“Monitor altitude and distance? Surely you jest.”

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has released its final report on the Air Canada, um, pre-runway excursion in Halifax two years ago. The fifteen findings are not surprising. They start with the three below and get only a bit more depressing from there. It’s disconcerting to read phrases such as “the flight crew did not monitor the aircraft’s altitude and distance…”, but only because that’s a flight crew’s actual job.

3.0 Findings
3.1 Findings as to causes and contributing factors

1. Air Canada’s standard operating procedure (SOP) and practice when flying in flight path angle guidance mode was that, once the aircraft was past the final approach fix, the flight crews were not required to monitor the aircraft’s altitude and distance from the threshold or to make any adjustments to the flight path angle. This practice was not in accordance with the flight crew operating manuals of Air Canada or Airbus.
2. As per Air Canada’s practice, once the flight path angle was selected and the aircraft began to descend, the flight crew did not monitor the altitude and distance from the threshold, nor did they make any adjustments to the flight path angle.
3. The flight crew did not notice that the aircraft had drifted below and diverged from the planned vertical descent angle flight profile, nor were they aware that the aircraft had crossed the minimum descent altitude further back from the threshold.

It is at least good to see “Collision with terrain” right there on the cover of the report and the “Damage to aircraft” section’s perfectly succinct “The aircraft was destroyed.” Honesty is the best policy…even if it is only at the investigating agency.

Did not buff out

TransAsia Taipei crash update

Following up on my February post on the TransAsia crash in Taipei, this is from part 4 of the interim report just released. I’ve highlighted the key phrase here. I had thought something like this would likely be revealed by the CVR, but I still said, “Oh, no” on reading it.

TransAsia CVR extract

Click for a larger version

This interim report did not specify the cause, but powering down the only good engine at a few hundred feet with an airspeed of 105 knots cannot end well. Had they not made that mistake, there’s every chance it would not have been an accident, but an incident resulting in a return to the airport.

The final report is expected next April with a draft of that due in November.

Tonight on “It’s the Mind”…

deja vu…we examine the phenomenon of déjà vu, that strange feeling we sometimes get that we’ve lived through something before, that what is happening now has already happened.

Parislights pointed out this new underrun accident in Hiroshima – once again Asiana, where one might get the idea there is an ongoing epidemic of some depth perception-sapping visual syndrome if one hadn’t already read – with eyes wide as saucers – how it’s “very stressful, very difficult to perform a visual approach with a heavy airplane, always”, according to the 19-year, 10,000-hour veteran pilot flying the San Francisco accident aircraft. Baffling is too mild a word for such an attitude.

This seems vaguely familiar somehow. Shouldn’t there be snow or something? I dunno.


Looks like this one bounced two or three times at least. They did seem to do a tad bit better than the Air Canada flight in Halifax, though: beat ’em by 18 feet, touching down only 1,082 feet short instead of 1,100.

Still going with underrun

Regarding the Air Canada “hard landing” (ahem!) at Halifax, here are some pictures that sum things up well, the first two from a Royal Canadian Mounted Police drone and the third from Google Maps. Click any of these for a larger version.

Air Canada overview

This is not what is meant by intercepting the localiser


The A320 is at the upper middle. The two black bits in the snow are its main landing gear.

Region Capture

This view from the right side shows the elevation of the berm where the localiser sits…well, sat. The power lines at left were the ones it clipped.

The people on that aircraft were damned lucky that Halifax has had a huge amount of snow this year. The deep drifts at that berm softened the initial impact considerably.


“Um, you got a little schmutz on your, uh, runway there.”


Overrun, underrun, let’s call the whole thing off

The media has a funny definition of overrun. I just checked and there’s not one story about the Air Canada Halifax crash that says ‘underrun’, which is what happened, and I think most people would come away from the initial story believing the aircraft landed normally but then skidded off the end of the runway in the midst of a snowstorm. That’s what I figured at first.

