The Australian Sully Sullenbergers

So, this happened last month:
bang
which caused bad things to happen, like this:

and the largest passenger jet in the world didn’t work so well after that:

The flight crew recalled the following systems warnings on the ECAM after the failure of the No 2 engine:
• engines No 1 and 4 operating in a degraded mode
• GREEN6 hydraulic system – low system pressure and low fluid level
• YELLOW7 hydraulic system – engine No 4 pump errors
• failure of the alternating current (AC) electrical No 1 and 2 bus systems
• flight controls operating in alternate law
• wing slats inoperative
• flight controls – ailerons partial control only
• flight controls – reduced spoiler control
• landing gear control and indicator warnings
• multiple brake system messages
• engine anti-ice and air data sensor messages
• multiple fuel system messages, including a fuel jettison fault
• centre of gravity messages
• autothrust and autoland inoperative
• No 1 engine generator drive disconnected
• left wing pneumatic bleed leaks
• avionics system overheat.

Yet the crew kept its cool for an hour while circling around trying to figure out if they could even land the plane. Because the fuel dumping system was broken, they had to land weighing 50 tons over maximum landing weight. The brakes heated to over 900 degrees C, but they stopped the thing 150 meters from the end of the runway. (That’s 50 meters more leeway than the flight computer calculated).

The moral of the story is simple: Qantas never crashes.

(Here’s the report)

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit






52 replies
  1. 1
    Joe says:

    Never say never.

  2. 2
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    “It’s a miracle”.

    No, it wasn’t. It was not a miracle. It was due to training and planning and nerves of steel. No deity involved.

  3. 3
    numbskull says:

    Boy, this must’ve been additionally sobering to the passengers:

    …the SO was dispatched into the cabin to visually assess the damage to the No 2 engine. As the SO moved through the cabin a passenger, who was also a pilot for the operator, brought the SO’s attention to a view of the aircraft from the vertical fin-mounted camera that was displayed on the aircraft’s in-flight entertainment system. That display appeared to show some form of fluid leak from the left wing.

    (Italics mine)

  4. 4
    Gin & Tonic says:

    It’s QANTAS. No “u”, and upper-case, as it’s an acronym, not a word.

  5. 5
    jwb says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: No deity, but probably more than a little luck to go along with the training, planning, and selection of high competence employees.

  6. 6
    Zifnab says:

    Shit yeah. Sign me up for their frequent flier program.

  7. 7
    mistermix says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Thanks. But the ATSB doesn’t capitalize, so I just fixed the spelling.

  8. 8
    DougJ says:

    The propellers rotate the opposite direction down there. That could be what’s going on here.

  9. 9
    john b says:

    it’s almost like all commercial airliners are designed to fly down an engine or something

  10. 10
    Joy says:

    Thanks for the Rainman clip! It made me remember how much I loved that movie, but I didn’t remember that tidbit. I flew Qantas to Australia last year–if only I’d known :)

  11. 11
    Fuck! A Duck says:

    john b: Or even two. Still and all, with all the faults and warnings, to say nothing of the damage to the hydraulics, it was excellent CRM on the part of the flight crew.

  12. 12
    Annelid Gustator says:

    @Gin & Tonic: you should definitely tell them. Be sure to be as patronizing as possible, too, because that always works.

  13. 13
    mistermix says:

    @john b: This was an *uncontained* engine failure, which is quite different from a standard variety engine failure. The engine blew up and shrapnel from the engine injured (slightly) two people on the ground and tore dozens of holes in the wing. The systems on the left side of the plane were so badly damaged that the #1 (outboard) engine (the one next to the failed one) would not shut down, and finally had to be stopped (after running for 2 hours) by fire crews dousing it with foam.

    In other words, this was a notable event where people were lucky to have survived.

  14. 14
    sparky says:

    @mistermix: uncontained engine failure and no fatalities? that IS impressive.

    ps: report doesn’t load, at least not google docs via chrome.

    pps: as a persistent critic i should say that i have appreciated your more recent posts. not that it matters. :)

  15. 15
    NickM says:

    Another lesson is that Airbus sucks.

