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CNN Reports FEDEX crash in Tokyo

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CNN Reports FEDEX crash in Tokyo

Old 5th Apr 2009, 11:49
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I have a theory that one of the problems in the freight business is this - no witnesses. A pax pilot will do everything possible to grease the landing. If that means holding on to the power a bit longer, fishing for the runway, so be it. As I said, these things don't routinely run off the ends of runways.

But a freight dog focusses on flightpath - nailing the ILS until the roundout, planting the mains exactly where they go. Many of our pilots came from military pointy jets and have never in their careers made a landing with a couple hundred spectators in the back. Different set of priorities, maybe....
I know we've discussed this issue here in years past. What is the reason for the continuing string of mishaps at FedEx? And, a related question, is a lower standard of safety acceptable if no pax are involved?

From the outside, FedEx does appear to have more of a military tradition than most carriers. FDX pilots on other forums all seem to have callsigns like Rip, Snort or Blaze and post avatars with some locker room pinup girl or a picture of themselves flying the F-99. I'm told a female pilot was fired a year or two ago for, among other things, insubordination. It's difficult to imagine this situation these days at most other airlines.

Poor performance and a horrible job history have been overlooked in a couple of cases with pilots involved in the attempted hijacking and one of the MEM crashes (A.C. and R.S.). However, FedEx generally has had high standards of pilot hiring for years in contrast to much of the freight world. I see those FDX crews strut proudly through the pax terminal like they were Delta pilots or something. And, not so ironically, a lot of FedEx FO's make more than most Delta captains in the post 9-11 world.

Is there a macho tradition of getting the mission done that pushes things over the edge of safe operation? As Huck points out, without pax perhaps the priorities are different.

And, as pax operations reach a level of safety unthinkable a couple of decades ago, is a crash every two or three years for a major freight operator acceptable?
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Old 5th Apr 2009, 11:56
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PJ2 has hit the nail on the head

PJ2, I hope your airline listens to you. I hope a lot of airlines listen to you.

You are not alone in thinking what you do about modern pilots and modern piloting. This post (Pilots - who needs them?) on flightglobal.com uses different words, but says much the same as you do: Pilots: who needs them? - Learmount

Recurrent training for the highly automateds needs to contain circling approaches and totally manual flying more than having a power cut just after V1 every time.

Okay so simulators are more difficult to fly than real aeroplanes are, but at least it would reduce the fear of going back to basics and remind pilots who have been starved of practise what power settings and attitude provide a good steady approach.
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Old 5th Apr 2009, 13:05
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But I'll worry about running off the end of the runway when that actually happens to somebody. As far as I know we've never done that - but we've balled up plenty of MD-11's trying to hit the TDZ at idle....
Didn't N581FE, an MD-11, go off the end at Subic in 1999? The aircraft was destroyed but the crew got out.
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Old 5th Apr 2009, 13:24
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They ran off the runway at full power. They had decided to go around.
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Old 5th Apr 2009, 17:13
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shortfinals;
but at least it would reduce the fear of going back to basics and remind pilots who have been starved of practise what power settings and attitude provide a good steady approach.
It doesn't take very much to keep current but it does require frequent practice. Our manuals state that the automation should be employed from just after takeoff right through to the end of the landing roll, (impossible in Canada; here we still have NDB and LOC Only approaches) and exhorts the crew that they must "maintain situational awareness", which, I think, is as silly as saying crews must continue to breath in order to maintain consciousness.

SA is a mindset, a "way of travelling" and is not merely an SOP or a personal behaviour. That mindset comes right from the CEO of the airline on down to the employees, because people are going to do what they can get away with when under pressure to perform or cut costs. If "heat" from superiors is higher for lack of performance and high costs than it is for SOP non-compliance in the cockpit or on the ramp, then that's what employees will focus on - that's what bureaucracy does best.

