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Pilot Mistake Prompted Emergency Landing

A cabin pressurization error led to an early return to DFW, with two go arounds. Listening to the tapes, it really sounded like someone needed to focus on the "aviate" part of flying. ( さらに...

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I was unimpressed with 2 go-arounds. C'mon you gotta fly it 1st. Not much of an emergency at 2000 MSL. At only 1400 AGL, if it was only the packs, would it be safely, possible to just throw them on right there and proceed? As for ATC, the "unable" means "unable" sounds like the controller pulled out all the stops to get the 1st one, then 2nd was unable. A little extra flying time so you can land it safely after the 2 inept trys.
dmanuel 0
While the flying does not appear to be the smoothest, from the information presented, I do not see that the situation was dangerous. In spite of the rapid communication (related to the departure off Love Field) separation was probably not compromised. The media sometimes uses inflammatory words to bulk up a story. While this was not a life & death emergency, I was puzzled by the controllers use of ‘unable’ to the pilot. Wasn’t DFW the airport where the controllers refused to let an American Airline jet, declaring emergency fuel, land straight-in because it would disrupt departures?
preacher1 0
I am in agreement with you here and it all goes back to FLYING THE PLANE, which they should have done and landed the thing rather than try to deal with the problem in such a busy pattern. As far as the UNABLE, they had already cleared everything twice. They may have had other traffic that could not immediately be cleared or whatever or as he apparently was trying to deal with the problem they just gave him the runway heading until they could clear him in. You would think that if he declared the Emergency, and they gave him the right 360 that he wanted that he would be trying to land the thing rather than taking another go round, saying it was too short. Just sayin', cuz that's what I'd do.
I think it was DFW controllers that did the earlier refusal but that was awile back and I belive there were either some heads rolled over that deal or a "come to Jesus" meeting as I don't think there has been a repeat.
Wayne...need your input on the 757 story. Why the trend in retiring them from the fleets? Actually seems like a perfect aircraft. Probably the largest I see landing at Reagan National. Any thoughts?
preacher1 0
Well, I had read it. Main thing I saw was that they were just getting old and with the new ones coming they were probably putting them first out. I know that over the past several years that their MD's, while maybe older in years, have been going through a complete reman program, from engines, avionics and interiors, at Tulsa. While older in years they may actually have less time on them in that respect.Could be leases or several things.
houtxpilot 0
Good to know that ASAP worked the way it was designed
Isn't the pressurization on a modern airplane like this activated automatically once airborne, weight on wheels??? If not, and it was forgotten, is an emergency or a return warranted?
preacher1 0
Can't remember what he had. It's not really automatic; just one of them checlist items that needs going over and setting, I think. I heard the alarm on the audio but unless it was indicating some other problem, I can't understand the return either. Hit it and go on.
I've been told on the newer Embraers that you input your dep. and arr. info. and the airplane does the rest. An older airplane, at least the ones I've flown, if for some reason it was forgotten, it wasn't an emergency. Turn one bleed off, pull the power back, and turn the damn thing on. You'll get a little bump, but that's it, on you go. That's why In a different post I wrote needle, ball, airspeed, stick and rudder. Just fly the damn airplane, don't let it fly you. The training these days, especially with automation, just can't compare to the no nonsense stuff from 25 years ago and prior! You go to a flight school and you hear most renters and students want the G1000 Cessna over the old analog one. My honest opinion, whether you're learning to fly for a career, or just for yourself, start out in a taildragger that has inop. tagged on every instrument...
preacher1 0
Well, your about right. A little difference in each type but there again, hit it and go. Unless something else is not being told here, I can't see a reason to call EMER either.
I agree w/ stick & rudder. I thing semiannual glider training in spins stalls and yaw string would be a welcome diversion from all the simulation time. Learn about flying and aerodynamic forces in a 2-33.
Sean Green 0
This is the same mistake Helios Airlines made in that fatal accident in Greece. Maintenance had switched the pressurization switch to manual. Checklist procedures are to input Cruising Altitude and Landing Altitude and verify pressurization switch is in normal position. Its a completely automated system with virtually no interaction by the crew.