    There’s a reason pilots and mechanics say “if it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going.”

  16. 16
    Svensker says:

    The Australian Govt report reads like a very understated Ernie Gann novel. (You yunguns can google it.)

  17. 17
    gene108 says:

    Reminds me of this great bit from the Qantas maintenance crew:

    “After every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a “gripe sheet,” which tells mechanics about the problems with the aircraft.

    The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor.

    Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas’ pilots (marked with a “P”) and the solutions recorded (marked with a “S”) by maintenance engineers.

    By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never had an accident.

    P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.

    S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

    P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.

    S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

    P: Something loose in cockpit.

    S: Something tightening in cockpit.

    P: Dead bugs on windshield.

    S: Live bugs on back-order.

    P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.

    S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

    P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.

    S: Evidence removed.

    P: DME volume unbelievably loud.

    S: DME volume set to more believable level.

    P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.

    S: That’s what they’re for.

    P: IFF inoperative.

    S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

    P: Suspected crack in windshield.

    S: Suspect you’re right.

    P: Number 3 engine missing.

    S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

    P: Aircraft handles funny.

    S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

    P: Target radar hums.

    S: Reprogramming target radar with lyrics.

    P: Mouse in cockpit.

    S: Cat installed.

    And the best one for last…

    P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.

    S: Took hammer away from midget.”

  18. 18
    evap says:

    A few years back, I was on a Delta flight over the Atlantic (Munich -> Atlanta) when one of the two engines failed. We landed safely in Iceland an hour later. The pilot was amazing – talked to us in a soothing voice about what a great airplane our Boeing 767 was, etc. They managed to fly the thing and land it on *one* engine. It felt like a normal landing, apart from the fact that we came in very low and slow. Airplanes are a marvel of engineering. At one point, I started to wonder what would happen if the *other* engine failed….

  19. 19
    celticdragonchick says:

    @mistermix:

    @john b: This was an uncontained engine failure, which is quite different from a standard variety engine failure. The engine blew up and shrapnel from the engine injured (slightly) two people on the ground and tore dozens of holes in the wing. The systems on the left side of the plane were so badly damaged that the #1 (outboard) engine (the one next to the failed one) would not shut down, and finally had to be stopped (after running for 2 hours) by fire crews dousing it with foam.
    In other words, this was a notable event where people were lucky to have survived.

    I am a former structural aircraft mechanic who worked on commercial aircraft. You are completely correct. I would have given better then 3 to 1 odds the aircraft and all passengers would have been lost after that kind of catastrophic failure. I would guess at a minimum that most of the left wing assembly will just have to be replaced, and very possibly the entire wing. In that case, the airplane may just be written off.

  20. 20
    celticdragonchick says:

    @evap:

    The 767 is a ETOPS aircraft that is certified to fly more than one hour away from land with two engines. It is a great bird to fly on and to work on.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ETOPS
    The cornerstone of the ETOPS approach are the statistics that show that the turbine itself is an inherently reliable component, and it is the engine ancillaries that have a lower reliability rating. Therefore an engine for a modern twin jet airliner has twin sets of all ancillaries mounted in the engine, which gives the required reliability rating.

  21. 21
    DCr says:

    They had a lot of things going for them, perhaps chief among which were (as I recall) three jump-seaters experienced in the A380. They all were “assholes and elbows,” as the saying goes.

    Still, an amazing feat of airmanship. Mega-kudos…

    DCr

  22. 22
    mistermix says:

    @sparky: I updated the link in the post to the page where the PDF can be downloaded, see if that works.

    Also, too: don’t worry, I’m sure my posts will start to suck again in the near future.

  23. 23
    mistermix says:

    @Svensker: I find TSB reports to be the high point of our civilization. I am not kidding. I read them all the time.

  24. 24
    DCr says:

    I know this is too long, but it’s too good not to share. May Tunch forgive me. It makes the rounds periodically…

    The following letter is from the Qantas (Airlines) Flight Operations Newsletter. The letter is from a Captain answering his Chief Pilot’s “Request for further information.”

