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When the SOPs don’t work WRT min drag/WAT/ram recovery factor.

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When the SOPs don’t work WRT min drag/WAT/ram recovery factor.

Old 12th Aug 2015, 09:25
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When the SOPs don’t work WRT min drag/WAT/ram recovery factor.

Whilst I always passed simulator checks with flying colours route checks and similar were a different matter.

In the mid 70s I had a route check with one of the three guys who gave testimony against management and in the Staines Disaster public inquiry.
Brave fellow as such a stance can, and often does, lead to an enforced career change as happened to the most verbal and knowledgeable amongst the trio.

The annual route check was something feared as not only a test of SOPs but of overall knowledge and decision making.

By this time I was starting to come to grips with “The Gripper” as the Trident 1 was nicknamed. Although it had been re-engined it wouldn’t carry a full load out of Heathrow on a hot summers day and the fable of it only getting airborne because of the curvature of the Earth was quite near to the truth (and runway end on occasions - hence frangible approach lighting).

There were two memorable parts of the check; the first being my descent into Marseilles as I closed the throttles at TOD and didn’t touch them until fully established in landing configuration on the ILS around 1,500-2,000ft.

Rather risqué although we had thankfully left those dark days of needing to do a stabilised approach from three grand. Later the criteria was set to 1,000ft although anyone who can really handle an aircraft knows that the last 50ft are the important bits.

We had also just started getting into fuel conservation and the “score” after engine shutdown was important. What I didn’t know until 40 years afterwards that this was erroneous as all of our planning calculations were made at max weights and contained contingency fuel!

A similar lack of knowledge was wrt min drag and a dirty aircraft – we all knew that clean it was around 250 knots…the upper limit of droop deployment ..as many a descent faltered wrt the ATC requirement of a min ROD of 1,000fpm.

The last bit of my check was into Heathrow and knowing the traffic problems I flew more conservatively but still didn’t do a dragging it in phase (and hadn’t needed the poor planning lever – airbrakes).

ATC then were messing about with reduced approach separation which became a remarkable success and we were following an Alitalia DC 8. We were both given “maintain 180 knots to the outer marker” (we had inner markers in those days).

Now one of my bug bears is the recent CAA requirement to have an English test – having English O level pass at a time when it had more value that a tuppenny stamp and recently listening to French controllers who obviously wouldn’t pass one even if they had the book open – but in 1974 it might have stopped a missed approach and what happened next if the Italians had a similar requirement.
I need to add that some of our captains ignored the requirement, didn’t inform ATC and reduced to final approach speed early. (all to do with lack of ability, knowledge and confidence).

Unfortunately Giuseppe reduced final approach speed early and this was only noticed by the controller who instructed us to reduce to minimum safe approach speed. On a Trident 1 this was much faster than all civil aircraft at that time bar Concord(e) and way below our minimum drag speed although I never had sight of a dirty drag curve – if one ever exisited.

The inevitable happened around 2 grand – my brain went “F@ck - always on a bl@@dy route check” at the same time as initiating the go around. This bit is hazy but IIRC it was an auto go-around but it was a long time ago.

Full power and go-around pitch – followed by reducing flap and undercarriage up. But at 2,000 ft the Speys didn’t produce the same power as close to the ground (WAT). When I checked the airspeed it had diminished and we weren’t that far from the death rattle when this had started (it wasn’t uncommon to get stall warnings in turbulent conditions).

This is where "what have I done wrong and what should I do started" going through my brain.
Obvious was get rid of drag…undercarriage up but the “forgot the gear siren would have waken all in the front of the aircraft” and wasn’t SOP…
Retract the flaps would have given us a stall warning and we had already lost 3 airliners and severely damaged a forth with inadvertent stalls; but we were just hanging there and except for divine intervention from above or the left hand seat nothing would happen so I lowered the nose (on a missed approach!).

Nothing was mentioned in the debriefing and I wasn’t going to be stupid enough to mention my doubts. When I got home I read everything and anything but came to the conclusion that SOPs don’t cover everything.

