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Spanair accident at Madrid

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Spanair accident at Madrid

Old 24th Aug 2008, 19:43
  #781 (permalink)  
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Also please consider that only the passenger weights are unknown; weights of the empty airplane, the fuel and cargo are already available with high precision. Passenger weight is on the order of 25-30% of the airplane's total weight.

Weighing the fully loaded airplane pre-takeoff, assuming a 2% accuracy, is therefore about equally accurate as obtaining the passenger weight with about 7% accuracy. Evidently the present system works well enough so that the proposed airplane scales would not be a cost effective improvement.
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 19:53
  #782 (permalink)  
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Nobody dismisses the possibility of one or both engines malfunction at all. Actually, it would be a likely scenario to explain the accident. Just the possibility of any large visually intense malfunction such as a large explossion, large fire or other indications (i.e. smoke, etc). Of course, some other malfunctions, even internal catastrophic malfunctions that were well contained, are possible, as are birds etc hitting an engine, etc.

We don't know how clear the angles and resolution of the video recordings are. We can assume it was carefully viewed more than once by a couple of pilot advisors besides the politicians and they agreed they couldn't see anything off-hand that indicated any problems with the engines and only and apparent lack of enough "power" to carry on the maneuver successfully was appreciated, erratic behaviour very soon after airbone, and "fall or attempt to land".

They insisted that no fire whatsoever could be observed until after the airplane hit the ground and "bounced around". That's what they claim to have observed. This, of course, doesn't mean that there wasn't a prior fire, just that it wasn't apparent in the video and therefore it couldn't have been too large externally since smoke would've likely been noticed earlier.

Every possible scenario opens, except those discarded by the tape, such as an engine falling off or large explosions.

Also, nobody dismisses the value to the general public of non-exact simulation graphics, but the media is to blame for a lot of incorrect information being presented as facts on big letters and flashy graphics EVEN AFTER OTHER FACTS INVALIDATE THEIR ACCOUNTS, or at least put them in doubt. A few HOURS after the accident, a 3D graphics showing an engine explosion and crash was repeated ad-naseum on spanish TV (can't remember what channel). If you talk to just about anyone in Spain on the street, after seeing the footage they automatically will tell you the accident was due to an explosion in the engine and the airplane crashing to the side.

Even DAYS after this seems unlikely, public image is still that of the first 3D recreated account. Of course, each news channel´s and each newpaper´s graphics, 3D animations or charts on what happened was slightly different. The media routinely chooses flashy headlines, changing small but important details in favour of more flashy sentences (like talking about "deactivated heat probe" instead of "probe's heating device") and attractive graphics over truth and precautory restrain. They are in the bussiness to sell audience even if that means playing with people's expectations and the hard truth.

Last edited by justme69; 24th Aug 2008 at 20:07.
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 20:17
  #783 (permalink)  
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Guys/Girls ... wait until the initial finding are released ... this level of hypothesis is not really helping anyone, all you are doing is helping some elements of the media turn personal tragedy into a circus.... people are without sons daughters fathers and mothers.. this is not a microsoft game, people died.

Very sad for everyone involved in this.
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 20:26
  #784 (permalink)  
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The word "fall" has been used by me many times because it's unclear what those I'm quoting meant. Some speak of "fall", some of "coming down", some of "landing". But in spanish it becomes ambigous enough, plus those speaking are often not experts, but newscasters using their own words to convey information gathered by non-expert witneses or officials.

I have heard first hands 3 officials, 2 of which direct witnesses of the airport video recording of the accident and one that had it explained to him by another politician first hand. But most of the other reports I have not seen/watched/heard directly, but instead I have seen the words of a news reporter to whom those accounts were explained. Technically, about 80% of what I've been reporting is already 3rd hand information. Once you read my words, it becomes 4th hand information. Not good for a not-clear-cut event.

I have the feeling that nobody will be able to come up with the real cause(s) of the accident until after the (damaged) data recorder information is analysed, as way too many scenarios, most of them equally unlikely, could have happened and likely it wasn't the result of a single, major cause.