SA isn't limited to the cockpit although absence of same has more drastic consequences. Ramp damage costs airlines tens of millions of dollars a year and results in injuries and sometimes even deaths. For some reason this seems acceptable; - that is the only conclusion one can draw because the level of damage hasn't materially changed over the years.

I'm not sure that those below the executive management level aren't listening. I think most are but if their concerns aren't the CEOs and Executives managers' concerns, they wont' be the concerns of anyone "down below". This whole matter speaks, of course, to SMS - Safety Management Systems, or, the "de-regulation of safety" by handing it over to private corporations to do on their own.

The FAA in the U.S. has already had some harsh reminders of what "stepping back" means. Canada has yet to learn this lesson.

Regulatory oversight belongs with the regulator, not with a private corporation which has profit, share price and shareholder value primarily in mind - within such a mindset all departments are seen as profit centers; the Safety Department produces "nothing" and just costs money so it is an early target for "efficiency cuts". "Expensive resources" such as educated and trained people and line pilots who are also safety specialists and who know safety work are avoided and inexpensive, inexperienced "interns" fill the boxes.

The illusion is created that there "is" a department, a successful ruse until there is an accident. And then, because the notions I discussed in the earlier post take time to unfold, it is not that difficult now for "blame" to be directed at the crew or to other circumstances such as weather, navigation, etc. The focus on organizational accidents is subtlely being shifted by two factors - the criminalization of accidents, (which means the prosecution of crews but not CEOs or Flight Operations VPs, etc), and the excusing of the organization itself which is struggling to stay viable in the face of increasing financial and economic pressures.

Within the aviation system there are of course wide exceptions to this view and the present state of affairs. Many organizations continue to maintain a healthy balance between the principles of aviation in which flight safety priorities are addressed, and economic health which keeps both investors and employees in mind. But the trend is now clear.

Further, I believe there is a direct connection between the degradation of flying skills/situational awareness, and the larger principles discussed here. I believe that this trend has just barely announced itself in the recent accidents we have seen.

Whether we see more or not is a matter of whether CEOs and their executives come to understand that they are in the aviation business first, and then the profit-making business, because an airline that doesnt' know what it's fleet is doing is risks passengers, employees and investors alike. When CEOs can once again talk aviation technical matters and flight safety work as well as they can talk market share and other legitimate airline business strategies, the flat-line that is currently the fatal accident trend over the past 25 years or so may remain flat-lined.

If the MBAs have their way and take their organization too close to the sun, the flat-line will trend upwards. It is aviation's way of teaching us all and the lessons seem to have to be re-learned by each new generation of MBAs and others who think they have the answers anew.

Though it is a stated corporate policy which apparently is supposed to save fuel as well as prevent approach and landing incidents, reducing/eliminating manual flying training in the recurrent training syllabus and telling pilots they must engage the autopilot from just after takeoff and disengage on the landing roll unless the sky is empty and the sun is shining is not only demonstrates an ignorance of aviation but ignores data to the contrary - that loss of skills is now a risk element which must be addressed; the present trend is proof of this.
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Old 5th Apr 2009, 20:42
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Recurrent training for the highly automateds needs to contain circling approaches and totally manual flying more than having a power cut just after V1 every time.
Well, in the States, the circling approach has been eliminated both in the sim and in real life by most operators for a couple of decades now. A lot of crashes in the 'old days' were on these approaches even though the pilots were allegedly better in stick and rudder handling back then.

And, I do think you would be foolish not to turn on the autopilot in a widebody while doing one of those wacky UK departures with low level offs, low transition altitude, noise flyover points and three 8.33kHz channel frequency changes below 10,000 feet.

Still, sim training has indeed gotten away from the hand flying basics. You do have to check off a few regulatory items like the V1 cut but much of the time is now spent in 'scenarios' that have you drone along and make command decisions and fumble though checklists and simulate radio calls to maintenance and the other geniuses on the ground. A lot of other time is spent with so called 'route mods' where you try to get an FMS with an ancient user interface and perhaps a Z-80 processor to comply with a clearance that you will never see in the real world. I'm not saying this stuff is worthless but it does take you away from using the sim to freshen up on hand flying proficiency.

