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In the last couple chapters we looked at navigation. This chapter also deals with navigation, namely how we navigate the last ten miles or so to the runway.

Fortunately today we have some very impressive technology that allows us to land even in conditions of very low clouds or very low visibility. Spend some time flying in Europe during the winter months and you'll come to appreciate this.

The simplest form of approach to landing is what's called a "visual approach". Just look at the runway and land. Simple enough. This is our preferred method of getting to the runway because it allows air traffic control to bring the planes in closer together. That gets more people into the airport in a shorter amount of time. That's a very big deal at a busy airport like O'Hare.

Unfortunately the weather doesn't always cooperate. Ever since the early days of aviation we've been inventing ways to at least get close to runway while in instrument conditions.

There are two main types of approaches, precision and non-precision. A precision approach gives glideslope (vertical) guidance while a non-precision approach gives only lateral (ground track) guidance. Some might argue that all of my approaches are "non precision".

Here's the general concept behind a non-precision approach.

Non Precision Approach
We'll be flying a ground track determined by a radio navigational aid (NDB, VOR, TACAN, Localizer) or possibly by a ground controller (Airport Surveillance Radar) or even by using GPS.

At a predetermined point, called the Final Approach Fix, we will start a controlled descent down to what's called the Minimum Descent Altitude or MDA. Normally this is 500 feet or so above the runway. We'll level off at the MDA and continue on until we reach another predetermined point, called the Missed Approach Point. If we haven't seen the runway by then we'll have to go around (called a Missed Approach). We sometimes call this type of approach a "dive and drive".

Let's look at an NDB approach. I talked about NDBs a couple chapters ago. Basic Navigation

I'm not a big fan of NDB approaches because they're not very accurate. Still they're cheap to build and they work so they're out there. You'll mostly find them at smaller airports or in less developed parts of the world - like Billings.

NDB RWY 10L Billings Montana
These charts can be a little confusing so I've circled the NDB itself in yellow and the runway in red. The top picture is an overhead view, showing our desired ground track. The bottom picture is the sideways view showing our vertical path.

I'm only going to talk about the "straight in" final approach portion of this. That's what we'd be flying if we were vectored to final by air traffic control. There's a way to fly this in a non-radar environment, called a "procedure turn" but that would be a whole chapter unto itself.

To fly this approach we would configure the aircraft for landing and fly a 098 degree bearing towards the NDB until we crossed the station.

When we cross the station, according to the chart we'll be 6.3 miles from the runway. Once we cross the station we're going to do three things:

1. We'll track 098 degrees outbound from the NDB.
2. We'll start a controlled descent (usually about 1000 feet per minute in a jet).
3. We'll hack a stop-watch. This is old-school stuff here.

We will descent to our MDA which in this case is 4300 feet (I've underlined it in blue). That will put us 716' above the runway. We'll level off at this altitude and continue straight and level towards the airport.

While all this is going on we're watching our clock. Take a look at the chart I've highlighted in green. Let's suppose our groundspeed today is 140 knots. According to the chart we've got 2 minutes and 42 seconds to work with.

Hopefully before that 2:42 is up, we've seen the runway and transitioned to a visual glide path. If not, we must go missed approach when the timing expires.

I think of NDB approaches as "airport finders". You'll probably find the runway but the approach may not line you up with it particularly well. You may have to do a last minute "jink" to line yourself up. These work best when there's a cloud deck but good visibility underneath the clouds.

OK, we got our steak in Billings. Time to head up to Providence for a lobster roll (I'm all about the food). Let's look at a VOR approach this time. These use the same basic concept but they're a little more accurate.

Here's a refresher in case you've forgotten what a VOR is Basic Navigation

VOR Rwy 23 Providence
The big difference with the VOR approach is that it may also have DME (Distance Measuring Equipment). That lets us know exactly how far from the runway we are. We can give the stopwatch a rest now. Note that on this approach the VOR happens to be located on the airport (not always the case). That means the DME numbers will decrease as we get closer to the runway.

To fly this approach we'll want to set up on the 232 degree course headed towards the VOR. We'll want to be level at 1100' and configured to land when we cross the Final Approach Fix at 4.0 DME.  We'll start our controlled descent to our MDA of 440', which is 390' above the runway (Providence is almost at sea level).

The main difference is we'll be watching our DME instead of a clock. If we don't see the runway by the Missed Approach Point of .5 DME we must go missed approach.

Now take a look at the little "V" next to 1.7 DME on the lower picture. That's called the VDP or Visual Descent Point. This is where we should intersect a visual glidepath to the runway. If we don't see the runway by this point, we probably won't be in a position to land safely. We can go all the way to .5 DME but we'd be almost directly over the runway by then and not in a position to land on it, unless we happen to be flying a helicopter.

There are a couple other types of non-precision approach.

A TACAN approach is the military version of a VOR/DME but not quite as accurate. You'll never see one in the civilian world.

A surveillance approach is flown using ground based radar. The approach controller gives you headings to fly and then tells you when to descend and when you've reached the Missed Approach Point. I haven't flown one of these since I was in the military, so I'm not sure how common they are today.

Most accurate by far is a Localizer approach. We actually haven't talked about a Localizer yet. It uses a very narrow beam, with the transmitter placed at the departure end of the runway. At the approach end of the runway the beam is only as wide as the runway itself. These are obviously more expensive to build, because it requires a transmitter for each runway being served. Some smaller airports may only have a Localizer for the direction most commonly used for landings. Sometimes there is DME associated with the Localizer but not always.

Localizer Antenna
The problem with non-precision approaches is that they're, well, non-precision. There's no glide slope information. You can calculate a descent rate based on how much altitude you need to lose over how much distance, but it's just an approximation. These approaches work reasonably well for getting you below a cloud deck, but they all require 1/2 mile visibility or more. Sometimes as much as a mile. We need something better for conditions of low visibility (usually fog).

The first precision approach was the PAR (Precision Approach Radar), which is a ground controlled approach. These use two very accurate radars, one for course and the other for glideslope. The PAR controller essentially talks you down to the runway.

You'll hear something like:

"Fly heading 210"
"On course"
"Begin your descent"
"On course, on glidepath"
"Going slightly left of course, come right heading 212"
"Going slightly below glidepath"
"Correcting to glidepath"
"On course, on glidepath"

These can work exceedingly well but they require a very skilled radar operator. The pilot has no indication in the cockpit other than what the controller is saying. I haven't seen one of these since I was in the military, although they're still widely used by the Navy.

The most common precision approach by far is the Instrument Landing System or ILS. I didn't realize just how long these had been around until I read the wiki article. Apparently they started working on them in 1929 and the first one was in use in 1938!

