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A question please to all you ATC professionals

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A question please to all you ATC professionals

Old 3rd Feb 2018, 08:57
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A question please to all you ATC professionals

Now long retired, I write aviation short stories as a means of brain therapy - it helps to keep the 'little grey cells' active!

I used to fly 747s in the 1980s and was qualified to do C of A test flights. The story I am starting on now, involves a normal test flight which goes wrong when, at FL150 out over the North Sea, they test the flap load relief system and a flap track breaks. The consequence of this is that an inboard flap nearly comes off, leaving them with significant control problems.

My mythical airline is called British North Atlantic Airlines, based at Gatwick. After take off, they fly north and leave controlled airspace at Brookmans Park to start their tests under military radar. When they have their problem they need to return but, as the flap section might break off at any time when passing over London, they decide to land at Bedford instead.

So my questions are:-
1. Between airways Red One and Blue One what would the call sign be for ATC radar - would it be London Radar or London Military?
2. If they require to fly further north and obtain clearance to cross Blue One, where would they need to change frequency, and to whom?
3. After declaring a 'Pan' call, do you think Bedford would accept them?

My memory fails when trying to remember some of these details, so I am posting this here in the hope that some of you retired ATCOs may be able to help.

I look forward to your replies.
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Old 3rd Feb 2018, 11:05
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Hi Bergerie,

Sounds like it will be a ‘good read’ when finished!

Is it set now or back in the 1980s?

I’m guessing the 1980s as they might have a few problems with all the cars parked at Bedford now!
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Old 3rd Feb 2018, 11:15
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Somewhere around 1983.

In real life there were a number of flap track failures occurring at around that time to the earlier 747-100s. It certainly happened to BA and also I think to TWA and PanAm. The fix was to replace the flap tracks with the stronger ones used on the -200s. The cause was minute corrosion pits in the holes through which bolts attached the flap tracks to the main wing structure. Regular inspections were required until these tracks were replaced. As far as I know it never happened on a CofA test flight but it certainly did on passenger service. All cases landed safely but with a goodly amount of aileron and rudder applied to keep straight until landing.
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Old 3rd Feb 2018, 12:34
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I see, thanks.

Well, I’m not an ATC professional but I was flying in that neck of the woods during that time period. I also have 14 years on the 747-400 and remember well the care we took not to stress the flaps unnecessarily.

I would answer your questions as follows:

1. London Mil.
2. I think that London Mil would have been able to coordinate a crossing of Blue One. If not, they would have handed the flight to London Control and would have given the aircraft the new frequency and maybe squawk.
3. Bedford seems like a good choice, with respect to runway length, emergency facilities, etc. In the worst case, an immobilised aircraft would be blocking the runway at a fairly quiet military field, without an active combat or operational role, instead of causing chaos at a busier civil airport. As to whether Bedford would accept them following a “Pan” call, I would have thought that they would, barring any overriding military protocol which may have existed at the time.
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Old 3rd Feb 2018, 12:50
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Long ago, totally irrelevant, but may amuse (the writer is in a Spitfire):

"One day the Flap Gremlin nearly had me. Half way round on finals I put the flaps down. I had always thought that the pair were interlocked, though I suppose there is no reason they should be. They're not - and only one came down. The effect was to roll me out back level (about a quarter turn) in a flash, before I could react. I promptly put flaps up and took it round to come in flapless, 10 mph faster and even more float.

I'd got back to the crewroom before the thought struck me. What if the other flap had stuck up? I'd have been upside down in a moment, wheels down and throttle closed. The early Merlins didn't run inverted. I might have managed to roll out before I hit the deck, but it would have been a very close thing, with perhaps 300 ft to play with. Nobody seemed greatly bothered by the story! I never heard of that happening again".

Last edited by Danny42C; 3rd Feb 2018 at 12:51. Reason: Typo
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Old 3rd Feb 2018, 13:42
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Originally Posted by eckhard View Post
3. Bedford seems like a good choice, with respect to runway length, emergency facilities, etc. In the worst case, an immobilised aircraft would be blocking the runway at a fairly quiet military field, without an active combat or operational role, instead of causing chaos at a busier civil airport. As to whether Bedford would accept them following a “Pan” call, I would have thought that they would, barring any overriding military protocol which may have existed at the time.
In '83, a better choice would be Manston; they still had full 'Master Diversion' crash facilities there (foam 'carpet' if needed) plus the Fire School to call on if necessary.
I think the other MDA in those days was Leeming so if you're already up north, that might be a closer alternative.
Bedford wasn't military by the way, it was MOD(PE) ie a 'government' airfield, with military aircrew and civilian ATC. It only ever had Mil Cat 4 fire cover so not enough for a '747.
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Old 3rd Feb 2018, 14:07
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Originally Posted by Bergerie1 View Post
So my questions are:-
1. Between airways Red One and Blue One what would the call sign be for ATC radar - would it be London Radar or London Military?
2. If they require to fly further north and obtain clearance to cross Blue One, where would they need to change frequency, and to whom?
3. After declaring a 'Pan' call, do you think Bedford would accept them?
Originally Posted by eckhard View Post
1. London Mil.
2. I think that London Mil would have been able to coordinate a crossing of Blue One. If not, they would have handed the flight to London Control and would have given the aircraft the new frequency and maybe squawk.
Agreed on the Blue One crossing, but I believe that the military radar callsign would have been "Eastern Radar" (from JATCRU Watton) over the North Sea in the early eighties. "London Mil" was LJAO (London Joint Area Organisation), more mainland, and at that time provided from LATCC West Drayton (it started life as SEJAO). I can't remember when JATCRU Watton closed, but I think it was mid-eighties. Bedford most definitely would have accepted a Pan call, they loved all that stuff. BOAC used to go up there for crew training.
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Old 3rd Feb 2018, 17:12
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North of Blue One was 'Border Radar', later to become 'Pennine Radar' when the task transferred from Boulmer to EGCC.
I have lunch often with the gentleman who was the 'civil SATCO' of both units.