Of course, with the latest generation of airliners, you can't turn off all of the automation and many of the flying characteristics are in the software, not the raw aerodynamics. The MD-11 seems to be an early part of this transition with somewhat conventional controls but the too small horizontal tail compensated for by never ending revisions to the LSAS software.

I remember flying over Africa years ago with an old Pan Am pilot. He commented that hand flying would be come less important in the future and that we would become systems managers. For better or worse, he was right.
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Old 5th Apr 2009, 21:01
  #367 (permalink)  
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Airbubba;
Well, in the States, the circling approach has been eliminated both in the sim and in real life by most operators for a couple of decades now. A lot of crashes in the 'old days' were on these approaches even though the pilots were allegedly better in stick and rudder handling back then.

And, I do think you would be foolish not to turn on the autopilot in a widebody while doing one of those wacky UK departures with low level offs, low transition altitude, noise flyover points and three 8.33kHz channel frequency changes below 10,000 feet.
Agree with you 100%. It is worth noting too, that autoflight and FMC technology permits much more sophisticated departures and arrivals because the expectation is that they will be FMC-programmed and flown on the autopilot. Autoflight provides accuracy in speed, rate of climb, crossing restrictions met and solid altitude capture and holding and thus permits denser traffic on same routes without compromising safety - absolutely it is the place for autoflight. I never hand-flew the LHR departures. Also, we stopped doing circling approaches probably 30 years ago; our Visual approach limits are 1000-3. The last circle-to-land accident was in Korea if you'll recall - a 767-300.
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Old 5th Apr 2009, 22:10
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Yes the MD11 lands hot and heavy.

But I'll worry about running off the end of the runway when that actually happens to somebody.
Happened to WOA a couple of times to my knowledge. Once in EZE, lucky the ground was hard, and more recently they were the first to try out the arrestor bed at the end of a runway at JFK. Do not remember if they were pax or freighters.
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Old 5th Apr 2009, 22:56
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Quote:
Well, in the States, the circling approach has been eliminated both in the sim and in real life by most operators for a couple of decades now. A lot of crashes in the 'old days' were on these approaches even though the pilots were allegedly better in stick and rudder handling back then.
Unquote.

This may be sufficient in the states. There are however airports in the world where a circling approach is the only way to get in. And no, not in small airports or small aircraft.
One example is Addis Abeba , Ethiopie. We had to use the ils runway often and then circle to the opposite runway because of the wind. (25kts tail on the ils runway). This at night and in a very mountanous region with a B767-300.
For this exact reason, circling approaches are still practised in the sim, engine out and all.
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Old 5th Apr 2009, 23:38
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For the last seven years of my career at then the largest carrier 90% of my approaches were to a circle to land at TGU in Honduras. In 2003 I retired because I was turning 60 but to this day they do the same approach. We had no problem with the B757 then and am sure it isn't more difficult now. TGU is one of the most challenging landings circling but just requires paying attention and not landing long. Hopefully we are not going to eliminate circling approaches because the automation can't handle it. Boeing doesn't have a problem with it. Does someone else ?
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Old 5th Apr 2009, 23:39
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For this exact reason, circling approaches are still practised in the sim, engine out and all.
Ditto at our mob...I'm the Chief Pilot so I absolutely see to it.
Can't circle with an engine unserviceable?....out the door, pronto.
In the sim?
Hand flying, except for CATII/III.
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Old 5th Apr 2009, 23:59
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sleeper;
One example is Addis Abeba , Ethiopie. We had to use the ils runway often and then circle to the opposite runway because of the wind. (25kts tail on the ils runway). This at night and in a very mountanous region with a B767-300.
Yes understand that this is still done - we have our own NDB's/LOC's but they're not nearly has risky as the work you're describing. Of course, what you're describing is the reason why the African continent has the highest accident rate in the world. The statistics are the reason why circling approaches aren't done anymore in other countries/continents - the fatal accident rate is reflected in the decision: circling approaches in mountainous territory at night with a transport category aircraft is a proven killer item. We are not even permitted Visual Approaches at night in designated mountainous territory and I suspect that is the case with most carriers. That said, these kinds of approaches are still done, most of the time successfully. Naturally that doesn't prove anything. I realize one may be up against other operational, strategic or even political restrictions in terms of operating at night in mountainous territory but the statistics are there.

