Something to think about

Mon Jan 04, 1999 9:25 pm

Another tragic air crash was remembered last week as passengers of United Airlines Flight 173 reunited on the 20th anniversary of Portland, Oregon’s deadliest plane crash. Although the final result was much less severe than could have been the case, the 188 survivors will always remember their fear as the DC-8 with landing gear trouble ran low on fuel as it approached PDX 20 years ago. When the engines flamed out, the plane glided silently for 44 seconds before crash-landing on the city's east side. Ten people -- eight passengers and two crewmembers -- died in the crash. Twenty-three were injured, but most walked away from the battered fuselage. The FAA initially blamed the pilot, Captain Malburn McBroom, for the accident, saying he should have known the plane was running out of fuel, and consequently pulled his license. Later, it was learned that the gauges were not as accurate as the flight manuals led the pilots to believe. Those who turned out for the reunion credited the pilot with saving their lives and gave him a long, standing ovation as he was introduced.

RE: Something to think about

Mon Jan 04, 1999 9:31 pm

This poor guy was crucified and hung out to dry by the FAA and his own carrier.
Posts: 305
Joined: Sat May 22, 1999 12:31 am

RE: Something to think about

Mon Jan 04, 1999 11:30 pm

l have just been quickly reading up on this particular incident, as l am quite rusty with remembering what exactly took place. This is what l understand of this incident.
"First" lt's very hard to judge what really happened without listening to the CVR to judge the conduct and mood of the flight deck, and having a time span, and times to judge the situation properly. But l still believe that the crew performed reasonably during their difficulties, for the standards of the day. This crash was one of a few that brought the world's airlines to the attention of CRM ( Cockpit Resource Management). This crew as far as l can see did not have the procedural training that most flight crews recieve today. What could be considered poor for today's standards, l think that for those days the crew performed okay considering their situation. l think the captain got hung due to the fact that he was not fully aware and/or trained in CRM, and that it was a new word that the FAA where playing with, and hung him with it.
"Second" l'm lead to believe that there was a fault with the fuel indication system. The fault was with the rigging or type of fuel indicators used. The DC-8 that crashed was a Super 61, and it had fuel indication rigging for a Super 62/63 which has a larger outer wing/outer fuel tank. Once again it is very hard to judge the exact situation, but from what l can make from reading the documents of the CVR, l feel that 4000lb's (1820KG's) of fuel did seem to vanish very quickly. Whats your thoughts..???
"Third" Considering his low altiude, sudden loss of engines, and most of all at night, he placed the DC-8 down so well considering all the circumstances. Which is something l take my hat off to, because l failed my first attemp at my PPL due to stuffing up my forced landings...:-)
"Fourth" Do you know what happened to the Flight Engineer? As l understand it, he should and has equal responsibility to the captain, especially during such a situation. l'd love to know what happened to him. Anyone know?
Finally, and as l said this incident was one of the few that made CRM a common word to all of us in the aviation industry, and it once again it made aviation a safer form of travel which we all enjoy today.
Any further thoughts to this would be good.
All the best..
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Joined: Sat May 22, 1999 9:47 am

RE: Something to think about

Tue Jan 05, 1999 12:01 am

I agree will. Any pilot who could put a DC8 down in the middle of a city
deserves an airmanship award.

RE: Something to think about

Tue Jan 05, 1999 12:02 am

I remember reading about this accident in the archives of sci.aeronautics.airliners (See If I am not mistaken the Captain ordered the 2nd officer out of the cockpit after the 2nd officer tired to insist that fuel was now a bigger problem than the gear. I also believe that one of the dead was the 2nd officer who was sitting in First Class at the time of the crash.

If this is correct then both the company and the FAA were justified in their treatment of the Captain.

Just my opinion based on the facts that I remember. I may be totally wrong.

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Joined: Sat May 22, 1999 12:31 am


Tue Jan 05, 1999 12:52 am

G'day TAD.
Your post made me hit the books hard, l'm frantically reading up on it now. You were right to my surprise about the second officer. The Captain should have used his resources, "l think". But at this point it becomes a bit complicated for me, and a opinion on the captain's action's or CRM in this situation are better formed by someone here who is a pilot, who is trained better than me in this CRM stuff.
Can anyone give us any thoughts on this.
BTW Tad. Many thanks for the good post, lt's gets us all thinking.
All the best..
Posts: 305
Joined: Sat May 22, 1999 12:31 am

RE: The Flight Engineer..

Tue Jan 05, 1999 12:55 am

G'day All.
After going through this a little, and in reference to a question of mine in my first post. l regret to find out that the Flight Engineer was one of those unfortunatly killed in this incident.
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Joined: Thu Jun 03, 1999 3:05 am

RE: Something to think about

Tue Jan 05, 1999 1:52 am

Thank you, aviator_ua, Will and TAD, for your informative posts. It made us aware of how demanding a job piloting a commercial airliner really is. By the way, if this was a scheduled flight, it should have had enough fuel to complete the flight. Unless there was a fuel leak the captain should have an idea when he is running out of fuel based on the distance flown. Was there a fuel leak?

RE: Something to think about

Tue Jan 05, 1999 2:21 am

No Fuel Leak. There was a problem (at least a lack of a green indicator) with one leg of the landing gear. They had plenty of fuel when the arrived in the Portland area but used it up flying around in holding patterns and talked to the company in SF trying to solve the problem. The Captain was so concerned about the gear problem that he did not pay close enough attention to the fuel problem.

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RE: Something to think about

Tue Jan 05, 1999 3:14 am

Oh yes, I remember reading a whole article about this crash in the Airliners magazine. I also think that the captain did not receive full CRM training like every pilot should have, he probably had a bad attitude in the cockpit. I remember reading that the FAA revoked the captain's licence, I don't think the First Officer had his revoked. The poor flight engineer, trying to help the captain, died. The captain did not pay enought attention to fuel, like you said.
Aviator-ua, have you flown the DC-8?

Kind regards
Ben Soriano
Posts: 955
Joined: Tue May 18, 1999 2:59 am

RE: Something to think about

Tue Jan 05, 1999 6:17 am

Although tragic, this crash was beneficial to the aviation community, and to United especially. You can see the results in the 747 incident over Honolulu and 1989's Sioux City crash. Both recoveries were super-human feats by the flight crews. They are shining examples of efficient CRM in emergency situations.

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