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15 May 2015

ATC Humour

I may have spent too much time reading silly threads on the Professional Pilots Rumour Network (PPRuNe). Specifically, there’s a great thread of ATC Humour with a great mix of classic jokes and personal stories. It’s eighty pages long! However, I read the whole thing so that you don’t have to. You’re welcome!

My sense of humour is sometimes very questionable. Also, some of these are very English, and I’ll leave it to the readers to explain those in the comments.

With that proviso, I bring you the best of PPRuNe ATC humour (some edits included to protect the innocent)!


Pilot: I think I suffered a birdstrike. Did you see where it hit?

Controller: Just below the beak but I think it’s all right.


Private Pilot: I need a little help as I am not sure of my position
ATC: Roger. Set 1234 on your transponder
Private Pilot: OK

—long pause–

ATC: I don’t see you in any of my sectors. Where was the last place you were sure of your position?

Private Pilot: Holding short runway 34


Confused British Airways pilot in Thailand: Bangbird, this is Speedcock….


ATC: Clipper 123, what’s the turbulence like at your level?
Clipper 123: Well …how shall I put it? The Captain’s just stuck his fork up his nose.
ATC: TWA 789, what’s the turbulence like at your level?
TWA 789: I don’t know, we haven’t eaten yet.


A cargo plane was flying the same route night after night and after while went in with approach of destination airport (around dusk) with the same joke.

Flight 123: Tower, guess who’s coming?

Each time the tower asked him to identify himself clearly on the frequency instead of joking, never succeeded…until that day in winter:

Flight 123: Tower, guess who’s coming?
Tower controller: (turning off the runway lights) Flight 123, guess where we are now…

From that day, the story says that this cargo pilot always identified when contacting the tower.


A University Air Squadron Bulldog holding for the grass runway:

Charlie 01: Tower, Charlie 01, we have a large flock of plovers by the threshold
Tower: Charlie 01, say again?
Charlie 01: We have a large flock of plovers by the threshold
Tower: A large flock of what?
Charlie 01: *sigh* Birds.


Aeroflot routing to Ireland and then on to Cuba at time of tension…

ATCO: Aeroflot 123, do you carry transponder?
Aeroflot: Negative sir, we only carry agricultural equipment


In the days that the Red Devils used to parachute over Queens Parade and work TMA south for entry into controlled airspace, a Qantas jumbo on a Southhampton departure on a sunny day made an anxious report.

Qantas: Hey, London, there’s an aircraft on our left hand side and there’s people falling out of it.
Controller: Is it a red islander?
Qantas: Blimey, that’s good radar!


There are two approaches into airfields near Boston; here are the waypoints:

ITAWT
ITAWA
PUDYE
TTATT
IDEED


Trainee controller: Cessna 172 calling, say again your callsign and type of aircraft.


Approx 4:00 AM one morning

India X-ray Charlie India X-ray Charlie request.
Brisbane: Go ahead.
India X-ray Charlie Roger, I seem to have left my flight plan in the fax machine at home. Don’t suppose you could give me my flight details.

(After a minute’s pause)

Brisbane: (laughing) India X-ray Charlie we can do that for you. You have departed Weipa.

(Another pause )

India X-ray Charlie: Ahh…roger, I kinda know that much.
Brisbane: (still laughing) You are off to Cairns.

(Another pause)

India X-ray Charlie: You guys are going to drag this out for a while just to embarrass me, aren’t you.

This went on for a while, eventually the rest of the details were also given.


Two J41 aircraft inbound to the field, the first aircraft established inbound on the ILS, second aircraft reports visual with the field requesting a visual approach.

ATC: Are you visual with the company Jetstream in your 1 o’clock, range 6 miles?
J41: Negative. Are you sure you mean in my 1 o’clock?
ATC: Try looking to the right of your 12 o’clock.
J41: Visual.


O’Hare Approach Control: United 329 heavy, your traffic is a Fokker, one o’clock, three miles, eastbound.

United 239: Approach, I’ve always wanted to say this… I’ve got the little Fokker in sight.


Detroit Radio: Number aboard?
N1234: Two
Detroit Radio: Color?
N1234: Uh…white males.


The other day at Hamilton, New Zealand (NZHN 122.9MHz) there was a female trainee controller on the frequency (every now and then you could hear her OJTI (instructor) talking in the background).

The controller had a C206 transitting the Control Zone to the south (ZK-EJE) and a 152 (ZK-EJZ – similar callsign) taxiing on the ground. Needing to check the position of the C206 (ZK-EJE) before clearing a southbound Saab 340 for takeoff the following was heard:

Trainee ATCO: Echo Juliet Zulu, report level and position
ZK-EJZ (a particularly quick thinking instructor): 172feet (aerodrome elevation) at Holding Point Charlie
Trainee ATCO: Uh…Roger? [sounds of raucous laughter from the instructor in the background]

For the next few minutes every time the trainee spoke you could hear the instructor wetting himself in the background.


London Air Traffic Control Centre controller was asked some time before to accept a pair of Blackburn Buccaneers.

Civilian LATCC controller: Where are my Buccaneers?
LATCC Military controller: Under your Buccan headset!


A couple of years ago, a A300 ST Beluga checking in :

Beluga: Hello Bordeaux, this is Super Transporter F-AD, with you FL330.
Bordeaux: Super Transporter AD, bonjour. This is Super Controller speaking!


