|Quoting Philb (Reply 26):|
Quoting 777236ER (Reply 9):
What was amazing (to me) is how a modern (at the time) aircraft at a busy airport with significant fire-fighting capability involved in a moderate pooled-fuel fire with half of the doors working and light wind resulted in 50+ deaths.
Going back to this point, I've just read the AAIB report's precis regarding the primary cause. To quote:
"As the aircraft turned off, a wind of 7 knots from 250° carried the fire onto and around the rear fuselage. After the aircraft stopped the hull was penetrated rapidly and smoke, possibly with some flame transients, entered the cabin through the aft right door which was opened shortly before the aircraft came to a halt. Subsequently fire developed within the cabin. Despite the prompt attendance
of the airport fire service, the aircraft was destroyed and 55 persons on board lost their lives.
The cause of the accident was an uncontained failure of the left engine, intitiated by a failure of the No 9 combustor can which had been the subject of a repair. A section of the combustor can, which was ejected forcibly from the engine, struck and fractured an underwing fuel tank access panel. The fire which resulted developed catastrophically, primarily because of adverse orientation of the parked aircraft relative to the wind, even though the wind was light.
Major contributory factors were the vulnerability of the wing tank access panels to impact, a lack of any effective provision for fighting major fires inside the aircraft cabin, the vulnerability of the aircraft hull to external fire and the extremely toxic nature of the emissions from the burning interior"
What I had forgotten when I typed my post re the day before was the aircraft had performed two sectors between the engine runs and the fatal take off attempt. Quoting the report again:
"The aircraft documents on the flight deck were examined and an entry in the technical log (entered on the previous day) relating to slow acceleration of No 1 (left) engine was discussed, the co-pilot having been a member of the
crew on that occasion. As there had been no reported problems on the two flights after remedial action had been carried out, the commander signed his acceptance of the aircraft in the technical log."
Obviously there are around 220 people who, in addition to the accident survivors, are lucky to have survived their journey in that aircraft between the late afternoon of the 21st and the morning of the 22nd when it logged 7 hours 14 minutes in flight, arriving back at Manchester at 04.30 on the morning of the accident.
It is interesting to note the terms used in the official document and the information that was coming out during the investigation. A number of contemporary professional aviation journals and accident updates refer to the engine problems on the flight fom Greece on the morning of the 21st and previously on the 18th and 5th of August in a much more expansive way than the official report but the official report quotes the tech log and it is engine spool up and acceleration problems that are logged.
After the engine runs on the afternoon of the 21st, the fault was logged as an acceptable deferred defect and crews were asked to note further problems with a view to sending the aircraft to Gatwick for further checks if necessary. No snags were noted on the two sectors flown in the late evening and early morning of 21/22 August.
In some ways it is a long time ago. In others it seems like yesterday but the lessons for safety in 100% survivable aircraft accidents were some of the most significant ever.
Very few aircraft come to a halt in a serious emergency with the whole complement of crew and passengers uninjured and able to eveacuate. Had the Manchester event not happened I just wonder what the consequences would have been for the A340 pax and crew at Toronto?