INCIDENT Two French fighter jets were scrambled over France after a A330’s captain apparently fell asleep
Two fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the plane and urgent messages sent between Paris and Rome when the captain failed to respond for 10 minutes.
A pilot triggered a terrorist alert over French airspace after falling asleep in the cockpit of a passenger jet for 10 minutes, it has emerged.
The co-pilot was also sleeping, but was taking an authorised nap within the context of a “controlled rest” period. The captain of the jet was the only one at fault, having fallen asleep accidentally during this time.
The Italian pilot and co-pilot were flying an ITA Airways Airbus A330 flight from New York to Rome on April 30 when the incident occurred, leading the plane to remain silent for 10 minutes while flying over French airspace.
This sparked concern with the French authorities, who warned Italian authorities that the Airbus A330 could be hostage to terrorist hijackers.
French authorities scrambled two fighter jets to intercept the Airbus A330 and check that it was not subject to a hostage situation.
Italian authorities then contacted ITA Airways’ central command centre, which also tried to contact the pilots, firstly through a satellite phone and then through ACARS messages. After 10 minutes, the communication finally got through.
ITA Airways has reported that both the captain and the co-pilot were both asleep for a short time, although only the captain fell asleep accidentally.
The captain has now been fired for committing “a grave error”. He denies having fallen asleep and instead said that the silence was due to problems with the communication system.
Davide D’Amico, ITA Airways spokesperson, said that the plane’s passengers were never in danger at any point as the plane’s automatic pilot system was in place. The plane never diverted from its planned flight route during the entire incident.
Another incident at Emirates in Dubai, this time a Boeing 777 passenger flight bound for India was accelerating for take off at Dubai – without air traffic control clearance – meanwhile another Emirates jet was crossing runway at the same time.
Incident: Emirates B773 at Dubai on Jan 9th 2022, rejected takeoff without clearance due to crossing aircraft
An Emirates Boeing 777-300, registration A6-EQA performing flight EK-524 from Dubai (United Arab Emirates) to Hyderabad (India), was accelerating for takeoff from Dubai’s runway 30R when the crew was instructed to reject takeoff at high speed (above 100 knots over ground) due to a crossing aircraft. The aircraft slowed safely and vacated the runway via taxiway N4 behind the aircraft, that had crossed the runway.
An Emirates Boeing 777-300, registration A6-EBY performing flight EK-568 from Dubai (United Arab Emirates) to Bangalore (India), was taxiing for departure and was cleared to cross runway 30R from taxiway M5A to N4 and was entering the runway just when EK-524 began the takeoff roll.
According to information The Aviation Herald received from two independent sources, EK-524 began their takeoff roll without ATC clearance. Tower subsequently instructed EK-524 to stop. According to information EK-524 may have reached 130 KIAS when they rejected takeoff. According to ADS-B data transmitted by the aircraft’s transponder EK-524 had reached 100 knots over ground about 790 meters/2600 feet down the runway and about 1700 meters/5700 feet short of taxiway N4.
EK-568 continued taxi and departed normally. EK-524 taxied back the holding point of runway 30R and departed about 30 minutes after the rejected takeoff.
On Jan 13th 2022 the airline reported, that EK-524 was instructed by tower to abort takeoff on Jan 9th 2022, the crew rejected takeoff successfully. There was no damage to the aircraft and there were no injuries. An internal investigation has been initiated, UAE’s GCAA also opened an investigation.
Aviation is incredibly safe, and for every disaster there are many catastrophes that are narrowly avoided. It would appear that an Emirates Boeing 777 departing Dubai about a week ago nearly had a major incident after takeoff. Let me share what I’ve been able to piece together so far about this incident.
In this post:
What happened to this Emirates plane on takeoff?
The flight in question is Emirates EK231 from Dubai (DXB) to Washington Dulles (IAD), which was scheduled to depart at 2:25AM on December 20, 2021. The flight was operated by one of Emirates’ newest Boeing 777-300ERs, with the registration code A6-EQI.