Or else they performed a bleeds off takeoff and forgot to put the switches back on again.
Yeah, I heard from some AA pilots that they forgot to turn the bleeds on.
correction...packs off
If you fly planes long enough, you are bound to make a mistake. Aircraft systems are designed with redundancy to combat this. The mistake that the pilots made is now being studied in training environments. This is why flying is such a safe way to travel. The media is once again blowing this out of proportion.
Definitely agree!!
preacher1 0
@Charles:You are defintely right about one thing; if you don't make a mistake something will definitely go wrong that most pilots will handle as just part of the day. There are plenty of incident/upset reports in airline files that just get handled and never make the news and a lot of them are more serious than this. To boot, these folks didn't crash.
Anyone could make a mistake doing anything, however a pilot worth his salt, shouldn't have to try multiple times to get the airplane down in a real emergency. If the problem is listed in the checklist, follow it, if that doesn't work or it's not listed, experience and common sense should follow. Sadly, common sense is a thing that's fading away, not just in the cockpit, you see it everywhere...
preacher1 0
The article never said altitude or plane type. It looked like a wide body of some type, and I heard 2 grand in there somewhere, but I just can't help but feel that there was more going on there than a simple pressurization problem. You don't know if the pilots reported it under ASAP in order to cover their butts or if it was something totally out of the blue. Like the safety expert/retired pilot in the video, they should have divided the duties in the cockpit and it appeared they did initially from the recording in that the FO answered the tower and identified the problem. They either totally panicked or else they had something totally unexpected overwhelm them. As they were back on duty today with no disciplne due to ASAP, I vote for butt covering. There has got to be more to this story.
Flight tracker said it was a 738, they also had a tailstrike on a 757 that day too. Bad day...
Similar incident to one at SLC recently (flight 170 SLC-CDG) where the captain accidently left the cockpit window slightly ajar and had to RTO. Things like this will happen -- just make sure the same mistake doesn't happen again.
Very good reporting from the local affiliate!
With all that said, who wants to fly with any pilot who cant come in NOW and land the FIRST f----- time when your declaring an emergency !!!
un-real, good luck with the in-flight fire. American call Capt, Scully your pilots on this flight BLOW
JetJock737 0
I wonder if they dumped the masks in the cabin. You'd think that would have made the news when it happened.

The very first audio sounds like they were wearing their own masks, so I'd guess they got the pressurization alarm, put on their masks (as they should) and began to handle the problem. IIRC, the alarm comes on at 14,000. There was probably some point where they realized their screwup, took off their masks once they got down, then got too close and too high to land on the first attempt.

Why they couldn't do it on the second speaks volumes.
Probably needed more time to sync their stories
Me thinks you've got something here.
caminham 0
Would the "pressurization error" be the same switch that was missed and caused the problems with Helios Flight 522?

"all available flight data showed the pressurization control in manual mode and the outflow valve open at a constant angle, and because there was no evidence the flight crew ever changed the pressurization mode, the Board concluded that the pressurization system had been set to manual for the entire flight, which caused the pressurization failure." -
toolguy105 0
The rule of thumb as I understand it is the plane in trouble gets what they need when they call for it. The work load when an emergency is declared is horrendous. There are check list that must be completed before they land. As an airborne emergency goes this was a minor one. not being able to pressurize means they stay at or below 10,000 feet.

Other than forgetting to check the placement of the pressurization switch the only other thing the pilots might have done wrong was failing to inform controllers that they needed time to complete their checklists. I have heard this over and over again controllers asking pilots if they are ready for an approach and pilots responding they need time to complete their checklists.

Usually what happens is the controllers turn them away from the airport for a few minutes then turns them back towards the airport and asks again. If the pilot responds they are ready the turn them for the final approach if not they are again turned away. I heard none of this from controllers in Dallas/Fort Worth.
gusthedog 0
or the pilots, their decision
In nearly every case of crash incident I've read lately, and I've read too many recently it nearly always goes back to basic flying or lack of it. Needle-ball and airspeed, Fly the airplane first seems to be the answer. It appears that even in the air chance case they concentrated on solving the problem rather than identifying and recovering from the stall. I'm learning that we don't practice stall recovery after primary flight training and once you get into large equipment, some say "big iron" we can't practice because of fuel cost nor simulate because of equipment constraints. The answer seems to be to get back to punching holes in the sky periodically in small airplanes for training. After all Bernoulli's principal still applies on a lesser scale.
toolguy105 0
To an extent you are correct. One pilot should have concentrated on flying while the other read off the different checklists which are designed to help either solve the problem or properly configure the aircraft for landing with any given problem.

