Cheat-Seeking Missles

Friday, February 01, 2008

Air Terror

Frequent hat-tip recipient Jim turned me on to this Times of London story posted at Jules Crittenden. It's a heck of a story in itself, but it's copied here so that you will read all the way down to the last paragraph, where the money is:
A co-pilot at the controls of a passenger jet bound for Heathrow was forcibly removed from the cockpit and bound hand and foot after he began “asking for God” 30,000 feet over the Atlantic.

Passengers aboard Air Canada’s Flight AC848 from Toronto to London on Monday said the flight officer started shouting and crying at the controls when they were less than an hour from Heathrow.

His colleagues, helped by an off-duty member of the Canadian Armed Forces, took the man out of the cockpit, apparently in the middle of a mental breakdown, tied his wrists and ankles in front of astonished passengers. He was then handcuffed to a seat while the flight diverted to Shannon airport, in the West of Ireland.

After the jet landed at Shannon with only the captain at the controls, the co-pilot was taken off the plane and put in a waiting ambulance, which took him to an acute psychiatric unit. ...

Sean Finucane, a passenger, told the Canadian broadcaster CBC that the co-pilot “was swearing and asking for God. He specifically said he wants to talk to God. He was yelling loudly but didn’t sound intoxicated When they tried to put his shoes on later, he swore and threatened people. He was very, very distressed.”

Another passenger, writing on the website, said that the co-pilot was pinned down in seat 12A, a window seat in the first row of the economy class section. “It was quite an experience,” the passenger wrote. “The entire mini-cabin could hear the whole thing. Not for delicate ears. The soldier and the doctors [who were passengers] were great.”

The writer said that the flight crew were “calm and professional throughout”. …

In 1999 a suicidal co-pilot was blamed for the crash of an EgyptAir flight from New York that came down in the Atlantic with the loss of 217 lives after he was heard on the cockpit voice recorder saying: “I put my faith in God.”
Suicidal?! An easy word to type, perhaps, but a challenging word to nonchalantly pass off as justified, given the facts.

Like the fact that the co-pilot of EgyptAir flight 990, Gameel Al-Batouti, was putting his faith in Allah, not God?

Or the fact that 30 Egyptian military officers; including two brigadier-generals, a colonel, major, and four other air force officers, were on board at a time when the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamic groups in Egypt were basically at war with the Egyptian military?

Or the fact that the Egyptian government prohibited Egyptian media from reporting the presence of the military officers in their reporting on the crash, seemingly reinforcing the notion that the crash was a jihadist act against the military?

Egypt put forth various personal and disciplinary issues Al-Batouti ws facing to justify that it was "just a suicide," and al-Batouti's family said he was not deeply religious, but passing off Flight 990's crash as an act of suicide without further illumination is akin to Britain's recent decision to refer to terrorist acts as "anti-Islamic actions."

The methodical deliberateness and Al-Batouti's trance-like chanting of "I rely on God" [an alternative translation of "I put my faith in God"] is evident in the NTSB's final report on the incident:
At 0148:30, about 11 seconds after the captain left the cockpit, the CVR recorded an unintelligible comment.10 Ten seconds later (about 0148:40), the relief first officer stated quietly, "I rely on God."11 There were no sounds or events recorded by the flight recorders that would indicate that an airplane anomaly or other unusual circumstance preceded the relief first officer's statement, "I rely on God."

At 0149:18, the CVR recorded the sound of an electric seat motor. FDR data indicated that, at 0149:45 (27 seconds later), the autopilot was disconnected.12 Aside from the very slight movement of both elevators (the left elevator moved from about a 0.7° to about a 0.5° nose-up deflection, and the right elevator moved from about a 0.35° nose-up to about a 0.3° nose-down deflection)13 and the airplane's corresponding slight nose-down pitch change, which were recorded within the first second after autopilot disconnect, and a very slow (0.5° per second) left roll rate, the airplane remained essentially in level flight about FL 330 for about 8 seconds after the autopilot was disconnected. At 0149:48, the relief first officer again stated quietly, "I rely on God." At 0149:53, the throttle levers were moved from their cruise power setting to idle, and, at 0149:54, the FDR recorded an abrupt nose-down elevator movement and a very slight movement of the inboard ailerons. Subsequently, the airplane began to rapidly pitch nose down and descend.

Between 0149:57 and 0150:05, the relief first officer quietly repeated, "I rely on God," seven additional times.14 During this time, as a result of the nose-down elevator movement, the airplane's load factor15 decreased from about 1 to about 0.2 G.16 Between 0150:04 and 0150:05 (about 10 to 11 seconds after the initial nose-down movement of the elevators), the FDR recorded additional, slightly larger inboard aileron movements, and the elevators started moving further in the nose-down direction. Immediately after the FDR recorded the increased nose-down elevator movement, the CVR recorded the sounds of the captain asking loudly (beginning at 0150:06), "What's happening? What's happening?," as he returned to the cockpit.

The airplane's load factor decreased further as a result of the increased nose-down elevator deflection, reaching negative G loads (about -0.2 G) between 0150:06 and 0150:07. During this time (and while the captain was still speaking [at 0150:07]), the relief first officer stated for the tenth time, "I rely on God." Additionally, the CVR transcript indicated that beginning at 0150:07, the CVR recorded the "sound of numerous thumps and clinks," which continued for about 15 seconds.

According to the CVR and FDR data, at 0150:08, as the airplane exceeded its maximum operating airspeed (0.86 Mach), a master warning alarm began to sound. (The warning continued until the FDR and CVR stopped recording at 0150:36.64 and 0150:38.47, respectively.)17 Also at 0150:08, the relief first officer stated quietly for the eleventh and final time, "I rely on God," and the captain repeated his question, "What's happening?" At 0150:15, the captain again asked, "What's happening, [relief first officer's first name]? What's happening?" At this time, as the airplane was descending through about 27,300 feet msl, the FDR recorded both elevator surfaces beginning to move in the nose-up direction. Shortly thereafter, the airplane's rate of descent began to decrease.18 At 0150:21, about 6 seconds after the airplane's rate of descent began to decrease, the left and right elevator surfaces began to move in opposite directions; the left surface continued to move in the nose-up direction, and the right surface reversed its motion and moved in the nose-down direction.

The FDR data indicated that the engine start lever switches for both engines moved from the run to the cutoff position between 0150:21 and 0150:23.19 Between 0150:24 and 0150:27, the throttle levers moved from their idle position to full throttle, the speedbrake handle moved to its fully deployed position, and the left elevator surface moved from a 3º nose-up to a 1º nose-up position, then back to a 3º nose-up position.20 During this time, the CVR recorded the captain asking, "What is this? What is this? Did you shut the engine(s)?" Also, at 0150:26.55, the captain stated, "Get away in the engines,"21 and, at 0150:28.85, the captain stated, "shut the engines." At 0150:29.66, the relief first officer stated, "It's shut."

Between 0150:31 and 0150:37, the captain repeatedly stated, "Pull with me." However, the FDR data indicated that the elevator surfaces remained in a split condition (with the left surface commanding nose up and the right surface commanding nose down) until the FDR and CVR stopped recording at 0150:36.64 and 0150:38.47, respectively. (The last transponder [secondary radar] return from the accident airplane was received at the radar site at Nantucket, Massachusetts, at 0150:34.)22
Creepy: multiple, methodical steps against the backdrop of ten chants of "I rely on God" as the terrifying event unfolded. This may have just been a suicide, but unless the Air Canada co-pilot was a Muslim, it is utterly inappropriate to juxtapose Al-Batouti's chanting plunge to mass murder with the mental breakdown of the Air Canada co-pilot.

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