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Old 16th Sep 2008, 20:18
  #1764 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Quite near 'An aerodrome somewhere in England'
Posts: 25,575
In the coal-fired old 4-jets I used to fly, we also had a 'Take Off Configuration Warning' system.

This was ALWAYS checked for operation independently of the actual configuration by operation of a test switch. If the 'TOCW test' was OK, the system was assumed to be operating correctly. But if it warned, then a checklist was consulted and every item which was required to be set was re-checked. Usually a sticky spoiler lever switch was the culprit.

The TOCW system was inhibited above a certain throttle lever angle. But someone who thought he knew better had decided that we should take-off with lower thrust whenever possible, to save engine life. Which meant that the throttle levers could well be inside the 'TOCW range' during take-off.

I thought that a silly idea. But was overruled.

One fine day, at around 100 KIAS and 20 KIAS or thereabouts below V1, the TOCW horn suddenly went off. Since we practised aborted take-offs several times per month in the simulator, the rejected take-off was no snag - but what really annoyed me was the fact that several other crews had experienced the same snag but hadn't bothered to snag the jet!

The cause was later established to be a fault in the horn interrupter unit and thus spurious. But our sound teaching, plus frequent practice of aborts at up to V1 in the simulator meant that this was merely an annoyance, rather than a life-threatening danger.

Sorry to have rambled on, but I think that the philosophy of a formal take-off configuration warning test on EVERY flight is essential (and not just by throttle movement on take-off!) - as are instinctive reactions during an aborted take-off. In addition, our check lists were all 'challenge and response' and had to be word perfect for our instructors - none of this 'flap set, we're good to go' bullshit. It was CHALLENGE - Flaps and Slats, RESPONSE, (point at flap lever) 'Take-off' (that was the indication), (look at flap indicator) '20' (that was the flap angle), (look at slat indicator) 'Out' (that was the indication). If the full 'Take-off, 20, Out' response wasn't given the challenge would be repeated.

Rushed preparation + poor SOPs + lazy check list responses delivered in an "I sound cool" manner = DEATH.

Not saying that's what happened at Madrid; the result of the enquiry will determine that.

Last edited by BEagle; 17th Sep 2008 at 15:12.
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