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NW: MSP Fly-Over Explanation? Interesting Read  
User currently offlineSeatback From United States of America, joined Mar 2002, 774 posts, RR: 0
Posted (4 years 11 months 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 7038 times:

This is an email I got from my father who is a retired AA captain. I don't know the author but this tries to explain the MSP fly-over event. Makes sense to me, but I'm not a pilot. Additionally, I don't know if the events listed herein are true, but it does attempt to give an explanation.

***************************************************************


...On their flight from San Diego to Minneapolis, after passing Denver, the f/a called the cockpit to let them know Tim's crew meal was ready. Tim was the "flying pilot" on this leg, so he told his F/O that when the f/a brings the meal up, he will step back to use the restroom. When Tim returned, the F/A left the cockpit and he began to eat his crew meal. When a pilot leaves to use the restroom, it is customary for the other pilot to brief him on his return on "any changes", such as altitude, heading, course changes or atc center frequency changes, etc. In this instance, nothing was said....even though the f/o had received a frequency change. The problem that occurred was that the f/o never got a response on the new frequency....it was not the correct frequency....it was a Winnipeg Canada Center Freq.


Now, Denver Center is trying to get a hold of them because they never checked in, because the f/o had dialed in the wrong freq......that is who called them so many times....but, then there was a shift change at Denver Center and no one briefed the new controller that there was a NORDO A/C (non communications) in their airspace....so, in actuality, atc basically "lost" this a/c.....see Wall Street Journal article below.


Tim told me he heard atc chatter on the speaker and so never thought they were out of radio range.....but, of course, they were hearing pilots talk on Winnipeg Center. For non-pilots.....when we don’t hear anything for a long while...we ask atc if they are still there....sometimes they are and sometimes you are out of their area and need to find a new frequency. With this chatter going on, there was no concern that they were not being controlled.


Then Tim told the f/o that the new bidding system was horrible and that his November schedule was not what he hoped for. He mentioned that his son was going into the Army in Dec. and he wanted certain days off so he could see him off.....the f/o said he could help him, he knew more about the new bidding system. Tim got his lap top out and put it on his left leg and showed the f/o how he bid. He told me he had his lap top out for maybe 2 minutes. Then the f/o said that he would show him how to do it on his laptop. He had his laptop out maximum of 5 minutes.


Let's also add the 100 kt tail wind that they had to the discussion, not helping matters.


The f/a's called the cockpit on the interphone(no they did not kick the door, no, no one was sleeping, no, no one was fighting) and asked when they will get there. They looked at their nav screens and were directly over MSP. Because they had their screens set on the max, 320 kt setting, when the f/o called on the frequency, which of course was Winnipeg Center, he saw Eau Claire and Duluth on his screen. They asked where they were and the f/o told them over Eau Claire, which was not even close, but MSP had disappeared from the screen even though they were right over the city.


They were, as you all know, vectored all over the sky to determine if they had control of the a/c and Tim kept telling the f/o to tell them they have control they want to land at MSP, etc. They landed with 11,000 pounds of fuel (no they did not come in on fumes, but had 2 hours in an A320) and not but 15 minutes past schedule, even though they left San Diego 35 minutes late due to an atc flow restriction.


In the jet-way awaiting them were FBI and every other authority you can imagine.


Aftermath and tidbits:


Although these pilots filed an NASAP Report, which was designed to have pilots tell the truth about events, so the FAA could learn from them, they had their licenses revoked by the ATL F.A.A. even before they came out of their meeting with NTSB and NASAP meetings.


ATL FAA is really big on this new regulation which will allow pilots to take a short nap in flight so they will be rested for the approach...they were insistent that they were sleeping.


MSP FAA, Vance (do not know last name) was the person who handed Tim his revocation letter(which was leaked to the entire world by the ATL FAA). Tim said Vance had tears in his eyes and walked away, said nothing. It was later learned that the entire MSP FAA office did not agree at all with revoking their pilot's licenses, but had no jurisdiction over the matter, since ATL FAA had control because of Delta.


The pilots have been to Wash. D.C., ATL and MSP for several meetings. In ATL, they met with the chief pilots and Tim said they could not have been nicer. They are working to resolve this, not to try and fire them. But of course, they will have to get their license back for Delta to consider allowing them to continue flying. The appeal has been files for the FAA to reinstate their licenses or to settle on some form of punishment, etc.


When Tim and his wife were in MSP for a meeting with the NTSB, they happen to be staying at the same hotel as the NTSB was. The next morning in the lobby, the NTSB official came over to Tim and said he did not know why they even called them in for this event. There was no safety issue. Also, MSP Center informed Delta that there never was a problem and no aircraft were near their plane. Even though no radio communications, they had been followed and separated.


