back to article Tablet computer zoom error saw plane fly 13 hours with 46cm hole

A Qatar Airways Boeing 777 travelling from Miami to Doha struck airport lights during takeoff and suffered a 46 cm tear in the fuselage, thanks in part to a pilot zooming in too far on a tablet computer. Flight QR778 left Miami on September 15th but as it took off, hit airport landing lights. On arrival the plane was found to …

  1. ideapete
    Pint

    Goooooooo Bill

    Windows 8 OS Needs Zoooooom to read runway signs and Zooooom out to see where you friging are on the Runway on a multi million dollar plane. . Thank you Bill Gates bloody we'll done

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Goooooooo Bill

      You can hardly blame Windows (if indeed the tablet was even running Windows) for a poorly designed app. If a guy driving a Focus runs over your dog, is it Ford's fault?

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: Goooooooo Bill

        "You can hardly blame Windows (if indeed the tablet was even running Windows) for a poorly designed app. If a guy driving a Focus runs over your dog, is it Ford's fault?"

        That depends if the design of the vehicle / controls contributed to the accident doesn't it? If you couldn't see the dog because the driver's position had poor visibility, or because the brakes took too long to respond then yes Ford would have some blame to share for the accident.

        I have no idea what OS the tablet was running or what software. But if it did something that compromised safety / procedure then yes you could blame it to some degree.

        The article suggests the accident happened because the pilot zoomed in to see some taxi marker labels. And in doing so he screwed up his takeoff procedure and nearly crashed his plane. Something as simple as increasing the font size and / or limiting the zoom could have averted a potentially catastrophic accident. And if that's the case then yes the software played its part in the accident.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Goooooooo Bill

          "That depends if the design of the vehicle / controls contributed to the accident doesn't it? If you couldn't see the dog because the driver's position had poor visibility, or because the brakes took too long to respond then yes Ford would have some blame to share for the accident"

          No - they wouldn't

          Both of those things should be in the experience of the driver - and they should be accomodating them.

          1. DrXym Silver badge

            Re: Goooooooo Bill

            "No - they wouldn't

            Both of those things should be in the experience of the driver - and they should be accomodating them."

            Er yes they would if you bothered to read what I wrote. If a car had a fault such that visibility was impeded or the brakes didn't apply quickly enough then the manufacturer shares some of the blame for any accident that those flaws contributed to.

            And the same goes for software, particular software which has a safety aspect. In this case a plane nearly crashed because a font was too small and the pilot zoomed in too far. A mistake that could have been anticipated and if it had been could have averted a potential disaster. Think about that and come back when the penny drops.

            1. ChrisBedford

              Re: Goooooooo Bill

              "If a car had a fault such that visibility was impeded or the brakes didn't apply quickly enough then the manufacturer shares some of the blame for any accident that those flaws contributed to."

              OK well I guess that's the American philosophy, i.e. "It can't be my fault, someone else must take the blame". The last hammer I bought has a fault: there is no safety mechanism to prevent you from hitting your own thumb with it, ergo the company that made it shares some of the blame for my injury.

              1. DrXym Silver badge

                Re: Goooooooo Bill

                "OK well I guess that's the American philosophy, i.e. "It can't be my fault, someone else must take the blame". The last hammer I bought has a fault: there is no safety mechanism to prevent you from hitting your own thumb with it, ergo the company that made it shares some of the blame for my injury."

                No, it's not "American philosophy". It's the obvious and demonstrable point of fact.

                When a catastrophic error occurs, there are invariably a combination of factors that contributed to it. If you can't see the dog because the car has an unusually bad field of view, or the brakes don't work as you expect then that's a contributing factor. There are no two ways about it. Ford is not absolved of blame if this were the case.

                And it happens all the time in cars. They get recalls because it turns out the brakes are defective, or the steering is, or the safety belts, or the software..

                It's a point that appears to elude people. Software and hardware that have a safety function have to anticipate and prevent user error. If a pilot is supposed to be calculating their takeoff then the software running on a tablet has to make such an action explicit and obvious to minimize error. If the guy is zoomed in looking at labels because they're so small then that is a flaw. Perhaps there are also procedural errors that could be corrected by requiring the copilot to independently confirm the figures. Whatever the contributing factors were it nearly cost the lives of everyone on board.

            2. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: Goooooooo Bill

              "Er yes they would if you bothered to read what I wrote. If a car had a fault such that visibility was impeded or the brakes didn't apply quickly enough then the manufacturer shares some of the blame for any accident that those flaws contributed to."

              Actually - you said design, not fault.

              If the brakes failed at that instant then you get to share the blame with someone - but that's why there are two braking systems, so that you never have total failure at one instant.

              If there was only one braking circuit, and the master cylinder exploded then I'd start to blame manufacture...

        2. Steven Raith

          Re: Goooooooo Bill

          "That depends if the design of the vehicle / controls contributed to the accident doesn't it? If you couldn't see the dog because the driver's position had poor visibility, or because the brakes took too long to respond then yes Ford would have some blame to share for the accident"

          No. A thousands times, no.

          My car has wide a-pillars, and the brakes aren't hugely assisted.

          I get around this by leaning around the cabin a bit to see entries to junctions (to mitigate my blind spot where the A-pillars are from a normal seated position) and by pressing the brake pedal harder then you would in, say, a new Corsa.

          As the driver, it's *my* responsibility to know how to use my car safely and to *not* drive it if I feel that's not possible. Nobody elses.

          Steven R

        3. GavinC

          Re: Goooooooo Bill

          " Something as simple as increasing the font size and / or limiting the zoom could have averted a potentially catastrophic accident."

