Friday, January 16, 2009
One of the little known things about me is an obsession I've had since I was a kid.
Bit of background, my dad is an aircraft technician. My mom and I didn't get along for most of my childhood for reasons really unknown to even her, so I spent a lot of time with my dad, a great deal of it in the hangar at the maintenance base for Air Canada, a great deal at the airport watching the planes land and take off, identifying the type of plane from the ground.
So growing up, I had a very unhealthy thirst for information about plane crashes. I kept a scrapbook of them, discussed them with my dad, and the discussion tradition continues today. As does the obsession.
I wanted to be an air crash investigator actually, but sadly, you need to be a pilot, aircraft engineer, aircraft technician, whatever to do that. I considered going into aircraft maintenance, but my dad convinced me not to, at the time women were not well accepted in the industry, and ended up doing electronic overhauls, I wanted to be line maintenance (those are the guys you see under the plane when you're waiting to board, fixing anything that needs doing before the aircraft departs again, or checking out any snags).
This would be how I ended up doing what I do for a living, I worked for an airline for 7 years, and I miss certain things - there's nothing quite like sitting on the ground waiting for the bird to land on the tarmac, seeing it in the air coming in, watching it touch down, hearing the ops personnel on the walkie talkie "LH470 is on the ground" and going to wait for it to be hooked to the GPU and those cargo doors to open for all the loading and unloading to begin!
Oh and when it's -50 on the tarmac standing under the exhaust line under the tail, knowing it probably causes cancer, but considering how freezing it is out, who the hell cares?
Oh sometimes I miss those days.
Anyway. So at jam Wednesday I had been talking crash, which comes up every now and again, and everyone thought I was insane with my knowledge of just about every plane crash known to man (I've read so many final reports by the air transport authorities in different countries you have absolutely no idea).
So of course, I totally get called out in light of yesterday's crash of a US Airways A320 into the Hudson River in New York. Like it's my fault that something has occured to pique my interest.
Interesting little tidbit that made me a titch worried.
When there's a problem with an aircraft an airworthiness directive is issued to all carriers detailing maintenance etc that has to be done and the urgency of this maintenance/change.
In the past month there have been two for the Airbus, one involving the software for the TCAS (Traffic Allert & Collision Avoidance system) and an update needed, and another specifically for the A320 series of aircraft (including the A318/A319) concerning double engine stalls in the CFM 56 engines upon climb (aka takeoff).
Apparently my concern has been duplicated by the engine manufacturer as they have sent someone to the crash site - which they would have to do anyway as this involves the engines anyway (usually the manufacturers of the parts are present for the investigation - if those parts were involved).
Anyway, seems that the pilot did report a bird strike, unusual that it affects both engines, there are over 500,000 reports of bird strikes per year, and most end without incident.
That being said, I have to give props to the US Airways pilot, Chesley Sullenberger III, for his incredible flying abilities, saving both people on the ground and everyone on his aircraft from what would have been certain disaster. He guided the aircraft over the George Washington bridge, clearance of only 900 meters, and ditched that sucker as gingerly as he could, it didn't even break up on landing (and kudos to the airframe manufacturer Airbus, hitting water is as bad as hitting ground depending how fast you are moving).
The pilot also didn't leave his aircraft until he was certain all his passengers and crew were out. Truly, they are all very lucky he was at the helm of this aircraft, there are only a few cases of a commercial jet becoming a glider (Air Canada 143 - B767 aka the Gimli Glider outside of Winnipeg in the 80s & Air Transat 236 which was glided into the Azores in the 90s), and the pilot did an amazing job, and from all reports, never lost his cool.
Any crash that you walk away from is a good crash. This was an amazing crash. I can't wait to find out more about it, what happened, hear the transmission from aircraft to tower, and the cockpit recorder.
Kudos also to all that helped rescue the passengers and crew, they rushed to aid so quickly, while a few people suffered hypothermia, it could have been much much worse....