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Comment Re:complicated (Score 1) 84

Luck doesn't land planes with degraded flight controls.

Luck allows a crew that followed one error and multiple omissions with another even more grievous error in an attempt to correct the first (when they certainly should have known better) to have a suitable divert, VMC on top, and capable air traffic controllers sufficient to effect a successful landing.

With the benefit of hindsight all solutions are simple.

Hindsight for this crew would show they executed the wrong checklist and did it incorrectly to boot. To wit: rather than turn off ADRs as called for, the F/O turned off the ADIRS. Hindsight would not show they handled it the best they could.

Comment Re:Our robotic overlords (Score 1) 84

What it actually said was "The aircraft's systems would not allow the plane to be flown in instrument conditions".

From the report: "The FO stated that, in the absence of any ECAM or STATUS messages his initial reaction was to reference the UNRELIABLE AIRSPEED INDICATION checklist in the quick reference handbook (QRH).

Turns out they did to themselves. The aircraft was fine, just positionally lost. There was no failure of aircraft systems, rather a series of procedural errors that led to the loss of aircraft capabilities.

Comment Re:Complicated systems need user-friendly confirma (Score 1) 84

You plug in all the numbers for your flight path. It should then display a world map with your flight path overlaid

This in fact was accomplished but the process only displays the route in map mode that does not include a aircraft symbol. The route wasn't the problem, the initial position was. One crosscheck they missed was route distance which would have been off considerably.

This is one of the reasons I still advocate doing navigation in nautical miles instead of km.

In aviation, nautical miles are the only standard. Kilometers are never used. Unfortunately, meters are still used in some parts of the world for altitude assignments.

Comment Re:"Initial Position" Error (Score 1) 84

In this case, the crew erroneously turned off ADIRS 1 and 3 while trying to troubleshoot which rendered the aircraft VMC only and in alternate law. They made it much worse for themselves. Had they not done that they could have used standby nav to manually tune and fly ground based navaids.

From the report: "Once ADIRUs 1 and 3 were selected OFF, the captain's primary flight display (PFD) lost all information except accurate airspeed and vertical speed, and the captains ND displayed the GPS PRIMARY LOST, HDG and MAP NOT AVAILABLE warning flags. In addition to the information remaining on the captain's PFD, the FO's PFD continued to display accurate airspeed, vertical speed and attitude information, but the displayed heading information was incorrect. The FO's ND also displayed incorrect heading information and there was no usable map, waypoint or tracking information. The autopilot and autothrust systems were also unavailable, and the aircraft had reverted from normal law to alternate law."

Comment Re:"Initial Position" Error (Score 1) 84

every INS and FMS designed in the last 20 years features automated initialization. I wonder if they were having GPS issues.

The automated part would not include aligning the inertial, only origin/destination, route and winds. The aircraft has GPS and it should have given them several warnings but the short taxi out may not have given enough time for them to display.

From the report: "The aircraft-generated post-flight report indicated that faults associated with failure of GPS integrity checks occurred 14 and 9 minutes prior to take-off. These failures were the result of the positional error and occurred while the aircraft was being taxied for take-off. Both of these faults are designed to have an associated single chime master caution aural alert, and the respective GPS NAV (1, 2) FAULT should appear on the engine/warning display. There were no associated ECAM messages indicating faults to either GPS."

Comment Re:complicated (Score 1) 84

I disagree. The crew seemed determined to fail. The inertial init procedure was the first error, followed by the crews' failure to recognize this in multiple crosschecks before getting airborne, and the final critical error was executing a procedure once airborne to correct unreliable airspeed which was not present. Turning off 2 air data inertial reference systems degraded the flight controls to alternate law and rendered a perfectly capable but positionally confused aircraft VMC only. The only "successes" were a properly functioning ATC system and luck. The resolution, once airborne, was a simple one- update the inertial position to actual position- this can be done manually.

