Tail Stall?

February 18, 2009 by Bruce Landsberg

It’s always (or never) too early to speculate on accident causes before NTSB comes out with a final report. The buzz on the Continental Q-400 crash in Buffalo, NY sure looks like icing and possibly tail plane icing.

What makes this plausible is that everything was going well until the gear and flaps were deployed. The gear probably isn’t much of an issue ( and you need it to land) but the flaps change the airflow/loading over the tail and that can upset the applecart. ASF has more detail on this in both the Aircraft Icing safety advisor and in the Weather Wise: Precipitation and Icing online course.

It’s way too early to predict all of the nuances that may have led to this tragedy but it will come out in due course. In my prior life at Cessna Aircraft Company, when flying FIKI equipped aircraft that had significant contamination, we were advised to go find a loooong runway, use no flaps and add about 20 knots to the final approach speed. The other point that has been made by many of you in past blogs is to not stay in the ice even with a big strong approved aircraft.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • http://agairupdate.com Bill Lavender

    I’m not so sure tail stall nomenclature is correct, as the tail does not create lift. It is a control surface that deflects air flow, affecting the lift component of the wings. Obviously, if enough air is directed over a penny, it will “lift”, but that’s not a good analogy of the typical aircraft horizontal stabilizer and elevator. I’m not disagreeing with your comments about flying in ice, just a notation about tail “stall”. -Bill

  • jim augspurger

    Wouldn’t the initial reaction to a tail stall be a pitching down? This aircraft initially pitched up. I always thought the horizontal stabilizer provided a downward lift to balance the airplane.

  • Charles Rowland


    The tail DOES produce “lift” exactly the same as the wings except tailplane “lift” is directed downward. The tail produces a downforce that provides pitch stability. For example: when speed increases during a descent, airflow over the tail increases causing the tail to go down and the nose to pitch up. The reverse is also true. This will cause the plane to want to maintain level flight. (Of course this is in a perfect world where there is no wind, no thermals, and the trim is perfect.)
    If the tail stalls, this down force is lost and the nose pitches down and is unrecoverable. I don’t think this accident was the result of the true tail plane stall because of the roll and pitch excursions described just before the crash. If it were a true tailplans stall, the nose would have “instantly?” pitched down. It is interesting that these excursions occurred just after extension of the flaps. Maybe it was a combination of icing factors. I wonder if the de/anti-icing equipment was working correctly.

  • http://www.aopa.org/asf Bruce Landsberg


    You are exactly right. When the airflow over the tail is disrupted, the aircraft will pitch down. This is an evolving story so when I wrote this we didn’t have as much data. As I said in the opening, it’s always or never too early to speculate.

    This will become a landmark accident for a variety of reasons – as with Roselawn and the ATR, there’s more than meets the eye.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • Joe Subits

    It think the pitch up vs. pitch down discussion is fine and we all can agree that too much ice on the tailplane will eventually lead to loss of control. The thing I am more curious about is why the pilots left the plane on autopilot. I’ve read articles in the past that strongly suggest that an aircraft be hand flown whenever icing conditions are first encountered or supected. The reason is that the autopilot will religiously correct for pitch, airpseed, attitude….etc. in a gradual manner (at least until the final fatal correction) so that the pilot(s) may not realize the extent of the loss of aerodynamic effectiveness that the ice is producing. If they are hand flying, at least there will be some early indication of loss of effectiveness so that they can immediately seek warmer temperatures and/or exercise other measures sooner than later.

