Air Florida 90

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
My girl was relating to me a story she saw on the weather channel about the Air Florida 90 crash in the Potomac back in '82 - I remembered the news stories from when I was a kid, but only vaguely.

I read the Wikipedia account of the crash, which was interesting, and we were talking about it tonight.

Then she asked me a question that I couldn't really answer. "So...if you're the first officer, and you're really questioning what the Captain's doing [sic], what can you do? Do you just take the controls and fight him or what?"

I really didn't have an answer, because I don't know. In the case of that crash, it seemed like (based on the CVR transcript) he questioned what he was seeing but wasn't completely confident.

I know some of you guys were around and flying then, and even more of you have studied the crash in a professional capacity. So...what's the deal for the FO when he smells a potentially life threatening situation?

Or maybe I'm asking the wrong question, and the greater question at large, in an According-to-Hoyle CRM moment, is what recourse does an FO have in a split-second situation like that?

Thanks. We're both curious about the answers.
 

Screaming_Emu

Dogsheep
I am extremely new, but I still have a few times where the captain was ready to roll with something but I didn't think it was quite right. One specifically stands out in my head.

I was still on IOE. It was extremely early in MKE and we were taxiing out to a runway completely out on the other side of the field and the captain was about to turn onto a taxiway that didn't seem right to me. I expressed my concern and in his mind he justified it because he thought he knew exactly where it was. So my solution was "do you mind just stopping really quick so we can both get on the same page?"

He said "absolutely", we stopped, looked at the sineage and we were actually about to taxi across a runway. It wasn't in use, we hadn't even made the wrong turn yet, but that still wouldn't have been a good thing.

The important thing is that you bring up the situation, not the person's decision. Most people's first instinct is to convince you that they are right, because in their mind they are. If you go "are you sure this is where we're supposed to be going?" 99% of the time their answer will be "yep!" But if you go "wait, what taxiway are we on?" In my experience, they will actually look outside the airplane and figure it out.

Actually while jumpseating up to MD tonight, I noticed that the autothrottle had moved one throttle, but not the other and they were pretty mismatched. The crew was busy briefing the approach and trying to dodge some storms, so they didn't notice right away. So my diplomatic way of bringing it up was "hey, are those thrust levers supposed to be like that?".
 

Qgar

New Member
First off, I saw that episode on the Weather Channel--very well done. Secondly, you
asked a very good question. I've often wondered that myself. If I remember correctly, another contributing factor was that both pilots were Florida natives who were NOT used to flying in the snowy conditions of that day.
I was actually flying back from ORF that day and it was bad. We circled for hours and ended up diverting to LGA (from EWR) and the drive home took 4 hours.
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
First off, I saw that episode on the Weather Channel--very well done. Secondly, you
asked a very good question. I've often wondered that myself. If I remember correctly, another contributing factor was that both pilots were Florida natives who were NOT used to flying in the snowy conditions of that day.
I was actually flying back from ORF that day and it was bad. We circled for hours and ended up diverting to LGA (from EWR) and the drive home took 4 hours.
This is the part that really got me curious....

CVR Transcript said:
The following is a transcript of Flight 90's cockpit voice recorder during the plane's acceleration down the runway. It is evident that the first officer saw a problem with the instrumentation and that the captain shrugged off his concerns. (CAM-1 is the captain, CAM-2 is the first officer)
15:59:32 CAM-1 Okay, your throttles.
15:59:35 [SOUND OF ENGINE SPOOLUP]
15:59:49 CAM-1 Holler if you need the wipers.
15:59:51 CAM-1 It's spooled. Real cold, real cold.
15:59:58 CAM-2 God, look at that thing. That don't seem right, does it? Uh, that's not right.
16:00:09 CAM-1 Yes it is, there's eighty.
16:00:10 CAM-2 Naw, I don't think that's right. Ah, maybe it is.

