View Full Version : Full emergency call out for minor incident at LHR!

18th Jun 2004, 23:31

Well I’m a wannabe by night but by day I’m an operations manager with the London Ambulance service, and based in west London am one of the managers responsible for responding to LHR.

Today my current job and my dream one collided at the moment that I received a pager message to tell me that there was a full emergency at LHR. Now this in itself isn’t unusual as we respond to a number of aircraft incidents each day at Heathrow, however they are almost always stood down very quickly.

The adrenaline started to flow with the second message I received telling me that the cause of the emergency was hydraulic failure / no flaps / very heavy landing expected, however I still expected the next message to be the one telling me that the incident had been stood down Wrong….

The third one was this one ‘Crash Imminent’!

Ok so you can imagine that this one got my attention!

So 18 minutes later after a blue light run from Fulham I and my colleagues found ourselves across from the runway at RVP North awaiting the arrival of an Air Mauritius Airbus scheduled for 19:25.

Ultimately the flight arrived safely and seemed to land flawlessly, to a collective sigh of relief.

Anyway just incase the flight crew happen to read this forum I thought I’d pass on the thanks of the emergency services for a job well done. You gave us all a bit of a fright there for a moment 



19th Jun 2004, 01:59
Good job,

But can't help feeling if you ever had to deal with the aftermath of an aviation disaster, you would want to quit your current job and your dream job.

19th Jun 2004, 02:53
Nice to see you take your job seriously. No matter if it is a crash of a 152 or the 380 it is still gonna suck for those that have tasked themselves with cleanup. My admiration goes to them. :)

19th Jun 2004, 09:04
Quite funny this one......we were informed by West Drayton about the 340 returning with the flaps stuck at position 2. We put out the full emergency call, and then ten minutes later the BAA Heathrow switchboard phoned us back to say they'd just been told (by whom, I don't know) that it was now going to land with no landing gear, and that the central bus station was being evacuated.

Very bizarre!

View From The Ground
19th Jun 2004, 10:10
Anyone shed any light on why they evacuated the central bus station but there is nothing here saying they evacuated the terminals the plane would have ploughed through en route to the central bus station....bizarre! as you say! I know the BAA is keen on promoting the use of public transport but to prioritise the safety of the bus travelling public over the airline flying public...seems a strange way of looking after the people who provide them with their revenue. Seriously glad that all escaped the incident unharmed.

Engine overtemp
19th Jun 2004, 11:39
I presume the central bus station would be evacuated to allow for fleets of ambulances or similar which would be required in a full emergency, and not because it was thought that the aircraft might hop over the terminals before flattening said bus station!

19th Jun 2004, 11:55
Any news of why it happened? Sounds like a hydraulic problem.

19th Jun 2004, 12:11
No idea why. The BAA phoned us to see if it was a no gear landing, but we told them it wasn't, so no evacuation of the bus station. 320DRIVER, no idea.

19th Jun 2004, 12:36
Is 18 minutes with lights going the standard response time to get an ambulance to LHR? Just wondering because it seems like a lifetime.

Notso Fantastic
19th Jun 2004, 16:45
I do think you have a nerve dragging the name of a good company through the dirt with your title. I hope the company lawyers will be after your hide!

Captain Rat
19th Jun 2004, 18:00
As usual sounds like the information flowing around the various agencies was confused etc. Facts were; A/C took off, on flap retraction, flaps did not move and associated fault messages on ECAM. Drills c/out, unable to move flaps. A/C vectored by ATC for fuel dumping. Emergency services were put onstandby as the A/C would have to land slightly faster than normal and a bit heavier. Never any mention of a hydraulic failure or gear problems. Fault actually caused by flap assymetry switch failure.

19th Jun 2004, 18:46
Is 18 minutes with lights going the standard response time to get an ambulance to LHR? Just wondering because it seems like a lifetime.

Fulham to LHR approach tunnel = 15miles or so, in 18 minutes by maths tells me it's an average speed of 49.5mph - not bad considering the usual traffic around SW6.

Did NotSo say anything interesting? - only he's on my ignore list :E

19th Jun 2004, 18:58
"Not so" didnt post anything worth mentioning. He appears to underestimate the work done by a very under staffed Ambulance service,by the way Fulham to Runway tunnel in 18 minutes is excellent time by my watch.

Notso Fantastic
19th Jun 2004, 19:52
Staller- yes- damn good high speed dash through the streets of London, blue lights flashing, Police and ambulence men looking incredibly serious, screaming children jumping out of the way, dogs getting squished........for a partial flap landing? Purrlease!

This person is implying in the title of his thread that Air Mauritius is likely to experience a crash. Using the name of a Company in that manner is actually rather offensive to that Company and the good professional people who work there. All I can say is I hope they follow this matter up! Whatever did poor Air Mauritius do to have associated with it "Crash Imminent!". A little bit over-dramatic perhaps?

So there we have it. A fairly minor technical problem leading to an enormously hysterical emergency response out of keeping with the original minor problem. Bit of a shame running a full blue light run (which is a risky event) and hurting someone en route for a non-event minor technical problem! Headless chickens springs to mind! WHy didn't they evacuate the boroughs of Feltham and Staines, and while we're at it, bundle the Queen out of Windsor Castle too? The crew hardly need congratulations from London Ambulance Service for doing their job and handling a relatively minor problemo!

Tell me, amanoffewwords, why does an IT man want to pop up in a Pilot Forum with nearly 500 postings? Why so much to say? Bit like me going into an Accountants Forum with 500 posts.......I'll pass!

19th Jun 2004, 20:52
Sorry, not really qualified to post in here, but.. what a load of bol**x Notso.

Yes, the thread title could be interpreted that way, but reading it again I'm sure the thread starter had no intention to infer that particular airline was generally more likely to suffer an accident than another. On reflection perhaps, not the best choice of words, but I'm sure nothing else intended.

Leave the guy alone, an interesting post once again hijacked by someone who obviously knows better.

19th Jun 2004, 21:07
these were the messages the emergency services were getting ....

quote ......

" received a pager message to tell me that there was a full emergency at LHR.

the second message I received telling me that the cause of the emergency was hydraulic failure / no flaps / very heavy landing expected ….

The third one was this one ‘Crash Imminent’!"

whats the guy meant to do? ..... I can't see how such an incident could be treated as anything less than very seriously

19th Jun 2004, 21:30
I thought NotSos posts here read as a load of common sense. What's the problem?

19th Jun 2004, 21:42
Notso + groundfine if you bother to read the original post you will see clearly that the 'crash imminent' statement derived from another source. They were the very words sent to Damo's pager. Perhaps you should channel your grieviance into finding out who sent that message!

Dont worry, Im sure now you have set the wheels in motion for every LHR serving paramedic to carefully scrutinize the pager messages regarding an aircraft pan or mayday, perhaps put the kettle on back at base and have a good old chin wag as to whether its worth 'nipping' down to the airport just to 'have a look' at whats happening!:ok:

19th Jun 2004, 21:50
quote "What's the problem?"

I suspect a better question would be ...... who the xxxx is passing the messages below, to the Emergency Services" if they are so comprehensively, complete "Crap"

" received a pager message to tell me that there was a full emergency at LHR.

the second message I received telling me that the cause of the emergency was hydraulic failure / no flaps / very heavy landing expected ….

The third one was this one ‘Crash Imminent’!"

given that the messages were sent, what are the Emergency Services meant to do? ..... toss a coin ..... have a vote ? or maybe ignore them

edit for spelling

19th Jun 2004, 22:02

The ambulance service, and fire and police, receive the 'type' of call from the airport authorities - relayed as reported by ATC.

Full emergencies are not an uncommon episode but there is a set minimum response level from all the emergency services and at times, especially for the ambulance service, it is VERY difficult to meet that required response level. We often respond to LGW from over 15 miles away..

As I am sure you are aware the level of emergency is decided by ATC based on the information they receive from the PIC!

I was involved directly in a full emergency yesterday and whilst being a normal day to day response the Chinese whispers effect took place, due to a lack of understanding by the ambulance controller that I was speaking to they upgraded to major incident status and doubled the ambulance response.

I m lucky in the fact I am a pilot too - 99% of emergency service staff are not... I have a good understanding of things from a pilots point of view as well as from a paramedic view - unfortunately the majority of the ambulance service doesn't have a clue and this often causes problems. Similarly we find that a lot of aircrew don't follow the SOP for the airport they operate into when they've requested medical assistance, nor do they (understandably) have a clue about a pax medical condition - a £10 for every mis-diagnosis by aircrew or Medlink and I d be happily retired at 35... ;)
I have to admit though that an' Aircraft Accident Imminent is unusal - I ve know one in the last 3 + years... and that was a total no event too.

So.... if this had been posted by a spotter would it have generated as many reponses or just the usual 'just a routine priority landing' response?


19th Jun 2004, 22:03
Just as we are specialists in our own particular fields, so are the emergency services.
Most airports have specific categories of emergency (based on aircraft passenger capacity - not POB), to enable the non airport emergency services to assess how many vehicles and personnel to send to a particular incident.

A hydraulic problem that was initially diagnosed as flaps, could develop into something far more serious, hence the emergency response by the airport authority and local emergency services.

Ask anyone from the police, ambulance or fire brigade, and they'll all tell you that they'd rather attend something that didn't happen than be called out and get to the scene too late to do their primary task.

