back to article RAF pilot sent jet into 4,000ft plummet by playing with camera, court martial hears

An RAF pilot sent his military airliner into a dramatic dive after the DSLR camera he was mucking about with became wedged in the aircraft's controls, a court martial heard yesterday. Flight Lieutenant Andrew Townshend caused his Airbus Voyager – a militarised A330 airliner – to plummet 4,400 feet in 33 seconds during a flight …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    The joy of shutterstock...

    There is no model release statement needed for magnificent shots of mountain landscape...

    By the way, this is not in jest - if you do some digging there is quite a bit of footage on Shutterstock taken by military pilots in violation of a long list of regs.

    1. goldcd

      Re: The joy of shutterstock...

      I can here many of them running towards the delete button, right now

      1. BillG
        Happy

        Piloting From the Ceiling

        ...the co-pilot managed to get back to his seat and was in fact on the ceiling while trying to gain control with Townshend."

        I wonder if they train for that?

        1. The IT Ghost

          Re: Piloting From the Ceiling

          I'm wondering at what point the co-pilot realizes "when we level this thing out, I'm landing on something that isn't made for me to land on."

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The joy of shutterstock...

        *hear

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The joy of shutterstock... Re: *hear

          To the cretin who down voted me.

          Your literacy has not improved as you clearly fail to understand the difference between + and -.

    2. SkippyBing

      Re: The joy of shutterstock...

      'By the way, this is not in jest - if you do some digging there is quite a bit of footage on Shutterstock taken by military pilots in violation of a long list of regs.'

      Technically, if they're UK pilots, the pictures are all Crown Copyright.

    3. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: The joy of shutterstock...

      Not much change here. My father had a couple of photos of the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro he took from a medium bomber in WWll, although he was the observer and not the driver...

      1. Evil Auditor

        Re: The joy of shutterstock...

        Or as in this case: "...and not the diver..."

  2. WibbleMe

    Haha like the film "Hot Shots" with poker cards and stuff.

  3. frank ly

    Low level loss of concentration

    I once saw a cockpit video (from behind the pilot's shoulder using an officially mounted camera) from a Harrier that was doing low speed, very low level flying over the Scottish countryside. The pilot had a paper map open across his lap and was holding it with one hand while pointing at a location with his other hand, perhaps as an aid to any future viewers of the video. He very carefully pointed at the map and stabbed his finger a couple of times for emphasis.

    As he did this, you could notice that the plane was getting lower. He suddenly flung his hand to the stick to pull up and level off. A short time later, a white object on the ground could be seen to flash by directly under the plane. It was a tent and I did wonder if anyone was trying to sleep in it.

    1. stu 4

      Re: Low level loss of concentration

      yeh I fly a lot in the highlands in my paramotor, and of course some of the nicest places to fly are places the raf like to do there LLF.

      You can phone em up and tell em you might be in the area, but frankly they don't seem to much care or take note.

      So you juist have to hope the bloke's looking around.

      One flight I had around Pitlochry, I'd literally just landed in a field when 2 typhoons came through around 400 feet. I dunno if they'd have seen me if I was flying.. .and frankly even if they did - so what ? I'm going 25mph, they are going 400 miles an hour.. time to see, time to avoid is probably non existent.

      I'm surprised we've never had any fatalities tbh.

      Now.. the apache pilots... they are a different breed of fuckwit... a friend had them follow him, and then land in the same field just after he landed (i.e. he as still attached to motor and wing) - he was lucky he wasn't blown up into the air and killed. Don't seem to have a fecking clue...they moaned about me flying in my home county once - told me ever time I flew I should tell them... this is in class G open air space... they think they own the sky.

      1. JamesPond
        Mushroom

        Re: Low level loss of concentration

        " this is in class G open air space... they think they own the sky."

        Hmmmm......as the saying sort of goes, don't take a rock to a hellfire missile chain gun fight.

      2. RPF

        Re: Low level loss of concentration

        So you phone up the RAF to tell them you're in an LFA, but when the Army ask you to that, they're fuckwits?

        The only time I recall an RAF aircraft hitting a light civil, it was a photography aircraft flown and operated by just one guy (so how's he looking out/flying while photographing the ground, then) right in the middle of a Flow Arrow area at 250 feet. Killed a fine Jaguar pilot.