16:00:21 CAM-1 Hundred and twenty.
16:00:23 CAM-2 I don't know
16:00:31 CAM-1 Vee-one. Easy, vee-two.
As the plane became briefly airborne, the flight recorder picked up the following from the cockpit, with the sound of the stick-shaker (an instrument that warns that the plane is in danger of stalling) in the background:
16:00:39 [SOUND OF STICKSHAKER STARTS AND CONTINUES UNTIL IMPACT]
16:00:41 TWR Palm 90 contact departure control.
16:00:45 CAM-1 Forward, forward, easy. We only want five hundred.
16:00:48 CAM-1 Come on forward....forward, just barely climb.
16:00:59 CAM-1 Stalling, we're falling!
16:01:00 CAM-2 Larry, we're going down, Larry....
16:01:01 CAM-1 I know it!
16:01:01 [SOUND OF IMPACT]
See what I mean?
 

Velocipede

New Member
In this case, you jam the throttles to the firewalls, even if you're the non-flying pilot. Neither of them did that.

Remember, they've NEVER salvaged a good engine off a crashed airplane.
 

nosehair

Well-Known Member
This is where your experience as an instructor actually pays off in CRM.

If you are sure, sure enough to take control, as you would with a student.

As an instructor, you learn to diplomatically suggest things. That's a good instructor. Once a student has gained solo and solo x/c endorsements, the remainder of his training should be as if he were the captain of every flight.

Treat your captain just as you would a student in the areas that you feel you are competent in. If you are sure - let him know.

But my point is, being an instructor who learns how to "suggest", rather than "tell", is learning good CRM.
 

Qgar

New Member
Changes in de-icing rules were implemented as a result of this tragedy, if I recall.
 

jtrain609

I'm a carnal, organic anagram.
Air Flordia 90 was a 737, right? I honestly don't know jack about the 737, or how power is set, or whatever, so if Velo could step in and correct me, this is my understanding of this incident, and I'll tell you why it couldn't happen on my airplane (or I should say SHOULDN'T happen).

My understanding is that they set thrust by EPR, and the sensors for the EPR gauges were covered in ice and not indicating correctly. Their EPT gauge said that they had thrust set properly, but the rest of the engine gauges didn't match up correctly. This should have called for an abort right away, and if this is what happened then the first officer should have been WAY more specific about what he was saying was wrong. Saying "Oh that doesn't look right" doesn't isolate the problem. If he had said, "Whoa, the EPR and N1 values aren't lining up, something's wrong," then the captain would have known to abort the takeoff below V1 or simply mash the thrust levers to the firewall. Would they have damaged the engine? Yeah, probably, but they would have also been alive right now.

In my plane, we've got a FADEC system so we just put the thing in the detent and the engine will spool itself up to the proper speeds. There are four FADEC computers that cross check each other, and if one of them doesn't like what's happening we'll get an EICAS message telling us so. Don't have enough power to go into T/O reserve thrust (I.E. mashing the thrust levers to the firewall), it'll tell us and we abort. Thankfully there's so much great technology in my plane to keep us safe, I'd doubt we could get into the same situation, but then again you never know, as pilots are pretty impressive creatures that have managed to do some real, real, real stupid things in the past, and we will continue to do so in the future.

But as far as seeing things that don't seem right? It happens, and you don't simply grab the controls away from the other guy every time it happens. Experience tells you when to speak up and when to see where things are going to go, and experience will tell you when something is going to get you killed quickly. I probably gained a better idea of how to read a situation that will get me killed quickly best when I was flight instructing, because it was happening on a daily basis.
 

kellwolf

Piece of Trash
If my memory serves me correctly (and it often doesn't, so I might be wrong), they had the cowl anti-ice selected "off." This could have been a contributing factor to the power setting indictation. If what I'm remembering is true, it's another reason not to non-chalantly go through that "before takeoff" checklist you've done for half a million flights.
 

Derg

Cap, Roci
Staff member
In this case, you jam the throttles to the firewalls, even if you're the non-flying pilot. Neither of them did that.