    Sir,

    In your icy, indeed hostile, telephone call of yesterday, you requested a report about the alleged proceedings involving my crew at the Qantas 75th Birthday celebration at the slip port. As the reports from the local authorities and the head of the Australian legation were undoubtedly a complete fabrication, I take the opportunity to put the truth of the matter on file.

    Qantas management’s kind offer to “buy a round of drinks” was taken on board by the crew who decided to upgrade the event to its correct status, so appropriate quantities of libation and food were purchased, with festivities being held in my hotel suite. An enjoyable evening ensued but insufficient supplies had been obtained, so several members of the crew left for further purchases at a local bar.

    In a truly magnanimous gesture, ten bar girls from that establishment helped carry the beer back to the hotel. To demonstrate our appreciation of their assistance, we served them some cool drink. They then offered to show us some local culture, and, in order not to offend, we allowed them to dance some exotic dances.

    The banging on the walls of my room had, by now, quite honestly, become invasive, and it was disturbing the dancers, so we arranged an amusing little deterrent. S/0 Brown’s impersonation of the Police Officer was excellent! In full Qantas uniform, with an aluminum rubbish bin upside down on his head, he goose-stepped to each room and harangued the occupants with a very witty diatribe about disturbing hotel guests. I personally heard nothing of his alleged threats of life in Alcatraz or the Gulags, claimed by the sister of the Minister of Police whose room was, unluckily, next door.

    I have no doubt that this woman was the sneak who called security and hotel management and I absolutely refute that the shout “Look out, here come the Indians! Circle the wagons!” was made. The simple coincidence of security arriving just as we stood the double bed on its side across the door to make the dance floor bigger is obvious. The major damage to the room occurred when a group of gate crashers, whom we could not know were hotel security, forced their way in just as most of us happened to be leaning against the bed watching the dancing.

    The subsequent events in the foyer of the hotel are an equally vicious distortion of the facts. I was explaining the importance of the 75th Birthday to the General Manager of the hotel and noting that other guests were fabricating stories of noise, drinking and singing at the celebration, when F/O Smith (ex-SAS) and several other keep-fit enthusiasts, in keeping with their almost monastic pursuit of health, organised the race up the drapes which hang along the foyer wall. It says nothing for the workmanship of some of these nations that the fittings were torn from the wall before most of the crew were even halfway up. At this stage, in an amazing display of international posturing, the Governor of the city, who was attending the National Day cocktail party in the foyer, cast some denigrating remarks about Australian culture.

    Although he misunderstood our gestures of greeting, female flight attendant Williams rescued the situation with her depth of knowledge of local culture. Her rendition of the Fertility Dancing Maiden in the foyer’s ‘Pool of Remembrance’ was nothing short of breathtaking. Normally this dance is performed wearing just a sarong skirt so FFA Williams’ extra step to nature was a bold step forward. Unfortunately, during one intricate step, FFA Williams slipped and fell beneath the fountain, so we were lucky that S/0 Brown, who had the great presence of mind to strip to avoid getting his uniform wet, leapt in to help.

    That the tiles of the pool were slippery is beyond dispute, as it took nearly ten minutes of threshing about before S/O Brown could actually complete his rescue. Such concern was there for these two exemplary crew member’s safety, that the rest of the crew were forced to assist, and I deny that this massed altruistic rescue attempt could be construed as a ‘Water Polo’ game! This slanderous accusation was first put to me by the Chief of the Riot Squad, whose storm troopers had apparently been called by some over zealous Fascists at the cocktail party.

    Order had nearly been restored when the fire started. I prefer F/O Smith’s version of events that the drapes had caught fire from being against a light fitting, and that he dropped his cigarette lighter whilst trying to escape the flames. Had host management fulfilled their responsibilities and used fire retardant material instead of velvet, the fire would not have spread to the rest of the hotel. The responsible attitude shown by my crew in assisting the bar staff to carry out drinks from the cocktail party is to be commended, not condemned, and the attempt by male members of the crew to extinguish pockets of fire using natural means has been totally misrepresented in some quarters. I cannot overstate how strongly I resent the assertions made in the Chief Fire Officer’s report.

