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NTSB to probe Fedex/Southwest close encounter at Austin

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NTSB to probe Fedex/Southwest close encounter at Austin

Old 6th Mar 2023, 22:51
  #421 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by BFSGrad
The preliminary NTSB report makes clear that the FDX pilot’s cleared-to-land query was “because he was concerned about the Southwest traffic.” That query was transmitted after WN708 received its takeoff clearance. One lesson to be learned from this incident for both pilots and controllers is to be as clear and concise as possible with communications. If the FDX pilot’s concern was separation from the departing 737, he should have stated that in his query. Yes, that’s implied in a cleared-to-land query, but there’s no guarantee how the LC will interpret that query. In this incident, the LC took no apparent immediate action to verify separation based on the FDX cleared-to-land query. It wasn’t until approximately 40 seconds later that the LC queried WN708’s status.
Sure, the indirect intent of that query was exactly what you says it is: the FX pilot was concerned about the separation. The tower controller should have picked up on that but didn't which should have prompted the FX crew to ask a more direct separation query. But the WN pilots also heard that request and from the timestamps, 40 seconds later, had just begun their takeoff roll. Where was their sense of urgency? That request came around 50 seconds after they were issued their takeoff clearance and advised there was a 767 on a three mile final.

Not defending the FX pilots, either. Apart from your commentary, the FX FO also issued non-standard radio calls telling the WN flight to abort and then stating they were on the go instead of announcing they were going around.
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Old 6th Mar 2023, 23:52
  #422 (permalink)  
 
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No one here relieves the controller from assignment of some major portion of the "cause" component of the cause-and-effect sequences in this incident. Where the analysis - well, if one could call it that, but anyhow - goes from there . . . . So as SLF/att'y and someone interested in how the NAS will be repaired or modified or insert-your-choice-of-verb in the aftermath of this thankfully benign incident (no injuries, no crash), just a couple of further comments.

FAA reauthorization legislation is actually quite important in addressing such deficiencies in the NAS as the Austin incident exposes, or "areas ripe for improvement" if you prefer a less critical tone and posture. But at this time, FAA awaits a permanent head (Administrator). Thing is, inasmuch as knowledgeable and experienced aviation pro's have diverging views about what the incident reveals, it is (imo) folly, delusional, just plain wrong incorrect and invalid, to assert that an individual who has succeeded in ordering people around is the right person to coordinate and reconcile the differing assessments into a program of action to correct what needs correcting. It's almost as if even the pilots and other aviation pro's don't fully understand what happened - I said 'almost as if' - but then someone who does not know this field is supposed to dish out the silver bullets of solutions. Okay. I'll now proceed to try, at least, to leave this horse for actually dead (unless someone saw Elvis riding out on it).

About the causes and effects ..... In hearing the R/T from FDX1432, and noticing that there was not full realization of the risks that - at that specific moment - had sprung up, as just a member of the flying public my impression, if you stop the tape right there, is that there is a pretty consistent presumption that things are being done correctly. In general. In most if not nearly all operations. The pilot, in other words, didn't run through a list of memory items about what might have been going wrong with regard to the other traffic and the clearance. Such clearances - with departing traffic on the runway - are not unusual, correct? Yes, there were indications, actually perceptible, that all had not been done correctly and was continuing in an incorrect unfolding. But that presumption got in the way. Really, and I'm ducking after this, it seems not so different from the business traveler or leisure traveler in seat 22A who sees or hears something unusual on board the aircraft and thinks, "hey, the crew, the people in the NAS, they know what they're doing, know their jobs, it's the safest way to travel by far."

Incidentally, reauthorization is the one certain way of doing the utmost to keep it that way.
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Old 7th Mar 2023, 01:58
  #423 (permalink)  
 
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Being unable to attract controllers is resolved easily by cutting landing slots. The only reason to oppose that is to allow large companies to make a profit at the expense of the public taxpayer. Flights/shift/controller should be some number that is never exceeded.