  • William Cignoni

    Icing is so unexplainable, but here is mine: Icing cn accumulate so solently, and when the de-ice system is constantly in use, ice can accumulate when the boots are expanded, and thus negate their effectiveness. the auto pilot gradually increases pitch , the extent of which is unknown to the pilot because the aircraft is flying level, and can be in the max up pitch because of the increasing ice, and when the autopilot is disengaged, the plane naturally pitches up, way up, and causes a stall. My opinion this may have happened at buffalo, and the pilot naturally pitched down to gain airspeed, and correct a roll, and I really believe he almost saved the aircraft because the plane was level at the end, If he had maybe only 100 more feet of altitude, there would have been no crash, and we would not had heard about his great effort. I praise the pilot for his skill. BC

  • http://www.te-assoc.com Larry Tibbitts

    In our Cirrus training we’re taught, if you have ice, DON’T EXTENTED THE FLAPS, because in level flight the elevator is holding the tail down (or the nose up).
    If you extent the flaps you have less air flow over the tail, hence you lose effectiveness of the elevator and the nose will drop, which they did along with dropping the gear.
    They were in auto pilot, another no-no, so the elevator was probably full down to hold lever fight.
    They extended the flaps & the gear, the plane pitches down.
    They realize the mistake, & they retracted the flaps & the gear causing the plane pitched up & stalled.

    Larry Tibbitts

  • Troy

    I’m glad you have it all figured out Larry, I guess the NTSB can pack up and go home. Have a little respect for the crew of this aircraft and to their families. I understand that your Cirrus may be similar in shape to a 60,000 lb. large transport category airplane but it is for sure not one. Real FIKI aircraft are designed where the flaps still function in icing.

  • john jorges

    I think William ( 9:49 AM) hit the nail on the head. When I heard and saw what had happened I pictured a TAIL STALL, and when the (‘forbidden in icing’) autopilot disengaged, the plane was ‘trimmed’ full-up, which aggravated the angle of attack of both the wings, but mostly the tail. With the change in flaps and the ice load, the pane went haywire. The nose-down descent created airspeed and a full pull-up on the yoke produced an aggravated (accellerated) stall. Remember doing them in training? They ran out of altitude, unfortunately. I din’t see the lack of respect.
    I trained in a 152. I was told, no flaps with ice. All the diagrams in the training books showed lift and drag on a GENERIC airplane leading me to believe the laws of physics would probably apply to ALL planes with wings.
    My Cherokee (low wing vs. high wing Cessna) stalls when I go too slow, just like the Cessna did.
    (Those books also showed ice bridging the space that a pnuematic boot could inflate to.)
    A UFO, maybe? I don’t think so. But, I( bet the NTSB will figure it out.

  • Gary Maxwell

    Here is a link to an FAA study of tailplane icing. They say the control inputs to recover from tailplane icing are not the same as wing icing.


    I think these pilots did everything that their training had taught them as they tried to recover from the upset conditions. But when an airplane gets loaded up with ice on the fuselage and other surfaces, you are flying an experimental airplane. It may or may not respond to the procedures that the pilots learned during training.

    I agree that flap extension seems to have been a contributing factor in the Buffalo accident.

  • Gary Petrowski

    It will be interesting to see what the FDR says about the airspeed, rate of decent, and heading/turns while the plane was going down. While the first thoughts were of tail plane icing/stall, the initial behavior seems more like a wing stall. Since the aircraft landed flat and in a heading away from the airport, perhaps a stall/spin occurred which could have evolved into a flat spin to explain the flat contact with the earth or the pilots could have made a partial recovery to normal attitude but without sufficient altitude to resume normal flight.

    Comments on other blogs that the pilots would have never let the plane get so slow as to make a stall imminent overlook the fact that wing icing can increase the stall speed so that what appeared to be a safe margin above normal stall speed may have been periously close in the icing conditions and extending flaps may have slowed the plane down by that margin.

  • Paul Weintraub

    The Q-400 is a T tail plane though and as such, 1.) the tail probably did get iced up but 2.) I douldn’t think that the flaps would affect the airflow over the tail as much as if it had a conventional tail. As a CFI, I always advise students to NEVER use the autopilot in conditions susceptible to icing and never to deploy flaps if they even suspect they are iced and to make all power and pitch changes very gently and gradually. I am waiting for the NTSB report.

