March 8th, 2019 at 5:58 AM ^

Just a side note.  I’ve been reading this everywhere that he broke protocol.  That’s not really true.  There is a V1 speed, which is the takeoff decision speed.  Above V1, you takeoff even if you have a failure.  Examples would be an engine, blown tire, etc.  The caveat though is that you takeoff no matter what, unless you think the aircraft won’t fly.  In this case, he clearly made that determination.  Not to take anything away from the pilots, because they made a split second decision that saved lives.  But they didn’t break protocol.


March 7th, 2019 at 8:38 PM ^

It shouldn't. In the last 100,000,000 commercial flights, carrying 7,000,000,000 passengers, 4 people have died as a result of accident

Seriously. It is absurdly safe, because all of its rules are written in blood and enforced, strictly.

Pilots are professionals, and they are damn good at their job. And these brilliant experts are just the last line of defense in a long string of protections to make it such that they never have to use most of their vast array of skills.


March 8th, 2019 at 7:48 AM ^

It's funny man I fly for work almost weekly and still go in bouts of getting freaked out by flying. I know the odds of a crash are small, and it's not so much I'm afraid of dying it's more that the feeling you'd have if your plane was going down has to be the scariest feeling imaginable....even if it doesn't last long. That is the part that freaks me out. 

gustave ferbert

March 7th, 2019 at 5:53 PM ^

So proud of everyone involved.  I can't even imagine going through something like that.  Having to play with practice unis because the unis were locked up, and then go and win the B1G tournament.  

Brilliant coaching job and a testament to the team's mental toughness. . .


March 7th, 2019 at 5:57 PM ^

As someone that was on a plane that aborted a take off, I'm glad my experience didn't get as hairy as the team's.  I was only left with a small brown spot in my pants that day.  I always thank the pilot when getting off a plane.  Those guys have their hands full every day.


March 7th, 2019 at 5:57 PM ^

I fly quite a bit ---- yet airplane crash/flight investigations fascinate me a ton.  Call me weird.

Definite kudos to the pilot.  It requires A LOT of guts to reject takeoff once you get beyond V1, especially 12 seconds after V1.  Especially at Willow Run, the runways are relatively short (shorter vs. DTW, for example) there.  Reading the transcript, the co-pilot disagreed with the decision in the immediate seconds afterwards but obviously the pilot made the correct call.

It's a bit concerning that 2 of the NTSB's findings were: (1) an MD-83 plane parked outside for a couple days can get a jammed elevator simply because of wind, and (2) there is no current means for a crew to check for a jammed elevator during a pre-flight check.   


March 7th, 2019 at 6:11 PM ^

I suspect there will be some kind of recommendation that an indicator be developed for that model of plane.

The winds involved are quite high. There are actually guidelines about what windspeeds the planes can tolerate, and the NTSB observes that there were likely higher gusts in the vicinity of the hangar that were not recorded due to inadequate measurement apparatus. It's one of those small gremlins that get ironed out by investigations like this. 

Remember, I think there was a thread on the board about how windy it was that day before the crash happened. It was incredibly windy.


March 7th, 2019 at 6:25 PM ^

Yep, that is the NTSB's number 1 recommendation.  Not just the MD-80s, but the Boeing 717 too.  Delta flies a whole bunch of those birds.

Air travel is remarkably safe these days.  As you said, it's only the "small gremlins" that need to get ironed out anymore.  This investigative report by the NTSB is the first "aviation accident report" they have released in the last FIVE months.  Even that report was about a "near crash" and it was all pilot error (Air Canada incident at SFO in July 2017 - literally 15 feet from a disaster).


March 7th, 2019 at 6:50 PM ^

It is definitely not unheard for certain types of incidents to call for broader engineering initiatives for some aircraft. As I recall, American 171, which crashed on takeoff from O'Hare in 1979 after one wing-mounted engine fell off, led to a temporary grounding of the entire DC-10 fleet. I think that it later came to light that the maintenance practices of American Airlines contributed greatly to the failure of the clevis which held the engine mount to the wing. 

This accident was certainly not that, of course, but it is interesting to think about what might come out of this. Those winds were certainly not a joke. The highest wind gust at DTW was 68 MPH that afternoon. Almost a million in Metro Detroit lost power, some for days. No joke at all. 


March 7th, 2019 at 7:03 PM ^

Yep --- that 1979 crash was primarily because of American devising their own maintenance method (which differed from what McD recommended).  It saved man-hours but obviously led to tragedy.  After grounding the fleet, there were several other DC-10s found to be at risk for the same thing.