    I made an official protest about these matters when the head of the Australian Legation visited us at the Police Station the next morning. However, not only did Ambassador Jones not attempt to refute the preposterous allegations made against me and my crew, but also by failing to secure our release immediately, caused the subsequent aircraft delay. I did not know Her Majesty was to be aboard our aircraft, but I am sure that her 12-hour visit to that country was appreciated by local dignitaries and probably HRH herself. (I must mention that the local manager is far too obsequious – Smarmy! Smarmy! You should have seen him bowing and scraping. Never make a Prime Minister, that chap!)

    Finally, I note that not since ‘Rainman’ has Qantas been mentioned in so many newspapers. (Some people in Qantas would die for coverage like that.) The main newspaper at the slip port incidentally mentioned Qantas 75 times on its front page alone, although some of the coupled epithets can only be described as the worst journalistic excesses of the gutter press.

    I trust that now I have outlined the correct version of events, we may allow ourselves a discreet smile as to the lack of social sophistication of some of these developing nations and put all this behind us. As far as I am concerned, the crew carried on the finest Qantas traditions.

    Regards, Captain……

    P.S. I checked amongst the language qualified members of the crew, but no one was up to speed on Latin. Can you recommend anyone in the International Department who could translate ‘Persona Non Grata’?

  25. 25
    de stijl says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Actually, the proper plural form of Qanta is Qantum. Their clever maintenance crews are known as Qantum mechanics.

  26. 26
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Annelid Gustator: Which part of my post was patronizing? Just facts, one correct, one that had been correct for many years but now isn’t.

  27. 27
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @de stijl: I am uncertain about that.

  28. 28
    daveNYC says:

    Pretty good engineering that enough of the plane continued to function after the engine nuked that they were able to land.

    Bet the Airbus brake team was pretty chuffed.

  29. 29
    de stijl says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    The really cool thing about the maintenance crews is they can be in two places at once. At least, until a supervisor shows up to observe them.

  30. 30
    ArchTeryx says:

    @mistermix: Exactly. Think about that for a moment: the plane’s reverse thrusters were dead or degraded, #1 engine was stuck running full out, they were 50 tons overweight and they still managed to land the plane.

    Triumph of both crew competence in an emergency and airframe design. Airbus did just fine. It was the Rolls-Royce engines that were the FUBAR failure point.

  31. 31
    Mudge says:

    I read the other day that Qantas may sue Rolls Royce (the engine suppliers).

    The New York Times reports Qantas has taken the initial steps toward bringing legal action against Rolls-Royce, the engine manufacturer for the Airbus A380. Last month, an engine on one of Qantas’ A380s exploded shortly after take-off. The plane made a safe and smooth landing, but Qantas grounded its six A380s immediately while it investigated the explosion. Qantas has since resumed some A380 service

  32. 32
    Jinx says:

    I hope these links aren’t bummers in the face of this story with a very happy ending but I wanted to tell folks with Netflix streaming that there’s a short doc available about the Airbus flight that crashed into the ocean between SA and France that investigates the cause. It was worth a view.

    http://www.vanityfair.com/maga.....rash200901

    Also, Vanity Fair ran an article by William Langewiesche about a freak mid air collision over the Amazon between a passenger jet and a private jet on it’s maiden voyage that was riveting. The copious records available enabled the author to give an almost minute by minute description of the numerous small errors that led to the accident that was almost statistically impossible to have occurred.

  33. 33
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @de stijl: I heard they have a real bitch of a time with punching their time cards, though.

  34. 34
    Geeno says:

    QANTAS stood for “Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services”. I think they officially changed the name to just being Qantas some years ago.

  35. 35
    de stijl says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Qantum mechanics work best when dealing with very fast things and very small things – hence the jets. Very fast things made mostly out of little-bitty parts.