        So my opinion of who the fuckwits are are very different to yours.

        1. stu 4

          Re: Low level loss of concentration

          "So you phone up the RAF to tell them you're in an LFA, but when the Army ask you to that, they're fuckwits?"

          No please read again. The army wanted me to call for ANY flight in my county (where no Low level flights happen at all not that that's relevant here).

        2. Allonymous Coward

          Re: Low level loss of concentration

          > The only time I recall an RAF aircraft hitting a light civil

          That makes me feel so much better about the Hawks, Hercs and Tornadoes that've come stonking through the general proximity of our circuit over the last year. Perhaps another accident would make people (not necessarily just the RAF) pay closer attention.

      3. sisk

        Re: Low level loss of concentration

        they think they own the sky.

        Feel free to argue that point with them, but I'd advise you to do so with both feet planted firmly on the ground.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Low level loss of concentration

      As someone who once worked for a water authority in Scotland I can confirm they do indeed fly low - often when you are at a reservoir or other installation high up in the hills you are actually looking down on them in the valley.

      Although we had no evidence we were pretty sure they used such installations as "target practice" - flying direct at you (very hard to see them coming towards you) then pulling up at the last minute (second?). They could literally shake tools out of your hand at times and I know I wasn't the only person to actually drop to the ground on occasion thinking it was game over.

      However, having read the article I am suitably stiff upper lip impressed to know that our boys have teapots on board - where would the RAF be without a good cuppa. What ho. Jolly good.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Low level loss of concentration

        they used such installations as "target practice" - flying direct at you

        Around Suffolk the USAF used to use the old BT Yellow vans as targets for dummy strafing runs. You could be sitting eating your sandwich when an F16 shot past making the world shake.

        Best story I heard was from a friend who worked at a transmitter station, where the local RAF pilots used to use the masts as markers. Every so often he'd phone up the base to complain, and be fobbed off. One day he called to report a plane flying dangerously close, and was told "don't worry sir, our pilots wouldn't do anything like that, they just look closer than they are.". He took great pleasure in replying that this pilot was indeed too close, and he had a foot of Phantom wingtip to prove it, sliced off on a guy wire...

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Low level loss of concentration

          In Italy, unluckily, the cable didn't cut away the wing and killed also the idiots who killed twenty people at Cavalese.

          1. PhilipN

            Re: Low level loss of concentration

            I used to think (and still do) that the appalling accident rate of Starfighters in Germany was mainly because of Arkansas and Texas flyboys the first time off the farm, in a foreign country, and having a blast in a jet aircraft.

            Happy to hear our lads are of the same mentality. Let's face it - if I were a kid getting to fly a Typhoon sure as hell I would want to skim the trees. Wouldn't we all? (Except the po-faced Squadron Leader who had grown out of it)

            And it is supposed to be what they are good at. I seem to recall a key feature of the RAF's role in the first Iraq "engagement" was low-level bombing raids over Iraqi airstrips. Even the Yanks thought it was crazy. Believe the RAF lost 3 aircraft that way before trying a different strategy.

            1. Hans 1
              Boffin

              Re: Low level loss of concentration

              >I used to think (and still do) that the appalling accident rate of Starfighters in Germany was mainly because of Arkansas and Texas flyboys the first time off the farm, in a foreign country, and having a blast in a jet aircraft.

              No, starfighters were lethal weapons .... of the enemy, lousy maneuverability, a real death craft. The only reason Germany bought any was because some politico got a bank account in a tax haven full of $$$$ $$$ $$$, this has been proven. Note that they even managed to bribe a Dutch^H^H^H^HGerman prince.

              1. JamesPond
                Mushroom

                Re: Low level loss of concentration

                ">I used to think (and still do) that the appalling accident rate of Starfighters in Germany was mainly because of Arkansas and Texas flyboys "

                On the subject of Darwin awards.....An ex colleague was a cook on a British destroyer that was anchored at the Kuwait city naval base on the day Saddam invaded. He told me the previous day, 2 US sailors had been killed when the rib they were doing donuts in hit the jetty at full speed. And then he wondered why his captain had sent a party out to collect him and some ship-mates from the Hilton because the US ship had its guns trained down the highway, straight through the British ship.

