Monthly Archives: February 2009

Turkish Airlines B737-800 crashes in Amsterdam

On Feb. 25, a Turkish Airlines B737-800, “TC-JGE”, flying as TK1951 from Istanbul to Amsterdam with 127 passengers and 7 crew members, crashed shortly before landing on RWY 18R at Amsterdam’s Schiphol International airport right around 10.35LT. As a result of the impact, the airframe broke into three main parts: 9 people (comprising Captain and First Officer) died and 50 were injured.

Obviously, there are lot of possible reasons why the airplane crash landed where it did (fortunately, in an isolated area). Basing on the details which have surfaced so far it is possible to try to theorize the root causes of the accident and to explain why media is reporting many different scenarios:

1) from the picture released so far, there’s no evidence of fire, just like the aircraft ran out of fuel before crashing (it would be coherent with the fact that someone saw the aircraft “gliding”). However it was reported that the B738 was fully loaded with fuel at the departure

2) a few witnesses standing or driving on the nearby highway said the airplane was flying slow at low altitude when, suddenly, the tail went down and the nose up. After pilot correction, the airplane flew horizontally again before it pitched down into the field. Many reported as the aircraft fell like a brick from the sky (it most probably stalled).

3) wind shear could be a possible cause, even if no other aircraft reported it. The METAR at the time of the crash was: EHAM 251025Z 22011KT 3500 -DZ BR OVC007 05/04 Q1027 TEMPO 2500 that is to say wind from 220 at 11 knots, 3500 meters of visibility, overcast at 700 feet, drizzle, mist, temperature 5° C, dew point 4° C, pressure 1027 millibars. Nothing special for Schiphol. Experiencing wind shear crew members would select TOGA (Take Off / GO Around) thruust to avoid falling into the ground while witnesses saw the aircraft touching the ground with low energy and pictures of at least one of the engine show the compressor’s blades in good shape, meaning that the engine was windmilling / low regime.

4) right engine separated from the wing and rested some hundred meters apart from crash location (slightly ahead of the B737). Someone speculated one engine separated from the aircraft during landing but in this case it would have fallen somewhere behind the wreckage location. If one engine separated at AMS it would be the second time an in-flight engine separation takes place in the same location. In 1992 a LY B747-200 crashed into the houses during night approach at Schipol. Aviation disasters some times have the habit of coming up with strange coincidences.

5) double flame out caused by multiple birdstrike will be investigated (but it seems unlikely to me, since it would be the third occurrence in a few months). But I don’t think the pilot would have reacted to such an emergency by

6) the aircraft declared an emergency for engine(s) problem. This is somehow strange: if the aircraft had a catastrophic failure that brought to a rapid stall, there would (probably) be no time to radio a Mayday or to declare an emergency. The famous rule “Aviate, Navigate, Communicate” always applies. In this case, looks like the pilots were not able to fly the aircraft, so they would not even think to communicate.

This accident and what has been reported so far by the media reminded me of the British Airways 038 crash landing in London Heathrow. In that case as I explained here) as I watched an amateur video of the B777 I explained: “Looking at this video, it appears that the B777 is trying to keep the glideslope while speed is decreasing.

The aircraft has, in fact, an unusual pitch attitude, probably induced by the autopilot that is raising the AOA (Angle Of Attack) to maintain the ILS to compensate insufficient thrust, under deteriorating speed conditions. Very dangerous attitude (especially) at 600ft that made the aircraft get less horizontal distance, thus touching short of the runway 27L”. What if the Turkish Boeing 737 ran out of fuel (or experiencing insufficient thrust because of a birdstrike, autopilot problem, bad data input, or for any other reason, separation comprised) while performing the approach? The autopilot would have raised the nose to keep the ILS and the aircraft would near stall conditions very quickly. It is to avoid such a dangerous situation that as soon as a failure of one or two engine is detected the crew has to shut off autopilot and autothrottle and to apply TOGA to prevent stall.

The following pictures released to the media show the wreckage of the aircraft:

Ajira 316: a new flight to Lost island

Ajira Airways is a fictional airline, which appears for the first time in the episode 6, titled “316”, of the 5th season of the most famous American serial drama series “Lost”.

