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Thread: American 767 incident at ORD - right wing burned severely

  1. #41
    Senior Member 3WE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan View Post
    You're not getting this...If the leaked fuel is the threat, why not keep moving away from it?
    Ok, so the big ass fire we see here at ORD is the result of stopping?

    You keep shifting your comments from a little fire now to no fire, but just a leak... so if the "Small fuel leak, but not near a heat source" warning light is illuminated, pilots should keep taxiing... ok, sounds good, and we should recommend that to the aviation industry.

    Still, is that particularly relevant to the big ass wing melting fire at ORD? My doubts remain for that context.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3WE View Post
    Evan may argue that the parking and pooling was a major factor, but I'm not sure that taxiing until the tank ran dry is a reasonable option either...
    Where did I say that? I said taxiing for a few minutes at most, maybe 300-600ft. Forget it, there's no way to have a reasonable conversation with someone who keeps distorting your intentions. At least Gabriel gets it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 3WE View Post
    Yeah, sure... but I think the issue is that its pretty easy to light off whatever fuel leak into a growing fire and perhaps generally better to get the folks off before the fire starts. Wasn't that Japanese deal a situation that there was no fire until they parked?

    Evan may argue that the parking and pooling was a major factor, but I'm not sure that taxiing until the tank ran dry is a reasonable option either...AND you still need a fail active warning light that says "Fuel leak, but one that won't catch fire unless you stop"
    The fuel is leaking AND catching fire. You are leaving a trail of fire behind you, a line of fuel that has a lineal density of, let's say, 1 gallon per foot. So if you keep taxing at say 10 ft per second and it takes 2 minutes to the first firetruck to arrive, you would have BEHIND you a long line of 1200ft of fuel on fire (again, one gallon of fuel on fire per foot for a total of 1200 gallons of fuel). That sounds to me much better than having 1200 gallong of fuel ablaze directly under the fuel tank.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 3WE View Post
    Ok, so the big ass fire we see here at ORD is the result of stopping?
    Exactly. Maybe more precisely, the big concentration of fire.

    The big fireballs in these cases tend to start after the airplane stops, when the fuel starts to pool.

    It is not the same to have a 1200ft line of fire BEHIND the plane than all that fire concentrated together in one spot directly below the plane.

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    Fascinating discussion. I think in this retrospective you have to forget about saving the aircraft and focus primarily on passenger safety.

    I suspect that the pilots knew it was an uncontained engine failure based on the fact there would likely have been a large noise and physical impact to the airplane in that kind of uncontained explosion. Based on the video the smoke patterns indicate to me that there was a fire right away. I think there are some odds the cockpit may have been informed either by the tower, or their own FA's that there was a fire on/in the wing. When you have fire combined with an uncontained engine failure, I would be worried about cabin ingress and smoke ingress as well. As others have said, when you have fire and smoke, you get everyone out ASAP. You're not going to take the time to figure out if you're in a weird five percent case, where delaying evacuation to keep fuel from puddling MIGHT lead to a better safety outcome. Outside of this forum, I just can't see that as realistic. Additionally, regardless of how much fuel is pooling, it is not likely to burn through the metal skin of the plane because that sort of fire isn't going to be hot enough to melt the metal until long after the evacuation is completed.

    Even in the worst burned sections of the wing, the metal doesn't look melted. It is certainly weakened, and as a result it is no longer load bearing and bent, but it isn't melted.

    The only exception I can think of, is if the wind is blowing the fire and/or smoke into the fuselage which could significantly interfere with an evacuation, in which case turning the airplane might be a good decision.

  6. #46
    Senior Member Gabriel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwartz View Post
    I think there are some odds the cockpit may have been informed either by the tower...
    They were immediately informed by the tower.

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    Senior Member 3WE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan
    At least Gabriel gets it.
    Well ok then... please proceed with your recommendations to Boeing and the FAA. But, I hope they don't ask what Gabriel meant by this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Gabriel
    ...delaying the evacuation. Tough risk balance.
    Please keep offering purely hypothetical and very specific, leak and fire-propagation scenarios... my doubt-causing, actual-incident database includes a plane fleeing a fuel leak at 200 knots and 200 feet. Maybe it would have ended better if they could have stopped on a taxiway.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwartz View Post
    ...Fascinating discussion...You're not going to take the time to figure out if you're in a weird five percent case, where delaying evacuation to keep fuel from puddling MIGHT lead to a better safety outcome....I just can't see that as realistic...wind is blowing...in which case turning the airplane might be a good decision.
    Indeed:

    -Your post is discussion (not pontification that the industry is wrong).

