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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 8th Apr 2012, 11:56
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I have run hundreds of smoke drills in the simulator. We are told that the smoke appeared as they were passing 1,000 ft on finals.

The idea that the crew should have selected 7700 on the transponder is, quite frankly, risible.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 12:27
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Since the content of the pilot's radio call is of such consequence, I'd like to point out that the initial reporting call on the full version of the tape includes the full (if rushed) callsign of "Acey 5912". "Acey" being the callsign of Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA), now a subsidiary of ExpressJet.

I would also point out that the controller has come under increased scrutiny because this was the same airport that sent emergency responders in the wrong direction last time there was an accident on the runway.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 12:31
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KDEN 031440Z 32011KT 1/2SM R35L/3500V4500FT -SN FG
SCT003 BKN011 OVC028 00/M01 A3018 RMK AO2 TWR VIS 3/4 P0004

KDEN 031422Z 33012KT 1/2SM R35L/3000V3500FT SN FZFG
SCT003 OVC009 M01/M02 A3017 RMK AO2 TWR VIS 3/4 P0002


So on an approach in weather like that , smoke beginning at l,000' and filling the cockpit to the point they can't see the runway by the time they're over the fence and pax in the back see smoke in the cabin as well.

One part of that article states the first call was made after the aircraft was already on the ground. In the quickly worsening situation they were in at that height (appx 90 seconds from touchdown) in those wx conditions where seeing the instruments to find the runway and then the runway itself is becoming difficult to (ultimately) impossible...essentially being forced from flying a mins Cat 1 approach to ad-libbing and managing a fire-induced mins Cat 3.... I'm suprised if anyone on the crew would be making a radio call while airborne. Nor do we know yet if they had begun losing any CRTs (the fire crews reported an active fire and hot spots behind the panel after extinguishing), or needed to coordinate a transfer of control inside the cockpit prior to touchdown.

With their hands full like that flying the aircraft (aviating) and finding the runway (navigating) with lousy outside wx and the vis in the cockpit rapidly approaching zero due to a fire behind the panel, the required level of coordination between crewmembers for a successful outcome would have been high in a very stressful environment (as in, a fire behind the panel and no time for an attempt to fight it properly given phase of flight and conditions), so I'm leaning towards believing the article is correct when it says the first radio call they made was after touchdown (possibly during rollout), where the next priority immediately becomes evacuating the aircraft.

Nitpick all you want, internet heroes, but the CFR crews arrived later at an already-evacuated aircraft that had landed in IMC conditions after suddenly being rendered in distress on short final due to a fire behind the panel (possibly losing instrumentation) and smoke to the degree they were not able to see outside well-enough to see the runway. They fact they were over the runway and touched down on it means they stuck to business flying and aligning the aircraft with nobody futzing around on the radio, as it should be....at least in Cowboyland.

Or would you rather have the CFR crews arrive sooner, but at the scene of a crash instead?

Last edited by PukinDog; 8th Apr 2012 at 13:52.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 13:18
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I suspect it would only work in the USA.
I am not sure of other countries using 911.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 13:41
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Nor do we know yet if they had begun losing any CRTs (the fire crews reported an active fire and hot spots behind the panel after extinguishing), or needed to coordinate a transfer of control inside the cockpit prior to touchdown.
From the same article...

On Apr 6th the NTSB reported they are not going to investigate the occurrence. The cause of the smoke was determined to be an engine seal leak, there was no fire.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 13:44
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Just to add/reiterate a few points:

ICAO RT doesn't need to apply in this instance. The US FAR-AIM doesn't require MAYDAY calls to declare an emergency. (ICAO would be much better, and maybe this very flight will change things.)

The Pilot used a shortened callsign, but the controller used the exact same shortened call sign when he told the flight to expedite clearing. If the pilot had used the callsign Acey 5912, the controller wouldn't have thought "Acey United 12???"

