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Greek TCAS incident & query re Automatic Collision Avoidance System

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Greek TCAS incident & query re Automatic Collision Avoidance System

Old 4th Apr 2006, 12:19
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Greek TCAS incident & query re Automatic Collision Avoidance System

Apparently, there was a near miss today over the skies of Greece. I've posted the article below, which comes from government radio. No mention of aircraft type, but Olympic has a considerable number of 737-400s.

"The 116 passengers on board an Olympic Airlines plane en route from Athens to Dusseldorf via Thessaloniki were alarmed when the pilot was forced to make an abrupt manoeuvre, because according to the instruments, the plane was on a collision course with two fighter jets. A stewardess was lightly injured on the leg, while two passengers suffered shock. The plane, which landed as normal at 09:30 in Thessaloniki, is still at "Macedonia" airport until the injured stewardess is substituted by one of her colleagues. As per the Defence Ministry, two fighter jets (photo-reconnaissance phantoms), flying somewhere over the area between the island of Skyros and Thessaloniki at 18,000 feet, crossed paths over air lane Blue 1, where the passenger plane was traveling on, and came closer than international safety limits, thus activating the automatic airborne collision avoidance system. However, there was no actual danger of a collision. Still, the Ministry is running an investigation into the exact causes of the incident."


I just have a couple of curious questions. When this automatic system takes over, do the pilots get an aural warning, or are they taken by surprise? Is all of this done without the assistance of ATC, using only the plane's radar? Lastly, how does this system interface with the autopilot?
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Old 4th Apr 2006, 12:50
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Its an aural or rather various different aural warnings, ATC should not intervene when the ACAS is set off, its purely aircraft based and is real time unlike the controllers radar. It doesnt do anything with the autopilot its a manual manouvre. Most autopilots arent capable of abrupt movements
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Old 4th Apr 2006, 12:57
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A Layman's description of How ACAS Works -
ACAS is a last ditch collision warning system (when all else fails, i.e. eyeballs, procedures, ATC). It does not take over from the pilot.
It identifies and monitors transponders on other aircraft and displays them in the cockpit for pilots to monitor. It depends on conflicting aircraft having operating transponders that are turned on.
It issues an aural Traffic Advisory (TA) when an intruder is 20-48 seconds away
Issues an aural Resolution Advisory (RA) when intruder is 15-35 seconds away). This tells the pilot to climb or descend in order to resolve a potential collision.

ACAS is not connected to the autopilot-the pilot must take the action to avoid a collision

ACAS can issue an advisory warning or RA, even though a collision may not have occurred, due to the proximity of the other aircraft. However, a TCAS warning is very serious and should be obeyed, even if ATC is involved and giving conflicting instructions.

ACAS is not infallible, unpredictable actions of intruder aircraft, such as military aircraft, can defeat the system.But it's absolutely essential for passenger operations.

ACAS is believed to be about 70% effective at avoiding collisions; 30% is still down to the skill of the pilots and all the other operational rules/procedures (such as level restrictions; ATC intervention etc) that are in place to prevent conflicts. But it's better than the eyeball which is only up to 20% effective, and less so, for high speed and IFR aircraft.
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Old 4th Apr 2006, 14:50
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Just to add that a TCAS manouver should not be a violent one but a smooth pitch up or down at no more than 1.5g if in fact the RA even suggests anything other than not changing your vertical speed which could even be zero. A normal TCAS RA manouvre would probably not be felt or noticed by anyone on the a/c outside of the flight deck.

If a flight attendant was injured in the TCAS incident described in the article above, the crew probably had to use a much more violent manouver than was indicated by TCAS.

Try this link for a better description.
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Old 4th Apr 2006, 16:23
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Originally Posted by Hotel Mode
its purely aircraft based and is real time unlike the controllers radar.

And it isn't a radar system, despite the fact that some pilots believe that it is.... (Not suggesting you H-Mode, just using your quote).
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Old 4th Apr 2006, 16:47
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Because it's picking up transponder signals? So, if a transponder is turned off, then that aircraft can only be picked up by ATC radar?

