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Landing NORDO at KDCA

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Landing NORDO at KDCA

Old 1st Apr 2011, 00:32
  #241 (permalink)  
 
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LSM - Not at all. The controller woke up about 15 minutes later did he not. If it was me and if I had chosen to hold, rather than land or divert, I would have landed then perfectly safely.

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So you would have burned circles in the sky, with VFR fuel, until what time? What were you waiting for? The door to be unlocked? The controller to get off the toilet? The hostage rescue team to show up? The truck to get off the runway? (all random 'what if' theories posted on pprune)

Sorry, you might find guys that wouldn't land, but I doubt many of them would have held for 15 minutes, even a short divert ahead of them, praying that the tower freq became active again.

So what would have happened at the 12 minutes if you decided to divert? Would you have gone back? What if the unexplained comm loss occurred again? Now what?

20/20 hindsight is easy.
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 00:46
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20/20 hindsight is easy.
Of course, which is why I said IF I had chosen to hold. IF I had chosen to hold I would have given it a sensible amount of time before I reconsidered my options.

So what would have happened at the 12 minutes if you decided to divert? Would you have gone back? What if the unexplained comm loss occurred again? Now what?
No, once I've made a decision I will continue with it until it becomes unviable. Reestablishing contact with the tower doesn't make my decision any less viable. And, like you say, what's to prevent the unknown reason for loss of comms happening again.

I haven't actually stated what I would do in this situation. There are too many unknown variables to make proper 'decision'.
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 00:51
  #243 (permalink)  
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lsm:

I haven't actually stated what I would do in this situation. There are too many unknown variables to make proper 'decision'.
I agree there are too many unknown variables. That's why I stated early on in this thread that I would have requested clearance to IAD.

My personal choice, and consistent with how I operated safely for 27 years with TWA.
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 01:14
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You can't fault that decision in the slightest. It is the safest course of action despite the vocal majority disagreeing with you.
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 01:21
  #245 (permalink)  
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lsm:

You can't fault that decision in the slightest. It is the safest course of action despite the vocal majority disagreeing with you.
At least one in the vocal majority said I would be placing my passengers at increased risk of injury by subjecting them to the taxi ride from IAD to wherever. (I presume to DCA)

In my days, IAD was a co-terminal for DCA, so after the diversion to IAD, they would have claimed their checked bags, if any, and taken a taxi perhaps in some cases to a point closer to IAD than DCA.
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 01:30
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At least one in the vocal majority said I would be placing my passengers at increased risk of injury by subjecting them to the taxi ride from IAD to wherever. (I presume to DCA)
Must have missed that little nugget. Grasping at straws springs to mind.

I presume that whoever said that is able to offer passengers a ride home in an armoured limo on a closed road, you know, just to ensure their continued safety!
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 02:16
  #247 (permalink)  
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I said a bus ride, not a taxi.
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 02:35
  #248 (permalink)  
 
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Actually...

I am an American citizen. I hold both FAA and European licenses but most of my flying has been in Africa, under conditions that even some of you macho types might find a bit challenging. I think I know how to make up my own mind just about as well as most of you, perhaps even better than some!

My point is that we shouldn't have to be making these decisions at Ronald Reagan National Airport, that the system broke down! I think this incident needs to be looked into seriously so that fixes can be put in place for the next time someone succumbs to the very natural tendency to sleep around midnight. That could be as simple as giving the fire crew a key to the tower and giving TRACON a hotline to the fire station.

On our side, I think it might be a good idea to ask "what if" there were to be an accident with the tower controller asleep. Is the required fire cover in place in that case? I don't think so, given that the controller should be the one to sound the alarm.

I don't need to pass judgement on anyone's actions in this case; I am writing about paying attention to fixing the system. Some of you guys seem to think that there is no problem that skill and daring cannot solve, when the accident record seems to show that you are wrong. Take this one as a wake-up call to fix a few things so that it should not happen again in the same way.

Landing on a runway at an airport that is supposed to be controlled but isn't is not even as safe as landing at an uncontrolled airport, is it? I am not interested in how brave or decisive or chockfull of the right stuff you have to be to do that; I think we should find a way not to have to do that under these circumstances.

I am sure you guys have all been taught the "systems approach" to achieving safety so what is your malfunction? You just don't like to operate that way?
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 03:40
  #249 (permalink)  
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I"ve read some interesting stuff.

I do agree with the concept that the system needs fixing. but, what if there was no conroller to hit the fire alarm?

Well, it is common practice to radio to the company station that one is 'IN RANGE" with an ETA for landing. This is done about 30 miles out...most often with a simple push of a button, or touch screen on ACARS.

IF the plane was expected to land at X time...the staff would be outside waiting for the plane to pull up to the gate. And, if those company employees saw a large ball of fire on the runway, or near the runway, I am sure they would call the fire department.

DCA is a compact airport...One could walk from the gate to the runway in about 2 minutes (if security didn't shoot you first).

