View Full Version : BA 744 Smoke in cockpit

17th Aug 2004, 18:03
Just heard over the radio a full emergency about a BA 744. Landed on 27R. It seemed all ok and full emergency was downgraded but does anyone know the full circumstances of this?

17th Aug 2004, 20:59
No, but if it was Cathay there'd be a total news blackout on it :*

17th Aug 2004, 22:54
think it was BA206. He was a 744 with 320ish pax. we were in the area at the time going north bound.Called a PAN with smoke in the cabin requesting divert to cardiff. he had to dump a bucket load of juice. Planned a figure of eight over cardiff untill he got the weight down. planned this when the smoke seemed to be in control......then he diverted back to LHR. (comment deleted as per next post)well done to the crew (huge work load)....all our worst night mare hearing there is smoke in the cabin.

Capt Bear

18th Aug 2004, 04:19
This is something I just don't understand.
You say they dumped fuel, and a lot of it (meaning they were taking their time). Dumping fuel is precisely what killed de crew and pax on that swissair flight off the canadian coast a couple of years ago.
Why didn't they just make a heavy weight landing and just get the plane on the ground ASAP?
Heavy weight landing means a maintenance check. Fluffing around with smoke/fire can mean a funeral.

Any thoughts on this?


18th Aug 2004, 05:42
"A Heavy landing?" Just how heavy would you like? Burst tyes causing a fire spreading to the tanks which you have not emptied. Broken undercarriage because overloaded. Same result. Too heavy to land at Cardiff runway for runway length. I am not a flyer, but any of the above seem basic reasons for dumping fuel. Swissair did not crash because they were dumping fuel, they did because of another fault, and as you know there are laid down procedures for any likely scenario. Here is a link


18th Aug 2004, 06:00

Don't know if you have anything to do with aircraft, but things are not as "black and white" as you make out. If everytime there was a slightest wiff of smoke, an airliner had to immediately land, overweight, the airline industry would quickly come to a halt!

How do you know how bad the smoke was? How do you know whether the drill(s) the crew carried out stopped or reduced the smoke? Was it "electrical" or "air conditioning"? I'm glad you know enough of what happened on the BA flight yesterday to criticise the crew already...


southern duel
18th Aug 2004, 06:26
Tis was the BA209 which returned to LHR and landed 27L.

Aircraft had got airborne from LHR at 15:42z and basically returned an hour later. There was signs of smoke in the cabin area possibly comming from the galleys. The crew pulled the circuit breakers, the smoke stopped and aircraft returned without incident.

18th Aug 2004, 08:58
Something similar happened to me a few years ago - cabin crew member put her hand bag in the oven for safe keeping whilst pax boarded, then her colleague turned the oven on after take without checking inside!

It was nicely roasted by the time the smoke started.........

18th Aug 2004, 09:11
In fact, despite the well-documented staff shortages at London ACC, there was another controller alongside within about thirty seconds, and with the discrete frequency available. However, it was deemed appropriate to keep the Speedbird on its original frequency (which was relatively quiet) until it was settled in the descent and heading east. Although there was little traffic to affect the descent, those familiar with the geography (the emergency occurred in the Strumble area) will realise that the area to the north is occupied by a Military Training Area and danger areas used by pilot-less aircraft, whilst the area to the south has danger areas used for live firing! Attempts to get these activities suppressed to allow a more direct route to Cardiff were unsuccessful.

From where I was, it was handled like a text-book training exercise, just like the three other PAN calls received by the same team during the afternoon! However, we're always anxious to improve our knowledge and procedures, and a careful analysis is always made of events like this to learn any lessons.

{edited to remove superfluous comment following edit of an earlier post}

18th Aug 2004, 10:05
Something similar happened to me a few years ago - cabin crew member put her hand bag in the oven for safe keeping whilst pax boarded, then her colleague turned the oven on after take whithout checking inside!

I really don't understand what happens when some of my colleagues get on the plane... is the brain extracted or just temporarily numbed?

They were talking about putting toasters into the First galley using the AC point there.... luckily it didn't come to pass cos it sounded like a recipe for fire to me (looks like a toaster, perhaps I could use it as a menu holder or told hold newspapers)


18th Aug 2004, 10:57
Like many before, this incident required crew judgment; in the circumstances neither crew or ATC should be criticised. We can all learn from such incidents, both from the good and not so good aspects, but until the report is published, we should not speculate on the details.
However, the more general issues and debate so far have yet again identified misconceptions and the human need to put things in neat boxes.

