"But why he chose to do it with the chairman on board is anyone's guess."
A senior pilot with Cathay Pacific Airways has been sacked for an "unauthorised low-level flypast" of a new Boeing 777-300ER in Seattle last month, Flight International reports. Ian Wilkinson had just taken delivery of the aircraft on 30 January and, after take-off from Everett Airport en route to Hong Kong with about 50 to 60 …
Bit harsh on the Ray Middleton, the co-pilot, being suspended for 6 months despite:
a) not having a lot of choice in the matter
b) not knowing it wasn't authorised
c) not able to stop it even if he wanted to - "oi, no, I'll take them controls thank you very much, oi, give em here, <struggle> <crash>"
So you think what this guy did was justified? You think the management firing him was too harsh? Let's not forget that if he lost control or if the engines shut down, the plane would have crashed in one second (the downward pull of gravity is 9.8m/s/s). In other words, he needlessly and senselessly exposed the airlines to millions or billions of dollars/pounds in liability if anything went wrong (not to mention the millions on a lost plane). Let's not also forget that even though the plane didn't crash, those passengers can still file multi-million dollar/pound lawsuits for various reasons such as emotional distress. So no, I don't think the management overreacted at all. They did exactly what they should have. This guy was just an idiot trying to inflate his ego and show the world how big his dick is.
You may consider that the plane would not have crashed instantly, given that it has wings and forward velocity. Learning about lift is left as an exercise to the reader.
Also, if he had clearance from the tower to do what he did, this implies that what he was doing does not seem to be quite so terminally stupid. I'd like to think that people in air traffic control have some inkling of safety, and would be likely to err on the side of caution.
But yes, doing it without his employer's consent is a bloody stupid thing to do, and being fired is not exactly surprising.
Million-pound lawsuits for 'emotional distress' are another sort of criminal stupidity. But there's a lot less that can be done about that.
He had the tower's permission. THAT alone means he was in fill compliance with all government regulations. Furthermore, the incident was not at "Everett Airport" (which is a tiny regional airport with only a 5000 foot runway), it was at Paine Field in Everett, (http://www.painefield.com/about.html), which is THE test flight airport that Boeing uses. The Paine Field is home to the Boeing manufacturing plant for 747, 767, 777, and 787 aircraft. If anyone is qualified to give permission for this maneuver and evaluate whether it is safe, it is this airport as this maneuver is done there very often as part of the Boeing test flight regime.
If the engines shut down it would take longer than 1s to crash. Remember, you still have wings.....even if you have nothing pushing you along. If the airliner was stationary, then 1s would be about right.
And to be honest, pilots fly airliners this close to the ground all the time (taking off and landing..), so he not very likely to lose control - after all, he's done it quite a few times before.
As to engines shutting down - it really doesn't matter when they shut down - whether you are 30feet or 30kfeet - it's still going to be messy. To be honest, at the height he was, you are more likely to survive than it was was from higher (ref. recent Heathrow crash).
That said, he was a bit silly! But hey, at £250k a year (that $500k) he probably has a few quid saved up for lean periods. And at least he's famous now!!
9.8m/s/s; where do you get that figure from? Bear in mind even without the engines, it would glide, not drop like a brick. And the passengers weren't ordinary airline passengers as far as I can see.
I'm guessing a very experienced pilot was pretty confident he wasn't going to plant the plane, and bear in mind he did seek permission (and get it) from the tower, who have a reason to care, just not the management.
I other words he followed the rules, just not the company rulebook. If what he did was reckless the folks in the tower need asked a few questions for authorising it too.
... any airline pilots are thinking about doing that with me on board, they'd better make sure they do crash the fucking thing good and proper.
Because if they don't, and we both survive, I'm coming looking for the bastard. In fact I'll be *so* miffed, I might even come back as a zombie.
"Boring" and "uneventful" - that's what I'm looking for in an airliner, thanks.
Totally irresponsible, unnecessary, dangerous, immature and reprehensible. In other words brilliant! Well done that man.
Proof that their is a difference between man and machine still. We have an unexplainable streak of unpredictable risk taking, devil may care mentality still within us that is part of the reason that the species has survived so far.
He's a Pilot, he flies big impressive planes and probably has a string of beauties in every major city in the world. He probably couldn't care less how big his dick is.
