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TundraTire
Posts: 73
Joined: Wed Mar 25, 2020 3:47 am

This is a new one for me:

"A Titan Airways Airbus A321-200N, registration G-OATW performing flight AWC-305Y from London Stansted,EN (UK) to Orlando,FL (USA) with 21 crew, was climbing through about 10,000 feet out of Stansted's runway 22 when the crew noticed excessive noise in the cabin, stopped the climb at about FL150 and returned to Stansted for a safe landing on runway 22 about 37 minutes after departure.

The British AAIB reported it was discovered three cabin windows were missing or loose, there was also damage to the left hand stabilizer, the aircraft sustained substantial damage. The occurrence was rated an accident and is being investigated by the AAIB.

The airline reported on Oct 15th 2023 that there were 21 staff members on board of the aircraft to be repositioned for their next flights. The crew became aware of increased noise and an issue with one of the windows and returned to London according to standard operating procedures without requesting assistance. Following landing it was discovered that the outer panes of three windows were missing. The occurrence was immediately reported and is being investigated.

The aircraft had been in a workshop in Southend for maintenance, repair and overhaul between September 23rd 2023 and October 2nd 2023, performed a positioning flight on Oct 2nd 2023 to Stansted and was on its first revenue flight. The aircraft, tailnumber then G-GBNI, had been used for VIP flights on behalf of the British government until Sep 23rd 2023 and had been returned to Titan.

On Nov 3rd 2023 the AAIB released a Special Bulletin stating:

This Special Bulletin is published to raise awareness of a recent occurrence in which several cabin windows on an Airbus A321 were damaged by high power lights used during a filming event. The damage was discovered after takeoff on the aircraft’s next flight. Work is ongoing with the aircraft manufacturer and operator to fully understand the properties of the lights used and how this risk can be managed in future.

and summarizing the sequence of events:

The aircraft was scheduled to embark on a multi-day charter away from base with a flight crew consisting of three pilots, an engineer, a load master and six cabin crew. The first sector was a positioning flight from London Stansted Airport to Orlando International Airport, Florida. In addition to the 11 crew there were nine passengers on board who were all employees of the tour operator or aircraft operating company. The passengers sat together in the middle of the aircraft just ahead of the overwing exits.

The aircraft departed a few minutes ahead of schedule and took off from Runway 22. Several passengers recalled that after takeoff the aircraft cabin seemed noisier and colder than they were used to. As the aircraft climbed through FL100 and the seatbelt signs were switched off, the loadmaster, who had been seated just in front of the other passengers, walked towards the back of the aircraft. He noticed the increased cabin noise as he approached the overwing exits and his attention was drawn to a cabin window on the left side of the aircraft. He observed that the window seal was flapping in the airflow and the windowpane appeared to have slipped down. He described the cabin noise as ‘loud enough to damage your hearing’.

The loadmaster told the cabin crew and then went to the flight deck to inform the commander.

At this stage the aircraft was climbing past FL130, there were no abnormal indications on the flight deck and the aircraft pressurisation system was operating normally. The flight crew stopped the climb at FL140 and reduced airspeed whilst the engineer and then the third pilot went to look at the window. Having inspected the window, it was agreed the aircraft should return to Stansted. The cabin crew told the passengers to remain seated and keep their seatbelts fastened, and reminded them about the use of oxygen masks if that became necessary.

The cabin was quickly secured and the flight crew initiated a descent, first to FL100 and then to FL90. They established the aircraft in a hold whilst they completed the overweight landing checklist, confirmed landing performance and briefed for the return to Stansted.

The approach and landing on Runway 22 were uneventful. Landing at 1151 hrs, the total flight time was 36 minutes. With the airport RFFS in attendance the aircraft taxied to the apron, where the passengers disembarked normally.

Having parked and shut down, the crew inspected the aircraft from the outside and saw that two cabin windowpanes were missing and a third was dislodged. During the flight the crew had only been aware of an issue with a single windowpane. The cabin had remained pressurised normally throughout the flight.

Previous activity

The day before the occurrence flight the aircraft had been used for filming on the ground, during which external lights had been shone through the cabin windows to give the illusion of a sunrise. The lights were first shone on the right side of the aircraft for approximately five and a half hours, with the light focused on the cabin windows just aft of the overwing exits. The lights were then moved to the left side of the aircraft where they illuminated a similar area on the left side for approximately four hours. Photographs taken during filming showed six sets of flood lights on both sides of the aircraft.

Aircraft examination

Cabin windows

Two window assemblies were missing, and the inner pane and seal from a third window were displaced but partially retained in the airframe. A shattered outer pane was recovered from the entrance to a rapid-exit taxiway during a routine runway inspection after the aircraft landed.

A fourth window protruded from the left side of the fuselage. The four affected windows were adjacent to each other, just aft of the left overwing exit.

Removal of the cabin lining inside the passenger cabin revealed that the window retainers were in good condition and correctly installed. The foam ring material on the back of the cabin liners was found to be melted in the areas adjacent to the windows that were damaged or missing.

Visual examination of the damaged windowpanes revealed that they were deformed and shrunk. The deformed panes no longer formed an effective interface with the rubber seals.