          Unfortunately its not as simple as that. Airports are large, complicated places, and fitting all the information on one screen is just not possible. The only way to make it readable is to zoom in. Think looking at a google map showing all of London, and expecting to see every street name on the screen - not going to happen.

          If you visit http://avherald.com/h?article=48c78b3a&opt=0 you will see a screenshot of the application in question, zoomed as they appear to have had it set. They departed using the runway at the bottom of the screenshot, and entered using taxiway T1 (the far left), which as you can see appears to be the end of the runway. In fact it is not, and the runway actually extends 411m beyond the screenshot.

          As you can also see, this screen is quite cluttered, and there is simply no room to display the text if you are zoomed out any further.

          Additionally, according to the linked article, there may also have been some confusion caused by some non-standard phraseology used at the airport. They were instructed to depart "Runway 09#T1", which is used to refer to a full length takeoff. It seems they may have confused this with a take-off beginning from taxiway T1.

          1. Johan Bastiaansen

            Re: Goooooooo Bill

            "They were instructed to depart "Runway 09#T1", which is used to refer to a full length takeoff. It seems they may have confused this with a take-off beginning from taxiway T1."

            Well, that's confusion terminology isn't it. They could have called the departing aircraft T1 and the control tower also T1 I guess.

            We don't need these sloppy systems that are so prone to error and misunderstandings.

            We need robust systems, where an error is corrected.

            Surely the airport has radar as well. Didn't anybody notice that the plane didn't take off from the start of the runway?

            Why doesn't the runway count down in big numbers the remaining length of the runway at every 500 meters? Noooo, we have a smart system with coloured lines. Off course you do. And when the aircraft reaches the coloured lines, it's too late to abort the take off. How very smart of you.

            No doubt they will attribute it to human error again. They've got that right, but they're aiming at the wrong humans. They are the ones who pile mistake on mistake and refuse to accept any responsibility.

            These systems is set up by fools who see no problem in losing a plane fully loaded with crew and passengers in mid-air and see no reason to install a simple GPS system like the ones installed in company owned vans and trucks.

            Can't we give them a rubber dinghy and make them search the seas for that missing Malaysian airliner?

          2. Mark 85 Silver badge

            @GavinC -- Re: Goooooooo Bill

            I guess no one looked out the window and saw an abundance of runway in the other direction? Which at one time was normal practice. First off to see if you were getting the full runway and secondly to make sure the tower didn't screw up and have a plane coming in while you're trying to take off*.

            *It's happened more than once...

          3. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: Goooooooo Bill

            " Something as simple as increasing the font size and / or limiting the zoom could have averted a potentially catastrophic accident."

            Unfortunately its not as simple as that. Airports are large, complicated places, and fitting all the information on one screen is just not possible. The only way to make it readable is to zoom in.

            Or... I dunno... carry a flippin' paper map which has all the information clearly labelled all the time with no need to zoom or scroll? Didn't a typical ICAO map containing all the necessary and relevant information fit neatly into an A4 ring binder or something (not a pilot, just a vague memory from seeing things on TV). Haven't they been used pretty successfully for the last 70-odd years?

            I understand that the functions carried out by these tablets remove a heck of a lot of unwieldy paperwork, etc, from the pilots and probably make keeping up-to-date with changes easier, but there has to be something said for paper. I say this as the owner of a shelf of paper maps and several "road atlases" with no dedicated GPS device and whose mobile phone (which can do GPS) has that function switched off nearly all the time.

            Here's a thought. Couldn't the map on the tablet be set to scroll automatically so that the current position of the aircraft is always in the centre, and perhaps set so that labels in the immediate vicinity of the aircraft are made more obvious (larger) on the screen by removing more distant (and irrelevant) labels? This implies that the tablet either has an independent positioning facility or can receive data from the aircraft systems, both of which I can see might be a problem, but surely not insurmountable.

            Ooh, ooh, and if the tablet (or, for that matter, the aircraft) knows where it is, couldn't there be a readout somewhere that says "you have <d>meters of runway from this position and have programmed in a takeoff run of <r> meters"?

            Nah. Silly. Welcome our brain-replacing unthinking tablet overlords.

            M.

            1. Vic

              Re: Goooooooo Bill

              Didn't a typical ICAO map containing all the necessary and relevant information fit neatly into an A4 ring binder or something

              Mine are approximately A5. A tablet is actually nicer to use in many respects - particularly at night. And zooming is good (the paper ones are fairly small print, can be quite tricky to read in low-light conditions). But that doesn't mean electronic trumps paper; it's simply a tool, and it is up to the pilot to ensure he uses his tools correctly.

              Here's a thought. Couldn't the map on the tablet be set to scroll automatically so that the current position of the aircraft is always in the centre

              Dear $deity, please no. If you are not currently in the centre of the runway, you'd need to zoom right out to find stuff out towards the airfield perimeter - negating pretty much all the benefits of using a tablet in the first place...

              Ooh, ooh, and if the tablet (or, for that matter, the aircraft) knows where it is, couldn't there be a readout somewhere that says "you have <d>meters of runway from this position and have programmed in a takeoff run of <r> meters"?

              That's adding quite a bit of complexity to a system without a whole lot of benefit - remember that we're only discussing this because of a very rare incident. Piloits are supposed to know where they are in the airfield, and have planned appropriately for their flight. In the event that they are unsure, they can call the tower for clarification of anything. And transport aircraft always have multiple crew; this accident only occurred because the captain overestimated his own capability and the remaining crew were scared to challenge him. Both of these situations are specifically warned against in the Human Performace and Limitations[1] training (that we've all had).

              Vic.

              [1] The name has changed since I did the exam...

