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Air Transat's unscheduled stopover in Azores

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Air Transat's unscheduled stopover in Azores

Old 29th Aug 2001, 01:36
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I don't know if their DUAL ENG FAIL checklist is the same as our A320 one, but the first line says "LAND ASAP". Very useful info don't you think.
Well done to the crew!
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 02:07
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A question from a non-pilot (stop me if you've heard this one);

In a situation such as this, when the gear catches fire on landing and it would (presumably) be wise to wait a few minutes while this is extinguished before evacuation - can the crew dectect this fire, and how do you stop the stampede of pax from evacuating too soon?

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Old 29th Aug 2001, 02:10
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Wonder now if a massive rethink on ETOPS will take place, and none too soon IMHO. This aircraft could well have been a wet footprint...if it had not been for the very real fine action by the crew and just plain luck.
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 02:39
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411A - surely it doesn't matter how many engines you've got if you haven't got any fuel?
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 02:57
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Oh, and by-the-way: it does appear that this crew did an absolutely FANTASTIC job! A difficult one to spot, judging by judgement!
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 02:58
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The news conference was conducted in both French and English and in several instances the French explainations (translated) seemed more detailed.

The captain seems clearly to believe that this is a mechanical problem, and that fuel at takeoff, fuel management, and/or computer systems are not responsible.

Althought it wasn't entirely clear (given that not every answer has a one to one correlation with the question and the mix of languages... I took the captain to say that (although) they do this type of simulation ...(but that) he had not (yet) and that this was his first encounter with this situation.

Either he or the first officer indicated they arrived over the island just before dawn (in very good weather) at about 15,000 so they had a bit of a cushion.

Minimal hydraulics, slats (no flaps), basic instruments. Flight crew seem to have lost no confidence in the aircraft or any of the operational or regulatory systems... rather they seem to be saying that the outcome provides an endorsement of the system(s).

Maybe they take a little comfort from the success NASA has had bringing it's birds home succesfully. A great job done any day of the week!

I think I'll go back and read the story of the Air Canada 'Gimli Glider'... it's a great yarn for anyone that has an interest in the flight deck.

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Old 29th Aug 2001, 03:07
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Links to the CBC's audio and video clips:

audio only

video clip
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 03:22
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Robert Pearson, who earned a place in aviation history 18 years ago as the Captain of the "Gimli Glider", laments that airline pilots are still left without the training and data they need if they have to try to land with all engines dead.

"I certainly didn't have any training, so I had to improvise, and what a hell of a time to improvise," he said, recalling the sunny summer Saturday in 1983 when fuel-warning lights started to flash in the cockpit of his Air canada B767 over northwestern Ontario. He landed on an abandoned airstrip in Gimli, Manitoba, hence the plane's nickname.

Speaking last night,he said pilots such as those who glided an Air Transat A330 to safety in the Azores last week still have to fly by the seat of their pants. "What they need to know is the best speed to extend the glide."

"It would have been nice if somebody had provided a chart that they could have looked up and said, Okay, we weigh 350,000 pounds, we're at 30,000 feet, so our optimum glide speed is 275 knots, because you're just guessing."

"These guys were guesiing. I was guessing and the next time it happens, I guess pilots will still be guessing, because the manufacturer's are reluctant to come out with it and the airlines are reluctant to have it in their manuals - that's my guess - charts that show what happens when all engines fail."

"But with a second one happening with a Canadian airline, maybe it'll jog somebody."

He got fuel warnings as he passed Red Lake, Ontario at 41,000 feet. He decided to land at Winnipeg and was beginning descent when one engine quit, out of fuel. Then the other engine quit.

"So at 28-five we were a glider."

Fearing he would not reach YWG, he headed for a former military strip at Gimli, the scene of a drag racing meet that weekend.

He saw the runway from six miles out at 5,000 feet and slowed the aircraft by sideslipping crabwise to lose speed and altitude. He touched down almost perfectly, but the nose wheel, lacking hydraulic pressure, had not locked and the aircraft slid 3,000 feet on its nose. He saw two boys on bicycles on the runway ahead.

"I can still see their faces, that's one of the images I still have pretty clearly after 18 years. They made it off anyway. We stayed in the middle of the runway."

from the Globe and Mail.
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 04:55
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Darn glad to be here....

I'm pretty confident that if there was any chance of this being crew or company error, Air Transat wouldn't of held this conference today. I still haven't found why the First engine was shutdown??

