Words of Advice:

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

"Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground
Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It." -- Unknown

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level
and then beat you with experience.” -- Mark Twain

"Stay Strapped or Get Clapped." -- probably not Mr. Rogers

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Not Such a Hot Idea to Steal a Jet

The St. George [Utah] airport was closed Tuesday because of an incident involving a SkyWest plane and an employee wanted for questioning in a Colorado Springs homicide.

When those guys get pushed back in real life, there is a tug to push them away from the terminal and ramp rats to watch for safe clearance. Killer Boy tried to do it on his own with semi-predicable results. I hope that he had the courtesy to leave the airplane before he killed himself, but I suspect not. That's not going to be any fun to clean up.


LRod said...

They don't always use tugs. I was surprised one time on a trip with a stop in MEM that instead of "pushing back" with a tug, they "powered back" with thrust reverse. Still had plenty of wand wavers to assure clearances, however.

Comrade Misfit said...

Back in the `90s, I saw a lot of AA MD**s back away from the gates at DFW using reverse thrust. As you say, they had lots of guys with wands to ensure they didn't hit anything. Even if he had gotten the thing in the air, where was he going to go? It's not as though ATC's not going to notice him.

LRod said...

I don't think he cared. My thinking is he was planning on death by airplane, which is just one preposition away from what he did, anyway. Even if he'd taxied clear and took off, what was ATC going to do? Track him. Wouldn't have tracked him for long, I'll bet. And as you can well imagine, I'm not impugning ATC.

ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired

perishedcore said...

Um, since when is it A-OK to use contempt for someone who is suicidal or who kills himself?

Thomas Joiner's work is helpful if you aren't familiar with suicidality. I also have a retired blog with a reading list containing resources for people experiencing unbearable distress, should anyone be so inclined...

Comrade Misfit said...

And the fact that he allegedly killed his former girlfriend and was on the run matters not?

I don't consider cornered murderers killing themselves to be traditional suicides. They're just "cheating the hangman".

CenterPuke88 said...

Powering back has been reduced because:

1) Not an efficient use of jet fuel

2) Wear on engines (to power back, they dump the reverser buckets over the exhaust flow. This tends to throw debris off the ground up, and because the movement is constrained by the terminal, and into the intake.

3) Damage to terminals (see above)

4) As Comrade notes, you still need 2 guys...what's three guys and a tug for a shorter period of time?

On the ATC side, there are a number of factors:

1) What was his goal? We can assume the plane was fully fueled for the next morning departure. Given that, if his goal was short range or suicidal, he has no need to fly high. In the mountains, primary radar is a real crapshoot and as you lose and gain primary (skin paint) returns, tracking is very difficult.

2) Flying higher (below the Class A), primary is more reliable, but the system isn't set-up to track it well. There are too many spots where excessive primary returns make tracking difficult, and if you fly across a busy area with other primary returns, there is a reasonable chance the system will start tracking another target without anyone noticing for a while.

3) Blue Sky VFR happens. Aircraft slip into the Class A without clearance and figure that flying at X+500 ft they won't hit anything. Until someone spots them, they get away with it. Doing that, he could fly a good distance...but the fast moving and steady primary return would attract attention and, in the current environment, a couple of armed escorts.

bob said...

Back in the 90 I worked for McDonnell Douglas on the Mad Dog 80 and 90 in the flight performance group. We kept telling American, that using the thrust reverser to back off the gate was not a really good idea, kind of a tricky maneuver, you have spool up the engine and then let the aircraft roll a little forward, engage the thrust, check your forward momentum and then back out. The engine started to show FOD damage. Engine overhaul cost started to climb and back came the tugs. American also had issues with installing ground power systems.

I am not surprise at their current situation.

Comrade Misfit said...

I watched the AA MD-*s do it, as I said, and it just didn't look as though it was a smart thing to be doing. It reminded me of the morons who downshift their cars to save on brakes, never thinking that engines and transmissions cost a hell of a lot more to repair and replace than do brake pads.

LRod said...

Re: powering back. Not saying it's a good or bad technique—just that it's an available technique that I personally witnessed. I cited it as an explanation of how he could have gotten away from the gate with no assistance. Duck soup, actually.

On the ATC side:

2) I'll just say that any old broad band controller wouldn't have much trouble following a transport sized aircraft that is necessarily going to be higher speed than the usual Cessna 140s or even expressway traffic. There'd be no need to start a track and have the "system" do the work. Been there, done that. Got the Flight Assist.

3) As in 2 above, he'd have been tracked long since, although no one would know his altitude because he'd have been clever enough to not turn on the transponder.

I still maintain he wasn't out to steal an airplane—he was out to die in one. With that as a motive, there was no stopping him.

ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired

Comrade Misfit said...

Then thank the FSM that he failed to get that airplane into the air. Can you imagine the insane security procedures that the Feds would have mandated if he had?

rdale said...

He shot himself in the passenger compartment after he knocked off the end of one wing. Here are a couple of stories from the Salt Lake Tribune:



Predictably, Utah congresscritter Jason Chaffetz (R-cotboy) says that means we need more airport security.

perishedcore said...

My comment in no way discounts the enormity of the violence that he committed.

But I get the contempt - personally and by primary experience.

CenterPuke88 said...

LRod, there just ain't very many broadband controllers left. They stopped using broadband for even back-up around 1987 in Centers. Regular use stopped a number of years before that. I can think of 2 controllers in my area that have EVER used broadband, and they both are retiring before Jan 4, 2013.

The problem with the newer radar feeds is that primary returns are NOT a priority, and in many cases primary radars have been shutdown.

I too have radar identified a primary and guided the Indian "pilot" to a nearby airport complete with flight assist. The guy actually lost sight of parallel 9000 foot runways from less than 5 NM twice...that was after he got put on tower. He didn't even spot the field until he was directly overhead and I told him to "look down".