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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A330 Systems ... Zero Flaps

Flaps and Slats Locked ... an operational perspective with dual failures.

Photo depicts Normal operations of flaps and slats.

Dual failures...

While it may not be likely, a friend of mine did a zero flap landing on his first flight as a captain on this plane. I always say... never say never.

What would cause a Zero Flap Landing?

If both flaps and slats wingtip brakes activate, a zero flap/slat approach and landing is required. The message is: F/CTL FLAPS LOCKED and F/CTL SLATS LOCKED. These two separate problems leave you with a clean wing.

Photo depicts only locked flaps.

Another reason could be a bit more serious. If the the SFCC 1 and SFCC 2 fail, we'll see:



This, too, is a dual malfunction. But you won't find a procedure in your quick reference manual. Why? The probability of "never" is taken into account. But it's important to note that in this situation the flight controls will degrade to Alternate Law.

How do you know when you're in Alternate Law?

Among other reasons...look for the X's on the PFD.

The interesting thing about these flap and slat failures is that while we don’t have flaps or slats, we still must "position" the flap handle as if we did. The flap handle is used to compute the speeds on the speed tape. Where as the position of the flaps themselves are used to depict the speeds on the ECAM. Thus, ECAM speeds are correct per position of the flaps (up)—But the speed tape is not.

Why do we want to move the flap handle to "1" if we have a flap malfunction?

Go-Around on the Bus

In the Boeing aircraft we had a button to push to execute the go-around. In the Airbus we use thrust lever position to TOGA. But how does the plane know? What if we needed TOGA thrust but we aren't performing a go-around?

In the event of a Go-Around, the Airbus won’t transition to the Go-Around phase unless the flap lever is in, at least, position 1.

Airbus logic is such that if we’re applying TOGA power during an approach (flaps out)—we're telling the airplane to go-around. There is no button pushing. If flaps are up, you only get TOGA thrust and the plane stays locked on the localizer and glideslope.

Systems knowledge is essential, especially in the modern planes… despite the shift in focus. A future threat to aviation includes advanced technology and what happens when it breaks. Will the pilots know what to do if they are faced with flying their plane when they lose their automation, without the systems knowledge to back it up? What are your thoughts?

The responsibility lies within.

Enjoy the Journey!

XOX Karlene


  1. Dear Karlene...

    Your systems knowledge continues to impress and amaze me. I hope that I understand my simple C-182 almost as well as you understand the orders-of-magnitude more complex A-330.

    And therein lies my concern. The march of progress (sic) continues to lead us toward ever more complex systems, and we're still dealing with the Mark I human brain. Yes, the clever designers support the pilot with software that has invested in it many thousands of hours of design, coding and testing. But it can't be responsive to every situation (see AF447) and when it "bails out" on you, it will do so at the worst possible time, leaving you in a situation so unlikely that you've probably never trained for or even thought about it.

    At that point, it's up to your experience, profound systems knowledge, crew teamwork and creativity to save the day (see QF32). But -- here comes the "but" -- the trends are not good and I don't believe all, or even most, of the pilots in the pipeline today are well equipped to deal with these situations. Throwing arcane failures at you in recurrent will help, but when nature and the airplane conspire to come up with the final exam you can count on it being something you haven't seen before.

    Long ago, Ernie Gann said, "The emergencies you train for almost never happen. It's the one you can't train for that kills you." Today he might add "...or program for". So we are thrown back on the native resources of the crew...who we can only hope are up to the challenge.

    We can't train ourselves out of this box. We need a breakthrough in the design of the human/system interface so that in all stages of flight, from brake release to chocks-in, the two entities - human and machine - cooperate with and augment each other and each is at every moment tasked to do what he/she/it is good at. The state of affairs where you can be tasked to act as "system monitor" for hours on end and then when everything turns to chocolate pudding, suddenly get told, "It's your airplane!" just unacceptable.

    All that said, I'll fly in the back of your 'bus any time, Karlene. Best wishes for a prosperous and safe 2012.


  2. Frank, Thank you very much for the nice comment. And... your thoughts are my concern. This is one of the underlying issues in my novel. My opinion is training programs are not long enough. We're pushed through with that fire hose in our mouth. There is no way to learn what needs to be learned in the short amount of time being force fed. And Colgan Air, Air France,... the list will continue until we do something. Pilots need to know how to deal with their plane when it breaks. Because, they do and will continue to break.
    Thanks again for your comment. I am honored you'll want to fly with me.

  3. Excellent - another reason not to fly in airliners... Bring back the DC3 and international travel with stopovers and tea and cake.... :-)

  4. I think tea and cake sounds nice...but I'm still thinking I'd rather travel on the 787 any day for comfort. Happy New Year!

  5. Seems to be the theme of the moment - what happens when all the clever automation fails - and goes offline handing you an almost out-of-control airplane at the worst possible time, as seems to have been the case with AF 447.

