Odds and Ends: AirAsia 8501, PNAA Conference, FWIW

Jan. 2, 2014: AirAsia 8501: Our friend Geoff Thomas has an interesting commentary about the AirAsia 8501 story. Also, an Airbus A330 pilot for a major US airline, offered these observations about QZ8501. A Linkedin profile suggests this pilot flies for Delta Air Lines.

We are now beginning to see more and more “conclusions” about what happened to 8501 from people who are being described as “experts.” Some of these are people we’ve never heard of, although this isn’t necessarily indicative that they don’t know what they are talking about–but we don’t think they do.

Since the airplane hasn’t been confirmed as found (searchers only think they’ve found it, but bad weather and bad seas have, at this writing, prevented confirmation), nor have the black boxes been recovered, the conclusions being set forth are interesting theories but that’s all they are.

Most of these possibilities are precisely what we’ve reported as areas of investigation and questions to be asked and answered. They way these “experts” are positioning possibilities is actually pretty embarrassing.

Treat these reports with the skepticism they deserve.

One thing we are surprised at: how quickly one of the few victims recovered has been buried. We thought an autopsy would take longer, and an autopsy would be the first clear indication of what happened: whether the victims died by blunt force trauma (i.e, impact with the water) or from decompression (suggesting an inflight fuselage rupture or mid-air break up).

Sixteen bodies are now reported to have been recovered (at 8:30pm PST Jan. 1).

PNAA Conference: The Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance is holding its annual conference Feb. 10-12 in Lynnwood (WA), north of Seattle. This conference is now the largest of its kind on the US West Coast, with nearly 500 professional and speakers attending. Scott Hamilton of Leeham Co. is among the presenters, along with consultant Richard Aboulafia, Randy Tinseth of Boeing, Kent Fisher of Boeing’s Supply Chain management, Simon Pickup of Airbus, Tobias Caldas of Embraer, and a number of suppliers, including Spirit Aerosystem. Click on the PNAA banner ad above to get a direct link to their conference website.

FWIW: As we looked at our annual statistics for 2014, we viewed the Browsers and Operating Systems. For what it’s worth:

  • Google Chrome was the top Browser used to view our site (31%), followed by Safari (22%), Internet Explorer (21%) and Firefox (17%).
  • Windows is still by far the most used operating system (56%), followed by iOS (20%) and then Android (11%) and Mac (10%).

41 Comments on “Odds and Ends: AirAsia 8501, PNAA Conference, FWIW

  1. Captain Sully has been conservatively/carefully critical for many years and most recent;of how and why that plane probably came down………….Airbus’s dumb logic of not putting a yoke/sticker shaker in their planes since the advent of the reconfigured A300s………..known as the A340s,A330, and A320 Series.

    Airbus Pilots become completely reliant on ECM/Screens rather than interactive Flight Controls,use of ears,etc too automatically “fly” the planes based on known/proven flight training methods..since the dawn of aviation.

    Don’t forget, most Air Forces the World over require Pilots in Training to fly a plane without instruments/and being blind-folded……..so they develop the flying skills to know a plane by instinct…like flying a plane out of a stall without instruments or eyesight.

    How must a Pilot flying Airbus products with “joysticks”/sides-ticks use those skills with Airbus Methodology in Flight Controls………….does its best to create a disconnect between Pilot, Flight Controls, Plane and ECM.

    The Indonesian/Asian Culture (Islam) influenced,requires immediate burial of loved ones/deceased once discovered.

    • How many fighter planes incl. US made have “Joystick Shakers” ???

  2. The Asiana crash last year was the first one ( for me ) where obviously false information was propagated by US mainstream media ( I’m thinking of the “We To Lo … ” trash ) with a vengeance. .. And they wouldn’t dare do that in a more local setting.

    Mr. Thomas misses the point and I find his demand rather rich. This is not a “news source” problem but a news collector/propagator problem.
    At the core it is an R* and J* thing.

  3. Re speed of autopsy, Islam requires burial asap so they are always very fast in these scenarios in dealing with post mortems and pre burial bits and pieces.

  4. The majority of PAX were locals, mostly Muslim. Muslim ritual calls for almost immediate burial, if I’m not mistaken. Who is going to educate a grieving family about the importance of carving up their loved one in the name of aviation investigation? Sharks may very well interrupt recovery and investigation.

    IF 8501 did upset, with or without power, and the pilot(s) somehow managed a dead-stick water landing, ocean conditions were reported as 14′-16′ waves… a lot rougher than PAA’s Ogg faced ditching his B-377 next to a USCG cutter in mid-Pacific. Sully had the good fortune to land his A-320 in the smooth-flowing Hudson, with all kinds of commercial watercraft handy.

