When It Rains

It pours

WASHINGTON – Nobody trains for chaos like this. Out the pilots’ left window, far above the ocean, an engine as big as a bus had disintegrated, blasting shrapnel holes in the superjumbo’s wing. And now an overwhelming flood of computer alarms was warning the pilots that critical systems might be failing.

…”The amount of failures is unprecedented,” said Richard Woodward, a fellow Qantas A380 pilot who has spoken to all five pilots. “There is probably a one in 100 million chance to have all that go wrong.”

But it did.

…As luck would have it, there were five experienced pilots — including three captains — aboard the plane. The flight’s captain, Richard de Crespigny, was being given his annual check ride — a test of his piloting skills — by another captain. That man was himself being evaluated by a third captain. There were also first and second officers, part of the normal three-pilot team. In all, the crew had over 100 years of flying experience.

It’s almost like a Monty Python skit-the tester of the tester was being tested.

And they all got a work out.

7 Responses to “When It Rains”

  1. major dad says:

    Without that experience on board they very well could have crashed that plane.

  2. JeffS says:

    FIFTY computer messages that had to be dealt with? By reading the ops manual? While flying a heavily damaged aircraft?

    I believe that they would have crashed the plane, major dad. The crisis management alone would have overwhelmed the pilots.

    Maybe that aircraft is a tad too complicated to fly with just 3 pilots. Maybe they need a flight engineer as well.

    In any case, that’s the sort of response medals are given for. Those pilots clearly saved the day.

  3. Mr. Bingley says:

    It’s pretty amazing when you read all the shit that hit that turbofan.

    Thank god all those extra pilots were there and in that cockpit.

  4. major dad says:

    The pilot in command did what he was supposed to, that is fly the plane and let the other guys deal with the computer warnings. In a modern avionics system when you get damage like that the warnings cascade, you have to be able to sift through it all and find the major problems.

  5. JeffS says:

    A similar problem exists with non-avionic systems, major dad. Information overload during a genuinue emergency can overwhelm untrained or inexperienced staff in very short order, even in a benign setting like an office. Not only have I seen it happen, it’s a major concern for professional emergency responders. Simply being able to pace yourself during an emergency requires training and discipline. Professional pilots have that, or they wouldn’t be where they are at. But even professionals can be overwhelmed.

    The fact that these pilots did what they did while nursing a busted aircraft thousands of feet in the air over the Pacific is a credit to their character, discipline, and sheer courage, even with all that unexpected but very welcome experience from the other two pilots.

    If they had only the 3 pilot crew on board when the engine blew, could they have managed the information flow as well? I can’t say for sure, of course, but I certainly hope that the airlines and the Airbus designers are relooking at their design assumptions and crew plans.

  6. major dad says:

    Some people perform under pressure and some don’t, these guys did.

  7. Michael Lonie says:

    “Information overload during a genuinue emergency can overwhelm untrained or inexperienced staff in very short order, even in a benign setting like an office.”

    As we can see happening in the White House right now.

    I once was discussing with an official of an airline the high salaries senior pilots get. His explanation has stayed with me. “You don’t often need someone with 20,000 flight hours in the cockpit, but when you do need him, you need him really bad.”

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