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What: All Nippon Airways Boeing 737-700 en route from Okinawa to Tokyo Haneda
When: Sep 6th 2011
Who: 2 crew injured
Why: While en route, the co-pilot accidentally activated the rudder trim switch instead of the door mechanism.
The plane descended 6000 feet and rolled, injuring a couple of flight attendants. The first officer—2400 hours— leveled off, and was able to admit the captain who was stuck outside the cockpit, waiting to get in.
The flight continued without incident.
In George’s Point of View
If there is a problem, it comes out, eventually. My pilots tell me that after there is some kind of incident, we need to keep an eye on new incidents, reports, recalls, and especially advisories, directives and safety alerts. There can always be a relationship, no matter how obscure it seems at first glance.
You know how everyone has been looking at Air France Flight 447 with a new eye, ever since examination into the Air France Flight 471 on July 22 apparently fooled the autopilot into quitting with a swift descent. And Airbus investigators looked at this event twice because you have two the same plane types doing something similar?
Well, on the surface, this Nippon incident reminds me of Ethiopia Flight 409. It only reminds me because I saw a line drawing of the route of the plane as it spiraled out of control. It also was a 737.
I’m not calling the situation identical. Certainly if one of the pilots were locked out on a bathroom break—not that a pilot would do this on takeoff!—it would turn up on the voice recorder.
What if on Ethiopia Flight 409, someone had needed admission into the cabin?
It just makes me wonder if it is possible that the cabin crew accidentally activated the rudder trim switch. The Ethiopian Airlines plane had just taken off; it would not have been high enough to drop 6000 feet before recovery.
I know this thought is right out of the blue, and probably has no basis in anything but my wild imagination, but I am told by my pilots that although the switches are dissimilar, the door unlock switch is right next to the rudder trim. So, is it possible the trim switch could have been inappropriately engaged by accident on Flight 409?
Some airlines rectify this by requiring a third party to open the door if someone leaves the cockpit, but I have to wonder if this could be a design problem.