Nickctaylor, you either do not understand or have very poor knowledge of the certification processes that maintains such a high standard of safety in our industry. An aircraft (including landing gear) is stressed for a 10 ft/sec landing at MLW – in some circumstances equivalent to an unflared landing. For an overweight landing, the limit is 6 ft/sec; a landing at this rate would spill your G&T and most pilots would report this as a very heavy landing in normal operations. Piloting standards are more than adequate to land an aircraft well within these limits. In exception for those very rare occasions that are often weather related, then the ultimate design limit of the structure has even more safety margin.
Burst tyres do not cause fires; usually a heavy weight (high energy) landing will cause the tyre safety system to deflate them. The graphic pictures from flight test high-energy landings are limiting cases and the test requirements specify a 5 min “burn” without intervention.
Fuel tanks do not rupture during heavy weight landings; and as for partially empty tanks, thankfully most aircraft make all landings in that condition.

If the industry has learned the technical lessons from the SR111 accident then we will not see another one; this is not to say that crews will not be faced with similar circumstances requiring quick thinking and a decision on a course of action. Generally, most operators have focussed on the requirement to land quickly and not spend time trouble shooting; if a crew undertakes this we can ask little more of them.

A discrete frequency; why should we expect (demand) such a service? Good for LHR or any other ATC if they can provide it, but don’t rely on it because in most parts of the world it is not available, be thankful for a runway and a controller with basic skills.

18th Aug 2004, 11:09
<Dumping fuel is precisely what killed de crew and pax on that swissair flight off the canadian coast a couple of years ago.

I'm not sorry to say, this statement is wrong. Completly. Have u ever read the full findings of SR 111?


18th Aug 2004, 11:28

Obviously you did not read my message which was really questioning a previous post. I said I was not a flyer. Why do you dump fuel then? As the previous poster said why not get down asap?

18th Aug 2004, 12:24
numpo nigit....its only where i was sitting i made the comment. as i said you guys are the best.....from my angle smoke is worse than an engine failure.....i would just like to have a guy declaring a pan with smoke shifted asap to discreet period. also i believe all controllers should have on hand wx reports for all suitable airports to cater for airliners within their area as against having to go and get the wx(more work for you also)..... its just a nice thing but when you have a tech prob and a contoller can say xyz open, wx at 1530 lah lah it make a massive difference in work load....another part of the possible error chain closed.
i will delete my orig comment out of respect and a job well done by atc . we are all here to learn and if i can learn something from yesterdays event, i am a better person. my thoughts might be taken on board or fired in the bin...thanks.

18th Aug 2004, 13:00

I really don't understand what happens when some of my colleagues get on the plane... is the brain extracted or just temporarily numbed?

What makes you think some people (like this) actually ever use theirs?

But seriously, when you have some cabin crew idiots who put barplus machines [battery powered machines that record in-flight duty free sales from credit cards etc] into ovens and switch the ovens on in order to recharge the batteries ..... well, calling them idiots is do idiots a dis-service!

18th Aug 2004, 13:09
I've caught someone doing exactly that little trick to my Barplus when I came back from break.

Words escape me how stupid some people can be. I asked whether this particular person would put her mobile phone in the oven at home to recharge it; "of course not" was the answer.

What can you say?

Cap 56
18th Aug 2004, 14:11
If source of smoke/fire is clearly identified and eliminated, there is no reason to turn back.

However, it seems to me as if the decision to dump was taken very quickly.

18th Aug 2004, 15:52
Reading some of the comments to what I wrote, made me revisit the atc transcript of sr 111. What a horrible read.
Reading it makes me wish I could help them.
Anyway, at 1:14:18 sr111 declared a pan, last transmission was 1:25:49. That's 11 minutes and 31 secs, not a lot.
At 1:21:59 they were told to turn south (to reach the ocean) for fuel dump. To me this reads as they were flying away from a possible divert airport.
As far as the ba story, it's fair to say there is not enough info to say one thing or the other. I'm sorry for implying they did the wrong thing. It just seems strange that one the one hand the problem is bad enough for ba to divert, and on the other hand it is ok to wait for the fuel to dump. Maybe it was one of those grey areas.
As far as sr111, the only way they could've survived in my opinion is to use the 11min 31s to do an emergency descent, Mmo/Vmo to the nearest strip, road. Not turn south to the shore line to dump fuel.

This I say with a nice cup of coffee in my hand and in the comfort of my own home, no stress, no oxy mask on, no noises, no molten plastic dripping on my head and no fear for my life.
It's anyones guess how we would fare On The Day.

Thanks for your thoughts, it's always good to talk about these things.

18th Aug 2004, 17:30

[QUOTE]Why do you dump fuel then?

The facetious answer is because they can! As per the certification regulations an aircraft has to be capable of landing within 15 minutes of a Max weight takeoff. An allowance for fuel dumping is permitted although you might be surprised at how many airliners do not have a fuel dumping system!