With the AAIB in attendance, the operator removed several cabin liners from the right side of the passenger cabin. This revealed additional thermal damage and window deformation in the area around the overwing emergency exit, but to a lesser extent than the left side of the aircraft.

Horizontal stabiliser

The underside of the left horizontal stabiliser leading edge panel was punctured. Small pieces of acrylic were found in the stabiliser when the panel was removed.

Observations

The windows appear to have sustained thermal damage and distortion because of elevated temperatures while illuminated for approximately four to five and a half hours during filming activity the day before the flight. It is likely that the flood lights were positioned closer than 10 m. Whereas in this case the damage became apparent at around FL100 and the flight was concluded uneventfully, a different level of damage by the same means might have resulted in more serious consequences, especially if window integrity was lost at higher differential pressure."
titan_a21n_g-oatw_london_231004_1.jpg
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Nark
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I think he gotcha colonel…

That’s definitely a new one…
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Colonel
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Holy shit
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Slick Goodlin
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That’s ballsy to get close to partially missing windows in a pressurized airplane in flight.
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Colonel
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Thinking about this ... "My airplane broke" is not really new thing. It's kind of a tradition in aviation, for the last 120 years.

Airplanes break all the time. It's what we spend most of our time training for.
Airplanes break for many many reasons including:
1) faulty manufacturing design (Comet cracks)
2) faulty manufacturing process/parts (Lycoming Interstate overheat, TCM counterweight clips)
3) bad/improperly installed parts during maintenance (Azores glider - half a SB)
4) bad maintenance (Peru static tape)
5) no maintenance (ahem)
6) damage in flight (hail, over speed, over G, birds, etc etc)
7) damage on the ground in motion and not in motion (taxi accidents, ground crew crashing into airplanes)

This is indeed a novel form of damage on the ground not-in-motion. How in the world you're supposed to spot this during a pre-flight is unknown to me. Mike Busch says he has pilots asking him how to check connecting rod torque during a pre-flight.

But this is a really great question: How can you tell if an airplane is damaged before you fly it?
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Squaretail
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Colonel wrote:
Sun Nov 05, 2023 3:56 pm


But this is a really great question: How can you tell if an airplane is damaged before you fly it?
In general you can't unless either: a) the defect is glaringly obvious to be noticeable during a walk around or run up, or b) you did the damage yourself.

While you can peruse the log book and hope something helpful it there, I wouldn't always count on it. The regulator has made defect entry and deferral so full of pitfalls and penalizing there's a strong incentive for pilots to just live with issues, especially if they're the only ones flying a particular airplane.

While I would like to think that broken parts of airplanes I've found with my superior skills in observation, encyclopedic knowledge of systems and OCD levels of attention to detail, most of it is just blind luck. I recall an exhaust crack that I spotted once, probably because someone had positioned a reflective surface in the hangar that happened to shine right on it.
The details of my life are quite inconsequential...
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Colonel
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I just look for obvious broken stuff on the preflight.

I might have mentioned here before that maybe 10 years ago I was asked to give some dual on a Maule that was strange to me. But no problem, I love Maules, been flying them for 50 years now.

I look at the Maule- with a fresh annual- and the stall warning tab is broken off. I look inside, the ASI is indicating 20. I push on the rudder, it pops right out of the tailwheel detent.

Not good. Told the new owner to get those 3 fixed and we could go flying.
I was never a Good Canadian™
Slick Goodlin
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Colonel wrote:
Sun Nov 05, 2023 9:24 pm
I just look for obvious broken stuff on the preflight.
I’ve somehow flown every kind of Cub except a bone stock J-3 and the closest I’ve come I had to turn it down on the pre-flight. Similar stuff that probably would have been fine but I didn’t want to carry the responsibility for the unlikely possible outcomes.

Some day…
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Colonel
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I would have been ok with no stall warning and the airspeed off, but that’s no bueno for giving dual to a new pilot on type.

And the tailwheel has to be in good shape for tailwheel training. Yes, you can wheel land it and keep it up with power and brakes until you are almost stopped…. but again, not reasonable for training a new tailwheel pilot.

Stuff has to work for the newbies. Yes, us old guys can fly broken airplanes but that’s different.

Fresh annual. Uh huh.

I used to fly a Stearman with a horrible static leak. It was like the alternate static was open all the time. Airspeed read much too high. I didn’t really care, but it would not have been good for a newbie.
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Colonel
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MEL is an attempt to codify and control the flying of broken airplanes. Deferred maintenance, parts on back order.

But sometimes that dream doesn’t work out too well. Recently at Atlanta a newbie in the right seat tried to land a Boeing with the antiskid MEL’d. She locked up the brakes, I think got it on fire. After a delay with the airplane on fire, they finally popped the slides and dumped the pax on the tarmac.

Good job!

If I was in the left seat, I would have done the landing because old guys can fly a broken airplane. But the right seater might have burst into tears if that happened. Can’t be hurting anyone’s feelings, after all. In the 21st century, it is preferable to crash and in the eyes of the Regulator there is no difference between a pilot that got their ATP yesterday vs one that has been flying for half a century.

Remember, in an industry based on knowledge and skill, that knowledge and skill are unimportant.
I was never a Good Canadian™
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