I was to have a far more dangerous incident years later which without my intervention would have been in the world news – more later as a beautiful sunny day and going to make sand castles with my grandson.
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Old 13th Aug 2015, 09:05
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There was a subsequent sequel which nearly destroyed a Trident 3.
I never flew a three as at the time it was deemed too dangerous to fly more than two marks in BEA although once the management were replaced 4 marks were flown.

The three was more or less the size of the original design before BEA managed to force HS to downgrade it but it suffered from lack of take off performance. This was solved by shifting the APU and sticking a boost engine in the bay. The boost engine worked like the 1940s idea of strapping a rocket to an aircraft to get it airborne...one shot which burnt on a good day for a bit over a minute.

This fine aircraft and crew got airborne by the seaside...iirc Malaga ...and not only did the boost stop belching flames out of the rear but so did another of their power plants. Now there is a history of the nearest suitable airfield as in choosing Manchester when taking off from LAX but that was 30 years in the future and this crew chose Madrid...commercially a good idea as we had a small engineering base and more flights.

What they consult was Mr WAT nor think of Juan as in Juan brain cell...one of the madrid atc. Now the old adage of you get what you pay for doesn't work with Madrid and it wasn't because of Gibraltar or the Armada as the same happened to me when I was flying William Tell's aircraft.

So after declaring an emergency and actioning the appropriate checklists they found them on short final at an airfield that was 3,000 ft higher and probably 20 degrees warmer than the one they had taken off from - with four engines. No problem as you only anticipate in going downhill but a major problem if Juan decides to stick one of his own countrymen and group of followers in front of you.

With full power and standard missed approach clean up the T3 carried on down and this is where the light bulb illuminated in the skippers head...he lowered the nose..did a full clean up...(slats retraction speed 225knots)..got to min drag and with Ram recovery factor factored in had some sort of climb performance ( one of the FOs said they flew down the valleys whilst this was happening).

At the time the three was THE fleet and was classified as a four engine aircraft which messed up my chances of getting onto the Airtours 707 which was only open to those who had flown a four engine aircraft. Probably a good job as within a couple of year they had destroyed two aircraft.

Last edited by blind pew; 19th Aug 2015 at 09:44.
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Old 14th Aug 2015, 07:07
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Thames Valley

In the second half of the 70s I lived in a pair of 500 year old thatched cottages aptly named "Folly cottage" at the bottom of a steep hill. They were over 30NM west of Heathrow and near the bottom of the Thames valley.

One dreadful evening when even the bats wouldn't be out we were startled by a horrendous noise - I rushed out expecting to see a car careering down the hill on it's roof driven by another "jack the lad" who had been trying to get over the ton...the road was empty and I realized it was a very heavy low flying aircraft - way below the MSA.

I presumed it was a Vulcan on a low flying mission...there isn't much other British hardware that makes that sort of racket.

A few days later I went to work and the buzz was that we (I was now in BASH) had nearly lost a droop snoop.

The incident report duly appeared.

Now I never bid for Concord(e)...for a variety of reasons
I wanted to fly and see the world - 6 landings PA and the Eastern seaboard didn't fore fill those requirements.
I wasn't coordinated enough to learn the handshake - twas reputed to be "the Mason's fleet".
And being no good at puzzles I would never be able to solve how one could fit three inflated egos into the flight deck (apologies as a Flat earth society joke).

The incident started during supersonic cruise when an engine went into reverse and they were forced to return.

New crew after being "fixed"

This next bit is IIRC

On rotation engine goes into reverse.
Engineer shuts down engine (later receives some award as saved his and the rest of the crew's bacon).
Procedure maintain IAS until 500ft - fly level until X knots - maintain X knots until 1500ft - fly level until Y knots - fly level until 3,000ft...

The aircraft didn't reach 3,000ft until it crossed the Bristol channel.

MSA chez moi was calculated by the Membury communication mast to the North (1155ft asl) and Kingsclere one to the South.

Guess it was a mix of luck, superb flying and the kit that saved them.

Whilst researching my bibliography I came across "The Concorde stick and rudder book" penned by an old instructor of mine.