            2. Stork Silver badge

              Starfighters

              I think the appalling accident rate of Starfighters had to do with taking a plane and using it for something it wasn't made for.

              Starfighter (F104) was made for going real fast and high over Californian deserts. You then add a ton of weapons (or so) and send it flying in miserable N.European weather.

              In addition Germany had a gap in experience from 45 to 55 in flying combat aircraft and were I think some of the first to receive them. They lost about half, Denmark about a third of the planes, Germany did not have experience with F86 or F100.

              And yes, the prime reason they sold so well was bribes. The second was probably that it could be used for tactical nuclear bombs.

            3. Peter2 Silver badge

              Re: Low level loss of concentration

              Happy to hear our lads are of the same mentality. Let's face it - if I were a kid getting to fly a Typhoon sure as hell I would want to skim the trees. Wouldn't we all? (Except the po-faced Squadron Leader who had grown out of it)

              They aren't actually allowed in general unless for specific training. We have a very limited number of fighter aircraft, and it's perhaps not generally understood by the general public that they also have a limited flying life due to metal fatigue etc when you throw them around so using them up on joyrides would lead to getting a disciplinary without a (good) plausible excuse.

              What actually happens is that some RAF pilots then volunteer to fly air cadets at weekends in their training aircraft. Did you know you can pull negative gee turns and do enough positive Gees to start getting a greyout from manoeuvring a light aircraft with an engine with less power than the big boss/ sales manager has in their car? You do now. ;)

              Point the plane straight up, and turn the engine off. There hum of the engine turns to a thrash, thrash t h r a s h as the prop stops without anything driving it, and the plane slows down and just hangs. For a moment it starts sliding backwards, before gravity reasserts itself against the fact that a ton worth of front heavy material is sitting a few miles up. Then the plane violently changes direction, and falls with the aerodynamic grace of a brick, before asserting enough aerodynamics to spin violently. Then you turn the engine back on, shove it to full throttle (check for airframe damage, ie that nothing has fallen off etc) and then pull out. After this, assuming that nothing has departed from the aircraft in an uncontrolled and unplanned manner then either repeat, or try something else more extreme.

              Pulling those sorts of stunts is simply incredible. It doesn't do much for the structural life of the aircraft though.

              ACP33 vol4- airframes "Aircraft life is often quoted in flying hours. For example an RAF training aircraft has a life of 5,000 flying hours and Concorde 45,000 hours (A service trainer is expected to suffer much more severe treatment than an airliner!)."

              The manufacturer seemed quite happy at first to get a large order for a few hundred aircraft, and given the 30 off year type history and pool of aircraft with 15-25k hours in service I'm sure they thought they wouldn't have any problems. Presumably the unique items on servicing like "the engine mounts are becoming detached from the frame of the aircraft" and "the propellers fall off?!" were something of a surprise to them.

              No idea why, honest. ;) You'd think that the people supplying the aircraft didn't read think to read the manuals the cadets study or ask any questions about the intended use or something.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Low level loss of concentration

                Then you turn the engine back on, shove it to full throttle (check for airframe damage, ie that nothing has fallen off etc) and then pull out.

                Hmmm. what do you do if there is airframe damage or something HAS fallen off (wing, etc)?

                1. The First Dave

                  Re: Low level loss of concentration

                  Eject.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Low level loss of concentration

            Actually no. The USMC pilots who caused the disaster were not killed. The first court martial acquitted the pilot and navigator. They were then court-martialed a second time for obstruction of justice and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman (destroying a video tape). The pilot served four and a half months of a six month prison term. The navigator did not serve any prison time. Both were dismissed from the service.

            Then septics wonder why they are disliked.

            1. SkippyBing

              Re: Low level loss of concentration

              'I'm surprised we've never had any fatalities tbh.'

              What makes you think we haven't?

              Also re the Starfighter accident rate in Germany, a lot of them were Luftwaffe or German Navy Starfighters. I think they brought something like 800 of them.

              1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

                Re: Low level loss of concentration

                Where did they bring them?

                1. SkippyBing

                  Re: Low level loss of concentration

                  'Where did they bring them?'

