After four emergency landings in Guam in the past couple of weeks, Continental/United made a statement to the press.
Actually, four emergency landings…that’s not that unusual, is it? Of course, they were all at the same airport, with the same airline. I’ve written here recently about shabby looking, poorly maintained commercial airlines. As frequently as I fly, I really do not want to worry about whether or not a plane is capable of staying in the air. I don’t want to worry about a crew with a crippling pecking order, or pilots who don’t know how to fly. I really don’t want to worry about a broken plane.
I am always pointing out the need for maintenance to keep a plane in peak running order. Maintenance is important; and also, the pilots tell me that it is crucial to keep an eye on safety directives, and concurrent events which may reveal crucial matters affecting entire fleets, such as operating parts nearing the end of their lifespan, faulty parts, etc…
So someone should maybe look closely at those flights, and see if there is some factor that applies. Better to have prevention now, beforehand, than have a disaster happen, and lawyers looking into it after it is too late. Have these Guam flights been problematic in the past? Why are there problems now?I might ask how necessary are those flights?
About those 4 landings, Koji Nagata Director of Corporate Communications said that:
“We treat any issue aboard our aircraft seriously and our pilots will not hesitate to declare an emergency, when the situation warrants, in ensuring landing priority and returning our passengers and crew safely to the ground as quickly as possible. Typically a declaration of an emergency is precautionary in nature, as was true with both cases in question, and the situations were effectively managed without incident.”
Sure it would be great to never have emergencies. However. The time to handle an emergency IS BEFORE it turns tragic. Being able to handle emergencies is one safety skill at the top of the list of pilot skills, and one that can not be separated from the other skill that is becoming alarming among pilots (pilots who are losing the ability to fly due to automation.)
Sometimes factors are not clear. For example, it is true that in some recent tragic situations like the RusAir jet crash I talked about yesterday, there was a problem in the cockpit that prevented the crew from coping with the emergency. Bad flying? Primitive Airport? Insubordinate navigator and Inexperienced pilot? But it all came down to one conclusion: together or not, at that date and time, they were unable to cope with their emergency-bad weather, foggy landing, a plane that is a flying behemoth landing in a primitive airport, and they took down a whole plane full of people with them.
And as for the four emergency landings Continental/United experienced recently:
-the air speed indicator (PITOT tubes? like in AF447),
– -two landing gear situations
-and in the Guam flight CO-117, altitude equipment failure (another tube?)
The landing gear situations could reflect bad tires, hydraulics, landing at too fast, or even runway conditions; altitude and airspeed problems could be anything on the system, from the tubes to the electronics. Only detailed examination will reveal if there is some common cause
The planes landed safely. An emergency landing, a precautionary landing (whatever they want to call it), they handled the emergencies proactively, and landed safely. It is a whole lot better than the alternative.