ExPatriatePen wrote:Just as I suspected, sounds like the tail was so low it scraped the Seawall on the landing.
They have automated systems to prevent these things, I've heard a lot of pilots (especially foriegn ones) don't use them. Hard to fathom.
The most the plane does is warn you that you're close to the ground, which will happen whether you crash or land perfectly. Catch some wind shear, and it won't matter how sophisticated your aircraft is, its almost impossible to keep in the air.
Heard a very clear and concise description of the mishap on Sirius this morning provided by a pilot and attorney who specializes in aviation law.
- Captain had over 12,000 hours in 'heavies' (mostly 747) but had less than 100 in-type (777), and had never performed an over-water approach (which can mess up your visual references) in-type.
- SFO Instrument Landing System (ILS) has been disabled since early June and is undergoing renovation work through early August. (My return flight from SFO last week was delayed by about an hour because of FAA checks of the ILS system that effectively shut down all the runways for half an hour; the conga line at the end of all four runways was impressive)
- 777 carries an on-board GPS system that provides much the same information as ILS, but it wasn't activated; approach was 100% "VFR"... and was likely the first VFR approach ever flown in-type by this captain.
- Normal approach speed is 137 KIAS (knots indicated airspeed), but this aircraft was down to 103 KIAS... which basically means he was falling more than flying.
- The First Officer's main job during landing is to monitor airspeed and and glideslope and to physically take over the controls if the Captain is out of normal parameters at 500' above ground level (AGL). He did not do this, despite excessively slow airspeed and excessively high sink rate.
- To arrest the sink approaching the runway threshold the pilot applied power and increased pitch simultaneously, but because of the normal lag in a turbofan engine the increased power hadn't actually come in which meant the change in pitch just raised the nose up - and lowered the tail - and somewhat increased
the sink rate, which led to the tail section striking the ground and bringing the rest of the plane down hard on the main mounts.
- If the pilot had done nothing, the likelihood is the plane would have landed well short of the touchdown zone (which is 1,100' from the runway threshold) and harder than normal but would have otherwise been completely safe.
In short: Pretty clear case of human error.