Flight SWR 101 was normally a B747 inbound to Zurich from JFK. ACC called the approach controller and told them that flight SWR 101 was coming in with only 3 engines today. In fact, it was an MD-11 that day, a three-engine wide-body jet.

The Approach Controller immediately notified the fire brigade and everything was prepared for a one engine out landing with a 747. The pilots didn’t notice when the approach controller told them that the fire brigade was ready, and the fire brigade was pretty upset when they saw an MD-11 on final approach.


A DC-10 had an exceedingly long roll out after landing with his approach speed a little high.

San Jose Tower: American 751 heavy, turn right at the end of the runway, if able. If not able, take the Guadalupe exit off Highway 101, make a right at the lights and return to the airport.


On the airline frequency:

Flight crew: None of our toilets are working. Can we have permission to give the passengers complimentary drinks?


A Dan Air flight is running late into Aberdeen and he eventually changes from Scottish to Aberdeen Approach.

A/C: Aberdeen, good day. It’s the f*****g Dan Air 123.

An uncomfortable pause lasts for a few moments and the controller eventually responds as he would normally would. However despite the controller using the correct call-sign the pilot operating the R/T still persisted in saying ‘F*****g Dan Air 123′.

The flight was handed over to the tower frequency and the pilot continued to use this ‘modified’ callsign. The tower controller was just as surprised as their colleague was on approach but nevertheless the pilot continued to use the modified callsign right until the aircraft taxied onto stand.

When the aircraft pulled onto stand the pilot called tower and suggested that they should listen to the current ATIS.

The ATIS was recorded as normal however in the background you could hear a certain Approach controller shout out ‘Where is that F******g Dan Air’.


Cockpit: The first officer says he’s got the runway in sight.
ATC: Roger, the first officer’s cleared for a visual approach runway 27…You continue on that 180 heading and descend to three thousand.


Your story is almost true but here is the official version. I know as I was that controller. The Blackbird was competing in a race from overhead New York to overhead London and I was briefed to ‘clock’ it in as it passed overhead London. (I was a military ATCO covering the London overhead at the time – 1972) The Blackbird was out of primary radar cover so I was tracking it on SSR. As it passed over London heading East I gave it a left turn for Mildenhall and then watched aghast as it commenced it’s very very wide turn and disappeared towards Holland descending through a very high Mode C readout. Being a smart ATCO I instructed the pilot to ‘strangle his parrot’ and report when steady heading 270. When he did I asked him to report his altitude and then told him to continue. After a bit of dead reckoning I instructed him to squawk my code and picked him up over the North Sea about 30 miles east of Gt Yarmouth at about FL 330 descending !! God knows how far he had penetrated German airspace but with no SSR and probably above their primary cover maybe I had got away with it. There is one other ATCO who knows the story but you won’t tell will you Pete ?


Radar controller in a sticky situation: two a/c, parallel vectored but on the wrong sides. No chance of a vertical solution or a ‘make a 360′ solution due to traffic behind.

ATC: a/c 1, do you see the a/c on your right?
a/c1: Affirm
ATC: a/c 2, do you see the a/c on your left?
a/c2: Affirm
ATC: You guys able to maintain VFR for the next 1 min?
a/c1: Affirm
a/c2: Affirm
ATC: OK, now swap!

The amazing thing was that they actually did!


Tower: Eastern 702, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on 124.7

Eastern 702: Tower, Eastern 702 switching to Departure. By the way, after we lifted off we saw some kind of dead animal on the far end of the runway.

Tower: Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on 124.7.Did you copy that report from Eastern 702?

Continental 635: Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, roger; and yes, we copied Eastern and we’ve already notified our caterers…


Aircraft taxying to terminal after landing 04 used to pass quite close to the tower. One old time pilot whose voice we all knew used to flip us the finger as he said g’day on his way past (I think it might have actually been two fingers in those days). Of course we all knew the routine and gave a mass showing of fingers thrusting skyward.

It was only later we found that he had just made a PA announcement: “If those passengers on the left hand side of the aircraft look out the window now, they’ll see the friendly boys in the tower hard at work…”


Back in the early 1960s Gloster Gladiator G-AMRK was going from A to B when the engine quit (I think it was somewhere near Bedford). He put out a Mayday and asked to be pointed at the nearest airfield.

ATC: What type of aircraft are you?
Pilot: Gloster Gladiator.
ATC: This is really not the time to be funny.
Pilot: If you were stuck up here in the last flyable Gloster Gladiator in the world without an engine I doubt you would find it at all funny!

They got him down.


ATC: Aeroflot XXX proceed direct VUT.

Aeroflot: Ummm… say again?

ATC: Aeroflot, present position direct Victor Uniform Tango.

Aeroflot: Roger, proceeding direct WHISKY UNIFORM TANGO.

ATC: NEGATIVE! It’s VODKA Uniform Tango!


An AA 757 is coming out of the AA terminal cul-de-sac at high speed, checking in on the TWR frequency. Controller asks: “Why the hurry?” and the reply, although a bit garbled, sounds exactly like “I have a dangerous cargo”.

“Okay,” thinks our hero, “better give this guy priority in the departure sequence.” This is done and furthermore a message about this particular flight having a dangerous cargo is passed along down the line thru the ATC system.

The flight reaches O’Hare airport in record time.