An ILS uses two transmitters. One is the Localizer, which we've already looked at. In addition, a second antenna for glideslope is located near the approach end of the runway. Now we can accurately position ourselves in 3 dimensions. In addition, either DME or a series of Marker Beacons (Outer, Middle, Inner) can help us determine our distance from the runway.

Glideslope Antenna - You've probably seen one and wondered what it was
In the cockpit we get something that looks like a set of crosshairs. One needle shows our position relative to the localizer and the other is for the glideslope. As we get closer to the runway, the beams become much more narrow and the needles get more sensitive.
ILS Indicator
1 - Localizer
2 - Marker Beacon
3 - Glideslope
This aircraft is on glideslope and slightly left of course
The terminology is slightly different for a precision approach. Instead of a "Minimum Descent Altitude" we have what's called "Decision Height". We'll fly down the glidepath until we reach decision height, usually around 200 feet above the ground. If we don't see the runway at that point we'll go missed approach. Since we're descending, we'll actually dip a little below decision height before we get the plane climing again. That's OK, it's factored into the approach.

Let's take a look at the ILS for runway 09 at Stewart/Newburgh in upstate New York.

ILS RWY 09 Stewart/Newburgh NY
You can see the localizer depicted in the upper picture with a course of 092 degrees. The lower picture shows the glideslope, which in this case is the standard 3 degree descent.

This approach has a decision height of 681 feet, or 200 feet about the runway. That's pretty standard for what's called a "Category 1" ILS. This approach can be flown in visibility as low as 1800 feet or 3/8 of a mile.

The Category 1 is pretty much the "standard" ILS. There are special ILS approaches called "Category 2" or "Category 3" that can be flown in conditions of very low visibility. It varies from company to company, but where I work we can go down to 300 feet visibility - not much at all.

These special approaches are only found at certain airports and require both the aircraft and the crew to be certified to fly them. They normally require an autoland capable aircraft plus a large degree of redundancy in the aircraft systems (multiple autopilots, multiple ILS receivers). Pretty much everything has to be "full up" before you can fly a Cat 2 or Cat 3 approach.

Flying one of these approaches down to minimums is a real eye-opener. In Europe in the winter it's pretty common to have to do these. With a decision height of 50 feet in some cases, you're basically over the runway threshold when you're making the decision to land or not.

Procedures vary from company to company. We normally have the First Officer fly the approach while the Captain is looking out the window. At decision height, if the Captain likes what they see they'll take the aircraft and land (actually the plane is landing itself). If not, the First Officer will press the go-around switch and the autopilot will execute the missed approach.

Here's a video of an ILS approach in low visibility 767 Approach to Santiago Chile

Finally, let's take a look at GPS (RNAV) approaches. These are kind of cool because you don't need any navigational aids at the airport. These are technically non-precision approaches, but the GPS can give you an artificial glideslope (vertical navigation) so you can fly them like a precision approach. In fact, rather than fly an NDB or VOR approach, we'll "overlay" the GPS and use it to fly the same ground track more accurately. I find this takes a lot of the effort out of flying a non-precision approach. No more "dive and drive".

GPS approaches will become more common because they it allows for some new capabilities like curved approaches or approaches that zig-zag around terrain.

The last thing I'll talk about today is what's called a "circling approach". This involves shooting an instrument approach to one runway but actually circling around to land on a different runway. You might see this at an airport that only has an approach to one runway but the winds are not favoring that runway. Once you broke out of the weather you would (keeping the airport in sight) circle to land on the other runway.

I've done these in the military but not in the civilian world (my airline doesn't permit them). It's somewhat of a dangerous maneuver. You're flying a few hundred feet off the ground at a slow speed while trying to stay out of the weather and maneuver around to line up visually on a different runway.

There are some other types of approaches like LDA but they're not that common. I think I've covered most of the bases here.

I'm sure people will want to know what I think happened to Asiana Flight 214. I've been working on this diary for over a week now and suddenly it become very relevant.

I don't know exactly what happened to them. What we do know is that the glideslope was out of service for that runway because of construction. In addition the PAPI (visual glideslope indicator) was also out of service.

It was a long flight but there were 4 pilots on board so fatigue may or may not have been an issue.

The weather was clear and they were cleared for a visual approach. They could have used their GPS to give them vertical guidance but we don't know if they did. They could also have used what we call the "3 to 1 rule" to monitor their glideslope. Basically, at 1 mile from the runway you should be 300 feet above the runway. At 2 miles you should be 600 feet up and so on.

I don't know if they did any of those things. For whatever reason, it seems that they got low and struck the tail just prior to the runway threshold. Note that the "touchdown zone" is the first 3000 feet of runway and the "sweet spot" for an airliner landing is around 1500 feet past the threshold. To hit short of the threshold would be quite low indeed.

That's all we'll know until the crew is interviewed and the data recorders are analyzed.

Until then fly safe.

Originally posted to Major Kong on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 11:56 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kossack Air Force, Aviation & Pilots, Central Ohio Kossacks, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (123+ / 0-)

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 11:56:40 AM PDT

  •  Wow. Timely is an understatement. (19+ / 0-)

    I read this hungrily, since I was naturally wondering about the topic. I'm going back to read the rest of these!

    •  Here's cockpit video-- same San Francisco approach (13+ / 0-)

      Excellent write-up, as others note! This event could have been far more tragic.

      In the following video of a "heavy"--an Airbus landing under good conditions on the same runway of this mishap, note that the tower tells the crew to use runway "28L" but follow the ILS beacon for runway "28R".

      Landing SFO San Francisco Airport OnBoard Airbus ... -
      www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfHl87p7X5o

      The media needs to pick up on this--seems this airport has been working on those ILS beacons for a long time. They were not working yesterday, that much we know.

      Do ticket prices need to go up to fix such things? Seems we're tapped-out subsidizing flying. Why not support fast rail, like the rest of the world?

      •  Fast rail doesn't cross the ocean (7+ / 0-)

        I wish there were an alternative to flying for transatlantic or transpacific, but there isn't (except slow boat, which can't handle enough traffic even for those who can take a week to cross).

        •  However, fast rail would relieve the congestion (6+ / 0-)

          found at many airport hubs, especially that due to commuter jets.  So many airlines are reducing mainline capacity and adding in smaller commuter jets.  But it takes 2-3 commuter jets to match the passenger capacity of even a 737 or MD80.  Small places like Champaign, Illinois would be better served by fast rail that connects to Chicago O'Hare rather than the awful commuter flights that go there today.