  • http://wingmanllc.com Jim Hard

    There is a product available that detects tailplane ice and functions as a LAWS when the aircraft is not in icing conditions. It has been tested in an icing wind tunnel and has had limited testing on aircraft.

    For more information, check out the following website:


  • Michael Townsend

    I trained pilots in simulators for this event for some 10 years. The source for icing and horizontal stabilizer in icing was the NASA series that is available on their site. I had a chance to talk with the pilot’s and researchers from the NASA Glenn unit that did most of the work. There is excellent video of the NASA twin otter in a simulated horizontal stabilizer stall. The nose down pitch is dramatic. It is important to note that recovery from such an event requires a careful application of power, too much-too little can lead to a serious departure from controlled flight. The NASA series on icing also includes a detailed course specific to turboprop commuter aircraft, well worth every pilots time to view in addition to the main icing course. Having a ‘flying stabilizer’ vs. a conventional fixed stab and elevator has significant differances in regards the effect of stall due to icing. Another factor is the placement of the stab, T tail, cruciform or empenage mounted. When training pilotsfor this event in simulators (piston and turbo prop twins) the first time it happened and with no advance warning or discussion of how to recover from wing and stab icing stalls, the majority of pilots ‘crashed’. Then with extensive ground school training using the NASA information, most pilots could recover after a couple of training events simulating boot failure or with ‘severe simulated ice’. I highly recommend every pilot on an annual basis take the NASA and/or AOPA courses, they are life savers.

  • Gordon Slater

    I am happy to see someone actually remembers the tail plane stall issue. Talking with many of the younger airline pilots today, it seems to have been dropped from the training syllabus. I have been working in GA and airline training since 1989 and it seems we go thru these cycles of complacency with regard to some of these issues. Thanks for bringing it up. Gordon

  • http://chosendrink.drinkactweb.com Jay

    Interesting how the NTSB plays the Cockpit voice recorder tapes on the national news when there are no political correctness issues involved and when there might be a hero but I’d sure like to hear the tapes in their entirety on this crash. Our nation has become very presumptuous about who it puts in the cockpit these days and how trusting it is with the lives of those on board. I still remember when the cockpit of an airplane was respectable place and mature men didn’t walk into the chief pilots office without having their shoes shined, their tie on straight and their uniform in perfect order. But the technical side of this crash is that #1 you don’t keep flying with the autopilot on in icing conditions. #2 you don’t hold with flaps extended or at low airspeed. #3 you don’t turn the boots on and leave them cycling in any aircraft unless you are consistently shedding a full load of ice every 3 minutes. Instead you monitor ice build up and note the nature of its texture and accumulation. After doing all of these things, you have to realize that setting full flaps as you cross the fix may very well blank out the tail at which time the control column will be violently forced out of your hands and pushed to the firewall. You must know what effect your flaps are going to have in a given icing condition before you get low and slow and be ready to retract them. But remember, if you are accumulating ice rapidly, that factor will be different by the time you get to the low and slow part of the flight. Just remember that the people sitting in the back have not a clue about all this and they will pay you whatever they can get away with in most cases as long as they like you, and you get them to their destination alive and in one piece, they never being the wiser. That means that they will pay the next pilot the same thing or better and never ask if he knows all these things as well. Our society is very very presumptuous in every way.

  • Michael Townsend
  • George

    I understand deicer boots are only to be turned on when there is sufficient ice buildup for the boots to crack the ice loose. I understand they are specificallly not to be left on continuously or the ice will bridge the boots. In my ignorance, I don’t even know if the deicing equipment consisted of boots. I understand the deicing equipment was on from shortly after takeoff. ???

  • Michael Townsend

    I knew I had this in my file folders, I think you will find this NASA report on tail plane stall of interest.

  • Jim Seaman

    I would disagree that the Dash 8 was not in trouble before they went to approach flaps just before the FAF. They were not stablilized and were at 1800 feet, about 500 feet below the glide path (neither stabilized nor established). Both the decision to go to approach flaps that late and to allow the autopilot to fly them into a stall were critically bad moves, especially when iced up.. The question is; “what was going on that allowed them to be so far behind the airplane?”