Not to be pedantic, but that American flight was Flight 191.  I only point that out because there have been 4 fatal Flight 191s.  Comair 191 in 2006 was the last of the 4. 

JetBlue had a Flight 191 and in 2012 had an incident where the pilot went crazy mid-air and had to literally be ejected from the cockpit by the First Officer.  Yikes. 

Most airlines, even if they haven't had an incident historically, simply won't use that flight number any longer (Frontier is an exception, their Flight 191 is airborne now).


March 8th, 2019 at 12:27 AM ^

You're right about the DC-10 design flaws: (1) the cargo doors initially and (2) the hydraulics were poorly-placed, primary and backup were too close and thus could fail simultaneously.

(1) was fixed well before AA 191.

As for (2), it's fair to blame that for the Sioux City United crash in 1989.  But blaming that for AA 191 seems less fair.  Yes the tumbling engine cut some hydraulics but an engine should (obviously) never detach while a plane is in motion.  The NTSB explicitly called-out AA's maintenance (and the man-hours it reduced) for causing that in their report at the time.


March 7th, 2019 at 10:40 PM ^

Abort or takeoff was always a raging debate when I was flying in the Air Force, my default was always that it didn't matter if I was past V1, if something happened and I was on the ground, I was staying on the damn ground.  There are so many factors of safety built into it that running off the runway at speeds likely to do worse damage than taking a broken airplane into the air is highly unlikely IMO.  


March 8th, 2019 at 12:39 AM ^

V1 is the speed at which there is no longer enough runway available to stop.  This speed changes on a flight by flight basis and is affected by aircraft weight, outside temperature, wind component, and wet or dry runway.  I flew ORD-GRR tonight and my V1 was 126 knots on a dry runway, last week on the same route it was 117 knots.  That being said, most airlines have a set speech in the takeoff briefing.  Ours is: “The standard 80 knot reject criteria applies.  Below 80 knots we will reject for any anomalies.  After 80 knots we’ll reject for engine fire, failure, or if the aircraft is unsafe to fly.  Once we pass V1 we will fly the airplane and handle the situation airborne.”  I personally feel that the ending of that briefing should be amended to include verbiage to include situations like this where the airplane wouldn’t fly.  This captain did a spectacular job by bucking the trend and opting to not try and fly his way out of the situation.  He deserves every bit of recognition and gratitude coming his way.  As a fellow airline captain I applaud his quick decision and he deserves recognition from the Wolverine nation at an upcoming game. 


March 8th, 2019 at 9:46 AM ^

Thanks for adding the context I didn't in my response.  It comes down to knowing the plane you fly and the environment around and on the runway you are taking off(Is it icy, does the runway basically lead straight into the ocean, etc.) from to help determine what you should or should not take to the air to aid in the snap decision.  Taking to the air past V1 is the correct choice if it's not something that could result in your being a smoking hole.  Taking to the air with control problems(aka this issue), being underpowered in a mountainous area, basically anything that has a higher than average chance of turning into a smoking hole I always maintained it was better to take your chances on the ground.  There're a lot of things adding factors of Safety into the V1 equation that you can take advantage of and all things being equal I'd rather hit the dirt at 50-60 knots from 0'AGL than crash into it at 200 knots from high up in the sky.  It's a point of debate for sure, my point was always maintaining that flexibility was better than blindly following a rule around a speed calculated with certain assumptions that could be taken advantage of in a no-shit situation.


March 7th, 2019 at 6:00 PM ^

Here's the PDF of the full report, quite lengthy and detailed.

The summary on the NTSB site states that the main cause was an elevator jammed in the full trailing edge down position, unresponsive to controls, likely due to high winds that were accelerated by nearby structures while the plane was parked. The pilots had no way of knowing that the elevator was jammed (trailing-edge-down position can occur under normal circumstances, so visual inspection would tell the pilots nothing, and they have no way of knowing when they perform their control tests during taxi that it was jammed because there is no indicator in the plane). 

In addition, Willow Run lengthened its runoff area between 2006 and 2009 in response to a revised recommendation in 1999; this was crucial in preserving the safety of the passengers. 

It's interesting that the copilot questioned the choice to reject takeoff, but acted according to procedure once the call was made. Well done all around.


March 7th, 2019 at 11:07 PM ^

Thanks for the link to the report. The report emphasized that the co-pilot’s decision not to interfere with the aborted takeoff was worthy of extra commendation. As the co-pilot had more experience in this model of plan than the captain, and was actually training the captain on this flight (‘airplane differences instruction’); and the co-pilot was the PIC for the flight (I assume it means pilot in charge or something like that?). Thus it would have been very tempting for the co-pilot to try to take over from the captain and try to take off. Really great work by both pilots.