View Full Version : Inflight Deployment of Tailcone Slide

8th Jul 2008, 01:29
On the MD80 that Obama had chartered (while the 757 was getting painted), the tailcone slide deployed while inflight. Apparently the slide rubbed against the elevator control cables causing a slight controlability problem which rectified itself as the plane descended for an emergency landing.

Has anyone ever heard of this happening? I've been on the 9/80 for over 10 years.

The tailcone did not jettison.


8th Jul 2008, 22:23
Search of NTSB for "slide" and both DC-9 and MD-80 since 1965 came up with nothing.

Surprisingly little information on this:

NYTimes: A spokesman for the airline, Michael J. Brophy, said the slide put pressure on the cables that connect the controls in the cockpit to the horizontal portion of the tail, which allow the pilots to push the nose up or down. "As the pilot explained it to us, there was some stiffness in the controls,'' he said. "There was never a loss of control or anything like that.''

Another blog noted they were maneuvering around thunderstorms. Perhaps some overzealous Secret Service agent opened the bulkhead door on an inspection....

9th Jul 2008, 00:05
to be sure, the door to the tailcone area cannot be opened while pressurized, but the idea that a secret service agent took a look back there, saw the slide pack and wiggled it thinking it was something bad is interesting. perhaps the secret service looked at it while on the ground , prior to takeoff?

interesting thought.

I've flown the 9/80 for over 10 years...I think it is really a great pilot's plane.

But I've never heard of a slide deploying in the tailcone...especially without the tailcone falling off.

10th Jul 2008, 04:31
Barack Obama Plane Landing Danger -- MD-80 Mechanic on Obama News - Popular Mechanics (http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/air_space/4272446.html)
See main article for some links; excerpts follow:

"... according to a mechanic familiar with MD-80 aircraft, inadvertent deployment of the slide could have put the airplane at serious risk. Mike Hatfield, an American Airlines mechanic who has worked on MD-80s for 20 years, called the slide's deployment "extremely dangerous" in an interview this afternoon with PM. "If it had caught on any of the control lines, they would have lost control of the aircraft," he said.

Hatfield could not remember having heard of a slide deploying in flight before....

In the wake of the incident, NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker announced an investigation into the surprise landing, noting that control operations onboard "could potentially make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to fly the aircraft," according to ABC News (http://blogs.abcnews.com/e_scapes/2008/07/carrier-says-sa.html).

... "Whether it was a candidate or you and your mother, we would look into it regardless," agency representative Bridget Surchek told PopularMechanics.com.

Results of the preliminary investigation are scheduled to be released next week. Stay tuned right here for more.

Mark in CA
11th Jul 2008, 18:38
It sounds like this was even worse than first reported (emphasis mine):

Political Punch (http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/07/obamas-plane-sc.html)

Obama's Plane Scare

July 08, 2008 7:36 AM

By the time we all heard about it the unscheduled stop that the campaign plane of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, made in St. Louis yesterday was ultimately uneventful. But the incident was quite dicey there for a spell.

As the pilot struggled to re-gain control of the pitch of the plane - the angle of the nose of the plane - Obama was told that he and the other 44 passengers on board might have to assume the brace position upon landing, bending forward with their heads between their knees.

That ultimately did not happen, but National Transportation Safety Board chairman Mark Rosenker told ABC News' Dennis Powell yesterday that the incident "is extremely serious in this particular case."

An inflatable slide in the tail cone of the plane had deployed, making control of the plane tough. "There are hydraulic lines back there," Rosenker says. 'There are control cables that deal with the elevators and other area's of control surfaces for the aircraft, and could potentially make it extremely difficult if not impossible to fly the aircraft."

Three fire trucks met the plane on the tarmac in St. Louis. Obama called his wife Michelle to let her know he was fine before she saw anything on TV about the plane's unscheduled landing. The plane was supposed to land in Charlotte, NC.

This was not Obama's regular campaign plane, which is being overhauled. It was a loaner, having previously been used by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY.

- jpt

And from a posting on Airliners.net:

The slide inflation is so beyond unusual - this is probably the first time it has happened, certainly the first time anyone has heard of it around here.

When something happens that no one has even considered a possibility - the NTSB will be all over that aircraft - and the maintenance records.