    -Your post expresses a concern that while there could be limited instances where taxiing is better, it may be of no practical benefit and/or no practical way to diagnose when it's better to keep taxiing (and cue my jokes about the myriad of impractical warning lights that would be needed).

    -As Gabriel said, "Tough risk balance."
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    I don't see it as risk balance, I see it as practicality and psychology.

    It's well-documented that humans are not good at complex decision-making in stressful situations. Does anyone here think a fire on an airplane is not a stressful situation?

    So in order to have the best chance of success, you want your response plan to a fire to be simple. If you make a plan that incorporates a bunch of factors like leakage rate (how would you know?), location of the leak (also usually difficult to know), wind direction (relative to the aircraft, and taking into account its motion), engine status and who knows what else, you're looking at a recipe for disaster.

    OTOH, the plan "If there's a fire, evacuate everyone ASAP" is one that's much more likely to be successfully executed, and save lives, in the majority of fires. Will there be exceptions? Sure, but IMHO the number of lives lost in those exceptions will be much fewer than the number that would be lost if the decision-makers were expected to follow a complex decision tree each time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by elaw View Post
    I don't see it as risk balance, I see it as practicality and psychology.

    It's well-documented that humans are not good at complex decision-making in stressful situations. Does anyone here think a fire on an airplane is not a stressful situation?

    So in order to have the best chance of success, you want your response plan to a fire to be simple. If you make a plan that incorporates a bunch of factors like leakage rate (how would you know?), location of the leak (also usually difficult to know), wind direction (relative to the aircraft, and taking into account its motion), engine status and who knows what else, you're looking at a recipe for disaster.

    OTOH, the plan "If there's a fire, evacuate everyone ASAP" is one that's much more likely to be successfully executed, and save lives, in the majority of fires. Will there be exceptions? Sure, but IMHO the number of lives lost in those exceptions will be much fewer than the number that would be lost if the decision-makers were expected to follow a complex decision tree each time.
    The way everybody on this forum always takes a simple idea and turns it upside down into some complex bureaucratic nightmare is almost comical.

    1 ) You're not on fire. If fire or smoke is detected you immediately stop and evacuate. That doesn't change. I've said that twice now.

    2 ) Taxiing (very slowly) is a measure to prevent you from being on fire or incurring dense smoke in the cabin. The entire purpose is prevention.

    3) There's no complex decision making beyond that. If you have an engine failure that might be uncontained, you keep a very slow taxi going for a few minutes until the emergency services reach you. Where's the stressful decision-making?

    4) There is the same situational assessment going on. Is fire present? Is smoke present? If so, is it best to evacuate? That doesn't change.

    5) I have yet to hear a valid argument against this.

  11. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan View Post
    1 ) You're not on fire. If fire or smoke is detected you immediately stop and evacuate. That doesn't change. I've said that twice now.

    5) I have yet to hear a valid argument against this.
    1. Yes, you've said it twice now on a thread about a plane that A. Caught fire and B. Was equipped with a spinning hot-metal-throwing, fire-lighting engine.

    AND

    1. Who says that planes currently slam on the brakes and evacuate when there's one of your Evan-special fuel leaks? Maybe they're already sort of doing what you describe- you have data to prove otherwise?

    5. You want a valid argument?- Ok, the longer you taxi, the greater the chances your leaking fuel will find something hot to light it off- maybe the far engine, maybe the brakes, maybe you don't have a bad engine...what about that one?

    Might it be a better idea to kill the big hot fires burning in the engines and let them start cooling ASAP?

    If you spill fuel at a gate, do you want any running engines nearby?

    Save your recommendations for an incident where an engine doesn't blow and toss parts for thousands of feet and shred tanks and light stuff on fire.