Notos's sarcasm is unworthy of these pages.

19th Jun 2004, 22:36
the last "full turn out" that I witnesssed was a USAF Galaxy turning back from a west bound Atlantic crossing (into SNN) with smoke on the flight deck

I have no doubt what-so-ever that everyone onboard the Galaxy was delighted to see a mass of "Red and whites" waiting for them to land (given the circumstances)

everyone went home happy with no damage done - even the Galaxy got away a couple of days later

Notso Fantastic
19th Jun 2004, 22:46
Well let's review what we've had and leave aside the personal attacks- a minor problem upgraded to a major emergency by someone in the emergency services with evidently a good dramatic background behind him ('major crash imminent'?). Precisely what was that aeroplane doing coming into London over all those people if that was the case? Such preplanned emergencies should never happen into Heathrow.

I would say rather than try and vilify someone who points out the absurdity of what happened in the emergency services that day, people should start asking questions as to who was involved in the decision making process that evidently shouldn't have been there! Perhaps another drama involving one or more exclamation marks that we can lay to rest. (shame Air Mauritius cops the bad name though- it really did nothing. The emergency services came across as buffoons though, didn't they?)

19th Jun 2004, 23:18
Ok I should like to start by saying that I really didn’t intend to cause any one any offence or to imply that Air Mauritus were in some way more likely to crash than anyone else. While I certainly did not mean to upset anyone, on reflection I can see that this would be a sensitive subject, and perhaps I should have been more guarded in the information I provided.

So once again please accept my apologies for any offence caused.

Now with that said perhaps it would be helpful if I elaborated on a couple of points.

Firstly my individual response time was indeed 18 minutes from Fulham, however please remember that I was responding in my capacity as a manager, and only one of a number of managers sent to the RVP to co-ordinate resources in the event of a major incident.

I am based in West sector which serves LHR however the sector stretches from Hillingdon to Fulham, and being based at Fulham, my own station is the furthest from LHR. As such I would not routinely respond to the airport.

Our response to any incident at LHR is determined by the category of incident as passed to us by STAR control. Suffice to say that the initial response will be provided by the local station and their corresponding management team, that being Hillingdon in this instance, and I can assure you that our initial responders were on scene within a couple of minutes.

I myself was only required to attend the RVP as part of the extended response once the incident had been upgraded.

I can see that as a Pilot you might see our response as exaggerated however there are a number of good operational reasons for this.

In this instance the decision to upgrade the incident from full emergency to Crash imminent was taken by the first ambulance officer on scene. Our standard Reponses to a full emergency would be 2 managers and four ambulances. With the declaration of a crash imminent a number of other resources are mobilized. These include a mobile control and command center, specialist communications vehicles, equipment support vehicles and of course more managers and crews are sent to the scene. In addition local hospitals would be placed on major incident standby at this point.

Clearly mobilisation of all these resources takes time and so while such a decision is not taken lightly we judge that it is wiser to gear up the response and then not to require it, than to find yourself having to call up these resources in the aftermath of an incident.

Ultimately the decision rests with the manager on scene. In this case he was informed that the plane was experiencing hydraulic failure, and expected a fast / heavy landing with no flaps. He judged that this allowed for the possibility of a ground incident on landing, and therefore took the decision to upgrade our response to crash imminent. I can assure you that this is not an easy decision and neither is it one that you have a great deal of time to consider.

All I would say is that as we stood at RVP North watching the AC land, I for one took great comfort from the fact that, we were at the moment of landing ready to deal with a significant incident should one have occurred.

Notso Fantastic
19th Jun 2004, 23:33
I'm afraid you were wasting your time watching aeroplanes. Evidently someone completely out of his depth was given the control over the level of response. Anyone would applaud that so many ambulances and emergency services were standing by having a nice day out at the airport watching a minor technical problem being handled, but why do I read in the papers frequently that ambulances take forever to arrive on domestic emergency callouts - the obvious inference is that they are in short supply.

So, do you think it a correct response that an ambulance official who knows very little about aeroplanes can decide unilaterally to pre-occupy numerous London Ambulance vehicles to stand guard when they are actually needed to cover health issues for people wanting emergency callouts? Someone was way out of his depth here!

I'm afraid I still wince when I look at your title. A lot of people would look at it as I read it...'Crash Imminent!....maybe Air Maurixxxx'. Any apology due is to that unfortunate company (or its lawyers....if they will accept it).

19th Jun 2004, 23:46
As an after thought I'd just like to say this.

We provided a very professional response on this occasion as we do week in and week out to LHR.

Mercifully we not in fact required on most occasions but nevertheless we are there for you should the worst happen.

A such don't think it is particularly respectful to refer to the emergency services as buffoons.

If you read my initial post again you will see that the point was to recognise the skill of the flight crew, who from where I was standing, seemed to execute a flawless landing.

For my part I didn't intend to cause any offence and have apologised for any that I did inadvertently cause.

While clearly entitled to your view I find your comment offensive and deliberately so.

Next time I respond to the airport I shall remember that I am 'wasting my time'.

20th Jun 2004, 07:16
Damo, keep up the good work. I would rather have someone being overly cautious than not give a rats, furthermore nobody can ever predict the outcome of a relatively "normal" malfunction. It is idiots like Not So Fantastic, who not only give dud advice, but also unfortunately give the impression that this is everyones line of thought on the matter.

Notso Fantastic
20th Jun 2004, 08:45
You miss the point blueloo, but how nice to get a bit of anonymous personal abuse in! It may be pleasant to have 50 ambulances standing by watching while you handle a very nondescript mechanical problem, but it is a luxury we cannot afford. Those ambulances would have been better involved doing their run of the mill tasks rather than violently over responding to nothing. Somewhere in the ambulance service, a major decision making process is being handled by someone who does not know what they are doing.

20th Jun 2004, 09:14
I still think you are missing the point NOTSO. All emergency services were at the airport on the understanding that there was a FULL emergency. Not just some inor mechanical problem . GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT BEFORE GOING INTO ONE YOU REALLY QUITE NICE PERSON, ACTUALLY AND YES THIS IS AN EDIT....

Also if he didn't put the airline in the title, you would probably want to know which airline was involved. Get a life or stay away from the forum site

20th Jun 2004, 09:15
Do some people enjoy causing an argument???

I for one have the upmost respect for any member of the emergency services and belive that they do a wonderfull job.

As the old proverb goes :- "Its better to be safe than sorry". I think one person in this thread needs to abide by that saying a bit more.

Notso Fantastic
20th Jun 2004, 09:28
I'm afraid there were a lot of people at home desperately wondering where their ambulances were whilst the crews were happily watching aeroplanes at the airport! Jettesen seems to think it OK that they responded completely inappropriately to a false indication of a FULL emergency- it was a minor technical problem. Wonderful job they would have done, no doubt, but they were not needed there- they were needed elsewhere. It is that decision making process that went very wrong. Respect for the ambulance profession has nothing to do with it Speedbird Heavy- you seem to misunderstand what the discussion is actually about.

Moderators- are you happy about jettesen's posting?

20th Jun 2004, 09:53
Are you trying to say that no need to make a move until accident actually happens? Can´t quite follow your way of thinking.

Notso Fantastic
20th Jun 2004, 10:21
Are you trying to say there should be a full emergency multi ambulance response to every incident? I wish we could afford it! So the result is to have better information flow and not allow people to arbitrarily declare full emergencies when they don't know what they are doing.

20th Jun 2004, 10:34
I am 100% sure that all people involved are trying to do as good as possible decisions every time. Unfortunately, all technical details can't be known until the situation in hand is fully sorted out. Better safe than sorry, you must agree!

20th Jun 2004, 10:41
How come these things don't make the news.

Spearing Britney
20th Jun 2004, 10:44
Notso, imho you are quite correct.

The first ambulance manager at the scene was clearly not trained to make the right decision, though I don't doubt his professionalism and good intent. Perhaps a tower controller or other aviation professional, maybe even a dedicated individual with emergency response training would be better suited to the task.

However, the manner in which you are voicing your views is one that is bound to produce the inappropriate vitriolic responses found here! I just hope you use more diplomacy on the flightdeck...

Notso Fantastic
20th Jun 2004, 10:50
Well how people perceive what I am saying is their problem! I am trying to be as concise as possible to get the points across. If people want to indulge themselves with jettesen's abuse and expletives or direct personal attacks, then they are just showing they are perhaps too immature to properly discuss such matters in public. The whole discussion was turned around to 'what a wonderful job the emergency services and boys in blue do, and how dare anybody criticise them for anything.....ever!'

I am a taxpayer, and I don't like seeing my money wasted on such over responses. Especially when my relative had a heart attack and an ambulance wasn't fast in response! Lovely it is to have them standing by in hordes, but not when I am paying and it's not needed. Something needs repairing there.

With regard to jettesens 'get a life', whatever does he mean? I am about to fly a 747 to a tropical paradise for half a week, with wife in tow. Please tell me what I am doing wrong and how I can improve! I am really interested in what advice a 'LGW' nothing (apparently) has for me (not!). And thank you for the advice to stay away from the forum.....er....your qualifications to render such advice?

