Dec

10

 This is an absolutely brilliant interview that is full of insights for the market. The interviewee is one of the pilots aboard the Qantas Airbus A380 last month that had an extremely serious uncontained engine explosion shortly after take-off.

In the interview they cover - inter alia - such things as

- The importance of checklists
- Dealing with contradicting signals
- Over-riding systematic considerations in favour of discretionary controls
- Keeping your head during a major catastrophe which constantly shifts its dynamics and has a lot of what we might call negative gamma…rapidly developing, interacting, non-linear issues that can rapidly move beyond your ability to keep up with them
- The importance of training and professionalism
- The importance of excess redundancy and robustness
- The importance of improvisation - and the ability to keep a clear enough head in a panic to ensure your creativity can be brought to bear on the problem.
- Power of teamwork.

Best part are the pictures of the cockpit showing the checklists and procedures they are working through.

As it turns out, this incident was very much more serious than the media ever picked up on. What an amazing story. I'm sure all will benefit greatly from reading this. For myself, I will be referring to this interview many times. A banquet for a lifetime.

Hope it benefits you all as much as it did me. Also hoping Mr. Tucker weighs in with some insights!

Chris Tucker writes:

Thanks Nick, a nice summary of some of the lessons available from this.

I would add the importance of prioritizing. As Captain Evans points out in the interview, one of the golden rules of aviation is "Aviate, Navigate, Communicate - in that order". This is drilled into every pilots head from their first day of ground school. Keeping the aircraft in a stable flight path is the number one priority, dealing with malfunctions is secondary.

Another aspect of this incident is the importance of a thorough working knowledge of your systems. Today's airliners are complex systems in the extreme. It is fortunate that, according to the New York Times.

The pilot in command, Richard de Crespigny, spent the last two years researching the airplane and its engines for a book, according to Richard Woodward, a safety representative for the international pilots union and a Qantas pilot who says he has spoken to the crew of Flight 32. "His technical knowledge of the airplane is very deep," Mr. Woodward said.

Deep knowledge of your systems is what guides you when you need to decide what to pay attention to and what to disregard.

Another aspect of this incident which it shares with the Hudson River Miracle , in addition to having some of the most experienced pilots in the airline at the controls, is the preponderance of good fortune (after the initial really bad stroke of luck). To consider: It was daylight and the weather was amenable with clear skies. This is huge. Had it simply been raining, it is not clear that the aircraft would have been able to stop safely within the length of the available runway. The fact that the engine failure was not contained is disturbing. (see the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine in a blade off containment test at time 1:52 in this video )

An uncontained engine failure such as the one experienced by Qantas flight 32, although it caused tremendous damage, did not cause immediate catastrophic damage to the airframe or flight control systems. This is either a testament to the robustness of the aircraft or blind luck, probably a little of both. Things could have been much, much worse, as in the United 232 accident in Sioux City, Iowa.

In the end, Captain Evans remarks that it all comes down to common sense and airmanship. Flying is a job that inspires passion. I know very few pilots that are not totally in love with what they do; their dedication to their craft and willingness to never stop learning is a result of this and it is what keeps you and I safe when we entrust ourselves to their care.


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