  • Gennaro Avolio

    There seems to be some confusion over the effect of flaps on an iced up tail. The primary effect is the nose down pitch caused by the flap extension. Not the disruption of airflow caused by the flaps. when the horizontal is near stall, movement of the elevator to overcome the nose down pitch will bring on the stall. However at this time tail stall does not seem to be the major factor in this accident. I believe annother area of concern should be definition of severe icing and how do you decide.

  • http://www.thefreeway500.com Geoffrey R Beth

    I had just been reading the AOPA’s “Ice Encounters” when this event occurred and immediately thought, “Tail stall!” The only reason I can conjecture as to why the flight crew allowed themselves to get behind the aircraft is: They had encountered icing the entire trip and seemed to managing it fairly well with the autopilot engaged as a kind of CRM. (This doesn’t explain the flap deployment against judgment/training either, though it would be agreed that, at that point the plane is no longer “cleaned and trimmed”). The crew is still managing other aspects of the approach, and hasn’t actually “Flown” the aircraft yet… until the moment of the “stick shaker” and tail-stalled pitch up!

    Although it was already too late at such an altitude; For any of us that have inadvertently disengaged an auto-pilot with the aircraft even slightly out of pitch you can relate to the rude awakening upon snapping into another attitude, so factor in the possible elevator FULL deflection prior to the event (due to Ice Buildup and/or De-ice malfunction, or that they were unaware of such condition) And there you have your “Nose Down” it was the only choice… Or was it? Given the events with ATR’s over the past few years (Chicago, grounding for icing systems A/D, etc. ) And the PIREPS from aircraft around them reporting substantial Ice Buildup… One has to wonder why were flying at all at that point and not sitting back at the point of departure. Or, at least, asking for the longest runway around? Therefore I believe they were UNAWARE of the situation on the tail, having everything SEEMINGLY managed “up front”.

  • Jerry Hope

    All accidents are an accumulation of events that lead up to disaster. Flight 3407’s problems started before they they took off. Delays,late night hour, and probably long duty day or stressful trying to depart to destination. Weather is nearly always a big factor in the flight be it causing delays, deicing,reroutes, and making a normal day turn into a long one. The next factor in the tragedy was holding and accumulating ice. Deice means “Deice” not to be left on continually , but monitored and used prudently as per ops manual. Training is the next link in the chain. If encountering icing change altitudes, get out of the freezing precip,adher to op specs, or better still leave the area for an alternate. Now with the autopilot on, and as the plane becomes heavier and airfoil changes due to ice , the autopilot trims out the pitch down and eventially reaches it’s full control authority. Now the excitement begins, speed is reduced, gear dropped,ok,next flaps deployed, and the elevator/stab can nolonger control pitch as has reached full authority and auto pilot disconnects and stick pusher is activated as speed is too slow for lift and the area of lift has been moved due to flap change, speed, and ice buildup. Speed is life as they say unless you are out of runway. I just wish that the pilots knew that they were in the danger zone and broke the chain of events!

  • Jay

    The FAA re-wrote the manual on icing after the Rose Lawn crash. Long ago they told us not to activate the boots until there was half an inch of ice. After the Rose Lawn ATR crash, they came out and said to activate the boots and don’t wait for a half inch. Don’t be surprised if they write it again after Continental Express/ Colgan 3407. There really aren’t that many Feds out there who have a large amount of commuter airline icing experience. Ask yourself how many FAA line checks you’ve had at 10:00pm on hard IFR nights especially in icing conditions. The Feds have better sense than to entrust their lives to someone else under those conditions. They know what it’s all about and most aren’t about to hang it out like that just to do a line check. And flying behind a tanker with predetermined water droplet size at really low temps and high altitude is not the same as freezing rain falling through surface cold air at 500 to 2000 feet above ground level. Different ballgame altogether where a touchdown could turn into a home run.

