ATSB should watch Sully to see how real investigations are done - The Australian


Sully is a movie about how the calm professionalism and skill of captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger saved the lives of 155 people on board his A320 aircraft after take off from LaGuardia airport in New York, after at 2800 feet and 200 knots it flew into a flock of geese that destroyed both engines.

The US National Transportation Safety Board, the world’s premier aviation accident investigation board — using the opinion of bureaucrats relying on armchair aviation specialists, computer simulations and simulators — subjected the captain’s decision to ditch in the Hudson River to close scrutiny.

They did contend that the aircraft was capable of returning to LaGuardia or reaching the nearby Teterboro airport in New Jersey (an airfield I have flown out of recently).

When presented with the opinion of the flight crew and technical information from the black boxes, the NTSB was gracious enough to concede its initial premise was flawed.

How unlike the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s handling of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Presented with the opinions of real aviation specialists such as airline pilots, the ATSB refused to acknowledge that its initial theory — an unresponsive pilot scenario in the three minutes from when MH370 captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah said goodnight to Kuala Lumpur air traffic control and the aircraft turned about obviously under pilot control — was flawed and lacked common sense.

Totally ignoring the flight deck procedures of well-trained pilots to handle emergencies, the ATSB’s position was illogical, and the more that this was pointed out the more it buried its head in the sand.

The initial premise of “unresponsive pilots” may have led to a compounding error when calculating the search area.

As for Sully, it is a brilliant movie and a must-see for all airline pilots and cabin crew.

It may possibly be one of the best crew training films made. The well-trained and experienced cabin crew performed admirably in their primary function of passenger safety.

It is a shame a movie could not be made about Qantas QF32, the A380 aircraft engine blow-up out of Singapore where the flight crew, under captain Richard Champion de Crespigny, faced a scenario that their simulator training had not covered (this was also the case with the Sully event).

The engine blow-up took out most of the electrical and hydraulic systems, and it was only the professionalism of the crew of the world’s safest airline that managed an extraordinary feat of airmanship in landing the aircraft safely back at Changi airport.

The ATSB should realise that the opinions of armchair experts, mathematical modelling and simulations do not stack up against the real-world experience and knowledge of professional airline pilots.

Who made the decision to go with the “unresponsive pilots” theory?

Former ATSB head Martin Dolan and the responsible minister at the time, Warren Truss, need to front an inquiry to answer this.


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