I can't tell from the radio talk we listen to that this was not the case. The first radio message was from one pilot; most likely the Captain as all others came from a different voice most likely the copilot who probably was supposed to fly that leg.

The Captain as would be proper took control of the plane giving the check list duties to the co-pilot. Unless there is imminent danger of falling from the sky these check lists have to be run before they return for landing.
am afraid they (the two pilots) would consider themselves as bus drivers rather than as responsible pilots, ie taking decision ahead of the flight for few mintues and overall, not forget their check list obligations !!
Terrible pilotage, just horrendous. The pressurization switch issue is almost forgiveable when measured against the bush league cockpit management. Just as disappointing is that this was quietly brushed under the carpet by the airline (appeasing the union at this sensitive time at AA?) and a desire to make things just go-away. It also sounds that AA in it media relations chose to focus on the pressurization issue and not the quality of decision making. Clearly any logical individual reviewing this would expect suspension and required re-training.
Anybody hear anything on AA Flight 1121 on Oct 4th that had pressurization loss and emergency landing? What happened?
gusthedog 0
Give me a break! after takeoff being unpressurized is not an emergency, land the plane unpressurized, no big deal, they had clearance to land, do the before landing checklist and be done with it. going around twice? never heard the crew declare an emergency, hence it's not.
yes, AA will include the problem in training ... huh? think it is already there, checklist, standard procedures, but ya gotta appease the media.
@S Armit
Appease the media yes, but I think AAs feeble response speaks volumes. I think they are trying to appease the union in order to get an IOU. They are in all kinds of trouble and this is thinly veiled act of concession for reasons that are contrary to the travelling public.
i am stunned by how NBC, in their complete ignorance, distorted the event! let me rephrase that. this has to be deliberate distortion.There was no emergency. Answering with "...yea, well, ...." doesn't sound in anyway like, " roger,AAL xxx is declaring an emergency .." especially because it was not one. Flying unpressurized in very uncomfortable and can be distracting because the airplane cabin may Be experiencing the same rate of climb as the airplane. NBC implied over and over that there was danger. Never happened . All radio transmissions were taken out of contents to deliberately scare the viewers over and over. The pilots requested vectors so as to be able to return for a landing apparently to reset the pressure controllers and were given approval by a traffic control who in turn alerted other controllers that needed the information. This is all normal procedure. at one point the request was denied, obviously for traffic reasons., And this was complied with. This is not an emergency nor is it dangerous but only normal procedure. all I heard was normal traffic procedures. Doing a go,around is not an emergency either but rather an evaluation that the landing is not sufficiently, within safe parameters. A go -around worldwide is fairly common. I have done several myself during my career. Doing to while working on a problem is not only conceivable but in this case actually happened. Not doing one when the landing is risky is where accidents have happened in the past. Reasons for go -arounds are legion. Weather factors for this for example are numerous and should not be second guessed by people of low intelligence especially when they have an agenda as the media obviously does. Someone in this sorry country has it in for American Airlines since there has been significant negative and unwarranted publicity ( Read "lies"] possibly in an attempt to drive down the stock prices and for somebody to make a sleazy killing? So retirement funds are going to cause bankruptcy? And pilots are regarded with negative publicity because NBC wants what now? and who owns NBC? Has NBC ever acknowledged that 911 is totally misrepresented and needs to be investigated? No of course not.
How anyone would even listen to the media is astonishing given their track record on how they lie, distort, misrepresent, ignore critical information; for example, did you know more soldiers die of suicide than combat
in the Middle East? Is there a clue here they don't want you hear?
Suing this sleazy company is of course a joke since the judges have a record of rejecting these lawsuits. However, if criminal charges are filed using the Constitution there must be a trial in criminal court.
And Flightaware was out to lunch when this story was filed without comment?
@Benno Vyfvinkel
Interesting points vis a vis NBC. IMHO, all news agencies, either air or paper and some worse than others (ex: FOX) are action hounds. If there is nothing there, they make it up that is why mainstream media has lost market share over the years as a newer more sceptical generation moves into place. When it comes to aviation there is no agency that has any idea what is going on - ever. I don't think you have really articulated a point of view on the flying skills demonstrated - specifically the need to go around twice. What is your opinion on that aspect of the report?