In reality, it wasn’t one of those runway excursions – isn’t that a pleasant phrase, by the way? “Oh, yes, we had a lovely off-runway journey, but the narration by the flight attendants was a bit loud, I must say.” In fact, it crashed short of the runway, much like the Asiana San Francisco accident but in bad weather at night, not a beautiful CAVU day in San Francisco – not that bad weather is a good reason for a too-low approach, mind you. The power lines it clipped, blacking out the airport, were well before the threshold of the runway, and I’ll wager a crisp new one dollar bill that all the red bits you see in this photograph are parts of the localiser antenna array that’s also before the start of the runway.

Air Canada Halifax

Edited to add several hours later:

The TSB says the A320 did hit the antenna array and touched down 1,100 feet short. The idea that it overran the end of the runway apparently came from Air Canada’s unslick use of antisocial media.

Because no one had anything more than minor injuries, I’m inclined to be cheeky and so will mention that 1,100 feet works out to almost three ballparks in baseball terms. I’ve also worked out on the back of the same envelope that the crew will not be receiving a cigar on this occasion.

Alas, it would be wishful thinking to hope that anyone will ever go back and correct this caption and hundreds of others in the same vein. I’m going to wager another dollar that they will live on in error forever.

Wrong Caption

Come to think of it, maybe Air Canada’s use of antisocial media was actually pretty slick, even if unintentionally so. It was probably not active preemptive misdirection, but it will likely result in most remembering that the aircraft simply slid off the runway.

When charts are gut-wrenching

Flight Data Recorder chart from the TransAsia flight that crashed in Taipei:

I’ll amend this later if I’m reading that chart incorrectly, but it seems to indicate that they initially had a master warning that engine two flamed out. Engine two auto-feathered, meaning it automatically turned the propeller blades parallel to the airflow to reduce drag. The crew mistakenly powered back engine one (PLA is Power Lever Angle) to 35%, just above Flight Idle, and then shut its fuel off (CLA – Condition Lever Angle set to FSO). As they lost altitude, they realized their mistake and tried to restart engine one – at first, failing to restore its fuel supply – but they were down to 500 feet AGL by the time they restored the fuel and it was too late to recover. It hit the bridge sixteen seconds later.

If true, this would be much the same as the British Midland flight 92 air crash in 1989.

The driver whose taxi was hit, seen exiting the vehicle in the second picture below, did spot the aircraft coming. The instant he applied his brakes is shown below. His quick reaction and that one-tenth of a second or so of slight slowdown almost certainly saved his life and that of his his passenger. Had they been just one foot farther forward, there would have been a different ending for them.

TransAsia Crash Snapshot

Click for a larger view

Video here.

TransAsia Taxi

ATR 72-600 Engine Controls

ATR 72-600 engine controls: In the middle, Power Levers (PLA on the chart) on the left and Control Levers (CLA) on the right


NTSB, USN, USCG: Please call these people

I think the time has arrived for some urgent unsolicited advice to Indonesian authorities. This is not just supremely ridiculous, it’s embarrassing and maddening. Future editions of dictionaries might do well to reference this in their definitions of farcical.

A fresh attempt to lift the sunken fuselage of the doomed AirAsia plane from the Java Sea today failed when a wire rope snapped after the wreckage reached the surface of the water, Indonesian officials said.

Efforts to lift the fuselage or the main section of the Airbus A320-200, expected to contain remaining bodies of victims of the December 28 crash that killed all 162 people on board, have failed so far.

“The fuselage appeared at the surface, but the rope broke and it fell down again,” said Supriyadi, director of operations and training for Indonesia’s search and rescue agency.

Earlier, rescuers tried to lift the section with balloons, a procedure they also used to hoist the tail of the ill-fated AirAsia Flight QZ8501, en route from Indonesia’s Surabaya city to Singapore.

Yesterday, efforts failed again when sharp parts of the debris sliced through a strap connecting the fuselage to a giant balloon and the wreckage sank to the seabed once again.

Several bodies fell from the fuselage when the piece of wreckage sank yesterday.

It’s not even the entire fuselage, but a 43-foot section. The phrase ‘reckless and bumbling incompetence’ keeps coming to mind.