Maybe the FAA should be 100% user fee funded the way the USPS is, with a 60 year full funding of retirement requirement, just like the USPS is. Then there's no re-authorization legislation to do Lucy's holding the ball for Charlie Brown threat - except Congress still forces the USPS to handle large sources of campaign money, I mean bribes, err, lobbyists - those who send tons of junk mail for a fraction of the typical carrying costs. Maybe DeJoy can buy his way into leadership there after he sinks the USPS.
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Old 7th Mar 2023, 08:28
  #424 (permalink)  
 
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Being unable to attract controllers is resolved easily by cutting landing slots.
Another question - I presume US airports have slot allocation based on runway capacity like here in the U.K.
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Old 7th Mar 2023, 08:48
  #425 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by 22/04
Another question - I presume US airports have slot allocation based on runway capacity like here in the U.K.
There are upwards of 200 airports worldwide that do slot allocation, a fair number of which are in the USA.
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Old 7th Mar 2023, 15:28
  #426 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by 22/04
Another question - I presume US airports have slot allocation based on runway capacity like here in the U.K.
I believe the only slot allocated airports in the US are : Level 3 JFK, LGA, DCA Level 2 LAX ORD, EWR, SFO.

Given the early hour of the event, I wonder whether the controller was at the very end of an overnight shift or the very start of the day shift. Fatigue anyone?
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Old 7th Mar 2023, 17:57
  #427 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by bean
UK atc now say ""go around i say again go around; acknowledge
Much safer than US phraeseology
I always thought that the point of Standard Phraseology should be that it is both clear and standard. Yet over and over again we see national aviation authorities coming up with a different standard phraseology from standard, often with the obvious effect of making things less clear. Anyone remember when Nav Canada decided to implement "Descend Via Star" but decided that it should mean the opposite of the standard used in the rest of the world?

I do wish UK atc would stick to standard rather than inventing their own different standard. I had a Captain refuse to go around at LGW when instructed because he mistook "I say again go around" for "in case of go around".
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Old 7th Mar 2023, 18:15
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Originally Posted by HM79
I believe the only slot allocated airports in the US are : Level 3 JFK, LGA, DCA Level 2 LAX ORD, EWR, SFO.

Given the early hour of the event, I wonder whether the controller was at the very end of an overnight shift or the very start of the day shift. Fatigue anyone?
I've not flown in the US for a while but there ued to be a serious issue with controller fatigue - it featured in a few incidents/accidents - what's the situation nowadays? Does anyone have any up to date info? They were wroking insane hours a few years back
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Old 8th Mar 2023, 10:03
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Originally Posted by EXDAC
How does FO view EFVS/FLIR on a FedEx 767? Genuine question as I remember FedEx was interested in having a head down EFVS image on the MD-10 and MD-11 but I never heard that it had been implemented for revenue service. In flight test we had HUD/EFVS repeaters on the flight deck and in the back.
Currently they don't. There is a repeater in the final approval process for the 777 but currently no fedex aircraft have repeaters or HUDs installed for the right seat.
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Old 8th Mar 2023, 17:29
  #430 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by prelim report
at an altitude of about 150 feet, the FO called go-around after visually seeing SWA708 at approximately 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet from the approach end of the runway.
Originally Posted by Turbo Encabulator
... but currently no fedex aircraft have repeaters or HUDs installed for the right seat.

Originally Posted by ATC Watcher
We can close the discussion about EFVS then.
Indeed, double confirmation now. For a total EFVS outsider like me, it's disappointing to learn that it wasn't EFVS that saved the day.
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Old 8th Mar 2023, 21:26
  #431 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by Timmy Tomkins
I've not flown in the US for a while but there ued to be a serious issue with controller fatigue - it featured in a few incidents/accidents - what's the situation nowadays? Does anyone have any up to date info? They were wroking insane hours a few years back
yes huge staff shortage in many facilities ,most are still working 6 days on 1 day off . Fatigue was an issue but not sure this was the case here.
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Old 8th Mar 2023, 22:23
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Did FDX fly with visual seperation from SWA in fog?

SLF. Comments from someone who usually occupies seat 30C:

1) I agree we need to be slow on apportioning blame, but like ACA at LAX this is almost all on ATC.

2) SWA "ready to go," nothing of note here. We could pillory the FAA for not having ground radar. It may have helped the gamer generation better with situational awareness, but then we're back here again with it goes out - for which I'm sure we could pillory the FAA for yet again. SWA, nothing of note.

3) SWA, traffic at a 3 mile final, _heavy_, with negligible visibility, WTF. SWA gets all the residual apportionment here. On a clear day or even night this might get some debate from the gallery, but I'd be firmly in the give it a go camp. I'm the SLF that counts headlights making the turn onto the runway at ATL. (and yes, I know, parallel ops.) But with no real visibility, this is an indicator of poor SA from SWA. How long were they on frequency, did they hear the initial call from FDX? Did they hear it or did they hear it? I could say the same on the takeoff clearance, copy traffic.