              1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                Re: Goooooooo Bill

                A tablet is actually nicer to use in many respects - particularly at night.

                Doesn't it create problems with your night vision, alternately looking out of the window and trying to read small print on a brightly-lit tablet screen?

                And zooming is good (the paper ones are fairly small print, can be quite tricky to read in low-light conditions). But that doesn't mean electronic trumps paper; it's simply a tool, and it is up to the pilot to ensure he uses his tools correctly.

                Well yes, and I suppose that this is the real moral of the story, alongside the bit about there having been three additional pilots (if I read it correctly) monitoring, and none of them challenging the decision. I know there's sometimes one extra pilot - training for example - but two?

                Anyway, I refer the honourable gentlemen to the "Ipswitch" episode of Cabin Pressure, a link for an excerpt from which I have provided elsewhere ;-)

                M.

                1. Vic

                  Re: Goooooooo Bill

                  Doesn't it create problems with your night vision, alternately looking out of the window and trying to read small print on a brightly-lit tablet screen?

                  Even my super-cheapie Android has the ability to turn the brightness down...

                  alongside the bit about there having been three additional pilots (if I read it correctly) monitoring, and none of them challenging the decision

                  There were two crews in the aircraft. The FO of the flying crew confirmed he was happy with the dewcision[1]. Both the relief crew were not, but the Captain's response convinced them that he knew what he was doing. But he didn't.

                  I know there's sometimes one extra pilot - training for example - but two?

                  It was a relief crew. Pilots have a maximum number of hours they can fly per day, and 13 hours is a fairly long flight - longer than a single crew is permitted to fly under FAA regulations.

                  I refer the honourable gentlemen to the "Ipswitch" episode of Cabin Pressure

                  Well, the terminology was a little different from that, but the FO had already said there was a problem by using the standard procedures. The aircraft was in the last 900m of the runway, and he had not called "V1". To put that into context, Miami's runway 09 is 3967m long, and the aircraft actually used 2866m of runway before the wheels lifted. Proper procedure, AIUI, would be to reject the takeoff. And frankly, that would have been a difficult task on a wet runway...

                  Vic.

            2. DrXym Silver badge

              Re: Goooooooo Bill

              I expect the idea is that a tablet can replace dozens of paper binders which have their own ability to be inaccurate and prone to error.

              In any event software doesn't get a free pass. Particularly software with a critical safety element such as this software. Some people on this thread (not you) clearly don't have the capacity to appreciate that.

              1. Vic

                Re: Goooooooo Bill

                Particularly software with a critical safety element such as this software.

                The software in question has no "critical safety element"; it's just a map.

                The pilot has the responsibility to read that map correctly.

                Vic.

          4. RubberJohnny

            Re: Goooooooo Bill

            Unfortunately its not as simple as that. Airports are large, complicated places, and fitting all the information on one screen is just not possible.

            Traditional paper Jeppesen or Bottlang paper charts for airports are not actually very big, smaller than an iPad screen.

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: Goooooooo Bill

              >Traditional paper Jeppesen or Bottlang paper charts for airports are not actually very big, smaller than an iPad screen.<

              length x width. What about depth? If a flight is from Miami to Doha then would paper on-board charts need to cover all possible landing points in between, just in case?

              1. Vic

                Re: Goooooooo Bill

                length x width. What about depth?

                Really thin. It's a piece of paper :-)

                If a flight is from Miami to Doha then would paper on-board charts need to cover all possible landing points in between, just in case?

                There is a plate available for each airport. It is the flight crew's decision as to what they carry[1] - they are the ones who need to be prepared.

                Historically, a flight would often carry an entire book of plates. This isn't enormous, but it's one of several references that the crew might need, and it needs updating form time to time.

                This is the reason many are moving to the Electronic Flight Bag; it's a lot less hassle to carry about with you.

                Vic.

                [1] My guide is in a ring binder, so I generally take out the plates I think I might need and put them in my kneeboard. But I'm not ATPL.

        4. Astcuzene

          Re: Goooooooo Bill

          Sniff, sniff........

          I smell Democrats in this room. There's a potential Hillary Clinton voter who..has to be stopped.

      2. sgp

        Re: Goooooooo Bill

        "If a guy driving a Focus runs over your dog, is it Ford's fault?"

        Clearly. Dig up Henry and sue him.

      3. 080

        Re: Goooooooo Bill

        If a guy driving a Focus runs over your dog, is it Ford's fault?

        Nope, it's yours for not controlling the mutt.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Goooooooo Bill

        If a guy driving a Focus runs over your dog, is it Ford's fault?

        No, no, it's still Bill's fault. Don't confuse us with real life examples, we're in IT.

        (yes, I'm kidding. It's Friday, after all and there's no BOFH story).

      5. JLV Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Goooooooo Bill

        >If a guy driving a Focus runs over your dog, is it Ford's fault?

        No, it's Microsoft's fault, on a pre-2014 Focus at least. The MS-sourced onboard entertainment system is sooooo crappy that anyone dealing with it for more than 5 minutes becomes a homicidal maniac, thus targeting poor innocent Fidos to vent.

        Seriously, anyone ever managed to connect their smartphone's music to that POS via Bluetooth? The voice feedback kept on directing me to do something or other on a non-existent menu option to get it to work.

    2. Known Hero

      Re: Goooooooo Bill

      I was under the assumption from (BA) pilot friends that they use IOS in the cockpit?

      Does this differ from airline to airline, can the Reg find out what device they use as standard in the carrier involved, you know, investigative reporting.

    3. Halfmad

      Re: Goooooooo Bill

      iPad is most likely at fault - so let's blame Windows.