A rusty showboat

I’m confident that I’d be drummed out of the Indonesian military in a New York minute, because in both of these cases, I would probably be the lowly corporal shouting from the back of the press room, “Hey, chuckleheads! Yes, you! Stop taking the goddamned recorder out of the goddamned water! Jiminy Cricket on a velocipede!”




When a DFDR or CVR is immersed in water after an accident, it must be kept stored in water after recovery, and not pulled out and posed with every time a photographer is in the vicinity. Why? Because once immersed in water – especially salt water – the internal components are highly susceptible to corrosion, which begins the instant the recorder is taken out of the water. That’s why the NTSB’s FDR and CVR recorder recovery manuals both state:

4.5. If the CVR is recovered in water, it shall immediately be packed in water (fresh, if possible) and not be allowed to dry out.

This is not the first time I’ve seen this sort of grandstanding. It’s good that they finally found the two recorders in about a hundred feet of water, but novice air crash investigators need to stop boasting and playing about like this. This is real life, not some Dingleface update upstaging your friends’ dull lives. Treat it as such. If you don’t know the rules, find out about them. Hey, look, someone’s linked them for you a graf or two upstream.


“We’re running low on funds. Any ideas?”

TIGHAR fundraising

“How about we use that highly dubious twenty-three-year-old item as the basis for our Fly to South Sea Isles 2015 campaign? I’ll wager almost nobody will remember its first appearance.”

“I dunno…I mean, gosh, the rivet patterns don’t match at all.”

“Well, what about this: We release a photo with a caption that says they’re a perfect match and just superimpose the pattern we had hoped to find on the original in the background as if it were actually there. Attention spans are measured in milliseconds these days. Who has time to actually examine the photo?”

“I guess you’re right — I mean, who are they going to believe, us or their lying eyes? And since Discovery ‘news’ prints anything and everything we stick in our press releases and then every other news outlet on the planet snaps it up within forty-eight hours, with each succeeding slightly inflated rewording of our release making the evidence seem more irrefutable, we don’t even have to do any work, really.”



If wishes were horses then beggars would ride
If turnips were swords I’d have one by my side
If ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ were pots and pans
There’d be no need for tinker’s hands

Not quite lost art

I was poking around the web looking at flight jacket artwork last night and was somewhat startled when I bumped into a photo of one of my paintings that I had nearly – okay, maybe fully – forgotten was used for the frontispiece of Hell Bent for Leather by Nelson and Parsons many years ago. I of course remember that the cover of the book featured one of my paintings, but the other paintings of mine that are inside the book tend to fade into the background of my mind.

The frontispiece painting is on a large faux leather portfolio case, with the tableau 27″w x12″h on the bottom half of the case. I realised today that I never did get a good photo of the painting in digital form — the photo I took for the authors was strictly analogue, the negative long gone or at the least buried amongst thousands of others — so I dug the case out from behind a bookcase, dusted it off, and rectified that situation this morning (you can click these for a larger size):


The pin-up is based on this Alberto Vargas painting, which was the gatefold artwork in the August 1943 issue of Esquire magazine:

Vargas August 1943

Here’s a closer look at my variation:


The pilot and copilot are the WWII cartoon characters Hubert and Sad Sack, respectively. Sad Sack appeared in the U.S. Army Yank weekly magazine and the Hubert panels were in the Army’s Stars and Stripes newspaper, some samples below:



P1010494 P1010492w

scrollLast night, I also ran into this high-quality copy of a photograph that I had seen only in much smaller form years ago in Vintage Aircraft Nose Art:

Rosie's Sweat Box

The name is a reference to Rosie the Riveter, of course. Many jacket artists in WWII just couldn’t capture faces well, but this artist certainly could. I love the care that went into this painting – again, you can click to see the detail – and note that it’s from the 401st Bomb Group based in Deenethorpe, Northamptonshire, the group that had the finest jacket paintings in WWII. However, the story behind the aircraft is a sad one indeed. The entire crew of the B-17 Rosie’s Sweat Box died in a takeoff accident at Deenethorpe exactly 70 years ago this past Wednesday.

To interject a bit more reality:


Riveting crew work on a B-17 at Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, 1942. Douglas and Vega joined Boeing in building B-17s during the war.