The ONLY requirement to dump fuel is due to the aircrafts performance limitations for the planned runway. Cardiff shouldn’t suffer from these!


18th Aug 2004, 22:49
whatever happened to the " rule of thumb", that if you can take off on it ,you can land on it.
immediate smoke/ whatever after take off ,you can land on that runway.
if assessing(?) later on route ,look up your limiting t/o wt.
if below ,you can land.
if on fire, or in serious doubt,do not go for pretty.
old saying.." i can live with the egg on my face, hate like hell to have to go to all those funerals"

19th Aug 2004, 10:33
Its a brave crew who continue a flight thinking that the smoke source has been identified and eliminated.A crew should never be criticized for landing asap even if turns out to be a damp squib.Dumping fuel must be considered if the perceived threat level is low.Its a judgement call.
In the case of swissair,it was calculated that not enough time existed for them to make an approach in any event.Their decision to accept intermediate level-offs to allow time for the cabin to be cleared,their decision to turn away from their one salvation(Halifax)in order to dump fuel,their preoccupation with the checklist and adherence to normal descent speeds were all clearly in error.But if no time was available for the other option in any case,then I understand why the TSB saw no reason to step on them unnecessarily.
Fifteen minutes,or whatever the time from smoke observation to loss of consciousness/control was,may have been sufficient if the perception of the threat as high had been immediate and an emergency descent had been carried out without delay for a straight-in at Halifax.Or maybe,as the TSB apparently calculated,it would have resulted in a loss of control on a 10 mile final,probably a worse fate.We will never know.

19th Aug 2004, 16:42
One of the Candian TSB investigators was interviewed recently and he said SR111 did not have time in any event. He said that if they had made straight for Halifax they would have crashed on the city instead of the sea, regardless of the perils or otherwise of the o/weight landing.

19th Aug 2004, 16:57
I did a simulator once that had this kind of scenario. I timed the moment we got the cargo fire warning till the moment we landed. From about 370 it took about 15 minutes to land. Ofcourse the sadistic instructor added other malfunctions and bad weather at the divertion airport (and a non-prec approach). I think the idea was to overwhelm us a bit.
This was an interesting 15 minutes. No time to do all the checklists, just pick and choose the ones you want/need.
I found it quite unsetteling to rush everything like that, basically throwing some of the cross-checking out the window, just to get the job done.
This brought me right back to the basics and just using the sop's as a guide. In this everyday procedural-type flying we do, it is easy get bogged down in some checklist and not see the big picture.

Yeas, I'll take an engine faillure over that any day!


20th Aug 2004, 05:28
Is it possible to land a 744 under these conditions, full of fuel, Pax and cargo. Let's take a typical wx day at LHR, 5 minutes after Departure, the flightdeck starts to fill with visible smoke. No real time to dump. Can an about face be done and an overweight landing be successful???Just curious.

20th Aug 2004, 06:00

Read my previous message and you will find your answer!


20th Aug 2004, 08:43
the boeing 744 has a vref of 184 at max toff weight, and can take a max tailwind of 10 kts at that weight.
A flap 30, 10 tail landing at heathrow at max autobrakes and no reverse thrust at isa is +/- 7100 feet. Heathrow is +/- 12000 feet.
So thats no problem.

(as long as that antiskid works)

20th Aug 2004, 09:57
Following on from Rananim's post, these chaps decided to get it on the ground pronto:


rather than risk it. Landing was overweight... would suggest that the answer to Ontariotech is 'yes'.

One suspects the crew in this instance may have had SR111 in the back of their minds & didn't want to take time dumping. Again, rather egg-on-face, etc.

Anyway, in both the BA instances, just glad everyone walked away... the definition of a successful flight, no?

20th Aug 2004, 16:59
Might be worth checking the F30 limiting speed before spoiling your day.;)

20th Aug 2004, 17:39
Yes, you are correct. Fuel Dumping was not the issue for SR 111 desaster. I've pointed this out in a former post in the actual thread. Anyhow, some are still pointing theire fingers on that rumor.


21st Aug 2004, 01:04
How about dumping fuel over a populated area?When I worked at Toronto Airport, years ago, a KLM 744 was required to dump fuel, but it was only aloud to do this over Lake Ontario at or above 10000 feet. Are ther height requirements, and what's below the plane have anuthing to do with what's dumped and where it's dumped?