Meleni Tesic, flight director, First officer Dirk De Jager and Captain Robert Piche arrived in Mirabel today. They provided the first eyewitness account of events during the emergency landing and evacuation of flight 236. (CNW PHOTO/AIR TRANSAT) Meleni Tesic, directrice de vol, Dirk De Jager, premier officier et le commandant Robert Piche ont livre, aujourd'hui a Mirabel, le premier temoignage a la suite du vol TS-236 Toronto-Lisbonne. (PHOTO CNW/AIR TRANSAT)

Doctor Bob

[ 29 August 2001: Message edited by: JR/FO ]
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 05:03
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Local UL news at 18:00 says the Portugese are reporting an LP fuel leak, and that RR has advised all operators of Airbus aircraft with Trent 700 engines to visually inspect "certain parts" of the fuel system.
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 05:11
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How can a fuel line break in one area can cause a venting of all fuel overboard, unless both sides of the crossfeed valve break??? Don't the wing tanks feed their respective engines and are isolated by a crossfeed valve which is normally closed except for wing balancing?? I'm confused. Can any 330 drivers out there explain that?
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 05:24
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Few Cloudy,
I appreciate your taking the time to post "mainly" for me but I fear you have entirely misunderstood me. None of my posts was meant as a criticism. As a non-airman, I was - and still am - genuinely seeking enlightenment on technical matters. At no time did I suggest that the aircraft had been inadequately fuelled. How the hell would I know whether it was or not? In one post I wrote that I found it difficult to believe - and I still do - that a catastrophic depletion of fuel could occur without the crew detecting it. In this instance, the fuel on board dropped from - what, 2 hours or so(?) to 10 mins (if press reports can be believed) - before the crew called an emergency. Man, if this scenario is valid, it scares the living bejeezus out of me (SLF)! Finally, I never claimed the flight crew's first priority in an emergency was to put out a distress call (although I note that Capt Piche didn't waste much time doing so). My question was - and remains - why did he only when his aircraft was running practically on fumes and not earlier? Did he really have no prior indication that he was becoming dangerously low on fuel? I wasn't at today's press conference but, judging by the media reports, the fuel management aspect of this incident was essentially glossed over and I, for one, am none the wiser. Predictably, the reporters apparently didn't ask any pointed questions. The CBC announced, with a straight face, that Airbus Industrie has sent a team to the Azores to find out why the engines stopped.
Thanks for your post. That was my understanding (from extensive reading, SW radio monitoring and flight simming) and led directly to my "shrill" query.
I'm still
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 05:31
  #33 (permalink)  
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Pilot Insists He Was No Hero for Safe Landing of Jetliner That Lost Power Over the Atlantic

By Phil Couvrette Associated Press Writer
Published: Aug 28, 2001

MIRABEL, Quebec (AP) - The pilot of a Canadian airliner that lost engine power and glided for 18 minutes said Tuesday he was no hero, but only doing his job in bringing the plane to safety with 304 people aboard.
The crippled Airbus A330 jetliner managed a hard landing on the Azores Islands around dawn Friday. Flames erupted briefly as the plane's tires burst and the craft spilled fuel onto the runway. Eleven people were hospitalized for minor injuries.

Air Transat Capt. Robert Piche, 49, said there was no time to think about fear, only time to follow procedures and rely on his 30 years' experience, while gliding the plane down from 32,000 feet with both engines shut down.

"Of course we had doubts. But we did what we had to do," Piche said at a news conference at a Montreal hotel.

A preliminary report issued Tuesday by Portuguese investigators said a malfunctioning fuel injection pump caused low fuel pressure in both engines.

According to a report by investigators, Piche's crew noticed what they called a fuel leak at 4:25 a.m. Friday (1:25 a.m. EDT). An hour later, the right engine lost power and, two minutes after that, the left engine went dead.

Piche said that after the loss of the engines, he was left with nothing but his control stick with minimum power from an emergency propeller to control the aircraft. He glided the craft for 18 minutes over the Atlantic Ocean before reaching the runway. It took 90 seconds to evacuate the plane,.

"That's what we get trained for, that's what we get paid for, to be successful in a situation like that," Piche said. "I'm not a hero."

He provided few details on how he brought the Toronto-to-Lisbon flight carrying 291 passengers and a crew of 13 to the safe emergency landing at the Lajes airport on Terciera Island in the Azores, 900 miles off the coast of Portugal.

But he stressed that the incident showed that procedures set up for problems on international flights, such as alternate landing sites, works.

"I've been flying for 30 years. I understand full well that on an international flight, nothing like this is supposed to happen," he said. "Now I understand that the system we have throughout the world, the system operates. It works."

While passengers have described terrifying moments of chaos on the gliding plane, the flight director Meleni Tesic praised the crew and passengers for following procedures and instructions.

"There was absolutely no panic among all the passengers," Tesic said.

But passenger Joao Gaspar spoke of screaming passengers in plane that quickly lost altitude, then "depressurized and jerked about."

Airbus Industrie has sent a team of specialists to the Azores Islands to assist in the investigation by Portuguese authorities.

AP-ES-08-28-01 2043EDT
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 06:52
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couple of pages of Transat's 330 QRH were reproduced on the CBC website:

Double flame-out checklist

Forced Landing Checklist
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 07:31
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Not trying to speculate but I believe there is a situation on 777 where you can get into trouble by blindly following checklists. A massive fuel leak will lead to low fuel on one side (obviously). After the fuel imbalance checklist, later will come the low fuel check which asks for either crossfeed valve to be opened. This then drains the other tank. Some of my details may not be absolutely precise but have heard of this scenario in the sim.
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 11:10
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Just did a quick search for the Gimli Glider story and came up with

It comes with the rather amusing footnote....

