A personal musing about the value of training.
A good friend here in Payson, himself a former ‘lamplighter’ forwarded me an email with a link to a video taken using the Head-Up-Display (HUD) camera which also has a voice recorder.
This is the email,
Here’s the F-16 dead stick into Elizabeth City, NC: A fairly short RWY for jets, (about 6000 ft long), but qualifies for an “Emergency landing field” in the grand scheme of US aviation.
You’ll probably have to watch the video several times to appreciate how intense the situation and how busy the pilot was all the way to stopping on the runway. Very apparently, the pilot was one-of-four F-16s in a flight returning to their base, (most probably from the Navy Dare bombing range south of Manteo), and the F-16 in question had already reported a “Ruff-Running Engine” to his flight leader before the start of the video.
A few comments not readily apparent are:
- The whole episode, from start-to-finish only takes about 3 1/2 minutes!
- The video begins as the flight is being followed on radar.The flight leader asks for the Elizabeth City tower UHF freq which is repeated as 355.6 and the entire flight switches to that freq: Just one-more-task for the pilot to execute in the cockpit as he reports that his engine has QUIT. He has to activate the Emergency Unit to maintain electric and hydraulic power. This unit is powered by Hydrazine: (the caustic fuel that Germany created in WW II to power their V-2 Rockets and their ME-163 rocket fighters among others.) Thus, the last call about requesting fire support after the jet is safe on deck, and pilot breathing easy.
Meanwhile, back in the cockpit, the pilot is busily attempting to “Re-light” his engine: (Unsuccessfully, of course) while tending to everything else. The video is taken using the Head-Up-Display (HUD) camera which also has a voice recorder.
The HUD is a very busy instrument, but among things to notice are the ‘circle’ in the middle which represents the nose of the aircraft and where it is ‘pointed’: “The velocity Vector”.
The flight leader reports they are 7-miles out from the airport and at 9000 ft altitude. Since the weather is clear and the airport is in sight, this allows for adequate “Gliding distance” to reach a runway with the engine OFF. Rest assured, jet fighters glide sorta like a rock. They don’t enjoy the higher lift design of an airliner like that which allowed Sullenburger to land in the NY river.
Coming down 9000 ft in only 7-miles requires a helluva rate of descent, so the pilot’s nose remains well below the “Horizon” until just prior to touching down on the runway. The HUD horizon is a solid, lateral bar, and below the horizon, the horizontal lines appear as dashes. You’ll see a “10” on the second dashed line below the horizon which = 10-degrees nose low.Radio chatter includes the flight leader calling the tower and the tower stating runway 10 with wind 070 @ 5 mph with the altimeter setting of 30.13, yet another step for the pilot to consider.The flight leader calls for the pilot to jettison his external fuel tanks and askes another pilot in the flight to “Mark” where they dropped. The tower later tells the pilot to land on any runway he chooses.Pilot reports “Three in the green” indicating all three gear indicate down and locked which the flight leader acknowledges.You will hear the computer voice of “Bitchin’-Betty” calling out “Warnings”. More confusing chatter when none is welcome or even necessary. (That’s “Hi-Tech” for ya.)
The pilot has only ONE CHANCE to get this right and must also slow to an acceptable landing speed in order to stop on the short runway. You’ll see Black rubber on the rwy where “The rubber meets the road” in the touchdown area. Note that during rollout, he gets all the way to the far end which you can see by all the black skid marks where planes have landed heading in the opposite direction.
OK: That’s more than ya probably wanted to know, but you have to appreciate the fine job this guy did in calmly managing this emergency situation. He is a “USAF Reserve” pilot and those guys generally have plenty of experience. That really pays off.
Please scroll down for the link + Enjoy.
The pilot just saved about $20+m at his own risk…….Great job! Note the breathing rate on the hot mic and also the sink rate (airspeed tape on the left side of the heads up display.)
Pretty cool guy!!!
See if you can keep all of the radio transmissions straight.
Probably the coolest sounding voice in the whole mix is the pilot of the engine out aircraft.
Just a reminder an F-16 has only one engine. When it goes, you are coming down. It is just a matter of figuring out where the airplane will come to rest on terra firma.
(Cut N Paste if a click doesn’t open this link )Note: For those not familiar, the EPU (Electrical Power Unit) provides hydraulic and electrical power in event of failure of the engine, electrical or hydraulics. The EPU is powered by Hydrazine which decomposes into hot gasses as it passes across a catalyst bed or engine bleed air (if available). The hot air passes through a turbine which drives the emergency hydraulic pump and generator through a gear box.
The video is also on YouTube, as below,
Most people are aware of the value of training and experience that saved, in this case, the US taxpayer a large pile of money.
Now onto a much more tragic case, the loss of Air France Flight AF 447 that went down on 1 June 2009 after running into an intense high-altitude thunderstorm, four hours into a flight from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to Paris. AF 447 was an Airbus A330-203 aircraft registered F-GZCP.
Many will recall that earlier on in May the second of the ‘black boxes’ or flight recorders was found. Here’s how Bloomberg reported that,
Air crash investigators retrieved the second of two black boxes from the Air France jet that plunged into the Atlantic in 2009, which may help them unlock the mysteries of the crash after two years.
“They appear to be in a good state,” said Jean-Paul Troadec, head of the BEA, the French air crash investigator that has been probing the accident that killed all 228 people aboard a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. “The first thing is to dry them, prepare them, which needs about a day.” Once the boxes arrive in BEA’s offices, in about 10 days, “the reading of information would be pretty fast,” he said.
Full article is here.
Those who wish to read the report issued by the French Authorities may find it here. The summary from the report concludes,
At this stage of the investigation, as an addition to the BEA interim reports of 2 July and 17 December 2009, the following new facts have been established:
- The composition of the crew was in accordance with the operator’s procedures.
- At the time of the event, the weight and balance of the airplane were within the operational limits.
- At the time of the event, the two co-pilots were seated in the cockpit and the Captain was resting. The latter returned to the cockpit about 1 min 30 after the disengagement of the autopilot.
- There was an inconsistency between the speeds displayed on the left side and the integrated standby instrument system (ISIS). This lasted for less than one minute.
- After the autopilot disengagement:
- the airplane climbed to 38,000 ft,
- the stall warning was triggered and the airplane stalled,
- the inputs made by the PF were mainly nose-up,
- the descent lasted 3 min 30, during which the airplane remained stalled. The angle of
- attack increased and remained above 35 degrees,
- the engines were operating and always responded to crew commands.
- The last recorded values were a pitch attitude of 16.2 degrees nose-up, a roll angle of 5.3 degrees left and a vertical speed of -10,912 ft/min.
If my maths is correct a descent speed of 10,912 feet per minute is the equivalent of 124 miles per hour!
Anyway, I am advised by someone who is a very experienced Airbus captain that the odds of a stall in the cruise for a commercial airliner are extremely low, sufficiently so that it is not something that is regular covered during crew recurrent training sessions.
Here’s a short news video from ABC News.