UPDATE: They got a new plane

– – – – –

UPDATE: They have decided it is better to fly a
plane with brakes, so they are now looking for
a new one. Problem is, the broken plane is an
extra large, and most likely the replacement
will be a medium, so we won’t all fit.

– – – – – –

So, I was just about to get on a plane at MSP, when we heard about “maintenance trouble.” There was a delay, then another delay, then another. Then the pilot came on the intercom and explained.

“One of the spoilers is broken. We need that to slow the plane down when that is necessary. We can kinda do without it, but we would have to adjust the weight of the aircraft. If we do that, we might not make it all the way to our destination. So we’ve got a guy working on the calculations and we’ll let you know. He’s got my cell phone. We might have to use a different aircraft. We’ll keep you posted.”

I think that there is an airstrip NEAR where we are going, a government air strip, that is among the longest in the world. If we land there, we don’t need the spoilers, right? Maybe I’ll go tell him that. What do you think?

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8 thoughts on “We need to review the principles of flight here…

  1. I think when they say “adjust the weight of the plane” they mean load less fuel than they usually would, thus the risk of running low if they hit a bad headwind.

    How much faster does a plane have to be going at landing if it’s not using the spoilers? Any pilots here? How often do pilots practice no-spoiler landings? I know they do happen. A friend of mine who used to be a flight attendant said she’d been through one and that if you didn’t fly frequently you would not notice the difference, but frequent fliers know something is up.

  2. That is correct, they’d have to remove fuel, and they decided that was a lot of trouble because a) they would have to remove the fuel (“defuel” is the term they used) and b) it would require stopping along the way to fuel up.

  3. The most dangerous parts of flying are the takeoff and landing, and for landing those spoilers are definitely a nice thing to have (to put it mildly). Having them increases the number of available runways by allowing you to land on shorter ones, a handy thing if the long Government one is out of service for some reason or other, or is out of reach due to engine issues or insufficient fuel. If it were me, I’d let them fix the spoilers, or find another aircraft.

    I hope this is the only major hiccup on your flight.

  4. Paul: Yes it was!

    It turns out that they didn’t get a new plane. We just took the old one and drove slowly and refilled in Memphis. I did that once in the 70s when I had crappy brakes, but that time coming down from Nashville.

    Actually, they pumped 50,000 pounds of fuel out of the plane so that it would be OK to have to use the half-broken spoilers. And thus the Memphis stop.

    Then they reloaded the plane with people and it headed right back to … Memphis, I guess…

  5. I thought there were laws and/or regulations containing the phrase ‘reckless endangerment’ against just this sort of thing?

  6. @sithrazer: Airliners come with a document called an MEL — Minimum Equipment List. (I think that’s the correct name.) Anyhow it describes, in detail, what failures are they are allowed to fly with, including restrictions such as gross weight. The restriction in this case was probably in case of a refused takeoff (RTO) in which the takeoff must be aborted at high speed. You really need the spoilers to get weight on the wheels so you can stop before the end of the runway. I don’t think the term “reckless endagerment” applies in any way. They’re doing exactly what the FAA and manufacturer tell them to do.

    Greg, can you give us a clue as to the type of airplane? I’m a former aerospace engineer who specialized partly in spoiler controls so I’m curious!

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