Yes, the company tried to contact them on ACARS, but the 320 does not have a chime...it has a 30 second light which then extinguishes.
Tim always has 121.5 tuned, but as we all know as pilots, it can get very noisy at times and we turn it down and sometimes forget to turn it back on. He told me this may have been the case.


So there were so many factors which helped to cause this episode. Anyone would have likely prevented it.....properly checking in on the new frequency would have been the first one.....


A note about laptops.....in NWA's A.O.M (I think it stands for airman's operation manual), it does not say we can't use a laptop, however in Delta's A.O.M., it does, we are transitioning now and we actually have pages from both airlines. When our union showed this to the attorney's, they could not believe the confusion put on our pilot group. But, D.C. F.A.A. put out a new possible ruling which will disallow all laptops......so stupid, don't they know Jet Blue has laptops on every aircraft and soon all airliners will for the electronic Jepp charts.

17 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineBrouAviation From Netherlands, joined Jun 2009, 985 posts, RR: 1
Reply 1, posted (4 years 11 months 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 6972 times:

Interesting, it seems all Airliners.net armchair pilots were to quick again with their judgements. It seems things are a bit more complex than others tried to make us believe.

Interesting read, thanks for posting.



Never ask somebody if he's a pilot. If he is, he will let you know soon enough!
User currently offlineSeatback From United States of America, joined Mar 2002, 774 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (4 years 11 months 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 6883 times:

I think it is amazing that all of the "aviation consultants" on the network news shows repeatedly said there could be no other explanation except they fell asleep.

Just goes to show, things are not always as they seem. Seems to be the perfect storm of small mis-steps.


User currently offlineMSPNWA From United States of America, joined Apr 2009, 1975 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (4 years 11 months 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 6702 times:

Basically this would help indicate my belief all along. This was much more complicated than we think, and we really do not have a clue as to what truly happened.

User currently offlineSeatback From United States of America, joined Mar 2002, 774 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (4 years 11 months 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 6557 times:

The public "thinks" they know. I hope Delta's PR machine will rise above the public perception and reinstate these guys if that's the right thing to do.

User currently offlineApodino From United States of America, joined Apr 2005, 4288 posts, RR: 6
Reply 5, posted (4 years 11 months 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 6445 times:



Quoting Seatback (Thread starter):
The f/a's called the cockpit on the interphone(no they did not kick the door, no, no one was sleeping, no, no one was fighting) and asked when they will get there. They looked at their nav screens and were directly over MSP. Because they had their screens set on the max, 320 kt setting, when the f/o called on the frequency, which of course was Winnipeg Center, he saw Eau Claire and Duluth on his screen. They asked where they were and the f/o told them over Eau Claire, which was not even close, but MSP had disappeared from the screen even though they were right over the city.

The only problem with this explanation is the fact that the NW plane was squawking a discrete transponder code the entire time, which means it never would have dropped off of the radar screen. Because of this, if they actually were over MSP and not EAU as this story claims, then when they talked on Frequency the Controller would have identified their position on the radar screen, and would have likely been radar vectored to sequence in with traffic, and I am guessing it would have most likely been to another arrival fix since EAU would be the busiest arrival corridor of the ones serving MSP. Therefore, I do think that the plane was over EAU when radio contact was reestablished, as everyone else is reporting.

The rest of the story is something I can buy, but if its true, why wouldn't the crews respond to ACARS, or at least a selcal? Needless to say, I am not buying this explaination, but that being said, I do believe there is more to this than does appear on the surface.


User currently offlineLTBEWR From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 13148 posts, RR: 15
Reply 6, posted (4 years 11 months 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 6356 times:

There may be some explainations for their behaviors, but the main issue is how it plays out to the public who can't and won't understand their 'excuses'. They were on their laptop computers for personal reasons, not assisting in their flying of the a/c. That is against all common sense no matter if there is a written rule or not. They lost situational and location awareness. They made mistakes and didn't follow proper procedures that could have remotely led to a disaster. It is not unreasonable to suspend these pilots until the investigations and a certain reporting point has passed.

Let us hope there is a continuing investigation, keep confidential until it is over, and a final report in due time.


User currently offlineCubsrule From United States of America, joined May 2004, 23153 posts, RR: 20
Reply 7, posted (4 years 11 months 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 6305 times:



Quoting Seatback (Thread starter):
MSP FAA, Vance (do not know last name) was the person who handed Tim his revocation letter(which was leaked to the entire world by the ATL FAA). Tim said Vance had tears in his eyes and walked away, said nothing. It was later learned that the entire MSP FAA office did not agree at all with revoking their pilot's licenses, but had no jurisdiction over the matter, since ATL FAA had control because of Delta.