Based on what I’ve been told and have been able to piece together:
Before departure, the pilots forgot to set the flight director to an altitude of 4,000 feet, but rather left it at an altitude of zero feet (which the previous crew had presumably set on approach to Dubai)
After takeoff, the plane’s nose pitched down, to the point that the plane was at 175 feet and flying at 262 knots (this is supported by actual flight data, which you can find below); as a point of comparison, under normal circumstances the plane would be flying at well under 200 knots at that altitude
While I haven’t been able to figure out more details about this, I’m told that the plane sustained damage, yet the pilots made the decision to continue to Washington (I’m still working on figuring out what kind of damage we’re talking about, as the plane operated the return flight later that day)
I’ve been told that all four pilots have been fired, and that the US Federal Aviation Administration is now investigating this incident, given that the flight was US-bound (note that I haven’t gotten official confirmation of either of these, though at a minimum I’d assume the pilots are suspended pending an investigation)
For those curious, below is some data from Flightradar24 for the flight in question vs. a more “standard” flight on the same route. You’ll want to look at the right two columns, with the left column being the altitude, and the right column being the speed.
Here’s the data for the flight in question:
Then here’s the data for the same flight several days earlier:
As you can tell, that data is vastly different. This sounds concerning — a Boeing 777 (presumably) full of passengers and fuel was descending right after takeoff, to the point that it was lower than many high rises in Dubai, and flying at a very fast pace.
Emirates has sent a memo to pilots
While Emirates hasn’t yet officially commented on this incident, the airline did send out the following alert to pilots today, essentially referencing the incident:
CREWS ARE REMINDED THAT THERE ARE NO FCOM NORMAL PROCEDURE REQUIREMENTS TO CHANGE THE MCP AFTER LANDING OR SHUTDOWN. THERE HAVE BEEN TIMES WHEN THE MCP “ALTITUDE WINDOW” HAS BEEN SET TO THE AIRPORT ELEVATION WHICH MAY CAUSE ISSUES ON THE SUBSEQUENT DEPARTURE. CREWS SHALL NOT SET AIRPORT ELEVATION ON THE MCP AFTER LANDING OR SHUT DOWN.
I wonder what it was like on the plane
I’d be curious to hear from a passenger onboard, because I wonder if passengers had any clue what was going on:
On the one hand, perhaps passengers didn’t really know what was going on, since it was dark outside, and most people aren’t really avgeeks and paying attention to every aircraft movement
On the other hand, perhaps passengers totally knew what was going on, given that the plane was barely climbing after takeoff, but rather just kept flying faster and faster
While I feel safe flying with Emirates, in general I’m not surprised to see things like this happen once in a while:
Emirates pilots deal with a lot of fatigue, given that they often operate ultra long haul flights departing in the middle of the night; no matter how hard you try, this has to take a toll on you
In general Emirates hires 777 pilots with less experience than you’d find at some other airlines; that’s largely because it’s Emirates’ smallest plane, and Emirates isn’t going to consistently have a couple of people with 10,000+ flights hours at the controls (as you’d find on American and United, for example)
Then there’s coronavirus, which in general has caused a lot of pilots to become a bit rusty, since many have only recently been brought to work after being furloughed
While I’m sure more information will emerge soon, it’s my understanding that an Emirates Boeing 777 had a pretty frightening departure out of Dubai about a week ago. Specifically, the altitude for after takeoff was set to ground level rather than 4,000 feet, and as a result the plane didn’t climb very high, but rather just sped up. The plane ended up flying at 261 knots just 175 feet over the ground, which must have been frightening for those on the ground and in the air.
Since the FAA is allegedly investigating the incident, hopefully we end up learning more. If anyone has more details on the incident, please chime in!
Singaporean Transport Safety Investigation Bureau Investigators noted that the crew had been facing several individual pressures prior to the departure and highlighted that:
The Singapore Airlines captain inadvertently miskeyed, typing ‘500’ rather than ‘500A’, which neither crew member noticed.
This error stopped the Boeing 777 aircraft climb at 500ft.
The pilot cross-checking process failed.
Time pressure resulted in the first officer’s not carrying out a habitual scan of the entries.
The captain called for autopilot engagement at 360ft – an early selection because he wanted to reduce workload
The captain “did not realise that the aircraft had stopped climbing”, says the inquiry, and had called for flap retraction believing the 777 had passed 1,000ft. Investigators state that the crew “did not verify” altitude information from the instrument displays.