It seems to me the controller's bias against believing the odd sounding call (O2 mask) came from any real aircraft bears a large part of the blame. Perhaps this even lead the controller to think it couldn't have been 5912 that made the call since he sounded normal (boom mic) when checking in.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 14:06
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On Apr 6th the NTSB reported they are not going to investigate the
occurrence. The cause of the smoke was determined to be an engine seal leak, there was no fire.
That answers the instrumentation question. Perhaps over at some firefighter's version of PPRune (FFRune?) they're harumphing and critisizing these guys....

Firefighters, who had entered the cockpit, reported they had dealt with an active fire by deploying an agent, the halon had put the fire out, they were however still seeing hot spots
behind a panel.

Last edited by PukinDog; 8th Apr 2012 at 14:31.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 14:33
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Attention Getters

The pilots did well to land as they did.

Unfortunately, the communication failed to get across to the controller as there was no 'attention getter' phraseology. Remember it may sound silent on the frequency you are on - but the controller may have a lot of other communications to deal with that the flight crew will be completely unaware of. Therefore an 'attention getter' phrase - like "MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY" shuts everyone up and they all listen really hard -- Then when you have their full attention, callsign so ATC (and others listening) know who has the problem. If you feel that sounds too 'trite' for a US operator who prefers to sound laid back how about "EMERGENCY EMERGENCY".

After the 'attention getting' and callsign, it would be nice if the rest of the message is clear and provides all the information needed but in an emergency there may well be more to think about. The important thing is to shut everyone up and make them take notice of your problem and know what you need NOW. If you aren't going to shut them up and make them listen then you may as well not bother and just assume they'll realize from what you are doing and somehow guess what you want.

In the same way there are attention getting alarms in the cockpit as well as an EICAS - to shut up any chat and get your attention here NOW!! then handle the event. In that order.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 15:00
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Just to clarify, the crew's first call was "Acey 5912" on the tape, and when asked to repeat, responded with the shortened "5912".

A rushed version of the initial call as spoken into an O2 mask could have very easily been misinterpreted as "This is United 12".
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 23:12
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I thought standard phraseology was to help EVERYBODY understand in a simple way what was going on!

Maybe Mayday Mayday Mayday, is not required in the USA, however starting to chatter non-standard phraseology, does not call attention and can be ambiguous!

The whole point with standard phraseology is to avoid ambiguity!

Have there not been enough fatal incidents that this is a complicated are to understand?

It is quite clear that ATC did not get attentive by the RT call, pretty sure sure a Mayday call would have created a much more effective response!

There should not be a guessing game of how the situation really is, blame arrogant Europeans for their wish of standard RT, but what the heck does Roll Trucks mean???????
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 23:50
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Roll trucks???? My simple MIA call was we are declaring an emergency, we have smoke in cabin and cockpit. Everything went well even though we didn't say mayday three times. Trucks were there when we landed. I don't know how saying mayday would have helped.
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Old 9th Apr 2012, 00:06
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UK telegraph

Video: Air traffic controller dismisses emergency landing call as a prank - Telegraph

With video. Pilot seems level headed enough.
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Old 9th Apr 2012, 00:09
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but what the heck does Roll Trucks mean???????
It might mean nothing to a non-American, but for pilots and controllers, it's well understood. Consider us bilingual, if you will. I didn't understand most of the things said in another language when I was flying around the world. If this was an American airline and pilot landing in the UK, then your point would be much more valid.

Again, it's nothing that an American wouldn't understand if heard correctly. However, the ICAO procedures are better. Blame instructors or training departments. Most US pilots don't learn ICAO "RT" until flying international.
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Old 9th Apr 2012, 02:02
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To me the first transmission sounds slightly truncated intially, and pinched/cupped, as well as during his response "5912" to the controller's query. Very well could have been through an O2 mask mic. The word "emergency" is clear enough, as is smoke in the cockpit.