  • http://N/A Von Ives

    Interesting previous comments. I also have heard one comment that the pilot allegedly over-rode the auto pilot to pull the nose up after the stick-shaker event.
    I would find that hard to believe, given trained instincts.
    But one speculative potential possibility not mentioned is that the reason the nose pitched up was that there may have been such an aft airframe load of ice that the C.G. had shifted too far aft which could have contributed to causing that event, especially if the allowed loading was already near the rear limit.
    That said, I expect the final NTSB report will be educational for us all.

  • Wayne Thomas

    The cockpit voice recordings will be interesting when released.

    Situational awareness was apparently lacking and will probably be a major factor in this crash.

  • http://AOPAAirSafetyFoundation Marshall Gildermaster

    The approach to ILS 23 at Buffalo, sometimes when turning to join the ILS has some false Glideslope signals which is noted on the plate. If the autopilot was on and it captured a false glideslope, it could pitch up uncontrollability, of course the common reaction for an experienced pilot is to turn off the autopilot and hand fly the localizer until the glideslope stabilizes. In the Q400 with a T tail, the likely hood of the flaps effecting the horizontal stabilizer is not very likely.

  • http://n/a Duke Hayduk

    Which of these comments deals with the reality of what occurred?
    First reports had the co-pilot at the controls. Next, it was autopilot and the nose pitched down. Then the pilot was at the controls. Last I read, the “black box” showed the nose pitching up at over 30 degrees.

  • Jay

    Mr. Hayduk. Now we get down to the questions that matter as you have put it so well. These are the questions that reveal the political correctness factor in this crash. I’m still waiting to hear the cockpit voice recordings, uncut and un-doctored so the public can find out what is really going on in todays cockpits. You can bet that if there is a female failure factor, they will attempt to cover it up by not playing the tapes in full, or by doctoring the final report as happened with NTSB findings on the Air-Midwest Beech 1900 crash in North Carolina. Our society does not want to entertain the factual likelihood that political correctness and feminine reasoning will kill them graveyard dead immediately when it comes to the cockpit of an airplane. In the Charlotte NC crash case, I am told by one of my old connections at Air-Midwest, which has now ceased operations that that particular female captain had already failed a checkride on the Mesa side and was thus transferred to the Air-Midwest side. Transfer to subsidiary Air-Midwest was said to be a common practice when female checkride failure was an issue. I was unjustly terminated from Air-Midwest in the 1990’s for mentioning the dangers of females in the cockpit of airplanes. 21 people died in the Charlotte crash, including the crew. I warned Air-Midwest about this danger on an FO evaluation form and was terminated for doing so. Charlotte NC is the only fatal aircraft accident Air-Midwest ever had. The tail was overloaded and the agent refused to sign off on the manifest, but the “authorities” ruled it was a maintenance issue even though that female captain took the airplane with an overloaded tail. I want to hear the undoctored tapes from Continental 3407. It’s bad enough for feminism and political correctness to destroy family values, but if people don’t wake up when a burning airplane slams into their house because of political correctness, and if pilots fear speaking up because of a corrupt government judicial system, then our country has no hope of survival.

  • Douglas

    Question: If the autopilot is continuosly trimming for the changing aerodynamics (of icing), isn’t there an indicator on the panel that gives the pilots information about the degree of trim used to maintain level flight?

  • Troy

    For everyone’s information. ICE BRIDGING IS A MYTH! For the last several years, the NTSB, NASA and other regulatory and research organizations have changed their tune to warn pilots that ice bridging is a myth and that deice boots shall be selected on and left on at the first sign of ice accumulation.

  • Jay

    Well Troy, if the government said it, then it must be true, right? After all, they wouldn’t lie to us now would they? Never mind that they use to say just the opposite. Was this “turn it on and leave it on policy” a myth back when our government told us to do it the other way to avoid ice bridging? Anyone who believes what the government says without questioning it is refusing to use common sense and should not be flying an airplane. If you can believe media reports, “turn it on and leave it on” is exactly what flight 3407 did. But the government said to do it, so all those funerals are just a myth, right? There really was no fire at the crash because there really was no crash. The crash was just a myth.