                  Various fields around West Germany, the odd one further away like Somerset.

                  1. Allonymous Coward

                    Re: Low level loss of concentration

                    > Various fields around West Germany, the odd one further away like Somerset.

                    There was apparently a (fairly dark) West German joke that the cheapest way to get a Starfighter was to buy a bit of land and wait.

                    1. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge
                      Mushroom

                      Re: Low level loss of concentration

                      Perfectly set to music too and in the nicest Hawkwind stylee.... :-) while you're at it, why not the rest of the album too

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYdQA9maxWk

                      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                        Re: Low level loss of concentration

                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYdQA9maxWk

                        Thanks! I've been after that on and off for years (when I remember) Used to have the album many years ago till I loaned it out and never got it back :-(

              2. Allonymous Coward
                Unhappy

                Re: Low level loss of concentration

                > 'I'm surprised we've never had any fatalities tbh.'

                > What makes you think we haven't?

                We have: https://www.gov.uk/aaib-reports/3-2000-raf-tornado-gr1-za-330-and-cessna-152-g-bpzx-21-january-1999

                1. stu 4

                  Re: Low level loss of concentration

                  I was referring to paragliders/paramotors not GA.

                2. The March Hare

                  Re: Low level loss of concentration

                  I was on crash guard for a Phantom vs Pawnee smash in the 1970's - can't recall date exactly - 73-74 I think.

                  Crop sprayers didn't file flight plans in those days...

              3. John R. Macdonald

                Re: Low level loss of concentration

                @SkippyBing

                An aggravating factor for the German Starfighters was a change from pure high-speed, high-altitude fighter/interceptor to low-level fighter-bomber with increased equipment (weight) and mental task load.

                Low level flying in crappy weather over hilly terrain didn't help either. OTOH the Spanish Air Force didn't lose a single one.

                IIRC the German nickname for the F-104 was the 'The Widowmaker'

            2. The IT Ghost

              Re: Low level loss of concentration

              "Dismissal" for an officer is the same thing as a "Dishonorable discharge" is for an enlisted. A person with either one is followed by that for life...when one seeks civilian employment, one has to account for the years spent in service...if you own up to the dishonorable/dismissal, most of the time you go right to the bottom of the list, if not disregarded immediately. If you lie, and claim an honorable or medical discharge, or invent civilian jobs to account for the time, better hope your new employer never finds out. Nothing can balance out the lost lives, but these two will be reminded of what they did every single day they have to work at a lower-level job. If they work in a labor union area, the union won't back their complaints as readily as someone else...because of what they did...they might even forbid someone with a dishonorable from even being in the union - which means, no job at all in a union shop. Non-union...the bosses will be a little slower to hire someone with that history, and pay raises will always be a little less than someone else would get...and promotions will be extremely rare. "Look what you did last time you got responsibility for something." I don't know if its right...but its punishment for life, in a very real sense.

          3. RPF

            Re: Low level loss of concentration

            That was the USN trying to do low-level and proving that they are fatally bad at it.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Low level loss of concentration

          "and he had a foot of Phantom wingtip to prove it, sliced off on a guy wire..."

          Not in the UK, but one transmitting station I worked at had a semi-regular problem with local flyboys knocking the nav lights off the top of the 110 foot towers on the way to their bombing ground.

      2. JamesPond

        Re: Low level loss of concentration

        A Typhoon's top speed is between 900-1500mph depending upon altitude, I doubt they'd physically see a slow-moving paraglider in time. Hopefully their radar might pick you up, maybe carry something with a high radar cross section next time?

        I ducked and nearly fell off a ladder whilst painting the eve's of my parents bungalow when an A10 flew right over me, lower than the tops of next door's trees.

        And whilst picnicing on Ullswater several years ago, a couple of Tornados flew down the lake and the waves their wake threw up continued for about 10 minutes.

        1. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: Low level loss of concentration

          " I doubt they'd physically see a slow-moving paraglider in time. Hopefully their radar might pick you up,"

          The rules are see-and-avoid. If you can't avoid 'cos you're doing 1000mph then, technically, you shouldn't be there. Every so often the Airprox board makes this point, but usually they fudge it.