  5. What’s quite fortunate about this accident is how shallow the water is at 30m. If you placed the A320 nose down on the sea bottom, a good part of the tail will still be above the water surface.

    This could allow the recovery of almost every piece of the plane’s structure for a complete investigation. Black boxes can tell a lot but I imagine it won’t tell much about any structural failures, or at least their causes.

  6. Quick burial has been an issue in some previous investigations – I suppose it all depends on how willing authorities are to over-ride the Muslim religious practice in this regard.

  7. At least they are in the right area- but wind and current and waves still leave a big area to search

    for example here is a part supposedly confirmed by local navy

    https://www.facebook.com/ngenghen.de…e=1&permPage=1

    Part of interior window surround- been washed off ??

  8. Interesting comment on Air Force training, my training had blinders and unusual attitudes as well as recovery only on instruments but never a loss of ALL instruments. Me thinks that is wrong.

    If the aircraft had been ditched (in whatever configuration) the ELTs would have gone off. this either stalled in or broke up.

    Not remotely confirmed but indicators are coming in that stalled in, so the rest is speculative.

    Good part is that black boxes will confirm that in this case. If stalled then the bad news is that pilots can’t fly aircraft as inability for stall avoidance is so basic as to be a wash out item for any student

    It does seem once modern pilots stall, they can’t recover, if they could they would not have stalled in the first place.

    • I would be pretty amazed that the captain of the flight, with 20K hours and being an F-16 pilot would have lost the skills to recover from a stall.

      I’m not going to speculate; just hope the flight recorders tell us the story.

    • I’d express that differently:
      Today getting into stall territory requires such an abnormal situation that a well trained easy recovery is out of the question.

      Savety progress means that all the easy causes for upsets have been massively reduced in probability. what remains are the rather improbable things that have no easy solution.
      Hindsight is worthless in this respect as that may well just give a solution for a problem never to occur in a similar enough fashion to be of help.

      • The Air Asia one we have to see, AF447 was simply a wings level stall, no dramatics, FP simply pulled back the side stick when the speeds dropped, jammed throttle (I believe) and kept it full back all the way down.

        Doing so is nuts and the recovery is one of the most simple and basic operations you are trained for. If you can recover in a really unusual attitude with a lot of your primary instruments taken away, recovering from a wings left stall should be a slam dunk.

        All instruments other than (speed) were available, all were telling all 3 pilots the same thing, full stall, push the nose down.

        obviously there is a deep psychological oddity for some pilots who simply don’t get it no matter how much previous training.

        That is what the simulator test should be about, throw it at them unexpectedly, have them learn it right or find out those who cannot do it and get them out.

        • As I recall from reading the report- the “first” pilot to pull back on the sidearm controller became the ‘ control”- even if the other pilot pushed forward, the system ignored or averaged to zero input. This was due to no feedback or backdrive between the two sidearm controllers.

          ” HAL” won- by protecting the airplane from possibly bending.

          • Astounding that after several years people still base their pronouncements in this case on fantasies and never bother about known facts.

          • Oh really ???
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_447#Sidestick_control
            Sidestick control[edit]

            Right hand side-stick control on an Airbus A380 flight deck (similar to Airbus A330 side-stick).
            On 28 April 2012 in The Daily Telegraph, the British journalist Nick Ross published a comparison of Airbus and Boeing flight controls; unlike the control yoke used on Boeing flight decks, the Airbus side stick controls give no sensory or tactile and little visual feedback to the second pilot. Ross reasoned that this might – in part – explain why the handling pilot’s fatal nose-up inputs were not countermanded by his two colleagues.[242][244] Nick Ross’s thesis was also broadcast in the US.[245]
            In a July 2012 CBS report, Chesley Sullenberger suggested that the design of the Airbus cockpit might have been a factor in the accident. The flight controls are not linked between the two pilot seats, and the left seat pilot, who believed he had taken over control of the plane, was not aware that the right seat pilot had continued to hold the stick back which overrode his own control.[246][247]
            Sidestick control[edit]

            Right hand side-stick control on an Airbus A380 flight deck (similar to Airbus A330 side-stick).
            On 28 April 2012 in The Daily Telegraph, the British journalist Nick Ross published a comparison of Airbus and Boeing flight controls; unlike the control yoke used on Boeing flight decks, the Airbus side stick controls give no sensory or tactile and little visual feedback to the second pilot. Ross reasoned that this might – in part – explain why the handling pilot’s fatal nose-up inputs were not countermanded by his two colleagues.[242][244] Nick Ross’s thesis was also broadcast in the US.[245]
            In a July 2012 CBS report, Chesley Sullenberger suggested that the design of the Airbus cockpit might have been a factor in the accident. The flight controls are not linked between the two pilot seats, and the left seat pilot, who believed he had taken over control of the plane, was not aware that the right seat pilot had continued to hold the stick back which overrode his own control.[246][247]

