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767 & 777 Pilots Call in About SF Crash


RUSH:  Okay, to the phones we go, to Chantilly, Virginia.  This is Carmen.  You are up first today.  Great to have you on the program, sir.  Hello.

CALLER:  Hey, Rush, thank you so much for taking my call.

RUSH:  Yeah, really glad you waited, Carmen.

CALLER:  Yeah.  As I was telling Mr. Snerdley, I'm a retired 767 captain and I did want to point out to the listeners that although that pilot may have been relatively inexperienced in that particular aircraft, he did have a lot of commercial airline experience if the reporting is correct. And also, the pilot along with him was a very experienced pilot because you don't put an inexperienced pilot with another pilot that is inexperienced. And I also believe there were two other additional pilots in the cockpit which should have also provided some assistance with regard to situational awareness in terms of whether they were too high, too low, or, you know, getting too fast or too slow.

RUSH:  Okay, let me go back to the beginning.  So you're saying it's not any big deal. They've got somebody experienced in the number two seat. This guy, this is his first landing, guy in the number one seat, his first landing there, but he's done this in a simulator a number of times, right, and somebody sitting right beside him has hours and hours of experience, right?

CALLER:  Correct.

RUSH:  Okay, so, as a pilot, you know that the company and most everybody else is gonna zero in on pilot error.  How does make you feel as a pilot, 'cause they always zero in on pilot error?  They're already, before they even saw the black box, are saying there was nothing wrong with the avionics.

CALLER:  Well, with any accident there's always a multitude of factors and, you know, there is initial appearance.  There may be some pilot error involved, but the key is, you know, what automation was engaged or not engaged, what mode of the automation was engaged, you know, what the situational awareness was at the time. That's why it's gonna be so critical to evaluate the cockpit voice recorders, the flight data recorders. We have the pilots to speak with.  Also, Fox News reported earlier today about the vertical profile that some distance away from the airport that same flight the day prior was just under 12,000 feet, whereas this particular flight was I believe at 18,000 feet.  So that indicates that the aircraft could have been very high initially on the approach to the runway and then the pilot would have to lower the nose to get back more on a vertical profile.

RUSH:  Wait.  Wait.  If he was 6,000 feet high, that would mean he had to descend fast to get back on glide path, right?

CALLER:  Correct.  Correct.  And that would cause your throttles, more than likely, to be in idle, which there was indication --

RUSH:  By the way, speaking of --

CALLER:  -- the throttles were in idle, which also goes to the initial point I had with regard to what automation mode was engaged.

RUSH:  Speaking of which, you know, I did read, correct me if I'm wrong, did I read where somebody said the glide path -- the instrument -- the airport glide path stuff was turned off because it was not necessary weather-wise?

CALLER:  Well, I  think it was up for service.  And that's another point I was hoping I could get to, and that's not a very critical point because there are so many other means for the pilot to double-check the vertical profile.  That has a very advanced avionics system, and you can program both a lateral path, which also gives you vertical path information --

RUSH:  What's a vertical path?  Remember, we got laymen here.

CALLER:  Right.  Well, let's say I'm 10 miles away from the airport.  As a pilot I would always back my automation up with just doing mental calculations. So I just multiply however many miles away I am from the runway times three.  So if I'm at 10 miles away, I should be about 3,000 feet.  If I was 15 miles away, I should be about 4,500 feet above the ground.  So the pilot has that ability to verify whether or not they're, you know, high or low on that vertical profile.  Because you don't want to be descending too fast; you don't want to be descending too slow.  Also, that particular runway has a visual indication which is called a PAPI, which is a precision altitude path indicator, and that gives a pilot a visual cue via lights, whether they're high on the glide path angle or low on the glide path angle or right on the glide path angle. 

RUSH:  Well, you're making it sound like this shouldn'ta happened. It sounds like too many safeguards.  Here's another thing I thought I saw, that somebody in the cockpit told the pilot that he was going too slow seven seconds before the crash.

CALLER:  Right.

RUSH:  Well, if somebody in the cockpit knows it, what are they doing telling the guy?  Why don't they just do something about it?

CALLER:  Well, you know, you have to -- the pilot flying should be doing something, if the pilot's flying that isn't doing something then the pilot not flying or monitoring should be advising that pilot to do something, and if neither of those two pilots are saying anything, then the pilot sitting in the extra seats there in the cockpit which we call jump seats should be saying something as well.

