Sunday, February 24, 2019

NTSB Brief Atlas 5Y3591 Sun 4pm CST

NTSB chairman Sumwalt has seen video of the last five seconds to the impact of Atlas 5Y3591 and confirms it was in a steep, wings-level dive and made no visible attempt to pull up. The debris field is approximately 200 yards long by 100 yards wide in a NW orientation, consistent with the aircraft steep trajectory and high speed. The steep descent began with light to heavy rain in the area, from about 6,000 feet at 240 knots airspeed. There was no communication from the flight crew after their routine approach. They were descending from 18,000 feet for 3.000 feet when the event occurred. 

The flight had departed from Miami at 11:30 EST and crashed at about 12:39 EST.

Both airplane wings are located within the debris field. The landing gear continued on a bit beyond the main wreckage. NTSB and local Sheriff Hawthorne commented that any fuel had spilled into the water did not appear to be in heavy concentration or present a hazard. It will take analysis to confirm the amount of fuel onboard at the time of the accident.

The conditions in the debris field are remote and largely inaccessible. The prevailing winds are favoring the shallow water, making approach with anything but airboats impossible. As conditions change, more water will deepen the approach but also the water over the wreckage.

There is no hope for survivors, so the actions are recovery. Two bodies are with the medical examiner pending release of positive ID.  The third victim has not been located yet, nor have either the Flight Data Recorder or the Cockpit Voice Recorder. Locating the recorders is difficult as the underwater pingers may be buried too deeply in mud to be heard. NTSB said that various methods from listening for the pings, from physically walking through and feeling for the boxes, to dredging will be pursued as needed. 

Parts will be barged to land, cleaned and inspected in a nearby hanger. NTSB stated that there was no hazardous material onboard the ill-fated freighter.

NTSB reiterated that the current priority is gathering the perishable evidence. Analysis is expected to take 12-18 months in partnership with Boeing, Atlas, GE, Pilots, and ATC reps. Weather, radar,  crew background, and other factors will be included.  The video will be released when the NTSB makes the docket for the accident available, which may be some months away.

Stay tuned!

Peter Lemme

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Peter Lemme has been a leader in avionics engineering for 38 years. He offers independent consulting services largely focused on avionics and L, Ku, and Ka band satellite communications to aircraft. Peter chaired the SAE-ITC AEEC Ku/Ka-band satcom subcommittee for more than ten years, developing ARINC 791 and 792 characteristics, and continues as a member. He contributes to the Network Infrastructure and Interfaces (NIS) subcommittee developing Project Paper 848, standard for Media Independent Secure Offboard Network.

Peter was Boeing avionics supervisor for 767 and 747-400 data link recording, data link reporting, and satellite communications. He was an FAA designated engineering representative (DER) for ACARS, satellite communications, DFDAU, DFDR, ACMS and printers. Peter was lead engineer for Thrust Management System (757, 767, 747-400), also supervisor for satellite communications for 777, and was manager of terminal-area projects (GLS, MLS, enhanced vision).

An instrument-rated private pilot, single engine land and sea, Peter has enjoyed perspectives from both operating and designing airplanes. Hundreds of hours of flight test analysis and thousands of hours in simulators have given him an appreciation for the many aspects that drive aviation; whether tandem complexity, policy, human, or technical; and the difficulties and challenges to achieving success.

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