    Tom Turner wrote about this in his weekly "Flying Lessons" - well worth signing up for. One thing I really like about Captain Dave's blog, apart from the excellent writing, is how he frequently turns everything off and flies his A319/320 in "Piper Cub" mode.

    I am concerned that many pilots are loosing their edge, or worse, never had one. For example, the accident rate for Cirrus aircraft is only "average", despite all of the automation in a Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA), even including a whole airplane parachute. Don't trust "HAL 9000" with your life.....

    My Bonanza is not so sophisticated, but even it will follow a GPS flight plan, hold altitude, and fly all of the lateral parts of an approach all by itself. A recent inadvertent icing encounter over Southern Arizona has me thinking about when to trust and when not to. I think Reagan coined a nice phrase: "Trust, But Verify".

  6. I would give up comfort for the sound of pistons over jets!!!! But I may be a slight exception!!! Happy New Year and may a best seller and a Pulitzer prize be coming your way!!!

  7. Trust but Verify... I think Captain Ray said that too. A good comment. I am now in the mode of kick everything off in the A330 to keep skills up. I just need to fly more. Bounces every three months doesn't cut it for proficiency. Just my opinion.

    So now I'm headed off to Lagos. Maybe I'll get a little flying in. But then... two legs and four pilots. We'll see.

    Thanks for your comment!

  8. Dear Karlene,

    Thank you for showing how alternate law can be quickly identified.

    I have always found it funny on the holy bus that there are three different flight control laws with inconsistent protections. In my humble opinion, it tasks the pilot even further. For example, a crew understandably forgetting, in the heat of a cockpit situation going fast out of hand, that A-floor is no longer available in a degraded law?

    I guess Airbus FBW aircraft really need the pilot to stay well ahead of the aircraft at all times. I guess when it comes to systems, its not as forgiving as other less automated aircraft.

  9. Flying Engineer, You are welcome! I do think knowing when you're in a law, it's important to identify it quickly. Also... Thank you for the great comment on the laws with inconsistent protections. You've inspired another post! More to come next week!

  10. on the boeing airplanes, if you had a flap failure, would you still have to position the flap handle to compute speeds on the speed tape?

  11. Question regarding normal flap operation: I never understood how the flaps 1 position worked on an airbus. I see the flap lever only has a "1" position, but the indicator sometimes says 1 or 1+F. So when would it have flaps in addition to slats? Is it an FMS input or system logic?

    1. The difference is that in 1 only the slats extend and 1+F is when the first stage of Flaps extend but by then lever handle will be in 2 position, It has to do mainly with speed limitations and Auto Flap retraction.

    2. Anonymous, Thank you for commenting! Way back when this was written, I was unable to comment to each post, under the post. Blogger got smarter. Keep checking the posts, I think I wrote something about this on the following Tuesday. Have a great week!

  12. Thanks Karlene. That's my kind of post. From the comments, many agree with you, as do I. The competent pilot of a smart airplane must understand what's behind those error messages and how it relates to essentially hand-flying with many automated system inop or turned off. Your posts suggest that you pay great attention to this, but I wonder how many others make the effort. I agree with Frank (top), who says much the same thing. And yes, I too would feel comfortable riding on your airplane, because you understand what it is doing. I also agree about the level of training, under the Firehose Method and that riding the simulator ever 90 days is simply not enough. As many far better informed pudits repeat, "Legal does not always mean safe." Thank you for an excellent post. -Craig

  13. Jet Airliners, I'm not sure on the Boeing. I looked up my old manuals and it doesn't say if the speeds are contingent upon the flap handle position. I sent this question to friend who is a Boeing Instructor on the 774-800. He's on vacation, but will get back to me soon. I'll let you know.

  14. Daniel, That is an excellent question!!! And... one that I will post on Tuesday. Because... this is one of the most crazy systems... with logic. But, it's all how you think about it. I would suspect you could ask A330 pilots this question and many wouldn't know. Could be a beer question. Watch for it Tuesday! I'm setting it up now. Thanks!

  15. Thank you Craig. I really appreciate yours and Frank's comments. I think life gets easy and we're told..."you don't need to know that." I come from the instructor mind-set...and the attitude we have an obligation to our passengers. This year I am focusing on creating a study guide to make this learning the systems easier. Then, maybe more will work toward that goal. I feel like there there so much more for me to learn. But I'm working in the right direction.

  16. I guess that's why BIRDS stick with basic
    STICK & RUDDER flying!!! :)
    But, seriously... now that you're a 777
    pilot, how confusing would it be to
    fly an AIRBUS, say, in an emergency
    where the FLIGHT DECK crew is sick
    from food poisoning, and you're the
    only pilot on board?

    1. Dan, I think that I could still fly that A330 in an emergency. It sure feels good to fly!


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