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Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground

08/17/2013 9:20 PM

Flt 1354 doomed.

"The autopilot was engaged until the last second of recorded data,"

And, "that its auto throttle also was engaged until moments before the fiery crash."

What were these people doing when they should have been hand flying to the runway.

Or, did the aircraft think that they were flying onto the long runway.From: Reuters.

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#1

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground.

08/17/2013 10:17 PM

Your package has been delayed.....

Something is not being properly calibrated.....But the pilots don't seem to be paying attention either....or they don't know how to disengage the auto systems quick enough to make corrections....I don't see how you can not notice the glide path lights on approach, or are the glide path lights being manipulated....a lot of questions

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#2

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground.

08/18/2013 12:46 AM

Where did you get this data from, NTSB has just begun looking at recorder tapes.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground.

08/18/2013 1:52 AM

NTSB's Sumwalt via Reuters News.

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground.

08/18/2013 9:05 AM

They (NTSB) are releasing (maybe leaking) information early:

I'm seeing they believe there was no evidence of engine failure, or a cockpit fire before it hit the first tree tops.

The aircraft was manufactured in 2003 and logged ~11,000 flight hours over 6,800 flights, From an Airbus news conference.

It sounds like they did not respond to any aural alerts in the cockpit. Like they were "gone" from the cockpit, this from black box data. They released that the data was intact.

This clearly is not good to have 2 short of runway landing accidents this close in time.

The Airbus does have this, as one of it's major accident occurrences. They have a FADEC (engine throttle, Full Authority Digital Engine Computer, integrated into auto throttle), that limits how fast the pilot can change the thrust setting input to the engines. Lots of rotating inertia. The concern is turbine stall caused by pilot in control of throttle setting. The other issue is the aircraft elevator is controlled to not allow the pilot to introduce a stall. So instead of converting the last few knots of airspeed into positive lift, near stall, and some ground effect, the flight augmentation system prevents stall, and the aircraft continues sinking. Anyway that was my take on previous year(s) reads of Airbus landing accidents. And the one that took place at the airshow a bit ago That was where I remember the engine thrust and stall prevention systems were found to be contributing to the accident but in the end, stupid pilot mistake to be so close to the ground, and obstacles, and have a catastrophic outcome (showing off on purpose, photo opportunity).

Video of airshow crash excerpt from NOVA PBS program

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground.

08/18/2013 1:10 PM

UPDATE.....

"The plane approached before dawn to land on Runway 18, which at 7,100 feet was shorter than the 12,000-foot alternate landing strip. The longer runway was closed for maintenance on its lights at the time of the accident, Sumwalt said.

Runway 18 also lacks an instrument-landing system to provide planes with a glide slope guiding them to the runway and ensuring that they descend clear of higher terrain, according to pilot-information website AirNav.com."

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-08-16/ups-crew-warned-plane-was-sinking-too-fast-seconds-before-crash

http://www.airnav.com/airport/KBHM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrument_landing_system

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#8
In reply to #5

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground.

08/18/2013 5:46 PM


From AirNav....
RUNWAY 18

Instrument approach: LOC/DME Obstructions: 16 ft. gnd, 615 ft. from runway,
26:1 slope to clear 76 ft. trees,
1736 ft. from runway, 392 ft. left of centerline,
20:1 slope to clear
Visual slope indicator: 4-light PAPI on
left (3.20 degrees glide path)


From wiki....
Distance measuring equipment (DME) provides pilots with a slant range measurement of distance to the runway in nautical miles. DMEs are augmenting or replacing markers in many installations. The DME provides more accurate and continuous monitoring of correct progress on the ILS glide slope to the pilot, and does not require an installation outside the airport boundary. When used in conjunction with an ILS, the DME is often sited midway between the reciprocal runway thresholds with the internal delay modified so that one unit can provide distance information to either runway threshold. For approaches where a DME is specified in lieu of marker beacons, DME Required is noted on the Instrument Approach Procedure and the aircraft must have at least one operating DME unit to begin the approach.

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#6

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground

08/18/2013 5:23 PM

In the late seventies and early eighties, when I was developing training programs for airline pilots, autopilots had just reached the point where full autolanding (autopilot, autothrottle, and autoflare) was available and allowed by some countries and some carriers. I assume it is use is extremely common now. That these were still engaged would usually mean that the approach appeared to be going normally.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground

08/18/2013 5:41 PM

Normally?

Normally would indicate to me that the PIC, at least, was aware of the surrounding hills on that approach. Where were his charts?

Why would anybody program an approach that flies the aircraft into terrain?

I don't understand. Why not just fly an unfamiliar approach by hand?

Any thoughts?

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground

08/18/2013 7:37 PM

Some airline types would do well to jump into an old aircraft like one of mine (J-3, EAA Bi-plane) and do some seat of the pants flying. When I ran the flight school a few years back, "No" Student was allowed to use a GPS in our aircraft while in training.

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#12
In reply to #9

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground

08/19/2013 2:57 PM

VGSI not necessary for safe landing....that is if you're flying the plane....

http://www.wusa9.com/news/story.aspx?storyid=265533

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#13
In reply to #7

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground

08/19/2013 3:39 PM

"Appeared" is the key word, I think. The pilot and copilot were doing very little, I assume, because they -- completely incorrectly -- though that everything was normal.

I've done some profoundly stupid things hand-flying planes. I think back: "How the fig could I possibly have been so stupid?" It is too easy to talk myself into things being "normal" when they are not.