What intrigued me is that they taught "Proper" pitch and power flying which didn't exist in my days in the company and I only learnt the technique from the Swiss so I searched him down and found him through a mutual paragliding mate. Now there aren't that many ex airline pilots paragliding as it requires a lot of skill and is dangerous - neither go with flying for a legacy carrier
One of the gems that mike recounted is that when he went onto the Concord fleet he realized that they weren't flying it correctly as Vmd was 400 knots+ and the old procedure that blew the long straw off my roof (slight exaggeration) was wrong.

So over a decade after she started flying the manuals were re written.

Not uncommon for the time as we didn't fly the Trident as it was designed as Cats Eyes Cunningham pointed out at the public inquiry.

Even today there are enough accident/incident reports which state similar.

And of course Ram Recovery Factor would have helped with the climb.

PS had three or four ATC warnings in my career - most on NAT Tracks but one over the Adriatic of Concorde going through our flight level on reciprocal heading as once it went subsonic during descent it had to continue to around 30,000ft - have no idea of the technicalities whether purely dry power requirement and or sub sonic drag.
An iconic aircraft.
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Old 14th Aug 2015, 09:05
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Heads up! Channel 5 tonight (Friday) at 8:00 pm. "Terror at Take Off" - a documentary about the investigation of BEA Flight 548 which crashed after taking off from Heathrow in 1972.
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Old 14th Aug 2015, 15:28
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Terror at take off

If it's the national geographic one then don't bother..
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Old 15th Aug 2015, 03:29
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I'll second BP's comment.
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Old 18th Aug 2015, 07:18
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pièce de résistance - expect the unexpected.

I owe a lot of old bold pilots who shared their knowledge with me to be able to write this last piece. Most of it under instruction, some of it watching and listening and a bit from massive boll@ockings. Most of all I owe a mate who crashed and died in somewhat similar circumstances for the impetuous in sourcing every bit of knowledge that I could find. He was flying with a grade one @rsehole.

The aircraft was the MD 80 - gem to fly and a real pilots aircraft. We had been launch customers which meant they were nice and shiny with lots of teething troubles with the new automatics..including a HUD...mainly centred on computor programming. We didn't get what it said on the box but being a company run by interceptor pilots it was click click and fly the bird.

The year was early 80s before the dreaded year of 1985 which gave us the micro downburst crash and the revision of flying procedures - not that that would have helped us as we had a similar procedure already and it didn't work.

I was at the peak of my abilities...early thirties having done three legacy carriers basic training with some great instructors and procedures as well as a some from the dregs of the gene pool who only got where they did because of who their mum or dad knew.

Life was generally great. We worked hard but we were given loads of money to play with some great toys. As I FO I had a standard home made clip board manual. This covered postage stamp sized diagrams of ALL civil airfields that could take us in an emergency (fire or smoke) which was also used for pre flight planning. Our PNR planning across the alps including drift downs and a sheet from a German radio times with the wavelengths of all of the commercial radio stations in Europe as above 10,000ft we had music playing through the cockpit speakers.

80% of our crew were young women and some times the senior girl would be in her early 20s.
We checked in early, did a very quick look at the weather then went to their briefing and emphasised that we were a crew and ANYTHING that happened we wanted to know and would help them with. This paid dividends and not only the flight deck service. The jump seat would be normally occupied by one of them for take off and landing. We night stopped three nights out of four where we went out as a crew with the flight deck paying for the drinks and often helping the girls with their share of the bill.

Flying was barber pole, visuals and short cuts whenever possible, and manual flying except in gin clear conditions when eyeballs would be outside. We had a healthy rivalry with the girls marking our landings and getting p@ssed off when we knocked 10 mins off flight time when they had to serve a three course lunch.

Last edited by blind pew; 19th Aug 2015 at 09:45.
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Old 18th Aug 2015, 09:25
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The captain - and I'm being kind!

When I was a lowly second officer and very wet behind the ears a senior captain said "I'm not flying with that c@@@" and took the later flight. I was shocked but after many years I came across pilots that I wouldn't even trust me ex wife with - and not because of her ample bust.
Later on when I was up for a chop flight on the VC 10 the skipper said the he judged a pilot by whether he would let his family fly with him - I passed.
All of our Swiss pilots, whom amounted to 77% of the force, were serving officers in the military. A company and probably government requirement as there were contingency plans in the advent of nuclear Armageddon to fly all of our aircraft along with the Swiss banks reserves and those needed to run the country to Canada. Most of the guys flew 200hrs PA on the Hunter or Choppers - this guy didn't and I presumed he was OC stores - bicycle pumps, inner tubes and puncture repair kits (the infantry main for of transport was pushbikes and one would see platoons peddling across the countryside.