20th Jun 2004, 11:00
It may improve a long way if you take a less aggressive attitude for this life. Some folks also leave a wife behind when going those destinations, it may also help.

20th Jun 2004, 11:13
Airport emergency orders , a contract drawn up by the airport and associated services ie the emergency services, dictates levels of response.

What may seem an overkill in the event of a false reading in the cockpit would most probably be in the event of a real accident be insufficient.

Hindsight is such a wonderful tool, although the pilot may believe it is a false reading his SOPS most probably dictate the actions he took, in the same way ATC had to follow their procedures and the Emergency services follow theirs.

Criticism of these should be raised if you so wish with the Airport Operators, These orders will have been produced over a long period of times following numerous consultation's with all involved.

20th Jun 2004, 11:22

I don't understand your problem with this, a full emergency was declared by ATC for an aircraft that had a problem, the fact that the aircraft returned to Heathrow is the decision of the commander of the aircraft and it is not for anyone elese to say to him / her that they cannot bring their aircraft to that particular airfield. I'm damn sure that if your 744 developed a hydraulic problem after departure which resulted in a return to heathrow for a faster than usual overweight landing then you would want the emergency services attending should the u/c collapse and you and all the punters down the back slide uncontrollably along 27R coming to rest and regaining consciousness just prior to the fire engulfing your a/c, thankfully the AFS get you out but you die waiting for an ambulance that would have been there had they responded appropriately but unfortunately someone put you in charge of making the decision as to the level of response and now you and several of your passengers who put their lives in your hands have died needlessly.

I've worked in the emergency services and now work as an ATCO and have dealt with countelss emergencies from both points of view and would rather they over react to an incident and be stood down prior to arrival, than not react appropriately and people die.

Other emergencies are not delayed, each incident is treated individually and if it is felt necessarry to break a unit away from attending the airport to deal with a serious RTA or cardiac arrets then I've no doubt the the Ambulance Service will do so. It's a matter of priorities.

20th Jun 2004, 11:51
A quick detour from the thread....

Whilst on a conversion flight last year in SA the Piper Aztec I was flying indicated to me that neither my L or R main gear was down and locked. Fortunately I was flying with a brilliant instructor who allowed me to handle the situation as 'pilot flying' even though I had limited experience with the Aztec in fact any twins.

We informed ATC as we were joining the field and there response was 100% professional, deploying Fox Tango 1 + 2 to the threshold where a low fly by was executed enabling an inspection. The inspection revealed gear down and apparantly fully extended, and whilst on the downwind leg the 9th gear lever cycle gave us 3 greens.

Now my point.

When we told ATC we now had 3 greens, they didnt stand down the emergency services at all in fact after landing (never been so relived to hear those babies skreetch) we were followed (as procedure) by the services all the way back to the hanger.

Therefore notso, please consider the consequences of an underestimated emergency at LHR. I would have thought that as a 744 pilot you for one would appreciate the possible escalation of a hydralic problem, imagine if they had of stood down and the undercarriage had of collapsed on landing.

Surely then, some serious questions would have been asked.

I for one am grateful we are bickering about what has happened and not what 'could' of happened!

20th Jun 2004, 15:42
Ok, I was the Tower supervisor who got the call from LTCC about the MAU 340 returning. I was told exactly what the crew had said was wrong, the fact it was over MID burning off fuel, and was requesting 27R as it was the longest runway (by 300m). I decided that as it would be fast, heavy and that he requested an extra 300m that I would put on a Full Emergency. As we know in the tower, this has implications on the positioning of fire and ambulance units all over Greater London and Thames Valley, and is NOT something we do lightly. I thought my decision justified when word came through that he had declared a PAN.

I wasn't actually the person who eventually made the Full Emergency call, as I had been given a break by then, but my successor agreed with what I had planned.

We've been burnt (pun not intended) before by crews not telling us the whole story of any problems they're having regarding a possible emergency, and I don't think we (or any emergency services - who are just following local emergency orders) should be criticised for any perceived over-reaction when we know what has happened in the past.

LightTwin Driver
20th Jun 2004, 16:36

Have you finished your homework yet.It's bedtime soon-school in the morning !


Tricky choice to make.
I think NotSo does have a very valid point.
On too many occassions do we see huge numbers of blues and twos turn out for something very minor.
Perhaps there needs to be a better method of determining the seriousness involved with any non-standard landing.

We pilots could improve our RT to help matters though.Only last week I heard some small turboprop saying "I am declaring an emergency"-and that was it.I was waiting for him to do just that,but no Mayday or Pan call was forthcoming.Sloppy RT does not help the busy ATCO.

20th Jun 2004, 17:30
hyd fail on an an a340 is a non event - someone is blowing it out of proportion!! - if flaps stuck out, well then you obviously cannot continue to destination due to fuel issue but other than that not a problem.

20th Jun 2004, 17:35

Sure, I can appreciate that having emergency service attendance for what you might class as a minor tech fault is annoying. However, as I've said we've been caught out before, and related to this case, it was a PAN, was I concerned about the reason why the flaps were stuck, and we weren't getting anything else from the flight crew regarding this. In our procedures we have to call a Full Emergency for some things, hydraulic failure being one of them.

Edit to add: We didn't know why the flaps were stuck, that's one of the main reason why I was thinking about putting on an FE......And why declare a PAN?

20th Jun 2004, 17:52
sorry - perhaps i must re word my comment ... a hyd failure on one system its not a major safety issue - dont know about the rest of the story re: PAN - if a PAN was declared i find it rather strange - major over reaction - however, like i said, dont know the complete story

20th Jun 2004, 17:53

Well done you, and everyone else involved. I have absolutely no clue as to what the feeling must be to have to make that kind of decision, but can pretty much guarantee if you had not called it how you did, and something awful had happened, there would be people here calling for your head on a stick.

I am not an expert on the emergency services, but trust the guys in charge to prioritise (like caniplaywithmadness said) if something else happens.

100% behind you.


20th Jun 2004, 18:00
There! Topic edited. As for those posters who show their immaturity and lack of debating skills by resorting to personal abuse, Don't. Vigorous debate is fine, especially here where some of the parties to the incident under discussion are taking part but I won't accept posters descending to insults just because they can't provide a reasoned response to another posters point of view.

I edited the title originally from "Crash Imminent" to "Crash Imminent ...maybe (Air mauritius)" because I thought it reflected the content of the thread more accurately. Obviously it was misinterpreted and to try and avoid any further vehemence towards the topic starter I have edited it again. If anyone is not happy with something about a thread then please don't harp on about it in the thread. Use the "Report this post to a moderator" link that is available at the bottom of every post instead.

On the topic of ATC calling in Emergency services, I can understand the frustration that one persons perception of a situation can cause. In my case, I was on a freight flight from Coventry to Belfast in an HS748 when we started to experience some minor vibration from one of the props. It was a fairly common occurrence as the de-icing strips on the prop blades used to delaminate. As we were ahead of schedule and flying directly over our main (maintenance) base at Liverpool I decided to divert there so engineering could fix the problem, just in case it developed into something more troublesome later when away from base.

It was very early in the morning, about 0500L and I told Manchester ATC who were handling me at the time that I wished to divert to Liverpool. I was given a vector and handed off to Liverpool Approach who asked me why I was diverting there. I told them 'it was for technical reasons'. They then kept asking me for more details and I repeated my reason. They then asked what exactly was the 'technical' reason and I told them I had a minor vibration from one of the props and I wanted our engineers to check it out. We were based at Liverpool so it made sense to make a quick 'pit stop' and get the problem sorted.

Anyway, I was asked by ATC if I wanted to declare an emergency and I told them 'no, I just want our engineers to check something'. Eventually, I am lining up on final approach and I see all these blue flashing lights and emergency vehicles lined up by the runway. There were many more emergency vehicles waiting at the RVP's. After an uneventful landing we taxied to the ramp with a squadron of fire engines in front and behind us with more waiting by the ramp.

I shut down the engines, put the ladder out and immediately a fireman comes on board wanting to know the nature of our 'emergency' to which I responded that there wasn't one! After reassuring the fire services that they weren't needed they all buggered off and tranquility returned to the airport.

I got an engineer to stick the de-icing pad back on the prop so we could get on our way. Whilst waiting for the bond to take effect I a quick coffee in the crew room where I get a call from the MD wanting to know what the hell was going on. Apparently, whoever had decided that the emergency services should be called out or someone from within those services had also 'leaked' the news to the media who had already broadcast the 'news' about a full emergency with one of our a/c and using library footage had put together a 'package' showing our passenger aircraft and insinuating that somehow we had had a lucky escape from some sort of disaster. :rolleyes:

I called the tower and asked why they had declared an emergency when I had specifically stated that there wasn't one. The response I got was that it was SOP for them to declare an emergency if an aircraft states they have a 'technical' problem. Go figure!

In the end, I got a bollocking for supposedly giving ATC the idea that I had an emergency and I gave them one for declaring it and having press hype it out of all proportion which could have caused damage to the reputation of the company.

It just goes to show why it's not always best to 'over react' to minor problems. In the case of the Air Mauritius A340 hydraulic abnormal situation, I think the controller over reacted. The pilot requested the longer runway. It would be SOP to request the longer runway. To assume a more serious response was required based solely on that information and even though only a PAN was declared was, in my personal view, an over reaction. If the crew had asked for emergency services to be standing by as they were unsure of their ability to come to a stop within the confines of the runway or had declared that there was a possibility of a gear collapse then I could understand the decision to override the crews perception of the outcome. In this case, it was indeed an overreaction and as can be seen, the 'Chinese Whisper' syndrome can make it even worse.