            Sidestick control[edit]

            Right hand side-stick control on an Airbus A380 flight deck (similar to Airbus A330 side-stick).
            On 28 April 2012 in The Daily Telegraph, the British journalist Nick Ross published a comparison of Airbus and Boeing flight controls; unlike the control yoke used on Boeing flight decks, the Airbus side stick controls give no sensory or tactile and little visual feedback to the second pilot. Ross reasoned that this might – in part – explain why the handling pilot’s fatal nose-up inputs were not countermanded by his two colleagues.[242][244] Nick Ross’s thesis was also broadcast in the US.[245]
            In a July 2012 CBS report, Chesley Sullenberger suggested that the design of the Airbus cockpit might have been a factor in the accident. The flight controls are not linked between the two pilot seats, and the left seat pilot, who believed he had taken over control of the plane, was not aware that the right seat pilot had continued to hold the stick back which overrode his own control.[246][247]

            And YOUR version ??

          • OK, you have learned to do copy/paste. great.

            And how are cites of opinionated stuff on WP deeply relevant?
            You’d be better served to reference the BEA report.

          • OK re the BEA report here you go

            http://www.bea.aero/docspa/2009/f-cp090601.en/pdf/f-cp090601.en.pdf

            Final Report
            On the accident on 1st June 2009
            to the Airbus A330-203
            registered F-GZCP
            operated by Air France
            flight AF 447 Rio de Janeiro – Paris

            page 174

            It would also seem unlikely that the PNF could have determined the PF’s flight path stabilisation targets. It is worth noting that the inputs applied to a sidestick by one pilot cannot be observed easily by the other one and that the conditions of a night flight in IMC make it more difficult to monitor aeroplane attitudes (pitch attitude in particular). In addition, a short time after the autopilot disconnection, the PF’s statement that he had the controls and his reaction to the initial deviations observed (in particular in roll) may have led the PNF to change his action priorities. Identification of the failure appeared to become a priority over control and flight path monitoring. Consequently, he was unaware of the climb.

            page 181

            The rapid reduction in speed was accompanied by an increase in the angle of attack. The lift ceiling, at the Mach at which the aeroplane was flying at that time, was broken a few seconds after breaking through the propulsion ceiling. Due to its momentum, the aeroplane continued to climb: the aeroplane’s kinetic energy was converted into potential energy until the point was reached when the aeroplane unavoidably started to descend. The PF was still applying nose-up inputs and the angle of attack continued to increase. Even with the engines at the TOGA thrust setting, the drag generated by this high angle of attack was so high as to prevent the aeroplane from accelerating.
            Subsequently, the position of the sidestick, maintained in its nose-up or neutral position, continued to exacerbate the situation and made the recovery uncertain, even impossible.
            page 182

            At about 2 h 11 min 38, after the PF said “I don’t have control of the plane at all“, the PNF called out “controls to the left“, took priority and made two lateral left inputs to the stop. The aeroplane was then rolling to the left. The PF immediately took back priority and kept his sidestick at the stop to the left. This priority takeover by the PF could not be explained but bears witness to the de-structuring of the task-sharing.

            +++

            And your interpretation ??

            Source ??

          • Neither knew what they were actually doing.
            And there is no indication that one would have done things differently to the other. ( only under that condition would feedback have had any beneficial effect. But that was definitely not the case )
            Which fits in well with not following procedural plans i.e. the appropriate checklist.

            The thing that privately irks me is the stall logic.
            While in stall going below that minimum airspeed for valid sensors should not remove the stall warning.

            This could maybe have given the crew a better “hint” about the situation.

          • To add in on Boeing (at least 767). I was working in a flight simulator building when they published the horizontal control surface position for the Egypt Air crash in the Atlantic (suicide)

            I asked one of the chief pilots how in the world you could get split elevators (one full down the other full up). I had thought it was the last input that was the current signal.

            His answer was if one pilot pulls back and one pilot pushes forward they split. That seems bizarre but it explains the data that came out of it.

            The PIC who got back to the cockpit was pulling back and the co-pilot was pushing down. As they were in a dive there was no chance of recovery (never stated what that does to an air frame maybe corkscrews it).

            And that gets back to automation, its no longer John Wayne at the controls winning (and slapping the panicking co-pilot0 you are attempting to make analog systems work without a mechanical connecting and the logic gets weird if you do something that is not supposed to occur.