We all care about the victims and their families (my own 16yo daughter was by herself on a MD-82 Spanair flight between the Canary Islands and Madrid about a week ago), but we are in this board because our way of dealing with the accident is to try to find the truth or, at least, when not enough facts are available to find it, to try to find out what factors or events are more likely than others as the cause of the accident using whatever expertise in the subject each may have (I've never been a pilot, traffic controller, airport/airline personel or airplane hobbyst, but I speak spanish, some english and know my physics).
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 21:18
  #785 (permalink)  
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Rat probe heater fail.

Mi quest is how the pilot detected this fail. No light,no ammeter current because this heater dont have power in ground.
Secont: the mecanic disconect the heater: HOW? .If pull the respectic CB let the TRP without power.
May be the opposite:the pilot detected current in the ammeter, but is improbable because this check is before start engine.Some is wrong in this information.
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 21:27
  #786 (permalink)  
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This post doesn't address this incident specifically because what occurred, or didn't occur, isn't known as of right now.

Comments on flying and aircraft configuration have been asked. Some comments -

1. An a/c without flaps will accelerate faster because a clean wing(no LE slats/TE flaps) creates less drag while accelerating on the runway.

2. Post #733 shows the stall speed/configuration/wts graph. LE slats typically lower stall speed on commercial jets approx. 30-40 KIAS while ALL the TE flaps reduce the stall speed approx 20-30 KIAS(airspeed to non-pilots). For this case it looks like a clean wing would stall approx. 40 KIAS faster than a Flaps 5 T.O. configuration.

3. Someone asked how far it would take to accelerate to a safe speed without slats/flaps? Answers based on Post #733 data - You would have to accelerate approx. 48 KIAS(40 KIAS + 20%) to have the same safety margin that a typical takeoff has.

4. In ground effect(basically within one wingspan of the ground) a/c will be able to fly at speeds lower than stall speeds out of ground effect PROVIDED precise AOA(angle of attack) control is used. Trying to increase AOA(ie typical rotation after liftoff) or exiting ground effect can make an a/c that was once flying completely unflyable. Doing both, AOA increase and exiting ground effect, compounds the problem. Air Florida 737 KDCA and NW DC-9 KDTW crashes are examples of a/c that 'fly' but can't stay airborne due to AOA/ground effect problems.

5. V2 or V2+10 is typically very close to clean stall speeds. Should this situation(inproper T.O. configuration) occur staying 'on the deck' and acclerating on the runway, or in ground effect, can be a lifesaver. (sim experience from reenacting DL 727 KDFW T.O. crash and NW DC-9 KDTW crash, both with no slats/flaps extended)

Again this is not commenting on this incident since the facts aren't known at this time.

Last edited by misd-agin; 24th Aug 2008 at 21:29. Reason: spelling
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 21:31
  #787 (permalink)  
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The repairs were reported on the press and on TV by spokepersons for the technician as both, having being "disconnected" and having the "fuse removed".

The most sensible scenario seems to be: Pilot informs PAX that he is not proceeding with (first) T/O because a 'red light warning indicator came on' and he is unsure about what it is and wants it checked out by techs, they return to gate (or service area) and repair tech and pilot decide the fault indicated is with the heater to assist probe readings in some weather conditions. Since no danger of those weather conditions exist, they decide in compliance with manual procedures to disconnect it and both signed the plane fit-to-fly. The Pilot informs PAX that it was a fault with a "heat sensor" that was fixed already and they were ready to take-off.

