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Turbulence over British Airways' hairy flight

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THE US airline safety authority is proposing to impose its maximum fine of $US25,000 ($A34,900) on British Airways for flying a jumbo jet from Los Angeles to Britain, despite one of its engines breaking down shortly after take-off.In an embarrassing chastisement, the US Federal Aviation Administration has accused BA of operating an aircraft in an "unairworthy condition" by failing to stop the 8900-kilometre flight when the fault arose.Air traffic controllers at Los Angeles airport spotted sparks coming from one of the Boeing 747's four engines a few seconds after it took off in February last year. After contacting BA's operations base in London for advice, the captain opted to continue with the 11-hour flight on only three serviceable engines.However, the fault meant the plane had to fly at a lower altitude, burning much more fuel than usual. By the time it reached British air space, its tanks were so low the pilot declared an emergency and landed at Manchester.By pressing ahead with the flight, the aircraft avoided an estimated

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$25,000! Lol, that'll make them think twice. Looks like the Captain saved BA $145,000. Although for BA I suppose $145,000 is peanuts too and the embarressment will hurt more.

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>$25,000! Lol, that'll make them think twice. Looks like the>Captain saved BA $145,000. Although for BA I suppose $145,000>is peanuts too and the embarressment will hurt more.Isn't that a little bit of a leap of faith and an assumption to say that BA is embarressed? They seem a little unapolagetic and unembarressed as far as I can tell. As far as BA is concerned this is just a pi$$ing match started by a bunch of old men in beige flannel sportjackets, amoeba patterned ties, working for a government bureaucracy that is accountable to nobody. And that's not an assumption, I've seen those jackets and patterned ties with my own eyes.

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I wonder if they'd have levied the same fine if the plane had been American Airlines. Who let's face it seem to be involved in one heckuva lot of mishaps......

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Either way, even if they weren't embarressed, you can bet they wouldn't even notice that fine! The diversion to Manchester and the resulting ferry to Heathrow probably cost more in terms of fuel, fees and manpower. You won't see any more engine out crossings, that's for sure!I know a few pilots and a manager at BA. Not sure I would agree with the flanel jackets view. I do think the British are asthetically challenged when it comes to ties anyway :) But I guess, relatively speaking, to people I know count as new blood :) I do think BA is much more commercially minded than it was say 10 years ago. The recent increase in the retirement age to 60 is symptomatic of that inevitible and unstoppable shift in attitude.

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>>I know a few pilots and a manager at BA. Not sure I would>agree with the flanel jackets view. I do think the British are>asthetically challenged when it comes to ties anyway :) I was talking about the FAA.

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Well it seems that choosing the right tie is an international problem then!

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I don't know what bothers me more, the fact, BA pulled a stunt like this in the first place, or that they think they did nothing wrong! Personally I would have hit them with a much larger fine than that. $25,000 to them is like a dollar to us! The fact that they had to declare an emergency due to low fuel indicates, this was an unwarranted risk to be putting 300+ passengers through.. I wonder if BA's attitude would be different if the plane ran into unexpected head wind over the Atlantic causing them to burn more fuel and run out and crashed over the ocean! I wouldn't be surprised to hear a number of passengers sueing them over this for the risk they took! If they do, I hope they win. That just doesn't go for BA, but any airline that pulls a stunt like this. I thought I heard a similar case in the news recently where a piece of an engine cowling came off mid flight and the pilot continued to it's destination. I hope the FAA gets them too! This is why I think that ATC should have the authority to force an aircraft to land when unsafe conditions like this happen.

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but Tom obviously the captain didnt think it was 'unsafe' as if he did he would have returned back to LAX.

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At first I would expect that no captain would take an avoidable risk, not only for the sake of the passengers or aircraft, but because the crew are themselves part of the flight and therefore running the same risk. On the other hand, I have seen enough incident reports that show that sometimes the pressure to "make it in time" leads to doubtfull and sometimes fatal decisions.

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>but Tom obviously the captain didnt think it was 'unsafe' as>if he did he would have returned back to LAX.>Obviously the fact he had to call an emergency due to low fuel indicates, he made a serious and potentialy fatal (Thankfully not) mistake.