      •  Keep in mind (9+ / 0-)

        that this was the first airliner accident with fatalities in the US since the Colgan Air crash in 2009.

        That's a pretty damn good safety record.

        We kill tens of thousands a year on the roadways but nobody thinks twice before getting in a car.

        If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

        by Major Kong on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 05:31:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's what my logical mind tells me (5+ / 0-)

          my reptilian mind tells me I'm in a very very heavy box hurtling through the air and somehow we're going to slide down a piece of pavement and everyone is going to stand up and walk out the door and it seems dangerous as heck.

          “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

          by ban nock on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 05:28:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Weirdly, what I did... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            T100R

            ...was study air crashes.  One of the things about air crashes that is totally unlike car crashes: every incident, whether it causes death or not, makes the whole industry safer, because NOBODY wants their plane to be the one to go down and take 300 people with it.

            Air crashes have even brought down entire airlines, which also made the flying public safer; once their safety record came out, they were told to straighten up and fly level, and if they didn't have the finances to do it, they folded.

            Sometimes shit just happens, but it's extraordinarily rare.  I take a Powerball ticket on a plane, I'm far more likely to win the jackpot these days then for the plane to go down, and even if it DOES go down, I'm more likely to survive then in an auto accident!

      •  I'm puzzled by your last paragraph. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sawgrass727, terrypinder, linkage, JayBat

        Equipment outages happen all the time. Some are planned for preventive maintenance and some are due to equipment failures. I have no idea which might be the case in SFO yesterday. Regardless, there could not have been a more perfect time for an outage of the ILS or only the glide slope.

        Every airline crew begins their flying career learning to takeoff, fly and navigate, and land in visual conditions. Conditions that can be far worse than yesterday at SFO. A lifetime of training builds upon those first leaned skills and are practiced throughout their careers. The operation or non-operation of the ILS  or some of its components is highly unlikely to have anything to do with this accident beyond the possibility of a crew proficiency issue. Note that I said highly unlikely because I've learned to never discount anything prior to a thorough accident investigation. Failures in flight safety are never single points of failure and a non-functioning ILS is but one very minor factor. Further, it is one that should be a complete non-event for any crew member. I find it incredible that someone could find this incident as evidence of a systemic collapse of the entire commercial aviation system. And then again I may be misunderstanding your point.

        Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

        by VTCC73 on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 06:13:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  There is no particular reason to assume (0+ / 0-)

        ...that a working localizer and glideslope would have made any difference. The data released so far is that the Asiana crew had a perfectly good airplane, plus excellent weather conditions for a perfectly normal and ordinary visual approach.

        Unless the FDR shows their airspeed instruments failed, it is one of those incidents where the crew forgets to fly the airplane. It happens rarely, but it happens.

        -Jay-
        
  •  One other 777 came down hard (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doingbusinessas, ER Doc

    because of iced fuel .

    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    Ice crystals in the fuel were the cause of the accident, clogging the fuel-oil heat exchanger (FOHE) of each engine. This restricted fuel flow to the engines when thrust was demanded during the final approach to Heathrow.[7] Boeing identified the problem as specific to the Rolls-Royce engine fuel-oil heat exchangers, and Rolls-Royce has subsequently developed a modification to its FOHE; the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) mandated that all affected aircraft were to be fitted with the modification before 1 January 2011.[4][8]

    In this latest crash the pilot/s might have been fighting for control over a malfunctioning aircraft .

    The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

    by indycam on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 12:21:14 PM PDT

    •  Different Engines (13+ / 0-)

      The British Airways flight had Rolls Royce engines. Asiana had Pratt & Whitney.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 12:24:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I didn't say they were the same same or had not (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        barbwires, patbahn, ER Doc

        been updated to fix the problem .
        I said that aircraft have problems that can make them difficult to fly , as can be seen by the other hard landing / crash in a 777 .
        People should not jump to the conclusion that the pilot/s screwed the landing .

        The fuel on board might not have had enough anti ice added in at the last refill .

        The plane might have been in a down-burst .

        Etc Etc Etc .

        The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

        by indycam on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 12:33:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  We won't know (16+ / 0-)

          until they analyze the flight recorder data and the crew has been interviewed.

          My point was that the fuel icing problem was specific to the Rolls Royce Trent 800 series engines. None of the Pratt & Whitney equipped 777s have ever had that problem. Plus the British Airways crash was in January. I wouldn't expect fuel icing to be much of an issue in California in July.

          Also there was no convective activity in the area, which is normally the cause of microbursts. If you look at the video it wasn't even particularly windy.

          So I'd say those are not the most likely explanations.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 01:00:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Nicely done diary! You make a complicated topic (12+ / 0-)

            very understandable.

            Getting my instrument rating was one of the most challenging, and satisfying, things I've ever done. Learning to do all of these approaches, including the now mercifully abandoned NDB (Non Directional Beacon) approach, was a major part of that rating.

            •  Must be a very tough adjustment: (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Hoghead99, flitedocnm

              Congrats on getting the ILS - I am no pilot but the many considerations make it quite an accomplishment.

              It must take a lot of training to get over the fact that you are flying through soup and can't see a damn thing - but know the ground is getting closer and closer.

              I watch a ton of youtube fight-landing vids - I am kinda an airplane nut - and every time I see the ILS approaches through the fog it just creeps me the hell out. I keep imagining the last 3 seconds of my life as seeing the ground rushing up to meet me without time to do anything. It must take a lot of training to be concentrating on the instruments and not looking out the window at gray nothingness and being scared shitless that you can't see a damn thing.

              Blessed are the peacemakers, the poor, the meek and the sick: The "party of Jesus" wouldn't invite him to their convention - fearing his "platform."

              by 4CasandChlo on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 06:31:33 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  IMHO, every pilot should do instrument training. (0+ / 0-)

                It's not just for being able to land in the soup. It makes you a much better, and safer, pilot, by teaching situational awareness, and precision flying -- knowing exactly where you are in space, and what your plane is doing in space, at every moment. And -- being able to use all of the resources and equipment available to you, to continuously make minor adjustments, to always anticipate what comes next, and to prevent, and correct when necessary, any problems.

                It's quite likely that John Kennedy and his passengers would be alive today, for example, if he had been adequately instrument trained, and knew how to use his autopilot.

                I got my Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) certification 25 years ago. And I do recurrent training annually. No pilot should ever be scared -- respectful (of the weather and one's limitations), and attentive, always. A pilot who is scared should not be flying.

              •  Kinda backwards... (0+ / 0-)

                In training, one uses foggles or other devices to prevent the student from looking out the windows. IRL, you keep the clouds in your scan so that you can switch to visual and get off the instruments as soon as possible.