What 'warning light' the pilot was talking about is, of course, not clearly stated anywhere.
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 21:45
  #788 (permalink)  
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Los familiares de las víctimas del avión siniestrado el pasado miércoles en Barajas nunca podrán conocer las conversaciones de los pilotos que están grabadas en las cajas negras del aparato MD 82 porque están sometidas a "un código de confidencialidad".
Así lo ha asegurado el subdirector de Spanair, Javier Mendoza, al cerca de centenar de familiares de víctimas del accidente con los que se ha reunido durante una hora en el Hotel Auditorium de Madrid y a los que ha mostrado unas diapositivas de cajas negras y croquis sobre su ubicación en un avión de las características del siniestrado.
"Las grabaciones, nunca se harán públicas", ha insistido Mendoza, que ha precisado que únicamente servirán para avanzar en las investigaciones que llevan a cabo la comisión creado a tal efecto por Aviación Civil y el Juzgado de Madrid encargado del caso.
The relatives of the victims of the Spanair flight will never know the conversations betwen the pilots that are recorded in the black boxes, because they are submitted to a "confidentiality code", said Javier Mendoza, Spanair´s vicedirector to one hundred of relatives in Hotel Auditorium in Madrid. He showed them the photos and draws of the black boxes and their position in a plane like the one that suffered the accident. "The recordings will never become public", insisted, and will only be used for investigations to be done by the comission designed to study the case.
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 21:52
  #789 (permalink)  
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boardingpass asks about this:
...owed their escape to being thrown from the plane into a stream, thereby avoiding severe burns
One possibility is that, as they shot off the end of the slide - they landed in water.
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 22:06
  #790 (permalink)  
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The Canadian Lesson

The Canadian Lesson, or "Lex Canada" post the SWR111 disaster; despite Canada having - at least on the statute books - a total capping of public CVR and/or ATC R/T disclosure, it only took a matter of months if not weeks before the world was able to access, download or by other means listen to the actual voices of those involved as the situation developed.

As Spain is involved, I can only imagine the timescale will in this case be shortened by a power of ten.

Transparency, my rear end!
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 22:08
  #791 (permalink)  
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Survivors have said to find themselves amid mud/water outside the airplane already (didn't specify if still attached to their seats). One survivor speaks of relatives seated by her side and another ambigously accounted as "by her other side" (but could easily be in front, or across the aisle). She said her partner (or brother, I forget) was still by her side (another survivor if I recall correctly) but the other relative, when she went to "check on her" was not in the "right (relative) place" and actually she 'found someone else there' and couldn't find her relative nearby.

Remember virtually no large section of the airplane survived the impact and the fire just took care of whatever was left, but the airplane was already broken in many (actually way many) parts.

This wasn't exactly a large chunk of the plane seats that produced lots of survivors, but an area with relative few obstacles and much softer (and wet) ground where some of them ended up still in not-too-large chunks of fuselage. They say to have felt the shallow water and walk off/crawl off by themselves. One of them, an emergency rescue worker herself that happened to be a passenger in that flight, realized she had a broken femur when she tried to stand up twice after feeling water 'awoke her' and tried to help nearby victims, not very succesfully.

Once the in-flight recordings reach the judiciary system here in Spain, as it has been stated, if they are anywhere near "interesting" they will be leaked to press in all likeness in a short time. This country does not believe in "secret anything".
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 22:11
  #792 (permalink)  
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That warning light...

Warning: not a pilot, so probably about to use all the wrong terminology.

Passenger evidence suggest the pilot saw a warning light displayed, but wasn't sure what it meant.

Of course, it could be that the passenger didn't pick up the pilot's words accurately, but assuming that he did, is it usual for a warning light to be difficult for a pilot to interpret, ie needing an engineer's analysis? I imagine pilots get frequent warning lights, and I've always assumed they could make reasonable sense of them on the flightdeck. If they can't, does that suggest a problem that needs a bit of careful analysis by maintenance staff?

If it was a warning light, that would suggest that the relevant systems had detected something wrong. Would the activation of a probe heater normally set off a red light, or is the pilot simply 'notified' that the heater has switched itself on? Does it make sense for the probe heater to set off a warning light?

The heater deactivation seems to be about the only unchallenged fact we've been given so far, and something about it doesn't make sense to me. If the red warning light was a bit of a mystery, could it be that the 'solution' didn't fix the real problem?
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 22:29
  #793 (permalink)  
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Today Spanair announced that the reason for returning to the gate was the heating system of the temperature sensor. In other words the heating to prevent ice getting on the temperature probe. It was disactivated by the mechanic according to the MEL. The airplane is aloud to fly with it for 10 days before it needs to be repaired. Since the weather was good and there were no icing conditions the decision to depart was correct if what Spanair sais is correct.
It's been a while since I've flown the 80... but doesn't the Thrust Rating Indicator require an input from the TAT probe to compute a thrust setting, whether reduced or max?

