothelial cancer.

A clinical study of immunotherapy at the advanced stage of this disease is under way at hospitals in Switzerland, Spain and Britain.

Dr Yuen Cheng, a molecular biologist at ADRI, says the Swiss research has taken the science of mesothelioma a step forward.

While it was known an immune imbalance occurred, the importance and the potential triggers for it were not known.

The Swiss have shown immune imbalance plays a major role and have provided list of genes that were previously not considered.

While these genes were found in the animal model, they were also found in mesothelioma tumours in human gene banks.

The problem is that the banks have samples from fewer than 100 tumours and hundreds of thousands are needed to confirm the finding.

“They’ve clearly shown a link, something different to what other researchers have done, but we don’t know for certain until we have done a large sample,” Dr Cheng says.

The next step, which is not difficult, is to confirm this in humans. If proved correct, it could be useful in the clinical setting.

*Jill Margo is an adjunct associate professor at The University of NSW.