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Erebus 25 years on

Old 15th Jun 2016, 11:31
  #721 (permalink)  
 
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after all this [the captain] is still blameless??
I haven't said that the crew were 100% blameless. I think they were complacent, just like everyone else in the causal chain.

We'll never know whether they hand plotted the INS co-ords onto a topo chart. Most of the navigational notes were made to disappear in the coverup by the Company. I suspect that during the flight the only INS data they monitored was DTG and Xtrk. In their minds the datum line to which those parameters referred was straight down the middle of the Sound.


The altitude restrictions were there because the Airline was given approval to use crews who had no previous experience down to the ice, which went against the requirements of all the other operators USAF, USN,RNZAF who had much experience operating down there.
It was widely known, at all levels of management, that those flights regularly flew well below the nominal floor of 6,000'. As for sending captains down there with zero experience of Antarctica: it was diabolically dangerous. All three members of the crew had never been there before. For the CAA to have allowed such a reckless policy was unforgivable.

If this crew was on the ball, and they thought they were going down McMurdo Sound, why was it not noticed they were on the wrong side of Beaufort Island?
They quite certainly thought they were going down the Sound and they quite certainly thought the INS trackline was guiding them there. That much is certain. As for the reason why they did not recognise Beaufort island, I think it comes back to a lack of local knowledge and complacency. They saw only what they expected to see and did not see what they did not expected. A well known phenomenon in Human Factors (nowadays).

As for why the local guide, Mulgrew did not recognise the island: he wasn't on the flight deck at the time. He was making his way through the crowded pax cabin at the time, no doubt chatting to people along the way and probably wasn't looking out of the Stbd windows. He was about as agile on 'his' feet as Douglas Bader was, and for the same reason.
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 12:04
  #722 (permalink)  
 
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Hi All,

not sure if anyone has posted these links to these excellent videos on Youtube about the Erebus Disaster, well worth a watch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yP36X0BsMQ0

and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ivz6lAJwJ8

Cheers
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 13:17
  #723 (permalink)  
 
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However, as it was a requirement to be under radar monitoring and in the laid down area that was well clear of Mt Erebus
Not correct, it was not required to be radar monitored, it was to be co-ordinated with radar control as they may have had other traffic in the area. Monitored and co-ordinated are two vastly different things.

In any event, the controller said
We were not aware at the time of the sector within which the Air New Zealand DC1O flights were said to be required to fly. This required sector as now identified to me by representatives of the Royal Commission would in my opinion have been absurd. Any radar controls contemplated by those planning such flights for purposes of assisting in descent manoeuvres would have been virtually impossible since Ice Tower radar does not function above 30 degrees and since without vertical aiming radar or an Azimuth Beam on the TACAN, there could be no adequate ground based control should it have been required. I re-emphasize that to the best of my knowledge, Operation DEEP FREEZE was unaware of any officially approved Civil Aviation Division (CAD) or Air New Zealand flight plan or descent approach. However, had such a flight plan or descent approach been provided for DEEP FREEZE consideration and had DEEP FREEZE agreed to provide radar let—down· assistance, I would have regarded such a plan as extremely ill-advised for the reasons stated.
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 13:32
  #724 (permalink)  
 
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[quote]
. Just how one established that one had 20km vis I do not know.[\quote]

Looking out the right windows they could see the dry valleys. Much more than 20km.
Furthermore, the US military controller at McMurdo had declared the visibility to be 40 miles and that it was even clearer to the North West.
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 13:57
  #725 (permalink)  
 
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3 holer, a presumption because they flew into the mountain.

I am amazed if he was not in the cockpit- he was the one with the local knowledge of the area they were going to.
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 14:08
  #726 (permalink)  
 
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He was there as a commentator for the pax, not as a flight navigator.

PIC was a qualified navigator, though not current.

Perhaps if Mulgrew had been present on the flight deck when Beaufort slid by on the Stbd side he might have asked wtf, but he wasn't part of the flight crew and hadn't been a party to the nav briefing, so perhaps not.
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 15:46
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You need to understand MSA......The Nav section didn't plot a course below area MSA, there was nothing unsafe about the route they gave him on the day.
The route they gave him was over the top of Erebus, an active volcano prone to persistent Strombolian eruptions. Chippendale in his recommendations said,
No commercial passenger carrying flight be planned to fly over or close to an active volcano
Somebody finally realised the danger presented by the ash cloud, and bombs ejected from the crater. ie It wasn't smart nor effing safe. There was a reason the RNC track went down the sound, keep away from Erebus, and that's the route Chippendale recommended.

Eruptions occur on average six times per day, and have been known to throw ten metre diameter bombs up to one kilometer above the crater rim. Mountain 12,450 feet plus one kilometer = 15,731 feet. Now, what did you say the MSA was?

Again, it's a demonstration of the lackadaisical approach taken to the entire operation, people not knowing what they didn't know, and not enquiring enough to find out. Bit of a "We invented aviation" mind set?

Last edited by megan; 15th Jun 2016 at 16:19.
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 16:37
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I'd like to develop a thought I expressed in my recent post #721.

