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Technical Support From Ground  
User currently offlineCaptjetblast From Argentina, joined Aug 2001, 281 posts, RR: 0
Posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 2867 times:

I guess every airline (and aircraft manufacturers) keep teams available for support (from ground) in case a plane, while in flight, declares any kind of emergency.

At least that's what we learned from some famous movies like Airport XX.

I'm wrong?

19 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineAvt007 From Canada, joined Jul 2000, 2132 posts, RR: 5
Reply 1, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 2843 times:

Every airline has a mtce control department whose staff deals with problems with the a/c while they are flying, or parked, taxiing, whatever. They get radio calls from the a/c and try to sort out what action is needed, then organize it with the mtce staff at the airport the flight is going to. I don't know about the manufacturers though. The operators know the a/c as well as the builders, and if it is a real emergency, no one has time to call A or B for help.

User currently offlineOPNLguy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 2839 times:

...and to add to the above, most airlines (here in the US, anyways) have policies that include the dispatcher in the loop. Pilots and dispatchers routinely communicate during flight (either via voice radio or ACARS), much more so than the crews do with MX. When some MX problem arises, the crews call their dispatcher, and we in turn hook-up a three-way patch with the MX controller. We can also access an on-call Boeing tech rep if the situation warrants.

Having all three folks (crew, dispatcher, MX controller) is a check and balance system to preclude some potentially bad outcomes should some factor (outside one's specialty) be overlooked.


User currently offlineVC-10 From United Kingdom, joined Oct 1999, 3701 posts, RR: 34
Reply 3, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 2835 times:
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I work as a Maint Controller in the UK. If an a/c has a problem they will call us direct for help. Should the situation warrant a diversion we will tell the Capt. our preferred diversion station (where the best support is) and he will then liase with Operation as to where they will go. In turn we will talk to Ops directly to explain the reasons for our preference and the implications if the a/c doesn't go there i.e. no suitably qualified staff, no spares on station, difficulty in getting the spares to that station and so on.

Comms with the a/c can be through Satcom, HF and ACARS or possibly all three. To aid the decision making process you can down load directly from the a/c a system report and a Present Leg Fault Report which details all the messages the Crew are seeing and also what information the Central Maint Computer is receiving. From this we have a very good idea what is wrong, what troubleshooting action to take and what spares will be required. In fact with these systems we can have the spares at the gate before the a/c arrives.


User currently offlineChief From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 89 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 2765 times:

That's a "touchy" subject. If a flight crew has an "airworthiness" problem, they should be making it to the nearest airport. "PERIOD".

This isn't the Starship Enterprise with Scottie pulling rabbits out of his hat.

If there is time, I will gladly read and relay info from Tech Manuals, but never offer speculation to Flight Crew's when they are in the air.


User currently offlineVC-10 From United Kingdom, joined Oct 1999, 3701 posts, RR: 34
Reply 5, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 2747 times:
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Chief,

I thought it went without saying the final decision lies with the Capt. Obviously if the a/c is 'falling' apart he will go to nearest airport but normally we are contacted about system problems.

An recent example is when we were called by an a/c that was suffering an engine oil leak and the Capt called requesting advise on whether we wanted him to return, divert or carry on and at what point we advised he shutdown the engine. We downloaded the engine info at regular intervals and monitored the situation and cut a long story short the a/c got to its destination, saving the cost's of dumped fuel (if he had returned) and the costs of a diversion.

My point is that with modern technology we can obtain a very good picture of a/c & system status from thousands of miles away and give the Capt an accurate picture of the state of his/her a/c and from this detailed info the Capt make make the correct decision. Speculation is reduced to a minimum.


User currently offlineChief From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 89 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 2697 times:

I suppose up links, down loads and satellite transfers are fast becoming a way of aviation. But we still have a few decades to go before all the older A/C still in use are modified or rendered obsolete.

Until then, the Flight Crews are still going to have to study systems and CRM.

We have procedures for dealing with oil leaks as well. If oil pressure indication and low oil pressure warning systems test normally the flight may continue, (with or without) my consent.