          Practically though the RAF are the main reason why the airlines haven't bribed/lobbied the government into making the entire UK airspace Class D or worse, so don't get too upset about it.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Low level loss of concentration

        About 40 years ago I was driving with a colleague in a military Land Rover along a very straight tarmac road in a rocky desert area of the Arabian Peninsula. Anyone who has driven one of these will appreciate that they are not the quietest of vehicles.

        Suddenly there is the most god-awful noise directly overhead that frightened the willies out of us. Thankfully I had managed to stay on the road and saw in front of us the tailpipe of a Hawker Hunter flying down the road at about 20 feet.

        A few seonds late we have gathered our composure when 'WHOOSH - There goes another one - and lower than the first!

        I bet those pilots were laughing like drains. I never did find out who they were but there's a fair chance one of them was a madman who went by the moniker 'Stefan The Pole' - one of the best pilots I ever saw.

        1. Paul Westerman
          Coat

          'Stefan The Pole'

          Was he the famous 'simple Pole in a complex plane'?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 'Stefan The Pole'

            Paul Westerman>>Was he the famous 'simple Pole in a complex plane'?

            ... practicing the method of steepest descent?

            Yes, that's my third favorite maths joke.

    3. Glenturret Single Malt

      Re: Low level loss of concentration

      That could have been the same aircraft that scared the shit out of me and numerous others as we were playing cricket.The most frightening thing was the noise.

  4. TeaLeaf

    A very long time ago...

    I read an article about how the autopilot functions of airplanes were all designed backwards from a human factors point of view. The right way to do it (according to the article) would be to have the crew fly the plane with the computer monitoring them. This would keep the crew engaged and alert and able to respond more quickly to unusual situations.

    I haven't the background to know if the article was correct or not, but I wonder if the different method could possibly have prevented this incident.

    1. DropBear

      Re: A very long time ago...

      A turned-on autopilot that isn't involved in the actual flying of the plane and then intervenes (to take away control, of all things) only when something pear-shaped is going on strikes me as an _awfully_ strange and unheard-of kind of autopilot. And yes, I am aware modern fly-by-wire planes _can_ refuse to act on certain extreme types of control input in specific situations, but I wouldn't call that feature an autopilot...

    2. SkippyBing

      Re: A very long time ago...

      'I haven't the background to know if the article was correct or not, but I wonder if the different method could possibly have prevented this incident.'

      From a Human Factors point of view it's correct. Essentially we currently have humans monitoring computers so that in the very unlikely event they go wrong the pilot can step in and correct them. Unfortunately as the computers are now so efficient this tends to lead to the humans becoming under-aroused* so that when something does go wrong they're not able to respond effectively in time.

      However as humans aren't particularly effective at flying accurately for long periods of time, they get bored and their attention wanders, reversing the set up would lead to increased costs. Or the computer would be stepping in continuously to correct their mistakes.

      *stop sniggering at the back

      1. whileI'mhere

        Re: A very long time ago...

        And here (thanks SkippyBing) we have, in one simple comment, the full argument against autonomous/driverless cars that are not in fact actually sufficiently autonomous to be capable of operation without mandating that a 'driver' is 'at the wheel' and ready to use the wheel at a nanosecond's notice.

      2. Tom Paine

        Re: A very long time ago...

        This phenomena is known as the paradox of automation and the seriousness of the problem scales with the magnitude of the consequences. An Air France Airbus falling into the Atlantic because none of the flight crew recognised a stall or knew what to do about it is bad enough, but blowing up the world economy kills a lot more people in the long run.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Left handed?

    As most people are right handed, it seems strange that the pilot's control column should be on his (or her) left hand side. I guess it is so he can get to the centre panel between the pilots with his right hand? But if he does most of the flying, especially any tricky bits, rather than his co-pilot, perhaps he should be positioned in the right hand seat so he can control the plane's attitude with his - in most cases - dominant hand.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Left handed?

      At this point most of the flying in those type of jets is done by the autopilot anyway, it is still common for them to do takeoffs, landings and interaction with air traffic control but that may be automated out in the comming decades too. There jobs are getting to be more management, filling out red tape and emergency troubleshooting.

    2. Grahame 2

      Re: Left handed?