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>Here is a balanced report on the events:>>http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_...19/ai_n12941248I assumed the pilot didn't make this decision himself. He was coaxed into it, by some pencil pusher at company headquarters. The facts still indicate it was a serious mistake! BA is getting off easy here, and instead of trying to fight it, they should just take their lumps and move on. Needless to say, I won't be flying BA or any airline that has an attitude like this about this kind of safety issue!

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I'm not in any kind of position to know one way or the other if this was a dangerous or negligent. The more I find out though, the more I am inclined to think there was nothing outwardly wrong with the decision. It seems the fuel emergency was due to a technical issue resulting in 3.2 tons of fuel becoming effectively unusable leaving only 0.6 tons available to the remaining engines. I can't judge whether the Captain of engineering should have known this would happen or not. I don't think it beyond comprehension that training does not cover all possible scenarios as it isn't physically possible to retain that much information on the brain and the remainder relies on information being presented accordingly in the onboard technical manuals. Maybe KevinAu can comment on this aspect.Reading around it seems that there is nothing unusual about engine out operations. It seems the FAA even have a regulation permitting it (FAR 121.565). In addition it is covered in the ops manual for not only for BA for other long hauliers such as Cathay. What is interesting is that the same BA aircraft suffered the same failure the following week on a flight from Singapore to Heathrow and continued minus one engine without futher incident. That should put the cat among the pigeons ;)

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I could, but this topic has already been beat to death.http://forums.avsim.net/dcboard.php?az=sho...ing_type=searchAs far as I can tell, they did nothing that was illegal. Ballsy, yes. Illegal, no. Unfortunately for them, additional technical and environmental factors later on in the flight caused the captain to decide to land short of Heathrow. In aviation, all risk is calculated, if you only flew when everything was 100% A-OK, you would get nothing done. That is why in commercial and military aviation, the rules we operate under allow for operations under less than 100% A-OK aircraft or weather conditions. Most passengers don't realize this. Most passengers don't realize that the plane they are riding may have something or another that isn't working. Or that the weather at their destination is actually below landing minimums. But there are two guys/gals sitting up front who are trained and have the knowledge to make a judgement on whether completion of the mission objective is legal and safe. It's a judgement call on something like this, where you know your margin is decreased, but there is no legal reason to not complete the mission. The judgement that the captain makes is based on all the known facts, the projected outcome for all parties involved with each decision, and the likelihood of each outcome. That's what he is paid to do. If he automatically turns around at each sign of trouble, then he is not making any decisions at all.Obviously, if somebody has come to the emphatic second judgement that this captain obviously decided wrong because he declared an emergency, I doubt that any presentation of the facts such as the regulations or performance charts will change the person's mind. A train will be the best choice for long distance travel for this person. But beware, things can go wrong on them too. http://www.northeast.railfan.net/wreck4.htmlThe safest thing to do, IMHO, is to not roll out of bed.

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>I could, but this topic has already been beat to death.>>http://forums.avsim.net/dcboard.php?az=sho...ing_type=search>>As far as I can tell, they did nothing that was illegal. >Ballsy, yes. Illegal, no. Unfortunately for them, additional>technical and environmental factors later on in the flight>caused the captain to decide to land short of Heathrow. In>aviation, all risk is calculated, if you only flew when>everything was 100% A-OK, you would get nothing done. That is>why in commercial and military aviation, the rules we operate>under allow for operations under less than 100% A-OK aircraft>or weather conditions. Most passengers don't realize this. >Most passengers don't realize that the plane they are riding>may have something or another that isn't working. Or that the>weather at their destination is actually below landing>minimums. But there are two guys/gals sitting up front who>are trained and have the knowledge to make a judgement on>whether completion of the mission objective is legal and safe.> It's a judgement call on something like this, where you know>your margin is decreased, but there is no legal reason to not>complete the mission. The judgement that the captain makes is>based on all the known facts, the projected outcome for all>parties involved with each decision, and the likelihood of>each outcome. That's what he is paid to do. If he>automatically turns around at each sign of trouble, then he is>not making any decisions at all.>>Obviously, if somebody has come to the emphatic second>judgement that this captain obviously decided wrong because he>declared an emergency, I doubt that any presentation of the>facts such as the regulations or performance charts will>change the person's mind. A train will be the best choice for>long distance travel for this person. But beware, things can>go wrong on them too.>http://www.northeast.railfan.net/wreck4.html>>The safest thing to do, IMHO, is to not roll out of bed.I would agree with you if the whole fight was over land, where they could touchdown if needed safely. A flight though where the last and most crucial leg is over the ocean, then that is an unnecessary risk to put a plane loaded with passengers in. Also, if the plane was low on fuel, why did the pilot wait until landing at Manchester? Why not land earlier like say Ireland? Why was he pushing the envelope?Edit: Here's a link to the FAA rule regarding engine out procedures. Obviously point 3 Weather conditions and point 5 Type of terrain is the key points here. How anyone can argue that flying 4800 miles on 3 engines the last 2000+ miles over water is safer or as safe than landing at the nearest suitable airport baffles the mind. The pilot and the airline made a really bad decision!http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-...0.11.23&idno=14

