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The cold, hard facts about Flight BA38

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In my many years of flying, I have noticed that in the western hemisphere, winter weather is usually worse after the New Year than before. Perhaps the sting is in the tail.

On January 16, 2008, I was operating a Boeing 747-400 flight from Singapore to London-Heathrow. Our night-time departure from Singapore gave us an expected arrival time (ETA) of a few minutes before 6 am on the 17th. The flight was uneventful except for when, somewhere over Austria, we encountered a spell of cold weather at high altitude which made our fuel temperatures drop well below acceptable levels. In my 30-something years as a pilot, this was the first time I experienced such a phenomenon, in this part of the world. Our indication of fuel temperature in the wing tanks (where fuel is mostly carried) turned from the colour green to amber, prompting us to exercise caution. The very low temperatures persisted all the way to London.

When this happens, pilots have two options: either descend to lower altitudes where there is warmer air; or increase the cruising speed, which in turn will increase air compressibility because of a phenomenon called the ‘ram effect’, thereby warming the surrounding air and, as a consequence, the fuel in the wings.

A few months before that incident, while flying a 747-400 cargo (freighter) aircraft from O’Hare Airport, Chicago, USA to Shanghai, China, on a route close to the North Pole, we experienced low fuel temperatures and decided to take the second option of increasing our cruising speed. It took a long time to raise our fuel temperatures to an acceptable level. So, in this latest instance, en route to London, I decided to descend to warmer air. It should be noted that both methods consume more fuel. Being winter, the tail winds were strong and we had made up some time and consumed less fuel than expected, so we could afford to burn extra fuel on the descent to a ‘warmer’ altitude. Apart from that, the flight was uneventful, and we touched down at London Heathrow only about a minute before our 6 am ETA.

After entry formalities were completed, followed by a short ride to our London hotel, I was in bed soon after 8.30 am. I slept soundly until approximately 1 pm. After waking up, as usual I switched on the TV and discovered that there had been a crash of a British Airways Boeing 777 at around midday, near the approach end of Heathrow’s Runway 27L (Left). The aircraft had undershot the runway badly and landed ‘short’, narrowly missing the Hatton Cross Tube Station. It was the first major accident at Heathrow Airport in 30 years.

What could have gone wrong? Were the pilots at fault? I suspected that the unusual low temperatures we experienced that morning may have been a contributory factor in the crash. Anyway, it was too early to tell, and one had to wait until the preliminary report of the Aircraft Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) of the UK’s Department of Transport to be published. This is their story.

The British Airways (BA) Boeing 777-263 ER (Extended Range), Registration G-YMMM, departed Beijing, China about 6 hours behind our flight. The BA Flight Dispatchers had known that there was a forecast of unusually cold air masses that morning and therefore planned the flight at lower than normal heights to prevent the fuel from being affected by low temperatures. Being not too heavy, for the sake of passenger comfort, throughout the flight high power settings were not used even for climb to intermediate levels. The descent to London had also involved minimum power for a long period. Then, at the last moment of the landing approach (at a height of 720 feet), the two engines which were on automatic thrust lost power (ran down),but did not totally quit. When the First Officer, who was the ‘pilot flying’ (PF) on that sector, opened the throttles to increase power to the required setting, the engines didn’t respond. As a result, the aircraft could not remain on the required glide path and went into a high rate of descent to maintain flying speed, consequently undershooting and touching down heavily on the grass, 330 metres short of the runway’s paved area.

For the more technically minded, the landing approach of an aircraft involves a balance of Potential Energy, Kinetic Energy, and Chemical (Fuel) Energy. While the total of Potential Energy and Kinetic Energy is a constant, Chemical Energy in variable amounts has to be used to overcome the drag created by wheels and flaps when they are extended to maintain safe flight at slow speeds (e.g. on descent and approach before landing). In fact, when it became apparent that the situation was hopeless and the aircraft was undershooting, the captain, watching helplessly in horror, quickly reduced the flap setting to reduce the drag.

On touching down with a high sink rate, the undercarriage collapsed, and the aircraft slid forward a short distance before stopping. After it stopped there was considerable leakage of fuel from both engines, but fortunately no fire. The 16 crew members and nearly all 135 passengers suffered either minor injuries or none at all. However, one passenger did incur serious injuries when a wheel mounting pierced the cabin floor as a result of the heavy ground impact. One minute and 42 seconds after the crash alarm was sounded by the control tower, emergency crews were at the crash site. (See picture 2)

Subsequently, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) UK took over the accident investigation. With the use of the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) (collectively called, inaccurately, the ‘black box’ – they are actually contained in Day-Glo orange casings to facilitate location and retrieval amongst the wreckage) they were able to reconstruct the flight, including the last few moments before the crash. As engine power was not available when demanded by the throttle inputs, it was suspected that there was some obstruction to the fuel flow into the engines. The AAIB had to simulate low temperatures and fuel flows while conducting the research.