Tower: AAxxx, would you need any special assistance when parking?
American Airlines pilot: Errr, no. Why d’ya ask? (sounding quite baffled)
Tower: Well, understand that you told JFK TWR that you had a dangerous cargo…
American Airlines pilot: Nonono! I said I have a date in Chicago!


Experienced some months ago while approaching to land a helicopter at a busy English airfield…

TOWER: PA28 G-XXXX cleared to land 04 Hard.
G-XXXX: Cleared to land 04 Hard G-XXXX.
TOWER: Helicopter G-YYYY cleared to land 04 Grass and watch for inbound PA28 on finals.
ME: Clear land 04 Grass – looking.
TOWER: He’s behind you.
SOME WAG ON FREQUENCY: Oh no he’s not…
ANOTHER WAG ON FREQUENCY: Oh yes he is…

I was laughing so hard I couldn’t hover.


Early morning at Frankfurt:

Speedbird 123: Request taxi.
Tower: Negative Speedbird 123, hold position.
Lufthansa 456: Request taxi.
Tower: Clear taxi, Lufthansa 456.
Speedbird 123: Request taxi.
Tower: Negative 123, hold position.
Lufthansa 789: Request taxi.
Tower: Clear taxi, Lufthansa 789
Speedbird 123: Why are we still holding?
Lufthansa 789: German pilots get up early and put their towels on the end of the runway.


Air Force One (B707/C-137) was visiting UK back in the 1960s. Crusty old Colonel captain decides to visit a few RAF airfields to do some crew training. These were the days before secondary radar.

Air Force One: Air Force One checking in and requesting a precision approach radar.
RAF: Roger Air Force One, can I have your present position, heading and height?
Air Force One: Look buddy, you’ve got the goddamn radar, you find us!

After a couple of identification turns Air Force One is now on dog leg to finals.

RAF: Air Force One you are now on dog leg to finals, just confirm your aircraft is multi-channel VHF equipped?
Air Force One: Affirmative
RAF:Right then old boy, you find the Final Controller!


Two jets were leaving on the same heading: BE200 at FL 70 and A340 at FL 80 about 4 miles behind but going much faster. As the Airbus caught up to the King Air and the returns on the radar merged, a meek little voice was heard.

“It’s gone awful dark…….”


A PAN AM 747 suffers an engine failure on rotation at LHR:

PILOT: Err ah Clipper 123, we are going to continue straight ahead runway heading and dump some gas.
CONTROLLER: Are you aware, sir, that your current heading takes you over Windsor Castle where her Majesty is currently in residence?
PILOT: (quick as a flash) Ask her majesty, does she just want the gas or the airplane and the gas?


A colleague heard the following recently on the way into Schiphol.

AMS Controller: Continental give me a good rate please through FL100?
Continental: Well sir, we are doing 2000 feet per minute.
AMS Controller: Could you make it 3000 feet per minute?
Continental : No sir.
AMS Controller: Oh, do you not have a speedbrake?
Continental: Yes sir, I do, but that is for MY mistakes, not for yours!


RADAR: November 12345, VFR traffic on your 12 o’clock, range two miles.
A/C: No, the traffic is actually a flock of Canada Geese!
RADAR: Well, the geese are squawking 1200.


A Tucano is a two-seater turboprop trainer. On a London north bank sector many moons ago, one of the first Tucanos was trundling around on airways when the pilot advised that an immediate diversion was required because of engine trouble.

Trainee controller not quite conversant with aircraft type: State persons on board and which engine is giving trouble.

Arguably one of the greatest responses came back:

“Me and it.”


Know any more? Leave ‘em in the comments!

13 February 2015

Homemade Gyro-Rocket-Copter Thing

When I first saw the reference to “Insane Homebrew Rocket” I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

I’m still not sure what to think. I have to concede that it flies but I’m really not sure what to class the contraption as. A rocket-copter? One YouTube commenter calls it an orbital launch vehicle with an in-built centrifugation system which sounds a bit more serious than it looks. Or could this be the future of manned space flight?

It seems to have made it 1,500 feet off the ground, which is an amazing height for what looks like a wagon wheel attached to pyrotechnics. It’s one of the most amazing flying objects I think I’ve ever seen launched from a dirt track.

It is apparently based upon a traditional Thai firework launcher and was almost certainly part of the Yasothon Bun Bang Fai Rocket festival where teams create home-made rockets which are launched on the third (and last) day of the festival.

Rocket Festival – Wikipedia

Sunday competition moves on to the launching of Bangfai, judged, in various categories, for apparent height and distance travelled, with extra points for exceptionally beautiful vapour trails Those whose rockets misfire are either covered with mud, or thrown into a mud puddle (that also serves a safety function, as immediate application of cooling mud can reduce severity of burns).

Well, no mud for this team, their rocket is clearly an unqualified success!

You can see read more and see photographs of the festival here: Gallery: Thailand’s wildest event, the Bun Bangfai rocket festival | CNN Travel

23 January 2015

Actual Search Terms for Fear of Landing

One of the odd and amusing things about running Fear of Landing is discovering how visitors found the website. My favourite report is the search engine terms. If someone searches on key words or a phrase and then my website comes up in the list of relevant sites, they can click straight through to Fear of Landing and I get a record of what they were searching for when they found me.

A lot of these are exactly what you’d expect for a website like mine: searches on specific crashes or questions to do with aviation. Sometimes, though, it gets a little bit odd. Here’s the highlights of search terms that lead to Fear of Landing in 2014.

