in-flight engine shutdown / antiquated ATC equip

From: (R. & L. Chilukuri)
Organization: Univ of California at San Diego
Date:         01 May 95 02:44:02 
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Our local newspaper had an article today on an in-flight shutdown of
a B767 engine:

ATC lost radio contact with a UA jetliner over the North Altlantic as
the Boeing 767, having lost one of its two engines, headed on an
emergency course for Bermuda and flew too low to communicate with the
controller's antiquated radios. Contact with the airliner was lost for
stretches of 8-10 minutes or longer. Controllers say that if the plane
had been forced to ditch in the water, they would not have had a precise
location to send rescuers.

A private subcontractor, Aeronautical Radio Inc., was used to relay radio
messages between the airliner and the ATC. The company transcribes
reports and then transmits them by teletype to the Controllers at he
FAA's New York Center. The controllers keep track of locations in their
heads, or use grease pencils on Plexiglas!!!!

The incident itself was as follows: the pilot was flying at 33000 ft
about 330 miles south of Bermuda when he radioed that he had a possible
oil filter blockage in one engine and asked for permission to descend to
25000 ft. The controller on duty received the information on teletype,
telephoned Aeronautical Radio, and asked to be patched through to the
plane. -- that took 5 minutes and was considered to be pretty quick!

The pilot later reported that the engine had shut down. The pilot had to
descend to unusually low altitudes because of a loss in cabin pressure.
The shut-down of one engine meant the loss of an air conditioning unit,
and the remaining unit overheated.

Newsweek had an article just last week on the antiquated ATC equipment!

Fortunately, the plane was in constant contact with United's own
dispatchers in Chicago, via satellite link.

Krish Chilukuri