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Air controller during emergency landing: 'I know that's BS'

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Air controller during emergency landing: 'I know that's BS'

Old 7th Apr 2012, 19:01
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Section 3. Distress and Urgency Procedures

6−3−1. Distress and Urgency Communications

a. A pilot who encounters a distress or urgency condition can obtain assistance simply by contacting the air traffic facility or other agency in whose area of responsibility the aircraft is operating, stating the nature of the difficulty, pilot's intentions and assistance desired. Distress and urgency communica-tions procedures are prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), however, and have decided advantages over the informal procedure described above.

b. Distress and urgency communications proce-dures discussed in the following paragraphs relate to the use of air ground voice communications.

c. The initial communication, and if considered necessary, any subsequent transmissions by an aircraft in distress should begin with the signal MAYDAY, preferably repeated three times. The signal PAN−P AN should be used in the same manner for an urgency condition.
For the uninitiated, this is from the US AIM.

Obviously, this would be the document most pilots of an American RJ would be familiar with. Paragraph 6.3.1.a sums up our discussion quite nicely.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 19:08
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"For the guy who thought atc should have known by the plane stopped on the runway, dia is huge with multiple runways. I think the taxi distance from the far runway is around 4 miles. "

I know that, but still I think you don't get my point. Taxi distance is irrelevant here. You clear an a/c to land, it lands, for quite a long time you have no confirmation that it rolled out and vacated (either observing visually, or on surveillance, or from 'vacated' call), and there's no bell ringing.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 19:12
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even if the pilot was masked up, MAYDAY x3 would be far more understandable if distorted (hearing the same thing 3 times isn't used for anything else afaik), than anything else said, so even more likelyhood of the controller not understanding the situation if not used!
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 19:17
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Next time I hear the beautiful European rt exclaiming "Charlie Charlie, twice
really or roger"and continuing to read back clearances I will quickly correct
them in my finest cowboy accent because that's what us Americans do is sit
around thinking of ways to sound cool on the rt.
Ah yes, the oh-so-cool "Charlie Charlie". The "Roger..(read back clearance)..confirm?" for every transmission which does wonders for radio congestion. The French ATC speaking French to you because sign on freq flying a French reggo aircraft. And one of my favorites, the good old "Fully ready". Really? How does that compare on the readiness scale to, say, "Really ready" or "Completely ready", and is there an "Extremely ready" out there somewhere I don't know about? I think "Absolutely ready" would be the readiest ready of all.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 19:22
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True, they should make sure the runway is clear but they have four or more runways going at a time and if these guys were on a less used runway the focus could be on other more active runways. He was also confused about the "bs" call. Not many runway vacated calls in the US. Lots of problems, with plenty of blame to go around. Just frustrating to see fellow pilots constanty think they are somehow superior. One thing we all have in commen is we are human and make mistakes despite our training, nationality, or experience. Plenty of non standard rt in all countries including Europe.
631 clearly states contact the agency and state the emergency, it also states the advantages of using pan or mayday, not that they must be used. Should they have used it yes, would it have helped maybe, maybe not. It's hard to say without knowing what the controller was thinking.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 20:50
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The very lack of standard phraseology might have just been what made the controller assume it was someone without RT background trying to mess around.
Had the call been made in the standard fashion, it would probably have just triggered the routine drill execution instead of making the controller think about a possible prank.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 21:11
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Used 'Charlie' on HF.
What's wrong with that?
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 21:52
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Three maydays might or might not have lead the controller to believe the call was real. But I doubt he'd want to risk having to explain why he ignored it. This thread would certainly have looked a lot different, anyway!
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 21:57
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The very lack of standard phraseology might have just been what made the controller assume it was someone without RT background trying to mess around.
Except the controller states that he thought the transmission came through a handheld radio. How does mere non-standard phraseology trigger the assumption of a handheld radio in an American controller that spends every day listening to non-ICAO-standard phraseology in a system rife with it? He'd be ingoring 50% of calls if he were, so that's very unlikely. That leaves clarity/tone/volume issues of the transmission causing his suspicion, not it's content.

