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Command Decisions-what would you do?

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Command Decisions-what would you do?

Old 22nd Sep 2008, 20:52
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D 7
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Command Decisions-what would you do?

As a new/up and coming captain, I am forever asking myself-what would i do if.....

So i'd love to hear examples from other peoples experiences of those little things that could have happened or have happened whilst flying the line.

Examples i'm looking for are those that are not explained in the manuals, but are left to ourselves to decide the best course of action. These examples could be just scenarios that have never actually happened to you but may be worth thinking about.

I always wonder about landing after an engine failure on takeoff/climb out. Do you land over-weight? Or do you stay in close proximity to the field and hold until you are below max landing weight. (off course this is if fuel dumping is not an option). If holding, would you put the gear down to increase rate of fuel burn?

What about a bird strike? With no apparent or obvious damage do you return for landing after burning fuel to below max landing weight? Or, as there is no apparent damage-continue, knowing you will be grounded down route until an engineers inspection has been carried out and the aircraft signed off to return back to base?


Last edited by D 7; 22nd Sep 2008 at 21:07.
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Old 22nd Sep 2008, 23:11
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D 7
  • DH8 Prop unscheduled auto feather - held overhead for emergency services toi get into place. Over kill in hindsight.
  • BAe146 flame out before acceleration altitude (turned out to be a faulty overspeed governor). Held till landing below MLW assured.
  • BAe146, lightning strike 60nm from departure. No LAME at next stop for inspection & aircraft well over MLW. Returned to departure aerodrome & held just off shore, explained situation to pax. Served meal whilst barrelling up & down coastal circuit with F18, speed brake out & gear down to increase fuel flow.

I'm in the camp that an engine failure, even in a twin, doesn't automatically constitute an emergency. Unless there were other indicators, I wouldn't expect to land over weight. If there were, such as vibration, erratic fuel flow on remaining engine, etc, then I would. A fire, even extinguished, would most likely see an overweight landing.

A medical emergency would also probably see an overweight landing. At the end of the day, I have ideas of what I MIGHT do, but save the decision on what I WILL do, for that point when I have all the facts to hand.
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Old 22nd Sep 2008, 23:20
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‘As a new/up and coming captain’, one would hope that by now you had learned that the important aspect of judgement it’s not what you do, it is ensuring that you understand the situation.
If the situation is clear then the solution is probably easy, use SOPs, or take the safest course of action. Understanding the situation 'clearly' might mean that you have missed something, so double check.
In difficult situations the required action probably depends on the context of the event, the situation and its content, how fast it is changing, or the options available to you. Almost certainly there is no perfect answer, only the safest. Take action, check the result, be prepared to change the plan – that means having plan B.
In any instance above, first fly the aircraft, then navigate, communicate, and manage the situation – think! Consider how good your thinking is, and still fly the aircraft.

See - http: / / airline-command (dot) ******** (dot) com - Airline Command
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 00:31
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Just one question. have you been sleeping in the right seat? Haven't you observed how your Captains went about their business? Did you care to get involved with him and his thoughts?

If you've been an FO for a while you SHOULD have a pretty good idea what goes on.

For most experienced F/O's command is no big deal, just take what you do now and move 3 feet left.
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 01:19
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Overweight landings

Those questions sound like some of the DE Captains I've flown with in the past used to ask.

Regarding non-critical overweight landings. Talk to dispatch and maintenance.

I've had to hold for 45 minutes and burn a significant amount of fuel (well, significant to me anyways) because maintenance didn't want an overweight landing. After the fact another AME looked it up and realized it would have only been a very simple inspection. Lesson learned.

Also, if you decide you won't be able to taxi clear of the runway after landing. Consider using a secondary runway at the airport if LDA is more than adequate for your A/C.

Congrats on the upgrade. And more importantly just remember the traits of the good and bad commanders you have had in the past and treat the rest of the crew accordingly.
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 04:23
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Check out the following link for a great read on overweight landings:

AERO - Overweight Landing? Fuel Jettison? What To Consider
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 04:25
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For me an engine failure in a twin means landing ASAP ie after all the checklists have been worked through and you are ready for an approach and landing. Landing above structural limits is a minor issue when compared to having subsequent issues with the one good engine you have left while waiting for the gross weight to work it's way down the the Max Landing Weight.

The only thing that I would say is check the landing distance required. You might be wanting to land on a wet or contaminated runway, or other braking systems might be unserviceable or reduced in functionality such as antiskid or spoilers.

If I remember correctly, the Swiss Air MD11 that went down in Canada did so partly because the Captain insisted on reducing the weight to below MLW rather than simply getting it on the ground straight away when they surely had the braking performance to do so.

That is an extreme example, but makes the point. You would look pretty stupid if you were down to one engine and you were holding 20 nm from the nearest airport dumping fuel or flying around with the gear down, and the good engine's oil pressure light came on.
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 06:01
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Originally Posted by blip
If I remember correctly, the Swiss Air MD11 that went down in Canada did so partly because the Captain insisted on reducing the weight to below MLW rather than simply getting it on the ground straight away when they surely had the braking performance to do so.
I don't agree that this is a good argument for landing ASAP with an engine failure. The MD11 in question was on fire, caused by Kapton wiring, not because of an engine failure. It's certainly a good reason to land ASAP but got nothing to do with mandating an overweight landing after an engine failure.
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 06:11
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I agree with Capt Claret.......now the Swissair accident was 100% different.