20th Jun 2004, 18:13
as a matter of interest would it be reasonable to ask a flight crew, that is declaring an emergency, just what level of response they would like to be available upon arrival?

its seems to me that if as advised .....

"hyd fail on an an a340 is a non event - someone is blowing it out of proportion!! - if flaps stuck out, well then you obviously cannot continue to destination due to fuel issue but other than that not a problem"

..... then why not have the Flight Crew advise ATC to have a Precautionary attendance , but certainly not a Full Blown Turn Out of Emergency Services

If, on the other hand a Crew feel a "full turnout" would be wise then let them say so

LightTwin Driver
20th Jun 2004, 20:13

Good post.


Fully agree.
If I want the emergency services standing by then I will sure as hell make sure they are aware of this.
I have not yet been in such a situation that warranted this,thank god.

But over the last 15 or so years I have been met by flashing lights on more than one occasion because someone else has decided that I have a much bigger problem than actually exists.

It is damned annoying and also rather off-putting for the passengers to be escorted back to stand by all manner of emergency vehicles simply because one has stated that,say for example,we request a longer approach than usual due to flaps being lowered using an alternate (ie slower) system.

We tell ATC of such events out of professionalism and courtesy,but don't expect an over-reaction.
Perhaps ATC guys should join us now and then for SEP days etc when we can have two way discussions as to what is and what is not expected by both parties.

20th Jun 2004, 21:04

ATCOs attending your SEP days etc YES PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Myself and many of my colleagues have been trying to get that for years! Only this year we've seen pilots come in to attend our "Training in Unusual Circumstances and Emergencies" days.

As for overreaction....as with local emergency services, ATC also have their own mandatory procedures. For example, if a 747 comes in on three engines, I HAVE to put on a local standby. No questions. Even if it's a BA 747 ferrying OUT to Cardiff on three engines, I HAVE to put on a local standby. I HAVE to put on a Full Emergency when an aircraft is known to have a complete or partial hydraulic failure.

Hence our questioning if you just say it's a 'technical problem'.

As for Danny's case of "ATC's SOP for them to declare an emergency if an aircraft states they have any 'technical' problem" well, that's just silly. I do hope they've modified that! If you say that you've got a tech problem (non-hydraulic) that will not affect a normal landing, then chances are I won't do anything.

All considerations of a/c safety aside, if I don't put anything on when my book says I should, I won't have a leg to stand on in court, and after the dreadful events to the ATCO after Ueberlingen, if something does happen for which we could have been better prepared for, who knows what might happen. And yes, these things are now factors in some ATCO decision making. CYA or what?

20th Jun 2004, 21:12
Thought this might be of interest to some.

There is a photo here somewhere . . .

I was staying at the Renaissance and was wondering what the emergency vehicles were waiting for; I suspected it might have been some kind of emergency. In the end, a perfectly normal landing was flown, although you can see that the flaps do indeed appear to be stuck in Config 2.

A good job by the crew and as ever, the LHR emergency crews showed the professionalism expected of them.


MD900 Explorer
20th Jun 2004, 21:27
NotSo Fantastic

I am shocked at your cocky attitude. I am sure BA employ sensible pilots, but if this is the type of Plank Driver, i shall avoid any route with BA using 747-400's, incase you are at the helm :mad:

The Ambulance Service has a job to do just like the ATCO and the Pilots. I salute the service for being there in such a great time. even if it wasnt an emergency in the end, it is a great drain on the service, for other needy cases like cardiac arrests and RTA's.

Your comments are most typical of the type of pilot that causes accidents with your cocksure attitude. Get a life mate.


MD :sad:

PPRuNe Radar
20th Jun 2004, 21:32
Pilots could also use the phrase 'Company Reasons' instead of a 'Technical' one. ATC are unlikely to ask anything further about such a diversion since it is none of our business.

Of course, that would assume that those who actually do have a problem then declare it when it happens. Which doesn't happen all the time.

Ranger 1
21st Jun 2004, 01:55
In all the years of doing my job I have never heard of "Crash Imminent" various categories apply where I work they are as follows.

1. Weather Standby; (weather conditions are such to render landing difficult or difficult to observe take off/ Landing

2. Local Standby;
When it is known that an aircraft has or is suspected to , developed some defect, but the trouble would normally not involve any serious difficulty in effecting a safe landing.

3. Full Emergency;
when it is known that an aircraft is or suspected to be in such trouble that there is danger of an accident

4. Aircraft Ground Incident;
When an aircraft on the ground is known to have an emergency situation, other than Aircraft accident.

5. Aircraft accident;
Aircraft accidents which have occurred on or are inevitable on, or in the Vicinity of the airport.

On Occaisions ATC or The Fire officer in charge have upgraded the incident to be safe rather than sorry. :ok:

21st Jun 2004, 02:03
"The third one was this one ‘Crash Imminent’!

Ok so you can imagine that this one got my attention!"

I know how you felt. As a day job I'm a documentary cameraman and some years ago spent a week at Gatwick Airport's fire service to be the proverbial fly on the wall.

It was day one, an early start was required for some reason and I found myself at the station at 6am. But it was empty! A bloke in a red 4x4 pulled up and told me to jump in or I'd miss the action as they had a "shout" A typical false alarm I thought but I reckoned on getting some good dramatic pictures in the dark and was a little flustered that I was somewhat unprepared to be racing airside toward a fleet of flashing lights.
A few minutes later I'm as near the edge of a runway as I've ever been with the full compliment of fire trucks poised, engines throbbing, lights flashing in the cold otherwise eerily silent morning.

All very dramatic and atmospheric.

Then the bloke I'm with received a call saying "Crash imminent!"
I almost wet myself. It was a fully loaded DC10, with hydraulic failure. Asymmetric flaps?, no landing gear maybe?, bloody hell!
For a few minutes I thought that it was definitely going to actually crash right in front of me.
Then the nature of the problem eventually became apparent (to me) as a possible hydraulic failure, I realised that it wasn't actually a imminent crash but probably a dodgy cockpit warning light.

It landed without incident.

Is there a category of call out beyond "crash imminent?"

But a week after I left there was a serious accident, one of the tenders I had been riding shot gun in rolled into a culvert, the cabin flooded and the crew were lucky to escape with broken bones.

Definitely safer to travel by air!


Pontius' Pilot
21st Jun 2004, 03:27
I have been trying to post a reply since Gonzo posted the facts from the ATC side, unfortunately I was unable to post.

I am sure as has been discussed since then, that the Firefighting and Rescue services reacted in a manner befitting the callout they were given.

A few salient points which I feel are pretty much fact from the point of view from the Air Mauritius crew are:

1. The problem was a surface jam on retraction after takeoff, not a hydraulic problem.

2. The crew declared a PAN, after having been asked by ATC if they were declaring an emergency. As per normal LHR ATC were fully supportive during the return to LHR.

3. Approximately 60 000 kgs of fuel was jettisoned.

4. A landing was performed in an abnormal flap/slat configuration (as can be seen on the link given by akerosid), which would have required a higher Vapp and the additional runway length that was spoken about.

5. Landing weight was approximately 186 000kgs - max landing weight 190 000 kgs.

6. An MOR was filed as required by legislation.

7. The aircraft departed for Mauritius on Saturday in the early afternoon with the same crew, after the defect had been rectified. An earlier departure was possible but the crew were out of flight duty time. Due consideration was also given to the passengers affording them the opportunity of a full rest before continuing to their beautiful tropical destination. The other crew in London at the time were on a rest period and were unable to operate the flight back earlier.

We should be comforted to know that Gonzo and his peers are there evaluating the event from their side preparing the airfield for the return of the aircraft - I certainly am. We sometime fail to 'see' some things in the heat of handling the abnormal situation. Maybe, as Danny says it was an over reaction but on the safe side.

Hopefully this helps.

edited for spelling and word order

21st Jun 2004, 06:27
We have a category of emergency called 'Aircraft Accident Imminent'. However, I think the 'Crash Imminent' talked about above was a purely Ambulance Service thing to determine the response level.

21st Jun 2004, 07:30
I really think Gonzo's post should be the end of this and that this thread is past its 'sell-by-date'. Whether we 'professional' pilots are 'embarrassed' by/'bollocked' for/'outraged' by ATC 'responses' to our declarations is immaterial. ATC have their rules just as we do.

I have had a full blue-light situation for a minor aircraft event that turned out to be a 'non' event which yes, was 'embarrassing' and resulted in coffee no biscuits because the press got hold of it, but there it is, boys and girls. That is life and we have to learn to live with it and not rant at each other about it. Better safe than sorry?

21st Jun 2004, 08:33
Well that was interesting reading. I am involved with Emergency Planning (not LHR).

All the Emergency Responses at major UK airports should follow the ICAO annex and UK CAA CAP 168 and 576. "Aircraft Accident Imminent" is a recognised category. I have to concur with Gonzo that a Full Emergency was an appropriate response. He/she has the book to follow once the pilot has declared a PAN subject to set tech problems.