    As I review the safety committee's analysis, I see three votes against and only one for. Gabriel is on the fence.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3WE View Post
    1. Yes, you've said it twice now on a thread about a plane that A. Caught fire and B. Was equipped with a spinning hot-metal-throwing, fire-lighting engine.
    I made a general suggestion that is not specific to this incident. It's unclear in this incident at what point and how the fuel ignited. It might have already been ignited at the time they stopped. If the aircraft itself was on fire at that point of course I would not advocate any delay in evacuating the cabin. However...

    On Nov 4th 2016 the NTSB reported the aircraft entered runway 28R at taxiway N5 and was accelerating for takeoff through 128 KIAS 6,550 feet past the runway 28R threshold with the engines at takeoff power, when the right hand engine failed, two seconds later the power levers were retarded at 134 KIAS and brake pressures began to increase as autobrakes activated and speedbrakes automatically extended. The aircraft came to a full stop about 25 seconds later 9,225 feet past the runway 28R threshold with a pool fire below its right hand wing fed by a fuel leak.
    If the aircraft was not immediately on fire but was set on fire by that pool fire, than it seems to me the best idea is to keep the fuel from pooling by moving the aircraft slowly away from the fuel leakage for the few minutes it takes to get the trucks out there. That's only if the aircraft itself is not already on fire.

    Because—and try to wrap your head around this—what I am suggesting is only a preventative measure.

    But we don't know exactly what happened here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan View Post
    I made a general suggestion that is not specific to this incident. It's unclear in this incident at what point and how the fuel ignited. It might have already been ignited at the time they stopped. If the aircraft itself was on fire at that point of course I would not advocate any delay in evacuating the cabin. However...
    As Gabriel noted earlier the tower informed the crew that the wing was on fire. There is a Youtube video that plays back the tower conversation along with a nice graphical representation of vehicle location, and it seems pretty clear there was a fire long before they stopped. Most of the videos also show fire pouring out of the engine as well as pooling on the ground.

    If the aircraft was not immediately on fire but was set on fire by that pool fire, than it seems to me the best idea is to keep the fuel from pooling by moving the aircraft slowly away from the fuel leakage for the few minutes it takes to get the trucks out there. That's only if the aircraft itself is not already on fire.

    Because—and try to wrap your head around this—what I am suggesting is only a preventative measure.

    But we don't know exactly what happened here.
    I am with eLaw, if you have a major incident resulting in fuel leaks or engine destruction, I think you want to keep the procedures really simple: stop, shut down, get out. Anything past that requires a whole lot of dependencies to make the right decision and result in a safe outcome:
    1) You have to reliably know there is no current fire -- hardly a sure thing after an explosion
    2) You have to do more coordination with the crew in the back who otherwise is just getting ready to pop the hatch keep get everyone out
    3) You have to keep passengers calm for a much longer period
    4) You have to coordinate a meeting of two sets of moving vehicles on the ground with the tower
    5) You also risk further mechanical breakdown (or fire) and a potentially worse situation from unknown damage to other aircraft components (i.e. fuel slowly leaking closer to an ignition source, or landing gear damage etc).

    When you're dealing with emergency procedures you want the simplest path to action so that people don't have to think because that just slows everything down or worse can lead to indecision.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan View Post
    The way everybody on this forum always takes a simple idea and turns it upside down into some complex bureaucratic nightmare is almost comical.

    1 ) You're not on fire. If fire or smoke is detected you immediately stop and evacuate. That doesn't change. I've said that twice now.

    2 ) Taxiing (very slowly) is a measure to prevent you from being on fire or incurring dense smoke in the cabin. The entire purpose is prevention.

    3) There's no complex decision making beyond that. If you have an engine failure that might be uncontained, you keep a very slow taxi going for a few minutes until the emergency services reach you. Where's the stressful decision-making?

    4) There is the same situational assessment going on. Is fire present? Is smoke present? If so, is it best to evacuate? That doesn't change.

    5) I have yet to hear a valid argument against this.
    Evan, There are times when it is more prudent to stop the aircraft ON the runway if an evacuation is determined to be necessary. Taxiways can be narrow and emergency equipment can have a difficult time maneuvering around the aircraft. Runways on the other hand are usually quite wide and afford more room of paved area for equipment and personnel. Also if there is an evacuation it keeps the people out of the grass areas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan View Post
    ...Because—and try to wrap your head around this—what I am suggesting is only a preventative measure...
    All words matter, right?