Could the inop TAT probe have possibly computed a false thrust setting that results in one much lower than required? (similar to Air Florida, except that ice on the P2 probe caused that one.)

Just curious, what do you folks think?
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 22:37
  #794 (permalink)  
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I'm not a pilot or crew member, but have flown enough to figure out that pilots would usually inform the PAX generically of some warning light/indicator calling for a return to gate to have it checked.

It is quite normal for the pilot just casually mention he/she is unsure of what the problem may be and is opening the doors to allow a technician come on board to check it out.

With a device as "remote" and probably little used in practice on Spain's weather as the outside air temperature probe intake heater, it's reasonable the pilot wasn't compleatly sure what the heck was going on with whatever indication he saw (which maybe wasn't even a "warning red light" but any other light or indication and he was just small-talking the PAX). There was talk of an "overheating warning indicator light" at the beginning of the reports of the accident, but probably that was more of a "heating device malfunction indicator light" instead.

Also, the pilot probably just casually mentioned something like "the heat probe has been fixed" rather than bore the passengers with the more correct "The heating device assisting the temperature probe has been bypassed/disconnected/whatever"

So just take all the reports on a "warning light" or "the pilot being unsure what it was" as 3rd or 4th hand account of casual small-talk on the side of the pilot to the PAX rather than hard, factual accounts.

Unfortunately the more "technical" explanation offered by Spanair didn't mention the exact nature of the indication that the pilot saw (i.e. whether it was a light indication of the device being on when it should've been off, a diagnostic light indicator of some malfunction with the device, the lack of light when there should've been one, etc). What was clearly stated is that both pilot and technician decided it was the heating device causing the problem/warning and it was disabled for the duration of the flight as it wasn't necessary for the expected weather conditions of the flight.

Last edited by justme69; 24th Aug 2008 at 23:03.
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 22:46
  #795 (permalink)  
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The Canadian Lesson, or "Lex Canada" post the SWR111 disaster; despite Canada having - at least on the statute books - a total capping of public CVR and/or ATC R/T disclosure, it only took a matter of months if not weeks before the world was able to access, download or by other means listen to the actual voices of those involved as the situation developed.
Just for the record, it is CVR conversations that are primarily covered by Canada's Safety Board Act. ATC conversations are considered private and privileged under the Act as well but that has been challenged under Canada's Privacy Act by the courts, (which have also challenged the CVR part of the Act and won in one specific case). The following is a small part from the Safety Board Act:

Privilege for on-board recordings

(2) Every on-board recording is privileged and, except as provided by this section, no person, including any person to whom access is provided under this section, shall
(a) knowingly communicate an on-board recording or permit it to be communicated to any person; or
(b) be required to produce an on-board recording or give evidence relating to it in any legal, disciplinary or other proceedings.
Practically speaking, with ACARS trackers, scanners and whatnot and the internet it is too high an expectation that Pilot-ATC conversations will not be subject to you-tube exposure etc, such as the SR111 tapes are. However, the SR111 CVR recordings are not available on the web - only the ATC part is.

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Old 24th Aug 2008, 22:55
  #796 (permalink)  
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Justme69, all what you say makes perfect sense.
However, nobody so far has been able to confirm how a probe heater malfunctioning (overheat or what else) would lit some light (which one exactly ?) in the panel.
Another unanswered question is about layout of the CBs, which ones are close to the one controlling RAT heater ?
Certainly these are not crucial questions now, but having a definite answer would help dispelling rather than supporting certain theories.