Full Emergencies happen as & when - we had two within 10 mins the other day and YES you need that Blue light response. You have to make the assumption that the Full Emergency decision has been taken by ATC for all the right reasons in understanding the difficulties being experienced by the crew - thus the emergency response is required just in case.

Question: (and I have seen the Emergency Services decide something is going to crash even though they have absolutley no new information further to the alert for a Full Emergency) - who put the "Crash" slant on this? Therefore you have to have sympathy for Notso's view that the incident was unnecessarily escalated.

Since FAM flights have been made increasingly difficult to achieve in the last 33 months or so, why on earth can't ATCO's sit in on SIM training and perhaps get a separate debrief from trainers post session. - Just a thought!

22nd Jun 2004, 20:08
The A340 was dispatched by one of my friends on the ramp and after departure the system noticed that the flaps were not synchronised by a degree or two and so it locked all flap movements. Its a safety system designed to prevent flap retraction or extension on just one side of the wing...

Came about after the crash of the AA DC10 in ORD a few decades ago...

This is what I was told...

22nd Jun 2004, 21:16
I spent 13 years working as a Police Officer at LHR, and have been on the recieving end of many full emergency calls.

The idea of the excersise is to have an appropriate response there should whatever the aircrafts problem is, turn into a major incident.

I am not old enough to remember the Staines air crash, but I understand that within minutes the roads where clogged with sightseers to the extent that emergency services couldn't get into, nor out of the scene. Staines happened in the early 70's when there were far less vehicles on the roads, imagine what would happen now.

The BAA Fire service are the prime response and they are backed up by the Local Authority fire service, who attend the RV Point.

The London Ambulance service also go to the RV point and stand by. Its obvious that should an aircraft go crunch the 4 ambulances wont help matters much, but its a start.

The Police response is again to the RVP, again on standby. These officers form an initial response, forming a corden and liason with the other emergency services.

Police would co ordinate all 3 emergency services in the event of a crash. There is an Non Heathrow Police response, mostly in respect of traffic points in an attempt to prevent emergency routes being clogged up.

OK so thats why there is a meeting of emergency services when a full emergecy is declared.

There is also a response to 'local standby's', 'aircraft ground incidents' and 'acts of aggression ground'.

The information comes from ATC via the aircraft emergency line to Heathrow Police control room, the BAA fire services watch room and the airport PABX. It's then farmed out by those 3 to the appropriate outside agencies.

Over response? well yes every time an aircraft with an emergency lands safely you could say that, but better safe than sorry.

On occations things don't work as advertised, I remeber being in the Police Control room the direct line from the tower rang (ie not the emergency line) The controllers said " Sorry havn't got time to put this out, got a 767 on finals total hydraulic failier and its probably going to go off the end of the runway, can you block the Eastern perri?"
No full emergency was declared, so I called it 'Aircraft Accident Imminant' for Police purposes.
The initial resposne was no differant to a full emergency (apart from a few bums twitching in our senior management) and the aircraft landed safely.

23rd Jun 2004, 07:30
Well BJCC - In terms of the "planned response" they ought to go as advertised. You must have checklists to follow up until such time as the unexpected occurs? - then you need to use your experience and common sense.

I think it incredible that you took it upon yourself to decide upon an Aircraft Accident Imminent. If ATC did not use the normal means of contact, why did you not at least ask what level of response they were looking for? An aircraft going off the end of a runway does not always lead to disaster. I have witnessed a 757 with total hydraulic failure land and come to a stop within 7,000ft.

I can't believe the response levels for a FE and an AAI at Heathrow are so similar in terms of turn out apart from your added description of "twitching".

I have yet to react to an AAI but know the inner sensation when your mobile lets you know it is an AA - and the emotions are poles apart.

23rd Jun 2004, 08:46
<<ATC have their rules >>

THANK GOD.......

23rd Jun 2004, 08:53
quote .....

"The controllers said " Sorry havn't got time to put this out, got a 767 on finals total hydraulic failure and its probably going to go off the end of the runway, can you block the Eastern perri?"

and another view .....

"An aircraft going off the end of a runway does not always lead to disaster."

seems to me that some Airport "Services" need to get together for a very detailed discussion

23rd Jun 2004, 09:01

Work as advertised??? OK, the theory for this incident was that ATC would pick up the emergency phone, wait till Police, fire and PABX answer, give a formatted message and wait for PABX to read it back. The wait for Police and fire to aknowlage. A good 3 or 4 minutes worth on a good day.

Read what I said, the aircraft is on finals, ATC ask for the perri to be closed and the aircraft has total hydralics failier. the information has not come via the emergency line and the comment is he doesn't have the time to do so, so the request is from what he said and the intonation of his voice very urgent.

From the above information, using common sense and experience (yes I have that a plenty) the obvious conculution is the aircraft may well over run the runway. In any case given whats been said I don't have the time to ask the ins and out's of a dogs backside, that can wait (common sense there). I organsied the blocking of the road then informed Police and Police only that for now I was calling it aircraft accident imminant. The initial response was no different from a full emergency so makes no difference to anyone else. Now to me that seemed reasonable. To you it may not have done, but then to me sittting having a technical discussion while an aircraft sails off the end of a runway, then onto a road full of cars is not acceptable. Experience? Yes ask the crash crews at RAF Northolt, where the same thing happened with a biz jet that ended up enbeded in the front of a van on the A40.

I think you miss understand the things don't work as advertised. I mean that theory and reality tend to part company at a very early stage of an incident, 1 spent 19 years in the Police, and dealt with 1000's of incidents raging from bomb threats to bombs for real to aircraft emergencies to aircraft accidents for real. from threats to murders from pub fights to domestic disputes. So I am well used to using common sense and I know there are times to have a discussion and when to do something first then discuss it later.

Check lists are good for the first 2 minutes and reminding you to inform someone, the reality of controlling an incident means that ad lib is the order of the day, it works!

23rd Jun 2004, 09:47
We are going slightly off track here. The initial post was about a declared FE that somehow turned into an AAI. That seemed to have upped the Ambulance Service response which was then called into question.

That was where I questioned the lack of adhering to procs.

:hmm: Now in the case you mention, you can start asking a lot more questions; and yes, I fully concur with your comments that after each serious/major incident you can go and re-write one's procs because unless you are a genius, you are always going to learn.

Maybe Heathrow Dir. can add light - a 767 with only a few track miles to run with total hydraulic failure prior to it being appreciated by anyone?

When was it discovered that this was the situation? On lowering the gear? Did it become evident with the first stage of flap? Before either of the above?
I would like to think if you had this situation arise that the app. might at least be delayed, subject fuel reserves, in order to ensure the activation of the emergency services with a FE being declared and to save an Aircraft Accident Imminent being presumed by various participants.

At our RVP one day during a FE, whilst the a/c in question was still dumping fuel, I overheard one of your colleaugues inform those gathered that he had just heard that the subject aircraft was going to crash. This creates anarchy when you are not keeping to the facts. I had to make several phone calls to be satisfied that the initial technical fault on the aircraft had not mushroomedinto something we were not aware of.

As Heathrow Dir states.............and follow them until something happens that's not in the book.

23rd Jun 2004, 10:54
Again GK430, I think you have missed the point, which is that there are times when you act first and ask questions later. Had ATC done things 'by the book' the aircraft would have landed and had the worst happened been embedded in the Eastern perri road. The way we were informed gave us a fighting chance of getting the road closed. In the event it wasn't nessesary, but I am sure had the worst happened and the road not been closed then the justified clamours for someones blood would have been very loud!

As with many things, the circumstances I described was all a 'grey' area. Black and white looks good in books, but constantly trying to follow what the book says as circumstances drift further and further away helps no one. Of course if you train people to deal with things by the book you take away thier ability to think for themselves and deal with things not contained in one of the many volumes you would need to cover every eventuality you can thing of.

Now as regards to the original post, having read about the bus station being evacuated it sounds like there were 2 incidents and some missintrpretation. The bus station at lhr is not used in any part of the emergency planning. All emergency services go to the nominated RVP. The nature of heathrow, ie the 3 main terminals being in the middle (along with the bus station) and only being reached by tunnel means that this area will clog almost instantly.
So using the bus station as an RVP is pointless.

From reading your post it seems as if you get a slightly longer warning, at Heathrow we used to get at best 10 minutes warning, at worst (ie the example I gave) very much less. I can also recall ATC reading a full emergency details as we watching the aircraft land on cctv. All a little late.

Before you ask, we had taken this up with ATC on numerous occations, which was met with all sorts of reasons why we didn't get longer.

You point out that all FE's are a blue light response, the reasons being that ATC have made a decision based on the information they have there is a danger to the aircraft. In my example I based my decision on the ATCO's experience, ie they don't tend to cry wolf. I stand by what I said in that he used common sense, knowing that the prescribed method of notification would have taken too long for the response needed, ie the road closing. I also stand by my decision, given the information that I would grade it for our purposes as AAI. To not do so would have made the road closure unnessary. In fact I had to justify my reasons to my senior management (and thier slightly soiled underware) and my reasons where accepted without critisium (I do wish I could spell!)

I take your point over the Police Officer at the RVP, although you mention you overheard him. Did you ask him any questions like what he based his statement on? Sounds to me like a bored PC at an RVP doing what he's done many times before saying something daft to lighten the moment. You are probably as aware of emergency services sense of humour as I am.