That surely looked like a comment from the management :-)
Let's face it - they just got scared to death and besides got embarassed, lost face - so had to find a scapegoat and the pilot looked like an ideal one.
And that taking into account that as the senior employees of the airline they should have the most confidence in their planes and their pilots! If they don't have that confidence who else would?
David's reply is about the shape of it. Nothing wrong with a low-level flypast - feeling how the plane responds in ground effect is potentially very useful info, for example. But if you've got a bunch of other people onboard whose safety is your concern, then having your wheels down when you do it would be a good move. If you want/need to do it without the wheels down, better make sure you're the only one at risk, and make sure your airline has approved a flight with some risk to the aircraft.
There is some risk. Downbursts have taken out many planes on landing, and will continue to do so. Undercarriage probably won't save the plane if that happens, but at least it'll absorb some of the energy and maybe make the result less painful for passengers.
No, it won't fall out of the sky in 1s - Chris C clearly doesn't have a clue. However if it did lose engines at that height, it's questionable whether the undercarriage would be down and locked in time to catch you.
He was in his mid-50's according to the article. He probably doesn't give a flying f@ck!
I imagine he's got plenty saved for retirement, and is only 'considering an appeal'...
Now if that was at a commercial airport he'd be in all kinds of trouble, as it was at the manufacturing facility its probably pretty safe.
I thoink it is quite obvious he had verbal permission from the Chairman, who was on board, to do this. In fact he was probably asked to do this. Cathay Pacific just got embarrased when it got onto YouTube and decided to blame him. His only mistake was to not get it in writing.
"But if you've got a bunch of other people onboard whose safety is your concern, then having your wheels down when you do it would be a good move."
I would disagree - wheels down would make any sense only in case of slow speed/maximum angle of attack flypast. If one engine would fail you will have no option but to set the aircraft down.
In other type of flybys your airplane will fly faster than safe single engine speed and if one engine fails the pilot will go around, in which case you would want your aircraft as clean as possible - so no gear down.
Energy management. Speed = height. If you fly low at just above stall speed and the engines fail then landing is your only option. If you are flying faster than that then you can climb using the energy of the speed or wait for it to bleed away (the former is drilled into all PPL students).
Anyone who has ever tried to land a low winged Piper at too high a speed can tell you that the combination of speed and ground effect leaves you floating allong the length of the runway wondering if you're ever going to land. Getting the gear down in the (highly unlikely) event of both engines failing shouldn't have been a problem.
As for management on board the aircraft, providing the captain was complying with company rules then they had no place in the chain of command. From a political point of view he might have informed them, but the safe operation of the aircraft was his sole responsibility.
"considering these planes have a tendency to shut down the engines......"
You mean, it happened once, out of thousands of flights?
Safety wise, I don't think there was anything dangerous about what he did. He will have been going a lot faster with a lot of energy, which would enable him to pull up and gain height should anything have gone wrong. And the chances of the engines failing at that exact point are minimal. You would be worse off if the engines failed somewhere over the sea (far more likely) than at that point.
I think the company are right to be upset, but sacking him is a bit harsh. What he did was legal, probably quite safe (to echo everyone else - the plane would not just fall out the sky if the engine failed), and just a bit of fun on a test flight. Hell, they barrel rolled the 757 on its test flight at about 500ft...
I reckon he maybe got a bit pissed-off with being patronised by the management, bossed about, given conflicting ordered and made to log everything for marketting statistics and had generally had enough of his job anyway.
What better way to leave than to do so by scaring the living shit out of your tormentors and protagonists by casually showing them how proficient you are at what you do?
All Cathay Pacific have done is turn some good publicity into bad.
I used to watch them doing this as a kid with the Concord (before it got an "e") at the airfield outside Oxford ... basic touch and go except in this case he wasn't planning to touch so he didn't put the wheels down. It's a lot harder to put a plane that size into the ground than you might think.
I've done this with the wheels down in Atlanta when the plane landing before us didn't get of the runway fast enough, and years before that in Charlotte when the pilot decided that he REALLY didn't like the weather coming in at the end of the runway (the round, funnel sort of weather)... did a half roll that time too.
If you don't trust the pilot then don't get on the plane - if you get on the plane then quit complaining.