                It's also not rare for instruction to include landing blind on ILS. The precision of the instruments is more than adequate, and with a safety pilot looking out the window it's reasonably safe. Doing that IRL is not encouraged, but can be the best option. (It is categorically NOT something to do on a VOR or NDB approach.)

          •  A fuel problem can be seen in any engine . (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            doingbusinessas
            My point was that the fuel icing problem was specific to the Rolls Royce Trent 800 series engines. None of the Pratt & Whitney equipped 777s have ever had that problem.
            I knew that before you said that the first time .
            So I'd say those are not the most likely explanations.
            I never said they were the likely explanations .
            What I said was lets not blame the pilots , other things could have been the cause .

            http://www.dailykos.com/...

            In this latest crash the pilot/s might have been fighting for control over a malfunctioning aircraft .
            Its almost like you are trying to not understand .

            The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

            by indycam on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 04:21:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  was an AD issued for icing (0+ / 0-)

            in th e777?

    •  Crisis Management is tough (0+ / 0-)

      i'd think they would worry about how to fly first
      then navigation and comms,

      but i'd hope they would give out a distress call.

      just a  quick "SFO Tower, asiana 214, Mayday, Mayday, Loss of Power, Declaring Emergency Landing, Notify Fire/Rescue".

      •  I believe the very last communication (0+ / 0-)

        from the pilot was "Emergency". The tower replied that emergency response was being deployed. That's part of the record.

        The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

        by Mr Robert on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 06:02:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you, Major Kong. nt (6+ / 0-)

    Dwell on the beauty of life. ~ Marcus Aurelius

    by Joy of Fishes on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 01:00:31 PM PDT

  •  GPS approaches will become more common... (6+ / 0-)

    ...because the FAA doesn't have to maintain any equipment; the Air Force runs the satellite network.

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    by Bisbonian on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 01:03:24 PM PDT

  •  Occurs to me that eventually we'll have no (4+ / 0-)

    civilian air left, with austerity around the world.
    Saddening.

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 01:22:54 PM PDT

  •  For those who have trouble envisioning an ILS (15+ / 0-)

    down to minimums, this little video of a single engine turboprop landing at Ottawa may be instructive. Conditions are 200 foot ceiling and one mile visibility. Two hundred feet is the minimum for a Category I approach. He broke out at 200 feet. One more foot lower and he would have had to make a missed approach if he had not broken out of the soup.

    This is a Category III approach. Ceiling virtually zero. He can't see a thing until he is over the "rabbit," and can just make out the strobes.  Fast forward to the best part, which begins at 2:50.

    Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength. - Eric Hoffer

    by Otteray Scribe on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 02:08:54 PM PDT

    •  me too. i'm not to bright so love them. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc

      i mixed you up with someone else in the other diary when i made a remark about look who it be and all that.
      i am very sorry.   the person i was thinking about it totally someone else.

      Christin knows how to hang on and bite with her sharp nasty hateful teeth..then says what a good girl am I! Love me I like animals and Obama..she's just pure evil. Shaharazade 7.5.13

      by Christin on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 03:24:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No worries (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ER Doc, prfb, Compost On The Weeds

        Diaries like this are what make dkos worthwhile.

        I love aviation and I learn a lot from this diarist.

        •  thanks RJS - (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RocketJSquirrel, ER Doc

          especially after all the turmoil.

          i'm the maroon that asks my SO on a consistent basis for years: how does a ship not sink when it's the size of a  planet? how does a planet not drop from the sky when it's the size of a planet?  as i  watch how it's made and how it works and i'm still amazed and still ask.  

          Christin knows how to hang on and bite with her sharp nasty hateful teeth..then says what a good girl am I! Love me I like animals and Obama..she's just pure evil. Shaharazade 7.5.13

          by Christin on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 04:43:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Too early to say what happened (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, ER Doc, lazybum, ban nock

    Given the number of crash survivors, including the crew, and the recovery of the flight data recorders, this one should be a little easier to figure out. My understanding is that there is seldom any single thing that causes a crash - usually there are a number of factors. Crew fatigue? Mechanical failure? Instrument failure? Pilot error? Weather? A bird strike? So many things to sort out.

    In this case, I'm wondering how useful it would be to have some kind of video recording system in place on the active runway picking up take offs and landings. Synchronized with radio traffic, and maybe wind/weather info, the records would help sort things out in an event like this. Would it be cost-effective in view of how seldom something like this happens? I don't know; it would depend on how elaborate the system was, and how hard to deploy.

    DVRs aren't all that expensive. If nothing else, it might be of interest to flight crews who want to review their performance - and maybe it could work like those amusement park rides where you can buy a picture afterwards...

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 02:12:33 PM PDT

    •  That's what I was thinking (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxnar, ER Doc

      It doesn't seem like it would be that expensive to have an automatic camera system taking video of all takeoffs and landings and saving the video of each for a week or so.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 02:43:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  They do have some (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc

      The airports put them in for security -- to notice if someone unauthorized is driving around the runways, for example. The NTSB head said they have had good footage on some other accidents, and hope there may be some for this one. Here, of course, there are also 100s of bystander videos.

      In this case, the crowdsourcing over the past 36 hours has made it relatively clear what happened, in terms of where the plane was, where it hit, etc. What will take a while to sort out is why.

      •  Latest from NTSB is that... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TomFromNJ, Mr Robert, ER Doc

        The pilots were preparing to abort their approach and were increasing power roughly ten seconds before the crash. This suggests they had become aware that something was not right with their approach to the runway.

        "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

        by xaxnar on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 05:01:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The thing I noticed that hasn't been discussed (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Compost On The Weeds

      Is that witnesses have reported seeing the aircraft 'swaying' from side to side as it was on approach - I've seen airplanes do that in a strong wind, but there was no wind in this case. Does that sound like a possible 'fly by wire' control problem?

      "Use the Force, Harry!" - Gandalf

      by Fordmandalay on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 07:09:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Or an incipient stall, or... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mr Robert, sawgrass727, ban nock

        It will take time for the NTSB to sort through all the data they have on this.

        It doesn't even have to be a fly by wire control problem - if the sensors that supply information to the pilots and the aircraft systems are not working right, that can do it too.

        "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

        by xaxnar on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 08:34:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  on Asiana (0+ / 0-)

    I understand a NOTAM was issued right when they were on final, about the glide slope indicator going out.

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 02:14:52 PM PDT

  •  Dumb question that came up today (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, Shotput8, ER Doc, Simplify

    What about language barriers? Do all pilots landing in US airports speak English? How do we get around language barriers?