      Welcome to The Register, where Windows bashing is mandatory even if it can't be justified by any logical means.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Goooooooo Bill

        Welcome to The Register, where Windows bashing is mandatory even if it can't be justified by any logical means.

        You're saying that as if it's a bad thing?

      2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: iPad is most likely at fault - so let's blame Windows.

        Definitely Microsoft's fault. As a kid the Pilot was given Flight Simulator as a Christmas present and he was so enthused by it that he became a pilot.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Goooooooo Bill

      You don't use 10" to 13" displays very often do you? Even an eagle might have a difficult time reading some text unless "Zooooom" (As you call it) is on.

      Please don't touch the keyboard if you don't know how to use the equipment.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Goooooooo Bill

        adaptive zoom might add and remove information at various levels as appropriate. What is the point zooming out and getting a cluttered screen of garbage?

        It is the pilots fault for not being prepared for the flight.

    5. Voland's right hand Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: Goooooooo Bill

      Donald, is this you?

      The rest of the world knows very well that Billy Boy does not work at MSFT nowdays and has had very little to do with the current build of Windows for Tablet PCs. It takes a retard with hair control challenges not to know that.

  2. Eric Olson

    Human arrogance leads to human error

    This can either be seen as a strike against the use of technology or against allowing humanity to use technology.

    I just see it as a strike against hubris... something that's taken trillions of strikes but refuses to step out of the batter's box. I'm sure this won't be the last time, either.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Human arrogance leads to human error

      Indeed, it's the end times. Something a split-screen overview and zoomed-in view cannot fix at all.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Human arrogance leads to human error

      Not quite.

      There is an ongoing issue with Asian airlines. In most of these countries it is considered culturally unacceptable to challenge the decision of a superior. It does not matter what the flight manual say, it does not matter what the company code say - the second in command will smile, say yes sir and pray.

      Incidents like this for the same reason (secondaries not challenging the captain or higher ranking officer) happen regularly on Asian airline flights. The previous well known one was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asiana_Airlines_Flight_214 . If I dig for a while I will dig out > 1 every 3 month on average which has been reported (from public sources) with airlines from that region (pretty much all countries south of China and between India and Japan). The amount which goes on unreported is "god knows".

      Unfortunately, despite this being well known as a recurring issue they are not being prohibited from flying to USA and Europe.

  3. DougS Silver badge
    Devil

    If only they required pilots to have good eyesight

    They wouldn't need to zoom their tablet to be able to read the runway names!

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: If only they required pilots to have good eyesight

      Maybe he lied and was actually watching porn?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: If only they required pilots to have good eyesight

        If the taxiway names ha been in braille he wouldn;t have needed to zoom in

  4. Turtle

    Typo Or Not?

    "An EFB, or “Electronic Flight Bag”, is a system that places all the documents pilots need in a table computer instead of a weighty bag full of printed material."

    I'm not 100% sure that "table computer" is a typo. Is it? I can easily imagine there being such a thing as a "table computer".

    The only place that I recall seeing something that would qualify, though, is in a James Bond movie, possibly Casino Royale (the new one) but maybe not, where some people are examining banknotes, the images of the banknotes being projected on a very large, table-sized touch-screen that was being used as a table i.e.the screen was laid flat, like a table-top. Of course, such a thing intended for use in an airliner cockpit would be rather smaller.

    1. Turtle

      @Turtle Re: Typo Or Not?

      You idiot. Didn't you see that the article's sub-headline says "tablet" so "table" is probably a typo.

      Sheesh!

      1. RIBrsiq
        Thumb Up

        Re: @Turtle Typo Or Not?

        It's OK: I talk to myself all the time. It's perfectly normal. Or that's what I tell myself.

        Admittedly, I don't do it on Internet forums... :-)

        1. Turtle

          @ RIBrsiq Re: @Turtle Typo Or Not?

          "Admittedly, I don't do it on Internet forums..."

          Maybe it's time to start....

          : )

          1. Calum Morrison

            Re: @ RIBrsiq @Turtle Typo Or Not?

            It's not so long ago (it seems to me, but time flies as I get older) Microsoft were demoing a table computer. IIRC it was a big flat touchscreen desk thing, running XP that you all sat around and tweaked and pulled at. Then apple launched the ipad.

            1. Hellcat

              Re: @ RIBrsiq @Turtle Typo Or Not?

              Ah, the original "Surface".

              I use Jepperson marine charts that have a zoom for more detail function - the maps are vector rather than raster. I wonder if their aeronautical maps have the same. If so, then the taxiway labels would not show above a certain zoom and may be something that at least needs to be investigated.

            2. Proton Wrangler

              Re: @ RIBrsiq @Turtle Typo Or Not?

              Why yes, and it was a prototype project called Microsoft Surface. (cue dramatic music)

              A friend was hired into the Surface group at MS and worked on this in his first assignment, which didn't last too long as I recall. 2009 may have been the approximate year? I can't find any hits on it with a quick web search because everything returned is about the latter-day Surface.

              1. EddieD

                Re: @ RIBrsiq @Turtle Typo Or Not?

                V2 is now the Samsung Sur40 iirc

          2. RIBrsiq
            Happy

            Re: @ RIBrsiq @Turtle Typo Or Not?

            "Maybe it's time to start".

            I think you have an excellent point. I'll be sure to bring it up in my next discussion with me.

        2. PNGuinn Silver badge
          Go

          "Admittedly, I don't do it on Internet forums... :-)"

          Why ever not?

          This is elReg after all. And its friday.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Typo Or Not?

      I can easily imagine there being such a thing as a "table computer".

      Indeed so: http://www.wired.com/2012/11/kitchen-computer/

  5. Tom 7 Silver badge

    A tablet in a cockpit is a recipe for disaster.