Pilotage is largely a matter of feature recognition. Conventional IFR nav is very different. These scenic flights were a highly unusual mix of conventional IFR nav and highly unusual low level mountain flying in a wide-bodied air transport aircraft. They subscended the transition from conventional instrument-borne nav to purely visual pilotage under IFR to an extraordinary degree.

Marine (maritime, not the grunting variety) pilots, from whom we take our name in aviation, are pilots who have a highly detailed knowledge of both the waters and the land-forms within their area of expertise. They have a highly developed and well tested ability to recognise position from even momentary and fragmented glimpses of a landform in crappy vis. That's why they earn the big bucks (and the bagfulls of free booze & baccie).

What was required of the pilots of these scenic flights, once they descended below the formal MSA, was the navigational skill which we call pilotage. Pilotage in such a locale as McMurdo requires local knowledge, a knowledge of which the five flight crew members were entirely bereft.

On their briefing day, a little under three weeks before the crash, the two crews were given a sim session, specific to their planned flight(s). The purpose of the sim session was to refresh their awareness of the technicalities of Polar Grid Nav, with specific reference to the very substantial differences between Grid bearings/headings and those of True or Magnetic North and a detailed refresher on the operation and interpretation of the INS in that regime.

In those days the visuals on even the most sophisticated sims, such the the one for the Diesel10 in the 1970s, did not model hypsographic data and could not possibly be used for showing the 3D visual appearances of remote islands in any weather.

There were/are two islands proximal to the programmed track towards Ross Island. One to the left, then one to the right.

Mulgrew would have recognised the landform of either or both of those islands. He'd seen both before, just like a marine pilot of his own competence.

I muse that if he had been present on the flight deck, doing his commentary thing on the PA, when Scott Island passed by the left wing, and then when Beaufort island passed by on the other side, which he was not, his commentary might have jangled with the SA model in the minds of the two pilots. In that scenario, which sadly was not the case, then perhaps Captain Collins might have saved the day.

Just a thought. Albeit one which may be coloured by more modern concepts of CRM than were widespread outside United Airlines in the 1970s.
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 16:55
  #729 (permalink)  
 
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Bit of a "We invented aviation" mind set?
My reading of Chippindale, and I've read all of his Report, is that he was a bit of a puppy to his governmental masters and payers.

Mahon was the opposite. Too much so, perhaps, but most informatively and most insightfully so.
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 21:33
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What was required of the pilots of these scenic flights, once they descended below the formal MSA, was the navigational skill which we call pilotage. Pilotage in such a locale as McMurdo requires local knowledge, a knowledge of which the five flight crew members were entirely bereft.
A very intriguing point Cazalet33.

Jim Collins asked Mulgrew if he could "get them out over the Wright Valley" to which Mulgrew replied "no problem". So clearly Collins was thinking along the lines of potentially using Mulgrew in the "maritime pilot" role you describe. It never came to that, but.... at the very least represents yet another example of complacency inappropriate to commercial jet transport.

It was widely known, at all levels of management, that those flights regularly flew well below the nominal floor of 6,000'. As for sending captains down there with zero experience of Antarctica: it was diabolically dangerous. All three members of the crew had never been there before. For the CAA to have allowed such a reckless policy was unforgivable.
Agreed. As it was for Air NZ to request such a reckless policy.
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 22:19
  #731 (permalink)  
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Quote:

It was widely known, at all levels of management, that those flights regularly flew well below the nominal floor of 6,000'. As for sending captains down there with zero experience of Antarctica: it was diabolically dangerous. All three members of the crew had never been there before. For the CAA to have allowed such a reckless policy was unforgivable.
Agreed. As it was for Air NZ to request such a reckless policy.

It would have been less problematic for Air New Zealand to have used only one crew for these flights, and then been in line with the experience requirements of the other operators to the ice. USAF for example required 20 hours experience down at the ice prior to going down in command.

It was NZALPA who insisted that these were "perk": flights and were to be shared amongst their senior members.

From Bob Thomson in his "History of New Zealand Antarctic Research Programme 1965-88

Air New Zealand and NZALPA went to some lengths to ensure that their senior pilots and members were seen as professionals who knew it all and did not therefor need to seek advice from elsewhere, such as the RNZAF, USAF, USN or the division.
The experience of Bob Thomson in Antarctic operations has been printed in this forum.
 
Old 15th Jun 2016, 22:28
  #732 (permalink)  
 
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It was NZALPA who insisted that these were "perk": flights and were to be shared amongst their senior members
You've made this point before. I don't disagree (but I hadn't come across this previously, what's your source?) However - this doesn't make anything NZALPA's "fault". It's up to the airline and CAA to say "request acknowledged ALPA, but get f**ked".
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 23:05
  #733 (permalink)  
 
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It was NZALPA who insisted that these were "perk": flights and were to be shared amongst their senior members
I don't doubt a word of that, Prospector.

It reinforces my impression that there was a dangerously disdended degree of complacency, top-to-bottom, that these gigs were a walk in the park.