    "Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions.” --Lord Vetinari

    by voracious on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 02:19:33 PM PDT

    •  All pilots and air traffic controllers (24+ / 0-)

      world wide are supposed to be able to speak English.

      If, for example, a Japanese airliner is landing in Paris the pilots and controllers will speak English to each other.

      A bit of trivia - English beat out French to be the international aviation language by one vote.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 02:22:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is so cool! Thanks (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Otteray Scribe, OIL GUY, ER Doc

        "Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions.” --Lord Vetinari

        by voracious on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 02:27:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  If an Air France plane is landing in Paris, can (0+ / 0-)

        the pilots and controllers speak French? Or must that also be in English for the sake of other traffic in the area?

        "How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelette?" - George Carlin

        by yg17 on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 06:33:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They do (4+ / 0-)

          They're not supposed to, but hey it's their country. Same with the Italian airlines in Italy and so on.

          Makes it hard for me to follow along with what's going on sometimes.

          I like listening to the French female controllers. I don't always know what they're saying but I don't care because it sounds soooooo good.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 06:47:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Haha, I bet it does! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mkor7

            Wouldn't mind being cleared for an approach to her runway, am I right?

            "How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelette?" - George Carlin

            by yg17 on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 06:49:31 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  All true with exceptions. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sawgrass727, Simplify, ban nock

        Every nation has the right to publish exception to ICAO rules like the English language requirement but only in their national airspace. Canada, Mexico, France, China, and Russia are the major ones who one to mind that permit the national language to be spoken on ATC frequencies along side English. Regardless, all controllers are required to be English proficient where international traffic is being served. The actual quality of the communication varies somewhat.

        Every crew member who operates in US airspace must be certified as proficient in aviation English. Of course, some crews meet the minimal criteria better than others and some are questionably qualified at best. Add unusual or stressful circumstances and all bets are off.  Language issues have been identified as significant factors in safety incidents as well as accidents in the US.

        Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

        by VTCC73 on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 06:49:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Impressive diary. Will go read the others, now. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, Shotput8, ER Doc

    thank you.

    "Say little, do much" (Pirkei Avot 1:15)

    by hester on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 03:06:52 PM PDT

  •  RE: San Francisco Asiana Airlines Flight 214 (11+ / 0-)

    The NTSB says the cockpit voice recorder shows the pilot requested a go-around 1.5 seconds before impact.

    (CNN) -- The cockpit voice recorder of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 appears to show the pilots attempting to abort the landing just 1.5 seconds before it crashed at San Francisco International Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board chairman said Sunday.

    The pilots appear to have increased speed 7 seconds before impact, and they then "called to initiate a go-around 1.5 seconds to impact," Deborah Hersman said.

    Full story (to date) and video of the crash at CNN. You will need to go to full screen to see anything on the video, because camera was some distance away.

    Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength. - Eric Hoffer

    by Otteray Scribe on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 03:07:43 PM PDT

  •  Outstanding! (6+ / 0-)

    Well done, Major!

    Another beautiful day in Surveillance Nation.

    by thenekkidtruth on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 03:12:43 PM PDT

  •  Yet another great aviation diary. (5+ / 0-)

    I always look forward to reading these.

    Thanks, MK.

    © grover


    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 03:31:12 PM PDT

  •  Instrument Landings (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cactusgal, Shotput8

    Thanks!  Great diary!

    My dad was a GCA radar repairman during WWII -he was in Okinawa during the war.  This tech is amazing!

  •  Saw this tweeted yesterday... (10+ / 0-)

    ...the approach of flight 214 on the day before the crash and the approach from the day of the crash using Flight Aware data.

    I thought this was very interesting...

  •  About 30 minutes ago, Mr. C and I were (9+ / 0-)

    discussing the Asiana accident and the initial reports. I said what I really needed to see was a diary from Major Kong that would shed some light on things.

    Major, you never disappoint.

  •  Said many times already... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, Shotput8, Simplify

    ...but this is a very timely diary considering the Asiana incident.  You're right to say, though, that you can't snap-judge an accident.  All that can definitely be said was that the plane was off the normal glideslope and had a tailstrike short of the runway, followed by the crash.

    Suspect that they'll solve this one soon enough, but the actual crash factors may be completely different then what first appeared were the problems.  Planes can break in some freaking weird ways - NWA Flight 85 comes to mind.  A part that never was supposed to break, broke, and the lower rudder had a hardover failure - very fortunately, that plane landed safely.  The NTSB never figured out why it broke.

  •  Thanks Major, another great read! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlueOak, Mr Robert, Simplify

    The BBC has a great overhead shot showing Asiana 214 and the relevant parts/debris field. Hadn't seen this anywhere else. Scroll down for the picture.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/...

    And yeah, I know tarantulas don't really act like that at all, so no snarking, this is the internet damnit!

    by itzadryheat on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 04:12:42 PM PDT

  •  NY Times Article (0+ / 0-)
    Pilots Tried to Abort Landing Before Crash, N.T.S.B. Says

    Aviation experts said that the pilots, who were both veterans, could have also relied on red and white signal lights on the runway to visually guide the plane to touch down or, if they chose, on the plane’s onboard computers to generate the angle of approach.

    Assuming the PAPI was out of service as mentioned in your diary, I think the NY Times needs to post a correction.

    The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

    by Mr Robert on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 04:42:47 PM PDT

    •  Runway 28L PAPI Was In Service (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayBat

      Here are some of the NOTAM's:

      SFO   SAN FRANCISCO INTL     

      !SFO 07/051 SFO NAV ILS RWY 28L LLZ/DME OTS WEF 1307071700
      [Effective 9:00 AM PDT, July 7, 2013. This is post-crash.]
      ....

      !SFO 07/046 SFO RWY 28L PAPI OTS WEF 1307062219
      [Effective 2:19 PM PDT, July 6, 2013. This is post-crash.]
      ....

      !SFO 06/005 SFO NAV ILS RWY 28L GP OTS WEF 1306011400-1308222359
      [Effective 6:00 AM PDT, June 1, 2013 until 11:59 PM PDT, August 22, 2013]

      The full listing is here.

      The major has done an excellent job (as usual) of describing the ILS. Here is some info on the Runway 28L PAPI.

      "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

      by midnight lurker on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 10:16:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oops! (0+ / 0-)

        Dang Daylight Time (and a typo to boot!)

        07/051 above is effective 10:00 AM PDT, July 7.
        07/046 above is effective 3:19 PM PDT, July 6.
        06/005 above is effective 7:00 AM PDT, June 1 until 4:59 PM PDT, August 22.