    How many of you sit next to a window to use your tablet? Try it - that's what its like in a cockpit.

    Fucking impossible.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: A tablet in a cockpit is a recipe for disaster.

      Actually it's very common. From what I've read, very few pilots bother with paper maps anymore, they all use iPads instead.

      And yes, this flight was very very lucky to have made it to destination. Hope the pilot gets a good kicking from his employer, though.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: A tablet in a cockpit is a recipe for disaster.

        Just because its common doesnt make it sensible. Jesus - watching people wave these things around on the beach trying to see whats on the screen is one thing but when its stuck on you're lap in a plane while you press buttons and push levers...FFS

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A tablet in a cockpit is a recipe for disaster.

        > Hope the pilot gets a good kicking from his employer, though.

        Two of the four pilots in the cockpit at the time have since been shitcanned.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A tablet in a cockpit is a recipe for disaster.

        "And yes, this flight was very very lucky to have made it to destination."

        not at all lucky to have made it to there,

        it was 'kin lucky to have left the damn airport at all to get there

        It hit the lights on TAKE OFF, not LANDING!!

        1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

          Re: A tablet in a cockpit is a recipe for disaster.

          it was 'kin lucky to have left the damn airport at all to get there

          Yes they were lucky not to have crashed aircraft on take off, but having left the airport with damaged aircraft skin, they were even more lucky that the difference of barometric pressure had not caused breach and explosive decompression on the cruising altitude.

      4. Johan Bastiaansen

        Re: A tablet in a cockpit is a recipe for disaster.

        Such an incident is always a combination of mistakes and misunderstandings.

        Communication from the tower was confusing. From GavinCs post: "They were instructed to depart "Runway 09#T1", which is used to refer to a full length takeoff. It seems they may have confused this with a take-off beginning from taxiway T1."

        Also, airports have radar, yet nobody noticed they didn't start take off from the start correct spot? Why isn't the remaining length of the runway indicated at each taxiway?

        Who sets up these fragile systems and keeps getting away with it?

        Better not ask these questions and blame the pilots.

        1. Vic

          Re: A tablet in a cockpit is a recipe for disaster.

          Also, airports have radar, yet nobody noticed they didn't start take off from the start correct spot?

          It is the pilot's legal responsibility to ensure he has the correct amount of runway available. ATC will direct the pilot to the active runway and clear him to enter it, but it is the pilot's choice as to where the takeoff run starts.

          Incidentally, the article is incorrect; the start position was calculated by a tool in the cockpit, and was not given by ATC.

          Why isn't the remaining length of the runway indicated at each taxiway?

          Because there is enough clutter on a runway as it is; the airfield plate is available for study long before the flight, and will be carried in the aircraft anyway. Reading numbers on the runway is near-impossible unless you are travelling very slowly, and more numbers on the taxiway boards will simply lead to confusion.

          There is an "end of runway approaching" visual cue allowed by CAP637 in the form of alternating red and white centreline lighting. This indicates 900m of runway remaining. As you will see from the preliminary report [PDF], the aircraft was at approximately V1 when they encountered this, and the pilot decided to continue the takeoff. Rotation occurred in the zone with red centreline lights, indication 300m to the end of the runway.

          Who sets up these fragile systems

          The systems are not fragile. They work very well. They have evolved over time to be extremely safe.

          Better not ask these questions and blame the pilots.

          This was quite clearly a case of pilot error, and it would be ludicrous to try to blame anyopne else. The pilot had a duty to perform, and he failed.

          Vic.

    2. Vic

      Re: A tablet in a cockpit is a recipe for disaster.

      Fucking impossible.

      You sure?

      I'll have to remember that next time I use my tablet in the cockpit, because so far, it's seemed pretty easy.

      Vic.

  6. Ledswinger Silver badge

    Errr..clarification

    Article says the flight reached Doha without problems, but that the tear breached the pressure hull. Assuming the clowns in the cockpit neither saw the looming end of the runway, and didn't hear the noise of lights hitting fuselage and landing gear, wouldn't the pressurisation systems have warnings that the rate of air loss is abnormal compared to normal leakage?

    It's not a big tear, but the pressure differential at cruising altitude is going to be what, 10,000m equivalent, so the air ought to be whistling out, unless aircraft are much, much more leaky than I'd expect.

    1. BenR

      Re: Errr..clarification

      I get your point. But it also mentions the tear as being adjacent to one of the cargo doors, hence the breach would have been into the baggage hold. At ground level there would be no air loss as the pressures would be equalised, and at altitude the baggage holds aren't (to my understanding at least) pressurised anyway.

      So it may well have breached the pressure vessel, but in a location where it "Didn't Actually Matter" (TM)

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        Re: Errr..clarification

        "at altitude the baggage holds aren't (to my understanding at least) pressurised anyway."

        If the hold were unpressurised then the cabin floor would collapse into the hold (building a flat sided pressure vessel is quite feasible, but it would be too heavy for commercial aircraft). And all the cans and bottles in hold baggage would leak or explode. I think what you are getting at is that the main cylindrical pressure vessel doesn't reach the full length of the external fuselage, and you can have unpressurised holds in the tail sections.

        However, I followed the link in the article to read the provisional incident report (nice, short readable, have a look) and it covers all of this. The aircraft experienced no abnormal pressurisation indications, but the data shows the cabin air outflow valve automatically reduce its outflow to compensate for the faster reduction in pressure due to the breach. So yes, it did affect cabin air loss, but the rate of air loss was luckily within the capabilities of the automated pressurisation systems. Interestingly the pilots knew they'd run out of runway, but the report doesn't indicate that they told Miami control, who could have checked the security cameras that showed a strike, or ordered a physical investigation that would have found three damaged lights. This whole incident wouldn't have taken much to have been a whole lot worse - eg if the air pressure had widened the tear and the loss rate gone beyond the capabilities of the system, the aircraft could have depressurised mid Atlantic.

