Freight DogsFinally a forum for those midnight prowler types who utilise the unglamorous parts of airports that many of us never get to see. Freight Dogs is for pilots and crew who operate mostly without SLF.
Had a chat with a few colleagues. Ditching an aircraft in the middle of the Atlantic or the Pacific is almost a death sentence. If you even survive the ditching, you will now face the prospect of drowning or freezing or starving in the middle of the huge ocean. We threw around some ideas and one of the ideas was to stay up high, depressurize the aircraft (if main deck fire, as per the checklist), and PRAY that the fire will go out from lack of oxygen.
There were no "death sentences" for any of the USAir A320 occupants who had ditched in the Hudson river. Some people didn't even get their feet wet.
The B747s that I'm flying are equipped with life rafts. With today's GPS position accuracy, rescue services would find your ELT equipped, bobbing life raft before you'd "starve to death."
During an over ocean uncontrolled fire I will not pray; I will make a controlled ditching after 15min emergency descent while I can still read some instruments ...BEFORE being completely smoked out and subject to an uncontrolled crash.
Forget the Hudson in daylight. Ever seen "deadliest catch"? Imagine being over the Pacific in December at night with 30 feet waves.
"I will make a controlled ditching"
I will descend to 25000 feet, depressurize the aircraft since that will at least kill everything that burns around the batteries and keep my cockpit smoke free. Like that I will continue to an airfield and then make a high speed descent and landing.
Whether to depressurize to 25000' and continue or to ditch: in either case you're flipping a coin and taking your chances.
In both cases you'll be in no-mans-land, but the distinct difference with the ditching is that IMHO you'll be better able to judge your chances (day vs night, choppy ocean vs calm waters etc) instead of hoping and praying that the fire doesn't damage any vital components while you're counting down the minutes (or hours!) to the nearest diversion airport.
Those are going to be veeeeeery long minutes (or again, hours) sitting on top of an uncontrollable fire in the middle of the Pacific, Atlantic or the more uninhabitable parts of this planet.
I admit I don't really "get" the notion of trying to ascend in order to asphyxiate the fire in the back... at some point you're going to have to descend again, and the entire way down I'd be sweating bullets about a reflash. You'd have to spend a considerable amount of time at altitude hoping that a) the fire's out and b) the surrounding Class A combustibles aren't still smoldering, ready to light back off when the oxygen levels rise again.
No thanks. Head for the water while you've still got control.
I said "almost", so, no death sentence for the guys in USAirways, but aye for the guys in Ethiopian Airlines off the Comoros Islands.
Anyway, the point I'm trying to put across is, before deciding to ditch, perhaps some thought should be put into whether you are actually gonna survive the ditching. In the simulators or LOFTs, a lot of guys are under the impression that, hey, ditching is no big deal. We'll ditch, land smoothly parallel to the waves, then we'll hop on to the back and grab our life raft, torch, first aid kit, ELT. Oh, and maybe some water and chips will help. After which, we will jump off the stricken plane into the sea, swim towards the inflated raft, dry ourselves off and wait for help to arrive.
Then again, we all know that nothing is all nice and dandy in real life.
So, just throwing around different ideas before deciding to take a dip in the sea.
Location: in the magical land of beer and chocolates
J.O. All this talk about ditching vs staying high to starve a fire is largely a waste of time. We're talking about putting a single layer of gauze bandages on a severed jugular vein.
Undoubtedly true however,
If you're going to have to choose between certain death and possibly almost certain death, than still the second option is the best. There have been numerous crews and single pilots that ditched all around the world in WWII, a lot of them survived, even in the arctic ocean and without the possibility for immediat rescue like we have in present days. there have even been pilots that survived jumping out of a burning plane over land, without a parachute. There has never been a flightcrew that survived while staying in a burning plane so the choice is simple really (in hindsight !! ).