SIA 777 stopped climb at 500ft after crew’s waypoint entry error
Airline software super-bug: Flight loads miscalculated because women using ‘Miss’ were treated as children
Weight blunder led to wrong thrust used on takeoff, says UK watchdog
A programming error in the software used by UK airline TUI to check-in passengers led to miscalculated flight loads on three flights last July, a potentially serious safety issue.
The error occurred, according to a report [PDF] released on Thursday by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), because the check-in software treated travelers identified as “Miss” in the passenger list as children, and assigned them a weight of 35 kg (~77 lbs) instead of 69 kg (~152 lbs) for an adult.
The AAIB report attributes the error to cultural differences in how the term Miss is understood.
“The system programming was not carried out in the UK, and in the country where it was performed the title Miss was used for a child, and Ms for an adult female, hence the error,” the report says.
The Register asked TUI where the system programming was done, but the company ignored that question in its response to our inquiry.
“The health and safety of our customers and crew is always our primary concern,” a TUI spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Following this isolated incident, we corrected a fault identified in our IT system. As stated in the report, the safe operation of the flight was not compromised.”
Potentially fatal math
Flight load miscalculations have the potential to affect aircraft handling and to create serious safety issues: the figures are used for figuring out fuel levels, altitude, takeoff thrust, and so on. The 2018 fatal crash of Cubana de Aviación Flight 972, for example, has been attributed to excessive load, as has the 1997 crash of Fine Air Douglas DC-8 cargo flight.
According to the AAIB, the software issue was first spotted on July 10, 2020, when three adult passengers identified as Miss were checked in as children. Airline personnel caught the discrepancy and proceeded to make adjustments manually.
On July 17, the developer(s) working on the check-in application “adapted a piece of software, which changed the title of any adult female from Miss to Ms automatically.”
Alas, the revised code could only convert honorifics for passengers prior to check-in. Bookings made with the title Miss that had already checked in, including those checking in online 24 hours prior to departure, could not be changed.
“On 20 July, 2020, the programmer was making enhancements to the program to improve its performance,” the report says. “This should not have stopped the program from working, but as this was a ‘fix,’ it could not be known for sure. A combination of the [TUI] teams not working over the weekend [to make manual corrections] and the ‘online’ check-in being open early on Monday 20 July, 24 hours ahead of the flight, meant the incorrectly allocated passenger weights were not corrected.”
On 21 July, 2020, three TUI Airways flights departed from the UK with inaccurate load sheets as a result of the software issue, which would not be fixed until July 24, 2020.
The first of these, and the only one detailed in the report, was TUI Airways flight BY-7226, a Boeing 737-800 with the registration G-TAWG. The plane travelled from Birmingham International Airport in the UK to Palma de Mallorca in Spain, carrying 167 passengers and 6 crew.
The 737-800 departed with a takeoff weight that exceeded the load sheet (the projected weight) by 1,244 kg (~2743 lbs) because the load sheet listed 65 children on board, compared to the 29 children expected from the flight plan – which includes the actual weight. The load sheet also varied from the flight plan due to errant baggage weight calculations.
The result of all this was that the plane used less thrust to take off than it should have – 88.3 per cent instead of 88.9 per cent given its actual takeoff weight and environmental conditions. Fortunately, this was “marginally” more than the minimal regulatory requirements – 88.2 per cent – and the flight made it to its destination safely.
It’s suggested this won’t happen again: “An upgrade of the system producing load sheets was carried out to prevent reoccurrence,” the report concludes. ®
Pilot Who Hitched a Ride Saved Lion Air 737 Day Before Deadly Crash
Jumpseat rider played critical role in Indonesian cockpit
Pilot actions show multiple errors required to crash 737 Max
An off-duty pilot saved the 737 Max from a crash. The next day, the same plane on flight JT610 crashed into the sea.
As the Lion Air crew fought to control their diving Boeing Co. 737 Max 8, they got help from an unexpected source: an off-duty pilot who happened to be riding in the cockpit.
That extra pilot, who was seated in the cockpit jumpseat, correctly diagnosed the problem and told the crew how to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system and save the plane, according to two people familiar with Indonesia’s investigation.
The next day, under command of a different crew facing what investigators said was an identical malfunction, the jetliner crashed into the Java Sea killing all 189 aboard.
The previously undisclosed detail on the earlier Lion Air flight represents a new clue in the mystery of how some 737 Max pilots faced with the malfunction have been able to avert disaster while the others lost control of their planes and crashed. The presence of a third pilot in the cockpit wasn’t contained in Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee’s Nov. 28 report on the crash and hasn’t previously been reported.