Most common searches

  • Boston John
  • Red Arrows
  • Vesna Vulovic
  • George Aird

Someone who couldn’t quite remember the name of my blog

  • scared of landing visit to blackpool airport atc

Multiple searches which led searchers to the wrong site (is this a thing?)

  • sexy nude skydiving stewardess

Search that I should know the answer to but don’t

  • what is the largest plane that can land at swansea airport

A searching question

  • flying into an area unknown to you, the approach procedure goes below the required visual and weather minimums – the captain elects to continue saying he has flown the procedure ‘numerous times’ – what would you do

Searches that will probably never be answered on Fear of Landing

  • what are best ever sex stories with air hostess in hindi
  • shark tail how it prevents dipping of its snout (mechanics)

Least useful keywords for a perfectly valid search

  • at what time (local) did the ups flight depart dubai international airport on its fateful last flight on

Search most likely to end up as an exam question

  • an airplane is flying at 450km/hr at a constant altitude of 5km. It is approaching a camera mounted on the ground

Search from pilot who is seriously planning ahead

  • which aircraft have more ability to land on a flooded runway between boeing 737-800 and airbus 319 320

Search most in need of more details

  • why didn’t pilot try to make it to ho chi ming for emergency landing

Quiz night search

  • do planes land with or against traffic on emergency landings in the street

Most unexpected search

  • women wearing masks breathing hard flickr

Search pilot should have made BEFORE the flight

  • what will happen if I infringed controlled airspace

Bragging search (My boyfriend has done this too)

  • i slept with a pilot

Important search that I just can’t help with

  • con man? a man with a british accent from california claims he is a ww2 pilot

And finally…

Search most likely to inspire me to write a new article

  • are the birds of prey at prestwick airport trained not to fly away

To be fair, the report results actually show that most of you are sane and interested aviation enthusiasts. But now and then, I have to admit, I have to wonder…

09 January 2015

A Drone and the Man who Loves It

I have posted a few times about the dangers of drones but this video shows what can be done with a remote controlled model aircraft. It has everything: suspense, intrigue and action. It’s the touching story between a drone at the edge of its life and the Dutchman who loves it.

Zwier Spanjer got a DJI Phantom 2 for Christmas and spent the day flying it around the local park in the Netherlands. He was having so much fun, he forgot to watch the power.

Just watch:

When the DJI gets low on power, it goes into auto-land mode which is why it is slowly descending. You can see the owner and his friends watching from the street.

Of course, someone has already done a Whitney Houston homage:

I know I complain about reckless usage of these now that they’ve become affordable and popular but I do love the camera footage that comes from them!

26 December 2014

Most Popular Aviation Pieces in 2014

Long dark nights are slowly receding as we pass the winter solstice and head back towards Spring. I can tell you, I’m seriously looking forward to 2015: I have great expectation of fun projects and lots of writing and hopefully even a bit of flying.

This year’s most popular posts are an interesting mix as quite a few of them were not posted this year. They gained belated attention through posts on aviation message boards, Reddit and searches for information, which means some unexpected posts like those in the history category did especially well.

I made one change: I didn’t count posts to do with MH370 and MH17. I feel these were high at the time as we all tried to make sense of the mystery of the disappearing aircraft but they have not been updated since the initial posts and may now hold information that has since been corrected. None of them appears in the top posts of the last few months, that is, there was a spike of interest which has now receded.

(Obligatory pitch: if you are interested in reading more about MH370, then take a look at my book, The Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It does not cover the last few months of search news but the details of the flight and the list of theories regarding the aircraft’s disappearance are completely up-to-date.)

So, here are the posts which were the most popular in 2014!

Number One: The Story Behind an Unbelievable Photograph

I wrote this November 2013 because I loved the photograph and wanted to know how it happened. Clearly, a lot of people have the same question: it has turned out to be my most popular post ever.


Number Two: Boston John

Air Traffic Controller John Melecio, also known as “Boston John,” is one of the most famous ATC controllers today. When he was controlling from Boston Tower, he was always lively and humorous, gathering a following all over the world. Listeners on LiveATC.net posted to the forums whenever he was on air so fans could tune in and hear him live.

When I wrote about John Melecio, I didn’t realise he was quite that famous but two years later, this post is one of the most often linked to from avation groups talking about ATC.


Number Three: FAA Approved?

I found this on an aviation forum and I just can’t stop staring at the photographs.

This is the sixth year in a row that this series of photographs is in my top five posts. I have to admit, I never get tired of looking at his repairs.


Number Four: Overloaded, Overspeed and Out of Fuel

The situation started quietly: a Boeing 757 inbound to Newcastle International Airport (NCL) was asked to do a go around: break off the approach and try again.

The Thomas Cook aircraft was a Boeing 757-237 registration G-TCBC. There were seven crew on board and 235 passengers. The crew was scheduled for an early morning flight from Newcastle to the Canary Islands, landing at Fuerteventura and returning to Newcastle that afternoon. They could expect to be home for suppertime.

At less than a month old, I’m surprised to see this accident report in the top ten, but it is a hard-to-believe incident in which a relatively standard sequence of events almost turned into disaster.


Number Five: Six Exclamations You Never Want to Hear in the Cockpit

“Have You Ever Done a Barrel Roll in the Dark?”

This was a selection of six accidents with wince-worthy cockpit conversations shortly before things went pear-shaped. Most of these are accidents I covered on the site and I thought I’d try a different way of doing a round-up of interesting accidents. It seems to have worked.