Airlines have a form of flight following...and while it is somewhat automatic, if a plane were over due, someone would notice and start things rolling...if the tower were busy sleeping it off.

Non routine flying is almost always a bit more dangerous.

While we don't have all the information, our company procedures would include asking a station agent/staff to actually go out to the runway area and look around to check the landing surface and report by field set to the plane...these procedures are very old school and have been around since we picked up the mail without landing.

I would have loved to do my favorite ''uncontrolled airport entry" flying over the field at 3000 feet, circling to my left and observing the wind sock, traffic pattern indicators in the segmented circle...the wind sock having a light on it for traffic pattern side...

Of course I probably wouldn't do this at DCA as I know it well enough and had the wx info etc.

I am greatly encouraged to learn of a , non public plan, which allows dca to be declared uncontrolled.
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 04:32
  #250 (permalink)  
 
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Well, yeah.... I think you take my point. The system is set up to work in a certain way. It doesn't depend on the Station Agent doing a runway sweep, otherwise things could get pretty hectic. For one thing, with no Tower, how is he going to be cleared to move? You just end up piling layer upon layer that way, trying to slap a patch on a system that broke down due to a single-point failure mode, a sleeping controller locked away in the tower with no way even to find out what had happened to him.

People do occasionally have heart attacks or strokes, too, when I would be curious to know what the FAA's Plan A is for that scenario.
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 06:15
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People do occasionally have heart attacks or strokes, too, when I would be curious to know what the FAA's Plan A is for that scenario.
I can answer that one.

Plan A is to hope it never happens.

It's really very elegant in its simplicity...
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 13:19
  #252 (permalink)  
 
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LSM - reports state the first a/c went around. A flight around the pattern would take a couple of minutes. IMO, with the speed that the human mind works at some of the thought process would include - what the heck? Are you kidding me? Are we going to have to divert?

chuks - interesting if mgt figured out a way around having two controllers on overnight shifts by assigning one supervisor.

And yes, the system needs to be reviewed. Absent the current drama the decision still might be to stay with two controllers on overnight shifts.
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 13:35
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misd-agin, yes I agree. Although that, hopefully, wouldn't be the only thought process.

Broadly speaking the options available were:
- Divert
- Land
- Hold

Ok?

Diversion, not strictly necessary immediately although it remains an option.

Landing, still not necessarily an immediate requirement. I would have liked to gather a bit more information on the situation with the tower before I decided to land.

Holding, allows some time for information gathering before a decision is made. Of course, fuel dependant.

On further thought my immediate response would have been to hold. That would allow me a bit of breathing room to consider further options and hope the situation was ultimately resolved. In this case, still with 20/20 hindsight(!), it would have been and a landing would have been possible.
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 14:15
  #254 (permalink)  
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I reckon one of my 'special' tower flyby's would have woken the ***** up!
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 14:48
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sevenstrokeroll:

Of course I probably wouldn't do this at DCA as I know it well enough and had the wx info etc.
Then, you know it well enough to avoid P-56. That isn't the case with some airline pilots based on the never-ending P-56 intrusions when routine IFR departures are being conducted to the north.

Then there is the issue of "white" airspace in which DCA lies (unlike IAD and BWI).

All of this would keep me from any desire to fly a VFR (or visual if you prefer) traffic pattern at DCA.

I was on an ALPA/FAA/SS P-56 working group, but that was before 9-11. After 9-11, the feds did away with the group.

I haven't located the links to the ATC tapes of the two affected flights. Do you know whether they flew visual circuits or were they vectored back around? Or was it only one flight that went around before it finally landed?
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 14:50
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BOAC, Glad you said that, a lot of us were thinking it Im sure!
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 16:01
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All of this would keep me from any desire to fly a VFR (or visual if you prefer) traffic pattern at DCA.
The flights that landed remained IFR.

I haven't located the links to the ATC tapes of the two affected flights. Do you know whether they flew visual circuits or were they vectored back around? Or was it only one flight that went around before it finally landed?
vectored and told to switch to CTAF.
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 19:11
  #258 (permalink)  
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aterpster

as you know, most airlines have special information pages explaining odd or unique airports and their situations, procedures and restricted/prohibited airspace.

as you know, if you fly the published missed exactly, you will avoid the prohibited airspace..


and if you flew to DCA even once before in your career, you would know their were things to think about, and you probably briefed it before you were within 30 miles of the airport.
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 19:46
  #259 (permalink)  
 
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sevenstrokeroll

Why would you say this:

if you flew to DCA even once before in your career
When aterpster posted this:

I was on an ALPA/FAA/SS P-56 working group, but that was before 9-11. After 9-11, the feds did away with the group.
With posts like this, I'm joining those who are "outta here".

GF
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Old 1st Apr 2011, 21:57
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you are right.

what I meant was: IF ANY PILOT HAD FLOWN INTO DCA BEFORE...not just aterpster.

what I mean is that DCA gets your attention. Certainly by the time the captains in question had made captain with united and american, they had been to DCA before.

I can see that you could read it the way you did. I am sorry.
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