If we were meant to fly we would have been born with wings, so there are accepted risks in what we do. It's how we manage them that counts. One Engine failed on a twin certainly IS a cause for concern but lets not get too carried away with the "what if's"

I mean how many problems can you forsee? Where do you draw the line and say this is accpetable?

It's up to the COMMANDER to make that decision ON THE DAY.
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 07:43
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Good point, that's what we teach the students
  1. Maintain aircraft control
  2. Obtain safe altitude
  3. Analyse situation
  4. Take appropriate action
  5. Land as soon as needed
Do not jump to conclusions and use all the crew resources, so let your copilot give his opinion. Communicate, it might stop you from jumping to the wrong conclusion.

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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 07:57
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On a twin, with one engine remaining you should get it on the ground ASAP, it's not just a good idea, you are mandated to, naturally checking runway length is sufficient.

If it is I would not be concerned about landing overweight.
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 08:29
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Not all situations which will test your decision-making are as a result of systems failures:

Recent example, flight to an airport in E. Europe with instrument approaches only to one runway.

Forecast/METAR tailwind is right on aircraft limits for landing, but the cloudbase is at/around circling minima. Not enough fuel could be carried to permit significant holding or a second approach.

Do you persist with the ILS and hope the tailwind stays below limits for landing, or break off for a circle and risk losing visual contact?

Either way the 'wrong' decision will result in a diversion (though not a failure in itself), and you recognise the adverse effect such self-imposed task-oriented pressure can have on your thought processes. It would be less stressful if there was only one option (tailwind well out of limits or very low cloud)! Such is life in the LHS.

I always work on the principle that I will have to stand in front of the CPs desk and explain myself. If that looks like it would be difficult to do, then the decision needs revising.
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 09:01
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Here is a `nightmare scenario` with which I am familiar.

Get airborne in a quad and receive a `specific` bomb warning soon after.
Now we all know that most warnings are hoaxes but ...................

Land overweight with it`s attendant hazards or hold off dumping for a considerable period?

Standby for incoming abuse!
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 10:18
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As for single engine on a twin, follow the qrh (for the 757 it says land at nearest suitable airport).

Good knowledge of non-technical skills will help you (Leadreship, Management, Decision Making, Situational Awareness and Team Work).

Take your time, when I first started I found that I would rush feet first into problems, now I take a deep breath and do things in slow time.

Use of decision making tools such as DODAR and FORDEC are useful.
Just my 5p.
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 10:28
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D 7
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Gary Lager-great example, I suppose it just comes down to the day...what you feel is the safest thing to do, but as you say, if you can explain yourself and your actions then you are probably making the correct decision. Damned if you damned if you don't!

Not sure I totally agree with alf507ih. Surely what we're all trying to achieve in theses scenarios is the safe conclusion of the flight ie. minimum/no casualties and/or damage. I agree that understanding the problem is one of the biggest parts of the decision making process but is it not the outcome of the problem that we are all interested in ie. what you do about it?
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 10:40
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Specific bomb threat - Land ASAP and evacuate.

Used as an assessment question to up and coming captains by a company I worked for, "What would be an immediate action after receiving a specific bomb threat that you had a bomb in the wheel well bay?"
The answer is to get the gear down ASAP, allowing for gear door speeds etc. There is a chance the bomb will fall out but if it doesn't and goes off you may still be OK and you do have your gear down.

I wouldn't fly as a pax with an airline that flew twins and didn't instruct it's pilots to land ASAP after an engine failure.
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 11:50
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I stand by what I said.

There are always dangers everytime we step into an Aircraft and take it flying. Some people spend way too much time over analysing 100 different what if options and forget to fly the plane. Some have even run out of fuel while trouble shooting a problem.

You do what you need to do on the day to get the job done safely and efficiently. if that means you land PDQ following an Engine failure on a twin OR quad then that's your decision to make ON THE DAY.

The QRH says "land at the nearest SUITABLE airport"
It doesn't say "land at the nearest Airport immediatly"
It's up to you to determine WHICH airport you fancy and HOW quickly to do it. Every situation is different.
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 11:55
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If I get airborne and receive a message about a suspicious device planted on the Aircraft from my company I WILL treat it seriously. Land ASAP would most likely be a priority whilst following the QRH. ( depending on the type of device and it's location, if known, whilst following the recommendations of the experts )

Accept the overweight landing if the runway is long enough, which it will be on the 777 even at max t/o wt we could stop the 777 in around 5000' if we tried.
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 12:13
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I have to say that I agree with AC on this one!!
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 12:29
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D 7
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Yup agree with ACMS on this too!

It was the previous comment regarding being 'asleep on the right hand seat' I found inappropriate. Thanks for the last post though. Some good points
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