If the call was made while wearing an O2 mask, which is probable given the nature of the emergency, there's also a high probability the clarity/tone/volume of the message was affected. If rouge calls were on that controllers mind as something to be watchful for, then his predisposition could easily be to make that assumption when hearing an unusual, odd-sounding transmission regardless of its content.

Had the call been made in the standard fashion, it would probably have just triggered the routine drill execution instead of making the controller think about a possible prank.
Only if you believe mere non-standard phraseology in America leads American controllers to believe any transmission containing some as fake.

Why do you and others think that someone who's determined to commit a Federal crime by making rogue transmissions on a handheld from his parked car think he wouldn't also take the trouble to verse himself in standard phraseology and use callsigns/flight numbers they are hearing on freq while breaking in? It's not Top Secret information you know, and the phantom caller could very well be a pilot himself, and well-versed.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 01:48
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We had an incident at our training centre where an aircraft hit wires while
conducting low level training in an area of poor comms. The AC gave a MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY C/S x 3 position and intentions before putting down in a paddock.

Due to the poor comms the only portion of the call approach heard was
the call sign three times and the position. Lucky for the crew the ATCO on duty was pretty switched on. He made the D that the only time that a pilot says his C/S three times (in standard phrasology) is for MAYDAY/PAN. He launched the SAR chopper and ground rescue based only on that info.

The use of standard comms along with a well trained ATCO ensured a quick rescue of a downed crew.
Cool story bro.

To those fighting the use of standard phrasology... What does it hurt?
Show me where anyone has fought against the use of standard phraseology.

Last edited by PukinDog; 8th Apr 2012 at 02:02.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 02:24
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The aircraft landed, no one injured and therefore some contributors are saying 'great job boys' as though the outcome determines whether or not the actions were appropriate. Aviation is littered with prangs where the guys and gals did everything right but still ended up in a smoking hole. Likewise I'm sure we can all point to incidents and accidents (sometimes even our own) where despite really ordinary decision making and processes the outcome has been an aircraft parked at the terminal and passengers disembarking without any clue as to what has transpired.

The point is that an outcome of 'landed, no injuries', does NOT mean there aren't lessons to be learned here and it seems quite clear that many contributors trivialise and/or minimise the potential impact of non standard phraseology. What if the smoke had been worse and they'd need fire trucks much earlier than they actually were? What if it'd been a cabin fire? It's not being a Monday morning quarter back to look at an accident/ incident and try and work out what I would do differently if faced with similar circumstances. In fact, it would be counter intuitive and detrimental to aircraft to NOT consider the impact of non standard phraseology in this incident.

To simply wash our hands and say 'the ATCO should have been more on the ball' or 'the aircraft landed safely, pax evacuated, good job' ignores the reality of the industry that we're in. To be blunt, it actually frightens me a little that I share the sky with people who are NOT prepared to learn from where others could have done better.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 04:39
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Originally Posted by drive73
You guys just don't get it! The controller thought it was a fake call, most likely because the o2 masks distorted the transmission.
The only way to know for sure is to listen to the tapes, or hear what the controller actually thought.

What seems clear to me is that he thought this was a new callsign.He may have heard the first transmission and understood it. Because he could not ascertain who made it, and probably because it sounded different from the other radio calls he'd recently been hearing, he erroneously treated it as a spoof.

Possibly of more importance than the word "mayday" to have been used, was the full callsign. ExpressJet (or whatever it is) 5912, rather than just "5912". (That's not to say that I think the word "mayday" is unimportant.)

How would an American domestic pilot usually phrase those numbers?
Five-niner-one-two, or Fifty-nine-one-two, (or something different,) or is there no set format for this?

And would someone from the airline world please answer: How long does it take to change a transponder from whatever it was set to, to 7700? That action certainly would have removed any doubt in the controllers' mind.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 05:30
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As a real example of non-standard R/T, and how extremely opposite of professional R/T conduct...

I was listening to approach in OMDB 2 weeks ago with an English sounding lady manning Tower frequency on a Friday morning at about 10am... She was not very busy and was professionally coordinating traffic as normal.