The only thing I see in VC-10's scenario is the transfer of blame in the event of catastrophic engine failure from the flight crew to ground maintenance. Since this particular flight turned out well I can just imagine the tall tails of nursing the stricken 747 across the Atlantic that swash buckling crew had to tell at the bar that night.


User currently offlineVC-10 From United Kingdom, joined Oct 1999, 3701 posts, RR: 34
Reply 7, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 2678 times:
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catastrophic engine failure - I think we are being a little dramatic there to try and make a point. How many oil leaks have resulted in a "catastrophic" engine failure, provided the engine was shut down before the oil ran out? Even with "old fashioned" a/c they keep the engine running provided there is qty indicated and the LOP light is out.

Maint were not giving consent, we were giving advice backed up by real time data supplied by the a/c to enable the Flight Crew to make an informed decision. As we have already agreed the Capt is in charge.

Naturally the first piece of advice we gave was you can continue to run the engine until the LOP light came on, however maint would like the engine shut down before that point to avoid the possibility of an engine change should the leak prove to be external (which it was).


User currently offlineKellmark From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 692 posts, RR: 8
Reply 8, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 2660 times:

This is an interesting and controversial topic. Every airline in the US and Canada that I am familiar with does have some sort of maintenance expertise available to the crew, as well as a licensed aircraft dispatcher responsible for watching the flight and ensuring that it has the latest and best information necessary for safety of flight. However, many airlines outside the US and Canada do not even have communication equipment in the cockpit or on the ground to communicate with the crew when they need it. Some aircraft are simply "launched' and if they arrive, they arrive. They depend solely on Air Traffic Control to provide them with support. But ATC has no expertise for this. They have no dispatcher or maintenance controller to help them. The UK, for example, although they may have good systems in some ways,especially maintenance, they do not have a requirement of licensed aircraft dispatchers to ensure the safe operation of their flights. Even the Swiss, who have a supposedly excellent reputation do not have the requirement of licensed aircraft dispatchers. In July of this year, a Swiss Saab 2000 crashed in Berlin at a closed airport at night in bad weather as he was running out of fuel, pleading for help from ATC. It wiped off the gear. Luckily noone was killed. The flight flew directly into the worst weather. The crew had no support from an aircraft dispatcher, no communications whatsoever from the airline as there was no requirement for it. But they needed it that night.

The point is that the amount and quality of support can vary greatly depending upon the regulatory scheme and the infrastructure that the airline provides. And the passenger that boards a flight of a particular airline has no idea whether they have these systems to support the flight and crew or not. The airplanes all look the same, but they are certainly not all given the same support.


User currently offlineAAR90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 3471 posts, RR: 47
Reply 9, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 2633 times:

VC-10,

Reading your comments reminded me of a B757 incident I had once. JFK-SAN flight over Kansas the Capt. noticed the left engine oil quantity decreasing. Contacted dispatch & phone-patched with maintenance who immediately downloaded engine data via ACARS. The next 30 minutes were spent trying to convince the maintenance controller that the oil quantity display was showing less and less. He wouldn't accept that since his ACARS downlinks kept showing no decrease. Eventually the Capt. quit talking with maintenance and simply told the dispatcher our ETA at DFW and that she should "be ready."

From my viewpoint (FO flying "solo"), it was "no big deal." Then again, I wasn't the one talking to maintenance for 30 minutes and not getting my message understood. Sometimes you gotta trust those actually looking at the guages.  Big grin In the end, we still had to shutdown the engine when the quantity level entered the "red" --a required procedure even with no other abnormal indications. Captain's divert to DFW was based upon knowing the shutdown would require immediate landing at nearest suitable airport. His post-incident comment was: The FAA's first question after you've just performed a single-engine, nighttime mid-winter emergency landing in Vail, Colorado will be: "When did you notice.....?" And your answer will be.... Salina, Kansas?  Confused [more than an hour earlier] Naw, I don't think I want to answer that type of question.  Innocent







*NO CARRIER* -- A Naval Aviator's worst nightmare!
User currently offlineKellmark From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 692 posts, RR: 8
Reply 10, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 2634 times:

AAR90

Excellent points. The maintenance guy put a little too much faith in computers and not enough in what the crew was telling him.