        "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

        by midnight lurker on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 10:44:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Couple of questions on #214 (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, TomFromNJ, VTCC73, Simplify

    1. I know they will look at pilot error. Given that the runway begins right at the water's edge, is it possible that either one of the altitude-judging systems or the pilots mistakenly put in sea level instead of runway level for what they were aiming for?

    2. Comment: The NTSB head said that the PAPI system appears to have been working at the time of this landing, but was seriously damaged in the crash itself and is now out of service. I don't know if that makes any sense, and I'm sure the NTSB will be looking at that question further. The United flight that came in on the same runway (I think) 20 minutes earlier can probably answer it.

    3. May be out of your area of expertise: How did they get all the injured passengers, especially those with head, abdominal, and spinal cord injuries, out of the plane within a few minutes, and before it was consumed by fire? You can't exactly slide someone with significant injuries down an evacuation slide without a brace, can you? And there couldn't possibly have been time or equipment to strap 182 (or even the 49 worst injured) people onto gurneys.  

    •  How did they get out? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TomFromNJ, Miggles, raines

      According to this interview with one of the passengers, the flight crew was missing in action when it came time to evacuate.

      One Passenger’s Story: ‘We Had to Help Each Other Out’

      The Boeing 777 had come to rest on its belly beside the runway at San Francisco International Airport, its tail and an engine sheared off during the crash landing just moments before. Strapped into seat 30K, an exit row, Benjamin Levy thought his ribs were broken. There were no announcements from the cockpit, and the flight attendants were nowhere to be found.

      Mr. Levy stood up inside the shattered aircraft. He pried open the escape door and began to call out directions.

      “We were left on our own,” Mr. Levy said. “There was no message from the pilot, from the crew — there was no one. We had to help each other out,” he said, describing how he and others stayed in the plane and helped passengers escape, shouting for them to keep calm.

      Mr Levy goes on to describe the last minute before the crash. He mentions that the pilot added full power, the nose pointed up and the airplane was shaking. A wall of water was spraying up all around before the plane slammed into the sea wall.

      The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

      by Mr Robert on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 05:10:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Other passengers tell a different story (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TomFromNJ, HeyMikey, JayBat, suzq, raines

        that there were announcements from the cockpit or flight crew to evacuate, and that flight crew and passengers worked together to get the doors open and evacuation slides activated. There is also a report that when emergency personnel arrived, they tossed utility knives up to the crew to cut seatbelts to get the last passengers out -- which means the crew stayed on the plane until all the passengers were evacuated, despite the obvious fire in progress.

        We also do not know how badly the crew were injured. The flight attendants often have their jump seats in the rear of the plane, in which case they could have been among the most severe injuries.

        I'm sure more info will come out as NTSB does their interviews.

      •  Many possibilities for what Mr Levy reports. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HeyMikey, suzq

        The aircraft was badly damaged which may have damaged the PA system in the cabin zone where he sat. I guarantee the shock, chaos, and noise following the crash would be incredible. Each of those can prevent a passenger from getting the aid he needs but takin together almost make it a certainty for several of them. The lesson is to prepare for helping yourself if ever faced with with a similar situation. Reading the safety card and listening to the safety demo is only a basis for familiarizing yourself with the cabin, exits, and potential routes for egressing a busted up cabin in smoke, flames, and crap everywhere.

        There is always the possibility one or more flight attendant or a pilot might be overcome by the event. However, it has been my experience that nearly every one of them rises above the situation and follows their training with distinction. The crew is always your best resource.

        Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

        by VTCC73 on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 07:14:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Rugbymom... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayBat

      The landing zone of 28L is 11' if I remember correctly, and the airport elevation is 13'.  So that wouldn't have been a serious factor.  When they come in to land, the radar altimeter will let them know how far they are above the ground at a certain altitude depending on aircraft, normally at 2500'.

      If the PAPI was working, that would have given the crew 'precision' glidepath guidance.  It is on the left side of that runway, so they crushed it.

      I can't answer your last question, but the crew is required to make sure everyone gets out and they may have passengers in the area help injured folks out of the plane.  A fire takes higher priority over a brace when getting out of a crashed airplane.

      "We will never have the elite, smart people on our side."~Little Ricky Santorum

      by Dahankster on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 07:19:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  PAPI and ILS both not working at SFO. (0+ / 0-)

        According to this article, PAPI and ILS were both nonfunctional at SFO, leaving the crew to land by visual only. The article also says SFO air traffic control ("ATC") routinely instructs pilots to use a "slam dunk" approach that is difficult to execute correctly.

        http://www.theatlantic.com/...

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 07:31:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Fallows has corrected his posting, PAPI was good. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HeyMikey, suzq, Major Kong

          The PAPI was in service. The Asiana crew had 4 reds, until they ran over the top of the PAPI and destroyed it.

          -Jay-
          
        •  Mikey... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HeyMikey

          That "slam dunk" is not done on the final approach segment, which is where this incident happened.  Could it have been a factor?  Not sure, but it certainly wasn't the cause of this aircraft being slow 1/2 a mile out.

          BTW, almost all airline pilots learn to control a 'slam dunk' during training.

          "We will never have the elite, smart people on our side."~Little Ricky Santorum

          by Dahankster on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 09:10:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Use to bring those Buff's down on a PAR in (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomFromNJ, Mr Robert, bartcopfan

    Maine during the hellish snowstorms you could imagine. The pilots always sounded grateful. Designing instrument procedures is complicated. All pretty much computerized design these days. For those that said in high school they'd never use trigonometry I certainly did use it, extensively.  

    Thanks for your diaries.

    Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

    by thestructureguy on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 05:03:04 PM PDT

  •  Fascinating diary. Thanks. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, Simplify

    I was a little taken aback by some comments from SFO that there should be no concern about the ILS system being out of service because pilots have other onboard systems to help them land. Presumably this system serves a useful safety function. Otherwise, why would it exist? Yes, lots of planes have been making safe landings at SFO with this system down, but the reason for redundancies in any system like this is to limit the potential for human errors or mechanical problems to cause events like this. Like most aviation accidents, the NTSB will likely identify more than one contributing factor.

    •  It's mostly there for bad weather (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annieli, Mr Robert, Treg, suzq

      You are correct, however. Even during good weather we use it as a safety feature.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 05:23:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I heard some random comment on the news to the (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mr Robert, Simplify, Treg, suzq

        effect that the NTSB has in the relatively recent past complained/commented that automated landing (presumably using ILS rather than any on-board GPS or similar system) has become so common that pilot proficiency in manual visual approaches was suffering.  

        Seems a bit hard to believe, although my main contact with pilots was with NASA astronauts, who always wanted us to give them the option to turn off the computer so they could fly the spacecraft by hand.