    As a high time, experienced captain, let me clue you in Troy, so you won’t take a load of people on the same kind of ride to their destiny as 3407. Ice is an unpredictable killer and not all icing is created equal. If you use compliance with government declarations to feel safe and you leave your head up and locked instead of being the pilot in command and actively making sound decisions based on thoughtful understanding, direct observation and situational awareness, then you and those with you will become statistics just like 3407. This same thing happened in Germany in the late 1930’s when everyone fell lockstep behind government declarations. It was very costly and painful. If you must live by government declaration, here’s an old one that you can take to the bank, FAR 91.3.

  • Gordon Slater

    This is a good discussion. As we all know the down load on the tail is increased with an increase in the flap setting. However, what affects a load of clear and mixed ice will have on handling and stability in those exact conditions, who knows. As indicated above, ice is unpredictable and even in the most modern aircraft the only answer is maybe to say NO and turn around. Continuous evaluation and assessment of the situation is required to prevent an Operation Decision Error which may also include a Planned Continuation Error if the crew had lots of icing experience in the past and had gotten away with it, (my favourite Pyscho Babble terms for CRM/TEM classes) It should be an interesting NTSB report.

  • Robert

    Interesting set of comments. I have no data yet, and lacking data, am one of the few people who refuses to form an opinion in the absence of facts.

    But meanwhile, I will have to show my daughter the comments about female pilots – while she is sitting flying with me. She’s a lot better pilot than many men, I am sure.

    And there are a lot of arrogant comments about pilot error, and Monday morning quarterbacking. From having flown in and around lots of ice and other very unpleasant weather over the years, I can say unequivocally that those comments are coming from people with no actual experience, and who have never been in any of those real-life situations. A few dozen real, varying encounters with late night icing while shooting approaches in minimum IMC around the very moist Great Lakes would teach these guys some real humility, right quick.

    As to the bridging that doesn’t exist, I’ve had it happen, and no amount of cursing at the boots and the wings makes it go away, until it decides to break up on its own (so far the few times it’s happened, it did). Icing can be amazingly local, depending on position and altitude.

    Look at the icing distribution maps. Around the Great Lakes, icing isn’t “if”, it’s “how much”. Even in July! And if you ever get arrogant about it, it will bite you very badly.



  • Lawrence Stalla

    Bruce, considering that one of the well-known affects of ice on an airfoil is to lower the critical angle of attack, I have only a small (about two degrees worth) quibble with your statement that “The gear probably isn’t much of an issue …”. Something I tried in my Mooney (admittedly a questionable proxy to the Q-400, but an airfoil is an airfoil): with the autopilot in “altitude hold” and the power set to an airspeed below V(LO), I lowered the gear with no change in power (no autothrottles in either the Q-400 or the Mooney), and saw a 16 percent decrease in airspeed (to about 1.4 * V(S1)), that the autopilot responded to with 2 degrees of nose-up trim to hold altitude. Two degrees increase in AOA and 1.4 * V(S1) is no problem for a clean airfoil, but could be an issue for an ice-degraded wing or tailplane. My recommendation is to be abundantly cautious with *any* configuration changes in icing, and (even if you choose to not uncouple it completely, as some here have appropriately recommended) at least take the autopilot out of “altitude hold” mode before lowering the gear.

  • Jason

    Something that no one seems to have mentioned very much is that many airplanes both before and after the accident landed safely from this same approach on the same night. Any commercial airline pilot that flies around the northeast knows that ice is pretty common and rarely something to get worked up over. (no offense to GA guys but transport category aircraft are a world away from GA type airplanes and icing is usually a non-event)

    If somehow (whether icing or something else) that a stick pusher activated close to the ground, that is enough to send an airplane into the ground no matter what the configuration or icing condition. I once tried to overpower the stick pusher in my transport category airplane in a sim ride and it nearly ripped my arms out of their sockets. Transport aircraft do not change direction very quick and if the stick pusher activated at low altitude then it would be near impossible in my opinion to recover. (One of the reasons that in my airplane the pusher is inhibited below 2500 AGL, anyone know if the Q400 has an inhibitor at low altitude?)