Actually, what I'm thinking is that military aircraft might not send a transponder signal, if they didn't want to be detected. Or perhaps a hijacked airliner, as well.
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Old 4th Apr 2006, 16:58
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Yes its totally transponder based so depends on each aircraft being so fitted. In terms of hijacked aircraft ATC will still have a primary radar blip on their screen but its no good for TCAS
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Old 4th Apr 2006, 17:05
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And it isn't a radar system
Well, I guess that depends how you define 'radar'. I would consider it to be one. At a most basic definition it uses radio waves to detect range and direction, even though the later isn't particularly accurate or vital.

OK, it doesn't have a rotating antenna, but neither do phased arrays.

OK, it relies on the cooperation of the target, in the form of a transponders, but so do most aspects of ATC radar use. That just makes it a secondary radar rather than a primary.

Going to have to disagree with you there Barry.

CPB
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Old 5th Apr 2006, 06:14
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Angry Again near miss in ATH FIR

Yesterday Olympic Airways (flt OA181) Followed a valid TCAS RA in order to avoid 2 Greek Airforce fighters above the island of Skyros. One Flight Attendant was lightly hurt and the pax were shocked. The B737 landed safely at Makedonia , the airport of Thessaloniki.
This has happend before and will continue to happen, until it is made clear to the Greek Airforce that not ALL airspace is theirs. It is about time that the Greek HCAA (YPA) sits around the table with the airforce in a genuine effort to eliminate this kind of airprox mishaps. The communication between Military and civil ATC should also improve.
This year Greece will benefit of heavy Charter traffic on top of the heavy scheduled traffic, the tourists and other passengers must not be put at any risks because the airforce likes to play with their planes.
This time it was again a near miss, can Greek tourism endure a hit?
Fly safely, QTA

Last edited by quickturnaround; 5th Apr 2006 at 08:07.
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Old 5th Apr 2006, 07:40
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If this had been a newspaper article, it would be written off as a non-event, TCAS doing its job, media hype, business-as-usual, with assorted criticism of the reporter. Carry on, men.
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Old 5th Apr 2006, 07:53
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Followed a valid TCAS RA in order to avoid 2 Greek Airforce fighters above the island of Skyros. One Flight Attendant was lightly hurt...
Exceeded a valid TCAS RA, I would rather say. When following a RA (Ive done it) the cabin crew, let alone the pax, will hardly notice.
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Old 5th Apr 2006, 08:11
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Dear KCl, It has been on the front page of allmost all Greek-newspapers, and on TV and it surely not treated as a ''non-event''.

QTA
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Old 5th Apr 2006, 08:53
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Our military friends generally have their transponders on so their own people can see them! It also helps us see them as well. Only when they are going to do naughty things to other people do they turn them "off" (or park them in a sneaky way so that only their own side can see them). ACAS/TCAS is an SSR application. Big Fraidy Cat - I'd suggest that you try and ignore any press article which has the words: alarmed, violent, storm, frightened, collision, narrowly missed, emergency, stalled, tailspin, etc... In fact any any article with any emotive or sensational terms.

Unless the threat traffic very rapid vertical closure rate, the information and warnings you receive are generally as follows: Visual (shown on a sort of map display): Hollow blue diamond, other traffic, Solid diamond, nearby (proximate traffic), Solid Amber circle: Threat traffic and Solid red square for traffic which you being instructed to avoid. The aural warnings only start with "Traffic! - Traffic!" when the traffic is first shown as a treat. When the system starts to instruct you take avoiding action, the intruder is shown as a red square. There is a simple write up on http://www.aerowinx.de/html/tcas.html.

And finally, ACAS stands for Aircraft Collision Avoidance System and TCAS, which is the same thing, is Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System.
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Old 5th Apr 2006, 09:41
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Piltdown - I actually do avoid those words and that is not what caught my attention to the incident. When they reported an injury to the stewardess, it made me curious to inquire if the avoidance maneuver was designed to be sudden or gradual. A gradual climb or descent shouldn't cause injuries.

It's also an interesting question for this neck of the woods, as there is a lot of military traffic over the eastern Aegean, especially if you include the Turkish incursions into Greek airspace. I don't want to start a political war here, but these are crowded skies, and commercial aircraft are caught in the middle.

It will be interesting, if we eventually do see a report here, as to what actually happened. Since there was an injury, perhaps we'll get to see that report after time.
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Old 5th Apr 2006, 10:50
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Captain Pit Bull,

I think what BarryCuda was alluding to is the way ACAS/TCAS should be used, not the machanical or electrical theory behind the system.