        We must drive the special interests out of politics.… There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will neither be a short not an easy task, but it can be done. -- Teddy Roosevelt

        by NoMoJoe on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 05:36:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's true (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NoMoJoe, Mr Robert, Treg, suzq, VTCC73

          It's easy to use the automation so much that you become dependent on it.

          I like to use it at busy airports because it frees me up to concentrate on other things.

          If I'm going into some place like Casper Wyoming I prefer to kick all that stuff off and hand fly the jet.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 06:44:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hand flying... (0+ / 0-)

            what a concept! Just kidding, had fly when you can.

            "We will never have the elite, smart people on our side."~Little Ricky Santorum

            by Dahankster on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 07:03:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm old school (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ban nock

              I cut my teeth on jurassic jets like the B-52. I'd been flying for over 20 years before I ever saw an auto-throttle.

              If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

              by Major Kong on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 07:09:17 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yep... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Major Kong

                that is old school.  My first auto-throttle airplane was the 727...they called for climb thrust and I provided it!  My C-model Eagle didn't even have it.  It did however have a lame two axis autopilot.  Not even tied to the altimeter.

                "We will never have the elite, smart people on our side."~Little Ricky Santorum

                by Dahankster on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 07:32:57 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  According to BBC (0+ / 0-)

      "Among the questions investigators are trying to answer was what, if any, role the deactivation of a ground-based landing guidance system played in the crash. "

      By deactivation, I understood deliberate out of service, as in repair or maintenance, etc. Presumably there would be notice of that. Others here have said this crash caused the outage but that isn't what I would take this sentence to mean.

      Could the pilots mistakenly have been waiting for some sort of guidance that never came?

      •  There was a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) out on the (0+ / 0-)

        ILS outage.  So it would have been common knowledge.  You shouldn't be flying commercial planes if you don't check the NOTAMs.  

        He still had the Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) which is a little visual cue of how you are doing in regards to the preferred glidepath.  More red lights than white indicate that you are off course.

        Beginning pilots learn "WHITE you're light, RED you're dead."

        Thing is, with the sheer size of the plane, did the PAPI give him enough time, soon enough, to make a decision to abort and go around?

        Given that no go-around request was made until the plane began stalling--just one second before the tail hit the seawall, maybe not.

    •  They may rethink that for 777s in light of this (0+ / 0-)

      accident.  Turns out, the pilot had only 45 hours and this was his maiden flight into SFO.  

  •  Serious flashback… (5+ / 0-)

    (hover over most abbreviations to decode)

    Instrument approaches are a fascinating subject on many levels. From the controller standpoint, there are many paragraphs in our Airt Traffic Procedures (ATP) manual that address phraseology, standards, and, er, procedures.

    Regarding surveillance approaches, unless things have changed since I went to ORD TRACON (1973), all TRACON controllers need to conduct a certain number of surveillance approaches as part of their certification. I believe there's a currency requirement, as well. At ORD we typically did all those on the midnight shift, so if you customarily fly in daylight or evening hours, it's not surprising you haven't encountered one in a while.

    Also, back in the day, CHS, which was a joint use, civil/ Air Force airport staffed by FAA controllers, had a GCA (or as we civvies called it, PAR) and the FAA staff (most of whom had been GCA controllers in the military) was certified to run it. I don't know if they still do.

    Circling Approaches—because of the geography around MDW, there's no place to put all the required paraphernalia for a precision approach to 22L, which may be the second most used runway there. There are ILSes for 4R, 13C, and 31C, but when weather conditions are low enough (but not too low) and 22L is indicated, inbounds are vectored for the ILS 31C and they they'll circle to 22L.

    My understanding of the FARs and our (FAA) own procedures, it's not permissible to advertise the actual "ILS to 31C, circle to 22L" and I got into a serious argument one time with a pretend (simulator) controller about it. In practice, I think they may have devolved to doing just that at MDW.

    Visuals—at ORD (which is my principal experience in airport traffic control—the vast majority of my time being spent in the Center), we had varying thresholds for the types of approaches that were run. From lowest to highest minimums, we had parallel, simultaneous, and visual.

    We needed 1500/5 to run visuals, 800/2 to run simultaneous, and below that we had had to run parallels. The difference in all these was that visuals may involve a vector to the runway, but with lots of traffic, such as ORD, you were as likely to be vectored until you saw a particular airplane alrready cleared for a visual approach and to follow him. The early birds (first ones in) reported the runway (not the field) in sight and then cleared for the visual.

    Simultaneous approaches were conducted on non-intersecting runways with one runway's inbounds being cleared for the ILS, and the other runway's inbounds being cleared for an ILS to visual conditions. That may help explain the wording in the ATIS when you go in there.

    Parallels (pioneered at ORD) were just as they sounded—ILSes to parallel runways. Inbounds to either runway could go as low as legal so long as they stayed out of the "no transistion zone between the runway centerlines. We (FAA) required monitor controllers to monitor each approach to watch for stray aircraf. They had override capability on the appropriate local controler's frequency.

    If you ever shot a parallel ILS into ORD, that's why, instead of the usual "tower at the marker…" when you're maybe ten miles out, you're instructed to change and monitor the local frequency quite a way out and then to contact the tower at the marker. They probably have the same procedure at ATL, LAX, and DFW, but I don't know if they do full parallel ILSes at those terminals like we did at ORD.

    But hey, there are controllers all over the world instructing pilots to "join the localizer" which is just not correct. The phraseology is to "intercept radials and localizers, and join airways". See, I was a pedant even at work. There were actually people happier to see me retire than I was.

    Thanks for the great diary.

    •  Depends on the airport (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert

      At CDG (Paris) once they vectored you to within 70 degrees of the localizer course they expected you to intercept it without them even telling you.

      I don't if they were doing ILS PRM (Precision Runway Monitor) approaches when you were controlling. Now they can do parallel ILS approaches to runways less then 4300 feet apart.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 05:43:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  In my day, (0+ / 0-)

        One mile was needed between centerlines. One of my coworkers at ORD (at the time) was later fired as the facility chief at ATL for refusing to implement parallel ILS with less than one mile spacing. It was apparently early in the expansion of the parallel procedure beyond ORD, and he'd had years of experience at ORD. The guy that fired him had not.

        I can only speak to US procedures, of course. I was shocked when I took my first FAM trip overseas (to Manchester, UK). First they spoke of Flight Levels all the way down to 50, which was totally offputting. Then they spoke of QNH, which I figured out quickly because of my pretty decent knowledge of Q signals from my ham radio experience.

