First off, if all you know about
a plane crash is what you saw on television you know less than nothing
I say less than because watching a program like that gives you the illusion that you are gaining information when in fact the details are dumbed down
in the script to the point where reality is lost, meanings are blurred.
When a plane crash pops up on CNN, I know less about it than all my neighbors. They all become instant experts while I wait until I get actual hard data before I form any opinions about it. This is almost surreal because I know more about the design, construction and operation of airliners than all the "experts" at all the television networks combined. Or at least I think I do based on the moronic statements they make (or at least that the video editors make it appear that they have made)
Case in point: "Experts" say that the 6 ro 7 sm visibility JFK
Jr. had over the sound was adequate for visual flight. Truth: What good is seven miles visibility at night when the nearest "lighted object" is more than twelve miles away. He was in a virtual black hole.
Case in point: Mary Schiavo says of the MD
-80 after the crash of AS261 that they should put "two jackscrews" on them. That and your suggestion that they put a "failsafe device" both display a non-comprehension of what are called the "simple machines" that most of us learned in about the 7th grade.
You can't drive a jackscrew any way but by rotating it.
Can you grab the head of a bolt and pull on it hard enough to make the nut spin off? Of course not! The jackscrew IS
the safety device. The dynamic airloads ("Q") on the horizontal stabilizer of a plane like an MD
-80 are absolutely staggering. Any means used to change the angle of that plane to the relative wind must be strong enough to hold them firmly against "feathering" forces. If they did not use a jackscrew they would have had to use some other very simple device that was JUST AS
IMMOVABLE when locked.
No one with any comprehension of the engineering problems would suggest such a "solution" as that.
Next: Time between overhaul, inspection, or replacement.
Virtually every time- or cycle limited piece of virtually every airliner at virtually every airline in virtually every country is flown beyond the original manufacturer's suggested life limit. Engines with a TBO of, say 1200 hours are being flown out to six or eight thousand "ON CONDITION"
There are several reasons for this. First, under US Federal Aviation Regulations you can get an exemption to almost any rule if you can demonstrate an "equivalent level of safety." This recognizes reality. The true experts are not the FAA but the people IN
the industry. They are the regulators, we are the do-ers. They regulate to make sure that the profit motive does not lead operators to make unrealistic judgements regarding safety issues.
Second, manufacturer's have a big legal department whose job it is to limit their liability exposure. They hold more influence in the boardroom with each large court settlement. An engineer at McDonnell Douglas once told me that the legal department at McDoug was opposed to the development of the DC-9 dash 20, 30, 40, 50 and 80 because each successive model could be construed as an admission that there was something "wrong with" the dash ten. And so manufacturers set their overhaul limits low.
We monitor metals in the oil. We monitor N1
, EGT, Fuel Flow, EPR along with TAS, Mach number, altitude, and temperature when the readings were taken. (done automatically now) We borescope engines at intervals. There are probably other checks that are done that I am not even aware of. We find that the engines (for one example) last longer than the builder says they do. We can keep them on the wing (or tail pylon) longer as long as their condition permits. As long as they are developing full power and don't have certain metals showing up in the oil.
Most of us experienced pilots would rather have an engine out there with some time on it than have a brand-new one right off the factory floor.
There are similar truths about the MD
-80 jackscrew. I'll leave that to someone better informed. I do know that AS
had procedures in place that seemed reasonable, responsible and appropriate. The problem may have begun with the mixing of two different lubricants, (with no warning labels) as I recall.
I'll also leave two questions to those on the forum with a better legal education than mine.
There are certain criteria to justify bringing manslaughter charges. The accidental causing of deaths alone does not necessarily warrant this. Lawyers care to comment?
There is also a set of criteria to determine whether a person such as Eugdog
might be guilty of libel against Alaska Airlines and the pilots of Flight 261.
* * *
is it your suggestion that the pilots should have flown the plane onto a runway at the existing speed, with the gear and flaps up?
Of course they changed the configuration. I have experienced a couple of really scary (is there any other kind?) flight control malfunctions. With a problem like that I want to configure a long way out, and with enough sky below me to recover if the plane departs stable flight when I change something. Sadly, the plane could not be recovered. I doubt that anyone could have regained control after that next-to-last departure.
You have had the luxury of forming your opinion after reading all the post-crash data. They did not. They were making decisions without knowing that the jackscrew was damaged. I am surpised that a professional, as you seem to be would make such a statement.
If a plane is having control problems there are just a few possibilities:
One: The problem only exists in the present configuration or speed or:
Two: It is not going away but if I slow down and configure for landing:
A. It is going to get better or
B. It is going to get worse.
But they did not know any of these things. They did know that they could not fly the plane onto the ground at 440 knots with gear and flaps up.
* * *
All other readers
of a thread like this, consider the actual qualifications of the person making the reply. The technical issues are rarely black and white. They are NEVER as simple as a pseudo-techie TV
program makes them appear.
Sorry about the long rant.
My apologies to those on whose toes I have trod. It is not individuals I wanted to shred, but ideas that I deem ill-considered.
Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.