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Pilot of crashed SuperJet silenced terrain warnings

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posted on Dec, 18 2012 @ 02:56 AM
Investigators have found that the pilot of the Sukhoi SuperJet that crashed in Indonesia in May of this year, silenced the terrain warning system. The crash killed all 45 people on board.

The warning sounded 38 seconds before impact with Mount Salak. The crew had asked for a descent to 6000 feet, and a right hand orbit, which was approved by ATC. They then entered a prolonged conversation that had nothing to do with the flight, during which the pilot failed to adjust the heading of the aircraft, which allowed it to exit from its orbit.

At 38 seconds, the "Terrain. Pull Up" warning sounded, and was silenced, because it was assumed to be a database error. At seven seconds a landing gear not deployed warning sounded. The crew might have been able to avoid the mountain as late as 24 seconds before impact if they had acted on the warnings investigators have said.

Indonesian investigators have determined that the captain of a Sukhoi Superjet 100 inhibited the terrain-collision system, believing its alerts to be erroneous.

The terrain-awareness system initially sounded 38s before the aircraft struck the slope of Mount Salak on 9 May this year, killing all 45 occupants who were participating in a demonstration flight.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Committee found the crew had requested a descent to 6,000ft and to fly a right-hand orbit. This was "approved" by Jakarta air traffic control.


posted on Dec, 18 2012 @ 04:22 AM
This is human error on every count.

From Wikipedia

In 2012 The Jakarta Post dubbed Mount Salak an "airplane graveyard".[2] High turbulence and fast-changing weather conditions of the mountainous terrain are cited as contributing factors to multiple aviation crashes in the area.[2] There were seven aviation crashes around Mount Salak between 2002 and 2012.

One person was killed in the crash of a small aircraft in October 2002; seven in October 2003; two in April 2004; five people in June 2004; 18 people were killed in a crash of an Indonesian Air Force military plane in 2008. [3][2] In 2012, three people were killed in a crash of a training aircraft not long before the SSJ-100 accident, which occurred on May 9, 2012, when a Sukhoi Superjet 100 crashed into the mountain during a demonstration flight, killing all 45 people on board.

The mountain is 7,254 elevation, a demonstration flight, known hotbed for airplane crashes and bad flying weather......and the pilot turns off the warning system. It would be like taking dead man's curve at 60 MPH and closing your eyes in the middle of the curve. Don't these planes have windows? And why is a superjet at that low elevation, why not 20 thousand feet? Just curious.

posted on Dec, 18 2012 @ 09:08 AM
reply to post by Gridrebel

They do have windows, but from the sound of things, the crew was distracting themselves with a non-flying conversation, so they failed to notice the giant mountain in front of them.

They were flying low, because it was a demonstration flight. They like to show off the low altitude handling, let people get a look out the windows are different sights, etc.

posted on Dec, 19 2012 @ 09:54 AM
An interesting turn of events in the investigation.

Jakarta ATC had the SuperJet coded as an SU-30, since the new plane wasn't in the database. The air traffic controller on duty, when receiving the request to descend, checked the type, and thought it was a test flight from a nearby military base, and the plane was allowed to be at that altitude.

Meanwhile, the pilots were having a discussion with a customer representative, about making a right hand orbit to avoid being too high for runway 6, which they planned to land on. During the orbit, they were discussing, ironically of all things, the terrain warning system. During the orbit, the aircraft was ordered to turn to several different headings, but the last was almost a minute late, because they were discussing fuel burn with the customer rep. That allowed the flight to turn right into the mountain. It took ATC 20 minutes to notice the flight was missing after the crash.

posted on Dec, 20 2012 @ 10:22 AM
reply to post by Zaphod58

So the plane was filled with mostly potential customers and journalists. I wonder if killing your potential customers reduces sales?

The Wiki is a little ambivalent on that point, but it seems most customers recognize there was no indication the plane was in anything but perfect working order.

Pilots everywhere are hopefully reading this and thinking "Note to self: When terrain warning goes off, don't ignore it".

I think there are a few airports near mountains that routinely set off terrain warnings, but the pilots are familiar with the terrain when they disregard the warnings.

The big problem in this crash seems to be the pilots weren't familiar with the terrain. I almost get the impression they didn't even know there was an over 7000' high volcano in the area when they requested their descent to 6000'; if so, that was a problem that occurred long before the crash, and long before the "pull up" warning.

posted on Dec, 20 2012 @ 09:12 PM
reply to post by Arbitrageur

This crash has been caused by something as old as multiple pilot aircraft have existed. A breakdown in crew coordination. Every pilot error crash can be traced to a failure of crew coordination. It was thought that an important lesson had been learned, and steps taken to correct the issue after the accident on Tenerife in 1977.

Sunday March 27, 1977 saw an explosion rip through the Gran Canaria Airport, causing a temporary shut down of the airport. Many flights diverted to Tenerife, many more than it was designed to hold, including KLM flight 4805 and Pan Am flight 1736. Pan Am was filled with 380 passengers, most of retirement age, and KLM had 235 passengers, on a charter flight. Both were Boeing 747s, which the airport was never designed to hold, as they were fairly new at the time (Pan Am's aircraft was N736PA, which flew the first passenger flight).

After a few hours the Gran Canaria Airport reopened, but fog had rolled in on Tenerife. Both the KLM flight, and the Pan Am flight were directed to taxi down the runway, with the Pan Am being told to turn off at the fifth taxiway, but they got confused because the turn was so sharp (the controller was unfamiliar with the 747).

As the Pan Am continued to taxi on the runway, the KLM received their ATC clearance (not tower clearance, but the route they were going to fly). The captain advanced the throttles and started to move down the runway. The first officer said that they weren't cleared, and he stopped. A short time later, he advanced the throttles again, and began to take off, this time the first officer and flight engineer both remained silent. The KLM was approaching the point where they could get airborne, when they saw the Pan Am in front of them. They attempted to take off, but the landing gear clipped the top of the Pan Am flight causing the KLM to slam down on the runway, and tearing the top of the Pan Am fuselage off.

The end result was that all 248 people on the KLM flight, and 335 people on the Pan Am flight died. Sixty one people on the Pan Am flight survived, including 5 crew. The Dutch to this day refuse to accept the NTSB report, but the investigators found that the pilot of the KLM flight was their most senior pilot, and a training captain, which most likely intimidated the first officer into not speaking up when he should have.

In the case of the SuperJet, if the crew is going to be involved in selling the aircraft, which I think they never should be until they are on the ground, one crew member should have been designated to fly the aircraft, and ignore the customer. The pilot could have gone to the back of the cockpit, or something, and allowed the first officer to fly the aircraft, and prevented this whole accident. But once again, crew coordination broke down, and the end result is the crash of the aircraft.

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