'Northern Radar' at Lindholme had closed by the late 1970s, but 'Midland Radar' at RAF North Luffenham was still alive in the early 1980s.
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Old 4th Feb 2018, 14:41
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Originally Posted by ZOOKER View Post
North of Blue One was 'Border Radar', later to become 'Pennine Radar' when the task transferred from Boulmer to EGCC.
I have lunch often with the gentleman who was the 'civil SATCO' of both units.

'Northern Radar' at Lindholme had closed by the late 1970s, but 'Midland Radar' at RAF North Luffenham was still alive in the early 1980s.
Before Northern Radar closed, there was a joint MARS service (using the same frequency) with Border for traffic to/from Newcastle and Teeside called NJRSA (Northern Joint Radar Service Area)
Would that civil SATCO be GB by any chance?
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Old 5th Feb 2018, 08:59
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Thank you everyone. I will have my flight contact Eastern Radar and leave Brookmans Park to complete the air test over Norfolk and the North Sea between Red One to the south and Blue One to the north. Does anyone have any idea of what VHF frequency would have been used in the period 1983 to 1988?

It is a long time since I did any air tests and all these details are now long forgotten! I have done many training flights at Bedford on 707s and 747s so know they can handle a 747, thus an emergency return to Bedford would seem a good option (as corroborated by eckhard and Talkdownman), especially as the captain flying the air test is likely to have been familiar with that airfield.

Danny, that must have been scary but, then I expect you had many far more hairy things to cope with in those days! Boeing said that the 747 would be controllable after the separation of a complete flap section, but they said nothing about the controllability if the hydraulics were compromised.

Chevron, I agree Manston might be a good option, but if you are a little west of The Wash when the problem occurs, Bedford is nearer. And with flaps likely to fall off, I think the nearer option is probably better.

I think I will keep the south of Blue One but, if the decided to go north of that airway, would it be Border Radar as suggested by ZOOKER?
For anyone interested in the flap track problem, here is a link to the NTSB report:- https://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-r...88_131_133.pdf

Thank you all for your help.
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Old 5th Feb 2018, 10:49
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A few pages from Pooley's Pilots Information Guide circa 1986 that might be of interest

https://photos.app.goo.gl/pkJPf16pUYTtTMj82

If you want any more let me know.

Cheers,
Sean
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Old 6th Feb 2018, 00:19
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Border Radar/Pennine Radar were second to none when providing an en-route service in very difficult airspace. I have nothing but praise for the guys and gals who staffed these units. EGNV and EGNT would not have survived without the professionalism shown by these units. Thank you all, you got me out of many a sticky situation.
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Old 6th Feb 2018, 15:47
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Originally Posted by Bergerie1 View Post
Chevron, I agree Manston might be a good option, but if you are a little west of The Wash when the problem occurs, Bedford is nearer. And with flaps likely to fall off, I think the nearer option is probably better.
Depends on the day/time of the problem.
Bedford only ever operated mon-fri 8am to 5pm. There could be extensions but very rarely, not even for V Bomber deployments arriving.
Manston and Leeming were both H24.

Last edited by chevvron; 6th Feb 2018 at 17:52.
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Old 6th Feb 2018, 15:58
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chevvron,

GN is the Border/Pennine gentleman I still see. When it arrived in EGCC, it was known variously as 'The Pennine Way' or 'Byker Grove'. We even made a sign for the canopy of the Mediator Suite where it was located!
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Old 6th Feb 2018, 17:50
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Originally Posted by ZOOKER View Post
chevvron,

GN is the Border/Pennine gentleman I still see. When it arrived in EGCC, it was known variously as 'The Pennine Way' or 'Byker Grove'. We even made a sign for the canopy of the Mediator Suite where it was located!
Don't know him then! I worked with George B at LATCC, then when I went to Lindholme in '73 he was at Border, later becoming (like me) an Air Training Corps squadron commander.
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