Monday, February 9, 2009

Interesting comments on Sullenberger and the Airbus

Some interesting reading forwarded by a former A-6 pilot. It was sent to him by a commercial airline pilot.

The press is having a field day turning "Sully" Sullenberger into a Lindbergh-like hero. I attended his welcoming home reception in Danville, CA last weekend... me and the estimated 3000 other attendees. All credit is given to him and his crew, but they will be the first to tell you, "they just did their jobs." They did them well, but when your job entails holding the lives of hundreds of people in your hands every time you fly, then doing your job well is the minimum acceptable standard.
I don't, and I doubt if more than just a handful of other pilots, begrudge Sully his day in the sun. What I am concerned about is how the real cause of this accident is being glossed over and, on the part of Airbus Industries, actually lied about. There are stories circulating now about how the flight computers helped "save" the aircraft by insuring the ditching was done properly. The stories themselves are absolute nonsense and the contention that the flight computers ensured the proper attitude was maintained for ditching is pure fabrication.
So what's wrong with Airbus wanting to steal a little glory for their computerized drones? There is a good chance it was the computers that put the aircraft into the water!
I readily admit I heartily dislike Airbus because of their design philosophy, I will never set foot in an A-380 (the superjumbo) as I consider it a really bad accident looking for a place to happen. I am not much happier with the rest of them but especially the A-320 which has killed several folks, while the engineers try to perfect software that can replace a human brain that has a talent for flying... something that I, rather naturally, don't believe possible.
It is well known that I love Boeings. I love to fly them. Beyond the sheer joy of just flying the Boeing, I also believe in their design philosophy that the last word has to be with the pilot, not the machine. No pilot, no matter how hard he tries, can turn an A-320 upside down. It just won't do it. Airbus believes it has designed a computer that is smarter than a pilot (the evidence of dead bodies scattered around Mulhouse, France to the contrary) and gives the last word to the computer. If a pilot moves the controls so as to turn the airplane upside down, the computer will refuse.
I can turn the B777 upside down. Once I get it upside down, if I let go of the controls, it will turn itself right-side up (smart airplane). I don't believe I will ever be in a situation where I will need to turn the airplane upside down, but I feel good knowing I have the control to do it. That's why I'm not really kidding when I say: "if it ain't a Boeing; I ain't going".
What follows is an e-mail from a retired US Air Pilot who has flown the Airbus A320 just like the one that ended up in the Hudson. It was written in response to a friend asking him if he knew the pilot who did the ditching. It is most illuminating and worth the read...
Dear Chuck,
I don't know him. I've seen him in the crew room and around the system but never met him. He was former PSA and I was former Piedmont and we never had the occasion to fly together.
The dumb shit press just won't leave this alone. Most airliner ditchings aren't very successful since they take place on the open ocean with wind, rough seas, swells and rescue boats are hours or days away. This one happened in fresh smooth water, landing with the current and the rescue boats were there picking people up while they were still climbing out of the airplane. It also happened on a cold winter day when all the pleasure boats were parked. Had this happened in July it would be pretty hard not to whack a couple of little boats. Sully did a nice job but so would 95% of the other pilots in the industry. You would have done a nice job.
Don't be surprised if the Airbus fly by wire computers didn't put a perfectly good airplane in the water. In an older generation airplane like the 727 or 737-300/400, the throttles are hooked to the fuel controllers on the engine by a steel throttle cable just like a TBM or a Comanche. On the Airbus nothing in the cockpit is real. Everything is electronic. The throttles, rudder and brake pedals and the side stick are hooked to rheostats who talk to a computer who talks to a electric hydraulic servo valve which in turn hopefully moves something.
In a older generation airplane when you hit birds the engines keep screaming or they blow up but they don't both roll back to idle simultaneously like happened to Flt. 1549. All it would take is for bird guts to plug a pressure sensor or knock the pitot probe off or plug it and the computers would roll the engines back to idle thinking they were over boosting because the computers were getting bad data. The Airbus is a real pile of shit. I don't like riding on them. Google the Airbus A320 Crash at the Paris Airshow in 1998. Watch the video of an airbus A320 crash into a forest because the computers wouldn't allow a power increase following a low pass. The computers wouldn't allow a power increase because they determined that the airspeed was too low for the increase requested so the computers didn't give them any. Pushing the throttles forward in a Airbus does nothing more than request a power increase from the computer. If the computer doesn't like all the airplane and engine parameters you don't get a power increase. Airbus blamed the dead crew since they couldn't defend themselves. A Boeing would still be flying.


  1. Very interesting reading...having flown both the 'Bus and the 727, I'd still pick the 727. The 'Bus had great nav features, the 727 better at being a pilots' plane.

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