    Another side note that I feel I should mention. In my experience very rarely do airliners (especially regionals) make what I feel a GA pilot would consider a “stabilized approach” Of course we are stabilized at 500′ to 1000′ AGL at the lowest (our inflight book actually has maximum sink rates allowed at various parts of the approach) but 500′-1000′ in a transport aircraft is a much different place than 500′-1000′ feet in a GA aircraft. 500′ in my airplane is time to start getting ready to flare while back in my instructor days I could have taken some time to finish my coffee, adjust my chart on my lapboard, twiddle my fingers for a bit, and then flare. My point of all this is that if the Q400 had problems above about 1500′ agl then they probably had plenty of speed margin above Vref (approach speed for an airliner)

    I havent seen much “official” information from this crash and am waiting until the NTSB tells us what happened. (Of course that will more a year away at least and the general population will probably have long forgotten this accident)


    PS GA guys…I mean no offense but the transport category aircraft flying is a world away from GA ops in my opinion, its very hard for you guys to understand what an airliner cockpit is truly like…and the level of training and safety that goes into it.

  • Preston Wheaton

    i wasworking at a 135 operation in Tulsa had a beech 18 do a ground loop in Brounvill Texas elevator and rudder damage i flew down with a company pilot with the parts installed them and flew back in the right seat beautifull clear day ther were big clouds at our altidude the pilot had engaged the automatic pilot with altidude hold we entered alarge cloud when we came out the other side that beech was in a very high nose attitude i assumed the air plane while in the cloud was losing altitude very fast and the the automatic pilot altitude hold sensed the desent and corrected with elevator if 3407 was iced to the point of stalling there is no telling what that plane was set to do when the automatic pilot was disengaged

  • http://ejournal Sam Sharp

    Heraldo Rivera, self proclaimed aviation expert, has already told Bill O’Reilley about the cause of this trajic accident. Heraldo compared those of us whom fly profesionally as mere ‘limo drivers…some good, some bad”.

    First of all; pilots must be ‘english proficient’ according to the latest faa endorsement. Besides, limo drivers are paid more than most of us that claim aviation as an avocation.

    I would really like to get Heraldo into a -8 sim, (one of my several type ratings), and let him try to talk his way out of his ineptitude as he ‘shoots’ an approach. He must think that he’s John Nance.

    Anyone for putting Heraldo on the ‘no-fly list’?

  • http://ejournal Sam Sharp

    Oops-That’s PROFESSIONALLY. Hey, I’m a pilot, not a writer like Nance!

  • http://ejournal Sam Sharp

    I just received a phone call from one of my former -8 first officers regarding our winter ops in 1993. On the -8-300, we were cautioned not to extend the flaps past the approach setting during icing conditons due to ‘tail blanketing’ (De Havilland engineering bulletin) thus causing a pitch down moment.
    A thought comes to mind in the form of the cautions that the Jetstream-31 drivers were warned about with flap settings greater than approach flaps during icing conditions, all for the same reasons.

    You guys are a real savvy bunch with such a diverse amount of a/c being operated in winter-time conditions. Too bad the lady that held the FAA Winter Safety seminar that I just attended didn’t read your blogs.

    She told us how great the Cessnas were in icing conditions vs the terrible Cirrus aircraft. She flies for a large corporation whose corporate colors are green and yellow (for those of us who have tractors), and had quite a few interesting observations regarding winter ops.

    I would like her to fly a Cessna 402-B in icing conditions, and let me know how well that aircraft does with loss of downward lift during landing with 1/4″ of ice on the horizontal stab. ‘Sure got my attention.