Research done on both sides of the Atlantic more than 50 years ago showed that jet fuel (a form of kerosene), when subjected to temperatures below freezing, becomes waxy and sticky. Furthermore, it is near impossible to drain all the naturally occurring water in the fuel tanks. After flying for a while in sub-zero temperatures, the fuel becomes ‘cold soaked’. Then, upon landing at the next airport, warm, humid air enters the relatively empty tanks through the air vents, and because of the presence of cold fuel, condensation occurs inside the fuel tanks, forming water droplets. Being of higher density, water will then drip and pool at the bottom of the tanks, where most of it could be physically drained by the ground engineers. However, some of the water inevitably remains and turns into ice crystals at low temperature on the next flight. It was determined by the AAIB that these were the two most likely ‘culprits’.

During the Board’s extensive investigation, it was observed that all aircraft fuel systems were designed based on this outdated research. Today’s aircraft engines, such as the Rolls-Royce Trent 800 series, which power the Boeing 777, are much larger and expected to operate for longer hours in sub-zero temperatures.

In its final report the AAIB made 18 safety-related recommendations. After which, the main component whose design was changed was the Fuel Oil Heat Exchanger (FOHE). Before entering the engine, cold fuel was heated with hot engine oil in the FOHE. (See picture 3)

In the FOHE, cold fuel was sent through tubes with hot oil from the engine circulating around them. The design of the tubes was such that they were protruding by about 4mm, not flush with face of the FOHE. When tested in the lab, it was found that this trapped and accumulated the waxy fuel, along with ice crystals in the fuel, on top of the tubes, thereby effectively blocking them. (See picture 4)

The AAIB investigation identified the following probable causal factors that led to the fuel flow restrictions:

1) Accreted ice from within the fuel system was released, causing a restriction to the engine fuel flow at the face of the FOHE on both engines.

2) Ice had formed within the fuel system, from water that occurred naturally in the fuel, whilst the aircraft operated with low fuel flows over a long period and the localised fuel temperatures were in an area described as the ‘sticky range’.

3) The FOHE, although compliant with the applicable certification requirements, was shown to be susceptible to restriction when presented with soft ice in a high concentration, with a fuel temperature that is below -10°C and a fuel flow above flight idle.

4) Certification requirements, with which the aircraft and engine fuel systems had to comply, did not take account of this phenomenon as the risk was unrecognised at that time.

“A chain is as strong as its weakest link.” The FOHE certainly was a weak link, which was accepted by Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

An intercontinental jet aircraft has thousands of components certified by the USA’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and must be proved to be fail-safe: a practically impossible task. Therefore, a given component is introduced to service when the authorities feel it is basically safe, and carry out rectification/modification of components when problems occur during service.

Many years ago Ralph Nader highlighted in his book ‘Collision Course’ the truth about air safety, that human life is quantified at $1,000,000/- each by the aircraft manufacturers. If a modification costs more in dollar terms than the amount of people it is meant to save, then such a modification is considered not viable. But that’s another story!



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Features

To recognise and reward Women Entrepreneur

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by Zanita Careem

WCIC “Prathibhabis-heka” national awards will be given to outstanding women entrepreneurs of Sri Lanka and the SAARC said Anoji de Silva, the chairperson of Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce WCIC at a press conference held at the Jetwing hotel Ward PlaceThis year the Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by DFCS Aloka.This National Award which is recognised globally will help women to market their products to international buyers

“As a country we have faced many difficulties over the last few years. Now this is the time to reflect and ensure that local women can contribute and progress to be on par with international entrepreneurs She also noted that this award ceremony is a great opportunity for all since it’s an absolutely empowering platform. “You hear success stories of women from different walks of life and it’s very empowering and inspiring. I’m sure that the younger generation of women who will watch the ceremony wii be inspired to be sucessful entrepreneurs in the future S

“Our women entrepreneurs have the potential to help our economy to grow. They have made vast strides to build companies on a set of values and they have created diverse working environments.

The WCIC Prathibhabisheka Women Entrepreneur Awards will be held in January 22. To the question how financial records of small businesses headed by women could deter their ability to apply the chairperson said.

“We have a startup category which is under five years where they can submit documents for consideration. She responded “These women can apply but must submit proper records to back their applications or else they will be rejected wholeheartedly.The Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022

“Prathibha” depicts excellence in Sanskrit and WCIC will showcase the excellence of outstanding women entrepreneurs through WCIC Prathibhabisheka –

“The relaunched property is structured to assess the businesses in a holistic manner. We invite outstanding women entrepreneurs, especially the ones who have braved the challenges in the past years to share their story of resilience and achievements to compete for the coveted – WCIC Prathibhabisheka The Awards will honour women entrepreneurs for their tenacity to scale and grow, and for their contribution and impact on the economy. Whilst the competition is primarily for Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs, we have also included an opportunity for women in the SAARC region to compete in a special category” stated Anoji De Silva, the Chairperson of the WCIC.

The members of WCIC Ramani Ponnambalam and Tusitha Kumarakul-asingam, said”. We will be accepting applications under the categories – Start-up, Micro, Small, Medium and Large. Each category will have a specified revenue for the year under review – 2021/22. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be presented for each category. With the view to identify and promote regional women entrepreneurs, we will encourage applications from all the provinces in the country and select the “Best of the Region” from each province.

