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Old 18th Sep 2008, 21:56
  #1841 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Canary Islands, Spain
Posts: 240
I don't think at this point we can be accused of being "wildly speculating" any more. I think this thread is just analyzing, discussing, and expanding on the topic surrounding this accident, including using ficticious or unproven similar scenarios as part of these discussions. Each of us share his own opinions, views and experiences.

The outcome, hopefully, is a better understanding of these issues that may even contribute to avoid fatal events in the future.

I think we all greatly respect the victims and their families, and I don't think our discussion is in any way disrespecful. Others may think otherwise, of course, but my conscience is clear.

Boeing did react to the NTSB recommendations after the Detroit accident by issuing a recommendation to all operators of similar planes to test the TOWS prior to each take off. I also have the feeling they could've done a bit more given the somewhat "fragile" nature of the TOWS (i.e. little redundancy, hard troubleshooting diagnosis, subtle failure warnings, etc), but, realistically, if the TOWS system operation is tested prior to each take-off, the safety improves exponentially and is probably adequate.

I believe that, if Spanair had "known and interpreted" the recomendation clearly, it would've been a non-issue for them to comply with it. No operator wants to ignore simple-to-implement, almost "free", safety recommendations by manufacturers.

The "blame" is gonna go back and forth. Boeing is going to say that they were never "required" by a formal FAA order to implement the measures recommended by the NTSB and that they "fixed it more than adequately" by warning people to test TOWS more often.

Spanair is going to say they knew nothing about it and their procedures are approved by spanish authorities. I won't even go into how, even if the FAA would've made the recommendation mandatory, which it didn't, it wouldn't have had authority in Spain.

Civil prossecutors are going to say that Spanair should've known what the current manufacturer's recommendations were.

Spanish civil aviation authorities are gonna say that they leave on the hands of operators to implement whatever procedures they feel appropiate and basically just stamp an approval on them with little review on their side.

European authorities are going to say that the recommendations weren't mandatory.

And around in circles we go.

Lesson learned: from now on, probably, civil air regulations bodies in most countries are going to demand that the TOWS in airplanes with similar designs undergo a mandatory operational check prior to each takeoff, resulting in somewhat higher safety.

As we saw in LAPA accident, having a working TOWS doesn't prevent the accident, of course, but hopefully would help tilt the decissions of most pilots to abort the TO/correct the configuration under such circunstances.

Alas, the TOWS could fail from the time it is tested til the time the actual take-off happens. Testing it 10 minutes before TO doesn't guarantee they'll work during TO.

And if a pilot forgets to configure wings and doesn't follow checklist (Northwest), then chances of them skipping the TOWS test are also high.

In Spanair case, it looks at this point like they did follow the checklist, but missed/missread the flaps. They could've, just as well (but realistically less likely) have missed a TOWS inop test also.

So what is the "real" solution? How do we make sure the pilots read the flaps indicators and settings very carefully before each take off w/o significantly re-designing older planes to include near-infallible alarms or devices the inhibit the acceleration unless flaps are deployed during take-off or flaps that open automatically (and reliably) at certain speeds/etc?

Last edited by justme69; 19th Sep 2008 at 00:29.
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