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Landslide Volcanic Eruptions in Costa Rica

by Lux Joseph 23. March 2015

Costa Rica is normally a hot spot for tourism, with it’s tropical weather and lovely tourist destinations, but if you were thinking of going there on vacation any time soon, you might want to travel with caution. Approximately 43 miles east of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, is a slumbering giant, the volcano Turrialba. Or at least it was sleeping. Recently, on Thursday, March 12th, this massive volcano awoke with an eruption of smoke and ash that spewed up to a height of one kilometer (around 3,280 ft) into the air from the top of the volcano.

This latest eruption has been Turrialba’s largest in two decades, with the last eruption having been in 2010. Four explosions were heard as the volcano spit out large plumes of ash. Those living close to the volcano were evacuated, as the main roads and four schools in close proximity where closed. The ash traveled out, reaching as far as San Jose itself, including the Tobias Bolanos airport. The ash made the runways slick and even interfered with visibility, leading to the temporary closing of the airport and over 100 delayed flights. Even the President of Costa Rica, Luis G. Solis was forced to cancel his diplomatic trip to Europe. Thankfully, the airport crew were able to clear out most of the ash next day, allowing the airport to reopen.

Although things seemed to calm down in the following days, the last explosion happening roughly around 8:00pm on March 13th, experts from the the National Seismological Network and the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica continue to monitor the surrounding area, observing the seismic activity still occurring in the volcano. From their observations they’ve found that seismic activity is still occurring and while it seems that Turrialba may go back into a dormant state, they’re keeping on guard for any sudden changes. Costa Rica is currently in Yellow alert, ready to respond if needed, and tourist are restricted from entering the national park.

CME recently moved two patients out of San Jose, Costa Rica shortly after the explosion on the 13th. In situations like these, our safety and operations team do everything possible to ensure the safety of not only our patients, but our escorts is number one priority. When traveling via commercial airline or any aircraft, there is no telling what mother nature will present to us, but we do our best to be proactice and anticipate situations to the best of our ability.

Senators Aim to Lift Cuba Travel Restrictions

by Lux Joseph 14. March 2015

Since the 1960’s the United State’s relations with Cuba has been tenuous at best. Starting with President Eisenhower as a partial trade embargo, John F. Kennedy would enforce the embargo on Cuba, restricting both trade and travel to the island only 90 miles off the coast of Florida. After about 50 years of waiting, President Obama would step in and decide to try and fix our relationship with our not so loved neighbors. Even though the trade embargo is still in place, there is a chance that we’ll see be able to visit the island for those summer vacations in the near future.

On January 29th, a bill was introduced by a bipartisan group of Senators which would allow American citizens to travel to Cuba. Supported by four democrats and four republicans, including Jeff Flake, Patrick Leahy, Jerry Moran, Dick Durbin, Mike Enzi, Tom Udall, John Boozman, and Sheldon Whitehouse, the “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015” would nullify any regulation to both travel and transactions during one’s stay in Cuba. If you’ve ever been curious to try a cuban cigar, or you’ve been craving them since the 50 year schism, there’s a chance you’ll be able to try one soon. “Americans simply ought to have the right to travel wherever they want to unless there's a compelling national security reason,” said Republican Senator Jeff Flake.

While this is a big step in the right direction, it follows President Obama’s efforts to lessen the restrictions that were already in place. New rules, put into place by the Obama administration earlier that month had allowed for some exception to travel to Cuba, so long as you fit into one of 12 categories with authorization to travel, which include religious and humanitarian reasons. Yet they did not allow for casual travel to Cuba at this time. This bill would work to change that. More so, under the new bill, the president would not be able to make restrictions on traveling to Cuba or on any transactions that may occur while on travel, not including instances of war or if there may be dangers towards American travelers.

Though it should be said the bill isn’t really being welcomed with open arms. There have been several statements made against any attempt towards building relations with Cuba, including those by Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez. “We should not aspire to help the Castro regime fill the coffers of its military monopolies with the dollars of American tourists, while the Cuban people still struggle to make ends meet and are forced to labor under the oppressive conditions dictated by their government,” Menendez commented. Republican Senator Carlo Cubelo also said “Lifting the tourism ban would infuse the Castro dictatorship with billions of dollars, which it would use to more aggressively oppose U.S. interests in our hemisphere and to further repress the Cuban people.”