The R/T went something like this (excuse my poor memory):

TWR: xxx 897 - Wind 010 degrees at 8 knots. Continue approach 30L expect to exit left at Kilo 8.

xxx897: xxx 897 - Okey dokey...

About 3 mins later...

Twr: xxx897 - Cleared to land runway 30L. Wind 010 degrees at 4 knots. Expedite exit left at Kilo 8, traffic on short finals behind...

xxx897: xxx897 - Okey dokey...

I sat there with my mouth open.... Twice the same response! Now I know OMDB was not busy at that time of the morning but surely the pilot/co-pilot could have done a professional callback regardless of light traffic conditions..?
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 06:52
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Why do people always Monday morning quarter back. 7700 on short final with a plane on fire is probably the last thing on a guys mind. They don't have time to run the smoke removal checklist and briefs for evacuation let alone think of all the possible ways to let atc know they are on fire.
It's like guys have never had a time sensitive emergency. The us air crew never made it through the ditching checklist, should they be reprimanded and scoffed at by peers who obviously have never had a true time sensitive emergency?
Lots to learn from every incident, let's try and pretend like you might not get it perfect with 2 minute clock and a burning airplane. Lots of perfect pilots on these forums.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 06:58
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The fact remains... If the pilot/co-pilot had preceded his emergency broadcast with "MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY' things would have turned out very differently.

He could have said whatever he liked after declaring "MAYDAY".... He would have had ALL the ATCO's attention....
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 09:44
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Not sure if this adds or confuses. I doubt the sequence of events was exactly as reported..

Accident: Expressjet E145 at Denver on Apr 3rd 2012, smoke in cockpit, hard short landing

An Expressjet Embraer ERJ-145 on behalf of United, registration N27152 performing flight EV-5912/UA-5912 from Peoria,IL to Denver,CO (USA) with 17 passengers and 3 crew, was cleared to land on runway 34R. Tower controller was issuing instructions to other aircraft when he interrupted in surprise at 08:33L (14:33Z) and exclaimed "he hit the lights" followed by "runway 34R is closed" instructing the next arriving aircraft to cancel approach clearance, maintain 9000 feet and continue on the localizer..
Sources at the airport reported that the smoke began to emanate when the aircraft was on short final descending through about 1000 feet AGL, quickly filling the cockpit. When the aircraft was just about to overfly the numbers the crew had lost visual reference due to the smoke and brought the aircraft down rapidly stopping as fast as they could. Tower did not believe the first Mayday Call (already after touch down) and pressed the crash button after the second Mayday Call.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 11:26
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" 911, what's your emergency" ?

Next time, just call 911. The trucks roll regardless if we think its a joke or not or if we think someone is on our frequency making a fake call. We respond regardless.

Wouldn't that make for a story ? Fire/EMS respond to runway after pilot calls direct from cockpit.

Sure would shorten the response time
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 11:38
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>> Tuesday morning around 8:30, United Express Flight 5912, operated by ExpressJet, declared an emergency landing during its final approach to DIA after being cleared to land, <<

Is it possible that the crew reported the emergency while on final approach and as such felt ATC was already aware. If so, their radio call that they were evacuating was a second call with assumption ATC was already aware of their plight.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 11:39
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After recently making a visit to my local tower on a familiarisation exercise, the tower controller hardly looked at his radar screen (was for extra info and when he was also manning approach frequency). Also they are taught to use mainly primary radar rather than secondary as primary more accurate.
I would expect pilots to have hands full on approach - playing with avionics would be last on their minds.
I don't know about this aircraft but my experience is they would either have to dial, then set it (5 button pushes), turn 4 knobs or turn and press 1 knob 4 times. All options not practical or the priority for them.
Radio is much quicker and easier.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 11:54
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SPW, you are right 911 is the answer. No question about your emergency and they have your LAT/LON position when you call. Just stay connected and they will know exactly where you crashed. One of our retired airline pilots crashed recently in California and the cell phone was how they located him in a remote area. He didn't make it but they found him quickly. He didn't even have to remember to say Mayday three times.
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