        Then, even though we were in a radar environment, they vectored us to final, and in the last turn, told us to "report on the localizer" before they gave our approach clearance. Odd.

  •  Non-precision approach procedures (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, suzq

    have evolved significantly  in the interest of safety. It sounds to me like your carrier has not adopted them yet MK. All of these improvements are possible because of technological advances in FMS and GPS integration.

    The old "dive and drive" final approach segment has lead to the demise of many aircraft and lives. The newest way of flying a non-precision is identical to a precision, read ILS, approach ,except there is no ground based radio navaid providing a glide slope. The glide slope is provided by the FMS and displayed in the same manner as an ILS glide slope. All non-precisions must be flown using the autopilot unless the aircraft is in and will remain in visual conditions.

    Every approach chart has a computed descent gradient annotated for the approach from the final approach fix to the runway. It is usually close to 3 degrees for an ILS but can vary from 2 to 4 degrees for a non-precision. That computed descent gradient is used as the basis for flying a constant rate descent from the FAF to the MDA. In this manner of flying the approach the MDA is treated as a DA, decision altitude, and a decision to land or go around is now predicated on reaching that altitude rather than less accurate methods like timing and/or a computed visual descent point.

    The Airbus A320/330/340/380 has a flight director mode called Track/Flight Path Angle and a Flight Path Marker is displayed on the Primary Flight Display. Used together it is easy to fly the depicted descent angle on final. Furthermore, maintaining that flight path after reaching the DA to the runway after going visual is an excellent verification of flying a proper short final segment of the approach in bad visual conditions.

    Additionally, a non-precision in the FMS data base can be automatically flown by the autopilot without the crew having to manually follow an FMS generated glide path indication. Unfortunately, the implementation in the Airbus has human factors issues that increase the necessity of prebriefing and monitoring requirements. It is a good thing that the improvements make the result worth the effort.

    Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

    by VTCC73 on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 08:29:19 PM PDT

    •  That actually is what we're doing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HeyMikey

      In the 757 we fly our non precision approaches using the FMS database and VNAV, normally with the autopilot coupled.

      The 757 also has a Flight Path indicator that works similarly to what Airbus uses (at least as it was in the A300/310).

      Keep in mind that we had round-dial 727s on the property as recently as last month. A lot of our procedures were written with that in mind.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 08:47:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's good. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        suzq

        I sort of assumed it was rapidly becoming an industry standard. We had been using the vertical speed mode for final descent on the the A320 until I moved on to the DC-10 in 1999. When i came back to an Airbus product, the A330, in 2003 I happily found they had come up with the slickest new way of doing non-precisions using FPA and track. The data base approaches had not changed except to use the track/FPA function so there was some consistency.

        I knew the Boeing had very similar functions but without some of the human factors issues. I think the Boeing fleets transitioned to this way of flying non-precisions around 2005 despite the capability being around for some time. I was unaware of a flightpath marker on the ADI however. Then again every company chooses different instrumentation features and/or uses them differently.

        The only round dial jet that we had still in service is the DC-9 but it will be gone by year's end. None too soon. Not that I intend to malign any part of its decades long faithful service.

        Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

        by VTCC73 on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 01:01:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  SFO runways tend to cause flight delays (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, ban nock, terrypinder, HeyMikey

    The problem with the SFO runways is that they are too close together and too short. When SFO gets socked in with fog (a regular occurrence), their capacity falls dramatically. The planes have to be spaced out due to visibility concerns and it screws up flight plans across the entire aviation network.

    I'm just going on memory here but about 20 years ago, there was a proposal to remedy the situation. If they could just throw a bunch of dirt out in the bay and construct runways far enough apart, they could double the capacity in low visibility weather.

    This would, of course, adversely affect tidal flows within the bay which would further degrade the wetlands but there was an environmental offset proposal. The airport administration would purchase the salt evaporation ponds located in the bay further south and return them to their natural wetland habitat.

    I think it was decided that the new runways were too damaging to even consider. Also, many of the salt ponds were already being converted to natural wetlands. I still don't know why they need to make salt in the SF Bay. Guerrero Negro in Baja, Mexico where the desert meets the ocean has about 100 times the capacity for salt production.


    i just baptized andrew breitbart into the church of islam, planned parenthood, the girl scouts and three teachers unions. - @blainecapatch

    by bobinson on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 10:23:32 PM PDT

  •  Every time I get a ride into Taiwan it's raining (0+ / 0-)

    and I can see the other jumbos also waiting to land, and when we do land it's in fog. I never imagined I should also worry on bright sunny clear days. I'll be happy when we can get around like on star treck by standing in the right place and becoming dots that disappear.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 05:24:26 AM PDT

  •  Thanks Kong (0+ / 0-)

    I'd heard lots of these terms in the past, but you've really tied them together.  

    Do any of the A/C you fly have Heads Down Displays?

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 03:24:42 PM PDT

    •  We're just starting to get them (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      markdd

      Heads Up Displays (HUD) actually.

      Our MD-11s and 777s have them. We're in the process of installing them in our 757s. Haven't actually flown with one yet.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 12:48:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  just got a gig working on them (0+ / 0-)

        we tend to call the ones hanging from the ceiling "Heads Down" and the ones stashed behind the control panel (like in the F-15) "Heads Up".  They tend to have different functions as well.  The heads up tend to be the tactical information you're used to as a fighter pilot, but the heads down are about workload management during approach and take-off.

        “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

        by markdd on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 07:25:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  SFO displaced threshold (0+ / 0-)

    News footage of the crash shows displaced thresholds on runways 28L and 28R that's not there in Google Earth imagery from August of last year. Why was this done? Could this change have contributed to the crash?

    •  Runway construction (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      phenry

      At least that's what I've been told. It's not uncommon.

      It could be a contributing factor, as could many other things. There's seldom one cause for an accident. It's usually what we call a "chain of errors".

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 12:49:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  For the 'landing gear' diary (0+ / 0-)

    But I can't add notes there...

    Something else about landing gear, brought out in the recent Asiana 214 accident: aircraft gear must not be too strong. The landing gear in the Asiana 214 accident behaved just as they should, shearing off on impact, rather than staying intact, being driven up into the wing, and piercing the fuel tanks there. (Which, given the scraping and other nasty, heat and spark-generating goings on, would have likely immediately started and fueled a fire. Instead, although the plane burned, the wing tanks stayed intact; reports are that it didn't start burning for 90 seconds, giving most passengers time to get out of the plane.)

    Likewise, engines are usually mounted on frangible pylons intended to break before the wing does, so that if something disastrous happens to the engine, the engine will fall off rather than destroying the wing. (This can also be seen in reconstructions of the Asiana 214 accident.)

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