On the investigations side, I learn from Spanish media, that Spanair had denied relatives access to CVR recording, meaning it has been listened already by someone. Consequently, the box reportedly damaged is the FDR, hopefully useful data can be extracted anyway.
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 23:01
  #797 (permalink)  
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It is the flight data recorder the one damaged, while the voice one seems to be in good enough shape. Indeed, a perfectly precise explanation of what made the pilot call-in for a technician is not known, speaking only of a generic "malfunction indicator/red light", but of course could be anything else. What is clear is that technician and pilot agreed it was that device's fault and turning it off would solve the problem temporarily.
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 23:02
  #798 (permalink)  
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Unfortunately the more "technical" explanation offered by Spanair didn't mention the exact nature of the indication that the pilot saw (i.e. whether it was a light indication of the device being on when it should've been off, a diagnostic light indicator of some malfunction with the device, the lack of light when there should've been one, etc). What was clearly stated is that both pilot and technician decided it was the heating device causing the problem/warning and it was disabled for the duration of the flight as it wasn't necessary.
I'm sure you're right about the announcement to PAX. I'm just curious to know what the pilot would actually see if the probe heater were to switch itself on while still on the ground. Does some kind of light come on in the flightdeck? Assuming that the operation of the heater is a 'silent' activity in normal conditions, ie not notified to the pilot, is there some system for detecting that it's operating when it shouldn't be?

I wonder if any MD-80 pilots / engineers could answer?

(I've spent years of my professional life untangling problems where the real cause is often nothing to do with the visible symptoms, and something about that warning light niggles me.)
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 23:08
  #799 (permalink)  
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It's a shame........

Quote from 777fly,


Your ignorance of aircraft handling techniques, aerodynamics and mechanics indicates that you cannot be a commercial pilot, surely?

I have no experience of MD80 operation, but if the free air stall speed is 200kts, it will fly at speeds well below that figure while in ground effect.

For other posters, ground effect has nothing to do with air density.
Mr 777fly,

1. Unfortunate how your post singlehandedly dropped the grade of this thread quite a few points.

2. It his highly advisable when insulting someone else you be able to do what kindergarten teachers always say before a test: "Start by writing the name correctly"

3. I never stated that the plane won't fly without slats. I said a certain speed is required.

4. The MD80 strikes it's tail at around 10°. Does anybody know for certain if at this "theoretical" speed 10° of body angle is enough to get the plane airborne?

5. A poster posted 2800 m of runway required in Madrid's case. But it is with flaps 15°. Remember that in a belanced runway departure and on this lenght of runway they would have taken off with less than 5° of flaps.

6. pichu17, we're definitely Mad Dog collegues. This is als a question I had and posted from the beginning. The story of lights in the cockpit and the time when they noticed simply does not add up.

7. Just to give some an idea, at 65t, the flaps up/slat retr stall speed is at around 175 knots. At 2000 feet and 30° the ground speed would be at almost 190 knots.

Hence my question again. (written in italics for those who think I'm arrogant) I find it quite a feat for this plane to rotate and become airborne without flaps or slats, wobble around, then come back down, leave the runway and come to a stop before runway end. It may be possible if we have overestimated this plane's TO weight, which can entirely be the case.

Again to 777fly, it's a shame why you felt the urge to insult a poster based on one post I made where I just wondered how it was possible.


p.s. a few interesting quotes from the Northwest 255 NTSB report. I highly recommend reading it.

"Witnesses generally agreed that flight 255’s takeoff roll was longer than that normally
made by similar airplanes. They stated that the flight began its rotation about 1,200 to 1,500 feet
from the departure end of the runway, agreed that it rotated to a higher pitch angle than other
DC-9s, and agreed that the tail of the airplane’came close to striking the runway."

Assuming proper takeoff configuration, the airplane should have lifted off between a 6” and 8”
noseup pitch attitude. In this instance, the airplane rotated to an 11” noseup attitude, stabilized at
that attitude, and accelerated to a higher airspeed before liftoff
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Old 24th Aug 2008, 23:43
  #800 (permalink)  
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Never heard this at all...
HarryMann - not a criticism, but I agree with NigelOnDraft, in operating 4 eng. heavies from 1958 to 1994, I also never even heard of timing to V1, but that doesn't mean it was never suggested, but I'm pretty sure it never went beyond the Boffin stage if so, however I was told by a senior RAF Training Captain on V-Bombers that at certain airfields they worked out a distance to achieve V1, or aborted, but it did need marker boards, and the distance was variable for each and every take-of of course, being related to full power, or reduced power take-offs - and a lot of other factors as well, it just wasn't practical for a Worldwide airline to encompass.
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