          • transworld said ”…I had thought it was the last input that was the current signal….”

            Thats slightly misleading- as the 767 has cable controls as backup. My point being that with enough force ( about 50 pounds) the control columns can override any signal, and the discrepancy in input would not go unnoticed by either pilot. So it became a tug of war and everyone lost.

            In the case of airbus, the difference in positions of the sidearm ‘ sticks’ was either NOT noticed, OR the first input took precedence OR the analog signals averaged the two inputs to zero. It would take a detailed analysis- probably found somewhere as to what the direct control analog signals would do in that case.

          • Ewe:

            Stall was in and out intermittently, they ignored it.

            This is a case where the voice thing simply does not work, tests have proven that but its still used. Another one that needs to be corrected. Find out what does work and implement it, do not used failed techniques.

            Also keep in mind, all instruments told them they were in a stall, you don’t need the voice, you just need to follow basic piloting.

            My memory could be wrong but nose up 20 degree or more, VSI going doing in screamingly fast numbers. primary display as well as backup artificial all telling them the same thing.

            Total loss of what is basic situational awareness.

            We have seen the same thing with the so called “stuck acceelator ” on cars.

            Person mashes the accelerator, thinks its the brakes and never wavers from that believe (what belief the co pilot had is unknown as all his action are complexly contradictory to loss of pitot or any rational response to the speeds going.)

            You may discount the car accelerator issue, don’t. If you have both the brake on full and the pedal down, brakes win, period, people freeze on what does not work.

            So those people who actually stepped on the breaks swore up down and sideways that they were not on the pedal. Why the Pilot and the chief pilot did not analyze it is also bizzare, they could see the same thing as the co-pilot (I am not used to the new terms for who is left seat, right seat and in charge)

            People can do amazing things. The system needs to test them, and if they are incapable of doing anything other than panicking, wash them out.

          • “Ewe:”
            Don’t.
            If you feel like not having any more good arguments write nothing.

  9. A quick question on ELTs. Does anyone know if there have been any instances of an aircraft wreck being located primarily by the ELT signals?

  10. I assume Large Jets? The ELTs work all the time for small aircraft.

    Few Jets crash that are not obvious Spate of recent losses over ocean have made that an interesting item (and should signals be triggered like the Canadian operation when something odd happens?)

    The assumption is that the ELT works if its a normal crash. I.e. impact triggers and the transmitter and antenna are intact with the aircraft having hit from first and fairly normal attitude.

    These losses have been high impact and sunk. Seems like a whole re-think is in order.

    I contended that the ELTs for large jets are antiquated old tech and a waste. either they are not needed (known crash) or they are not working.

    • Yes, that’s what I’m trying to get at. Whether ELTs have worked as intended where it mattered the most, when all other locating methods proved to be taking too long to carry out SAR operations.

      I understand that the technology has broader applications, including marine stuff, but I’m specifically referring to mass commercial airline operations. And I agree that as far as these are concerned, they seem to be either inadequate or redundant.

  11. A question out of ignorance:

    There’s a lot of talk of forces being sufficient to ‘tear the wings off the aircraft’, or otherwise compromise the integrity of the airframe. It seems to me that the loss of control surfaces would be equally threatening (dangerous enough in clear air with good visibility).

    How possible is it for a serious storm like this to render one or more major control surfaces or flight control systems damaged or inoperable?

    • If the indicators are correct, there is no loss of control surfaces. Stalled in.

      I don’t know for positive on current, but the A300 could (did) tear the vertical stabilizer off with a hard use of rudder pedals.

      You can also get an aircraft so out of whack that it tumbles and theoretically you could tear wings and control surfaces off.

      I can’t think of that happening. Any mid air breakups I can think of were missile caused, internal explosion (fuel tanks or bombs)

    • Historically, control surface malfunctions have typically been due to mechanical damage, for instance Air Moorea 1121, AS261, Reeve Aleutian Airways flight 8, CO2574, UA232. Southern Airways 242 and TACA 110 suffered engine flameout due to precipitation, but structural catastrophic damage due to weather has been virtually unheard of in modern civil aviation. Before long, the investigation will disclose preliminary findings, and it’s generally wise to put off speculation till then.

      • These are my thoughts also; this seems among the most unlikely of reasons. I’ll leave the investigation to the investigators, but wanted to satisfy my curiosity about a very rare situation.

      • John B:

        I don’t know about others but I like to try my mind against what seems to be known facts and then see if I was right or wrong.

