Re: Terror at 41,000'

From: (Ken Hoyme)
Organization: Honeywell Systems & Research Center, Mpls. MN, USA.
Date:         23 Jan 93 02:06:54 PST
References:   1
Followups:    1
Next article
View raw article
  or MIME structure

In article <airliners.1993.98@ohare.Chicago.COM> ak336@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (John Dill) writes:

>  The next part is part conjecture (the crew wisely erased the flight data

>  A long legal battle took place between ALPA and the airline (Global Air?)
> and the F.A.A. In the end, I think the pilots were exonerated..and if you
> ask me....they saved the day!

Presuming that the first part of this "urban"-legend is true (the
breaker flip and all), I take great objections to the implication that
the pilots were heroes and that it was smart for them to "erase" the
flight data (actually, leave the engines on until the tape loop wrote
over the incident information).  This is tantamount to saying that a
person who shoots another, but then gives them first-aid and saves their
life is a 'hero'.

Airplanes are designed and certificated to operate in a specific manner.
*If* there is a way to improve fuel efficiency, the appropriate approach
is to analyze the theory using models, then validate it in research
aircraft with skilled test pilots and *no revenue paying passengers*.
Then the improvement can be certified and upgraded into the fleet as
mandated by FAA rules.  All paying passengers have the right to expect
that the crew operates the plane as designed and does not use them as
unwilling guinea pigs for ill-designed experiments.

If it is true that the crew of this plane decided to experiment with
the airplane dynamics on a revenue flight then they are criminals -- no
different from the reactor control operators at Chernobyl who decided to
'experiment' with the reactor systems leading to that catastrophe.  To
paint them as 'heroes' is a twisted view of their role.

It also drives me nuts when unions go to bat for their people when they
are so clearly in the wrong.  I think it does a great dis-service to
their credibility, and taints all members, the vast majority of which
are trying to do a good job.  (ALPA went to bat for the NWA pilots who
were FWI from Fargo to Minneapolis a few years back, too.)

Major disclaimer: My heated response is based on the assumption that the
legend about the flap-extension incident is true.  Of course, the pilots
(I believe) denied this, blaming it on the airplane.  And the lack of
flight data for the incident period made it difficult to prove.  If the
real facts of the case were that it was a failure of the airplane, and
nothing the crew did precipitated this incident, then I would heartily
argue that the crew were heroes, and ALPA had every justified right to go
to bat for them.


Ken Hoyme                    Honeywell Systems and Research Center
(612)951-7354                3660 Technology Dr., Minneapolis, MN 55418