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Inside The Black Box

Inside The Black Box tells the story of the hours, minutes and seconds leading up to some of the worst aviation disasters in history. It looks at the investigations which followed and the lessons learned which keep us safe today.

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Episode 5 - USAF Czar 52 (Fairchild B52 Incident)

On the afternoon of the 24th of June, 1994, a crowd has gathered by the runway of the Fairchild Air Force Base in the State of Washington in the United States. The group, a mix of United States Air Force personnel and their families are here to watch a practice demonstration for the Fairchild Air Force Base Airshow, scheduled to take place the following day.   Fresh in the minds of those present is a recent disturbing incident that has taken place at the airbase. An ex airforce serviceman had entered the hospital on the base and shot and killed four people. Two of those people were doctors who had found the gunman unfit to continue military duty. The gunman was only stopped when he was shot and killed by security. The Wing commander has taken the decision to continue with the airshow and the practice, believing it is important the public see the airbase functioning as normal. Although the demonstration was scheduled to take place in the morning The display has been delayed from the morning due to the secretary of state visiting the airbase as a consequence of the hospital shooting. The demonstration flight involves a Boeing B52 Stratofortress and a KC135 aerial tanker performing a series of independent manoeuvres in front of the crowd, who watch parallel to the runway with cameras and camcorders at the ready. You are listening to Inside The Black Box. This is the story of USAF Czar 52

36mins

25 Nov 2018

Rank #1

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Episode 7 - Air France 447

At just after half past 1 in the morning on the 1st of June 2009, An Airbus A330-203 cruises at 35,000 feet above the Southern Atlantic Ocean. The aircraft departed from Rio de Janeiro at 1030 pm and is about 3 hours into its 10 and a half flight to Paris Charles De Gaulle in France. On board are 216 passengers and 12 crew members. The Airbus has just passed a navigation waypoint known as INTOL which sits about 300 miles off the Brazilian coast. A navigation waypoint is a known reference point with a given set of coordinates and is useful for both the air traffic controllers and pilots to monitor the progress of an aircraft, especially when radar coverage is not available.  The captain of the aircraft makes contact with the Atlantico Area Control Centre, responsible for controlling air traffic in this particular region of the Southern Atlantic. The captain advises Atlantico that they have just passed the INTOL waypoint and their next waypoint will be SALPU in about 15 minutes, followed by ORARO 15 minutes after that. The Atlantico controller advises AF447 to contact Dakar, the next area control centre on the aircraft’s journey, after passing a further waypoint, TASIL. The pilots ask the Atlantico Area Control Centre to perform a test on a piece of their radio equipment. With the check successfully completed, the crew are advised to maintain their altitude of 35,000 feet. The captain acknowledges the instruction. It is the last time anybody will hear from the crew of the Airbus A330.  What has begun as a routine flight across the Atlantic Ocean will become one of the most lengthy and complex air accident investigations in history. You are listening to Inside The Black Box. This is the story of Air France Flight 447.

1hr 4mins

25 Feb 2019

Rank #2

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Episode 3 - American Airlines 191