4) FDX's decision to continue the approach, recalling SWA landing at ATL with too close a departure, "That's not going to work" which I recall was at a 2NM final flying CAVOK. Or the commuter jet at LEX that lost situational awareness on the ground in similar weather to this incident with another aircraft waiting to use the runway who made the correct decision to wait out the wayward jet, despite ATC insisting it was safe. To be fair to FDX, unlike SWA, was in the middle of flying a CAT III approach whereas SWA was "parked" at the hold bar and could succeed by _doing_literally_nothing.

5) FDX suggesting SWA abort, a prudent call. They were at least trying to generate a solution that ATC didn't know they needed. SWA's decision to continue is not one I want to impinge on. Could FDX have said more? Were SWA still below 40kt? Were they near enough V1? Was the call a legitimate safety call? Comments from the real pilots?

6) A 767 on a go around on top of a 737 taking off is not something I enjoy reading about. My dad lost a coworker in 91 at LAX.

7) All this nonsense on Cat III is going to be a red herring. I'd acknowledge ___ for noting the ONE CAT III hold bar at AUS, on the far side of the runway from the passenger terminal.

8) CVR, again the only thing this may provide is a detail on the discussions from SWA in the 60 seconds taking the runway and FDX in continuing the approach. As everyone walked away and this is going to be almost all on ATC, I don't think we're at risk of a loss of value such as with ACA at SFO. Would we like to see it, it could help with added insight.

9) FDX, "on the go", given the critically reduced separation did they not want to clog the radio with too much traffic? Any comments from seat 0A regarding phraseology, touch and go phraseology? If you could only make a limited number of radio transmissions what/when would you make a call? And as someone else suggested, were they aviating?

My impression is we are down to luck. I'd be hopeful someone, FDX, did a sidestep, but was there coordination. There were no real RTs, but an extended CVR would have or pilot recollection could help with TCAS. Were they close enough that they reverted to visual separation? A comment that seems almost absurd given the weather, but for the fact that they possibly could have and be believed is even more absurd.
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Old 9th Mar 2023, 00:09
  #433 (permalink)  
 
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It bothers me that, on a CAT III morning in Austin, I can have better situational awareness using my iPad with Flightradar24 than ATC from in the control tower.
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Old 9th Mar 2023, 14:24
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Originally Posted by dbenj
It bothers me that, on a CAT III morning in Austin, I can have better situational awareness using my iPad with Flightradar24 than ATC from in the control tower.
While sitting on the couch and knowing what is about to happen....
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Old 9th Mar 2023, 15:51
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I looked at the NTSB's preliminary report in detail, and one thing I noticed is that Fedex was basically directly above Southwest, at less than 100 feet AGL, at the time that they advised Southwest to abort. The "abort" radio call was at 0640:34, whereas the ground position tracks show Fedex directly on top of Southwest from 06:40:29 to 06:40:49 (and even another 10+ seconds after that, albeit gaining vertical separation).

I think the human factors analysis for this incident should be interesting. Fedex was clearly concerned that ATCs plan wouldn't work from the moment they heard Southwest get the clearance. However, Fedex was polite about it and basically asked ATC to reconsider their plan when they asked to confirm their own landing clearance only to have ATC double-down on a bad plan. There's a power dynamic at play between ATC and PIC. Even though the PIC has the ultimate say to take whatever action is necessary in the name of safety, you generally don't do that unless you know for sure that there's a problem. This kind of falls into a gray zone with "maybe this'll work". Does FedEx know whether the tower in Austin has ground radar and is actively monitoring Southwest? Does Southwest think that the tower is using ground radar and can see them?

I'd be shocked if at least one of the Southwest pilots wasn't at least a little concerned with the controller's plan when they heard that there was heavy traffic on a three mile final but they still accepted the takeoff clearance. Was it a case of get-there-itis? Did Southwest's FO think it would have been better to wait but didn't want to contradict the PIC accepting the takeoff clearance? Also, I don't doubt that Southwest was in fact ready-to-go, and that they got into position on the runway and started their engine run-up without delay. So ATC gave them a clearance that they were able to comply with, and they complied. There's a difference between being "able" to comply and whether they "should" comply. So it seems like nobody involved actually had the full picture of what's going on since ATC probably didn't know about the engine run-up required, and everybody else was deferring to ATC's position of authority or assuming that they knew things that they didn't.