Number Six: B-1B with its Nose to the Ground

On the 5th of October in 1989, a B-1B Lancer departed Dyess Air Force Base with four crew on a routine training flight. Three hours later, the flight crew discovered that the aircraft had a hydraulics fault. As they came in to land at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, the front landing gear failed to lower. They circled the airfield for four hours, twice being refuelled by an airborne tanker, as they struggled to lower the nose wheel. Supporting the crew on the ground were military personal and mechanics for the aircraft manufacturer; however they were unable to resolve the issue.

The video of this landing was released last year and clearly you all found it as fascinating as I did.


Number Seven: A Fun Set of Videos for the Weekend

These are all good-hearted aviation videos which are being passed around that I thought you might enjoy. Surely you can’t have already seen them all!

All I can say is you all must have been seriously bored that weekend…


Number Eight: Pilot Suicides: Fact vs Fiction

One of the claims by Ewan Wilson which is making headlines is that he “found” five flights which he believes were also caused by suicidal pilots.

To clarify, to “find” these cases, you just need to go to the Aviation Safety Network, where there is a list of aircraft accidents caused by pilot suicide. ASN lists nine cases there but Wilson is clearly talking about commercial pilots carrying passengers. That leaves us with five cases, all totally documented.

Each of these five commercial pilots flying a scheduled passenger service is believed (by some investigating bodies, although not all) to have committed suicide, taking their aircraft and their passengers with them: an especially horrifying type of mass murder.

A straight-forward look at five possible pilot suicides in commercial aircraft, in the context of what might have happened to Malaysia Airlines flight 370. The hardest part of writing this piece was keeping it short; I could have written so much more detail on any one of the five flights.


Number Nine: Captain Fired After Nose-Wheel Landing

Another relevant point is that the Captain had been watching the approach on the Heads Up Display. The Jeppesen approach plate (11-1) for ILS Runway 4, states that the VGSI [PAPI] and ILS glidepath are not coincident. This means that even coming down perfectly on the PAPI, the aircraft could show as high on the ILS glideslope. The NTSB have so far makes no comment as to whether this may have led the Captain to overreact as the approach appeared higher than it was.

This is an unusual case where the Captain took control of the aircraft at the very last moment and caused the aircraft to land hard on the nose wheel. I wrote this up based on the preliminary reports and am interested to see if the final report offers any further information.


Number Ten: Near Miss at Barcelona

Last week, a plane spotter named Miguel Angel was filming flights coming into Barcelona airport when he captured this video. Five days later, that video has had over 20 million views.

The final report on this incident is still not out, which is a shame. I’d love to know how it happened.


And that’s the top ten posts that you all enjoyed en masse in 2014. If you have a personal favourite post, please tell me in the comments!

Meanwhile, Anna’s busy putting together a set of her favourite aviation pieces from 2014 on Facebook. Keep an eye out for that here: Fear of Landing on Facebook

I hope we have a lot more interesting aviation news and analysis for you in 2015!

24 October 2014

Dwarves, Orcs and Elves Take Flight with Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand, the official airline of Middle-Earth, have once again taken the world by storm with their safety video. They’ve called it The Most Epic Airline Safety Video Ever and it’s guaranteed to keep passengers’ attention during pre-flight announcements.

Keep your eyes peeled for Frodo, Fili, and Radagast and even director Peter Jackson! Ian McKellen was not available to play Gandalf so instead, film-maker and safety video director Taika Waititi filled in. Apparently his passenger is a well-known baseball player, Naoyuki Shimizu.

As the official airline of Middle-earth, Air New Zealand has gone all out to celebrate the third and final film in The Hobbit Trilogy – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Starring Elijah Wood and Sir Peter Jackson; we’re thrilled to unveil The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made.

The video was filmed in the Middle-Earth locations of New Zealand over the course of a week. Their first Hobbit safety video had more than twelve million views and the current video The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made #airnzhobbit has already had over three million views as I write this.

I usually recommend against reading comments on You Tube but this piss-take of searching for symbolism really did make me laugh:

The safety position in case of emergency is designed to break your neck so flight companies wont have to pay you for cure of possible injury for long time, they only will have to pay few bucks to your relatives if you die.

I have proof: the video length was 4:38 which gets rounded to 5, this video was about Lord of the Rings and Lord of the Rings has the Sauron eye, humans have 2 eyes.
5 -2=3 : Triangle has 3 corners
Triangle looks like nose. Humans have one nose which looks like triangle and 2 eyes,
2-1 makes 1 eye
The Illuminati’s symbol is triangle with eye in middle of it! They spoke about illuminated signs, I found them.
AIR NEW ZEALAND ILLUMINATI CONFIRMED?

Maybe not.

Sadly, they’ve said that this is the last of their Hobbit-themed works. The YouTube video will at least help to tide me over until the final Hobbit film comes out in December… although if anyone wants to fund a flight to New Zealand, I’m happy to check the safety video out in person!

03 October 2014

Five Airbus A350-XWB in Formation

This week had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for plane spotters: Five Airbus A350-900 test aircraft flying in formation. The Airbus A350-900 received its type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The FAA certification will follow.

The A350-900 Type Certification comes after successfully finishing a stringent programme of certification trials which has taken its airframe and systems well beyond their design limits to ensure all airworthiness criteria are fully met.