The airline has a website (registered to ABC) that is full of consistent advertising by the company and provides visitor the (appearent) possibility to book flights to a series of new destinations (comprising Rome). The “About Us” section of the Ajiraairways.com site explains: “Welcome to Ajira Airways, a new kind of flying. We take our passengers from the whirlwind of their world into the wild possibilities of this infinite planet. Dreams are made in the atmosphere, and we’re here to make them yours. So never say never to saying goodbye to little pillows, peanuts and kicked seats. Your living room has grown wings and is starting over in a surprise locale.
Get lost in the world with groundbreaking promotions like Destination: Destiny that keeps your flight destination a mystery until you get there. We’re changing the way people think about travel – this isn’t vacation, this is your life… escaped. Let us deliver your destination by revealing your destiny.
The skies have no limit with our new destinations beginning January 21st. So go on an adventure anywhere on the globe and re-imagine your world to be as big as ours. No Borders, Now Boarding – Ajira Airways”.

The website has a few pages and provides also a sample Boarding Pass with a few Easter Eggs linked to the Lost series.


The airline has also a commercial:


In 5×06 episode, the “Oceanic 6”, the 6 survivors of flight Oceanic 815 board the Ajira Airways flight 316, a B737-800 from Los Angeles International (LAX) to Guam (GUM), to get back to the island (“hidden” in the Pacific Ocean). So far, there are not many things to study, since flight details were not unveiled in the story. For sure, the aircraft shown in the episode is clearly a simulator model (most probably a FS2004 or FSX model sporting a fictional livery) like the following screenshots show.

Air Show Accident overview 2008

Major General (retired) Des Barker, former South African Air Force test and demonstration pilot has written the annual airshow accident review for display pilots, airshow organisers and safety officers worldwide with the purpoair-show-2008-accident-overviewse of highlighting ongoing accident/incidents at airshows in an effort to improve airshow and display flying safety by considering lessons learned. The interesting document with plenty of pictures and full analysis can be found here: Air Show accident overview.
As you will see, the picture I took on Jun. 1, 2008 of the NH90 of the Esercito Italiano (Italian Army) crashing into the surface of the Bracciano Lake during Ali sul Lago airshow , is the main image of the document.  The NH90 accident and many others that occurred during the 2008 airshow season are analysed in the overview.

Vigna di Valle Italian Air Force Museum update

On Feb. 15 I visited once again the Italian Air Force Museum, located in Vigna di Valle, on the Bracciano Lake, some 25 chilometers from Rome.

I went there because I wanted to take the pictures I needed to update e complete the page dedicated to the Museum, with plenty of information, that you can find here: Italian Air Force Museum. My aim is not only to collect images of the exhibition and close ups of the displayed aircraft but also to track eventual new additions, movements, works etc. Currently, the Skema hangar that hosts the post-WWII aircraft (and most of jets) is still closed for enlargement and maintenance works. However, I managed to get a few picture of it from the nearby Padiglione “Badoni”. As you can see, the aircraft have been moved, a few are barely visible and many were probably transferred elsewhere.

The famous C-17 gear up landing at Bagram and the need for more Globemasters

I’ve recently published the pictures of the C-17 performing a gear up landing at Bagram, Afghanistan (to read the post click here:http://cencio4.wordpress.com/2009/02/09/c-17-gear-up-landing-in-bagram-images/). I don’t know if the damages on the transport aircraft are beyond repair, but for sure the C-17 involved in the crash landing will not be available for some time.
A few days after I published the images, an interesting article about the status of the C-17 was published at http://www.strategypage.com/. According to the article, the USAF has ordered another batch of 15 C-17, worth USD 194 million each to support the fleet that is currently being exploited in Afghanistan and Iraq in the war on terror. The C-17s are constantly tasked to deliver personnel and equipment worldwide and some of them will reach the limit of their operative lifetime (30.000 flight hours) within 5 or 10 years. The heavy workload, operations on unprepared airfields and landing strips (it can be interesting to notice that the Globemaster has been operating on the same rough fields where the Italian Air Force lands with the smaller C-27J or the C-130J), and attritions (like the Bagram incident) have considerably reduced fleet and the useful life of the C-17. Noteworthy, the C-17s have been called to replace the C-141s that were retired earlier than expected (the phase out of the Starlifter was scheduled for 2010) and they are strugglying to satisfy the US transport needs. “Originally, there were to be 120 C-17s (at $135 million each), with production ending in 2004. After September 11, 2001, it was realized that more air transports would be needed, and the production run of the C-17 was increased to 180. It was then proposed to increase it again to 222 aircraft. But logistics planners insist that 300 will be needed, if wartime needs are to be met. Moreover, the rapid deterioration of the early model C-17s means that eventually 350, or more, will have to be built to maintain a fleet of 300 transports. So far, 190 have been ordered, including 14 sold to foreign customers”.