11th Jul 2008, 18:44

I think you need to consider the source in your own link. It was written by a journalist most of whom are unable to write about aviation in any form without including words like 'plummet', 'hurtle', 'death defying' and 'wrestle'. I'm amazed he didn't include something about narrowly avoiding a school playground :rolleyes:

I'd reserve judgement on hearing just how serious the situation was until I hear the full details from a grown up*.

* I know the NTSB spokesman said what might have happened, I'd just prefer to hear what did.

Mark in CA
11th Jul 2008, 18:55
Yes, I understand your concern about journalists. I work with them all the time, and many are quite lazy, but not all. After all, it was journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal, Abu-Ghraib, the full extent of the military/government conspiracy to steal the election a few weeks ago in Zimbabwe, etc., etc.

11th Jul 2008, 19:32
An NTSB database search for "escape slide" returned the following for incidents of in flight escape slide deployment.

NTSB SEA06IA105 (http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20060602X00675&key=1)

NTSB LAX93IA245 (http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20001211X12640&key=1)

Interesting that both were in the left wing. Nothing about tailcone slide deployment.

Makes me wonder about people who "Have never heard of it".

Mark in CA
11th Jul 2008, 20:43
Not sure what you're wondering about.

Both of your cites are for 757 aircraft and wing chutes. We're talking about a DC-9/MD-80 rear chute that deployed in flight inside the still attached tail cone that may be a first-time event.

Mark in CA
11th Jul 2008, 21:32
NTSB Advisory
National Transportation Safety Board
Washington, DC 20594
July 10, 2008


The following is an update on the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of the incident involving the Midwest Airlines MD-81 airplane carrying Senator Barack Obama on July 7, 2008, in which the tail cone evacuation slide deployed in-flight.

Preliminary findings reveal that the slide was partially inflated and the inflation bottle was empty. Examination of the hardware did not reveal any evidence of missing components, nor any evidence of tampering.

The slide and hardware were removed from the aircraft for examination. There was no evidence of any punctures in the slide; however, there were marks consistent with rubbing of elevator control cables. Additional evidence was found to indicate that a catwalk railing was broken and impinged upon elevator control cables. The slide and hardware will be sent to the manufacturer for detailed examinations supervised by the NTSB.

The flight recorders have been removed and are en route to NTSB headquarters for download and analysis. Flight crew statements indicate that the crew did not hear the slide deploy in flight nor did a mechanic who was seated in the rear of the airplane. The flight crew confirmed that they detected elevator control stiffness during the initial level off after departure from Chicago Midway Airport. Maintenance records have been secured for further examination.

Research has been initiated into the certification of the slide, its service history, and its design interface with the airplane.

The NTSB completed the on scene phase of the investigation yesterday.

Click the links below to view larger images:


* Deployed tail cone evacuation slide from incident airplane: http://www.ntsb.gov/Pressrel/2008/Deployed_slide.jpg
* Undeployed tail cone evacuation slide as installed on another aircraft: http://www.ntsb.gov/Pressrel/2008/Undeployed_slide.jpg

NTSB Media Contact:
Bridget Ann Serchak
[email protected]

Mark in CA
11th Jul 2008, 21:51
And here is the only MD-80-related incident involving a tail cone (or any other) evacuation slide I could find in the NTSB database:

DCA03IA058 (http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20031114X01902&key=1)

Can't tell if this is the same type of slide used in the Midwest Airlines plane.

11th Jul 2008, 21:54
I think the article should have gone like this:

Today, two competent airline pilots dealt with an unusual problem. Without their knowledge the tailcone slide on their MD80 deployed, rubbing the cables that work the elevators. The elevators control the pitch of the aircraft.

The remarkable thing about this incident is that "muscle power" overcame the resistance of the rubbing slide.

The plane was not in serious enough danger for the pilots to declare an emergency. Certain precautions were considered for the landing, but it turned into a NON EVENT.

As a matter of fact, if a presidential candidate hadn't been aboard, no one outside of the FAA, NTSB, Midwest airlines and a few others would have ever heard of it.

Meanwhile, Obama's 757 campaign plane is being repainted. We can only hope that the static ports are clear prior to the first takeoff.

11th Jul 2008, 22:02
Did anyone see Bill or Hillary back there before the plane took off?

11th Jul 2008, 22:25
I can't believe nobody has looked properly at this NTSB picture (original link, was in my NTSB e-mail).


How on earth did Garfield get in there?

At least it explains the 'in-flight deployment'. Scratch, scratch....