The women will also be considered for the coveted special awards – Young Woman Entrepreneur, Outstanding Start- up, Most Positively Abled Woman Entrepreneur, The Most Outstanding Export Oriented Entrepreneur, The Best of the SAARC Region. The ceremony will culminate with the selection of the “Women Entrepreneur of the year -2022”.

“The entry kit can be downloaded from www.wcicsl.lk and completed and submitted to the WCIC along with all the material required to substantiate the applicant’s story. Entries close on the 31st of October.” stated Tusitha Kumarak-ulasingam.

WCIC Prathibabisheka – Woman Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by– DFCC Aloka, as the Platinum Sponsor, with Gold Sponsors – Mclarens Group, LOLL Holdings Plc, Hayleys Leisure Pic, and AIA Insurance Lanka Ltd (Exclusive Insurance Partner), Silver – Finez Capital Ventures Print and Social Media Partners will be the Wijeya Group and Electronic Media Partner–ABC Network with Triad as our Creative Partner and Ernst & Young as Knowledge Partner.

Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC) is the premier organization supporting entrepreneurs and professional business-women. The membership is open to women who believe they can contribute to society as well as benefit from the many facilities the organization creates. WCIC Prathibhasheka is relaunched this year as a flagship property, to recognize and reward outstanding women enterpreneurs who make a contribution to the SL economy.

For further information Contact- Janitha Stephens – 0766848080

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Marmalade sandwich in Queen’s handbag!

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In this period of national mourning, it may seem frivolous to comment on the late Queen’s handbag. After seven decades of selfless service to the nation, fashion is but a footnote to Her Majesty’s glorious reign.And yet her style is something that helped to create the powerful majestic image of Queen Elizabeth II, and which made her instantly recognisable worldwide. A key part of that image, and a constant presence in her working life, was her black Launer handbag.

Launer London was Her Majesty’s handbag maker for more than 50 years and has held the Royal Warrant since 1968. Launer bags are formal and structured, and proved to be the ideal regal accessory for public engagements. Its first royal patronage came from HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in the 1950s. Where others might have bought the latest ‘It’ bag, Queen Elizabeth exercised characteristic restraint with her handbags throughout her life, focusing on quality over quantity in her loyalty to Launer.

Her Majesty was known for her love of colour in her working wardrobe, wearing rainbow brights in order to be better seen by the public, but her accessories were always muted. Black mostly, sometimes beige or white in summer, gold or silver in the evening: neutrals that matched with every colour, allowing her to dress with ease. The timeless style of her trusty Traviata top-handle bag suited the Queen’s no-nonsense nature and symbolised her steadfast reign. The late Baroness Thatcher shared the Queen’s love of a strong top handle from classic British labels such as Launer and Asprey. These bags helped promote a look of someone in control. Like Queen Elizabeth, Thatcher’s handbags were such a part of her identity that they have earned their own special place in history and have been described as the former PM’s ‘secret weapon’. One such bag has been exhibited at the V&A alongside Sir Winston Churchill’s red despatch box. Both are artefacts of cultural and historic importance.

It has been said that there was another purpose to the Queen’s handbag on public engagements, namely that she used it as a secret signalling device. According to royal historian Hugo Vickers, Her Majesty would switch the bag from her left arm to her right to signal for an aide to come to her rescue if she tired of the conversation in which she was engaged. If she placed the bag on the table, this was a sign that she wanted to leave. Ever-practical, HM needed a bag that focused on functionality over fashion, choosing styles with slightly longer top handles that comfortably looped over the monarch’s arm, freeing her hands to accept bouquets and greet the public. Even in her final photograph, meeting her 15th prime minister in her sitting room at Balmoral Castle, just two days before her death last week, the Queen’s handbag can be seen on her left arm. Perhaps at this stage it was part armour, part comfort blanket.Even at the age of 96, Queen Elizabeth II did not lose her ability to surprise. She delighted the public by taking tea with Paddington Bear at her Platinum Jubilee celebrations and finally revealed what she keeps in her handbag: a marmalade sandwich, ‘for later’.

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Cinnamon Grand, Colombo welcomes You to the SEQUEL

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The next best thing in Colombo!

What would you get if you took the decadence of yesterday and paired it with the flavours of right now? Something bold and jazzy or rich and snazzy. Something we’d like to call the next best thing. All this and more at Cinnamon City Hotels to the SEQUEL at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo said a press release.

The release said the SEQUEL is where the old meets new, where charm meets sophistication and having a good time gets a new meaning. Colombo’s latest speakeasy cocktail bar is ready to welcome the discerning guest that is looking for that perfectly curated night.

“The SEQUEL will be a novel addition to Colombo’s nightlife catered to enthralling guests with our performances and showmanship,” said Kamal Munasinghe, Area Vice-President, Cinnamon City Hotels.

What do we mean when we say performance? It means that every little detail is tailored to those who appreciate elegance, and a bespoke experience like no other. Think walking into a vintage space accompanied by the sounds of Sinatra and Fitzgerald inviting you to do it your way or for once in your life. Think of the soul-searching and eclectic mix of Winehouse classics that you can drown your sorrows in.

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