How to Land a ‘Completely Uncontrollable’ Passenger Jet - The Pilots of an Air Astana Embraer 190 Jet Called Mayday
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November 14, 2018 - by ALEX DAVIESALEX DAVIES for WIRED
THE TROUBLE STARTED almost immediately. A few minutes after taking off from Lisbon on Sunday, the pilots of an Air Astana Embraer 190 jet called Mayday. "We have flight control problems," he told air traffic control, asking for a path to the sea for an emergency landing.
"We have six people on board," one pilot said a few minutes later, according to an audio recording available via LiveATC.net. "Airplane is completely uncontrollable."
Those six included three pilots and three engineers, according to FlightGlobal, who were taking the aircraft from Portugal, where it had been undergoing maintenance, to Kazakhstan, where Air Astana is based. In the first portion of the flight, the Embraer traced the sort of flight path you'd draw if you took your Spirograph on a roller coaster. Eventually, the pilots regained control and, escorted by a pair of fighter jets, flew south to an airport with good weather and landed safely.
"Due to technical reasons the crew decided to perform an unplanned landing," Air Astana said in a statement on Twitter. The investigation into what happened is just beginning, but the loss of control points to a few possibilities, says Shawn Pruchnicki, a former airline pilot who teaches aviation safety, human factors, accident investigation, and complex aircraft operation at Ohio State University's Center for Aviation Studies. The plane's control surfaces (the flaps, ailerons, and so on) could have frozen, or the power control units that move them might have failed. It might be related to the plane's recent maintenance, or the timing could be coincidental.
Pilots are trained to follow a simple creed when something goes wrong: Aviate, navigate, and communicate, in that order. In a loss-of-control situation, Pruchnicki says, aviating means figuring out what systems are working and how you can use them to stay level.
An hour after calling Mayday, the pilot announced he had control of the plane and...
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