Umm... these were NW pilots on the NW certificate. Which FAA office manages the NW certificate?



I can't decide whether I miss the tulip or the bowling shoe more
User currently offlineMir From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 21730 posts, RR: 55
Reply 8, posted (4 years 11 months 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 6271 times:

Okay, several problems with this:

Quoting Seatback (Thread starter):
The problem that occurred was that the f/o never got a response on the new frequency....it was not the correct frequency....it was a Winnipeg Canada Center Freq.

Wrong frequencies do happen, all the time. Normally, one of two things will happen - either the controller for the new frequency will tell the pilot the correct frequency, or there will be no answer. In the latter case, the pilot should return to the last assigned frequency. You don't just figure "oh well, I guess there's no answer" and continue on, fat, dumb and happy. You troubleshoot. That means you go back to the last assigned frequency, and if that doesn't work, call on 121.50.

Quoting Seatback (Thread starter):
then there was a shift change at Denver Center and no one briefed the new controller that there was a NORDO A/C (non communications) in their airspace....so, in actuality, atc basically "lost" this a/c....

They still would have seen the aircraft's data block, and any controller in either Denver or Minneapolis Center would have figured out that the aircraft wasn't responding whenever they tried to get hold of them for a frequency change or something like that. And if ATC did lose them, why was Minneapolis trying so hard to get a hold of them?

Quoting Seatback (Thread starter):
Tim told me he heard atc chatter on the speaker and so never thought they were out of radio range.....but, of course, they were hearing pilots talk on Winnipeg Center.

They were a ways away from Winnipeg's airspace, so I have a hard time believing that they'd be within range of one of Winnipeg's transmitters. They still could have heard pilots, but they wouldn't have heard the center. And when you just hear pilots talking and not the controller, you should know that something is not as it should be, especially up at cruise altitude (it's not uncommon to lose radio contact with ATC if you're on an approach in the middle of nowhere, but that's not where these guys were).

Quoting Seatback (Thread starter):
Then Tim told the f/o that the new bidding system was horrible and that his November schedule was not what he hoped for. He mentioned that his son was going into the Army in Dec. and he wanted certain days off so he could see him off.....the f/o said he could help him, he knew more about the new bidding system. Tim got his lap top out and put it on his left leg and showed the f/o how he bid. He told me he had his lap top out for maybe 2 minutes. Then the f/o said that he would show him how to do it on his laptop. He had his laptop out maximum of 5 minutes.


Let's also add the 100 kt tail wind that they had to the discussion, not helping matters.

The math doesn't really work out here. Let's just say for sake of argument that their true airspeed was 500kts (which is higher than a 320 should be doing, but it's a nice round number), so that would give a groundspeed of 600kts when you factor in the tailwind. The captain on the laptop for 2 minutes plus the F/O on their laptop for 5 minutes makes a total of seven minutes, which at 600kts will get you 70 miles. In other words, just about a quarter of the distance along their route from the Denver Center boundary to MSP. In other words, if they really were directly over MSP when they looked up, they should have started their descent before they started with the laptops, since it takes more than 70 miles to descend from altitude.

That would also lead to the question of why, if they were directly over MSP when they looked up, they went a considerable distance into Wisconsin before turning back. 150 miles at 600kts is still 15 minutes. It should not take 15 minutes to find out where you are and get hold of somebody who can help you.


We don't know what was going on in the cockpit, and we never will due to lack of CVR data, but I'm certainly not buying the story that the crew was a mere victim of conspiring circumstances (for a crew that was a victim of conspiring circumstances, see the NW crew that landed in BRU instead of FRA a long time ago). I can see all of the little isolated events happening on their own, but even if they all did happen exactly like this, the crew still either failed to take measures that they had available to them to correct the situation, or they just lost their situational awareness in a HUGE way. And that's just inexcusable.

-Mir



7 billion, one nation, imagination...it's a beautiful day
User currently offlineJHCRJ700 From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 377 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (4 years 11 months 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 6224 times:

great read. thanks for posting. This makes a lot more sense than all the pilots sleeping.  dopey 


RUSH
User currently offlineLuisKMIA From United States of America, joined Apr 2007, 106 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (4 years 11 months 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 5870 times:

I've become familiar with the 737NG which has a chime when you approach TOD and have not reset the altitude on the MCP. Does Airbus have something similar?

Luis


User currently offlineClearedDirect From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 271 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (4 years 11 months 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 5564 times:



Quoting Mir (Reply 8):
or they just lost their situational awareness in a HUGE way. And that's just inexcusable.

-Mir

What he said....

To me the time and numbers just dont add up. I definately agree that there is more to the story but it is certainly an interesting read/theory.