An amusing side-note to the Gimli story is that after Flight 143 had landed safely, a group of Air Canada mechanics were dispatched to drive down and begin effecting repair. They piled into a van with all their tools. They reportedly ran out of fuel en-route, finding themselves stranded somewhere in the backwoods of Manitoba
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 11:12
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Hi Moufflon, I don't know why no-one has replied to you!?

With a wheel/ wheel-well fire, or indeed any other kind of essentially external fire (engine, APU), the first priority is to get (or keep!) the aircraft on the ground. After that, unless you are 110% sure that the fire is TOTALLY extinguished, an evacuation is a serious consideration. Even if ground emergency services are on the way to the aircraft, an unextinguished fire can very quickly become a conflagration, killing all on board.

There is no way (apart from a VERY few airliners) to view the gear area from the flight deck. So you have no way of knowing what is happening down there, apart from possibly a faraway ATC controller or a ground rescue vehicle on his way to the aircraft. Further, even though all may look quiet, the metal of the wheels is rapidly increasing in temperature (due to dissapating energy from the brakes), and any fuel leak may be invisible. Next thing, temp reaches flashpoint and, instant inferno. Lastly, of course, there is no guarantee that the fire services will be able to extinguish the fire before the aircraft and its contents are destroyed.

Regarding pax evacuating too soon, normally the problem is getting them out fast enough! Provided things go 'as planned' (caveat intended), no action will be taken regarding evacuation until a command is received from the flight deck. If the FD is disabled or uncontactable, some airlines allow the cabin crew to initiate evacuation. (In an Airbus, there is a switch in the roof that sets the evacuation possibilities to either 'Captain' or 'Captain and Purser', depending on the airlines procedures). An inherent danger in the latter is blowing slides into running engines, but an emergency is just that, and often improvisation or lateral thinking is required. Bear in mind that fear and panic amongst the pax are an unfortunate but very real part of any abnormal procedure.

Ironically, most injuries are usually sustained as a result of the evacuation, not the emergency! But IF you leave the pax on board, and IF the aircraft does burn out.....
Not an easy call.

My opinion; in this case the captain did exactly the right thing by evacuating as soon as possible. Well done!!!
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 13:14
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A couple of points from previouse posts-
1. there seems to be no comment on the fact that after landing with NO fuel, there was a fuel leak on the runway. May have just been remnants, but having no details I am curious how much and where from.
2. As far as fuel pump failure goes, I won't say impossible, because history has shown that to be a silly statement to make, but the A330 has totally seperate main wing tanks only joined by the X feed valve and each tank has THREE fuel pumps (2 main + 1 sby). If the loss was only from one side I would have thought they could X feed from the good side, even if the engine on THAT side had been shut down (though you may be feeding it TO the leak in that case).
I would have thought looking at the situation the LIKELY cause has to come down to either the Xfeed or the fuel dump system, but of course this is STILL only speculation. If it WAS an uncontrolled fuel dump and they were unable to stop it by normal means they MAY have been able to sort it by the VERY drastic method of making the A/C totally electrically dead to reset the systems, but I am saying this with lots of time to think it over, and in the time available this may not have been thought of (or this may NOT have been the problem, OR they may have thought of it and rejected it for very good reasons), also it would take a brave man to try this under these conditions without having tried it before - maybe a good one for the next Sim session!
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 13:14
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Rockhound, to speculate on your original posting, "How come the pilot didn't declare an emergency until he had just 10 minutes fuel left?"

Firstly, the source of this information, Antonio Santos, "PR officer for the Azores air zone", may not have the full picture.

A transatlantic flight would not normally be in contact with the "Azores air zone" or indeed any other agency on VHF. They would be in HF contact with Santa Maria, New York or Shanwick depending on their position.

HF radio is a notoriously poor way of communicating, however the following are among the possibilities.

1: The HF radio may be unpowered after losing all AC power. (Don't know about this, it is real speculation)

2: They may have been unable to contact the controlling agency at the time. It can be very time consuming and not really a distraction one needs while dealing with a major malfunction.

3: They may have declared an emergency and Antonio Santos wasn't on the copy list for it.

4: There is a saying amongst pilots which goes "Aviate, Navigate, Communicate." It is a kind of priority list with communicate at the bottom as it is the least likely to kill you.

5: Contacting Lajes on VHF 20 minutes out sounds like they did so as soon as they were within VHF range.

6: If I was a passenger on that aircraft, I wouldn't give a toss with whom he declared an emergency to, or when he declared it. I would just be eternally grateful that teamwork, skill and training brought a potentially tragic scenario to a successful conclusion.
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Old 29th Aug 2001, 13:45
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I dont think the fuel spill on the runway is confirmed? You can see something "wet" on the runway in some photos but that might be from the fire units after the brake fires. And if there was fuel on the runway - what had happened then with a fire in the brakes?

Im not surprised that all tires with brakes bursted. Anti-skid was u/s and they probably came in with slats only (no flaps). Checklist says target speed 170 kt after gear extension.

HFs dont work on an A330 in electrical emergency configuration with no engines running.
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