Now one cannot be condemned for being thick,nor stupid but one should be hung for being a tight, bullying racist and if what one of our girls told me is true - a creep.

We were of similar age with a similar amount of jet flying hours but I was required to address him as "captain X".

Rather than he paying for the alcohol when we went out for a meal on a nightstop - when the bill arrived he was the one who only had 1/2 a glass of wine, tap water, a lettuce leaf and 1/2 a tomato.

His flying - well you can probably guess - it was hard work as we often had to chase schedule and with his lack of those abilities needed in our job it was a slow early descent, hang the lot out early, no thank you to visual approaches..and I swear that one Trident crew nearly overtook us ;-).

Especially laborious for me as when you don't trust your colleague you have to be particularly vigilant and for 8 hours that is hard work. This included my escaping to the first class galley and chatting to the cabin crew - so in cruise at night it was Radio Luxembourg in my right ear hole and reading through the complicated system failures - mainly hydraulics and electrics - whilst keeping one beady eye on his lordship.

Last edited by blind pew; 19th Aug 2015 at 05:58. Reason: bit more added
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Old 19th Aug 2015, 06:26
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The Airfield - Zurich

For those that have never done the Swiss hub it's worth a fairly detailed description as to understand how I nearly pranged.
The airport runway system is a sort of inverted A with the apex facing south (where the terminal is situated) and the city. Along the other three sides there are hills or mountains.
In the 80s it was the most noise sensitive airfield in Europe.

The main landing runway 14 was 3.3km long with the instruction of Idle reverse only on landing. Whilst our classic 74s at max ldg wt could achieve this generally only Aeroflot and my old Trident mates couldn't. I lived on the hillside overlooking the runway!

Rwy 28 (2.5km) was the main departure runway and used when extreme wx conditions put 14 and 16 out of limits. The approach was via a nasty dive and drive VOR procedure which cost one of Crossair's 146s or a cloud break 14 followed by overflying and a quick visual circuit. It was always ROUGH and great sport to fly - rolling out of a 30 degree banked turn onto finals at 400ft on basic panel and manual throttle - runway on the wrong side for me - and the speed up and downlike a whore's drawers.

The heavy boys used rwy 16 (3.7km) and did a very low left had turn at runway end. Very spectacular to watch a jumbo in a 30 degree banked turn around 300 ft agl fly over the swimming baths at Kloten - where I and 1/2 the cabin crew did our standby during the summer. Manicured lawns, olympic sized pool, restaurant and a view of the Alps.

The other heavy runway was 34 - against the flow of the approach traffic - so if we had to use it there could be some delay but it saved 15 mins taxying and doing a 180 airborne.
Departure was towards the mountains of the Schwarzwald which had already claimed a DC9 (on approach).

ALL of these runways had special engine failure routes because of the high ground - the performance wasn't helped by airport altitude of 1400ft.

Whilst sounding complicated as long as you did your homework and were on the ball is was easy - providing everything went according to the rules

Last edited by blind pew; 19th Aug 2015 at 09:50.
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Old 19th Aug 2015, 06:47
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The weather

Could be great, often cr@p and sometimes bloody dangerous.

We had the Foehn wind - incredible visibility, awful turbulence and a doubling of suicide attempts.

Summer some great photo opportunities - of magnificent lightning displays from alpine line squalls which could and did stretch from Zurich to our second hub of Geneva...cabin crew ordered NO INFLIGHT SERVICE - which they didn't like...our seat harnesses locked and NO COFFEE - the sacrifices we made for the company.
My first few goes and waiting for a hole to appear on the radar to take off through as well as being blitzed scared me but after a while you get used to it. The bonus was not getting multiple lightning strikes.