    Did you see my comment that 'maybe' pilots don't automatically just stop, and pop for fuel leaks... that there already are decision process that involve fire or no fire and whether you want folks milling around giant spinning meat grinders, etc. etc...we have whole other threads at this place where carry-on-compliant Brian is popping exit doors WITHOUT clearance from the crew.

    Also, I note crickets chirping about my comment that maybe the longer you spill fuel around running engines and hot brakes the greater the odds that it lights up...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwartz View Post
    I am with eLaw, if you have a major incident resulting in fuel leaks or engine destruction, I think you want to keep the procedures really simple: stop, shut down, get out. Anything past that requires a whole lot of dependencies to make the right decision and result in a safe outcome:
    1) You have to reliably know there is no current fire -- hardly a sure thing after an explosion
    2) You have to do more coordination with the crew in the back who otherwise is just getting ready to pop the hatch keep get everyone out
    3) You have to keep passengers calm for a much longer period
    4) You have to coordinate a meeting of two sets of moving vehicles on the ground with the tower
    5) You also risk further mechanical breakdown (or fire) and a potentially worse situation from unknown damage to other aircraft components (i.e. fuel slowly leaking closer to an ignition source, or landing gear damage etc).

    When you're dealing with emergency procedures you want the simplest path to action so that people don't have to think because that just slows everything down or worse can lead to indecision.
    I think you guys are a bit off base on this... there are some critical 'if then' decisions that aren't quite as 'KISS' as you want to make it... every time Evan brings up 'no fire', he's got a point (OTHER THAN IF THERE IS NO FIRE, THEY VERY WELL MAY ALREADY CONTINUE TO TAXI AND ALREADY HAVE SOME GOOD PROCEDURES.)

    One other point he refuses to acknowledge is how in the hell do they know if the fuel leak is big, small, near hot stuff or away from hot stuff, and whether the failed engine is cold and dead or a first rate ignition source, or even if there's a fuel leak at all... there's no practical, RELIABLE way to know such stuff.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoeingBobby View Post
    Evan, There are times when it is more prudent to stop the aircraft ON the runway if an evacuation is determined to be necessary. Taxiways can be narrow and emergency equipment can have a difficult time maneuvering around the aircraft. Runways on the other hand are usually quite wide and afford more room of paved area for equipment and personnel. Also if there is an evacuation it keeps the people out of the grass areas.
    BB, I've been saying all along here that if an evacuation is necessary then I would expect the crew to stop on the runway. I also see your point about the limited room on taxiways, so the use of taxiways is probably not a good idea. I am only interested in what is prudent. Now, in this case (as in many cases) there WAS ample runway left (over 3700 ft) to taxi for 12 minutes at 5 fps or 6 minutes at 10 fps. I'm sure fire crews at ORD would reach them before that. Again, what I don't know is whether the aircraft was actually on fire as a result of the uncontained failure or if that was a result of the pool fire that developed after stopping.

    Quote Originally Posted by 3WE
    One other point he refuses to acknowledge is how in the hell do they know if the fuel leak is big, small, near hot stuff or away from hot stuff, and whether the failed engine is cold and dead or a first rate ignition source, or even if there's a fuel leak at all... there's no practical, RELIABLE way to know such stuff.
    The decision to evacuate is always supposed to be an informed one and there are fairly reliable ways to know if fire is present. If you reject and stop after an engine failure, do you automatically initiate an evacuation? No, you said this yourself. You stop, then you assess the situation. How? Is the cabin crew reporting visible smoke or visible fire? Unless they are, you have no immediate reason to evacuate.

    Now, once again, here's the scenario: You experience an engine failure and stop. The engine failure was uncontained and breeched a fuel tank. Fuel is leaking onto the runway. You have no way of knowing this, but protocol tells you to call for the fire trucks and continue to taxi very slowly until they arrive (or until a reason to stop and evacuate appears). Even if the hot exhaust from the opposite engine ignites the fuel on the runway, it is not pooling under the aircraft and thus poses little immediate danger (because it's not DIe Hard II). If the leaking fuel ignites on the aircraft engine or wing, that will create visible smoke and probably visible flames, in which case the cabin crew alerts you and you immediately stop and evacuate.