      When I am flying (single engine prop) I tend to use my left hand on the control column (pitch/roll), and my right (dominant) hand to operate radio/ navigation aids, etc..

    3. ratfox

      Re: Left handed?

      That is indeed weird. But a quick image search does seem to indicate the pilot and the copilot use a different hand to pilot the plane. They have to learn to fly with either hand.

      In fact, Boeing pilots also have the same problem, because the throttle is always in the center between the two seats, and so the pilot has to fly with the left hand.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Left handed?

        "They have to learn to fly with either hand."

        You have to learn that in a light aircraft, let alone anything larger.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Assume the nose-down position!

    The crash experts have worked tirelessly for decades, and they have eliminated almost all possible internal causes of aircraft crashes. Almost all. They haven't quite solved the problem of stupidity.

  7. cream wobbly

    “teapots”

    Travesty.

    1. Rattus Rattus

      Re: “teapots”

      And what's wrong with teapots? Don't tell me you'd use tea bags, now that's the REAL travesty!

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: “teapots”

      It's a freakin' Airbus, not a Tornado. Why shouldn't it have teapots on board?

      (Plus, presumably, a pressurised container to boil the water. 'Cuz making tea at regular cabin pressures, that's be a travesty.)

      1. Pat Att

        Re: “teapots”

        Bit of a problem when you pour the tea from the pressurised container, and it starts boiling away though....

    3. Stevie

      Re: “teapots”

      Flying Teapots.

      The Return of Radio Gnome Invisible.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It can happen to the best

    Flight Lieutenant Andrew Townshend caused his Airbus Voyager – a militarised A330 airliner – to plummet 4,400 feet in 33 seconds during a flight to Afghanistan

    "to Afghanistan, and a bit down", shurely?

  9. adnim
    Facepalm

    15,000 feet-per-minute

    4,400 feet in 33 seconds

    And Pi=3

    I wish I had attended your lectures... Richard Feynman.

    I get bored driving, at least if piloting a plane I could read a book instead of photographing the passing landscape and checking farcebook on my phone.

    </sarcasm>

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 15,000 feet-per-minute

      Hang on - 4400 feet was the total vertical distance travelled in 33 seconds - bearing in mind the dive started at zero vertical speed, and ended at zero vertical speed, then it is quite feasible he reached a peak descent of 15,000 per minute.

      Presumably those figures were retrieved from the data loggers.

    2. ratfox

      Re: 15,000 feet-per-minute

      I take it that 15,000 per minute is the top vertical speed reached, and 4,400 feet is the total altitude difference over 33 seconds.

    3. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: 15,000 feet-per-minute

      Peeps, can you email corrections@theregister.co.uk if you spot anything wrong.

      Edit: OK, you lot can wind in that snark. At one brief point, the aircraft fell 15,000 feet a minute, although fell 4,400 ft in 33 seconds. See the linked gov.uk report.

      C.

    4. DJO Silver badge

      Re: 15,000 feet-per-minute

      4,400 feet in 33 seconds assuming constant vertical acceleration from 0 ms-2 gives:

      final vertical speed of 81.28 ms-1 = 16,000 feet/min

      acceleration = 2.4629 ms-2 = 0.25115G

      The article states objects were in free fall or pinned to the ceiling so at some points the acceleration must have exceeded 1G, 4 times the rate calculated for a constant decent so maxing at 15,000 feet/min is not at all odd, just do the maths.

  10. John 104

    Career = Over.

    1. Chris Tierney

      Career as a photographer?

  11. Pliny the Whiner

    Flying While Blonde

    "The descent was unannounced so passengers experienced weightlessness, they were thrown to the ceiling and thought they were going to die. This all happened while [Townshend] was alone in the cockpit, the co-pilot managed to get back to his seat and was in fact on the ceiling while trying to gain control with Townshend."

    This sounds like most of the commercial flights I've ever been on. Is this incident considered unusual?

    1. boozy
      Thumb Up

      Re: Flying While Blonde

      i'm rather impressed with the co-pilot's actions. Considering he managed to help save the plane from the cockpit ceiling while being injured with a fractured back and a prolapsed disc.