        That was why my take on MH370 was put out early as what was known (loss of ACARS and the transponder) had all the signature elements of a pilots act.

        In that case I suspect others did the same but they did not go public and the Malaysian authorities were lying through their teeth (search on going between Malaysia and Vietnam) when they knew it had flown N.W. down Straits of Malacca and o where near (criminal conduct that they should be charged for)

        The upshot was that as that was not done, it was weeks before IMRASAT info went public and by the time even a ball park location was derived, the pingers had died.

        the good news here is they have a location, the tragic part is once again the loss of lives.

        And some of this gets into pressure to do something about tracking data (that can’t be turned off) and a data dump if unusual conditions occur that assist the whole process.

        Now we find out it was an illegal flight and how does that weigh in? is it also reflective of Air Asia pilot training?

        And even when the detaisl are knows as they should be in this case, its till short as you have to implement pilot training (if there are deficiencies) rather than just rack it up as another statistic and do nothing as has been going on for far too long (training not having kept up with automation nor regulations on things like Auto Throttle – which I think should be standardizes across the board on all aircraft that have it)

        I do have mixed feelings on the speculation but am going to continue to comment.

        • Observation based prediction identified as that is always okay.
          This breaks on people pulling from false current information and/or from false knowledge.

          My guess is the Inmarsat guys spent quite a bit of time on
          getting from an analytical idea to a workable solution and then getting validatable results on fresh data and finaly from there derive MH370 position guestimates via processing of historic data.

          The potential “illegality” of the flight is a red herring as it is a purely paper thing. There is nothing in the causality path that would show a difference on having all stamps or not.
          ( beyond if the flight didn’t happen it wouldn’t have crashed )

          • Uwe: It was not the data processing that Imarasat failed on.

            They knew immeidalty that the aircraft had flown for 7 hours before the signal quit.

            The reportedly notifed someone (never stated and that’s an open issue in this as well that no one has prusied) and when the search persisted in the known wrong area (radar track that Malaysia knew about) they did not go to other parties. As I recall they sat on it for 10 days.

            That is the relevant issue, not the data processing that indeed legitimately is difficult and time consuming.

            I consider this criminal as to who they passed the information onto that did not act as well as Inmarsat when they knew it was not acted on.

    • AFIK A full autopsy is not needed for most victims in such a case. Its a pretty good bet that photos, remarks, and obvious broken bones, etc via x-ray have been taken. And results in total will be part of a report later. The cause of death is known- the plane crashed. Why and how and when is mainly up to the black boxes. DNA samples and teeth, etc will verify ID in most cases.

      • 160 some people on board and while I did not know 41 were Christian denomination that still leaves 120 and yet to see list of the religion involved.

        I would think they would want burial as soon as possible due to body condition being so awful.

        I would not want to be the one that said no and as noted, there may be more than enough quick data taken to confirm what they need to know.

        Where human feelings get conflicted with technical with understanding feelings on the one side and the overall good on the other.

        I don’t think its relevant but if the case took a twist it could be.

  12. Inevitable Airbus will offer the powerful and versatile A400M as base platform for a USAF / USM program. Putting M1128’s, Apaches in the dirt close to the front, refueling choppers and fighters, itself crossing Oceans un-refuelled.

    It will look for a US partner for political support, customization, assembly and after market. Historically Airbus had good relations with LM and Northrop Grumman. On the military site Airbus and Boeing don’t bite much either.

    After the denial phase, parties will have to decide if they want a slice of the pie. Long Beach seems perfect.

    • Non American company,no chance.gave each other a good battering with a330/b767 tankers.

      • Grubbie ; ok : no chance for the A-400 in the US…. Understood yr.point. What does the U.S. replace hundreds of C-130s with ? Thanks for answer. Jerome
        (And don’t come up with the C-17 ; not same category)

        • Don’t really know. All the evidence suggests DoD doesn’t either. Before the a400 came along the the Raf stated that they didn’t want to operate 3 different types and implied that they would have happier with C17&C130j.if theydid select a400 I forsee a procurement disaster with local partners attempting to fill their pockets by changing everything.

  13. I think that it is crass to drop into an Airbus bashing mode when very little is known about the cause of the crash. Wheels and yokes have been in play since the dawn of flight. Side-sticks are a modern interpretation, and whatever our pet peeves, are here to stay.
    The AF447 crash cause is well documented. The root or primary cause was the lack of leadership by the captain and actions taken by the PF who continued to apply nose up command without any consultation with the rest of the flight crew.
    B.T.W. both pilots can see both side-sticks as they are located way forward of a pilot’s torso – so that is not a valid argument.
    Right now we wish that the bodies are recovered and the cause be analysed.

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