        So the usual incident report:

        Part A, No fatalities due to blind luck,

        Part B, Trust machines, not meatsacks.

        1. Vic

          Re: Errr..clarification

          eg if the air pressure had widened the tear and the loss rate gone beyond the capabilities of the system, the aircraft could have depressurised mid Atlantic.

          If the loss had been large, the onboard oxygen system would have deployed automatically. The passengers would be on O2 as the aircraft made an emergency landing.

          There was an incident a few years back involving a leaking door seal leading to hypoxia (and unconsciousness) in crew and passengers. I can't remember the details; I think it might have been a private jet.

          The bigger problem is mechanical failure. If the pressure vessel lets go rapidly, it might damage something around the tailplane. This happened to Japan Airlines Flight 123, which lost its vertical stabiliser when the bulkhead blew out.

          Vic.

          1. nematoad Silver badge

            Re: Errr..clarification

            "...a leaking door seal leading to hypoxia (and unconsciousness) in crew and passengers."

            Could that have been the Payne Stewart incident in 1999?

            1. Vic

              Re: Errr..clarification

              Could that have been the Payne Stewart incident in 1999?

              That's not the one I was thinking about, although it does seem to demonstrate the dangers of hypoxia in a pressurised aircraft.

              I was thinking of the Helios 522 accident, which has much a much clearer sequence of events.

              Vic.

      2. Goldmember

        Re: Errr..clarification

        "baggage holds aren't (to my understanding at least) pressurised anyway."

        Many flights carry animals in the baggage holds, which obviously need pressurisation. Depending on whether there are animals in there determines the need for heating.

      3. Peter Simpson 1
        WTF?

        Re: Errr..clarification

        So it may well have breached the pressure vessel, but in a location where it "Didn't Actually Matter" (TM)

        There is no such place in a pressure vessel.

      4. Vic

        Re: Errr..clarification

        the baggage holds aren't (to my understanding at least) pressurised anyway.

        Baggage holds are always pressurised to the same degree as the cabin.

        Aside from the mess that would occur form decompressing assorted stuff in passengers' luggage, think of the structure of the pressure vessel: creating a roughly-cylindrical vessel isn't that difficult. Notching out a chunk to be unpressurised gives you a much harder time; the tendency would be for the floor to move into the cargo hold. You'd need a lot of strengthening to prevent that distortion - and that's a lot of weight.

        Put simply, unpressurised cargo holds are much more effort that pressurised. so they pressurise them.

        Vic.

        1. EddieD

          Re: Errr..clarification

          Interestingly* though, if you take a bike on a plane most airlines (Hello Easyjet) force you to flatten your tyres before they put it into the hold so that the tyres don't explode in the low pressures at altitude. Most tyres could cope with the lower pressure anyway if the hold wasn't pressurised - a 100psi tyre should be able to be inflated to 130 without issue.

          Last time I flew with my bike I just sent it into auto-baggage handling as the case is of a size that is compatible with such systems - I did put a large sticker on it explaining what it contained. Its tyres survived the flight quite happily.

          *Well, interesting to me, anyways.

          1. Vic

            Re: Errr..clarification

            if you take a bike on a plane most airlines (Hello Easyjet) force you to flatten your tyres before they put it into the hold so that the tyres don't explode in the low pressures at altitude

            I think that's "an abundance of caution"; although your tyres will almost certainly be able to cope with the reduced pressure in transit, it's going to be unpleasant if they don't, and pumping them up again on landing isn't exactly the end of the world...

            Vic.

            1. Fink-Nottle

              Re: Errr..clarification

              > pumping them up again on landing isn't exactly the end of the world...

              aah, well ...in that case they should exercise the same 'abundance of caution' on wheelchair wheels.

              1. Vic

                Re: Errr..clarification

                in that case they should exercise the same 'abundance of caution' on wheelchair wheels.

                Expecting logic or consistency from a commercial airline really doesn't get you very far[1]...

                Vic.

                [1] Some years ago, before the weight allowances were reduced, people used to try to fly with dive cylinders. The rule came in that they had to be emptied, in case they exploded as the ambient pressure dropped. The counter-argument is that each cylinder had a stamp to prove that it had, fairly recently, been tested to 150% of its rated pressure, and an extra 1bar across the wall wasn't going to make the slightest bit of difference. Guess who won the argument...

          2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

            Re: Errr..clarification

            > so that the tyres don't explode in the low pressures at altitude.

            Aircraft are pressurised so that at 35,000 they have the equivalent of the pressure at around 8,000 feet. Sea level air pressure is ~15 psi. At 8,000 feet it is ~11 psi. As tire pressure is measured as the difference between internal and external pressure then the difference in the hold will be equivalent to only 5psi. Even if the tire were taken into space that would only give an equivalent change of 15psi.

          3. TimeMaster T

            Re: Errr..clarification

            the cargo areas of most modern planes are pressurized just like the passenger cabin. The rule about the tires might be a hold over from when the holds weren't pressurized or just a safety measure in case of a depressurization, which as you point out the more modern high pressure tires would handle without issue.

            Likely its one of those things where someone said "OMG!, if the plane lost pressure those tires filled with pressure could EXPLODE!!!" and put in the rule without actually talking to anyone who knew anything about it.