Remember, they've NEVER salvaged a good engine off a crashed airplane.
*ding!* :)

Plus it's always a great idea, if your aircraft uses EPR as a primary thrust indication, to have an idea of what your N1 should be as a crosscheck.
 

CaptBill

Well-Known Member
The aircraft was a 737-200 which had the older Pratt & Whitney JT-8 engines. The primary instrument used to set power was the EPR (Engine Pressure Ratio) gauges. A reading is taken from the inlet and the aft section of the engine which gives the ratio. For example: If the aft pressure reading is 1.5 times greater than the inlet pressure, the gauge would read 1.5. If I recall, the takeoff power on the older 73s was something like 1.8 or 1.9. What I recall reading is that the inlet pressure probe iced over and caused the EPR gauges to read much higher than they should. They were showing takeoff power when in fact the engines were only producing a fraction of that.


I recognize that some captains may create a cockpit environment that does not facilitate the FO speaking up. This is the captains issue, nothing more. I personally would have expected my FO to say something like "This doesn't look right, I suggest rejecting the takeoff." Any captain in their right mind would reject but in the event he/she didn't, me as an FO, would push the throttles forward without reservation. We can talk about it later if the captain has issues with my decision. I recall many years ago as a FO taxiing out of ORD at night. The captain was slightly distracted and I happened to catch sight of something on the taxiway on his side of the airplane. Before I even had time to explain to him, I applied brakes aggressively and stopped the airplane. He was obviously surprised and asked what was up? I asked him to look out his window back toward the wing and see if he could see anything on the taxiway. He came back and said there was a large suitcase that had apparently fallen off a baggage cart 10 feet in front of the #1 engine (which was running). He thanked me and we continued the trip uneventfully after the bag was retrieved by an airport operations vehicle. First Officers, don't be afraid to aggressively speak up in cases like this - It may just save your life and the lives you are entrusted to protect.
 

fly8slep

New Member
That crew did so many things wrong it's not funny. We can armchair QB all we want about it but the fact is, it's all about inexperience with a strong effect of get-there-itis. Lucky the airplanes we fly today won't let you do anything stupid and about 99% of todays CA listen to their FOs suggestions.
 

SeanD

Well-Known Member
I remember this day well. I lived in the DC area. I was a cub scout at the time. We had a scheduled troop feild trip to the Smithsonian which was obviously canceled from the weather. That was a brutal storm. I remember it being among the worst winter weather the area had seen in years. I remember the news reporting IAD to ground all flight for the day. Less than an hour later the breaking news of a plane crashing into the 14th street bridge. How come DCA was allowing take offs? That I still dont get.
I do blame this accident as the main reason I decided early on I did not want to be a pilot like my dad. Things changed slightly as I got older.
 

HeyEng

NAHB Doesn't Give a Crap
Here's my issue with "push the throttles up to the firewall"

30 seconds elapsed from the time the FO initially voiced his concern about the engine indications and V1. To me, this is a no brainer...REJECT the takeoff. Why would you push the throttles up to the firewall in that case? On our airplane, anyone can call "reject"...obviously if it's after V1 then we're taking it in the air unless it's something REALLY bad (failed thrust reverser for example). I know about Monday morning QB'ing, but 30 seconds is an awful long time during takeoff roll.
 

KLB

Well-Known Member
The aircraft was a 737-200 which had the older Pratt & Whitney JT-8 engines. The primary instrument used to set power was the EPR (Engine Pressure Ratio) gauges. A reading is taken from the inlet and the aft section of the engine which gives the ratio. For example: If the aft pressure reading is 1.5 times greater than the inlet pressure, the gauge would read 1.5. If I recall, the takeoff power on the older 73s was something like 1.8 or 1.9. What I recall reading is that the inlet pressure probe iced over and caused the EPR gauges to read much higher than they should. They were showing takeoff power when in fact the engines were only producing a fraction of that.