Of course, the flip side is that pilots never have the full picture that ATC has, and you can't have pilots questioning every little ATC decision or the system would collapse -- ATC might have a very good reason for wanting to do things a certain way and shouldn't have to explain itself, especially during a time crunch. I hope that the final NTSB report dives into this and explores where that balance of questioning decisions made by people in authority should be.

It seems concerning to me that this incident involved four pilots and one ATC, and none of them changed the plan until after it was glaringly obvious that the plan wouldn't work. By that point, it was sheer luck that fatalities were avoided. The chain of events needed to be broken earlier one way or another, the question is how.

My other thoughts:

1) Even if an airport doesn't have a full blown ground radar system, would a camera on the end of the runway be helpful so that ATC can see whether a departing aircraft has started its roll during low visibility operations?

2) What this controller did needs to be specifically prohibited by some procedure, not just protecting the critical ILS zone. It was impossible to guarantee separation under those conditions. Somebody may have thought that it was obvious you shouldn't try to squeeze in a departure when you've got a 767 three miles final on a Cat III ILS approach and no ground radar, but it appears that this needs to be written down somewhere.

3) Why wasn't the parallel runway, which was fully servicable, not being used for departures instead of using 18L in mixed mode operations? I don't think that 18R had centerline lights so maybe that's why 18L was being requested for departures. So put centerline lights on 18R if needed and use it instead.

Last edited by notam232; 9th Mar 2023 at 21:15.
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Old 9th Mar 2023, 16:29
  #436 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by dbenj
It bothers me that, on a CAT III morning in Austin, I can have better situational awareness using my iPad with Flightradar24 than ATC from in the control tower.
That's hindsight, not situation awareness.
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Old 9th Mar 2023, 21:14
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Originally Posted by dbenj
It bothers me that, on a CAT III morning in Austin, I can have better situational awareness using my iPad with Flightradar24 than ATC from in the control tower.
It bothers me that one ATC and four pilots were generally aware of the situation yet it still happened.

What was the ATC's plan for calling a go around if necessary? Look at his radar screen and hope that the departure becomes airborne before the arrival is over the threshold, otherwise call a go around? Wait until the arrival is 0.5 miles from the threshold and query the departure for their position on the runway? There needs to be a viable Plan B if the original plan doesn't work...
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Old 9th Mar 2023, 21:21
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Originally Posted by dbenj
It bothers me that, on a CAT III morning in Austin, I can have better situational awareness using my iPad with Flightradar24 than ATC from in the control tower.
Originally Posted by hans brinker
While sitting on the couch and knowing what is about to happen....
Originally Posted by alfaman
That's hindsight, not situation awareness.
Nothing to do with hindsight, nor knowing what is going to happen.
Compared to TWR ATC staring in the fog (so to speak), a John Doe with FR24 on its iPad watching in near real-time and in every detail what is unfolding, is a world of difference.
(and this screenshot is from the flawed replay function in FR24, not correctly reproducing what the real-time picture was)


Of course, nobody is implying that ATC should start using FR24.
But the technology is there to provide a basic, low cost alternative to ASDE-X, which I believe is indeed on it's way with the Small Airport Surveillance System (SASS) project.
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Old 10th Mar 2023, 13:10
  #439 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by ATC Watcher
yes huge staff shortage in many facilities ,most are still working 6 days on 1 day off . Fatigue was an issue but not sure this was the case here.
Thanks
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Old 10th Mar 2023, 17:41
  #440 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by DIBO
Nothing to do with hindsight, nor knowing what is going to happen.
Compared to TWR ATC staring in the fog (so to speak), a John Doe with FR24 on its iPad watching in near real-time and in every detail what is unfolding, is a world of difference.
(and this screenshot is from the flawed replay function in FR24, not correctly reproducing what the real-time picture was)


Of course, nobody is implying that ATC should start using FR24.
On a CAT III morning with no ground radar coverage, why should the controller not be equipped with an iPad and software to display ADS-B data? Why did we force every airplane operating at controlled airfields to have ADS-B capability and NOT provide the controllers with simple devices to see the data that ADS-B generates?
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