Chris is sort of right... if the plane stalled (and although a quick google didn't find it for me, it would just need to drop its airspeed below say 100 kt) then the plane WILL fall, and whatever forward speed it had at the time would just describe the shape of the parabola. The vertical descent is still entirely due to gravity.
When a wing stalls, it *stops* flying. If that happens, you need to hope you've got enough altitude to recover, and I don't know of anything that will do this at 30'.
@ Ru: Learning how a wing loses lift is an exercise left to the poster.
@ Geoff: 9.81 m/s/s is also known as g, the acceleration due to gravity on the Earth's surface. A stalled plane does, in fact, drop *exactly* like a brick.
Been there, done that, filled in the CAA accident report. (I stalled my glider on from 5', and that was unpleasant enough)
A pilot of that calibre would of course be careful to keep enough speed on for a climb out as well as the flyby. Go and watch a gliding competition where a pilot will fly their sailplane in from the last turnpoint, 50 km away at Vne (Velocity never exceed), dump their water ballast and fly through the finish line at 30' and 120 kt, then haul back on the stick, climb back to 1000', join the downwind circuit for a normal landing. Magic.
Helicopter icon because stalling those things is the stuff of nightmares.
28-30 ft? Fuck me that's low. That's less than a slight nudge and you're plowing the runway low.
So fucking yeah, nice one. If I was a cowboy pilot with huge fucking balls, and no sense of reality I'd do it too. Especially if I had the boss on board.
But was there really a risk of re-decorating the runway with burning 777 accents, and fashionable human body parts? Depends how he did it.
Even 25 years ago you could program a plane to follow the terrain at whatever height you desired. Unfortunate plane-meeting-ground incidents were extremely rare, even in Iraq. Shit you could almost point-and-click a Tornado onto the runway.
These days you could probably program a 777 to fly 10 feet off the ground at 500mph and feel safe as houses. So I reckon that unless he was actually doing this on "manual", he probably didn't put any lives in any sort of danger whatsoever - hence the tower's permission for him to go ahead.
On the other hand if he was flying under his own steam, that was fucking stupid.
The company to avoid; the management has demonstrated that they have no confidence in their aircraft, nor their pilots.
Which is unsurprising, considering who the management are, and who makes the aircraft and trains the pilots. I'd be a bit uneasy about flying in a Chinese aircraft with a Chinese-national pilot, who was probably trained by the Red Army. A little paranoia (especially when it's the Official State Religion) goes a long way.
Sorry about the rather plane responses so far. I'll try wheely hard to elevator the humour, in order to cure what ailerons you. This tail of an unauthorised fly-by is rudder amazing. The pilot was unfairly throttled by management, I know the type, they enjoy-sticking it to people.
Was that a... Top Pun?
Mine's the plane coat at the back of the stall, to the lift of the hat with the lowered flaps... okay okay I'm going.
Posters misunderstand the role of the tower. The tower's permission is only for factors they control -- so they could be fit into traffic, the runway was clear and fire staff were on duty. Also, being home of Boeing flight test, this tower would have heard stranger requests than this.
The pilot was a complete burke. This isn't a maneuver done with 50 people on board. The co-pilot got off lightly, he's in the chair precisely to thwart lead pilot stupidity or infirmity. The light penalties do make me wonder if some manager suggested the idea, but a pilot has the power of Captain for the purpose of telling that manager "no".
This "incident" seems rather tame by airshow standards. I have seen low runway passes firsthand, but none compare to these:
Life begins below one meter.
I don't think it's a good idea to bundle gliders in the same category as engines.
They fly pretty differently.
The pilot had permission from the control tower to do the fly-by, and he was also monitored during the stunt.
I'd venture to say he, and the traffic controllers, made sure the plane had enough velocity to make it back up or to land in case of problems.
And, i don't know exactly how gliders handle themselves - but i never piloted any aircraft yet that would fall as a brick if you would take out the engines during normal flight. If you were too low, and going too slow, then maybe, yes.
Otherwise, you can land almost anything when the engines go boo-boo.
(Fighter jets may be an exception - different aerodynamics).
"(I stalled my glider on from 5', and that was unpleasant enough)"
I might leaving myself open to sounding very stupid, but how do you stall a glider exactly? I was under the impression Gliders had no engines, hence the name "Glider" as opposed to "Machine propelled by engine = Plane".