    2. Vic

      Re: Errr..clarification

      wouldn't the pressurisation systems have warnings that the rate of air loss is abnormal compared to normal leakage?

      The puncture was detectable on the recording of the outflow valve (recorded by the FDR), but it wasn't so large as to make a significant difference to cabin pressurisation. There's quite a bit of airflow through the cabin - this tear just meant that the air flowed out through a hole, rather than a control valve.

      Vic.

  7. graeme leggett Silver badge

    "A tablet computer contributed to that misunderstanding"

    Is the key phrase in the report. The tablet is not the whole of the fault.

    The pilot made a bad decision - based in part on how they were using the tablet. But the problem seems to lay in the point at which the decision was checked.

    There were 4 qualified pilots in the cockpit. It was dark, the Commander was using tablet to check position during taxying. One of the relief pilots who had been following progress on his tablet put it away as things were straightforward. When the pilot said what he was going to do, the relief crew queried it as not what the briefing had been. At this point:

    “The commander made a hand gesture and said something which he thought was seeking reassurance from the crew that everything was OK.”

    The relief crew thought he was telling them it was OK and therefore didn't comment, the Commander assumed their silence meant they were happy with his choice. A lack of situational awareness compounded by an assumption based on an aircraft landing nearby on that runway, and an urgency to leave due to another aircraft on approach meant they started take-off at wrong point (about 1km down the runway).

    So the problem is as much about communication between the pilots as anything. (And the cockpit flight recording should find that.)

    The report also notes that the pressurization outflow valve did compensate for the leak.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "A tablet computer contributed to that misunderstanding"

      There are many examples where a plane has gotten in trouble/crashed because crew were unwilling to challenge a captain's decision. Some of it is cultural - you simply don't question your boss, even if it costs you your life.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: "A tablet computer contributed to that misunderstanding"

        The tablet isn't at fault at all, the pilot was unprepared and possibly not trained in using his EFB material. Books aren't at fault because a pilot spills coffee on them.

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: "A tablet computer contributed to that misunderstanding"

        - unwilling to challenge a captain's decision.

        Sorry for the rather odd link, but this clip from the marvellous Cabin Pressure is relevant:

        5 Steps

        M.

  8. Alister Silver badge

    Ground Control to Major Tom...

    Surely he must have been given clearance to taxi, and then clearance to take-off, from ground-control in the Tower, so why didn't they query where he was trying to take off from?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ground Control to Major Tom...

      Too busy playing Candy Crush on their iPads to notice, presumably.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Ground Control to Major Tom...

        ATC wont have all the details of your load to hand. Sure then can look it up. I also doubt anyone was physically watching from the tower, approach is generally scrutinised more (if someone is to bother)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ground Control to Major Tom...

      Surely he must have been given clearance to taxi, and then clearance to take-off, from ground-control in the Tower, so why didn't they query where he was trying to take off from?

      Have you ever worked in ATC?

      you have upwards of 20 planes to keep an eye on in the air, the ones on the ground are unlikely to fall from the sky so don't take such detailed watching to the degree of where they are at all times

      1. ravenviz Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Ground Control to Major Tom...

        Probably best have an aptitude and be well trained then!

        "Sorry m'lud, all the little dots were confusing me"

    3. Manolo
      Devil

      Re: Ground Control to Major Tom...

      Stop calling me Shirley.

  9. Rusty 1
    Happy

    "useful parts of the runway"

    Excellent description!

    Much like "a useful corner on a country road" or "a useful bit in a byte".

  10. PNGuinn Silver badge
    Alert

    Aircraft mod needed?

    So the aircraft appears to have compensated for the leak, which was fortunately within equipment capabilities.

    Should that (excessive? greater than normal? unusual? ) compensation have registered as a fault and been flagged up to the meatsacks in the cockpit?

  11. AstroNutter

    Easy software fix

    Well two choices really....

    1. Make the software clever enough to know if the plane is taking off or landing. If it's taking off, have the software colour the runway run in the block that's past the threshold. And green in the places where it's safe to start take from.

    2. If the software can't tell if it's takeoff or landing mode. Colour the runway like this...

    Blue for landing, red for not safe for either takeoff of landing, and Green for ok for take off.

    The idea being that you get three blocks, on the runway.

    Personally I prefer option 1. It's easy "is the tablet's altitude higher than the runway by more than 50 meters?" Must be landing, There are other ways to detect if it's taking off or landing. So I don't see it as an impossible software challenge.

    1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      Re: Easy software fix

      > And green in the places where it's safe to start take from.

      The amount of runway required by a particular aircraft for takeoff varies depending on: weight (loading) of aircraft, weather conditions, windspeed, engine settings, and many other factors. While it may be possible to key all those into the mapping app, and get them right, I doubt that the app authors would want to accept the liability inherent in claiming that some position on the runway is 'safe'.

  12. Stratman

    Pilot error

    When I was gaining my PPL all those years ago it was drummed into me that all flight aids are just that: aids. There's only one person in charge of the flight and of driving the plane. If a pilot is unfamiliar with an airfield it's his duty to familiarise himself with it.

    This clown is on a par with blaming the satnav for driving into a river.

  13. JLV Silver badge

    situational awareness

    My kids often make the same mistake as well when navigating on my tablet's maps (none of them include turn indicators and routing, they're just "dumb" offline vector maps). They are always zoomed in to the max and often don't know where we are because they can't see the big picture. It's not the app's fault, they are just using it wrong - they equate max zoom with max knowledge. We've missed highway exits for example because they only see them coming up at the last moment.

    It's also a chore to get them to look up from said tablet and take a look at road signs as well to confirm their bearings. On the positive side, my daughter has become mostly adequate at navigation over the years and my son's getting there. We wouldn't have gotten this far this quickly with paper maps.