Somebody botched two landing attempts. It's as if they made a congressional decision to relinquish authority of the airplane to ATC. A go around is one thing, 2 missed approaches are something else, inattention. If you need time to complete a check list tell approach your not ready to turn final don't go in high and hot. A pilot would know how to remedy a pressurization problem. Is it logical that something more serious was actually going on? Maybe there was a pressurization problem too or maybe it wasn't just a switch.
HA HA HA...from THRUSTT: "Start out in a taildragger with INOP tagged on every instrument"! I agree with you, best way to learn to fly. Then scale up the automation once you know how to fly first. Very funny....made my saturday
Learning to fly is continuous education and review. Sometimes it's painless learning but a continuing education nevertheless.
pardon my ignorance. I'm just a low time private pilot. But who cares if they couldn't pressurize the plane? Why were they still working that issue? Why not just land and troubleshoot it on the ground? I don't see why they were so frantically trying to fix that that they were so distracted they missed two approaches. Just stay low and land. What am I missing?
That's the point I was alluding to. For two missed approaches to be hot and high is inexcusable from many stand points. And please don't give me the check list excuse again. That was OK for the first approach but not the second.
jbermo 0
As an SO on a chartered B-747 fright hauler, I recall experiencing a flight with 4 missed approaches. That’s about when I was going to take a #$%& crash ax to the Capt and land the airplane myself!
There are reasons for missed approaches and excuses for bad approaches, not much in between. Wind shear, traffic, some idiot or his kid blinding you with a lazer pointer, ... OK.
Pileits 0
News media distort facts of a stories.
Remember, if nobody reads or listens to the news organizations report they go out of business.
So the nature of news reporting in any media requires the reporters to distort and/or imbellish (• make (a statement or story) more interesting or entertaining by adding extra details, esp. ones that are not true) the actual story.
I've made that same point myself and it's true. I don't see much bad or exaggerated reporting here.
It is unsettling to hear it took the pilot three attempts to land at DFW after declaring an emergency on board. And even more so to learn that both pilot and copilot are back on their jobs after some additional training that should not have been necessary for a commercial pilot. The fact that AA made additional training necessary after this for all their pilots does not inspire much confidence in their training programme in the first place.
Reread the entire article. No emergency was ever declared. Really, no emergency existed. The pilot protection by the FAA policy to report problems is pretty clearly described. The fact that a seasoned pilot had two missed approaches in apparent clear air and ideal conditions is puzzling to me.
ken young 0
The bottom line is the aircraft was landed safely.
The crew made an error.
Now, with that said, it appears the crew did not stick to procedure. They may have been preoccupied with the cabin pressure issue instead of one FC member to deal with it, the other to fly the plane. Or, perhaps the crew were both focused on the procedure thus distracting the two pilots.
The news anchor was typically in sensation mode by using words such as "dangerous maneuvers" and "crowded airspace".
The on the scene reporter used the phrase "things got worse"". No they did not. The flight had to go arounds. So what.
I'll leave so what to you. In nearly every case of crash incident I've read lately, and I've read too many recently, it nearly always goes back to basic flying or lack of it. Needle-ball and airspeed, Fly the airplane first seems to be the answer. It appears that even in the Air France case they concentrated on solving the problem rather than identifying and recovering from the stall.
Mark Lansdell: Whether the pilot declared an emergency or not, he opted for a return to DFW in view of the cabin pressurization error. Now if that is not an emergency, declared or not, why not just keep on flying until things get really ugly. I still insist that not having been able to land until his third attempt does not speak highly of the pilot´s qualification or AA instruction programme taking into account other planes evidently landed while he was making circuits over the airport space.
I believe there was a declared emergency (though perhaps not in the excerpt), as the controller asked the pilot what the nature of his emergency was. It is unlikely that the controller is going to ask that question, absent an emergency.

Most striking in this, to me, is the need for two go-arounds. I believe it would probably have been three, had the controller given permission for a second 360. (Clearly, the first 360 didn't work out so well.) Handling workload is indeed taxed in this scenario. However, that is one of the reasons for two trained pilots. The FAA thought of high-workload environments.

What I don't understand is why it escalated into this at all. Instead of requesting the first 360, do a missed approach, go into a hold, and request clearance for another approach when the checklists and configuration meets the specifications required for that type of landing. Given DFW's altitude, it is unlikely that the altitude for a hold in a missed approach procedure would be higher than 10,000 feet.

But, yeah, I'm not an ATP--so I am only operating off of what I know as a private pilot. :-)
Flight track for that AAL1646 flight from April 20, 2011 --


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