      1. PerspexAvenger

        Re: Flying While Blonde

        It'd posit that the injuries probably happened when dive suddenly and violently became non-dive and the ceiling reinforced its ceiling status...

      2. SkippyBing

        Re: Flying While Blonde

        'i'm rather impressed with the co-pilot's actions. Considering he managed to help save the plane from the cockpit ceiling while being injured with a fractured back and a prolapsed disc.'

        Ironically it turns out the co-pilot could have stayed with his presumably spilt tea and the outcome would have been the same. From reading the accident report the aircraft was already returning itself to level flight by the time he got to the cockpit, Airbus having helpfully designed the autopilot logic to not dive itself into the ground if it exceeds certain limits, like rate of descent.

        1. RPF

          Re: Flying While Blonde

          Sounds like they were saved by the Overspeed Protection. They weren't that close to the ground really (and there is no auto pull-up anyway).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Flying While Blonde

        About the only thing he could have done at that point would be to reach up (down?) to the camera and yank it away from the joy stick, or maybe unlock the seat so the camera was freed. Then he's in free fall until the pilot applies some up stick and brings the co-pilot down with a thud. But better than breaking up as the descent speed gets close to sonic. That's the big danger in such a dive, not hitting the ground many miles below. Probably it was a very close thing indeed.

  12. JamesPond
    Coat

    playing with a stick between his legs

    Is playing with a stick between the pilots legs safer than a stick in the left hand then?

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: playing with a stick between his legs

      Depends on which stick you are playing with.

  13. JamesPond

    On the ceiling

    "the co-pilot managed to get back to his seat and was in fact on the ceiling while trying to gain control with Townshend."

    If the copilot was on the ceiling, how the hell did he get back into his seat? Considering the plane it going forward and down, presumably he's being pressed upwards and backwards, so pretty impressive. I'd love to hear what was said on the voice recorder!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On the ceiling

      From the Times, yesterday: "Fuck, shit. Jesus Christ." was an excerpt.

    2. DropBear
      Boffin

      Re: On the ceiling

      While he undoubtedly got acquainted with it at some point during those 33 seconds, the copilot was NOT on the ceiling. Any object free falls with 1g in the Earth's proximity, for a pilot to float up to the ceiling the plane itself would have to be vertically falling faster than that. And a trivial calculation shows that accelerating with 1g, that plane would have fallen 17500ft instead of 4000ft in 33 seconds, so no, it wasn't barreling down vertically, and the copilot wasn't pinned to the ceiling*. Thrown around, well, sure...

      *well, unless the plane was flying inverted at the time...

      1. Chris 239

        Re: On the ceiling

        @ Dropbear

        They don't say he was on the ceiling for the entrie 30 seconds.

        If a plane in flight pitches down quickly enough at a high enough speed negative gee will result and throw anything not secured against the ceiling and keep it there for a while if maintained. It's all the lift from the wings resulting from the angle of attack, push the nose down quickly enough and you make it negative.

        That said Airbus planes would not normally allow you to do that, "the computer : it say "no"" unless the flight control system in the milary versions allows more aggresive flight maybe.

      2. CraPo

        Re: On the ceiling

        "Because I was inverted."

  14. Alistair
    Coat

    showoffs and pretty valley runs

    There are some 'sorta' mountains twixt Ontario and Quebec, if you're far enough north, with a few ski resorts about. And a couple of fairly deep river cut valleys. Since they're fairly popular ski resorts and there is a good bit of money about, there are a few 500 to 600 foot microwave relay towers (carrying cell/internet/phone conections) on the top ridges of those valleys. With rather a *lot* of the guy wires anchoring on the far side. There are a couple of anecdotes running about the comms industry about an RCAF helicopter pilot trying to show off to his copilot. None of them feature the chopper landing at an RCAF base. Not sure if its true, but I certainly wouldn't put it past 'em.

    Hopefully the gent's second career with the camera is as rewarding as his time in the forces.

  15. Florida1920
    Pint

    On the ceiling while trying to gain control

    Used to happen to me most Friday nights.

  16. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    Times change...

    Roald Dahl described winning a photography award for a shot of desert ruins taken from his WWII training aircraft in his book Going Solo.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the ceiling?

    Flying high...

  18. Tom 64
    Pint

    over-ride switch?