Anyway, I'm dissappointed he didn't just "hit the brakes and let fly right past...oldest trick in the book"
Sounds more like Goose, than Maverick.
Mines the leather bomber jacket, with the aviators hanging in the pocket and a copy of "You've lost that loving feeling" tucked inside.
"I don't think it's a good idea to bundle gliders in the same category as engines.
They fly pretty differently."
"I might leaving myself open to sounding very stupid, but how do you stall a glider exactly? I was under the impression Gliders had no engines, hence the name "Glider" as opposed to "Machine propelled by engine = Plane".
He means the wing stalled, not the engine stalled. I'm a glider pilot as well, and I've done similar things in the past... A glider works exactly the same way as a plane, it just can't regain height using an engine. The aerodynamics involved are identical, they still count as 'planes', engine or not. They fly exactly the same way.
However, it is still not right to say the plane would drop, because that assumes you would stall the wing as soon as the engine stopped. He clearly had bagloads of energy there, and was nowhere near stalling it in. So it still wouldn't just drop at 9.8m/s/s. And just so you are aware, even after all that, a wing doesn't just stop working when it stalls - it is just not providing enough lift to counteract the weight. You can get different 'degrees' of stalling, you have to be in a very very deep stall to just plummet.
Try it next time you are flying John - just ease the stick back until you stall the glider, you will find it doesn't plummet to the ground in a matter of 4-5 seconds (as an object that is plummeting would from about 1,500ft - at a guess), just mushes around a lot for a few seconds and you will only lose about 100ft.
"According to reports, an airline insider said: "We heard afterwards he [the pilot] was asked to do a fly-by of the factory and decided to give them a flight they would never forget.""
This is the contention, who asked him to do the fly-by. If he was under the impression that this was a request because the Chairman was on board, and had tower permission, he was in the right. Not a dangerous stunt at all and a skilled Pilot has absolutely no problem with a low level flypast. At the speed he was going he would have had enough energy to climb in the event of a problem, and no doubt being a highly competent Captain had another airfield in mind for an emergency landing. Had he had the wheels down to do a slower fly-by, there would have been more danger, as it would possible have been too fast to land at that height, maybe run out of runway and not enough energy to climb.
It was not Gung-ho at all as he was doing what he was asked to do, in a safe manner, which he did. Sounds like a massive pay-off for unfair dismissal to me.
And to AC who said:
"I might leaving myself open to sounding very stupid, but how do you stall a glider exactly? I was under the impression Gliders had no engines, hence the name "Glider" as opposed to "Machine propelled by engine = Plane"."
A stall is about the flow of air around a wing stalling and not producing lift and has nothing to do with stalling an engine, so yes, I guess you have left yourself open to sounding stupid ;-)
Mine's the leather flying jacket with scarf and goggles please.
When I was a Boeing minion I was told that when they were showing the prototype 747 to customer bosses, they had their chief test pilot fly it past a few times, and on impulse he barrel-rolled it.
At that time Boeing was on the brink of bankruptcy and the joke in Seattle was "Last person leaving Seattle please switch off the lights". The Boeing bosses pretty near shat themselves but they couldn't admit the stunt wasn't part of their plan and they couldn't even sack the pilot.
IME stories like that, where there's a tinge of natural justice, are usually wrong.
Since major airlines are often paid to do chartered fly-byes at air shows, etc., yes, they DO have fly-by policies, specifying safety procedures, etc.
The most famous fly-by (that wasn't quite a complete fly-by) was that of the A320 at Habsheim in 1998, flown by Michel Asseline. I studied that accident in great detail at the time. Air France did have such a policy. One thing that it required was that the pilots visit the airfield before the show and inspect it on foot for likely hazards. Due to pressure of other work, Asseline and his co-pilot did not do that, otherwise they might have been aware that a slow fly-by lower than the height of the trees at the end of the runway would have been inadvisable.
Q: What's the difference between an A320 and hedge-trimmer?
A: About 100 knots!
(Give me my coat before I come out with any more A320 jokes!)
(Getting slightly off-topic here)
All fixed-wing aircraft (gliders, powered planes) obtain lift by moving air over their wings. Power aircraft do this using thrust from an engine to move fowards. Gliders do this by converting their potential energy (height) into kinetic energy (speed forwards). In a glider, you are always descending through the air, and the trick is to find air that is going up faster than you're going down.