One thing these embargos set out to do in the first place was try to coax Cuba into adopting practices of human rights and democracy. Yet Sen. Flake states “We’ve tried this current policy that we have prohibiting travel for about 50 years, and it hasn’t worked, so it’s time for something new.” The argument goes that in allowing Americans to travel to Cuba, not only would they obviously bring currency into the country, but would hopefully bring over these ideals to the Cuban people.

Overall, the decision lies with congress. Should this act pass, it would mean a huge leap towards ending the diplomatic wall that’s been standing for nearly half a century. It would also mark the beginning of a growing relationship between the two countries.


Delta Flight 1086 Skids Off Runway at LaGuardia Airport

by Lux Joseph 6. March 2015

On Thursday, March 5th, Delta Flight 1086, coming from Atlanta, attempted to land in LaGuardia Airport during heavy snow. After the plane touched ground, about halfway through the  7,000 foot long runway it began to slide off towards Flushing Bay, breaking through a fence and stopping on an embankment just short of the icy water.

LaGuardia Airport is known for it’s short runways in comparison to other airports and for it’s close location to the waterfront of Flushing Bay.  More so, being close to three other airports, pilots are forced to navigate through tight turns while preparing to land. Since other airports have more runway space, planes landing in them normally glide over part of the runway before landing. John M. Cox, a former US Airways Pilot, now CEO of consultancy Safety Operating Systems, told ABC news “You put the airplane on the ground and land it.”.

Should a plane accidentally overshoot the landing, the Federal Aviation Administration made it mandatory that at the end of each runway there should be an engineer materials arrestor system. This would act as a measure to be sure the plane stops, as it’s wheels would sink into the material, acting to slow the plane down. The issue was that the plane began to slide off the runway about halfway through, at 4,000 feet.

Because the runway extends onto a steel pier over the water this makes it easy for the runway to freeze over, which would make landing more difficult in very cold conditions. Steve Blazejewski told the New York times that he remembered “skidding forward but veering off to the left.”

To add on to what happened, Jared Faellaci stated, “The wheel felt like they didn’t take, we were going so fast.” He goes on to say “One or two seconds later we skidded off to the left side of the runway.  We skidded for about 20 seconds, and you could feel that we had gone off the pavement. It wasn’t a smooth surface anymore, it was very bumpy.”

According to Patrick Foye, the executive director of the port authority, the runway had been plowed minutes before the incident. He stated that other pilots who had landed earlier “reported good braking action. ”

As the plane approached the river, it was stopped by the bern, which was used to stop the bay from flooding onto the airport runways. Foye said, “The plane did not make contact with the water.” While there was a minor fuel leak, it was quickly dealt with. The passengers made it off the plane safely, using the right wing to get down because the chutes did not deploy.

Jared Kaufman, one of the passengers, told ABC news “As we walked across the runway, it was covered with so much snow that I was wondering: who decided it was safe to land here?”

The airport was closed for several hours after the incident. At around 2:30, LaGuardia airport reopened one of its runways. It was initially reported that the runway would be closed until 6:00pm however all appropriate parties handled the situation very efficiently.

This isn’t the first incident LaGuardia Airport has had during the winter season. On March 2, 1994 Continental Airlines flight 705 began to skid during it’s take off, and found itself on the berm. Around 30 injuries were reported then.

There was an earlier incident on March 23, 1992, where a plane, holding 51 passengers, was trying to take off during a snowstorm and ended up crashing into Flushing Bay, killing 27 passengers.

At Commercial Medical Escorts, safety is a number one priority for our patients, nurses, physicians, and their families. Our dedicated safety committee in collaboration with our operations team, constantly are reviewing and analyzing our transports to ensure safety protocols are being met. It is important that we look at this from all angles to ensure we deliver our patients with a smiling face and peace of mind for every transport.

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