23rd Jun 2004, 11:13
Notso's prefered option is clearly for the emergency services and ATC to do nothing until there is a smashed aeroplane and dismembered bodies over the field before wasting his precious tax money.

A wonderful advert for flying with BA.

Oh and before whining about personal attacks, I suggest you read some of your posts again. :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

23rd Jun 2004, 12:19
This topic is starting to go round in circles now. My last contribution.

The initial post was about a declared FE that somehow turned into an AAI. That seemed to have upped the Ambulance Service response which was then called into question.

Just to be specific, the declared FE was follwed by the appropriate response. There was no mention of the ATC term 'Aircraft Accident Imminent', it was an Ambulance Service only 'Crash Imminent' which is a 'domestic' call and determines the amount of support equipment, mobile control post etc.

Two different things. It certainly never 'turned into' an AAI.

23rd Jun 2004, 13:43
Yes Gonzo, I can see that, I made the point, as everyone was talking about a bus station evacuation that there may have been a problem (unconnected) there and that may have caused a bit of confusion..I wonder if it was an act of aggression ground? which then got lost in translation when the star centre informed LAS at Waterloo. Could that have led to you being misinformed?

Warped Factor
23rd Jun 2004, 14:57

Before you ask, we had taken this up with ATC on numerous occations, which was met with all sorts of reasons why we didn't get longer.

Most often the reason is likely that the flight deck are playing their cards close to their chest and getting all the info out so that the correct response can be put on is like getting blood out of a stone.

There are so many non-legit users monitoring the frequencies these days that you can, to a certain extent, understand but it can make life difficult when at very short notice what was intitially believed to be a fairly minor problem is revealed to be rather more serious :(

23rd Jun 2004, 15:48
Warped Factor,

Yes that was one of the reasons given. Our resposnse was it was totaly unacceptable.

OK, I can understand why the crew wouldn't want the greater public to know, but at some point they are going to have to come clean. The trouble is that if they do that at the last minute they run the risk of the emergency services not being there in time.

Some pilots have complained (probably rightly) that emergency services have little understanding of aircraft emergencies. , its also true that crews have no real idea of how emergency services plan to deal with it should it go wrong.

In order to get everything in place with the minimum of fuss we need time. The LFB and LAS need to get thier vehicles to the airport, Police need to get outside traffic units to choke points to try to keep emergency access/egress routes open, roads on the airport may need to be closed this all takes time. Declearing a problem on finals doesn't give anyone a chance in hell, and may well cause loss of life.

There is a lot lot more to an aircraft accident the fire service squirting foam about, then a few ambulances trundling along and picking up the injured, leaving the old bill to guard the wreckage so no one nicks it.

The original post says that this call was a Full Emergency, the response from some aircrew is its an over reaction, can I remind you Kegworth was a full emergency.

23rd Jun 2004, 16:59
My 2 cents worth:

1. A crew yelling mayday or pan-pan is IMHO not automatically asking for the crash crew... as I'm just in simulator training, changing from 320 to 340, I make mayday-calls on a daily basis now :-).
In the 340 it would be dependent on which hydraulic system fails... The green (main) system could bring me to "mayday", while a failure of the yellow system would be a 'return to the field for technical reasons'.
Following the same line of thought: a single engine failure on a 4-engined a/c is no mayday, but a double -offcourse- is.

2. In the simulator I always ask for a certain type of assistance, which I believe is appropriate for the failure we have at hand. If the controller decides to bring out the full crash crew, when I only need some vectors for a minor navigational problem, or when I only need another FL because of a failed pack, it would be a waste of time and money.

3. During joint-training sessions with ATC here at our homebase, we found out that it is indeed difficult to provide all the information ATC would need to base their own opinion about the severity of the failure on. Usually we are too busy flying, trouble shooting, talking with the purser, making PA speeches etc... ATC is only a part of all the things we need to do in an emergency. Personally I learned to give exact information about the failure ("we lost one hydraulic system, we will remain on the runway after landing because our nosewheelsteering is inop, there is no danger for passangers or aircraft upon landing"), and as well to be very exact in my requests ("we need vectors for 35 NM untill landing").

4. I think Gonzo's reaction was correct, however the procedures should be changed. As I stated above, a partial hydraulic loss does not automatically mean that the flight is in danger. In this particular case every pilot (I hope) would ask for the longest runway, but that does not automatically imply an overrun. It is difficult to act on so little information, but I agree with the "better safe than sorry"-scenario.

5. Flaps/Slats stuck at config two might not be a reason for bringing out the crash crew, but I would qualify the failure as 'serious' anyway. Maybe losing one generator could be 'minor', but stuck flight controls is IMHO something bigger (abnormal pitch attitude at landing, abnormal speed, abnormal stresslevel in the cockpit etc.).

Happy landings!

23rd Jun 2004, 17:22
Pegasus77 - Agree with the better safe than sorry scenario, and at Heathrow and I presume most other UK airports thats what you get.

I can see the sense in the you "ask for the longest runway, but that does not automatically imply an overrun", But I am not keen on the does not automatically imply part of the statement.

Unless its just your choice of words that means that its possible you would overrun, but its not an automatic given. If thats the case, then I would suggest that the full emergency response is called for, given your better safe than sorry statement. If its my misunderstanding then I am sorry, ignore the above.

You say that you have joint training with ATC, what about the emergency services? Have you any idea how and what needs to be brought in to deal with a crash?

If not, then you perhaps can see my point about aircrews making a decision late or making an assumption that there is an over reaction.

Someone suggested earlier in this thread that airport services should get together and discuss matters, they are right!

At LHR, they used to run crash seminars, there were no aircrew at the one I went to, and the lack of knowladge of the airport emergency plans was breathtaking, even senoir members of the BAA had no idea.

24th Jun 2004, 07:22
bjcc wrote

"At LHR, they used to run crash seminars, there were no aircrew at the one I went to, and the lack of knowladge of the airport emergency plans was breathtaking, even senoir members of the BAA had no idea."

Please tell me you don't mean this!

24th Jun 2004, 07:38
I'm late to this topic.

I'm mere SLF.

My brother-in-law was on this flight.

He backs Gonzo 100 percent.

Sorry Danny, disagree with your post. Let's err on the side of caution. Be safer, not sorry.

24th Jun 2004, 12:20
Have you ever tried to write an emergency response plan? If you cover every eventuality you will end up with a document that is so complex it is unuseable. You have to simplify. The first consequence is that to 'fail safe' the emergency plan will always tend to over react. You then get criticised for over-reacting. The second consequence is that for each scenario you will base your response sequence on the most likely, or most catostrophic, sequence of events. This means the response sequence may be wrong for a less likely, or less catosptrophic, sequence of events.

You then go home in the evening, have a few glasses of wine, and hope that on the day someone (like an ATCO calling a cop and saying 'close the bloody road, NOW!) will use their common sense, rather than hide behind 'the plan'.

I am not a pilot, but I believe a similar logic is built into the V2 call on take off: the plan says, 'after V2 take the problem into the air', because most times that is the right thing to do. Some times it will be the wrong thing to do, but you need a simple rule, not a decision tree. You just hope the pilot will recognise when the rule does not apply.

24th Jun 2004, 12:31
You're not wrong. However, aeronautical emergency planning on airfields is laid out in black & white by the CAA - at least the minimum responses are. An individual aerodrome licensee may then apply local issues as deemed fit.

Furthermore, whilst most emergecies end up as
"non-events" - fortunately, those that do not, tend to be entirely different in most respects and you therefore cannot be too prescriptive. You do however, have to have the basics clearly defined.

By the way V1 and ATCO's in my experience tend to stick with the book.

24th Jun 2004, 20:31
Ah, now then GK430, I have to take issue again with you...Its not personel honest!.

The CAA can be as black and white as they like, the defence of "thats how I was ordered to do it sir" holds no sway. At any public enquiry do you honestly think that the CAA rep is going to stand there and say "yes the plane went off the end of the runway and wiped out 3 buses full of people as well as the passengers on the aircraft because we instruct that the emergency must be dealt with and called in the following way" Like hell they are!

Every instruction manual I have ever come accross has had words that amount to the following at the begining

" Nothing in these instructions prevent anyone from using thier inititive should circumstances demand it"

The reason thats there is so they author doesn't have to stand up in front of a public enquiry and find a reason why lots of people died because of something he didn't think of.

The minimum responses are not set out by the CAA as far as Police are concerned, thats a matter for the local chief officer. I think you will find that the CAA just say that suffiecent Police should be available.

As regards to fire and ambulance the CAA may well advise but it would be impossible to dictate as certainly ambulance cover is a viariable, dependent upon other incidients happening elsewhere.

You asked me to explain the aircarft crash seminar comment. Well The BAA used to (I presume they still do) run aircraft crash seminars at LHR. places at the seminar were filled by police, fire ambulance staff, there were a couple of ATCO's at the one I attened, members of the BAA airport duty management and doctors from the local A&E. There were also staff from airlines who may have to deal with relitives or onward travel of walking wounded, also the woman who ran EPIC for BA. You will note that the above list does not include any aircrew.

The seminar basicly was in the form of a senario, then reps from verious organisations went through for everyones benifit what action thier organisation would take, at each stage as the senario developed.