Turns out on his subsequent transmission he did state "Mayday, mayday, mayday". Try listening only with your eyes closed instead of listening while reading what they've (mis) transcribed and you'll hear "Mayda (broken) day, Mayday. We'll be evacuating. We'll be evacuating 34R". Go ahead, try it.

So "Mayday" was in the cowboy's repetoire after all. Even so, after the Mayday call the controller still goes on to tell others the transmission is bogus.

Given the tower vis was 1/2 mile and rvr was 3000' - 4000', good on the crew (it sounded like the last evac transmission was from a different crewmemeber) for re-iterating which runway they were stopped/evacuating on, trying to drive the point home to a controller they most likely heard tell other aircraft on freq their transmissions aren't real. There's a good chance they couldn't be seen from the tower and less likely by a following aircraft, the crew of which would be concentrating on looking for the approach lights and Touchdown zone.

Last edited by PukinDog; 9th Apr 2012 at 02:39.
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Old 9th Apr 2012, 02:08
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Involved in recruitment in Europe for a few years now, it's a well to have ICAO English Levels, but I had to reject applicants more than once for their poor English communication skills. It looks good on paper, but some pilots with even level 6 in Europe, still can't speak English properly, let alone in an Emergency situation. How they get their certificates is another issue...

A native speaker or good command of English language can find different ways of passing the message across. One can easily and quickly rephrase to make oneself understood.

I had once to declare a medical emergency on short finals, and ATC mumbled that their were not informed earlier! Told them I tell you what I know when I know it, and when it's relevant, and it was not before that very moment, keeping up to date with the cabin.

With such a short time on finals, I cannot say I would've done any better.

I strongly disagree with the controller's attitude. What if it had been a new pilot flying solo? You think they would have had a perfect phraseology? Have you ever heard a Korean Airlines or Chinese aircraft in EU or US airspace? Their way of speaking is hard to understand, and it would be far from standard phraseology.

Flex
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Old 9th Apr 2012, 10:33
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ATC re SOBs and fuel remaining.
SOBs? You meant POBs?

An example of R/T from those discribed earlier as inexperienced proper R/T obsessed pilots.
Music to my ears..

Last edited by de facto; 9th Apr 2012 at 11:01.
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Old 9th Apr 2012, 14:00
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bubbers44;

The whole point is that ATC did not catch it, so all went well, but there was a breakdown in communications!

It is impossible to know if a Mayday x 3 would have alerted ATC in a better way, from what we are lead to believe a Mayday x 3, will wake up quite a few people in the local area, not just the ones in the ATC!

This time all went well, but would it be so difficult to just say Mayday x 3, and state the emergency! Why would the pilot need to start telling ATC what they should do or prepare!

The fact that standard RT was not used, was probably also the cause that ATC thought the call was BS! As maybe that is one way of differentiating between prank calls and real RT calls!

There are so many potential variations on emergencies, imagine if everybody should have their own twist of RT calls, it would become less effective as nobody would really know what was going on!

However I rather tend to believe that some are afraid of the aftermath of a Mayday call, they imagine they will have less to explain if they use other words, that are not standard.

Imagine, "We have an emergency, a passenger is having a heart attack" or "We have an emergency, the aircraft is on fire, and we have smoke"

2 very different kinds of emergencies, which would require very different responses, however using same phraseology will maybe not catch the attention required to provide the correct response, which was proven in this incident.

This is not about anti-america/FAA, ICAO standard RT is world-wide, maybe you don't need to use it, but this does not mean it is better to use non-standard RT!

Who cares if Mayday is french, screw the french fries, and use something that will make everybody alert, instead of mumbling around about rolling trucks etc.
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Old 9th Apr 2012, 16:28
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Since the content of the pilot's radio call is of such consequence, I'd like to
point out that the initial reporting call on the full version of the tape
includes the full (if rushed) callsign of "Acey
5912". "Acey" being the callsign of Atlantic
Southeast Airlines (ASA), now a subsidiary of ExpressJet.