It also brings to mind a situation I had years ago as a dispatcher when a crew called on an LAX-PHL 757 flight , and had a vibration problem in #1 engine. They had to power back the engine, but hadn't shut it down. Maintenance was on line and wanted the airplane to go to ATL. I said no as the weather there was 1/2 mile with thunderstorms. We went to Chicago, better weather, the crew had to shut the engine down on final. Made it in no problem. But it didn't happen when they were on final into the bad weather in ATL. Just shows that you need the best input you can get. And the captain has to be comfortable with whatever decsion is made.


User currently offlineVC-10 From United Kingdom, joined Oct 1999, 3701 posts, RR: 34
Reply 11, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 2622 times:
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AAR90 & Kellmark,

I have no problem with what you say. As was said earlier in this thread the Capt has the final say.

Maint just try to supply as much support information as possible to enable the Flt Deck crew to make an informed decision. We have our alternate 'field preferences for speedy a/c recovery after diversion but those preferences don't allow for en-route/destination weather etc. That is why we express our preference to the Crew and to Ops so that between them they can make the final decision based their areas of expertise and, if they can accommodate us, Engineering preferences. Obviously the safe termination of the flight comes first

For non-aviation people, don't get the idea that this sort of thing is a daily occurrence. 99% of the calls I get are to do with inoperative IFE or toilets !


User currently offlineOPNLguy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 2616 times:

>>>99% of the calls I get are to do with inoperative IFE or toilets !

Don't forget the coffeemakers....  Big grin

Alan, good to see you here...

Many of the issues here on this thread were in:

http://www.airliners.net/discussions/tech_ops/read.main/52662/

As Alan mentioned, lot's of differences in the regulatory scheme, depending upon where one is in the world. A key point also is that we (pilots, MX, dispatchers) all have our individual specialities and expertise in certain areas, and the goal is dealing with an in-flight problem is to make sure all operational disciplines have had their say so that nothing gets overlooked.

Wonder how the process worked in the Hapag-Lloyd A310 fuel starvation at VIE a couple of years back. Surely, everyone wanted the aircraft back closer to home where an aircraft swap and repairs could be made, but who was it that let these factors override the fact that extended flight with gear-down was going to use up a boatload of fuel, moreso than they had onboard? Over-reliance on the FMC (which doesn't consider abnormal aircraft configurations when computing fuel)?

A Happy New Year to all...




User currently offlineVC-10 From United Kingdom, joined Oct 1999, 3701 posts, RR: 34
Reply 13, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 2600 times:
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Sometimes you gotta trust those actually looking at the guages.

I don't know what the CMC/EICAS architecture on the newer 757 is like, I gained my 757 experience when they were 'state of the art'. On the a/c I deal with now the d/loaded data comes from exactly the same source as the EICAS screen data so Maint see exactly the same data as the Flt Crew.

Once again happy New Year


User currently offlineAAR90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 3471 posts, RR: 47
Reply 14, posted (11 years 8 months 1 week 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 2579 times:

>On the a/c I deal with now the d/loaded data comes from exactly the same source as
>the EICAS screen data so Maint see exactly the same data as the Flt Crew.

Supposedly that was true in my instance as well. However, post-flight investigation revealed the ACARS pickup was from the oil quantity transmitter (it was working fine), but there was a chaffing wire between the transmitter and the EICAS display causing a short --and therefore decreasing & eventually zero oil quantity on the display (no other indications).

>That is why we express our preference to the Crew and to Ops so that between
>them they can make the final decision based their areas of expertise....

In my situation the young, eager, ex-USN co-pilot quickly opined: "TUL is nearby and they can fix ANYTHING!" The wise old Captain smiles and says: "yeah, but can they get 200+ folks home tonite?" Yep, learned a lot during that one little ol' divert.  Smile/happy/getting dizzy



*NO CARRIER* -- A Naval Aviator's worst nightmare!
User currently offlineChief From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 89 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (11 years 8 months 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 2501 times:

I made a career path decision two decades ago and am quite happy with it! I am a professional aircraft maintenance technician.