The A350 XWB (Xtra Wide-Body) is the first Airbus to have a fuselage and wings made primarily of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer. The A350-900 series seats 314 passengers nine abreast and has a range of 14,350 kilometres, almost the distance from New York to Brisbane.

Airbus say that the A350-XWB is 16% lighter manufacturer’s empty weight (MEW) per seat and uses 25% less fuel. The A350 is expected to enter service by the end of the year.

The prototype A350 first flew on 14 June 2013 at Tolouse-Blagnac Airport in France. Now, just over a year later, the A350 hyas its type certification.

The test aircraft collected over 2,600 flight test hours over 600 flights. As a celebration of the type certification the five A350s performed a formation flight at the end of their programme.

It is usually much too expensive for commercial aircraft to be used for formation flying so this is quite a sight to behold.

The video was filmed using a sixth aircraft, a Corvette, which chased the five A350-XWBs.

23 May 2014

Investigating Aircraft Accidents with David Corre

This excellent guest post is by Adam Wilcox who kindly allowed me to share it with you here.


An interview with David Corre, aircrash investigator.

“An aircraft accident is a very traumatic thing … the violence alone is something to be seen to be believed.” David Corre, his hands shaking from Parkinsons, looked me straight in the eye as he said this.

It was June 2002. We were sitting in the lobby of BAE Systems, Farnborough. David had short, wispy salt and pepper hair, and spoke with a soft West Country accent that broke as his hand shook. He was 71 but still working, and regularly flew Tiger Moths and Cessnas.

In his 46 years with the aircraft industry he had worked on the designs for the iconic Concorde, and the TSR-2, a British Cold War strike and reconnaissance aircraft that was cancelled before ever going into service. “It was probably the most advanced aircraft ever built in this country,” David told me with absolute conviction. “Had it been built in numbers and gone into service, it would undoubtedly have still been in service. It was one of the most beautiful aircraft I have had the pleasure of working on.”

After David crashed two aircraft, he decided he should interest himself in flight safety, and became Head of Flight Safety for Vickers. In the 1970s Vickers was one of the most famous names in British engineering, and made the Vickers Viscount, a turboprop airliner that was ground-breaking for its time, becoming one of the most successful and profitable post-war aircraft.

As Head of Flight Safety, David was sent out to the crash sites to investigate the cause of accidents and how to prevent them in the future.

“If you don’t have the right sort of attitude, the shock and horror very often stops you from proceeding. But you can say to yourself that this is all for the safety of the community.”

In June 1974, David set out on his first accident investigation, which had taken place near a little town called Cúcuta, in Colombia, South America.

Now here’s one of the problems with investigating Flight Safety. When you first set off from London to the country involved, you invariably fly to the capital city with a reputable airline like British Airways, TWA, Virgin or whoever, so you have some sort of standard you can put up with as you make your way across the world. However, when you land at the capital city, (which in this case was Bogotá, the capital, and largest city, of Colombia), you’ve got another 250 miles to go and the outfit that are going to fly you there are invariably the outfit that have had the accident. So you have—how can I put it—mixed feelings.

Anyway, we got out there, and it was not exactly jungle but scrub—very thickly grown with thorn bushes, and stuff growing up to about 30 or 40 feet. The accident itself had occurred on Monte San Isidro, a ridge about 140 feet high, and was about 2 and a half miles from the nearest track.

We followed the members of the Colombian Accident investigation branch, and some guys from Aerolineas TAO (the airline involved). The first thing that was amazing was the quantity of water we were carrying with us, I soon found out that you got dehydrated so quickly in that part of the world that it is essential that you carry loads and loads of water. We had about four and a half gallons of water with us, and we drank the lot.

We picked our way across the flat valley base, and then climbed a 140 foot high embankment. We got to the top of the ridge, and there before us was the accident site, and when I tell you there was not a single nut, bolt, split pin or washer to be found of that aeroplane.

Not disappeared in a conflagration, there are certain things like magnesium castings and aluminium that will burn and disappear but there are some things that will not burn mostly stainless steel, nimonic alloys, all bits of pieces in the engines. These things are pretty massive as you might imagine, and they had all vanished.

In the 36 hours it took for me to get there, the Colombian authorities reckoned there were eight thousand people on the site, salvaging, and they took the lot. This was no mean feat when you think about it, how do you transport an engine weighing about half a ton down a hundred foot slope, through a jungle? The only thing left for me to find was a couple of old cans with a crucifix stuck out of the top.

My task was to find out what went wrong so that corrections can be made if necessary, changes made in the original design to improve the safety of the aircraft. Here I was on my first trip, in the middle of the South American jungle, with nothing but a piece of furnishing that must have been dropped by a scavenger. So, with nothing really to work with, I made a map of the area, and from the damage to the trees I worked out roughly the direction of the aircraft had arrived in.

Flight 514 had been on approach to Camilo Daza Airport, Cúcuta, when it crashed onto Monte San Isidro at 14:30 local time. All 6 crew and 38 passengers were killed.

We eventually made our way back down the slope, and by the side of the road was a taverna, a little cantina. We’d drunk all the water by this time, so we decided to stop here and plan our next move. It was a shack; it had a mud floor with one lady running it. I’ve no idea how many customers she got in a day, because I can’t believe many people used this little track.