411A;
Can't circle with an engine unserviceable?....out the door, pronto.
Most operators including all major carriers can't do that though, so risk mitigation has to take another form. Frankly I would prefer your method as at least such standards of skill builds the bank account for Skully's Moment. Regretably, the lower standard is deemed acceptable for some inexplicable reason and it's starting to show.
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Old 6th Apr 2009, 06:10
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"The statistics are the reason why circling approaches aren't done anymore in other countries/continents"

Oddly, I rode as pax on a 737 that made a circling approach to Chicago-Midway within the past decade - ILS for RWY 31C to breakout, then a right turn to a lefthand pattern for RWY 22L. May have been before the RNAV/GPS approaches to 22L/R were put in place - or, who knows - last minute change of rwys for wind or something.

Ceiling about 1200'-1500', light snow, vis. 4-5 miles. Interesting to watch, as I had a left-side seat and could see the airport on downwind/base. Smoothly handled.

..back to our regularly scheduled programming...
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Old 6th Apr 2009, 07:02
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I flew the exact same approach to MDW a couple of weeks ago. ILS 31C, break right for left-hand circling 22L. This was in daylight, although I have flown the same approach at night. I think MDW prefers this to the straight-in 22L perhaps due to fitting in with traffic at ORD or maybe a noise consideration?
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Old 6th Apr 2009, 13:34
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quote

The statistics are the reason why circling approaches aren't done anymore in other countries/continents - the fatal accident rate is reflected in the decision: circling approaches in mountainous territory at night with a transport category aircraft is a proven killer item.

unquote

Not true , I mentioned Africa but it is still done in other continents. Although more challenging than an ILS, if practised, a circling is not dangerous. You just have to prepare for it. Things go bad though if you are dumb fat and happy on the ILS and decide to circle at the last minute. That's when it becomes dangerous.
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Old 6th Apr 2009, 16:34
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Sleeper

Yes I agree with you.

A good example was the Air China B767 circling approach into Busan a couple of years ago.

JO
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Old 6th Apr 2009, 17:02
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What constitutes a circle?

Circling at or close to minimums is about the most dangerous approach out there.

Using an ILS approach as a cloud break before maneuvering to land on a different runway in good visibility, not so much.
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Old 6th Apr 2009, 19:17
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is there any published official report about this accident ?
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Old 8th Apr 2009, 00:33
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Two days before the Busan accident our company was having a discussion on the circling approach to Busan because we would be starting service to Busan..which for us would be at night. One group argued for circling...while the other group argued against allowing the circle at night. 2 days later, the non circle at night group prevailed.
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Old 8th Apr 2009, 00:47
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Iceman, with respect, if your company decided against circling approaches on the basis of that accident, it didn't understand either the approaches or the reasons for the prang. That accident had more to do with what porcedures the crew was using rather than the circling approach. Note also that the crew had no option: the wind required the use of RWY 18. Would your company have cancelled it's services there when 18 was in use or forecast?

There are many examples of "strange" accidents that we ignore when formulating policies. Are all MD-11 operations going to cease because of this Fedex prang? of course not.

Circling approaches are more dangerous than Straight ins, but are they dangerous in absolute terms? No, if they (like everything else in aviation) are done properly.

Last edited by Capn Bloggs; 8th Apr 2009 at 01:00.
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