Please give us clear, concise data regarding any anomaly that you flight crews observe. We love a challenge and will get to the root cause with the right data.

If something goes wrong in flight, and you ask my opinion, I will advise landing the A/C at the closest airport, period. What else can I do? Forget windows XP and all the download stuff, as I said before, this isn't Star Trek.

I have on quite a few occasions met A/C that didn't make their destination and briefed the Pax that "this flight didn't make it's intended destination because we have an unexplained anomaly, and don't you wish someone took this good care of your car?"

The point is, maintenance works on A/C when A/C are on the ground.


User currently offlineVC-10 From United Kingdom, joined Oct 1999, 3701 posts, RR: 34
Reply 16, posted (11 years 8 months 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 2497 times:
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Chief,

As I said previously, I have no problem with what you say if the problem is of an airworthiness issue.

However 99% of the calls concern toilets and IFE. Last night I had a call from an a/c that was one hour into a 12 Hr flt and 75% of the toilets had packed up with a full load of pax. He was on the verge of turning back but after requesting a system reset and pulling a few CB's we got the toilets back and the a/c continued to destination.

Direct cost of turnback and delayed flt? In the region £150,000. Add to that the cost's of being an a/c down at destination. That is money that airlines can ill afford to throw away unnecessarily in the hard times.

If the aircraft you work with have this technology you have use it to its full advantage, you can't bury your head in the sand.


User currently offlineL-188 From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 29795 posts, RR: 58
Reply 17, posted (11 years 8 months 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 2493 times:

Actually are you referring to chatting amiablely on the radio or are you asking about real tech support from the ground???




The two can hardly be compared.



OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
User currently offlineChief From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 89 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (11 years 8 months 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 2435 times:

VC-10, you win! The newest A/C in my fleet was mfg in 93, I can't "download" a potty "in flight".

Turd sensors in biffys?, "beam me up Scotty, there is no intelligent life here".


User currently offlineFredT From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2002, 2185 posts, RR: 26
Reply 19, posted (11 years 8 months 20 hours ago) and read 2418 times:

Just a few thoughts on and around the subject, not really in reply to anything or anyone in particular.

No, crews will (hopefully) never be able to skip the systems knowledge part of training. In fact, I'd to see crews be required to know more than they have to today - but the line has to be drawn somewhere, everybody can't know everything. Now, before I offend anyone, most crews have a high degree of knowledge of their machine's systems. It's in their interest after all, they're the ones strapping the things to their backsides. But it is possible to get away with knowing quite little and understanding even less...

The day they do get systems knowledge out of pilot training, I'll go by boat. Computers and comms do fail.

But the fact remains: Pilots know flying. They have to know enough about the systems to handle malfunctions and get the aircraft back on the ground safely in almost every manageable situation you can think of. But not more. And there are those situations nobody thought of. Sioux City?

Engineers have to know more. This means they're more able to figure out what is wrong with an aircraft. Sometimes, it may turn out to be something minor even though it seemed worse at first, or something easily solved. If so, the flight can continue - if, and only if, the crew agrees. It is their responsibility and their call. If it is not something minor, the flight should be aborted to sort it out on the ground. In that case, asking an engineer is not really necessary - but could be a smart move, air safety wise. Checklists and pilot training can never go into the kind of detail engineering training can - nor will engineering training ever include all the details of flying an NDB approach.

Safety involves taking all the information available that you can handle, pass it through what your training has taught you, give it as much of a think as there is time for and do what you think is best. In some situations (unexpected finding of Great White Shark in #2 fan at V1+1), there's no time to think or consult at all. In other situations there is, and it would be foolish to refrain from using an available source of additional information on the problem. What appears to be a "normal abnormality" at first look might well be something else. Something your training thought too unlikely to tell you about but which someone elses training might have included.

Every disturbance is a safety risk. The likeliness of having an accident is significantly higher during a diversion than during a routine flight. New airport, outside of the normal operation of the ATC system etc etc. So, if it was something minor which an R/T call to engineering could have sorted out, a diversion is putting passenger and crew lives at risk for no reason - not playing it safe at all.

Cheers,
Fred



I thought I was doing good trying to avoid those airport hotels... and look at me now.
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