lizardboy1
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Joined: Fri Sep 02, 2016 4:29 pm

Questions from a fiction writer

Fri Sep 02, 2016 4:40 pm

Hi there,
I'm a UK-based fiction writer, who has been toying with some ideas for a while, and wanted to ask some questions regarding aircraft operations around Heathrow (London).

A regular flight-path in to LHR has planes stacked over NE London, and then come in over NW London, near Wembley Stadium, over Hampstead Heath, and then down to the (financial) City, where the planes take a right, generally over London Bridge, and fly along the Thames, over RIchmond and into LHR.

My first question is whether anyone knows the altitude these planes are at as they make that turn and then the straight run over London to LHR?

Secondly, I understand that aircraft are generally flown by the autopilot, with the main exceptions being the take-off and landing. On the LHR approach, I assume the pilots are running everything manually for that final approach. What sort of safety systems are there should some sort of catastrophic failure occur? is there a procedure for an aircraft having an emergency over a major city?

Many thanks to any who can shed light on these and any other useful details connected.
 
flyDTW1992
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Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2015 1:04 am

Re: Questions from a fiction writer

Fri Sep 02, 2016 7:55 pm

A quick glance at Flightradar24 indicates that the arrival procedure puts aircraft at roughly 5,000 feet, give or take 1,000, making the turn over central London.

As far as emergency procedures, any aircraft will have the capability and procedures in place to make the airport in the event of an engine failure, and there is a manual full of procedures for various system failures. Generally there's no specific set of procedures when over a major city, with any sort of catastrophic failure, the focus remains on landing at the nearest suitable airport no matter what the location.
Now you're flying smart
 
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Starlionblue
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Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: Questions from a fiction writer

Sat Sep 03, 2016 1:15 am

lizardboy1 wrote:
Secondly, I understand that aircraft are generally flown by the autopilot, with the main exceptions being the take-off and landing. On the LHR approach, I assume the pilots are running everything manually for that final approach. What sort of safety systems are there should some sort of catastrophic failure occur? is there a procedure for an aircraft having an emergency over a major city?

Many thanks to any who can shed light on these and any other useful details connected.


As flyDTW says, what is below us is of minor relevance in emergencies for the simple reason that we don't "aim for crashes". Emergencies training is based on the end objective of getting to a suitable runway and getting everyone out. Modern aircraft are so redundant that an off-airport ditching or forced landing is not really considered in training sessions. Certainly there are ditching and forced landing procedures in the QRH, but AFAIK these are not practiced in the simulator.

These are machines that can handle multiple major failures, in many cases hours away from a suitable runway, and we are still expected to be able to make a safe landing on a suitable runway.

Regarding autopilot, at our airline it is normally disconnected around 500-1500 feet above aerodrome level. We are on final approach, that is aligned with the runway, at that point. The most critical failure would be something like an engine failure, a severe fire or a dual hydraulic failure. If you're already on final with the runway in sight, it is typically best to get on the ground and deal with the issue later. While all those things can be handled in the air, they're much less stressful to handle on the ground. Other possible failures are guidance failures, but those are only a problem in low visibility. If you can see the runway, losing the ILS on final is an inconvenience, not a crisis.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
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DocLightning
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Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2005 8:51 am

Re: Questions from a fiction writer

Sat Sep 03, 2016 4:04 am

Lizardboy, it might help if you describe the sort of scenario you're looking to write. We can tell you if it's at all plausible and how it might occur. We may be able to help you write the scenario.
-Doc Lightning-

"The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars."
-Carl Sagan
 
CaptainKramer
Posts: 281
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 8:12 pm

Re: Questions from a fiction writer

Sun Sep 04, 2016 12:54 pm

lizardboy1 you should check out the website, Smartcockpit. It has a wealth of information on various safety procedures during standard flight operations and emergency situations on numerous Aircraft types. Airbus has alot of info in this regard, as does Boeing. You can download the info in pdf format, for reading at your leisure.
 
lizardboy1
Topic Author
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Sep 02, 2016 4:29 pm

Re: Questions from a fiction writer

Mon Sep 05, 2016 10:50 pm

Excellent- thank you everyone- besides the info, the links to these other websites are very handy.

In a nutshell- I used to work in the Shard, and was wondering if (apologies for this one)- it'd be possible for terrorists to use a v tall building close to a flight path to either a) shoot a missile, or b) use a military grade sniping rifle and disable the pilots...
 
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Starlionblue
Posts: 19643
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: Questions from a fiction writer

Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:16 am

lizardboy1 wrote:
Excellent- thank you everyone- besides the info, the links to these other websites are very handy.

In a nutshell- I used to work in the Shard, and was wondering if (apologies for this one)- it'd be possible for terrorists to use a v tall building close to a flight path to either a) shoot a missile, or b) use a military grade sniping rifle and disable the pilots...


Scenario a) Sure. However be aware of backblast. If you stand at a window and fire a MANPAD, the backblast will ruin your whole day. Terrace? There's also the question of how much advantage the tall building would get you. Maybe easier to hang around at ground level. Easier escape routes if nothing else.

Scenario b) As I see it, barring blind luck, there's no way you'd be able to hit the plane, let alone the pilots. Even on final approach, airliners are doing 140-150 knots. Also windshields may not be tested for bullet resistance, but I think they'd do a pretty good job of it. The side windows are not nearly as thick or strong, but I bet they'd at least change the path of a bullet.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo

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