Sunday, January 18, 2009


Better Bremner: on airmanship and Airbus

In his blog post from last Friday, Airmanship, not miracle, saved US Airways jet in New York, Charles Bremner demonstrates that he is much more knowledgeable (perhaps because more interested--quote I can imagine the picture well because I used to pilot light aircraft along the same low path over the George Washington Bridge and down the Hudson beside Manhattan.) about planes and flying than the place of China in the global supply chains. I recommend this piece, as well as two ( In case you were wondering, about that airplane in the Hudson and Two quick followups about the airplane in the Hudson) by James Fallows, another experienced pilot.

Since Bremner is sometimes accused of French-bashing (by SuperFrenchie, for one: "Bremner: Maybe We Can No Longer Say We’re So Superior But That Ain’t Gonna Prevent Us From Bashing You Anyway!") I'd like to highlight his inclusion of this paragraph:
Praise is also going to the three cabin crew who organised the evacuation of the 150 passengers. And there is credit for the French-based European Airbus firm for building a tough airliner. Among other things, unlike Boeings, the Airbus has an emergency "Ditch button", which closes vents and makes the fuselage more watertight. Airbus pilots have always been sceptical about the button, on the overhead panel. Today, they are saying today "Oh, so that's what it's for."

[UPDATE] In The Guardian story "Pilot tells of crash-landing as plane pulled from Hudson river" it is noted that (emphasis mine):
The co-pilot kept trying to restart the engines, while checking off emergency landing procedures that the crew normally begins at 35,000 feet, rather than their altitude of 3,000ft (900 metres).

After guiding the gliding jet over the George Washington Bridge, Sullenberger picked a stretch of water near Manhattan's commuter ferry terminals to land. Rescuers were able to arrive within minutes.

The descent happened so fast the crew never threw the aircraft's "ditch switch," which seals off vents and holes in the fuselage to make it more seaworthy.

Nevertheless, I'm glad to know Airbus has this feature.

Postscipt: I had happened to catch the television coverage, live, as the passengers and crew were pulled on to the boats which had quickly clustered around the floating plane. I try to believe I would have turned it off if things had gone badly. I almost turned it off very quickly because one of the French "journalists" providing commentary on i-télé kept talking about the plane which had gone down in Hudson's Bay! French can be geographically challenged, too, evidently.

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