RUSH:  We're talking with a caller, Carmen from Chantilly, Virginia, who is retired and flew 767s.  In case you're just joining us and wondering what the voice of authority is.  What's the difference now, 777, relatively new compared to the 67, cockpit differences, what are they? You think you can jump in the 777 and fly it?

CALLER:  I've played with their flight management computers and some of the automation.  In an emergency I probably could, but it's a more advanced system, so evidently subtle differences.  But, yeah, I would definitely want to be going through the full training program before I could consider myself any kind of an expert on the 777.

RUSH:  But they say it's gonna be years, it's always a long time, they're saying years before we know officially what happened here, but you sound like you seem to have this pretty much nailed down, that they were just too high, too close?

CALLER:  Well, that seems to be part of it, but then again it's the situational awareness, what did they do to correct and were they monitoring all the information that was available to them to correct any adjustments that needed to be made.

RUSH:  Well, it seems like they tried to abort it too late.

CALLER:  Yeah, that appears to be the case, but the good thing is, you know, we got the flight data recorder, we got the cockpit voice recorder, we got the pilots, and also we have the radar data that we can use to determine both the lateral and the vertical profile and see how that looked.

RUSH:  Well, Carmen, I appreciate the call and I'm glad you held on here.

CALLER:  Thank you, Rush.  Appreciate it.  Have a great day .

RUSH:  You bet.  Carmen in Chantilly. 


RUSH: We have a 777 pilot on the phone, Ted in Chicago.  Ted, I'm glad you got through, hi.

CALLER:  Hey, Rush, how you doing today?

RUSH:  Very well, thank you.

CALLER:  Good.  Well, first, very tragic accident.

RUSH:  You know what?  I'm thinking that -- maybe other people have said this, but only two people died.  That's kind of remarkable. 

CALLER:  Well, that is, it's a fantastic thing, and now there's a question about --

RUSH:  How much of that's related -- this is a really modern designed aircraft.

CALLER:  It's a solid airplane.  I fly the 777, and I'll tell you, it's a dream to fly.  I mean, you can land the thing in a 50 knot crosswind.  It's tough --

RUSH:  Now, wait a minute.  People may not get the impact.  A 50 knot crosswind?

CALLER:  Yep.  It has no (crosstalk) limit.

RUSH:  Wow, that's amazing.

CALLER:  It's the only plane I've ever flown that has -- normally when you go to the manual it says you can only fly at 30 knot crosswind or whatever.  The 777 has no designated crosswind.  It's a flying marvel.

RUSH:  Okay, now, you said there's some misinformation out there.

CALLER:  Well, the misinformation is -- well, first, I think, you know, I feel for the pilots that were flying the airplane.  I personally think what happened, you know, they were above the glide slope which means they were above the flight plan, so you pull the throttle to idle, then they descend towards the glide path and they descended through it, but the 777 normally you always use the auto throttles.  And even if you don't, if you get below airspeed, they kick on automatically.  Unfortunately, in their situation they got so low that the airplane thought it was basically in landing mode so it's not gonna bring the throttles up.

RUSH:  They must have been coming down like a rock then?

CALLER:  Well, not really like a rock, but they blew through the glide path. So they started way above it, then they went way below it.

RUSH:  Right.

CALLER:  Even though the ILS was turned off, runway 28 Left has a GPS and an RNAV, would normally have set up, that, you know, the plane --

RUSH:  So they were eyeballing it basically?

CALLER:  Well, basically that's all you have to do.  Normally it's just kind of (audio dropout) you just kind of aim at the runway, but then you're expecting the auto throttles to be there for you.  If you remember about 10 years ago, it was almost an identical accident in Frankfurt with the Airbus, where they drove it into the trees, 'cause they were gonna show how the plane would just take over automatically, and it went into landing mode, so it just assumed they were landing, so it decided to land in the trees, and destroyed the airplane.

RUSH:  Well, that's scary when that kind of override happens.  But, hey, it's an Airbus.  Ahem.

CALLER:  Well, yeah.  The old saying, "If it ain't a Boeing, I ain't going."

RUSH:  Ted, I want to talk to you further, but I'm outta time.  If you will, give Mr. Snerdley a number where we can reach you.  Because there's gonna be more news.  The NTSB is still revealing information about this, and if there's anything more we can get in touch with you later, tomorrow, maybe, if that's okay.  If not, no sweat.  



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