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    • It was a terrible tragedy to have an engine explode and kill a young mother. I can't imagine... 😢

      But the stories behind the pilot, crew and other passengers, don't they restore your belief in the goodness of people?

      It's chilling to listen to recordings of the pilot radioing the tower as she calmly said "part of the plane is missing and a passenger went out." Nerves. Of. Steel.

    • Also one of the first women ever to fly F/A-18s in the Navy, which...even when things don't go wrong, that takes nerves of steel.

      I was surprised to read in the Washington Post that she grew up near Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico:

      Shults’s persistence in becoming a pilot goes back to her upbringing on a New Mexico ranch, near Holloman Air Force Base, Shults says in the book “Military Fly Moms,” by Linda Maloney.

      “Some people grow up around aviation. I grew up under it,” she said. Watching the daily air show, she knew she “just had to fly.”

      I lived on Holloman Air Force base for a few years in the late 80s (my dad was in the Air Force) and I also loved watching the F-15s fly overhead every day. Small world!

    • I think she’s an amazing pilot and it just goes to show you how valuable stick time is.

    • My fiancée flew Southwest to Vegas for work only hours before this incident. After learning about it, she was very shaken by it. The details are harrowing.

      I’m such a nervous flyer that I can’t even fathom going through something like this. Despite the tragedy, it’s encouraging to know some of the best pilots in the world — like the one piloting this flight — are flying us around.

    • I was impressed with the pilot, I was also very impressed with the air traffic controller. The one word that came to my mind listening to the audio was... "Professionalism".

    • Yes, professionalism is the key. Commercial pilots spend many hours in simulations of all sorts of failures and are expected to know how to react when things go wrong. Single engine failure and cabin depressurization are "routine" emergencies in the sense that they happen more often than, say, total loss of hydraulics. I don't mean to trivialize the success here, but really she was just doing her job, and I suspect that's precisely what she would say. Any professional would say the same. Some jobs are more demanding than others.

    • Technically this is a bit of an interesting situation though, and not as routine as one might think; In this situation there are two major failures/problems: The loss of an engine and the loss of pressurization. Combination of these two things is not something normally trained and for the combination there is no specific checklist (there is for the two separate items). They would most likely get an engine failure indication (possibly among other indications) and a pressurization warning but without information from the cabin crew for instance, it is quite difficult to see a relation in those since one normally doesn't lead to the other.
      Everyone (pilots, attendants, controllers) is trained to remain calm but you never know how you really react until something like this happens. From the looks of it everyone, including some of the pax, did an excellent job.

    • I think this crew remembered job #1, fly the airplane.

      I saw something the other day where a 747 crew was so focused on relighting an engine at FL 41 that they almost lost the airplane and everyone aboard. Fortunately, they recovered the plane before it hit the water and were able to land at SFO. The plane suffered significant damage including a good bit of missing stab. All because of one engine out and a lack of focus on flying the airplane.

    • I think this crew remembered job #1, fly the airplane.

      That is indeed the #1 job, and one of the easiest to forget. In flight there is always one flying the airplane, something that shouldn't change during an emergency. But it is sooooo tempting as the Pilot Flying to start looking at your colleague/indications/switches, start to brainstorm a little, etc. You really have to ignore a lot of what's going on around you and fly the airplane.

      I saw something the other day where a 747 crew was so focused on relighting an engine at FL 41 that they almost lost the airplane and everyone aboard. Fortunately, they recovered the plane before it hit the water and were able to land at SFO. The plane suffered significant damage including a good bit of missing stab. All because of one engine out and a lack of focus on flying the airplane.

      I think that's the China Airlines one? The really short 747SP? The extra crappy thing is that one engine less on a 747 doesn't really affect you in any way. There is not even a memory item for it, at least not on the newer versions (not sure about the SP) we have. We are trained to leave it alone if we don't absolutely need it. If it failed it probably had a good reason for it, so we leave it be.

      On the 737 an engine less has more impact but it can still fly fine. Depressurization itself doesn't make it more difficult to fly (directly at least). So if you simply make sure to fly the airplane it will get you there; They did, and it did. I'd like to read the official report when it comes out, but it seems the crew did an excellent job from what we know at this time.

    • That's the one.

      However, the report indicates the Captain, Pilot Monitoring, and the Flight Engineer were so focused on the loss of the engine (#4) that he ignored the unequal distribution of power which lead to the airplane entering a steep dive. To slow the plane, the Captain set idle power on the three remaining engines which no one else noticed. Along the way, the aircraft ended up on its' back and did things no 747 was designed to do. The flight crew believed that because the engine had failed to restart that something else was wrong and even tho idle power was set, they believed the remaining engines and instruments also had problems. They fought to regain control.

      Their problems were exacerbated when the aircraft entered the clouds where no horizon (artificial or natural) existed (or so the crew believed). This is where the aircraft started to come apart. The gear doors, some control surfaces, and other panels came off.

      Once out of the clouds, they were able to regain control and in the denser air, the #4 engine relit and the others seemed to be "normal". The Captain was reluctant to declare an emergency until the cabin crew advised of injuries and when they did, they diverted to SFO. Pictures of the aircraft show the extent of the damage to the stabilizer and other surfaces. Only the Captain's experience enabled him to manage the decent into SFO using the engines

      This is a rare case where the flight crew made several mistakes that could easily have killed everyone on board yet everything the crew did enabled the aircraft to land with no loss of life.

      In the end (and other than a few minor maintenance items), no issues were found with the engines or instruments that could have contributed to this accident.

      After seeing that, I have to admit that all things considered, the crew did an amazing job recovering and getting all PAX on the ground with only minor injuries.

    • Ivar, so nice to see you here! Ivar is both an commercial airline pilot and an awesome photographer. Post that awesome cockpit shot you showed me the other day!

    • Yeah, not the best handled non-normal situation 😐 There was another one, I think it was a flight towards one of the NY airports, where the crew entered the holding to solve a minor problem they had, something that didn't prevent them from making a safe landing. They were all so busy with it that they ran out of fuel. 😳

    • it’s an interesting phenomenon for sure and one that happens in different industries and for similar reasons.

    • The members of this Southwest crew have said that they were "just doing their jobs," as did the 'miracle on the Hudson' crew a few years back. They're labled "Heros" by the media, but they really are just Professionals, consummate professionals to be sure, doing a job they respect (and love!) to the best of their ability, day after day. Sadly, that has become exceptional in our world.

      This one, tradgic fatality will inevitabily lead to safer skies as incipient failures are found and fixed. And it illustrates just how safe airline flying has become. Can you think of any other industry that comes close? Medical errors result in around 250,000 deaths each year; that's 4,800 per week! Imagine the outrage if 4,800 lives were to be lost in aircraft crashes next week! Every airline in the world would be grounded until things were sorted out. Yet hospitals and physicians offices remain open, and profitable.

      Commercial aviation's remarkable safety record is a tribute to "the goodness of people" as you point out, Chris. Scientists develop materials, engineers design systems and machines built and maintained by technicians and operated by flight crews supported by air traffic controllers, meteroligists, dispatchers, baggager handlers--and more. O sure, there are a few bad apples here and there, but the overwhelming majority of aviation professionals are truly Good People who are proud to do good work. In the face of relentless pressure to cut costs and boost profits every day.

      Would that there were such integrity in politics and government . . .