I recognize that some captains may create a cockpit environment that does not facilitate the FO speaking up. This is the captains issue, nothing more. I personally would have expected my FO to say something like "This doesn't look right, I suggest rejecting the takeoff." Any captain in their right mind would reject but in the event he/she didn't, me as an FO, would push the throttles forward without reservation. We can talk about it later if the captain has issues with my decision. I recall many years ago as a FO taxiing out of ORD at night. The captain was slightly distracted and I happened to catch sight of something on the taxiway on his side of the airplane. Before I even had time to explain to him, I applied brakes aggressively and stopped the airplane. He was obviously surprised and asked what was up? I asked him to look out his window back toward the wing and see if he could see anything on the taxiway. He came back and said there was a large suitcase that had apparently fallen off a baggage cart 10 feet in front of the #1 engine (which was running). He thanked me and we continued the trip uneventfully after the bag was retrieved by an airport operations vehicle. First Officers, don't be afraid to aggressively speak up in cases like this - It may just save your life and the lives you are entrusted to protect.
Interesting...The metro uses EPR type information, but its all calculated through the single red line computer.


I'm mostly single pilot. Either sinlge pilot or two crew, we are taught to brief our departuteres to this effect:

"There are no DMI's on this aircraft. This is a captains left seat normal departure. We will abort take-off prior to V1 for any red or amber annunciators...or any other abnormalilties. If you or I see anything, either one of us will command 'abort abort abort' and I will reject the takeoff. After V1 we will continue and handle it as an inflight emergency. The ceiling is 200OVC. If we have to come back and land, we will request radar vectors back for the ILS XX approach."

Of course there's other operational considerations to take into account as far as runway lengths and runway conditions.

I still consider myself a newbie in the grand scheme of things. It's not fail safe, but it does help make sure that everyone's on the same page.



I was actually thinking of putting up a discusstion in the "you're the captain section" to get a look at how you 121 guys briefed departures few weeks back. I totally forgot to do it.
 

ctab5060X

Well-Known Member
After looking at the transcript of the CVR posted above, a question arises...


Does it not appear that the FO is the flying pilot?
 

CaptBill

Well-Known Member
After looking at the transcript of the CVR posted above, a question arises...


Does it not appear that the FO is the flying pilot?

Yes he was. At Continental the takeoff procedure calls for the captain to have his hand on the throttles prior to V1 regardless of who is flying. The captain physically performs ALL rejected takeoffs. As V1 is called, the captain takes his hands off the throttles and any subsequent adjustment of the throttles is done by the flying pilot. I do not know what Air Florida's takeoff procedures were.
 

Velocipede

New Member
CalCapt said it all very well, so no need to reiderate. However, for GalaxyFE, the firewall comment only applies to after V1. In the case of Palm 90, no one ever firewalled the throttles. They were recovered in the reduced setting caused by the Pt2 probe being iced over due to the engine A/I not turned on.

If you get past V1 and the airplane isn't doing what you think it should be, firewall the throttles until you're in a safe position and figure out the issue later. I guarantee if I'm going down in a similar situation, the accident investigators are going to find the throttles firewalled and bent forward.
 

HeyEng

NAHB Doesn't Give a Crap
CalCapt said it all very well, so no need to reiderate. However, for GalaxyFE, the firewall comment only applies to after V1. In the case of Palm 90, no one ever firewalled the throttles. They were recovered in the reduced setting caused by the Pt2 probe being iced over due to the engine A/I not turned on.

If you get past V1 and the airplane isn't doing what you think it should be, firewall the throttles until you're in a safe position and figure out the issue later. I guarantee if I'm going down in a similar situation, the accident investigators are going to find the throttles firewalled and bent forward.
Ok, that makes a lot more sense. I didn't think it sounded like you (or anyone on this board) that would have taken that action prior to V1. And yes, after V1, you best be cookin' 'dem motors!!! :)
 
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