The so-called dead-head pilot on the flight from Bali to Jakarta told the crew to cut power to the motor in the trim system that was driving the nose down, according to the people familiar, part of a checklist that all pilots are required to memorize.
By contrast, the crew on the flight that crashed the next day didn’t know how to respond to the malfunction, said one of the people familiar with the plane’s cockpit voice recorder recovered as part of the investigation. They can be heard checking their quick reference handbook, a summary of how to handle unusual or emergency situations, in the minutes before they crashed, Reuters reported, citing people it didn’t name.
Lion Air spokesman Danang Prihantoro declined to comment on the role of a third pilot, saying, “All the data and information that we have on the flight and the aircraft have been submitted to the Indonesian NTSC. We can’t provide additional comment at this stage due the ongoing investigation on the accident.”
The Indonesia safety committee report said the plane had had multiple failures on previous flights and hadn’t been properly repaired.
Airline mechanics tried four times to fix related issues on the plane starting Oct. 26, according to the Indonesia preliminary report. After pilots reported issues with incorrect display of speeds and altitude in the two prior flights, workers in Denspasar, Bali, replaced a key sensor that is used by the Boeing plane to drive down its nose if it senses an emergency.
Flight data shows the sensor, called the “angle of attack” vane, which measures whether air is flowing parallel to the length of the fuselage or at an angle, was providing inaccurate readings after that.
However, the pilots on the harrowing Oct. 28 flight from Bali to Jakarta didn’t mention key issues with the flight after they landed, according to the report.
Their request for maintenance didn’t mention they had been getting a stall warning since about 400 feet after takeoff as a result of the faulty angle-of-attack sensor. It was still giving false readings the next morning on the flight that crashed, according to flight data.
Representatives for Boeing and the Indonesian safety committee declined to comment on the earlier flight. Boeing rose 1.1 percent to $377.59 at 12:03 p.m. in New York. The company’s market value tumbled about $28 billion through Tuesday after the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
The safety system, designed to keep planes from climbing too steeply and stalling, has come under scrutiny by investigators of the crash as well as a subsequent one less than five months later in Ethiopia. A malfunctioning sensor is believed to have tricked the Lion Air plane’s computers into thinking it needed to automatically bring the nose down to avoid a stall.
Boeing’s 737 Max was grounded March 13 by U.S. regulators after similarities to the Oct. 29 Lion Air crash emerged in the investigation of the March 10 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. In the wake of the two accidents, questions have emerged about how Boeing’s design of the new 737 model were approved.
The Transportation Department’s inspector general is conducting a review of how the plane was certified to fly and a grand jury under the U.S. Justice Department is also seeking records in a possible criminal probe of the plane’s certification.
The FAA last week said it planned to mandate changes in the system to make it less likely to activate when there is no emergency. The agency and Boeing said they are also going to require additional training and references to it in flight manuals.
“We will fully cooperate in the review in the Department of Transportation’s audit,” Boeing spokesman Charles Bickers said in an email. The company has declined to comment on the criminal probe.
After the Lion Air crash, two U.S. pilots’ unions said the potential risks of the system, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, hadn’t been sufficiently spelled out in their manuals or training. None of the documentation for the Max aircraft included an explanation, the union leaders said.
“We don’t like that we weren’t notified,’’ Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said in November. “It makes us question, ‘Is that everything, guys?’ I would hope there are no more surprises out there.’’
Following the Lion Air crash, the FAA required Boeing to notify airlines about the system and Boeing sent a bulletin to all customers flying the Max reminding them how to disable it in an emergency.
Authorities have released few details about Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 other than it flew a “very similar” track as the Lion Air planes and then dove sharply into the ground. There have been no reports of maintenance issues with the Ethiopian Airlines plane before its crash.
If the same issue is also found to have helped bring down Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, one of the most vexing questions crash investigators and aviation safety consultants are asking is why the pilots on that flight didn’t perform the checklist that disables the system.
“After this horrific Lion Air accident, you’d think that everyone flying this airplane would know that’s how you turn this off,” said Steve Wallace, the former director of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s accident investigation branch.