    Isn't there a switch to disable input from the stick for when the pilot is returning to his seat with coffee, beer etc?

    If this stick-jockey is guilty of anything, its not using this switch! Any aviators here?

    1. SkippyBing

      Re: over-ride switch?

      What's he's being charged with is not telling the truth, i.e. he allegedly lied about the camera being where it was and subsequently initiating the incident. If he'd said he thought his camera had got stuck between his seat and the stick in the incident report form then he'd probably have a bit of a telling off but it wouldn't have got to this stage.

      I'm not aware of a disabling button on the Airbus but the stick is deliberately out of the way so it shouldn't be knocked by anyone getting in or out of the seat.

  19. Potemkine Silver badge
  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Callsign Zero Fox

    This latest incident is a relatively small oops compared to some. During the archiving of personnel records from hut 653 at RAF Innsworth some epic accounts of the Pucker factor and peacetime high-jinks were seen. It's not like they flew a Vulcan beneath the wires of power pylons or made a crop circle with a Harrier.

  21. patrickstar

    How do you manage to put an Airbus into such a steep dive the passengers get pinned to the ceiling?

    Was it in alternate law, or are the Airbus flight laws actually that lenient?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe the military ones give the pilot more latitude on the basis that you might have to dodge missiles or something. I don't know, just a guess.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gone are the days when an RAF instructor could finish the training course with an unannounced exit from the plane with parachute, or experiments with the army over how low they could pass a Herc over a grunt standing on a jeep ;-)

  23. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    On the ground

    I remember one of my Dad's stories of when he was serving with the Army in Germany in the late 50s/early 60s. Part of duties involved a long drive from camp to somewhere else - 4 guys in an Austin Champ. The first thing they would do after leaving camp was stop and disconnect the rev limiter, so they could get a better top speed on the autobahn. Once underway again, the driver engaged cruise control and a gizmo for keeping the steering pointing straight ahead...this allowed them to play a foursome at cards while the driver kept a cursory eye on what was happening on the road.

    No injury ever occurred (apart from when my Mum found out that he used to do this, and then she nearly killed him)

    1. Jan 0

      Re: On the ground

      Errm, wouldn't a drive shaft have broken before they finished the game?

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: On the ground

        Errm, wouldn't a drive shaft have broken before they finished the game?

        I don't think they set cruise control *that* high

        1. Jan 0

          Re: On the ground

          Well, they'd overidden the rev limiter and as my upvoters (proper Land Rover drivers?) know, Champs had notoriously fragile driveshafts. They wouldn't like autobahns at high speed any more than shingle beaches.

  24. Tom Kelsall

    To those saying that the top speed of a Typhoon is 1500mph; no. Top "speed" is Mach 2 which at 50,000' is roughly 1100 knots depending on the pressure and temperature of the day. Generally low-level flying is conducted at 450 knots or thereabouts.

  25. SonofRojBlake
    Joke

    The copilot had been gone too long, obviously.

  26. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    It's a good thing the Airbus fly-by-wire system figured out something was wrong and sorted it out....

  27. Stevie

    Bah!

    And to think NASA charges ten grand for the same experience on The Vomit Comet.

  28. johngardener

    There is a name

    The man is a whisky anchor!

  29. quxinot

    Holy crap!

    A Reg article that didn't mention Trump nor Brexit, and wasn't a thinly-disguised press release.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...false entries in the log

    Seriously?!?

    Why?!?

    Didn't he realise there were witnesses?!?

  31. Nick London
    IT Angle

    The report is available online.

    The Findings of the investigation can be downloaded here

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/service-inquiry-incident-involving-voyager-zz333-on-9-february-2014

    What I found slightly strange was that the RAF liaison officer at the Turkish airbase at Incirlik was a Warrant Officer with the trade of musician. The inquiry board seem to have been of a similar view.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If the Interwebs are correct, even Mosquito pilots...

    ...flew so low, that they were, during some bombing raids, dodging *waves* and flew *below* the power lines so often that they memorised their routes.

    And yes, they lost several aircraft in the process.

    ...And flying below treetop is not, by any means, a novel occurrence.

  33. 2Fat2Bald

    Words fail me.

    Because it sounds like something I would do.

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