The BAA took thier usual attitude of we own the airport, ergo we will decide what happens, which is B@@@@@ks. It showed a total lack of knowlage of thier own emergency orders. They were left in no doubt by a Station Officer from the LFB that they were not in charge, he was until any fire was out, then the Police were.

The main stumbling block being that the BAA reps thought only of continuing operations at the airport where as the LFB and us, not being under commercal pressure considered that to be bottom of the priority list. It was a good learning experience, and gave us some idea of what to expect a year or so later when paddy threw things over the perrimeter fence, which incidently led to me, (being in the Police control room, chucking the emergency orders out of the door as being of no use what so ever in the circumstances.

Notso Fantastic
24th Jun 2004, 21:43
One hardly dares looking in here there seems to be so many instant experts (who resort to personal attacks and abuse as if that makes their position stronger. Well the view from my department is that it is lovely to have scores of ambulancemen and fire-engines lining the runway for every minor technical problem, but I don't think the people of London and the London Ambulance Service can afford this largesse (or the taxpayer)- so the response is often totally out of line with the original problem. There is definitely a detachment of reality amongst some of the posts here- as if ambulances should be standing by by every runway!

I won't repeat my points, they are concise and clear enough. I think most pilots have been rather fed up when handling a minor technical problem adequately and following procedures, to find a mass of flashing blue lights around them when not at all needed. It helps to elevate a minor technical problem to a significant 'emergency'- it's a luxury the taxpayer can't afford.

Air Mauritius are aware of the use of their name in this thread. What they want to do with it is up to them. It is a reminder that posters should beware that laws of slander apply equally in apparently anonymous forums as anywhere else. That veil of anonymity will not be half as concealing as some people think.

24th Jun 2004, 22:09
As someone with 1st hand experience of attending ambulance calls I think Notso, et al are looking in the wrong places when blaming poor response time..

Get GP's to visit patients out of hours,
Re open all the closed A+E departments,
Encourage people to take responsibilty for their own health/welfare,
Discourage people from calling 999 for things which are clearly not an emergency - cut fingers/lift up stairs/etc,
Make ambulance trusts spend money appropriately on patient care instead of fancy PR stunts,
Charge the timewasters,

Maybe then people won't be 'waiting around for ambulances' when we are apparently playing spotters waiting for the crash...


24th Jun 2004, 22:11
"Notso ....." some way back in the thread I presented the suggestion that a PIC announcing an arrival or return to an airport, with a malfunctioning aircraft, should have the option of requesting the level of emergency services he requires

as an example ...... in the case of the 340 he might well have requested a minimum level of emergency services to be available or indeed none at all

in other more serious cases PIC might well request "maximum Levels" to be available

In your view, would this work ........

Notso Fantastic
25th Jun 2004, 00:07
This is the difficulty of discussing matters on a keyboard! Pilotwolf seems to have found criticism of response times for emergency services somewhere. I would rather the emergency services stayed in their lairs and responded to heart attack calls from the citizenry than gathered like a herd of mosquitoes for a jolly afternoon airplane spotting at a simple stuck flap scenario......but making that point has got me a lot of personal abuse as opposed to sensible discussion of the topic! Throwing in GPs hours does seem to be bowling a blinder.

Leaving emergency response decisions to other people nowadays inevitable leads to 'covering ones rear' on the hopeful principle that one can never have too much emergency vehicles on standby ('oh really?' says the tax payer!). Like the IT law that says you will never go wrong buying IBM. We've now reached the absurd situation that hopefully nobody will have their job compromised by calling out every blue light within 50 miles 'for anything'. Police close motorways for 10 hours. Police attend pointless calls at airports and won't come when your house is being broken into. It is out of hand now, with people protecting their asses in high profile incidents. Time I think for pilots to specify a sensible requirement for emergency cover in relation to their problem as hobie suggests. But uninformed amateur incident assessors should no longer have that decision!

25th Jun 2004, 08:11
Not so fantastic

As I said in an earlier post, Kegworth was a full emergency. The plane crashed.. What response would you have had on standby for that? The trouble with emergency services staying in thier lairs is that when it all goes wrong they are all in the wrong place when you need them.

Another example I have used was Staines, where traffic prevented emergency services access. If emergency services are in their liars how are they going to get to the scene if it all goes wrong?

Are you really qualified to specify the resonse to an emergency? I doubt that very much.

I have never had a road closed for 10 hours for a full emergency (a bit silly that one!!!). As for attending pointless calls at an airport, the same rules apply to that as your house being broken into. If they are all busy doing something else and so the pot is empty, they wont go to an airport either. Also most calls to houses being broken into are just the occupier making a hash of getting in, and therefore pointless too.

The point you have missed is that emergency services respond to a specific level of emergency, which is decleared by others. They are not being amateur incident assessors, the level of incident has already been assessed by ATC I presume in conjuction with you.

25th Jun 2004, 08:56
quote .....

"Are you really qualified to specify the response to an emergency? I doubt that very much."

to be fair to my proposal ..... if the aircraft fault is such that the PIC can clearly identify that there will be no detrimental effects on bringing the Aircraft in safely then I see no reason why he/she should not suggest a low level of emergency response(if any)

Notso Fantastic
25th Jun 2004, 09:12
bjcc- the Police closed the M4 blocking the only access to South Wales for 7 hours following a smash up on the motorway near Swindon (http://www.bbc.co.uk/wiltshire/news/032002/28/m4/shtml). Caused chaos over all of southern England. Long after aid was administered, they seemed to make a point of demonstrating to the public their ponderous ways, just as in the case we are talking about the emergency services preferred their ponderous 'normal procedures' response as opposed to a sensible reaction, leaving their resources available to their paymasters (the taxpayer).

You raised Kegworth. An engine failure on a twin is 'an emergency'. On a 4 engined aeroplane, it is not. A jammed flap system due to assymetry protection is not- most definitely not. So 'crash imminent' messages to all emergency services is being decidedly over dramatic- there was more risk to the public having ambulances doing the blue light screaming drama run with tense looking drivers through the streets of London, on a fool's errand, than there ever was to the public from an aeroplane. It has apparently escaped most people here that what is needed is a measured response. This can best be obtained from a crew giving their opinion!

The Jaguar Fan Club
25th Jun 2004, 09:47
There is a lot of hot air blowing through this thread, however here is my £0.02.

The pilot of the A340 in question deemed the situation serious enough to declare a PAN, the definition of which is "A condition concerning the safety of an aircraft or other vehicle, or some person on board or in sight, but which does not require immediate assistance". If the pilot deemed that the aircraft was no longer in danger, he could quite easily have terminated the PAN stating that he could make a normal approach and landing, therefore not requiring the attendance of the emergency services.

The controller in question is not (to my knowledge) a qualified ATPL holder with an A340 type rating and currency on type, and is therefore not fully conversant with the systems of an A340, or the drills associated with the failure thereof. The controller therefore has to make a decision based on the information supplied by the crew and his previous training and experience.

It is not the first time I have controlled an aircraft that diverted due to a "minor technical problem, engine indication fluctuations" that quickly escalated to an engine fire and shutdown. That crew were VERY glad that the emergency services were already there as the engine caught fire at 6 mile final.

There are many comments on this thread that show that hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Notso Fantastic

The comments relating to a heard of ambulances sitting plane spotting at Heathrow I think are a little dramatic and unfair. The ambulance crews take their job vey seriously, and would be expecting to be dealing with extreme injuries in a dangerous environment. Hardly a jolly afternoon out.

There is no point in slating the emergency services response to a minor incident, as the next "minor" incident may be turn out to be the next major one for a number of reasons (crew mishandling the aircraft, incorrect drills, misidentification of the problem, worsening of the situation). This incident could only be classed as "minor" AFTER it had landed safely, or the pilot terminated the emergency he had declared.

Again the reference to the prospect that people could be dying in London due to this callout is, without full facts, unfair and seems to be based on a bitter attitude to an unfortunate situation you have experienced. Was there a Full Emergency at LHR the day your relative required an ambulance? I hardly think the emergency services can be blamed for many factors that delay response times and commit resources i.e. traffic congenstion, hoax calls, dealing with drug abusers overdosing.

The procedures for an ATCO to decide what callout to make are based on MATS Pt 1,training and previous experience. If the last time a controller had an aircraft declare an emergency with a flap problem and the thing slewed off the runway, then he is going to take that into consideration when making the call. As has been said, its the old chestnut of understanding and training. We dont tell pilots how to do your job, or even consider to tell you when a PAN or MAYDAY would be unneccesary in our opinion, so please dont bash ATCO's and the emergency services for acting in accordance with their guidelines, training and experience.

Perhaps this could all be condensed into a sensible, constuctive letter with proposals for mutual training to the UK Flight Safety Committee, UK ATS providers, airlines and emergency services?

25th Jun 2004, 10:03
Not So Fantastic.

I fail to see what a closing roads after a motorway accident has to do with this subject.

I'll explain for your benifit, what is obvious to me, but shows your lack of emergency services experience, and goes far to prove my point that you are not qualified to make the decision you are seeking to make.

The road was closed after an accident firstly to rescue, in saftey anyone trapped in the wreckage, stablise them at the scene and then have them removed to hospital. If the accident was fatal, or may become fatal, it is treated as a crime scene. The full circumstances have to be investigated and the cause of the accident found. This is required as if it is fatal or becomes fatal then a Coranor will hold an inquest.