    There are some strings attached, though.

  36. 36
    Don K says:

    @evap:

    Here’s what happens when both engines go out on a 767. Basically, if you’re not in reasonable proximity to a suitable runway, you’re in deep shit, and it will take all of the pilot’s skill to get in safely.

    More than 99% of the time, a flight is routine, but it’s those few times when pilot’s earn every penny they make and then some.

  37. 37
    Jason says:

    Another lesson is that Airbus sucks.

    Mindless US parochialism. There are of course plenty of Airbus fans among pilots and service personnel. But leaving aside,the real culprit here is the failure of the Rolls-Royce engine. So you could argue that the A380 is rugged enough to handle an uncontained engine explosion and still remain flightworthy.

  38. 38
    Don says:

    If you find discussion of this sort of thing or the banality of flight interesting I highly recommend Patrick Smith’s ASK THE PILOT column over at Salon.com. He’s an entertaining writer and does a nice job cutting through the bullshit that fills most mainstream media airline reporting.

  39. 39
    trollhattan says:

    @Jason:

    Without commenting on Boeing vs. EADS (even though my father worked for Boeing) I’ll opine we didn’t learn (or at least haven’t yet learned) a whole hell of a lot about A380 ruggedness based on this event. The lurid holes though the wings and the resulting cascading system failures tell us the human factor had much to do with the safe landing.

    Had the plane been at crusing altitude, had there been a less experienced crew, had shrapnel penetrated even more critical wing and fuselage areas…I’ll await further safety review to tell us how close this flight was to becoming a crash.

    I continue to question what is an ample margin of safety for a plane designed to carry more than 800 souls? At some point you’d want a safety margin approaching infinity in a very imperfect world. Does a plane this big, or some future even larger plane, make sense?

    Related, I’m interested in the margin of safety to be required for reactor containment buildings of any new nuke power plants. Will they need to be “A380-proof?”

  40. 40
    LikeableInMyOwnWay says:

    Goddam your lousy filter, I am not having to repost this trial and error until I figure out what triggered it.

    @mistermix:

    That’s the part that worries me. When you have an uncontained engine failure involving an engine that is the size of a large bus, for all intents and purposes, anything can happen. You are now playing roulette with a large airplane full of people.

    Uncontained failure is a design and certification issue, really. It’s not exactly rocket science. The engine and its enclosure either handle the event, or they don’t. Not very subtle. Certification standards are supposed to require that a worst case engine burst does not bring the airplane down. In this case, it appears that it didn’t …. but it was way too close for comfort. It would not have taken much to push this operation into the realm of disaster from the realm of close call. The margin of safety is not very reassuring.

    We’ve had the Airbus into NYC because a crewmember was a little too aggressive with the rudder pedals and the vertical stabilizer broke off, another Airbus into the Atlantic because its pitot static system wasn’t up to the job and probably failed in the middle of a bad thunderstorm (one place where you really cannot be without a sound pitot static system), and now an Airbus with uncontained engine failure on the biggest passenger carrying machine in the world.

    I’m not liking this, it is starting to look like a possible pattern of lousy design and certification.

  41. 41
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    Goddam your crappy filter, I am not having to repost this trial and error until I figure out what triggered it.

    @mistermix:

    That’s the part that worries me. When you have an uncontained engine failure involving an engine that is the size of a large bus, for all intents and purposes, anything can happen. You are now playing roulette with a large airplane full of people.

    Uncontained failure is a design and certification issue, really. It’s not exactly rocket science. The engine and its enclosure either handle the event, or they don’t. Not very subtle. Certification standards are supposed to require that a worst case engine burst does not bring the airplane down. In this case, it appears that it didn’t …. but it was way too close for comfort. It would not have taken much to push this operation into the realm of disaster from the realm of close call. The margin of safety is not very reassuring.

