Daily Archives: July 30, 2011

Miracle in Guyana: Caribbean Airlines crash could have been so bad

No fatalities, few injuries as 737-800 overshoots in rain.

Egos and macho fools in the cockpit.

by BFP’s Robert

Thank God there was no fire because according to the reports nothing else went right just after midnight when a Caribbean Airlines 737-800 slid off the end of the runway in the rain and broke up while landing in Guyana.

Cheddi Jagan International Airport is not a bad airport as the region goes. With over 7,000 feet of runway in pretty fair condition, the CAL Boeing 737 should have been able to land safely no matter the weather. The runway has an excellent friction coefficient (the surface is rough and grips the tyres), great drainage during rain and the approach is easy compared with many major airports (Try Newark for a thrill!). The newish 737 was light at the end of a flight from New York and should have been able to come in slow and easy, but…

but… all it takes is a combination of factors all coming together. I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that the weather was a little rough so the pilot added ten or fifteen knots because it felt good on approach. Then maybe he was a little high – it happens in the rain because rain changes the optics especially at night – then the wind backed and all of a sudden he’s floating down the runway and the sucker isn’t touching down. Go around or no? Yes? No? Might be okay?

Cockpit Culture is a Killer

Co-pilot starts sitting up, sweat starts, but he doesn’t want to say “Recommend abort” because some senior Captains get real touchy about some wet-behind-the-ears punk telling them they are a little high, long and fast. So the co-pilot said nothing until it didn’t matter anyway. The cockpit culture prevented him from saying something to save the day when they were floating down the runway eating up what little safety margin they had with only 7,000 feet.

I’ll guess again and say that they probably had auto-deployment set on the spoilers. This is a little killer that is supposed to make for smoother touch-downs and no-bounce landings. The moment the wheels take a little weight, out pop the spoilers to kill the lift on the wing and start to slow the aircraft. The problem is that auto-deployment removes control from the pilots and commits the aircraft to a ground roll and landing when someone in the cockpit might have changed their mind. Five seconds is a lifetime to retract the spoilers and get some lift going again.

So the Boeing floated for a bit – a little fast and a little high and then it touched down way too late.

And all of a sudden the aircraft is down and both pilots know it’s going to be close. Now that tyre on the starboard side that everybody decided was okay for a couple of more landings isn’t performing so well in the rain. The grooves are gone and with little tread it’s hydroplaning even when its mate is okay. Full reverse thrust – brakes doing their best and spoilers deployed to put the weight on the wheels – but reverse thrust is only a small part of what stops an aircraft. Any pilot will tell you it’s really all about the brakes and tires and pavement condition. Reverse thrust doesn’t count when the pucker factor is operating.

And momentum. It’s all about inertia and momentum and they lost. Truth be known, it was probably a done deal before the wheels kissed the wet pavement and both jocks were thinking “It’s probably going to be okay.” They didn’t want to be embarrassed by going around again, so they gambled and they lost. Fools. How embarrassed are they now? Macho fools.

Did they try and go around too late or not at all? I don’t know – but Thank God there was no fire because the smoke eaters didn’t arrive until ten minutes after the aircraft ran off the end of the runway and broke up.

Some of the passengers paid to take taxis back to the terminal after the crash. CAN YOU F**KING IMAGINE THAT?

Our friend “Tom” sent us a little message and he makes a major point about 250 hour co-pilots sitting in the right seat. Do you really think a 250 hour wonder will inform a 15,000 hour Captain that he’s a little high and fast? Shut your mouth! Not going to happen.

by BFP’s Robert

REDjet looking good!

by BFP reader “Tom”

Looks like some people might start flying REDjet after the big bully next door ‘scraped his knee’ … thankfully all are well on CAL708.

All of you who have any skepticisms i’m a Captain for a small airline in the Caribbean and have been working as an expat for 6 years. Put your misconceptions and pre-notions aside no matter how good the machinery and how great a reputation, we are all human.

I’m more than sure REDjet is fully capable of servicing their destinations with ontime performance and giving their customers a great service. Regardless even those with numerous aircraft will try and stretch schedules thinner and thinner to accommodate more destinations… money doesn’t grow on trees and fuel is costly, and a plane sitting on the ground isn’t making any money. Continue reading

20 Comments

Filed under Aviation