The tale of a flight crew


Image via Wikipedia

This is an actual incident, which has been hidden from the world press so far. Its all over the internet now…

Written by To The Point News
Friday, 16 May 2008

The brand spanking new Airbus 340-600, the largest passenger airplane ever built, sat in its hangar in Toulouse, France without a single hour of airtime.  Enter the Arab flight crew of Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies (ADAT) on November 15, 2007 to conduct pre-delivery tests on the ground, such as engine run-ups, prior to delivery to Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi.

The ADAT crew taxied the A340-600 to the run-up area. Then they took all four engines to Etihad Airwaystakeoff power with a virtually empty aircraft.  Not having read the run-up manuals, they had no clue just how light an empty A340-600 really is.

The takeoff warning horn was blaring away in the cockpit because they had all 4 engines at full power. The aircraft computers thought they were trying to takeoff but it had not been configured properly (flaps/slats, etc.) Then one of the ADAT crew decided to pull the circuit breaker on the Ground Proximity Sensor to silence the alarm.

This fools the aircraft into thinking it is in the air.

The computers automatically released all the brakes and set the aircraft rocketing forward. The ADAT crew had no idea that this is a safety feature so that pilots can’t land with the brakes on.

Not one member of the seven-man Arab crew was smart enough to throttle back the engines from their max power20setting, so the $200 million brand-new aircraft crashed into a blast barrier, totaling it.

The extent of injuries to the crew is unknown, for there has been a news blackout in the major media in France and elsewhere.  Coverage of the story was deemed insulting to Moslem Arabs.  Finally, the photos are starting to leak out.

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4 Responses

  1. OH my god

  2. This story was published on aviation.com the day after is occurred and happens to be the second accident in 6 days with the A340-600. The original reports list the plan as jumping the chocks and the brakes not being able to hold the 224,000lbs of thrust from the A340-600s 4 trent engines. 3 of the 9 on board were still hospitalized 24 hours later.

    Bad news airbus still owned the plane as it had not been transferred to Etihad airways.

  3. I did have to wonder about this morsel of smarmyness, coming as it does from the Web, forum of all things true and pure of spirit, so I googled a bit — see

    http://www.snopes.com/photos/airplane/etihad.asp
    http://mooker.com/News-Outlets/Follow_Up_To_Etihad_Airbus_A340-600_Ground_Test_Accident_Story_The_Truth.shtml
    http://www.pprune.org/rumours-news/300539-brand-new-etihad-a340-600-damaged-toulouse-several-wounded-26.html#post4705627

    the last being a translation of the full accident report, posted on Professional Pilots’ Rumor Network (barring the IMHO rather remote chance that THAT’s a hoax, including the original-French version it cites at
    http://www.bea.aero/docspa/2007/f-cj071115/pdf/f-cj071115.pdf
    which is a polished government publication with illustrations and chart recordings).

    The “To the Point” source of the yuk-yuk bigot version above is more fully titled “Dr. Jack Wheeler’s To the Point News” (“the oasis for rational conservatives”). Right.

    I refrained from supplying Dr. Wheeler with another subscriber statistic (required in order even to _see_ the discussion of a topic on his site), so I don’t know whether he ended up presenting any evidence; but his cute technical details about alarms and brake interlocks do not agree with the accident report.

    According to that, the parking brake was released _manually_, only after the plane started moving against the still-fully-_engaged_ parking brake, and only in order to _apply_ the _normal-operation_brake_, which acts on more wheels. (Unfortunately the activation of those same additional wheels’ brakes was subsequently disabled by an interlock function that _did_ occur, when the person steering turned the front wheels past a certain threshold angle in his attempt to steer away from the wall — strong steering motions release these wheels’ brakes.)

    Neither do Wheeler’s insinuations about the “seven-man Arab” crew agree with the report–
    there were nine people aboard, of whom seven were from the customer (but somebody in one of the discussion threads I’ve seen asserts that the customer actually hires a lot of people from EU) and two were from Airbus;
Of these nine, on the flight deck the number was _three,_ of whom _two_were_the_two_from_Airbus,_ and it was one of _these_ who was in the right-hand pilot seat and was the Ground Test Technician in charge of the test. The left-hand seat was occupied by one of the customer reps, who no one says touched anything, and the jump seat was occupied by the junior Airbus employee, who finally took it upon himself, too late, to jump up and grab the throttle when he saw that his boss was preoccupied with the brakes and with trying to steer away from the wall.

    From the accident report:

    The ground test technician’s concentration was on the braking system for about ten seconds. [my remark: Impact occurred at thirteen seconds. The wall was less than a plane length away from starting position. In contrast to Wheeler’s description of “rocketing forward,” from the PDF report plots one reads an impact speed was 30 knots, mostly built up in the preceding 8 seconds, after the brakes were messed with, giving a kind of leisurely 0.2g of “rocketing” acceleration] He did not think to retard the thrust levers. This can be explained by his focusing on the braking problem, by the dynamics of the situation and by the lack of training for this kind of situation.
    The persons in the left seat and jump seat were present only as observers. The aeronautical technician in the left seat did not intervene on the controls until impact.
    The flight test engineer intervened, but late, to retard the thrust levers. This can be explained by his status, the fear of interfering with the actions of the technician and also by the dynamic of the situation.

    [end of this excerpt,]

    As to how the Ground Test Technician could undertake such a procedure, when they’re supposed to rev only two at once, it sounds like they (at least used to) do four all the time — again, from the report:

    Note: It is clear from discussions with other Airbus technicians that this kind of test, including with 4 engines at high thrust, are frequent. All confirm that the use of wheel chocks is not systematic. Finally many emphasize the pressure from the customers to go and check some details. This leads sometimes to conducting tests outside the scope of the Customer Acceptance Manual.

    [and]

    Although the reference documents require using wheel chocks during engine tests, the investigation showed they were not systematically used. Similarly, during the test for detecting oil leaks, it often seems that the procedure to apply thrust on 2 engines only is not respected. [my remark: elsewhere the report explains that the motivation for cranking up all 4 engines was to get the oil thin, because reason for running the test at hand was to track down an oil leak.]

    The industrial and commercial issues that are associated with the delivery activities may lead to induce time pressure on testing technicians during this phase.

    [end of excerpt.]

    Obviously someone royally screwed up. Also obviously, either the French report or the Wheeler report is an egregious pack of lies. But the French government report does give reason enough how this could have happened, without invoking racist insinuations. As I say, I do confess neglecting to review the subscribers-only discussion section of the estimable Dr. Wheeler’s blog for any evidence it may have given for his allegations of a coverup. But I didn’t find any evidence of same offered anywhere else, and given a choice as to credibility between the government of France and a snot-nosed “oasis for rational conservatives” that makes a point of harping on people’s ethnicity, I think I’ll take France.

    • Thanks Miller, for your time.

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