Saturday, April 02, 2011

Aviation Update

This past week we had the story about a bullet hole in a US Airways jet:
The FBI, who are investigating the incident, said that the hole extended from the jet's skin into the cabin, and praised the pilot for discovering it. They have collected the spent bullet as evidence and sent it for ballistic analysis.
The story went on to say that a tiny bullet hole would not cause rapid depressurization. Today we see this story:
Passenger Brenda Reese said Flight 812 had just left Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport for Sacramento, Calif., when a "gunshot-like sound" woke her up. She said oxygen masks dropped for passengers and flight attendants as the plane dove.

Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Los Angeles, said the pilot "made a rapid, controlled descent from 36,000 feet to 11,000 feet altitude."
"Just left" is misleading; obviously the plane was out of rifle range since it was already at cruising altitude when the event occurred, well west of Phoenix. The witness-described sound of a 'gunshot' is merely a coincidence. As mentioned in the article, fuselage ruptures are not unheard of. They went on to explain how holes might occur:
Holes in aircrafts[sic] can be caused by metal fatigue or lightning. The National Weather Service said the weather was clear from the Phoenix area to the California border on Friday afternoon.
Or as seen on the US Airways plane, from gunshots. The question is whether a an unforeseen gunshot hole could cause a peel away event at altitude.

At any rate, this past week has not been a good one for commercial aviation in general. After the saga of the sleeping tower controller we've seen an 'air conditioning system' problem cause the controlled dive of a Qantas jet in Australia, a similar air conditioning problem resulting in the diversion of an American jet in the US, and the weird event featuring 'middle eastern' looking men acting strangely, causing another diversion.

Not a good week for Southwest either considering the Florida event where a 737 crew agreed to emulate a fighter jet in trying to determine why a prop plane was not responding to ATC radio calls. Maybe a sleeping pilot! Anyway, as they say, stuff happens, the question is always whether it's the normal stuff or other stuff. The bottom line is that nobody got hurt.

MORE 4/3/11

Another day, another apparent decompression event. American 883 enroute from Boston to St. Thomas took a dive from cruising altitude to 10,000 feet in a hurry and diverted to JFK. According to flight tracking site FlightAware, the 757 dropped from 35,000 to 10,000 in 3 minutes, then bounced back up to 21,000 feet a minute later, then back down to 10,000 feet after another 3 minutes. Part of that dipsy doodle could be a reporting glitch, but at any rate it was a pretty rapid descent. No word on the cause of the pressurization problem.

4 comments:

ajlounyinjurylaw said...

There needs to be a measurement of metal fatigue before it gets to the point of a 6 foot hole in your cruising airplane.

Debbie said...

I had not heard the 'gunshot' comment. Interesting. No it has not been a good week for the air industry, where I saw on Fox that business was down 20 something percent? People just not flying as much and who can blame them

Debbie
Right Truth
http://www.righttruth.typepad.com

A.C. McCloud said...

Yeah 'law, it seems like apples and oranges. Was just struck by the 'gunshot' comment, right after a real gunshot event.

A.C. McCloud said...

It's still a safe industry, Debbie. Much safer than driving. Of course, you rarely have to worry about radical Muslims taking over your car.