Sitting on the floor, drinking papaya juice with all the others, I suddenly spotted this beautiful light blue lizard by the doorway. It looked in, unperturbed by our presence and wandered off. “What a beautiful creature”, I said to the woman behind the counter through an interpreter.

“Oh,” she said. “Would you like to see his new home?”

“Yes, that would be very interesting.”

She lead me round the back of the taverna, and there sitting in a piece of the air conditioning duct of my aeroplane was the lizard.

I turned to the woman and asked, “Did you see the accident?”

“Yes of course, this aeroplane comes past every morning at the same time.”

“Tell me about the accident.”

“Well, the aircraft turned toward the airfield, when suddenly there was a loud bang, an explosion and something silver fell from the aircraft. The aircraft itself continued for a little way and then rolled over and dived into the ground where it all burned.”

“The piece that you saw, the silver piece? Could you tell me exactly where it happened? Or where it is located?”

“Oh yes,” she said. You should always remember that people are cleverer than you think they are. She had taken a line of sight from where she had seen the engine, (the ‘something silver’), come down to an electricity pole and the corner of her cantina. We got a large scale map of the area, and drew on a centre line of the runway and we put the cantina on, and took a bearing with a compass from the corner of the cantina and the electricity pole. Later, we took a helicopter and there, where the lines had crossed, was the complete tailplane and elevator from this aeroplane. We landed, salvaged it, and eventually we were able to get it from Cúcuta to Bogotá.

The tailplane is the stabiliser at the back of the aircraft, in this case the spar cap of had failed in fatigue. A fatigue crack has the appearance of an oyster shell which is in effect the way the crack proceeds, like a little tide mark in front of it each time. Each little oyster shell mark represented a flight, a lowering of the flaps because that is when the greatest strain comes on the tail plane. About 80% the machining had fractured, it was amazing that it was still hanging on.

The findings of this accident resulted in the history of the aircraft coming out, (including many things that were illegal), and in January 1975 all of the Aerolineas TAO Viscount fleet were grounded and an inspection of the tailplane spar on all the Viscounts worldwide took place.

Two months later, in August 1974, David flew to Isla de Margarita, an island off the North-Eastern coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea. He was investigating the accident of a Viscount belonging to Aeropostal, the formerly state-owned airline of Venezuela.

The accident had occurred about three miles from touchdown at Porlamar-del Caribe Mariño International Airport, but it crashed 8 m below the summit of La Gloria mountain, killing all 49 people on board.

As soon as we got there, I wanted to find out if it was a repeat of the damage of the first accident, as it was the same aircraft. Thankfully it wasn’t, the tailplane was very firmly still attached in the wreckage. You could see that the aircraft had come in straight and level because it was covered with tower cactus and the aircraft had literally cut its way through the cactus and you could see the ‘shape’ of the aircraft. The aircraft was level and everything was in place and nothing had fallen off.

I was looking at this wreckage, and suddenly thought to myself that some of the pieces didn’t add up. This isn’t the aircraft I am supposed to be looking at, this is an entirely different aircraft. In this case I was looking at the wreckage of an Fokker F27 Friendship, not the Vickers Viscount I was expecting. I turned to the Chief Inspector of Accidents, a man with the wonderful name of José Antonio Salas Parra, and asked ‘What am I looking at?’ Because immediately you think two aircraft about the same size had a mid-air collision.

“Oh,” he said, “that was an accident that occurred here twelve years ago.”

The earlier accident, in February 1962, had coincidentally been traveling the same route but in the opposite direction, when it crashed 10 minutes after leaving Caribe Mariño Airport. At the time it was the 4th worst accident ever in Venezuela.

So here we had too much wreckage, two planes when we thought we’d have one, and it hadn’t been pinched. This is probably because the people of Venezuela are a lot better off than the people of Colombia.

When researching this article I found a record of the flight at a Vickers Viscount enthusiast website, which includes the following narrative as the probable cause of the accident; “The accident was thought to have been caused by bad weather as tropical storm Alma was in the area at the time off the coast of Trinidad.” David tells a different story.

The radio stations that the pilots were using were unreliable. So instead, the pilots of the airlines flying out to these places were using the local commercial radio station and it was just an unfortunate coincidence that the tuner for the ADF, (which locks onto a non-directional beacon on the ground), was in the same frequency position on one of the four bands on the tuner as the local radio station.

The pilot must have mistaken his position in the sky, and hit the mountain, somersaulting over it.

We then all went back to Caracas for a big meeting with the meteorologist, the legislator, and the accident investigation people. Everyone was saying it wasn’t my fault; that it wasn’t a problem with the aircraft. At this point, the head of the Pilot Union stood up and he said; ‘It’s all very well for you people, but the pilot is dead and you are persuading people and saying it is his fault? And yet we have Señor Corre here from British Aircraft Corporation who has shown some very lamentable shortfall of the radio aids of this place which possibly could have led to the accident.’

“The secretary of Don José came to me and said ‘David, you must come with me’, and I said ‘Oh, OK—’ and we went out of the room.

“It’s about the statement—” she said.

“Well, they’ve got my report,” David replied.

“Oh no no, you don’t understand. They have prepared a report which they want you to sign.”

“What? No, I couldn’t possibly do that.”

“If they get hold of you, they will beat it out of you.”

“Oh.” David replied. “Well, it looks like I have to part company with Venezuela very quickly.”

“David, there’s a limousine cruising around the block right now looking for you.”