23rd Aug 2004, 12:06
Fuel Dumping was not the issue for SR 111 desaster

The fact that there was only one possible outcome for sr 111 does not mean that the crew's actions were copybook stuff,defeated only by a lack of time and cruel fate.Rather,their actions were indeed inappropiate but irrelevant to the pre-destined outcome.
The TSB cleared the crew and its a brave man who argues with such an excellent and thorough report.However,they were cleared based not on what they did or didnt do,but rather on the simple acknowledgement that their situation was hopeless.Luck simply ran out for them.
What we as pilots must take from this accident is quite clear;smoke,that is not immediately identifiable,can and will kill.Response must be immediate and extreme in nature.Land as soon as possible without regard to any of the usual considerations that make up the normal mindset.Its an abnormal situation and we need to develop a suitable mindset.
An overweight landing with no charts at an unfamiliar airfield and with no or a very rudimentary briefing poses no insurmountable problems to a competent crew.ATC will provide everything.The nearest airport,how much concrete,the localizer frequency,runway direction and elevation,and current weather.And thats all that is needed.
Time is your enemy and so the descent profile is critical.Nothing less than an emergency descent is acceptable(unless you're not near an airport and then of course you need a whole new mindset-checklist and fire-fighting become paramount).Checklist completion can still be accomplished in the " land asap " scenario
but never at the expense of the most expeditious landing possible.If the situation worsens after actioning checklist items,consider reversing those items.The cabin bus switch was selected OFF in the case of sr 111;this shut down the recirc fans,resulting in a reversal of airflow in the ceiling compartment,which exacerbated the heat build-up in the flt deck area.It is no coincidence that vital aircraft systems failed within one minute of the cabin bus switch being turned OFF.
In conclusion,the decision to dump fuel,the fussing over chart extraction and selection of 250 knots below 100(even if the FO didnt subsequently fly 250),were all indicative of an inappropiate mindset for the situation they faced.It wasnt responsible for the crash but it reminds us that when the chips are down,salvation more often than not lies in sound airmanship and the ability to intuit a situation rather than textbook SOP's.

23rd Aug 2004, 12:38
I don't think it really matters if the situation was hopeless or not. They didn't know it if it was, and if they did, I am sure they wouldn't have lit their last cigarette and said "that's all folks".
I read the report, but I must have missed the thing about the recirc fans being off reversing the flow of cabin air.

Another thing: do you think it would have made a difference if they ditched the ac in the sea?
I know survival chances are slim at best in a cold ocean and I saw the footage of that 767(?) off the coast of africa, trying to ditch during a hijack. (didn't turn out that well)

23rd Aug 2004, 12:47

Good points, and of course show why machines will never completely take over flying aircraft.

I for one will never fly as a passenger in an aircraft without a pilot!

23rd Aug 2004, 13:49
new SR MD-11 STBY flt insts (http://www.iasa.com.au/folders/sr111/srimages/newstandbyfltinst.html)

Slide 1 of 7

Swissair MD-11 Modifications Plus Program (http://www.iasa.com.au/folders/images/srimages/cockpitconsole.html)

Slide 2 of 7 etc

Background of Swissair MD-11 Modifications Plus (http://www.iasa.com.au/folders/sr111/theSwissairmod.html)

This Swissair only mod program addressed smoke detection, reliable standby flight instruments and TV monitors in the cockpit for inspection of critical areas where wiring fires could develop undetected. It also re-routed whole wiring looms/wire bundles. In fact the number of significant MD-11 rewiring AD's and SB's and SIL's are almost in four figures now. AD's are certainly over three figures.

Consider also that the TSB strongly suspected that fan-shaped burn patterns were caused by pinholed high pressure crew oxygen lines burnt through by arcing - but couldn't prove it.


Dark night & pointed away from land with significant cloud = Loss of Control when you've no usable flight instrumentation.....so ditching wasn't an option, not only because the overhead console was melting and dripping down upon them.

The main problem early identified by this IFALPA briefing (http://www.iasa.com.au/folders/sr111/IFALPACommittee.html) was the loss of all flight instruments (including the STBY AI which hhad no integral power supply)

23rd Aug 2004, 13:51

Surely on the 744 the heavyweight landing "data" is scheduled assuming F25, so the F30 limiting speeds aren't a factor? Flap load relief won't let the flaps run to F30 at the speeds you have to fly at high landing weights ( all this assumes we are still talking about the 744 of course).

23rd Aug 2004, 15:53
Yes, the 184 kts vref would put the 744 in the flap load relief area, so would have to be a f25 landing. You are right wiggy.

I agree the ditching option wouldn't be good either, especially with no AI. I wonder if they had any kind of horizon out there.
I wish I knew what was happening in those final moments. Still I remember training for inop-AI flying early in the IFR training. I wonder if I could still do it. Must remember to ask for it on my next sim.
Without the AI, I guess they'd only have compass, altimeter and airspeed and a torch... Speak about back to basics.

24th Aug 2004, 14:23
This is an excellent illustrated Review Analysis of the Swissair 111 Lessons Learnt

Right-click download this file ( as a zipped Word Document.

It's one megabyte in size.