Low level flying on a Class 7 AOC (or whatever it's called in Nya Zillun) in a mountainous area such as Greenland or Antarctica is a highly specialised form of aviation, not a perq to be awarded on the basis of Buggins Turn.

The CAA, or CAD, or whatever its called nowadays on the two interesting islands of Australasia, bear an extremely heavy responsibility for the TE901 crackup. Massively more so than than the eager victims who thought they'd won a watch until the fatal bang.
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 23:13
  #734 (permalink)  
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From Bob Thomson in his "History of New Zealand Antarctic Research Programme 1965-88

.And the this taken from John King "New Zealand Tragedies, Aviation".

But Thomson had more experience on the area then almost anybody else. During his 75 trips to Antarctica in the course of his long career with the DSIR Antarctic Division, at least 50 had been on the flight deck of aircraft approaching from the North, observing the ice edge and conditions. He was commentator on Air New Zealands inaugural flight back in February 1977, with Captain Ian Gemmel in command, and also on the last completed trip before the Flight 901 on 28 November.
In fact, he was originally scheduled to fly on the fatal flight, but had to change his plans because of an expected visit to Scott Base by Prime Minister Robert Muldoon in early December 1979. Instead mountaineer Peter Mulgrew took his place- and was on the flight deck at the moment of impact.

Has Bob Thomson felt uneasy that, but for a twist of fate, he might have died that day? "Not at all". I always insisted on a complete circuit of Ross Island before letting down below 17,000ft. That way I could get an idea of the complete situation and what the weather was like, and where any clouds were.

On each of Thomson's flights the captain turned to him for advice on the best sightseeing route around the area. Interpreting that as sharing responsibility for the flight, he found the idea of having to make quick decisions on behalf of 250 people too much, so his last flight would have been his final trip, even if Air New Zealand had kept them going.

"There's traditionally bad weather in Lewis Bay, where they crashed," says Thomson.

The captain didn't give attention to problems he might have around there. These people were taking a Sunday drive. When I heard the transcript of the CVR I fell out of my chair. Most of the times Mulgrew had been there he had gone in by sea, and all his travels from Scott Base was to the South. Hardly anyone ever went into Lewis Bay.

Had they orbited Ross Island they would have seen the cloud. If a pilot is unsure he always goes up, never down.The copilot on flight 901 never opened his flight bag to look up the co-ordinates. I always had a chart in the cockpit and checked the latitude and longitude readout. But the crew of the fatal flight never referred to it.

That was his take on the fatal flight.
As to the 6,000ft minimum, some captains never went below this. It apparently started when a flight was invited down by the local ATC to do a low level pass. Since when does an invite by an Air Traffic controller override CAA and company requirements?

Cazalet33, You say
Most of the navigational notes were made to disappear in the coverup by the Company.
That was well after the event, if they had of been taking the Lat/Long readouts and plotting them then surely the disaster would not have happened,

PapaHotel6 You say
It's up to the airline and CAA to say "request acknowledged ALPA, but get f**ked".
Of course, in this day and age that would likely occur, but at the time all this took place the demeanour of some of the people involved would have made it difficult.


I had heard that there was supposed to be an airline inspector from CAA onboard the flight, but due to family commitments he had to cancel, would this flight have been carried out the way it was if it was known an Airline Inspector was onboard?

Last edited by prospector; 15th Jun 2016 at 23:40.
 
Old 15th Jun 2016, 23:29
  #735 (permalink)  
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Thank you Dick. There have been a number of "presumptions" on this thread and that highlights the point I made earlier. No one will ever know what went on during the descent/approach because the crew did not survive the crash.
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 23:53
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Most of the navigational notes were made to disappear in the coverup by the Company.
That was well after the event, if they had of been taking the Lat/Long readouts and plotting them then surely the disaster would not have happened,
The coverup started immediately after the accident. And continued for weeks, not months.

It was the suspicious burglary which occurred much later. Months, not weeks.
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 23:57
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As to the 6,000ft minimum, some captains never went below this.
You sound like you are using the teenager defence of malfeasance, Mr P.
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Old 16th Jun 2016, 00:23
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The coverup started immediately after the accident. And continued for weeks, not months.
You missed the point, if they had of been plotting the position on a chart, taken from the Lat/Long readouts, then they would have known where they were, rather thinking they knew where they were.
 
Old 16th Jun 2016, 00:28
  #739 (permalink)  
 
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if they had of been plotting the position on a chart, taken from the Lat/Long readouts, then they would have known where they were, rather thinking they knew where they were.
Agreed.

Perhaps that's why the FEs, abaft the front row seats in the cinema, expressed such concern that something was wrong.
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Old 16th Jun 2016, 00:40
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expressed such concern that something was wrong.
If they had been plotting any of the lat long readouts at the critical times, from the time the home grown descent procedure, against all mandatory descent requirements, was commenced, I would have thought they would have known Mt Erebus was directly ahead. I would have thought in that case there would have been much more expressed then "that something was wrong"
 

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