Kloten Airport- the cabin crew were not allowed to announce Kloten on Dutch and Belgian flights as it's a naughty word - I, of course, didn't know that as I is an ignorant Brit - is in a bowl so we suffered from the effects of Katabatic flow running off the hills which gave us unpredictable (as far as the Swiss met office was concerned) fog.
The worse bit is the pool of cold air could persist for weeks - grey and very cold.

The sudden Cat 3 conditions as the sun rose which caused enough thermal mixing to change the forecast heavy dew into fog - there's an old joke there somewhere.

When a front passed we occasionally got ice rain - supercooled water drops that instantly coated everything and the only way to get rid of it was a chisel or masses of hot water. one couldn't even walk let alone drive on it so it closed our operations down although my old mates could fly in as they had different min Braking actions.

It was this pooling effect with the weather passing over that nearly nailed us.
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Old 19th Aug 2015, 07:34
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The flight

We were doing the evening service to Helsinki, full to the gunwales and at Max take off weight.
We were given 34 without a significant delay and could expect a radar heading when airborne to take us out of the way of the next arrival probably already flying down the slope.
A mate of mine, who despite his early education consisting of Harrow and a year in the outback shearing sheep is an excellent aviator and all round nice guy, rolled before us on 28 on his way to London.
A minute or so later his dulcet tones announced severe wind shear.

I guessed it shouldn't be a problem as long as we didn't loose a donk and anyway our dept headings were 160 degrees apart so it would affect us differently.

In the latter I was right but I was so so wrong in the former assumption.

Around a grand I had this sensation like falling off a wave in a yacht going down wind in strong winds and with a high swell when the boat squats in the trough and the wind and noise stops.

A bit like time standing still or the sim being put into hold.

I looked at the engine gauges - both still running and "just" within limits and then my ASI.
I shouted "Speed" we had lost 30 knots and were below V2 - on the backside of the drag curve.

It was before 1985 and the Micro downburst crash in the States which changed everything but we already had an attitude and power procedure.

He lowered the nose to the prescribed altitude which slowed the airspeed delay and we waited.

The speed continued to fall - I noticed the radio altimeter descending through 750ft so I called speed.

We should have flown the engine out profile to route us through the lower part of the mountains.

I called speed again and again - very aware that we were going to get the death rattle going (stick shake - stall warning).

I KNEW we would crash unless I did something but as a copilot it is difficult; it depends on the circumstances and the person.

With this @@@@@ it would be difficult so I used my hands on the base of the control column to slowly force it forward knowing that he wouldn't perceive quickly enough the reason the nose was dropping and by continuing the pressure I stopped him raising it.

My actions were outside his peripheral vision, no doubt his scan was fixed on the ASI and horizon and didn't have the ability to look elsewhere.

It slowly worked, we descended and once we had regained V2 I released the pressure with the result that we continued accelerating a climbing.
I didn't look at the radio altimeter whilst this was happening as we had to gain speed and performance if we were to out climb the terrain.

The cause was an approaching warm frontal system passing over the pool of cold air in the bowl. Not only did we have a massive negative shear but a considerable Temperature increase.

Was it forecastable - only with a sounding although pilot reports could have been handy but in initial climb no one looks at the OAT gauge.

Could I have done anything different - probably not.

Did I report it - NO.

Firstly it was one of those one in a zillion things and although we don't talk about it aviation is still about risk management.

Secondly I had already taken over from one of our colleagues and what went on in the cockpit stayed in the cockpit normally except the bloke told a few other guys that he had taken over from me.

I was weary from my first airline, the "Old Boys Club" and my experiences taking a couple of them one and "British Justice" so I kept my mouth shut - happy to be alive, quite proud that I hadn't soiled myself, had earned my money and all those years of watching, reading and learning when I could have been having a drink paid off. ;-)

I had already had a few near misses - mainly light aircraft such as getting into a stable inverted stall and having problems getting out of a spin. I had declared an emergency on a heavy Jet with a flight control problem which we initially failed to correctly diagnose but this was the closest, that I know off, that I came in an airliner to disaster and it taught me that you have to lucky, rested and sober all of the time.

Last edited by blind pew; 19th Aug 2015 at 08:12.
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