    I have the book “Unheeded Warning”, by Stephen Frederick which describes the Roselawn, Indiana accident. The book is one of many that I reference to with my students. Y’all are on the right track with regards to the use of the auto pilot during icing conditions. Boeing, Airbus, De Havilland, and Fokker second the motion.

    Having operated the B-727, 737, and the B-757, as well as many G/A aircraft, I find it very interesting to note so many different attitudes amongst the 121 carriers with regards to winter ops. Some carriers want the wing anti-ice left on at all times (here’s a trap) while some carriers want it used only for de-iceing the leading edge of the wing.

    As for myself, I usually used the “anti-ice” as “de-ice boots”. There have been many unsuspecting 121 captains that have left the anti-ice on during severe icing conditions only to find out later that the water off of the leading edge of the wing re-froze ahead of the ailerons and flight spoilers!


  • Alex Kovnat

    We are told that a contributing factor in the recent turboprop airplane tragedy was that it was flying on autopilot, thus depriving the captain of feedback from the aircraft. When hand-flying, the aircraft can say in effect: “Captain, I’m collecting ice. Be careful! Don’t extend my flaps ….. “. But on autopilot, the captain doesn’t get this feedback.

    So what we need are autopilot/flight management systems that would inform the captain and first officer if ice is building up, i.e., the system should say to the flight crew: “Gentlemen, (or, Gentleman and Lady, or Ladies), I find myself having to ease back on the yoke to maintain lift. I think we’re collecting ice”.

    If the flight crew can be informed of ice buildup in that manner, they can then use their aeronautical decision making skills to deal with the situation. There are options, which other contributors to this thread understand better than me. But to decide which options to use, first you have to be aware of what’s happening. The flight crew on the recent tragic flight may have been good aviators, but it seems they didn’t have full feedback on the situation. Hence we need to design autopilot/flight management system avionics so that the crew gets that feedback.

  • Jay

    Not sure what a new Dash 8 costs. But it sounds like with all the new systems to replace the pilots good judgment and flying skills, it should just about double the price here at a time when the economy is tanking and everyone is going out of business. But look on the bright side, with no airplanes to fly and all public employers out of business with no jobs available, women will have to go home and learn how to cook again, that is if there is any food for them to cook. Boy do I know a lot of guys who could use a home cooked meal!!!

  • http://ejournal Sam Sharp

    I’d like to reference Alex and Jay’s observation about interfacing with auto-flight and judgement, with the added bonus of descent flying skills.

    Boeing products have a really neat way of getting your attention. A trim wheel that will grab your tie if you have fallen asleep at the wheel, or at the very least; hit your knee when your leg touches the trim wheel when its in motion. I’ve witnessed a first officer’s pant leg get a ‘trim burn-through’ for falling asleep during one of my ‘not too scary’ approaches into Midway. That’s o.k., he was a new-hire and it was a new pair of pants. And, no, the company didn’t buy him another pair. He got busted for wearing his Dockers in front of the regional chief pilot. I got busted for defending my F.O.

    Anyway, the ‘quiet panel’ concept with the advanced aircraft surely has left us to fend for ourselves, when some sneaky system decides to fly the airplane when you’re tired after a long day, followed by an equally long, cold, night.

    Some Cessna 400s had a really cool ‘trim in transit’ light, but alas, it wouldn’t strangle you like a trim wheel the size of a John Deere B-model flywheel.

    AOPA’s latest issue addresses the use of glass cockpits, the lack of rudder usage, and in general, one of the best issues yet as far as I’m concerned. Now if AOPA would run ALPA…Anyway, with all of this talent running around, maybe we can bring attention to these problems on a national level, (thanks Capt. Sully for staring down congress), and let the public and manufacturers learn from the thousands of pilots that have experienced flights that have ‘gone bump in the night”.
    Airbus training at Pan Am cautioned us not to hand fly the A-320, since the auto pilot would do a better job than a pilot could. Just ask “Capt. Sully”.

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