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He obviously knew he could make Manchester, the guys a highly trained professional and it's not for the likes of us sim pilots to critisize him.

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>He obviously knew he could make Manchester, the guys a highly>trained professional and it's not for the likes of us sim>pilots to critisize him.That's one highly trained professional I don't want in the cockpit on any plane I'm flying in! I'd be interested to hear if other real 747 pilots, that sometimes frequent this forum would have made the same decision under those circumstances? In regards to being able to make it to Manchester, the fact he had to call an emergency indicates that was a bad decision too. What's safer, landing at a earlier location without calling an emergency or waiting til the furthest location the plane could make? Remember the FAA rules say a pilot can proceed only if landing at the proposed airport is as safe as landing at the nearest one. Calling an emergency for low fuel indicates it wasn't! Edit: Is there any word on what the British Aviation Authorities is doing regarding this incident?

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>>>I would agree with you if the whole fight was over land, where>they could touchdown if needed safely. A flight though where>the last and most crucial leg is over the ocean, then that is>an unnecessary risk to put a plane loaded with passengers in.>Also, if the plane was low on fuel, why did the pilot wait>until landing at Manchester? Why not land earlier like say>Ireland? Why was he pushing the envelope?>>Edit: Here's a link to the FAA rule regarding engine out>procedures. Obviously point 5 Type of terrain is the key point>here.>Why is the keypoint terrain? Landing a 747 on the ocean is just as problematic as landing a 747 in a cornfield. As a pilot, the first thought that should have crossed your mind as you read point #5 is not "ocean", but rather "mountains" as in whether you can clear the mountains on the remaining engines. There aren't too many mountains in the Atlantic Ocean that would be a factor here.Whether or not they are over land or water makes no difference. The pertinent issue is whether there is any place available to land. Just because they are over land does not mean there are runways long enough nearby to land a 747 just as being over water does not mean there are no islands nearby with runways long enough to land a 747. There are alternates along the transatlantic tracks, such as Keflavik and Reykjavik, Narsarsuaq, Lajes, Gander, Stornoway, and Shannon. Certainly if they should decide they needed to land while over the middle of the Atlantic, it would take them at least an hour or two to get to one of them, but that is the case whether they were on 3 engines or 4 engines. Carrying a dead compressor stalled engine is not something that would have added to the probability of having to make use of one of those alternates. If somebody had a heart attack or if a fire erupted aboard, the time it would take to land somewhere would have been almost the same whether or not they were on 3 engines. But neither of those things are related to the dead engine. Once they had calculated that they had enough gas to make it to England, there was nothing else that would have increased the probablity, compared to a normal flight, of having to divert to an alternate. If a passenger had a problem with this, then they should consider not ever crossing the Atlantic by air. Again, this goes back to the issue of whether or not to roll out of bed each morning.Their most important consideration on whether to continue or not would have been #2 ...usable fuel. According to the previously linked news report, they landed with 10,000lbs at Manchester. The minimum fuel that one should probably land a 747 with is about 9,000lbs. So their calculations on whether they could make it were pretty close. Unfortunately, about 6400lbs were inaccessible in #2 Main Tank which caused the declaration of emergency. And they may not have realized that fuel was becoming critical until they were close to London. Why did it end in an emergency? I speculate that this is due to mismanagement of the fuel configuration during the crossing. To me, it sounds like they used fuel as according to the normal FMSC logic and left it at Tank-to-Engine once that started, instead of making sure they got as much fuel out of the #2 Main Tank before switching to Tank-to-Engine for the last phase of flight. If the Captain had managed the fuel system a little smarter, there probably would have been no need to declare the fuel emergency.