That's the whole dilemma; when to decide that something so drastic as ditching is better than try to keep on going, a split second decision that most people are not able to make quick enough. That's where Sully excelled.
... exactly , the point also to be made in a similiar ( sic ) vein is that you should never , ever juggle razorblades. If it is found out to be Lithium Ion batteries as a cause in this horrible incident , we are all test pilots.
As a humble, short haul bod flying in Europe (well kind of, but never over oceans) carrying pax & occasionaly DG in the hold, this confirms that A - I don't wanna do long haul (the swimming pool " ditching" is more than enough for me ) & also, that I don't wanna be a "Freight Dog".
Those of you who are have my admiration, an occasional night-flight is OK but I am not a vampire, and carrying God -knows -what in the back with the only guarantee being your trust (? ) in the Freight Forwarder doesn't do it for me. If the batteries are the prob, I hope that the fact this happened a long way from FAA/JAR territory doesn't stop the powers that be saying N.F.W. (No . . . . . . . Way ) to future carriage of these nasty little devices.
Sure all the pax (& crew, never mind electronic flightbag I mean personal) aboard , have at least 1 or 2 Batts, but that is not 400 kg of the b@stards.
"Bad things happen in threes" must not be allowed to prevail in this case, that is now two young 744F's operated by reputable companies barbecued in the descent, there must NOT be a third ! !
In reality it is quite a dilemma. If you ban anything containing LiPO Batteries from Air Freight a SIGNINIFCANT percentage (read >20%) of the Cargo Crews might loose their jobs given the percentage of electronics in Air Freight. If you continue as it is today Cargo Crew are exposed to a disproportionate risk compared to their Pax brethren.
The minimum would be to drastically increase regulation for shipping of these things.
Back in the UPS thread I proposed to regulate the charge state of Lithium Bettries for air Freight. They carry their own ignition source with them only if they are charged to more than 10-15%. Below that level they are cimbustible but not capable of self ignition, which is the main difference to most other combustible freights. where I'm still not sure is the question if you can't extinguish a LiPo Fire. Having seen a short circuited LiPo 500g battery myself it could be kept in check by putting it into water. There were some bubbles but that was it. No fire, no glow, no sparks, nothing fancy. The Lithium content of a 150g Battery is about 0,5g. It might contribute to the fire but it is not the main combustible. The main fuel is the alcohol based chemicals inside which form the separator. That's highly flammable alcohol and propably 30 - 50 times more than the Lithium. On the other hand I'm not sure if 25.000 ft is really a good idea. If not ditching I would say fly as high as you can. and get cool thin air in the Cargo compartment. I don't get the rational behind the 25000 ft.
The problem with extinguishing a LiPo fire is that the main tactic to stop the chain reaction is to cool them. That will stop the progressive short circuiting inside the battery. I'm not really sure what will happen without oxygen but without cooling. I would tend to say the fire would extinguish at least mostly but I haven't seen it fisrt hand so I don't know for sure.
If Rep John Mica (R-FL) has anything to say about it, the regulating will be left to the ICAO. He introduced an amendment to His own FAA Re-Authorization Bill that expressly prohibits the FAA from issuing any regs that are "more stringent" than the ICAO. H.R. 658 SEC. 814.
"....Mica rejected Democratic fears of increased fire hazards, and said failing to limit the FAA on this issue could be costly for companies.
"If we didn't have this provision in there, there's be a $1.1 billion dollar impact on industry," he said. 'This is a good provision. It needs to be in the bill.'"
Airbus/Boeing and the Airlines need to get serious about preventing or fighting this kind of Fire.
1/ Better fire detection systems 2/ Live Video of the Cargo hold available to the crew of Pax and Cargo Aircraft 3/ Always have a Third crew member available to check/fight the fire in a Cargo only Aircraft. 5/ Provide the crew with the plastic clear view bubble to wear so the can see the instruments if Smoke becomes thick in the cockpit. 4/ Stricter controls over the handling/acceptance of DG's.