The combination of factors required to bring down a plane in these circumstances suggests other issues may also have occurred in the Ethiopia crash, said Jeffrey Guzzetti, who also directed accident investigations at FAA and is now a consultant.
“It’s simply implausible that this MCAS deficiency by itself can down a modern jetliner with a trained crew,” Guzzetti said.
MCAS is driven by a single angle-of-attack sensor near the nose even though there are two of the sensors on the plane. Boeing is planning to alter the system to rely on both sensors to reduce the chances of a malfunction.
Air India operations director stopped from piloting flight after failing breath tests
A senior pilot who is also director of operations for Air India, and has had responsibility for flight safety and training, said he was told by the carrier he failed two breathalyzer tests on Sunday before a flight to London from New Delhi.
It is the second time Arvind Kathpalia, who is also on the loss-making airline’s board, has been in trouble over alcohol tests. He was suspended for three months in 2017 for allegedly refusing to take breathalyzer tests.
Kathpalia told Reuters in an interview by phone that he would contest the results and claimed they were related to internal feuding within the state-owned company.
According to a description for the operation director’s job when Kathpalia got appointed in June 2017, he is responsible for flight operations, ground operations, and flight safety and training operations.
It is unclear if those remain the job specifications.
Air India declined to comment for this article.
Kathpalia failed two breathalyzer tests on Sunday and was declared unfit to fly, according to a pre-flight medical examination report for alcohol, posted on the website of news portal India Today.
Kathpalia, who denies he had been drinking, corroborated the results of the breathalyzer and said he was tested twice in a span of 20 minutes, adding that the second test’s reading was higher than the first.
“It was 1:30 in the afternoon, only a bloody stark raving alcoholic is bloody drunk at 1:30 in the afternoon,” Kathpalia said. “I am going to contest this.”
He said that at Air India “everyone is fighting with everyone,” and that he has been targeted.
In 2017, Kathpalia was suspended for three months when he had allegedly refused to take breathalyzer tests before and after his flight between Bengaluru and New Delhi and back in January 2017, according to a court document available on law portal Indiakanoon.
In August last year, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association, a trade union representing pilots of the state-owned carrier, filed a court case against Kathpalia requesting stern action against him over the missed breathalyzer tests and some other behavior.
Calls made to union representatives late on Sunday were not answered.
Kathpalia was executive director of flight operations during the earlier incident.
When he was promoted to operations director it was contested by the union in its petition to the court.
The court ordered the New Delhi police to file a first information report (FIR), the first step in India’s legal system that can lead to an investigation, against Kathpalia in August this year, according to reports in major Indian newspapers.
New Delhi police officials could not immediately confirm the status of the case.
The 2017 allegation “was a complete set-up,” said Kathpalia, who said it was the result of a scheduling issue rather than his refusal to take tests.
He claims that he is under attack partly because he is an employee of the original Air India, which was India’s international carrier, while the union is from the erstwhile Indian Airlines, which was a domestic carrier. The two airlines were merged into one in 2007.
“There is a lot of animosity after the merger. The animosity exists till today. They refuse to acknowledge each other,” said Kathpalia.
Reported by Reuter’s Promit Mukherjee; Edited by Martin Howell and Andrea Ricci on 12 November 2018.
A Japanese pilot who was arrested at Heathrow Airport for being drunk has admitted being more than nine times the legal alcohol limit.
Katsutoshi Jitsukawa, 42, who works for Japan Airlines, was arrested on 28 October after failing a breath test.
He was found to have 189mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in his system – the legal limit for a pilot is 20mg.
The first officer pleaded guilty to exceeding the alcohol limit at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.
Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that police were alerted by the driver of a crew bus who smelled alcohol on the pilot.
He had been due to be part of a crew flying a Japan Airlines (JAL) flight JL44 to Tokyo but failed a breath test 50 minutes before the departure time.
The Boeing 777 aircraft took off after a 69-minute delay.
JAL issued an apology and pledged to “implement immediate actions to prevent any future occurrence”, adding that “safety remains our utmost priority”.
The drink-drive limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80mg, compared to 20mg for pilots.
Jitsukawa was remanded in custody and will be sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court on 29 November.
In June, British Airways pilot Julian Monaghan was jailed for eight months for being caught on duty with 86mg of alcohol in his system. He had turned up for work at Gatwick Airport after drinking three double vodkas.