Now, you may well think that having traffic whizzing by at 70, with the drivers rubbernecking at the mess while you are examining vehicles for defects that could have caused the accident, or mesuring the scene to establish the speed of vehicles, is perfectly acceptable. I do not. Thats why the road was closed. Now translate that to aviation context, how long do AAIB leave the wreckage before its moved? Long enough to have gained all the evidence they can from the scene thats how long.

I am fully aware that Kegworth was a 2 engined aircraft, what I was trying to explain to you, as many others have tried is that the emergency services are there on standby in case something happens, because minor matters can become major very easily.

Again you may well think its all good fun running round with blue lights, and sometimes it is, But its not something done lightly. Everytime I used to respond to an emergency call I put my driving licence at risk. I scew it up and I carry the can. So I was hardly going rushing to spend an afternoon plane spotting, I could have done that driving at normal speeds without the blues and twos.

25th Jun 2004, 10:08
This can best be obtained from a crew giving their opinion!
Didn't they get that from the crew in this case?

Maybe we should just scrap emergency planning, that would be better.

Or let the pilots do it, as they are the experts.

25th Jun 2004, 10:42

Do you by any chance write a column for the Daily Mail?

Also, It seams the only person who constantly keeps mentioning the airline's name is you. Perhaps it is you that will be receiving a letter from their solicitors.

As for letting pilots determine the level of emergency cover required......
Some Airlines have very well trained personel, who have no problem in following protocols or making 'executive desicions' on their own.
Others have poorly trained staff, operate under a blame/shame culture and WILL make poor decisions based purely on protecting their job or family name. No names here but anyone who has worked in this industry long enough knows exactly who they are.:mad:

Well done to all involved with this. May you continue to spend my taxes. :ok:

25th Jun 2004, 12:45

Pilotwolf seems to have found criticism of response times for emergency services somewhere.

Yep... from you!

I am a taxpayer, and I don't like seeing my money wasted on such over responses. Especially when my relative had a heart attack and an ambulance wasn't fast in response!


Throwing in GPs hours does seem to be bowling a blinder.

READ what I actually wrote - I didn't mention GP's hours just their failure to visit patients out of hours - hence more patients now call 999 - either because the GP has told them to or they think they ll get treated quicker in hospital.

Maybe off topic slightly but notice the fire service don't get the same critism for their response - the local county fire service will have been there in force too - what about all the London houses that are burning to the ground? ;)

The emergency services still have a requirement to meet the normal domestic responses to calls whatever is happening at the airport(s) - even if the crash happens. There are facilities in place to provide the back up from mutual aid responses and (rightly or wrongly) the voluntary aid societies.

As has been mentioned leave the emergency planning to the emergency services and the flying to the pilots.... one day you maybe thankful for it...


26th Jun 2004, 12:51
sounds like a classic case of typical pommy paranoia.and for once i agree with captain big man Notso Fantastic.

Warped Factor
26th Jun 2004, 16:13
Perhaps if ATC weren't left guessing some of the time then what the crew consider a more appropriate response could be actioned.

With limited information available ATC will likely always go for a higher rather than lower category just in case.

PPRuNe Towers
26th Jun 2004, 16:26
errrr..... NITS brief for ATC anyone?:ooh: :ooh:

Warped Factor
26th Jun 2004, 17:49

This bit added to get over 15 characters.


PPRuNe Radar
26th Jun 2004, 18:01
Come on WF, you must remember this leaflet we all got ;)

Aircraft Emergencies (http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/43/aircraft%20_emergencies.pdf)

Nature of the problem
Intentions of the crew
Time available
Supplementary information


Warped Factor
26th Jun 2004, 18:30
Oh, that NITS.

I'm sure the leaflet is around here somewhere...... :O

Some crews are very good at providing all the relevant information and it does make all the difference in calling the correct category of emergency (for want of a better word) and the subsequent ATC plan for what we can or cannot best do in front of and behind the inbound with the problem.

The latter being important for considering what delays the "emergency" traffic might cause so that we can start issuing delay info or EATs as required etc.


26th Jun 2004, 19:36
am I right is saying that this incident arose after a "PAN" was declared by the 340? ......

I think I read it was a "PAN" declarartion by the crew of the 340, on the notes accompanying the Jetphotos.net photo that was referenced earlier in the thread, but the photo seems to have been taken off line?

26th Jun 2004, 19:50
Apologies: here is the photo again


I was not aware of any PAN at the time. The first I became aware of a problem was when I saw emergency vehicles opposite two exits of the runway.

26th Jun 2004, 20:10
thanks for that akerosid .... I thought the reference to a PAN may have been on the photo notes ..... my mistake ..... I'm sure I read somewhere that the crew declared a PAN but can't find it

will keep reading ....


Captain Airclues
26th Jun 2004, 22:24

See the 12th post on page 3 (Gonzo).


27th Jun 2004, 08:07
many thanks CA .......

I've been trying to relate the Crew's announcement of a "PAN" with the definition of a "PAN" and subsequent Emergency status

i.e. ...... "PAN - a condition concerning the safety of an aircraft which does not require immediate assistance"

more reading I guess .....

27th Jun 2004, 23:53
I must profess a fair degree of understanding of your position.

I work in the railway industry and we have on occasion been rather astounded at the response of the Emergency Services who 'Upgrade' simple problems to fairly major proportions.

Having read the thread it seems to me that there is a desperate need for some clarity of purpose here.

The point that appears to have been missed (and I apologise if I have missed it in an earlier post) is that APPARENTLY the aircrew were not requiring the level of asistance that was provided.

Now one would assume that the Emergency Services would take guidance from the professionals, and thus in this case the response was inappropriate.

Any inappropriate response to an 'incident' places at risk their ability to respond to other incidents and potentially then places lives at risk.

I for one have seen many examples of this in my job over the years and it becomes tedious when Emergency Services personnel then try to assume 'command' when their ability to understand the risk/issues is, at best questionable.

That I believe is the point that 'Notso Fantastic' makes?

28th Jun 2004, 15:37
Wow Notso you have real bee about something! There are laid down proceedures with all emergency services and that is not negociable. I wonder what you do as a job?
In central london, An incident at Parliament I believe is a twelve engine call out. As far as I know even if it is a chip pan fire! I suspect some engines get stood down en route and I am sure some ambulances did in the situation you have got bogged down with. The purposes sometimes of callouts is to rehearse for the one when it does go wrong. Drivers not used to the route at speed. Roads have been changed since the last time etc. etc.

28th Jun 2004, 18:45
I don't know where you get your info from ,it's for the most part cobblers. I'll confess to not knowing the numbers of fire engines asigned to the POW, but I'll presume you are correct. However, the LFB do not take cancelations on route. They get called, and they arrive, in a blaze (no pun intended) of blue lights and 2 tones. I understand the policy is because fires tend to flare up again when apparently under control.

To suggest that any emergency vehicle contuines to a call after they have been canccelled for training purposes is completly wrong. All emergency driver training is conducted over unfamilar roads, it teaches you the ability to get anywhere quickly.

The LFB use route cards with the route to an incident location from thier station, any changes to road layouts have to be notified to the LFB at the planning stage. Police know thier own areas and ajoining ones intimatly. The LAS I understand have route display equiptment.

So quite what the training value of the exercise is I don't know, thats leaving aside the point that to use blues/twos when not on a call could lead to appearing in court.


I think you may well have misunderstood. The emergency is declared by ATC to one of several fixed levels:
Aircraft accident
aircraft accident imminate
full emergency
aircraft ground incident
local stand by.

The Emergency services respond to that genreric call to thier own response criteria. Based on what they would need to deal with the incident.

They do not turn it into something it is not, these are the agreed responses to the call. The response verries from local standby upwards.

Now, notso fantasic has made the point that that response is over the top. However, as some of us have repeatadly tried to get accross is that there is not the time to have a long discussion about the subject, if there was it wouldn't be an emergency.
ATC therefore make a decision as to what level based on their experience and knowladge.

As I said, Kegworth was a 'full emergency' call. The aircraft crashed, had the emergency services not turned up en mass, then more people could have died.

In the case this thread is all about the original querry seems to be how the ambulance service ended up telling thier staff it was 'crash iminate'. No one seems to know, however it seems that there was some talk about heathrow bus station, and as that does not feature in the emergency plans I suggested that there may have been an incident in the bus station, and somewhere the calls have been confused.

Anything I have dealt with on railways has been a 'has happened' call rather than 'might happen'. However I would rather have as many Police fire and ambulance at the scene before it happens than not enough afterwards.

Mr Chips
28th Jun 2004, 22:06
BJCC However, the LFB do not take cancelations on route.
They don't cancel a call, but they do stand down some appliances, once an initial assessment has been made.

Other than that, this thread is dragging on a bit. NOTSO - why have you got this big thing about imagining hundreds of Londoners died because of ambulances at Heathrow? Can you not have a bit of trust that the control centre know what they are doing? I think this thread has gone far enough now...

29th Jun 2004, 11:29
To Bjcc and the OP,

Thanks for taking the time to post. As a frequent flyer and a taxpayer i would just like to say "thanks for a professional job, well done."