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Boeing757100
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Question about Saudia flight 163

Tue Nov 08, 2022 11:17 pm

I was a little kid when I found out about this accident a few years ago, and even as a kid, it took a lot to scare me. But seing those pics of the burnt-out L1011 on the ground were just downright horrifying.

Here's a good writeup on it for those who are unaware: https://admiralcloudberg.medium.com/the ... ec85107809

Anyways, at the part where F/E Curtis informs the others of the smoke in the aft cargo hold, Capt. Khowyter says to stop the ventilation, which could have been the cause of no one making it out alive and dying of smoke inhalation.

My question is, although throughout the flight, it is hinted that Khowyter was unaware of the gravity of the situation, how come he couldn't have depressurized the cabin? With his remark on turning off ventilation, he seems to be aware of the fire, but made a wrong execution. Isn't it common sense to depressurize the cabin to starve the fire of air? Even if Curtis miscommunicated with him, a F/A told him also, so that shouldn't have been an excuse. And also, as recent as touchdown, weren't flames visible from the last 4 seats? That and did Khowyter not smell the smoke once (or hear any commotion in the cabin)?

Again, sorry if I'm misconstruing anything, I'm just curious why alternate events didn't happen. I'm well aware that Khowyter was apparently a sub-par pilot according to training records, but if he thought to turn off ventilation, shouldn't depressurizing the cabin also have been a thought to him?

Thanks
 
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Starlionblue
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Re: Question about Saudia flight 163

Wed Nov 09, 2022 12:20 am

If there's anything that keeps pilots up at night, it's the thought of a cargo fire.

I hate to judge the dead. Pilots go to work intending to do the best they can. But in this case, it seems fairly clear that none of the flight crew had adequate situational awareness, and their CRM was atrocious.

A fire/smoke warning, especially in cargo, should be treated with extreme seriousness. An alarm may be spurious, but it may not be. Treat them all as authentic until proven otherwise. They spent four minutes dicking around when they could have turned immediately and maintained high speed all the way in. As the saying goes, "it's much more fun watching the plane burn while standing outside it, on the ground".

Depressurising would certainly have been an option, yes. It might have helped at least delay the spread slightly. But it was just one of many factors.

I don't know the L-1011, but in modern aircraft the cabin will depressurise completely on touchdown. However, some reading about the accident shows that the pressurisation system was on standby and thus the aircraft did not depressurise automatically. This was probably the final thing that doomed the passengers.

There isn't just one cause of course, but several. If you remove any of them, the accident would either not have happened at all, or would have been survivable.
- Dangerous goods in cargo and/or pax bags.
- Poor training.
- Poor CRM.
- Nonchalance in the face of a potentially lethal situation.
- Lack of urgency returning to the airport.
- Lack of urgency stopping and evacuating once on the runway.
- Unclear comms with ATC and cabin crew.
- Inadequate insulation material in the cargo hold.
- Depressurisation system on standby.

Of course, that's easy for me to say, at zero airspeed and zero altitude forty-two years later. It's very different when you're on the spot, and the industry has learned a lot since those days.
 
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Boeing757100
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Re: Question about Saudia flight 163

Wed Nov 09, 2022 12:31 pm

Starlionblue wrote:
If there's anything that keeps pilots up at night, it's the thought of a cargo fire.

I hate to judge the dead. Pilots go to work intending to do the best they can. But in this case, it seems fairly clear that none of the flight crew had adequate situational awareness, and their CRM was atrocious.

A fire/smoke warning, especially in cargo, should be treated with extreme seriousness. An alarm may be spurious, but it may not be. Treat them all as authentic until proven otherwise. They spent four minutes dicking around when they could have turned immediately and maintained high speed all the way in. As the saying goes, "it's much more fun watching the plane burn while standing outside it, on the ground".

Depressurising would certainly have been an option, yes. It might have helped at least delay the spread slightly. But it was just one of many factors.

I don't know the L-1011, but in modern aircraft the cabin will depressurise completely on touchdown. However, some reading about the accident shows that the pressurisation system was on standby and thus the aircraft did not depressurise automatically. This was probably the final thing that doomed the passengers.

There isn't just one cause of course, but several. If you remove any of them, the accident would either not have happened at all, or would have been survivable.
- Dangerous goods in cargo and/or pax bags.
- Poor training.
- Poor CRM.
- Nonchalance in the face of a potentially lethal situation.
- Lack of urgency returning to the airport.
- Lack of urgency stopping and evacuating once on the runway.
- Unclear comms with ATC and cabin crew.
- Inadequate insulation material in the cargo hold.
- Depressurisation system on standby.

Of course, that's easy for me to say, at zero airspeed and zero altitude forty-two years later. It's very different when you're on the spot, and the industry has learned a lot since those days.

Thank you for the very informative reply! :)
 
113312
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Re: Question about Saudia flight 163

Wed Nov 09, 2022 4:09 pm

There were many problems with crew communication and crew management that resulted in this accident becoming a teaching example. One of the many things that the F/E did incorrect was to mismanage the pressurization such that the airplane remained pressurized after landing. This made it impossible to open the doors. The Captain made many mistakes but one of the ones with fatal results was that he did not stop immediately on the runway. He passed all of the emergency vehicles that had to chase the plane to the point where it finally stopped. This allowed the fire to expand significantly.
 
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Starlionblue
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Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: Question about Saudia flight 163

Thu Nov 10, 2022 12:18 am

113312 wrote:
There were many problems with crew communication and crew management that resulted in this accident becoming a teaching example. One of the many things that the F/E did incorrect was to mismanage the pressurization such that the airplane remained pressurized after landing. This made it impossible to open the doors. The Captain made many mistakes but one of the ones with fatal results was that he did not stop immediately on the runway. He passed all of the emergency vehicles that had to chase the plane to the point where it finally stopped. This allowed the fire to expand significantly.


The urge to vacate the runway and not block it is strong.

Nowadays we are taught to stop on the runway in cases like this, even if we are able to vacate. For example, in the case of nosewheel steering failure we'd be able to vacate with differential braking without too much difficulty. Try that in the sim and you'll get an earful. ;)
 
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Boeing757100
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Re: Question about Saudia flight 163

Thu Nov 10, 2022 2:39 am

Starlionblue wrote:
The urge to vacate the runway and not block it is strong.

I think this may have been because there was rumor that the Saudi king's 747 was taking off, which meant that all the other planes and ground vehicles had to not move any more. This meant that the crew of flight 163 would have been unable to stop and evacuate on the runway, otherwise they would have gone to prison.

However there is every other reason not to believe this. Only one witness saw the Saudi King's 747, and that same person said that there were no firetrucks on the runway chasing the plane. However, I think this can be refuted, as there were stairs brought out to the burning L1011, meaning that there was help on the way. In that case, ground equipment was moving, and the king's plane was likely NOT in action at that time. Plus, there was the vivid detail that the firemen saw fire visible from the last 4 windows, and the flight attendants saw the fire trucks as well.

Personally I don't believe the King story, but I could very well be wrong.
 
basspaul
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Re: Question about Saudia flight 163

Thu Nov 10, 2022 2:48 am

I've known about this incident and actually saw the burned out plane as my flight into Riyadh when I moved there was only few days later. I've seen articles and videos about it, but never heard the transcript of the CVR. That's crazy the way they handled it. It sounded like the cabin crew were better trained about what to do with a fire on board.

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