I followed her down the stairs at the back into an alleyway, and just then we saw the limousine glide past at the end of the alley, with these terrible hoods in it. I was really frightened, I’m not James Bond, but we went into another building, up a staircase across the roof, down another fire escape, and across the rooftops until we eventually made our way out of the central area. I made a break for the Hotel Avila where I was staying. From my room I phoned British Airways and thankfully there was a flight leaving in a couple of hours.

I packed very hurriedly, and checked out but there was a problem. The airfield at Caracas is situated on the coast itself, between the two is the last of the Andes mountains. You either travel twenty miles out of town by car, down through a tunnel and then back up to the airfield, or you took a cable car, an aerial tramway if you’re American, over the mountains straight down into the airport. There was no way I could go on that because I had all the technical manuals, maintenance manuals, and operational manuals of the aircraft with me so I had to go by taxi—big delay. I got to the airport, and there was a guy with his hands stuck into his waistbands; military.

“I’m sorry Señor. You cannot leave Venezuela.”

“Why not?” I panicked, the hoods must have phoned up expecting me to try and escape the country.

“You have not made the declaration of Income Tax.”

“Income Tax? What the—what are you talking about? I pay income tax at home in England.”

“No Señor. The money since you have been here. The money you have earned here must be declared for the Income Tax.”

“But … I’m a tourist!”

“Ahh, but you are not a tourist. I have seen you on the television. You are Señor Corre from the British Aircraft Corporation, and you are here to investigate the Isla de Margarita accident.”

So then I did something I have never done in my life before, or since for that matter. I looked at him hard and I said, “Fifty Bolívares says that I don’t have to make the Income Tax declaration.

He looked at me and I thought, this is where he pulls his gun out. He stared at me, and then broke unto a huge smile. He drummed the table with his fingertips and said “One hundred Bolívares”.

So I paid up the hundred Bolívares and I was through. When I walked onto the plane and the man said “Welcome to British Airways,” I could’ve kissed his boots.


David died in in June 2006, aged 75. He was a chartered engineer, member of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and International Society Of Air Safety Investigators.

Photos:
The Civil Aviation Historical Society: Lindsay Wise collection


If you enjoyed this post, then I recommend you visit Adam’s blog at adamwilcox.org. It’s a wonderful collection of reports, stories and photographs.

16 May 2014

Flying through the Stars

So, this doesn’t usually come up on this blog but in addition to wasting every waking moment on writing about airplanes, I also write science fiction, especially short stories.

I’m super-excited because a short story that was published last year has been nominated for one of the top awards in the industry. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America nominated Alive, Alive Oh for the Nebula Award for best short story, along with four other really excellent stories (darn my luck!).

The Nebula Awards are given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) for the best science fiction or fantasy fiction published in the United States during the previous year. The winner receives a trophy but no cash prize; the trophy is a transparent block with an embedded glitter spiral nebula and gemstones cut to resemble planets.

So, I am flying to beautiful California for the 49th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend! By the time you read this, I will be hanging out with cool writerly types and discussing jetpacks and lasers and maybe even space ship crashes!

Meanwhile, here are a couple of amazing videos to tide you over. Please note that if you are subscribed to the mailing list, you will need to click through to the website to see all three videos.

Pilot’s view of a low pass over the Danube. Cpt David Morgan and Cpt András Árday made the first ever low altitude fly-by overhead the bridges of Budapest with an Airbus jetliner.

Developmental Testing phase II (DT-II) of the F-35B Lightning II jet is being conducted aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1). DT-II is a collaborative effort among the Navy, Marine Corps, and coalition partners to validate F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) capabilities for amphibious platforms (LHD, LHA).


I’m not really looking forward to an eleven hour flight but this video takes the sting out of it. And also made me vow to take plenty of photographs at the airport.

Next week, I have a wonderful guest post for you that I know you’ll enjoy. And then I’ll be back to tell you all about my trip!

If you’d like to read or listen to the story, it’s here: Alive, Alive Oh by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley | Lightspeed Magazine. Cross fingers and thumbs for me, please!

11 April 2014

Crosswind Landings at Birmingham Airport

It started with this video of an amazing crosswind landing at Birmingham Airport (formerly Birmingham International Airport). Birmingham Airport is 5.5 nautical miles (10 km, 6 miles) southeast of the city with a runway that runs north-west/south-east, which means that aircraft either take off or land directly over Birmingham.

What happens when 120 tonnes of landing Boeing 767 encounters severe turbulence just above the runway (15 at BHX).

The flexing wings are a good indication of the blustery conditions – crosswind gusting 35 knots perpendicular to runway.

Just watch the wheels bouncing in all directions under the shear forces. Very reassuring that the undercarriage can take this sort of punishment without blowing itself to pieces.

Keep an eye on the trees in the background at 0:25 and you can see how the wind is blowing.

I showed it to Anna, who is the one who posts all the amazing links to the Fear of Landing Facebook page, and she pointed out that there was an excellent compilation video of crosswind landings at Birmingham over the last winter, which was particularly harsh with gusty winds.

Some landing and take-off highlights in awkward wind conditions at BHX this winter (a record winter for stormy conditions in the UK). Note the frequent flexing of the planes’ wings in response to the turbulence.

Of the five “missed approaches” shown, three diverted to other airports, two were “go arounds” and landed successfully on second attempt.

Watching these made me feel quite relieved that I’m just a fair-weather pilot… and that I have no reason to fly into Birmingham!