Comment Re:anyone on fly the 747? (Score 2) 59

Never flew "rope starts" (747-100/200's, so named because they had an engineer), but I have flown the -400 model. It's just like any other Boeing, just bigger. I've no stories to share but the following are some notable events: Lost engines 3 and 4, 8 deaths. High aerodynamic loads resulted from the unusual attitude and transonic airspeed and caused major structural damage, but it held together and landed in SFO.

Korean Airlines has 3 unfortunate events involving the 747 KAL 007, KAL 801, and KAL 902. Two of those were shootdowns by the Soviet Union!

Comment Re:Er (Score 1) 623

Go ask a pilot if they sleep while autopilot is on.

K. I'll answer that as a pilot. Yes I sleep while on autopilot but not while manning a seat- only while on break in the bunk (aka the crypt as its cold and dark). We have more that 2 pilots on "long" flights.

In all seriousness, many have advocated, and I believe the FAA has studied the efficacy of "cat naps" taken one at a time while at the controls during cruise to combat fatigue during approach and landing phases. While not legal or encouraged, it does happen. There is anecdotal evidence that on more than one occasion, both pilots have fallen asleep while at the controls allowing the aircraft to deviate from its intended flight path, or become unresponsive to controllers. Most commercial aircraft, but not all, are equipped with an alerting system that will sound a series of alarms of increasing urgency if there has been no pilot interaction after a set amount of time.

Comment Re:Lucky you're not in Australia (Score 1) 623

Can't think of another country with a more stringent enforcement of traffic laws. Add to that the omnipresent photo enforcement and generally 50% premium on the price of any car relative to the rest of the world and this would make living there very difficult for me as a lover of driving and cars. Makes me wonder if the term "hooning" grew from lax enforcement of yesteryears or from the likelihood that by pulling out of your driveway, you've already broken 10 traffic laws in Oz.

Having driven on that continent a few times (my POV is as an American), I find that folks are generally better drivers than in the US, but one interesting failure we share in common is the inability to keep left (or right in America), and allow faster traffic to pass- only over here I find that the right lane is so often vacant, it is now the new left lane. Nobody in Australia is willing to move over and at the same time nobody is willing to pass on the left.

Comment Brings up an old saying... (Score 1) 365

"Rumor versus fact"

In modern aircraft (that is to say from dawn of glass cockpits), pilots have been taught to reference FMAs (flight mode annunciators) as depicted on the PFD rather than switch positions. As to what mode is selected, a button push is a rumor, an FMA is a fact. Classic example: most Airbus have an electric switch that selects the parking brake and a triple gauge that shows brake pressure. There have been numerous occasions where pilots set the switch to "on" but failed to check the gauge resulting in unintended aircraft movement. Just as in this case, injuries or death can result.

Comment 29 years... (Score 1) 819

I've lived under random drug testing requirements for 29 years. A positive result for any substance not explained by a doctors prescription has been grounds for immediate termination- no recourse. Only a positive test for alcohol could could be salvaged- if one admits to being an alcoholic and subsequently abstains for the rest of ones employment and successfully completes treatment. Guess I'll have to wait for retirement to lower my standards of sobriety.

For the record, I am an airline pilot (previously military), subject to DOT regulations governing safety sensitive public positions. I think truck drivers, rail, public transit, etc are subject to these regulations:

I can understand the policy to which I'm subject. As for other types of employers, they might be trying to "weed" out (sorry for the pun) candidates that actuarially could represent greater risk of health care or reliability issues, but I wouldn't really know. Might be justifiable for hiring, but not retention in my view.

Comment Pity the lack of any curiosity (Score 2) 24

This article has been up for over six hours and only 17 posts- half of which are poop jokes. :(

When c-diff infections become more widespread, I'm guessing this topic will get greater attention. With increasingly absurd amounts of antibiotics entering the food chain leading to epidemic levels of obesity, MRSA, and other resistant bacteria, it might be time to get to know better what microorganisms our bodies are hosting.

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