    We’ve had the Airbus into NYC because a crewmember was a little too aggressive with the rudder pedals and the vertical stabilizer broke off, another Airbus into the Atlantic because its pitot static system wasn’t up to the job and probably failed in the middle of a bad thunderstorm (one place where you really cannot be without a sound pitot static system), and now an Airbus with uncontained engine failure on the biggest passenger carrying machine in the world.

    I’m not liking this, it is starting to look like a possible pattern of lousy design and certification.

  42. 42
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    Goddam your lousy filter, I am not having to repost this trial and error, again, until I figure out what triggered it.

    @mistermix:

    That’s the part that worries me. When you have an uncontained engine failure involving an engine that is the size of a large bus, for all intents and purposes, anything can happen. You are now playing probability games with a large airplane full of people.

    Uncontained failure is a design and certification issue, really. It’s not exactly rocket science. The engine and its enclosure either handle the event, or they don’t. Not very subtle. Certification standards are supposed to require that a worst case engine burst does not bring the airplane down. In this case, it appears that it didn’t …. but it was way too close for comfort. It would not have taken much to push this operation into the realm of disaster from the realm of close call. The margin of safety is not very reassuring.

    We’ve had the Airbus into NYC because a crewmember was a little too aggressive with the rudder pedals and the vertical stabilizer broke off, another Airbus into the Atlantic because its airspeed sensing system wasn’t up to the job and probably failed in the middle of a bad thunderstorm (one place where you really cannot be without a sound airspeed sensing system), and now an Airbus with uncontained engine failure on the biggest passenger carrying machine in the world.

    I’m not liking this, it is starting to look like a possible pattern of lousy design and certification.

  43. 43
    DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective says:

    Found it. An extremely innocuous but seldom used aviation technical term triggers your piece of shit filter for no apparent reason.

    I can only hope that an uncontained filter failure brings this piece of crap website down one day for good. It would serve the assholes right who designed that filter.

    In 30 years of slinging code, I met maybe two guys who couldn’t have designed the thing better. I think both of them killed themselves.

  44. 44
    trollhattan says:

    @DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective:

    Here’s your starting point:

    http://codex.wordpress.org/Spam_Words

    Some of them are head-scratchers. I actually know a “Th0r Car1son” who was flummoxed when I directed him to the list.

  45. 45
    LikeableInMyOwnWay says:

    @trollhattan:

    Thanks. But I’m intemperate on this. I know, hard to believe that I would be intemperate :)

    But …. making people look things up in a codex word list is just proof of how bad their gadget really is.

    At least these guys aren’t doing avionics software … I hope.

    Well, they could be working for Airbus.

  46. 46
    Annamal says:

    Um yeah not to blemish what is obviously an extraordinary piece of flying but QANTAS has in the past had a bit of a reputation for bits falling off their planes .

    A couple of years ago it seemed as if you couldn’t go for more than a month without some kind of incident involving a QANTAS flight.

  47. 47
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    Qantas never crashes.

    Yes it does, but with propellors. They just haven’t lost a jet yet.

  48. 48
    MichaelN says:

    @Don K:

    Of course, the manner in which you have just lost both engines off of your 767 has a very large influence on the depth and consistency of the shit you are in. The most famous example involves fuel exhaustion at 41,000 feet.

  49. 49
    Charlie says:

    Lesson Learned – Airbus A380 can withstand great stress

  50. 50
    Henry says:

    Viva BrisVegas is right. Qantas has crashed several planes, some with fatalities, including several De Havillands in Papua New Guinea.

  51. 51
    Big G says:

    Oh yes, Qantas has crashed a jet, a Longreach 747 no less. I was in Bangkok in ’99 when this happened:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qantas_Flight_1

    However, it’s technically true about their never losing a plane, since the “aircraft was repaired at great expense to preserve Qantas’s record of never losing a jet aircraft”

    There’s no price tag on saving face…

    If I recall, it’s the 15th hole fairway of the Royal Thai Airforce’s golf course at the end of the run way that’s now called ‘The Qantas Approach’.

  52. 52
    Iris K. says:

    @gene108: This is absolutely hilarious!!!!

Comments are closed.