Update on Flight 5481

MissedApproach

Well-Known Member
WASHINGTON, May 20 (Reuters) - The crew of a doomed Air Midwest flight faced a crisis immediately after takeoff from North Carolina in January, struggling to push down the nose of the overweight plane during a slow steep climb, transcripts of cockpit recordings showed on Tuesday.

"Gear up," Capt. Katie Leslie said as Flight 5481, a Beech 1900 turboprop operating as a US Airways commuter, lifted off on a short, routine flight from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport to Greenville, South Carolina.

"Oh, help me," Leslie called out to her first officer just seconds after the plane left the runway seven seconds later.

"Push down," the first officer said, referring to the control yoke that moves the flight controls.

"Push the nose down!" Leslie yelled seconds before a stall warning sounded about 18 seconds after takeoff.

"We have an emergency for Air Midwest fifty-four-eighty-one," Leslie called out to air controllers.

The plane reached 1,100 feet before stalling and falling nose-down. It struck a hangar before slamming into the ground and exploding. All 19 passengers and two crew were killed.

The transcripts were released at a National Transportation Safety Board hearing on the Jan. 8 crash where investigators intensified their focus on maintenance and the passenger and bag load. Evidence at the hearing showed for the first time the plane was overweight and its load slightly tail heavy.

But transcripts showed Leslie was mindful of the gathering load of 19 passengers and 31 bags, and investigators said she properly used the formula accepted by the industry at the time -- since changed -- for estimating weight. Her figures showed the plane was barely under its maximum takeoff weight.

CREW JOKED ABOUT WEIGHT

In fact, the crew joked about weight when they noticed a worker preparing the plane for takeoff. "He's probably looking at our ... tail like (it's) 'bout ready to hit the ground right now, with all the bags back there," the first officer said.

But an internal safety board document showed a post-crash calculation of the exact weight of the passengers and bags showed the plane weighed 17,400 pounds, nearly 300 pounds above its maximum takeoff weight.

Nevertheless, a senior safety board official said the weight problem alone should not have caused the crash.

This heightened interest on the potentially troublesome combination of weight and maintenance that was completed on the Beech 1900 the day before the crash.

Mechanics subcontracted for Air Midwest (NasdaqNM:MESA - News) work by Raytheon Aerospace LLC had adjusted the tension of the cable system that moves elevator panels on the tail. Those components control aircraft pitch.

Lorenda Ward, the chief investigator, said a post-crash examination showed the cable system was out of alignment.

Ward said further analysis showed the elevator system did not have its full downward range. Questions were also raised about the experience of the maintenance crew and whether proper procedures were followed.

George States, a Raytheon inspector, defended the work of the mechanic who performed the job as a training assignment. States said he checked the work and noted no problems.

The ill-fated flight was the ninth since the maintenance check, but it was the heaviest and the first since the work was performed in which the passenger and bag load affected the rear center of gravity, Ward testified.
 

perpetual

Well-Known Member
I pray for them. It is extremely tragic that this has happened.

I pray for a day, where each and every aircraft that takes to the sky, can return safely because of hard work, dedication, love, and also advanced technical advancements.

I think we should all reflect on our profession, as to know each time we take flight, it is our lives and the many of others whom which we hold in our hands.

May God bless the many who have fallen, and the many who have not, and also the many future flights, and people who take to the skies.
 

SkyKingRon

New Member
That's too bad to hear, and of course scary to hear the crew try to deal with a situation that went from bad to worse FAST.

Goes to show that being at max weight is bad enough, but rear cg will really bite you in the butt. I hope I always remember them and the reminder of weight/bal. Serious stuff.
 

zsolez

New Member
This is very sad.

I am wondering how pilots check weather the controls are moving freely and to the full extent. In the lill 152/72 I always care to check when I move the elevator full up and down it hits the little "nails". I guess you can't do this in the 1900 not to mention a bigger jet. So how is this done?
 

davetheflyer

New Member
In the Jetstream, we check flight controls basically like you do in Cessna, by making the box with the yoke and moving the rudder pedals full travel. In some of the heavier iron, CRJs for example, the EICAS (Engine Instrument and Crew Alerting System), a computer system that displays the engine gauges and anomaly messages, shows the flight controls moving to to the full extent so that you know they actually move.

Additionally, transport category aircraft have an ace-in-the-hole in the form of pitch and roll disconnects. If the flight controls become blocked, you can disconnect them. For example, in the case of 5481, if they had time to realize that the elevator wasn't performing as advertised, they could have pulled the pitch disconnect. This would have given one pilot control of each elevator. Both pilots could have tried to raise the nose with "their" elevator, and maybe one would have had enough control authority to do so. There is a similar system for the ailerons.
 

E_Dawg

Moderator
[ QUOTE ]
Both pilots could have tried to raise the nose with "their" elevator, and maybe one would have had enough control authority to do so. There is a similar system for the ailerons.

[/ QUOTE ]

Is that like each pilot gets control of their side of the elevator (like the 767 that crashed with 'split' elevators because the pilot was pushing the nose down and the FO was trying to pull back);

or is it that each pilot has full control and both inputs are averaged?

Just wondering

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Those accidents are very sad where it appears the pilots had no ability to overcome the situation (ALL accidents are sad... just especially these). There's something about being helpless that would really peeve me...

There is a book called 'The Black Box'. It's pretty rough reading because it has transcripts of 12 or so accident airplanes. It's a good read though; one 747 lost an engine pod and part of the wing in severe turbulence on climbout; it was really amazing to see the crew coordination and work they put into the task; they ended up landing safely. Other good ones were the 'Challenger' space shuttle and the Al Hanes DC-10 emergency.

Anybody else read the Flying 'Aftermath' this month about the Alaska Airlines plane that went into the Pacific?
 

vipermcg

New Member
I read that book Blackbox also. It was really freaky hearing pilots having normal conversation one second then fighting for their life the next. I found it interesting how before the problem came up, the FO said to the captain "I just couldnt imagine doing anything else." It reminded me of all of us here at jetcareers, and how it could be one of us in that same position some day.
 

davetheflyer

New Member
[ QUOTE ]

Is that like each pilot gets control of their side of the elevator (like the 767 that crashed with 'split' elevators because the pilot was pushing the nose down and the FO was trying to pull back);



[/ QUOTE ]

That is correct. Each pilot has control of one elevator or aileron. I havn't heard about the 767 accident.

I did hear recently about an incident at a RON outstation. Some of the ground crew needed to tow the airplane so they went into the cockpit to release the parking brake. Well, the pitch disconnect looks like a parking brake handle... a red parking brake handle. They pulled the disconnect and then tried to reset it when they realized the mistake. The crew noticed it on the preflight because (a) the disconnect handle was protruding slightly and (b) there was a big foot print on the handle where the guy had kicked it to get it back into place.

I think that the captain rather emphatically told the station personnel that if they went into the cockpit, not to touch anything that was red, and not to force it back into place if they messed something up.
 

zsolez

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
In the Jetstream, we check flight controls basically like you do in Cessna, by making the box with the yoke and moving the rudder pedals full travel. In some of the heavier iron, CRJs for example, the EICAS (Engine Instrument and Crew Alerting System), a computer system that displays the engine gauges and anomaly messages, shows the flight controls moving to to the full extent so that you know they actually move.

[/ QUOTE ]

Thx for the answer.
 
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