If a pilot talks of a stall, they mean a wing stall, otherwise they would say "compressor stall" for a turbine engine, and piston engines never stall because they are never heavily loaded at very low RPM (except for prop strikes. Ha.) They would however stop due to other problems, and those are lumped into "engine failures" or something else. Other stalls are elevator and rudder stalls. These are much more rare.
Christopher Emerson is right to say there are different kinds of wing stalls, and I was simplifying in my original post. I have plenty of times practised stalling, of the "mush" variety where you waft through the air, stick fully back, nose still high and losing a lot of height, and also the fully developed stall, where the nose drops as the wings no longer support the aircraft at all, you end up looking straight down at the ground which is rushing up to meet you fast. Ironically, when the nose drops in a full stall, the correct action is to push the nose even further down to get the wings flying again.
And then there are high-speed stalls (tight turns pulling g), incipient spins and full spins (only ONE wing is stalled), and stalls due to wind shear (turning steeply low to the ground). Rudder stalls if you are outside your C of G load limits (flat spins etc) and I have no idea how to recover from an elevator stall!
I also suspect that because a 777 is tuned for high-speed flight (cruise at mach 0.84 iirc) it would develop its low-speed stall fairly quickly. Can anyone see if the 777 has its flaps down? I'm meeting a couple of Lufthansa pilots (one Airbus, one Boeing, both glider) for dinner tomorrow night, I'll see what they say.
Quote: "These days you could probably program a 777 to fly 10 feet off the ground at 500mph and feel safe as houses."
What sort of house would THAT be? One built of semtex bricks with a rice-paper roof waterproofed by kerosene jelly topped by a lightning conductor and located on the side of an active volcano on a major tectonic fault line?
If a plane stalls, yes, it will begin to fall. However, there is significant air resistance to slow its descent. It won't just drop out of the sky like a stone. OTOH, it *would* drop fast enough to ruin your whole day.
Quote: "These days you could probably program a 777 to fly 10 feet off the ground at 500mph and feel safe as houses."
Speak for yourself. I wouldn't feel "safe as houses" unless I had been carefully loaded with mind-numbing substances to the point of becoming comatose. There are fluctuations of air density, drafts, shear winds, downdrafts, and all manner of other turbulence that would make such an action incredibly foolhardy. That's assuming there isn't some inconveniently placed structure that happens to be taller than ten feet, which often happens.
Sounds to me that the hold thing is getting blown out of the water like the rest of county does already, so what did it hurt anybody no, scared the chairman alittle bit I'm sure and the only thing here that is being hurt is SOMEONES PRIDE and then they won't admitt that to everybody else in this world and the pilot will be fully of blame, see I think boeing is riding alot on these planes to save the companies ass, so of speak, cause really they are new planes and instead of aluminium its uses far more Carbonfiber making it safer and lightweight and much more efficent to fly. Now someone there tailfeathers ruffled for sure here and now that the world knows what he did, he will burn for sure... Let him off the hook its not like he lied to the people and then went to war., or said thats someone else did it and crashed a plane into the pentagon or a building..
He was not flying a Tu so forget it.
That is not a joke. Anyone who has had a trip on one of the part of the fleet which Eastern Europe and Russia sold to China in the early 90-es and bought back around 97-98 during the big Eastern European recession can tell you that. The great feeling of getting on a plane that is parked outside of the terminal propped with pieces of wood and only missing a sticker "police aware". This all with nobody knowing how many hours does it _really_ have on the aiframe and when it was maintained.
And this all becoming irrelevant once the glorious roar of 3 old turbofans hit the "emergency mode" in the beginning of the Heathrow runway with the plane going nearly straight up from 1/3 of it. Tu's could comply with EU noise regulations only by gaining enough altitude before going over residential neighborhoods so this takeoff technique was the only way they were allowed to fly.
I will not even mention stunts like applying reverse thrust while still in the air and smacking it on the runway VTL style: http://www.airliners.net/photo/Balkan-Holidays-Air/Tupolev-Tu-154M/1163595/M/
It is a pity we cannot see this birds any more. Compared to the Tu, the 777 looks like a pregnant guppy. By the way, the Catway pilot deserves extra cudos for taking such a pregnant guppy for a flyby like this.