BioBooksAwardsComing NextContactBlogFun StuffHome

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

How'd I Miss This?

One of my favorite television shows is Air Disasters. I'm not sure why I like the show so much. Maybe it's because I'm fascinated by all things aviation. Last Saturday, I tuned in right at noon and saw a Northwest Airlines 747-400. I immediately went, huh?

The show was about an incident that happened in 2002. I worked for Northwest in 2002, heck, I worked in Technical Operations in 2002, and I had no memory of this incident.

To recap the show for you, in October 2002, NWA flight 85 from Detroit (DTW) to Tokyo, Japan (Narita Airport NRT) was midway across the Bering Sea when the lower rudder of the 747-400 aircraft went hard over left and was stuck there. The plane turned back to Anchorage, Alaska and made an emergency landing.

Thanks to the skill of the pilots, the plane landed safely and stayed on the runway. There were no injuries, no deaths, and no damage to the aircraft except for the lower rudder which started the whole incident.

Because I hadn't heard of Flight 85, I knew the plane would make it down safely because if it hadn't, there's no way I wouldn't know about it.

Air Disasters is kind of an interesting show, but somehow I think it's lacking in some accuracy. Like after the rudder goes hard over the plane is in clear trouble, they have the copilot just sitting there, waiting for instructions. I might never have worked in Flight Operations, but I'm pretty sure that wouldn't happen.

I also took note of what they used for the Northwest Airlines Cockpit Operating Manual and went, NOT! We had a copy of it in our department and I revised it whenever a change came out. It was thicker than shown and a three-ring binder, not a spiral bound book. Okay, so I forgave them for that. That's nitpicky stuff and there aren't that many people that would realize that.

The show also showed the Air Traffic Controller not allowing flight 85 to descent to 14000 feet over Cook Inlet. Maybe that did happen, but I had to wonder about it. My understanding was once a plane declares an emergency, ATC pretty much accommodates any request the pilots make. If someone knows for sure, please let me know.

Because the flight to Japan was so long, there were two sets of crew. During the show, they basically show the other two sitting around the cockpit until nearly the very end. Again, I'm not an expert on what goes on in the cockpit or Flight Ops, but I'm pretty sure everyone would be doing something even if it's simply monitoring a system.

Despite the issues I have with the show (and this episode is not the first time I've noticed things that bug me because they don't ring true), I still enjoy it and recommend it. It's on Smithsonian Channel on Saturday at Noon Eastern time.