At just before 3pm on May 25th, 1979. American Airlines Flight 191 begins to push back from gate K5 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The airport is busy, It is the Friday before the Memorial Day long weekend and many are travelling to be with their families or going on holiday. The aircraft chosen to fly the route. a McDonnel Douglas DC-10 is at capacity, carrying 258 passengers and 13 crew members. American 191’s destination is Los Angeles, California. In command of the aircraft is Captain Walter Lux, aged 53. A veteran pilot, with more than 22,000 hours flying experience. Supporting him is First Officer James Dillard, aged 49 who has more than 9,000 hours flight time. He will be piloting the aircraft this afternoon Finally, completing the crew is Flight Engineer Alfred Udovich, aged 56. Before the introduction of advanced electronics, a flight engineer was the third member of an airliner’s flight crew, tasked with monitoring, operating and fixing an aircraft’s systems while in flight. The DC-10 is a complex aircraft, with three engines. Two are mounted on the wings, while one is mounted on the tail of the aircraft. This configuration of aircraft, known as tri-jet was very popular with US airlines during the 1970s and 1980s, offering a compromise in size and range between larger four engine aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and smaller twin-engine aircraft such as the Airbus A300 After pushing back from Gate K5, the pilots begin their taxi to Runway 32 Right. As the crew travel across the busy airport the crew complete their final pre-flight checks on the move so they can take-off as soon as they arrive at the runway. This is known as a rolling takeoff. It is Flight Engineer Udovich who reads through the aircraft’s checklist while Captain Lux and First Officer Dillard perform the necessary checks.. At 2 minutes past 3 the aircraft is approaching the runway and Chiacgo’s Air Traffic Control gives American 191 clearance for takeoff. Captain Lux acknowledges the tower’s instruction. It is the last time anybody will hear from American Airlines 191. This is the story of American Airlines 191 and you are listening to Inside The Black Box. Drawing of bulkhead structure: http://code7700.com/images/aa_191_pylon_assembly_ntsb_aar_79-17.png Drawing of engine assembly http://code7700.com/images/aa_191_engine_and_pylon_assembly_ntsb_aar_79-17.png Follow the show on Twitter

28mins

6 Sep 2018

Rank #3

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Episode 2 - Valujet 592

It is just after 2pm on the Saturday the 11th of May 1996. A McDonnell Douglas DC9 lines up on Runway 9L at Miami International Airport. The DC-9 is being operated by Valujet, a low-cost carrier in operation since only 1992. Valujet Flight 592’s destination is Atlanta, Georgia. The DC-9 carries 105 passengers and 5 crew members. In command is Captain Candalyn Kubeck (aged 35) and First Officer Richard Hazen (aged 52). Their departure from Miami has been delayed by just over an hour due to mechanical problems. The aircraft’s autopilot is not functioning and the cabin to cockpit intercom is also not operational. Nevertheless, these faults are not severe enough to ground the aircraft and the flight can continue. First Officer Hazen smoothly applies takeoff power while Kubeck controls the aircraft during the takeoff roll. Hazen calls out the aircraft’s progress as it gathers speed down the runway. - V1 – The speed at which Captain Kubeck must decide whether to continue or abort the takeoff. - VR – The speed at which Kubeck begins to climb the aircraft - V2 – The speed at which the aircraft can still takeoff should an engine fail. The takeoff is entirely uneventful and the DC-9 begins climbing into a blue Florida sky. Nobody onboard are aware that a chain reaction of events has already begun which will leave the passengers and crew dead within 10 minutes. Follow the show on Twitter

22mins

16 Jul 2018

Rank #4

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Episode 8 - Alaska Airlines 261

On the 21st of January 2000 at 3:50pm, a  McDonnel Douglas MD83 flies above the Pacific Ocean, about 25 miles off the Californian coast of the United States. Alaska Airlines flight 261 departed from the international airport at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico about 2 and a half hours ago, bound for the United States. Its first planned stop is San Francisco, California, before its final destination of Seattle in the state of Washington. On board the flight are 83 passengers and 5 crew members. As well as the 5 crew members, an additional 25 passengers are connected with the airline in some way. It is common for Alaska Airlines to use underbooked flights to transport personnel. Today the McDonnell Douglas MD83 is being crewed by two highly experienced pilots. The Captain, Ted Thompson aged 53 is an air force veteran and has amassed nearly 18,000 hours of flight experience including more than 4,000 as pilot in command of the MD-80 series of aircraft. He is supported by First Officer Bill Tansky, aged 57 with more than 8,000 hours flight experience, almost all of which are at the controls of the MD-80 series of aircraft. Tansky is two years away from retirement from Alaska Airlines after a successful career. The MD-80 series of aircraft is derived from the venerable DC-9, with the fuselage being lengthened, more fuel efficient engines being fitted and advanced avionics being provided. At this moment a crisis is unfolding in the aircraft which had its origins years earlier. What starts as a routine flight will turn into a battle between the pilots and the aircraft which will destroy them both.

1hr 2mins

2 May 2019

Rank #5