    Not reassuring that a 40+ yr old pilot is making the same mistake as 15 & 12 yr olds.

  14. WatAWorld

    Windows 10 users have been complaining about poor custom DPI setting support

    Windows 10 users have been complaining about poor custom DPI setting support. I see dozens of complaints on the Windows 10 Feedback site, which makes it one of the most common complaints visible.

    Doubtless the young people at MS decided this was a problem that only affected us old farts and gimps and made it low priority.

    MS lawyers need to step up to the plate and rectify that before there is another crash.

  15. TimeMaster T
    Unhappy

    So let me get this straight ...

    The pilot picks the wrong point to take off from.

    The traffic controllers, whom I presume have a radio, failed to inform the pilot.

    The plane then hits something, the article mentions something about "lights" but gives no additional details, and no one in the plane or on the ground notices.

    The plan then fly 13 hours with a potentially deadly gash in its pressure hull.

    And the article is yapping on about the zoom setting on a tablet computer and the OS installed on it.

    Does that sound about right?

    The Reg just lost some points with me on this. Seriously people? ~200 people could have died and the article reads like a fluff piece complaining about features on a tablet computer.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: So let me get this straight ...

      >The Reg just lost some points with me on this. Seriously people? ~200 people could have died and the article reads like a fluff piece complaining about features on a tablet computer.

      This is a TECHNOLOGY forum.

      If this were The Undertakers forum they would be having a similar conversation about the logistics of burying ~200 people at the same time.

      If this were the Airport Lighting forum they would be having a similar conversation about making runway lighting a bit more robust, probably with EWD capabilities (Holy Shift someone has bumped into the lights, perhaps we should inform ATC).

      If this were the ChinChilla forum they would be having a similar conversation about knitting jumpers for the chinchillas to keep them warm during their ordeal.

      If this were the Knitting Circle they would be having a similar conversation about the logistics of knitting jumpers for ~17 chinchillas at the same time.

  16. Fluffy Cactus

    Uhm, isn't the sarcasm sign always on, on this site?

    At least I assume it is, so, yes there are several reasons why all this happened: May be the pilot was just a wee bit drunk, so that, uhm that's always worked as an excuse in some courts in Montana, I think, but I could be wrong.

    The traffic controllers may not have seen the plane hitting the lights. Because it was dark, and they

    look at their screens which does not show any of these lights. So I give them a pass on that.

    But yes, does it make sense to build any takeoff and landing strip anywhere - with lights that a plane actually could hit? Shouldn't these lights be further away? Or further down? So they cannot be hit?

    This alone makes you wonder how far out of the usual path this plane must have been...

    And how do I explain the luck that this plane didn't fully decompressurize during its flight? Well, there

    must have been a cage of 17 chinchillas in the baggage hold, who escaped early on, before takeoff and these fluffy creatures must have been sucked towards the 46 cm gash during the flight and prevented more rapid decompression. Upon landing, these poor chinchillas crawled back into their cage, and none of the passengers and crew ever found out that their lives were saved by 17 chinchillas. Perfect explanation. Makes as much sense as any political statement.

    How do I think that I know this? Because if a passing crew member checked out the baggage hold, on a mere hunch, saw the gash, and decided to fix it with duck-tape (Hmm, do the Brits know what duck-tape is?), then we would not have heard the end of "The amazing duck-tape hero of flight # XYZ".

    Ok, ok, it could have been the outflow control valve, but that's a cold, prosaic, technological explanation. Chinchillas are much fluffier, fuzzier, newsworthier, so I have to stick with my story. Overall, we have to be glad just to be lucky.

    1. Vic

      Re: Uhm, isn't the sarcasm sign always on, on this site?

      Ok, ok, it could have been the outflow control valve, but that's a cold, prosaic, technological explanation. Chinchillas are much fluffier

      Without wishing to bring too much prosaic info to your otherwise excellent story, the outflow control valve is supposed to allow air out of the cabin into the atmosphere; in this situation, the change was noticed because it was more closed than normal...

      Vic.

    2. ChrisBedford

      Re: Uhm, isn't the sarcasm sign always on, on this site?

      "Hmm, do the Brits know what duck-tape is?"

      I have yet to learn how to indent a quote like Vic so elegantly does it.

      At the risk of being too pedantic about your otherwise entertaining post [Ahem] no I doubt The Brits (or anyone else) knows what duck tape is. What part of the duck is it made from, what's it used for, and where do you buy it? What colour is it, plain white like a regular duck or does it have black and green patches like a mallard or perhaps an Egyptian goose?

      We have something much more useful though. It's called gaffer tape and they use it in the film industry to hold everything together. In fact there's a saying that everything in the world can be fixed using either gaffer tape or WD40 - if it moves and shouldn't, tape it; if doesn't move and should, spray it.

      Or were you - w-a-a-a-a-a-a-i-i-i-t a m-i-n-u-u-u-u-u-t-e - were you referring to "duct" tape? Oh, same thing as gaffer tape. Yes, The Brits have heard of that.

      1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: Uhm, isn't the sarcasm sign always on, on this site?

        > What part of the duck is it made from,

        It is made from 'duck cloth' (originally Dutch doek), a canvas made from cotton or linen, usually waterproofed*. 'Duck tape' is a brand name, but also refers to any cloth tape, especially those that are self adhesive. 'Duct tape' is any adhesive tape that is suitable for sealing air ducting for heating or cooling. They are usually not interchangeable and have quite different usages.

        * If it is natural fibre canvas and a tent, hammock, shoes, camp bed, director's chair or similar then it is most likely made from 'duck'.

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