To me the first transmission sounds slightly truncated intially, and
pinched/cupped, as well as during his response "5912" to the controller's query.
Very well could have been through an O2 mask mic. The word "emergency" is clear
enough, as is smoke in the cockpit.

Turns out on his subsequent
transmission he did state "Mayday, mayday, mayday". Try listening only with your
eyes closed instead of listening while reading what they've (mis) transcribed
and you'll hear "Mayda (broken) day, Mayday. We'll be evacuating. We'll be
evacuating 34R". Go ahead, try it.
Is there a more complete recording out there than that which accompanied the news story in the opening post? If so, I haven't heard it. None of the other media versions seem to contain any more audio than that which has been available all along.

I've listened a number of times, and as for the earliest transmission heard, to my long abused ears, it could be "Acey 5912", but when I listen to it, every time, I hear "this is 5912".

As for the subsequent transmission, every time I listen to it, I never hear "Mayday", just something clipped and unitelligible.

FWIW, on the LiveATC site, this doesn't seem to have captured much attention, but there is a clip of the ground frequency immediately post incident. The ground controller seems equally unaware of the emergency, as she asks Acey 5912 to exit the runway: Expressjet hits lighting at KDEN, anyone got it? | LiveATC.net

Just as an aside, does it seem odd to anyone else that the FAA's own audio of an incident under investigation found its way into the media so quickly?
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Old 9th Apr 2012, 18:41
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I suspect it would only work in the USA.
I am not sure of other countries using 911.
True enough, most other countries have their own unique emergency numbers.

However, on GSM phone systems (more or less the world standard), 112 is used as a universal number that automatically connects to 911, 999 or whatever the appropriate local number is. Even the US, where the GSM carriers are AT&T & T-Mobile. (I am not sure if the CDMA phone standard shares this protocol.)

Whether someone who speaks English will be available at the other end of the line is another matter.
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Old 9th Apr 2012, 23:37
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Originally Posted by de facto
SOBs? You meant POBs?

An example of R/T from those discribed earlier as inexperienced proper R/T obsessed pilots.
Music to my ears..



Well I learned something today. "Climb to three and a half thousand" is the new correct way to tell ATC your altitude request, and I guess you have to wait until ATC tells you before you squawk 7700. I mean this is a UK airliner and they are of course the gods of radio telephony so they must be perfect...right .

The one thing I don't understand is, although I know the UK operates some very odd aircraft I have never heard of one that requires "steam" to taxi.

The level of "emergency" you have when the stove goes out on a day with the weather clear and a million and a 6 knot wind, after you have selected gear up and are in the second segment, is at an altogether different level then being faced from a smoke filled cockpit on final to a near minimums landing......

Don't get me wrong, the Thompson crew did a good professional job and are to be commended. But I frankly resent the implication that they would have handled the situation 5912 found themselves in any better simply because they were European and not American

I am hard over on this incident. The controller failed in his duty. There was clearly ambiguity in his mind about whether an aircraft was in trouble or whether someone was spoofing the frequency and yet it appears he did nothing substantive to resolve the confusion. I don't think if the pilot had said Mayday 3 times anything would be different.

But I agree regardless of the jurisdiction, the best thing to do is to preface the first call with Mayday as that is universally understood and will get everyones attention. However I don't understand why the Thompson boys repeated it before every single transmission they made. Were they worried that ATC might had forgotten they had an emergency in the 11 seconds between each of the many, many radio transmissions they made

Finally I think the the biggest problem in aviation is not how pilots are alerting ATC to their problem, it is the fact that too many wait too long. Two pilots burned to death in their cockpit in a King Air which crashed just short of the runway at CYVR last year. If they had declared the emergency the fire trucks would have been 100 meters from the crash site instead of on the other side of the airport in the firehall.......

Last edited by Big Pistons Forever; 9th Apr 2012 at 23:47.
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