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Why is the keypoint terrain? Landing a 747 on the ocean is just as problematic as landing a 747 in a cornfield. As a pilot, the first thought that should have crossed your mind as you read point #5 is not "ocean", but rather "mountains" as in whether you can clear the mountains on the remaining engines. There aren't too many mountains in the Atlantic Ocean that would be a factor here.What I meant was there are no airports over the ocean!!

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>>What I meant was there are no airports over the ocean!!Whether or not they are over land or water makes no difference. The pertinent issue is whether there is any place available to land. Just because they are over land does not mean there are runways long enough nearby to land a 747 just as being over water does not mean there are no islands nearby with runways long enough to land a 747. There are alternates along the transatlantic tracks, such as Keflavik and Reykjavik, Narsarsuaq, Lajes, Gander, Stornoway, and Shannon. Certainly if they should decide they needed to land while over the middle of the Atlantic, it would take them at least an hour or two to get to one of them, but that is the case whether they were on 3 engines or 4 engines. Carrying a dead compressor stalled engine is not something that would have added to the probability of having to make use of one of those alternates. If somebody had a heart attack or if a fire erupted aboard, the time it would take to land somewhere would have been almost the same whether or not they were on 3 engines. But neither of those things are related to the dead engine. Once they had calculated that they had enough gas to make it to England, there was nothing else that would have increased the probablity, compared to a normal flight, of having to divert to an alternate. If a passenger had a problem with this, then they should consider not ever crossing the Atlantic by air. Again, this goes back to the issue of whether or not to roll out of bed each morning.

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I think the main driving point in this was the new rule regarding customer compensation for delays in the UK, regardless of what BA says. I would doubt the plane would have proceeded barring this rule. As long as the penalties, are less then the reimbursment costs, we'll see more incidents like this in the future. An indication of this is that 3 days later on the same plane with a replacement engine, had the same problem from Singapore to Heathrow and the pilot continued on! The argument about dumping fuel presented in the article also doesn't cut it, as it was also pointed out in the same article, the aircraft could have safely proceeded to ORD or JFK to burn the fuel off, and the airline could have used the time (6 hours) to arrange alternate transportaion.

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There have been other instances of 747s doing this *prior* to the EU consumer rights bill. It's one of the selling points of 747s and A340s, "four engines for long haul" as they say at Airbus and they even wrote up an FAR, 121.565, as you already linked to, drawn up to cover this sort of activity. Nevertheless though, I do agree that the EU legislature should have thought things through a little bit more before enacting such a law and it's potential effect on people's behavior.

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"I wonder if they'd have levied the same fine if the plane had been American Airlines. Who let's face it seem to be involved in one heckuva lot of mishaps......"Hmmmm, your profile says you're from England. Imagine that? I suppose by changing the subject to "what would have happened if it had been American Airlines" one can rationalize the risk the BA pilot took. I think if American Airlines had done the same thing flying off of British Soil, you'd find most Americans here--and hopefully the British government, raising just as much a stink. I think people who are either flyers or love aviation share no borders, but that's just my take.-John

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not to get into the politics of CAA versus FAA but I have NO idea where the reporter gets $25,000 as the maximum fine from the FAA. they have fined US carriers 8 times that amount.and yes whoever the brit was who questioned if this was an AA flight would it have been covered as much. in short the answer is yes, it would have been covered MORE. this action by BA shows where its priorities are ($$$ ok not them but pounds :-)) and where they are not (safety).

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