Airlines

Surprising: How American 777 Pilots Nearly Prompted Accident

Final week I wrote about how an American and Delta jet practically collided on the runway at JFK. Many people questioned how one thing like this might occur, and we now have extra info…

Fundamentals of the JFK runway incident between American & Delta

Simply to recap the fundamentals, on January 13, 2023, an American Airways Boeing 777-200ER and Delta Boeing 737-900 practically collided on runway 4L at JFK. The Delta airplane had been given takeoff clearance, and the American airplane unintentionally taxied to the mistaken runway. Within the course of, the American 777 crossed the runway that was getting used for takeoffs, the place the Delta airplane was accelerating.

Thankfully the air site visitors controller shortly seen what was occurring, and the Delta pilots promptly aborted the takeoff, stopping potential catastrophe. Beneath you’ll be able to see a recreation of what occurred, and listen to the air site visitors management audio.

The massive query has been how the American 777 pilots might make a mistake like this, not solely taxiing to the mistaken runway, however crossing an lively runway with out permission. Properly, we now have some insights.

The elements that contributed to this incident

Forbes has an fascinating story about what allegedly brought about this incident to happen the best way that it did. I’m unsure whether or not figuring out these particulars is reassuring or extra regarding. Listed here are a number of of the important thing details, in accordance with sources which might be quoted:

  • The primary officer was model new to the Boeing 777, and had beforehand flown on the Boeing 737; she was making her first 777 flight after 100 hours of coaching flights
  • Not solely that, however this was the primary officer’s first flight beneath new cockpit procedures that had been applied on the airline on January 2
  • With these new procedures, she needed to interact in a sequence of latest duties, together with processing takeoff knowledge, together with flap and energy settings, and doing a runway evaluation
  • She additionally needed to make the “flight attendants, put together for takeoff” announcement, which was beforehand made by the captain, and which requires the primary officer to interrupt persevering with duties, be exact on timing, and alter intercom settings

After the incident, the opposite main query is why the American airplane didn’t return to the gate, however as a substitute continued to London. Properly, apparently the American pilots didn’t understand how critical the incident was:

  • Whereas air site visitors controllers gave the American pilots a cellphone quantity to name (as is commonplace following any type of security associated incident), it’s not clear if they really acquired via
  • The American pilots didn’t even understand there was a runway incursion; the pilots had solely switched to the tower frequency after the Delta airplane was cleared for takeoff, so that they didn’t understand the Delta airplane aborting takeoff needed to do with their actions
  • The crew didn’t perceive the seriousness of the scenario till the airplane acquired to London
  • Whereas there was a 3rd pilot within the cockpit within the jumpseat, he didn’t appear to appreciate something was mistaken both

Now, after all this doesn’t tackle why the (skilled) captain taxied the airplane to the mistaken runway. Not solely have been the pilots by no means cleared to taxi to the runway they have been headed for, however you’d assume the captain would have realized the final circulation of site visitors on the airport.

But it surely does appear more and more clear that there was some common confusion and stress within the cockpit, as you had a really inexperienced first officer on that particular airplane, mixed with model new procedures.

A part of what makes flying protected is that you’ve a number of units of eyes double checking that all the pieces is right. Clearly when one of many two pilots is significantly overwhelmed with new procedures, that cuts into security margins.

The primary officer was model new to the Boeing 777

The union warned administration of the protection threat

Right here’s the wildest a part of all of this. It’s fairly clear that new cockpit security procedures on some stage contributed to this. You had a primary officer who was taking her first post-training 777 flight, and on prime of that she was studying new common cockpit procedures.

When American launched these new cockpit security procedures at the start of the 12 months, the Allied Pilots Affiliation (the union representing American pilots) warned of the protection dangers of doing this.

Particularly, the union argued that in-person coaching ought to have been performed, fairly than this being performed through a bulletin the place pilots are simply imagined to learn up on the brand new guidelines. As a spokesperson for the union stated on the time, “a studying task will not be coaching.”

Per the union’s announcement on January 2:

American Airways Flight Operations administration is making an attempt to bypass strong safety-related pilot coaching by unilaterally imposing operational modifications through bulletin. Whereas APA doesn’t oppose fleet harmonization, we’re steadfast in our dedication that pilots have to be correctly skilled BEFORE working with passengers. This coaching have to be developed in a stakeholder security tradition that acknowledges and addresses considerations raised by APA. Up to now, that has not occurred. This try to coach by bulletin, whereas ignoring critical security considerations and well-established greatest practices, runs the chance of dramatically eroding margins of security.

Merely put, administration’s actions are unwise and unsafe.

The operational modifications that administration is making an attempt to implement with out fulsome coaching alters how pilots talk, coordinate, and execute flight security duties at a number of the most high-threat instances of flight. These high-threat instances embrace, however will not be restricted to, rejected takeoffs, low visibility approaches, and go-arounds. Aligned and standardized crew communication and coordination is the bedrock of sustaining the protection margin throughout all phases of flight, however notably throughout excessive task-loaded maneuvers. Administration’s try to coach by bulletin reeks of coaching on a budget and putting income earlier than folks.

After which simply round two weeks later, this incident occurs… wow.

Whereas many individuals are skeptical of unions, let me level out that this wasn’t a case of the union asking for extra pay, or anything. Somewhat this was a real security concern, and it was ignored.

The union wasn’t pleased with how new procedures have been applied

Backside line

An American Airways Boeing 777 lately taxied onto a runway at JFK as a Delta Boeing 737 was taking off. Thankfully the air site visitors controller caught what was occurring, and canceled the takeoff clearance for the Delta jet. Disaster was narrowly averted, and it’s potential (although not assured) that this might have ended very otherwise.

There have been questions on how one thing like this might occur. Some particulars at the moment are rising, together with that the primary officer was not solely model new to the 777, however was nonetheless studying American’s new cockpit procedures, which had been applied throughout the couple of weeks previous to this flight.

The union had warned of the dangers of those procedures being applied with out extra thorough coaching, after which this occurred.

What do you make of the added particulars relating to this incident?

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