It is purely an aid to assist pilots in the visual detection of intruder A/C via a TA (in the first instance) and in the second instance, it is an aid to help avoid collision via an RA.

Some pilots - and I would like to stress, it's not too many, believe that TCAS is an instrument that can also be used to give them a picture of what is going on around them. When being told about traffic by ATC, the phrase "we have it on TCAS" means nothing - it might be the wrong A/C!!


In the vertical sense, it can help the situational awareness, but in a horizontal sense ACAS/TCAS is very unreliable in azimuth. It's misuse has caused incidents in the past, when A/C that were on headings to miss each other by 5 or more miles have actually had an airprox because one of the sets of crew decided to turn the A/C on the strength of the information they saw on the display.

It is a good system, it is not infallable, it has caused incidents in TC airspace where several A/C are in the same vicinity.
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Old 5th Apr 2006, 11:05
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QTA - An article in today's Kathimerini online edition indicates that, due to fog, the military aircraft could not be identified by the pilots of the Olympic flight. So, in defense of the Greek Air Force, we really don't know yet if the fighter jets were Greek or Turkish. The foreign ministry is keeping silent for the moment.
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Old 5th Apr 2006, 11:33
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anotherthing,

I think what BarryCuda was alluding to is the way ACAS/TCAS should be used
fair enough.

Some pilots - and I would like to stress, it's not too many, believe that TCAS is an instrument that can also be used to give them a picture of what is going on around them.
<nods> Overuse of the TD is a major issue.

However, we should appreciate that the TD can form one of many inputs into a pilots situational awareness. It certaining gives a picture, trying to tell flight crew it doesn't is I feel counterproductive. The problem comes when people think it forms a complete picture and don't understand the limitations.

The TD should never be the sole reason for initiating a change of flight path, but that does not preclude it being the starting point of a course of action, e.g. a query to ATC.

When being told about traffic by ATC, the phrase "we have it on TCAS" means nothing - it might be the wrong A/C!!
I couldn't agree more. Pretty much the only sensible response is "Roger" - takes up less airtime!

It's misuse has caused incidents in the past
<nods> Absolutely. I sense a mutual preaching to the choir between the two of us
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Old 5th Apr 2006, 11:52
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And just a reminder (although clearly not the case in this instance, 'cos TCAS clearly worked and the military aircraft had serviceable transponders) you can't be too reliant on TCAS ....not all aircraft are transponder-equipped, not all transponders are functioning, not all transponders are accurate and not all pilots turn them on. Australian ATC sees many aircraft each day where pilots fail to turn the transponder on after take-off, then there are the VCA's by non-transponder equipped aircraft, then there's the unserviceable transponders enroute through poor or no maintenance, unreliability or electrical failures. And then there's all the bulldust Class G in Australia where you aren't required to have transponder at all. Hopefully, over 90% of all aircraft in proximity to passenger aircraft are transponder-equipped but they don't all function all of the time.
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Old 5th Apr 2006, 11:59
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Greek press is exaggerating a lot

From various greek newspaper articles I gathered the following:
OA B737 in descent from 20000ft to 16000ft .
Formation of 2 RF4E on opposite course at 15500ft.
B737 at 400+ kts, the RF4E at 800+ kts groundspeed.
If the speed for the Phantoms is correct, that would have been a very high lateral closure rate.
B737 climbed 1000 ft within 2 seconds.
That would mean, they arrested the descent and climbed 1000ft within
2 seconds.
Now if you calculate that, you end up with a climbrate in excess of 30000 fpm.
How realistic is that, and what would be the g-forces implied?
Having been trained on TCAS RA manoeuvers in the sim for the last 5 years,
I never experienced anything as violent as that described by the press.
So let's wait for the investigation, to see what really happened, and how close it really was.
In any case, it is good to hear, that apart from the FA's slight injury nobody else was hurt.
I would like to wish her a quick and complete recovery.
In many parts of the world this would probably not have made it into the media, at least not to the extent these things get media coverage in Greece.
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Old 5th Apr 2006, 14:41
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Originally Posted by quickturnaround
...the tourists and other passengers must not be put at any risks because the airforce likes to play with their planes...
They play well all right, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, keeping your (singular) country's airspace free so that you can fly your NG with safety...
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