Friday, July 29, 2005

A Second Opinion

I spoke to our local designated pilot examiner a few minutes ago. He's a highly experienced 767 captain, and has time in many more makes of aircraft than I do. I've been sending students to him for years. I went to him for a couple of my checkrides as a student, as much as 4 1/2 years ago. We have very similar opinions of the proper way to do things, and I've come to greatly respect his opinions when I have any issue.

After setting up Joe's private license checkride for a week from today, I explained about the crash. All the details. I was happy to get confirmation from him that my emergency decision-making process and not worrying about saving the plane, saved our lives. I sought his thoughts, because he knows much better than I do how to proceed through this kind of situation, and what to say and not say.

So I have a game plan. He was in agreement about my assessment of what I ought to do from here, and even suggested getting depositions from anyone else who is familiar with the nature of that type of plane, simply to back up our side of the story. If the FAA's current adjudication regarding the events persists, then we will go happily along with it. That will only benefit us. We can't be charged responsible, for inability to control the plane after a sudden mechanical failure, during an inherently critical phase of flight. It will also be better with respect to insurance companies.

So I've left another message with the investigator. I don't want to roll over and let them go without my input being respected.

I've really started thinking about the ways this whole thing could have been different. Same situation, but a different location, or different terrain. If the ground had been flat, with no hill or obstacle, could it have been fixed? I don't know. In any case, we might have rolled to a stop with no damage.

On the other side though, if I had tried to climb out, there is no way it could have happened. The climb angle needed was impossibly steep. Not by much, but enough that I recognized it immediately. If we had cleared the hill, we'd have hit a house, and caused large amounts of damage, not to mention risking other lives. We would almost assuredly have been killed in that scenario. Or if all that had happened at one of the mountaintop airports we had just visited, where the terrain went down very steep. Not a likely survival scenario, and also not likely that anyone would have found us at all. At least not for a day or two.

Regardless, what I chose was the lowest-speed possibility at the time. And I know I did what was necessary in that situation to ensure walking away from it. And now I have a respected opinion that agrees.


At 2:54 PM, Blogger adr said...

Good that you were able to get confirmation of what you knew from a source you respect.

If the plane is so sketchy is there a possibility of manufacturer liability?

At 5:27 PM, Blogger also-known-as said...

I don't know if I can say that or not. All planes have characteristics that you have to learn. Some good, some bad. I had recognized a little less yaw stability with the full flaps previously, while doing stall practice. I'd made plenty of landings in every configuration possible, and at varying speeds. But I'd never done an aborted landing from the lowered speed during the flare, in that configuration. There is precedent for manufacturers changing design for that kind of issue. Other pilots experienced with that model have mentioned similar characteristics, I recently learned. That's all I could say though.

At 3:18 AM, Anonymous Ruth Holman said...

Hi again
It could have been so much worse, but it wasn't, and I'm sure it was to do with the fact that you knew what the right decisions were to make- instinctively. Thanks too, that you said it was nothing to make anyone fear flying in the future, if it had happened to them.

I have a story to tell of a lesson I had- although nothing happened, a few people I spoke to said IF anything had happened we would have been in trouble. I'll relate it to you when I have a bit more time on the computer, as long as you don't mind. It would be good to hear your thoughts on it.


At 9:14 AM, Blogger also-known-as said...

Ruth, that sounds intriguing. I can think of a number of situations like that, but I would be curious about your specific experience, and reactions to it. Please share.



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