    I'm not sure what happened here, but if it was the latter scenario and the aircraft was immediately on fire, then forget about taxiing and just get everyone out. I'm only suggesting a means to prevent the aircraft from being on fire in the first place and it seems we have had a number of pool fires where the aircraft could have been spared (an an evac perhaps unnecessary) if the aircraft had continued to move away from the fuel on the runway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan View Post
    The way everybody on this forum always takes a simple idea and turns it upside down into some complex bureaucratic nightmare is almost comical.
    One wonders where they might have learned that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan View Post
    BB, I've been saying all along here that if an evacuation is necessary then I would expect the crew to stop on the runway. I also see your point about the limited room on taxiways, so the use of taxiways is probably not a good idea. I am only interested in what is prudent. Now, in this case (as in many cases) there WAS ample runway left (over 3700 ft) to taxi for 12 minutes at 5 fps or 6 minutes at 10 fps. I'm sure fire crews at ORD would reach them before that. Again, what I don't know is whether the aircraft was actually on fire as a result of the uncontained failure or if that was a result of the pool fire that developed after stopping.
    Not sure if you've seen this video yet? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3hgWfc0W4Q It's the ATC chatter overlayed with icons on the map of ORD showing the location of most of the equipment in question.

    There are two pieces of evidence that there was a fire prior to stopping: 1) ATC communicated it 2) Another plane reported seeing fire as AA rolled past

    They were heading away from the where the fire trucks were coming from so they would have increased their time to intercept.

    Now, once again, here's the scenario: You experience an engine failure and stop. The engine failure was uncontained and breeched a fuel tank. Fuel is leaking onto the runway. You have no way of knowing this, but protocol tells you to call for the fire trucks and continue to taxi very slowly until they arrive (or until a reason to stop and evacuate appears). Even if the hot exhaust from the opposite engine ignites the fuel on the runway, it is not pooling under the aircraft and thus poses little immediate danger (because it's not DIe Hard II). If the leaking fuel ignites on the aircraft engine or wing, that will create visible smoke and probably visible flames, in which case the cabin crew alerts you and you immediately stop and evacuate.
    As 3WE already stated, if there is no indication of fuel leak or fire, the plane would likely keep taxiing. From the ATC recording, the pilot asked the tower if there was smoke or fire, and as soon as he received confirmation, he ordered them to send the trucks and proceeded to continue coming to a full stop and evacuate. I imagine if the pilot had no evidence of fire or fuel, he probably would have continued taxiing.

    Now lets suppose the crew looking out the windows near the back sees a stream of fuel streaming from the wing. What is the prudent thing to do? Everyone will want to do the following in order of priority:
    1) Prevent ignition
    2) Get everyone off in case it ignites
    3) keep the plane away from any other planes and any other people or vehicles so it doesn't bring fuel and/or fire to them

    I just don't see an SOP where the instructions are to delay evacuation and extend the time for emergency vehicles to arrive while trying to avoid anything important moving around.

    If you watch jet fuel burn in puddles, the best place to go is onto the grass. I believe it will soak into the ground and will not generate enough heat to atomize the fuel and cause it to expand.

    See this demonstration with Kerosene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9GTcwm5NA8
    Last edited by Schwartz; 11-06-2016 at 04:42 AM. Reason: Add Youtube link

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    Here is a lawsuit on this incident:

    Passengers File Lawsuit Against American, Boeing, And General Electric.
    The AP (11/14) reports that a lawsuit was filed Monday by 18 passengers who were onboard the American Airlines flight “that caught fire last month on the tarmac of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.” The lawsuit targets American Airlines, Boeing, and engine manufacturer General Electric Aviation, and claims that “GE sold a faulty engine that Chicago-based Boeing used to assemble an unsafe aircraft.” The passengers also claim that American Airlines employees neglected to inspect the aircraft properly and “failed to provide ‘assistance, supervision and instruction’ during evacuation.”

    Source: AIAA Newsletter 11/15/2016.

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