User currently offlineFlyPNS1 From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 6646 posts, RR: 24
Reply 12, posted (4 years 11 months 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 5257 times:



Quoting ClearedDirect (Reply 11):
To me the time and numbers just dont add up. I definately agree that there is more to the story but it is certainly an interesting read/theory.

Agreed. There are HUGE holes in this story.

Maybe they were sleeping, maybe they were playing too long on their laptops, but no matter what they were doing, they clearly lost situational awareness for way too long. I'm not sure they should be fired for this, but a significant punishment is deserved.


User currently offlineKellmark From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 693 posts, RR: 8
Reply 13, posted (4 years 11 months 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 4500 times:

Are they not required to do a "how goes it" and check their actual time and fuel versus planned as they progressed?

This would have kept their situational awareness as they proceeded from checkpoint to checkpoint. Even private pilots do this.


User currently offlineFlyhigh@tom From United Arab Emirates, joined Sep 2001, 398 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (4 years 11 months 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 4152 times:



Quoting LuisKMIA (Reply 10):
Does Airbus have something similar?

NO Audible chimes like in the 737NG but but a "DECELERATE" message appears on the PFD in WHITE and in AMBER in the MCDU. Agreed that it is not an attention grabber but the DECELERATE keeps screaming at you if you even peep at your PFD!

Basically if this message appears on the screen and we are not yet cleared for the descent, then we slow down to green dot speed (best lift to drag ration in clean config). once we commence descent then we resume normal speed.


User currently offlineYWG From Canada, joined Feb 2001, 1146 posts, RR: 2
Reply 15, posted (4 years 11 months 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 3864 times:



Quoting Seatback (Thread starter):
they were hearing pilots talk on Winnipeg Center.

A friend of mine flying in the Winnipeg area heard them too. I guess this is once they got closer and within range of YWG ARTCC.



Contact Winnipeg center now on 134.4, good day.
User currently offlineB727LVR From United States of America, joined Jul 2008, 630 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (4 years 11 months 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 2163 times:



Quoting Mir (Reply 8):
Wrong frequencies do happen, all the time. Normally, one of two things will happen - either the controller for the new frequency will tell the pilot the correct frequency, or there will be no answer. In the latter case, the pilot should return to the last assigned frequency. You don't just figure "oh well, I guess there's no answer" and continue on, fat, dumb and happy. You troubleshoot. That means you go back to the last assigned frequency, and if that doesn't work, call on 121.50.

Agreed. Somethign sounds fishy with that one...

Quoting Mir (Reply 8):
The math doesn't really work out here. Let's just say for sake of argument that their true airspeed was 500kts (which is higher than a 320 should be doing, but it's a nice round number), so that would give a groundspeed of 600kts when you factor in the tailwind. The captain on the laptop for 2 minutes plus the F/O on their laptop for 5 minutes makes a total of seven minutes, which at 600kts will get you 70 miles. In other words, just about a quarter of the distance along their route from the Denver Center boundary to MSP. In other words, if they really were directly over MSP when they looked up, they should have started their descent before they started with the laptops, since it takes more than 70 miles to descend from altitude.

Something to point out, your math for the time spent on the computers is reasonable, but what about the time the Capt was out using the bathroom? We do not know when in that squence of events the handoff was made. Was it right after he stepped out? How long was he in the bathroom? Was there any time lapse from when he returne ate his meal then started talking about the bidding process and laptop use? Lots of unanswered questions her.

Quoting Mir (Reply 8):
We don't know what was going on in the cockpit, and we never will due to lack of CVR data, but I'm certainly not buying the story that the crew was a mere victim of conspiring circumstances (for a crew that was a victim of conspiring circumstances, see the NW crew that landed in BRU instead of FRA a long time ago).

Very true. This flight could be a good case for having CVR transcripts record more than the last 30 minutes or so of flight. Maybe they should record from 1 to 2 hours if not longer. The time it took them to do the manuvers and finally land at MSP could have recorded over some key information.

I hope some level heads dig into this come up with the answers we are all looking for.



I'm like a kid in a candy store when it comes to planes!
User currently offlineC767P From United States of America, joined Oct 2008, 886 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (4 years 11 months 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 2091 times:



Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 12):
I'm not sure they should be fired for this

Why shouldn’t they be fired? They obviously didn’t take their jobs to seriously. If the FO really wants to help the captain out with the schedule, do it on the ground after the flight.

These guys are paid to fly an airplane, for a while they didn’t do that.

Their flight time ended up being about 35-45 minutes longer compared to what other SAN-MSP flights are. They landed with 2 hours of fuel, meaning they would have planned to have about 2.5 hours of fuel left when landing at MSP. This seems like a lot.


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