These problems that lead to crashes are, 95% of the time, I'd guess, psychological. I developed a course (with the director of flight crew training for Fokker, who was also an accident investigator) on human factors in flight safety, and he had numerous stories from around the world where you have to say "How could the pilot and copilot possibly have been so stupid??"

A seemingly pretty good commercial pilot manged to mentally flip over the approach to an airport in PA, that was very close to a mountain ridge on one side, and full of free airspace on the other. (If I recall, the approach was "reversed" with turns in the opposite direction from a standard approach.) The pilot flew straight into the mountain.

Even when I was actively flying in the 70's and early 80's, even the little planes I flew were sophisticated enough that flying them could take on a video-game quality. In instrument conditions, you have no outside reference, so all you do is look at gauges, and have to put complete faith in those gauges. I found instrument approaches nerve-wracking, because there comes a point where you've reached minimum altitude and have to either land or go around to an alternate airport. Often, you desperately want to see the runway at minimum altitude, and will perhaps stretch things a little, but at least you have, at that point, heightened awareness.

I think it is likely (although I don't really know) that current pilots put greater faith in autopilots. (We used to say that an autopilot was a device designed to put aircraft wreckage close to a runway.) I think that the tension that most pilots used to feel just before breaking out of the clouds does not exists to the same extent for modern pilots. They are probably more complacent. What used to be a high anxiety moment (breaking out or not) is just another thing to monitor

In general aviation, it used to be that pilots with a couple hundred hours were the safest -- enough experience, but not so much as to become complacent. Modern electronics, are, for the most part incredibly reliable, fostering complacency, I think. I was aware, back then, that the Fokker's autopilot could fly a better approach than I could, and having it fly the approach allowed me to do the other stuff that had to be done with less distraction. (All this in the simulator -- I did not have a ATP certificate. )

The charts in use for approach are just the approach plates, which are schematics.

On this one, it is obvious that there is the potential for landing where it is too wet for wheels, but the hills do not jump out at you. Any instrument rated pilot can quickly tell you the height of the high things in the area, but there is a remoteness and metaphorical nature these charts that seems to me to make mistakes possible that would be nearly impossible if the pilot were looking out the windows through clear air.

I haven't followed this stuff for a long time, but it seems that a display that shows a real time 3D dynamic model of actual terrain would be useful. This seems like a no-brainer -- so maybe it already exists -- but if so, how do pilots manage to miss runways?

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground

08/19/2013 3:51 PM

Thanks for the input.

We'll find out more as the days go by.

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#10
In reply to #6

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground

08/18/2013 9:36 PM

The auto land would be Collins Radio Division of Rockwell International (acquired in 1972) and the original was a CAT IIIA, triple redundant analog autopilot on the L1011. I think but may be wrong. It was redesigned to be full digital (with analog hardware monitors), using 4 bit slice 2900 series stick built processors. This was required so it could be analyzed. It used CORE memory. Boeing used the derivatives of the second generation.

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#11

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground

08/19/2013 1:33 PM

I am sure that we will know more in the near future but I am guessing at this point that this is another one of those "super smart" company policies wherein it was deemed that the pilots are/were required to fly in "full auto" control from takeoff to landing.

We just a few months ago lost a father, co-pilot, and two sweet children to apparent aircraft instrument failure in my neck of the woods.

I do not think they have determined yet what actually caused the crash other than the plane instrumentation had recently been worked on and that the pilot nor co-pilot attempted to take control.

I cannot help but beleive that these failures are the direct result of our "new age" mentality of "that's close enough" calibration of critical equipment and poor quality control.

I have a nephew (by marriage) that is the QC supervisor in a prominent aircraft parts supplier.

He has stated several times that the QC approval goes on aircraft equipment despite their not meeting critical tolerance because; "I don't want to get my buddies in trouble or cause them to lose their jobs and we have to meet our quota. Besides, we're not making medicine the A&P or A&E technicians will catch it before any thing happens."

He is not willing to suffer my indignation and has not talked about this around me recently but I am sure the problem still exists at that facility.

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#16
In reply to #11

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground

08/19/2013 9:46 PM

I mentioned before that I operated a flight school, I had 6 aircraft flying about 100 hours each per month during the flying season. If there is anyone who is knowingly compromising on the maintenance or calibration of aircraft equipment, they should go to jail. This is strictly a No-No, especially if they are an FAA repair station. We reliey on well maintained aircraft to the highest standards possible. Taking away the human element is the most difficult of task.

Flying approaches to min's is what I always enjoyed the most. Loved the challange of getting it dead on to an ILS.

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#17
In reply to #11

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground

08/19/2013 9:56 PM

Are you referring to the plane that flew into the Superstition Mountains?

I saw the fire on the mountain that night and wondered what happened. Found out later.

Very sad.

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#15

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground

08/19/2013 5:01 PM

It is really hard to imagine experienced pilots and crews making these kinds of mistakes.

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#18
In reply to #15

Re: Another One Flies Itself Into the Ground

08/20/2013 5:16 PM

Even experienced people become complacent, tired, rely on the junior or the system to handle it. I've met too many to fly anymore unless I'm at the controls. Last time I trusted someone else was a full power approach in a 737, dragging the golf course, golfers looking up with their mouths open. 'Experienced pilots' don't crash planes, they're checking everything, right down to the deck.

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